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Pluto Press
The Contemporary Arab Reader on Political Islam

The Contemporary Arab Reader on Political Islam


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The Contemporary Arab Reader on Political Islam brings together the writings of highly influential figures in the field of Islamism in the contemporary Arab world, many of whose writings have never been available before in English.

Addressing the key issues such as human rights, civil society, secularism, globalisation and ummah, and the impact of the West on the modern Arab world, this is the perfect starting point for students and academics looking to understand 'Political Islam' in contemporary Arab and Muslim societies.

The contributors include such important Islamist thinkers and activists as Abdullah Azzam, central to the spread of Islamism in Afghanistan, Sayyid Muhammad Hussain Fadlallah, a major Shiite figure in contemporary Lebanon and Ahmad Bin Yousuf, a political advisor to Akram Haniyya in Gaza.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780745328898
Publisher: Pluto Press
Publication date: 08/06/2010
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi' is the holder of the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities Chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta. His many books include Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence in the Modern Arab World (1996), Islam at the Crossroads (2003), The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought (2006), and Contemporary Arab Thought (2005, Pluto Books).

Read an Excerpt


Salafiyyah is a Blessed Historical Phase rather than an Islamic Legal School

Muhammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti

It is incumbent on every Muslim man and woman to follow in the footsteps of the righteous ancestors in understanding and practicing both the Qur'an and Sunnah, especially if they are committed to God's Book and the Messenger's guidance. In the Qur'an, God commands the people to obey His Messenger: "And whatsoever the Messenger [Muhammad] gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain [from it]." On the other hand, the Prophet commands the people to pursue his Sunnah and that of the Rightly Guided Caliphs and to follow the path of the people of virtue, who belong to the first three generations of Islam. The Prophet says: "Beware of innovations in religion since they lead someone astray; instead, people should firmly follow my Sunnah and the path of the Rightly Guided Caliphs." In another hadith he says, "The most righteous are my generation, then the next, and then the next." The benefit from this superiority is to follow in their footsteps.

However, embracing a new legal school, called Salafiyyah, which is based on fanaticism, has nothing to do with following the right path, and differs from it in general and particular details. However, is there a difference between this type of belonging [tamadhhub] and following the ways of the ancestors?

To start with, the difference is huge. It is akin to our saying Mohammadans or Muslims. As is well known, for a long time Orientalists have referred to Muslims as Mohammadans, which is not acceptable from an Islamic perspective, as well as from the perspective of righteous Muslim life. The term "Mohammadans" gives the false impression that Muslims belong to Muhammad and are committed blindly to his person; however, the term "Muslims" expresses Muslims' submission to God's authority and their acceptance of the divine revelation passed on to them by the Prophet. The Muslims' commitment to the Prophet derives from their obedience to God, and their love of the Prophet is predicated on the fact that he is God's Messenger.

This obvious difference between the terms Mohammadans and Muslims is the same as the difference between embracing Salafiyyah as a legal system and following in the footsteps of the ancestors, or salaf. In the former case, embracing the Salafiyyah would mean that the blessed ancestors possessed their distinctive school of thought expressing their character and collective entity, and that anyone following them represents the true form of Islam. In other words, from this perspective Islam would ally itself with this school of thought, adopt its principles, rules, and morals, and fight its enemies.

However, following in the footsteps of the blessed ancestors, without considering them as the founders of a legal school within Islam, means honoring those whom God's Messenger has commanded to honor, those who lived in the first three generations and who were sincere in their belief in God and clung firmly to the Rope of Allah, which stretches out to them. Furthermore, it means following them — the salaf — in understanding Islam and imitating them through the manhaj (a clear way), which they follow to understand the texts of the Qu'ran and Sunnah and interpret their teachings and rules.

Islam is, in fact, the entity that must be followed, and its divine method in knowledge and understanding is the pillar of its foundation. The pious salaf, committed as they were to the divine path of Islam, are our guides to this divine foundation. Their standard, as our predecessors on the path, is measured according to their own commitment to the method and scale of this religion. ... That is the difference between embracing Salafiyyah as a legal school and following the pious ancestors, or salaf, as a way of realizing God's Messenger's advice. It is clear that the latter ensues from the divine core of this religion and one of the primary foundations of the Prophet's Sunnah which God's Messenger has invoked, while the former is a theological innovation, not permitted by God, and a form of false consciousness without any historical basis.

The first three blessed generations of Islam never witnessed the emergence of a legal school in Islam called Salafiyyah, distinguishable from other Muslims. However, there was one distinguishing characteristic [in early Islam], which was how best to vie for the righteous application of this religion. Anyone honored with this trait [i.e., of vying in good deeds] became a full member of the Muslim community, regardless of time and place, and came to occupy a high status in this life as well as in the afterworld ...

It is well known that the age of the blessed ancestors had a great many heretical sects in addition to the People of the Book. Although some of these sects belonged to Islam, they deviated from the Islamic creed accepted by the religious scholars of the time. These sects included the Mu'tazilites, Murji'tes, and Kharijites, which in turn split into smaller sects, with each accusing the others of blasphemy.

In addition to these, the age of the ancestors included most of the Muslim masses who followed in the footsteps of the Prophet and his Companions in their understanding of Sacred Scripture and its exegesis. These people were rightly called Ahl a-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah (the People of Tradition and Community) ... This nomenclature was given to the masses of Muslims because of their commitment to a conceptual method based on close collaboration between reason ['aql] and emulation [naql] and their understanding of Arabic grammar in the interpretation of the Sacred Text. (The Qur'anic discourse, no doubt, alerted people to this conceptual method.) The best practice of this method was carried out by the Prophet and his closest Companions ...

We have never heard in over 1,400 years of Islamic history that any major religious scholar of Islam ever argued that embracing the so-called doctrine of Salafiyyah would be certain proof of the righteousness of their religious path. So, when did Salafiyyah emerge? This movement has been a seedbed for theological disagreements in most of the modern Muslim world and has created much noise in Europe, where a good number of people express an interest in understanding and even converting to Islam.

The banner of Salafiyyah was raised in Egypt [in the nineteenth century] during the British occupation of that country and when the Islamic reform movement, headed by both Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad 'Abduh, appeared. ... The reform movement [of al-Afghani and 'Abduh] has had the greatest impact on disseminating the term salaf or Salafiyyah amongst the educated classed in the Muslim world, where previously it had had limited circulation.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the term Salafiyyah was freed from its limited theological and scholarly usage and chosen as a title for books and magazines and a name for presses, such as the Salafi Press [al-Matba'ah al-Salfiyyah] and al-Maktabah al-Salafiyyah, founded by the famous Egyptian thinker Muhib al-Din al-Khatib. From that time on, the term Salafiyyah was widely used, especially for its association with the honor gained by the Islamic reform movement.

At the same time, the Wahhabi doctrine (madhab), ascribed to its founder Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab (1703–92 CE), was widespread in Najd and other parts of the Arabian Peninsula. There was a common denominator between the Egyptian reform movement and the Wahhabi doctrine in that both aimed at combating innovations and superstitions, especially those of the mystics. Therefore, the term Salafiyyah was adopted by the leaders of the Wahhabiyyah because of the common thread between the two movements mentioned above. These leaders preferred the term Salafiyyah because they disliked the term Wahhabiyyah, which suggests that this [Wahhabi] doctrine is premised on Shayk Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab alone, who asked his followers to change the name from Wahhabiyyah to Salafiyyah. Thereafter, these followers began to promote this new nomenclature in order to prove to others that their Wahhabi thought was not the creation of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahab per se but that its history can be traced to the ancestors (salaf). That is to say, in their adoption of the Wahhabi doctrine, they wanted to show that they were the true heirs and trustees of the creed, doctrine, and path of the ancestors in their understanding of Islam.

Thus, the term Salafiyyah mutated from a motto raised by the Islamic reform movement of the nineteenth century to a nomenclature given to the Wahhabis in the Arabian Peninsula, who consider themselves to be the only righteous Muslims. They further consider themselves to be the only heirs to and trustees of the ancestors' creed ['aqidat al-salaf], who alone understand and practice Islam correctly ...


The Islamic Movement: Problems and Perspectives

Fathi Yakan


Islamic workers are in danger. I do not mean that they are threatened by their enemies or because of the machinations of their foes and the conspiracies of those who hate Islam. These dangers, despite their gravity, are nothing compared with the danger of deviation. The Islamic worker is safe as long as he is free from the defects and diseases of his own soul, regardless of how strong his enemies are. It is in this context that we understand Omar Ibn al-Khattab's valediction to the Muslim army:

Pay more attention to your sins than you do to your enemy. Indeed, soldiers' sins are more dangerous to them than their enemy. Muslims are granted victory because their enemy disobeys Allah. You should know that you are accompanied by angels, who record your deeds. So do not do anything that might incur Allah's wrath when you are pursuing His cause.

I say this since I know that at the present time Islamic workers' paths are surrounded by lures and temptations. The jahiliyyah of the twentieth century has destroyed every vestige of virtue, goodness, and dignity. It has revealed an ugly, pallid face, which expresses corruption, temptation, and abnormality. The materialism of this age has filled every nose with its odor, so much so that the individual thinks of nothing else, lives for nothing else, and judges everything according to the criteria of this materialism. It has blinded him and has deadened his senses and emotions. "If it had been Our will, We should have elevated him with Our signs; but he inclined to worldly things, and followed his own vain desires. His semblance is that of a dog: if you attack him, he lolls out his tongue; if you leave him alone, he [still] lolls out his tongue. That is like those who reject Our signs. So relate the story; perchance they may reflect" (7:176).

Islamic workers must bear this heavy legacy with the best preparation of their faith, morals, and intellects, and with all the strength they may possess, whether ideological or moral.

The Front Lines of Struggle

The most serious threat facing Islamic workers at present is a type of psychological defect in the form of occasional submission to what is often called "the present reality." In addition, they are ready to compromise their Islam by accepting half-measures. Quite frequently, this policy of relaxation and neglect even leads some to violate the indisputable principles of the movement and to deviate from Islamic norms of thought and behavior.

We understand the heavy burden and the great responsibilities that await Islamic workers in the present and the future. When we consider the temptations and tests we are facing, we know that their primary and immediate task is to secure the means of preserving their souls and their intellects in order to overcome what might stand in their way.

The Islamic Mentality

The Islamic mentality is one element of the Islamic personality. It is the result of sound Islamic thinking regarding the universe, man, and life. Thoughts, judgments, things perceptible through the senses, as well as supernatural reality, should be subjected to sound Islamic evaluation. In this way, the Islamic mentality will be the ideological basis which reflects Islamic principles and laws in all things.

The Islamic mentality, then, is that mentality which sees everything through the eyes of Islam and assesses all matters by Islamic criteria. For the Islamic mentality, Islam is the criterion for everything, the solution to every problem, and what controls every affair. Perhaps the most important factor that occasionally leads some Islamic workers to go astray is their hazy understanding of Islam as an ideology and Islamic work as a method.

In order to develop the Islamic mentality, the following elements are essential. First, a sound understanding of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, which establishes in the Islamic worker's mind the general principles of human life. Second, a comprehensive understanding of the goals of Islamic thought as determining behavior and morals, an incentive to work, as well as a guide for, and shaper of, human behavior for the best in this life and in the hereafter. Islam is not a mere collection of theories and abstract ideals. This will make Islamic concepts positive and practical and have a great impact on the development of the Islamic personality. Third, a sufficient understanding of all aspects of Islamic thought. Too often a shallow understanding of one aspect leads to dangerous deviations. The intellect grows normally as long as it receives a well-rounded education. It stops developing or even becomes stunted if it is neglected or receives an impoverished education.

Dr Sabri al-Gubbani, in the first book of his series Your Physician with You, writes:

the mind enjoys diversity of research. It harmonizes and restores its liking for thinking. One type of thinking exhausts it. It is like the ear which dislikes a monotonous tone; or like the muscles of the leg which tire from ascending or descending hills. Thus, we should offer our brains diverse studies to keep them young and active.


Excerpted from "The Contemporary Arab Reader on Political Islam"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi'.
Excerpted by permission of Pluto Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Contributors

Editor's Introduction

Part I: Toward a Theoretical Appreciation of Islamism in the Contemporary Arab World

1) Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan al-Buti, Salafism is a Blessed Historical Phase Rather Than an Islamic Legal School;
2) Fathi Yakan, Toward a Unified and Universal Islamic Movement;
3) Ahmad Kamal Abu’l Majd, Towards a Modern Islamic Perspective Declaration of Principles;
4) Muhammad al-Ghazali, Women Between the People of Hadith and the People of Fiqh;

Part II: Islamism, Jihad, and Martyrdom

5) Abdullah Anas, The Birth of ‘Afghan-Arabs’: An Algerian Perspective;
6) Abdullah Azzam, What Jihad Has Taught Me!
7) Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan al-Buti, Jihad in Islam: How to Understand and Practice it?
8) Sayyid Muhammad Hussain Fadlallah, Islam and the Question of Power;

Part III. Islamism and the Question of Israel/Palestine

9) Ismail R. Faruqi, Islam and Zionism;
10) Mustafa Abu Sway, From Basel to Oslo: Zionism and the Islamic Narrative;
11) Mohsen Saleh, Palestine/Lebanon], The Role of the Israeli Lobby;

Part IV: Contemporary Islamism: Trends and Self-Criticism

12) Abdul Qadir Awdah, Islam Between Ignorant Followers and Incapable Scholars;
13) Ramadan Abdallah Shallah, The Islamic Movement and the Contemporary Challenges;
14) Umar Abdel Rahman, On the Present Rulers in the Muslim World;
15) Sami al-Arian, The Islamic Movement and Contemporary Crises: An Assessment and Correction;
16) Rashid Ghannoushi, Islamic Movements: Self-Criticism and Reconsideration;
17) Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Islamic Awakening Between Rejection and Extremism;
18) Jamil Hamami, The Islamic Movement: Hopes and Aspirations;

Part V: Islamism, the West, the United States and 9/11

19) Abdel Wahab al-Masiri, Imperialism and the Contemporary Muslim world;
20) Ahmad Bin Yousuf, Islamists and the West: From Confrontation to Cooperation;
21) Munir Shafiq, Islam and the Challenges of Contemporary Decline;
22) Kamal Habib, Transformation of the Islamic Movement and the Current American Strategy;
23) Yasser Za‘atira, The United States and Islamism: Before and After 9/11;
24) Muhammad Hussain Fadlallah, Muslim Youth and the West: Between Original and Contemporary Values;

Part VI: Islamism in the Contemporary Arab World

25) Fahd al-Qahtani, Islam and Saudi Paganism;
26) Muhammad al-Masa‘ari, Conclusive Evidences for the Illegality of the Saudi State;
27) Abdel Qadim Zalloum, How to Revive Islamic Caliphate?
28) Zaki Ahmad, Recent Changes in the Arab-Islamist Movements;
29) Ahmad al-Raysouni, The Islamic Movement in Morocco: Resurgence or Decline?
30) Shaykh Ali al-Bayanuni, The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood;
31) Ishaq al-Farhan, The Future of Islamist Work: The Islamist Movement in the Context of International Transformations and the Gulf Crisis;
32) Yahia H. Zoubir, Islamist Political Parties in Contemporary Algeria;
33) Sami Abdallah, The Islamic Movement in the Gulf Region
34) Tarik Hamdi Al-Azami, The Islamic Movement in Modern Iraq, Sunni Dimension.
35) Malik Bennabi, The Ideational World and Its Impressed and Expressed Ideas;

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