Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 18

The Social Uses of the past: Recent Arab Historiography of Ottoman Rule Author(s): Rifaat Ali Abou-el-Haj Source:

International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2 (May, 1982), pp. 185-201 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/163203 . Accessed: 04/10/2011 11:20
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Cambridge University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to International Journal of Middle East Studies.

http://www.jstor.org

Int. J. Middle East Stud. 14 (1982), 185-201 Printed in the United States of America

Rifaat Ali Abou-El-Haj THE SOCIAL USES OF THE PAST: RECENT OF OTTOMAN RULE HISTORIOGRAPHY ARAB

This study examines the structures of thought behind a representativeselection of recent Arab historical and social scientific works on the Ottoman era of Arab history to elicit their historically bound social uses.' Ottoman rule in the predominantly Arabic-speaking regions of the Near East (Syria, Egypt, Western Arabia) dates from about the second decade of the sixteenth century and was later in the same and early in the subsequent century extended to include most of North Africa (short of Morocco) and Iraq. With minor territorial recessions and recoveries of variable duration, the Ottoman variety of Turkish suzerainty continued for nearly four centuries. After a short transitional period in which the previous models were retained, the land and natural and commercial resources were subjected to exploitation by different forms of fiscal administration ranging from direct and semidirect "feudal" arrangements (Turk. timar and ziamet; later malikane) to the most indirect tribute of paying or receiving in kind. The main beneficiaries of Ottoman suzerainty were the administrators of the fiscal systems and their local allies, ranging from merchants to the clergy (Muslim ulama among others). As heirs to the Muslim caliphate, the Ottoman dynasty and ruling elites were able to justify through Islam their conquests, control, and exploitation of the lands of the Near East and North Africa, in Anatolia and southeast Europe. As a consequence, it is as Muslims that the sultans identified themselves and it was to this ideological pole that the identity and loyalty of their mostly Muslim Arabic-speaking subjects were bound. The most frequently quoted observation about this four hundred years of Arab history is that its study has been for all practical purposes ignored by Arab scholars.2 This statement is neither accurate as description nor conceptually appropriate for the purpose of understanding the dearth of Arab scholarly writing on the Ottoman period. Furthermore the term "ignored" hardly explains the existence of so wide a gap in scientific knowledge. Later in this study, more active terms are suggested to convey the dynamic purposes to which that void has been put. Enough scholarly materials have been produced over the last eighty years to warrant dividing the production into three self-contained chronological periods, each bearing a distinct relationship to specific and distinct historical moments.3 The three periods are: to 1918; 1918-1950; 1950 to the present. The first two have been studied with a certain degree of accuracy and thoroughness; the following observations summarize and abstract the main
? 1982 CambridgeUniversityPress 0020-7438/82/020185-17 $2.50

186

Rifaat Ali Abou-El-Haj

assessments made by others of Arab scholarly production and, where warranted, analyze the continuities and discontinuities with scholarly production from 1950. Arab scholarship of the first period, which ends with World War I, is characterized by a positive attitude toward the Ottoman state as upholder of the Islamic caliphate-sultanate. Even the era of the arch-reactionary sultan AbdulHamid is received with favor, because it recruited a fairly large number of Arabs to fill some of the more critical positions in the central administration. It is only toward the end of the period, mainly the first decade and a half of the twentieth century, that a decided shift in Arab attitudes and (therefore also) in scholarly production can be discerned. It called for the total independence of Arabs from the Ottomans. Turkification policies-a nationalist hallmark of the essentially conservative Young Turks4-occasioned the final disassociation of the Arab from the Ottoman-Islamic identity, except in North Africa, where latter-day Turkish support against the French and the Italians was favorably received. The comparatively broad-based Arab independence movement of this period appeared to be, in part, the response to a specific historical moment in Arab history; it in turn inspired scholarly production that presumed the existence of an Arab nation and a commensurate new historical identity to go with it.5 With the division of Ottoman provinces among the European victors of "the Great War," a new pattern of Arab scholarship appears. The short-lived call for a unified Arab state-the political goal of the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the war which grew in strength in its course-was superceded by regional nationalism, Iraqi, Tunisian, and Egyptian, among others. In monographs published in the interwar period, the recently carved-out states are anachronistically identified with the previously undifferentiated regional identities and projected back into earlier centuries. Thus one finds articles written about sixteenth- or seventeenth-century "Tunisian," "Egyptian," or "Syrian" nationals who visited the Ottoman court. The fragmentation that this pattern of identification and scholarship displays is a reflection of the school of historiography which was sponsored by the dominant colonial powers at the newly set-up modern universities and which filtered down through an officially sponsored public education system to primary and secondary levels of schooling. The feeling that one was an "Iraqi" first and an Arab second was nourished in new schools and taught through textbooks freshly created to foster the new identity. This was not the case, however, for Palestine, since the purpose of the British mandate was, willy nilly, the exclusion of a Palestinian identity for the Arabs, nor for Algeria. To say that the colonial regimes had to turn to local cadres to implement their policies in their newly carved-out bailiwicks would be stating the obvious. The evaluation and the assessment of the role and importance of this sector of local society have yet to be carried out. Part of the problem in this task is that the local elites have been portrayed as caught in the dilemma of being damned if they did cooperate with the colonial power and damned if they did not (the country would fall to direct foreign rule). No suggestions have been offered to explain that cooperate they nevertheless did, as evidenced by their service in the colonial administrations. An explanation can be discovered by analyzing the qutrT (provincial nationalist) scholarly production which

Recent Arab Historiography of Ottoman Rule

187

became the social scientific hallmark of the interwar period. This production provided an ideological justification for the territorial divisions which the colonial powers carried out and for forging a new identity for the local elites. Clues to this newfound identity are evident in the immediate history of this social sector. Before World War I, training of the local elites was carried out in newly instituted educational systems modeled after Europe and dating in Egypt and in Istanbul from the first half of the nineteenth century. In a bid to revive the Islamic caliphal connection as the ideological justification for the much eroded Ottoman legitimacy and the Muslim faith as a new national identity, Abdul-Hamid's regime had turned by the second half of that century to the recruitment of Arabs (they were both the first to enter Islam and quite numerous) into the Ottoman central elite. By the turn of the twentieth century, some of these recruits had actually become full-fledged members of the Ottoman ruling class as manifested by their service in the higher ranks of the Ottoman army and in the central administration. It is mainly from this provincial nationalist sector that the newly established colonial regimes found local recruits to run their colonial territories and those mandated by the League of Nations. What need not detain us here is the wellknown explanation that the training and expertise possessed by this social group qualified it to serve in the "modern" colonial administrations. At the end of the war, this group found itself caught in a historical dilemma, having recently shifted its loyalties from the Ottoman regime, whom it had recently "betrayed," to yet another outside power. It is in light of this historical background and the ambivalent role that this social group had played in its recent past that the tone and the thrust of the scholarship of the interwar period can be understood. In condemning the Ottoman regime and all things Turkish, the scholarship helped this group gloss over its role as part of the Ottoman elite while it helped it shed both the identity associated with the Ottoman regime which formed its actual, immediate history and the tainted image associated with it. By negating the Ottoman identity, with which it could not afford to be associated, the elite had to abandon, reject, and deny its actual history. For elements out of which to reforge a new identity, it turned to a ready-made, preOttoman, purely Arab-Islamic past. Lest it be accused of having merely switched from one foreign master to another, as it began actually to collaborate with the new ruling powers, the cadre managed to portray itself in the "vanguard" of resistance against outside domination-in some instances even taking on a revolutionary posture. The other role it adopted for itself was that of realistpragmatist mediator with which it defended its compatriots against the direct and therefore presumed odious rule of the foreigner. Thus for an arena in which to test the authenticity and fidelity of a newfound identity, it occasionally chose confrontation with the colonial regimes. At all times, however, there was an unreality to this social sector's revolutionary and nationalist posture-it had to act within terms, contexts, and grounds which were not of its own making or choice. (For examples, as represented by the political compromises with the British made by Nuri al-Said for Iraq and by Sa'd Zaghlul for Egypt.) Nevertheless by virtue of its training, tastes, even proclivities, this sector of local society

188

Rifaat Ali Abou-El-Haj

had more in common with the new colonial regimes than with the great majority of its own compatriots. In the end, when it came to a choice, instead of taking a truly revolutionary stance it preferred to forge for itself a niche in the running of the newly created states, since its role in these societies was ultimately at stake. Qutri nationalism was the product of two factors: an external one which lent indirect support to colonial regimes and a local one of forging an identity for the local elite. The scholarly production that backed the latter provided an ideology that defined, as it justified, the new identity; now, however, it was tested in each case by a separatist struggle with realistic and immediate goals-eventual expulsion of the foreigner. For the colonial regime this social sector served the task of mediator, indeed even that of the facilitator who interpreted as it enforced colonial policies; and to its own compatriots, this elite stood in the vanguard as the protector against direct foreign control and rule, with the promise of eventual independence as an ultimate target binding them together. The third and most recent trend in scholarly production (dating from 1950) appears to be fueled by Arab nationalism and therefore assumes the existence of a common identity. Dating from the 1950s, although its conceptual guides and ideologies coincide with political independence, at least one major strand of the scholarship continues to betray regional commitments. Contradictory tendencies coexist in the work of individual scholars and appear in the genre of historiography and social science as separate and parallel schools. What obscures the significance of the new trends in scholarship, for purposes of defining a modern Arab historical identity, is how Arab and Western scholars have treated the genre. "Derivative," "imitative," and "unoriginal," are some terms used to describe this recent genre of Arab historiography and social science. Such terms conceal the principles of selection which guide the work of these scholars. As a beginning, the subject is almost exclusively the rise and consolidation of the modern nationstate and the period of research the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These two focuses coincide-not entirely by accident-with the same areas and chronological periods of Near Eastern history which are best researched in the West and which have come to serve as the primary social scientific model for the most recent Arab scholars. In the Western model, the dynastic history of the SafaviQajars and of the Ottomans represents the center of attention of this type of research. The chronological parameters of this research program into the history of these Near Eastern empires, however, do not extend much beyond the last two centuries. Such as it is, Western research is carried out to the virtual exclusion of the earlier history which was characterized by complex socioeconomic systems and pluralistic societal arrangements, in full contrast with the modern nationstate. It was only in the nineteenth century that these social arrangements began to break down. Concentrating on the period of the failure of these pluralistic societies implies the inevitable rise of the modern nation-state. As a consequence, most of these studies start with the successor nation-states of Ataturk's Turkey and Reza Shah's Iran as their main point of departure. As a methodology, the focus on the study of the failed pluralism which serves as a prelude to the necessary triumph of the nation-state, is in and of itself a form of preselection of

Recent Arab Historiography of Ottoman Rule

189

period and evidence to validate the modernization paradigm. (For the Ottoman case two books serve to illustrate this point both in terms of their titles and basic arguments and contents: Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey [Oxford, 1961] and Niyazi Berkes, The Development of Secularism in Turkey [Montreal, 1964]. One-half and four-fifths of the contents of these works, respectively, are devoted to the delineation of the failure of the Ottoman system as a prelude to the triumph of the modern state.) With this explanation for the preoccupation with the rise of the nation-state, it becomes clear why the periods of the triumph and success of Ottoman and Persian pluralism are rarely the subject of scholarship in the West.6 With the focus primarily on the political dimension in the Western model, the history of society, economic conditions, culture, and science remains either undeveloped or unintegrated in both Western and Arab scholarship. Indeed, recently published in Arabic are journals and monographs devoted to the study of society and culture in the form of folkloric literature, sociology, anthropology,7 but the scholarly effort that goes into these scientific productions remains untapped by historians and social scientists; and in their turn specialists in culture and literature ignore historical and social science scholarship. This fragmentation in knowledge8 and the resulting vacuum in historical writings that are created by the focus on political history are compensated by resorting to an ahistorically and analogically evolved system of abstractions.9 I refer here, for example, to the way in which Arab or Islamic civilization or culture (haddra) is given a primary, continuously causative attribute and to the explanation of disruption as the eternal and ever present potential of the tribal mode (biddwa). Obviously, these concepts serve as shortcuts which allow one to cross over from one branch of knowledge to another. By the same token, this utility is negated when instead of retaining a perspective on the historically specific and dynamic forces which are now abstracted in the form of these concepts, the concepts in and of themselves are made into dynamic forces of the first order. To compound this historical fallacy, scholars tend to react with direct and frontal interpretations to these static concepts without regard to the dynamic forces to which they were, in the first place, mere labels. The last part of this study analyzes in detail two examples taken from recent Arab scholarship, one from history and the other from sociology: (1) the treatment of secondary dynamics as primary and (2) the ideological utility of scholarly shortcuts. At this juncture we need only note that in the field of Near Eastern studies in the West, most professionals still approach their subjects through the mediation of texts, and therefore tend to be too closely tied to the direct and immediate meaning and interpretation of the text, without examining the historical context that occasioned its production. And although resorting to these devices as a shorthand serves the same structural and heuristic purposes as do code words in mythology, namely, to fill the gaps in information and knowledge, this exercise is not sufficient to meet our need for scientific knowledge, especially given recently evolved methods of extracting information from the available and untapped written and unwritten Arabic, Persian, and Turkish sources, resources, and artifacts (e.g., archaeology).'1

190

Rifaat Ali Abou-El-Haj

Hardly anyone has studied the ideological reasons for neglecting the Ottoman period of Arab history and for concentrating on the later period that witnessed the rise of the nation-state. Since a historian, like the social scientist, is the product of a specific, historical moment, he reflects the dynamic forces of that moment, mirroring the philosophy of history of the social and economic forces that shaped him and in turn for whom he is a witting or unwitting, conscious or unconscious advocate. The study, no matter how partial, of the scholarly production of the historians and social scientists who directly or indirectly addressed themselves to this period should help us in pinpointing the ideological uses of this neglect." As suggested, in the third period of Arab scholarly production from the 1950s on, the scholarship seems to be guided by the assumption of the unity of Arab history. But a pattern is discernible alongside this new trend showing the continuity of a concealed qutri nationalism attached to a provincial identity. Some examples of the scholarship of this least studied period are analyzed in search of answers to the questions raised. As evidence of the literary and scientific production which assumes the unity of an Arab historical identity and reflects on its continuity through the ages, two journals have recently started publication. The contents of 'Afaq 'Arabiyya (Arab Horizons)12and al-Thaqdfa al-'ArabTyya (Arab Culture)3 demonstrate the commonalities of Arab historical experiences through the study of literature, history, science, and culture. Whereas these two journals are sponsored by the ministries of national guidance of Iraq and Libya, al-Mustaqbal al-'Arabi (The Arab Future)14 is sponsored by a center devoted to the study of Arab unity. Here as in the state-sponsored journals, notwithstanding the obstacles for unity,1s are demonstrated the commonalities of historical experiences of modern Arab states and societies with the clear anticipation of eventual unification. In a similar vein, two international conferences, dedicated to the exploration of the historical roots of the unity of the Arab umma (here read nation), were sponsored by the newly founded Union of Arab Historians in Baghdad (UAH).16 At no point in these official and semiofficial written sources is the inspiration for the idea of the common identity of the Arab peoples and their common heritage rooted in the preceding four centuries of Ottoman rule. Without either differentiation or specification, nearly four hundred years are lumped together quite indiscriminately as a period of inhitat (decay) and therefore not worthy of serious historical consideration. As with previous attempts at linking together all Arab history, the consistent tendency is to turn to the first centuries of Islamic, "purely Arab" history to provide a basis for unity and serve as the foundation of a common Arab identity. Other writers have noted this trend and some have even spelled out its continuity, but few have studied its various political and ideological uses. In opposition to that trend, a professor from 'Abdul-Aziz University, Saudi Arabia, at the 1979 Arab umma conference in Bengazi sponsored by the UAH equated Arab with Islamic history. Within this framework of thinking, which does not differentiate Muslim from Arab, the Ottomans are assured a positive role in Arab-Islamic history, although it is only a theoretical one. This tendency

Recent Arab Historiography of Ottoman Rule

191

to include Ottoman with Islamic and by extension therefore with Arab history is not historically based. An unintended historical irony is present in the Saudi professor's observation: the Wahhabi movement began in Arabia as a revolutionary movement and challenged Ottoman sovereignty early in the eighteenth century with its own universal appeal. At that historical point it had insisted on its role as the protector of the original, unadulterated authentic Islamic heritage; it hoped to accomplish its mission through the puritanical program of the early Wahhabi sheikhs. These programs harked back to the authentic Islam of the earliest era and were bent on freeing the Muslim heritage of the encrustations that had accrued over the centuries, especially during the Ottoman era, encrustations that had obscured the original simplicity of Islam as the faith of the believers, on freeing it from the intercessions of saints and their cults (in the form of dervish and sufi orders). The contradiction between the eighteenth-century stance and the twentieth-century interpretation is resolved when it is realized that the recent Saudi identification with the Ottoman era, albeit based in theoretical and logical positive connections between Ottoman and Arab history, serves only to legitimize the Saudi royal family authority in the peninsula. At this level of theorizing, the identification of Saudi with Ottoman history has a general and common inspiration through Islam. And although it would be logical, starting from this premise, to anticipate the development of a broadbased scholarship guided by an Islamic nationalist political philosophy, a different trend has evolved in practice, one that specifies, differentiates, and particularizes the Saudi historical, that is, qutri "national," experience. Thus the twentieth-century version of this once revolutionary and global challenge to Ottoman suzerainty has been adapted to serve as the ideological underpinning for a provincial nationalism confined to the territories of Najd and the Hijaz. This modern bid for dynastic legitimacy, which is delimited by qutri nationalism through Islam, is not unique, as exemplified in the maghreb, where the Moroccan royal house bases its legitimacy on its charismatic descent from Ali, the Muslim prophet's cousin and son-in-law.'7 A benign view of the Ottomans in recent Arab scholarship, based on a legitimizing role for Islam, can be illustrated in nondynastic instances in certain strands of liberal and progressive North African circles outside Morocco. With the early encroachment of European powers in this region, especially in Tunis and Libya, credit for championing the independence of these North African provinces is given first to Abdul-Hamid and later to the Young Turks up to and through World War I. According to this scholarship, the motive for Ottoman support against French and Italian colonial ambition is based on the religious affinity of the Ottomans with the North African Muslims. (Similar ideas have recently been echoed by some modern Turkish historians. The identification of the Muslim Turk with the Arab has taken on a scholarly dimension with the convening of a conference in 1979 at Haceteppe University, Ankara, with the ostensible aim of cultivating scholarly cooperation between Turkish and Arab universities.)18 As with the Saudi example, although Islam is the broad base of identification with the Ottomans, in practice, the recent scholarship produced in the maghreb (North Africa), with its emphasis on the particular, that is, provincial history, accentuates the

192

Rifaat Ali Abou-El-Haj

uniqueness of the qutri (provincial) identity. A similar contemporary use, that is, a particular, provincial nationalist one, was made of Islam by Khomeini's Islamic revolution in Iran. Paralleling early Islamic inspiration on the one hand and Ottoman on the other for the essential unity of Arab identity and history is a secular model which draws for inspiration on A. J. Toynbee's ideas, especially those expressed in his ten-volume A Study of History.19The influence of this model permeates a good part of recent Arab historical and social scientific publications and circles. In Toynbee's works, that which appeals the most to modern and recent Arab scholars is his hostility to Western colonialism,20 and by extension his view of Israel as an agent of European territorial expansionism. Nevertheless it is the structures in his argument that I adopt as ideas pointing to the common identity and the essential unity of Arab history. Quite early in his History, Toynbee dismissed the nation-state, which had been considered up to that point in Western scholarship as the irreducible and intelligible field of historical study and understanding. In practice, for Arab history, this approach denies the historical validity of the separate regional nation-states (and the qutrTnationalism) which had been created after World War I. These and the qutri (provincial) nationalism that supports them are viewed as modern colonial creations. In place of the nation-state, Toynbee selected, early in his study, the concept of "civilization" as the intelligible and irreducible unit of historical research and study. In the first volumes (I-VI), he acknowledges that in the Near East such a unit already existed in the form of Arab civilization as an intelligible field of historical study. In the remaining volumes, which were written after World War II, the foundation for the structure of argument in Toynbee's scheme shifts from civilization to universal religions as the most meaningful unit of historical study.21Islam, as one of the privileged seven, is discussed as a creative and generative force in history and is made the primary vehicle for understanding the unity of Near Eastern history (Arab among other).22 The initial focus on Arab civilization, in and of itself, as the irreducible unit in understanding Near Eastern history, and the later expansion of the structure of understanding to comprehend religion and specifically Islam, have come to serve as a major inspiration for those who advocate Arab unity and as a vehicle for understanding their own history, culture, and heritage. The most recent example of this direct Arab appreciation is a Presentation Volume in honor of Toynbee with articles in English and Arabic, published jointly by the Union of Arab Historians and the ministry of culture and information in Iraq.23In this volume, characteristically, what is reflected in the scholarship is not the parallel development of historical scholarship and evaluation of Toynbee's thinking from dependence on civilization to religion as the intelligible field of historical research, but the mere fact that Toynbee had singled out first Arab civilization and then Islam as valid units for historical scholarship. The emphasis is placed not on Islam as a religion as much as on the fact that it is an Arab phenomenon. This secular emphasis differentiates Islam's use from the strictly religious one discussed earlier. The structure of Toynbee's thought is thus used as a given. It becomes a premise validating the natural unity and common identity of the Arabs.

Recent Arab Historiography of Ottoman Rule

193

In contrast with the trend in scholarship which draws on Islam and early Arab history for inspiration for its unity and integrity is a parallel and selfcontradictory trend which looks to the uniqueness of each of the respective nation-states in the Arab world, singling out the oddities of each entity in justification of its separate qutrTnational identity. Although it would be stating the obvious to point out that this scholarship displays a continuity from preindependence colonialist trends, the recent variant manifests at least one novel though highly significant feature. Whereas in its earlier appearance, the qutri nationalist trend had been encouraged by the controlling European powers in justification of their political division of the Arab provinces, the post-World War II version has been sponsored by the successor regimes which are Arab. I analyze two variations on this theme: one from history and the other from sociology. The historian, Anis, starts his short monograph The Egyptian School of History in the Ottoman Period24 with a useful description of the genres and types of history of the period, following it with a brief annotation and commentary on the actual "style" and contents of each sample examined. Anis gives us the clues to his approach in the introduction to each historical work. Here we are told that under the Ottomans historical production by Egyptians had undergone a deterioration from previous eras. Lest we the readers fall into the trap of blaming the Ottomans for this sad state of historical scholarship (given the nature of Ottoman rule, read conservative), Anis generously exonerates them of all "blame" when he assures us that the Ottomans did not introduce any significant change in Egypt. Thus, the poor intellectual climate in Egypt is viewed as a continuation of conditions, institutions, and classes of the era that preceded the arrival of the Ottomans. Anis explains this observation by pointing out that the retention of a weak feudalism by the Ottomans and of previous administrative policies and practices left the social formation (al-tarkTbahal'ijtimdaivya) (p. 14) practically intact. At this point he derives a secondary, curious conclusion: in order to understand Ottoman Egypt, we need not study the history of the Ottomans in Egypt! The justification for this unusual chronological leap is explained by the fact that our author does not regard the Ottoman conquest as critical. Instead, Anis assigns major significance to the European circumvention (by traders) of Egypt as the main way station for trade between East and West. Not only Egypt, but the whole Arab world, suffered from the consequent loss of trade and revenues. One of the results was "stagnation," a stagnation that made Egypt miss contemporary "civilizational currents." In contrast, Europe had been exposed to and therefore benefited from these currents since the Italian renaissance. Having thus eliminated Ottoman influence from historical consideration Anis arrives at the logical conclusion that it becomes unnecessary therefore to study "the political and economic deterioration" (his words, p. 13) which Egypt experienced during this period to be able to arrive at an understanding of Egyptian intellectual and "scientific" life. Having reduced Ottoman influence to naught, Anis finally administers, with one gesture, the coup de grace: "the Ottomans had no 'civilizational capital' [rasid hadarT] which they could convey to and invest in the intellectual life of Egypt" (p. 14). As proof, he makes the following blanket statement without citation of evidence:

194

Rifaat Ali Abou-El-Haj

"Egyptians did not learn the Turkish langauge and Turkish did not enter their writing" (p. 14). From these observations, Anis wants the reader to arrive at the conclusion that in order to understand the development (or lack thereof, as in this instance) of the Egyptian genres of history in three Ottoman centuries, one need not look beyond Egypt and Egyptian (Arab) sources. (In this he concurs uncritically with the mistaken impressions of Westerners such as, among others, Stanford Shaw.) When it comes to the actual framework for understanding the development of the historical sciences in Egypt, Anis resorts therefore to the Mamluke period, the one immediately preceding the arrival of the Ottomans. Those are the premises from which Anis launches his study. A brief summary of one consequence of the development of Anis's argument is presented, and the argument is then subjected to historical analysis by citing specific evidence to contradict it. In his discussion of the schools of historical writing prevalent in this period Anis studies the tardjem (biographies), ajnad (military histories), and ulama histories. To illustrate my point, I single out the ulama school. This school starts, conveniently enough, with the Ottoman occupation of Egypt. Ibn Iyas serves as the first example. He was a keen observer of the coming of the Ottomans; however, since he was born in the Mamluke period and witnessed only the first fifteen years of Ottoman rule owing to his demise, Ibn lyas could not be counted as belonging to that period. Anis turns to the eighteenth century to al-Jabarti to exemplify "Egyptian historiography" in this period, but what is important is that this "historian" comes at the end of the Ottoman period and therefore closes it. Al-Jabarti is regarded by Anis and others as the historian par excellence. Yet to assess his place in "Egyptian" historiography, Anis turns for guidance to H. A. R. Gibb and H. Bowen, P. M. Holt and S. Shaw, and to D. Ayalon. Given the limitation of their approach, these historians, in turn, have no historical way of explaining al-Jabarti.25 In the end, Anis concurs with the observation of his secondary sources that there was no way to describe al-Jabarti other than as a genius. This is, after all, a logical conclusion which follows from Anis's premise that the three hundred years of Ottoman rule represented deterioration and decline. Put in other words, the only way one could explain alJabarti historically is to explain him ahistorically, since his life and work are not subject to explanation either in terms of his historical era or in terms of the specific literary and intellectual life of Ottoman Egypt. Since the publication of Anis's short work, the work of Peter Gran has shown that al-Jabarti's was but one of quite a few "great" minds of the eighteenth century. In Islamic Roots of Capitalism the reader can turn to Gran's study of Hasan al-'Attar who was not only a product of training in Cairo, but, contrary to Anis's contention about the education of Egyptian intellectuals in this period, one who sought knowledge and training in Istanbul as well. In further disproof of Anis's blanket denigration of the importance of Ottoman culture and education for Egyptian scholars, we can cite from an earlier era the life and career of another "Egyptian." Like al-'Attar in the eighteenth century, al-KhafajT, a prolific writer who died around 1650, traveled to Istanbul in search of learning and to further his career. According to his autobiography, this scholar had read

Recent Arab Historiography of Ottoman Rule

195

and studied, with great benefit, with some of the imperial capital's outstanding scholars. The training he received qualified him to enter the Ottoman capital's 'ilmiye (religious bureaucracy) corps. Once he graduated, al-Khafaji was appointed as kadi to four districts in Rumeli and Anatolia, before assignment to his native city, Cairo, as its chief judge.26 Al-KhafajT and al-'Attar are two examples that contradict Anis's sweeping generalization that contemporary "Egyptian"scholars (or, for that matter, others of their Arab neighbors) ignored Ottoman culture and civilization. And they were not unique by virtue of their great literary productions. There were quite a few others. Why did Anis choose to focus on the genius of al-Jabarti as the sole reason for the latter's literary and intellectual output? Was not Anis trying, very much like the North African and Saudi Wahhabi examples cited earlier, to dwell on the uniqueness of Egypt's history through the particularization and differentiation of that country's historical experience (viz. prove the Egyptianness of Egyptian history)?27 A variation on Anis's theme can be found more systematically, boldly, and logically developed in A Study of the Nature of Iraqi Society by Ali al-Wardi, an Iraqi sociologist.28 Instead of delineating the social history of the previous four hundred years of Iraqi society, he turns for his framework of study to Ibn Khaldun.29 Furthermore, a close study of the guiding concepts which he finds useful in Ibn Khaldun are taken over in the main from Western analyses of this social thinker. According to al-Wardi, Iraqi society and history become intelligible only when we focus on the determining oscillation between the triumph of biddwa (tribal dominance) in one period and that of hadara (settled/urban mode) in another. Iraq had been constantly exposed to the badiya (desert raids and bedouin domination) and thus persistently subjected to its raids and dominance. And although other Arab societies share in the same experience as Iraq in this constant exposure to the badiya, what makes Iraq's case unique is the intensity of the exposure and the swiftness of the oscillation.30 Through this comparison with other Arab societies, al-Wardi had very quickly established the essential separateness of Iraq's historical and social experience, and laid the foundation for a qutri nationalism which separates Iraq from all others in the region. And yet Iraq is not deprived of its legitimate place in the larger Arab society. Now that he had retained a place for Iraq in the larger Arab identity, alWardi is faced with an epistemological problem, namely, how to differentiate among all other societies that had experienced the same phenomenon and the Arab-Iraqi variety. He starts by stating that all other societies (including the Chinese, his example) had experienced the same phenomenon intermittently. The uniqueness of the Arab case is attributed, by our author, to the continuity of exposure to the conflict between hadara and bidawa which took place in oases. Once he had established this contrast, al-Wardi concludes with the following non sequitur: ". . . it will be hard for us to appreciate the unique features by which Arab society can be differentiated from others if we view al-bidawa as a manifestation which it shares with other human societies" (p. 18). His scientific solution takes the form of founding an Arab sociology. From this summary of his main argument, it should be quite obvious by now that al-Wardi's attempt at

196

Rifaat Ali Abou-El-Haj

specification and differentiation led him to opt for the unique first in Iraqi and then Arab society. Thereafter he makes out of this a pattern. This pattern is made to serve as a premise for the next logical step: the clarification and explanation of the unique phenomenon which in its own turn requires the invention of a commensurately unique and especially designed science. Although the author may have thought that this manner of reasoning was the only one open to him, he is nevertheless caught in a circular argument. Al-Wardi's troubles begin when he converts essentially secondary forces (bidawa and hadara) into primary ones. This displacement blocks from the discourse the forces that actually contribute toward the process of bidawa as opposed to those which in turn favor the return to al-hadara. Since he focuses on the symptoms, that is, the secondary forces, al-Wardi is forced into examining first the ever more peculiar oddities (what I earlier called unique) in Iraqi society as distinct from Arab ones and then the peculiarities and oddities of those latter societies in order to further differentiate them from all others. For his own argument this emphasis and the consequent analysis provide a major advantage. Al-Wardi, like Anis, absolves himself of the necessity of having to study the immediate and specific historical context for the development of "Iraqi" society, that is, the Ottoman and late Ottoman periods. Had he done that, he would have had to account for the secondary social formations that existed at the time of the creation of the modern Iraqi state and account for the changes in these same formations. They would have supplied a concrete and specific background for a better understanding of Iraqi society in the twentieth century. Furthermore, whereas al-Wardi sees only conflict between the urban and the tribal, sufficient historical evidence exists for the formation of political understandings, yes, even actual alliances, between these two secondary formations at various important junctures of Ottoman provincial history in Iraq, as elsewhere in Ottoman domains. Finally, although al-Wardi has abandoned science by focusing on the secondary dynamic, what was achieved by his logical, though circular, argument? He had succeeded in maintaining a political premise with which he must have started, namely, of Iraqi society as a unique and distinct society with unique social and historical experiences that separate it from the larger Arab one.31This specialness helps to explain the differentiated "identity," the Iraqi state, and perhaps even the Iraqi nation. Had the author left off at this point of argumentation, he would have been dismissed as someone who had succumbed to a qutrTideology. To forestall this possible "misunderstanding,"he patches up his argument with what appears to be at most an istidrak (afterthought). Now Iraqi society is placed back into the larger Arab one, having shared in the same historical and continuous interplay between al-bidawa and al-hadara. Although experiencing it at a different degree of intensity, it is this common experience which allows for the common Arab identity. The degree of intensity of this exposure experienced by Arab society at large is so much greater than that experienced by all other societies that in the end it contributes to the formation of a different society. With this conclusion, al-Wardi could not so easily be dismissed as an Iraqi

Recent Arab Historiography of Ottoman Rule

197

provincial nationalist, since he has asserted his loyalty to the essential unity of the larger Arab one. In conclusion, to call Anis's and al-Wardi's work derivative because they depend on imported secondary and tertiary scholarship, even as they do on their own primary research, does not advance our understanding of why this scholarship is produced. Surely no one would want to argue absurdly that the denigration of the importance for Egyptian history and historiography of the Ottoman period is attributable to an inherent inability of a modern native Egyptian or Iraqi to master the Ottoman Turkish language in explanation of the neglect of Ottoman and Turkish sources in favor of Western secondary works as a guide to the study of Arab provincial history. A more useful approach would perhaps be to view the dependent scholarship less as one of importation and more as one that meets local needs, thereby becoming for some Arab social scientists and historians a creative, but projected, means for understanding their society and by extension themselves, that is, in defining their identity. Furthermore, the choice by Anis and al-Wardi of a historiography and social science that are liberal and Western is neither accidental nor capricious.32Certain kinds of modern Arab social science, two of which I have sampled for close analysis, share the same social and political purposes as those of their model, the justification of the existing order. Since the goal in both cases is to uphold the contemporary nation-state, I suggest that instead of one being derivative of the other, the two are products of one and the same social dynamic, that we view them as complementary of each other. In other words, when it comes to evaluating the transfer of scholarship what we are witness to is a creative expropriation, here specifically of a system of explanation, based, however, on local roots and having its own internal dynamics. This approach would emphasize less the phenomenon of importation and imitation and more the imminent appropriateness of the role of the same social class in two nearly comparable societies. To each in its own context, then, the similar scholarship serves a similar ideology: it defines its identity and justifies the commanding position a particular class had attained across national lines. In these senses then, the scholarship itself serves as a historical source, which should provide insights into the contemporary social context of its production. If these analytical observations are correct, we are bound to alter a standard, though general, hypothesis on the dynamics for the expropriation of the particular scholarship studied. It has been described as derivative and imitative, exhibiting all the features of a dependency. This is, at least, the way modernization theory would have it. One main premise of this theory assigns to the outside model a primary role for change. In this process of attaching so great a significance to the external inspiration, the internal dynamics for its acquisition are at best obscured. Modernization theory reflects a further mystification, what can at best be called the idealist distortion. It assigns a primary and generative force to ideas and then requires that these take hold without regard to either their historical origins and purposes or their local suitability. Accordingly, for Near Eastern

198

Rifaat Ali Abou-El-Haj

societies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, change is attributed ahistorically to the passive adoption of "modern" knowledge. Without diminishing the importance of the external origins of the model, the approach proposed in this study first reassigns significance to the local dynamics for the scholarship's expropriation, then seeks to identify its sponsors, and expose their motives. With its main emphasis on the inevitable ascendance of the nation-state, recent Arab scholarship provides us with a clue to its sponsors and their motives. Here it is proposed that the scholarship has to be understood as forming part of the literary and cultural production that supports the ideology of a beneficiary class. Simply put, as part of the ideology, the scholarship justifies the class's claims to hold and exercise power through the modern nation-state. Given the general nature of this utility it becomes obvious that its usage is neither uniquely peculiar to nor is it especially particular to recent Arab scholarship. In the region, it can be seen in recent social scientific and historical scholarship produced, among others in Turkey and Iran.
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA NOTES Author's note: My work on this project has been supported by a Summer Fellowship from The California State University Foundation, Long Beach, and research leave in the form of partial released time from teaching assignments from The University since 1978. Some of the ideas developed here were presented to a social science colloquium at the University of California, Berkeley, in April, 1980. Readers who are familiar with the work of Eric J. Hobsbawm (among others, "The Social Function of the Past," Past and Present [Oxford, 1972], no. 55) and that of Abdullah Laroui (The Crisis of the Arab Intellectual [Berkeley, 1974], The History of the Maghrib [Princeton, 1977], and others) will immediately recognize my indebtedness to these authors and to their scholarship. For their critical reading and valuable suggestions at various stages of the development of this study, I am especially grateful to Barbara F. Abou-El-Haj, Raymond Lindgren, Talal Asad, Peter Gran, Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid-Marsot, Heath Lowry, Andreas Tietze, Suleyman Khalaf, Yves Schemeil, and Frej Stambuli. David C. Gordon (Self-Determination and History in the Third World [Princeton, 1971]) purports to include the scholarship of the Arab world in his assessment of the uses of history. The author, who is an American trained in the main as a European historian, is limited to French and English as his research tools. As a consequence his treatment is confined to secondary works in these two languages along with a limited amount of oral interviews with historians in Lebanon and Algeria. The ideological uses of recent Arab history and social science of the Ottoman period are not specifically treated. The work is limited not only by its lack of reference to any scholarhip in Arabic, but also by the fact that it is outdated. 'The assessment of the scientific value, utility, and attainment of this scholarship are not the main focus of this study. Elsewhere I have critically assessed for Libyan history of the Ottoman period some of the existing recent scholarship in Arabic and suggested in outline an alternative program of research ("An Agenda for Rewriting Libyan History of the Ottoman Period," Majallat al-Buhuth alTarTkhiyya [Tripoli, 1979], 1.2, 65-83). In "The Future Arab Personality between Communalism and Individualism," Man and Society in the Arab Gulf (Basra, 1979), III, 79-87, I assessed some of the ahistorical work done in Arabic in the social sciences (especially psychology and sociology of the "Arab personality"). - Work on this study is still in progress. When completed it will reflect the assessment of the whole range of the scholarship and the exploration step by step of alternative and practical models for

Recent Arab Historiography of Ottoman Rule

199

research with examples illustrating the multifaceted uses of the heretofore unused archival, primary, and other sources in both Arabic and Ottoman Turkish among other languages. 2My first encounter with the attitude that the study of Ottoman history was of little consequence to early modern and modern Arab history occurred when I was a graduate student in the mid-1950s. Nabih Faris, then dean of Arab historians at The American University, Beirut, an American-trained Ph.D. in history and visiting professor at Princeton, questioned the usefulness for someone of Arab descent devoting his graduate education to the study of Ottoman history. 3This chronological approach was offered by Professor Abdul-'Aziz al-Diri in a public lecture which he gave at the University of Jordan (the text was published in the progressive journal, Dirdsat 'Arabiyya (Beirut), 9,2 (1972). He draws a fairly accurate picture of the status of research and historical scholarship on the Arab world by Arabs, pointing out that there is a dearth of"new ideas." He attributes the gap in part to a lack of opportunity for research at the university level, concluding that the way for Arab historians to shed the mantle of imitation and repetition of imported ideas is to mandate and support research at the universities. Moral exhortation in and of itself, however, does not explain why inferior and derivative scholarship continues to be produced. 4Although until recently the Young Turks had been viewed as a progressive movement, or by some scholars even as a revolutionary one, new research is beginning to force us to revise these interpretations. For example, Donald Quataert showed that the Young Turks came into power in the midst of an economic and social upheaval especially in Anatolia. Their removal of Abdul-Hamid could thus be interpreted as a defensive gesture to stem the tide of social revolution which could have threatened their status as members of the ruling elite. Quataert's work was reported at the Fall 1978 meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with comments by R. A. Abou-El-Haj (notice in MESA Bulletin (July, 1979), pp. 22-29. 5For a handy and compact study see Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, The Arab Rediscovery of Europe (Princeton, 1963); Zeine N. Zeine, The Emergence of Arab Nationalism (Beirut, 1966). 6In the West, most of the centers for the study of the Middle East had focused in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s on either the classical Islamic period or on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Precluded was study of the history of the Ottoman Arab provinces. Those who wished to be trained in that period had to fend for themselves, with disastrous results in most instances. 7On folklore, e.g., al-Turdth al-Sha'bi (Folkloric Heritage), published in Baghdad since 1970. 81rmingard Staeuble (Free University, Berlin), "Some Consideration on the Formation of Psychology," paper delivered at the XV International Congress of the History of Science, Edinburgh, August, 1977. 9Edward Said, Orientalism (New York, 1978) is mainly concerned with Western internal (even psychological) reasons for the adoption of the Orientalist and modernization paradigms. He does not treat the internal dynamics for the adoption by Near Eastern scholars of the Orientalist approach. In a recent, wide-ranging critique of Said's study, Sadik Jalal al-'Azm singles out for description the phenomenon of adoption by Near Eastern Arab intellectuals (e.g., Anouar, Abdul-Malek, Adonis, among others) of what he calls Ontological Orientalism in Reverse (i.e., essentialist view) as a means by which to understand their own societies. For leaving this phenomenon out of his study Said is faulted. The author does point out that Said himself at some points in his study actually resorts to these so-called essentialist Orientalist categories of thinking. Al-'Azm himself, however, neither ties the expropriation of the Orientalist paradigm for understanding of history and self to Near Eastern internal, specific, social dynamics, nor delineates its specific ideological purposes ("Orientalism and Orientalism in Reverse," Khamsin, 4 (1981), 5-26. ]?Elsewhere (see n. 1, above) I have written an alternative model for a research program for rewriting the history of one of the Arab Ottoman provinces. "On the role of the historical moment in the shaping of the historian and his writings, see E. H. Carr, What Is History? (New York, 1962). '2Started publication in 1975, at Baghdad. 3Started publication in 1973 at Tripoli, Libya. '4Started publication in 1978 by the Centre for Arab Unity Studies, Beirut. l5Sa'd ad-DTn Ibrahim, "Ittijahat al-Ra'! al-'Am al-'Arabi nahwa 'Aqabat al-Wihda ..." (Tendencies in the General Arab Attitudes toward the Obstacles for (Arab) Unity . ..) al-Mustaqbal al'ArabT, 14 (1980), 6-21 and subsequent issues.

200

Rifaat Ali Abou-El-Haj

'6The UAH has published the journal al-Mu'arikh al-'ArabT in Baghdad since 1973. T7Nabiyyaal-Isfahani, "Tatawur al-Haraka al-Siyasiyya fi Mintaqat al-Maghreb al-'Arabi" (Development of the Political Movement in the Arab Maghreb," al-Mustaqbal al-'ArabT,14 (1980), 82-98, esp. p. 95. '8E.g., see the work of the Tunisian historian, Abdul-Jalil al-Tamimi. '9A. J. Toynbee, A Study of History (Oxford, 1951-1955). 2?Thereis a general survey of critics of Toynbee in Arabic by Jamal Z. Kasem, "Arnuld Toynbi wa nuqadihi," Majallatal-Buhuth wal-DirJsat al-'Arabiyya, 9 (1978), 221-244. Kasem explains that Toynbee's hostility to nationalism is attributable to "his humanism [and] comes out quite clearly in his attack on nationalism" (p. 239, n. 22). 2Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. VII (1954). 22Ibid., table iv, after p. 772, where he has a chart of the seven religions and their derivatives. 23A. Sousa and H. Tikrit, eds., A. J. Tornbee Presentation Volume (Baghdad, 1979). 2Muhammad Anis, Madrast al-Tarikh al-MisrTfil-cAsr al-'Uthmana (Cairo, 1962), esp. pp. 10 ff. 25Ibid., pp. 8, 36-37. 26For al-'Attar see Peter Gran, Islamic Roots of Capitalism (Austin, 1979). Al-Khafaji's full name is Shihab ad-Din Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Omar al-Khafaji. His autobiography can be found in his work, Riihanatal-'Albdb wa-Zahrat al-Hayatul-Dunyd, Abdul-Fattah M. al-Hilu, ed. (Cairo, 1967). This is but one of twenty known "publications" by Khafaji. An unpublished version of the "Rihanat" is in the Manuscripts Collection of the University of California, Los Angeles, Collection 898, MS 177, which has some significant variants from the Cairo edition. (I am grateful to Andreas Tietze for having drawn my attention to this manuscript.) Incidentally, at no point does al-Khafaji identify himself as an "Egyptian." At one point he differentiates between people in terms of how well they had mastered the Arabic language. His name can be found in two Ottoman biographical dictionaries: in printed version in Mehmed Suireyya,Sijil-i Osmani (Istanbul 1308/1890-91), III, 176-177, and in a major unpublished one, Shaykhi, "Vekay' ul-fuzela," Vienna, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, H.O. 126, vol. I, ff. 140a-b. 27Themost recent of the consequences of this type of thinking can be found in the quasi popular and pseudohistorical works of H. Fawzi, al-Sindibdd al-MisrT(Cairo, 1961), and A. Sadat, In Search of an Identity (New York, 1978). Although neither author would claim his study to be a work of scholarship, both present their studies as historical analysis of the uniqueness of Egyptian history, and are meant to be a justification of Egypt's separate identity and nationality. Fawzi visited Jerusalem recently and delivered a lecture on "The Continuity of the Egyptian Personality," subsequently published in The Jerusalem Quarterly (1980). This lecture, its place of publication, and the implied revival of separatism and the revival of a qutri nationalism and identity have come as a logical expression of the unilateral trends that the Camp David Agreements represent. The new departure which this trend has started is the more drastic when it is recalled that Egypt had been in recent history in the vanguard, championing a united Arab nation and identity. In a different context, but along somewhat parallel lines, Anouar Abdul-Malik treats Egyptian history mainly in terms of the continuities it displays rather than the dynamics of the historical moment for the continuity. The most recent rendition of this view was expressed in December, 1980. See al-Mustaqbal al-'Arabl, 22 (1980), 135-139. 28Alial-Wardi, Dirasat fi tabiCatal-Mujtama' al-'Iraqi (A Study of the Nature of Iraqi Society: A Preliminary Attempt at the Study of the Larger Arab Society in Light of Modern Sociology) (Baghdad, 1965). The long title reflects al-Wardi's purposes. 29Al-Wardi wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Ibn Khaldun in 1950 for the University of Texas. Later he published Mantiq ibn Khaldun fi Dawn Hadaratih wa-Shakhsiyyatih (Ibn Khaldun's Logic in Light of His Culture and His Personality) (Cairo, 1962). In a monumental series (six volumes, some with supplementary volumes) al-Wardi tries to give a panoramic view through a synopsis of mainly historical episodes illustrating the differentiation of Iraqi society from others. In the introductory volume, which sets the tone for the rest, the author resorts to ad hoc and commonsensical explanations. Again no historical explanations are given for the persistence of "tribal practices." The introduction seems to be based on late nineteenth- and twentieth-century hearsay. Volume I is based on S. H. Longrigg, J. K. Birge, E. S. Creasy, C. Brockelmann, and E. G. Browne (idem, Lamahat I/tima'iyyah min Tarrkh al-'lraq al-Hadith [Baghdad, 1972-1979]).

Recent Arab Historiography of Ottoman Rule

201

30Al-Wardi, Dirasat, pp. 18 ff. Although he bewails the dependence of other scholars on external models and categories of thinking for their studies, al-Wardi himself is not averse to using them himself, expecially Toynbee and William Willcox. 3Discussion of al-Wardi's treatment of Iraqi society in Ahmad Abu-Zayd, "Kabil wa Habil: Qisat al-sirac al-hadar wal-bidawa fil-'Alam al'ArabT" (Abel and Cain: The Story of the Conflict between the Settled and the Nomad in the Arab World), Majallat Ma'had al-Buhuth wal-Dirdsat al'Arabivyah (Cairo), 1, 1-2 (1961), 339-420. 32Thecommonalities and the complementarities could perhaps best be illustrated by the focus of a whole generation of Western scholars on Muslim and Arab liberals and on the "liberal age" of Arab history. To my mind, at least, the incisiveness and insights of these studies come as much from the understanding of self by these scholars as from an understanding of the very limited number of their counterparts and fellow liberals in modern Arab history. What I have in mind are Western scholars who have as their primary focus the study of such figures as Abdo and Afghani. Albert Hourani, to his great credit, has begun to disengage from the relevance and importance that his book Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age had given to liberals and the faith in liberalism. In a lecture given in Los Angeles late in the 1970s, he voiced his growing doubts about the significance or relevance of the liberal focus in his own research. His host, assuming that Hourani was merely being modest, began to remonstrate with him in public about the continued relevance of Mr. Hourani's liberal focus for the understanding of modern Arab history.