Islamic revival

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Islamic revival (or Tajdid, also Sahwah) (Arabic: التجديد الإسلامي‎‎ aẗ-ẗajdid l-ʾIslāmiyyah, also Arabic: الصحوة الإسلامية‎‎ aṣ-Ṣaḥwah l-ʾIslāmiyyah, "Islamic awakening") refers to a revival of the Islamic religion. Revivals (ẗajdid) have traditionally been a periodic occurrence throughout the Islamic world, led by a "reviver" or mujaddid who arrives at the beginning of every (Islamic) century, according to one hadith.[1] The mujaddid will "fear none but God, and put a stop to (religious) "ignorance", "false innovations" and "a deterioration in following of the Sunnah".[2]

Preachers and scholars who have been described as revivalists or mujaddideen in the history of Islam include Ahmad Sirhindi, Ibn Taymiyyah, Shah Waliullah, and Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab. In the 20th century, Islamist leaders Hassan al-Banna, Abul Ala Maududi, and Ruhollah Khomeini, have been described as such, and the terms "Islamist" and "Islamic revivalist" have often been used interchangeably.[3]

The most recent Islamic revival is thought to have begun roughly sometime in the 1970s (although strong movements began earlier in the century in Egypt and South Asia) and is a reversal of the "Westernization" approach common in Arab and Asian governments earlier in the 20th century.[4] It followed the quadrupling of oil prices in the mid-1970s — which financed billions of dollars of conservative Islamic books, scholarships, fellowships, and mosques around the world; and the 1979 Iranian Revolution which undermined the assumption that Westernization strengthened Muslim countries and was the irreversible trend of the future.

The revival has been manifested in the growth of Islamism movement,[5] and in "re-Islamisation" from above and below:[6] in the opening up of official radio stations and journals to fundamentalist preaching, changes in laws to follow the sharia;[6] and in greater piety and in a growing adoption of Islamic culture (such as increased attendance at Hajj[7]) among the Muslim public.[8][9] Among immigrants in non-Muslim countries, it includes a feeling of a "growing universalistic Islamic identity" or transnational Islam,[10] brought on by easier communications, media and travel.[11] The revival has also been accompanied by some extremism and attacks on civilians and military targets by the Islamists groups.[11]

Pre-20th century

In Islamic history a well known Tradition (hadith) states that "God will send to His community at the head of each century those who will renew its faith for it."[2] The term for the periodic calls to renew Muslims commitment to the fundamental principles of Islam and the related reconstruction of society in accord with the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet" or Sunnah is tajdid, and the term for a person leading renewal is mujaddid.[8]

The modern movement of Islamic revival has been compared with earlier efforts of a similar nature: The "oscillat[ion] between periods of strict religious observance and others of devotional laxity" in Islamic history was striking enough for "the Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun to ponder its causes 600 years ago, and speculate that it could be "attributed ... to features of ecology and social organization peculiar to the Middle East," namely the tension between the easy living in the towns and the austere life in the desert.[12]

Some of the more famous revivalists and revival movements include the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties in Maghreb and Spain (1042–1269), Indian Naqshbandi revivalist Ahmad Sirhindi (~1564-1624), the Indian Ahl-i Hadith movement of the 19th century, preachers Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), Shah Waliullah (1702–1762) and Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab (d.1792).[13]

Whether or not the contemporary revival is part of an historical cycle, the uniqueness of the close association of the Muslim community with its religion has been noted by scholar Michael Cook who observed that "of all the major cultural domains" the Muslim world "seems to have been the least penetrated by irreligion". In the last few decades ending in 2000, rather than scientific knowledge and secularism edging aside religion, Islamic fundamentalism has "increasingly represented the cutting edge" of Muslim culture.[14]

Contemporary revivalism

According to scholar Olivier Roy,

The call to fundamentalism, centered on the sharia: this call is as old as Islam itself and yet still new because it has never been fulfilled, It is a tendency that is forever setting the reformer, the censor, and tribunal against the corruption of the times and of sovereigns, against foreign influence, political opportunism, moral laxity, and the forgetting of sacred texts.[15]

The man cited as the forerunner of contemporary re-Islamisation was Jamal-al-Din Afghani, "one of the most influential Muslim reformers of the nineteenth century" who traveled the Muslim world.[16] His sometime acolyte Muhammad Abduh has been called "the most influential figure" of the early Salafi movement.[17] In 1928 Hassan al-Banna established the Muslim Brotherhood, the first mass Islamist organization, which is still considered the world's largest, most influential Islamist group.[citation needed] Other influential revival activists and thinkers include Rashid Rida and Ali Abdel Raziq.

In South Asia Islamic revivalist intellectuals and statesmen like Syed Ahmed Khan, Muhammad Iqbal, Muhammad Ali Jinnah promoted the Two-Nation Theory and the Muslim League established the world's first modern Islamic republic, Pakistan. Abul Ala Maududi was the later leader of this movement who established Jamaat-e-Islami in South Asia. Today it is one of the most influential Islamic parties in the Indian sub-continent, spanning three countries (Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh), although the different national parties have no organisational link between them.[18]

The revival has been manifested in a process of conservative islamisation in Muslim societies, a greater piety and a growing adoption of Islamic culture among Muslims.[8][9] In the 1970s and 80s there were more veiled women in the streets and more sharia in state law. One striking example of it is the increase in attendance at the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which grew from 90,000 in 1926 to 2 million in 1979.[7]

Two events were particularly important for the current revival:

It includes a feeling of a "growing universalistic Islamic identity" as often shared by Muslim immigrants and their children who live in non-Muslim countries:

The increased integration of world societies as a result of enhanced communications, media, travel, and migration makes meaningful the concept of a single Islam practiced everywhere in similar ways, and an Islam which transcends national and ethnic customs.

— Ira Lapidus[11]

But not necessarily transnational political or social organisations:

Global Muslim identity does not necessarily or even usually imply organised group action. Even though Muslims recognise a global affiliation, the real heart of Muslim religious life remains outside politics - in local associations for worship, discussion, mutual aid, education, charity, and other communal activities.

— Ira Lapidus[22]

The trend has been noted by historians such as John Esposito[4] and Ira Lapidus.

Political aspects

Politically, Islamic resurgence runs the gamut from Islamist regimes in Iran, Sudan, and Taliban Afghanistan. Other regimes, such as countries in the Persian Gulf region, and the secular countries of Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Pakistan, while not a product of the resurgence, have made some concessions to its growing popularity.

In reaction to Islamist opposition during the 1980s, even avowedly secular Muslim states "endeavoured to promote a brand of conservative Islam and to organise a `official Islam`".[23] Official radio stations and journals opened up to fundamentalist preaching.[6]

In 1971 the constitution of Egypt was made to specify (in article 2) that the sharia was "the main source of legislation".[6] 1991 the Egyptian Security Court condemned the writer Ala'a Hamid to eight years in prison for blasphemy.[6] By the mid 1990s, the official Islamic journal in Egypt -- Al-Liwa al-Islami—had a higher circulation than Al-Ahram.[6] The number of "teaching institutes dependent" on Al-Azhar University in Egypt increased "from 1985 in 1986-7 to 4314 in 1995-6".[23]

In Pakistan a bill to make sharia the exclusive source of law of the state was introduced after General Zia's coup in 1977 and finally passed in 1993 under Nawaz Sharif's government. The number of registered madrassas rose from 137 in 1947 to 3906 in 1995.[23]

In Sudan the sharia penal code was proclaimed in 1983.[6] South Yemen (formerly the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen) made polygamy legal with a new Family Code in 1992.[6]

In Algeria the leftist secularist FLN government made Friday an official holy day in 1976.[6] The family law of 1984 "reintroduced some sharia elements"[23] such as Quranic dissymmetry between men and women,[6] and the official policy of Arabisation led to a de facto Islamisation of education.[23]

In secular Turkey religious teaching in schools was made compulsory in 1983. Religious graduates of İmam Hatip secondary schools were given right of access to the universities and allowed to apply for civil service positions, introducing it to religious minded people.[23]

Even the Marxist government of Afghanistan before it was overthrown introduced religious programs on television in 1986, and declared Islam to be the state religion in 1987.[6]

In Morocco, at the end of the 1990s, more doctorates were written in religious sciences than in social sciences and literature. In Saudi Arabia the absolute majority of doctorates were in religious sciences.[23]

In Syria, despite the rule of the Arab nationalist Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party,

For the first time, the regime celebrated the Prophet's birth with greater fanfare than the anniversary of the ruling party. Billboards once heralding `progressiveness and socialism` were also being replaced with new admonitions: `Pray for the Prophet and Do not forget to mention God.` President Bashar Assad had recently approved Syria's first Islamic university as well as three Islamic banks. And Mohammed Habash, the head of the Islamic Studies Center, had been invited to speak on Islam at Syria's military academy - where praying had been banned 25 years earlier. ... In the 1980s, a distinct minority of women in Damascus wore hejab, or modest Islamic dress. In 2006, a distinct majority in Syria's most modern city had put it on.

— Robin Wright, Dreams and Shadows : the Future of the Middle East[24]

In many if not all Muslim countries there has been a growth of networks of religious schools. "Graduates holding a degree in religious science are now entering the labour market and tend, of course, to advocate the Islamisasion of education and law in order to improve their job prospects." [23]


Re-Islamisation began among Shia later but many think it has been even more successful. In Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini lead a revolution based on his interpretation of Velayat-e faqih that called for rule by the leading Islamic jurist. In a more spiritual realm, Muhammad Husayn Tabatabaei as a theologian revived Kalam, Islamic philosophy and Tafsir. Khomeini and Tabatabaei taught many students who have achieved high positions in the Hawza of Qom. Also some of their students like Morteza Motahhari and Mohammad Beheshti became an ideologue of Islamic revolution. Furthermore, some activists especially Ali Shariati politicized religion and make an ideology to revolt.[citation needed]

In Iraq, Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr criticized Marxism and presented early ideas of an Islamic alternative to socialism and capitalism. Perhaps his most important work was Iqtisaduna (Our Economics), considered an important work of Islamic economics .[25][26] This work was a critique of both socialism and capitalism. He also worked with Sayyid Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim in forming an Islamist movement in Iraq which resulted in establishment of the Islamic Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. One of the founders of modern Islamist thought, he is credited with first developing the notion, later put in operation in Iran, of having western style democratic elections, but with a body of Muslim scholars to ensure all laws corresponded with Islamic teachings.[citation needed]

He was a close ally and supporter of Ayatollah Khomeni, but maintained a more moderate view than him and was said to have disagreed with the concept of Velayat-e faqih[citation needed]. In Lebanon Musa al-Sadr established the Supreme Islamic Shi'ite Council and the Amal Movement. Later, former members of Amal and some other parties joined each other and established the Islamist militia, party and social service agency Hezbollah, which is thought to be the most largest and most influential party among Shia of Lebanon.[citation needed]


Islamic resurgence has a large component of middle class/intelligentsia, university students, professionals, civil servants, merchants, traders, and bankers[citation needed]. For example, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a principal figure with Al-Qaeda, is an Egyptian physician who founded the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. This is the group that was implicated in the assassination of Anwar El Sadat in 1981. Rural, traditional people who have migrated to cities are also attracted to Islamic resurgence; it has significant, established networks that address the religious, medical, and educational needs of the urban poor[citation needed].


One observation made of Islamization is that increased piety and adoption of Sharia has "in no way changed the rules of the political or economic game," by leading to greater virtue. "Ethnic and tribal segmentation, political maneuvering, personal rivalries" have not diminished, nor has corruption in politics and economics based on speculation.[27]

See also


  1. Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck. The Contemporary Islamic Revival: A Critical Survey and Bibliography. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 24–5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Concept of Mujaddid in Islam". Retrieved 23 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Lapidus, Ira M. (1997). "Islamic Revival and Modernity: The Contemporary Movements and the Historical Paradigms". Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. 40 (4): 444–460. Retrieved 6 May 2015. The terms commonly used for Islamic revival movements are fundamentalist, Islamist or revivalist.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Haddad/Esposito pg. xvi
  5. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Roy, Failure of Political Islam, 1994: p.126-7
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kepel, Gilles, Jihad: on the Trail of Political Islam, Harvard University Press, 2002, p.75
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck (1991). The Contemporary Islamic Revival: A Critical Survey and Bibliography. Greenwood Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 0313247196. Retrieved 17 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Lapidus, p. 823
  10. described by the French Islam researchers Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Lapidus, p.828
  12. "September 11 and the Struggle for Islam" by Robert W. Hefner
  13. ... why is the Muslim world in such a bad state?
  14. Cook, Michael, The Koran, a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, 2000, p.43
  15. Roy, Failure of Political Islam, 1994: p.4
  16. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, Thomson Gale, 2004
  17. The New Encyclopedia of Islam by Cyril Glasse, Altamira, 2001
  18. Jamaat-e-Islami
  19. Wright, Sacred Rage, p.66 from Pipes, Daniel, In the Path of God, Basic Books, (1983), (p.285)
  20. interview by Robin Wright of UK Foreign Secretary (at the time) Lord Carrington in November 1981, Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam by Robin Wright, Simon and Schuster, (1985), p.67
  21. Fundamentalist Islam: The Drive for Power
  22. Lapidus, p.829
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 23.6 23.7 Roy, Failure of Political Islam, 1994: p.92-3
  24. Wright, Robin, Dreams and Shadows : the Future of the Middle East, Penguin Press, 2008, p.245
  25. The Renewal of Islamic Law: Muhammad Baqer as-Sadr, Najaf, and the Shi'i International
  26. Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Nov., 1993), pp. 718-719
  27. Roy, Failure of Political Islam, 1994: p.26
  • Roy, Olivier (1994). The Failure of Political Islam. Harvard University Press. Retrieved 2 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links