Saturday, April 21, 2018
The term, which originally denoted the religion of Islam, first appeared in English as Islamismus in 1696, and as Islamism in 1712. The term appears in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in In Re Ross (1891). By the turn of the twentieth century it had begun to be displaced by the shorter and purely Arabic term "Islam" and by 1938, when Orientalist scholars completed The Encyclopaedia of Islam, seems to have virtually disappeared from English usage.
The term "Islamism" acquired its contemporary connotations in French academia in the late 1970s and early 1980s. From French, it began to migrate to the English language in the mid-1980s, and in recent years has largely displaced the term Islamic fundamentalism in academic circles.
The use of the term Islamism was at first "a marker for scholars more likely to sympathize" with new Islamic movements; however, as the term gained popularity it became more specifically associated with political groups such as the Taliban or the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, as well as with highly publicized acts of violence.
"Islamists" who have spoken out against the use of the term, insisting they are mere "Muslims", include Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual mentor of Hizbullah, and Abbassi Madani, leader of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front.
A 2003 article in Middle East Quarterly states:
In summation, the term Islamism enjoyed its first run, lasting from Voltaire to the First World War, as a synonym for Islam. Enlightened scholars and writers generally preferred it to Mohammedanism. Eventually, both terms yielded to Islam, the Arabic name of the faith, and a word free of either pejorative or comparative associations. There was no need for any other term until the rise of an ideological and political interpretation of Islam challenged scholars and commentators to come up with an alternative, to distinguish Islam as modern ideology from Islam as a faith... To all intents and purposes, Islamic fundamentalism and Islamism have become synonyms in contemporary American usage.
The Council on American–Islamic Relations complained in 2013 that the Associated Press's definition of "Islamist"—a "supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam [and] who view the Quran as a political model"—had become a pejorative shorthand for "Muslims we don't like." Mansoor Moaddel, a sociologist of Eastern Michigan University criticized it as "not a good term" because "the use of the term Islamist does not capture the phenomena that are quite heterogeneous."
The AP Stylebook entry for Islamist now reads as follows:
"An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists. Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations: al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi."
Some Islamic revivalist movements and leaders pre-dating Islamism include:
Ahmad Sirhindi (~1564–1624) was part of a reassertion of orthodoxy within Islamic Mysticism (Taṣawwuf) and was known to his followers as the 'renovator of the second millennium'. It has been said of Sirhindi that he 'gave to Indian Islam the rigid and conservative stamp it bears today.'
Ibn Taymiyyah, a Syrian Islamic jurist during the 13th and 14th centuries who is often quoted by contemporary Islamists. Ibn Taymiyya argued against the shirking of Sharia law, was against practices such as the celebration of Muhammad's birthday, and "he believed that those who ask assistance from the grave of the Prophet or saints are mushrikin (polytheists), someone who is engaged in shirk."
Shah Waliullah of India and Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab of Arabia were contemporaries who met each other while studying in Mecca. Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab advocated doing away with the later accretions like grave worship and getting back to the letter and the spirit of Islam as preached and practiced by Muhammad. He went on to found Wahhabism. Shah Waliullah was a forerunner of reformist Islamists like Muhammad Abduh, Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Asad in his belief that there was "a constant need for new ijtihad as the Muslim community progressed and expanded and new generations had to cope with new problems" and in his interest in the social and economic problems of the poor.
Sayyid Ahmad Barelvi was a disciple and successor of Shah Waliullah's son and emphasized the 'purification' of Islam from un-Islamic beliefs and practices. He anticipated modern militant Islamists by leading an extremist, jihadist movement and attempted to create an Islamic state with enforcement of Islamic law. While he battled Sikh fundamentalist rule in Muslim-majority North-Western India, his followers fought against British colonialism after his death and allied themselves with the Indian Mutiny.
After the failure of the Indian Mutiny, some of Shah Waliullah's followers turned to more peaceful methods of preserving the Islamic heritage and founded the Dar al-Ulum seminary in 1867 in the town of Deoband. From the school developed the Deobandi movement which became the largest philosophical movement of traditional Islamic thought in the subcontinent and led to the establishment of thousands of madrasahs throughout modern-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh
Brought to you by: Christwar Institute / Non-profit Organization