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Modernism: The Creation of Nation-States

Ahmet Ersoy
Maciej Górny
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter I. Making of the modern state in a multi-national context

What Mohammedans in Bosnia think

Mehmed-beg Kapetanović Ljubušak
Traduction de Hamza Karčić

Texte intégral

1Title: Što misle muhamedanci u Bosni (What Mohammedans in Bosnia think)

2Originally published: Sarajevo, Spindler and Loschner, 1886

3Language: Bosnian
The excerpts used are from the original, pp. 4–6, 9, 18–19.

About the author

4Mehmed beg Kapetanović Ljubušak [1839, Ljubuški (Herzegovina) – 1902, Sarajevo]: public official and writer. He received his primary education in his home-town and completed his secondary education in Mostar, thereafter continuing with his education in Ljubuški. Kapetanović was appointed a member of a commission under the chairmanship of Cevdet Pasha working to introduce reforms in Herzego-vina. For his services, he was awarded with an award of distinction by the Sultan. Between 1865 and 1875 Kapetanović was appointed kaymakam (governor) of the town of Stolac, and later served also as the kaymakam of towns Ljubuški, Foča and Trebinje. With the 1875 Herzegovina uprising he moved to Sarajevo and two years later was appointed the mayor of Sarajevo. In the same year he got elected to the Ottoman Parliament. After the Austro-Hungarian occupation, Kapetanović’s next appointment was to the Sarajevo city council, for he played no significant role in the (armed) resistance to the 1878 occupation. Kapetanović became the first Bosnian Muslim to publish a work in the Latin alphabet in 1883. His ideas and opinions on the condition of the Bosnian Muslims under Austro-Hungarian rule are best illus-trated in his pamphlet Što misle muhamedanci u Bosni, which was published in 1886 in response to an anonymous brochure which attacked Bosnian Muslims. Kapetanović supported the project of Bosnjastvo, and it was in this context that the journal Bošnjak was founded in 1891. From 1893 to 1898 he served again as the mayor of Sarajevo. His views reflect those of the progressive-minded, urban intellectuals and sections of the ulema (figures such as Mehmed Teufik Azabagić), but they should not be taken to be representative of the majority of the populace.

5Main works: Risale-i ahlak [Treatise on morals] (1883); Što misle muhamedanci u Bosni [What Mohammedans in Bosnia think] (1886); Narodno Blago [The national wealth] (1887); Boj pod Banjomlukom 1737 [The Banja Luka battle, 1737] (1888); Budućnost ili napredak muhamedanaca u Bosni i Hercegovini [Future or progress of Mohammedans in Bosnia-Herzegovina] (1893).


6At the Berlin Congress of 1878, Austria-Hungary was given the right to occupy and administer Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following the withdrawal of Ottoman officials and troops, there was a determined but short-lived armed resistance to the occupation. The territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina were placed neither under Austrian nor Hungarian jurisdiction, but were termed as corpus separatum and were governed by the Joint Ministry of Finance. The occupation resulted in the severing of links between the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the rest of the Muslim world. Bosnian Muslims no longer belonged to the Muslim millet of the Ottoman Empire but had become a Muslim minority under a Christian emperor (the Sultan had only nominal sovereignty over Bosnia-Herzegovina). The reactions of Bosnian Muslims to the new authority varied from armed resistance and massive migrations to the acceptance of an eventual modus vivendi. The first wave of migrations fol-lowed the 1881 introduction of military service for the inhabitants of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the subsequent debates it generated as to the recruitment of Muslims in a non-Muslim army. An influential Muslim alim (religious scholar) Mustafa Hilmi H. Omerović, as well as Mehmed beg Kapetanović Ljubušak, supported Muslim service in the Austro-Hungarian army.

7The Habsburg administration in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the person of Benjamin Kállay (the Joint Finance Minister), pursued the policy known as Bosnjastvo (Bosnianism), which had in fact been initiated by the last vizier of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The term Bošnjak was used for inhabitants belonging to the Muslim faith, but this policy was now aimed to widen its scope and in-clude the Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats as well. This was to comprise a new Bosnian national ideology. To this end the journal Bošnjak was founded in 1891 by Mehmed beg Kapetanović (himself a pro-Habsburg). The Bošnjak was in favor of adopting European culture and saw Austria-Hungary as a ve-hicle to that end. The publication, which was in the Latin alphabet, also had the aim of countering the Serbian and Croatian nation-building discourses which claimed that the Bosnian Muslims were either Serbs or Croats. The journal proclaimed that what made the Bošnjaks different from their neighbors was the local climate, their local customs and religion. Despite the official government backing for the policy of Bosnjastvo, it eventually failed.

8In 1882, an important development took place for the Bosnian Muslim subjects of the Habsburg Emperor, An Islamic religious administration was established independent of the Porte, save for some symbolic references. This strategic move gained popularity among Bosnian Muslims for now they had their own spiritual leader that came from among their ranks. For the Monarchy, this move was another step in the process of annexation, which was to be consummated in 1908. In 1886 an anonymous brochure was published which attacked the Bosnian Muslim subjects of the Dual Monarchy, and claimed that no matter how well their country was ruled, Bosnian Mus-lims would remain disloyal subjects and enemies of the Monarchy. It was this brochure that triggered Kapetanović’s response in the form of his pamphlet ‘What Mohammedans in Bosnia think.’ Kapetanović makes it clear that the future of the Bosnian Muslims was to be shaped under Austro-Hungarian rule. He also claims that the thought of a return to the Ottoman Empire is unrealistic, and that the faith of the Bosnian Muslims is not an inherent ob-stacle to their progress.


What Mohammedans in Bosnia think

10[…] What is the difference between Marko and Mujo (Mustafa) in the nas-cent Bosnian army today? Are they not both loyally and devotedly serving their present ruler and homeland, and do they not have equal rights? It is not known which one is better and more loyal than the other; why should Mujo be guilty because he was not born as Marko? Every smart and honest man would consider both of them as equals.

11Let the author consider the last Serbo-Bulgarian war; were not the Mohammedans serving in the Bulgarian army loyal and brave? They were, in-deed, as their decorations testify; they did not look back to their past […]. The author will see this in the case of the Mohammedans in the Russian army, with the English army and the Indians, with the French and the Algeri ans—so should the Mohammedans in Bosnia be disloyal subjects and ene-mies of Austria? The author has got this wrong and entirely misunderstood the issue. The Bošnjak-Mohammedan is solid, correct, and loyal, even if he is not civilized according to the new system.

12Religion does not prevent anyone to be truthful and serious. But in fact anyone who fully carries out his religious duties must be a friend, with his heart and soul, to the government under which he enjoys his holy rights without any obstacles. We are surprised at how the author could have written these words and how he could be so unjust in judging religion. […]

13As for the thought and hope of the return of Bosnia to Turkish hands, here everybody knows very well that in the last two centuries, whatever the Turk-ish government has lost and whatever has been taken from her, she has never been able to get back. Bosnia can become anything, but Turkish, never again; so why think so foolishly and hope for Bosnia’s retreat to previous condi-tions? With such thoughts, we end up in a more severe state of self-deceit than that experienced by the author of the brochure himself. […]

  • 1 “With united force,” the motto of the Habsburg Monarchy.

14We are not asking for partiality, but pay homage and offer to the Catholic and Eastern Greek element respect. Let the government rely whom it wants to rely on, it is her business. For this, we see no need to advise her, as does the author. But if the government would make any exceptions, then it would not conform to that Latin sentence found—if I am not wrong—in the imperial coat of arms: viribus unitis! […]1

15Why would the Mohammedans be unable to progress in business and in the cultural sphere, like all other elements? What is the obstacle to Mohammedan progress? Is it because it is forbidden to drink wine and eat pork, be-cause we can marry four wives, and because we have to give every year 1 out of 40 of our profits as zekat (alms-giving). This does not hinder development; it can even be the case that the others might consider these as good practices. Our Qur’an did not forbid anything in which there is more benefit than harm. […]

16Bosnia today is the first case in history whereby there are so many Mohammedans under the rule of a Christian ruler in Europe.

17We do not see any difficulty here, but think and hope that with God’s help and just rule there can be progress […].

18Our opinion is that all inhabitants in Bosnia can progress well and develop in the field of business so long as the main and ultimate basis of rule in the country is: I. Equality; II. The government being impartial towards all faiths in the country; III. The government recognizing the full equality of all faiths; IV. The government not denying citizen rights because of religion; V. All citizens, regardless of their religion, enjoying the protection of the state. These are the main bases of rule, and who would not be able to enjoy progress under these circumstances! May God grant longevity to this rule!


1 “With united force,” the motto of the Habsburg Monarchy.


Hamza Karčić (Traducteur)

© Central European University Press, 2010

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