Ertugrul Drama and Muslims
[This seeker of knowledge wrote a review on the famous Turkish historical play Ertugrul a few months back. This review was actually based less on the play and more on the prevailing and popular common school of thought due to which this play obtained unusual popularity in the entire Muslim world. In this review the technical and ethical merits of the play were whole heartedly acknowledged but side by side there was some criticism on the prevailing understanding and its flaws due to which Muslims are the victims of humiliation and contempt for the past two hundred years despite their many sacrifices. Many people have appreciated this criticism but some people also renounced it. However it is necessary to rise above the like and dislike of people and keep that aspect in forefront with which the well being of the nation is associated and that is the real means to serve them.
Nowadays this play is being converted to Urdu and shown on PTV channel. Therefore, millions of people will now watch it. In this back drop, this review is being published again. On this hope that after wasting two centuries in blind and useless emotionalism, now is the right time that our young generation should learn the right lesson from history. Even if no lesson is learnt the responsibility needs to be fulfilled at all costs. (Abu Yahya).]
History and chapters of History
It is said that history is the memory of nations. But the reality is that the role of history in the lives of the nations is far more important than this. It plays a central role in their subconscious, national temperament and the portrayal of their psychology. However in the opinion of this knowledge seeker it is far more important than the history of a nation that from which angle its scholars and religious leaders portray the history to them. How they extract the lessons from the historical texts to form the psyche of the nation and how they relate the past to the present.
This is the background in which this knowledge seeker has taken time out from his engagements and responsibilities to personally watch this play titled Ertugrul which is the production of Turkish national television TRT. According to the deputy director of this organization more than 78 countries has been watching this series and the number is increasing day by day.
In our country the first season of this series was telecasted by a private television channel with Urdu dubbing; whereas recently Prime Minister Imran Khan has given instructions to PTV to telecast this play with Urdu dubbing. However, to date this play is available on social media and internet with Urdu sub titles.
The qualities of Ertugrul play.
Based on my interest in history, my elder brother insisted a few years ago that I should watch this play. However plays like this consist of so many episodes that it is nearly impossible for a person like me to actually take time out for this activity. However, recently I got some time and watched all the episodes of this play. That was the time when the Prime Minister’s announcement came that this play must be shown on national TV. Therefore this will result in this play being watched by masses on local level. Therefore it became evident that I should present my conclusive thoughts in this respect before the readers which have been narrated above that it is more important than history to see the manner in which the history is being presented.
This play is successful from a commercial aspect. It is not easy to sustain the interest of viewers in such long plays. In the rest of the world the tactic which is adopted is to infuse a burst of unethical, crude and obscene views. Where this is not possible, then the unethical and inappropriate dress of female actors is included. Due to this a vast majority of viewers watch that particular series.
Ertugrul play has been made in the historical perspective and this play was supposed to be televised on the local channel of Turkey’s Islamist government, therefore there are no obscene views and neither are there any unethical female dresses. This is no doubt very appreciable. However the play had to be made attractive for the audience. To accomplish this purpose two more strategies were adopted to make this play popular amongst the viewers. Firstly, frequent war scenes have been depicted. Secondly, in order to sustain the interest of viewers in the story of the play, an effort has been made to use the traitors, their plotting, and schemes to bring about new turning points in the play so that the aspect of suspense and mystery can be maintained.
Both these things have been combined to create the element of suspense and thrill which play an important role in making any story or play successful. In addition to this, acting of the actors, production, music, location, filming and other technical aspects are also of a high standard. All these things have combined to make this a popular and standardized.
However the top most characteristic of this play is that a lot of focus has been placed on the role play of the actors. Religious and ethical lessons have been included as a regular feature. Relationship with God, love for the religion and sympathetic emotions for the people have been shown repeatedly which are high spiritual and ethical characteristics. Alongside, the religion of Islam has been presented as the ultimate success for humanism and the only way for justice.
Explanation of a historical truth.
Before proceeding further, it is important to clarify one historical truth. Very few facts are known about Ertugrul and whatever is known are mostly fictional stories. After combining all this, the detail that comes forth is that Ertugrul belonged to the Bedouin Turkish tribe ‘Kayi’. This tribe panicked after the attack of the Tatars and ran to find shelter in the areas of Turkey and Syria. On the way Ertugrul saw two armies fighting against each other. He took 400 of his companions and assisted the weaker army and helped them to defeat the other army.
This weaker group was the army of Sultan Alauddin who belonged to the roman based Seljuk government in turkey. The other stronger army was the Mongol attackers. Therefore, the Sultan as a token of his gratitude granted him the area of Sogut as his territory which is adjacent to byzantine empire. This area was a permanent war zone and after this the rest of his life was spent fighting the opposition and spreading his domain. There was hardly any war that was recorded in the historical data. Otherwise most of the events of Ertugrul’s life have been hidden behind historical covers.
It is obvious that a play devised from such concise and brief information has to include a large part of its detail events from fiction. Even within itself in the beginning of each episode it is made clear in the Turkish language that all characters in the play and all events have been invented from historical effects. As a result, the play that is being shown is in itself a detailed version of fictitious events. And in some places there is error in showing the correct dates too.
For instance in the third season it is shown that in one of the wars that Ertugrul fought against the Christians, it was the Sultan who assisted him and saved one of Ertugrul’s armies from certain defeat by the Christians and forced them to retreat. However, in actual historical reality, it was the opposite case. It was Ertugrul who helped the Sultan in a difficult time and assisted him in defeating his enemies. The historians argue on this point that whether the opposing group was Mongol or Christians but they are certainly in agreement on this that it was Ertugrul who helped the Sultan defeat the other army and as a result he was granted the territory of Sogut.
Anyhow the main reason behind narrating all this detail is to clarify that this play instead of depicting the personal life of Ertugrul, revolves around more on the fact that how the historians have portrayed their history. And also the fact that what kind of lessons have they derived from history and as a result, what they want to inculcate in the minds of people. Since this mind is the mind of present day Muslims, unfortunately it consists of all those weaknesses due to which the Muslims of present day and age are unable to escape from the shackles of their consistent downfall.
So this knowledge seeker will interpret and evaluate the play from these aspects only. It may be possible that it would be unpleasant experience for some people but it can be said for them in the words of Allama Iqbal:
Bear my bitter truth in your garden
Even poison is a curing agent
Heroism versus training of souls and purification of thoughts.
The main character of this play is the favorite and ideal idol of the present day and age Muslims. This means that in order for the Muslims to save themselves from their inner conflicts, external dangers, constant defeats and downfall, there is only one escape and that is a great leader who will come and defeat all the adversities and make everything right. Ertugrul has been presented in this play in the similar role. It is a fact that setting everything right in the hands of one great leader was not completely true even in the historical era. But in the ancient era of the kings’ rule whatever small truth was there has been extinct as well.
This age is the age of social empowerment. This social empowerment comes into existence when there are a large number of trained individuals in the society at large and among the middle and elite class, in particular. They should be ethically sensitive humans. They should be impartial listeners of various school of thoughts and give due weightage to them and know the art of thought purification. One single person cannot change the destiny of a nation. Even if a great leader comes on the horizon, there is a huge number of silent workers behind him in the background who are quietly training the nation and fulfilling the role with cooperation.
The example of Turkey:
Take Turkey for example, where apparently, we see a political leader in embodiment of Erdogan. However, very few people are aware of the fact that there was a whole intellectual struggle before Erdogan, that lasted for more or less an entire century. That struggle is the main reason which kept alive the religious spirit and Islamic morality in the people of Turkey, despite the anti-religious thinking of Kamal Ataturk. For decades, despite Kamal Ataturk’s anti-religious coercion, reformers like Saeed Nursi (1871-1960), Fethullah Golan (born 1941) and their movements, not only motivated the Turkish nation to stick to Islam, but also continued to build it’s character by keeping alive the religious spirit and Islamic morality. Although later on intense differences among Golan and Erdogan appeared, regardless; these reform movements instilled in the people the spirit which made available opportunities for a good leadership, a support team, and huge acceptance in the society. It kept alive the moral spirit of the society as a whole. Therefore, it is just a matter of tales that the society should stand on lies, hypocrisy, dishonesty and a leader should come and change the destiny of the nation. This does not happen in the real world. Moreover, this is not the era of monarchy in which a chief with the help of a handful of his comrades seizes power. Then, paints the society in his own color.
In today’s era, no matter if someone comes democratically or as a usurper, he will have to make the worst compromises if society and public is not with him. We have seen it all happening in our own country. First we saw Zia-ul-Haq who was personally never accused of financial corruption, but in order to maintain his undemocratic power, he pushed the country into the hell of corruption. The democratic example is that of our current Prime Minister, whose entire power consists of compromises and U turns. But unfortunately in our country, people do not understand this fact. Instead of improving society, renewing education, refining ideas, training people morally and instilling a spirit of faith in them, they sit idly waiting for a leader.
Legends of Miracles:
Along with all this, in this play, the blessings of pious elders with supernatural powers are there supporting the main character. The way Ibn Arabi’s character is portrayed in this play has no authentic historical basis. But more than that, in this play, apart from being a moral mentor and a perfect physician, his role is also to help this great leader by using his spiritual powers. Only a lament (a passionate expression of grief or sorrow) of Iqbal can be said on such things.
رہا نہ حلقہ صوفی میں سوزِ مشتاقی
فسانہ ہائے کرامات رہ گئے باقی
The Holy Qur’an gives us complete guidance about the rise and fall of nations. It tells us that both honor and humiliation as well as bestowing or taking away the kingdom, is in the hands of Allah SWT. His decisions are enforced by his angels, not some elders. Whoever the human being is, he himself is in a state of trial. As far as His decisions are concerned, He SWT makes all His decisions on basis of His own set principles. The most basic of these is the nation’s own passion for it’s reform and betterment. Also, where does that nation stand in the field of knowledge and morality? Even if you get power somehow, it will be taken away shortly if you are morally weak. And if the moral attitude of a nation is sound, then the position of leadership and guide of the world is given to that nation.
However, the bottom line is that nations do not achieve greatness and progress with the arrival of a single leader. Today, it is a society whose collective power changes the destiny of the nation. The real work to be done is the moral training and intellectual purification of the society. If we wait for the great leader, nothing will come of it except disappointment and deception.
The real battlefield is now the field of knowledge:
The second problem with the theme of this play is that it captivates the viewers in this romantic world where some brave souls defeat the enemies with swords in their hands, cut the infidels, and raise the victory flag of the Muslims.
The importance of knowledge is discussed in the play a little bit here and there. It’s dominant theme however, has been shown so frequently that it is impossible not to be engraved in the mind of the viewer. The theme that shows that there are some brave persons, each of whom destroys a thousand enemies with his sword and raises the flag of Islam. Our childhood was spent in the same romantic world while reading Naseem Hijazi’s novels. But as we grew older, reading and understanding revealed the bitter truth that this romantic world is now completely irrelevant. We did produce thousands of heroes like Ertugrul in the last two centuries and they did join the battlefield with the dream of Muslims domination. However, at the end due to the nation’s total decline in knowledge and moral values, these heroes left the world empty-handed only dreaming of Muslim domination.
Unfortunately, we have not yet learned a lesson. With the invention of the steam engine almost more than two and a half centuries ago, human power was replaced by the power of knowledge. Unfortunately, Muslims have not heard of this incident to this day or in other words, the think-tanks and intellectual leadership of Muslims do not allow Muslims to acknowledge this fact. They are still keeping Muslims in a world where some brave warriors on horseback fought the war of Islam.
I wish someone would tell my people that the war is still on, but the battlefield has changed. Now it is the field of knowledge, the world of technology and the race of inventions where the real decision of victory or defeat of nations is decided. Now instead of swords, the world has entered the age of knowledge. Now only the power of knowledge becomes a military and economic power. Only the power of knowledge gives the technology that propels one nation ahead of another. It is through the power of education, new inventions occur and set a nation on the path of development taking it ahead of other nations. I wish our nation would understand this fact before further defeats, humiliations and disgrace.
If someone disagrees with us, he just needs to look at our education budget. How many Nobel Prizes did we win in science? What is the ranking of our universities in the field of scientific research globally? It would be great news if the entire Islamic world, consisting of two billion Muslims, could compete with a single developed Western country on these grounds.
Conspiracies and betrayals:
The third weak point of the play’s theme is that it shows so many conspiracies and betrayals that the viewer is convinced that conspiracies are being hatched against us everywhere in the world. The entire capital of other nations is to conspire without having a single other merit. Our real weakness is that there are traitors among us. Otherwise no one can defeat us. This unfortunately is a very unrealistic but common way of thinking among Muslims. This attitude will increase a lot in the viewers of this drama. The fact is that in God’s world things are different.
Here in a nation where moral sense is alive, merit is common, justice is established and the nation is ahead in science and art, it is neither easy to betray them nor are the conspiracies effective against them.
Betrayal and conspiracy are effective only against the weak. Morally sound people continue their journey despite every conspiracy. Similarly, it is important to understand that other nations are not just conspiring. They also possess many high qualities and have talented people. When two nations compete, it is not really a matter of who conspires more successfully against the other. Rather, the real competition is over who is more talented than the other and where justice, fairness and merit prevails. Every conspiracy against a nation that lags behind in these very aspects will be a success, otherwise it will fail.
These are the three aspects of the Ertugrul drama that subconsciously become part of the heart and mind of the viewer. But these are the same three aspects that have not let the decline of Muslims cease in the last two hundred years to this day. That is, instead of empowering the society, they are waiting for the arrival of a great leader who, with the help of some pious elders, will make the Muslims dominant in the world in spite of all their moral and ethical decline and weaknesses.
Secondly, Muslims are still mentally living on the battlefield where physical strength is decisive, while the world has advanced to the milestone where knowledge and technology determines the success of a nation. Without advancement in education, knowledge and technology, success can only be achieved in one’s dreams.
Thirdly, ignoring all their weaknesses Muslims consider some traitors and external conspiracies the cause of their humiliation and defeat.
The fact is that Muslims will be far from the pinnacle of power until they fix these three things. Those who want to see Ertugrul drama must watch it. Those who want to enjoy this drama, must do it. Also, if they want to be proud of their history and past, then do so as well. But please don’t make it relevant in today’s time and era. Otherwise, the series of defeats that has been going on for two centuries will continue in this century as well. If possible, keep in mind and aware of the points made by this student of knowledge. In them lies the path to our ascension and rise as a nation.