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The Conclusion summarizes the book’s arguments about Muslim and Western countries’ comparative conditions of development and their historical origins. It emphasizes that these countries are similar, at least comparable. It reiterates that neither Islam nor Western colonialism can simply explain the problems of violence, authoritarianism, or socioeconomic underdevelopment in Muslim countries. Thus, both essentialist and post-colonial explanations are unsatisfactory. Instead, the ulema–state alliance, which emerged in the eleventh century and marginalized intellectual and bourgeois classes, has been the main reason for Muslims’ long-lasting problems. At the end, the book recommends that Muslims pursue a political and socioeconomic reform to revive the intellectual and economic dynamism they had in early Islamic history. For such a reform to take place, Muslims need creative intellectuals and an independent bourgeoisie, who can balance the power of the ulema and state authorities.
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.
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