05 October 2021

Calling for an Arab Epistemological Reference Framework for Studying Political Islam

TRENDS Releases a New Paper Titled Applied “Islamismology”: Toward an Arab Epistemological Reference Framework for Studying Political Islam

TRENDS Research and Advisory Center has released a new paper, entitled Applied “Islamismology”: Toward an Arab Epistemological Reference Framework for Studying Political Islam, as part of the Political Islam Trends Series issued by the Center.

This fifth paper in the series establishes an Arab epistemological reference framework for studying political Islam and identifying some new research themes in relation to the topic.

The author, Dr. Wael Saleh, Associate Professor at the Institute of International Studies, the University of Quebec at Montreal, Senior Fellow and Head of the Global Trends Follow-up Unit at TRENDS Research and Advisory Center, stated that the aim of this Arab epistemological reference framework is to represent the voice, methodology and analytical tools of Arabic literature on Islamism in international academic studies of this phenomenon. It is absurd to have non-Arab approaches and tools dominating the analysis and understanding of an Arab phenomenon such as Islamism, especially if such approaches and tools are mostly based on a superficial, reductionist or ideological methodology.

He added that this paper is just an initial effort in this direction. It is based on an open epistemological dialogue aimed at improving this approach and ensuring that it keeps pace with developments in Islamism and continues to analyze it thoroughly using up-to-date methods of scientific research.

Dr. Saleh stated that the paper explains the proposed Arab epistemological reference framework for studying political Islam in detail by presenting its principles as follows: differentiating between Islam and Islamism; a critical approach; a documentary approach based on new documents; an interdisciplinary approach; an applied approach that relies on and develops Mohammed Arkoun’s Applied Islamic Studies; due consideration of the foundational texts when analyzing Islamism; a critical approach to Islamism-sympathetic literature in international academia; a comparative historical approach to ideas; a post-colonial approach that avoids the traps of post-colonialism; and, finally, a reflexive approach.

He noted that the paper also suggests the following themes for a comprehensive understanding of political Islam: Islam and Islamism; political Islam between power and opposition; Islamist discourse, modernity and co-existence values; Islamists’ discourse and practices from a comparative perspective; Islamism in international relations; Islamism and security issues; Islamism and economics; Islamism and violence; Islamism and the concept of the other; and the future of Islamism.

Dr. Saleh concluded that applied “Islamismology” does not aim at suppressing other approaches to the study of Islamism and cannot do so. It merely proposes a critical interdisciplinary approach to analyzing the phenomenon of Islamism that avoids what we call “scientific imperialism” (the notion that there is only one correct interpretation, and all other interpretations are wrong), and also avoids “nihilistic relativism” (not falling into a kind of radical pacifism based on the equating of different interpretations regardless of how serious they are).