During the 20th century Muslim leaders in South Asia, as well as North Africa, were forced to confront numerous issues in defining their nationalism, nationalism in general being a hotly debated issue (doc 2). By the late 19th and early 20th century the Muslim world began to loose cultural and political sovereignty to Western Christian occupiers. These Europeans gained more sovereignty as a result of trade, technology, and modernization. Even though each European power eventually gave up it’s colonies, Islamists began to wonder about the threat of increasing Western success and continual Islamic inferiority. Multiple responses were taken to the important issue of whether Western ideas, such as nationalism, should be adapted or discarded, and how exactly one should go about the execution of each resolution.
Western colonialism was quickly contributing to Muslim decline, but many turned to it as the only means of survival (doc 1, doc 4). Islamic modernists sought to reach a place of success in between adaptation and rejection of Western ways (doc 4). They saw the thriving European nations and knew the only way to stay at the same level was to use the same techniques (doc 1).
But some went even farther: while to the grand majority of Islamists the study of the Muslim faith represented the bringing back of truth and prosperity (doc 5), others were passionate about the need to make the nation more important than religion, “Our Egyptian-ness demands that our fatherlands be our qibla* and that we not turn our face to any other,” (doc 2).
“If the choice were to lie between giving up and preserving Islam, I would have unhesitatingly chosen Islam. That, however, is not the choice,” (doc 1). Contrary to Ahmad Lutfi as Sayyid (doc 2), Syed Ahmed Khan’s views represent the fact that many Muslim scholars saw the success in Western innovation. He points out that Muslims can easily select the Western ideas that would apply to Islamic success without destroying Muslim principles. In fact he points out that this is direly important to Islamic survival.
New views and plans for society such as Nationalism and Modernism were growing more and more popular during the 20th century (doc 5), but along with this popularity came an aggressive push to go back to the old Islamic ways and not succumb to Western pressure or religious stagnancy (doc 3). Modern educated Muslims provided leadership for pro-western idealistic movements. They did not want to incorporate British rule into their countries, rather they wished to implement British ideas into their own societies.
In discussing the various issues Muslim leaders confronted during the 20th Century it is necessary to have some additional documents. Firstly, a large amount of Muslims saw nationalism as a potential rival to Islam, thus more documents pertaining to this view would be helpful in this discussion. Also some supplementary documents concerning military leaders in South Asia would be beneficial.
Islamic leaders responded to the threat of Western Modernism during the 20th in radically different ways. Some argued that Western ideals would ruin the true Muslim Faith, whole others pointed out nationalism could be their only means to thrive in the quickly changing world. Still others sought to find a balance between traditional Muslim ways and successful European principle.