Clarifying the Term ‘Islamist’


Despite falling out of usage in the last century, the term ‘Islamist’ was formerly synonymous with the word ‘Muslim’. In recent times however it has come to be applied solely to Muslims who accept Islam as the only acceptable source of legislation in their lives and in Muslim communities.

The reason for this change in the meaning of the term is clear. With the rise in the 20th century of a group who refer to themselves with the oxymoron ‘secularist Muslims’ a distinction has had to be made between those who wish to live by Islamic principles and those who wish to relegate Islamic as a relic or cultural identity rather than a source of guidance and legislation in life.

The fact that being an Islamist was formerly synonymous with being a Muslim shows that secularism was never at all associated with Islam in the past, a Muslim was somebody who submitted his self to the Religion of Allah and did not dare look to any other system to govern his life. Therefore, to be called a Muslim in itself implied that one was also an Islamist, that is, a person who took Islam to be his guide and law in life. The idea that a Muslim could be a secularist who relegates Islam to anything but a position of superiority in all areas of life was a blasphemy to which no person could claim to be whilst still daring to call his self a Muslim. A secularist who did not accept Islam as the sole authority in this world was seen rather clearly as a non-Muslim.

Published by TheMuslimIndependent

The Muslim Independent was created with the aim of providing unique insights in Islamic discourse, trends & philosophies relevant to the Islamicate & Muslim intellectual space in the 21st century context & arena. It is managed by Tarek 'Abdur-Rahman, who is currently a teacher of Qur'an at a school in Sydney. He studied recitation & memorisation with the esteemed Qari Fedaur-Rahman for 2.5 years. He studied Arts/Education at UNSW. Completing his undergraduate Arts degree with a Major in History & Minor in English. He has an avid interest & enjoys reading 7 studying a wide variety of topics including the Islamic sciences, Arabic, Philosophy, History, Ethics, Politics, Orientalism, Psychoanalysis, Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory & other topics.

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