The Making of Salafism: Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century By Henri Lauzière

The Making of Salafism: Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century By Henri Lauzière Lauzière in this remarkable study examines the historical process that surrounds Salafism by first identifying two paradigmatic strands, the modernist Salafist and the purist Salafist, and then deconstructing them. Key to Lauzière’s work is the need to challenge contemporary Salafists whose ‘preconceived notion of Salafism … does not seem to have existed in the medieval period’ (p. 17). This observation leads Lauzière to argue that Salafism is, in fact, a modern creation, a product of the twentieth-century, which is linked to the decolonization process and the quest of nation-statehood. The modernist strand Lauzière argues refers to a multifaceted movement that emerged in the nineteenth-century which draws on the works of Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī, Muḥammad ʿAbduh and even Rashīd Riḍā, a rather surprising inclusion by Lauzière. The goal of the modern Salafists was to ‘reconcile Islam with the social, political and intellectual ideals of the Enlightenment’ (p. 5). These individuals emphasized the use of reason to show that Islam was in tune with the modern era and could therefore adapt. These individuals were modern in how they approach social, legal and political issues, while their creed was Salafi. The purists who are more difficult to define, as they are numerous and because their interpretation of Islam stems from a unique reading not only of the pious ancestors (al-salaf al-ṣāliḥ) but more specifically on the vicious ancestors (al-salaf al-ṭāliḥ). The purist, in other words, is both Salafi in creed and thought. In six highly stimulating chapters Lauzière, a history professor, deconstructs the history of Salafism. Much of Lauzière’s focus is with the Moroccan Muḥammad Taqī al-Dīn al-Hilālī (d. 1987), who began as a Sufi, who adopted Salafism in 1921 and spent the next six decades traveling from Rabat to Makka and from Calcutta to Berlin spreading the Salafi creed. In seeking to explain what brought about the term salafiyya, which Lauzière argues never existed before the twentieth-century, Lauzière highlights the role played by Louis Massignon and other Westerners such as Henri Laoust, Lothrop Stoddard and Sir Hamilton Gibb in formulating the term and more importantly the understanding of Salafism. Lauzière asserts that Massignon erroneously came to see salafiyya as encapsulating a group of Muslim scholars such as al-Afghānī and Riḍā who called for modernist reform and Islamic transnationalism, as Salafist, a term that others both Western and non-Western scholars latched on to, diluting what the term actually meant—a reference to Hanbali and neo-Hanbali theology. In ch. 2, Lauzière points to the influence of Rashīd Riḍā in spreading Salafism, with the focus being on Riḍā and al-Hilālī’s decision to travel to Saudi Arabia, ‘which had important consequences for the religious views of many Salafis’ (p. 25). This is because King ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Āl Saʿūd supported Riḍā, who in return gave the new king tremendous backing, because of the Saudi monarch's commitment to challenge the Sharīf Ḥusayn, whom Riḍā saw as a sell-out. For Riḍā, the emerging Saudi state was the ‘best hope for the reemergence of Muslim greatness and political power in a colonial order’ (p. 65). The questioning of how should Islam adapt to the postcolonial transformation, raised questions for many Salafists, as they sought to deal with the emergence of Islamic nationalism (the focus of ch. 3) and modernity (ch. 4). It was in the 1930s, that the salafiyya movement was taking shape, though it was to become much clearer at the end of the colonial period in the late 1950s, as two groups emerged. There were those Salafists who saw their creed as a pure interpretation of Islam that eschewed innovation and embraced a literal interpretation of the scriptures as the proof text. They were committed to an orthopraxis and Islamic orthodoxy that would secure a pristine Muslim community. Other Salafists, however, operated along the line of the early orientalists as expounded by Massignon et al. The presence of these two Salafi ‘families’ highlight a deep theological and practical divergence as to what the post-colonial Muslim society should be, although both sought to use Islam to bring about change in the sense that neither Salafi group liked or approved what they saw. The purists rejected nationalism and modernism as secular, Western forces, whereas the modernists, who were willing to work with non-Muslims, imagined communities with their own distinctive Muslim interpretations. Chapter 5 explores how post-colonialism drove a wedge between the purist and other Islamic activists, which in turn facilitated the rise of the jihadist Salafism, the focus of the final chapter. Lauzière argues that with the obfuscation of Salafism, decolonization and independence led pure Salafism to take two forms. Firstly, a campaign for purism, which led to a fissure within the Islamic community whereby those that do not subscribe to the pure or rather ‘correct’ form of Islam, are deemed non-Muslim. Within this purist element, Salafism has come to represent a total ideology, with its own minhaj or method, that demands that life and society operate along a very strict line, as seen with Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia. The appeal of The Making of Salafism is in the careful methodological work and in the way Lauzière connects social and political conditions to explain the emergence and the transformation of Salafism. His decision to focus on al-Hilali and his experiences, as interesting as it is, does not add more weight to the argument and it would have been maybe more useful to explore in greater depth the role of Massignon and Western orientalists in corrupting Salafism. Moreover, the argument that there is a link between colonialism and the purist turn towards doubling down on their theological exposition is insufficiently convincing. These minor issues do not detract from the tremendous value of the book and its role in explaining the Salafi phenomenon. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Islamic Studies Oxford University Press

The Making of Salafism: Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century By Henri Lauzière

Journal of Islamic Studies , Volume Advance Article – Feb 28, 2018

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0955-2340
eISSN
1471-6917
D.O.I.
10.1093/jis/ety017
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Abstract

Lauzière in this remarkable study examines the historical process that surrounds Salafism by first identifying two paradigmatic strands, the modernist Salafist and the purist Salafist, and then deconstructing them. Key to Lauzière’s work is the need to challenge contemporary Salafists whose ‘preconceived notion of Salafism … does not seem to have existed in the medieval period’ (p. 17). This observation leads Lauzière to argue that Salafism is, in fact, a modern creation, a product of the twentieth-century, which is linked to the decolonization process and the quest of nation-statehood. The modernist strand Lauzière argues refers to a multifaceted movement that emerged in the nineteenth-century which draws on the works of Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī, Muḥammad ʿAbduh and even Rashīd Riḍā, a rather surprising inclusion by Lauzière. The goal of the modern Salafists was to ‘reconcile Islam with the social, political and intellectual ideals of the Enlightenment’ (p. 5). These individuals emphasized the use of reason to show that Islam was in tune with the modern era and could therefore adapt. These individuals were modern in how they approach social, legal and political issues, while their creed was Salafi. The purists who are more difficult to define, as they are numerous and because their interpretation of Islam stems from a unique reading not only of the pious ancestors (al-salaf al-ṣāliḥ) but more specifically on the vicious ancestors (al-salaf al-ṭāliḥ). The purist, in other words, is both Salafi in creed and thought. In six highly stimulating chapters Lauzière, a history professor, deconstructs the history of Salafism. Much of Lauzière’s focus is with the Moroccan Muḥammad Taqī al-Dīn al-Hilālī (d. 1987), who began as a Sufi, who adopted Salafism in 1921 and spent the next six decades traveling from Rabat to Makka and from Calcutta to Berlin spreading the Salafi creed. In seeking to explain what brought about the term salafiyya, which Lauzière argues never existed before the twentieth-century, Lauzière highlights the role played by Louis Massignon and other Westerners such as Henri Laoust, Lothrop Stoddard and Sir Hamilton Gibb in formulating the term and more importantly the understanding of Salafism. Lauzière asserts that Massignon erroneously came to see salafiyya as encapsulating a group of Muslim scholars such as al-Afghānī and Riḍā who called for modernist reform and Islamic transnationalism, as Salafist, a term that others both Western and non-Western scholars latched on to, diluting what the term actually meant—a reference to Hanbali and neo-Hanbali theology. In ch. 2, Lauzière points to the influence of Rashīd Riḍā in spreading Salafism, with the focus being on Riḍā and al-Hilālī’s decision to travel to Saudi Arabia, ‘which had important consequences for the religious views of many Salafis’ (p. 25). This is because King ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Āl Saʿūd supported Riḍā, who in return gave the new king tremendous backing, because of the Saudi monarch's commitment to challenge the Sharīf Ḥusayn, whom Riḍā saw as a sell-out. For Riḍā, the emerging Saudi state was the ‘best hope for the reemergence of Muslim greatness and political power in a colonial order’ (p. 65). The questioning of how should Islam adapt to the postcolonial transformation, raised questions for many Salafists, as they sought to deal with the emergence of Islamic nationalism (the focus of ch. 3) and modernity (ch. 4). It was in the 1930s, that the salafiyya movement was taking shape, though it was to become much clearer at the end of the colonial period in the late 1950s, as two groups emerged. There were those Salafists who saw their creed as a pure interpretation of Islam that eschewed innovation and embraced a literal interpretation of the scriptures as the proof text. They were committed to an orthopraxis and Islamic orthodoxy that would secure a pristine Muslim community. Other Salafists, however, operated along the line of the early orientalists as expounded by Massignon et al. The presence of these two Salafi ‘families’ highlight a deep theological and practical divergence as to what the post-colonial Muslim society should be, although both sought to use Islam to bring about change in the sense that neither Salafi group liked or approved what they saw. The purists rejected nationalism and modernism as secular, Western forces, whereas the modernists, who were willing to work with non-Muslims, imagined communities with their own distinctive Muslim interpretations. Chapter 5 explores how post-colonialism drove a wedge between the purist and other Islamic activists, which in turn facilitated the rise of the jihadist Salafism, the focus of the final chapter. Lauzière argues that with the obfuscation of Salafism, decolonization and independence led pure Salafism to take two forms. Firstly, a campaign for purism, which led to a fissure within the Islamic community whereby those that do not subscribe to the pure or rather ‘correct’ form of Islam, are deemed non-Muslim. Within this purist element, Salafism has come to represent a total ideology, with its own minhaj or method, that demands that life and society operate along a very strict line, as seen with Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia. The appeal of The Making of Salafism is in the careful methodological work and in the way Lauzière connects social and political conditions to explain the emergence and the transformation of Salafism. His decision to focus on al-Hilali and his experiences, as interesting as it is, does not add more weight to the argument and it would have been maybe more useful to explore in greater depth the role of Massignon and Western orientalists in corrupting Salafism. Moreover, the argument that there is a link between colonialism and the purist turn towards doubling down on their theological exposition is insufficiently convincing. These minor issues do not detract from the tremendous value of the book and its role in explaining the Salafi phenomenon. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

Journal

Journal of Islamic StudiesOxford University Press

Published: Feb 28, 2018

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