ALMA Reviews Blog: ‘Withdrawn’/‘Retreatist’ Salafism: A Radically ‘Different’ Type – the case of Tunisia
Forthcoming working paper: ‘Withdrawn’/‘Retreatist’ Salafism: A Radically ‘Different’ Type – the case of Tunisia. (“Le Salafisme ‘retraitiste’ : Un type radicalement « autre » Étude de cas en Tunisie”)
By Dr Soufiane Jaballah, Lecturer in Sociology, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, University of Sfax, Tunisia
Salafism is one of the most influential contemporary Islamic ideologies (Bano 2021, p. 3). It can be described as a scripturalist, literalist, fundamentalist, transnational Sunni Islamic movement centred on an orthodox theology (or ‘aqīda) stressing a return to the authentic beliefs and practices of the first three generations of Muslims – al-Salaf al-Sāliḥ (“pious ancestors”) – and a particular conception of tawhīd, or God’s oneness and thus complete submission to God. A growing scholarship now analyses the basic tenets of Salafi doctrine, Salafism’s popular appeal, its relationship with politics and violence, and its nature as both a transnational and local phenomenon.
Dr Soufiane Jaballah’s thought-provoking work, based on his doctoral research, directly engages with the question of Salafism’s relationship to politics. This link between Salafism – a conservative theological movement – and party politics, political organisation and political activism is one of its “most puzzling, slippery and fascinating aspects” (Meijer 2009, p. 17). Can Muslims adhere to the doctrine of tawhīd and still submit to political power, including that emanating from a ruler or political system that does not impose and/or follow Islamic law (shari‘ah)? In other words, should Muslims revolt against the ruler or criticise the regime, or focus instead on proselytisation (da‘wah) and promoting religious education (tarbīyya)?
Reviewed by: Guy Eyre
Additional works cited:
Bano, Masooda. 2021. Salafi Social and Political Movements: National and Transnational Contexts. Edinburgh University Press.
Blanc, Théo. 2021. “Opportunity, Ideology, and Salafi Pathways of Political Activism in Tunisia.” Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal, 1–20.
Cavatorta, Francesco. n.d. “The Rise and Fall of Uncivil Society? Salafism in Tunisia After the Fall of Ben Ali.” Middle East Institute. http://www.mei.edu/content/map/rise-and-fall-uncivil-society-salafism-tu....
Jaballah, Soufiane. Forthcoming. “Le Salafisme ‘retraitiste’ : Un type radicalement « autre » Étude de cas en Tunisie.”
Meijer, Roel. 2009. Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement. Oxford University Press
Merone, Fabio, Théo Blanc, and Ester Sigillò. 2021. “The Evolution of Tunisian Salafism after the Revolution: From La Maddhabiyya to Salafi-Malikism.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 53 (3): 455–70.
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