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Wine Production and Export during the Reign of Abdul Hamid II

Wine Production and Export during the Reign of Abdul Hamid II

In 1889, vineyards were set up on a land in Erenköy, Istanbul on a 70-hectare land. During the rule of Abdul Hamid II, the Sultaniye vineyards in the Aegean region were used to produce grapes for wine production, which would later be exported to Europe.

When European vineyards started going bad, the whole of Europe, particularly France, turned to the Ottoman Empire, to meet the demands for wine. During Abdul Hamid II’s reign, wine exports skyrocketed to 340 million liters by 1904. Wine advertisements were to be found in the Ottoman newspapers, while promotional signs for Martel cognac could be seen all around Istanbul.

Ottoman cognacs distilled by Kotroni Efendi of Erdek entered competitions in Paris and won awards. Again, the first champagne factory was opened in the Ottoman Empire when Abdul Hamid II was the Sultan.

Alcohol production and consumption increased so much during Abdul Hamid II’s time, the 34th chapter of Ayşe Fahriye Hanım’s famous cookbook Ev Kadını (The Housewife), which was first published in 1883, gave recipe for homemade rakı. The readers were given detailed descriptions of the production methods for two different types of rakı (seasoned with mastic and regular rakı) with a side note that fermented grape juice and wine could also be produced using the same setup.

According to journalist Ahmet Cemaleddin Saraçoğlu, ‘… the rule of Abdul Hamid II provided a massive tavern to citizens’.(SOURCE)

Alcohol is a very harmful substance, not to mention that Muslims are forbidden from drinking it. God says in a verse:

O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than God], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of satan, so avoid it that you may be successful. (Qur’an, 5:90)

Of course, every individual has the right to live their lives the way they wish. The above historical details are in no way to be construed as interfering in people’s choices. However, they are important in that they show how the production, sales and export of alcoholic beverages in a Muslim country, with the permission of the Islamic Caliph, set the stage for the moral decline in society and shook the trust of the Islamic world in the Caliph. Even though certain circles maintain that alcoholic drinks were produced for non-Muslims at the time, it is clear that not as many non-Muslims were living on Ottoman lands at the time that would be able to consume millions of liters of alcoholic drinks. In any case, many photographs taken during those days clearly show Ottoman Turks drinking alcohol at beer houses.

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