INTRO - Introduction A few years ago pundits and...

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A few years ago pundits and politicians discovered Islam—yet again. This sister religion of Judaism and Christianity was suddenly seen to determine the politics of the more than one billion Muslims in this world. Indeed, Islam, it was believed, prescribed a particular form of politics: secularism, or the separation of din (religion) from dawla (state), was inconceivable. Nor could there be any opting out of worldly concerns. Muslims must work to achieve the divinely ordained political community in this world, the dunya . Thus, the three d s, din , dawla , and dunya , cohered to provide a distinctly Islamic approach to political life. Pundits and politicians of earlier times had regarded Islam differently. One of the few Arabic words with Islamic resonance that our grandparents would have recognized is kismet, meaning fate or destiny. 1 Muslims, it was believed, were fatalists, disinclined to believe that human exertions could shape events signiFcantly. What was maktub (written, that is preordained by God) would surely occur. 2 The most recent Western perception of Islam and politics is surely linked to the last months of 1 9 78 and early 1 9 7 9 when a seventy-eight-year-old Muslim cleric who had lived the previous fourteen years in exile forced an autocrat from his throne and began a revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini had rallied a mass movement in Iran that overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty— which President Jimmy Carter had earlier labeled an “island of stability” in a volatile region—putting in its place an Islamic government. Two years later, in October 1 9 81 , Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat was gunned down by assassins following, as they claimed, the dictates of Islam Introduction
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to eradicate this “pharaoh” and work to achieve a legitimate Islamic gov- ernment. Thereafter it seemed as if every Muslim country has confronted the chal- lenge of adapting politics and governance to the requirements of Islam. Some governments claimed to be Islamic. These would include, in addition to Iran, Pakistan and Sudan. Adding confusion to these new developments, the Saudi Arabia regime, which since its creation in the 1920 s had viewed itself as the very epitome of Islamic orthodoxy (and been dismissed by many modernist Muslims as hopelessly old hat), was now accused by radi- cal religious forces of lacking Islamic legitimacy. Many other governments in Muslim countries have sought to adopt a religious coloration, for example by insisting that all legislation must con- form to the corpus of Muslim religious law known as the Shari‘ah . Radical religious groups have met such efforts, however, with derisive dismissal.And there are many such groups. Their names, once alien to Western ears, have entered into the Western lexicon—Hizbullah, Hamas, TakFr wa al-Hijra, ±IS, and many others. Ironically, the older Muslim Brethren, once the bad
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This note was uploaded on 07/12/2008 for the course MC 441 taught by Professor Ayoob during the Spring '08 term at Michigan State University.

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INTRO - Introduction A few years ago pundits and...

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