This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book explores the complex constellations of meanings and networks that shaped Muslim reactions to the remarkably unexpected disappearance of an Islamic caliphate in the thirteenth and twentieth centuries. It probes the collective memories encircling the caliphate, as an institution enmeshed with the early history of Islam, which circulated widely across Afro-Eurasia and created a shared sense of community among disparate peoples at the same time as it gave rise to differing and competing visions of the community's past, present, and future. The book asks two essential questions: What did Muslims imagine to be lost with the disappearance of the Abbasid and Ottoman caliphates in 1258 and 1924 respectively? And how did they attempt to recapture that perceived loss, and in doing so redefine the caliphate for their times, under shifting circumstances?
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