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Flashcards in Ulama Deck (16):

Who were ulama

a body of religious scholars


sheikh and mufti

Ulama - sheikh, served as muftis and cardis. Both tell you what islamic text say. Tell you what you can do if allowed under islam As many illiterate and ulasmsa relied upon to help with reading, Thewy would issue a fatwa - an answer to a question..


under muhammed ali. decline wafq

Decline fewer resources for religious schooling because of the waqf. yet increased demand as if yu went to religious school you could avoid conscription. As religious school getting stretched and lowest amount of funds. there are a parallel set of schools and legal system. new schools and courts. courts were not dealing with islamic law but making judgements on codified law. ulama sidelined from social development.


reform ali

He left the experience of fighting with vritain in 1801 thinking the army and the navy need rejuvenating. Need money for the new military and technology and people. Need larger tax revenue and centralized administration to collect tax and educatuoon system to train oeple to have the skills needed.


ulama and egypt 18 c

The ulama played an integral role within Egypt prior to the nineteenth century. They held the monopoly over administering sharia law, teaching the Qur’an and had control of the education system:
‘the social status and position of the ulama, as transmitters of religious knowledge, were based on their multiple roles as scholars, jurists and other key functions in society…the influence of religion in all aspects of life in the society thus confirmed the social role of the ulama’.[1]


napolean and reform/ulama

The invasion and colonisation of Egypt by Napoleon started the process of Westernisation[2], a process which initiated the decline of the power of ulama. Napoleon began to modernise Egypt in terms of the education system, technology and science. He created secular schools for the first time. This was a process continued by Muhammad Ali upon French withdrawal.


ali and army

Ali knew he needed to reform the army to keep Egypt safe from ‘the predations of the Europeans’[3] and therefore built his military strength based on the ‘model of the Napoleonic Army’[4]. This is significant as he knew he needed to match their strength to remain free from colonisation.


ali and schools

When reforming the military, Ali took partial control of the education system, again following the French model by creating secularised schools; military, medical and veterinary schools, enabling them to turn out men with skills which would benefit his military.[5] This resulted in the ulama losing their total monopoly of the education system.


ali and waqf

Moreover, Ali needed to fund the army reform. He introduced a taxation system that took control of the wafq (a charitable trust the ulama controlled and benefitted from financially) under the state. By doing this, the ulama lost a huge amount of wealth and confidence. Karen Armstrong states:
‘Ali…confiscated much religious endowed property, systematically marginalized the ulama, and divested them of any shred of power. As a result, the ulama, who had experienced modernity as a shocking assault, became even more insular, and closed their minds against the new world that was coming into being in this country’.[6]


ali and west

Many of Ali’s reforms were widespread and followed a European model. Ali put these reforms in place not only to stop further colonisation.



Ali’s successors continued his reform project but, however, bankrupted the country and were in debt to European countries resulting in the occupation of Britain in Egypt from 1882 until 1952.


al-afghani and abduh

It was this occupation which drove reformers like al-Afghani and his student Abduh to further reform Egypt as one of a return to Islam. Israr Haan, whose work focuses on History and Civilization states:
‘al-Afghani and Abduh believed that the only way for the muslim world to throw off the yoke of colonialism and push back against Western cultural hegemony was through a revival of islam… [they] blamed the clerical establishment – the ulama -for the sorry state of muslim society’.[7]


abduh and the west

However, I argue that Western society was not entirely rejected by Abduh. Abduh believed that Western influences should be included in reforms such as including the teachings of the sciences in addition to teaching a purer form of Islam dervived from the first umma (community) led by the Prophet Muhammad.[8] This directly contradicted the ulama and, although opposition was created by them, Lord Cromer (the British Consul-General of Egypt) supported Abduh in his reforms and made him Grand Mufti of Egypt, the most senior religious role in office. This depicts how the wishes of the majority of the ulama were disregarded. The relationship between Lord Cromer and Abduh shows Abduh did not reject the West entirely.


muslim brotherhood and ulama

The Muslim Brotherhood was created in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. As young as thirteen years old, he became involved in the fight against British colonial rule and participated in the Egyptian revolution in 1919. He saw the British reforms in the Egyptian culture as an assault against Islam.[9] Al-Banna detested the secularisation he witnessed within Egypt and he blamed the West for the ‘religious and moral decay in Egyptian society’.[10] Al-Banna was inspired by Abduh and argued for a return to early Islam, however the Muslim Brotherhood discounted the role of the ulama blaming not ‘resisting the occupiers’.[11] The Muslim Brotherhood gained a large following from it’s outset which arguably shows the general public had lost faith in the ulama.


nasser mb and ulama

With the accession of Nasser to power in 1952, the Muslim Brotherhood were clamped down on because Nasser wanted Egypt to be a secular country. The Muslim Brotherhood posed as a threat as they were an increasingly popular political force. At first, Nasser appeared to accommodate the ulama in order to show that he was not resistant to Islam. However, it was Nasser who unleashed the final assault on the ulama. He nationalized the al-Azhar, regarded as Egypt’s highest religious institution, removing any financial control the ulama had left. Moreover, he ‘abolished the sharia courts in order to unify judicial system’.[12] This resulted in excluding the ulama from control of the legal system, education system and wafq all of which had been under control of the ulama before the colonisation of the West.


further ways ulama ostracised

print press/ msa/ no longer need scholars to read for them/ increased literacy/ schooling