Perceptions and ideas guide human action. Yet, action molds what is in the head too. The so-called Islamic revival talks about an “Islamic Thought” that steers its direction and forms its strategies. It is a distinguishable form of literature that mixes social criticism, moral admonition, and philosophical dictums, molded in an interpretation of Islamic textual sources (Hadith and Quran). The participants in this discourse are divergent, and so are its levels of sophistication. The purpose of this paper is twofold: First, to analyze the general tendencies of such a discourse, and second, to specify the mechanisms through which activism ideologizes the discourse and stands in the way of its maturity.
The terrain of this Islamic Thought can be mapped out by recognizing two dimensions: the approach of understanding sharia’ and activism type. As for sharia’ approaches, two modes of thinking occupy the Islamists: a mathhab-following mode, and a salafi mode. On the other hand, three forms of activism divide the field: (1) a movement with global claims and aspirations; (2) a movement with local aims and aspirations; and (3) an individualistic type of activism. These three forms intersect with the two modes of sharia’ thinking to produce an ecology of praxis.
Finally, the paper argues that such activist ideology plays a significant role in forming a habitat of thinking regarding Islamic issues. Therefore, the Islamic intellectual discourse finds itself obliged to answer the mandates put forth by activist ideologies. Lacking autonomy, the Islamic intellectual discourse became caught between the research-center and the think-tank orientations, failing to produce an elaborate from of knowledge that can adequately measure-up to modern intellectual challenges.