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Islamic fundamentalism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-H007-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 19, 2024, from

Article Summary

The philosophical roots of Islamic fundamentalism are largely the result of a conscious attempt to revive and restate the theoretical relevance of Islam in the modern world. The writings of three twentieth-century Muslim thinkers and activists – Sayyid Qutb, Ayatollah Ruhollah al-Khumayni and Abu al-‘Ala al-Mawdudi – provide authoritative guidelines delineating the philosophical discourse of Islamic fundamentalism. However, whereas al-Khumayni and al-Mawdudi made original contributions towards formulating a new Islamic political theory, it was Qutb who offered a coherent exposition of Islam as a philosophical system.

Qutb’s philosophical system postulated a qualitative contradiction between Western culture and the religion of Islam. Its emphasis on Islam as a sui generis and transcendental set of beliefs excluded the validity of all other values and concepts. It also marked the differences between the doctrinal foundations of Islam and modern philosophical currents. Consequently Islamic fundamentalism is opposed to the Enlightenment, secularism, democracy, nationalism, Marxism and relativism. Its most original contribution resides in the formulation of the concept of God’s sovereignty or lordship. This concept is the keystone of its philosophical structure.

The premises of Islamic fundamentalism are rooted in an essentialist world view whereby innate qualities and attributes apply to individuals and human societies, irrespective of time, historical change or political circumstances. Hence, an immutable substance governs human existence and determines its outward movement.

Citing this article:
Choueiri, Youssef. Islamic fundamentalism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-H007-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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