The Roots of Political Islam in 19th Century Egypt

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Tracing back political Islam to the French Campaign that invaded Egypt in 1798, the article argues that political Islam emerged and developed from within the folds of the modern nation state in Egypt. The article conceptualizes three historical phases: from 1805 to 1849, 1849 to 1879, and 1879 to the mid-1920s. Each of these phases is centered around a common theme that characterized the discourses, knowledge, and structures of politics, the economy and “Islam”, as they encountered the West, which are, in order, technology, civilization, and ideology. The works of Ḥasan al-ʿAṭṭār will be explored as an example of the first phase, and the works of Rifāʿah al-Ṭahṭāwī will be the example of the second phase, where Islam, as it encounters politics, becomes the foundation of state nationalism. The third phase will start with a transitional period of undifferentiated discourses, but will quickly, after the British occupation in 1882, differentiate into three political Islams: liberal, represented by Muḥammad ʿAbduh and al-Ummah Party; official, represented by ʿAlī Yūsuf and the Reform on the Constitutional Principles Party; and extra-state, radical Islamism, represented by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Jāwiš, and the Nationalist Party. The article will explain the national and international political and economic contexts that surrounded and participated in the formations of political Islam in all its varieties. Against the popular academic conviction of rooting Ḥasan al-Bannā’s thought in Muḥammad ʿAbduh’s work, and rooting ʿAbduh in Jamāl al-Afghānī’s movement, this article will explain the rupture and contradictions between Afghānī and ʿAbduh, on the one hand, and the rooting of al-Bannā’s ideology in ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Jāwīš’s thought, on the other hand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number232
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Afghānī
  • Bannā
  • Egypt
  • Islam
  • Islamic Reform
  • Islamism
  • Jāwīš
  • Modernity
  • Muslim Brotherhood
  • Political Islam
  • ʿAbduh
  • ʿAlī Yūsuf

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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