|Presentation of Gifts to
though he did not occupy Roman lands, he still claimed them as his
own and almost launched an invasion of Rome (the city came within
a few hairbreadths of Ottoman invasion in Suleyman's expedition
against Corfu). In Europe, he conquered Rhodes, a large part of
Greece, Hungary, and a major part of the Austrian Empire. His campaign
against the Austrians took him right to the doorway of Vienna.
Besides invasions and campaigns, Suleyman was
a major player in the politics of Europe. He pursued an aggressive
policy of European destabilization; in particular, he wanted to
destabilize both the Roman Catholic church and the Holy Roman Empire.
When European Christianity split Europe into Catholic and Protestant
states, Suleyman poured financial support into Protestant countries
in order to guarantee that Europe remain religiously and politically
destabilized and so ripe for an invasion. Several historians, in
fact, have argued that Protestantism would never have succeeded
except for the financial support of the Ottoman Empire.
Suleyman was responding to an aggressively expanding
Europe. Like most other non-Europeans, Suleyman fully understood
the consequences of European expansion and saw Europe as the principle
threat to Islam. The Islamic world was beginning to shrink under
this expansion. Portugal had invaded several Muslim cities in eastern
Africa in order to dominate trade with India, and Russians, which
the Ottomans regarded as European, were pushing central Asians south
when the Russian expansion began in the sixteenth century. So in
addition to invading and destabilizing Europe, Suleyman pursued
a policy of helping any Muslim country threatened by European expansion.
It was this role that gave Suleyman the right, in the eyes of the
Ottomans, to declare himself as supreme Caliph of Islam. He was
the only one successfully protecting Islam from the unbelievers
and, as the protector of Islam, deserved to be the ruler of Islam.
the expansion of European power helps explain Suleyman's conquest
of European territories, it doesn't help us when it comes to the
vast amount of Islamic territory that he invaded or simply annexed.
How does conquering Islamic territory "protect" Islam?
The Ottomans understood this as belonging to Suleyman's task as
universal Caliph of Islam. This role demanded that Suleyman also
see to the integrity of the faith itself and to root out heresy
and heterodoxy. His annexation of Islamic territory, such as the
annexation of Arabia, were justified by asserting that the ruling
dynasties had abandoned orthodox belief or practice. Each of these
invasions or annexations were preceded, however, by a religious
judgement by Islamic scholars as to the orthodoxy of the ruling