OccasionalPapers Series

THs InEn oF AN AnrHRoPoLoGY oF Isr.q,.vl
Talal Asad

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OccasionalPapers Series

THp Iona oF AN AxrHRoPoLocY oF IsLAM
TalalAsad March 1986

CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ARAB STUDIES University Georgetown Washington D.C. 20057

sociology. Ms. businessadministration. The publications program of the Center consistsof books. Jr. they are designed to fill important gaps in the existing literature on the Arab world. history.Gpxnn^ql INTnoDUCTIoN The Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University was established in 1975 to enlarge and enrich academic studies and scholarly research on the Arab world. Functionally. It holds an annual symposium and sponsors an annual distinguished lecture in Arab studies. and papers by Georgetown faculty and other scholars in a wide variety of research areas. The Center seeks to facilitate the responsible expression of a variety of ideas and analyses of the Arab world and its development. Occasional papers consist of studies of particular merit which by reason of length and specializedsubject matter may not find a conventional scholarly publications outlet. Zeina Azzam Seikaly is the Center's publications manager. economics. as well as hosts lecture and film programs throughout the academic year. The director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies is Professor Michael C. The Center's geographicalpurview is the entire Arab world from Morocco to Kuwait and Syria to the Sudan. law. Mr. specialreports. In doing so. J. The Center administers a Master's degree program in Arab studies and certificate programs in Arab studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels. philosophy. edited this paper. theology. . political science. With coverage of a diversity of topics. it includes the disciplines of Arabic language and literature. and informed discussion of this region is beneficial to all concerned. the only position taken by the Center is that improved knowledge. international relations. development. Hudson. and fine arts. Opinions expressed are solely those of the authors. understanding. Coleman Kitchen.

The politicalreasons this greatindustryareperhaps evidentto deserve for too muchcomment. hereI want to focuson the conceptual basis of this literature.Islam. Eight years ago. 1983). But to conceptualize Islamas the objectof an anthropological study is not as simplea matteras somewriterswould haveone suppose. 1973). religion. Arab nationalism. We will look briefly at the first two answers. Let us begin with a very generalquestion. 1980). eachof which has beendesignated Islamic by informants.The Sociology of Developing Societies: The Middle East (co-editor with Roger Owen. Class andt he O r i g i n o f t h e l s l a micSta te " ( in Eco n o m ya n d So cie ty.(3) that Islam is a distinctivehistoricaltotality which organizes variousaspects of sociallife. is the anthropologyof Islam? What is its object of investigation? The answermay seemobvious:what the anthropology Islam investigates of is. Professor Asad presented this paper at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies as the 1984-85 Annual Distinguished Lecture in Arab Studies. and political systems.l gs0). (2) that Islam is the anthropologist's labelfor a heterogeneous collection of items.Howeverthat maybe. which is in principlethe most interesting. from Oxford University in 1968and has conducted extensive anthropological research on such topics as Bedouin tribes. eventhoughit is not acceptable. Authority and Consent in a Nomadic Tribe (1970). .What. Publications Westernanthropologists by containing the word "Islam" or "Muslim" in the title multiply at a remarkablerate.I In recent years there has been increasing interestin somethingcalled the anthropologyof Islam. Phil. There appearto be at least three commonanswersto the questionposed above: (1) that in the final analysisthere is no such theoreticalobject as Islam. and then examine at lengththe third. the anthropologistAbdul Hamid El-Zein struggledwith Talal Asad is a Reader in Social Anthropology at Hull University. Dr. exactly. He received a D. Asad's numerous publications include The Kababish Arabs: Power.Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter (editor and contributor."Ideology. surely.and"TheIdeaof anonWestern Anthropology" (in Current Anthropology.

but finally ihut thereare diverseforms of Islam. by that mustbe examined anyone problems but to useit to exirait theoretical manyelements of Islam. The first of theseinvolves of and Islam. writings-by anthropoiogists. One adherent the second in his recent of view is Michael Gilsenan.. was linked in a rather puzzling way to the real. emphasizes book RecognizingIslam2that no form of Islam may be excludedfrom the interest on the groundsthat it is not the true Islam' His anthropologist's regardasIslamic .they socialrelationswith others. My purpose.religiousbelief.this question in a survey entitled "Beyond Ideology and Theology: The Searchfor the Anthropologyof Islam. who wishesto write an anthropology in the overall picture presentedby Gellner are to be found also in other and journalpolitical scientists. This paradoxcannotbe resolvedsimply by by that the ctaimasto what is Islamwill be admitted the anthropologist saying and practices. point of So much for an unr*.who. is not to assess with this text. if only because there are everywhereMuslims who say that what other peopletake to be Islam is not really Islam at all.however. such of a thing as an anthropology Islam.And like all suchbeliefs. each broadly conceivedas differinghistoricalconfigurations . id"u he adoptsfrom other anthropologists-thatIslam is simply what Muslims everywheresay it is-will not do. of assertionthat they are all ultimately expressions an underlyingunconcontextualism from an anthropological scious logic.The conteniiotr ^each worth describing.But the picture it presentsis of less interestthan the way it it drawson andthe concepts deploys' beenput together-the assumptions il Islam in Gellner's There is in fact more than one attemptto conceptualize betweenChristianity an explicit comparison text. I shalldealin some this particularwork. but it doesnot help sociological a sensible object of study. Orientalists.A Muslim's beliefsaboutthe beliefs by animateand are sustained his own beliefs.because onty where it appliesto the informant's ownbeliefs in to impossible definebeliefsandpractices termsof an isolated it is generally of and practices othersare his subject.In lookingat thii text oneis it has account.there cannot..As it happens."l This was a brave effort.t of the first kind. Th. and political behaviorinteractwith detail eachother in an Islamictotality. This curious slippage of led universalism him to the final sentence his article: into a Levi-Straussian .Islam'as an analytical In other words.3 ways in of presented the characteristic model is which an anthropological which social structure. Let us turn then to an answerof the third type. One of the most ambitious in attemptsto addressthis questionis Ernest Gellner'sMuslim Society. In what follows.strictly speaking.eachequally unhelpful." category be Islam is not an analyiicalcategory. alsolookingat morethan a unique therefore ists. if as dissolves well.ugg"riion that the differentthingsthat Muslimsthemselves is of their societies indeed within the life anddevelopment shouldbe situated identifyIslamasan analytical rule. hke El-Zein.

it is also to be found implicitly in the writings of many contemporaryanthropologists. Sephardic Judaism and Eastern Christianity are conceptually as marginalizedand represented minor branchesin the Middle East of a history that developselsewhere-in Europe. familiarlines: It that exist. .u of contrastaffectsthe conceptualization is only Muslim beliefandpracticethat Westernanthropologistsappearto be interested In effect. without political power. . which defines the proper ordering of society. But the initial successof Islam was so rapid that it had no need to give anything unto Caesar. Such a conceptualization centralto Orientalism. I find it impossibleto acceptthat tianity. . one of the most valuable betweenChristianand Muslim histories. Consider. from its inception. and at the roots of Western civilization. of comparisons I want to makeit clearthat I havenothingin principleagainst Indeed. under its control Christianity. Judaism and Christianity are also blueprints of a social order. in in varyingways to createor maintainthe socialconditions which men and women might live Christianlives-has this entirehistory nothingto do with to I Christianity?As a non-Christian. ogists. A faith which begins. would not presume assertthat neither of Liberation Theologynor the Moral Majority belongto the essence Chrishowever. and independent of the will of men.the of openingparagraphs Gellner'sbook. Considerthe long history since Constantine. and for some time remains. Although Christianityand Judaismare also indigenousto the region. one must be assailed by a in variety of doubts. throughout historyhavebeenlessintimately Christianpracticeanddiscourse concernedwith the uses of political power for religiouspurposesthan the practiceand discourse Muslims. which administrators. but rather less so than Islam. My disquietabout this notion of Europe as the true locus of Christianity and the Middle East as the true locusof Islamdoesnot comeprimarily from as of the old objectionto religionbeingrepresented the essence a historyand (an a civrTrzation objectionwhich even someOrientalistslike Becker advanced is My concernas an anthropologist over the way this particular long ago). eternal. If one reads carefully what is being said here. one essentially locatedin Europe. Christianity. Here the contrastbetweenIslam and Christianityis drawn in bold. for most Westernanthropolin. which initially flourished among the politically disinherited.the other in the Middle is but East. A kind of potential for political modesty has stayed with it ever since those humble beginnings. holds a setof rules Islam theblueprint a social of divinely ordained. . contained an open recommendation to give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.for instance. textbookson the Middle One sign of this is the fact that anthropological East-such as Gulick'soor Eickelmsn'ss-devotetheir chapter on "Religion" entirely to Islam. or is not yet. is order. .power and belief. lay princesand ecclesiastical haveall soughtby usingpower Church reformersand colonialmissionaries. cannot but accommodate itself to a political order which is not. . did not then presume to be Caesar. Christianemperorsand kings. As an anthropologist. .

which a disembodied contrasting .is featuresof the recentbook by Fischeron IranT the inclusionof descriptive from Jewishand christian historiesin his accountof the madrasa material of studies contemporary system. and the medieval of Fischerdoes. Of particular note is the fact that Christiansand societyin a way that is not usuallyformed anintegralpart of Middle Eastern the familiar in true of non-christianpopulations Europe.My claimhereis not beenmore tolerantof nongeneral and valid one that Muslim rulers havein but Muslim subjectsthan christian rulers have of non-christiansubjects. Christian knowledge. with detailedanthropological the past thiee yearshas beenconcerned ou. does not "indifin of attitudes IslamandChristianity.but it is worth touchingon by way of to be expounded illustration. and Muslim travelersoften visited and wrote make good senseto think in terms of the It and Asian societies. evenin outline.and my own research For this reason' a systematicexplJrationof differences. authorities("religious" and simply that medieval Christian and Muslim for .the peoples Islam continimposing to cherish-as many in East and West ued until the dawn oi the modernage superiority and still do today-the convictionof the immeasurable immutable to Muslim from Andalusia For the medieval of their civilizationto all others.andmorewith structures disciplinary living among communities After all.poliiical") must havehad to devisevery differentstrategies developing This is too largea subject populations. attempt But one shouldgo beyonddrawingparallels.e What is the reasonfor this such as given by Orientalists toward Others?The explanation indifference of successes Islam bred an attitude BernardLewis is that the early military toward ChristianEurope' "Masked by the of contemptand complacency of military miglit of the OttomanEmpire. subject and regulating moral subjects here. which standin contrastto Inquisition in twelfth-centuryWesternEurope. of an outer darkness barbarismand unbePersia. but our Perhaps why Roman and asking not why Islam was uncuriousabout Europe but of and practices Others'The answer in were interested the beliefs Christians the intrinsic has less to do with cultural motives allegedlyproducedby of experience military encounqualitiesof a worldview or by the collective that calledfor different practices of ters. the sacrament confession. betweenpower and religionin the medieval the very different connections Jews have Middle East..christian Europewas still lessto learn'"r0 lief.This is one of the very few anthropological with Europeanhistory' and consetstam that employ implicit comparisons quentlyenrich our understanding. that Muslim scholarsin the clasModern historianshave often observed no curiosityaboutChristianity'and periodsdisplayed sicalandpost-classical interestshown thatin this their attitudewasstrikinglydifferentfrom the lively beliefs and practicesnot only of in by their christian contemporaries the intellectual Islam but of other cultures too. from which the sunlitworld of Islamhadlittle to fear and by is question bestapproached turningit around that was so. kindsof systematic curiosityabout not notedfor their scholarly Muslimsin the Middle Eastwere about African Europe either.

the very terms employed are misleading. In other words. in which the connection between religion and power is simply reversed. and we need to find concepts that are more appropriate for describing differences. The argument here is not against the attempt to generalize about Islam. The problem with the kind of contrasts of Islam with Christianity drawn by Gellner is not that the relations between religion and political power are the same in the two. forms of interest in the production of knowledge are intrinsic to various structures of power. Anyone working on the anthropology of Islam will be aware that there is considerable diversity in the beliefs and practices of Muslims. namely that there may well be important differences which the anthropologist studying other societies ought to explore. and which may too easily be obscured by the search for superficial or spurious differences. Rather. The first problem is therefore one of organizing this diversity in terms of an adequate concept. NI So far we have looked very briefly at one aspect of the attempt to produce an anthropology of Islam: the virtual equation of Islam with the Middle East. and the definition of Muslim history as the "mirror image" (Gellner) of Christian history. and they differ not according to the essential character of Islam or Christianity." One ought instead to be looking for the institutional conditions for the production of various social knowledges. but according to historically changing systems of discipline. What was regarded as worth recording about "other" beliefs and customs? By whom was it recorded? In which social project were the records used? Thus.ference" faces a disembodied "desire to learn about the Other. This view is open to criticism both becauseit disregards the detailed workings of disciplinary power in Christian history and because it is theoretically most inadequate. There is nothing in Muslim societies to parallel these compilations of systematic knowledge about "internal" unbelieverssimply becausethe disciplines that required and sustained such information are not to be found in Islam. beyond my misgivings about the plausibility of historical contrasts in terms of cultural motives-such as "potential for political modesty" on the one hand. it is no mere coincidence that the most impressive catalogues of pagan belief and practice in early medieval Christendom are those contained in the Penitentials (handbooks for administering sacramental confession to recently-converted Christians) or that the successive manuals for inquisitors in the later European Middle Ages describe with increasing precision and comprehensivenessthe doctrines and rites of heretics. but against the manner in which that generalization is undertaken. . But neither is the nominalist view that different instances of what are called Islam are essentially unique and sui generis. Thus. The familiar representation of essential Islam as the fusion of religion with power is not one of these. and "theocratic potential" on the other-lies another concern.

successive of religion. of the organization cities. they are' formed aS beingregarded "more real" thanlhe other' They arewhat conditions.ut.even managed supplant by an outstanding two .alaw in the cities. For bf tn.(2) sociologies detailsdrawn from a readingof (1) the classical writings on Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddi*oh. and almostthe usedby him.a particularstyle of political struggle to their the tribes." Gellnerhasadded.s of Islam fit nicely into the two kinds of socialand ruler.In fact. countryfolkis highlyvariable'"Orthodoxy" tn. numberof in ologyof lslam. a publications. of organization the hierarchical on consisted the one handof the centralized. saintsamongthe latter.goii. and (3) British anthropological it to cover virtually the lineagetheory. turn resisted an incumbent to religiousleader. unlettered tures. of their pupils. sometimes. nicetiesof with the uy Islam amongmany. And he has extended segmentary entire spanof whole of North Africa and the Middle East. the religion of the countryin different ways in different Precisely sense.the Islamof form of merelyone (albeitinvariable) is therefore. Clifford Geertzand Ernest Gellner' argument was the further . distinguistreo its preoccupation texts ratherthan sacred its authorityfrom sacred doctrineand law.The resulting . The the tribes. and on the other of the egalitarian'segmental tribes. "tui111ing persons.ol1l. countryside. the between scripturalist. and drawn on picturehasbeen Muslim history. rooted in variablelocal conditions particularistic. Both structures betweenwhom they definethe opponents parts of a singlesystembecause place' More precisely' takes strulgle for political dominance an unceasing very are both urban and tribal populations Muslim. all owing at the because also implicitly (and so perhaps to leasta nominalallegiance the iacred texts It emerges' literateguuidiunr).variablecustomamong are seenas lrla*a in the former. and for tribes for is possible urban rulers to claim authorityover the leaderwho aimsto supplant ruler in the name a country-based to support of Islam. anthroby This dichotomyhasbeenpopularized two well-knownWestern and by pologistsof Moioccan Islam. contrastive sideis takenas a singleform only in an abstract. and the saint-worshipping. it because is by defiiition of memories oral culand authorizedbythe uncheckable and personalities. : politicalstructure ihari. But what madeit interesting an apparentcorrelationof this dual Islam with two types of that there was French colonial distinctive social structure.self-governing when united and of with varyingdegrees success.for such anthropologists. distinction acceptable more to setup the seemingly ritualisticreligion puritanicalfaith of the towns. The cities were governedby rulers who continually surrounding tribes. somethingfirst proposedby it was claimed' scholarshipon the Maghrib. neitherform of Islam hasa claim to anthropologists. ClassicalMaghribi society. which was initiallythe productof a French"sociTo this have attempted resolvethe problem one way in which anthropologists orientalist distinction betweenorthodox and of diversiiy is to adapt ttre and thus of nonorthodoxIsramto the categories Greatand Little Traditions. the tribesmenin attemptedto subduethe dissident.

(2) Anthropological analyses of social structure should focus not on typical actors but on the changing patterns of institutional relations and conditions (especiallythose we call political economies). in Islam the shaikhs are heterodox.(3) The analysisof Middle Eastern political economies and the representation of Islamic "dramas" are essentially different kinds of discursive exercise which cannot be substituted for each other. Muslim shore of the Mediterranean is a kind of mirror-image of the northern shore. urban and excludes priestly mediation. let us instead focus on a different issue: What are the discursive styles employed here to represent (a) the historical variations in Islamic political structure. canonized by central authorities. ritualistic. saint and shaikh are mirror-image roles. the manipulation of populations (or resistance to it).the by others. While it is worth asking whether this anthropological account of Islam is valid for the entire Muslim world (or even for the Maghrib) given the historical information available. One corner-stone of the official religion is saintship. individualistic. instead of schematizing and de-historicizing their actions. on the implicit analogy with (ideological)superstructureand (social) base. with a strong rural appeal. Whereas in Christianity the saints are orthodox. tribal or associational. (5) Islam as the object of anthropological understandingshould be approached as a discursive tradition that connects variously with the formation of moral selves. Similarly. let us consider the following interconnected points: (1) Narratives about culturally distinctive actors must try to translate and representthe historically-situated discoursesof such actors as responses to the discourse of others. living and recognized by local consent. Hammoudi. hierarchical and ritualistic. dead.rr Even as it applies to the Maghrib. N If one reads an anthropological text such as Gellner's carefully. the central religious tradition is hierarchical. rural tradition which is deviant.g. of Europe.(4) It is wrong to represent types of Islam as being correlated with types of social structure. Islam reverses this pattern: it is the tribal. one may notice that the social and political structuresof classicalMuslim society are . this picture has been subjected to damaging criticism by scholars with access to indigenous historical sources in Arabic (e. but it will not be pursued here. On the southern shore. Cornell). " On the northern shore. precisely becausethey are discourses. and (b) the different forms of Islamic religion linked to the latter? What kinds of questions do these styles deflect us from considering? What concepts do we need to develop as anthropologists in order to pursue those very different kinds of questionsin a viable manner? In approaching this elaborate old contrastbetweenIslam and Christianityin a seriesof inversions-as in the followingcrisp accountby Bryan Turner: There is a sensein which we can say that in religion "the southern.12 This kind of criticism is important.. The deviant reformist tradition is egalitarian. puritan. although they can be significantly embedded in the same narrative. and the production of appropriate knowledges.

especially discourses defined takeshistorically anthropologist can questions be askedaboutthe conevents. that is castentirelyin termsof dramatic of A representation socialstructure to rolestendsto excludeotherconceptions.rn1. writes for a processwhich.. fear the merchants Armed nomads"lust after the city.totally missing Gellner'snarrative' of indigenous And Gellnei'sIslamicactorsdo not speak." In other of words. The puritanical powerfulruler andtry to maintainthe sacred poor seek a Lmploys religion to iegitimize its privilegedstatus. if one removesthe commonlanguage Islam. Religious disenchantment by rulers are destroyed the deciiningdynasty. also a dramaturgical made explicit use of metaphorsof political wrought literary style.Saintsmediatebetweenconflictingtribal groups. What one finds in effect are tribesconfrontcentralized Segmentary in nists engaged a dramaticstruggle.There are.references the Muslim society. he has "classical" theater. yet without adequate protagbehaviorare continuallybeingattributedto the actionsof the major in sure.An account in physical io It is interesting reflecton the fact that Geerlz. dominationthat is alreadyin place.capricious bourgeoisie law. lndeed.r. Literateclericsservetheir the illiteratenomadand a remote. in this respect.Demoralized with the religiousand military power of their urban subjectsconverging of their tribal enemies. very to authority.but also God."but it is clear that text to conception Gellner's because are suchexpiessions merelydeadmetaphors. to be onistsin classical . simplyto habit.For Geertz'sIslam is that is not. of an But evena narrativeabouttypicalactorsrequires account the discourses (or be represented that orient their behaviorand in which that behaviorcan play in the strict sense.The politics of Islam in "classical" Morocco and in . between nomads.partnerswho speakthe samemoral language. had beentakingplaceanyway. be isolatedfrom the power here is that of an emollientthat can of language "withinof pro""." example. by misrepresented) actorsto eachother.they do not think. is view of language very inadequate-inadequate This purely instrumental preciseiyfor the kind of narrativethat tries to describeMuslim societyin actors.that the way they constitute variously mighthaveresponded ditionsin which Muslim rulersand subjects or persuasion. they behave' "normal" and "revolutionary" motivesfor evidence. force. of what motivatesculturally recognizable and seriously.It is only when the i.protagoin represented a very distinctiveway." andunarmed states. which we shallturn in a moment. Observed of beingmore conscious his own highlyone.who is usuallyregarded preocGellner's as in as havinga primaryinterest culturalmeanings against a presents narrativeof Islam in his Islam cupationwiih socialcausation.The city's a reformersunite pastoralwarriorsagainst religionof eicitement. in and thus a certainkind of smoothness mon language a more mute and brutalisticform. nothingof any signifthan a facilitatinginstrumentof a is The language no more icancechanges. discourses however.In a dramatic in are thesediscourses contained the very linesthe actorsspeak. tn the contextof his description the circulationof elites a that "Islam provided comhe for an-immobile-structure.

readable V Devising narratives about the expressions and the expressive intentions of dramatic players is not the only option available to for Gellner.the schematization of Islam as a drama of religiosityexpressing power is obtainedby omitting indigenousdiscourses. It is often used by many writers on the Middle East to refer to social entities with very different structures and modes of livelihood.but each. consider the notion of tribe. forms of herding arrangements. the .in its own way. Their variable socioeconomic arrangements have very different implications for their possible involvement in politics. Any study of the military capabilities of pastoral nomads in relation to townsmen must begin not from the simple fact that they are pastoralnomads. is portrayed as essentially theatrical. but more particularly that pastoral nomads do not have an ideal-typical economy. This idea is central to the kind of anthropology of Islam of which Gellner's text is such a prominent example. distribution of animal wealth. trade. degreeof dependence returns through sales. such as Perry Anderson. how readily. Social life can also be written or talked about by using analytic concepts.and misconstruing historical structures.r3 The assumption that pastoral nomads in the Muslim Middle East have a typical political and economic structure is misleading. Types of animals reared. and war. Among the pastoral nomadic population I studied in the deserts of northern Sudan many years ago. patterns of seasonalmigration. it is important to consider the implications for analysis of an indiscriminate usage of the term "tribe. on on direct subsistence cultivation. but from a variety of political-economicconditions. some systematic. But where one is concerned. where theoretical issues are not involved.'o The reasonsfor this are too involved and tangentialto consider here. Not using such concepts simply means failing to ask particular questions.Indonesiaare very differentlyportrayed. this does not matter very much.rights of accessto pastures and watering points. Several Marxists. " It is the case not only that so-called "tribes" vary enormously in their formal constitution. as at present." and following him Bryan Turner has suggestedthat this concept should form part of a theoretically informed account of Muslim social structures becauseand to the extent that Middle Eastern countries have pastoral nomads living in them.Yet for Geertz. on gifts and tribute from political superiors or inferiors-these and other considerationsare relevant for an understanding of even the basic question of how many spare men can be musteredfor war. have argued for the concept of a "pastoral mode of production. some contingent. and for how long. Ordinarily.and by turning all Islamic behavior into gesture. for example. As an example.with conceptualproblems. but a brief look at the issue will remind us of concepts of social structure different from those still being deployed by many anthropologistsand historiansof Islam.

15 economic histories talk of the changes later pre-modern period. in analytic accounts whose principal object narratives about agency' It is althoughiuch aicounts can be embedded in place that precisely because "tribes" are differently structured in time and import of utterances will differ ihe motives. behavior. even though in terms of decline rather than growth. of regional and transcontinental trade. In accounts like Gellner's religious expression-in contrast. which pays special attention to the long-term working of impersonal constraints. One does not have to be an economic determinist to acknowledge that such changes have profound implications for questions of domination and autonomy. Peasants.ut economy. not surprisingly. the forms of behavior. But of course as soon and exchange' one can tell a rather turns to the concepts of production pastordifferent story. This approach to writing about Middle Eastern society. are able or inclined typicai tribes.*non1y. and the to o." strictly speaking. have no dramatic role and no distinctive as one that is. and not the drama. greater involvement not that this sales. The medieval agiicultural sector underwent important changesthat had far-reaching consequences for the development of urban populations. My argument is simply that what nomads historical tb^Oo in relation to settled populations is the product of various expression of some conditions that define their pbtiti. the and so never entirely unchanging. They are historical structures are realized. even before their incorporation into who present us with a fixed modern world system. and utterances is "tribe. a shift to in animal intensive and complex herding alrangements. male and female' produce crops (ust as which they sell or yield up in rent and alists of both sexes raise animals) that is taxes. of a money This is true also for the .iion play have. This does of which the limits and possibilities of people's lives them. do do something of that region. and a different pattern of property rights' The point is there are no tribal grouping is somehow typical for the Middle East' Indeed. even in the historical Middle East. no they women. Unlike those narrators cast of Islamic dramatis personae. to nomadic tribes and city-dwellers. but the vocabulary of motives. essential motive that belongs to tribal protagonists in a classic Islamic as agents than "disCurIn other wOrds. but that doing has crucial in relation to the social formations to be conceptualized in political-economic and not in dramatic terms. not mean that "tribes" are less real than the individuals who comprise does not belong. enacting a predetermined story. are not depicted as doing anything. we can 10 . never isolated from external relations. will be sensitive to the indissoluble but varying connections between the social economy and social power. It will also continually remind us that historical Middle Eastern societies were never self-contained.drastipossibilities for mobilizing large numbers of fighting men had altered the twentieth catly from the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of more primarily because of a large increase in small livestock. lines of Representations of Muslim society that are constructed along the place for peasants' Peasants' like un u. Cultivators. "tribes" are nO more to be regarded in terms sive structures" or "societies" are.

Thus. If one rejects the schema of an unchanging dualistic structure of Islam promoted by some anthropologists.if one decidesto write about the social structuresof Muslim societiesin terms of overlappng spacesand times. a discursive representation. one negative." In a curious w&y. But the integrity of the world of Islam is essentially ideological. beyond the fixed stage of an Islamic theater. " as ''the opium of the masses. 1t . not the name for a self-contained collective agent. We shall then write not about an essential Islamic social structure."16 It is too often forgotten that "the world of Islam" is a concept for organizinghistorical narratives. of the two great epochs of Islam-the classicalrotation-within-an-immobile structure. one positive. not the unconscious of a subject that writes itself as Islam for the Western scholar to read. as markers. and the turbulent developmentsand mass movements of the contemporary world. Gellner's text. and the dominant urban religion based on the "Holy Book. are set in the plastic period when they were first forming. the structure of possibilities within which they will in some sensealways move."rT But the fatality of character that anthropologists like Geertz invoke is the object of a professional writing.mystical religion of the urban poor which. but about historical formations in the Middle East whose elements are never fully integrated. And there is the ecstatic. becomesa focus of convergences then the dual typology of Islam will surely seem less plausible. then the way in which that social context is described must affect the understanding of religion. Thus there is the "revolutionary" as opposed to the "normal" Islam of the tribes. the natural carriers of two major forms of religion-the normal tribal religion centered on saints and shrines. So this apparent concessionto the idea that there may be more than two types of Islam is at the same time a literary device to define the notions of "traditional" and "modern" Muslim society. It is true that in addition to the two major types of religion proposed by the kind of anthropology of Islam we are talking about. excludesthem from effectivepolitical actionuntil. and differences. the impact of modernity when it is the religion of the urban masseswhich becomes "revolutionary. these two minor forms of Islam serve.look for connections. and in many others. and never bounded by the geographtcal limits of "the Middle East. minor forms are sometimes specified. This is not to say that historical narratives have no social effect-on the contrary." My argument is that if the anthropologist seeks to understand religion by placing it conceptually in its social context. VI The anthropology of Islam being criticized here depicts a classic social structure consisting essentially of tribesmen and city-dwellers. that is. which periodically merges with and revivifies the puritan ideology of the cities. This is so in Gellner's account. Geertz has written that "It is perhaps as true for civilizations as it is for men that. the fundamental dimensions of their character. so that the Middle East (and therefore of many possible histories). however much they may later change.

Ihe normal tribal religton. about ritual specialistsand their roles. Marx." we are told. Anyone familiar with what is called the sociology of religion will know of the difflculties involved in producing a conception of religion that is adequatefor cross-cultural purposes. a taste more consonant with its dignity and commercial calling. the "bourgeois Muslim" is accorded a moral-or. . prefers the sober satisfactions of learned piety. but on the way in which religion itself is defined. "they are uprooted. The sacredmakes thesejoyful.9. But far too few wouldbe anthropologists of Islam pay this matter serious The concept that is deployed in the description of the religion of the urban poor is quite different. "far from having a taste for public festivals. . distinguishing it both from rustics and the urban plebs. "It is . alienated. "that of the dervish or marabout. for its authority is invoked more than once. and the result is not always consistent. better. for Durkheim. 48). Its fastidiousnessunderscoresits standing. Instead. their taste is for ecstasy. one is confronted by yet other organizing If one looks at this kind of construction carefully. 42). they often draw indiscriminately on ideasfrom the writings of the great sociologists (e. In this account. the anthropologist's presentation of Islam will depend not only on the way in which social structures are conceptualized." (p. Durkheim) in order to describe forms of Islam. conspicuousand authoritative" (p. but here it is an emotional cause.In the one case the reader was told about collective rituals and their meaning. one finds that what is called religion here is the psychological responseto an emotional experience. This is an important point because one's conception of religion determines the kinds of questions one thinks are askable and worth asking." is explicitly Durkheimian. In brief. What they require from religion is consolation or escape. insecure. and it is obviously derived from the early writings of Marx on religion as false consciousness. The types of Islam that are presented as being characteristic of ''traditional Muslim society" in Gellner's picture are constructed according to three very different concepts of religion. visible.Now. Thus. the symbolic representation of social and cosmological structures. ." remarks Gellner. So the concept of religion here involves a reference to collective rituals to be read as an enactment of the sacred.'o The echoesfrom Weber's Protestant Ethic in this passageare not accidental. urban life provides a sound base for scripturalist unitarian puritanism. in the other attention is directed instead to private distress and unfulfilled desire. His distinguishingfeature is the literacy that gives him direct access to the founding scriptures and the Law. "with the social punctuation of time and space. In this latter respect one is urged to see him as immersed in a moralistic."The city has its poor." Gellner writes. with season-making and group-boundary-marking festivals. an esthetic-style. What was indicated in the account of tribal Islam was an emotional effect. Gellner's text is illustrative in this regard. Islam expresses such a state of mind better perhaps than other religions' ' (p. When one turns to the religion of the bourgeoisie.. Weber. an absorption in a religious condition which is also a forgetting . literate l2 . excitement. which is also. 52). "The well-heeled urban bourgeoisie. concerned. . . .

Western scholarship seemsto have emerged from the period when many were writing . and about the rationale of cultural meanings. whether capitalist or communist. and effects relating to "religion.they are incompatible constructions. Like Bernard Lewis and many others. neither social solidarity nor alienation. It is that this kind of anthropology of Islam (and I want to stress here that Gellner's eclecticism is typical of very many sociological writers on Islam) rests on false conceptual oppositions and equivalences. Quite apart from the empirical question of how widespread Marxist movements have been among twentieth-century Muslim populations. meanings. A moment's reflection will show that it is not the literal scope of the shari'a which matters here but the degree to which it informs and regulates social practices. and partly because it is linked to socially useful activities: service to the state.22 must be it said that the notion of a totalitarian Islam rests on a mistaken view of the social effectivity of ideologies.2r partly because of "the inbuilt vocation towards the implementation of a sharply defined divine order on earth" (p. But the main difficulty with such constructions is not that they are inconsistent." More important. of course. . and partly becauseof "The totalism of both ideologies [which] precludesinstitutionalisedpolitics" (p. For this reason."2a 13 . divide up.enterprise. but in the reach of institutional powers that constitute. 4g). religion is here the solemn maintenance of public authority which is rational partly becauseit is in writing. that Islam and Marxism were so similar in many ways that one might lead to the other. and govern large stretches of social life according to systematic rules in modern industrial societies.47). They are different textual constructions which seek to represent different things. In referring to them one is not comparing like with like. The administrative and legal regulations of such secular states are far more pervasive and effective in controlling the details of people's lives than anything to be found in Islamic history. . An instructive example is the hoary old argument about the totalitarian character of orthodox Islam. they are not merely different representations. The difference. If one contrasts this fact with the highly regulated character of social life in modern states. and which make different assumptions about the nature of social reality.Nikki Keddie wrote: "Fortunately. which often lead writers into making ill-founded assertionsabout motives. Gellner proposes that scriptural Islam has an elective affinity for Marxism. one may immediatelysee the reason why.23 In 1972. Neither collective rituals nor unquenched desire. lies not in the textual specificationsof what is vaguely called a social blueprint. about the origins of needs. and it is clear that there has never been any Muslim society in which the religious law of Islam has governed more than a fragment of social life. it makes difficult the formulation of questions that are at once less tendentious and more interesting than those which many observers of contemporary Islam (both "conservative" and "radical" Islam) seek to answer. These different ways of talking about religion-the tribal and the urbanare not merely different aspects of the same thing. and commitment to commerce.

and social conditions).has a history." Eickelman has recently suggestedthat there is a major theoretical need for taking up the "middle ground" between the study of village or tribal Islam and that of This may well be so. but the most urgent theoretical need universal Islam. with reference to a particular Islamic practice in the present. And it is to this idea that we will now turn. "The Study of Islam in Local Contexts. "religious" as well as "nonreligious. In a useful article. But the point of this example will be lost if it is seen as merely another attempt to defend Islam against the claim that it has affinities with a totalitarian system. or that it is adequate to say that anything Muslims believe or do can be regarded by the anthropologist as part of Islam. and morals.Perhaps that period of Western scholarly innocence is not entirely behind us. Such a claim has been challenged in the past. the matter is in itself of little theoretical interest. as Muslims do. This does not mean that no coherent object for an anthropology of Islam is possible. not everything Muslims say and do belongs to an Islamic discursive tradition." in order to understand the conditions that define "conservative" or "radical" political activity in the contemporary Islamic world.through a present (how it is linked to otherpractices. An Islamic discursive tradition is simply a tradition of Muslim discourse that addressesitself to conceptions of the Islamic past and future. or why it should be modified or abandoned). It is a tradition. Vil My general argument so far has been that no coherent anthropology of Islam can be founded on the notion of a determinate social blueprint. artifacts. or on the idea of an integrated social totality in which social structure and religious ideology interact.25 for an anthropology of Islam is a matter not so much of finding the right scale but of formulating the right concepts. Instead. Nor is an Islamic tradition in this sense necessarilyimitative of what was I4 . customs. and even if rational criticism cannot prevent the claim from being reproduced. institutions. A What is a tradition?26 tradition consists essentially of discoursesthat seek to instruct practitioners regarding the correct form and purpose of a given practice that. "A discursivetradition" is just such a concept. both those appealing to an essentialistprinciple and those employing a nominalist one. If one wants to write an anthropology of Islam one should begin. it is important to emphasize that one must carefully examine established social practices. Islam is neither a distinctive social structure nor a heterogeneous collection of beliefs. Most anthropologies of Islam have defined their scope too widely. from the concept of a discursive tradition that includes and relates itself to the founding texts of the Qur'an and the Hadith. precisely becauseit is established. Clearly. and from which the knowledge of its point and proper performance has been transmitted) and a future (how the point of that practice can best be secured in the short or long term. These discourses relate conceptually to a past (when the practice was instituted.

or an untutored parent. The important point is simply that all instituted practices are oriented to a conception of the past. undermine. but to the establishe prctcticesof unlettered d Muslims. And I refer here primarily not to the programmatic discourses of "modernist" and "fundamentalist" Islamic movements.2ethat it is orthopraxy and not orthodoxy. that will be crucial for tradition. about the relationship of the present to the past is as banal in modern societies as it is in societies that anthropologists typically study. For the anthropologist of Islam.27that it is an old cloak for new aspirations and borrowed styles of behavior. My point is not.2s The claim that contemporary ideas and social arrangements are really ancient when they are not is in itself no more significant than the pretense that new ones have been introduced when actually they have not.done in the past. For analytical purposes there is no essentialdifference on this point between "classical" and "modern" Islam. and that orthodox doctrine therefore denotes the correct process of teaching. and is so taught to Muslims3o-whether by an. The way 15 .alim. or replace incorrecl ones. and having a particular history) into which Muslims are inducted as Muslims. a Sufi shaykh. Anthropologists like El-Zein. For even where traditional practices appear to the anthropologist to be imitative of what has gone before. it will be the practitioners' conceptions of what is apt performance." both are missing something vital: that orthodoxy is not a mere body of opinion but a distinctive relationship-a relationshipof power. the proper theoretical beginning is therefore an instituted practice (set in a particular context. that "tradition" is today often a fiction of the present.and to condemn. who wish to deny any special significance to orthodoxy. or adjust coryectpractices. a reaction to the forces of modernity-that in contemporary conditions of crisis. as well as to others. (It may be worth recalling here that etymologically "doctrine" means teaching. there is the domain of orthodoxy. a ruse. The discoursesin which the teachingis done. that matters in Islam. as some Western anthropologists and Westernized Muslim intellectuals have argued. a defense. require. Lying to oneseH.3') Orthodoxy is crucial to all Islamic traditions. ritual and not doctrine. A practice is Islamic because it is authorized by the discursive traditions of Islam. as some sociologists have done. It is therefore somewhat misleading to suggest. uphold. and of how the past is related to present practices. It is misleading because such a contention ignores the centrality of the notion of "the correct model" to which an instituted practice-including ritual-ought to conform. not the apparent repetition of an old form. a khatib. But the sensein which I use this term must be distinguished from the sensegiven to it by most Orientalists and anthropologists. who see it as a specific set of doctrines "at the heart of Islam. in which the correct performance of the practice is defined and learned. are intrinsic to all Islamic practices. Wherever Muslims have the power to regulate. tradition in the Muslim world is a weapon. exclude. designed to confront a threatening world. a model conveyed in authoritative formulas in Islamic traditions as in others. as well as the correct statementof what is to be learned. and those like Gellner.

manifest in Edmund Burke's ideological opposition between "tradition" and "reason. that underlie Islamic traditional practices." it should be the anthropologist's first task to describe and analyzethe kinds of reasoning. A theoretical consequence of this is that traditions should not be regarded as essentially homogeneous. that heterogeneity in traditional practices is not necessarily an indication of the absence of an Islamic tradition. Power. The variety of traditional Islamic practices in different times.). of using the force of reason. But these contrasts and equations are themselves the work of a historical motivation. the conditions that make them possible (social. they aspire to coher- 16 . and not merely to "a tradition in crisis. at once presupposes and responds to the fact of resistance. economic. and the reasons for arguing. It is here that the analyst may discover a central modality of power. Reason and argument are necessarilyinvolved in traditional practice whenever people have to be taught about the point and proper performance of that practice. In their representation of "Islamic tradition. or lack of understanding. and introduced into sociology by Weber. but of the development and control of communication techniques that are part of modern industrial s oc iet ies . in the present or in the past. regardless of whether its direct object of research is in the city or in the countryside." on the assumption that "normal" tradition (what Abdallah Laroui calls "tradition as structure" and distinguishes from "tradition as ideolo gy"t') excludes reasoningjust as it requires unthinking conformity. political. and of the resistances it encounters-for the process of arguing.these powers are exercised. places. and resistance. and whenever the teaching meets with doubt. confrontation." Orientalists and anthropologists have often marginalized the place of argument and reasoning surrounding traditional practices.3aYet the process of trying to win someone over for lhe willing performance of a traditional practice. The idea that traditions are essentially but homogeneous has a powerful intellectual appeal. Indeed. 36 Although Islamic traditions are not homogeneous. Argument is generally represented as a symptom of "the tradition in crisis. etc.35 it is mistaken. and populations indicates the different Islamic reasonings that different social and historical conditions can or cannot sustain. and the resistancesthey encounter (from Muslims and non-Muslims) are equally the concern of an anthropology of Islam. If reasons and arguments are intrinsic to traditional practice."33 an opposition which was elaborated by the conservative theorists who followed him. and polemic that we assume it has no place in traditional practice. Argument and conflict over the form and significance of practices are therefore a natural part of any Islamic tradition. widespread homogeneity is a function not of tradition. It is largely because we think of argument in terms of formal debate. are thus intrinsic to the development and exercise of any traditional practice. as distinct from trying to demolish an opponent's intellectual position. is a necessarypart of Islamic discursive traditions as of others. indifference.

To write abouta tradition is to be in a certain narrative relation to it. here as always.will be determined only not by the powers and knowledges each sidedeploys. In other words.or fails to find. which create conditions favorable to very different patterns of desire and forgetfulness.Moral neutrality. there clearly is not. and that the conceptof traditionwill help in this no guarantee politicalinnocence. or regardsif the as morally neutral. That they do not always attain it is due as much to the constraints political and economicconditions of in which the traditionsare placedas to thiir inherentlimitations. Thus. in that tradition will depend on their particular historical position.if it occurs.but by the collectivelife they aspireto-or to whose survivalthey aie quite indiiferent. of 17 . Any representation traditionis contestable. in our own time the attemptby Islamictraditionsto organizememoryand desire in a coherentmanneris increasingly remade the socialforcesof industrial by capitalism.3s to vnr I have beenarguingthat anthropologists interested Islam needto rethink in their object of study. such a thing as a universallyacceptable accountof a living tradition.The coherence that eachparty finds.3T anthropology Islam will therefore An of seekto understand historicalconditionsthat enablethe productionand the maintenanceof specfficdiscursivetraditions.or their transformation-and the efforts of practitioners achievecoherence. of What shapethat contestation takes.ence' in the way that all discursivetraditionsdo. nor can there be. I now want to concludewith a final brief point. a relation that will vary according to whether one supportsor opposes tradition.

W e b e r a n d Is l a m (L o n don: R outl edgeand K egan P aul . California: Undena Publications.NorBs 1. H. "Anthropological Conceptions of Religion: Reflections on Geerlz. Gellner. no.California: Goodyear PublishingCompany Inc. H. 1962). " Medi eval Heresy: An Anthropological View.IX ( 1980) . X Il . socialstratification. B. 4." Social History. "Beyond ldeology and Theology: The Search for the A nt hr opology o f Is l a m. no.political power and s aint hoo d :re fl e c ti o n so n G e l l n e r' s th eses. Gulick. 7. El-Zein. 9. D. Gilsenan. The Middle East: An Anthropological Approach Inc. J. F. M. van Ess. 1982)." E conomy and S oci ety. Massachusetts:Harvard University Press. Muslim Society (Cambridge. 1980). 40. 2 (1 9 8 3 ). J . M..l 9l 3)." M an. C o rn e l l . 5. For example. Modern Islam (Berkeley and Los Angeles: California University Press. 3. Recognizing Islam (London: Croom Helm. 70. (1986). 100. ed. 198 1 ). " T h e L o g i c o f An a l o g y and the R ol e of the S ufi S haykh l8 . n o . 1980).. 197 . T ur n e r. ( E nglewoodC l i ffs . E. 3.England: Cambridge Univers it y P r es s ." Islam in History. von Grunebaum. Kerr (Malibu.p. " N o te s o n Body P ai n and Truth i n Medi eval Chr is t ian Rit u a l . B . "From Wellhausento Becker: the Emergence of Kul' turgeschichtein Islamic Studies. 10. G.ickelman. ed." i n An n u a l R e v i e w of A nthropol ogy. E. p. 2. V ." Islamic Studies:A Tradition and its Problems. See J. 1976). The Middle East: An Anthropological Perspective (Pacific Palisades. M. (1983). Abdallah Hammoudi. N e w J e rs e y :Pre n ti c e -H al l 6.V l (1977)' 2. A. 4) 12. 8. B . 1981). J. Lewis. Fischer. Lewis ( New Y o rk : T h e L i b ra ry P re s s . X V I I I . M. 11. "The Muslim Discovery of Europe." E c o n o my a n d S o c i e ty. "segmentarity. Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution (Cambridge. p. XI.

1978). not puritanical and scholarly. The Black Death in the Middle East [Princeton: Princeton University Press.41'.especially pp. alienated" is surely a little fanciful. 19. 1973). 15. J. Turner. L'Islam dans sa premiire grandeur: VIIIe-XIe siicle [Paris: Flammarion. . The Kababish Arabs: Power. 17.. e. 13. and Asia differentially affected and were affected by patterns of production and consumption within it (see Post-Marinid Morocco. "Equality in Nomadic Systems?. 16. Lapidus [Berkeley and Los Angeles: California University Press. and having its own isolated destiny. reflecting its own dynamic of cause and effect.g. and with an ambivalent recognition that the real norms lie elsewhere" (p. Such phrases might be more plausible (but not therefore entirely validsee. Geertz. unless. ed. C. Gellner's resort to the Durkheimian viewpoint on religion is not quite as consistent as it ought to be.. "that their normal religion is for them at one level a mere pis aller. 1 1. Africa. Lombard. and is tinged with irony.To describethe lower strataof medieval Muslim cities.But a dozen pageslater. 1968). rather than to be egalitarian." Middle Eastern Cities. I. ed. 18. T. Asad. It would not be necessary to refer so baldly to well-known historical evidence if it were not still common for eminent scholars to write of "Islam" as a mechanically balanced social structure. Thus. T. 19691) applied to the condition of poor rural migrants in a modern if rnetropolis. as being "uprooted.T. & Unwin. one takes the mere occurrence of bread riots in periods of economic hardship as a sign t9 .Asad. 52. xv (1983). 1983). insecure. "The Beduin as a Military Force. 14." Pastoral Production and Society. 36-37). Dols. Marx and the End of Orientalism (London: George Allen p. Asad." The Desert and the Sown. of course." he writes. Equipe Ecologie et Anthropologie des Soci6t6s Pastorales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.. 1979). in one place we read that "the faith of the tribesman needs to be mediated by special and distinct holy personnel. p . when Gellner wants to introduce the idea of "revolutionary" tribal religion. Abu-Lughod. A. these needs have to be made to disappear: "It is a curious but crucial fact about the social psychology of Muslim tribesmen.1977]. Even the spread of contagious disease with its drastic social and economic consequencesconnected Middle Eastern political units with other parts of the world (see M.Islam Observed(New Haven: Yale University Press. Watson. Authority and Consent in a Nomadic Tribe (London: Hurst & Co. The changing networks of intercontinental trade which linked Dar ulIslam to Europe. "Varieties of tlrban Experience. etc. rt needs to be joyous and festival-worthy. C.emphasisadded)." International Journal of Middle East Studies. with their organization into quarters. Nelson (Berkeley: University of California Press. rt requires hierarchy and incarnation in persons. ed. guilds. l97ll). M. Sufi brotherhoods. 1970). W. emphasis in original). not in scripts" (p. B.. 52. Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

20. edges. oddly enough.or read relevanthistoricalaccounts(e. whilst the urban one gainsin authorityand prestige from the eagerness migrant-rustics acquirerespectability"(p.thereis herea crucialopposition betweenthe two."Scripturalism" basedon literacy?But the literacyof merchants a very different is "men of religion" (seeB. Bennigsen S.1never with the'ulama or the well-heeled urban bourseoisie. seventeenth-century Puritansin Englandand America." he claims.232-234. bt. of to 58.but to a desirefor respectability.There is a surelysomefuzziness here.Now the religion of the urban poor is attributedno longerto a desirefor forgetting. emphasisadded).19081. as Gellnerhimselfacknowlpuritans. to the the only classical Muslim theoristwho dealsin detailwith connections between political power and the economy. 21.warns explicitly against government's the trying to controltradeorproduction-see TheMuqaddimah.19841). V.yet "Islam."This equationmay be appealing someMuslims.but to the attentivereaderwill wish to askin what sense socialgroupis naturally this "puritan. Yet.Gellnerappears havemissed fact that Ibn Khaldun.Sincethe idea of government control of the economyhasneverbeenpart of classical Muslim theory. Literacy in Theory and Practice lCambridge:Cambridge UniversityPress.Marxism has had no real roots a amongcontemporaryMuslim populations. Wimbush. who are 20 . In reproducingthe view that there is an "elective affinity" between IslamandMarxism.of mental disturbanceamongthe poor.1979) an account protracted for of resistances imperialpower." and indeedin what sensethey are "better" puritansthan. pp.g. A natural "distaste for public festivals"?Anyonewho haslived in a Muslim community. Most Muslims for most of their history. Snouck or Hurgronje's Mekka in the Latter Part of the l9th Century [Leiden: Brill.)Marxist ideologyhasbeenassoagainst Russian intellectuals ciated with some Westernized and some authoritarianstates. abridged edition (London: Routledgeand Kegan Paul.It is clearthat Gellneris identifyingthe essential tendencyof Islam with what he regards the life-styleof the "well-heeled as urban bourgeoisie. a totally new motivationis imputedto the uprootedmigrants:"The tribal style of religion losesthen much of its function. 19311). know the rites of passage more elaborate will are amongthe "wellheeledurbanbourgeoisie"than amongthe lower urbansocialstrata. Street's thing from the literacy of professional excellent book. A. partiesin Iraq andSudan(neither 22. but is centralto classical Marxism.Stateslike the People'sDemocratic Republicof Yemenare exceptions that prove the rule..Muslim lr{ational and Communism the Soviet in Union [Chicago: Chicago UniversityPress. Besides. 1967).Edward Lane's Mannersand Customsof the Modern EgyptiansfLondon: Dent (Everymanedition). (SeealsoA.when Gellner does refer to the urban massesin twentieth-century cities. traditions Qur'anicexegesis the of developed by Muslim "men of religion" are far richer and more diversethan the blanketterm "scripturalist" suggests. E. Apartfrom the importantcommunist of which commanded massivefollowing). cannotbe described scripturalist as expresses scripturaliststateof mind better than other religions. say.

In a short paperwritten a decade ago. living permanently a well-orderedStatehas an outand-out spectralaspect:one cannot step into the streetor drink a glassof water or get into a tram without touching the perfectly balancedlevers of a gigantic apparatusof laws and relations. In outlining the conceptof tradition.1972). puritan Islam. Eickelman.the following from Robert Musil's greatnovel has scarcelybeenbetmemorablepassage in tered: "The fact is." that his deployment of the Aristotelian conceptof virtue (in the form of the Arabic malaka) is especiallyrelevantto an understanding what I have calledIslamic tradiof 2l . "Politics and Religionin IslamicReform" (Review of Middle East Studies. insistingthat it is mere emptiness.seeEickelman. Secker& Warburg.) over others. Incidentally. 26. the name In so to mark out truths and principlesas essentially of tradition many traditionsare born and comeinto oppositionwith others." "socialism." The Man Without Qualities. F.Vol." cloak of 29. Saints. it is a term that is in fact thoughall who use it do highly variableand shiftingin content.or part of the entitlementto dominationand authority Islam. 13.One hardly knows any of theselevers. 1954). 23. 27. an evasion.a refuge. CaliforniaUniversityPress. 198 1). I am indebtedto the insightful writings of Alisdair Maclntyre. 35: "one p. butionsto Asian Studies.TheMiddle East. 182. that there of 30. London: Ithaca Press. unchanging.unitarian. It is his mistakenattemptto connectthis latter kind of Islam with "Marxism.It changes. Scholars. under the tradition exists only when innovationis accepted might say that fidelity to the past. 2. setting them in motion or letting them maintain one in the peaceand quiet of one's existence. Keddie. "The Study of Islam in Local Contexts. N. 15. and Los Angeles: 24. I (London: p. is time that anthropologists Islam realized is more to Ibn Khaldun than his "political sociology. ." (Recogntzing 28. a It becomesa language. For example.No.1976)I emphasized that orthodoxy is alwaysthe productof a network of power. by supposed Gellner to be the historicalcarriersof scripturalist. Thus Gilsenan:"Tradition. weaponagainstinternal and externalenemies. D. Or as Abdallah Laroui puts it in The Crisisof The Arab Intellectual (Berkeleyand Los Angeles:CaliforniaUniversity Press.1976). p. which extenddeepinto the inner workingsand on the other side are lost in a network the entire constitutionof which has never been disentangled any living being. 25. in particular his brilliant book After Virtue (London:Duckworth. Hence one deniestheir exisby of tence." ContriXVII (1984). As a succinctevocationof the powersof a put togetherin all mannerof different ways in contemporaryconditionsof crisis. Chapter9.just as the commonman deniesthe existence the air.and Sufis(Berkeley p." or "social radicalism"(termsusedindiscriminately) that leads him to make the implausibleargumentthat "scripturalist rigorism or fundamentalism" is admirably suited to bringing about modernization in the Muslim world.

1980)."Argument and the Teaching English: Writers Writing. ed. socialworld" of saint and sufi in Modern Egypt traditionalMuslim society(cf. Metcalf[ed. that anthropologists iradition. OpenUniversity Publications. 68.) nesco. P. 192). Technology Television: by has 37. 64-65' of 34." p. indeedstatic. Stratta. Virtue. 22 . handedon unquestioningly and indeed of a whole historical period.19841PP. SeeJ. op." relatingto the control of 36. the that onetreatedin the manymonographs purportto describe recent asthe "erosion of the old unity of valuesbasedon Divine Revelation" which has the accompanied disruptionof the "stable. D. Dixon and L. cit. Gilsenan.tions. it meantthat all the mindsof onegeneration. For an introductorydiscussion someproblems see of a typically modernform of communication. (Notre Dame:Notre DameUniversityPress.something humanism . McGraw-Hill." 1986).Moral Conductand Authority:ThePlace of Adab in South Asian Islam lBerkeleyand Los Angeles:CaliforniaUniversity Press. The result amongMuslim intellectuals beendescribed Jacques "Dans le monde actuel et parmi trop d'intellectuelsou de Berque thus: militants. entitled "Late Antiquity and Islam: Parallelsand 35. Cf. Metcalf. 32. the eminenthistorianPeter Brown quoteswith approvalfrom Henri Marrou: "For in the last resort classical and by imparted one'steachers was basedon tradition. and effects and CulturalForm (London:Fontana. IV (New York: 31. Wilkinson (Milton Keynes: A Critical Analysis. In a recent essay. [Oxford: Clarendon Press. on se partageentre adeptesd'une authenticit6sansavenir et adeptes ce sansracines. had a fundamentalhomogeneity and genuinecommunioneasier" (p. ." Economy & Society. "Knowledge. G.52-56).Le frangaistraduit mal. Vol." of Muslim Conception Adab and the Natureof Retigious accountof Ibn Khaldun'sconcept I." pp. .1974). . SeeA." Zubaida's argument does not require the assumption of traditional stability or homogeneity. Thus. although based on traditional shi'i premises and modes of reasoning. D.which attempts to show that Khomeini's novel doctrine of wilayati-faqih. R. A. M. 1973). en I'espdce. in an essay Contrasts" (in B.. Lapidushas includeda brief but useful of milaka (in B. 19811.]. and Action: The Classical Fulflllmentin Islam. cit.). "Doctrine" in New CatholicEncyclopedia. that the problemindicatedhere is not the same It shouldbe stressed 38. XI (1982).which Brown employs discuss precisely this in shouldabandon favor of another. prrirpposes the modern concepts of "nation" and "nation-state. 1967). qui d'une modernisme bilA al-aEil bilAaEilwa anEAr al-maEir mieux: anEdr vient beaucoup en arabe de et (L'Islam: Ia philosophie les sciences lParis:Les Presses I'Umagir.and 33. Laroui.33.pp. Crises. 24). the Philosophyof Science.op. Gutting Paradigmsand Revolutions. Arecent example that addresses some of the questions I have in mind is S. Williams. Maclntyre. Zubaida's "The ideological conditions for Khomeini's doctrine of governmenl.DramaticNarrative. It is which made communication "the Islamic to familiarconcept. 196. "Epistemological ed.

1985 This is a collection of papers delivered at a symposium on North Africa sponsored by the Center.$3. and nationalism are discussed. the tensions it has experienced. the infrastructure for resource development. Contributors include such prominent scholars as Fatima Mernissi. intra-regional conflicts and cooperation. Zurayk.$15. 3 0 4 p a g e s. John Ruedy.$15.1982 This study considers the range of factors affecting development in the Arab world and examines the broad sectoral resources. L. Contributing authors include Nazli Choucri. Zurayk describes and analyzes the major formative periods in lslamic civilization. George Abed. Halim Barakat. Prepaid orders only. Please send a check or money order payable to CCAS with each book order. and John Damis.95. WilliamZartman. 261pages. X Arab Studies Centerfor Contemporary Georgetown University D. D a n kw ar t Rus t ow. Q|D 625-3128 . Present day tensionsresultingfrom the forces of tradition. Elbaki Hermessi.14 pages. and the problems of development.Janet Abu-Lughod. A complete list of CCAS publications is available upon request. Dale Eickelman. Carl Brown. structural changes in society. 1978(reprinted 1984) Dr. Arab Resources: The Transformation of a Society Edited by Ibrahim Ibrahim.75. cultural dynamics. All books are paperbound.C . Yusif Sayigh. Roger Owen. The authors discussthe Maghrib's position between the West and the Mashriq.A Selection of Publications from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies Contemporary North Africa: Issues of Development and Integration Edited by Halim Barakat. Hisham Nazer. and the problems shaping the political economy of Arab development. modernity. 20057 Washington. Tensions in Islamic Civilization By Constantine K.and the ways it has reacted to them. I. Prices include postage and handling for orders within the United States. among others. Philip Khoury. a n d C h a rl e sIs s a w i .95.

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