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Scholars Saints and Sufis: Muslim Religious Institutions Since 1500 Paperback – July, 1978


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 409 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of California Pr; New edition edition (July 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520036441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520036444
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,602,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Smith on February 28, 2011
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When I first started reading this book I was afraid that it was going to be too much of a micro look at Islam and its institutions. The first essays start out looking at how the ulema functioned in 19th century Ottoman Empire. It was a look into the daily minutiae, and I was looking for a much more general look at the history of these institutions, but as I read on I found that there was a wealth of information even in the minutiae. While a lot of the information seems very narrow, the essays work together to create a broader picture of the elite Muslim ulema.

What comes through very clearly is the differences between Sunni and Shia leadership, and how the different structures of each branch of Islam has created vastly different outcomes for how the ulema of both branches deal with political elites. These essays clearly portray how the diffuse leadership of the Sunnis as well as the philisophical belief that tyranny is preferable to the potential anarchy of opposing the political leadership created a pliant support structure out of Sunni elites that tended to help the most corrupt of regimes. Only when their own postions were directly threatened would they take on the leadership, often times with succesfull outcomes. Whereas the more hierarchical Shias found it easier to rally the people and to oppose political leadership.

The essays on Iran and the how the Shia ulema have dealt and confronted political leadership is prescient considering it was written seven to eight years before the Iranian Revolution. What is interesting is to see the activism of the Shia Ulema as opposed to the relative quietism of the Sunnis. Especially the essay that discusses Napoleon's occupation of Egypt and attempt to co-opt these leaders into the ruling structure.
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