Sunday, 30 April 2017

Political Islam and Islamism


In the media, we often come across terms such as Islam or Islamism. Islam is mostly understood as a religion which is peaceful in its nature, whereas Islamism stands at the opposite side of the spectrum as an “extremist” ideology, exploiting Islam for political objectives. In this regard, an Islamist is perceived as an extremist, whereas a Muslim is considered to be a peaceful person professing the religion of Islam. This division makes a certain amount of sense since not every Muslim pursues the political aims motivated by their religion or practices violent jihad. Nevertheless, it is also a somewhat inaccurate division since actions of the so-called Islamists are based on Islamic doctrine just like actions of other Muslims. Therefore, we can call the so-called Islamists Muslims, just like we call the peaceful adherents Muslims.

This is particularly due to the religious-political nature of Islamic doctrine with the aim, among others, to spread Islam in a violent manner. Due to the dualistic ethics of Islam where individual principles contradict each other whilst both being true at the same time, we may consider Islamism to be part of Islam and Islamists to be Muslims. With regards to the current complex socio-political situation, we might discuss the impact of numerous non-Islamic elements on the formation of Islamic politics; if we aspire to describe its essential nature, though, we cannot do anything other than focus on Islamic doctrine which this politics primarily stems from.

We should take this perspective into consideration, especially nowadays when we generally disregard the impact of the political aspects of Islamic doctrine on current worldwide events. When trying to understand current events related to Islam, we cannot ignore the fact that for jihad warriors, political aspects of Islamic doctrine are the primary models for their actions. It is very misleading to label their practices as Islamism or something non-Islamic.


In order to understand Islamism, it is essential to know the fundamental elements of Islamic doctrine, which are typically perceived solely as a religion by the general public. Sociologist Peter Berger defines a religion as a human attitude towards a sacred order that includes within it all beings — human or otherwise — i.e. a belief in a cosmos, the meaning of which both includes and transcends man. [1] In case of Islam, this concerns submission to the only god, Allah, and following the example of his messenger – Mohammed.

Mohammed is the last prophet (called the "seal of prophets" by Muslims). Mohammed passed on the only authentic religion to humankind, which describes the universal cosmic order, and he is supposed to be the perfect example for his followers – Muslims. [2] A Muslim is a person who accepts the only god Allah and Mohammed as his messenger. A Muslim must accept all of Allah's attributes which are defined in the Koran or referred to in one way or another through the actions or sayings of Prophet Mohammed (in the Sira or the Hadith, the so-called Sunna). Islam considers other prophets (e.g. Adam, Abraham, Jesus etc.) to be Mohammed's predecessors who spread the same belief; however, the so-called People of the Book (e.g. Christians and Jews) have deviated from this belief. [3, 4]

For this reason, Mohammed's life and actions (the Sira and the Hadith) happen to be crucial for Islam and are described in detail in the so-called Sunna. [5] The Sira and the Hadith are essential Islamic works. All verses of the Koran are related to the Sunna, thanks to which we may understand the meaning of the Koran. This Trilogy of Islam (the Koran, the Sira and Hadith) constitutes the fundamental Islamic doctrine. Its nature is symbolically manifested in a rather contradictory personality of Mohammed who assumed the role of a preacher, politician and military leader in his life. These numerous distinct roles explain why Islamic doctrine comprises both political and religious rules. It is the main reason why Islam holds two views on nearly every subject relating to the Kafir (i.e. the Islamic term for unbelievers) tolerant and intolerant. This is Islamic dualism. For example, the early religious peaceful Koran of Mecca is contradicted by the later political jihadi Koran of Medina.  Since the Koran is replete with contradictions, it also provides a method to resolve the problem called abrogation. Abrogation means that the later verse is stronger than the earlier one. However, both verses are still true, since the Koran is the exact, precise word of Allah. Since Mohammed’s actions are the perfect pattern of behavior, his actions establish Islam’s dualistic ethics. Dualism gives Islam an incredible flexibility and adaptability. [6] Let us introduce several distinct examples of its dualistic nature:

     One may treat the Kafir in a friendly way. However, it is also allowed to behave violently towards them or enslave them. According to the Koran, the Muslim should not consider the Kafir to be their friend.
    To a large degree, women are unequal to men. In total, 89.4% from the 391 Bukhari Hadith about women assigns them lower status than men, 10% equal status and 0.6% higher status.
     More than 51% of the Trilogy does not concern religion as a personal relationship of a human being (a believer) to transcendent experience. These 51% of the Trilogy mostly deal with how the Muslim is supposed to treat the Kafir, and this part can, therefore, be marked as Political Islam. The rest of the text is Religious Islam. [7]

"Divine" laws called Sharia stem from the Islamic Trilogy. It is a set of rules all humankind is supposed to follow. It regulates the lives of all citizens (both the Muslim and the Kafir) as well as overall national politics. From this perspective, Islam may be described as a theocratic political system based on sacred Islamic literature.

Within such system, groups of non-agile adherents or people actively pursuing Political Islam naturally arise. Political Islam is very flexible and may acquire various forms. If required by the surrounding conditions, for instance, Sharia allows the Muslim to adhere to the Kafirs’ rules (but this situation is not ideal as the ideal state should adhere to Islamic rules).

It is obvious from the Trilogy that Islamic laws need to be spread either in peaceful manner or violently, and this fight is supposed to continue until all humankind completely submits to these rules. Fighting for the protection and spread of Islam is called jihad, and from the historical perspective, it is the most influential factor in its expansion.


During his lifetime, Mohammed subdued all tribes living in Arabia to Islam and established the first Islamic state adhering to Sharia law (or in other words, to the Trilogy). In that region nowadays, Saudi Arabia is still based on the same principles. Therefore, this country may be perceived as a "successor” of the original Islamic state.

The expansion of Islam was not due to the extraordinary nature of the religion, but simply due to the pursuit of politics and jihad. The efforts to spread Islam could have many forms – from means of persuasion to jihad of "finances" (such as bribery) [2] to psychological struggle to threatening to violence or theft. [6] Mohammed and his contingent began practicing jihad after migrating from Mecca to Medina. After having been outlawed from Mecca, he gained 100.000 followers in ten years thanks to his political practices and jihad, whereas in Mecca, where Mohammed had been spreading Islam through preaching, he had only gained approximately 150 followers (see the Fig. 1). Thus it is obvious that political practice and jihad were much more effective than religion during the conversion of Arabs to Islam. [8]

Fig. 1 Impact political practices and jihad on Islamic expansion during Mohammed's lifetime. [7]
After returning to Mecca, Mohammed proclaimed jihad an obligation for every Muslim – meaning the whole Muslim community (i.e. umma). The meaning of jihad can be illustrated by several examples from the Sunna and the Koran. [9]
  • Mohammed found Muslims practicing jihad superior to other Muslims:
"Believers who stay at home in safety, other than those who are disabled, are not equal to those who fight with their wealth and their lives for Allah’s cause [jihad]." (Koran 4:95)
  • During his lifetime, Mohammed was ordered by Allah that jihad would be practiced until humankind is subdued to Islamic law:
"I have been ordered to wage war against mankind until they accept that there is no god but Allah and that they believe I am His prophet and accept all revelations spoken through me. When they do these things I will protect their lives and property unless otherwise justified by Islamic law, in which case their fate lies in Allah’s hands." (Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 31)

"A time will come when the people will wage holy war, and it will be asked, ‘Is there any amongst you who has enjoyed the company of Mohammed?’ They will say: ‘Yes.’ And then victory will be bestowed upon them. They will wage holy war again, and it will be asked: ‘Is there any among you who has enjoyed the company of the companions of Mohammed?’ They will say: ‘Yes.’ And then victory will be bestowed on them."  (Sahih of Al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 52, Hadith 146)
  • It is also very important for the Muslim practicing jihad that they are entitled to take the spoils of war, and in case of death, a place is ensured for them in Paradise. Jihad supporters have been promised to gain the same benefit as jihadists:
"Allah promises the jihadi with pure intent either a place in Paradise or a return to his home with spoils of war and the guarantee of Allah’s reward in the afterlife." (Sahih of Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Hadith 352)

"Anyone who arms a jihadist is rewarded just as a fighter would be; anyone who gives proper care to a holy warrior’s dependents is rewarded just as a fighter would be.” (Sahih of Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Hadith 96)
  • Jihad is understood as an obligation for every Muslim and is valid as long as it is necessary; however, jihad is also a permanent battle. When the Muslim thought that days of warfare were over, Mohammed himself proclaimed that there would always be a group committed to fight:
"After all those victories some Muslims started saying that days of warfare are over and they even started selling their arms. Mohammed, however, forbade it and said: ‘Not a single retinue committed to fight for truth disappears from my people until antichrist occurs.” [10]

By means of jihad, Mohammed established the ground for future expansion of united Islamized Arab tribes. [2] Nevertheless, Islamic expansion is not assured only by jihad. In the event of apostasy from Islam, the apostate is threatened with death. Family politics plays its role in this matter as well; according to Islamic doctrine, a Muslim woman can only be married to a Muslim man, and a Muslim man should marry a Muslim woman; if he married a Christian or a Jew, the children must be raised as Muslims). [11, 12]

3.1 Expansion of Islam

After the death of Prophet Mohammed in 632, a reign of caliphs who were both political and religious leaders was established. It was a period of Islamization of already subdued tribes in Arabia as well as enormous expansion of Islam outside of Arabia. Caliphs followed the example of Mohammed and made more and more territories submit.

The expansion was also enhanced by the enfeeblement of the extensive Eastern Roman and Persian Empires due to their mutual wars. Apart from that, the Eastern Roman Empire was affected by conflicts with German and Slavic tribes. It also experienced internal disputes including those between Christians and Monophysitists or other religious peoples, particularly in the Eastern provinces. These factors substantially facilitated conditions for the united Arab tribes of caliphs to conquer the lands.

Before the Muslim invasion itself, Kafir citizens of the neighboring countries had a choice of conversion to Islam or warfare. If they did not convert, war was declared. Loads of conquered men were killed, the rest of the citizens who did not convert to Islam were enslaved or had the dhimmi status imposed on them. These were particularly Christians and Jews, who were allowed to maintain their religion on the basis of a treaty and as part of Sharia law. [13, 14]

Dhimmi life was not easy for the Kafir and that was the reason why they later converted to Islam and could thus become citizens with full rights. The oppression of the dhimmi continued in the Modern age and continues even nowadays. [15] It is mostly evident from the activities of the Islamic State (ISIS) where Kafir women are sexual slaves just like in Mohammed's times (e.g. Sahih of Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 46, Hadith 717). [15]

Approximately one hundred years after Mohammed's death, the caliphate expanded to Northern Africa, Spain, and Central Asia, and reached the borders of China and India (see the Fig. 2). The Muslim progress in the West was cut off at Poitiers in 732 by Charles Martel. Another substantial expansion of Islam was brought about by Turkic tribes that in 1071 dominated most of Asia Minor. They pushed Islam far into Central Asia and India in the East. From the 14th century onwards, Europe was facing continuous expansion of the Ottoman Empire. Turks were defeated at Vienna in 1683, which became a crucial landmark. Islamization also progressed to other areas such as Indonesia or Sahel. [7] The Muslim world currently comprises approximately 40 countries (see the Fig. 3).

Fig. 2 Caliphate 622–750. [16]

Fig. 3 The current Muslim countries in the world. [17]

3.2 Downturn of Jihad

Islamic countries saw great cultural and economic development in particular at the beginning of Islamization thanks to the very advanced Kafir cultures of Egypt, the Byzantine Empire, the Persian Empire, and Asia. Numerous discoveries originating from the subjugated countries are credited to Islamic countries to this day. This early period is often called the Golden Age of Islam. Nevertheless, with ever-increasing Islamization of the conquered countries lasting for several centuries, the Golden Age vanished and those areas gradually deteriorated. With a few exceptions such as Spain and Cyprus, the Kafir territories became permanently Muslim or with majority Muslim populations (see the Fig. 3).

Over time, the principles in the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds differentiated from each other more and more. Whereas Islamic doctrine remained the essential element in the functioning of the society in Islamic countries, the opposite trend emerged in Kafir countries. Religion and politics were gradually separated, and these countries became more developed than Islamic ones. In the 19th century, a large percentage of the lands of the Islamic World became colonies of European Kafir countries. Islam never took root permanently in these countries and was actually always driven out of them when it tried to conquer them.

This situation was very far removed from the ideal patterns of Prophet Mohammed and his goals set up by jihad. It thus makes sense that, especially in countries of the Islamic world, there is an ever-increasing desire to overturn this situation and continue with Islamization – the spreading of the only correct "godly order". Another goal is to achieve a revival of Islam in Islamic countries colonized by Kafirs. However, their political as well as economic powers are insufficient for that. The present time can be considered a turning point, since Western European countries are much more confronted with Islam due to their colonies and their cultures are gradually being more and more influenced by each other.

3.3 Modern Jihad

The 20th century brought big changes for both the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds. At the beginning of the century, there was the Great War and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire that had had the character of Islamic caliphate – or the “godly state” – since the 16th century. The caliphate was abolished in 1924, which symbolically marks the decline of Islamic countries and Islamic politics. Turkey, the traditional "Islamic state", set off on a journey from caliphate to democracy. The entirety of Europe saw great economic development at that time. Nevertheless, crude oil was discovered in the Middle East in the ‘20s and some traditionally poor Islamic countries would gradually get rich and gain substantial international influence from their petroleum exportation. At the same time, Egypt ceased to be a British colony in 1922. Therefore, excellent conditions for a re-established growth of jihad and spread of Islam emerged there. Within Islam, groups of adherents, aspiring to revive the traditional Islamic rules according to Mohammed as their example grew stronger. They strived for a return to the early Islamic times when Islam had boomed due to the politics of jihad.

Shortly after the elimination of the last caliphate in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood appeared (Al-Ichwan Al-Muslimun) in Egypt – the first decolonized country. The Muslim Brotherhood preaches the return to the traditional interpretation of the Koran as the basis for healthy Islamic society. It rejects modernization, secularism or any Western influence. Its ultimate goals are a common Muslim nation and a revival of the caliphate in a form adjusted to current conditions. This community gained enormous political power. With their ever-increasing power, they have resorted to armed attacks just like Prophet Mohammed did. Thanks to enormous financial support from Saudi Arabia, many schools and health centers were opened in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood had an impact on companies and banks, were in charge of trade unions and were part of the Parliament. They attempted a coup in Syria and have a strong position in Jordan. [15]

After World War II, Islam actually took root in Western Europe due to the migration of citizens from Muslim countries to Western Europe. In Western societies, the ‘60s brought political and social relief as well as the completion of the process of decolonization of Africa by European countries. The Muslim Brotherhood started the movement called Hamas, and another organization called Al-Qaeda sprang from it, too. [18, 19] Islamic organizations and movements gained an increasingly higher influence in Europe. In the course of the 20th century, their power gradually rose. In the 21st century, the organization called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) was established which declared an Islamic State in the conquered territories of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. ISIS eliminated borders of the national states and declared itself the restorer of the lost Islamic empire. They decided to continue with warfare that had lasted for centuries. [20] We should also realize that modern jihad could hardly exist in such an extent as it does nowadays were it not for the financial support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Liberal member of the Kuwaiti Parliament Nabil Al-Fadil said: “There is not a single bomb in Syria without some of the parts being financed by Kuwait.” [21]

Due to the fact that the umma does not currently have a united leader, these organizations or movements have various representatives and their policies vary. The organizations use modern technologies, approaches to influencing society, nationalism etc. However, there is one common link – Political Islam. They are based on jihad and the example of Prophet Mohammed, their objective being to enshrine Sharia law throughout the whole world. From this perspective, we can call this period modern jihad. In academic and, subsequently, political arenas, terms such as Islamic fundamentalism or Islamism have been used. The most frequently used term is Islamism and Islamists.


Although the term Islamism is currently used in the media, its meaning has not been precisely defined yet. Generally speaking, the Western terminology for different elements of Islam gradually changes with regards to the relationship of the West towards Islam and is a certain result of the Western need to describe the state of contemporary Islam. [22]

In the 18th century, Voltaire defined the term Islamisme as Mohammed's religion, [23] an analogy to Buddhism or Christianity.  Islamism had the same meaning as Islam or the term used at that time – Mohammedanism. Islamism acquired a negative meaning in the 19th century, its characteristics including a lack of vitality, aggression and something which in its nature leads to decay. [24] In the early 20th century, Encyclopaedia of Islam was published, [25] and since then the Arabic word Islam, which means "submission", has been used to define the religion of Allah.

Nowadays, Islamism appears in technical texts where it denotes a political ideology or a political orientation:
  • that demands man's complete adherence to the sacred law of Islam and rejects as much as possible outside influence, with some exceptions (such as access to military and medical technology). It is imbued with a deep antagonism towards the non-Muslim and has a particular hostility towards the West. It amounts to an effort to turn Islam, a religion and civilization, into an ideology. [26]
  • which believes that Islam should guide social and political as well as personal life. [27]
  • as a political ideology based on a reinvented version of Islamic law. [28]
The News Media mostly link Islamism with terrorist attacks or extremist acts which are justified by means of exploitation of Islam. It is defined as an ideology that exploits Islam for political purposes. As explained above, it is evident that definitions of Islamism differentiate and change with time but its nature is always based on the sacred Trilogy of the Koran, the Sira and the Hadith. The objective of Islamism is to fulfill political aspects of Islam according to the example of Prophet Mohammed. Although these tendencies have grown stronger rather recently, it is apparent that the purpose of Islamism is to spread jihad – fight for the protection and expansion of Islam. Therefore, it is a natural continuation of jihad, already happening for centuries. Throughout history, there was always a certain part of the umma actively practicing jihad that was either violent or peaceful, depending on the surrounding conditions. This type of expansion is enormously successful and Islam is currently the second biggest religion in the world, aspiring to become the biggest religion the future. [29] From this perspective, the term Islamism defined in such a way is just a cliché. Moreover, we should realize that everything that originates in the Trilogy of the Koran, the Sira and the Hadith is Islam.

Furthermore, according to technical literature, where Islamism differs from Islam is the fact that unlike historical Islamic conceptions of the state and legislation, Islamism substantially reflects the impact of the West. For that reason, some researchers concur in the opinion that Islamism is the Muslim equivalent of European nationalism or totalitarian movements of the 20th century. Fundamentalism (either traditional or modern), and even more so Islamism, are not considered to be natural sprouts of real Islam but fruits of an unequal interaction with a more powerful opponent. [31]

Due to the complex political situation and the historical impact of Kafir cultures on Islamic politics, we may undoubtedly identify impacts in the Islamic politics, including nationalism and totalitarian movements of the 20th century. Since there are approximately 1.7 billion Muslims, it is only natural that there are numerous movements and trends in Islam. In addition to that, there is currently not a sole leader in Islam as in Mohammed's times. Therefore, it makes sense that in order to reach the goals of jihad, various means and ways of fighting are used.

Economic, political, and territorial reasons, the “brotherhood” of Islam and Christianity or migration are all utilized for this fight. Nationalisms, revanchist claims, and totalitarian regimes of the 20th century were actually more of a means to reach these goals. They were not the common historical denominator – that is Political Islam.

It is vital to realize that already from the early Islamic period until the present, Islamic doctrine is the common element for all those political movements, particularly its political aspect containing jihad. The objective is to impose a religious political system, a theocracy, from the Islamic perspective, whose rules are sacred and came from the only God Allah. This fight is from the nature of Islamic doctrine eternal, admittedly currently fostered by the unequal interaction of Islam with its more powerful opponent and other current issues. From this perspective, this state is a natural development of the politics of Islam and jihadPolitical Islam.


Political Islam is based on the part of the Islamic doctrine that is not concerned solely with religion, meaning a personal relationship of an adherent to transcendent experience or something sacred, but it also deals with the relationship of Islam to the Kafir. This concerns more than a half of the texts of the Trilogy.

Political Islam provides rules for the functioning of a country or society, laws and international politics related to both the Muslim and the Kafir. Various Islamic movements and political parties are based on Political Islam. To call some of those movements Islamist or non-Muslim just because we do not like them, since they practise violent jihad or use modern methods of organization, is inaccurate to say the least. Those are Islamic movements that aspire to fulfill the wishes and reach the goals expressed by their perfect Godly messenger – Prophet Mohammed.

It is also misleading, for instance, to consider the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood or Al-Qaeda to be Islamists. These leaders know Islamic doctrine in detail. A good example is Sayyid Qutb, an “ideologue” of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his work In the Shade of the Qur’an. Qutb’s command of Islamic doctrine is probably much higher than that of the majority of people from the Islamic world. We cannot say that these leaders somehow twist Islam because they encourage violence. Without the existence of Political Islam and violent jihad, hardly any historical growth of Islam could have happened. Islam would not stand against a much more developed “opponent” as it does today.

Nowadays, only violent jihad attracts attention, but the spread of Political Islam was mainly through non-violent jihad (e.g. by persuasion or finances). One example of the modern non-violent spread of Islam and its rooting in Europe is Muslim migration into the European Union.

Exploitation of migration for conquering new lands is a rather modern phenomenon since it was not traditionally recommended to the Muslim to stay in Kafir cultures. [30] Although the pattern of the Hijra was set by Mohammed leaving Mecca going to Medina. Muslim migration in the 2nd half of the 20th century led to an enormous growth and enshrinement of Islam in Western Europe, something which Islam had never managed before when attempting to conquer Europe. The increasing number of religious Islamic subjects not only proves the speed of the Islamic expansion in Europe but also its financial power (see the Figs. 4, 5).

Areas with high percentages of Muslim populations gradually arise in Europe as well as "parallel societies" that function according to the rules of Sharia law. [10] An extended network of organizations funded by Saudi-Arabian financial resources and the international arms of the Muslim Brotherhood enhance the rise of Political Islam inside Muslim communities. At the same time, they influence the local national politics. In this regard, mosques, associations, charities, and educational institutions play distinct roles. [33] Due to this cooperation, European politics is being affected and the integration of Sharia law into the European legislation and court decisions is becoming common, too. All of this is happening despite the fact that the European Court for Human Rights established that Sharia law is not compatible with democratic regimes. [31]

Political Islam and the rules of Sharia derived from it are becoming an ever-increasing problem of the clash of Islamic and Kafir cultures. According to the director of the European Values think-tank Radko Hokovský, countries have not been able to clearly define as of yet what is acceptable within the interpretation of Islam and what is not. Thus confusion repeatedly arises on this issue. It has been very difficult for political representatives, intellectuals and the legal community to define those parts of Islam that profess to be religion and are perceived as such but are in fact a political ideology. In addition, its aim is to suppress fundamental elements of the democratic rule of law. In Hokovský’s opinion, Islam is a religious-political-legal complex, a theocracy, which is contrary to the historically transformed European understanding of religion, as applied for instance to Christianity. [32]

Signatories of the declaration of the Muslim reformist movement are aware of this situation and they, among others, refuse violent jihad, religious political movements, the establishment of a caliphate or the enshrinement of Sharia law. They consider Sharia law to be rules created by humans. They support the separation of church and state, public criticism of Islam, and freedom of speech. Such reformation basically rejects Political Islam. This aspiration is really revolutionary since it rejects elementary elements of Islam as well as it does not have any substantial footing in the Trilogy. Besides, from the perspective of a certain part of the umma, any kind of reformation of Islam may be considered apostasy.
Fig. 4 Number of mosques built in Germany. [33]

Fig. 5 Number of Religious objects in France. [34]

Islam has already made its way into European politics. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, claims that Political Islam is supposed to be part of the picture of European politics. Mogherini said: “Religion plays a role in politics – not always for good, not always for bad. Religion can be part of the process.” Criticizing Islam has gradually become a "taboo" and its critics are labeled as Islamophobes or accused of spreading hatred against the Muslim.


Islamism is a rather misleading term, particularly when it is not considered to be part of Islam. Political Islam is based on the Trilogy of Islam, its goals can be found directly in the source texts of Islamic doctrine and its leaders, described as Islamists by the media, have excellent knowledge of the doctrine. Its political goals are based on the example of Prophet Mohammed. Concerning both the historical development of Islam’s politics and jihad and the current reality, the so-called Islamism is part of Political Islam. Its goal is to reach a state where the citizens’ behavior is led by Islamic religious regulations – the Sharia.

These religious regulations are already gradually becoming part of the European law in some cases. This situation is, however, in direct contradiction to secularism as well as the declared reformation of Islam. The fact that European politicians support Islam as a whole, not only as religion – i.e. non-Political Islam – is a serious issue. It is particularly very obvious that European political and intellectual elites are reluctant to critically analyze Islamic doctrine. The view that violent and political elements are actually part of the Islamic source texts is frequently considered to be xenophobic or hateful, even though it is easy to prove scientifically.

European Islam is, therefore, assuming its political character in contemporary Europe. Unfortunately, this tendency is encouraged by European politicians who submit to legitimize political requirements of Islam and do not criticize the doctrine. With the ostracism of anybody who dares to criticize Islam, assertiveness of those striving to pursue its goals in Europe increases. Nowadays, this is mostly achieved by non-violent means – however, that does not mean that such means are lawful. The goals of Political Islam are contradictory to the fundamental ideas of European society such as the universality of human rights, gender equality and the separation of church and state. It is legitimate to criticize Islam on those grounds. Fulfillment of Islam’s political goals would actually have a negative and substantial impact on all European citizens.

Both viewed from a historical perspective as well as when examining the doctrine of jihad, there is always a group within the umma that fights for the spread of Islam. Fighting is, therefore, a very natural and sacred element in Islam. These rules should be spread and applied to everybody – both Kafirs (non-Muslims) and Muslims. This is the essence of Political Islam. It is the reason why Political Islam can be defined as the part of Islamic doctrine and law that applies to us, Kafirs. The remainder of Islam can be deemed as a religion – every Muslim’s personal business. It is inaccurate to call this trend Islamism and its followers Islamists or those who exploit Islam. If we want to be accurate, we may use the terms Political Islam, Islamic movements, violent jihad, jihadist etc. When some behavior is based on the Islamic Trilogy and the example of Mohammed, it is an integral part of Islam.

Center for the Study of Political Islam


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[2] Quran. As example 7:158, 3:32.
[3] KATHEER, I. a TRANSLATION AND RESEARCHED BY RESEARCH DEPARTMENT OF DARUSSALAM. Early days: stories of the beginning of Creation and the early prophet[s] from Adam to Yoonus: taken from Al-Bidayah wan-nihayah. Riyadh: Darussalam, 2010.
[4] Quran, as example surahs 43:12, 2:213, 2:124-133.
[5] "Sunnah." In The Islamic World: Past and Present. Ed. John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. [on-line]. 2016, <>.
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[11] Quran, 2:220, 2:221.
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[15] SAHIH AL BUKHARI. [on-line]., 2016.
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[19] GUNARATNA R. Al-Qaida, au coer du premier réseau terroriste mondial. Editions Autrement Drontieres, 2002, p.116.
[20] WEISS, Michael a Hassan HASSAN. Isis: inside the army of terror. New York, NY: Regan Arts, 2015.
[21] HIRSI ALI, A. Heretic: Why Islam needs a reformation now. United States: HarperPaperbacks, 2016.
[22] KRAMER M. Coming to Terms: Fundamentalists or Islamists?. Middle East Quarterly, 2013. s. 65. 
[23] Quoted in André Versaille, Dictionnaire de la pensée de Voltaire par lui-même (Brussels: Complexe, 1994).
[24] MARWAN R. B., "Islam and the Foreign Office: An Investigation of Religious and Political Revival in 1873," in his Formation and Perception of the Modern Arab World (Princeton: Darwin Press, 1989), p. 72.
[25] ARNOLD, T. W. “Islam” Encyclopaedia of Islam, First Edition (1913-1936) [on-line]. 2016,
[26] Pipes Daniel. Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism. [on-line]. 1998.
[27] BERMAN, Sheri. Islamism, Revolution, and Civil Society. Perspective on Politics [online]. 2003, 1, 257-272
[28] TIBI, Bassam. Islamism and Islam. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.
[29] Pew Research Center. “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050 [on-line]. 2015. .
[30] Immigration in Islamic Doctrine and History. [on-line]., 2015.
[31] CASE OF REFAH PARTİSİ (THE WELFARE PARTY) AND OTHERS v. TURKEY. ECHR [online]. 2003.{"itemid":["001-60936"]}.
[32] Džihádismus z islámu sice vychází, ale není jeho hlavní příčinou, vysvětluje politolog [on-line].
[33] The chart is based on the data from the website:
[34] The chart is based on the data released in Le Figaro: Les lieux de culte musulmans ont doublé en vingt ans [on-line]. Le Figaro. 2011.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Open letter in response to the proposed introduction of the hijab emoji

Not long ago, arguments put forward by a young Rayouf Alhumedhi from Saudi Arabia appeared in the media. She defends the use of an emoji with the hijab symbol (in full available here). Her arguments were accepted as appropriate and well-formulated in many circles.

With this open letter we would like to point out the fact that the recognition of the hijab emoji as the symbol, which will supposedly be used by a large amount of the Internet users, will have a far greater impact on the development of our society than it might seem at first.          

Contrary to what Ms. Alhumedhi claims, the hijab is not merely a type of headwear. It is also a political symbol that communicates oppression and a lack of freedom. This can be well-supported with the arguments directly based on the primary Islamic doctrine. However, let us summarize Alhumedhi’s arguments first:

1.  The hijab is a sign of modesty.

2.  The meaning of the hijab for Muslim women is similar to that of a headscarf for Christian and Jewish women.

3.  The hijab is just a headwear, a representation of a certain lifestyle.
4.  There has been growing demand for the word “hijab” in the Internet search engines.

5.  There is currently no emoji representing a pious Muslim woman.
6.  The hijab is one of the most globally recognized visual representations of Islam, and it would be a great addition to the mosque and the symbol of Islam emojis.

7.  The demand for these emojis will grow steadily since, according to the PEW research, the world’s Muslim population will reach 29.7% by 2050 and will constitute 50% of the population in 51 countries.       

The last three arguments seemingly stand out, particularly the one claiming “the hijab is one of the most globally recognized visual representations of Islam”. This is true. Therefore, in order to grasp what the hijab represents, we have to understand what Islam exactly is.

The Islamic doctrine is based on three foundational books. These are the Koran (Allah’s words, as interpreted by Mohammed), the Sira (the biography of the Prophet Mohammed) and the Hadith (words and actions from the life of the Prophet Mohammed). These three sources comprise the so-called Trilogy.

When this Trilogy of Islam is put to analysis, as devised by Dr. Bill Warner, it appears that less than a half of the text make up instructions for religious practice. As much as 51% of the text comprise the demands towards non-Muslims. Thus it is not simply a part of Islam, but a political doctrine relevant to non-Muslims. Therefore, this 51% of Islam is called Political Islam [1].

We work on the assumption that something called “religious” only concerns those who adhere to a particular religion. If a religion makes demands towards unbelievers, these demands are political in their nature.

Let us examine the Koran more closely. A statistical analysis [2] reveals that 64% of the total text is Political Islam, since these 64% of the text make demands on unbelievers.

The fact that a certain religion is concerned with the unbeliever to such an extent raises the question: Why? What attitude does it convey towards the unbeliever?

Islam describes the unbeliever as the Kafir. The Kafir is anyone who has not adopted Islam as their religion. However, the word “Kafir” is not a neutral equivalent of the word “unbeliever”. Islam views the Kafir as the lowest social class, and thus it is allowed to deceive, hate, enslave, ridicule, torture and even kill the Kafir. Please, see a few verses from the Koran [3] below which illustrate the way to approach the Kafir (non-Muslims).

Koran 40:35 They [Kafirs] who dispute the signs [Koran verses] of Allah without authority having reached them are greatly hated by Allah and the believers. So Allah seals up every arrogant, disdainful heart. [4]

Koran 83:34 On that day the faithful will mock the Kafirs, while they sit on bridal couches and watch them. Should not the Kafirs be paid back for what they did?

Koran 47:4 When you encounter the Kafirs on the battlefield, cut off their heads until you have thoroughly defeated them and then take the prisoners and tie them up firmly.

Koran 8:12 Then your Lord spoke to His angels and said, “I will be with you. Give strength to the believers. I will send terror into the Kafirs’ hearts, cut off their heads and even the tips of their fingers!”

The Koran forbids Muslims to have friends among the Kafir. The Kafir are repeatedly described as evil and cursed, hated by Allah. See the examples below.

Koran 23:97 And say: Oh my Lord! I seek refuge with You from the suggestions of the evil ones [kafirs]. And I seek refuge with you, my Lord, from their presence.

Koran 33:60 They [Kafirs] will be cursed, and wherever they are found, they will be seized and murdered. It was Allah’s same practice with those who came before them, and you will find no change in Allah’s ways.

Koran 4:144 Believers! Do not take Kafirs as friends over fellow believers. Would you give Allah a clear reason to punish you?

Another important argument by Ms. Rayouf Alhumedhi is that there is currently no emoji representing a pious Muslim woman. What does it mean to be a pious Muslim? Who or what do Muslims dedicate their lives to? According to the definition, a Muslim is a person who has accepted Allah as their only God and Mohammed as His Prophet. It is mentioned 91 times in the Koran that Mohammed is the perfect Muslim in all aspects. Pious Muslims should follow the example of Mohammed and the will of Allah.

Therefore, being a symbol of a pious Muslim, the hijab also symbolizes following the example of the Prophet Mohammed. In order to understand the meaning of this symbol, one then needs to familiarize themselves with the life of Mohammed. For instance, let us look at how Mohammed viewed values which define a free, humanistic society. How does Islam see the freedom of religion or the freedom of speech? The answers are found in the above mentioned Sira and Hadith.

The texts contain examples of how Mohammed, the living example of a true Muslim, approached apostasy as the act which deserves a death penalty. In the following section we are going to provide quotes from the Hadith, specifically selected from the collections by widely recognized authors Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.

[Bukhari 9,83,17] Mohammed: “A Muslim who has admitted that there is no god but Allah and that I am His prophet may not be killed except for three reasons: as punishment for murder, for adultery, or for apostasy.” [5]

[Muslim 001,0031] Mohammed: “I have been ordered to wage war against mankind until they accept that there is no god but Allah and that they believe I am His prophet and accept all revelations spoken through me. When they do these things I will protect their lives and property unless otherwise justified by Sharia, in which case their fate lies in Allah’s hands.” [6]

[Bukhari 9,84,57] Ali ordered that some atheists brought before him be burnt to death. Upon hearing this, Ibn Abbas said, “If it were me, I would not have ordered them burnt. Mohammed told us, ‘Don’t punish people with fire. That is Allah’s punishment.’ I would have done as Mohammed instructed, ‘Whoever turns his back on Islam, kill him.

As far as the freedom of speech is concerned, there are multiple examples in the Trilogy, especially in the Sira, which show that Mohammed killed those of his followers who had criticized him or openly doubted Islam as the only true religion. Let us consider at least one example from Ibn Ishaq’s Sira, the officially recognized biography of the Prophet Mohammed [7]:

Ishaq 819 Mohammed had told his commanders to kill only those who resisted; otherwise they were not to bother anyone except for those who had spoken against Mohammed. He then issued death warrants for all of those in Mecca who had resisted Islam. [8]

Some of them were:     
  • One of Mohammed’s secretaries. He had said that Mohammed sometimes let him insert better speech when he was recording Mohammed’s Koranic revelations, and this caused the secretary to lose faith.
  • Two girls who had sung satires against Mohammed.
  • A Muslim tax collector who had become an apostate (left Islam).
  • A man who had insulted Mohammed.
  • All artists and political figures who had opposed him.

In conclusion

It is not our goal to tell the UNICODE Consortium what to decide regarding this matter. With this letter, we intend to point out that including the hijab symbol into the worldwide collection of emojis is different. It will not be an innocent image in the extensive mosaic of visual symbols. Regardless the impression created by a Saudi girl’s argumentation, yet once put to analysis, together with the politics of Islam found in three foundational texts (the Koran, the Sira and the Hadith), interesting observations appear.

Ms. Rayouf Alhumedhi claims that the hijab is the sign representing a Muslim woman and one of the most widely recognized symbols of Islam. She also claims it is simply a cultural symbol or a sign of a certain lifestyle. The hijab, as a symbol of Islam, is also a symbol of everything that goes together with Islam.

As Dr. Bill Warner’s analysis reveals, Islam is (over 50%) a political system which strictly divides the world into the Muslim and the Kafir (non-Muslim). In Islam, the Kafir are inferior to the Muslim, and it is allowed to mistreat them. Political Islam also supports hatred towards the Kafir, death penalty for apostasy and killing as the punishment for criticism of Islam.

Therefore, we strongly wish that the UNICODE Consortium takes into consideration the facts regarding the hijab’s political significance during the approval process. The hijab symbolizes inferior status of a certain part of society (the Kafir) and doctrinally approved hatred towards diverse non-Muslim population of over 5.5 billion globally. The application submitted by a young Saudi girl is a political act and is a manifestation of Political Islam.

CSPI International


[1] Bill Warner, A Self Study Course on Political Islam – Level 1.
[2] Precise methodology of statistics is described at
[3] Official Koran translations are available online at
[4] Koran 1:2 refers to the Koran, chapter (sura) 1, verse 2.
[5] [Bukhari 1,3,4] refers to Sahih al-Bukhari, volume 1, book 3, number 4.
[6] [Muslim 001,0031] refers to Sahih Muslim, book 12, number 1234.
[7] As a source for hadith we used the websites of University of Southern California,, and
[8] Ishaq 123 refers to the Sira by Ishaq, margin note 123.
[9] Guillaume, Alfred. "The Life of Muhammad. A Translation of Ishaq's Sira Rasul Allah. With             Introduction and Notes by A. Guillaume." (1955).

Monday, 24 October 2016

Islam in Russia

This is a brief overview about Political Islam in Russia and the approach of the government to  Muslims. A short comment about sharia in Russia is placed at the end of this article.
Growth of the Muslim population in Russia
Muslims constitute over 50% of the population in seven of Russia's 85 administrative divisions [1].  Russia has also introduced visa-free entry (duration of up to 90 days) for the citizens of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan where Muslims form the majority of the population (ranging from 80% to 95%) [2]. The policy is aimed at compatriots living in these countries, who can speak Russian and know Russia well. But in reality it allows everybody who holds a passport of these states, to enter Russia [38].

The process of intense immigration from these countries was launched on the 22nd of June 2006 with full support of the Russian government. The desired population growth due to immigration is outlined as 300,000 people a year. The information about the state resettlement program is posted on Russian Embassy websites in the countries of Central Asia including Azerbaijan [3], Kyrgyzstan [4], Tajikistan  [5] and Uzbekistan [6]. The statistics of the application process indicate a vivid interest and intention to move to Russia by the citizens of the mentioned republics [8]. To stimulate that process, the emigrants will be subsidized to resettle as well as be provided with immediate education and medical service regardless of long waiting lists [9].   
According to forecasts, Russian Muslim population will reach 17-19% by 2020 (while the overall population may drop down to 130 million people). Most of that percentage would come from the Northern Caucasus [10]. Other statistics predict a general population growth due to immigration (with the death rate being higher than the birth rate) [11]. Thus the ethnic, national and religious structure of the country will change significantly.    
The number of mosques in Russia increased by a factor of 70 over the past 30 years. They now amount to about 7000 mosques and are geographically spread from Western and Southern regions towards Kamchatka and Sakhalin [12].
However, the Muslim population is growing, so the representatives of regional Muslim communities act as advisers and experts, and insist on adapting to the arriving Muslim immigrants by building more mosques and madrasas (religious schools in Islam), which will expand the Islamic environment beyond merely having places of worship [13].  
Mosques will provide the (non-compulsory) opportunity for studying  Russian language, and for providing both legal support and written advice for immigrants on how to behave in case of certain situations. They will also serve as temporary residence for illegal immigrants who will be waiting to obtain official papers [20], which would indirectly legalize illegal immigration. Their adaption is seen as only possible via mosques and local Muslim support. However, successful adaptation is a theory for now [14].
Russia against Islamic radicalism
The experiences of the EU show that if the population of Muslim communities grow and reach the status of a significant minority, the representatives of Islam start to request a political system based on sharia law. If we focus on the countries of Central Asia, 59% of Muslims say that sharia should be applied to Muslims only. They also support sharia as the official law of the country (35% in Kyrgyzstan, 25% in Tajikistan, 10% in Kazakhstan, 8% in Azerbaijan). The political rules of sharia are based on religious principles and describe many aspects of society and life. These principles are contrary to the democratic state based on  principles independent of religion. Generally, this political controversy is a significant cause of radicalism or, at the least, the dissatisfaction of Muslims.
During the conference "Traditional Values – Orthodox Christianity and Islam Against Terrorism and Extremism Together", the Muslim religious community, inspired by Chechen president R.Kadyrov, firmly advised the formation of a special governmental body to follow up and persecute any cases of "submissive activity" when respected Muslim books are considered to be extremist [15].
The federal state project focused on radicalism starting in 2007 [16]. Its official goal is “to design and implement the regulations to support Muslim religious communities (mosques), which are loyal to the government and to solidify their property and financial position in order to counteract radical cells”. The main idea of this project is based on the rule: “something for something”, or in other words, financial support for loyalty to governments. The implication of this project was outlined for the period of 2007-2010 and provided the basis for substantial financial support for Muslim enterprises.
By the end of 2007, Muslim religious organizations received a total of 800 million RUB (approx. 35 million USD), while Islamic religious and educational organizations obtained the opportunity to promote themselves on the state level [16], [17].  No other religions in Russia have such a privilege. The principle of the Russian secular state and equality of religions was thus violated. 
In spite of the state project against radicalism, Russian jails allow "orthodox" Wahhabism to be taught.  Specially trained imams carry out disciplinary talks with prisoners, and some jails now have rooms for Islamic worship [18, 19]. The result of this process is that a large number of prisoners convert to fundamental Wahhabism. The avalanche-like character of this movement causes concern among the authorities, but they fail to counteract it effectively.
Understanding Political Islam
Many Russian people do not view Political Islam as an ideology threatening secular democratic values and freedoms (of religion). This is caused, perhaps, by the memories of older generations of the peaceful coexistence of Muslim and non-Muslim nationalities under Soviet rule.
This ignorance of Political Islam is quite clear in the opinions of the Russian population. As an example, 10% of Russians are aware of the Islamic State phenomenon [20] and that it claimed certain areas of the Northern Caucasus to be their provinces.  It means that ISIS wants to establish a rigid religious state under sharia law in that area.  It needs to be understood that sharia law divides the world into  Dar-al-Islam, The House of Peace, which is the state under sharia law, and Dar al-Harb, The House of War, which means the state that is not under sharia law. The ultimate goal of Political Islam is to incorporate the House of War into the House of Islam. This goal was proclaimed by Mohammed.
On the other hand, 74% of respondents opposed wearing hijabs at schools and universities. In Moscow, the share of those who spoke against it reached the highest rate – 91% of those surveyed. This was also supported by the Russian Ministry of Education [20].
Sharia Law in Russia
In 2005 Russia joined the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and thus became subject to global Islamic movements and resolutions. This idea was fully supported by the Russian Orthodox Church [21], [22].
After the International Conference on Jihad, Takfir and Caliphate (25-26 May, 2012), it became evident that the processes which Europe is now going through, will also include Russia. The difference is that the Russian part of the ummah, the Muslim political, religious and cultural community, has not yet reached significant size and has not gained sufficient representation in regional and federal authorities.
According to the Moscow Theological Report, which outlines the Muslim stance on certain issues, military jihad is acceptable within a country to keep and ensure massive advancement of the religion. Infidels and their territories are the properties of Allah but, at times, actions against them may create a negative image of Islam. A Caliphate can be a solution to a modern society, particularly in the case of absence of a state governor or of his incapacity [23]. The Caliphate state is based on religious rules – sharia law. One of the major Muslim newspapers recognized the Theological Report as being as significant as the Cairo Declaration of 1993 [24], which outlined the idea of human rights based on sharia [25].
Understanding the opinion of Muslims in Russia is useful in this context. The statistics show that 52% of Muslims believe sharia is the revealed word of God, 42% favored making Islamic law the official law in their country and 58% believe religious leaders should have significant or at least, partial political influence [26].
Regardless of their apparent worldly lifestyle and frequently elitist position in business or politics, Muslims continue identifying with Islamic tradition when it comes to family, society and state.
In public speeches and interviews, leading and well-established adherents of the Islamic faith express these views both openly and indirectly [27, 28]. In the conditions of modern society, changes and modernization of Islam are not meant to happen. Instead it is deemed necessary “to manipulate the minds” and persuade those who experienced aggression at the hands of  Muslims [29]. 
It was also stated that the application of sharia law is unavoidable on a state level in Chechnya, Karachaevo-Cherkessiya and Dagestan, while in Russia, sharia may be introduced in experimental areas – to see how well it works. It will primarily concern property, inheritance and family disputes, as well as legalizing polygamy. Such an approach will create the necessary foundation for the further complete introduction of sharia on Russian land [27].
Following the scandalous statement by lawyer Dagir Khasavov on the “Ren-TV” channel, who attempted to introduce sharia legally, this idea was supported by the Russian Orthodox Church [30, 31]. It should be pointed out that according to Khasavov, Islamic law will be established in Russia anyway, and any effort to oppose it will result in serious “blood-spilling” violence [32]. Also, Chechnyan president Ramzan Kadyrov told the French newspaper Le Figaro that he does not recognize anything as being higher than Islamic law (as quoted by and [33].
Sharia Banking
A Russian and Malaysian Consortium began in April 2015 to research and analyze the potential viability of Islamic banking in Russia. It is expected that by June 2016, the Duma will amend respective points in the legislation which will allow sharia banks to operate in Russia [34]. Islamic financial services have been provided in Mahachkala and Kazan since 2011, but they were not granted Central Bank license, and thus they are not official banks. Their services are limited and exclude provision of loans and saving accounts [35].
As of September 2015 the first sharia bank cards were officially issued by Moscow Industrial Bank [36].
The Muslim population in Russia is growing in  numbers and has greater leverage to insist on Islamic values while being in a democratic society. Muslims are not influential enough to legalize sharia nationwide, so they will make it a parallel system contradicting the Russian constitution.
It will probably change over the years as the Muslim proportion of the population becomes significantly greater.
The active practice of  sharia, which implies various human rights violations and presents threats to the freedom and lives also of non muslims, is being promoted by traditional Muslims. It is not the invention of jihadists.  
This process is not new and is similar to the methods used by Mohamed. In the beginning of  Islam, Mohamed focused on its religious aspects. Later, after moving to Medina, Mohamed became a politician and warrior and was focused on jihad. His main struggle was focused on submission of non-believers and the physical fight against the enemies of Islam.
Written 9 January, 2016
Center for the Study of Political Islam

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