Understanding Political Islam: Acknowledging the Resistance

Sheikh Chafiq Jredah

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After a long struggle with the Persian Safavid state, the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed from the weight of the various crises which had turned it into the sick man of Europe. Its collapse left in its wake heated sectarian conflict. Weighed down by this intra-sectarian fighting, stripped of its Islamic content and heritage, the Empire yielded the reins of power to the aggressive power of an expanding European colonialism.

Within this climate, Muslim society found itself facing its own sectarian conflict; but additionally and more seriously, it was confronted now with Muslim-Christian hostility, a blind imitation of the West [in states such as Turkey, Egypt and Persia], and a nationalist inheritance that surged into the Islamic domain looking to capture its very nature, role and position. This gave rise amongst Muslims to a grave concern over the very destiny of their society - and its seemingly limited future. Most importantly, Islamic civilisation and culture were being questioned, revealing society’s self-despair. It was searching for a saviour, even if it were the devil himself. As a result, the true hero of this Muslim nation, at this desperate juncture, would of necessity be a ‘bold soul’ who could talk of hope. Such was Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani: a revolutionary who challenged the rottenness of introversion and who spoke out against Western aggression. With his innate confidence, he offered an alternative of an Islamic ideology to be understood as a way of living, which could oppose passivity and death. A group of men gathered around him who would become pioneers of the movement known as ‘the Arab Renaissance’.