ABSTRACT

BEFOREproceedingtospeakoftheterriblecatastrophewhich filledthewholeofWesternAsiawithruinanddesolation,

Imayofferafewpreliminaryremarksconcerning Generalcharac-lhfh.dh'

terlsticsofthethegeneracaracterotepenow1chwe periodshallbrieflysurveyinthisfinalchapter.It

forms,onemustadmit,amelancholyconclusiontoaglorious history.TheCaliphate,whichsymbolisedthesupremacy oftheProphet'speople,issweptaway.Mongols,Turks, Persians,allinturnbuildupgreatMui}ammadanempires, buttheArabshavelosteventheshadowofaleadingpartand appearonlyassubordinateactorsonaprovincialstage.The chiefcentresofArabianlife,suchasitis,arehenceforth SyriaandEgypt,whichwereheldbytheTurkishMamelukesuntilI5I7A.D.,whentheypassedunderOttoman rule.InNorthAfricathepettyBerberdynasties(f;laf~ids, Ziyanids,andMarlnids)gaveplaceinthesixteenthcentury totheOttomanTurks.OnlyinSpain,wheretheNa~ridsof GranadasurviveduntilI492A.D.,inMorocco,wherethe Sharifs(descendantsof'Allb.Ab{T•Uib)assumedthe sovereigntyinI544A.D.,andtosomeextentinArabia itself,didtheArabspreservetheirpoliticalindependence. Insuchcircumstancesitwouldbevaintolookforany largedevelopmentsotliteratureandcultureworthytorank withthoseofthepast.Thisisanageofimitationand

compilation. Learned men abound, whose erudition embraces every subject under the sun. The mass of writing shows no visible diminution, and much of it is valuable and meritorious work. But with one or two conspicuous exceptions-e.g. the historian Ibn Khaldun and the mystic Sha'nl.nl-we cannot point to any new departure, any fruitful ideas, any trace of original and illuminating thought. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries "witnessed the rise and triumph of that wo'nderful movement known as the Renaissance, ••. but no ripple of this great upheaval, which changed the whole current of intellectual and moral life in the West, reached the shores of Islam." x Until comparatively recent times, when Egypt and Syria first became open to European civilisation, the Arab retained his media:val outlook and habit of mind, and was in no respect more enlightened than his forefathers who lived under the 'Abbasid Caliphate. And since the Mongol Invasion I am afraid we must say that instead of advancing farther along the old path he was being forced back by the inevitable pressure of events. East of the Euphrates the Mongols did their work of destruction so thoroughly that no seeds were left from which a flourishing civilisation c_ould arise ; and, moreover, the Arabic language was rapidly extinguished by the Persian. In Spain, as we have seen, the power of the Arabs had already begun to decline ; Africa was dominated by the Berbers, a rude, unlettered race, Egypt and Syria by the blighting military despotism of the Turks. Nowhere in the history of this period can we discern either of the two elements which are most productive of literary greatness: the quickening influence of a higher culture or the inspiration of a free and vigorous national life.2