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Sultan Selim Khan (Jennet Mekan) is mentioned and recorded to have seen the Holy Prophet (saw) on many occasions. In one instance, he was called on a mission to rescue the holy cities from the encroaching naval power of Europe at the time, the Portuguese. In another instance, he was lead through the desert on his campaign against Egypt. In addition to physical power often noted by the West, the Ottomans possessed immense spiritual power and acted upon instructions, not whims.

FROM EMIRATE TO EMPIRE

Preparatory to the campaign against Shah Ismail, Selim [the Grim] hunted down suspected Shi’ite supporters in eastern Anatolia, and it is said that some 40,000 were killed. After a long march from Istanbul, made more arduous by the scorched-earth policy of the Safavids in their own territory, Selim forced Ismail to give battle at Chaldiran, northeast of Lake Van, on April 23, 1514. Ottoman artillery carried the day. The Safavids fled, and Selim entered Tabriz on September 5. Selim wished to follow up his victory in the next campaigning season by wintering in Tabriz, but the janissaries, tired and weary, forced him to abandon those plans.

Selim I also had to deal with the Mamluks. In the course of swift campaigns in 1516 and 1517, during which Ottoman artillery and firepower overcame Mamluk horsemanship, he had made himself master of the Mamluk domains, including Syria, Egypt, and the Hejaz.

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Selim’s drive to the Red Sea may have been his response to the oceanic revolution ushered in by Vasco da Gama’s circumnavigation of Africa and by extension of Portuguese naval strength in the Indian Ocean. Ottoman expansion into North Africa between 1515 and 1519 can be seen in the same light. The Mamluks, hampered by a lack of timber and possessed of a cultural tradition that extolled horsemanship and knightly virtues to the detriment of firearms and naval skills, had not been equal to the task of defending Islamic interests against the Portuguese. By taking over the Mamluk domains, the Ottomans had inherited the role of defender of the holiest places in Islam, the cities of Mecca and Medina, which were the cradle of Islam.  The Ottoman Sultan was now the supreme Islamic ruler and as such had to shoulder responsibility for resisting invaders. By 1517 Selim was already too late to check Portuguese expansion in the Indian Ocean, but until the mid-sixteenth century he carried the battle to the Portuguese by constructing fleets at Suez using Cilician timber and artisans who had gained experience in the dockyards of Istanbul, and employing commanders battle-tested in the Mediterranean. Although Ottoman attempts to expel the christian intruders were unsuccessful, the Portuguese never fully dominated the Indian Ocean trade, and spices continued to appear in markets of the eastern Mediterranean.

During the eight years of Selim I’s reign Christendom knew a period of comparative peace, free of any large-scale imperial campaigns in Europe. His death in 1520 and the accession of his son Suleiman marked the end of that respite. Under the leadership of the dynamic young sultan, Ottoman military power once again swung westward and the traditional ghaza policy was resumed.

At this time the predominant power in Christian Europe was Charles V of the house of Hapsburg. Contesting for the prize of universal monarchy was Francis I, of the house of Valois. With this dominant theme of Hapsburg-Valois rivalry influencing his policies, Suleiman set about to gain two objectives that had eluded his predecessors. The first of these objectives was Belgrade; the second the island of Rhodes.

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