Islamic Studies Hizb al-Nahdah
Allen Fromherz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 June 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0094


Hizb al-Nahdah, which translates to “Renaissance Party” in English or “Parti de la Renaissance” in French (the second language of Tunisia), is a political party in Tunisia. Although described as “Islamist,” the Hizb al-Nahdah officially presents itself as a moderate and distinctly “Tunisian” party, a party based on Islamic values but not committed to instituting every aspect of Sharia, or Islamic law, to the letter. Compared to other Islamist parties in the Arabic-speaking world, Hizb al-Nahdah’s platform is relatively secular. Hizb al-Nahdah has often compared itself to the religion-rooted, but also secular, Christian Democratic Party of Germany. The current leader of Hizb al-Nahdah, Rashid al-Ghannouchi (Rashid al-Ghannoushi, Rached Ghannuchi), has said that he does not advocate the idea of joining a unified Islamic caliphate based on Sharia law. Hizb al-Nahdah’s moderate position must be understood in the particular context of Tunisian society. A large proportion of Tunisians, especially in the coastal cities of Tunis, Sousse, and Sfax, identify as secular in outlook. These secularists have expressed some concern that Hizb al-Nahdah has presented mixed messages, a moderate and relatively secular one to residents of the coastal cities and another more conservative one to the more traditional inhabitants living inland. Hizb al-Nahdah has tried to distance itself from the Hizb al-Tahrir, the pan-Islamic and Islamist revolutionary party that embraces the idea of a caliphate and the strict institution of Sharia law.

General Overviews

Unlike Hizb al-Tahrir with its transnational emphasis, Hizb al-Nahdah is primarily a Tunisian phenomenon. As such, until recent events, comparatively little attention has been focused on the Hizb al-Nahdah itself, except within the context of more general studies of political Islam. Few monographs in English focus solely on Hizb al-Nahdah and its historical development. That said, there are several overviews of Hizb al-Nahdah provided by the party itself in various book-length publications and pamphlets tracing the origins of the Hizb al-Nahdah and of its predecessor, the Islamic Tendency Movement (Mouvement de la Tendance Islamique [MTI]), which was renamed Hizb al-Nahdah in December 1988 (AMC 1991). The collections contain some article-length studies of Rashid al-Ghannouchi, the intellectual leader of the Hizb al-Nahdah (Jones 1988.) Indeed, Jones and Ghannouchi wrote an article together in the same journal (al-Ghannoushi and Jones 1988). Also, Tamimi 2001 is a book-length study describing al-Ghannouchi’s complex intellectual development. The history of the Hizb al-Nahdah and the MTI is described as part of a history of labor, Islam, and social uprisings in Tunisia, as discussed in Perkins 2004. More recently, Alexander 2010 briefly discusses the Hizb al-Nahdah and its relationship with the Tunisian state. Studies are also available that contextualize the Hizb al-Nahdah as part of a wider North African phenomenon, including Entelis 1997. Finally, Hamdi 2000 provides a case study of Hizb al-Nahdah and its literature, and Burgat and Dowell 1997 provides a comparative overview of Islamism in North Africa.

  • Alexander, Christopher. Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb. New York: Routledge, 2010.

    Provides an overview of Tunisia’s unique secularism, modern development, and the role of political opposition until just before the outbreak of the revolution of 2010–2011.

  • AMC. The Renaissance Party in Tunisia: The Quest for Freedom and Democracy. Washington, DC: AMC, 1991.

    A political pamphlet published to benefit the Hizb al-Nahdah and its struggles against Zine el-Abidine Ben ‘Ali, this collection of articles and studies provides a fascinating example of the attempts of the Nahdah movement to gain the attention of observers in the West, particularly in the US government.

  • Burgat, Francois, and William Dowell. The Islamic Movement in North Africa. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997.

    A translation of the authoritative work in French by Burgat, this work provides a discussion of the historical development of Islamism in Tunisia and the wider Maghreb.

  • Entelis, John. Islam, Democracy and the State in North Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

    Contextualizes the Nahdah movement within the wider political context of North Africa in the 20th century.

  • al-Ghannoushi, Rashid, and Linda Jones. “Deficiencies in the Islamic Movement.” Middle East Research and Information Project. Middle East Report 153 (1988): 23–24.

    DOI: 10.2307/3012129

    This is a brief summary of the challenges that faced the Islamic Tendency Movement in the late 1980s.

  • Hamdi, Mohamed el-Hachmi. The Politicisation of Islam: A Case Study of Tunisia. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000.

    This work provides a discussion of the basic concepts behind Hizb al-Nahdah and its ideas for a modern Islamic state. It also provides an overview of the literature produced by and about the movement.

  • Jones, Linda. “Portrait of Rashid al-Ghannoushi.” Middle East Report 153 (1988): 19–23.

    DOI: 10.2307/3012128

    This is a good primer on Rashid al-Ghannouchi and his notion of democratic Islamism.

  • Perkins, Kenneth. A History of Modern Tunisia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    This book puts Hizb al-Nahdah in the context of Tunisia’s political history, revealing the complexity behind its political platform and the often highly restricted political space available for expression.

  • Tamimi, Azzam. Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1093/0195140001.001.0001

    This authoritative biography provides extensive and thoughtful reflections on Rashid al-Ghannouchi’s life and his views on topics such as women’s rights, democratization, and Islam.

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