Sharkey’s Empire and Muslim Conversion: Historical Reflections on Christian Missions in Egypt, Kieser’s Mission as A Factor of Change in Turkey (Nineteenth to first half of Twentieth Century) and Erhan’s Ottoman’s Official Attitude Toward American Missionaries and a chapter from Timothy Marr’s work “The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism”, are scholarly enterprises that provides a comprehensive details about some historical phenomenon pertaining to Christian Missionaries, Islamic world and American History.
All these articles refer to missionaries’ activities in the different geographical region within Islamic world but all these indicate similarities in their social and political orientations, their patterns and procedures and their successes and failures.
All the authors have tried to present different aspects of missionary activities in the Islamic world with different approaches of historiography. But mostly all of them have illustrated the Mission’s movements in the Western hemisphere of the Islamic world.
Egypt and Ottoman empire during the 19th century and early 20th century with a brief references to other parts of Islamic world (Mostly Sharkey has provided succinct comparisons with Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia etc.
) hither and thither. Their methodology to explore the historical realities, to analyze the issue and to provide judgments remains different. For example, Sharkey like a distinguished historian approaches the question with professional integrity and objectivity and restrains himself from providing sweeping conclusions about the whole scenario that he has analyzed intensively and extensively.
He only provides the verified and verifiable arguments in support of his thesis and tries to coverall the aspects of evolution of phenomenon of Mission activity, their triumphs and failures and applies these historical judgments to the contemporary situation and ruling tenet of Clash of Civilization. Whereas Hans-Lucas Kieser arguments lucidly without relying much on primary and secondary sources but sometimes he adopts an authoritative stance over some issue without providing any substantial proof.
Although Erhan also mulls over the phenomenon of Missionary activity in the Ottoman Empire but he has considered a specific issue of Ottoman’s official attitudes toward theses Evangelical missions. Other writer like Sharkey and Kieser touch some aspects of Ottoman’s approach and policies toward these missionaries but Erhan discusses these exhaustively along with the diplomatic relations between Ottoman Empire and United States of America in the early 18th century and how these relations affected the American missionaries status in the geographical domain of Ottoman empire.
Timothy Marr postulates his theory first and then draws on far-fetched intellectual arguments to support his thesis. He collects all the historical evidences that can support his thesis and arrange them in a way so that they seem converging on a single point i. e. to draw parallels between major tenets of abolitionist spirit with romantic perception of Islamic world. He takes into account the whole Antebellum period.
The ultimate purposes of all the articles seem to develop an understanding of the patterns and processes of Evangelical missionaries work in the Muslim world and its implications in the contemporary scenario (except Timothy Marr that analyzes the effect of Ismaicism on antislavery movement in America). Sharkey’s work is of great importance in this regard as its intention is to trace down the roots of Missionary activity in the Anglo-American imperialism and to locate the causes of the origin of post-colonial trend of considering these missionaries as neo-crusaders and proponents of anti-Islamic neo-imperialism by the Muslim masses.
Kieser’s article seems to create a justification based on historical facts and figures that Missionaries in the Ottoman empires were “actors of social and mental change”. He tries to subvert the popular Muslim notion that Christian missionaries were carters of anti-Muslim agenda. Erhan’s “Ottoman Official Attitudes Toward American Missionaries” give the impression of a complete intellectual exercise to advance some historical findings.
All the writers have specified a special period of Evangelical missionary activities in a particular geographical location. Sharkey takes into account the Missionary activities in Egypt but does not bind himself to chronological limits. He covers the colonial and post-colonial eras but pays special attention to the imperialistic moves of Anglo-American nations and their correlation with the missionary activities of the Anglo-American Churches.
Kieser consider the activities of ABCFM in the Ottoman Empire especially the Armenian and Assyrian provinces in the 19th century and first half of 20th century. Sharkey, Kieser and Erhan adopts the same argumentative line about the gradual evolution of missionary activity and acknowledged rightfully explained the phenomenon of Missionaries’ premature activities to convert Muslim to the Christianity, their realization of the impossibility of the efforts and diversion to other socio-religious groups and minorities in the same geographical area.
Sharkey says that although Ottoman’s political moves of “liberalism and tolerance” under the Anglo American imperial influence has facilitated the missionary activities but socio-cultural compulsions remained there that hindered the way of missionaries and kept them away from an agenda of conversion. So conversion of majority Muslims was a fruitless effort. So zealous missionaries turned their attention to the Orthodox Christians of the area i. e. to convert native orthodox Coptic Christians to Protestants.
Kieser has analyzed the same pattern of diversion among the missionaries of ABCFM (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions) in Ottoman Empire. He illustrates that “The first Missionaries of ABCFM learnt early on the impossibility of evangelizing the members of Ottoman ummet…Their resistance to conversion was partly due the strong legal an social sanctions against conversions, but not only to that. Like the Jews, for deep historical and psychological reasons, the Muslims remained on the whole impermeable to the enthusiastic approach of the Protestants. ” (Kieser, p. 392-393)
He further asserts that “therefore the ABCFM concentrated its work on the Assyrians, Armenians and Greek minorities and kept in contact with Muslim marginals. ” (p. 393) Erhan takes a different stance and says that the initials efforts of the American missionary were directed toward Jews living at Palestine (p. 316) but soon realized that Jew were “tight-knit religious community and thus largely immune to Christian evangelical activities” ( Erhan, p. 315) But he further illustrates that Christian missionaries were diverted to their fellow Christian with Eastern version of Christianity.
All these writers have assessed the situation precisely as Quranic injunctions and “Shariah’s” rulings that consider Islam as the final version of divine religions that encompass the teachings and tenets of Christianity and Judaism. These Islamic doctrines further hold that “Murtid” i. e. convert, has no place in Islamic society. These injunctions are psychologically and emotionally absorbed in the Muslims minds so the ultimate result of apostasy was social outcast and in some cases death penalty.