Islamic revival, Its Roots of Origin and Ruin of Results – Part 1

Extremism Studies Unit

Islamic revival is a state of religious rebirth, it was created for political, non-religious purpose, subjective and objective. As for subjectivity, it was represented by the defeat of the Arab regimes in the war against Israel in 1967 and the failure of the Arab regimes of achieving development and renaissance for their peoples, where Islamist movements in general had exploited the religious culture of our societies and religious slogans to present themselves as a political alternative to the leadership of the state and society.

As for objectivity, international circumstances served the revival with the availability of multiple circumstances, including the US strategy in resisting the communist expansion in the East and Europe, as shown by leaked US documents. Not to mention the success of the Iranian revolution led by Khomeini and its determination to export the model of its revolution to the Arab region. It was necessary to curb the communist and Iranian expansion, through an ideology of equal strength and in the opposite direction.

Therefore, the US/European decision to support the Revival was: embracing it and instructing Arab regimes to embrace it, led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The roots of the Islamic revival in the renaissance movement

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a renaissance movement arose in the East. In general, it was calling for benefiting from the the West and its political systems, in addition to calling for deliverance from tradition and working to develop a spirit of diligence and jurisprudential renewal. The ideas of a number of reform figures such as Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Ali Abd al-Raziq and others contributed to planting the seeds of a revival/reformist thought. The ideas of these reformers represented the seeds that the Islamic revival later exploited to present itself to society as a religious and political reform movement that demanded a nation’s renaissance through a religious project that it had legislated for itself, authoritatively and religiously.

The role of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist thought in influencing the revival

The second generation of the Muslim Brotherhood movement and the contemporary Islamic generation, such as Hassan al-Hudaybi, Sayyid Qutb, Muhammad al-Ghazali, Muhammad Imara, Yusef al-Qaradawi, al-Shaarawi and others, in addition to the sheikhs of the Salafi call, headed by Abdullah bin Baz, lead the Islamic revival intellectually, spiritually and ideologically, so that their writings and ideas would become the inspiration for the revival generation that chose the Islamic solution as an alternative. And the Brotherhood’s “oppressed cover”, which was brilliantly used by the revival media, contributed to granting it moral legitimacy socially and it was the ideological framework for an revival with a Salafi affiliation, a Brotherhood in thought and politics.

The Salafi and MB – despite their differences – are the ideologues of the revival discourse, the most prominent and weighty representatives of Sunni political Islam in the modern era. The Wahhabi Salafi movement and the MB are ideological movements in the modern sense rather than religious or missionary movements in the traditional sense.

As a result, the unity of the reference roots of the Islamic revival is a mixture of the two “Salafist and MB” ideologies, and the jihadist organizations are nothing but a split or protrusion from this revival on the one hand and a natural evolution of it on the other. The Salafi and MB ideologies played a major role in the birth of the revival, the MB provided these organizations with concepts, while Wahhabism gave them radical depth. To this extent, it may be possible to summarize the general ideological framework of the Islamic revival generation, but it does not always reveal its characteristics, especially since its practical course shows clear discrepancies between the organizations that are branching out of it.

Exploitation of Revival to the Legacy of Pioneers of Islamic Reform and Renaissance

The basis for which the revival ascribes itself goes back to a group of early pioneers of reformist Islamic Renaissance thinkers, who began their struggle at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Their reformist discourse was distinguished as an intellectual call in the first place, aimed at liberating awareness from superstition and imitation, devising explanations, footnotes and abbreviations, raising it towards diligence, excellence and creativity.

The Islamic reformist renaissance thought, represented at that time by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Imam Muhammad Abduh, Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi and Rashid Rida, was as close as possible to democratic thought. It adopted the basis of education, training and awareness-building in a peaceful and persuasive manner. In other words, it had a spirit of relativism and did not drift behind the illusions of possessing the absolute truth.

The Islamic renaissance discourse succeeded in achieving a good and balanced openness and it did not hesitate to quote from modern intellectual thoughts, to listen to them, away from the concerns of confrontation, fighting and self-defense.

Although the Islamic Revival attributes itself to this renaissance reform legacy, it did not work in its essence either politically or culturally, taking its crusts and denying its origins, and thus practicing the revival forgery, claiming that it is one of the fruits of the renaissance pioneers, but the revival mentality and behavior, and its extremist results, proving the innocence of the renaissance pioneers.

The Wahhabi revival went towards orthodoxy to cleanse religion of what had happened to it as a result of Ottoman politics and its adoption of populist mysticism from deviations by the Prophetic Sunnah and a return of religiosity to the foundations laid by the founder Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, which was strict, also with its opponents. The Brotherhood revival has made access to power its concern; it has used the discourse of the oppressed, the inevitability of an Islamic solution, and Islam is valid for all time and place, to establish the legitimacy of its right to power as an alternative to tyrannical and failed regimes.

The birth of Islamic revival

The abolition of the Islamic caliphate, the advent of European colonialism and the alliance between the Egyptian secular elites and the colonialists were the pretexts on which Hassan al-Banna relied for the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood. During its second phase in the fifties of the last century, that is, after the assassination of its founder and its dispute with Abdel Nasser, the ideologist was Sayyid Qutb, who theorized of a conflict with the revolution’s regime, he established the organization 1965 with terrorist goals to overthrow the Nasser regime. Some of them went to the persecution of the MB in detention centers. It was a catalyst for the radical transformation of its ideas, it also appears in Sayyid Qutb’s writings, most of which were the product of the jurisprudence during detention and the divergence of personal experiences and ideological inclinations of the founding theorists is the second determinant that shaped the two competing ideologies and caused their differences. The Wahhabi movement was founded by a young Najdi scholar, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792)

The 1960s and 1970s of the last century witnessed a wide social movement in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which practiced a modern form of Islamic activism that until then had been absent from the political scene in the country. This movement was called Islamic Revival or Revival for short, and soon it was able to influence an entire generation of Saudi youth, depending on the state’s own institutions and at the same time, more organized networks were established within the Revival. Exploiting a highly favorable political climate, it quickly became a pivotal component of the Saudi social discourse.

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