Begum Soysal, Cultural and Tourism Counselor in the Turkish Embassy in Malaysia, spoke on elegance and compassion during the Ottoman rule at the seminar on the Ottomans, held in the Senate Hall of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), today, 2nd Dec. 2019.
She illustrated through various examples how the people in Ottoman times cared for birds and animals. She surprised many in the audience when she said that in Turkey there was also a hospital, the first of it’s kind in the world, dedicated for storks which had broken wings.
The concern for animals among the Ottomans stemmed from the teachings of Prophet Mohammed, peace be on him, she stated. She recounted two examples which he, the Noble Prophet, gave. One was of a woman of ill-repute who was granted salvation simply because she saved the life of a dog by giving it water; and the other was of a pious lady who was destined to hell fire because of ill-treating her cat.
She asserted that, on account of this guidance, people made sure that their pets were fed, before they sat to eat.
To the delight of the packed hall, she disclosed that the Turkish embassy is in talks with the IIUM to set up a Cat Shelter in the University, appropriately named the Abu Huraira project.
Her talk was punctuated with interesting facts relating to elegance and compassion exhibited by the citizens of the Ottoman civilisation.
Another enthralling example about the sense of aesthetics among the Ottomans, which this petite and elegant speaker from the Turkish Embassy presented, was their love for flowers.
She disclosed that, if there was a sick person at home and passers-by were to show deference by avoiding noise, the resident would plant yellow flowers in his/her balcony.
In like manner, a red flower in the balcony would indicate a girl of marriageable-age being an occupant; signalling, thereby, in a subtle manner, the need to preserve the decency of the neighbourhood, she pointed out.
Interestingly, she bought out the significance of the popularity of the Tulip flower in Turkey, not just as an emblem of beauty, but also as a symbol of divine grace.
The most striking aspect of her talk was, while in the midst of her presentation, she requested the participants to recite Surah Fatiha (the first chapter of the Quran) as a benediction to all those who contributed to an understanding of the Ottoman rule, especially for her teacher who was also the former Turkish minister of culture, deceased just last year.
This was indeed an exemplification of grace, dignity and gratitude in the person of a worthy descendant of the great Ottomans.