Islamic revivals arose in Africa. Usman dan Fodio struggled to reform Muslim practices in northern Nigeria. In the Sudan, south of Egypt, Muhammad Ahmad (AHK mud) announced that he was the Mahdi (mahk DEE), the long-awaited savior of the faith. In the 1880s, the Mahdi and his followers fiercely resisted British expansion into the region. In modern Sudan, followers of the Mahdi still have much influence.

Another Islamic reform movement, the Wahhabi (wah HAHB ee) movement in Arabia, rejected the schools of theology and law that had emerged in the Ottoman empire. In their place, they wanted to recapture the purity and simplicity of Muhammad's original teachings.

In a true Islamic society, they declared, the government furthered the goals of Islam. An Arab prince led a Wahhabi revolt against Ottoman rule. Although the revolt was put down, the Wahhabi movement survived. Its teachings remain influential in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia today.

European Imperialism

In addition to internal decay and stresses, the old Muslim empires faced the threat of Western imperialism. Through a mix of diplomacy and military threats, European powers won treaties giving them favorable trading terms. They then demanded special rights for Europeans residing in Muslim lands. They used excuses such as the need to protect their citizens' rights to intervene in local affairs. At times, they took over an entire region.

The Ottoman Empire Declines

At its height, the Ottoman empire extended across the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Eastern Europe. By 1800, however, it faced serious challenges. Ambitious pashas, or provincial rulers, had increased their power. Economic problems and corruption added to Ottoman decay.

Nationalist Revolts

As ideas of nationalism spread from Western Europe, internal revolts weakened the multi-ethnic Ottoman empire. Subject peoples in Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East threatened to break away.

In the Balkans, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, and Romanians gained their independence. Revolts against Ottoman rule also erupted in Arabia, Lebanon, and Armenia. The Ottomans suppressed these uprisings, but another valuable territory, Egypt, slipped out of their control.

A map shows Muslim empires, circa 1700 to 1800.
Image Long Description

Analyze Maps

Western imperialism gained steam at a time when the three major Muslim empires were in decline. In which empire might ethnic diversity have created internal challenges? Why?

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments