Info

thought and behaviour, before the middle of the nineteenth century when the provisions of Islamic law were increasingly replaced by new ideas adopted from the man-made law, which was intended to free the protected non-Muslims, the dhimmis, and to make them full citizens, muwâtînûm. The administrative and legal reforms of the Ottoman Empire, known as the Tanzimat, culminating in the edicts of 1839 and 1856, established equality before the law for all of the sultan's subjects, though it was the final abolition of the jizyâ in 1855 that is commonly considered to have formalised the full integration of the Copts into Egyptian society They participated in the parliament of Khedive Isma'îl, were well represented in the administration, and generally supported the 'Urabi rebellion. Yet, the relations between Copts and Muslims, between Copts and the state, were not quite as harmonious as some writers have suggested. Muhammad All did not send a single Copt on his student missions to Europe. In fact, some of his educational programmes were set up specifically to break the Coptic monopoly in the government departments of land survey and revenue collection. Although the Copts were pleased with the abolition of the jizyâ, they opposed being drafted to serve in the army; this was seen as an islamising measure.11 Fifty years later, the 'Revolution of 1919' seemed to signal the victory of equality and national unity over religious separatism.

A survey of the long process of arabisation and islamisation of Egypt shows a regional distribution of Copts, who canbe found in smallpockets surrounded by areas where Christianity is almost non-existent or in predominantly Christian areas.12 This distribution dates back to the early conquest when large areas were systematically cleared of Christians.13 By the fifteenth century the islamisation movement had come to an end and the Coptic Church entered a long period of hibernation that was to last until the mid-nineteenth century.

From the mid-seventeenth century onwards there is a relative abundance of data on the numbers of Christians in Egypt. The various estimates are as follows: James of Verona in 1335 - some 30,000 tribute-paying Christians; Prosper Alpin in 1530 - 50,000 Christians; Dapper in 1668 - 100,000 Christians; Vansleb in 1673 - 10,000 or according to the patriarch at most 15,000 Copts paying tribute; Benoît de Maillet around 1700 - more than 30,000 Copts; the Jesuit Maucollet in 1710 - 40,000 Copts. There are three more figures for the

11 A. Schlicht, 'Les chrétiens en Egypte sous Mehemmet Ali', Le Monde Copte 6 (1979), 44-51.

12 M. Martin, 'Le Delta chrétien a la fin du XIIIe siècle', OCP 63 (1997), 181-99; Martin, 'La province d'Asmünayn: historique de sa configuration religieuse', Annales Islamologiques

13 M. Martin, 'Note sur la communauté copte entre 1650-1850', Annales Islamologiques 18 (1982), 194-202.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment