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UNIT 17: Ideas Shape the World

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VIDEO SEGMENT: Islamic Revitalization Movements

Sometimes, new ideas emerge that urge a return to older ideals rather than novel revolutionary change. This segment explores this phenomenon through the example of Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, an Arabian Islamic cleric of the eighteenth century.

Al-Wahhab came to believe that Islam had fallen into a degraded state, and that it needed to be returned to its original pure state. This return, he argued, could only be accomplished by focusing on the words and principles of the prophet Muhammad as told in the Koran. Like Franklin and Bolivar, al-Wahhab's beliefs were shaped by his education and by two decades of travel, that he witnessed first-hand what he believed to be a lack of piety among many Muslims.

By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, al-Wahhab's ideas had gained a wide following. Pilgrims who encountered al-Wahhab's ideas at Mecca then transmitted them to their home cultures in places as diverse as Indonesia, India, and West Africa. In these new settings, Wahhabism was creatively adapted to local realities.

One of these adaptations was led by the Muslim cleric Usman dan Fodio in what is now Nigeria. Dan Fodio's mission to purify Islam and to wage holy war on unbelievers led to a revolt that overthrew the ruling class and established a confederation of Islamic states in the early 1800s. The revolt was just one example of the ways that ideas generated in one place could inspire revolutionary change in another.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous, TOWER OF AGADEZ MOSQUE, NIGER (n.d.). Copyright 2003 Oregon Public Broadcasting and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Anonymous, MUSLIM MUEZZIN CALLING PEOPLE TO PRAYER (n.d.). Courtesy of Northwind Picture Archives.


Abdullah Frères, EXTERIOR VIEW OF THE AYASOFYA CAMII (MOSQUE) (1880). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Hot Pepper Studios, created for Bridging World History, THE NAJ REGION, THE SITE OF THE RISE OF THE ISLAMIC REFORMIST MOVEMENT, WAHHABISM (2004) Courtesy of Oregon Public Broadcasting.



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