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Shariʿa and Social EngineeringThe Implementation of Islamic Law in Contemporary Aceh, Indonesia$

R. Michael Feener

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199678846

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199678846.001.0001

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(p.286) Appendix III Key Analytical Terms1

(p.286) Appendix III Key Analytical Terms1

Shariʿa and Social Engineering
Oxford University Press

Basic Epistemological Distinctions


Acceptance of the four Sunni Schools of Law (madhhabs) as valid guides to knowing Islam. Traditionalism usually recognizes that these legal traditions are subject to change and redefinition. It commonly involves tolerance towards locally derived cultural expressions, acceptance of Sufism, and a gradualist approach toward Islamization.


One who, or that which, adheres to Traditionalism


An approach to knowing Islam which denies that the four Sunni Schools of Law are authoritative guides and which relies fundamentally upon human reason in understanding revelation.

This commonly involves a disregard for socio-historical contexts but openness to modern learning as a way of enhancing the power of reason. It is principally opposed to what it sees as the medieval obscurantism of Traditionalism, may reject local cultural expressions, and is at least suspicious of Sufism.


One who, or that which, embraces Modernism


An approach to knowing Islam which denies that the four Sunni Schools of Law are authoritative guides and which aspires to revive a pristine universal Islam as in the time of the Prophet and his Companions. Its epistemology rests on cognition of Revelation as found in the Qurʾān and ḥadīth through divine guidance.

Revivalism normally distrusts the application of human reason and denies that understandings of revelation may legitimately change over time or that Islam may evolve in changing socio-historical contexts. It commonly rejects local cultural expressions and regards Sufismas a source of heresy.


One who, or that which, adheres to Revivalism

(p.287) Social and Political Projects


A project whose principal locus of activity is the state. It seeks a more perfect political order by establishing state institutions and/or controlling existing ones so as to impose deeper Islamization, achieve greater justice, and safeguard the integrity of the Muslim community.

Islamism is most commonly associated with Modernist and Revivalist thought and sometimes (but not necessarily) validates the use of force to achieve its objectives. It usually seeks social conformity and, where it is tolerant of other faiths, normally expects them to accept a position subordinate to Islamic dominance.


One who, or that which, embraces Islamism


A project whose principal locus of activity is at the level of the society. It seeks a more perfect social order by actively propagating what it regards as a correct understanding of the faith, its moral standards, and its ritual obligations.


A project whose principal locus of activity is the individual. It seeks greater individual freedom in religious and other matters, so long as no harm is done to the rights of others. Liberalism is found amongst Traditionalists and Modernists, but is rare among Revivalists. It is generally suspicious of the role of government in religious affairs and opposed to the use of force in any context. It commonly prioritizes associated values such as social and gender equality, freedom of thought, interfaith harmony, social pluralism, and economic progress.


One who, or that which, embraces Liberalism

Socio-Religious Process


A process of deepening commitment to standards of normative Islamic belief, practice, and religious identity. Those standards are subject to contestation among groups and individuals.

Islamization as an objective is associated with all of the epistemological approaches described previously.


(1) These analytical terms and their definitions grew from discussions over several months with colleagues in a research project at the National University of Singapore, in which Prof. M.C. Ricklefs was Principal Investigator, and I was co-PI. Chaider Bamualim was also involved. Several colleagues at NUS and overseas also gave valuable comments and suggestions for these terms. These terms and definitions are also outlined and employed in M.C. Ricklefs, Islamisation and its Opponents in Java, c. 1930 to the Present (Singapore: NUS Press, 2012), 514–16.