Anarchism and Islam

Islamic anarchism is based on an interpretation of Islam as "submission to God" which either prohibits or is highly critical of the role of human authority.


Historical anarchist tendencies in Islam

Throughout Islamic history there have been Muslim groups, movements, and individuals which could be described as anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, egalitarian, or opposed to the rule of specific governments. Among these, only a few are properly associated with the anarchist label.


An early example of anti-authoritarianism in Islam is Kharijism which dates back to the time of the split between Sunnis and Shias. The Shias claimed Ali Ibn Abu Talib and his descendents were the rightful successors of the prophet Muhammad. The Sunnis believed (at least initially) that the leader of all the Muslims had to be from the tribe of Quraysh but could be chosen by the Muslim community. Sunnism also tended to be conservative in the sense that as long as certain minimal functions were being carried out, it was wrong to rebel against the lawful Muslim ruler, even when they were being sinful. The Kharijites were a third group who initially supported the leadership of Ali but then turned against him when they disagreed with some of his decisions. The Khawarij claimed that any qualified Muslim could be an Imam. They were also more willing to rebel against Muslim rulers.


At least one sect of Kharajites, the Najdiyya, believed that if no suitable imam was present in the community, then the position could be dispensed with. A strand of Mutazalite thought paralleled that of the Najdiyya: if rulers inevitably became tyrants, then the only acceptable course of action was to stop installing rulers.[citation needed]

Sheikh Bedrettin

Sheikh Bedrettin (1359–1420) (Ottoman Turkish: شیخ بدرالدین) was a proto-Socialist revolutionary Sufi theologian and charismatic preacher who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire in 1416. His full name was Şeyh Bedrettin Mahmud Bin İsrail Bin Abdülaziz.

His writings were condemned by a number of Ottoman religious scholars such as Ismail Hakki Bursevi. Others instead praise the Sheikh. He is a popular figure among Turkey's left. Nazim Hikmet was jailed for inciting rebellion after encouraging military cadets to read Bedreddin's work. The musicians Cem Karaca and Zulfu Livaneli composed a song based on a Hikmet's epic poem, the Şeyh Bedrettin Destanı. In Hikmet's work, Bedrettin and his companions emphasize that all things must be shared "except the lips of the beloved."

Sheikh Bedrettin's proto-socialist ideas emphasised direct action, direct democracy, international and interfaith human solidarity, equality and communal life. He is highly respected among the Turkish anarchists.[1]

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890 – 20 January 1988) (Pashto : خاں عبدالغفار خاں,) was a Pashtun political and spiritual leader known for his non-violent opposition to British Rule in India. A lifelong pacifist, a devout Muslim,[2] and a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, he was also known as Badshah Khan (also Bacha Khan, Pashto: lit., "King Khan"), Fakhr-e-Afghan (pride of Afghans) and Sarhaddi Gandhi (Urdu, Hindi lit., "Frontier Gandhi").

Ghaffar Khan's Muslim pacifism was based on the anarcho-pacifist ideas of Henry Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy.

Ali Shariati

An important and influential figure in the 20th century was Ali Shariati, one of the ideologues of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. After the Shah's regime took on a particularly vicious authoritarian note, Shariati was imprisoned for his lectures, which were extremely popular with the students, and was forced to flee Iran. He was assassinated shortly afterwards.

Although Shariati was not an anarchist, his vision of Islam was one of a revolutionary religion siding with the poor. He believed that the only true reflection of the Islamic concept of Tawhid (unity and oneness of God) is a classless society.


Hardline was a radical violent deep ecology movement with Islamist tendencies. It ultimately led to the creation of several more explicitly Muslim organizations like Ahl-i-Allah (The People of Allah) and Taliyah al-Mahdi (The Vanguard of the Mahdi)

Contemporary Movements and Figures

Hakim Bey

Peter Lamborn Wilson, who writes under the pen-name Hakim Bey, is a self-identified Anarchist who has traveled extensively in the Muslim world and has practiced Islam as a Shia and as a member of the Moorish Orthodox Church of America. He is most known for his concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones. He has written a great deal about Muslim heretical movements, pirate utopias, antinomianism and the concept of the Imam-of-one's-own-being.

Yakoub Islam

On June 20, 2005, Yakoub Islam, a British-based convert to Islam, published his online Muslim Anarchist Charter. The charter asserted a set of basic principles for anarchist thought and action founded on a Muslim perspective. These reaffirm some of the core principles of Islam, including a belief in God, the prophecy of Muhammad and the human soul, but assert the possibility that a Muslim's spiritual path might be achieved by refusing to compromise with institutional power in any form, be it judicial, religious, social, corporate or political.

See also

Related movements

Relevant individuals

Social groups/places

Related concepts

Other religious anarchisms


  1. ^
  2. ^ An American Witness to India's Partition by Phillips Talbot Year (2007) Sage Publications ISBN 978-0-7619-3618-3

External links

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