Dietrich Reetz (ed.), Sendungsbewußtsein oder Eigennutz: Zu Motivation und Selbstverständnis islamischer Mobilisierung. (Studien / Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient; Nr. 15) Berlin: Das Arabische Buch, 2001, pp. 248. (Distributor: Klaus-Schwarz-Verlag)

English Summary


Sense of mission or self-interest:

On motivation and self-definition in Islamic mobilisation

Table of Contents

The Islamic renewal: causes and motives – an introduction 5
Awakening and renewal: religious knowledge and piety  

Caroline Antonia Wilcke: The discourse and practice of Islam: On the revival of religious observance among women in Uzbekistan

Elke Faust: The Jamā`at at-Tablīgh as part and counterpart of the political Islamic movement: research in Morocco 55
Dietrich Reetz: Knowledge of tradition and unrelenting action: the Sunni radicalism of the Ahl-i Hadīth in South Asia 79
Self-affirmation and distinctiveness: concepts, programmes, and traditions  
Jan-Peter Hartung: Reinterpretation of tradition and the transformation of the paradigm of modernity: Abū l-A`lā Maudūdī (1903-1979) and the Jamā`at-i Islām 107
Markus Dreßler: Does Islamic secularism exist? On the Alevi interpretation of Kemalism in Turkey  127
Ellinor Schöne: Islam and society in Sudan: Self-perception and political concept of the Umma Party 153
Action and reaction: deeds and struggle in the faith  
Bernt Glatzer: On the political Islam of the Afghan Taliban 173
Jochen Möller: Islamic and only Islamic? The Jamā`a Islāmiyya as a political force of Upper Egypt 183
Lutz Rogler: Experience, criticism and self-criticism in the political self-definition of Tunisian Islamists 199

This volume is a collection of papers read out at a seminar of the same name which took place at the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin on October 15, 1999. The two papers by C. A. Wilcke and E. Faust were added later. In the meantime, the papers have developed into serious studies based on new research material, since all of them evolved from current research carried out for a dissertation or for projects financed by the German Research Fund, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. The intention was to look for more diversified explanations and interpretations of Islamic activism in all its different forms, ranging from the militant and radical to the political, to the contemplative approaches and to popular practices and rituals. It is hoped that this research will contribute to a deeper understanding of the self-definition of Islamic activism and throw some light on the motives that drive participants into action. Not surprisingly, a variety of social and political factors are at work here and are being expressed through the Islamist idiom. It is a picture of deep-seated change in society, of readjustment and restructuring. The advantage of this volume is its wide geographical scope as the studies cover a significant area of the Islamic world, stretching from Morocco in the west to Pakistan and India in the east, and from Sudan in the south to Uzbekistan in the north. Another advantage is its access to various layers of Islamic activism. Accordingly, the studies have been grouped into sections on religious knowledge and piety, on self-definition through concepts, programmes and traditions, and on practical deeds and struggle for the faith. While no definitive answers should be expected, it is hoped that this volume will contribute towards abetter understanding of these movements, generate new research questions and revitalize the academic discourse on a subject that has so far been somewhat short on analysing what moves the agents of Islamic activism.


C. Wilcke discusses aspects of popular Islamic religiosity beyond the established discourses of state-supported and opposition-minded Islam in today's Uzbekistan. Presenting a view from within, she focuses on female religious practices and on their symbolism and different functions. Through interviews with several women in Uzbekistan the ritual and symbolism of popular healing practices is examined in the context of religious revival. The ambivalence of popular religious customs and orthodox Islamic influences are also observed in this article. The author argues that the religious activities presented are not only relevant for the female community, but in several ways can have a balancing and healing influence on society at large. It is furthermore shown that female religious practices challenge the images of women currently presented in Islamic discourses.


E. Faust analyses the activities of the Islamic missionary movement Jamā`at at-Tablīgh in Morocco. The movement hails from northern India where it came into existence in the beginning of the twentieth century under the Urdu appellation Tablīghī Jamā`at. Because of its disapproval of direct political action, the Jamā`at at-Tablīgh does not belong to the„political Islamic movements” in the narrow sense of the term. Its activities seek rather to further fundamental piety and faith among Muslims. Yet, in the wider sense of the term, because of their high sense of mission and their strong following, the Tablīghīs influence the social and political structure of society. Their activities also form part of the general discourse of Islamic movements. Since the 1940s, the movement has spread to Arab countries and the rest of the world. Drawing from recent field research, the author analyses the activities of the Tablīghīs in Morocco, where they were confronted with a very different situation than in South Asia. The Moroccan King (Hassan II.) took various steps to control religious life in the country and claim spiritual authority for himself. Under these conditions, Islamist activists could only avoid control by the state at the risk of breaking the law. The article looks at the strategies employed by the Moroccan Tablīghīs to handle this situation. It also reviews the influence, structure and practice of the movement. Commentaries by outsiders on the Tablīghī activities include a critique by a renowned Islamic scholar. The article also highlights the attitude of the al-`Adl wa-l-Ihsān the major Islamist organisation in Morocco, which values the services rendered by the Tablīghīs in strengthening Islamist forces.


D. Reetz introduces the different forms of activity and manifestation of the Ahl-i Hadīth (lit. people of the tradition) in India and Pakistan. In doctrinal terms, the group constitutes a radical purist sect of Sunni Islam, emphasizing the relevance of the Qur’ān and the Hadīth, the Prophetic tradition, and rejecting adherence (taqlīd) to the established Islamic law schools. In social terms, it actively engaged in social and educational reforms among Muslims to render their lives conform with the dictates of original Islam as they perceived it. In political terms, leading members of the groups have been mobilising public opinion in their favour more decisively since the 1930s. The Ahl-i Hadīth continued their pro-active engagement in the public sphere in independent Pakistan, particularly during the Islamic-minded administration of Zīa-ul-Haq from 1977 to 1988. The movement has a long-standing relationship with Islamic militancy as it developed over time in the name of the Indian Wahhābīs. Whereas the founding fathers of the Ahl-i Hadīth strove to set themselves apart from this militant legacy, as a result of which the group’s designation came into use, militant activity engineered by a section of the Ahl-i Hadīth recently became more pronounced after the introduction of two offshoots in 1989, the Da`wat al-Irshād (DI)XE "Da§watal-Irsh‡d (DI)", a religious mission and propagation centre, and the Lashkar-e Taiba (LT – “pious soldiers”), representing the militant wing of the DI. Since then, the LT has become notorious for its involvement in jihād’ activity in Kashmir and Afghanistan, as well as in Pakistan. The evolution of the movement suggests that a multipolar approach is required to understand its different aspects and roles.


J.-P. Hartung argues that one of the major Islamic theorists of the 20th century, the Indo-Pakistani Abū l-A`lā Maudūdī (1903-1979), adopted a Western philosophical paradigm by means of a creative reception of Western ideas. The paradigm consists of a critical epistemology, a philosophy of history, apolitical theory, and a theory of revolution, culminating in the Theory of Action. The reinterpretation along Islamic lines constitutes the core of one of the most influential ideologies of contemporary political Islam. The South Asian religious-political movement Jamā`at-i Islāmī, founded in 1941 on Maudūdī's initiative, is described as an attempt at achieving the practical realization of this particular Islamic ideology. Moreover, the realization is discussed as its logical consequence.


M. Dreßler discusses the religio-political discourse of the Alevis in Turkey. The impression that „Islam” does not distinguish the spheres of the religious from the political often arises in both popular and scientific debates on Islam. In contrast to this widely held view, the article claims that Islam is as capable of secularisation as any other religion. This is a prerequisite to understanding the case of the Turkish Alevis as a politically motivated Islamic community working towards secular targets. Although they form an exclusive social and religious community, the Alevis must be regarded as part of the Turkish religio-political discourse. This discourse, in which the Alevis compete with other religious movements and actors, provides them with patterns of meaning that they reorganize according to their respective needs. A characteristic feature of the Alevis in the political sphere is how they perceive Kemalism. According to the loyalist, Turkish-nationalist Alevi discourse, Kemalism can be considered part of the Alevi philosophy, incorporating the Alevi values and worldview. The state founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, and, ironically, Turkish laicism are conceptualized in resolutely religious terms. This article attempts an explanation of this phenomenon.


E. Schöne reviews the evolution of the Umma Party, one of the most influential political organizations in the Sudan. It was founded in 1945 by pro-independence nationalists. The back-bone of the party was formed by followers of `Abd ar-Rahmān al-Mahdī, a posthumous son of Muhammad Ahmad ibn Abdallah, the Sudanese Mahdi who formed the Mahdist movement during the1880s. Up to the present day, the Umma Party has been very closely connected to the Mahdist movement. Its main supporters are anČār and its ideology is based on Mahdist thought. The leading personalities of the Umma Party are members of the Mahdi’s family. The Umma Party is part of the Northern Sudanese political elite that came into power after independence. This elite was unable to establish a consensus on the common cultural identity of the Northern and Southern Sudan. Protracted civil war was one upshot of this policy failure. The article concentrates on the organizational and ideological aspects of the close relationship between the Mahdist movement and the Umma Party. It traces the development of the Umma Party up to present and shows its current political programme, with its final acceptance of the multicultural and multireligious character of the Sudan, to be the result of a learning process.


B. Glatzer deals with the ideological background of the Afghan Taliban as part of a political enterprise. The majority of the Taliban hail from the rural areas of South Afghanistan where life in the villages, in the refugee camps and during the guerrilla war has had a considerable influence on how they think and act. Their outspoken anti-urbanism arises from an unfamiliarity with urban life and urban culture which they consider to be impure and sinful. However, the cradle of Taliban-Islam is not the Afghan village. New political-religious ideas from South and West Asia fell here on fertile ground and grew into a formidable ideological weapon based on the limited worldview of the Pashtun peasants - a difficult weapon to control, even for the Taliban leadership. Since the Taliban have taken control of most ofAfghanistan, their ideology has acquired an inward orientation and is irected against sections of their own population. The Afghan Taliban movement cannot be explained by its religious doctrine alone. It is clearly a political enterprise that strategically exploits religious feelings, ideas and symbols for political gains, as well as to discipline its followers and factions. Despite its public display of religious rigour, the leadership is prepared to compromise its principles at all times when it comes to the defence and increase of its power and resources. The massive production of opium and the export of heroin - strictly forbidden by Islam- is just one example of this. It is also argued that the Taliban were strongly supported by Pakistani institutions and sympathisers. They would, however, not have been successful without huge voluntary support from the people inAfghanistan. Pakistan is now finding it increasingly difficult to control its own protégés west of Khyber. Finally, the article discusses the degree to which the Taliban ideology is based on rural Afghan traditions, and identifies some of the non-Afghan sources, e.g. the Islamic Academy of Mufti Rashid Ahmad Ludhiyanvi in Karachi.


J. Möller analyses the Jamā`a Islāmiyya as apolitical force in Upper Egypt. This main group of the extremist Islamist trend is regarded by most analysts as a terrorist organization since it carries responsibility for almost all acts of violence in Egypt. The reality and background of the movement, however, is apparently more complex. Drawing on the approaches of Egyptian observers, the Jamā`a Islāmiyya can also be interpreted as a political force in Upper Egypt, the poorly developed southern part of the country that is underrepresented in Egyptian politics but a stronghold of the Jamā`a. By promoting an egalitarian interpretation of Islam, the Jamā`a Islāmiyya attacks deeply-rooted traditions in Upper Egypt and presents itself as an alternative to local tribalism and Cairene centralism. This makes Jamā`a membership especially attractive to young people who find little socio-political mobility in Upper Egyptian society. The Jamā`a holds up its slogan "Islamic and only Islamic, neither Eastern nor Western, neither nationalist nor tribalist" against the local pyramid of power characterised by tribal affiliations. The Egyptian authorities began to realize that massive repression against the Jamā`a by security forces is not sufficient. Following an escalation of violence in the 1990s, the need to develop Upper Egypt reached the government agenda.


L. Rogler sheds light on the interaction between experience, criticism and self-criticism in the changing political self-definition of Tunisian Islamists. The article focuses on the ”realism” position of the mainstream Islamist party al-Jamā`ā al-islamiyya that has been maintained since the party changed its course in the late 1970s. At the time, the party abandoned its isolationist approach based on the rejection of „non-Islamic” Tunisian reality. It turned instead to social and political participation in existing institutions. The shift in „Islamic action” from religious morality and education issues to those of politics and participation was not only accompanied by critical revision of the movement’s former ideological concepts. It was also the starting point for a recurrent debate among Islamist intellectuals and leaders on the careful balance between the „cultural” and the „political” dimension of Islamic action. In this context, the „Progressive Islamists”, a group of intellectuals who split from the Jamā`ā, played an important role in continuing the debate on the political discourse and practice of the movement during the 1980s. The movement changed its name to „Islamic Tendency Movement” in 1981 and to „Renaissance Movement” in 1988. Having been almost completely wiped out by state repression in1991-92, exiled leaders of the „Renaissance Movement” have made some attempts over the last decade to reconsider the experience of their movement and readjust the priorities of „Islamic action”, referring to the problematic relationship between „culture” and„politics” conceptualised by critical intellectuals in the1980s. Thus, on reflecting the continuity of tension between the movement’s ambition to be an actor of comprehensive „civilizational” transformation and its effective centering on political activism, one leading intellectual has gone as far as calling for a review of the entire „political vision” of the Islamic movement, with the explicit implication of temporarily leaving the political scene to concentrate on intellectual issues and socio-cultural action. Once again, his main argument was that of (political and ideological) „realism”.



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