Courtesy Reuters

IT IS related that Abdul Malik ibn Merwan was reading the Koran when he received news of his succession as ruler of the Arab Empire (A.D. 685). Closing the sacred book, he said regretfully, "This means a parting between me and thee!"

Thus early, if apocryphally, did Muslims discover that the demands of their faith and the necessities of practical affairs might stand in conflict. Many times in subsequent generations this lesson was repeated. In every age and area, the role of Islam has been affected by contemporary political movements, national policies, economic needs and cultural patterns. An eminent Muslim scholar has said that Islamic history can only be understood as a constant tension between the "ruling institution" (politics, economics, society) and the "religious institution" (law, theology, savants).

This tension is particularly acute in the Middle East today. The same forces of modernity that have reshaped our Western world are

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  • JOHN S. BADEAU, President of the Near East Foundation; President of the American University in Cairo, 1945-53; author of "The Emergence of Modern Egypt" and "The Lands Between"
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