chapter  3
24 Pages

The first three centuries of Ottoman rule, 1534–1831

T he Ottoman conquest of Iraq seems to have been welcomed bybroad sections of the urban population, especially the notables. Many Shiais were undoubtedly concerned about the Sunni character of the new rulers, but this was not something to which they were unaccus-

tomed, and Sultan Sulayman’s gestures and promises of tolerance went a

long way toward allaying their fears. In addition, the Shiais were no different from their Sunni, Jewish or Christian compatriots in longing for a more

stable, secure rule. This, the Ottomans seemed well poised to provide. By

the time of Iraq’s incorporation into the empire, Ottoman rule extended

from Hungary to Yemen, and from Algeria to Tabriz. It included the holiest

cities of Islam and was already renowned for its efficient administration

and tolerant legal tradition. It formed a vast trading area with generally

low taxes and relatively secure roads. At the centre of this empire stood

the great metropolis of Istanbul, one of the most populous, economically

productive and affluent cities of its time, exuding a confidence worthy of

its role as an imperial capital. Claiming to be the heirs to High Islamic

traditions of governance, the Ottomans habitually compared themselves to

the Abbasid caliphs, a symbol which continued to fill Iraqi notables with a

strong sense of pride. Aleppo, one of the empire’s major cities at this time,

was fast becoming an important trading partner of northern Iraq, even

before the conquest of Baghdad. Under the Ottomans, Iraq was gradually

re-oriented away from Persia and Central Asia toward Anatolia and the