Islam Assembled

Islam Assembled: The Advent of the Muslim Congresses, is Martin Kramer’s study of the early pan-Islamic congresses. The book originated as Kramer’s 1981 doctoral dissertation in Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies. Columbia University Press published the book in 1986. For the full text, go here.

From the book jacket:

Late in the nineteenth century, Muslims, separated by distance, language, and history, first thought to make their world whole by assembling in congress. This pathbreaking study is the first to trace the roots of political activism in Islam as it took form in these gatherings. As though he himself were seated at the conference tables, Martin Kramer presents Islam’s inner dialogue, relating in these pages what Muslims have said in confidence about their modern predicament and the challenge of the West.

Kramer sets out to trace the congress idea through its earliest evolution, to examine in depth the first and largely unsuccessful initiatives, and to assess the congresses convened between the two world wars. In the course of his study he brings out the central theme of the congresses: the persistence of Muslim attachment to the political concepts of a united Islam, even as Muslim empire and caliphate waned.

Essential to any understanding of the worldwide crisis in Islam today, Islam Assembled explores for the first time the moment when Muslims first equated the sheer expanse of Islam with power in the modern world.

From reviews:

“The congresses were connected with outstanding developments in modern Middle East history, developments still only imperfectly analyzed, largely because of the staggering problem of sources. Therein is Kramer’s enormous contribution. His mastery of the scholarship and the sources—published, archival, and private; Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, English, French, Russian, German—is amazing. His book must be consulted by anyone approaching almost any major current in Middle Eastern history from the 1870s to the 1940s.”

—C. Ernest Dawn, Middle East Journal

“Not only is the subject fascinating in itself but the intricate personal details of the actors involved in this drama, with which the historical narrative is vividly brought to our attention, lend a special appeal to this book. No doubt, many of the secret dossiers of both the Israeli and the British Intelligence services have been made available to the American author—whose access would certainly have been denied to a Muslim researcher—and he has done a splendid job for his patrons! And since it is as close as a Muslim is ever likely to come to these secret files, Kramer’s book must be judiciously studied by contemporary Muslim ‘cosmopolitans.'”

Muslim World Book Review

The following are the chapters in the book.


ONE: The Cosmopolitan Milieu: Pan-Islamic Ideals
Examines the reasons for the emergence of pan-Islamic sentiment in the late Ottoman period.

TWO: A Challenge to Authority: The Congress Idea
The first calls for a pan-Islamic congress emanated at the end of the nineteenth century from Ottoman and Persian dissidents, and even from an Englishman, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt.

THREE: An Idea Refined: First Proposals from Cairo
The Syrian reformers Rashid Rida and Abd al-Rahman Kawakibi made the first concrete proposals. The idea had strong anti-Ottoman associations.

FOUR: A Practical Plan: The Gasprinskii Initiative of 1907 and Sequel
Gasprinskii, a Crimean Tatar, came to Cairo to launch a plan for a congress. Imperial powers and the Ottomans succeeded in blocking the initiative.

FIVE: Holy War: Wartime Initiatives
In World War One, the Ottoman sultan declared jihad against the Allies. As the last great Muslim empire crumbled, leading Muslims proposed congresses, either to prop it up, or to replace it.

SIX: Between Bolshevism and Islam: The League of Islamic Revolutionary Societies, 1920-1921
The defeated Young Turks linked up with the Bolsheviks in an attempt to create a kind of Islamic Comintern.

SEVEN: Kemalist Turkey and Muslim Empire: The Society of Unitarians and Aftermath, 1919-1923
Mustafa Kemal, before creating a secular Turkish republic, tried to mobilize the Islamic world against the Western powers.

EIGHT: New Caliph in Arabia: The Pilgrimage Congress, 1924
When Turkey abolished the caliphate, King Husayn of the Hijaz had himself declared caliph, and convened this congress to validate his claims.

NINE: The Caliphate Grail: The General Islamic Congress for the Caliphate in Egypt, 1926
King Fuad of Egypt also coveted the caliphate, and convened this congress to lay a foundation for a claim. Instead, the result deterred him.

TEN: The Fate of Mecca: The Congress of the Islamic World, 1926
Ibn Saud’s conquest of Mecca sent waves of panic through the Muslim world. This congress was meant to legitimize Saudi rule over Islam’s holy places.

ELEVEN: In Defense of Jerusalem: The General Islamic Congress, 1931
The Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, sought pan-Islamic support against Zionism. This congress first made Palestine a pan-Islamic cause.

TWELVE: Swiss Exile: The European Muslim Congress, 1935
Shakib Arslan convened this first-ever congress of European Muslims as a demonstration against Anglo-French imperialism.

THIRTEEN: Congresses of Collaboration: Islam and the Axis, 1938-1945
Pan-Islamic activists sided with Nazi Germany and Japan in the war, and organized congresses and associations under Axis auspices.

FOURTEEN: Conclusions