Understanding the roots of political Islam and Islamic revivalism requires a multidimensional and contextual analysis. Mir Zohair Husain has managed to create one. To help clarify political Islam, Husain provides an analysis of the causes and manifestations of Islamic revivalism. He also presents concise profiles of individuals and institutions prominent in Islamic revival. Although the book's central topic concerns the global nature of the current Islamic resurgence (pp. 13-24), Husain acknowledges the fact that "the Muslim world is not experiencing the homogenous and monolithic Islamic revival necessary to help make it an international power bloc" (p. 25). His most rigorous analysis is a typology of Islamic revivalists (fundamentalists, traditionalists, modernists and pragmatists), which has a superb comparative breadth.
The fundamentalist revivalists, who tend to be puritanical and revolutionary in their religio-political orientation, desire to establish an "Islamic state" based on the rigorous implementation of the Sharia. Traditionalist revivalists, who are often Islamic scholars, are bent on conserving the Islamic laws and customs practiced in the classical and medieval periods of Islam. They believe in rigid adherence to certain rulings compiled during Islam's medieval time. The Muslim modernists, also known as adaptionists, advocate the reconciliation of traditional religious doctrine with secular scientific rationalism. And finally, the Muslim pragmatists, who generally view the classical and medieval Islamic doctrines and practices as anachronistic and impractical in the modem era, tend to look instead to different philosophies for political and socioeconomic models, including capitalism and socialism (pp. 11-2). Chapters 3-6, which provide a systematic and detailed inquiry into each category, are a generally valuable longitudinal political analysis.
However, Husain's analysis in chapter 7 (Failure of Secular Ideologies and Developmental Crises) contains conclusions that are contradicted by existing realities. They are not compelling explanations regarding emerging transnational revivalism. While Husain's claim that "the Muslim pragmatists [or secularists] have failed to deliver on the promises they made [since] the time of independence," (p. 162) is surely valid, blaming such failures on the processes of modernization or secularization alone is problematic. Doubtless, the policies, actions and choices made by leaders also played a crucial role in a country like Iran-not to mention numerous structural constraints and anomalies that are peculiar to the region (e.g., overpopulation, tribalism, patriarchy, regional disparities and ethnic strife.)
While expounding on transnational currents of Islamic resurgence, Husain maintains that "Islam-which is a comprehensive system-has become an attractive alternative among the masses, who identify themselves with the umma, not with the secular, Westernizing nation-state" (p. 162). Using a familiar and classic theory of "failure/crisis" he then arrives at a conclusion that is at best confusing and at worst inadequate to encompass the complexities of the issue at hand:
Sincere revivalists, particularly the Fundamentalists and Traditionalists, wish to unify Muslims under the banner of the universal umma, under the universal law of the Sharia; they advocate pan-Islamism. At the other extreme, community units smaller than the nation-state are arising-units based on family, a religious sect, a tribe, or a village. But whether the pull is toward utopian universalism or narrow parochialism, the pull is decidedly away from the nation-state. As an appropriate and acknowledged unit of community, the nation-state, like the Muslim secularist leadership advocating it, is discredited (p. 177).
In making his point, Husain underplays the attempts of those Islamic leaders, like Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who painfu1ly found out that universalist and transnationalist Islamic principles cannot prevail over the forces of nationalism (a point that the author himself acknowledges earlier in the book, p. 25). Even secularist leaders like Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser realized, however belatedly, that in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, national interests interfered with pan-Arabism and affected policies of regional agreements. The most important evidence of this was the failure of the Egyptian-Syrian merger. Transnationalism or supranationalism is no easy sell and the dicta of national pragmatism still overrule them. Hence the author's recognition, albeit within a different context, of rampant divisions and conflicting national interests in OPEC (p. 216).
It should be noted, however, that the historical, political and particularly economic underpinnings of nation-states have, in recent years, been increasingly undermined. But this has been largely as a result of global economic interdependence and integration. A distinction needs to be made between two competing global forces that are simultaneously unfolding: economic integration and political disintegration. Political disintegration is dramatically visible today on the European continent. Even so, the pull of the past continues and the nation-state remains a basic unit of analysis in a highly fluid international environment. Husain's argument that the nation-state is fading away, although not entirely unfounded, lacks sophistication and rigor, and overlooks the dilemmas and options facing the Muslim countries in the face of such change. Moreover, Husain's contention is also called into question by the Gulf War, a war which demonstrated that state sovereignty is very much alive, and that Middle Eastern countries have divergent national interests. The popular sympathy of the Middle Eastern people with Iraq's legitimate claims against Kuwait's oil policies, as well as with the vanquished and the innocent victims of the war, is not a certain indication that nationalistic sentiments have weakened.
It is not the case, as Husain would expect us to believe, that despite Arab-Israeli peace agreements, the level of Islamic reassertion and revivalism has risen (p. 199); rather, it is the failure of tangible resolution of long-standing and substantial issues within the peace process that has driven wedges among Muslims, resulting in furtherance of the opposition religious movements. Muslim scholars will do well if they acknowledge the limits to religious ideologies in a vastly altered post-Cold War world. The deconstruction of the old views of "the West" by Muslim intellectuals and scholars appears inevitable. The time has come for Muslim scholarly discussions and writings to construct concepts, worldviews and methods of dialogue that are genuine attempts to preserve cultural realities while coexisting politically with the West. This is a proper course to take in a world where the use of force and the so-called clash of civilizations, real or perceived, are bound to be destructive. We need to learn to manage conflicts in the global arenas.
Muslim nations and people are entitled to express their disillusionment with the West and its particular path to modernity and economic development. Islam generates an ideology of protest that is both legitimate and effective (so does Christianity). In fact, ''Islamic ideology" has served noble purposes, especially when it has been used as a means of overcoming social injustice. But, there are times when the value of ideology is also determined by its flexibility and pragmatic inclination. Many Islamic modernists, such as Jamal Ad-Din alAfghani, Muhammad Abduh, Muhammad Iqbal, Ali Shariati and Mehdi Barzargan, among others, are models of careful analysis. It comes as no surprise that Husain's book closes on an argument with a pragmatic bent: "In the end even the radical fringe of Islamic fundamentalism will recognize the utility of amicable relations with the United States" (p. 282). On balance, Husain should be complimented for producing a valuable taxonomy of revivalist worldviews. The book's organization and its application of several theoretical perspectives to the study of Islamic culture and societies are a contribution to the literature.
Those who specialize in Islamic studies and are particularly interested in the phenomenon of Islamic resurgence will find it a valuable source of information and analysis. Those with broader interests in social change, social movements and the inadequacies of modernization will also find much here to contemplate.