On a recent trip to Turkey, President of Ireland, Mary McAleese expressed gratitude to the Turkish people for the humanitarian aid provided by the Islamic Khilafah to Ireland during the Great Famine, 160 years ago.
Turkish newspaper “Ikinci Vatan” reports that McAleese on her official visit to Turkey made the statement during her meeting with Turkish president Abdullah Gul and expressed the words of gratitude from the people of Ireland for humanitarian aid provided by Ottoman Caliphate.
During the period of 1840-1850, Ireland suffered the great famine, directly caused by the colonial policy of Great Britain who had occupied the territory.
In 1845, the onset of the Great Irish Famine resulted in over a million deaths. Ottoman Sultan Khaleefah Abdul-Majid I declared his intention to send 10,000 sterling to Irish farmers but Queen Victoria requested that the Sultan send only 1,000 sterling, because she had sent only 2,000 sterling herself.
The Sultan sent the 1,000 sterling but also secretly sent 5 ships full of food. The English courts tried to block the ships, but the food arrived in Drogheda harbor and was left there by Ottoman Sailors. Due to this the Irish people, especially those in Drogheda, are friendly to the Turks. note football crest below.
In 1845, the 10,000 pounds dedicated to the Irish from the Sultan would be worth approximately 800,000 pounds today, that is $1,683,280 US Dollars. On the other hand, the Queen gave the equivalent of 160,000 pounds today or 336,656 US Dollars, The Osmanli Traveller blog has copied to text a write up by a Christian Priest who wrote about the Sultan of the time in his travelogue.
His account mentions this incident briefly. What is interesting is that without knowing of the secret sending of the ships, the priest was already impressed with the character of the Sultan in his response to the Queen, as he stated;
“One or two anecdotes will put his character in its true light. During the year of famine in Ireland, the Sultan heard of the distress existing in that unhappy country; he immediately conveyed to the British ambassador his desire to aid in its relief, and tendered for that purpose a large sum of money.
It was intimated to him that it was thought right to limit the sum subscribed by the Queen, and a larger amount could not therefore be received from his highness. He at once acquiesced in the propriety of his resolution, and with many expressions of benevolent sympathy, sent the greatest admissible subscription.
It is well known that his own personal feeling dictated the noble reply of the divan to the threatening demands of Austria and Russia for the extradition of the Polish and Hungarian refugees. “I am not ignorant,” was his reply, “of the power of those empires, nor of the ulterior measures to which their intimations point; but I am compelled by my religion to observe the laws of hospitality; and I believe that the sense and good feeling of Europe will not allow my government to be drawn into a ruinous war, because I resolve strictly and solemnly to adhere to them.”
This is the true spirit of Christianity, and there is more it in the Mohammedan Sultan of Turkey, than in any or all of the Christian princes of Eastern Europe.”
The Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Medjid Khan: A Brief Memoir of His Life and Reign, with Notices of The Country, its Navy, & present Prospects by the Rev. Henry Christmas, M.A., 1853
It should be noted that this generosity and compassion occurred during the time of the supposed “downfall” of the Ottoman empire according to the Western Orientalists point of view, and Sultan Abdul Majid in himself is not counted as one of the greatest of Ottoman Sultans.
Furthermore the help was offered solely on the ground of charity to the Irishmen, considering that there was no request for help made from the British Empire who at that time ruled the whole of Ireland.
During that period of time more than a million people died out of hunger and millions became refugees. Most of these people were forced to escape to the US and also to other countries, where Irishmen initially occupied the bottom layers of society.
It was interesting to note that the Irish did not forget the hand of friendship that Turkey had extended to them. In the aftermath of the end of the first world war, when the Islamic Caliphate was being dismantled, Yahya Kemal Beyatli (d. 1958), a famous Turkish poet and a former ambassador, had an interesting memory from the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, in which he participated as a reporter.
He recounts that while all the plenipotentiaries of the allied powers (The British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania, and the Serb- Croat-Slovene State) voted in unison in opposition to Turkey, the representative from Ireland was an exception; in each vote, he raised his hand in favour of Turkey’s interests.
Beyatli noticed this unusual person, and could not help asking him the reason, the Irish representative responded with;
“I am obliged to do it. Not only I, but are all Irish men and women, When we suffered from famine and disease, your Ottoman ancestors shipped loads of food and monetary donations. We have never forgotten the friendly hand extended to us in our difficult times. Your nation deserves to be supported on every occasion.”
I studied the Great Famine and the Michael Collins inspired uprisings in Ireland as part of my GCSE history, but of course this fact was never mentioned.
A simple examination of the events surrounding this engagement will open anyone’s eyes to the high station of the character of the Khaleefah’s combined with their skilful ability to traverse political waters to achieve moral, Islamic ends.
How many more facts remain buried in the annals of history of the positive steps that have been taken by Muslims to contributing towards a fairer and just society and civilisation?