Home > Ottoman Secularism > List of Secular Laws that Ottoman Caliph Adopted

List of Secular Laws that Ottoman Caliph Adopted

By getting rid of the millet system, the Ottoman Empire hoped to be able to control all of its citizens. They thought that the Great Powers would accept this as long as reforms were ongoing, leaving them to act as enforcers of these goals. The ambitious project was launched to combat the slow decline of the empire that had seen its borders shrink, and was growing weaker in comparison to the European powers.

Tanzimât reforms began under Sultan Mahmud II. On November 3, 1839, Sultan Abdülmecid issued an organic statute for the general government of the empire named Hatt-ı Şerif (the Imperial Edict) of Gülhane (the imperial garden where it was first proclaimed). It is also called as Tanzimât (تنظيمات) Fermânı and was followed by a series of edicts enacting the imperial statute of 1839.

In this very important document, the Sultan stated that he wished “to bring the benefits of a good administration to the provinces of the Ottoman Empire through new institutions”, and that these institutions would principally refer to:

  • Guarantees to ensure the Ottoman subjects perfect security for their lives, honour, and property (1839, see Rescript of the Rose Chamber below for details);
  • The reorganization of the finance system according to the French model (1840)
  • The reorganization of the Civil and Criminal Code according to the French model (1840)
  • The so-called “Hatt-ı Hümayun of 1856 (called Islahat meaning improvement) promising “full legal equality for citizens of all religions” (1856)
  • The abolition of the capitulation (Jizya) tax on non-Muslims, with a regular method of establishing and collecting taxes (1856)
  • The Land Code (Arazi Kanunnamesi (1857) [whih led to the creation of Israel in future]
  • The decriminalization of homosexuality (1858)
  • The so-called “Nationality Law of 1869” creating a common Ottoman citizenship irrespective of religious or ethnic divisions (1869)
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