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Between 'Umma, empire and nation: the role of the 'Ulama in the 'Urabi revolt and the emergence of Egyptian nationalism

Mirza, Mansoor (2014) Between 'Umma, empire and nation: the role of the 'Ulama in the 'Urabi revolt and the emergence of Egyptian nationalism. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis contributes to an ongoing debate on the nature of Islam’s role in the emergence of nationalism in the Muslim world in general, and in Egypt in the years 1879-1882. While theories of nations and nationalism reveal a contested theoretical landscape, many scholars agree that Islam and nationalism are antithetical and expound divergent conceptions of community. For their part, Middle East scholars, view the ‘Urabi Revolt 1879-1882, as a ‘protonationalist’ precursor to the ‘full-blown’ Egyptian nationalism of the early twentieth century. Finally, ‘ulama participation in the ‘Urabi Revolt has been mainly ignored, most likely due to the dominant narrative – increasingly challenged – that ‘ulama were, to a great extent, marginalized over the nineteenth century in Egypt due to reforms that challenged their spheres of influence. On the theoretoical tension between Islam and nationalism and in asserting the nationalism of the ‘Urabi Revolt, I explore the case of Egypt, the ‘Urabi Revolt itself and the role of Islamic clerics, thinkers and activists. These key actors put forward convincing views of how Islamic and nationalist notions of community were in fact reconcilable. Furthermore, I argue that Egypt represents an exception to the dominant scholarly view that sees many nationalisms of the Middle East emerging in the aftermath of the Ottoman defeat of 1918. I offer an alternative account of the ‘ulama’s fate during the nineteenth century and explore their role in the ‘Urabi Revolt. While reforms did reduce the ‘ulama’s wealth, economic privileges and political influence this did not, I argue, result in complete marginality because ‘ulama monopoly of the religious and educational sphere remained largely unchallenged. Legal reforms may have displaced ‘ulama from key positions but these were not as comprehensive as some scholars have suggested. In the emerging nationalism of 1879 – 1882 and the British invasion, I argue that ‘ulama played a prominent role, both in the intellectual articulation of nationalism and within the poilitical and revolutionary events. ‘Ulama both defined and were active participants in the nationalist movement’s relationship to contending political forces including the Ottoman Empire, the local Khedive and indeed the invading British forces, imbuing Egyptian nationalism with a distinct Islamic character.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Mansoor Ahmed Mirza
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Hutchinson, John and Halliday, Fred and Dalacoura, Katerina and Smith, Anthony

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