Was the Prophet Muhammed an Islamist?

Published on: Feb 23, 2009

The current battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Muslim community living in Britain involves the use of strategies that were devised by neo-orientalists and government officials in order to convince Muslims that there exists no inherent contradiction between Islam and British secular democracy, and thus Muslims should ‘integrate’ (i.e. assimilate) mind, body and soul into British society.

“How can young Muslims fit into a liberal western democracy if they believe things that are intolerant, illegal and, in plain English, un-British?”

Minette Marrin – journalist, Sunday Times columnist, broadcaster and fiction writer.

A prominent feature of this strategy, is the use of labels, names and the ‘categorisation’ of political dissent using perjorative words like extremist or fundamentalist. We see that in order for the west to avoid confronting the entire Muslim global community, they will seek to distort understanding of Islam to such a degree, that they claim they confront only abnormal elements of the followers of Islam, elements who have invented a new kind of Islam not taught by the Prophet Muhammed (saaw). This so-called ‘new’ brand of Islam has been classified by many names ranging from radicalism to its latest incarnation, Islamism.

“A notable case in point is the dichotomy, often taken for granted by Western leaders, between on the one hand, Islam qua religion and its adherents — “ordinary decent Muslims” for whom “Islam” is a matter of personal piety, not political commitment — and, on the other hand, “Islamism” or “political Islam” — by implication an affair of a minority of agitators exploiting the faith of their fellow-Muslims for political ends, stirring up resentment, constituting a problem for Western interests and “friendly” Muslim states alike. This dichotomy is misleading for several reasons.”

‘Understanding Islamism’- International Crisis Group, 2005

The question this leads us to is, what exactly defines someone as Islamist, and if so, how would the Prophet Muhammed (saaw) be categorised by the self-proclaimed heresiographers of the west.

The definition of Islamism varies from neo-orientalist to neo-con, here are a selection of descriptions:

  • Politicisation – Muslims who are involved in politics, but not the kind of politics the Western countries would like (e.g. National Interests), instead, the kind concerned with Muslim affairs.
  • Activism – Being active instead of passive and concerned only with one’s own personal affairs.
  • Belief in the sharia laws, especially hudood (right of Allah) laws – i.e belief in Islamic commandments
  • Rejection of nationalism in favour or united Ummah – Muslim first, Muslim last
  • Belief in Caliphate – Muslims who believe in the Caliphate System, and urge Muslims to establish Bayah (Pledge of Alliegance) to it.
  • Rejection of secular democracy – Any Muslim who rejects supreme sovereignty to man, over Sovereignty to God alone. Unfortunately, the meaning of democracy that is sold to Muslims would have it seem to mean any activity that involves group discussion (shura), however this was not its meaning. In the real meaning (according to Western Political Philosophy) it means that a population, in theory, have the exclusive right to legislate and choose any laws they see ‘fit’.
  • Belief in Jihad – The actual meaning (and the most common meaning of Muhammed’s recorded usage); campaigning against foreign invasion or foreign unjust regimes, by recourse to arms (against military targets alone).

Now let us ask the question, was Prophet Muhammed (saaw) an Islamist according to this criteria? What did Prophet Muhammed (saaw), or the Quran he brought as a message from Allah (swt) that communicated with him, have to say about these varying topics? How would he respond to these questions? Let’s find out:


“He who wakes up in the morning and does not think of the affairs of the Muslims is not one of us”

Prophet Muhammed, narrated in Sahih Muslim


“If anyone of you sees an oppressive ruler who makes the unlawful lawful, who dishonours Allah Rights, who governs over people not by what Allah (swt) has revealed without rising against him with a word or action, Allah (swt) Will punish him with the oppressor”.

Prophet Muhammad , narrated in Ibn Hibaan

Belief in the sharia laws, especially hudood (right of Allah) laws

“If a slave having some limb of his missing and having dark complexion is appointed to govern you according to the Book of Allah the Exalted, listen to him and obey him”

Prophet Muhammed, narrated in Sahih Muslim

Rejection of nationalism in favour or united Ummah

“He who calls for nationalism or fights for its sake or offers his life for it, is not of us”

Prophet Muhammed, narrated in Abu Dawud.

Belief in Caliphate

“The Israelis used to be ruled and guided by prophets: Whenever a prophet died, another would take over his place. There will be no prophet after me, but there will be Caliphs who will increase in number.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What do you order us (to do)?” He said, “Obey the one who will be given the pledge of allegiance first. Fulfil their (i.e. the Caliphs) rights, for Allah will ask them about (any shortcoming) in ruling those Allah has put under their guardianship.”

Prophet Muhammed, narrated in Sahih Muslim

Rejection of democracy

“And rule between them by that which Allah revealed to you and do not follow those peoples’ whims, and beware (be on the alert) that they may deviate you away from even some part of what Allah revealed to you.”

[Quran: al-Ma.idah, verse49]

“0 you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger, and those of you who are in authority. If you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. This is better and more suitable for final determination.”

[Quran: An-Nisa ‘a 4: 59]

Belief in Jihad

“A man fights for war booty; another fights for fame and a third fights for showing off; which of them fights in Allah’s cause?” The Prophet said, “He who fights that Allah’s Word (i.e. Islam) should be superior, fights in Allah’s cause.”

Prophet Muhammed, Sahih Muslim

In conclusion, it would seem from just a very small selection of the large corpus of hadith and verses of the Quran relevant to his issue, that Muhammed (saaw) preached doctrines that would be considered today to be ‘Islamist’.

This brings a very important question to our mind, if the term ‘Muslim’ is defined as those who submit to the commands of Allah (swt) related in the Quran and the doctrines taught by Muhammed (saw), but Muhammed (saw) also fulfils all the criteria of the Western-coined term ‘Islamist’, then surely the term is false and designed to malign Orthodox Muslims of any school of thought, living in the West, who choose to follow Islam in it’s original form. Hence, it is the term MUSLIM which better fits the description of every person who believes in the Sharia, Caliphate, and who rejects secular democracy and nationalism.

In conclusion, ‘Islamism’ is a slur that should be rejected not just by Muslims, but any academically honest intellectual who comments on Islam.  In place of pejoratives, we should use the proper appellation – ISLAM, to describe  1,400 years of Islamic Orthodoxy, from Muhammed (saaw) right up until present day. Likewise, there exists no ‘Islamists’, but rather there exists only Muslims – those who follow the beliefs, doctrine and way of life, of the Prophet Muhammed (saaw).

Categories: ARTICLES, Response to Secular Reformation & Modernism, Revival Thought (Al Nahda), The Muslim Debate Initiative, WRITINGS

Tags: , ,

4 replies


  1. Celebrating Pakistan’s Dependence Day « Abdullah al Andalusi
  2. A Response to the Quilliam Foundation’s recent post ‘ISLAMISTS ON CAMPUSES’ | Abdullah al Andalusi
  3. UK’s Problem with Vocal Muslims working in or with the Civil Service | Abdullah al Andalusi
  4. Abdullah Andalusi: Maajid Nawaz, ‘Islamism’ and the Fallacious ‘You Share the Same Ideology as ISIS’ argument | CoolnessofHind

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: