Chapter 2: Ideas and Movements in Islamic History, by Shafik Ghorbal
(Shafik Ghorbal teaches at the Institute of Higher Arabic Studies of the Arab League, Cairo, Egypt)
Al-Ghazali, the great mystical philosopher, in his book The Rescuer from Error gives a vivid account of the spiritual crisis he endured until, by the mercy of God, his way was enlightened and he regained the power to guide himself to the truth. When he studied the lives of those who gave themselves to the search for truth, he saw that they might be classified in four groups: the scholastic theologians, who proclaimed themselves the followers of reason and speculation; the Isma‘ilis and other Shi‘as who held that to reach truth one must have an infallible living teacher, and that there always is such a teacher; the philosophers, who relied on logical and rational proofs; and the Sufis, who held that they, the chosen of God, could reach knowledge of Him directly in mystical insight and ecstasy. In his perceptive classification of the searchers for truth al-Ghazali has gone right to the heart of the matter. We will be guided by his classification in this discussion of the ideas and movements in Islamic history.
Both the Muslim and the Christian have sought to bring as much as possible of the worldly affairs of their communities under the rule of the divine law and to make effective what their faiths teach about the origin and destiny of human society. It is generally admitted that the realization of this hope has always been imperfect, or even, in the view of some members of their communities, undesirable. But the fact that the realization of this hope has been as imperfect in Islamic society as in Western Christian society is usually not clearly grasped. The real difference between the two societies has been the tendency in the Islamic world to condemn or ignore the secular factors. One of the consequences of this attitude is the absence of terms for many human activities and relationships, such as church, secular, lay, ecclesiastical, state, political, social. Such key terms either do not exist or are rendered as approximately as possible, although people are aware of the existence of what these words stand for. In the course of this discussion we shall meet this difficulty and shall have to use such terms as "the ruling institution" and "the religious institution."
Professor H. A. R. Gibb has called attention to the fact that Islam spread in a series of rapid bounds. In slightly more than a century, between the years io and 133 (A.D. 632-750), the armies of the Caliphate carried the rule of Islam from Central Asia in the east to Morocco and Spain in the extreme west. Islam remained confined within these boundaries for some two and one-half centuries, and then between 400 and 500 (ca. A.D. 1000- 1100) Muslim domination was extended to West Africa, Asia Minor, Central Asia and Northern India. Two centuries later there was another wave of expansion thrusting out into the Balkan Peninsula, the steppes of Russia and Siberia, the rest of India, and into Indonesia. Thus by the beginning of the ninth century (A.D. 1400), the map of Islam was very much the same as it is today, except for the total disappearance of Islam from the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily, and except for minor advances which have been made since that time, chiefly in Africa.
It is significant to note that the faith and practice of Islam were fully matured in the period between 133 and 400 (A.D. 750-1000). Since that is the case, the regions to which Islam spread subsequent to that period cannot claim to have made an original contribution to the development of Islamic culture. That is why Islam in Indonesia and in Africa south of the Sahara have been dealt with separately here.
The Foundation of Islamic Society
The First and Second Centuries of the Hijrah (A.D. 622-750)
The Prophet Muhammad lived most of his life in the city of Mecca in the Hijaz region of the Arabian peninsula. He was forty years old when he began to preach that Allah is the only God, the Almighty, the Creator of everything, the Lord of the Worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful, the Sovereign of the Day of Judgment.
Mecca in the days of the Prophet was a city-state, a commercial republic, and also a great religious center built around the Ka‘ba, which at that time attracted many pilgrims who came to worship the idols housed there. The Meccans made detailed arrangements for the safety of the pilgrimage routes to the city, for the sale of supplies to the visitors, and for the order and propriety of the elaborate rituals at the Ka‘ba. Since the care of the pilgrims and the conduct of commercial transactions were the main occupations of the Meccans, the life of the city was dominated by a class of able administrators and negotiators, men who distrusted violence and were suspicious of enthusiasm.
Mecca remained a city-state because Arabia had never been effectively controlled by a central authority. The influence of the geographic environment has always militated against the growth of centralized control in the Arabian peninsula. The chief characteristics of that environment have been the unstable relations between a settled and a nomadic society, the constant interpenetration of those two societies, the extension of those conditions northward into the desert areas between Syria and Iraq, and finally, the international relations of the Arabian fringes of the peninsula with the outside world and the transpeninsular traffic created by those fringe areas.
The distinction between the commercial and agricultural settlements and the nomadic way of life is due mainly to climatic conditions. Nomadic life is tribally organized, with the tribal unit being neither too large nor too small for the conditions of existence in the desert. While a tribe is held together by ties of blood relationship, strangers can be attached to a tribe as "clients" or "allies." Because of the mobility and instability of the nomadic society, the settlements are greatly affected by what happens to their Bedouin neighbors. Usually, the people of the established communities have descended from nomadic tribes which settled down. After they have settled as traders or agriculturists they try to control by force and persuasion the neighboring Bedouin tribes in an effort to maintain some measure of peace and order. While they may succeed for some time, they often are overpowered by a new wave of nomadic unrest and the settled community is engulfed in nomadism. Sometimes the nomadic conquerors settle down and adopt the way of life of the conquered -- and the cycle starts again.
It is important to remember that even when the Bedouins have settled down to a new way of life they preserve many of their old ways and much of their old instability of character. There are many illustrations of their nostalgic attachment to the old ways, such as their tendency to escape into the desert for sports and physical and spiritual refreshment, the practice of sending their children to be reared in Bedouin encampments to protect them from the effects of city life, and the legends of the desert which beguile their evening hours.
It is important to note the role of the interpenetration of the settled and the nomadic life because it is not confined to Arabia or to the days before Islam. It runs through the history of Islamic society. The history of Islamic North Africa, or Egypt, Syria, or Iraq cannot be understood without a clear understanding of the role which this interpenetration has played.
Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad, is a good illustration of the phenomenon of interpenetration. The clans of Mecca belonged to the tribe of Quraish, which traced its descent to Ishmael, son of Abraham, both of whom are recognized in the Qur’an as prophets of God. The building of the Ka‘ba as a House of the Lord and sanctuary and place of pilgrimage is attributed to Ishmael and Abraham. The clan of the Prophet was descended from Hashim, and a closely related clan was descended from his brother Umayyah. The Umayyads were more wealthy and influential than the Hashimids. It was Abu Talib, the leader of the Hashimids, who cared for Muhammad in his youth; his son, Ali, one of the first converts to Islam, married Muhammad’s daughter, Fatimah, and was one of the stalwart champions of Islam. He and his descendants were destined to occupy a unique place m the history of Islam. Another uncle of Muhammad was Abbas, the ancestor of the Abbasids who were Caliphs of Islam for five centuries.
In order to understand the position of Mecca in the days of the Prophet, it is necessary to consider not only the role of the nomads and their clans but also to know something of the external relations of Arabia. Arabia provided the neighboring areas with such desired products as frankincense and livestock, and Arabian ports were links in international trade, with goods moving back and forth between Mediterranean areas and India by transpeninsular trade routes, many of which went through Mecca. The instability of Arabian nomadic society and the rivalry between Persia and the Byzantine Empire caused those two powers to create satellite states on their borders for the security of their frontiers and as a means of intervening in Arabian politics. The Byzantine Empire sought to counteract Persian influence in eastern Arabia, and to advance Christianity by overcoming Judaism in southern Arabia by encouraging Abyssinia to invade the Yemen. As is well known, the Abyssinians used the Yemen as the basis for an attempted attack on Mecca to destroy the Ka’ba. By divine mercy the expedition was an utter failure. Because the Abyssinians used African elephants in the attack, the year of the expedition is known as the "Year of the Elephant." It is the year of the Prophet’s birth, according to some sources.
It is clear, therefore, that Mecca was not a cultural backwater at the time of the Prophet. Its leaders were men who had traveled far conducting important commercial transactions, who had dealt with Roman and Persian officials as well as with their sophisticated fellow Arabs, and were skilled in managing Bedouin tribesmen. There were Christian and Jewish communities in many parts of Arabia; Medina, which figured prominently in the life of the Prophet, was particularly influenced by the Jews who settled there.
The tradition of Islam refers to the age in which the Prophet was born as the age of ignorance, Jahiliya, but the ignorance here is not to be taken as the antithesis of knowledge. Rather, it is used in the sense of "lawlessness" or "not being aware of something better." Some scholars have thought that the word refers to a relapse into barbarian or nomadic customs some time before the apostleship of Muhammad, but it should be taken to mean the falling away from the pure monotheism of Abraham and Ishmael to the idolatry which, more than anything else, the Prophet denounced with all his power.
This aspect of the situation in Mecca at the time of the Prophet must be clearly understood if one is to see the mission of the Prophet in the right perspective. For while his message was a reaffirmation and renewing of what earlier prophets, named and unnamed, had been instructed to convey to various peoples, in a very special sense it was a restoration of the religion of Abraham. The central theme of his message was above all the creation of a community dedicated to the worship of Allah and to righteousness. It was Muhammad’s ardent hope that his own people, the Quraish, could be transformed into a community which would restore the Ka‘ba to its pristine purity.
But it was not to be, for the Meccans did not respond to his preaching. In fact, they were temperamentally opposed to religious zeal and, being businessmen, tried to make Muhammad see sense by placing the Hashimids under an economic and social boycott! The weak and lowly among the early converts to Islam were subjected to physical torture, but the Meccans did not dare inflict such punishment on those who had strong connections. It is a measure of the strength of kinship solidarity that men stood by their converted relatives even when they disapproved of their change of religion. Muhammad eventually saw that it was hopeless to expect the conversion of the Quraish, and withdrew to Medina.
Muhammad in Medina went on with the building up of the community under a new set of circumstances. His objective, his cherished ideal, was to make Mecca the spiritual center of the community and to extend the community to include all humanity. To achieve this end he merged two constituent elements, the Meccan emigrants (Muhajirun) and the Medinese helpers (Ansar), into the brotherhood of Islam, a new relationship which was destined to transcend every other relationship of family, clan, tribe, or nation. The community was to be made secure by an elaborate system of alliances based on a recognition of mutual interests and even by covenants with non-Muslims. Until the brotherhood of Islam should include all humanity, the "striving" to make the Word of Allah supreme over all should never cease. But "striving" never meant compulsion. In the thought of the Founder, and after him in the thought of the community, the main objective is the security and supremacy of the Islamic community. Any particular good must be subjected to the general good. The treatment of non-Muslims within the community or outside it, the relations of peace and war with the rest of the world -- all must be governed by the supreme good of the community as a whole.
For ten years the Prophet toiled to turn his followers into a society of the Select, the community described in the Qur’an, "You are the best community that hath been raised up for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is reproachable, and you believe in Allah." The Qur’an embodied the tenets of the faith, the principles of righteous living and social relations. The Prophet, by word and deed, sought to set before his followers the living model, never sparing himself, never finding anything too trivial for his attention. The system of traditions created by his sayings and deeds, the spirit which permeates all that he did, and the outlook on things sacred and profane which was revealed in his life form the Sunnah of the Prophet, the binding force of Islamic society.
Eight years after the Prophet’s withdrawal from Mecca (in A.D. 629) he returned to his native town in triumph. During those eight years he had managed by war and diplomacy to isolate Mecca so that it fell into his power like ripe fruit. He forgave his people for their past bitterness and cleared all the idols from the Ka‘ba; then he returned to Medina, his adopted home. He died in Medina in the tenth year of the Hijrah (A.D. 632), after a short illness. Muhammad was a great-hearted man of supreme vision, the greatness of his vision equaled only by the extent of his delicacy of feeling and genuine humility.
The responsibility for guiding the fortunes of the community in the difficult times following the death of the Prophet fell to two men, Abu Bakr and Umar, who, although different from each other in almost everything, were singularly united in outlook and aim. Abu Bakr "succeeded" the Prophet as guide and leader and was known as "successor (or Caliph) to the Apostle of God." It was abundantly clear that general opinion in the community would accept only Abu Bakr as the first successor to the Prophet. Two years after he became the leader he designated Umar as his successor and the two men carried the evolution of the community a stage further.
Abu Bakr declared war to the bitter end against the assertion of some of the tribes that their covenants with the Prophet were not valid after his death and that therefore they were free to shape their attitude toward the community as they saw fit. He denounced such claims and crushed by force those who made them. In addition, he began the policy of expansion outside Arabia which was carried on so vigorously under Umar, and under the third Caliph, Uthman, that within ten years the Arabs became masters of Syria, Iraq, Upper Mesopotamia, Armenia, Persia, Egypt, and Cyrenaica. These conquests served later as bases for further expansion in the east into Central Asia and the Indus Valley, and in the west to North Africa, Spain, and some of the islands of the Mediterranean.
Abu Bakr and Umar continued the work of the Prophet in founding the Islamic community, looking upon their responsibilities as a trust, a calling to guidance and leadership, with the supreme authority residing in the community. They were undoubtedly chosen by the general agreement of the community. They belonged to two of the less powerful clans of Mecca. There was general reluctance to have as Caliph a man belonging to the Umayyads or the Hashimids, for it was feared that a Caliph enjoying the support of the Umayyads or the prestige of the Hashimids would have too much power. Abu Bakr and Umar showed a combination of just dealing and severity in their relations with the others who had been close associates of the Prophet. Umar, particularly, did not hesitate to break any man who fell short of the required standards of integrity and devotion to duty. The two men had their way because it was obvious that in not sparing others they spared themselves least in serving the community.
Abu Bakr and Umar were faced with many problems of which the most pressing were the question of the position of the community after Mecca had become the spiritual center, the decisions as to the kind of governmental organization to be adopted, and the necessity for striking a balance between conservatism and change in the conduct of practical affairs. They met the first problem by deciding on a policy of expansion which resulted in the creation of an Islamic world reaching from Spain to the Indus. In evaluating their motives it is impossible to ignore the view that the desirability of employing the newly converted tribesmen in military expeditions outside Arabia influenced the decision of the Caliphs. It is also necessary to consider the view that Meccan statesmanship counseled expansion. But the chief motive that led to the dispatch of the expeditions was the fact that the security and prosperity of a community confined to the Hijaz would have been precarious indeed unless their domain was extended to the bordering Arab territories which were under Byzantine and Persian control. It was the surprising ease of the earliest conquests which encouraged Umar and the Meccan generals to extend the operations much further afield.
It is important to note the great care with which the Caliphs and generals prevented the economic ruin of the conquered territories. They refused to partition the agricultural lands among the Arabian tribesmen, for those Bedouins would have ruined the land and impoverished the treasury. Care was taken to isolate the Arabian conquerors in garrison towns and to provide them with regular pensions and their share of the spoils of war. Some of the new garrison towns were founded on direct desert routes communicating with Medina, such as Basra and Kufa in southern Iraq, or Fustat just south of modern Cairo; others were old Syrian cities like Homs.
Although Islam theoretically denounced the loyalties of the pagan society of the age of ignorance, the tribal structure with its internal strength and its method of adopting strangers was too useful to be done away with. Thus the fighting forces were organized on tribal lines and the quarters in the garrison towns were allotted according to tribal divisions. The newly converted provincials were brought into Islam not merely as members of the community, but were affiliated with the tribes as clients, or mawali, who did not find themselves treated as equals by their Arabian brethren of the faith. This problem of the mawali, the provincial converts who were affiliated with the Arab tribal structure, continued to plague Islamic society until the advent of the Abbasid Caliphs, when the tribal structure inherited from the days of Umar broke down.
Those of the provincials who preferred to keep their Christian or Jewish or Zoroastrian faith were included in the social organization as zimmi, or protected persons, subject to special taxes and various restrictions. They were second-class citizens -- a category which is regarded by historians as having been injurious to the first-class citizens as well. Although the problem of the provincial converts, the mawali, was solved by the disappearance of the tribal structure, the problem of the protected persons, the zimmi, has been solved in the Muslim states of modern times simply by deviating from the practice of old Islamic society.
In spite of the expansion of the Islamic domain, the two Caliphs tried to get along with a very simple form of government. They would ask this or that Companion to do whatever was needed. Very early they found it necessary to establish a central treasury and a recorder of the pensions granted, and other offices were created as required. As the new issues arose the two Caliphs faced every new situation with a tremendous searching of heart. They sought to avoid being innovators as they would a mortal sin, but once they were satisfied that a new step must be taken, they would not shirk their responsibility.
Abu Bakr and Umar had worked closely together for two years when Abu Bakr died, leaving Umar the responsibility of carrying on as second Caliph. Umar himself was stabbed to death by a Persian slave who thought that the Caliph did not give him a fair deal against his exacting taskmaster and who seems to have felt deeply the defeat and enslavement of Persia. Before he died, in 23 (A.D. 644), Umar appointed a panel of six senior Companions of the Prophet to select the next Caliph from among themselves.
The Companions chose Uthman for the third Caliph because he belonged to the powerful Umayyad clan but was a mild old man. The combination of mildness and membership in a powerful clan caused his undoing, however, since there was jealousy of the power of the Umayyads and he was too gentle to protect that power. His reign witnessed the Sedition (Fitna) when the firm leadership established by Umar failed to function. The charges brought against Uthman, such as nepotism, were not so heinous as to justify the march of malcontents from the garrison towns against him at Medina or their penetration of his house and their brutal murder of the aged man in his room. It is an indication of the spirit of the early Caliphate that the head of the Islamic community which ruled a domain extending from the Indus almost to the Atlantic had no bodyguard to protect his person.
Uthman met his end gently and resignedly. He was perplexed, for he could not understand why his people should not be friendly and happy. He had good reason to count on the gratitude of the community because he was an early convert to Islam who had contributed of his fortune to the needs of the community, he had married successively two of the daughters of the Prophet, under his rule the domain of Islam had been further extended, and he had established the authorized, written version of the Qur’an. But he was murdered, and in his grave was buried the ideal of a leadership that tried to rule without the sanctions of force.
The Sedition was possible only because the kind of leadership established by Umar was based on a climate of opinion, a standard of morality, and a degree of discipline which were rapidly vanishing. Uthman did not receive from his fellow Companions the same collaboration and obedience that Umar knew how to get, for they were torn by private animosities and jealousies and did not rally to his support. He was faced with the undisciplined men from the provinces, some of whom were Bedouin tribesmen who turned the faith of Islam into a weapon of Bedouin instability, while others were men who were moved by anti-Umayyad prejudice. Even his kinsman Mu‘awiya, the Umayyad governor of Syria, did not bring his forces to Medina to defend him.
For a time it looked as if opinion would support Ali, another of the senior Companions, an early convert, a cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, the father of the Prophet’s only grandchildren, and a respected warrior-ascetic. But, alas, the forces let loose by the Sedition could not be brought under control. Ali now paid in full for his attitude of reserve during the attack on his predecessor, when he did not come out openly as a defender of law and order. Some of the people held him responsible for the murder of Uthman and demanded that he should prove his noncomplicity by punishing the perpetrators of the outrage. He could not do so, not because he was an accomplice, but simply because the responsibility for what happened was so diffuse. Others were sincerely aggrieved by the resort to the horrors of civil war and pressed for arbitration between Ali and Mu‘awiya, the Umayyad governor of Syria. When Ali agreed, a section of his followers seceded in protest against what they took to be his admission of the invalidity of his title to the Caliphate. Thus began the party of Kharijism.
In essence, Kharijism represents the literal adherence to ideas with utter disregard for reality. The Kharijites’ doctrine, which led the community to treat them as outlaws, was that people who disagreed with them concerning the consequence of committing a mortal sin should no longer be accepted as Muslims and should be killed on sight. Some Kharijites went even further and held that the children of such renegade Muslims were to be killed with their parents. The Kharijites held that the Caliph was to be elected by the whole Muslim community and could be deposed by the will of the people. He need not belong to any special family or tribe; he might even be a slave, so long as he was a good Muslim ruler. Some of them even denied the need for a Caliph at all, and held that the Muslim community could rule itself. Kharijism thus represents the reaction of the slender stock of ideas and experience of the tribesmen of Arabia to the impact of Islam. But so great was the force of Kharijism that it led to two important reactions. It led the community, out of fear of anarchy, to acquiesce in the doctrine that the actual possession of power suffices to make it legitimate. It also led to the doctrine of irja, that is, to the postponement of judgment on the actions of believers, a doctrine of acquiescence and convenient latitudinarianism.
The Caliph Ali tried to crush the Kharijites by force and actually slaughtered thousands of them in battle, but at too great cost, for in the year 40 (A.D. 66o) he was assassinated by a Kharijite.
It should be noted that it was only after the death of Ali that the development of Shi‘ism began. We say "after his death" purposely, for Shi‘ism is not merely the desire to proclaim Ali as Caliph and to claim that only the descendants of the family of the Prophet should be Caliph. Shi‘ism grew up after the death of Ali because it involved a view of Ali’s claim to the Caliphate which the early community did not hold and it involved the endorsement of the person of Ali with a timeless significance which was not held by his generation. Shi‘ism also inculcated a conception of the function of the Caliphate which was developed later; it is based on a reconstruction of historical events and personal tragedies, and thus has to be later than these events. It should also be noted that there have been descendants of Ali on Muslim thrones, as in Iraq and Morocco today, who were not followers of Shi‘a doctrines. The story of the rise of Shi‘a and its role in Islamic history is told more fully in another chapter of this book.
After the death of Ali, Mu‘awiya stepped into the void. He was already in possession of considerable power as the governor of Syria and the community accepted him as Caliph, even if some hated the necessity of doing so. Mu‘awiya -- skillful, liberal, moderate, and sagacious -- represented the Meccan aristocracy at its best. He healed for a time the ills of Islamic society, but he healed them by political methods which took man at his worst, and he did not hesitate to suppress by force or to win support by an appeal to cupidity. He saw that there was no alternative to the establishment of the dynastic principle if civil war was to be avoided in the selection of successors to the Caliphate, Beginning with Mu‘awiya, the Umayyads ruled from Damascus for nearly one hundred years, until 133 (A.D. 750).
The Umayyads have been represented as a reproduction on a larger scale of the old Arabian dynasties of Petra and Palmyra which in pre-Islamic days combined Arabian traditions with a Hellenistic, Byzantine, or Persian veneer. Superficially it seems so, but there was enough of Arabism and of Islam in the Umayyad state to enable the rulers to adapt to the needs of the Islamic society of their day what they copied from their neighbors and the conquered provincials. The machinery of government was organized with the help of the provincials and, at the opportune moment, was Arabicized. A coinage was introduced, the foundations of intellectual pursuits were laid down, and adaptations of art and architecture were made to serve Arabian taste and Islamic needs. Spain was added to the domain of Islam.
The Maturing of Islamic Society
The Second to the Fifth Centuries of the Hijrah (A.D. 750- 1055)
The period covered by this section begins with the assumption of the Caliphate by descendants of Abbas, an uncle of the Prophet, and ends with the Seljug Turkish Sultan Tughrul, who assumed effective management of the affairs of the capital of the Abbasid Caliphs. It is a period in which the Congregation founded by the Prophet and expanded by the skillfully conducted warfare of Arabian tribesmen became an Islamic Society with a formulated creed, a system of law derived from the source of its beliefs and ideals, a ruling institution, and a brotherhood which transcends accidents of race and station in life. The maturing of the Islamic Society in these three centuries was not complete, for some issues continued in all their urgency, but much of the pattern for later times was determined in this fascinating period of Islamic history.
The most important development of the early centuries of Islam is beyond doubt the Sunnah. It is not merely a doctrine, it is also a way, an outlook, a temperament; it is the way a Muslim should view law, or dogmatics, or ethics, or ritual. The chief characteristic of the Sunnah is that it must be as universal as possible. It attained its universality from the generations of men who lived in the Hijaz, in the new cities of the Islamic world, and in the old cities of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere; it was developed there by the will of the Congregation and not imposed by force, nor was it associated with any earthly authority. The Sunnah was the most important force which bound together in a spiritual unity the communities in Asia, Africa, and Europe -- communities without a common geographical environment or a common racial inheritance, but with common social forms and institutions.
Another characteristic of the Sunnah is its traditionalism, based on a desire to protect the Prophetic Revelation from modifications by establishing the authority of social tradition, institutional forms, and orthodox theology and law.
A third characteristic of the Sunnah is that it has been orally transmitted by men who have voluntarily devoted themselves to gaining religious knowledge and to teaching it.
Such, in brief, are the chief characteristics of the Sunnah. By the end of the Umayyad rule the Sunnah was substantial enough to stand up to Kharijism and the heresies which arose from pre-Islamic sects, and to provide the ruling powers with principles of law to guide them. Although the upholders of the Sunnah did not have a program of dynastic or political change, they supported the parties which actively worked for an end of the Umayyad rule.
The Umayyads deserved well of the community. After the murder of the Caliph Uthman, the civil war, and the murder of the Caliph Ali, it is difficult to see any alternative to the assumption of the Caliphate by Mu‘awiya and the establishment of the principle of hereditary succession. The dynasty which he established lived up to the tradition of the Meccan aristocracy with some notable feats of constructive statesmanship. But there were fatal weaknesses in their position which led to their downfall. The Umayyads were too deeply involved in the tribal feuds of the first century; they could not offer a better justification for their rule than the fact that the founder had stepped in to fill a void; and they could not find a satisfactory settlement for the strained relations between the Arab and non-Arab Muslims. As a consequence, they were assailed from many quarters and could not defend their position by better means than ruthless suppression and naked force.
The fall of the Umayyads was due to a successful conspiracy led by a Persian aristocrat, Abu Muslim al-Khurasani, whose motives are still a mystery. He organized a fighting force made up of Arab colonists of Khurasan and converted Persian landowners. Ostensibly he worked to establish a Caliph who was a "member of the house of the Prophet," without specifying a particular person, so as to have the support of the Alids, the descendants of Ali. Secretly, his candidate was a descendant of Abbas, an uncle of the Prophet. Abu Muslim’s revolt was successful. The last Umayyad was defeated, pursued, and murdered. Abu Ali-Abbas al-Saffah assumed the title of Caliph, beginning a new dynasty which held the Caliphate for five hundred years.
Before anything else, the new rulers were state-builders. Without meaning to reflect on the sincerity of their beliefs, we must note that religion for the Abbasids was no more than an element in a well-organized, well-administered society. They saw the absolute necessity of the Islamization of society and did all they could to help it. They encouraged religious leaders, lawyers, scholars; they organized heretic hunts; they carried out periodic campaigns against the bordering territories of the Eastern Roman Empire; they helped to destroy the distinction between the Arabs and the non-Arab Muslim converts; they destroyed the tribal structure of the armies. One of the Abbasid Caliphs, al-Ma’mun, tried to give state support to the doctrines of the Mu‘tazilites -- rationalist theologians (to be discussed later) -- but he failed. One of the Persian converts to Islam, the famous man of letters Ibn al-Muqaffa, advised the Caliph al-Mansur, who founded the new capital at Baghdad, to promulgate a code of Islamic law, but the lawyers, theologians and scholars, inspired by the general sense of the community, resisted all such attempts at control of belief by the ruling powers.
In another direction, the policy of the Abbasids went in direct opposition to the spirit of Islam. They built up an elaborate machinery of state despotism modeled on the old Persian monarchy with all its paraphernalia of an elaborate bureaucracy, court etiquette and ceremonial, fulsome flattery, and seclusion of the monarch. With this went an utter disregard of the Muslim’s rights of life, honor, and property.
The despotic ruling power established by the Abbasids had Important consequences for the development of Islam. In the eyes of the devout the "secular affairs" became so tainted that they were condemned out of hand or ignored, and the creative spiritual and intellectual movements became entirely otherworldly and divorced from reality or went into open revolt against the community, aiming at destroying rather than reforming it. It is true that the patronage of the rulers contributed to a considerable flourishing of the arts and sciences, but this does not qualify the judgment that the vital creative forces of the community were divorced from or in open revolt against society.
The core of the Sunnah is the Qur’an as explained and interpreted by the acts and sayings of the Prophet. Two sciences grew up in connection with the Qur’an and the Sunnah: Tafsir, exegesis, or explanation, or commentary; and Hadith, Tradition. The schools of Tafsir have been classified in many ways; one of the most useful is by Goldziher. There is the Tafsir based on materials ascribed to the Prophet and his Companions and handed down from generation to generation, such as the great work done by al-Tabari (224-311; A.D. 838-923); the Tafsir, or commentary, made by men primarily interested in dogmatics, such as al-Zamakhshari (467-538; A.D. 1074-1143); the Tafsir as written by the mystics, illustrated by the wide range of attitudes toward the Qur’an of men like Ibn Arabi on the one hand and al-Ghazali on the other; the Tafsir as written by the sectarians, such as the commentaries
on the Qur’an by the Shi’as of the Imami and Isma‘ili persuasions; and the Tafsir as written by the modernists such as two twentieth-century Shaikhs, Muhammad Abduh and Muhammad Rashid Rida. The choice among these various schools of commentary on the Qur’an and Sunnah depends on one’s attitude with respect to three basic issues: the credence to be attached to historical tradition; the weight to be given to the claim for a hidden meaning in the Qur’an; the amount of subjectivity to be allowed in interpretation.
As for the Hadith, the Tradition, it is remarkable to note the facility with which even men of undoubted piety did not hesitate to attribute to the Prophet sayings made up by themselves to promote sectarian interests. It is difficult to explain the popularity of that practice when it was obvious that it had been so abused as to expose even genuine sayings to suspicion. At any rate, in obedience to the firm resolution of the community to uphold the Hadith as a foundation for faith and practice, the learned men did their best to establish principles of criticism and grades of authenticity to serve as a guide in accepting true traditions. Two collections of "genuine" sayings have become particularly celebrated: those of al-Bukhari (195-257; A.D. 810-70) and Muslim (206?-62; A.D. 821?-75).
The two disciplines of Tafsir and Hadith -- learned commentary and study of traditions -- served the development of theology and law, but before turning to them a few words must be said about the auxiliary disciplines needed by Tafsir and Hadith. These auxiliary disciplines were chiefly linguistic and historical. Thc language of the Qur’an and the Hadith is Arabic, which was not the mother tongue of the early generations of converts. Grammar, script, and lexicography were developed to preserve Arabic and to make it teachable. It was necessary for the purpose of lexicography to accumulate as much as possible of the legendary and poetic lore of pre-Islamic Arabia, thus bringing this heritage to a certain extent into the cultural patrimony of every lettered Muslim, whether of Arab or non-Arab descent. It is not quite true to say that this Arabian past became the past of all Muslims, that Islam, for example, obliterated for the Muslim Egyptian his Pharaonic past. As a matter of fact, the Egyptian was a Christian before he became a Muslim, and Pharaoh was damned in the Christian writings before he was damned in the Qur’an. The lore in which the cultured Muslim was brought up was presented to him in an Arabic garb, but it was an amalgam of the wisdom literature drawn from divers sources, of historical narratives of prophets and kings, of the wonders of every clime, and of the pre-Islamic Arabian legends. To the unlettered Muslim, the folk literature was a composite of many strands, of which the pre-Islamic Arabian was the least.
More remarkable than the fashioning of linguistic tools was the creation of an Arabic prose style beautifully adapted to serve the needs of the Islamic society whose maturing we have been trying to describe. It was perfected by men of non-Arab as well as of Arab origin and proved its adequacy as a medium of expression in theology and philosophy and for describing the mystic’s experience and aspirations, as well as in the precise statement of the lawyer’s formulae and the observations of scientists.
In the field of law we note the same impulse toward Islamization. Going back to the beginning, we note that the Qur’an contains varied prescriptions concerning religious, ritual, military, political, family, and other practical matters. The Prophet, in his lifetime, interpreted and carried into effect by his acts and sayings the legislation of the Qur’an. After his death, his immediate successors endeavored, in agreement with the most eminent of the Companions of the Prophet, to direct the community in the path which they believed to be the "straight path" by adhering to the letter and the spirit of the Prophet’s practice. At the same time, a body of customary law, derived from the usage of the communities before they became amalgamated with the Islamic Society, was administered by the officials of the Caliphate.
As time went on, however, the religious impulse led certain of the learned men living in the Hijaz, Iraq, Syria, and Egypt to construct an ideal picture of what the law in an Islamic Society should be. Four founders of systems of jurisprudence (fiqh), who created the four systems of law which have persisted to the present day, are Abu Hanifah of Iraq (80-150; A.D. 699-767), Malik of Hijaz (died 179; A.D. 795), al-Shafi’i of Egypt (died 205; AD. 820), and Ibn Hanbal of Iraq (died 241; AD. 855). Space does not permit elucidation of the specific principles on which they worked, but it may suffice for our purpose to note that the law, the shari‘a, as built up by the founders and generations of commentators, embraces all the rules of God’s prescription for the conduct of men -- domestic life, political and social activities, religious and ritual duties. It is restricted, of course, to the external relations of the Muslim to his fellow men and to God, as distinct from matters of conscience.
The place of the shari‘a in the history of Islamic Society is not easy to define. If one considers only the forms in which it was transmitted, the methods used by the legalists, the material of its content, and the restricted field of its application as the whole field of positive law, then its role is quite limited. But looked at as a common ideal to be realized by the Muslim communities everywhere, or as a standard by which state policy and acts are judged, its role has been great. But it is not enough to use it, as it is used in our day, as a rallying cry in battles which, strictly speaking, have nothing much to do with religion, or to put it on a pedestal to be admired, or in a spirit of haphazard eclecticism to pick and choose from the shari‘a only the material which pleases us most. What is required is to relate the shari‘a to the great world-currents of legislation which predominate in our day. It is clear that this is a task of immense difficulty. It is perhaps the greatness of the difficulty which caused the Turkish Republic in our time to exclude the shari‘a altogether from its society!
Before turning to a brief consideration of some of the forms taken by the community to express its spiritual and intellectual yearnings -- those adopted by the Mu‘tazilites, Shi‘ites, and Sufis -- we should stop to remind ourselves of the background against which these developments took place. It is necessary to remember, in the first place, that two distinct worlds were brought together for the first time within the Islamic Society: the ancient and diversified Mediterranean tradition of Rome, Greece, Israel, and the Near East; and the original civilization of Persia with its distinctive pattern of life and thought and its fruitful contacts with the great civilizations of the Far East.
It should be borne in mind, in the second place, that there continued to exist within the Islamic Society churches, monasteries, synagogues, and temples serving Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and others; that all these survived, not as ghost communities or depressed classes, but as communities of living men and women who pursued their callings, professed their faith openly, and entered into polemics in defense of it; who continued to develop their religious, philosophical, and scientific legacies; and who were at all times in communication with their Muslim neighbors. One aspect of this Islamic phase of their history, if we may so describe it, was their adoption of Arabic for their daily life and for theological, devotional, historical, and other writings.
A third point to be remembered is that there is no trustworthy evidence to justify the tendency of some scholars to impugn the sincerity of the converts to Islam, or to attribute to some of the mystics or philosophers or founders of sects a deliberate intention to corrupt or destroy Islam. A good example of this is the current representation of Isma‘ilism (Shi‘a) as a conspiracy initiated with devilish cunning by one individual. It is much more probable to imagine generations of Muslims agitated by the same mysteries, moved by the same yearnings, troubled by the same questionings and doubts, and aspiring to the same peace as had generations of their ancestors who lived in the same environment. It is a proof of their sincere adherence to Islam that they sought to find within Islam the solutions of their problems. It should also be pointed out that, in the areas to which Islam spread, the termination of one chapter of existence and the beginning of the new Islamic culture, with all that this change entailed in the forming of new relationships and acceptance of basic ideas, restored the vigor and revived the energies of nations which had been weighed down by age and tradition.
The Hellenic material which was transmitted to Islam was used for the advancement of philosophical and scientific speculations and for many practical applications. But that material was, as Duncan B. Macdonald has ably noted, a tangled system," "a welter of translations and pseudographs." Men like al-Farabi (died 339; A.D. 950) and Ibn Sina (died 429; A.D. 1037), who is known in the West as Avicenna, wholeheartedly devoted themselves to the study of those materials, and generations of men toiled and managed, sometimes by sheer brainpower, to reject nonsense and falsehood. It is a matter of supreme regret that the transmission of the classical legacy was not accompanied by the development of even a rudimentary method of textual and historical criticism. Even so, the Greek patrimony contributed to the development of the mystical outlook and had a great deal to do with the elaboration of the Muslim system of belief.
Against that background of a variety of intellectual, religious, and racial traditions the Islamic community created several distinctive ways of expressing its spiritual and intellectual yearnings. The followers of the orthodox Sunnah became known as Sunnis; a brief introduction to the Sunnah has already been given. To complete this picture of the maturing of Islamic society a few words must be said about three strands woven into the fabric of the community of Muslims: the Mu‘tazilites, with their emphasis on reason; the Sufis, who are the mystics and ecstatics of Islam; and the Shi‘ites, who have placed special emphasis on Ali and his descendants as spiritual guides.
The early attempts at elaborating the Muslim system of belief grew out of the issues raised by Kharijism -- due to the impact of Islam on the Arab Bedouin society -- and the perplexities of the non-Arab communities which were gathered under the banner of Islam. The individuals who, impelled by a genuine piety, attempted to meet the difficulties of the times are known as Mu‘tazilites. Their thought is not a unified body of doctrine but a collection of distinct interpretations. Their central doctrine was an insistence on the unity and justice of God. They taught that the qualities attributed to God are in danger of being hypostatized, of being regarded as distinct persons like those in the Christian Trinity; they taught that the Qur’an was created; and they insisted on man’s free will.
It is their teaching about the Qur’an which is the core of their system, for, if accepted, all kinds of very grave conclusions could be drawn. A Book which has existed from all eternity is a Logos, unalterable. But a book which has been created could have a human and a divine side, and things which it seemed desirable to omit or change in it could be ascribed to the human side. It was in order to modify some of the teachings of the Qur’an that the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma’mun, seeking to impose by force what he conceived to be an "enlightened" religion, issued a decree in 212 (A.D. 827) proclaiming the doctrine of the creation of the Qur’an as the only truth, binding on all Muslims. This was a truly revolutionary decree because by it a Caliph attempted to usurp for himself a function which Islam reserved for the whole community. Al-Ma’mun insisted that those who held that the Qur’an was uncreated sinned against the unity of God, and he established a test of views on the Qur’an which had to be passed by all judges and by all witnesses in court before their testimony would be accepted. Those who refused the test were punished as idolaters and polytheists. This policy was continued under al-Ma’mun’s successor but was given up in 234 (AD. 848). It was never repeated.
The glory of standing against this test through imprisonment and scourging belongs to Ibn Hanbal, the founder of one of the four schools of law. For him, the tradition handed down from the forefathers was the only basis on which the Qur’an could be explained. This Hanbalite position represents a main strand in Sunni Islam. Another strand is represented by the position taken by al-Ash‘ari (died 324; AD. 935), a prominent Mu‘tazilite who used the same dialectical methods as his teachers did but came to the conclusion that their position was wrong, and on the basis of his teaching the Ash‘arite theology of Sunni Islam was formulated.
Mu‘tazilite trends continued in Shi‘a Islam. Shi‘a is based on the belief that to reach truth one must have an infallible teacher in the person of the Imam, the carrier of the divine light-spark transmitted from Adam through Muhammad and his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, and the descendants of Ali. Mu‘tazilism, with its insistence on the use of reason to reach truth, finds a place in Shi‘ism because the occult relation with the Imam allows a great deal of latitude for the exercise of individual reasoning.
The three main divisions of Shi‘ism today are the Zaidis, now living chiefly in Yemen; the Imamis, or Twelvers, now living chiefly in Iran, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria; and the Isma‘ilis, or Seveners, now living in India, Arabia, and East Africa. The numbers refer to a difference in belief about the order of succession among Ali’s descendants.
Historically, the Isma‘ilis have played a dazzling and substantial role. Out of Isma‘ilism was born the widespread Qarmatian movement of revolt against Sunni authority which was at one time in control of the Holy City of Mecca (316-17; AD. 928-29). We have suspiciously tendentious reports of the way the Qarmatian community organized itself spiritually and socially. A more solid outcome of Isma‘ilism is the Fatimid Caliphate which began in Tunisia in 298 (AD. 910), extended its sway into Egypt, founded there the city of Cairo and the mosque of Al Azhar in 363 (AD. 973) and continued to rule Egypt and parts of Syria and the Hijaz until 567 (AD 1171). Whatever may have been the social implications of Isma‘ilism -- and scholars claim a good deal -- the doctrines of the Fatimid Caliphate did not appreciably affect the procedures of the Egyptian administrative system, and Egypt emerged from two hundred years of Isma‘ili rule and intensive indoctrination as solidly Sunni as before the coming of the Fatimids. Perhaps this indicates the possibility that we are apt to look at the differences between Sunnism and Shi‘ism from an overly intellectual point of view, emphasizing the differences with a degree of subtlety that may well never have been imagined by their common adherents.
There can be no doubt of the supreme importance of Sufism in molding the attitude toward life of the individual Muslim. Sufism as an organized system with teachers, pupils, and rules of discipline appeared in the latter part of the third century of the Hijrah (after AD. 865). Since that time, the mystics and ecstatics of Sufism have, as we shall see, done much to shape the beliefs and practices of the Islamic world. It may be that the supremacy of Sufism represents the victory of the common man over the earthly mighty and the learned professors and scholars. For under Sufism the common man finally managed to live in a world of ideas and emotions of his own construction, and to have the satisfaction of seeing the powerful and the learned bow before the uncouth ‘‘saintly’’ vagabond and beggar.
To conclude this section on the maturing of the Islamic Society, some account must be given of the rise of autonomous dynasties in the provinces of the Caliphate. The movement is indicative of the maturing process in the sense that it is a passing from the earlier phase in which the Islamic world was made up of Arab settlers and Arab garrison towns set apart from the native peoples of the provinces. In the new phase, the distinction between Arab and provincial fades away, and provinces and regions regain their individuality and autonomy within the consciously recognized Islamic unity.
Spain was the earliest region to be separated from the Caliphate. When the Umayyads fell, one of the princes of that house escaped to Spain and after many adventures established the Amirate of Cordova in 139 (AD. 756). The Amirate was turned into a Caliphate in 316 (AD. 928) which produced some brilliant achievements before it fell in 423 (AD. 1031) and was split into petty principalities. In the meantime a great Berber power, the Almoravids, had arisen in North Africa. The Almoravids added Spain to their North African Empire and later lost it to another Berber dynasty, the Almohads. Both dynasties were the outcome of movements of religious revival in Berber tribes.
In Tunisia the Aghlabids, who became autonomous in 184 (AD. 800), were interested in maritime expansion and conquered Sicily in 216 (AD. 831). Sicily was a center of Islamic civilization under Islamic rule until it was conquered by the Normans, beginning in 452 (AD. 1060).
In Egypt, Ahmad Ibn Tulun founded an autonomous dynasty in 256 (AD. 869). His rule, though brief, was brilliant. The rise and fall of the Fatimids has been noted. Moving eastward from Egypt, we note the Hamdanids, an Arab dynasty whose capital was Aleppo. The Hamdanids gained fame for their warfare against Byzantium and for the brilliant circle which was gathered at Aleppo, including the famous philosopher al-Farabi.
In the eastern provinces of the Caliphate a brilliant dynasty arose in Transoxiana in the third century of the Hijrah (ninth century AD.) under the Samanids, whose rule was adorned by the life and work of Ibn Sina (Avicenna). A century later they were succeeded by the Ghaznavids who are famous for their conquests in India under Sultan Mahmud. His court is remembered as the residence of that great master of many sciences, al-Biruni (died 440; AD. 1048), and Firdawsi, the famous author of the Persian epic The Book of Kings.
The Caliphs themselves came under the control of a Shi‘ite dynasty which ruled Iraq and western Persia from their Baghdad court from 338 to 447 (AD. 949-1055) when they were dislodged by the Seljuq Turks. With the coming to power of the Turks we enter a new phase of the development of Islamic society.
The power of the various dynasties in this period was based on the command of a war band, the support of a tribal or national sense of solidarity, or religious sectarianism. It was a characteristic of the dynasties of Egypt and eastward that they tried to copy as much as possible the Abbasid court and organization in Baghdad. The rulers were generous patrons of the poets, scientists, philosophers, and theologians of their areas, for these men shed lustre on their courts and enhanced their prestige. The fact that the intellectual pursuits of the times were not concentrated in one center made it difficult and at times impossible for political or religious authority to control the intellectual movements.
The Contributions of The Berbers and Turks and the Invasions of the Crusaders and Mongols
The Fifth to the Tenth Century of the Hijrah (Eleventh to Sixteenth Century AD.)
The fifth century of the Hijrah (eleventh century AD.) was of critical importance in the Islamic community which was at that time organized around the three Caliphates -- the Umayyad of Cordova, the Fatimid of Cairo, and the Abbasid of Baghdad -- together with the various provincial dynasties which had grown up. But the decline of the Caliphates, the apparent disruption of the society through revolutionary activities and unrestrained speculation, and in the case of Spain, the advance of Christian power to reconquer the peninsula, led to the resurgence of nomadic power in western Asia and North Africa. This resurgence of nomadism took place among the Arabs, Berbers, and Turks.
The new wave of nomadism which occurred on the borderlands of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Persia was of the unobtrusive, cumulative kind which continued until well into the fourteenth century (nineteenth century AD.) with such strength that the established authority in those countries could just manage to keep it partially under control. Far more sensational and fateful was the wild, destructive activity of the Bedouin tribesmen of North Africa and the constructively planned action of the Turks in western Asia and the Berbers in Morocco and Spain. Of the activities of the Bedouins in Tunisia it need be noted only that they and their descendants gave active support to their co-religionists in the expanding arena of conflict between Christendom and Islam.
The Berber movement grew from a religious revival which began in the Sahara and crystallized in the establishment of a dynasty of religious warriors, the Almoravids. The dynasty extended its power to Spain, where it defeated the Christians and stopped their advance for a time. As happens regularly in Islamic history, the dynasty lost its vigor and gave way to a new one, this time the Almohads (Unitarians), another revivalist movement. The Almohads also built up a Morocco-Spanish Empire. While they maintained a literalist system of law and dogmatics, they were quite willing to allow individuals liberty for philosophical pursuits so long as they maintained proper outward discretion. Ibn Rushd, the great Arabic philosopher known in the West as Averroes, flourished under the Almohads.
The Turks, like the Berbers, had nomadic origins, but they differed from them in that the nucleus of Turkish power was a folk, or a nation, rather than a tribe or confederation of tribes. The Turks were known as Seljuqs after their leader who settled his people near Bukhara and went over with them to Islam. While the Turks had a religious policy which played an important part in their activities, they did not owe their rise to power to a religious founder as did the two Berber dynasties. The cultural tradition of the Turks, going back to the pre-Islamic Persia of the Sasanids, was far richer than that of their Berber contemporaries. Also, the social and political organization of the Turks was more advanced than that brought to North Africa and Spain by the Berbers.
The Seljuqs stepped into the center of the picture when their Sultan Tughrul entered Baghdad in 447 (AD. 1055) and liberated the Caliph from the tutelage of the Shi‘ites, thus asserting the central point in the Seljuq policy -- the championship of Sunni Islam. In their dedication to the service of Islam, the Seljuqs expanded the domain for the first time in Anatolia. In 464 (AD. 1071) they defeated the Byzantine Emperor. It was this defeat and the expansion of Turkish power into Syria and Palestine, the control of Jerusalem, and the reports of their harsh treatment of the Christian pilgrims that inflamed feeling in Christendom and favored the extension of the holy war from Spain and Sicily to the Holy Land.
Seljuq institutions were essentially military in character, not only because of the kind of life the Turks had lived in their original steppe environment, but also because the Turks adopted a role in the Islamic Society which necessitated such an organization. They made themselves the champions of Sunni Islam; they sought to expand and defend the domain of Islam and to extirpate the forces of material, moral, and intellectual anarchy. This led to two important results. In the first place, the sultanate claimed the right to rule and control the affairs of men. Naturally, it sought a formal sanction from the Caliphate, for what it was worth, but the sultans were confident of the legitimacy of their claim. This is important, for it provided the historical basis and model for the Islamic states of the last century. It is interesting to note that Ibn Khaldun (died 809; AD. 1406), the great Tunisian historian, dealt in the Prolegomena of his universal history with these non-Caliphate sultanates and institutions as existing in their own right.
A second important result of the Seljuq rule was that the sultans paid great attention to the creation and elaboration of social institutions. They created a ruling institution for purposes of war and government which was based on the division of the empire into military fiefs; a chancery for the preparation of state documents and communication throughout the empire; and a religious institution which, in addition to maintaining the legal and cult services, was expected through the control of education to be an instrument of social cohesion.
Under the Seljuqs, colleges, or madrasas, were founded and endowed to carry out a carefully graded program of instruction in the religious sciences and humanities. Subjects were classified as being taught for their intrinsic worth or as tools for the study of the main subjects. In these colleges the professors received regular stipends and students were given board and lodging. No effort was spared to attract outstanding scholars to teach in these colleges. Al-Ghazali was a professor for a while and later, when he wanted to withdraw and lead a life of contemplation, he was almost compelled to go back for a time to his chair. Outside the madrasas there were independent teachers and a free cultivation of studies was allowed, but their influence was limited. The official organization of higher education, although it achieved the immediate end of the restoration of order, unfortunately led to those characteristics of Islamic education which have come down almost to our time -- the addiction to memorization of prescribed texts and study of the same materials in generation after generation. The result was that any hope for a creative intellectual movement had to be looked for outside the regular institutions of learning.
The major trends in the intellectual life of Islam from the sixth century of the Hijrah (twelfth century AD.) to modern times begin with the influence of al-Ghazali (died 505; AD. 1111). He brought Islam back to its fundamental and historical facts as found in the Word of God and the tradition of the Prophet; he aroused new interest in philosophy; and he gave a place in his system to the emotional religious life. But it is rare to find the same balanced and harmonious combination in contemporary and later thinkers. After al-Ghazali what do we find? We find some men -- the Sufis -- putting their faith in the "unveiling" of the mystic, others placing theirs in the transmitted tradition, and the philosophers continuing their old neglect of the objective study of the outside world. It is no wonder that the Sufis were accused of heresy by the traditionalists and the traditionalists were charged by the Sufis with formalism, hypocrisy, and the inability to reason logically.
Sufism had its speculative philosophers, such as Ibn Arabi (died 638; AD. 1240), and its poets, such as Ibn Farid (died 633; AD. 1235), but its greatest influence was not in its speculations or poetry or emotional outpourings. By the sixth century after the Hijrah (twelfth century AD.) Sufism had become an all-embracing social institution which gave ample scope for the exercise of talents and satisfied all levels of individual aspirations. This was the Sufism of the orders such as the darwishes and faqirs. There are many distinctions noted between the various Sufi orders -- as to whether they observed seemliness or extravagance in their exercises, whether they were urban or rural, whether they tried to propagate the faith among non-Muslims or wandered about with no particular mission, whether they set up new dynasties dedicated to holy war or the extirpation of heresy, and the like. Important as these distinctions are, there is a great deal of uniformity in the Sufi attitude toward life, and this attitude has permeated the Muslim’s character and outlook throughout the world of Islam. Most of the superficial labels attached to Islam by Europeans derive from the more obvious Sufi characteristics.
Although no one individual could really be typical of a movement of such wide ramifications and subtle shades as the Sufi brotherhoods, it is possible to recognize in the Egyptian al-Sha‘rani (died 973; AD. 1565) characteristics which can be found in different proportions in all Sufi brothers, except that he is no representative of the extremely discreditable orders -- and these are not representative of Sufis in general. Al-Sha‘rani has gathered in his attitude and writings all the elements which constitute the Sufi legacy. He was superstitious and at the same time a man of high ethical principles, humble in social life and arrogant in intellectual affairs. To al-Sha‘rani the Jinn and Angels were most intense realities with whom he held familiar converse. He believed in a hierarchy of saints who held dominion over the divisions of the world of Islam, saints who had their jealousies, conflicts, and divided loyalties and were kept in check by a balance of power. The reality of this way of looking at the world can be gathered by anyone who studies the historical material of this age, and remnants of it can be found in memories which linger to the present day.
But the mystics were not the only influence in the intellectual development of this period. Ibn Taymiyya (died, Damascus, 729; AD. 1328) fought against what he considered to be the idolatry of saint worship, pilgrimage to holy shrines, vows, offerings, and invocations with all his might, and paid for his courage with imprisonment. Mystics, philosophers, and scholastic theologians all fell under the lash of his denunciations. He bowed to no earthly authority and drew his arguments from the traditions and practices of early Islam. Curiously enough, Ibn Taymiyya, who fought the worship of saints so vehemently has become a saint in spite of himself.
Ibn Taymiyya’s doctrine based on traditionalism was carried on by Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1115-1207; AD. 1703 -92) and serves as the doctrinal basis of the movement known as Wahhabism, which has been influential in the last two centuries.
The ruling authorities, while personally more sympathetic to the Sufis, tried to prevent the antipathies between the Sufis and the Traditionalists (Salafiya) from breaking out into open clashes. In their attempts to prevent extremism they were true to the Seljuq program of stability and discipline.
The Seljuqs were the prototype of later Muslim dynasties. Their immediate successors were the Ayyubids in Syria, Egypt, and western Arabia, a dynasty founded by the famous Saladin (died 589; AD. 1193). The Ayyubid Sultanate was seized by warriors of slave origin, setting up the dynasty of the Mamluks.
The Ottoman dynasty began in Seljuq territory in Asia Minor and conquered Asia Minor, the Balkan Peninsula, Hungary, Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and North Africa as far as Morocco to become the chief Islamic power in the modern age.
The story of the dynasties which derive from the Seljuqs is inextricably involved in the resurgence of active hostilities with Christendom. These new hostilities are fundamentally a western European movement, quite distinct from the wars between Islam and the Byzantine Empire. This European drive against the Islamic world had several objectives. It sought to expand the papal power against the "infidels," the Muslims, and against the schismatics, the Greek Orthodox and eastern churches. It also sought the establishment of the commercial domination of the Italian republics and the carving out of principalities for the feudal lords of western Europe (as it has been expressively put, it attempted the solution of the problem of the landless younger sons); and the Crusades also provided scope for all who desired to strike a blow for the faith or do penance by enduring the hardships of a holy war.
Historically, the roots of the crusading movement lie in the fight to restore Spain to Christendom. The movement was given a great impetus by the success of the Normans in destroying Muslim power in Sicily. The appeals of Byzantium for help and the alarm aroused by Seljuq victories in Anatolia provided the occasion for the call made by the papacy for a crusade. The so-called "First Crusade" achieved the entry of the Crusaders into Jerusalem in 493 (AD. 1099) and the foundation of the Latin principalities on the Lebanese coast. It is not part of our purpose to trace the fortunes of these European foundations in the Levant, but we should note that the theatre of operations was by no means restricted to the Levant. It involved Egypt, Tunisia, the islands of the eastern Mediterranean, the Balkan Peninsula, and Constantinople. Islam was not the sole enemy, for the Fourth Crusade was directed against the Byzantine Empire and led to the foundation of a Latin Empire in Constantinople and Italian and other West European principalities in the Balkans.
Although Saladin regained Jerusalem for Islam in 583 (AD. 1187) and a century later the Crusaders were expelled from their last stronghold in the Levant, the memories of the Crusades continued to cloud the relations between Islam and Christendom. Christians and Muslims may have learned some things from each other during that time, but fundamentally they continued for centuries to look upon each other as mortal enemies.
The Crusades also helped to stiffen the principle of holy war as the main justification for the existence of dynasties and states with large military forces. The advent of Saladin, his destruction of the Fatimids in Egypt, and his building up of an Egyptian-Syrian state were aimed solely at the deliverance of Islam. The Mamluk, or Slave, Sultans could claim no other justification for their power than the necessity to protect Islam. In this we have the main reason for the depression of the nonmilitary classes of Islamic society. Since much of the military was recruited from certain races outside the domain of Islam and the main body of the Muslim people made up the nonmilitary class -- especially in the Arab countries -- we can easily see how the Islamic society came to be made up of a minority of war-lords and a majority of mere subjects. There can also be no doubt that the course of the holy war against the European forces speeded up the process of separating the Islamic Society into an Arabic western portion and Persian and Turkish eastern portions. The eruption of the Mongols into the domain of Islam completed that process.
The first big wave of Mongol advance into western Asia was that led by Genghis Khan early in the seventh century (thirteenth century AD.), but the wave which left the deepest mark was that of Hulagu whose forces captured Baghdad and executed the last Abbasid Caliph in 656 (AD. 1258). The Mongols were stopped by the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt before they could establish themselves in Syria, but some of those Sultans were certainly influenced by Mongol ideas and practices. The Mongol Timur (Tamerlane, died 808; AD. 1405) tried again after his conversion to Islam to conquer Anatolia and Syria, but, although he had military successes against the Ottoman and Mamluk Sultans, he turned back eastward to India and even planned to go on to China. It was left to his descendant Babar to have the honor of founding in the next century the celebrated Mughal dynasty of India.
Although the Mongols did cause a good deal of destruction, it was not as extensive or irreparable as is usually represented. Iraq suffered most, not only because of the destruction by Hulagu, but also because no dynasty arose to establish a settled order again. The country became a prey to nomadic Arab, Kurdish, and Turkoman groups, and to the rivalries of the Ottoman and Persian Empires.
The Mongol eruption and its aftermath created a new phase of Asiatic and world history, extending beyond the area of Islamic Society. Out of those disturbed times grew up the Ottoman Turkish Sultanate, beginning in northwestern Anatolia as a Seljuq dependency and expanding into the Balkans, capturing Constantinople in 857 (AD. 1453), extinguishing the Byzantine Empire, and finally conquering Egypt and Syria in 922-23 (AD. 1516-17). At about the same time Persia emerged as a Shi‘a state under the Safavid dynasty and the Great Mughals established their rule in India. With these three dynasties Islamic society entered a new phase of its history.
The Islamic Society in the Modern Age
The Tenth to the Fourteenth Century of the Hijrah (Sixteenth to Twentieth Century AD.)
By the tenth century of the Hijrah (sixteenth century AD.) there were three major Muslim powers: the Ottoman Empire, the Persian Monarchy, and the Mughal Empire of India. The Ottoman Empire extended into central Europe, from Iraq to the frontiers of Morocco, and southward to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea and Aden. With the exception of Morocco and most of the Arabian Peninsula, it included among its subjects all of the Arabs. The great cities of Arab culture -- Baghdad, Damascus, Aleppo, and Cairo -- were under its rule, and the great sanctuaries of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem were under the special care of its sultans. They were conscious of their great Islamic prestige during all these centuries and developed gradually an Islamic policy which came to an end only with the dissolution of the empire at the end of the first World War.
One element of the policy of the Ottoman Sultans was their championship of Sunnism, which brought them into conflict with the monarchs of Persia who had adopted the creed of Imami Shi‘ism as the religion of their government. Persian history from the tenth century of the Hijrah onward, in spite of transient imperial episodes on the Afghan and Central Asian borders, became more and more the history of a national state, thus anticipating a development which has become the dominant feature of present-day Islam.
The Mughal Empire in India shared many religious and cultural features with the other two powers, but it was destined to lose its sovereignty much earlier than they did, leaving the great body of Indian Muslims in a situation very different from that of their co-religionists in the Ottoman Empire and Persia.
In the tenth century (sixteenth century AD.) the great geographical discoveries, the navigation of the ocean routes, and the building up of the European colonial empires brought a turning-point in modern history. The European powers which had hitherto been encircled by the world of Islam broke through in this century and encircled Islam. As a result of these changes, some of the Islamic areas passed under direct European rule, notably in Southeast Asia and in East and West Africa. But until the last century such Christian rule in Muslim lands did not penetrate very deeply and therefore did not call forth the reactions of later times.
In the territories of the Ottoman, Persian, and Indian Empires, the European powers generally followed the policy of building up enclaves based on extraterritorial rights and of establishing connections with the non-Muslim communities. In some cases they encouraged Christian proselytizing and in others they sought to bring the schismatics into the Roman Catholic fold, but their aim was always to create a "clientele" of the European power. Until the beginning of the last century, these enclaves did not strike a deep root, except in the case of the Mughal Empire where the East India Company was supplanting the Emperors as the paramount power.
Because of the decline of the central authority in the three empires during this early period (to the beginning of the last century), the local tribal leaders, adventurers, and leaders of war bands tried to build up autonomous rule in the provinces and sometimes sought aid from European powers. Conscious of the dangers from Europe and from their own ambitious subordinates, the central authorities began to take measures to reaffirm their authority and increase their power, but their political activities did not greatly concern the common people. The movements of revival and reconstruction which were born out of the experience of the common people were more significant than the actions of their rulers.
There was renewed activity of the Sufi orders in the twelfth century (eighteenth century A.D.), but the most notable movement was that of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab. We have already seen how al-Wahhab adopted the ideas and spirit of Ibn Taymiyya -- the return to the Qur’an and the traditions of early Islam, and the revolt against the strict application of the shari‘a. Ibn Abd al-Wahhab converted to his views certain Arab leaders, the Saudi barons of Dar‘uya, who dedicated themselves to the realization of his doctrines, Toward the end of the twelfth and for the first two decades of the thirteenth century (eighteenth and nineteenth centuries AD.), they were in control of the Holy City of Mecca and Medina and of the territories extending to the Persian Gulf and the southern borders of Iraq and Syria.
The activities of these early Wahhabis, however, shocked the sense of the community and exposed them to punitive action on the part of the Ottoman Empire and the viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad Ali. By 1236 (AD. 1820) the power of the Wahhabis had been destroyed, but not their doctrines. Wahhabism influenced Islam in the Arab countries and India in the last century in fruitful ways.
Since the beginning of the last century, the Islamic Society has found itself in a critical stage of its development. The period of a hundred and fifty years which began with the French invasion of Egypt in 1213 (AD. 1798) witnessed the merging of our Islamic Society into the world society of the present era. We, the members of the Islamic Society, have not been fully aware of all the implications of the events of this period. To become aware of these implications is, in my view, the greatest single problem of the Islamic Society of our day.
This merging into a world society was a process which occupied only a relatively short span of time, a mere century and a half. During this time, until the conclusion of the second World War, practically all of the Islamic people were under some degree of effective control by a European power. Also during this time the life of all the Islamic people has been influenced materially and morally by contacts with Western civilization. The influence has been so great that even when the Islamic people have regained their political independence they have found that a return to the traditional way of life was not possible -- even if it were desirable. It needs to be emphasized that such a return is not deemed desirable even when lip-service is paid to the glorious traditions of the past.
If we look around in modern times for representatives of al-Ghazali’s four categories of the searchers for truth, we cannot say that they can be found anywhere in the Muslim world. There are, of course, scholars who deal with theology, philosophy, and mysticism, but they deal with them only as historical expositions. Modern authors write to prove that Islam is this or Islam is that, that it does not hinder progress, or is socialism, but the search for truth in al-Ghazali’s sense is not found. In the field of action, the religion of Islam has been used to promote causes such as nationalism, or fascism; religious associations do not exist to promote spiritual fellowship -- they seek to realize the aims we associate with political clubs or parties.
These developments can be understood in the light of the circumstances in which the Islamic Society has lived for the past century and a half. But it must be realized that although the long history of Islam has bequeathed to modern times a rich legacy, no society can meet the needs of our times by drawing on its inner resources alone. The Islamic Society -- as well as all other societies -- must recognize the inadequacy of its own resources and its duties to humanity at large. The possession of a world religion is not only a privilege, it is also a responsibility.
Islam in the Sudan and East Africa. Although Islam in the Sudan and East Africa lay somewhat outside the main stream of events, it has grown to include many millions of Muslims. Most of the area of Africa below the countries of North Africa is controlled by European colonial powers, but for our purposes it is more convenient to refer to the traditional divisions of the Sudan -- Eastern, Central, and Western. Western Sudan contains the basin of the Senegal, the Gambia, and the Middle Niger; Central Sudan includes the basin of Lake Chad; Eastern Sudan lies in the Nile basin and covers what is now the newly-constituted independent Sudanese Republic.
Islam reached Western Sudan through the Berbers of the Sahara. The vast movement of religious revival which took place in the fifth century of the Hijrah (eleventh century A.D.) and led to the establishment of the Almoravid dynasty in Morocco and Spain gave a strong impetus to the spread of Islam among the subjects of the great pagan African Ghana Empire, whose sway extended at one time over the gold mines of the Upper Senegal and over the majority of the Berber tribes of the Sahara. In the seventh century (thirteenth century AD.) Timbuktu was the center of Islamic culture. Five centuries later Muslim expansion received a new impetus with the founding of Sokoto State and the subjugation of the major portion of Western Sudan with the help of the Moroccan Sufi brotherhood, the Tijani order.
In Central Sudan, along Lake Chad, Islam was introduced as early as the fifth century (eleventh century AD.) but did not gain a firm foothold until some five centuries later.
Eastern Sudan, bordering on southern Egypt, retained its independence and Christianity long after Egypt became a province of the Islamic Empire in the first century after the Hijrah. While there were no intimate relations between Eastern Sudan and the Muslim world of Egypt, North Africa, and Arabia, there was enough communication to prevent complete isolation. There was active intervention in the affairs of the Sudan by the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt in the seventh century (thirteenth century AD.), but the conversion of the Sudanese Christians and pagans to Islam was the direct result of the settlement in the Sudan of Arab tribesmen who had left their homes in Egypt. It is surmised that they were seeking a more congenial place to live after the government of Egypt passed into the hands of Turkish rulers.
The ruling house in Eastern Sudan from the tenth through the twelfth century (sixteenth-eighteenth century AD.), called the Funj, claimed descent from the famous Umayyads, but they are believed to have been of African stock and relatively recent converts to Islam. Their power rested on slave armies recruited from African tribes. When the Sudan was united with Egypt in the last century, the process of Europeanization and innovation that was going on in Egypt was extended to the Sudan area. There was a brief period of revolt in the last century; then the Sudan came under British colonial power until recently. Islamic society in Eastern Sudan was characterized by the survival of pre-Islamic African ideas and practices, by the permeation of their religious life by the ritual of the Sufi brotherhoods, by a zeal to acquire religious learning and by efforts to secure the settlement there of holy and learned men.
The East African coastal areas, extending from Cape Guardafui in the north to Delagoa Bay in the south, have from pre-Islamic times been for Arabian, Persian, and Indian seafarers a field for cooperative action which resulted in the creation of prosperous communities and the blending of their diverse cultural traditions. Those early seafarers explored the west Indian Ocean and colonized the East African coast. They usually built their towns on islands adjoining the mainland for purposes of defense against the tribes of the hinterland, settled down and married African women, and traded in gold, slaves, ivory, and other African products.
The intimate relations with Arabia, Persia, and India resulted in the propagation of Islam in East Africa. The area became a land of refuge and settlement for certain sects which in other lands could not resist absorption in the conformist mass around them. Thus we find in East Africa today Isma‘ili, Imamite Shi‘a, and Ibadi groups enjoying mutual toleration and leading prosperous lives. There is also a tendency toward blending the cultural elements of their diverse origins in one whole, as is evidenced in the building up of the Swahili language and culture out of Arabic and African elements. Swahili is now one of the cultural languages of the Muslim world and bids fair to become the common language of East Africa.
The early prosperity of the East African settlements was soon ended by the coming of the Portuguese. Following the new route to India around the Cape of Good Hope, the Portuguese pioneers set about subjugating the Islamic settlements in East Africa, seeking to acquire strategic bases, further their commercial interests, and carry out their commitment to an anti-Islam crusade. Portuguese domination was replaced by British, and the partition of Africa in the last century brought into the area French, German, and Italian colonial powers as well. In modern times, the position of Islam in East Africa is similar to that in Western Sudan. Here, too, the people are subject to European domination, and divided into many areas of varying size, with differing cultural traditions.
Islam in Malaya and Indonesia. Long before the preaching of Islam, Arab seafarers had made settlements along the trade routes between the Arabian Peninsula and China. These trade activities were given an added impetus when the Arabians were converted to Islam -- and when they were joined in the propagation of the faith by Indian converts. We hear of Arabian merchants and mariners who were sufficiently strong to sack Canton in South China as early as 141 (AD. 758). We hear also of Muslims from India settling in several ports on the routes to China, winning the favor of the local chieftains by suitable gifts and the confidence of the common people by the distribution of amulets. Thus they acquired a reputation for affluence and magical knowledge and, on the strength of their claim to "noble birth," obtained the daughters of the local chieftains in marriage.
It is due to the Islamization and rise to power of Malacca on the Malayan Peninsula that Islam was firmly established in both Malaya and Indonesia. Malacca, which began as a center for piracy, managed to force all vessels passing through the straits to put into its harbor for passes and became the center for the spice trade of the East. The rulers of Malacca became Muslim in the ninth century (fifteenth century AD.) and encouraged the intimate relations with the Javanese which led to their conversion to Islam. The army and the trade were in the hands of the large Javanese colony in Malacca. The Muslims of Malacca also propagated Islam in the Malay Peninsula and along the coasts of the island of Sumatra.
The Portuguese conquered Malacca in 917 (AD. 1511), but Islam continued to spread throughout Malaya and the islands of Indonesia. Portuguese domination gave way to the British and Dutch colonial empires, and thus Malayan and Indonesian Muslims were subjected to European control earlier than in other parts of the Islamic world. However, in evaluating the effect of the colonial control a distinction should be made between the early centuries and the gradual transformation during the last century into an intensive system of planned penetration. In the earlier phase the European colonial powers were not in a position to establish complete control over immense regions so remote from their shores. They sought to monopolize commerce, to exercise control indirectly through native rulers, and to secure their position by naval power and fortresses. The Portuguese were pledged to a crusade against both Islam and Theravada Buddhism, but their missionaries had little success. The Dutch and British made no attempt before the last century to interfere with established religion. France, on the other hand, launched at one time a grandiose scheme of missionary enterprise. But it did not accomplish much.
The last century brought a new era in the relations of Europeans with the people of Malaya and Indonesia, characterized by a policy of capital investment and economic development, and by introduction of elementary education and social Services on Western lines. Provinces became dependent upon external markets, agricultural indebtedness increased; and there were large-scale migrations of Chinese and Indians to Malaya and Indonesia. The effects of these changes upon Islamic Society were great. One positive reaction was a tendency of the Muslims of Southeast Asia to turn to the mother society for revivification. The chief method adopted was to send out students for intensive study in the Holy Cities of the Hijaz and in Al Azhar University in Cairo. On their return home, these men were active in the Islamic educational program in its broadest sense. This attachment to the older Islamic centers accounts for the marked enthusiasm of the Indonesians for the pilgrimage to Mecca.
THE MUSLIM WORLD TODAY
In this chapter we have traced the spread of Islam from Mecca and Medina west to the Atlantic Ocean and east to the Pacific. Only on the fringes of Europe has Islam been expelled from areas where the people had accepted the teachings of the Prophet. Although there has been no exact census of the Muslim population of the world, conservative estimates indicate that today there are more than four hundred million Muslims. The following table shows the distribution of the Muslim population by countries.
Far East 42,005,000
China & Korea 42,000,000
Southeast Asia 79,180,000
Turkish areas 64,250,000
Soviet Union 22,000,000
Arabic areas 64,200,000
Arabian Peninsula 12,500,000
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel
French Equatorial Africa1,500,000
French West Africa 6,300,000
Other African countries 13,700,000
Western countries 800,000
These figures are only estimates based on the available census figures and informed guesses as to the percentage of Muslims in the population. Chief reliance has been placed on census figures of the United Nations and the figures given in Atlas of Islamic History, compiled by Harry W. Hazard; Unity and Variety of Muslim Civilization, edited by Gustave E. von Grunebaum; and Annuaire du Monde Musulman, 1954, edited by Louis Massignon.
There is little agreement as to the number of Muslims in China. The official figure given by the present government is 10,000,000 but that seems to include only the recognized racial minorities of Huis, Uighurs, Kazakhs, Khalkhas, Tadziks, Tartars, Uzbeks, Tunghsiangs, Salas, and Paoans, and takes no account of the Chinese who call themselves Muslims. The figure of 42,000,000 for China and Korea is based on the estimates as to the size of the Muslim community before the present government came into power, with a conservative allowance for population increase. Chinese Muslims estimate the total as at least 50,000,000.
The Turkish area includes those Muslims whose ties are closer to Turkey than to the Arab or Iranian world. Not all the Muslims in the Soviet Union fall properly in that classification since more than 2,000,000 of them look to Iran as their cultural center. The figure for the Soviet Union is open to question because it has not been possible in recent years to get accurate information concerning the fate of Islam under Communism and it is known that efforts have been made to curtail Islam, partly for ideological reasons and partly to break the ties of the Muslims with the Turkish and Iranian areas.
Because of the recent shifts of population in the Near East, the figures for Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel have been grouped together. The estimates for Africa vary widely, with the figure chosen representing a conservative judgment. The figure for the Western countries includes 350,000 Algerian Muslims who have settled in France.
These figures indicate that the Muslim population of the world may be conservatively estimated at around 400,000,000. Approximately half of the Muslims of the world live in eastern Asia, from China and Indonesia to Pakistan. The largest Muslim country is Indonesia, followed closely by Pakistan.
There are five major cultural areas in the Islamic world. The Indonesia-Malaya area can claim more than 75,000,000 Muslims; their chief relations with the Muslims of other areas have been with the Arab world, although recently they have shown a new interest in China. The Pakistan-India area, including Burma and Ceylon, is the largest with more than 105,000,000 Muslims using Urdu as a language fairly widely known; their ties have been more with the Arab and Iranian areas than with others. The Iranian area includes some 3,000,000 Shi‘as in Iraq, 1,100,000 in Afghanistan, and 1,400,000 in Tadzhik, in the Soviet Union. If the Shi‘as in Pakistan, India, Arabia, and Africa are included, the total area of Iranian influence would include more than 30,000,000 Muslims. The Turkish area extends from Sinkiang to the Balkans and includes most of the Muslims in the Soviet Union, some 60,000,000 Muslims. The Arab world, where the Arabic language and culture is dominant, includes more than 60,000,000 Muslims. In addition, the African Muslims, some 35,000,000 of them, tend to look to the Arab world for leadership. The Chinese Muslims have had little contact with their brothers in the rest of the Islamic world, but have had some ties with Arabia, Egypt, and the Turkish area.
It is interesting to note that almost half of the Turkish Muslims, a tenth of the Iranian, and all the Chinese Muslims -- a total of 71,000,000 -- are in Communist-dominated areas.