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Cover of the Pioneers of Islamic Revival (Studies in Islamic Society) which shows the pictures of , Imam Musa Sadr, Ali Shariati, Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr, Ruhollah Khomeini, and Hassan al-Banna

Islamic revival refers to a revival of the Islamic religion throughout the Islamic world, that began roughly sometime in 1970s and is manifested in greater religious piety, and community feeling, and in a growing adoption of Islamic culture, dress, terminology, separation of the sexes, and values by Muslims.[1] One striking example of it is the increase in attendance at Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, which grew from 90,000 in 1926 to 2 million in 1979.[2]

Two of the most important events that inspired the resurgence were the Arab oil embargo and subsequent quadrupling of the price of oil in the mid 1970s, and the 1979 Iranian Revolution that established an Islamic Republic in Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini. The first created a flow of many billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia to fund Islamic books, scholarships, fellowships, and mosques around the world; the second undermined the assumption that Westernization strengthened Muslim countries and was the irreversible trend of the future.

The revival is a reversal of the Westernisation approach common in many Arab and Asian governments earlier in the 20th century. It's often associated with Islamism and other forms of re-Islamisation. While the revival has also been accompanied by some religious extremism and attacks on civilians and military targets by the extremists, this represents only a small part of the revival.

(For the political aspects of the Islamic revival see: Islamism)

The trend has been noted by historians such as John Esposito[3] and Ira Lapidus. An associated development is that of transnational Islam, described by the French Islam researchers Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy. It includes a feeling of a "growing universalistic Islamic identity" as often shared by Muslim immigrants and their children who live in non-Muslim countries:

The increased integration of world societies as a result of enhanced communications, media, travel, and migration makes meaningful the concept of a single Islam practiced everywhere in similar ways, and an Islam which transcends national and ethnic customs.[4]

But not necessarily transnational political or social organisations:

Global Muslim identity does not necessarily or even usually imply organised group action. Even though Muslims recognise a global affiliation, the real heart of Muslim religious life remains outside politics - in local associations for worship, discussion, mutual aid, education, charity, and other communal activities.[5]



Some argue the revival is not new, but the latest of a periodic occurrence in the Muslim world.

The call to fundamentalism, centered on the sharia: this call is as old as Islam itself and yet still new because it has never been fulfilled, It is a tendency that is forever setting the reformer, the censor, and tribunal against the corruption of the times and of sovereigns, against foreign influence, political opportunism, moral laxity, and the forgetting of sacred texts.[6]

The "oscillat[ion] between periods of strict religious observance and others of devotional laxity" in Islamic history was striking enough for "the great Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun" to ponder its causes 600 years ago, and speculate that it could be "attributed ... to features of ecology and social organization peculiar to the Middle East," namely the tension between the easy living in the towns and the austere life in the desert. [7]

Some of the more famous revivalists and revival movements include the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties in Maghreb (1042-1269), Indian Naqshbandi revivalist Ahmad Sirhindi ((~1564-1624), the Indian Ahl-i Hadith movement of the 19th century, preachers Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), Shah Wali Allah (1702-1762) and Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab (d.1792).[8]

Whether or not the revival is part of an historical cycle, the uniqueness of the close association of the Muslim community with its religion has been noted by scholar Michael Cook:

What is striking about the Islamic world is that, of all the major cultural domains, it seems to have been the least penetrated by irreligion; and in the last few decades, it has been the fundamentalists who have increasingly represented the cutting edge of the culture.[9]

The man cited as the forerunner of re-Islamisation was Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, "one of the most influential Muslim reformers of the nineteenth century" who traveled the Muslim world.[10] His sometime acolyte Muhammad Abduh has been called "the most influential figure" of the early Salafi movement.[11] In 1928 Hassan al-Banna established Muslim Brotherhood the first mass Islamist organization and still considered the world's largest, most influential Islamic group. Other influential revival activists and thinkers include Rashid Rida and Ali abd al-Raziq.

In South Asia Muhammad Iqbal, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and other Muslim leaders established the Muslim League which led to the establishment of the first Islamic republic in Pakistan. Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi was the later leader of this movement who established Jamaat-e-Islami in South Asia. Today it is one of the largest Islamic parties in the Indian sub-continent spanning 4 countries Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, although the different national parties have no organisational link between them.[12]

Two events were particularly important for the current revival:

  • the energy crisis of the 1970s, which led to the formation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Many Muslims believe as Saudi Prince Saud al Faisal did that the hundreds of billions of dollars in wealth obtained from the Persian Gulf's huge oil deposits were nothing less than a gift from God to the Islamic faithful. [13][14]
  • the return of the Imam Khomeini to Iran in 1979 and his establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic state.[15]


Re-Islamisation began among Shia later but many think it has been even more successful. In Iran, the Ruhollah Khomeini lead a revolution based on his interpretation of Velayat-e faqih that called for rule by the leading Islamic jurist. In a more spiritual realm, Allameh Tabatabaei as a theologian revived Kalam, Islamic philosophy and Tafsir. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Allameh Tabatabaei taught many students who have achieved high positions in Hawsa of Qom. Also some of their students like Morteza Motahhari and Mohammad Beheshti became ideologue of Islamic revolution. Furthermore some activists especially Ali Shariati politicized religion and make an ideology to revolt.

In Iraq Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr criticized Marxism and presented early ideas of an Islamic alternative to socialism and capitalism. Perhaps his most important work was Iqtisaduna (Our Economics), considered an important work of Islamic economics [16] [17]. This work was a critique of both socialism and capitalism. He also worked with Sayyid Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim in forming an Islamist movement in Iraq which resulted in establishment of Islamic Dawa Party and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. One of the founders of modern Islamist thought.

He was a close ally and supporter of Ayatollah Khomeni, but maintained a more moderate view than him and was said to have disagreed with the concept of Velayat-e faqih. In Lebanon Imam Musa Sadr established Supreme Islamic Shi'ite Council and Amal Movement. Later Islamist former members of Amal and some other parties joined each other and established the Islamist militia, party and social service agency Hezbollah, which is thought to be the most largest and most influential party among Shia of Lebanon.

Political Aspects

Politically, Islamic resurgence runs the gamut from Islamist regimes in Iran, Sudan, and pre-invasion Afghanistan. Other regimes, such as conservative and liberal monarchies in the Persian Gulf region, and the more secular, militaristic, and authoritarian regimes of Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Libya, and Pakistan, while not a product of the resurgence, have all made concessions to its growing popularity.


Islamic resurgence has a large component of middle class/intelligentsia, university students, professionals, civil servants, merchants, traders, and bankers. For example, Ayman Zawahiri, a principal figure with Al-Qaida, is an Egyptian physician who founded the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. This is the group that was implicated in the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 . Rural, traditional people who have migrated to cities are also attracted to Islamic resurgence; it has significant, established networks that address the religious, medical, and educational needs of the urban poor.

See also


  1. ^ Lapidus, p.823
  2. ^ Kepel, Gilles, Jihad: on the Trail of Political Islam, Harvard University Press, 2002, p.75
  3. ^ Haddad/Esposito pg.xvi
  4. ^ Lapidus, p.828
  5. ^ Lapidus, p.829
  6. ^ Roy, Olivier, The Failure of Political Islam, translated by Carol Volk, Harvard University Press, 1994, p.4
  7. ^ "September 11 and the Struggle for Islam" by Robert W. Hefner
  8. ^ ... why is the Muslim world in such a bad state?
  9. ^ Cook, Michael, The Koran, a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, 2000, p.43
  10. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, Thomson Gale, 2004
  11. ^ The New Encyclopedia of Islam by Cyril Glasse, Altamira, 2001
  12. ^ Jamaat-e-Islami
  13. ^ Wright, Sacred Rage, p.66 from Pipes, Daniel, In the Path of God, Basic Books, (1983), (p.285)
  14. ^ interview by Robin Wright of UK Foreign Secretary (at the time) Lord Carrington in November 1981, Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam by Robin Wright, Simon and Schuster, (1985), p.67
  15. ^ [ Fundamentalist Islam: The Drive for Power]
  16. ^ The Renewal of Islamic Law: Muhammad Baqer as-Sadr, Najaf, and the Shi'i International
  17. ^ [ Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr], International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Nov., 1993), pp. 718-719

Further reading

  • Rahnema, Ali ; Pioneers of Islamic Revival (Studies in Islamic Society); London: Zed Books, 1994[1]
  • Lapidus, Ira Marvin, A History of Islamic Societies, Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (August 26, 2002)
  • Roy, Olivier; Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (CERI Series in Comparative Politics and International Studies); 1994 [2]
  • Vali, Nasr, The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam will Shape the Future (W.W. Norton & Company, 2006)[3]

External links


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