After the rise comes the decline: In this week’s discussion, you explored the achievements of the Ulama and the philosophers/scientists in building Islamic civilization as well as their antagonism and struggle over influence in a diverse and complex Islamic society (Umma).

Subject: Ethics

Winning the debate at the time would have meant being in a powerful position of legislating laws defining Islam as an
all-encompassing way of life; What it means to be a Muslim, how to build a diverse Muslim community, how to
manage the interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims, designating the contours within which science can ask
questions about the physical and intangible realities of existence, and consequently defining the place of reason in
interpreting the Quran and society… Ultimately, the outcome of these fierce debates was decided by the highest
political authority in the Umma; the Abbasid caliph. And so if the Ulama had the favor of the court, their power will be
promoted, while the scientists/philosophers will be demoted and vice-versa. But this crucial decision was largely
influenced by the realities of the time, and between the tenth and the twelfth centuries, Muslims within the Umma felt
a sense of anxiety, fear, and insecurity driven by political fragmentation and foreign and domestic threats; amongst
few of them are the nomadic Turks from the steppes of Central Asia, the Mamluks, and the Assassins… and “in
times of turmoil, people lose their taste for subtleties and their tolerance for ambiguity. Doctrines that assert
unambiguous rules promote social solidarity because they unable people to cohere around shared beliefs, and when
no one know what tomorrow brings, people prefer to clump together” (Ansary 113). And so it is such that the Ulama
prevailed over the scientists and revelation carried the day to the expense of reason and science.
Your main objective in this writing assignment is to explain how, in an environment of anxiety and fear, revelation
(theology) prevailed over reason (philosophy) in the Islamic Umma of the 11th century. Based on your readings of
chapter 7 and especially chapter 8 ‘Enter the Turks’, explore some or all of the following guiding questions. In your
final writing submission, you should include at least four out of the six answers to the questions below. Failure to do
so would affect your grade points as explained in details in the rubric.
How was the Umma fragmented politically into three distinct centers of power and how did this disunity jeopardize
the Islamic dream of a universal community in the Islamic World of the 11th century?
Who are the Mamluks and how did they rise to political power?
How did the Mamluks (the imperial guards) and the viziers (chief administrators) become de-facto rulers of Baghdad,
the capital of Abbasid Empire?
How did the emergence of Turkish Mamluk dynasties result in a Persian cultural renaissance?
After the fragmentation of the Abbasid Empire, which Mamluk dynasty controlled most of their former territory? And
which battle brought them face to face with the Christian world?
Who were the “Assassins”? What is the origin of the word? why were they considered a cult? And how were they
able to create an environment of insecurity in fear in the Umma?

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