Published: 2016 by Iqbal International Institute of Research and Dialogue (IRD)

Author of Book: Husnul Amin

Husnul Amin is a Pakistani scholar, who obtained his Ph. D. in Development Studies in 2010 from the International Institute of Social Sciences, Hague. He was awarded a post-doc fellowship hosted by the Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Culture and Societies. His main areas of research include religion and politics in the Muslim world, Islamic social movements and post-Islamist trends; conflict, peace, and development; neo-liberal globalization, and contemporary Islam. He has also served as Executive Director of the Iqbal International Institute for Research and Dialogue (IRD) and as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Politics and International Relations, International Islamic University, Islamabad. Currently positioned as Head of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the National Defense University Islamabad.

Main Theme of the Book:

Globalization is one of the key driving factors of the late 20th and early 21st century. Numerous social movements emerged, following the collision between globalization and indigenous cultures around the globe. Islam and Western values came in direct clash with each other generating social movements from Muslims to counter. Firstly, the thought that outshined the Muslim intellectual and political struggle was dominated by the movement of ‘Islamism’ which possesses different strands around the world. The concepts of modernity, state, democracy, sovereignty, citizenship, and freedom came in direct confrontation with ‘Islamism’. After the 1990s, with the rise of neo-liberal globalization, a new school of thought with its own epistemological and ontological preliminaries challenged Islamists’ footings. Democracy, gender equality, the supremacy of law, and freedom are complimentary to Islamic principles, the New School claimed.

This new school is called “Post-Islamism”, the author borrows it from Asef Bayat a Turkish scholar.

As the Islamism groundwork is based on political Islam, Husnul Amin presents that while encountering the Western imperialist framework and neo-liberal globalization, Muslim scholarship has gone through internal critiques and adopted a soft approach. More precisely, post-Islamists endeavoured to present the formula of the ‘co-existence of Islam and West’ rather than ‘two opposites’. This movement of post-Islamism gained popularity under the regime of Musharraf. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi presented and propagated this school of thought through TV programs, talk shows, and mostly through question-answer sessions conducted on a large scale.


The book consists of five chapters excluding the introduction and conclusion.

The author initiates by analyzing different Islamic social movements by Muslims in tackling modernization and secularization. Three types of Islamic social movements emanated, the first one argues that there could be no possibility of synchronicity between Islam and the West. The second movement found overlapping concepts like democracy, freedom, and liberalization of the market in Islam and the West. However, the third one used modernity as an instrument to stretch Islamic thought around the world, discovering a new opportunity space. Husnul Amin mentions the ‘social movement theory approach’ (SMT) and its application to Islamic social movements. Is there any possibility that these social movements could be addressed using the methodology of SMT? Theoretical approaches to understanding these movements have been divided into two types mainly, “materialist” and “culturalist”, the author notes. SMT as a whole presented a holistic view of Islamic social movements but remained unable to grasp basic postulates due to the extensive use of Western conceptions of truths. Islamic movements are diverse, presenting them on a spectrum, and the author has differentiated between them.

Islamic movements are complex in nature and categorization would mislead us in getting a better understanding of it.

In the second chapter, Dr. Husnul investigates the post-Islamist intellectual growth and differentiates it from Islamists’ perspective. The questions about Islam and democracy, how are they inter-linked? Or is there any possibility of coexistence? It is worth noting that the author doesn’t delve into the debate of whether Islam is democratic or democracy is Islamic. However, he attempts to study the intellectual trajectory of the emergence of Islamist thought (presented by Mawdudi) and its critique (presented by Javed Ahmed Ghamidi). This new intellectual paradigm of post-Islamism gained attraction in the late 90s and early 2000s. Ghamidi himself was a part of Jamat-e-Islami created by Moulana Mawdudi, however, he separated his paths from traditional theology and came up with his new hermeneutics. Ghamidi contrary to Mawdudi, presented a way, not found in traditional Muslim scholars, to understand and interpret the Quranic text, which is in alignment with liberal democracy, politically.  Two major approaches adopted by Ghamidi are; Nazam in the Quran and Qanun-e-Itmam-e-Hujjat. Former explains that there is an ‘interconnectedness’ in the Quranic test, meaningfully a certain part could not be understood ignoring the context. While the latter concludes, the orders of Jihad (offensive) and punishing Kafirs were only applicable when the Prophet (PBUH) himself was present.

Post-Islamists developed an alternative to Islamists’ conception of the “sovereignty of God” and the new approach discarded this by implying that ‘man has free will and power to run his own matters’.

In the third chapter of the book, the author draws a comparison between mainstream Islamist political parties (MIPPs) Jamat-e-Islami and Jammiat Ulama-e-Islam. A comparative Manifesto approach has been used to investigate the positions of both aforementioned parties on various issues. The data has been collected through election manifestos and the public statements in Newspaper files spanning 1988-2006. The author has carefully divided the categories into domains and then sub-domains. Mainly, the domains include external relations, freedom and democracy, political system, economy, welfare, ethno-politics, social groups, and Islamic ideology. These MIPPs define their motto as implementing Islamic Shariah through democratic means, contrary to violent revolution. However, there exists a moral support for Jihadi activism in the public sphere by these parties. It would be very difficult to categorize these parties as anti or pro-globalization due to abrupt shifts in policies with time. Also, the neo-liberalism environment doesn’t restrict their free mobilization and political activities.  The MIPPs approach modernity as a system that alienates itself from traditions and corrupts the morals and meaning of authority, the author concludes.

In the second last chapter, the author mentioned the critique from within Islamists. Wahid-ud-din Khan, a member of JI has departed from the party, claiming that Mawdudi had reached the wrong destination. He has failed to extract the true meanings of the Holy Book. For Mawdudi, Islam transcends mere faith and rituals creating a just and peaceful society by applying the Shariah-based model in the state. The Quran has the power to change the heart of a man not just individually but collectively change his behaviour on social and political issues. Sovereignty only belongs to Allah and his order should be prioritized at any cost at any point in time. On the other hand, internal dissidents claim the historical scholarship of Islam has little to do with the basis Mawdudi has structured its building of Muslim society. Farahi, from whom Ghamidi has inspired, doesn’t call the Prophet a leader, or a planner, otherwise, the religion will loosen its grip and will become a political tool. The post-Islamist school of thought has not been lived without criticism either. There are a whole lot of scholars who found inconsistencies in his thoughts.

The author wants to point out that criticism is not a ‘secular game’ only, there is ample room to study and research religious thought.

The last chapter concerns the most significant strand of Human Rights. The author draws its arguments on the activism of private Jihad and Jihad by non-state actors in the discourse of human rights. The debate between secular and Islamic states is a major one in recent academia. In Louis Althusser’s view, the author notes that the ideological Islamic state is similar to the secular state. The question of “what a state should be?” is difficult to answer, given the paradigms available. The Islamists are not seculars, but they are the facilitators of the process of secularization by rationalizing the religion. The author creates a distinction between Islamist and post-Islamist worldviews on modern discourses of human rights, freedom and equality, and gender rights. Islamists and post-Islamists are mainly distinct in their “concept and use of power”, to summarize.

Critical Analysis:

The book “Post-Islamism Pakistan in the Era of Neo-liberalism” provides an extensive linear line to the shifts that occurred in political Islam with the dawn of globalization and neo-liberalism. The book contains enough academic arguments with a proper theoretical and methodological foundation. The author has relied on intellectuals of Political Islam and modern theorists to support his argument. Modern concepts, and how they were perceived as a threat or opportunity are critically analyzed keeping in view the narratives of Islamists and post-Islamists. It can be concluded that the book doesn’t (even slightly) try to attach itself to either Islamism or post-Islamism. However, Dr. Husnul Amin presented an analysis of both, and how they overlap or in contrast to each other.

This book could have been better if it had opted to include public opinion and surveys about social movements initiated by Islamists and post-Islamists. This would have strengthened the argument of the book.  Furthermore, the historical connection to modern trends was completely absent. I am not implying that this made the book weak in argumentation, but complex to understand for a reader who has little understanding of social movements in the pre-partition sub-continent.  This book would be a great insight for, those who have a piece of prior knowledge and interest in Islamic literature, terminologies, and modern trends.

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