Islamist Extremism: The Nexus between Islam and Politics

  • 05 Pages
  • Published On: 15-12-2023

Islamist extremism is defined as a “political ideology that has developed and is maintained based on a series of manipulated narratives derived from the Quran, prophetic traditions (hadith), as well as early classical and modern Muslim history” (Rane, 2016, p. 167). As such, one of the key elements in Islamist extremism is the assumed relationship between Islam and politics. In this context, the political Islamist ideology may also lead to Islamist narratives that may be used by extremists to justify and further their political and extremist agenda. Islamist extremism is represented mainly by the jihadist and Salafists groups who interpret and present Islamic narratives in a way that allows them to foster and further an agenda of establishment of Islamic states or caliphates with an Islamic form of government. The ideas of establishment of such Islamic states are traced back to the work of Abul A’la Maududi and Sayyid Qutb, who proposed the establishment of such states as responses to the identity politics that developed in the Indian subcontinent (Rane, 2016).


Research Aims:

Recent literature has highlighted the importance of countering Islamist narratives for the purpose of countering Islamist extremism (Russell & Rafiq, 2016; Halverson, et al., 2011) . Narratives lead to identity formation and has also been related to semiosis, which is production of meaning (Cobley, 2013) Narratives have been employed by all major terror groups including, Al Qaeda and Islamic State or ISIS. Narratives have often been influential and compelling, whether from extremist groups like Al Qaeda or non-violent groups like the Tablighi Jamaat because Muslim audiences find it easy to relate to and understand these narratives; the important aspect is also that they may find it hard to question these narratives because these are grounded in Islam (Halverson et al., 2011). In literature, one of the works that addresses the methods by which Islamist narratives can be countered is by Halverson, et al. (2011) who proposed five methods that can be employed for the samecountering narratives: avoiding reinforcement by western governments; contesting analogies such as crusades, decompressing time by disrupting links of Islamist extremists with the idealised past; deconstructing binaries of ‘us and them’ and ‘good and evil’; and recasting archetypes by refocussing on the credentials and actions of Islamist extremist leaders. This however is an approach that is heavily reliant on western approaches and does not draw at all from the Islamic theological methodology. In a way, the approach that Halverson, et al. (2011) propose is based on separating Islam from politics, which is also an approach that is proposed by Rane (2016) for countering Islamist extremist narrative. The gap in the approach taken by Halverson, et al. (2011) is that it is based on secularism and consequently does not consider the potential of Islamic theological methodology for countering Islamist narratives. For instance, Schmid (2015) was able to identify almost a dozen narrative themes of ISIS and propose counter-arguments that were grounded in Islamic theology. The approach that is taken in the current research is based to an extent on Schmid (2015), but goes beyond it to ground the methodology in Islamic theology and not on secular perspectives and this is premised on the argument that in order to effectively counter Islamist narratives, it is useful to consider Muslim voices who can engage terrorist ideologues with rational and faith-based arguments.

Theoretical Research:

Theoretical sampling, which allows the researcher to draw comparisons amongst the samples of data to generate theoretical insights (Hoonaard, 2008) was first thought of for use in this research. Theoretical sampling can be done after the researcher has identified some key concepts and features to be researched, so that the researcher can then turn to the next in the data collection process. However, this method is more suitable to Grounded Theory method. The researcher has identified the theoretical traditions and theorists and so Grounded Theory method is not being used in this research since the researcher is using a deductive approach. Therefore, what the researcher will be following is a library based, qualitative research method in which the researcher will engages critically with the theorists or theoretical traditions that are explained in this section of the proposal.

At the outset, it is important to note that Islam has a methodology to interpret and make deductions in line with the Shari’a (the revealed will of the God to the Prophet Muhammad); this methodology or Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) includes qiya (analogy) and ijma (consensus). These methods of Islamic jurisprudence have been used for centuries by Islamic religious scholars to interpret the Islamic law and also provide directions to the followers as to the correct course of action under the Islamic law. Based on these methods, the researcher can derive methods for developing counter narratives to Islamist narratives. This has been done in other research studies that have used Islamic theological methods; for instance, in one study the researcher was able to apply the Islamic international law to explain the basis and meaning of an Islamic world order (AbuSulayman, 1993). Ijma reflects scholarly consensus and it will be one of the areas of this research to identify scholarly consensus on countering Islamist narratives based on Islamic theological method.


This work is qualitative in nature and it is based on library and desk-based research. Due to Covid 19 pandemic and the difficulties associated with interviewing participants and collecting primary data, the researcher had chose a desk based research. Taking a desk based research will not compromise the quality of the findings because the researcher will be able to identify points of consensus related to countering Islamist narratives in Islamic writings.

Islamic Theological Method can be used to engage with principal schools of thought that articulate theological themes related to various aspects and even narratives (Renard, 2014). Because this work seeks to provide an insight into how Islamic Theological Methodology can provide methods or means of countering Islamist extremist narratives, one of the potential difficulties that may arise is related to the different opinions within Islamic jurisprudence on the same issues, such as jihad against non-believers (AbuSulayman, 1993). Within Islamic scholarship, a tendency has been noted of different scholars arriving at different conclusions or answers to the same questions based on their interpretation of Islam. Therefore, one of the difficulties associated with the Islamic Theological method is the lack of consensus amongst jurists on important questions. This is not to say that academic in general does not demonstrate the same phenomenon of absence of academic consensus. Therefore, one challenge for the researcher will be how to select theoretical positions or theorists for this research. One possible way of approaching this challenge is to apply aApplication of a postmodern methodology, which is critical and intertextual, has been applied since as this it can opens up new horizons of critical thinking in Islamic studies. In this regard the paper explains how the process of applying postmodern methodologies to theological studies, which has been justified on the basis that it can help create a more critical engagement with Islamic theology (Moballeghi, 2018).

Potential Ethical Challenges:

Non- Academic Research - Due to the condition proposed by the ethical team for the research about using peer reviewed material only, it has limited the research ability because most of the research topics have not been covered by academics in English but by Islamic researchers in Arabic as well as in English languages. This research study includes many sources that may be considered to be non-academic in the western sense of the term, but which are related to Islamic scholarship.

Reference limitation- Applying only academic research it will not only limit the deep analysis in countering the terrorist narratives but also reduce the references. There are many research books and journals available in online and print market on the topic of countering Islamist narratives which researcher can use and counter the narratives and by doing so, the readers will thoroughly understand how researcher used different types of materials (Islami and non-Islamic) to counter the narratives of Islamist ideology. DID NOT UNDERSTAND THIS POINT.

Direct Data Sharing- Researcher can understand the sensitivity of direct data sharing from the terrorist material however, it is believed that there is no harm to use direct usage of Islamic material such as Quranic and Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet of Islam) texts because the research of countering Islamist narratives cannot achieve its goal if the direct Islamic references cannot for be included. No doubt, there are third party references available in academic work but most of them are included by non-Muslim scholars who have limited understanding of the Arabic language as well as knowledge of Islamic texts (Quran, Hadith, Fiqh, Jimah and Ijtihad).

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This dissertation seeks to explore the Islamic Theological Methodology to arrive at some methods that are based in theological methodology for countering a Political Islamist Ideology and Islamist Narratives that are giving rise to extremism within Islam. The dissertation will use a desk based research to explore and analyse Islamic theological scholarship for critically engaging with concepts like jihad, qital, al-wala’ wa al-bara’, and takfir, which are interpreted in a certain way by extremist organisations to further their political agenda. The aim of this research study is to arrive at some methods that are grounded in Islamist Theological Methodology that can help develop counter-narratives. So far, literature that is predominantly based in western theory has sought to propose counter-narratives that are based on western secular traditions. There is therefore a gap in literature is that it does not provide a meaningful insight into alternatives like Islamist Theological Methodology that can provide effective means of counter-narratives that will also find appeal within the Muslim community around the world. With utilising the direct Islamic texts as well as non-academic published material from reputable Muslim scholars in the research will highlight the deep analysis of countering Islamist narratives through Islamic methodology.

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