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:: Issues > Political Islam Studies
The Islamists & Their Alternative Vision of Modernization and Globalization
In spite of the varying degrees of tolerance and restrictions imposed on the Islamic trend, there is no difference about that the Islamic movement ...
Tuesday, July 18,2006 00:00
by Muhammad `Ali Al-`Amri, Ikhwanweb

In spite of the varying degrees of tolerance and restrictions imposed on the Islamic trend, there is no difference about that the Islamic movement has now an influential political weigh on the nationalist level in comparison to the other political powers in the region. This is because it expresses the hopes and expectations of huge numbers of the region’s peoples. Yet this requires the Islamic trend to shoulder many responsibilities, particularly in the field of developing their plans and means with regard to the political activity. It has acquired many practical experiences in most countries of the Arab and Muslim worlds and won the support of the peoples there, (especially) amid the current circumstances that are characterized with such intense economic, political, and social crises known to all from Rabat to Kapul. The peoples in the Arab and Muslim worlds suffer from a loss-of-identity-phobia, this is a strong, excessive fear of losing their (Arab and Muslim) character and (sense of) belonging. Part of this fear is reasonable, considering the global changes brought about by the new-wave globalization. The latter has been promoted by the great development in media means and communication technology that hypes almost one pattern of culture, values, and ways of life and behavior.


However, secularists and the majority of the elite who are not acquainted with the Islamists’ literature are of the opinion that "the Islamic movement extremely lacks alternative cultural, political, economic and social visions, in addition to a reasonable and realistic view of the present problems, especially those with regard to the controversial subjects of modernism, democracy, and globalization." This opinion is both relative and subjective. Taking into account the nature of the international and nationalist situations as well as the subjective and objective positions of the Arab and Muslims, one almost becomes certain that the future of the Islamic trend is promising. This is based on the following points:

(a) The majority of the ruling regimes [in the Arab and Muslim worlds] lack rightly-guided political visions. This motivates the opposition nationalist powers, including the Islamic ones, to make up for this lacking aspect.

(b) The Islamic movements have such vitality and flexibility that they are capable of reconciling between the requirements of the age and the spirit and essence of Islam.

(c) The currant attempts to deepen the Zionist and American domination [in the region] makes it extremely likely to give rise to a nationalist generation to confront it. The elements of this generation will depend mostly on Islamic grounds and values for handling matters.

1-      The concept of modernization & its applicability to the conceptual framework of the Islamists

Modernization is a new mode of life which emerged four or five centuries ago in a certain place [i.e. Europe] and which subsequently became worldwide from about a century and a half ago. This important move witnessed many ups and downs, whether in its original place or elsewhere, as the ancient traditions continued to defend their survival against it. It has not emerged by means of a divine or juridical decree; its roots, rather, lie deep in time as having interacted with complex circumstances.


The simpler definition of modernization goes: "It refers to all that helps in people’s welfare and making their daily life easier in the different fields, using developed means as well as rationalist and empirical approaches to achieve the highest benefit in this respect in a way that goes in line with the spirit and requirements of the age."

 Academically speaking, modernization is the cultural line that tackles social, political, and legal issues in man’s daily life on basis of reason. This indicates that it is necessary for reason to serve man’s activities in life. As knowledge is naturally stored in the reason, the former being the outcome of contemplative reasoning and abstract modes of thought, "modernization, from its subjective-objective positions, disregards metaphysics as a basis for research." This has led many modernists to assert that religion has no connection with man’s activities in the general fields of his life. Man’s activities are the outcome of certain human, social and cultural factors, and thus, they are to be separated from (the fields of) the Unseen and metaphysics. The modernists, furthermore, see that:

-          Religion has no correlation to legislation, politics, or sociology.

-          If religion is true, it only depicts the relation between man and God.

-           Modernization is not compatible with religion, as the latter falls outside the framework of the former.

Based on this view, and in light of reviewing the Western experience and the secular leftist suggestions in this regard, the Islamists have reservations about modernization, (which means that they do not refuse it completely.) For example, the Islamist Hussein Fadlallah says: "Our Islamic stance on modernization- as a general approach- is not a total agreement about it. But we may borrow the rationality aspect of modernization, as (the true) religion of Islam treats ’reason’ as the basis of its beliefs and way of life."


Hence, we can summarize the Islamists’ vision in that respect as follows:

-          The culture and experiences of a certain people creates ’a kind of reason of its own’, and, based on [the beliefs of] this reason, it deals and holds dialogues with the Other.

-          The reason does not deny ’religion’, as denial of something requires evidence for this.

-          The reason cannot deny ’the Unseen’ [as well], but it may be said that there is no valid set of empirical observations which could definitively prove it and delve into its details.

-          The reason is capable of establishing the possibility of the Unseen and proving prophethood.

But those who differ with the Islamists may argue that what if a Qur’anic text contradicts the reason? The answer is that the Islamic thinking asserts the importance of reason and considers it as basis for acquiring knowledge. But if "something that stands clear cut to reason appears to contradict a [certain] Qur’an text, then the text must be explained to reconcile with the reason. As it cannot be that a religious text opposes crystal clear reasonable facts. The reason may lack the tools necessary for asserting a religious text, but it cannot deny it."

2-      The framework of the Islamists’ vision of modernization

As a reaction against backwardness, the Islamists in their intellectual writings state they use reason as the starting point for discussing many ideas and precepts. They have contemplated (the Islamic) history, the political and intellectual heritage as well as the life experiences of the predecessors in which the latter used the reasoning applicable to and compatible with their culture and environment. Yet the Islamists emphasize that

-          One must have faith in that the past experiences (of the predecessors) are different from ours, especially with regard to jurisprudence, thinking, and approaches that have to do with the different walks of life.

-          However, we should not let the ’modernization complex’ that some have affect our tackling of these experiences, nor should we let our great appreciation of our cultural heritage blindly follow its ways.

-          We must have [at the same time] unshakeable faith in the Qur’an and Prophethood [of Muhammad (peace be upon him)]

The Islamists believe also that Muslims have the freedom to discuss the heritage of the scholars of the predecessors objectively and reasonably according to the basic [scientific] guidelines that govern all sciences, avoiding the modernization complex that goes against what belongs to the past. We may differ with the predecessors [in opinion], as the predecessors themselves would differ with one another. [It is natural that] a later generation might have different views from a preceding one and they might even hold discussions with one another [to refute the views of each other or try to reconcile between them]. This is also a kind of modernization. Modernization in this sense is an active framework for the process of producing knowledge and researching into the secrets of the universe, in an attempt to communicate with the whole world and develop programs for meeting man’s needs and dealing with his issues. Modernization does not have a strict interpretation of its own; it, rather, denotes a cultural line that is based on certain dimensions and is founded on the thinking faculty in man, who may [sometimes] err and [sometimes] be right. Supposing that the concept of modernization has in its core (the principles of) objectivity in research and reasonableness in judgment and vision, we can say that (the) religion (of Islam) as a Belief and legislation is at the heart of modernization.

Our basic problem that is tackled every now and then in most of the political literature of the Islamic movement is the fanatical enthusiasm [we usually have about things] which broods backwardness and is based on ignorance. The more we become reasonable and objective, the more we become open-minded and capable of realizing that religion is a fact and that its scope is at the heart of (the requirements of) the age.

3-      Modernization and democracy

Being the way people express their opinions and an embodiment of refusing despotism and dictatorship in all their different forms, democracy is a top propriety for the moderate Islamic movements. Thus the later are aware of their nation’s issues and call to freedom for all, even for the other whatever its views on religion, life and the universe be. This is the only way for our progress. In addition to all this, we have to attract attentions to the fact that the majority of the Islamic movements see that the ruling system known as ’caliphate’ was a history and is not regarded as ’sacred’ or ’theocratic’. Subsequently, the question of ’rule’ is a matter of Ijtihad (legal personal opinion), ’not a matter of sacredness’. Besides, there is no religious text with regard to the foundations of Islam that denies the right of seeking the establishment of a democratic rule.

Yet confusing the concept of democracy with the claim that ’Allah has no relation to the life of man and that the latter is the only source of authority’ is unjustified and refutable. Modernization, being an expression like contemporization, is not an intellectual concept with a basis that is different from the religious one. Modernization, rather, is an approach that makes man in every age studies his issues and all his concepts and plans from a rational and objective perspective. "It does not call for imitating the predecessors blindly or holily sanctifying their traditional production. According to the modernization approach (in Islam’s viewpoint), every generation and every age has its own way of thinking, approaches, and plans that may be compatible with some production in the counterpart fields in the past or that is produced anew in its own time so that it be a starting point for [progress in] the future."

Modernization in that sense is the essence of the Islamic movement’s vision of the subject. This is because Islam as a religion considers the (lessons learnt from the) history of humankind as a basis for the future’s progress. In this context, it is natural for Islam to sanctify the divine Revelation and all that is connected with it. The Revelation focuses on the rationality of thinking and refuses dealing with the heritage of the ancestors in an exaggerated holiness [that leads to blind imitation thereof]. [This is quite evident in criticizing the blind-imitating attitude of the disbelievers of the ways of their forerunners as] the Qur’an says: "The luxurious ones among them said: We found our fathers following a certain way and religion, and we will indeed follow their footsteps." (43: 23)

The Qur’an also says: "When it is said to them : ’Follow what Allah has sent down.’ They say: ’Nay! We shall follow what we found our fathers following.’ (Would they do that!) Even though their fathers did not understand anything nor were they guided? " (2: 170)

The Qur’an says as well: "That was a nation who has passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned, and you of what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do." (2: 141)


Hence, Islam is not far from modernization, if the latter considers reasonableness as a basis for thinking, as Islam also looks at reasonableness as the foundation upon which its (set of) beliefs is based. Thus it is not lawful for a Muslim to blindly imitate someone else with regard to his beliefs. The Islamic Law (Shari`ah) is another foundation in Islam which is a natural extension of the outcomes of its set of) beliefs.

Thus, modernization may be compatible with Islam and its essence, if we are to take the aforementioned dimension of its reasonableness aspect into account. But it may also have other dimensions that are not compatible with Islam. For example, the Islamic movement does not adopt that feature of modernization which calls for atheism, secularism and materialism. Islam differs with these lines of thinking, though it believes in the wider humanitarian framework [of cooperation] and coexistence between nations and peoples [regardless of their religion or ethnic origin]. Furthermore, the Islamic movement usually introduces itself as a modern one when it acquaints people with Islam in a new way in order to vitalize it in their daily lives. The more the Muslims acquire knowledge about the universe, the more they become knowledgeable about Allah [and thus get closer to Him]. Almighty Allah says: "It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah." (35: 28)

Hence, the vision of Islamic movement of modernization differs according to the latter’s dimensional aspect concerned:

a)       It refuses that aspect of modernization which is based on the materialism theory that regards physical matter as the only reality and excludes God and religion from man’s life.

b)        It accepts that feature of modernization which depends on rationality and objectivity as its basis for dealing with differences.


Modernization which the Islamists adopt is that approach which governs man’s activity in discovering things [and the world] on the conceptual and believing levels as well as on the realistic one on basis of an objective and rationalist research. Modernization in that sense highlights the importance of the faculties of [pure] reason. In fact, no doctrine is of real value without [that] ’reason’. But reason as cognizance derives its awareness from culture in its wide sense, and thus, its assessment of things is based on the related assessment of that culture. That empirical or culture-based reason may err in its results, while pure reason is [faultless and thus] highly valued [in Islam]. [Pure] reason inside man is like a messenger [of truth and knowledge], just as the Messenger(s) of God stand for (true) reason.

4-      The scope of modernization

Modernization should extend to Fiqh (i.e., jurisprudence), its style and approaches as well as the ways of presenting it. It should also include the fundamentals [of Fiqh and Hadith], pedagogic methods and exegesis. But modernization here does not mean an utter change; it, rather, refers to objective review of the past efforts of the material being modernized. This is to say, the material under modernization remains in its original, but it undergoes revision and correction through being tackled reasonably and objectively for the interest of religion and people.


The important question now is "What is the relation between modernization and beliefs?’ There is no doubt that the Muslim scholars among the predecessors have understood the Islamic Belief in the framework of the latter’s vocabulary and in various ways. We may differ with them today and we may, of course, discover that they have erred in the details. The question here is not about the imposition of modernization on Belief; but the whole issue is that there are some aspects of Belief that have to do with ’reason’ and some that are related to specific religious texts. The contemporary jurists may reason scholarly questions as would do their predecessors, but they cannot claim to have the absolute truth. As for the religious texts, our predecessors have understood them according to the amount of knowledge they had then. Subsequently , as a result of the development of knowledge, sciences and technology, the religious texts may be handled in a different way. This is because no ruling or meaning is constant except those established as so and thus are unaffected by the passage of time.

5-      What concept of globalization?

As Islam refuses that aspect of modernization which believes in the materialistic philosophy, it, likewise, renounces that feature of globalization which is based on a political stance, i.e., the American current one that seeks to abolish the nationalist and intellectual particularities of peoples. That political line also aims at subduing all power positions in the world, and eliminating the human aspect therein, so that it can dominate the world. Thus the West, especially the Americans, will be enabled to impose itself economically, politically and culturally on the contemporary age.

"Adopting the same line of thinking, the multi-national companies and international monetary institutions lead relentless campaigns for exploiting all peoples and nations and increasing their poverty and hunger under slogans like ’death of ideologies’ and ’dominance of capitalism.’ [They pretend to work in the interest of people, yet] they harbor brutal nature based on exploitation and oppression." No one can deny the harms and damages that capitalism has brought to all peoples without exception.

6-      The concept of globalization as it should be


Generally speaking, globalization can be understood as a movement aiming at applying a certain thing to the whole world. For example, the expression ’globalizing the purification of environment’ means making the environment all over the world clean and suitable for living beings to lead a hygienic life therein’; the words ’globalizing economy’ refers to making economy in the whole world follow the same system, apply the same methods, and use certain mechanisms for the good of all peoples without discrimination between them in this respect; and the term ’globalizing peace’ means that all countries cooperate to preserve peace in the world and fight against the oppressors.

This concept raises an important question about the measures to be taken in applying globalization: should the countries of the world adopt globalization optionally; this is to say, should they be consulted on forming its principles, planning its methods, and delimiting its mechanisms; and do they have absolute freedom to accept or refuse it in the end? If the answer of these questions is in the affirmative, this will mean that the application of globalization all over the world will be based on free choice and independent will of all countries. Globalization thus will be a positive and praiseworthy phenomenon.

7-      Towards an alternative globalization

If globalization means an international (line of) thinking agreed upon by all people on basis of the truth included therein and with a (fair) economy established between them, Islam as a religion is not far from this. It is an international call sent unto all people. Islam admits the diversity of people: in this respect Almighty Allah says: "O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious - see V.2:2)" (49: 13) In this verse, Almighty Allah asserts the common human aspect between peoples and shows that the diversity of people and tribes is a means for seeking human acquaintance with one another through exchanging experiences and integrating energies with each other. The Islamic movement intellectuals have welcomed this concept of globalization and, moreover, called for:

-          an international economic integration between peoples, so that one people contribute its products and take what it lacks from another people;

-          coordination of policies between peoples so that their freedoms be guaranteed ;

-          preserving the particularities and customs of peoples and using them as means for human inter-acquaintance through exchanging experiences and contributing energies.

8-      Globalization & `Alamin-ization

Globalization in its appearance is closer in meaning to the concept of `Alamin-ization, [i.e., international call unto humankind and Jinn to surrender themselves to Allah and cooperate in good] adopted by Islam. The Qur’an refers to this in many verses:

-          "And We have sent you (O Muhammad) not but as a mercy for the ’Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists)." (21: 107)

-           "Blessed be He Who sent down the criterion (of right and wrong, i.e. this Qur’an) to His slave (Muhammad) that he may be a warner to the ’Alamin (mankind and jinns)." (25: 1)

-          "It (this Qur’an) is only a Reminder for all the ’Alamin (mankind and jinns. And you shall certainly know the truth of it after a while." (38: 88-89)

But there is a big difference between the ’`Alamin-ization’ and the ’globalization’ called for by the West, in general, and the U.S., in particular as we have mentioned earlier. `Alamin-ization in Islam is based on respecting all children of Adam; Almighty Allah says in this respect:


 "And indeed We have honored the Children of Adam, and We have carried them on land and sea" (17- 70)

Almighty Allah has made humankind His viceroys on earth and subjected to them all what is in the heavens and earth on the basis of equality between all people in dignity and humanity as well as in the legal responsibilities they are to bear. They are all servants of Allah and children of Adam. In the same context the Prophet (peace be upon him) said in the Farewell Pilgrimage: "O people! Your Lord is one , and your father (i.e., Adam) is one. There is no Arab (person) better than a non-Arab (one), nor is there a non-Arab (person) that is better than an Arab (one). Likewise, there is no white person that is better than a black one or vise versa except (this is) on basis of piety."

Hence, the great difference between `Alamin-ization and the globalization (called for by the West) gets clear; it can be summed up in:

-          Globalization is forced unto people, while `Alamin-ization is a free choice before them;

-          Globalization imposes its civilizational approach and refuses equality- based dialogue with other cultures, while `Alamin-ization calls for cooperation between different cultures and holding of dialogues with the Other (on equal footing).

-          Globalization has secularist roots, while `Alamin-ization is founded upon human and Islamic principles.

9-      Why does the West coin expressions while the Arab and Muslims only think about them?

-          Today’s talked-about globalization is the outcome of the world order that was prevailing after the World War II. The world then was divided into two parties: an Eastern bloc that has been materialistic in thinking and Belief and refused private ownership, and a Western camp that respects private ownership, adopts democracy and (free) market economy and protects freedom of religion, yet it excludes religion from having any influence unto the state’s polices. The Western camp may even exploits religion to serve its own interests. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the Eastern bloc in the early nineties of the 20th century, the western camp managed to dominate the world order alone. The Western senior intellectuals and politicians, including at their top, Huntington, Kissinger, Hamer, Fukuyama and others, are of the opinion that the Western order is the best one that should be imposed on the world under American domination.

-           The U.S. is powerful in economy, politics, safety, and culture; this has made it objectively persistent in using these influential powers to attain its goals. On the other hand, the Muslim and Arab countries has no power of influence, and subsequently they have no boldness of taking initiatives or coining terms to express new ideas, even if they have the will to do so. For example, the Arab and Muslims cannot launch an economic globalization, as they do not have international companies for this purpose, nor do they possess scientific and cultural centers that can persuade the world into what they have.

-          The basic problem with our nation is that it is other nations that take the initiatives in economic, social and political realities, for these nations have been able to seize power. Unfortunately, the role of our [Arab and Muslim] intellectuals and elites has become thinking about the ideas which the Westerners coin so that they (the Arab and Muslims) can protect themselves [against the influence of these ideas], yet, in this way, they do so in the climates that others create. Islamic thinking should originate its line of ideas and propose them to people as their own. This has been called for also by the Algerian thinker Malik Ibn Nabi, and the martyrs Muhammad Baqir As-Sadr, Sayed Qutb, and Dr. Ragi Isma`il Al-Faruqi.

-          It was the Muslims during their conquests who first called for cooperation and harmony between peoples. The Prophet (peace be upon him) called the world to submit to Allah’s will; Almighty Allah says: "And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all mankind." (34: 28) He Almighty also says: "Say (O Muhammad): "O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah." (7: 158) The Islamic world was then extending from China and India borders to Central Asia and Caucasus; it was also extending to the Levant, Egypt, North Africa, and Andalusia. Islamic `Alamin-ization included then the Iranian, Indian, and Turkumanian races. It contained also Greek cultures, the Romanian systems spreading in the Mediterranean Basin; it expanded as well to encompass East Africa, South-east of Asia and had direct commercial relations with China, and Russian, Baltic, and European countries.

-          Globalization in its objective content is the outcome of the development of humankind as a whole; all peoples and civilizations are supposed to contribute thereto [on equal footing]. Hence, objective globalization is not akin to the American one. The latter constitutes a pattern of domination whose refusal on part of the whole world is increasing. Moreover, the U.S. is not capable of responding to objective globalization, especially that it has taken protective customs measures as a reaction against the ’dumping’ goods and products which China, Japan and Europe would practice.

A Summary


The West that propagates for the concepts of globalization and modernization is the very party that also talks about the clash of civilizations, confrontation, and race war. It also adopts a double-standard policy that does not only apply to geographic frameworks but also to cultural and intellectual ones.

With all this in mind and due to the flow of reform projects and the statements of spreading democracy, the Islamic movement leaders and elites, and all who belong to the Islamic as well as the nationalist trends are required to pay attention to a very important aspect of the conflict [between us and the West], this is, the introduction of cultural and intellectual suggestions as well as finding alternative ideas and visions that both complement and correct the already existing ones. They are also to introduce novel and profound handling of the concepts of modernization, and democracy that are being circulated among ordinary people, workers and students. This all should be derived from the concept of Islamic `Alamin-ization and aiming at serving and placing it at the heart of the age in the framework of supporting all humanity and employing the idle capabilities (of people) so that the dichotomy between the Eastern and Western powers end up into one multi-language, multi-experience, and multi-good power that works in the interest of all people all over the world.

Posted in Political Islam Studies , Other Opinions , MB and West  
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