The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism

By Ralph W. Hood, Jr.; Peter C. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
Fundamentalist Islam

Why do I fear Mahound? For that: one one one, his
terrifying singularity. Whereas I am always divided, always
two or three or fifteen.

—RUSHDIE (1989, p. 102)

Where there is no belief, there is no blasphemy.

—RUSHDIE (1989, p. 380)

Islam is properly identified as one of the major revealed faith traditions intimately linked to the legacy of Abraham, along with Judaism and Christianity (Feiler, 2002). These three great faith traditions fulfill the personal need for meaning for many people worldwide, as they provide clarity with respect to behavioral regulations (Baumeister, 1991; Wuthnow, 1998). Fundamentalist Islam, perhaps even more than other expressions of the Islamic faith, provides a strong sense of coherence for the believer (Antonovsky, 1987). It argues that the Quran1 contains Allah's final revelation, given to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. Muhammad spoke what was revealed to him over the 23-year period of the revelation. The spoken words were written down by scribes and constitute Islam's sacred text. As Tehranian (1993b) emphasizes, “Muslims consider the Quran as the Word of God, the Revelation itself, a veritable Miracle, a book of unsurpassed eloquence in classical Arabic, revealed by God to an unlettered Prophet” (p. 342).

The two major branches of Islam are Sunni (constituting the vast majority of Islam) and Shia (no more than 10% of Islam and a powerful majority only in one country, Iran). The distinction between Sunni and Shia emerged historically, with the Sunni favoring succession of the Prophet via election, while the Shia support succession via inheritance (Adil, 2002; Choueiri, 1990). We are less concerned with the complexities of this historical distinction than with the current fact that the Shia,

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