Albania: Freedom Unconsidered

H. Abiva

(This is a summary of the article developed by Dr. A. Zahoor.)

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The Albanians embraced Islam nearly as a whole, which is remarkable when seen in the light of Albanian history. Their ancient origin was from the Illyrian people who inhabited the Adriatic littoral of the Balkan peninsula. The rugged terrain of this region served as a natural barrier against outside invaders and greatly slowed the spread of foreign ideas, such as Christianity and linguistic borrowing. Before the outlawing of religion in 1967, Albania's population was 75% Muslim, 15% Orthodox Christian and 10% Roman Catholic. Eighty-five percent of Albanian Muslims followed Hanafi school of thought. The majority of urban dwellers were Muslim and most of central and northeast Albania was populated by Muslims.

In 1385, Ghergj Balsha perished in a battle with the Ottomans. Following their victory over a combined force of Hungarians, Serbs, Bosnians and Wallachians on the banks of the Maritza River, Ottoman troops expanded their hold over large portions of the south-central Balkans. By 1479, the entire country, except for Durres, Dulcigno and Antivari, was under Ottoman suzerainty. The lenient terms of capitulation required by Islamic law gave Albanians the right to retain their religious beliefs. It was not until the early seventeenth century that Islam began to gain hold in Albania. This is proof in itself that the so-called theories that Islam was forced upon Albanians and other Balkan peoples hold no ground in historical fact. Islam gave them a way to God without the entanglements of intermediaries and without the complex theological doctrines that typified medieval Christianity. Islam also gave Albanians a voice in the administration of not only their own lands but of the whole Ottoman State. Prominent Vizirs and Pashas hailed from Albania, and were appointed to their posts long before the majority of Albanians professed Islam.

Albania proclaimed its independence on Nov. 28, 1912. Albania's territorial integrity was insured by the Great Powers, albeit not without a price. In return for foreign protection, a foreign Christian prince, William of Wied, was placed as monarch of Albania. In June 1924, the American-educated Orthodox Bishop Fan Noli was placed in power. Later, in 1928, Ahmet proclaimed himself king of Albania, who was known as King Zog. He set about to de-Islamize Albania on the model of Kemal Ataturk of Turkey.

Although Christians make up only some 25% of Albania's population, they hold more than half of the membership of the Albanian politburo. The first Juma' prayer in over twenty years was held Nov. 23, 1990 in Tirana.

Allah: Allah is the proper name in Arabic for The One and Only God, The Creator and Sustainer of the universe. It is used by the Arab Christians and Jews for the God (Eloh-im in Hebrew; 'Allaha' in Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus, pbuh). The word Allah does not have a plural or gender. Allah does not have any associate or partner, and He does not beget nor was He begotten. SWT is an abbreviation of Arabic words that mean 'Glory Be To Him.'

Copyright © The Message International, 1991
Copyright © 1998 Web version prepared by Dr. A. Zahoor.


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