Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change

Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change

Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change

Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change

Excerpt

The Islamic world stretches from North America to Southeast Asia and includes some forty independent states in which Muslims constitute a majority of the population. Islam has approximately 750 million adherents and, therefore, is the second largest of the world's religions.

A distinctive feature of the Islamic tradition is the belief that Islam is a total, comprehensive way of life. Religion has an integral, organic relationship to politics and society. This Islamic ideal is reflected in the development of Islamic law which was a comprehensive law, encompassing a Muslim's duties to God (worship, fasting, pilgrimage) and duties to one's fellow man (family, commercial, and criminal laws). Therefore, the Islamic tradition provided a normative system in which religion was integral to all areas of Muslim life — politics, economics, law, education, and the family.

In the twentieth century Muslim countries have faced formidable political and social challenges: the struggle for independence from colonial dominance, the formation and development of independent nation states with all the pressures and problems of modernization, the Arab‐ Israeli conflict, and more recently, the emergence of the oil-producing states as a major world economic power bloc. The history of Islam in the modern period reflects the continued interaction of the Islamic tradition with the forces of change.

While Islam may be acknowledged as a significant force in the precolonial period and to varying degrees during the twentieth-century independence movements, the strength and interaction of Islam in sociopolitical change has often been overlooked or underestimated. For most observers, Islam was simply an obstacle to change, an obstacle whose relevance to the political and social order would increasingly diminish.

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