In 1936, Muhammad Husayn Haykal, the Egyptian author on early Islamic history, made his hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. He wrote up his responses to the Pilgrimage and to Sa'udi Arabian in his 1937 "Fi Manzal al-Wahy" (In the Alighting - Place of Revelation). Haykal's interest in the Hijaz and Arabia was primarily religious and antiquarian. Nonetheless, he did pen some interesting responses to the new Sa'udi Arabian society that he encountered in the Hijaz. He voiced something like the dualistic attitudes to social change and modernization there that had characterized his master Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid's responses to the Hijaz so long before in 1911. Lutfi had seen the Ottoman Hamidian railway station in al-Madinah as a conduit and omen for the modernization flowing into Hijaz. He wanted more Hijazi females to get formal Ottoman education: at the same time, he wanted them to maintain their custom of sitting in on mosque lessons for males and applying those lessons in household life. Upper-class Egyptian women had wrongly abandoned that custom and now filled in their time reading morally and linguistically sub-standard translations of European cheap fiction. Lutfi, "Usbu' fil-Madinat al-Munawwah: al-Mar'ah fi Bilad al-'Arab" (A Week in Illuminated Medinah: Women in the Lands of the Arabs [Peninsular Arabia]), "al-Jaridah" 28 August 1911 p. 1].
As always, Haykal in 1936 had in respect to the Hijaz too all the ambivalence of his class to both trading and cultural links to Westerners. On one hand, he felt that Egypt had gained advantages over the peninsular Arabians through stimulation by those Europeans who had traded with Egypt and lived there for more than a century. On the other hand, he resented the extraterritorial capitulations and status of those minorities in his country. For Haykal in 1937, penetration through trade could open the way for political power and conquest by Westerners, leading to the loss of indigenous sovereignty. He voiced this duality of perspectives when responding in 1937 to the new Sa'udi elite's opening of its still very backward territories to Western companies. Negatively, the granting of a concession to an Anglo-American company (Touchell) to extract gold in the Hijaz, and to another to extract oil from al-Ahsa', reminded Haykal of how trade by the East India Company in the Mogul Empire had ushered in Britain's political rule over India. Another part of Haykal expected the entry of foreign companies to entail a later penetration of European civilization, exactly as it had done in Egypt. Maybe Sa'udi Arabia would not be colonized, but the companies would at least bring in "Western civilization in its industrial aspect" and in such manifestations of life as clothing: Western costume would replace Arab dress, he wrongly forecast. Still, Meccan youth who now yearned for such Westernization would later regret its destruction of their land's "magical character" FMW 135-136]. (This was a theme that Haykal's neo-classicist bugbear Mustafa Sadiq al-Rafi'i had been articulating from Lutfi al-Sayyid's daily al-Jaridah since 1907).
In the 1920s, Haykal and his colleagues around "al-Siyasah" had depicted Egypt as a people continuous since its golden age under the Pharaohs. Haykal had been a neo-Pharaonic Egyptian particularist nationalist in that earlier period. A few strands of awareness of Egypt as a political or national unit or entity under classical Islam continued in Haykal's recreation of that historical era after 1930. Thus, in Fi Manzal al-Wahy he was aware of the contribution or impress that Egypt had made to the Arabian Peninsula itself. In reviewing the successive stages of the construction, demolition and rebuilding of Islam's Ka'bah shrine, Haykal noted the contributions of such Egypt-based rulers as Qansuh al-Ghawri: Egypt's "effort towards this architecture surpassed that of any of the other Islamic nations" that also took part in the development of the shrine. Now, though, "pride in my Egyptianity" was ruled out by the joint worship of God in His Ka'bah that fostered love of all the believers, not of specific homelands. Still, Haykal was pleased that those in Mecca thought of Egypt as the "pearl in the crown of this general Islamic world" that preoccupied the worshippers [FMW 204-205]. Contributions by Egyptian rulers (Qaytbay) and craftsmen to al-haram al-nabawi site over the grave of the Prophet in Medinah also pleased Haykal as a particular presence of "the foremost of those with blood-relationship, the sons of the homeland with its Nile and heavens" [FMW 425].
Haykal was aware that Egypt's presence in the Hijaz and in the peninsula generally had been an agent for modernization ever since Muhammad 'Ali established the Egyptian hospice (takiyyah) in Mecca in 1238H near Mecca's Ka'bah mosque (al-Masjid al-Haram); it was renewed by Egypt's Khedive 'Abbas Hilmi II in 1319H (Haykal did not mention the "Arab Caliphate" subversion 'Abbas was pursuing in the Ottoman Empire's Arab provinces through such structures). The Egyptian physicians attached to the hospice had long been offering Hijazis (not just Egyptian pilgrims) food and free modern treatment - the only access many of them had to Western medical methods as against crude local traditional healing. But the hospice also offered Arabians in Mecca a model of the life of Egypt, a country "closer than they to [urban, sedentary] civilization (al-hadarah)" [FMW 139]. For Haykal, the West-stimulated or imposed Westernization that Egypt had undergone had cost her some worthwhile things but had made her more advanced than the peninsular Arab lands in particular, whose modernization Egypt would supervise or model in an unequal relationship that could become hierarchical.
A stratum in Sa'udi society eager to get guidance from such acculturated Muslim Egyptian modernists as Haykal was urban youth. The youth lionized Haykal throughout his stay in Hijazi cities, and he voiced towards them a wryly realistic empathy. Meccan magazines had given some extracts from Egyptian modernist creative literature and scholarly/scienticist journalism/publicists, which mediated for them the West's genres and modernity. In reality, though, the urban Hijazi youth had no clear positive image of "the new life for which they yearn" - understandably, given their limited access to education, and their slight remove from the nomadic, desert provenance of their families. Egypt and other Arabs were ahead of the peninsula's Arabs, but Haykal fostered no illusions about them, either: Egypt and the lands of "the Arab East" in general were still in the age of criticism, and were yet to move on to that of conception and planning/designing (tasmim), although they had taken steps for which disgruntled young Meccans lacked the preconditions. Haykal tended to assess the transforming impact of extra-territorial foreigners and their schools not just for Egypt but considering as a group all Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire: all had faced the presence and influence of the Western states except for the Hijaz and the interior of the Arabian Peninsula [FMW 131, 134].
The Egypt of King Fu'ad still did not have diplomatic relations with the new Sa'udi regime when Haykal penned Fi Manzal al-Wahy. Still, Haykal had a non-critical, friendly stance to the Sa'udi Arabian government, which he noted employed many Egyptians and Syrians among its officials: like Cairo's Syrian Christian press, he saw the Sa'udi regime, despite its punitive religious stances, as an agent for modernization in the peninsula. Ibn Sa'ud's high officials had wanted to build a library where Muhammad was born in atonement of the destruction of 1925, but the 'ulama' of Najd had blocked that, too [FMW 223]. Members of the governing elite, and the rich, in Mecca were already preferring knives and forks and chairs when dining [FMW 131]. Modern communications were increasing the exposure of the Meccans and the whole Sa'udi governing class to the most remote Islamic lands and its peoples, who, with seconded Egyptian and Syrian officals, influenced the elite and youth towards change [FMW 140]. Haykal saw the Hijazi al-Shaykh Hafiz Wahbah, Director of Education in the Hijaz until 1930 and Ibn Sa'ud's representative in London thereafter, as having the regime's support in his drive to bring modern education to the Kingdom.
Haykal was emotionally responsive in his account of the forces for which Wahbah stood and the intense resistance he met from the obscurantist religious scholars of Najd, who had assent from at least the conservative older generation of Hijazis. The Sa'udi religious obscurantists engaged Haykal as an extreme and absurd, more fearsome, parallel for the Azhar-centered 'ulama' who had tried to block the much broader-based modernizing forces in Egypt. The Najdi 'ulama', Haykal ironized, had protested to Wahbah that art classes were prohibited by religion, that foreign languages would introduce the pupils to the corrupt beliefs and sciences of the infidels, and that geography's accounts of the stars and of earth as an orbiting sphere renewed teachings of the ancient Greeks that the early generations of Muslims had ruled out. The upshot, though, was that the King declared his support for the new courses Wahbah was introducing into the primary schools, and Wahbah had no need to convince the 'ulama' that they were not heretical innovations. Haykal quoted from Wahbah's book "The Peninsula of the Arabs in the Twentieth Century", clearly cherishing such pioneer modern educationalists as al-Sayyid Muhammad 'Ali Zayn al-Rida who had opened two schools in Mecca and Jeddah. Haykal respected the tenacity of such Hijazi educationalists in the face of long obstruction from the Hashimite Ashraf of Mecca and the Turks, and after 1925 from odd individuals in Najd's Wahhabi 'ulama', most of whom were of course dynamic and constructive. Yet, the much heavier odds Arabian educational modernizers had faced, and the much more modest results, like the confused and superficial way in which Hijazi youth conceived the modern for which they yearned, underscored for Haykal the differentness and inequality of Sa'udi Arabia as a society vis-a-vis Egypt [FMW 124-125].
Elsewhere - although this motif may have just been a device by him to project his own vanguard views for Islamic reunification - Haykal did indicate that a mature circle or circles existed among "a group of the people of Mecca" (probably = native Hijazis). In conversation with him, this category not just readily took up Haykal's suggestions that macadamized roads be built to link the Hijaz's towns and holy places, and adequate clean drinking water and accommodation madarib be provided for pilgrims - at least one of those Meccan "formulaters of opinion" allegedly called for setting up a modern-type university in al-Ta'if in which "the sons of the land would learn the modern sciences". This Meccan preferred al-Ta'if in order to get around objections from traditionalists to teaching such sciences in Holy Mecca - and this does sound like the voice of a real 1936 modernist Hijazi rather than some motif conjured up by Haykal to embody his own vanguard procedures for pan-Islamic reunification. The Meccan wanted his proposed university to teach the comparative study of Islamic schools/doctrines (madhahib). This phrase could draw in Shi'ism as well as Sunnism's four law schools --- certainly for Haykal who wanted here for all the 400 million Muslims an evolution towards a "synthesising" "modern life" that would draw on both (a) the Qur'an and Muhammad's practice and (b) "intellect and logic" [including Western rationality]. Mecca could become the radiating-point for this modernity that would transform the world's Muslims not just because Muslims of outside provenance wanted to take part in the new institutions but because a dynamic minority of Hijazis/Sa'udis had been eager to launch them for the past decade. Many in the Hijaz had voiced to Haykal the "liberal scientific spirit" needed to build the new types of institutions that would offer "modern life in a form with connection to the past of the Arabian lands and the spirit of correct [ie reformed, non-traditional] Islam" [FMW 144].
Ibn Sa'ud the Statesman
Haykal noted that, following the 1925 conquest, eminent Hijazi 'ulama' and poets had gone into exile in India and Java: they wanted government in the Hijaz to be exercised by its people and a Hijazi King. Haykal was impressed, though, that adroit invitations by Ibn Sa'ud, and the improving conditions in Hijaz, had now drawn many of these "opponents" back from exile: some, like Minister of Education al-Shaykh Tahir al-Dabbagh were now among Ibn Sa'ud's crucial collaborators [FMW 164]. Hijazi youth still griped to Haykal that the Sa'udi state was spending money on things of little consequence, and giving posts to non-Hijazis/non-Arabians (Syrians? Egyptians?. Egyptians in the Hijaz told Haykal that the advent of Ibn Sa'ud had brought unprecedented security to the Hijaz, and that it was shortage of money and of trained officials that constrained the government's reforming activity and construction [FMW 165]. Sa'udi officials told him that wars with neighboring states and with Najdi Wahhabite tribes that rose because Ibn Sa'ud was conciliating the non-puritan Hijazis had left him even
more strapped for cash [FMW 165]. Hijazis heard out Haykal's suggestions that they build dams and storage facilities to catch the irregular desert downpours, but then lamented their lack of the knowledge, the trained work-force and the funds to break out of a desert life that had its satisfactions [FMW 378]. This was the era before the oil-wealth that successive governments of Sa'udi Arabia skillfully applied to transform the face of their country.
Like Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid in 1911, Haykal in his 1936 encounter was disappointed that Hijazis around Ta'if spoke only dense dialects instead of the inflected classical his texts of ancient Arabic literature had led him to hope. Popular poems declaimed for him he found as hard to follow as Upper Egyptian mawwals (short love songs), but he did respond to their representation of desert life. Haykal was aware that there were no state schools like Egypt's to teach correct classical verse and language forms to Hijazi children in such areas as Ta'if, and that bedouin Arabs were resistant to what new schools the cash-strapped Sa'udi regime was starting [FMW 325, 351].
The orientalists like Charles Smith have been wrong to interpret Haykal's "Fi Manzal al-Wahy" as a device to separate Islam from politics. That was so only in certain narrow contexts or functions or in some of his moods. Haykal's 1936 image of a Belief that brought European, African and Asian Muslims - "the people of the whole earth" - together in prayer in Mecca, overriding their divergent languages and races, was a universalist impulse that did not connect with his erstwhile Pharaonist particularism, although it might allow some nationalisms to continue.
Haykal's insistence that this Belief had authority because it only aimed to please God, as an "exalted concept" unsullied by any "aim of this lower life", could bar the politicization of Islam. It could be used by him to stop new Islamic movements from applying Islamic community against the interests of his class or the primacy of his political elite. Making Islamic brotherhood something far-exalted beyond daily politics was almost tailor-made by Haykal to bloc the drive of the new forces to wrest power [FMW 173].
In the 1920s, a decade in which Egyptian particularist nationality was often argued by modernists, Haykal and his paper "al-Siyasah" had articulated very distinguished Arab elements: the nations of the Arab East made up one moral nation. His arguments that elements from classical Islam and modernity taken over from the West could be made symbiotic entailed a view of Muslim history inhospitable to the development of particularist Arab state-entities.
The most open or fluid, creative period of Islam was that in which it had a single strong state. Haykal - or at the least his readers as he perceived them - most prized that earlier period of "the Islamic Nation" when its word commanded wary attention in both the East and the West. It was only when "rebels" split that nation to wrest their own selfish glory and authority that ignorance and rigid orthodoxy overcame the original thinkers [FMW 634]. Haykal's concern here was not international relations (Western imperialism) but his elite's relations with the Islamic elites in Egypt or Arab societies. Still, he had recycled the longstanding periodization of Muslim history by the school of al-Afghani and the followers of Mustafa Kamil that saw later independence by Islamic Egypt as decline. Haykal had invalidated his and Taha's romanticization in the 1920s of rulers who made Egypt independent from the 'Abbasid Empire as expressing the country's discrete nationality. Manzal al-Wahy did not further pose or solidify a specifically Arab nation wider than Egypt: rather, its main community impulse was a cluster or camp of Islamic nations in which Egypt would be set. The Arabo-Islamic community emotions that had balanced Egyptian nationalism in the 1920s now, after 1930, had the much greater space, although Egypt was a "people" to be set in that wide camp. If territorial or state nationalism (Britain, France) is considered at the core of the West that Haykal had known from youth - and he had considered that nationalism so in his first stage - then his shift after 1930 to a potential political Islam camp cut down his previous Western model. A comparable drive to integrate a Christian camp would come to Europe only in the wake of World War II. Haykal did in 1937 make Islam much more of an activist human community and did openly call for the downgrading of ritual devotions, at least when they took too much energy away from uniting Muslims and building their strength.
The "peace" that Haykal wanted all states and peoples to pursue had its clear roots in at least remembered emotions of Islamic rituals. Before circumambulating the Ka'bah [tawaf al-qudum], the worshipper said "Our Lord, peace [and life] comes from you" . Not pragmatic adjustment of material interests of states, but a new consensus by all humanity to believe in one monotheistic God would bring them to peace: this is because such Belief necessitated that a man want for his brother what he wants for himself - it was not a belief founded on propaganda designed to give one sect (ta'ifah) or one people dominance over other sects or peoples. When all humanity agreed on that Belief, all kulluhu religion would be directed to God (cf. Qur'an 2:193). On that day, Mecca as that monotheism's symbol would become the sanctuary (mathabah) for all the nations of the world, and the headquarters for the new League of Nations of all humanity .
Muhammad Husayn Haykal (1888-1956)
Haykal's Response to Sa'udi
Arabia and the Hajj