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The introductory chapter provides a theoretical exposition of belonging and identity, the two central themes of this book. It accentuates the fundamental conception of belonging as sameness, which underlies various expressions of the idea of belonging. The chapter also signposts the conception of belonging as essential or as socially constructed, which comprises the two major axes of the discussion to follow, and the distinction and interplay between belonging and identity
Chapter 5 traces the heart as a polished mirror in transformations of the story of the competition of the artists as told by al-Ghazali and retold by Nizami, Rumi, and ibn Khaldun. Following the episteme of inward mimesis established in earlier chapters, the story reveals reflection as an enhancement of representation rather than through the model of deception common to modern interpretations of Platonic thought under the influence of biblical image prohibitions. The parable reflects insights suggestive of Platonic and Buddhist sources. Tropes of the heart and the curtain, metaphors for the heart and revelation, persist in later poetic renditions by Nizami and Rumi. They add the figure of Mani, mentioned already in Firdausi’s Shahnameh, to the story, elaborated through the thought of Suhrawardi and ibn Arabi. Ibn Khaldun reprises the tale to compare science and mysticism as paths to knowledge. The story reflects a relationship with the image not founded in prohibition so much as in its utility as a vehicle of transcendence. Far from the modern assertion of latent secularism in epic poetry and underlying representational painting, the cultural and religious aspects of Islam emerge as indivisible as a reflection and its mirror.
Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, Muslims experienced multiple crises. The Crusaders and the Mongols destroyed the urban infrastructure and the public order across a vast Muslim geography. On the one hand, the fall of most Muslim states, except the Ayyubids and then Mamluks in Egypt, and Berber dynasties in Morocco/Andalus, weakened the ulema–state alliance. On the other hand, the perils of the Crusades and the Mongol invasions led many Muslims to seek safety from the ulema–state alliance. In general, both the Crusader and the Mongol invasions led to a deterioration of mercantile and scholarly activities in many Muslim cities. Muslim countries still produced such remarkable scholars as Ibn Rushd and Ibn Khaldun. Another scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, wrote on the theory of the ulema–state alliance. Meanwhile Western Europe was protected from destructive invasions after the halt of the Mongol invasion in Eastern Europe. In this context, Western Europe witnessed socioeconomic and political transformations. This chapter first analyzes the Muslim world and then explores these Western European transformations.
This chapter begins by examining Muslims’ military, commercial, and intellectual achievements between the seventh and eleventh centuries. At that time, most of Islamic scholars (ulema) were funded by commerce, while only a few of them served the state. The merchants flourished as an influential class. The chapter goes on to analyze the beginning of the intellectual and economic stagnation in Muslim lands in the eleventh century. It explains how, gradually, the ulema became a state-servant class and the military state came to dominate the economy. The alliance between the ulema and the military state diminished the influence of philosophers and merchants. This changing distribution of authority led to the long-term stagnation, if not the decline, of Muslim intellectual and economic life. This gradual process began in the eleventh century and continued for centuries, as subsequent chapters elaborate.
Practical science was composed of personal morality, domestic morality and politics, to which Ibn Sina also appended prophetology. In the 'Prolegomena', Ibn Khaldun, the celebrated historian and sociologist of the eighth/fourteenth century, has given a clear account of the whole field of the sciences as they appeared in his time. Muslim arithmeticians practised exponentiation, and the extraction of square and cube roots, sometimes using the formulae of root approximation borrowed from the Byzantines. The general Ptolemaic theory, accepted by nearly all Muslim astronomers, met with opposition only in Spain, where Ibn Bajja, Ibn Tufayl and Ibn Rushd rejected, in the name of Aristotle, the Ptolemaic account of the movements of the heavenly bodies. In the field of pharmacology, Muslim physicians enriched the materia medica inherited from Greece. In the Middle Ages, Muslim scientists were indisputably at the peak of their progress, scientific curiosity and research.
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