January 20, 2022

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Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity

This review explores the ideas put forward by A.S. Khan about Islamic Fundamentalism. By showing that Islamic Fundamentalism is not a monolithic affair – there are many different movements and states of Islamic Fundamentalism in terms of the application of Islamic values, governance learn quran online and attitude towards the West, the book allows the reader to see beyond the common belief that ‘Fundamentalism’ in Islam leaves little or no place for peaceful relations. By going through the discourses given by several fundamentalists, one is given basis and solid arguments behind the concepts and points made in the various chapters.

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Islamic Fundamentalism is a phenomenon that has evolved in two phases since the beginning of Islam. The author interprets the First phase as the positive phase – where Islamic Fundamentalism was looked upon as an optimistic and exemplary period, to be studied and put to practical use in the present. At the same time, the second phase took a complete U-Turn and the period is marked as one of decline. It constitutes corruption, loss of territory, military defeat and the advent of Western colonialism. The reason of the stark change and loss in this phase is attributed to the loss of religious piety and faith.

The author consequently takes a journey through history to trace the roots and evolution of Islamic Fundamentalism and how it has changed over centuries – its perceptions and its consequences. He argues that the advent of fundamentalism was a consequence of the failure of Muslims in resolving their problems in the face of an ever changing modern world. Muslims simply stood watch as non-Muslim influences eroded their religious values, culture and polity. Centuries of moral and political decay became the happening in the public and private lives of Muslims. The environment that thus dominated the world of Muslims ‘fractionalized the Islamic Community through the creation of both imperially imposed national boundaries and a westernized upper class alienated from its own Muslim cultural roots. ‘ As a result, the true Muslim values and dictates lay forgotten somewhere in the pages of history.

One must not however, confuse Islamic Fundamentalism with a simple belief or culture dominant in the Islamic World – the author points out. It has, over the centuries and its evolution, found itself as a sociopolitical force that has often displayed revolutionary tendencies. As such, it is habituated by the process of multi-faceted dialectical relationships, and nine such have been identified by the author. Select examples are Secularism vs. Theocracy, Establishment Islam vs. Fundamentalist Islam, Sufi Islam vs. Fundamentalist Unity, etc.

Fundamentalist thought in any religion is characterized as a return to the basic and puritanical foundations of the faith. In Muslims, it ranges from a distinctly conservative and military oriented Islamic thought to a basis in historical precedents that have marked history as revolutionary events and movements. Beginning with Shiites and Kharijites, fundamentalism took on the guise of ideology for opposition against those in power. However, some contemporary movements do not simply focus on the past, but strive to incorporate new practices and values to their original beliefs as demanded by the change in time and to strengthen their viability in the current modern world context.

In this context, the author presents thesis on discourses by Islamic Fundamentalist Leaders and provides different viewpoints on the Islamic interpretations of Philosophy, the text and its meaning and significance in the framework of modern life, Political Islamic Activism and Democracy. A point to be argued in this context is – does Politics inform all doctrines? What should be the discourse and method for integration and disintegration of state and society. The interpretation of text is always conditional and tentative, but most leaders support the idea of modernizing Islam and Islamizing modernism – a two way change through which western political thought is harmonized with Islamic. After all, not every Western Doctrine is secular or communist and on must keep pace with the changes in the world over time.