Egypt in Transition

By Jean Lacouture; Simonne Lacouture et al. | Go to book overview

III
Egypt, Islam and the Modern World

Some five hundred minarets fret the Cairo skyline. Egypt has been Moslem for close on thirteen hundred years, since not long after the death of the Prophet. Ibn Tulun and Saladin were great rulers, and Egypt tasted the glory of the arts, warfare and law just as much under her Islamic masters as under the old dynasties. For almost a thousand years El Azhar has been the shrine of Islam's law, of which Egypt as a whole is the centre and citadel. In spite of this no other part of the Islamic world more invites us to ask the dangerous question, whether the salvation of Moslem man has to be achieved through the revival or by the rejection of Islam?

There can no longer be any doubt that this 'go-between' nation which holds the balance in Islam is now awakening. Fifty years ago it was a mere link in the chain of European imperialism, but now it can alarm the whole world and show us that the trial of the West is only in its first stages. But what part does religion play in this? We must inquire whether this renaissance springs from a spiritual revival within the framework of the Law, or whether it is a break-away from it. Even if it is taken for granted that the believers' sense of dignity is a force to be reckoned with in that outburst of indignation whose effects can be seen everywhere and which it helps to organize, it still remains for us to estimate what the religious contribution is likely to be, towards that reconstruction which may be expected when the present struggle is over. It does seem surprising that the Moslem world should be engaged in a political revival at a time when Islamic studies, apologetics and the exegesis of the Koran are at such a low ebb. On the one hand we see political vitality, and on the other religious sterility.

It can be argued, of course, that Islam is a 'total' religion, and that it is idle and foolish to distinguish between the political and the spiritual, religious behaviour or the act of prayer, whether in the religion or in its followers. But the problem is to know whether this is going to be the case much longer. The question is forced on us by

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Egypt in Transition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 5
  • Contents 7
  • Illustrations 8
  • Introduction - Egyptian Continuity And Revolutions 11
  • Part One - The Awakening of Egypt 37
  • I - The Advent of Bonaparte 39
  • II - Mohamed Ali Creates a State 50
  • III - The Cotton Boom 56
  • IV - A Revolution in Irrigation 60
  • V - The Adventurous Khedive 63
  • VI - The Arabi Revolt 69
  • VII - The Reformers 74
  • VIII - British Technocracy 78
  • IX - The 1919 Revolution 82
  • X - The Wafd 86
  • XI - Making the Best of War -- 1939 97
  • XII - The Burning of Cairo 105
  • Part Two - The Officers' Republic 123
  • I - A Short History of the 'Free Officers' Movement 125
  • II - Power -- to What Purpose? 160
  • III - Neguib's Fall 179
  • IV - The Structure of Nasser's State 192
  • V - The 'Diplomacy' of Small Nations 196
  • VI - The Political Parties 240
  • VII - Revolutionary Tendencies, 1952-57 275
  • VIII - Not a Real Revolution. 292
  • Part Three - Working Life in The Valley 307
  • I - The Land and Its Men 309
  • II - The Agrarian Reform 340
  • III - The Problem of Over-Population 357
  • IV - Economic Growing-Pains 362
  • V - Industrialization and Social Problems 367
  • VI - The Aswan Dam Problem 388
  • Part Four - Forging a Society 397
  • I - Cairo -- City of Convulsions 399
  • II - In Search of a National Culture 413
  • III - Egypt, Islam and the Modern World 430
  • Part Five - The Great Test 451
  • I - Nasser as He Really Is 453
  • II - The Suez Crisis 467
  • III - The Franco-British Invasion 481
  • IV - Egypt Carries On 493
  • V - The 'United Arab State' 505
  • A Chronology of Modern Egypt 515
  • Reading List 519
  • Index 523
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