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Pan-Islam, Spiritual Orders and Revivalism

That spiritual unity was still a potent factor. The Shi’ites counted few adherents, while other smaller sects were of no significance, but the large majority still stood firm in the orthodoxy of the Sunni faith. Even the struggle between the four major schools was basically decided in favour of the Hanifites almost everywhere. This spiritual unity was a reality. It only needed to be re-energized with new life to revive the consciousness of unity.

This task was taken on by the spiritual orders. As their adherents gradually increased in number, they impressed the masses with their superior morality. Islam provided them with fixed forms for living and for communal worship, forms that were observed almost everywhere. However, these forms were too external, did not touch the heart, and could not inspire them enough. It was the spiritual orders that were to cultivate this spirituality of the heart. They spread their tentacles in short time throughout the Muslim community.

Initially, the Turkish Government did not favour this movement. She saw danger lurking in the attempt to replace the unity provided by the Turkish regime with another higher type of unity. The Muftis and Ulama also were jealous of a movement that threatened to supercede the external worship service by a deeper spiritual disposition, whose source was to be found not in the mosque but in the monastery. This opposition had its parallel in the Christian Church where the established clergy resisted free mystical fellowships. However, over time the opposition petered out. The Sultan correctly observed that, provided his spiritual Caliphate was left untouched, eventually the fruit of this movement would fall into his lap. The plan of the reforming party to appoint the Sherif of Mecca pope of Islam would undermine the Sultan’s authority, but this new movement of spiritual orders worked in his favour. Hence, he eventually gave it his blessing.

Attempts to equate this Pan-Islam movement with the Pan-Slavic and Pan-German movements are definitely misguided. These latter movements derive their strength from a racial base and are associated with nationalism. Pan-Islam, on the other hand, is based exclusively on the religious motif. Every time Muslims play the racist card, as happened between the Turks and Arabs, Islam loses terrain, for such issues are not core to Islam.4141Translator’s note: There are plenty more examples of Muslim racism. In Mauritania, the relations between Berbers and Blacks are bedeviled by racism. When I talk to North African and Asian Muslims about Nigerian Muslims, they invariably shrug their shoulders with indifference for their Black Nigerian counterparts. In Nigeria itself racism is rife between the northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani and their neighbours. As in Christianity, the standard is one thing; the practice, another. Outside of Persia and Egypt, Islam has no nationalist impulses and even in Arabia, where such movements constantly arise, it is always based on the primacy of the spiritual. Arab Islam, more than any other, is regarded by Arabs as their own. They especially long for Islam in its original purity and they are deeply troubled by the fact that a Mongul tribe has taken over the Caliphate. But even though nationalism plays a role here, the spiritual factor provides even here the leitmotif. In Arabia the Crescent comes first and only after the Arab banner. Pan-Islam found its origin in the painful manner in which the great powers of Christian Europe imposed their superior power upon the Muslim states and tribes.4242Italics by translator. Translator’s note: A century later, the same dynamic is still/again at work. Would that the West would recognize the effects of its own secular, religious and imperialistic provocation of Islam through the centuries as an important factor in the current tension between Islam and the West. And then, of course, factor this into their response to the challenge they are facing. It does not appear that Kuyper took this second step. He merely observed the first. An awareness arose that all of Islam was endangered, that its disunity, its dampened and petrified faith, condemned Islam to powerlessness.

It was high time for Islam to pursue three things if it were to maintain any position of power at all. First, the band of unity of all who raise the Crescent high had to be restored. Secondly, Islam had to be purified of all the foreign accretions that had crept in. Thirdly, the withered faith must be re-animated with a fresh enthusiasm. That this three-fold urgency was indeed the badly needed response to the situation on the ground was demonstrated by the surprising speed with which Pan-Islam took hold. Already it had its interpreters and supporters throughout the Muslim world, from Hyderabad in Pakistan to Tangier and Fes in Morocco. It was as if Muslims had been waiting for just such a movement and as if the sun of Pan-Islam had only to rise over the horizon for them to embrace it with enthusiasm. It had more the dynamics of a sudden fire than of the organization of an artificial movement. Yet, it did not lack all organization, even though some scholars attributed disproportionate weight to it. Abu Al-Huda, a sheikh of the Rafai order,* leads the movement from Constantinople, while the Great Sherif of Mecca, a member of this powerful order, has the consummate skills to utilize the pilgrimage to the Ka’aba as propaganda for this communal movement. It has even succeeded to unite different orders under a degree of administrative unity through the person of Sheikh El-Troeg.* Under the powerful leadership of this administrator, throngs of missionaries penetrated Asia and Africa to declare an Islamic revival. Sheikh Jafer, head of the Tripoli-based Madaniya order, has a powerful influence as court chaplain to the Sultan, and leads the movement in North Africa. This artificial dispersion of Pan-Islam is by no means insignificant, but it would be far too weak to reach its goal if the general consciousness of a European threat were not found in all Muslim countries. It is only out of necessity that Islam tolerates foreign domination, especially now that even the land of the Sultan is losing province after province and the Sultan himself has to submit constantly in his own country to the demands of Western powers. In the meantime, resentment builds up and people ask themselves whether Islam with its more than fifteen percent of the population of the world, should not be able to muster the power to put an end to this foreign oppression. Politically speaking, the goal of Pan-Islam is undoubtedly the return of all Muslims under the rule of the Sultan, but this goal is only the last step on a long journey.

For the moment, the main agenda is two-fold. First, Islam must purify itself from the accretions it has absorbed from the earlier religions of the people it has absorbed. Secondly, it must raise the general awareness that all who live under the Crescent must wake up and work towards unification in preparation for a new gigantic struggle. Often the movement expresses itself in minor explosions of fanaticism, but these are suppressed too quickly to make a lasting impression. It is realized that this phase of the action must first be completed with limitless patience and spiritual tenacity, if the end goal is ever to be reached. That is why there is a heavy emphasis on sending out agents, on the distribution of literature and the continuation of the ongoing triumphal march among Africa’s Blacks.

Undoubtedly, this never-ceasing propaganda has already considerably strengthened the position of Islam. The foreign rulers in India and Pakistan, in Indonesia and Africa are forced increasingly to take the sensitivities of Islam into consideration. Sirdar Kitchener was even forced to strongly forbid all Christian mission activities in Egyptian Sudan.4343Translator’s note: The same prohibition was put into effect by the British in the Muslim-dominated areas of Northern Nigeria. J. Boer, 1979, p. 69; 2004, p. 19; 2007, pp. 58-59, 61. In India and Pakistan the British Viceroy tried to make more and more contact with Muslims. The French Government in Tunis approached Islam very differently from what it did earlier in Algeria. In Egypt the British tried to avoid anything that might annoy Muslims.


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