Sadik Al-Azm on Islamism
One of the students in my Islamism class found an extended definition of Islamism by Sadik Al-Azm (صادق العظم). I don't usually quote an entire document, but I will this time -- giving due credit to Dialogues on Civilizations, which hosts Al-Azm's page on "Islamism":
Islamism is a highly militant mobilizing ideology selectively developed out of Islam's scriptures, texts, legends, historical precedents, organizational experiences and present-day grievances, all as a defensive reaction against the long-term erosion of Islam's primacy over the public, institutional, economic, social and cultural life of Muslim societies in the 20th century.This is quite good, so far as it goes, but I find Al-Azm's emphasis on Islamism as "a defensive reaction" -- and the italics are mine -- to be not quite adequate. Since he notes that Islamism "is put in practice by resurrecting the early concept of Islamic Jihad (Holy War) in its most violent and aggressive forms," then I think that we have to ascribe to Islamism an offensive aspect. Early jihad was not merely a defensive reaction against aggressive enemies; it actively sought to extend the realm of Islam, first under Mohammad, then under the first four caliphs, and continuing on so successfully that within 120 years of Mohammad's death, an Islamic empire ruled by a caliph stretched from Spain to India.
This ideology is put in practice by resurrecting the early concept of Islamic Jihad (Holy War) in its most violent and aggressive forms against an environing world of paganism, polytheism, idolatry, godlessness, infidelity, atheism, apostasy and unbelief known to that ideology as the Jahiliyyah [Arabic for "Ignorance"] of the 20th century.
The ultimate goal for Islamism is to save the contemporary world from this Jahili condition -- imposed on it by the modern West -- pretty much the way the rise and rapid spread of Islam 13 centuries ago saved the world from the very similar Jahili condition that dominated it at that time.
The proceedings of this grand salvivic project are already manifestly evident: (1) In the re-Islamization processes presently underway in currently "nominally" Muslim countries and societies, (2) in the internal armed Jihad against the apostate regimes dominating at present all so-called Muslim states and ruling all so-called Muslim countries and (3) in the external grand Jihad against the global unholy alliance of Western Crusaderism with world Jewism, Zionism and Israelism.
Islamism as ideology and practice is:
(a) Fundamentalist, because it presents itself as the authentic movement of return to and retrieval of the now forgotten "fundamentals" (usul) and "basics" (usus) of Islam, with special emphasis on the lapsed imperative and duty of Jihad itself.
(b) Revivalist, because it presents itself as the primary agent of the double process of reviving those fundamentals, as active beliefs and efficacious practices, in the lives of Muslims and of reviving the currently hibernating masses of the Muslim World by injecting into their lives, hearts, minds and institutions those neglected fundamentals.
(c) Integralist, because its immediate goal is to re-integrate all autonomous aspects, areas and spheres of modern society and life -- such as the social, the economic, the political, the cultural, the scientific, the aesthetic, the domestic, the personal, the religious, the spiritual etc. -- under Allah's religion and rule as manifested in his Shari'a Law.
(d) Theocratic, because its manifest program is to restore Allah's Hakimiyyah, Sovereignty or Dominion[,] over his rebellious human creatures during the modern period in general and the 20th century in particular via the establishment of truly Muslim states and state apparatuses.
(e) Theonomist, because its immediate aim is the direct, literal and comprehensive implementation and application of Allah's Shari'a Law[,] which is absolute, indivisible and subject to no human debate.
(f) Terrorist, because of its declared despair of any other method and/or means of furthering its goals and programs other than the immediate and direct attack on both the internal and the external enemy -- as violently, extravagantly, spectacularly and destructively as possible -- heedless of the longer-term chances of success or failure of such attacks, contemptuous of their self-destructive consequences and dismissive of their social, political and economic fall out even on Islamism itself. For, the point is to hit the enemies where it hurts most, and what can hurt more than blowing up their innocent civilians and passersby wholesale.
As such, then, "the external grand Jihad against the global unholy alliance of Western Crusaderism with world Jewism, Zionism and Israelism" should be understood not merely as ridding the Muslim world of these "Crusaders and Jews" but as ridding the entire world of these and other 'anti-Islamic' forces, which include everybody except those whom the Islamists recognize as true Muslims.
In other words, missing from Al-Azm's definition is an explicit statement of Islamism's imperialist program, namely, conquest of the non-Islamic world.