Islam and the Politics of Secularism: The Caliphate and Middle Eastern Modernization in the Early 20th Century, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Islam and the Politics of Secularism

The Caliphate and Middle Eastern Modernization in the Early 20th Century, 1st Edition

By Nurullah Ardic


394 pages | 12 B/W Illus.

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This book examines the process of secularization in the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th century through an analysis of the transformation and abolition of Islamic Caliphate. Focusing on debates in both the center of the Caliphate and its periphery, the author argues that the relationship between Islam and secularism was one of accommodation, rather than simply conflict and confrontation, because Islam was the single most important source of legitimation in the modernization of the Middle East.

Through detailed analysis of both official documents and the writings of the intellectuals who contributed to reforms in the Empire, the author first examines the general secularization process in the Ottoman Empire from the late 18th century up to the end of the 1920s. He then presents an in-depth analysis of a crucial case of secularization: the demise of Islamic Caliphate. Drawing upon a wide range of secondary and primary sources on the Caliphate and the wider process of political modernization, he employs discourse analysis and comparative-historical methods to examine how the Caliphate was first transformed into a "spiritual" institution and then abolished in 1924 by Turkish secularists. Ardıç also demonstrates how the book’s argument is applicable to wider secularization and modernization processes in the Middle East.

Deriving insights from history, anthropology, Islamic law and political science, the book will engage a critical mass of scholars interested in Middle Eastern studies, political Islam, secularization and the near-global revival of religion as well as the historians of Islam and late-Ottoman Empire, and those working in the field of historical sociology and the sociology of religion as a case study.


Dealing with two contested issues—secularization and the caliphate—in modern Islamic history in his engaging and stimulating book, Nurullah Ardiç argues that Islam was the single most important source of legitimation and the main force shaping political and cultural developments in the modernization process in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries within the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic.


It is a comprehensive and well-documented text, which sets high standards for future scholars working on secularism in the Middle Eastern and the significance of the caliphate in Islamic history. Needless to say, it is also a relevant book for understanding the complex relationship between religion and politics in modern Turkey and for contemporary debates on the caliphate in the Islamic world, including the one based on ISIL’s claim. As such, the book will be of great interest to scholars in Middle Eastern studies, Ottoman studies, secularization and modernization studies, and the sociology of religion.

Cengiz Sisman PhD

Furman University

Journal of International and Global Studies April 2015

Table of Contents

1. Islam, Politics and Secularization 2. Modernization, Religion and the Ottomans 3. The Caliphate Question: Historical and Discursive Context 4. Secularization in the Caliphal Center (1908-1916) 5. Colonization in the Caliphal Periphery (1914-1920) 6. Abolition of the Caliphate: Secular Reform, Religious Justification (1919-1924) 7. Islam and Modernity: Confrontation or Accommodation?

About the Author

Nurullah Ardiç is an assistant professor of sociology at Istanbul Sehir University, Turkey. His research focuses on religion and politics in the Middle East, Ottoman-Turkish modernization, social theory, and globalization, using historical-comparative and discourse analysis methods.

About the Series

SOAS/Routledge Studies on the Middle East

This series features the latest disciplinary approaches to Middle Eastern Studies. It covers the Social Sciences and the Humanities in both the pre-modern and modern periods of the region. While primarily interested in publishing single-authored studies, the series is also open to edited volumes on innovative topics, as well as textbooks and reference works.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century
HISTORY / Middle East / Turkey & Ottoman Empire
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies