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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

The Contribution to Islam                   367
been, it has sufficed to indicate the nature of Egypt's con-
tribution. In architecture, ceramics, and textiles the native
craftsmen have excelled, and the products of these arts have
attained a more than local fame, and have indeed, in certain
respects, influenced the development of the arts in other coun-
tries. The periods of greatest achievement were those of the
Fatimids, when Cairo was the capital of a western empire, and
the early Mamluks, after the sack of Bagdad and the dispersal
of the craftsmen of Iraq.
In the later decline of Islamic culture Egypt also shared. A
new age dawned with the advent of European contact and the
establishment of the house of Muhammad ?Ali. This contact
has been a misfortune, hitherto unmitigated, to the practice of
the arts and crafts; but to literature, moribund at the end of
the eighteenth century, it has proved a great stimulus. Theology,
which has fought a defensive battle against the impact of modern
'scientific' thought, has by no means been routed, and scholars
of the calibre of Muhammad 'Abduh (d. 1905) have worked
strenuously to preserve the traditions of the Muslim faith. Great
indeed are the dangers of a cynically materialistic interpretation
of the universe to a people but recently liberated from the
shackles of the Muslim 'dark ages': but it is to be believed that
the spiritual forces which have sustained Islam for over thirteen
centuries, and in particular the mystical insight with which
Egyptians have for all time been endowed, will triumph over
the shocks from which religion the world over has, during these
past decades, been suffering. At all events, it is to Egypt that
the Muslim world turns for leadership in faith as in literature.
Independent Egypt, her political destiny secured by the friend-
ship of the British Commonwealth of Nations, looks forward to
a future bright with possibilities, leading Islam in her religious
and intellectual rebirth, and playing her part in laying the
foundations of international understanding, co-operation, and
peace.                                                           A. J. ARBERRY