ABSTRACT

By the end of the nineteenth century, nearly all of the major political units of Islam, from Indonesia to northern Nigeria, were under some form of European control. Those that had escaped direct occupation—Iran, the Ottoman Empire, Afghanistan, and Morocco—found their sovereignty restricted by European control of their economies. The domination of Islamic lands by the states of Western Europe posed a terrible dilemma for Muslims. Why did the divinely ordained Islamic community suffer such defeats at the hands of the infidels? The general Muslim consensus was that the divine message revealed to the Prophet remained valid. It was not Islam that was flawed; rather, the flaw lay with Muslims themselves and their failure to follow the commands of God. In this view, the abandonment of the shari’ah for secular constitutions and man-made legal codes was symptomatic of the errors of the Western-educated elite, whose eager embrace of alien institutions not only had failed to save society but had also hastened its ruin. But the French knowers were not the only targets of criticism. Muslim intellectuals and political activists argued that Islamic practices had become degenerate and had deviated from the true path as set forth in the revelations.