Islamism and Islam

Islamism and Islam

Bassam Tibi
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Islamism and Islam
    Book Description:

    Despite the intense media focus on Muslims and their religion since the tragedy of 9/11, few Western scholars or policymakers today have a clear idea of the distinctions between Islam and the politically based fundamentalist movement known as Islamism. In this important and illuminating book, Bassam Tibi, a senior scholar of Islamic politics, provides a corrective to this dangerous gap in our understanding. He explores the true nature of contemporary Islamism and the essential ways in which it differs from the religious faith of Islam.

    Drawing on research in twenty Islamic countries over three decades, Tibi describes Islamism as a political ideology based on a reinvented version of Islamic law. In separate chapters devoted to the major features of Islamism, he discusses the Islamist vision of state order, the centrality of antisemitism in Islamist ideology, Islamism's incompatibility with democracy, the reinvention of jihadism as terrorism, the invented tradition of shari'a law as constitutional order, and the Islamists' confusion of the concepts of authenticity and cultural purity. Tibi's concluding chapter applies elements of Hannah Arendt's theory to identify Islamism as a totalitarian ideology.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16014-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  5. 1 Why Islamism Is Not Islam
    (pp. 1-30)

    What is the difference between Islamism and Islam? The essential answer is that Islamism is about political order, not faith. Nonetheless, Islamism is notmerepolitics but religionized politics.¹ In this book I look at Islamism as a powerful instance of the global phenomenon of religious fundamentalism.²

    The notion of “religionized politics” is essential for grasping this book’s basic argument. In the case of Islamism, the religionization of politics means the promotion of a political order that is believed to emanate from the will of Allah and is not based on popular sovereignty. Islam itself does not do this. As...

  6. 2 Islamism and the Political Order
    (pp. 31-53)

    The first step in the islamist invention of Islamic tradition is to establish a new understanding of Islam as din-wa-dawla: religion united with a state order.¹ When Islamists speak ofal-hall al-Islami(Islamic solution), they mean not democracy but rather a remaking of the existing political order in pursuit of the Islamic shari’a state. It is this idea, not violence, that is the hallmark andconditio sine qua nonof Islamism. It is no exaggeration to contend that Islamism puts the unity of religion and state² almost on an equal footing with shahadah (allegiance to Islam) as a test of...

  7. 3 Islamism and Antisemitism
    (pp. 54-93)

    Since the holocaust, antisemitism has become a major humanitarian concern across cultures and civilizations.¹ The renunciation and prevention of hatred of Jews and of the murderous practices associated with it ranks today as a universal value, symbolic of the effort to combat the dehumanization of any group of people in order to legitimate their annihilation. In this chapter I draw on the work of the Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt and her theory of totalitarianism. Arendt drew a distinction between traditional Judeophobia, which is an evil, and antisemitism, a greater evil that advocates genocide. Antisemitism, she argued in the preface to...

  8. 4 Islamism and Democracy
    (pp. 94-133)

    Is islamism compatible with democracy? This question has aroused a heated debate among supporters and critics of Islamism.¹ The analysis of Islamist antisemitism provided in the preceding chapter offers little cause for hope. If one accepts Hannah Arendt’s reasoning inThe Origins of Totalitarianismthat any ideology that includes antisemitism is totalitarian, then Islamism clearly qualifies as a totalitarian, hence undemocratic, ideology.² But this formulation is indirect. In this chapter we will listen directly to the founders of Islamist ideology and their heirs to hear what they say about democracy. It is important to read the major writings of Islamist...

  9. 5 Islamism and Violence: The New World Disorder
    (pp. 134-157)

    Jihadism is not simple terrorism, nor is it insurgency. It is, first, a new warfare, and second, a political agenda for fighting a nonstate war described by Sayyid Qutb as an “Islamic world revolution.” The idea of remaking the world through militancy provides the overarching context of Islamism and violence.¹ The founder of Islamism, Hasan al-Banna, argued that jihad is the means by which Islamism would establish an Islamic order for the world. In so doing, al-Banna transformed the traditional Islamic notion of jihad into something new. Put differently, just as political Islam grows out of Islam but is a...

  10. 6 Islamism and Law: Shari’atization as an Invention of Tradition
    (pp. 158-176)

    Law has always been central to Islamic thought. The foremost authority on shari’a, Joseph Schacht, states on the first page of hisIntroduction to Islamic Lawthat “Islamic law is the epitome of Islamic thought. . . . It is impossible to understand Islam without understanding Islamic law.”¹ John Kelsay, inArguing the Just War in Islam, depicts the entire intellectual history of Islam in terms of different ways of “shari’a reasoning.”² It is this central role that Islamists invoke when they call for tatbiq al-shari’a, the implementation of shari’a, as the governing law in Islamic lands. If Islamists are...

  11. 7 Islamism, Purity, and Authenticity
    (pp. 177-200)

    Among the basic features of Islamism is the aspiration for purity, put forward as a claim of authenticity.¹ Religious fundamentalism is in all cases a response to the challenge of cultural modernity, and the specific case of Islamism emerges from a modernization² that has largely failed. A generation ago, American scholars looked at modernization in non-Western societies as Westernization, which was conceived in wholly secular terms. Today, no one can speak of “Westernization” in academic circles and emerge unscathed. Not only has the linkage the term suggests generally been discarded, the very concept of evolutionary modernization has become suspect. In...

  12. 8 Islamism and Totalitarianism
    (pp. 201-224)

    Islamism is a political religion;¹ it does not fall from heaven. It originated in 1928 and became a powerful force thanks to two watershed moments: first, the crushing Arab defeat in the 1967 war, which uncovered a deep crisis related to the lack of democracy combined with unsuccessful development, both attributed to the ruling authoritarian regimes; and second, the end of the cold war. This smoothed the way for what Raymond Aron described as “unveiling the heterogeneity of civilizations.”² The West, however, was not prepared for any such unveiling. With the demise of totalitarian communism, the West assumed that its...

  13. 9 Civil Islam as an Alternative to Islamism
    (pp. 225-242)

    In this book I have made an effort to describe the ideology of Islamism to Western readers and to dissociate it from the faith of Islam. I have argued that Islamism is not the heritage of Islam but is a contemporary political interpretation of Islam based on an invention of tradition. Among the themes running throughout this book is the tension within Islamic civilization. As in the past, when Islamic rationalist philosophers—from al-Fatabi to Ibn Rushd (Averroës)—stood against the fiqh orthodoxy, liberal Muslims today stand against Islamism. Islamism is not Islam, but neither does Islamism stand outside of...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 243-292)
  15. Glossary of Arabic Terms
    (pp. 293-296)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-324)
  17. Index
    (pp. 325-340)