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«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»

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A thesis submitted to the

University of Birmingham

for the degree of


Department of Theology and Religion

School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion College of Arts and Law University of Birmingham September 2014 University of Birmingham Research Archive e-theses repository This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation.

Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.


This study investigates Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s and Tariq Ramadan’s conceptualizations of European Islam centering on three thematic issues: “European-Muslim” identity and the role of Muslims in Europe, reform in Islam pertaining to fiqh and Islamic ethics, and the question of incompatibility of Sharia with the European cultural system. It produces a detailed critique of the scholars’ positions, analyzes the ways in which their approaches overlap and differ from one another, evaluates the extent to which they take into account in their thinking the socio-political realities of Islam and Muslims in the West, and determines the feasibility of their propositions in the European context. The study argues that their approaches are inhibited by impractical suggestions, rhetorical ambiguities, and unexplained gaps that leave room for disagreement beyond the scope of intra-Muslim debate, but various other components within their thinking can be taken as building blocks that can be assembled into a more functional model that is devoid of the inconsistencies and problems identified in the thesis. It recommends that future research on Islam and Muslims in the West inquire further into said limitations and produce a well-argued critique that can contribute to the contemporary Muslim discourse on European Islam and reform.


To my parents, Haji Mohamad and Hajah Samsiah


In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

I have so many to thank, but so little space to do so.

My deepest gratitude goes to my supervisor, Professor David Thomas, for having been such a brilliant and supportive mentor throughout the entire period of my postgraduate studies (M.A. to Ph.D) at the University of Birmingham. In addition to his meticulous reading of (and constructive comments on) my drafts, I am most thankful for his persistence in pushing me beyond what I thought were the limits of my intellectual capacity. They say your supervisor can make or break your Ph.D; Professor David Thomas helped make my Ph.D program such a positive experience.

No less important, I am indebted to the Government of Brunei Darussalam for having fully sponsored my tertiary education for the last 7 years (B.A. to Ph.D), and to the Bruneian government officers in the UK who looked after my wellbeing and managed all the administrative aspects of my grant.

My colleagues helped make my time at the University of Birmingham immensely enjoyable. I am thankful to Ayse for her endless advice and our general friendly chats, Mirza for his nerve-calming jokes and our thought-provoking discussions, Charles for his genuine prayers and encouragement, and Hafiz Dr. Almir Pramenkovic (Faculty of Islamic Studies, Novi Pazar, Serbia) for having been my happy pill in Birmingham in the last two anxiety-ridden weeks before my thesis was due. I am also grateful to Dr. Ahmet Alibasic (Faculty of Islamic Studies, University of Sarajevo) for his valuable comments on the general aspects of my research.

The moral encouragement from my family meant everything and was essential to my resolve. My sister, Mazidah, was with me in the UK during the one year of my M.A. and the first two years of my doctoral research, and served as an important presence with whom I shared my Ph.D experiences. My brother, Amin, and my younger sister, Hafizah, were my instant “mood-lifters” when I needed them. My childhood caretaker, Yuli, was unfailing in sending me words of comfort. Last but not least, my loving parents, Haji Mohamad and Hajah Samsiah, who have been with me in every phase of my life, are my source of happiness, strength, inspiration, and life. No doubt, I would not have managed to complete my Ph.D without their prayers.

Azmi Mohamad Birmingham

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The transliteration system used in this thesis is that employed by the American • Library Association and the Library of Congress (ALA-LC). Exceptions to its

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Arabic words that have come into general use in the English language are • neither transliterated nor italicized (e.g., Qur’an, Sunna, Islam, jihad, and fatwa) The noun-ending ‘s’ is added to pluralize the term “fatwa” (e.g., fatwas) • The initial letters of the terms “Qur’an”, “Sunna”, “Sharia”, and “Islam” are •

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IHRL - International Human Rights Law UDHR - Universal Declaration of Human Rights ECHR - The European Court of Human Rights ECFR - European Council for Fatwa and Research ICCPR - International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


–  –  –

The study uses the following terms in the same way they are used by al-Qaradawi and


1. “Europe” and “West”:

Although it is acknowledged that these two terms do not necessarily carry the same meaning (the West includes Europe, but Europe is not all of the West), the study uses them both interchangeably when discussing theoretical issues that transcend national, cultural, and geographical differences. In the case of issues that are confined to a particular context (e.g., the Headscarf Affair and the concept of Laïcité in France), the study distinguishes between the two terms and makes every effort to underline country-specific or culture-specific factors

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2. “Integration” and “assimilation”:

The study differentiates between the terms “integration” and “assimilation”;

“integration” allows the minorities to participate in society and co-exist with the majority without being required to lose their unique cultures, while “assimilation” requires the absorption of minorities into the majority culture and the abolishment of the former’s cultural peculiarities.

3. All English translations of Qur’anic verses in the thesis are taken from Saheeh

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1.1 Introduction Once a nascent area of research that sparked little interest in academia, the study of contemporary Islam and Muslim minorities in Europe has now become one of the most compelling subjects to venture into, owing largely to the growing presence of Muslims in the region following waves of postwar mass migration that has accentuated distinctive cultural differences, and to a convulsing string of Muslim-associated international crises in the last few decades that has generated enormous intellectual curiosity as to whether Islam is compatible with the ideals of modern society and human rights. While such debate has a global following, nowhere in the world is it more pronounced and intense than in Europe, whether this is due to the noted “assertiveness” of secularism in the region or the general assumption that many European countries have relatively limited experience with large-scale immigration (as compared to North America and Australia), and thus, with accommodating ethnic and religious diversity (or both). With this trend come increasing expressions of the need to create a “European” version of Islam that is informed by the region’s values and compatible with its notions of secularism.

As can be immediately noticed, the concept of “European Islam” is elusive and its definition multivalent; the number of meanings associated with it may be about as many as the number of countries in Europe. This notion was first introduced in the early 90s by Bassam Tibi, a German political scientist of Syrian origin and Muslim faith, who criticized the prevailing traditional form of Islam in the Muslim world and argued that

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While some may revel at the idea of an Islam that is devoid of all practices and beliefs that contradict the normative cultural system in Europe, others may scoff at it as being nondescript and submissive to the demands of European authorities. More important, however, is the fact that this definition of “European Islam” is not shared by other more popular Muslim key theorists in the related area, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Tariq Ramadan1. The latter scholars promulgate a more “balanced” form of European Islam – one that marries the core precepts of Islam with the common values upheld by European society as a whole rather than yielding acquiescently to the cultural expectations of the context, and that which strikes a balance between religious extremism and religious indifference. This strand of thinking is known as waṣatiyya (moderation), to which alQaradawi professedly adheres and with which Ramadan is often associated. While Tibi’s theory of European Islam does not seem to attract much attention in academia - a phenomenon he himself laments, that of al-Qaradawi and that of Ramadan continue to generate huge interest among academics from various research orientations.

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reform”, particularly with regard to the latter’s terms, boundaries, and application in the modern world. While some would insist that Islam is inherently a reformist religion, as it calls for the revival of the Divine message that is believed to have been revealed to the messengers preceding the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and for the abolition of corrupt cultural norms that had interwoven themselves with religious practice, many others would argue that it cannot be reformed due to the belief that it is already a

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can be found in the Islamic tradition, and is represented by the Arabic terms tajdīd (inner revival) and iṣlāh (external reform). Accordingly, increasing numbers of academics have begun to tap more deeply into the notion of “Islamic modernism” – a reformist trend believed to have been initiated by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. 1897 C.E.) and resumed by Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905 C.E.) and Rashid Rida (d. 1935 C.E.) - that can bring about the rejuvenation of Islam and Muslim thinking and the reconciliation of the faith and modern values.

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of contemporary Muslim “reformers”, Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Tariq Ramadan both embrace modernity and continue to ruminate on how to make Islam relevant to the present context, but they each have developed their own reformist worldviews, goals, and methodologies, and have consequently come to be known for promulgating different models of reform and European Islam. Al-Qaradawi is noted for his Islamist stance and for having developed an “adaptive” strategy that entails a gradual coordination of Muslim needs and societal expectations through fiqh al-aqalliyyat (jurisprudence of minorities) in the last few decades, while Ramadan continues to gain attention for his universalist perspective and his proposition for a “transformative” reform that involves a holistic redesigning of methodological approaches to the interpretation of the Islamic Revelation and ethics in all aspects of life. Despite the scholars’ popularity, there has yet to be an in-depth comparative study of their thinking and models of reform in English, particularly in the context of European Islam.

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As is clear from the general issues presented above, the ideal European Islam would be one that is both true to the Islamic tradition and suited to the practicalities of life in the region, however theoretical this description may be. This version of Islam would consequently be accepting of pluralism in its full sense, supportive of international human rights while espousing God’s limits (as understood by Muslims), conducive to the positive negotiation of multiple identities among European-Muslim minorities, and, most importantly, capable of being accommodated to new situations as opposed to the situations having to be accommodated to its teachings. This ambitious notion, however, is muddled by various problems; first, there seems to be no unanimity among Muslim scholars as to the line between what can and cannot be reformed in Islam; second, there is disunity (sectarianism) in the Muslim world and among the Muslim communities in the West with regard to Islam and its hermeneutics; third, there is a conflict of interest between the Muslim proponents of Islamization and those of reconciliation; fourth, there is no consensus as to how a “balanced” Islam, as propagated by al-Qaradawi and Ramadan, is supposed to be realized in practical terms. As these issues continue to be debated intensely, there remains uncertainty and controversy as to how, and whether, Islam can be accommodated to the European context beyond the mere (unproven) assumption that it can.

1.3 Literature Review While the state of literature on al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s religio-political thoughts on Islam and Muslim minorities in Europe is noticeably dismal, a large portion of the sporadic studies done on the topic are of biographical, historical, and illustrative

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