Who are the Muslims: A Seven-Part Typology

Dr. Robert D. Crane

Posted May 1, 2009      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Who are the Muslims: A Seven-Part Typology

Dr. Robert D. Crane

  Hundreds of experts around the world and many millions of dollars are committed to deciphering the question “who are the Muslims.”  The differing estimates are almost a numerous as are the experts.  The following is my typology of Muslims in the world and the percentage of Muslims who fall into each category, based on my own several decades of personal experience:

  1) The Frustrated and Intellectually Backward: Wahhabis and Salafis (20% of Muslims worldwide) 

      The Salafis are revolutionary in seeking political change, and the Wahhabis are counter-revolutionary in opposing it.  Both oppose use of the Islamic intellectual heritage from classical Islam (3rd through 7th centuries A.H.), including the maqasid al shari’ah or normative Islamic jurisprudence, in understanding the Qur’an and hadith or anything else.  Both are totalitarian in seeking to impose their views on everyone else. 

  2) The Swine Flu Contingent: Al Qa’ida (1%)

      Al Qa’ida is like the swine flu in that it combines in its genetic code diverse species, which is why most Al Qa’ida warriors originated as Wahhabis but act like Salafis in their desire to destroy the Saudi government, as well as whoever supports it.

  3) The Dogmatic Islamists (15%)

      These Muslims have been led by intellectuals versed in Western secular thought, which is why they have borrowed such Western concepts as the “sovereign state,” “human rights,” and “majoritarian democracy” and combined them in their search for power.  They oppose both the intellectually brain-dead Wahhabis and their Swine Flu offspring.

  4) The Enlightened Islamists (25%)

      These intellectuals, who are second only to the Sufis as the most numerous category of Muslims in the world, base their thought and action on a principled paradigm of human responsibilities and human rights best expressed in the maqasid al shari’ah.  They oppose violence as a means either to gain power or to govern.  This paradigm of thought is known in the West as traditionalism, which guards against any ideological commitment to a totalitarian utopia by seeking to bring out the best of the past as the best means to build a better future.  This emphasis on renewing the Islamic intellectual heritage has already transformed most Islamist movements worldwide, especially among the younger generation, because it has broken loose from the de facto secularist mindset of the dogmatic Islamists.  These Islamists and the Sufis form the major part of Muslim participation in the worldwide resurrection of religion as a guiding force in the world.

  5) Bureaucratic Pragmatists (5%) 

      These Muslims seek their own power as “big frogs in little puddles.” They are self-centered and hypocritical, which is why their totalitarian behavior alienates idealistic Muslims and serves only to marginalize Islam as a religion in the world.

  6) Progressivist or Liberal Muslims (4%)

      This small but growing sub-set of the Muslim ummah, only slightly more numerous than Al Qa’ida, is just as diverse as are the Sufis, but they are divided basically into those who want to “reform Islam” by rejecting the Islamic intellectual heritage and those who are alienated by everything Islamic and want to destroy Islam because they believe it is inherently a threat to the world.

7)  Sufis (30% active in orders, but 50% of all Muslims in approach to life).

      These Muslims, both Sunni and Shi’a, are highly diverse, which is why they may exhibit both Salafi and Enlightened Islamist tendencies.  Their major common characteristics are that they focus on personal awareness of Allah, judge one’s pursuit of truth and justice by one’s personal serenity, and therefore prefer education rather than direct political action in pursuing purpose in life.