[Classification of Islamic Discourses]

One may classify the Islamic discourse prevalent at the present time in the following manner:

First

  1. A populist salvationist “messianic” discourse. This is the discourse of the overwhelming majority of the Muslim masses that have instinctively realized that the processes of modernization, secularization, and globalization do theumma (Muslim community) no good and bring no real reform. These masses have observed that these processes are in essence nothing but processes of Westernization, that rob theumma of its religious and cultural heritage, giving it nothing in return, and that have only led to further colonial hegemony and class polarization within society. Adhering and clinging to Islam, which they know well, the masses encapsulate themselves within their Islamic heritage, cry for help, and hope for salvation from Allah. But they are incapable of contributing new ideas or organizing political movements. Such a discourse frequently expresses itself in the form of spontaneous and, at times, violent acts of protest against all forms of radical Westernization and colonial invasion. But more often it expresses itself in the form of philanthropy, either at the individual level (giving money to the poor), or at the community level (building mosques, hospitals and schools or providing meals to the public, especially in Ramadan, etc.). The populist discourse is mainly the discourse of the poor and the marginal, but it is also the discourse of those wealthy members of society who appreciate their religious and cultural heritage, and who recognize that its loss would mean a loss of everything.

Second

  1. The political discourse. This is the discourse of some middle class professionals, academicians, students, and traders, who perceive the need for an Islamic action that can protect thisumma . These people, having realized that political action is the means of achieving their objective, have set up or joined political organizations that do not resort to violence, and out of which youth and educational organizations may branch. Some of the bearers of this political discourse harbored, at one time, the illusion that taking over the central state would be the long sought panacea, and some of them did develop para-military organizations and try to infiltrate the armed forces and seize power by force. However, as of 1965, as will be shown later, there has been a general inclination toward working through existing legitimate political channels. Most of the bearers of this political discourse, at the present time, tend to restrict their activity to the political and/or educational sphere.

Third

  1. The intellectual discourse. This is the discourse that deals primarily with theoretical and intellectual issues.

This classification does not mean that the three discourses exist in total isolation, each one separate from the other. In fact, the populist and political discourses, more often than not, merge into one another, and the same can

be said about the political and intellectual discourses. Notwithstanding the common ground shared by the three kinds of discourse, we deem it useful, from the analytical point of view, to assume their independence from one another.