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Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the Tripolitan, Syrian-Lebanese and wider Middle Eastern contexts within which Tawhid would emerge, and it hints at some of the local themes which the movement would address. It explains the rapid growth of Islamist movements in 1970s Tripoli with reference to their readiness to embody the city’s older rebel identity and to their ability to tap into its pool of discontent, itself stemming from particularly acute local political and social grievances. These functions used to be fulfilled by leftist movements but the chapter notes how their failure to oppose the Syrian regime, which was fast becoming the arch-enemy of many Tripolitans in the local collective psyche, led to their decline and to the rise of Islamist movements instead, a trend also facilitated by the broader sense that Islamism had cultural and political momentum. This sets the scene to understand the local context within which Tawhid was created and rapidly grew in early 1980s Tripoli.
This chapter traces the emergence of Palestinian nationalism from its beginning through the Great Revolt (1936––39), when it becomes a mass movement. Unlike the Zionists, Palestinians under the Ottomans had never been compelled to define themselves, and thus Palestinian nationalism emerged later than Zionism. Nationalism in Palestine went through a number of incarnations. First, the Ottomans attempted to promote their own brand of nationalism, osmanlilik. After the empire was dismantled, a number of nationalists in Palestine embraced a Greater Syrian nationalism. Over time, a Syrian identity for Palestinians became untenable: the mandates system had divided French-controlled Syria from British-controlled Palestine, the two territories evolved in different ways, and Palestinians faced the wholesale settlement of Europeans in their midst. The mobilization of townsmen and farmers during the Great Revolt ensured Palestinian nationalism would remain the dominant nationalist strain in Palestine.
A recurrent concern in the archaeological study of early Islam is the degree to which the physical record exhibits significant continuity with the centuries prior to 1/622. This chapter first summarises the earliest evidence for a distinctive Muslim identity in the archaeological record. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem marks a watershed in Islamic material culture, as among other things, it also provides evidence of a new sense of artistic ambition among the Muslim elite. Next, the chapter assesses changes in the countryside with particular emphasis on the elite country residences (qusur) of Greater Syria and the evolution of complex irrigation systems in different parts of the Islamic world. Then, it discusses the changes in the urban environment from the Late Antique period to the creation of new cities in Syria and Iraq during the early Abbasid caliphate. Finally, the chapter addresses changes in international trade from the Late Antique period to around 390/1000.
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