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Behind Islamic Revivalism

Girish Mathur

By Asgar Ali Engineer
Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1980, pp. 212, Rs. 75.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 2 September/October 1980

Although complete in itself, the book under review has to be read in con­tinuation of the author's work published earlier this year, The Origin and Develop­ment of Islam (Orient Longman; 1980; pp. 247; Rs. 65). It appears that the two books were originally conceived as one. In view of the rising prices of books, it is perhaps good for readers that they have been brought out separately. If the two are read in continuation, some repetition might be observed which probably becomes inevitable when one part of a planned book is brought out separately. The two books together are an attempt to come to grips with the pro­blems posed by the Islamic resurgence of the 1970s or, as some choose to describe it, Islamic fundamentalism. It is not possible to understand or explain the pheno­menon without going into the socio-eco­nomic factors behind the emergence of Islam in the Arab mainland in the seventh century, the military conquests and political expansion of Muslim rulers in the subsequent centuries, the encounter of the military and political power of the Muslim rulers with modern (Western) imperialism, and the stirrings and strug­gles of  Muslim peoples in the era of neo­colonialism, However, developments in the Mus­lim countries since the end of the last world war and more particularly since the oil producers among them began raising oil prices in 1973, have made the question of political power the centre­-piece of Islamic resurgence or Islamic fundamentalism. Therefore it is well that the author has followed up his ‘essay on Islam's socio-economic growth’, as he has described his earlier work, by exami­ning in the book under review the con­cept of state in Islam and the develop­ment of the so-called Islamic state in the Middle Ages, and has then gone on to analyse the political ideas of the various trends in modern Islam described as fundamentalist. The author has adopted the historical approach and Marxian methodology for his analysis. The author's contention is that the Koran and the Hadis do not contain the concept of state; they visualize a just society. This is a view shared by some western Islamicists as well, and chapter and verse have been quoted to substan­tiate the point. Where Engineer has dis­tinguished himself is in tracing the origins and the growth of political power in early Islam and its assumption of the form ...

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