Political Islam Discourse: Between Employing the Crisis and the Crisis of Employment

This paper seeks to, partially, analyze the employing the crisis of the historical bitterness in the West's relationship with the Islamic world, in the discourse of political Islam groups, besides the crisis of the using symbols. In addition to analyze the problem of relating Islam, as a global religion, with Dawa'a (the call to believe in Islam) a partisan concept.

by Dr. Saber Malwai Ahmad
  • Publisher – STRATEGICS
  • Release Date – Feb 20, 2022

This paper is part of the series: Political Islam in Focus

(1) Historical Wound

The purpose of this paragraph is not to address the historical aspect of political Islam. Rather, the purpose is to return to the nature of the context, in which the first stem of political Islam discourse has been simplified to.

The Islamic World is suffering the consequences of the bitterness left by occupation, which successively came onto the regions of the Islamic world at the onset of the twentieth century. Most Islamic World state experienced occupation and colonialism of various successively Western states. Such status of occupation was accompanied by the status of struggle, sacrifice, and political struggle against the occupier, in addition toa status of liberation, and search for the causes of colonialism.

In this political-social-cultural context, the mother group of political Islam emerged in Egypt; it was the 1928 Muslim Brotherhood, led by Hasan al-Banna. Various ideologies in the name of Marxism, liberalism, nationalism, etc. already were found. These movements were originated and formed within the context of Western centralization in and before the 19th century, and found their way to the Islamic cultural context in general, and the Arab context in particular.

After the end of the Second World War in 1945, the second half of the 20th century embodied the state of liberation and independence from foreign rule of the various colonial powers. If we wish to describe the first decades of the second half of the 20th century in the Islamic World, then such description would be: the perfect decades of ideological enlargement. While the Arab ideology sees that it is capable of doing the act of renaissance and progress on the ground, and in the context of nation states, that aspire to achieve the unity and integration, in order to achieve a unified Arab homeland [1], Marxist currents did their best to achieve the goal of imposing the power of the proletariat. having failed to do so, the Islamists raised the slogan "Islam is the solution".

Every Party, then, employed the bitterness towards colonialism in its own way; Marxist current's first enemy is the Western imperialism, and solving the Arab world problems lies in adopting of Scientific Socialism. The conflict, for Marxist currents, is limited to the Western imperialism powers and representatives thereof. Therefore, socialism is the solution.

While the Arab nationalist movement left the same distance between liberalism and socialism. The same is a combination of all trends. Nationalism shaped the ideology of ruling in several countries, with differences in their implementations.

As for the Islamists, they rejected all that is Western; the latter, for them, the liberal, secular, and communist currents which resembles the West are the subject of conflict. The Palestinian Cause, and its accompanying events and circumstances, were fundamental issues, that have established the principle and idea of conflict and bias towards the idea of death instead of life. It contributed in promoting these ideas and principles. The Islamic epic wars, against different empires and civilizations, were recalled back from history.

At the time, however, the Islamists did not have a theoretical basis to frame their principles and ideology, despite hasan al-Banna's organizational capabilities. Those basis were created by Sayyid Qutb- one of the most prominent theorists of political Islam, alongside with Abu al-Alaa al-Mudoudi. After Sayyid Qutb, the area of political Islam expanded throughout the Islamic world, in various names.


Sayyid Qutb has gone so far in his efforts to sort the other and the anti-Islamic in the context of a supposed duale conception. He made the other a subject of conflict; to the extent that he has made both, war and conflict, a law that controls and applies the history of Muslims and the others; by reducing the history down altogether to the form of conflict between Muslims and the others.

Sayyid Qutb stresses on his opinion by saying:

"The consecutive experiences revealed the inevitable law governing relations between the Muslim community, where God is the only god and lord, the graces bestower, the ruler, the legislator on a hand, and between the societies of Jahiliya {pre-Islam era}, that dedicate the foregoing to either than God or to the partners of God... This inevitable law is the law of conflict, which is expressed by the saying of Allah Almighty " And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned" (Hajj Surah, 40), which the Almighty also says " And if it were not for Allah checking [some] people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted" (Baqarah Surah, 251) [...]. This last phenomenon, and the original rule on which it is based is decided by God almighty, in saying about the polytheists " And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. " (Baqarah, 217), in which he says about the People of the Book {the Christians and the Jews} "Never will the Jews nor the Christians be pleased with you till you follow their religion" (Baqarah, 120). In these definitive texts, the Almighty declares the unity of purpose between all the parties of Jahiliya, towards Islam and the Muslims. He also declares the strength of insisting on such goal, and its extension through time, as well as being not limited to a time or a place! Without realizing that inevitable law in the nature of relations between the Islamic community and the ignorant communities, and the interpretation of the phenomena, that arise from it throughout history, then it is not possible to understand the nature of jihad in Islam, nor the nature of those long conflicts between the Jahiliya and the Islamic parties, nor could the motives of the early mujahideen, or the secrets of Islamic conquests, or the secrets of pagan and crusader wars, that have never been stopped for fourteen centuries, be understood." [2].

With this understanding, that gave emotions a priority over to mind, revoking the traumas of unrecovered wounds, the Islamists' ideology accessed broad strata of people, for it addressed the bitterness colonialism left for them.

From the ideas of Qutb trend, more extremist groups emerged, like (al-Takfeer wa al-Hijra) group. Qutb trend also was mixed with the Jihadi Salafism, then to ISIS later, in addition to other extremist groups.

Everything that Sayyid Qutb wrote, can be summed up in the content of such paragraph ant its likes. these paragraphs became dominant in understanding everything he wrote, where the presence of critical and rhetorical aspects of Sayyid Qutb's was hidden, like what he said in his book (The Artistic Imagery in the Qur'an). This can possibly be a result of the circumstances of his death (executed) the matter that made it easier to summarize his ideas, and making the idea of conflict be more attractive, in terms of promoting it, leading to the belief that all his ideas were right.

In fact, his death marked the rebirth of his subjects and perceptions, which contributed to the rapid access of political Islam's discourse to all societal groups in the Islamic world. If Sayyid Qutb were to die normally, then the Islamists' discourse would be something else; instead of who he is. The Islamists kept the rope in which their master, Sayyid Qutb, was executed with, using it in Da'wa every now and then.

The discourse of Islamists was created amidst such an atmosphere, which is not free of the idea of promoting the various forms of conflict: classes conflict, science and religion conflict, conflict over power, faith and disbelief conflict, West and Islam conflict.

While the Islamists invested mosques and other places far Da'wa, others were investing in trade union headquarters and other places. The university space, in various universities in the Arab world, was the arena of ideological competition, which occasionally turned into confrontations, especially between leftists and Islamists.

In a brief method, we approached the nature of the general context, that shaped the discourse of political Islam. The Islamists, instead of going beyond the bitterness of colonialism, via adopting the Western sciences, cognitive, and naturally universal, preferred to make the bitterness of colonialism a wound that perpetuates the break with the culture of the age. A wound employed in the process of populist polarization, for the benefit of various Islamic organizations.

One of the things that asserts what we said, is that the organizations of political Islam have dealt with the logic of rejection, doubt, or lack of interest with the writings, intellectual, and philosophical projects in the Islamic world. there are many examples about this context, like that the Islamists did not accept the discourse of the Algerian sociologist, Malek Bennabi, in his distinction between colonialism and the inviting circumstances for colonialism. The first point is the result of previous reasons and causes, which may be facilitating the conditions of the Renaissance. Malik Bennabi did not see the West from the point of view of enmity, rather, he saw it from the point of view of knowledge and civilization, the view which is absent of the Islamists' discourse.


The fact is that the Islamists appeared in the arena as a psychological reaction with a political concern, expressing the great concern after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1924. For some at that time, the fall of Ottoman empire was deemed the fall of Islam in the psychological suggestions. Therefore, the Islamists' understanding was of a polarizing political concern right from the beginning. They supported the revolution of Free Officers in Egypt 1952, before challenging it later. This is due to the obsession of power that occupies the Islamists, and occupies all the organizations that branched out from them throughout the world. The manifestations of power obsession appeared when the Islamists took over power in Sudan, after a military coup in 1989, and in their subsequent attempts in Algeria, Syria, and Egypt in the mid to late 20th century, without any knowledge or philosophical concern expressing the civilized spirit of Islam.

At the end of the last century, specifically with the collapse of the Soviet Union 1991, nationalists engaged in a dialogue with Islamists, despite disputes between the two parties [3]. The end of the Soviets was a reason for the Marxist ideology, of all kinds thereof, to contract. The arena was empty before the Islamists, and there was competition among their currents, as the "Afghan mujahedeen" got into a fierce war among themselves. The mask of holiness and being a myth for the Afghan Mujahedeen, given to them by the Islamists, fell down. Such holiness reached the extent that the Islamists said the perfume can be smelled from the blood of the Afghan "mujahideen".

Nevertheless, that period witnessed the Islamists been preoccupied with another issue, related to the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the same time, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, and the Afghan Arabs were able to align themselves with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, surprising the world with the events of the September 11, 2001 attacks, on targets in the United States, after which the United States declared war on the Taliban, being a safe haven for al-Qaeda. But this time, the rest of the currents of political Islam, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, sticked themselves to a kind of official of neutrality.

Despite the foregoing, as we are demonstrating the opportunistic nature of the Islamists' discourse while dealing with global issues, we do not deny the nature of the disparity between the Countries of the North and the countries of the South, nor do we deny that the Western centralist behaviors have negative repercussions in the region. They actually caused many harms that affected humanity as a whole. The West and Western modernity are not sacred, they need rationalization and evaluation. This will be achieved only with awareness, criticism, and analysis of modernity, through modernity itself.

The question to be asked today is whether the Islamizes, after the events of the so-called "Arab Spring", especially for the Islamists who have went through the political experience, have managed to overcome the positions of their predecessors in the conflict with the other, by adopting a new vision and philosophy in understanding the differences between oneself and the other, allowing the Islamists a new horizons for discourse? Or is it that the Islamists are still in the orbit of old discourses, but in a different language and color? It is a question that depends on time and reality on the one hand; though such question is subject to different knowledge formations, in understanding the past and the present on the other hand.

(2) Relating Da'wa to Islam

The Islamists introduced the concept of "da'wa", aiming to communicate with the public in general, and to congregate the public around their speech. What Da'wa that is? Of course, the call to Islam and its teachings, as if Islam first appeared in the twentieth century, or as if the Muslims of the twentieth century were adopting a religion either than Islam. The concept of "da'wa", as presented by the followers of political Islam, is general, comes with ambiguous meanings.

It is true that the Qur'an contains the word "da'wa" as stated in the verse: "Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided " (al-Nahl, 125). But the subject of the "Invitation" here is a call for the path of God, it is not as is the way of political Islam, which an invitation to a group or organization in the name of God, and in the name of his path.

The path of God is broader than we imagine. It can never be contained by an organization or group. The message of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) is not an invitation to a group or a sect. Those who believed at the age of the Prophet, at the onset of Islam, are not the same in vision and style, or in the attitudes, perceptions, and understanding.

This is radically different from the approach of those involved in the various ideologies today, who describe all those who disagree with them as "misguided". knowing that only God knows "has gone astray". This was God's will to his dignified Prophet (PBUH) which came in the context of Da'wa and spreading Islam. We can read that in the verse "Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has gone astray from His way, and He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided" (al-Qalam surah, 7) and the verse "Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who strays from His way, and He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided" (al-Anaam, 117).

People, in all societies, have the right to group in certain organizations; an issue imposed by living in societies. But this should not be in the name of Islam. In Islamic history, the different opinions, in understanding Islam among followers of methods, doctrines, and Zawaya (Islam teaching groups in mosques) were attributed to who came up with them. So, there was nothing wrong in taking this or that view. it is a matter of proof and evidence. As for Islam, it is the general context, in which all may participate.

From the very beginning, there hasn't been a clear systematic separation in Islamists' discourse and their Da'wa [4]. There is no full awareness that what they call for is a political conception and understanding of Islam, not the very Islam itself. What confirms what we said is that Islamic groups have entered into race among themselves, on the nature of the correct perception that represents Islam. Each group sees itself as having the correct understanding of Islam, and that it is closer to the perception that the Prophet (PBUH) and the Prophets' companions (May God rest their soul), despite their awareness -i.e. the groups of political Islam- that what unites them is more than what may divides them.

This lack of separation, made the Islamists within the society, along with the ideologies and other currents, appear to show them as if representing Islam, as long as they speak with Islam's voice, repeating its texts. So, people, consciously or unconsciously, tend to favor the idea of Islam's voce, because that is an integral part of the passion and a Muslim. The overall views of the Islamists are been related to be as an expression of the opinion of Islam. The truth is that the Islamists do not have any systematic distinction between the Islamic history on a hand, with the doctrinal and jurisprudence systems and schools of thoughts formed within it, and between the perceptions and philosophy of the Qur'an its vision of man, the world, and civilization on another hand. Islam is same in terms of being a religion as well as the Qur'an, but it is multiple in terms of history and people's pious sense. The selective image of Islam, adopted by any Islamic organization, is for them, Islam itself.

Therefore, the discourse of the Islamists entered into everything related to people's lives, in the name of Islam. it left no detail without trying to cover it with religion. It interfered in dress, tastes, theater, cinema, music, painting, football, the way of sleep, and so on" [5]. Such interference is not of any critic or rational view for life. It is all about guaranteeing people's congregation around such views in the name of Islam.

The result was the emergence of groups of young people, stereotyped on one template, deeming themselves as adhered to Islam. Here, we can make a comparison with the fashion magazines which reduces all tastes in one, related to a product of clothes or else. The Islamists in their deduction to all opinions and points of view, regarding the religion and the setae, have one vision which a current call for, for the purpose of spreading the Da'wa. When you make a dialogue with one Islamist, it would be like you made a dialogue with all Islamists. This is an ideological plague of discourses, no matter how this may be. 

(3) The Symbolism of Discourse and the Traumatized Collective Mind

The Islamists love to create multiple forms in the public space, that distinguish them from the others and may be a symbol for them. We find this present in their privacy and symbolism in uniform and appearance, which the Islamists have invested in the public space in an unimaginable way. This became an indication of what they represent and what may represent the others. This also applies to the vocabulary of communication in between them, in addition to many things and issues in people's lives.

In fact, the symbolism, enshrined by Islamists in public space, extended to many people without having anything to do with Islamists. Many of them did not differentiate between the customs and traditions of the Islamists, and the doctrinal provisions of Islam, achieved for its purpose and aim.

On the other hand, the cultural problem of the Islamic world goes beyond the discourse of political Islam. The end of the Islamists does not mean, for some reason, that the Islamic world will be at its best. The Islamic world's crisis is a crisis of mind; primarily, in the relationship of that mind with reality, including the universe, science, knowledge, and the future. Authors elaborated on the attempt to explain and recount this problem in many works, such as Mohammad Abed al-Jabri's books on (Criticism of the Arab Mind), and Muhammad Arkoun in his book (From Jurisprudence to Criticism of the Islamic Mind", Abdullah al-Aroui in his book (The Concept of Mind), and other writings that discussed the context of the crisis in a diverse and varied way.


This does not mean that the Western mind is at its best; the cognitive crisis varies from context to context, but it may have the same consequences sometimes. By the time the Muslim mind rejected contemplating God's miracles in the world and in the very self, it lost half of guidance in the universe. It is with knowledge we are guided in the different scientific majors. Almighty God says " We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?" (Fussilat Surah, 53). And when the Western mind thought that the material has everything in it, with no world before or after it, it lost half of the guidance from the world of the unseen. Almighty God says "He is Allah, than Whom there is none has the right to be worshipped but Him, the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen (open). He is the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful" (al-Hashr, 22) and He also said " And be not like those who forgot Allah and He caused them to forget their own selves, those are the rebellious, disobedient to Allah" (al-Hashr 19).

Thus, today's crisis is complex, and it has no benefit in the partial understanding, as much as it needs knowledge approaches and frameworks that evoke the all different sciences towards a complex understanding of man; and a complex understanding for the existence and the world, which gathers the seen and the unseen. Finally, we reiterate what Quran said " Say (O Muhammad): "O Allah! Creator of the heavens and the earth! All-Knower of the unseen, and the seen. You will judge between your slaves about that wherein" (al-Zumur surah, 46).



[1] Abdullah al-Aroui's book, Contemporary Arab Ideology, is one of the most significant books in this context; its first French edition was published in 1967

[2] Sayyid Qutb; Interpretation in the Shadows of the Qur'an; Dar al-Shorouk; Egypt; i.32; 2003. A. 3; p. 1593.

[3] Conference: "Islamic National Dialogue" Center for Arab Unity Studies. Cairo, 1989

[4] Abdelilah Belkeziz discussed this issue in a lengthy study, entitled "The Call and the Preachers: Critical Introductions "See: https://www.mominoun.com/articles/%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%A9-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%A9-%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AF%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%86%D9%82%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A9-5416

[5] Abdul Razzaq al-Jabran; The Existential Solution to Religion, The Coup of the Temple; The Arab Publishing House, First Edition 2007; p.53

Dr. Saber Malwai Ahmad

Moroccan writer and researcher specialized in intellectual and Quranic studies.