Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS-The Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS-The Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics

Article excerpt

The Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics, edited by John L. Esposito and Emad El-Din Shahin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. $150.

Reviewed by Bruce B. Lawrence

A major tome, The Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics (hereafter OHIP), is divided into four parts with two distinct, often contrasting emphases. Part One focuses on overarching themes, like shari'a, Salafism, reformism, democracy, political Islam, political economy, and gender. These themes, and the chapters dedicated to them, set the stage for Part Two. In it, eight figures are reviewed as the crucial players in Islamist movements. They are divided into three categories. The two founders or trailblazers of political Islam are deemed to be Hasan al-Banna and Abul-A'la Mawdudi. They are followed by three revolutionary ideologues: Sayyid Qutb, 'Ali Shari'ati, and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, while a third subgroup is dubbed "The 'Intellectuals' of Political Islam'. They include: Hasan al-Turabi, Rachid Ghannouchi, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Mohammad Khatami, and 'Abdolkarim Soroush.

Curiously absent from this list are any women (Islamic feminism is discussed in Part One, but without the treatment and detail accorded the above cited men.) Also missing in Part Two are three or four prominent individuals who are integral to almost any consideration of Islamist movements and their ideological profiles. They include: Muhammad 'Abd al-Salam Faraj, author of the pamphlet "al-Farida al-Gha'iba" ("The Neglected Duty"), Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, the chief ideologue for Hizbullah, 'Abd al-Fattah Dukhan, the likely author of the Hamas Charter, and also, of course, Usama Bin Ladin.

Ironically, Bin Ladin is mentioned in the final chapter of OHIP, though he is cited only in passing and with no mention of the scriptural or ideological bases of his worldview. It is part of the problem with OHIP that its second emphasis, in Parts Three and Four, shifts from a thematic/biographical focus to first a regional review (from North America to Sub-Saharan Africa) in eight chapters, and then to three aspects of Islamist dynamics, those in power, those in protest, and those in strife (or jihad). As a result, Bin Ladin only appears in this volume when the final of the three chapters on jihad shifts from Egypt and Iraq (Chapters 39 and 40, respectively) to al-Qa'ida and its affiliates (Chapter 41).

What is lacking throughout the 642 pages of all 41 chapters is any broad-gauged engagement with the full range of Islamist ideology in relation to foundational texts, especially the Qur'an. An attempt in this direction was made in earlier edited work, Roxanne L. Euben and Muhammad Qasim Zaman's. Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from al-Banna to Bin Laden (Princeton, 2009). Here the roster of major thinkers is framed in five parts. Islamism is first reviewed as an emergent worldview, with four representatives: Hasan al-Banna, Abul-A'la Mawdudi, Abul-Hasan 'Ali Nadwi, and Sayyid Qutb (Part I). Those who then remake the state in an Islamic mold are said to be four: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Hasan al-Turabi, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi (Part II). There is no separate category for intellectuals linked to political Islam. Instead, we are offered three distinct yet related parts: first, Islamism and gender, with excerpts from Mortaza Motahhari, Zaynab al-Ghazali, and Nadia Yassine (Part III); then a further section, on violence, action and jihad, with chapters dedicated to Muhammad 'Abd al-Salam Faraj, 'Umar Abd al-Rahman, Hamas, Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, and the Taliban (Part IV). So significant is Bin Ladin deemed to be that the fifth and final part is dedicated largely to him, with a concluding chapter on the most (in)famous of the 19 suicide bombers of 9/11: Mohamed Atta. (Part V).

The frameworks for these two works provide a vivid contrast. Both are largely devoted to Islamism, yet have markedly divergent notions about what and who needs to be studied in understanding the origins, developments and outcomes of Islamist movements. …

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