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No topic has captured the public imagination of late quite so dramatically as the specter of global jihadism. While much has been said about the way jihadists behave, their ideology remains poorly understood. As the Levant has imploded and millenarian radicals claim to have revived a Caliphate based on the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, the need for a nuanced and accur No topic has captured the public imagination of late quite so dramatically as the specter of global jihadism. While much has been said about the way jihadists behave, their ideology remains poorly understood. As the Levant has imploded and millenarian radicals claim to have revived a Caliphate based on the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, the need for a nuanced and accurate understanding of jihadist beliefs has never been greater. Shiraz Maher charts the intellectual underpinnings of salafi-jihadism from its origins in the mountains of the Hindu Kush to the jihadist insurgencies of the 1990s and the 9/11 wars. What emerges is the story of a pragmatic but resilient warrior doctrine that often struggles - as so many utopian ideologies do - to consolidate the idealism of theory with the reality of practice. His ground-breaking introduction to salafi-jihadism recalibrates our understanding of the ideas underpinning one of the most destructive political philosophies of our time by assessing classical works from Islamic antiquity alongside those of contemporary ideologues. Packed with refreshing and provocative insights, Maher explains how war and insecurity engendered one of the most significant socio-religious movements of the modern era.


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No topic has captured the public imagination of late quite so dramatically as the specter of global jihadism. While much has been said about the way jihadists behave, their ideology remains poorly understood. As the Levant has imploded and millenarian radicals claim to have revived a Caliphate based on the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, the need for a nuanced and accur No topic has captured the public imagination of late quite so dramatically as the specter of global jihadism. While much has been said about the way jihadists behave, their ideology remains poorly understood. As the Levant has imploded and millenarian radicals claim to have revived a Caliphate based on the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, the need for a nuanced and accurate understanding of jihadist beliefs has never been greater. Shiraz Maher charts the intellectual underpinnings of salafi-jihadism from its origins in the mountains of the Hindu Kush to the jihadist insurgencies of the 1990s and the 9/11 wars. What emerges is the story of a pragmatic but resilient warrior doctrine that often struggles - as so many utopian ideologies do - to consolidate the idealism of theory with the reality of practice. His ground-breaking introduction to salafi-jihadism recalibrates our understanding of the ideas underpinning one of the most destructive political philosophies of our time by assessing classical works from Islamic antiquity alongside those of contemporary ideologues. Packed with refreshing and provocative insights, Maher explains how war and insecurity engendered one of the most significant socio-religious movements of the modern era.

30 review for Salafi-Jihadism: The History of an Idea

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nazmi Yaakub

    Memangkas tradisi keilmuan dalam Islam dan seruan anti-taklid yang menjurus kepada pengagungan kemampuan akliah sendiri semata-mata yang sering menjadi slogan kepada kelompok yang pernah dianggap sebagai dua permukaan pada satu syiling yang sama, iaitu liberal dan salafiah (juga disebut salafi atau pseudo-salafi oleh sebahagian ahli akademik), sebenarnya sudah disahut secara paling buruk oleh aliran yang dikenali dalam buku ini sebagai salafi-jihadi. Shiraz Maher memperincikan lima konsep penting Memangkas tradisi keilmuan dalam Islam dan seruan anti-taklid yang menjurus kepada pengagungan kemampuan akliah sendiri semata-mata yang sering menjadi slogan kepada kelompok yang pernah dianggap sebagai dua permukaan pada satu syiling yang sama, iaitu liberal dan salafiah (juga disebut salafi atau pseudo-salafi oleh sebahagian ahli akademik), sebenarnya sudah disahut secara paling buruk oleh aliran yang dikenali dalam buku ini sebagai salafi-jihadi. Shiraz Maher memperincikan lima konsep penting yang diguna pakai secara sewenang-wenangnya oleh teoritis dan ideolog gerakan yang mengikut aliran salafi-jihadi ini, iaitu jihad, takfir, al-wala' wal bara', tauhid serta hakimiya yang akhirnya menjadi mekanisme untuk melancarkan serangan ganas bukan saja kepada negara Barat khususnya Amerika Syarikat (AS) dan Eropah, bahkan kepada pemerintah serta kerajaan di dunia Islam sendiri termasuk Arab Saudi. Buku ini memperjelaskan bagaimana setiap satu konsep itu dibincangkan oleh ideolog dan perancang kepada kelompok salafi-jihadi yang turut menerima wacana kritikan daripada ilmuwan dari aliran yang sama tetapi dengan manhaj berbeza, khususnya yang dikenali sebagai quietism dan aktivisme (yang biasanya dipegang oleh kelompok yang terbabit dalam politik demokrasi atau dalam kes Arab Saudi, ulama di luar kerajaan) tetapi lebih penting, ia sudah jauh terkeluar daripada tradisi ilmu Islam yang dipegang oleh ulama Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah. Buku ini wajar dibaca juga dalam konteks negara kita, Malaysia, kerana bukan saja anasir keganasan sudah pun sampai dan mewabak termasuk di tanah air ini, bahkan lebih penting kerana lima konsep itu juga sudah pun sedia ada dalam gerakan-gerakan yang wujud sama ada bersifat politik mahupun pertubuhan bukan kerajaan. Apakah disebabkan konsep-konsep ini sudah pun dibincang, dipegang dan menjadi ideologi dalam gerakan sedia ada, maka anasir keganasan salafi-jihadi khususnya berkaitan dengan al-Qaeda dan IS (atau DAESH) mudah merebak? Ia tentu menjadi satu tesis yang perlu dibincang dengan teliti dan jauh daripada sentimen dan taksub kepada parti serta NGO sedia ada.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    One of the best books I've read. Meticulously researched. Maher has such a firm grasp on the concept he explores and delivers it in such a way that is informative, intriguing, engaging and easy to understand, for an incredibly complex topic. I would recommend doing a little bit of prior reading on general Islamic and middle eastern history before reading. One of the best books I've read. Meticulously researched. Maher has such a firm grasp on the concept he explores and delivers it in such a way that is informative, intriguing, engaging and easy to understand, for an incredibly complex topic. I would recommend doing a little bit of prior reading on general Islamic and middle eastern history before reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Miebara Jato

    This was an informative and scholarly work on the origin and schools thoughts on Salafism in Islam. The book is well-researched and covers all the essential areas of Salafi-Jihadism. As the book shows, there are different schools of Salafi ideology. Expectedly, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, etc, have taken the militaristic interpretation of the ideology.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Iva Mrvová

    Maher je macher. Odomyká kľúčové myšlienky za islamským extrémizmom. Pozná ich dôverne, sám medzi fundamentalistov kedysi patril. Výborná a odborne podkutá kniha pre všetkých, ktorí chcú nazrieť do myslenia ľudí okolo nás, tých, ktorí majú zľahka inú predstavu o živote. Svojom, i tom našom.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Williams

    Excellent, informative and a must read. While the Arabic translations were useful and a necessity, the written English itself is too complex for its own good and became frustrating at times. Fascinating read though and learned alot.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Abu Kamdar

    An excellent summary of the theology, history, and evolution of the Jihadist cult.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Shiraz Maher traces the survival, evolution, branching, and contestation within a lineage of ideas known to be Salafi-Jihadism today. Written through a careful historical tracing of its five core components, jihad, takfir, al-Wala wal-bara, tawhid and hakimiyya, this book reads best in complement to Hegghammer’s study of jihad in Saudi Arabia, which leans towards an analysis of the socio-political. The former tracks the resilience of an idea(s), while the latter pursues the expansion of an enter Shiraz Maher traces the survival, evolution, branching, and contestation within a lineage of ideas known to be Salafi-Jihadism today. Written through a careful historical tracing of its five core components, jihad, takfir, al-Wala wal-bara, tawhid and hakimiyya, this book reads best in complement to Hegghammer’s study of jihad in Saudi Arabia, which leans towards an analysis of the socio-political. The former tracks the resilience of an idea(s), while the latter pursues the expansion of an enterprise. When combined, they provide the most compelling take of how the world has eventually came face-to-face with the most formidable counter-cultural movement. While Maher does not spend much time in deciphering how these ideas came to be so bullet-proof, he nevertheless does provide a clear and rich corpus as to how they went from pen to barrel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    Excellent overview of the primary intellectual currents of radical Salafi-jihadism. Yes, it’s odd to describe terrorists as having an intellectual foundation but these criminals do. It makes more sense if you think of Salafi jihadis not as representatives of a religion (as if religion can be distilled to any specific representative without massive distortions) but as violent political actors like the Baader-Meinhof or various Maoist groups which took their justification from radical interpretati Excellent overview of the primary intellectual currents of radical Salafi-jihadism. Yes, it’s odd to describe terrorists as having an intellectual foundation but these criminals do. It makes more sense if you think of Salafi jihadis not as representatives of a religion (as if religion can be distilled to any specific representative without massive distortions) but as violent political actors like the Baader-Meinhof or various Maoist groups which took their justification from radical interpretations of political ideas. In the case of jihadis, they take their justification from similarly radical, and in many cases, very contested religious law. There’s a lot stuffed into this book which warrants reading it twice to get a handle on all the characters and their thinking which drives the jihadist movement.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Zaid

    Great Primer This book is a good primer into the historical development of "salafi-jihadism" and provides a valuable overview of the current ideas centered around this movement. Although the author present a clear and presentable argument, I found several opportunities where he could have explored and explained ideas in more detail. This book also primarily addresses AlQaida and doesn't touch much on ISIS. Lastly, while the book is clear in explaining the 5 ideas that center salafi-jihadism, I di Great Primer This book is a good primer into the historical development of "salafi-jihadism" and provides a valuable overview of the current ideas centered around this movement. Although the author present a clear and presentable argument, I found several opportunities where he could have explored and explained ideas in more detail. This book also primarily addresses AlQaida and doesn't touch much on ISIS. Lastly, while the book is clear in explaining the 5 ideas that center salafi-jihadism, I didn't find them to be particularly mutually exclusive; there is overlap in ideas. All in all, it's a the only one of its kind and is a well written and informative book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Damon Ralph

    A very good book on Salafi-Jihadism. As pointed out in several reviews its not an easy read due to the heavily academic style its written in. Its worth the effort as this book delves into complex theological concepts in greater detail than books targetted more for the lay audience. I rare this book highly - I would also suggest that this book would be made easier to digest if you start with a few 'general' books on Islamic history or culture first. A very good book on Salafi-Jihadism. As pointed out in several reviews its not an easy read due to the heavily academic style its written in. Its worth the effort as this book delves into complex theological concepts in greater detail than books targetted more for the lay audience. I rare this book highly - I would also suggest that this book would be made easier to digest if you start with a few 'general' books on Islamic history or culture first.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    A difficult but rewarding text. Maher deals with a lot of complex theological concepts in nuanced and detailed ways. Given the subject matter and goal – making Salafi-Jihadist thought comprehensible to those unfamiliar with it – this was inevitable, and it does contain a wealth of valuable information and analyses. Still, it's worth bearing in mind that this will take time to come to terms with, despite its relative brevity. A difficult but rewarding text. Maher deals with a lot of complex theological concepts in nuanced and detailed ways. Given the subject matter and goal – making Salafi-Jihadist thought comprehensible to those unfamiliar with it – this was inevitable, and it does contain a wealth of valuable information and analyses. Still, it's worth bearing in mind that this will take time to come to terms with, despite its relative brevity.

  12. 4 out of 5

    C

    This falls in the difficult category of extremely important information necessary to understand both the religion of Islam and the millions of Muslims who practice it (and those who adapt principles and history to their own extreme ends) and dry, dull, academic reading. Language and symbolism are central to Islamic culture and practice, and key words are dissected in each chapter. For a non-Arabic speaker, however, it can be difficult to keep up.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Keith Mason

    Maher does a really good job at giving a breakdown of the genealogy of Jihadism. The only thing I find tricky about it is the sheer amount of Arabic used in the discussions which made it difficult to follow on places. I understand the necessity in principle but this made the topic significantly harder to track. Still, I'd recommend it to anyone curious about the topic and the different permutations of it that have existed and continue to exist throughout the world. Maher does a really good job at giving a breakdown of the genealogy of Jihadism. The only thing I find tricky about it is the sheer amount of Arabic used in the discussions which made it difficult to follow on places. I understand the necessity in principle but this made the topic significantly harder to track. Still, I'd recommend it to anyone curious about the topic and the different permutations of it that have existed and continue to exist throughout the world.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nick McCormick

    Use google w/ this book I enjoyed this book, but the callbacks and references to events, scholars, and other personalities can be challenging. I found myself google-ing something every other page, which is fine, but there’s just so much historical reference it might seem too much for others. Overall, a highly informative book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Anil Singh

    This books offers detailed (and well researched) insights into a controversial topic. A loosely thrown terminology is systematically broken down into 4-5 concepts and explained in details. The Arabic dictionary in the beginning is helpful. Some chapters have to be re-read, since the concepts are complex in nature. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Less pages, but intense.!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kyrill

    Hard to follow the different concepts if you don't speak Arabic. Essentially, there is a scriptural justification and a sect supporting it for every political necessity. Two things it showed me are 1) American Imperialism is as central in the hybrid narratives of global jihadi terrorists as traditional Islam 2) Prince Salman is playing a dangerous game in Saudi Arabia Hard to follow the different concepts if you don't speak Arabic. Essentially, there is a scriptural justification and a sect supporting it for every political necessity. Two things it showed me are 1) American Imperialism is as central in the hybrid narratives of global jihadi terrorists as traditional Islam 2) Prince Salman is playing a dangerous game in Saudi Arabia

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kumail Akbar

    Must read on the history of Salafi Jihadism - the ideology behind al qaeda, ISIS, etc. Far too many people make the connection between these terrorist organizations and Islam, when they actually are products of one set of ideas within one sect of Islam (Salafism). Reading works like this one, is one possibly remedy for such conclusions.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kanishka Nawabi

    Fatal uncertainties haunt radicalism and terrorism research. This research helps produce some relevant exploratory knowledge, however, Maher's book suffers due to lack of coherency, especially his analysis is not coherent at all, it is pretty disorganised and reads like a thesis at best. Hope a second edition will address these issues (less) Fatal uncertainties haunt radicalism and terrorism research. This research helps produce some relevant exploratory knowledge, however, Maher's book suffers due to lack of coherency, especially his analysis is not coherent at all, it is pretty disorganised and reads like a thesis at best. Hope a second edition will address these issues (less)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hind

    A great book if you are looking for an in-depth historical sketch of how Salafi Jihadism evolved A fantastic and comprehensive take on how politics in the region influenced the development of Salafi thought and Jihad. Neatly written and structured.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tom Bevan

    Very concise and very accessible. It is not judgemental, but balanced. A brilliant read to gain better understanding for a western, non-Muslim eye.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ruxandra Seniuc

    Brilliant!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Axel

    Þung á köflum en engu að síður virkilega góð.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rowena Abdul Razak

    Good intellectual history of the concept of salafi-jihadism, drawing upon classical Islamic thought and modern interpretations. Good introduction. Clearly structured and easy to follow.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Murphy

    A book filled with information that is highly useful for understanding Salafi-Jihadism - the motivating ideology behind al-Qaeda and ISIL. Most of what I encountered here complements what I encountered in a class I am attending at SAIS. If I have two complaints, it is that the book was rather dry and the narrator was largely dispassionate, which harmed rather than helped, the book. 87/100

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ashkan

    Maher provides us with a very rich source of information written with such a dry style that can put the general reader to sleep I KNOW but those who are picking up this book should not only over look this but they should keep reading until the end simple because Maher is not only concerned with providing information but also with responding to other researches,journalists and commentators. This book was my third encounter with salafi-Jihadism and while sometimes I expected more details (such as Maher provides us with a very rich source of information written with such a dry style that can put the general reader to sleep I KNOW but those who are picking up this book should not only over look this but they should keep reading until the end simple because Maher is not only concerned with providing information but also with responding to other researches,journalists and commentators. This book was my third encounter with salafi-Jihadism and while sometimes I expected more details (such as the attitudes of other sects, their condemnations or appraisals) I think that given the depth of the history and analysis of this movement this can be more of an addition maybe in the form of an appendix. No matter which strategy I use to tell people that this is a serious movement that requires serious treatment, I'm faced by snide remarks that this is simple not something that is worth the attention and I think Maher shows how clearly wrong and misplaced this attitude is.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pol Hamilton

    Not what I was expecting but still worth reading There is quite a few books out at the minute relating to The Islamic state, this one seems to stand out as it doesn't really focus on that group but on the ideological and religious underpinnings of salafi jihadi groups of which ISIS is but one. The book can get quite technical when it comes to Islamic teachings and words/phrases and for those including myself not familiar with the religion it can become complicated reading this book. That being s Not what I was expecting but still worth reading There is quite a few books out at the minute relating to The Islamic state, this one seems to stand out as it doesn't really focus on that group but on the ideological and religious underpinnings of salafi jihadi groups of which ISIS is but one. The book can get quite technical when it comes to Islamic teachings and words/phrases and for those including myself not familiar with the religion it can become complicated reading this book. That being said the author does try to explain as much as is possible the origins and meanings of particular words. Overall this is an interesting book, probably useful to those in academia but still worthwhile as a read for those with an interest in these groups and what makes them act the way they do.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gary Amirov

  28. 5 out of 5

    Harrison

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Wilkinson

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Morgan

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