By Thomas Gibson (auth.)
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Additional info for Islamic Narrative and Authority in Southeast Asia: From the 16th to the 21st Century
In chapter 2, I examine an ideal model under which traditional, charismatic, and bureaucratic forms of authority are fused in the hands of a single ruler. I begin with the social and political conditions in the ancient Middle East that led to the appearance of ethical prophets and to the codification of their message in the form of sacred scriptures. I discuss how the world empires that later based their claims to universal authority on these prophets eventually evolved into politically decentralized religious commonwealths.
Christianity and Islam both developed as a result of a long-term dialectic between tendencies toward political and cultural unification and fragmentation in an area that stretched from western Asia through the Mediterranean basin. World empires created the conditions for the spread of world religions, while world religions both legitimated and outlived world empires. The Islamic Empire was actually and aggressively universal, Islam only potentially—and the empire consented to tolerate a degree of culturalreligious pluralism.
This new arrangement was finally rationalized in the twelfth century by ulama such as Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111). Al-Ghazali’s understanding of the relation between caliph, sultan, and ulama became general in the Middle East when Fatimid rule in Egypt was brought to an end by a Kurdish Sunni, Salah al-Din, in 1171. Mystical Elitism, 850–1250 Philosophically inspired interpretations of Islam may have been marginalized by the Ahl al-Hadith, but they did not disappear. Beginning with al-Kindi (d.