The Paradox of Political Islam

Authored by: Akbarzadeh Shahram

Routledge Handbook of Political Islam

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415484732
eBook ISBN: 9780203154144
Adobe ISBN: 9781136577239


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Political Islam is a modern phenomenon that seeks to use religion to shape the political system. Its origins lie in the perceived failure of the secular ideologies of nationalism and socialism to deliver on their promises of anti-imperialist prosperity. The great thinkers of political Islam (Sayyid Qutb, Maulana Maududi, followed by Ayatollah Khomeini) were rebelling against the political system that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century, one that copied the Western-inspired system of nation-states governed by the rational decision-making of the people. In reality, the political establishment in the Muslim world was neither rational nor in the service of the public. Instead it was monopolised by a self-serving political elite. Political Islam provided a conceptual alternative that was purportedly based on the teachings of the faith. Sayyid Qutb’s concept of Islam as a revolutionary ideology inspired his followers to see Islam as a recipe for change (Musallam 2005). The cry ‘Islam is the solution’ captures this mood. Political Islam is focused on remoulding public life in accordance with a specific interpretation of Islamic text and traditions. Accordingly, all state affairs are subject to the yardstick of political Islam, used by its self-declared devotees, dubbed Islamists.

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