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Islamic History B: From the Crusades to the 'Gunpowder Empires'

The Muslims were religiously and politically fragmented during the mid-tenth and eleventh centuries. However, these conditions witnessed profound changes when the Seljuks came onto the scene. The emergence of the Seljuks as the new ruling elite was often called the period of Sunni revival. Sunni Islam became a leading player again after it overthrew the Buyyid Shi’i dynasty in Baghdad and parts of Iran. Moreover, they sponsored Sunni religious institutions and religious scholars until it reached extraordinary heights. The ascetic and mystical movement known as Sufism also gained a much wider popularity and acceptability. In terms of political achievements, the Seljuks were the first Muslim dynasty that successfully conquered a significant part of Anatolia, and opened the new channel for subsequent dynasties to defeat the Eastern Roman Empire in later centuries. However, with new political infrastructure, such as the atabeg system and the shared power among the whole family members, that the Seljuks introduced into the Islamic polity, in a long term, it causes the fragmentation to the consolidation and unity of the state. When looking at the works of various historians, it became clear that these religious and political changes are controversial. Therefore, it is the purpose of this essay in discussing and clarifying these controversies.

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