2. Heirs of the Prophet

In the second year the explorations will concentrate on the significance  of  the  figure  of  the Prophet for questions of authority and power in Muslim  states  and  societies.  Islam  is  unique among  the  “ʺAbrahamic”ʺ religions by  the existence of a large number of reputed  descendants of its founder, who have continued to play important roles in Muslim social and political life and were often able to mobilise wide support for their  recognition  as  religious  and  political leaders among  both  Shīʿī  and  Sunnī  Muslims.  The  promise  of  empowerment  by  clinging  to the spiritual presence and/or to the Sunna of the Prophet equally shaped the emergence and development of many movements of renewal,  reform  and  state-­‐‑building  revolutions,  which arose from Sufi or anti-­‐‑Sufi backgrounds, and often evolved in combination with millenarian expectations.  The  Prophet  has  equally  continued  his  importance  as  a  referential  figure  in modern Muslim states and in nationalist and Islamist movements throughout the 20th century until now:

  • Dynasties and Patriciates: Descendants of the Prophet (ashrāf, sāda) and their religious and political roles
  • Prophetic Renewal, Reform and Millenarianism in Sufi and anti-Sufi movements
  • The Prophet and the Modern State (Colonial and Postcolonial): Muslim Statism, nationalist and Islamist movements and socio-political empowerment in the 20th and 21th centuries.

Empowerment and of political eschatology

Questions of empowerment and of political eschatology and renewal will be central to the explorations during the second year. The time frame will cover the rise of the three large Muslim empires and of a number of regional states (15th-­‐‑16th cent.), which sometimes went along with strong Sharīfian involvement bo that government and at communal level. This age was also strongly affected by millenarian expectations, which were shared on both sides of the Mediterranean by Muslims as well as Christians and Jews (cf. Subrahmaniam 2001). The European and Atlantic Age of Revolutions (c. 1775-­1850; Jaeger 2009, 163: “ʺRevolutionäre Neuzeit”ʺ) finds its striking equivalent in the Islamic World  in  roughly  the  same  period, where imperial decline and a considerable number of newly emerging Islamic movements and states can be noticed in widely distant regions (cf. Reichmuth 2007:119ff.). These movements and indeed the whole age was shaped by very strong millenarian expectations focussing on the Islamic year 1200/1786. Both Sufi speculation on the Prophet and his Path and puritan renewal by an attempted return to the Prophetic model (especially in the case of the Wahhābī movement in Arabia, but also for the jihād of ʿUsman b. Fodie in Nigeria and for the later Indian ṭarīqa muḥammadiyya) were central for the ideology of these movements. Later Shīʿī millenarianism (e.g. Bābism) and anti-­‐‑colonial Mahdism (e.g. in the Sudan) were also clearly shaped by concepts of Prophetical embodied authority.

Secularism and nationalism

The rise of secular movements and states after the First World War clearly shaped the official and personal attitudes to the Prophet in many ways which still have to be fully worked out. Apologetic reactions against Christianity can be observed as well as a novel stress on the role of the Prophet as statesman and as military leader. The nationalist and socialist ideologies of the time frequently referred to the model of the Prophet for the legitimation of their revolutionary movements and for the revolutionary transformation of their societies. In other regions, Sufi movements managed to develop into mass organisations (especially West Africa), with an increasing popularity of Mawlid celebrations. All this still requires further comparative  exploration.

The decline of the dual world order after 1975, and the emerging processes of economical and cultural globalization went along with the rise of Islam as a political religion  and ideology of empowerment. This period was already connected with the rise of militant Salafism and anti-­‐‑Sufism in the context of the growing economic and political importance of Saudi Arabia and other Salafī-­‐‑oriented states. A second decisive factor was the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which reaffirmed the political weight of Islamic scholars not only among the Shīʿites but also in the Sunnī realm. Shīʿism and Sunnī Salafism developed into ideologies of individual and collective self-­‐assertion and empowerment, often based on the assumed model of a Prophetic “ʺmethod”ʺ (manhaj) with its inherent promise of a victorious future. The political and increasingly globalized struggle over the image of the Prophet and its protection also resulted from this transformation of religious authority and power in the Islamic world.

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