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Islamization,[a] Islamicization,[1] or Islamification (Arabic: أسلمة, romanizedaslamah), refers to the process through which a society shifts towards the religion of Islam and becomes largely Muslim. Societal Islamization has historically occurred over the course of many centuries since the spread of Islam outside of the Arabian Peninsula through the early Muslim conquests, with notable shifts occurring in the Levant, Iran, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa,[2] Central Asia, South Asia (in Afghanistan, Maldives, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), Southeast Asia (in Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia), Southeastern Europe (in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, among others), Eastern Europe (in the Caucasus, Crimea, and the Volga), and Southern Europe (in Spain, Portugal, and Sicily prior to re-Christianizations).[3] In contemporary usage, it may refer to the perceived imposition of an Islamist social and political system on a society with an indigenously different social and political background.

The English synonyms of Muslimization and Arabization, in use since before 1940 (e.g., Waverly Illustrated Dictionary), convey a similar meaning. Muslimization has recently been used as a term coined to describe the overtly Muslim practices of new converts to the religion who wish to reinforce their newly acquired religious identity.[4]


Main article: Spread of Islam

Further information: Islamic conquests, Islamization of Iran, and Ilkhanate

Historically, the process of Islamization was complex and involved merging Islamic practices with local customs. This process took place over several centuries. Scholars reject the stereotype that this process was initially "spread by the sword" or forced conversions.[5]


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Main article: Arabization

Arabization describes a growing cultural influence on a non-Arab area that gradually changes into one that speaks Arabic and/or incorporates Arab culture. It was most prominently achieved during the 7th-century Arabian Muslim conquests which spread the Arabic language, culture and—having been carried out by Arabian Muslims as opposed to Arab Christians or Arabic-speaking Jews—the religion of Islam to the lands they conquered. The result: some elements of Arabian origin combined in various forms and degrees with elements taken from conquered civilizations and ultimately denominated "Arab", as opposed to "Arabian".

Modern day (1970s–present)

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Modern day[when?]Islamization appears to be a return of the individual to Muslim values, communities, and dress codes, and a strengthened community.[6]

Another development is that of transnational Islam, elaborated upon by the French Islam researchers Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy. It includes a feeling of a "growing universalistic Islamic identity" as often shared by Muslim immigrants and their children who live in non-Muslim countries:

The increased integration of world societies as a result of enhanced communications, media, travel, and migration makes meaningful the concept of a single Islam practiced everywhere in similar ways, and an Islam which transcends national and ethnic customs.[7]

This does not necessarily imply political or social organizations:

Global Muslim identity does not necessarily or even usually imply organized group action. Even though Muslims recognize a global affiliation, the real heart of Muslim religious life remains outside politics—in local associations for worship, discussion, mutual aid, education, charity, and other communal activities.[7]

A third development is the growth and elaboration of transnational military organizations. The 1980s and 90s, with several major conflicts in the Middle East, including the Arab–Israeli conflict, Afghanistan in the 1980s and 2001, and the three Gulf Wars (1980–88, 1990–91, 2003–2011) were catalysts of a growing internationalization of local conflicts.[citation needed] Figures such as Osama bin Laden and Abdallah Azzam have been crucial in these developments, as much as domestic and world politics.[7]

Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization of Pakistan

Main article: Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization

On December 2, 1978, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq delivered a nationwide address on the occasion of the first day of the Hijra calendar. He did this in order to usher in an Islamic system to Pakistan. In the speech, he accused politicians of exploiting the name of Islam, saying that "many a ruler did what they pleased in the name of Islam."

After assuming power the task that the government set to was its public commitment to enforce Nizam-e-Mustafa (Islamic System) a 180 degree turn from Pakistan's predominantly Common Law. As a preliminary measure to establish an Islamic society in Pakistan, General Zia announced the establishment of Sharia Benches. Speaking about the jurisdiction of the Sharia Benches, he remarked, "Every citizen will have the right to present any law enforced by the government before the 'Sharia Bench' and obtain its verdict whether the law is wholly or partly Islamic or un-Islamic."

But General Zia did not mention that the Sharia Benches' jurisdiction was curtailed by the following overriding clause: "(Any) law does not include the constitution, Muslim personal law, any law relating to the procedure of any court or tribunal or, until the expiration of three years, any fiscal law or any law relating to the collection of taxes and fees or insurance practice and procedure." It meant that all important laws which affect each and every individual directly remained outside the purview of the Sharia Benches. However, he did not have a smooth sailing even with the clipped Sharia Benches. After the Federal Sharia Bench declared rajm or stoning to be un-Islamic; Ziaul Haq reconstituted the court, which then declared rajm as Islamic.

Islamic Revolution of Iran

Main article: Islamic Revolution of Iran

Islamization of the Gaza Strip

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Main article: Islamization of the Gaza Strip

The influence of Islamic groups in the Gaza Strip has grown since the 1980s, especially as poverty has risen and fighting with Israel began in 2000.[8] The efforts to impose Islamic law and traditions continued when Hamas forcefully seized control of the area in June 2007 and displaced security forces loyal to the secular President Mahmoud Abbas.[9][10][11] After the civil war ended, Hamas declared the "end of secularism and heresy in the Gaza Strip."[12] For the first time since the Sudanese coup of 1989 that brought Omar al-Bashir to power, a Muslim Brotherhood group ruled a significant geographic territory.[13] Gaza human rights groups accuse Hamas of restricting many freedoms in the course of these attempts.[10]

While Ismael Haniyeh officially denied accusations that Hamas intended to establish an Islamic emirate,[13] Jonathan Schanzer wrote that in the two years following the 2007 coup, the Gaza Strip has exhibited the characteristics of Talibanization,[13] a process whereby the Islamist organization imposes strict rules on women, discourages or punishes activities commonly associated with Western or Christian culture, oppresses non-Muslim minorities, imposes their own interpretation of sharia law and deploys religious police to enforce these laws.[13]

According to Human Rights Watch, the Hamas-controlled government of Gaza stepped up its efforts to "Islamize" Gaza in 2010, efforts that included the "repression" of civil society and "severe violations of personal freedom."[14] Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in 2009 that "Hamas is gradually turning the Gaza Strip into a Taliban-style Islamic entity."[15] According to Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Gaza's al-Azhar University, "Ruling by itself, Hamas can stamp its ideas on everyone (...) Islamizing society has always been part of Hamas strategy."[16]

See also

By area

By method


  1. ^ Also spelled Islamisation; see spelling differences.


  1. ^ "Islamicization". The Free Dictionary.
  2. ^ Robinson, David, ed. (2004), "The Islamization of Africa", Muslim Societies in African History, New Approaches to African History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 27–41, doi:10.1017/CBO9780511811746.004, ISBN 978-0-521-82627-3, retrieved 13 November 2022
  3. ^ Kennedy, Charles (1996). "Introduction". Islamization of Laws and Economy, Case Studies on Pakistan. Anis Ahmad, Author of introduction. Institute of Policy Studies, The Islamic Foundation. p. 19.
  4. ^ Lindley-Highfield, M. (2008) '"Muslimization", Mission and Modernity in Morelos: the problem of a combined hotel and prayer hall for the Muslims of Mexico'. Tourism Culture & Communication, vol. 8, no. 2, 85–96.
  5. ^ Marcia Hermansen (2014). "Conversion to Islam in Theological and Historical Perspectives". In Lewis R. Rambo and Charles E. Farhadian (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion. Oxford University Press. p. 632. The process of "Islamization" was a complex and creative fusion of Islamic practices and doctrines with local customs that were considered to be sound from the perspective of developing Islamic jurisprudence. As historian Richard Bulliet has demonstrated based on the evidence of early biographical compendia, in most cases this process took centuries, so that the stereotype of Islam being initially spread by the "sword" and by forced conversions is a false representation of this complex phenomenon
  6. ^ Lapidus, p. 823
  7. ^ a b c Lapidus, p. 828–30
  8. ^ Hamas tries to detain woman walking with man, July 8, 2009, Diaa Hadid, The Guardian
  9. ^ Militants torch Gaza water park shut down by Hamas, Haaretz 19-09-2010
  10. ^ a b Gunmen torch Gaza beach club shuttered by Hamas, AFP 19-09-2010
  11. ^ "The Beleaguered Christians of the Palestinian-Controlled Areas, by David Raab". Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  12. ^ Khaled Abu Toameh, “Haniyeh Calls for Palestinian Unity,” Jerusalem Post, June 15, 2007
  13. ^ a b c d The Talibanization of Gaza: A Liability for the Muslim Brotherhood Archived 2010-09-29 at the Wayback Machine. by Jonathan Schanzer. August 19, 2009. Current Trends in Islamist Ideology vol. 9
  14. ^ "In Gaza, prisoners twice over; Palestinians are being squeezed by the Israeli blockade and Hamas' 'Islamizing' actions," Bill Van Esveld, Bill Van Esveld is a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch, June 27, 2010, Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ Khaled Abu Toameh, As Hamas Tightens Its Grip Archived 2009-07-16 at the Wayback Machine, 07-08-2009
  16. ^ Hamas Bans Women Dancers, Scooter Riders in Gaza Push Archived 2015-11-18 at the Wayback Machine By Daniel Williams, Bloomberg, November 30, 2009

Further reading