Additional Material
for Key Chapters

Chapter 17 Egypt: Between secularism and Islamism

Population of Egypt

(Approximate figures)

1800    2.5-3 million
1900    10 million
1950    20 million
1977    40 million
1985    50 million
2008    80 million

Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators

Food production has not kept up with this growth.

Al-Jabarti on the French occupation

Some comments by the scholar ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti on the French occupation of Cairo in 1789. (‘Ajā’ib al-āthār fī al-tarajīm wa al-akhbār ( Historical and Biographical Marvels), Lajnat Bayan al-‘Arabi, 1970, my translation of the first passage, sources of others as indicated. There are two French translations: Journal d'un notable du Caire durant l'expedition française, 1798-1801, traduit et annoté par Joseph Cuoq.  Paris: A. Michel, 1979, and Al-Jabarti, Merveilles Biographiques et Historiques, trans. Shaykh Mansour Bey et al., Cairo, Imprimerie National, 1888-1894). Other passages from this work are quoted in the material for Chapter 12, Sufism.

Al-Jabarti on the French incursion:
The year 1213 (1798-9): It was the first of many years of great battles and momentous events, of calamitous occurrences and terrifying calamities, of multiplying evils and successive catastrophes, of trial after trial and times out of joint, of society inverted and its foundations overturned, of horrors spouting forth and conditions confused, of order corrupted and ruin taking over, of destruction everywhere and disasters unremitting.  "And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities unjustly had their inhabitants been acting righteously."  (Qur’an 11:117) (‘Ajā’ib al-āthār, Vol ?, p. 248)

Description of an Uprising against the French.
(There were two major popular uprisings against the French, one described in the following passage:)
Many of the mob united and proclaimed jihād and brought their hidden weapons of war and resistance . . . they were joined by the ḥasharāt  (lit. insects) of the Husayniyya [quarter] and the zu‘r (roughly, scoundrels) of the alleys of the Baraniyya [quarter].  They were shouting “God save Islam”.  They proceeded to the house of judges and were followed by another thousand or more like them . . . when the French knew of their gathering a French leader with his troops proceeded to their popular quarters but the zu‘r were fortified behind barricades and they killed several soldiers and prevented them from entering their quarters . . . .  The French shelled the quarters that surrounded al-Azhar and directed their fire at the mosques of al-Azhar.  They people of the quarters were alarmed and ran away since they had not seen such missiles before.  As for the people of the Husayniyya and the ‘Atuf, they went on fighting until their gun powder was exhausted while the French fired constantly.   Finally, having exhausted their arms and unable to continue, they left their position to the French.  (October, 1798. Messiri, Sawsan el-, Ibn al-Balad: A Concept of Egyptian Identity (Leiden: Brill, 1978), p. 29, wording modified.)

Comments on the French scholars who accompanied the military expedition:
The French installed in this latter house [of one of the Mamlukes] a large library . . . open every day from ten o’clock. . .  If a Muslim wished to come in to visit the place he was not in the least prevented from doing so; on the contrary, he was warmly received. The French especially enjoyed it when the Muslim visitor appeared to be interested in the sciences. . . . I had occasion to visit this library quite a few times. I saw there, among other things, a large volume on the history of our Prophet (may God bless him). His holy visage was represented there as exactly as the knowledge of the author permitted. He was standing, looking up worshipfully toward the heavens, and holding in his right hand a sword and in his left hand a book . . . .
”Some of [the French scholars] had also learned verses of the Qur’an. In short, they were very great scholars and loved the sciences, especially mathematics and philology. They applied themselves day and night to learning the Arabic language and conversation.” (November 1798, Modern Islamic Literature from 1800 to the Present, ed. James Kritzek (N.Y.: NAL, 1970,pp. 19-20)

‘Ali ‘Abd al-Rāziq (1888–1966), Islam and the Bases of Government

(See Introducing Islam, 232.)
Synopsis of the argument.

  • A. The caliphate (khilāfa) is not necessary:
  • 1. Not clearly stipulated in the Qur'an.
  • 2. Not clearly stipulated in the Sunna of the Prophet.
  • 3. No binding ijmā’
    • a. the ijmā’ was compelled, thus it does not have moral and religious authority.
    • b. the ijmā’ was never unanimous - groups such as the Khawarij and certain Mu'tazilis never accepted it.
  • 4. Is it necessary for the good of the community (maṣlaḥa)?
    • a. This requires some government, but not a particular form of government.
    • b. In practice the caliphate was oppressive and its loss has not harmed religion.

  • B. The prophet's mission was in fact religious, not political.
  • 1. If the prophet had a government, why do we know so little about it?
    • a. Prophet clearly had elements of a government: e.g. jihad, governors, judges, taxes, etc.
    • b. But these were ad hoc; there is no evidence of a system.
  • 2. Was organising a government part of his mission?
    • a. A prophet has primacy.
    • b. But this is not the same as governing authority (e.g. Jesus).
    • c. It must be greater than governing authority, since it must rule over souls as well as bodies.
    • d. It must be spiritual authority; and spiritual authority is other than material authority.
    • e. Evidence in the Qur'an and the Sirah (traditional biography of Muhammad) that Muhammad rejected "kingship".
    • f. Islam was sent to unify the whole human race; this is possible religiously but not politically.
    • g. Those actions of the prophet that appear to be actions of state were necessary evils to sustain his preaching.
  • 3. As the Ridda (Apostasy) wars show:
    • a. Muhammad gave a spiritual, not a political unity, the Arabs were still divided into various "states".
      b. Some of the people of the Ridda were sincere Muslims.
  • 4. It would be blasphemy to say that Muhammad died without completing his mission, but if the caliphate had been part of his mission he would not have left it unsettled.
  • 5. Islam gave the Arabs a national unity and it was natural for them to erect on this a political empire.
  • 6. Reasons why Abu Bakr's caliphate was mistakenly thought to be religious.

Taha Hussein

Selections from The Future of Culture in Egypt (Mustaqbal al-thaqāfa fī Miṣr), by Taha Hussein, 1938. One of the most explicit statements in favor of Westernization by a major literary figure. (Taha Hussein, The Future of Culture in Egypt, trans. S. Glazer, New York: Octagon, l975; translation modified.) Another translation from Taha Hussein is found in the material for Chapter 6.
Islam arose and spread over the world. Egypt was receptive and hastened at top speed to adopt it as her religion and to make the Arabic of Islam her language. Did that obliterate her original mentality? Did that make her an Eastern nation in the present meaning of the term?  Not at all!  Europe did not become Eastern nor did the nature of the European mind change because Christianity, which originated in the East, flooded Europe and absorbed the other religions.  If modern European philosophers and thinkers deem Christianity to be an element of the European mind, they must explain what distinguishes Christianity from Islam; for both were born in the geographical East, both issued from one noble source and were inspired by the one God in whom Easterners and Westerners alike believe. . .
No, there are no intellectual or cultural differences to be found among the peoples who grew up around the Mediterranean and were influenced by it. Purely political and economic circumstances made the inhabitants of one shore prevail against those of the other. The same factors led them to treat each other now with friendliness, now with enmity.

We Egyptians must not assume the existence of intellectual differences, weak or strong, between the Europeans and ourselves or infer that the East mentioned by Kipling in his famous verse "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet" applies to us or our country. Isma‘il's statement that Egypt is a part of Europe should not be regarded as some kind of boast or exaggeration, since our country has always been a part of Europe as far as intellectual and cultural life is concerned, in all its forms and branches... The dominant and undeniable fact of our times is that day by day we are drawing closer to Europe and becoming an integral part of her, literally and figuratively. This process would be much more difficult than it is if the Egyptian mind were basically different from the European.

This is not all. Since the World War we have taken such decisive steps forward that any attempt to retrace them or abrogate the rights won would, I am certain, be violently resisted by many Egyptians. Which one of us is willing to see Egypt retreat from the progress she has made toward democracy, or who would go back to a system that did not center about a constitutional representative government? . . . .

In order to become equal partners in civilization with the Europeans, we must literally and forthrightly do everything that they do; we must share with them the present civilization, with all its pleasant and unpleasant sides, and not content ourselves with words or mere gestures.  Whoever advises any other course of action is either a deceiver or is himself deceived.  Strangely enough we imitate the West in our everyday lives, yet hypocritically deny the fact in our words . lf we really detest European life, what is to hinder us from rejecting it completely?   And if we genuinely respect the Europeans, as we certainly seem to do by our wholesale adoption of their practices, why do we not reconcile our words with our actions?   Hypocrisy ill becomes those who are proud and anxious to overcome their defects. . . .

We want to be like the European nations in military power in order to repel the attack of any aggressor and to be able to say to our English friends: “Thank you, you may go; for we can now defend the Canal.” Who wants the end must want the means; who wants power must want the elements constituting it; who wants a strong European-type army must want European training. . . .

Further, we want scientific, artistic, and literary independence so that we may be equals, not slaves of the Europeans in these aspects of life too. Desiring this intellectual and concomitant psychological independence, we naturally must want the means, namely, studying, feeling, judging, working, and organizing our lives the way they do.

We want, finally, to be free in our country, free from both foreign pressure and domestic inequity and oppression. The former requires strength, the latter democracy. If we aim at these ends we must adopt the means to acquire them. These are the means by which the European and American countries acquired their independence and their democratic government. The genuineness of Egypt's perennial desire for independence is attested to by the fact that our national personality was never absorbed into any one of the numerous races that attacked us. On the contrary, we managed to keep this personality intact from earliest times. Now that we have succeeded in restoring the honor and self-respect that come with independence, it is our plain duty to protect what we have won. . . .

Our good people should remember that as soon as Islam crossed the Arabian frontiers it came into contact with foreign civilizations whose relationship to the Muslims and Arabs at that time was the same as Europe's is to us now . The Muslim Arabs were not deterred by certain unpleasant features from adopting the motive-forces of the non-Muslim Persian and Byzantine Greek civilizations.  Incorporating these two into their ancient heritage, they produced the glorious Islamic culture of the Umayyads and Abbassids which our conservatives are seeking to recreate. . . .

Europe today resembles the Umayyad and Abbasid Near East in the richness of its civilization which, like any human creation, possesses good and bad aspects.  Our religious life will not suffer from contact with the European civilization any more than it suffered when we took over the Persian and Byzantine civilizations.

Hasan al-Banna

Selections from the speeches and writings of Hasan al-Banna, Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brothers (al-Ikhwān al-Muslimūn). From Hisham B. Sharabi, Nationalism and Revolution in the Arab World, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1966, pp. 108-110.
We believe that the doctrines and teachings of Islam are all-comprehensive and govern the affairs of men in this world and the next. Those who believe that these doctrines and teachings apply only to spiritual matters and to religious worship are mistaken . . . .
. . . the Muslim Brothers will use physical force only when nothing else will do, and then only when they are convinced they have perfected their faith and unity. [But] when they [decide to] use force they will be honorable and frank and will give advance warning . . . .
The Muslim Brothers do not demand power for themselves; if they find anyone capable of carrying this burden and of fulfilling the trust of government in accordance with a program based on Islam and the Qur’an, then they will be his soldiers, supporters, and helpers. But if they do not find such a man, then power is included in their program and they would strive to seize it from the hands of any government that does not fulfil Allah’s commands. . . . .

“The Arabs are the core and guardians of Islam . .  . . Arab unity is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of Islam’s glory . . . .

As such, Islam . . . considers all Muslims as one single nation and the Islamic homeland as one single territory. . . .

 The Muslim Brothers owe respect to their own particular nationalism, Egyptian nationalism, which constitutes the primary basis of the revival they seek. After that, they support Arab unity, which constitutes the second link in the movement of revival; and finally they strive for the Islamic League, which constitutes the perfect enclosure for the larger Islamic homeland.

Abdel Nasser

Quotations from Abdel Nasser on Islam and Religion. From: D. E. Smith, ed., Religion and Political Modernization, (New York: Free Press, l97l) pp. 270-1 and 275.

Mohammad, God’s blessing and peace be on him, gave us the example of social justice, progress and development, and thus Islam was able in these early days to defeat the strongest nations . . . and spread to all corners of the earth because it was the religion of righteousness, freedom, justice and equality. [Our enemies] say that socialism is infidelity.  But is socialism really what they describe by this term?  What they describe applies to raising slaves, hoarding money and usurping the people’s wealth.  This is infidelity and this is against religion and Islam.  What we apply in our country is the law of justice and the law of God.

We boast that we stick to religion, each one of us according to his religion.  The Muslim upholds his religion and the Christian upholds his, because religion represents the right and sound way . . . we pride ourselves on the fact that since the first day of our Revolution we have adhered to religion.  Not only the Revolution leaders, but the people as well.  It is the great secret behind the success of the Revolution: the adherence to religion.

The Authenticity of Arab Nationalism

From a book published in 1960 by Ibrahim Jum‘a, a professor at Cairo University. From Political and Social Thought in the Contemporary Middle East, ed. Kemal H. Karpat  (London: Pall Mall Press, 1968), pp. 48-50.

Arab nationalism was an existing reality before the emergence of Islam. This nationalism forcefully manifested itself through a common Arab sentiment and a defensive movement opposing the invasion of the Arabian Peninsula by the Ethiopians under “Abraha,” fifteen years before the rise of Islam. . .

Arab nationalism achieved its completed form with the creation of the Arab state by Islam. In this state  . . . the Arabs were molded into one Arab nation with one national state. The Arab spirit then invaded all the lands occupied by the Persians and Byzantines Arabizing their people and engulfing their national spirit within its own. . . . .

The Arabs undertook a moral invasion of these lands . . . . The Arabs had left their homeland armed with a religious message and a body of doctrines centering around justice, truth, brotherhood, freedom and peace. . . . 

. . . the genuine Arab code of morality graced and systematized by a divine message, restored dignity to mankind. It converted injustice into justice, fear into tranquillity, war into peace, and slavery into freedom. It reconciled the followers of Muhammad to the followers of Christ, declared all men free and equal, and established democracy, socialism, and a cooperative spirit long before these systems of life had been regulated and codified.

Arab nationalism derives its existence from the very depths of the Arab spirit and the nature of Arab life.  It is furthermore, a body of truths that transcend all discussion and argument . . . . 

Arab nationalism is a comprehensive, deeply ingrained faith which manifested itself in a past that the Arabs once lived through and want to relive, thus harking back to their true origin.

Islamist Anti Nationalism

Muhammad al-Ghazali (1917–1996) was a well known Islamist and for a time member of the Muslim Brothers. This passage is quoted from a 1953 book in Michelle Browers, “The Egyptian movement for change: Intellectual antecedents and generational conflicts”, Contemporary Islam 1 (2007):70-1 (wording modified)

“Nationalism has only lost for us our Islamic unity and enabled Christians and the Zionist imperialism to rob us of our most sacred rights. . ..The truth is that the growth of nationalism, racism and infidel patriotism is a loss of Islamic faith as well as a loss of Islamic rule. The revival of such evil fanaticism is a plot against God’s religion – a return to the first Jahiliyya with all its injustice and crime”

Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut

Shaykh Shaltut (1893-1963)  was Rector of al-Azhar (Shaykh al-Azhar) from 1958 to 1963, during the high point of Nasserist success and confidence. The following passage comes from his book, Min Tawjīhāt al-Islām (Islamic Instructions), Cairo, 1964, pp. 567-68, from the chapter entitled 'Government in Islam', which may have first been presented or written in the mid-1950's.  My translation.  See also the summary of this in M. Abraham, Mahmud Shaltut (1893-1963), A Muslim Reformist: His Life, Works and Religious Thought, pp. 156-57.
Summary of the Islamic Principles of Government

1. Sovereignty (siyāda): belongs to God alone because He is the creator and owner; within each people (sha‘b1­) it belongs to the people themselves after God who has made them khalīfas2 (cf. Qur’an 2:30) within their country (waṭan).

2. Government (ḥukm): belongs to God: it his His right and the right of the people who exercise it by delegation from God

3. The ruler: is an agent of the nation (umma); he has no sovereignty over it but rather it is his master and he is its trustworthy servant.

4. Consultation (shūrā3): is the basis of government; any government which is not based on consultation is not legitimate (shar‘i).

5. Collective solidarity: all individuals have collective responsibility for their welfare and the welfare of religion and state.

6. Popular supervision: the nation has the right to supervise its rulers, to call them to account, to set the broad lines of public policy, to oversee its execution, and to modify it in line with its welfare.

7. Removal of the khalīfa: by the nation if he is unjust and oppressive and his tyranny becomes evident, and he does not heed advice or criticism; if he refuses to step down he may be removed by force even if this leads to warfare and armed revolt, if the nation sees this to be in its interest.

8. The “people of binding and loosing”4: they are the people of knowledge, opinion and experience in all aspects of the nation's affairs; they are the tongue by which it expresses its pleasure and displeasure, and it is their right to nominate the most suitable of themselves to the caliphate and present him to the nation to decide whether to accept and choose him, without any pressure or compulsion; it is the right of every Muslim to have a say in the choice of the khalīfa and to state openly his opinion with complete freedom and without suffering any harm even if it contradicts the majority, although he must accept the will of society.
9. The goal of government: is the well being of the governed, the establishment of internal tranquility and strength vis-a-vis outside powers, and the spreading of peace.

1. A word typical of Nasserist vocabulary.
2. For the idea of humans as khalīfa of God, see  Qur'an 2:30 etc.
3. A key Islamic concept, see Qur'an 3:159 and 42:38.
4. “The people of binding and loosing” (ahl al-ḥall wa-l-‘aqd), a phrase used to refer to the natural leaders of a community.

Sayyid Qutb (1906-66)

(Cf. p. 234-5 of Introducing Islam and the Glossary).

Sayyid Qutb was born in a village in the area of Asyut in Upper Egypt in 1906 and as a school boy was a strong partisan of Sa‘d Zaghlul’s campaign for Egyptian independence. He moved to Cairo in 1921 to further his education and eventually became a teacher and then an official in the Ministry of Education. He was also a poet, a literary critic and a writer on social issues and he moved in the same circles as Taha Hussein and Abbas al-‘Aqqad (see p. 81 in Introducing Islam and the index on Taha Hussein). His views can be described as secularist and reformist. In the period immediately after the Second World War he voiced harsh criticism of Western imperialism and of the political and economic leadership of Egypt, first in secular terms and then, from 1948, in Islamist terms. Social Justice in Islam, written in 1948, was his first major Islamist statement. From late 1948 until 1950 he was in the United States on a study program and became harshly critical of the materialism of American society. After his return to Egypt he joined the Muslim Brothers and quickly become one of its leading spokespeople. The Brothers first supported but soon became disillusioned with the government of Abdel Nasser, which came to power in 1952. When their leaders were arrested in 1954 Qutb was among them and he remained in prison for most of the rest of his life. He was briefly released in 1964 but rearrested the following year on the charge of conspiring against the government and was executed in 1966, thus becoming a martyr to the Islamist cause. It was in prison that he developed his radical ideas that are found in the passage below and even more in Milestones and parts of In the Shade of the Qur’an. These ideas are considered by many to form an important part of the inspiration of Bin Laden and others connected with al-Qaeda.

There are large number of books and articles on Sayyid Qutb. A good introductory treatment is Charles Tripp, “Sayyid Qutb: The Political Vision” in Pioneers of Islamic Revival, ed. Ali Rahmena (London: Zed, 1994, republished 2005). A good book length treatment of his whole life is Adnan Musallam, From Secularism to Jihad: Sayyid Qutb and the Foundations of Radical Islamism (Praeger, 2005)

The most recent book on Sayyid Qutb is Toth, James (2013). Sayyid Qutb: The Life and Legacy of a Radical Islamic Intellectual. Oxford: Oxford University

Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966). Chapter 5 from

Social Justice in Islam.

Separate PDF document on this website.

Sayyid Qutb: A “revolutionary” approach.

See Introducing Islam, 234-6. The following is from his most radical and best known work, Ma‘ālim fī al-ṭarīq (Milestones or Signposts) (Beirut: Dar al-Shuruq, 1973, pp. 87-88, M-my translation). It represents the latest stage of his thinking and could be described as a charter for Islamic revolution.
Therefore, before we think about establishing an Islamic social order and establishing a Muslim Society on the basis of this order, we must first direct our concern to purifying the hearts and minds of individuals from service to anything other than God in any of the forms which we have mentioned. The individuals who have purified their minds and hearts from service to anything other than God must come together into a Muslim group (jamā‘a muslima), and it is from this group, whose individual members have purified their minds and hearts from service to anything other than God, that the Muslim society will arise. Those will join it who wish to live in this society with its creed, its worship, and its sharī‘a by which their service to God alone takes concrete form, or to put it differently, by which the declaration that there is no god God and Muhammad is the Apostle of God takes concrete form.
In this manner was formed the first Muslim group which established the first Muslim society, and thus every Muslim group will be formed and every Muslim society established.
The Muslim society comes into existence only when individuals or groups of people turn from serving something other than God, whether along with or apart from Him, to serving God alone with no associate and when these groups decide to organize their life on the basis of this service. At that point there takes place a new birth of a new society, which splits off from the old jāhilī society and confronts it with a new creed and, based on that creed, a new order of life in which in which the two halves of the basic principle of Islam – the declaration that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Apostle of God – take shape.

Then the old jāhilī society in its entirety may choose to join the new Islamic society, or it may not. It may make a truce with the new Muslim Society or it may fight against it. But the rule (sunna) has been that the jāhilī society wages relentless war, both against the vanguards of this society in its earliest stage – when it consists of individuals and groups – and against this society itself after it has actually been established – as has happened without exception in the history of the preaching of Islam, from the prophet Noah, upon whim be peace, to Muhammad, upon whom be blessings and peace.

It is natural that the new Muslim society can be formed and can secure its existence only if it achieves sufficient strength to face the pressure of the old jāhilī society. This must include strength of doctrine and thought, strength of  moral character and psychological constitution, strength of organization and social structure, and the other forms of strength which will enable it confront the pressure of the jāhilī society and conquer it or at least hold out against it.

Islam in Egypt

From a 12th grade Egyptian religious studies text book (1989-90):

"Islam was Egypt's choice, and the environment of Egypt  - through its religious culture since the time of the monotheist Akhenaton - was prepared for Islam, and absorbed it all: doctrine and law, science, culture and conduct.  Since then, Egypt's features have differed from other Islamic countries.  Islam in Egypt is Islam without fanaticism, Islam without extremism, and it is remarkable that Islamic Egypt alone, through fourteen centuries, has never been linked with excess or extremism in its religious conduct . . . .  Indeed, the Egyptian personality is moderate in its religiosity and behavior, middle-of-the-road in its thought and practice, neither excessive nor negligent, and from here were the riches of civilization."

From: Gregory Starret, Putting Islam to Work: Education, Politics, and Religious Transformation in Egypt (Berkeley & Los Angeles: U. of California Press, 1998), p. 177.

The Wasat Party

The Wasat Party was formed in 1996 by former members of the Muslim Brothers along with others as an ideologically middle of the road party but it has not been granted legal status as a party. The following account of its principles is found in Michelle Browers, “The Egyptian movement for change: Intellectual antecedents and generational conflicts”, Contemporary Islam 1 (2007):78 (minor modifications)

The Wasat party breaks from the traditional rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood in a number of respects. The Wasat claims to be a civil political party with an Islamic frame of reference. According to Madhi (founder of the party), Islam must be understood as a “civilizational concept” (Madhi 2006). The most recent Wasat party program states: “The founding members believe that a general Islamic framework is inclusive of all Egyptians: Islam is not only the religion of the Muslims: it is also, for both Muslims and non-Muslims, the cultural framework within which Egypt’s creative intellectuals, scientists and leaders have made their contributions, and Arabic, the language of Islam, is the language in which Egyptian religious leaders, whether Muslim or Christian, have preached. Islamic culture is the homeland of all Egyptians, Muslim and non-Muslim” (Al-Wasat party program, 2004: al-Wasat 2006, 3–4). The Wasat program also champions popular sovereignty, separation and balanceof powers, rotation of power through elections, term limits for government post, freedom of belief and speech, the right to found parties, freedom of association, “intellectual and political pluralism” and “complete equality of men and women” (al-Wasat 2006, 6–8, 43). They also maintain that religious discourse must be reformed through ijtihad (independent reasoning): “its contents need to be modernized and its negative concepts, apologetic language and exclusivist, isolation tendencies need to be discoursed” (al-Wasat 2006, 41). Although the party seeks to “make the shari‘a part of the very fabric of daily life,” they do not do not view Islamic law as a fixed set of rule and guidelines to be applied. Rather, they see it as “an authoritative framework of values and standards” articulated through “human interpretations.” The task, they argue, “is to select interpretations of Islamic law which contribute towards, rather than obstruct, the development of society” (al-Wasat 2006, 4). In addition, they display an openness to ideas emerging from non-Islamic contexts through their rejection the notion of a “clash of civilizations.” The platform asserts that there exists a “common human civilization” and calls for recognition of “the cooperation, mutual knowledge and complementarity of all cultures” (al-Wasat 2006, 57).

Continue reading: An Islamist View of Government in Islam (PDF)


Aswany, Alaa al-, The Yacoubian Building. New York, etc.: Harper, 2004 (Original Arabic edition, 2002). Highly acclaimed and controversial novel about the lives of several characters living in the same building in Cairo, including a good account of one who becomes a radical Islamist as well as illustrations of how Islam is or is not reflected in the lives of others.

Kenney, Jeffrey T. (2006), Muslim rebels: Kharijites and the politics of extremism in Egypt Oxford University Press. (A good discussion of the Kharijites as a political symbol in modern Egypt.)

Article comparing Takfir wa-Hijra and Islamic Jihad

Sayyid Qutb and Islamic Activism: A translation and critical analysis of "Social Justice in Islam" (Al-‘Adalah al-ijtima‘iyyah fi al-islam) ,  Leiden: Brill, 1996.  (ISBN 90-04-10152-7) Website:

© William Shepard

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