ISLAMISTS MAKE USE of a tendentious reading of history to justify their causes, for the putative ‘Islamic Nation,’ for the call for the Sharī‘a, for the Caliphate, or for the existence of a ‘perennial struggle’ against the forces of Disbelief. This pre-supposes a view of the universe which does not see history as a sequence of events each with their own conditioning factors. Instead, historical events separated by centuries can be linked up and used to explain a preordained thesis, a ‘metanarrative’ that determines all the contours of history, hermetically sealed from the effects of events that contradict this thesis.

History is unfolding according to a pre-determined logic. The Muslim is held to be part of a great historical enterprise unfolding. This history is constantly repeating itself. Or rather, it is a permanent constant – the past and the present are indissolubly merged. The same formula applies down through the centuries and this provides the correct basis on which to engage with current and future events, for it is essentially one and the same contest – the Primordial Struggle between the forces of Truth and Falsehood. It is a formula of conflict that enables Islamists ideologues to claim that:

the conflict of cultures and the hatred has been burning since long before our attacks and in fact before Huntington and Fukuyama with their books on the Clash of Civilizations. This war has been going on ever since the existence of Faith and Disbelief.                                                               [Abū Muhammad al-Maqdisī]

As a self-contained entity, the Islamist revision of history immunizes its user intellectually, in much the same way as a fundamentalist doctrine immunizes the believer from challenge. In both cases, the immunization is a key tool to enable the exponent to avoid the implications of contradictions to the system.

Left unchallenged the Islamist historical narrative is a radicalizing force. There is therefore a special responsibility placed on the shoulders of the historian to educate the reader to understand the complexities of actions, reactions, developments and evolutions, against the highly manipulable shorthand of the conspiratorial ‘connecting thread.’ The authors of the articles in this section are taking on this responsibility.

Wael Farouq

Whether we like it or not, we live and practice modernity, because it is not just a collection of statements that one can accept or reject, or even select. Modernity is an essential part of our life that we practice in every moment; it shapes our relation with the surrounding world and the society we belong to. However, some people reject modernity – even though they practice it – till the point of rupture, whereas other people identify with it to the point that they see their heritage, and related historical context, as an obstacle to progress.[1]

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Lafif Lakhdar

I would like to say something in defence of Orientalists,[1] to counter the widespread defamation of them among intellectuals of traditionalist Islam, the Islamic far right and those who mourn the passing of the religious isolationism of the Hanbalites. For over eight centuries these last have prohibited the teaching of the ‘Greek interloper sciences’ where these touch on the Qur’ān and the Sunna, as if they constituted the two sole, vital conditions for a Muslim to win happiness in this world and the next!

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Said Nachid

If we make an exception for the efforts of Ahmad al-Qubbanji and Abdolkarim Soroush,[1] everything that has been said about the noble Qur’ān from the death of the Messenger to the present-day has never once gone beyond what antiquity considered to be matters beyond dispute, or beyond its magical perceptions on the world, whereby the Qur’ān appeared to be the ‘word’, ‘language’ and ‘style’ of God, the explanation for its manifestation being one of the following:

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