|About the Book|
This comparative dissertation analyzes Muslim perceptions of religious and social crisis precipitated by the sudden absence of a significant Islamic political institution, the caliphate, in the thirteenth and twentieth centuries. Despite the obvious disparities of chronological, geographical, and intellectual contexts, the disappearance of the Islamic caliphate, represented by the Abbasids and the Ottomans, was a deeply traumatic occurrence in both instances and generated an outpouring of emotion far beyond the territorial boundaries of temporal empire. In the case of the Abbasids, this emotive response emanated from as far away as Spain and North Africa in the west and Yemen in the south along with Egypt, geographical Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia. And in the case of the Ottomans, Muslims from Southeastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia were profoundly consterned. This widespread response reveals the potent symbolism of this religious and political institution as an emblem of Islamic unity, piety, and prestige and motivated a variety of attempts in both eras to reconstitute and harness its popular religious appeal. Yet though an Abbasid caliphate was ultimately resurrected in Cairo under the suzerainty of the Mamluks following the Mongol destruction of Baghdad in 1258, the series of early twentieth-century attempts to reestablish a modern caliphate, after its legislative abolition by the nationalist Turkish assembly in 1924, were less successful. These thwarted efforts of the modern era have since dissolved into lingering sentiments of remorse and longing for what once represented Muslim glory, righteousness, and esteem and have even contributed to the development of mass Islamist movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In analyzing these responses to the loss of a caliphate, through the works of Muslim jurists, exegetes, traditionists, theologians, historians, poets, intellectuals, bureaucrats, activists, and journalists, this dissertation traces a thread of commonality that runs through premodern and modern Islam and simultaneously highlights the multifarious ways in which modern Muslims have drawn upon, responded, and contested certain elements of their heritage.