«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
identity in six ways, the first three of which concern a Muslim’s faith and religiosity, while the last three relate to their role in society (Ramadan, 2004). First, allegiance to Islam starts fundamentally with the pronouncement of shahāda (the Muslim declaration of faith that reads ‘There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is Allah’s messenger’) that marks one’s submission to God and his commandments. Second, the intangible idea of submission to God is expressed by adherence to mandatory religious practice, the abandonment of which nullifies the religio-spiritual dimension of shahāda that serves as a marker of Muslim identity. Third, only through observing Islamic religious practice can the integrity of Muslim identity be expressed and preserved. Fourth, professing the shahāda entails acceptance of the pledge to maintain ‘respect for His creation’ and loyalty to ‘agreements, contracts, and treaties’ into which Muslims have entered, whether explicitly or tacitly (Ramadan, 2004, p.74). Fifth, professing the shahāda places the onus on the Muslim to ‘present Islam, explain the content of their faith and the teaching of Islam in general’ (Ramadan, 2004, p. 74). Sixth, professing the shahāda puts responsibility on the Muslim to be actively engaged in society and to participate in the endeavor to achieve positive institutional, economic, legal, social, political or any other area of reform in order to establish and promote justice.
European-Muslim identity, which he defines as one that is ‘neither completely dissolved in the Western environment nor reacting against it but rather resting on its own foundations’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.83), Ramadan further identifies four universal principles7 of Islam that must be dressed in the Western culture: Faith, understanding, education and transmission, and action and participation (Ramadan, 2004). These four principles, which will be presented below, appear to be universal abstractions of the six constituents of shahāda presented previously.
therefore a faith, a practice, and a spirituality’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.79). It is presumable that the latter two here (“practice” and “spirituality”) are causally-connected constituents of faith, considering the scholar’s idea that shahāda binds together faith (as a trusting commitment to God on a spiritual level) and practice (as a means for manifesting this spiritual devotion on a practical level) into a unified experience that is fundamental to what it means to be a Muslim (Ramadan, 2004). Following his definition of spirituality as ‘recollection and the intimate energy involved in the struggle against the natural human tendency to forget God, the meaning of life, and the other world’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.79), the link between spirituality and both faith and practice is expressed in his other statement that ‘all the practices prescribed by Islam, especially 7 In a previous work, Ramadan pinpoints five elements of Muslim identity that are similar to the four principles of Islam mentioned in the text. These five elements are ‘faith and spirituality’, ‘practice’, ‘protection’, ‘freedom’, and ‘participation’ (Ramadan, 1999, p.132-134). The scholar does not clarify how these elements relate to the four principles.
Ramadan argues that Muslim identity is based ‘on a constant dialectical and dynamic movement between the sources and the environment, whose aim is to find a way of living harmoniously’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.80). Third, the scholar argues that being Muslim is also defined by the responsibility of educating and transmitting the universal message of Islam (Ramadan, 2004). However, he warns that ‘transmitting the Message of Islam through da’wa must not be confused with either proselytism or efforts to convert: the duty of the Muslim is to spread the Message and to make it known, no more no less’ (Ramadan, 1999, p.133-134). Therefore, he stresses that ‘whether someone accepts Islam or not is not the Muslim’s concern for the inclination of every individual heart depends on God’s will’ (Ramadan, 1999, p.134). Fourth, Ramadan states that ‘the outward expression of Muslim identity is the articulation and demonstration of the faith through consistent behavior’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.82). In
reference to this ‘behavior’, he writes:
‘This “acting,” in whatever country or environment, is based on four important aspects of human life: developing and protecting spiritual life in society, disseminating religious as well as secular education, acting for justice in every sphere of social, economic, and political life, and, finally, promoting solidarity with all groups of needy people who are forgotten or culpably neglected or marginalized’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.82).
Ramadan believes that these four universal principles of Islam ‘… give an adequate picture of the fundamentals of Muslim identity, individual and social, separate from its cultural reading in a specific region of the world’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.82). At this point, one can possibly observe that the universal form in which shahāda is
lectures on the importance of freeing the universalistic and humanistic essence of Islam from its restrictive cultural circumscriptions (Ramadan, 1999; 2004; 2009).
Correspondingly, in his endeavor to define a Western-Muslim identity, he underlines the significance in distinguishing between ‘... religious principles that define the identity of Muslims and the cultural trappings that these principles necessarily take on according to the societies in which individuals live’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.78). The ensuing objective here, he clarifies, is to ‘cloak this universality [universal religious principles] with the specificity of their national cultures [for Muslims in the West] through the process of integration’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.78).
Resonant with his explication of the six constituents of shahāda and the four foundations of Muslim identity on the one hand, and his idea of subsequently dressing these universal principles in the Western culture on the other, Ramadan’s understanding of Western Muslims’ responsibilities is anchored on the idea that they take an assertive
stand for their rights as both Europeans and Muslims. He argues:
trying to provide Muslim communities, through courses, study circles, and all kinds of institutions and organizations whose essential aims are to keep Islamic faith and spirituality alive, to spread a better understanding
remained traditional. From the Islamic point of view, adapting, for the new generations, does not mean making concessions on the essentials but, rather, building, working out, seeking to remain faithful while allowing for evolution. With this aim, Muslims should take advantage of the most effective methods (e.g., of teaching, management) and scientific and technological discoveries (which are not in themselves in conflict
Following this elaboration, Ramadan concludes that ‘the definition of Muslim identity can be only of something open and dynamic, founded, of course, on basic principles but in constant interaction with the environment’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.83) rather than one that is ‘… confined within cold Islamic rulings defining what is lawful and unlawful (al-ḥalāl wa al-ḥarām)…’ (Ramadan, 1999, p.116). Given his aforementioned emphasis on the idea of dressing universal Islamic principles in the Western culture, it is useful to present the scholar’s approach to fundamental questions pertaining to the issues of Western-Muslim belonging, religiosity, and socio-political experiences.
where the loyalty of Muslims lies when he states that ‘the primary attachment of believers… ’ is naturally ‘… to God and their faith’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.94). However, the scholar immediately clarifies that what is of utmost importance here is the need ‘… to clarify the nature of the connection that exists between Islamic requirements and the concrete reality of citizenship in Western countries’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.94). Thus, while al-Qaradawi focuses on the idea of prioritizing religious identity over other forms of affiliations, Ramadan prefers to focus on the complementarity between both national
and religious identities; he writes:
essential, fundamental, primal, and primordial, because it contains the justification for life itself. The concept of nationality, as it is understood in the industrialized countries, is of a completely different order: as an element of identity, it organizes, from within both a given constitution
With regard to ethnic identity, Ramadan warns about the problem of ‘not knowing very well how the outlines of that identity are drawn’ due to the uncertainty among Muslims – particularly among the older generation according to the scholar - in defining ‘whether they wanted to be “Muslims” in the West or rather “Pakistani, Turkish and Arab Muslims” in the West’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.78). Moreover, he highlights that ‘native European and American converts’ were ‘divided between exiling themselves from their own culture by Arabizing or Pakistanizing themselves and simply staying what they were at a distance from Muslim communities that had come from elsewhere and were culturally distinct’, although he does not expound on how Muslims can be “Muslim” without being heavily “ethnic” (Ramadan, 2004, p.78). Nevertheless, the scholar had already noted prior to making the afore-mentioned statements that many of the second and third generations of Western Muslims were beginning to trend towards reaffirming their identity, observing Islamic teachings, and - in the case of the more educated – returning to a ‘de-ethnicized’ Islam (Ramadan, 1999). According to him, this was not ‘exclusively a phenomenon of opposition to the West…’, but rather ‘… a positive affirmation of self-confidence among young Muslims’ (Ramadan, 1999, p.
In addition to Muslim attachment to God and their faith, Ramadan emphasizes the importance of maintaining a sense of belonging to the Muslim umma, which he defines as ‘a community of faith, feeling, brotherhood, and destiny’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.89). He follows the lead of many other Muslim scholars in likening a Muslim within the umma to ‘an organ in an enormous body’ to show how this sense of belonging forms
Prophetic sayings: ‘The umma is one body; if one of its members is sick, the whole body experiences the fever and the affliction’ (in Ramadan, 2004, p.90), and ‘Gather together, for the wolf picks off only the sheep that stand alone’ (in Ramadan, 2004, p.90). The scholar, then, explains that the mission of this Islamic body is ‘to bear witness to their faith in the presence of God before the whole of humankind by standing on the side of justice and human dignity in all circumstances, in relation to Muslims and non-Muslims alike’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.91).
Regarding the issue of religiosity, Ramadan, similar to al-Qaradawi, warns Muslims not to diminish the importance of maintaining religious awareness and spirituality in the Western context. He writes that it is vital for Muslims in the West to determine how to ‘… preserve the vitality of a spiritual life…’ in a ‘… secularized and industrialized…’ society that is ‘… subject to the logic of production and consumption…’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.70), and to subsequently ‘pass on the necessary knowledge [the message of Islam]’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.71). In the specific context of religious practicalities and difficulties, Ramadan consistently exhibits an unfavorable view of the European societal fabric across many of his works; notwithstanding the symbolic revivalism of religion shown by many Muslim youths (e.g., fasting during Ramadan), he highlights the disappearance of religious and spiritual practices and references from the public space and the passive belief in God as inevitable social realities in the region (Ramadan, 1999), and describes ‘the present world order’ as seeming ‘to have forgotten the Creator and to depend on a logic that is almost exclusively economic...’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.73). In addition, the scholar brings to light elements that ‘appear to be obstacles to the positive and full existence of Muslims in the
concerning issues of education in general and Islamic education in particular in a secular environment, issues of social and political participation and of culture’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.71).
Nonetheless, Ramadan also acknowledges that these negative characteristics do not paint an accurate picture of the European reality. He believes that the region also provides pivotal advantages for Muslims, such as the feasibility of enjoying ‘… to a large extent, the right to live as [practicing] Muslims in Europe and North America’, and on which they can base their ‘… hopes for a better future’ (Ramadan, 1999, p.138).
He argues that Europe does not necessarily make a hostile place for Muslims because it provides them with ‘an environment that guarantees freedom of conscience and worship to Muslims (that is, of their faith and their practice), that protects their physical integrity and their freedom to act in accordance with their convictions’ (Ramadan, 2004, p.70).