Islam and the Politics of Secularism: The Caliphate and Middle Eastern Modernization in the Early 20th Century
Uzer, Umut, Journal of Church and State
Islam and the Politics of Secularism: The Caliphate and Middle Eastern Modernization in the Early 20th Century. By Nurullah Ardiç. New York: Routledge, 2012. 394pp. $138.00.
The abolition of the caliphate was one of the most radical changes undertaken in the Islamic world in the early twentieth century. When the last caliph, Abdülmecid, was deposed by republican Turkey in 1924, however, this caused only wrangling at the caliphate conferences in Cairo and Jerusalem and reactions among a few other Muslim communities. The lack of widespread outcry proves that the caliphate as a political and religious institution had ceased to function as a viable entity for Muslims around the world.
Nurullah Ardiç from Istanbul City University (Istanbul §ehir University) has written a highly readable, informative, and analytical book on the secularization of Ottoman polity and society through institutional and legal measures. He presents a discourse analysis of the traditional and modernist Islamists as well as secularists in the late Ottoman and early republican periods. This is a theoretically and empirically grounded study with meticulous research into primary sources that utilizes the writings of Ottoman scholars as well as contemporary social science literature. The book is relevant to the fields of sociology, religious studies, history, and political science.
Ardiç criticizes the modernization theory employed to analyze Turkish political developments of the last two centuries with its emphasis on a confrontation between modernity and Islam. Instead of this "conflict paradigm," which is "Euro-centric," "teleological," "orientalist," and "reductionist," the author promotes an accommodation thesis between religion and modernity in general and modernization and Islam in particular. Ardiç presents an analytical framework based on accommodation between Islam and secularism (p. 24). The Ottoman Empire, after all, experienced modernization and secularization at least since the end of the eighteenth century. There was a constant interaction between modernity and Islam, which continued in the twentieth century, as also discussed by Carter Findley in his latest book Turkey, Islam, Nationalism and Modernity (2010). Furthermore, Ardiç's framework seems to fit with contemporary Turkish politics, where "an increase in religiosity and a secularization trend occur at the same time" (p. 25). From the book's analysis, we can deduce that both Islam and secularization are here to stay in modern Turkey.
Ardiç presents a brief but highly enlightening summary of the history of the caliphate, which emerged after the death of Prophet Muhammad in seventh-century Arabia and was later transformed into a kind of monarchy during the time of the Umayyads. Later, it came under the influence of the Seljuk Turk sultans during the Abbasid era. The transfer of the caliphate to the Ottoman sultans in the sixteenth century and their use of this title throughout the rule of the Ottoman Turks are vividly demonstrated by Ardiç. …