Sects and sectarian typologies reflect the political culture of their host environment. Thus analyzing one culture's sectarian formations with the methodological tools of another creates inherent, and often insurmountable, interpretive challenges. Western sectarian types and typologies have come to reflect the separation between religion and state that developed in society as a whole. Sects and sectarian typologies in the Islamic world, by contrast, have largely maintained their traditional character. But while the form of Muslim discourse about sects remains traditional, its function is quite modern. It is also highly politicized because the language and symbols of Islam have become the cultural medium through which modern Muslims accommodate change. Understanding sects in the Islamic world, then, requires sensitivity to the role that religion has played, and is playing, in Muslim societies as they negotiate their path to modernity.