What caused Islam to split into two major sects? What are the fundamental differences between the two? What are the implications of this split for modern Islam?

According to chapter 3 of Devani’s book (2002), “One group (Shia) said it had to be a descendant of Muhammed. The others, sunni, decided to choose a new leader without him having to be a descendant”. This makes me believe that the split was caused by the differences between the two groups after the death of Muhammed. The Sunni Muslims suppose that the original four caliphs who succeeded Mohammed’s legally took his place as the leaders of Muslims and are their legitimate leaders. The Shiite Muslims suppose that it is only the heirs of the fourth caliph who are the rightful successors of the prophet. The split led to antagonism between the Muslim communities and in the modern Islam it has adverse effects including Muslims attacking Muslims.

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  1. Gunpowders

What factors brought about the end of “military-patronage states” and the rise of the Ottoman Turks and Safavids?

In chapter 5 of Devani’s book, he states that, “The newly established Iranian Empire lacked the resources that had been available to the Islamic Caliphs of Baghdad in order to consolidate their power over the Islamic authority” this leads me to believe that it was lack of access to resources by the empire that that led to the end of military patronage states. After the exit of Asia and Transoxania, the increase in marine business in the West was unpromising to Iran whose prosperity was dependent on its location on significant East to West overland trade ways like the Silk Road which was well-known. This led to the rise of the Ottomans who seized back Iranian advances to the West. Safavids on the other hand rose and established command of over both the Caucasus and Mesopotamia.

  1. Ottomans& Safavids

What were the main features of the Ottoman and Safavid Empires? How were they similar and how were they different from the earlier “military-patronage states” and from each other? Be specific.

The Ottoman and Safavid Empires were the outcome of many years of Islamic state construction and expansion. In their development, they covered virtually the whole Islamic population. They present the connection between the prehistoric and contemporary periods of Islamic history. Both ultimately declined, and were engrossed by the extension of the British Empire. They were different from the military patronage states because they began as religious sects. The Safavid Empire differed from the Ottoman Empire because it was an authoritatively Shiite empire. The Ottoman Empire declined, as a consequence of both in-house ineffectiveness and pressure from its outside antagonists in Europe and Asia while the Safavid Empire collapsed due to invasion by Afghans in 1722.

  1. Decline

Find some weaknesses in these two great Empires that would lead to their decline in the 18th century.

The two great empires were characterized by pronounced religious opposition to critical thinking. This made it difficult for the people to acquire important and helpful information. There existed economic problems such as; competition from Americans in trade, presence of cheap products from India and increased joblessness levels within the empires. There also existed problems in the administrative structures of the two empires. Reducing centralization of the Ottoman Empire weakened the central control. Politically, the Sultans were insensitive to public opinion. They were of low class and ended up abandoning the execution of the Sultan’s sons which encouraged men to develop in to Sultans after spending so much time in prison.                                                   The religious differences between the Safavid Empire and its neighbors caused much aggression from the Safavids and its Sunni neighbors. This made it short lived; it rose in 1501 and suffered its ultimate collapse from invasion by Afghans in 1722. All these factors caused the decline of the two Empires.

  1. Crisis

What caused the 2 Middle Eastern gunpowder empires to fall into deep crisis in the 18th century? Were these problems limited to just the 2 Middle Eastern empires?

The crisis was caused by perpetual interference in the Middle East Empires by the west. This interference caused economic crisis because the Middle Empires were forced to rely on external borrowing in a bid to cope with defensive developmentalism. The Safavid Empire was vulnerable to invasion because of its decline military wise. Invasion was imminent from the East. There was conquest by Europeans over the Empires. Ottomans were got driven out of Europe and this increased their dependence on Europe. These crises were not confined in the Middle East alone. They were experienced even in other parts of the word including Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia.

  1. Modern World System

Discuss the “modern world system” that developed in the 18th century, noting its main characteristics. Then, discuss why the two great Middle Eastern gunpowder empires fell so far behind Western Europe and ended up on the periphery of this new world order.

It was a system that survived and succeeded in increasing its external limitations to cover the whole world. This success made it superior in the history of the world system. The modern world system was capitalistic in nature. It was a world economy in which goods were produced for sale in markets targeted to maximize profits. It was universal than ever before and the activities of trade improved significantly. It was a pluralistic economy with new technologies. Its capital was centralized and there was growth of huge corporations, monopolies and cartels. There was new consumer approach and better ways of advertising goods. It had noticeable growth of marketing sector of the financial system. According to Heinstein (1976), “Railways and telegraphs lines were built, across the two great Middle Eastern gunpowder empires, schools and universities were opened, and a new class of army officers, lawyers, teachers and administrators emerged, challenging the traditional leadership of Islamic scholars”. This seems to have made the two empires to fall behind the West because all this money was borrowed from the West, increasing the debts of the Gunpowder empires which led to insolvency and eventual domination by the West.
7. “The Eastern Question”

Discuss the weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century and how this weakening affected the foreign policies of the other European powers. Further discuss why the Middle East fell so far behind Europe.

Heinstein in chapter two of his book observes that, “In the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 the Ottomans were driven out of Europe”. This seems to have led to the retreat of the ottomans and the increased tendency to fall behind Europe. This affected the foreign policy of other European powers in a bid to modernize their nations to raise their competitiveness over the European powers. In the 19th century, the ottomans were progressively beneath the economic control of the European supremacy. Dominance soon twisted to absolute take-over many other European countries apart from the Western powers. The Ottomans look upon Germany to offer them protection against the western powers; this resulted in Germany’s increase of economic and military dominance on the ottomans. This is how the ottomans fell so far behind Europe.

  1. The “Great Game”

Discuss the “great game” and, specifically, how and why Great Britain emerged as the dominant imperial power in the Middle East in the 19th century.

In the great game, nations were in quest of financial security by acquiring products that manufacturers risk infringing superior trade logic. It was characterized by manufacturers’ quest to acquire production firms in poor countries. In the “great game”, those who acquire the greatest share of production firms earliest share the greatest economic security in subsequent years. According to Amir Kabir (1996), “After the Treaty of Paris brought the Seven Years to an end in 1763; it seemed that Britain was covered by an aura of optimism”. The war had led to Britain becoming a great imperial power within Europe. Britain continued to expand military wise. The merchants in Britain relied on the powerful navy to open up overseas markets in Africa, America and Asia. This method of trade propelled Britain to become the most powerful Economy in the world. The might of the European navy led to its status as the dominant imperial power in the Middle East.

  1. Defensive Developmentalism

Discuss your understanding of why defensive developmentalism, as practiced by the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Persia, was unsuccessful? Could these three Middle Eastern nations have done anything different to make it work? Explain.

Defensive developmentalism never achieved anything for the four empires. It led to borrowing, which in turn caused economic failure and stagnation. This sparked an uprising allowing direct financial and opinionated intercession. After borrowing from foreign businessmen, the empires failed to compete due to imbalanced treaties and trade accords. This led to failure, forcing the empires to surrender to financial intervention by European powers defending their investors.
This led to debt accumulation and increased levels of dependence on Europe. Europe took advantage of this reliance to expand its market and find channels for its investor to exploit these empires. The European businessmen began to manipulate the Empire’s economy. These empires could have saved the situation by avoiding too much borrowing from Europe. They did not consider the fact that it was a strategy to increase European domination on the empires.

  1. Nationalism

Did defensive developmentalism lead to the growth of nationalism in the region? Give examples to support your answer.

Defensive developmentalism led to the growth of third world nationalism. Programs were designed for reorganization, devotion in community commodities, and experimentation in decentralized governance and unconventional media. The programs succeeded because there was a field of democratic contest that aimed at meeting real popular needs. It created skilled armies, under the command of officers who were enthusiastic and who had the ability to grab power for their country. The Ottoman Empire became conscious of the risk that the European powers presented, as a consequence of Napoleon’s tumult of the Malmuk army in the fight of the Pyramids. This prompted nationalists such as Sultan Slim III to respond in trying to create a new order of corps with western training style. This nationalist characteristic came as a result of defensive developmentalism.

  1. Imperialism

After reading Chapter 6 on the imperial ventures of the western powers in the region, discuss why the people there are so suspicious of westerners. What impact does this have on current U.S. policies in the region?

People were suspicious of the westerners because their approach of Empire building, and establishment of territories in their nation. The westerners had a tendency to have an imperialistic attitude of authority, subordination and control over the people. Their prejudice and behavior of downgrading the people to a lower social and political status was suspicious. The people expected to be treated with diplomacy by the foreigners were so chauvinistic disregarding their existence in their rightful land. The U.S policy in the region is much influenced by imperialism. The U.S exerts its control in the Middle East disregarding the rightful wishes of the people. The people of Middle East do not prefer the dominance of the United States in the region. The Middle East populations always cooperate to resist United States’ control over the region.

  1. Westernization

During the Age of Imperialism, were there any significant influences left behind by Westerners that would have benefited the people of the region?

There were significant influences that were left behind by the westerners that could benefit the people. Modernization of the market system, transportation system and introduction of schools to offer education are significant to growth in the Middle East. There were several transformations in the Middle East society. Initially, the people were characterized by remoteness. The new ways of thinking and enlightenment were positive to the people. There emerged fresh approaches to solve of social-political problems. People began collaborating and assisting each other in business, social and economic development. Reforms came and people attended enlightenment schools to study better ways of sustainable development and self reliance.
13. Wasif Jawhariyyeh

After reading the excerpts from Wasif’s diary, discuss how he was exposed to new western ideas, yet retained the basics of Islam.

He was a wise artist in the Muslim community living amongst the Jews. He believed in Muslim literature and conveyed his creative thoughts through songs. His Islamic believes could not be changed by the contemporary environment. He was able to distinguish between what was good for a Muslim and what was bad on the other hand. Wasif was exposed to Western ideas but could not be carried away in to being influenced to change his standing. He refered to the native Jews as “the sons of the land”, but could never change his believes.

  1. Pictures

After observing and examining the photographs in the textbook, discuss how western influences actually changed the physical appearance of Islam.

Western influences changed the mode of dressing in Islam. The western manner of dress was presumed to portray civilization and modernism. Western mode of dress that seemed to match to a craving for the benefits of industrial and social transformation, the distinctive aesthetics of the Islam past became an unavoidable object which was unreachable to foreign Muslims. Living in an exotic lifestyle was seen as a symbol of civilization to the less fortunate who can hardly afford such lifestyle.

  1. Fundamentalist

What were the main beliefs and ideas of such Muslim fundamentalists as the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia? Discuss any possible impact these ideas might have on many people of the Middle East today.

Amir Kabir (1996) in chapter 3 of his book refers Wahhabis as a “Sunni puritanical movement founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab”. Wahhabism discards the changes in Islam that were approved later than the 3rd century of the Muslim epoch. Wahhabism also condemns the observance of blind devotion to the analysis of scholars and the unsighted approval of practices that were inherited within the family or tribe. Wahhabis disregard modernization and adoption of the western culture. Wahhabis educate that Muslims ought to completely reject any ideas and practices that are non-Muslim, as well as political ones that are supported by other people apart from Muslims. The chief principle of Wahhabism is the uniqueness and unity of God. Most of the Arabian tribes with the exception of Saudis never welcomed his ideologies. The Wahhabis’ belief is a source of antagonism between them and other Muslims in the modern word. It has created a gap between then and the other Muslims who embraced change.

  1. Modernists

What were the main beliefs of such Muslim modernists such as Malkom Khan and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani? Again, discuss what impact these ideas might have on many people of the Middle East today.

Malkom Khan believed in separation of powers, secular law as well as a bill of rights. The modernists advocated for teaching of western sciences in new schools. Intellectual approach such as social Dawinism were taught in these schools that were supported by the modernists. The modernists believed that the primitive believes of modern Islam could not help the Muslim community in the competitive modern world. The modernists criticized parts of the Qur’an and sought to make the necessary amendments to the faulty teachings. The modernists had adverse effects on many people of Middle East today. The people acquired western Education and are now competitive in all sectors of the modern world with advancements in technology, business, politics, and governance and in many other sectors. Important European works are analyzed and translated in the modern society.


  1. Amir Kabir (1996), “Iran Under the Safavids: Making of History”

I.B. Tauris Publishers 1996, p 27.

  1. Devani’s book (2002), “European Trade in the Iranian Empire”

Cambridge University Press 2002, p16-18.

  1. Heinstein (1976), “Religion and Power in the Ottoman and Safavid Empires”

Luzac Publishers 1976, p.73.


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