«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
they have to come to be who they are, to pinpoint the exact locations of their thinking between the two ends of liberal and extreme, and to unveil the “reality” beneath their public façade than in engaging critically with the substance of their sophisticated thinking. Although it is acknowledged that the unfolding of their personas may help provide a basis for understanding the roots and motivations that lie beneath their theories, it does not make substantial strides in contributing to the study on how Muslim minorities can bring Islam into harmony with the realities and practicalities of life in Europe. The few studies that will be reviewed in this section are those that have placed their focus, at least partially, on the scholars’ propositions and ideas.
understand al-Qaradawi’s persona within the framework of “modernity”3 and determine how modernity has affected the development of Islam and the scholar’s thinking.
Helfont analyzes al-Qaradawi’s approach to five themes that have become popular in the present discourse on contemporary Islam: Modernity, jihad, interfaith relations, democracy, and women. He makes use of a large number and variety of primary and secondary sources that consist of hundreds of the scholar’s fatwas, sermons, and interviews in the media in both English and Arabic, claiming that no in-depth work of the same length on al-Qaradawi had been published in English prior to his own research. Given the primary objective of Helfont’s research, the findings in his work are concentrated preponderantly on al-Qaradawi’s rhetoric and how it supposedly reflects the scholar’s innermost thinking. While there is little engagement with the substance of
homosexuality, women, and interfaith relations). He argues that al-Qaradawi is both progressive and reactionary depending on whom he is compared with, and on the specific aspects of the scholar’s thinking on which one chooses to focus. Based on his findings, he concludes that al-Qaradawi has been largely misrepresented by many Western academics and politicians as being a purely “moderate” and “progressive” thinker due to their tendency to compare his thinking solely against the more orthodox Muslim orientation, and that the modern nature of the scholar’s thinking should not be confused for “moderation”. Aside from these findings, there is no attempt in the book to further discuss al-Qaradawi’s “balanced” theology, to examine its impact on the development of Islam and Muslim thinking in the modern world, and to relate it to the wider context of the studies being made on the same topic.
Larsson’s work in Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Tariq Ramadan on Secularisation:
Differences and Similarities is an analytical attempt at exploring and comparing the scholars’ views on secularization, which they generally define (according to him) as division between religion and politics (Larsson, 2009). Although the scope and nature of his work are short and cursory, Larsson is able to show several important similarities and differences between al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s thinking by looking into how the scholars situate the principle in the Islamic context. He finds that secularism has no place in Islam in al-Qaradawi’s thinking, and that it is akin to apostasy, as the scholar believes that the idea that human reason can be above Divine law signifies atheistic thinking and rejection of Islam. On the other hand, he cites Ramadan as arguing that secularization, despite being a fundamental aspect of European identity, does not adversely affect Muslims’ adherence to Islam because their freedom to practice their
Muslim” identity (without being dependent on what is imposed on them by the Muslim world) and free themselves from the shackles of their cultural baggage. Larsson attributes these few differences to the scholars’ cultural settings (i.e. background and environment) and their approaches to the Islamic Revelation, and accordingly acknowledges the difficulty in comparing two theologians who think from different cultural perspectives (that of al-Qaradawi being Middle-Eastern, and that of Ramadan being close to European intellectual thinking). Due to this, Larsson, in the conclusion of his work, cautions future researchers to not depend on simplified analyses, and to look for more in-depth explanations.
Hassan’s work in Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat: History, Development, and Progress provides a legal historical narrative of the development of the fiqh and a discussion of its significance to the debate on the function of Sharia in the West (Hassan, 2013). In order to explain how the scholar has become a reference point for Muslim minorities in the West and the force behind fiqh al-aqalliyyat, and to understand his position and
fatwas for Muslim minorities, Hassan’s analysis hones in on four main areas of focus:
the history of al-Qaradawi’s involvement in the study of Muslim minorities in the West and fiqh al-aqalliyyat, his theory and methodology of the fiqh, his reputation in the West and his reception by Western Muslims, and his perspective on Sharia, fiqh (in the general sense), and ijtihād. Aside from the explanatory nature of his work, Hassan manages to flag some critical questions and findings about al-Qaradawi’s approach.
First, he argues that the fact that the legal framework of fiqh al-aqalliyyat is based on exceptions and cases of necessities leads to al-Qaradawi being stuck in a dilemma between wanting to ‘empower the minorities and extend his intellectual support to
disempowerment as minorities, which means weakness, exceptions, and necessities’ (Hassan, 2013, p.78); second; he points out that the two-sidedness of al-Qaradawi’s methodology is confusing – on one side, it calls for a ‘well-defined category of fiqh’ (Hassan, 2013, p.78), and on the other, there is no clarity as to its ‘framework, subjects, or parameters’ (Hassan, 2013, p.78); third, he highlights that, while al-Qaradawi maintains that the principle of taysīr 4 (necessity) should not run in conflict with the explicit texts of the Sharia, it is not easy to understand what “clear-cut” means and who can define such texts; fourth; he contends that the use of leniency in fiqh al-aqalliyyat presents the fiqh as an open source that turns everyone into a jurist, which, then, compromises the integrity of jurisprudence due to the resulting ‘tension between the expert jurist and the “lay” [Hassan’s emphasis] jurist’ (Hassan, 2013, p.79).
Additionally, Hassan also questions the extent of al-Qaradawi’s familiarity with the laws and cultures of the West in his effort to blend the Text and the context in his fiqh.
On the basis of his focus on al-Qaradawi and fiqh al-aqalliyyat, Hassan concludes that the scholar’s use of fiqh, despite its shortcomings, shows that Sharia can be accommodated in the West, and what the scholar attempts to achieve is the construction of a discourse of a normative Western Islam from within.
articles by a group of academics focusing on the scholar’s personal background, his multifaceted persona, his intellectual concerns, his involvement in European politics in the context of the affairs of Muslim minorities, and the evolution of his thought on issues such as women, moderation, and the “public good” (maṣlaḥa) (Gräf and
within the Muslim ideological spectrum, his phenomenal status and scholarly ubiquity in the Muslim world and the media, and the positive impact of his works on the development of Western-Muslim intellectual thought. Given its specific focus and orientation, the work is more a historical and descriptive narrative of al-Qaradawi as a preacher, scholar, and activist than an in-depth engagement with his religious thoughts on Islam and Muslim minorities in the West; there is little critical deconstruction of the explicit features of al-Qaradawi’s thinking in order to understand and question their roots, underlying motivations, and problems against the wider context to which they are applied. Two of its chapters, however, should be singled out in this section due to their contributions to the understanding of the scholar’ opinions on certain issues related to Islam and Muslims in Europe.
development of al-Qaradawi’s interest in Muslims minorities from the 60s to the 90s and his writings (mainly the conciliatory aspects of his thinking) on their integration and normalization, and his reception in the European context. Aside from the historical and descriptive portions of their analysis5, the most important, albeit short, contribution in their work is their focus on the scholar’s use of fiqh al-aqalliyyat; they briefly show how al-Qaradawi uses the afore-mentioned fiqh to legitimize Muslim presence in the West for the additional benefit of spreading the message of Islam, and explain that the scholar’s methodology is built on a combination of employing the methods of traditional fiqh through a new interpretative lens (ijtihād) and taking into consideration
thinking will remain relevant to any future efforts to construct European Islam.
In Chapter 6 of the book, Stowasser (2009) analyzes four gender-specific writings of al-Qaradawi published between the 60s and the late 90s and compares her findings on the scholar’s modernist position on women’s rights and obligations with the waṣatiyya ideology that he represents. In her chapter, she summarizes the main substances of the chosen writings and makes several arguments: first, al-Qaradawi’s writings reflect a gradual transition in intellectual focus from women’s rights and duties in the domestic sphere to their rights and duties in the public sphere; second; alQaradawi exhibits a traditionalist attitude in his understanding of the role of women in the familial context, but goes beyond the traditionalist paradigm in his position on women’s role in the social and political context; third, al-Qaradawi prioritizes the collective implications of the issue of gender quality in Islam over its individual implications, as opposed to modernist intellectuals who see the issue as a human rights question, and thus, focus on its individual implications before its collective implications; fourth, in speaking of the relationship between men and women in Islam, al-Qaradawi prefers using the term iqtirān (simultaneous interaction) to musāwa (equality) – Stowasser understands the scholar’s choice of word here as allowing both the connotations of “gender equivalence” and “gender equality”, the former in the private sphere and the latter in the public sphere.
Gregory Baum’s work in his book The Theology of Tariq Ramadan: A Catholic Perspective is professedly the first and the only one thus far to have presented and analyzed Ramadan’s religious thoughts on the issue of reform. Through the lens of a Catholic in the Augustinian tradition who is convinced of an affinity between
interested in studying Ramadan’s effort to make Islam relevant to Muslim minorities in the West, Baum manages to simplify the Swiss thinker’s sophisticated thinking for the general Christian reader (as per his intention) and shows the specific points at which the latter’s theology converges with the contemporary Catholic thinking. Baum’s analysis centers on three overarching themes within Ramadan’s religious thought: The universal message of Islam, Sharia as way of life and its hermeneutics, and the situation of Muslims in the West. Within these three general themes, Baum gives special attention to Ramadan’s position on corporal punishments in Islam, Western-Muslim identity, religious pluralism, women in Islam, and the relationship between faith, reason, and nature. His method of analysis involves presenting the historical elements of the aforementioned subjects of focus, as well as their parallels in the Catholic tradition where applicable, exploring Ramadan’s ideas and comparing them with contemporary Catholic teaching, and offering his own theological reflections.
Although many of Baum’s findings contribute more to the comparative aspect of his analysis than the issue of European Islam, he manages to make several points regarding Ramadan’s reformist theology and the situation of Islam and Muslims in the West. First, Baum notes that Ramadan’s theology finds a balance between reformism and conservatism – the Swiss thinker supports the values of religious pluralism and freedom of worship, but disagrees with many ideas offered by liberal Muslim thinking.
Second, Baum finds that Ramadan’s espousal of Islamic universalism, through his understanding of fitra (intuition) that orients all human beings towards the One God, is indicative of a humanist interpretation of Islam. Third, Baum highlights Ramadan’s belief that Islam is capable of flourishing in any given society due to its flexibility in
Ramadan’s argument that there is no problem in being Muslim in the West and being participatory in society in pursuit of the common good. Fifth, Baum points out Ramadan’s conviction that Sharia is incompatible with authoritarian regimes because it calls for social justice and observance of Muslim social ethics. Sixth, Baum discovers that Ramadan’s ideology is free from fundamentalist and anti-Semitic sentiments, and that he is mistakenly perceived by some as being a fundamentalist in disguise and an anti-Semitist due to his disagreement with the theological liberalism of some academics in the West and his opposition to Israel’s militant policies against Palestine.