A World leader who represented the modern, high-quality face of Islam: Ataturk
Islamic countries today are regarded as societies devoid of modernity and quality because some Muslims live by a concept of the faith that is rooted in superstitions. Among the nations of the Islamic world, Turkey is the country that best understands the true quality and modernity in Islam. One of the main reasons for Turkey being a shining star of the Islamic world and a "contemporary civilization" is the revolutions carried out by Ataturk. Of course it was impossible to grasp the wisdom in the revolutions that we all studied in school during our childhood years: However, the way Turkey remained unaffected by the political upheavals and radicalism that affect the Islamic world today has clearly revealed the auspicious nature of Ataturk’s revolutions.
Our country is the most democratic and peaceful country among all Islamic nations. Had Ataturk’s vision of democracy not been brought to Turkey through the declaration of the Republic, it might today have been one of those countries in which al-Qaeda and ISIL were hard at work; in terms of political upheavals and civil war, it might have been no different to Syria or Egypt. If Turkey today is a country where everyone can freely express all kinds of opinions and beliefs and respect the lives, ideas and life styles of other people that is thanks to Ataturk. As a matter of fact, that is also what is compatible with Qur’anic moral values, because the conception of justice and democracy in Islam permits the easy expression of all ideas, even irreligious and atheist ideologies and other opposing ideas. It commands that false ideas should be eliminated, not through force and compulsion, but by telling people the truth through intellectual and educational campaigns.
There are people today in many Islamic countries who are against art, beauty, music, dance and quality and who are deeply opposed to those who try to introduce them. However, these people do grave harm to Islam through these attitudes. Ataturk, however, proved through the example of Turkey that the Islamic world can be modern, intellectual, high-quality and civilized, and led the way through his revolutions to the elimination of the concept of Islamophobia in the world. That perception, which led to Muslims being feared in many parts of the world and therefore to their being oppressed wherever they lived, has today been undermined by the example of Turkey. Because of that, Turkey is described as “a model Islamic country” or “the leader of Islamic countries." Through his behavior, lifestyle, the beauty of the places he lived in, his clothing and his manners, Ataturk made the world acquainted with the true model of Islam. His revolutions aimed to have a superior conception of sensitivity, kindness, art, beauty, modernity and quality settled in Turkey.
For example, the alphabet revolution was the best way to be able to communicate with the rest of the world. Of course learning and being able to read Arabic, the language of the Qur’an, is a great privilege and an amazing beauty, and it is easy to learn Arabic quite quickly when one so wishes. In other words, the alphabet revolution is no obstacle to learning Arabic, the language of the Qur’an. However, the alphabet revolution was hugely important in terms of integrating Turkey to the rest of the world; switching to the Latin alphabet meant being able to read scientific publications and follow developments across the world with ease, and meant that Turkish scientists, artists and writers could easily put their own works before the world. The alphabet revolution alone is enough to see Ataturk’s foresight and intelligence.
God reveals in the Qur’an the measures that need to be taken so that women are watched over and protected in society and enjoy the love and respect they deserve. Ataturk implemented those measures of the Qur’an and ensured, through a series of revolutions in 1930-1934, that women would be able to take part in economic and social life and thus come to enjoy an equal position with men. The fact is that some of the most modern countries in the world today only gave women the right to vote and stand for office long after Turkey, such as Sweden in 1971 and France and Italy in 1946. Ataturk made Turkey a leading country in this area. All women in Turkey, whether they cover their heads or not, are incomparably more comfortable than those in many other countries. Much of the responsibility for that lies with Ataturk’s revolutions concerning women’s rights. It must not be forgotten that if women in a society are happy and comfortable, that whole society will be happy and at peace.
Muslims are told of the lofty quality of our Prophet (saas), the beauty of the Prophet Joseph and the glorious life of the Prophet Solomon. In the Qur’an, God commands Muslims to keep themselves, their clothes and their homes in spotless and to be the cleanest and most immaculate people in the world. Ataturk also led the way in this area by taking a very positive step with the clothing reforms he brought. Although some fundamentalirreligioist types opposed it to begin with, Ataturk carried out his clothing reforms with the very best of intentions and taught the Turkish people how to dress elegantly. To that end, he sent his own tailor to England and had him trained there. He set an example to the Turkish people through his own personal style of dressing. Despite the limited means available, Turkish people dressed very elegantly and well in those days. This smart and elegant way of dressing that Ataturk ushered in during the early years of the Republic broadens our horizons today as well.
Ataturk also implemented God’s command that everyone should speak kindly, and used a very beautiful, kind form of language himself. With his perfect and refined use of the Ottoman language he set an example to the Turkish people and to world leaders.
The purpose behind Ataturk’s invitations to receptions where many artists would be present, and where he would personally dance and listen to music, was to spread joy and happiness throughout society as a whole. The fact that music can be produced all over Turkey today, that Turkish artists are well-known and give concerts abroad and that everyone in Turkey can enjoy this form of entertainment is due to the fact that Ataturk enacted a form of Islam based on the Qur’an.
Music, dance and having fun are depicted as dangerous in some Islamic countries today, and people who engage in them are regarded as worthy of punishment. Yet the presence of music, fun and joy in one’s life is a great blessing: In their absence, people become inward-looking, restless and insensitive. With them, Muslims perform their religious observances on the one hand and enjoy an agreeable state of mind that is happy and enjoys music and having fun on the other. In the absence of joy and fun, pessimism and negativity will descend upon people; the result of that is increasing numbers of people with no love in their faces, who speak in an apathetic or angry or negative way and who take no pleasure from nice things, or even try to do away with them entirely; simply put, people who spread negativity all around them. The unhappiness caused by such prohibitions has a significant effect on uprisings based on anger in certain Islamic societies.
Another fine thing that Ataturk bequeathed the Turkish nation is the Turkish Army. An army that had suffered constant defeats in the final years of the Ottoman Empire regained its prestige as a ‘powerful army’ with Ataturk. If the Turkish Army is today one of the most powerful in the world, and is able to deal with terrorist organizations such as the PKK, that is to a large extent because Ataturk turned the Turkish Army into an exceedingly modern one.
These revolutions of Ataturk’s are referred to by some people, due to a false perspective, as ‘irreligious.’ The fact is that Ataturk was a devout and genuine Turkish nationalist. How do those who erroneously describe Ataturk as ‘irreligious’ account for his having the 'Commentary of Elmalı', the greatest commentary on the Qur’an, drawn up, having Bukhari, the most important book of hadiths, translated, establishing the Department of Religious Affairs, encouraging people to live by the true Islam, reading the Qur’an almost every evening, having scholars who had memorized the Qur’an around him and having them recite the Qur’an, carrying out serious research into the Qur’an, praising our Prophet (saas) with great love and expressing a joyous love of God? It is a terrible thing that those circles who otherwise regard anyone was says 'La ilaha illallah, Muhammedan Rasullullah' as a Muslim should fail to concentrate on this facet of Ataturk, who gave great service to Islam through his revolutions and was a genuine restorer of the faith.
It must not be forgotten that Ataturk deserves much of the credit for Turkey today being nationalist and conservative, but also just as much high quality and modern, for it adopting a line admired by all other countries and, of course, for its being a highly respected state.