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The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines Islamism thus: "1. An Islamic revivalist movement, often characterized by moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life. 2. The religious faith, principles, or cause of Islam."[4]Merriam-Webster defines Islamism as: "1: the faith, doctrine, or cause of Islam. 2: a popular reform movement advocating the reordering of government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam."[5] As per these definitions, Islamism emerges as an "attempt" at "reordering" "all spheres" of societies to suit Islamic laws.

In such a conception of Islam and Islamism, every act performed by Muslims is consequential. Such acts could include: praying five times a day; marking festivals like Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha; celebrating the birthday of the Prophet, known as Eid Milad; fasting all day during Ramadan; visiting shrines and mosques; performing the Hajj; mourning the killing of the Prophet's grandson Imam Hussein at Karbala; marrying a non-Muslim after they convert to Islam; attending the three- to 40-day training tours of Tablighi Jamaat; the holding of numerous seminars by Islamic organizations; and the like. Such actions – all of which are essentially peaceful – constitute the methodology of Islam. This peaceful version of Islam's methodology is Islamism.


Violent attempts at the enforcement of Islam at the level of geopolitics – as illustrated by the jihadi attacks in cities across the world – are rooted in the idea of the global unity of Muslims. Quran verse 3:110 states: "You are the best nation produced (as an example) for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah."[11] How should the members of this nation enforce Islam? The Prophet Muhammad said: "Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith."[12] Islamic clerics routinely explain this hadith of the Prophet – as recorded by an Indian mufti (one who is qualified to issue fatwas, or decrees) – in such words:

"1. If you [are] capable, then stop the evil with your hand. Use your power, influence, status, or force to stop bad things from happening. 2. If you are incapable of stopping evil with your hand, then at least speak out against it. 3. Even if that is not possible for you to do, then at least detest it in your heart, telling yourself that such an evil is happening in front of my eyes and I am not able to do anything to stop it. Feeling bad at heart is the weakest form of Faith. Those who do not have this 'weakest form of Faith' – that is, those who are not at all bothered about the evil happening – do not have Faith in the true sense."[13] This explanation of the hadith means that those who use force – such as jihadis who use weapons – have the strongest form of faith. So, jihadism is the preferred version of Islam's methodology, while Islamism is the least preferred version of the methodology.

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