The growing gap in power and wealth between the West and the Muslim world from the end of the 18th century onward has engendered periodic demands for the rejuvenation of Islamic thought as a prerequisite for rehabilitating the status of the Muslim community. In Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, this quest for reform was led by Muslim modernists and Salafis (advocates of a return to ancestral piety and practice) in the late 19th century. Inter alia, these reformists opposed the gatekeepers of Islamic tradition-the establishment 'ulama' as well as the popular Sufi orders or fraternities (turuq). The Sufi orders were portrayed by their reformist adversaries as at best irrelevant to social change and at worst as responsible for the backwardness of Muslim society. Criticism of customs and ceremonies in popular Islam, especially the cult of saints-denounced as a deviation from Islam - also had nationalist overtones: these rituals were attacked for fostering national passivity and a detachment from reality, in addition to eliciting ridicule by foreigners. Religious reform was thus interwoven with the quest for national pride and power.