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In addition to leaving out the collective voice of feminists, al-Qaradawi’s approach excludes a growing band of (self-claimed) progressive Muslims and formerMuslims who, in the name of human rights, have opened a debate on sexual orientation, seeking to repeal “homophobic” and “transgender-phobic” attitudes that are thought to be rampant in Muslim-majority countries; this is the second flaw of his position. There is an increasing number of support groups, which are often known by the acronym LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender), across the world, for Muslims who believe that they are discriminated against for their “unconventional” sexual preferences and lifestyles. While al-Qaradawi is unconditionally dismissive of the notion of nonheterosexual union, the opposing debate is much more nuanced; for example, the arguments made by Irshad Manji and Scott Kugle (the former, despite admitting that God may consider her homosexuality a sin, argues that only He can subsequently make a judgment, while the latter suggests that Islam does not unequivocally condemn homosexuality in the sense of “love” between men) present two rather different takes on the issue of homosexuality in Islam, between which are various lines of thinking that do not agree with al-Qaradawi’s position. If one were to go strictly by the scholar’s
Muslim and homosexual would presumably be excluded from the fold of Islam. The scholar’s approach, therefore, does not allow space for alternative voices. By extension, many of his prescriptions do not seem to include any mechanisms by which the traditional teachings of Islam can be applied (as opposed to being abandoned or asserted) in new circumstances.
classification of Islam and non-Islam, as pointed out in Chapter 4.4, which may risk encouraging parochial thinking and feelings of superiority among those who literally perceive the scholar’s specific position here as a binding Islamic precept. Despite the scholar’s attempts at neutralizing any inter-religious hostility by emphasizing the values of peace and amiability between divergent religions and ideologies, his narrow understanding of “Islam” and “non-Islam”, in addition to his Islamist ideas, may not cease to prevent Muslims, particularly those who adopt a literalist approach, from seeing non-Muslims as “the misguided other” needing to be “corrected”. While it is not clear how he interprets the much-discussed Qur’anic vision of pluralism50 in the context of the West, the way in which he presents his Islamist hopes seems to suggest that such concept of diversity is far from being the center of his reformist thinking.
constructed around the following Qur’anic verses: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (Qur’an, 49:13; “And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community; but they will not cease to differ” (Qur’an, 11:118).
incompatibility issue with the ideals of the assimilationist and multiculturalist models of social integration in Europe. Although the scholar discourages the existence of Muslim sub-cultures that behave in ways that contradict national values, his recommendation that Muslims preserve their “Muslim ghetto” (an “assimilation-proof”, yet “nonisolationist” Muslim quarter in which Muslims can retain their “uniqueness”), as discussed in Chapter 4, is devoid of clarity as to the elusive line between “unique” practices and those that are “contradictory” to national values. The scholar’s wellmeaning intention to preserve the religious identity (and the concomitant general Muslim beliefs) of Muslim minorities may backfire in a way that further reinforces dangerous isolationist attitudes and feelings of remote “differentness”.
The fifth inadequacy of al-Qaradawi’s approach is his intention to re-establish the authority of ‘ulamā as a sole reference for Muslims worldwide. It is possible to identity several problems here. First, in reference to the scholar’s emphasis that only “moderate” scholars may constitute this specific board of ‘ulamā, he does not take into consideration the lack of clarity in the definition of “moderate” and the varying “progressive” tendencies within the “moderate” spectrum. Second, the scholar’s portrayal of this board of ‘ulamā seems to convey the impression that it will necessarily deprive other Muslim ideological orientations from contributing to the adjudication of Muslim affairs. Third, by claiming sole authority to represent and speak for the myriad Muslim groups within and beyond the Muslim world, the existence of this board of ‘ulamā may exacerbate the long-standing intra-Muslim disunity and defeat the scholar’s own intention to unite and consolidate the Muslim umma.
long-term sustainability and efficacy of his adaptive fiqh al-aqalliyyat. Notwithstanding the unobtrusive manner in which the fiqh helps Muslims maintain their beliefs in the Western context, al-Qaradawi’s non-assertive stance in the adaptation process may dangerously lead to Muslims lapsing into finding false comfort in the perpetual cycle of adapting and being forced into yielding to the (sometimes) excessive demands of contextual and situational realities, as noted by Ramadan (2009). As modernity advances and patterns of sensibilities continue to shift, the adaptive fiqh may possibly be challenged by bigger, unprecedented obstacles that push it beyond its limits (as set artificially by its jurists), while the scholar’s vision of the success of his “one-world” ‘ulamā organization has yet to show its fruits.
7.2 The Theology of Tariq Ramadan
It is clear from the discussions in the main chapters that Ramadan’s rhetoric reveals a balanced model of thinking that combines close sensitivity to the complex reality of Muslim minorities’ subjective experience of identity negotiation and sharp attentiveness to the evolving pluralistic context of the West. Although this may not be of significant surprise given the scholar’s personal background as a European of Muslim faith, it is his “native” perceptiveness that adds much cogency to his approach of investing more into the underlying psychological problems of Muslim integration than the more conspicuous theological fiqh issues that al-Qaradawi mainly focuses on. It should be noted, however, that, given the existence of points of convergence between
justice to many of the essential Muslim conventions that appear to be universal in the Muslim world (e.g., the five pillars of Islam and the six articles of faith). Through his formulation of shahāda, the Swiss thinker keeps close to the prevailing traditionalist trend of weaving together “faith” and “practice” as an essential dual element of Muslim identity, albeit at the possible risk of excluding Muslims who see some or all of “the five pillars of Islam” as merely insignificant ritualistic expressions of faith51. This duality complements his definition of the “authentic” Muslim identity as one that is neither dissolved in nor isolated from the Western environment52, which is reminiscent of al-Qaradawi’s notion of “balance” discussed in Chapter 4.2, wherein Muslims strike a balance between engaging with society and preserving the integrity of Islam (however complicated this may be in practice). Ramadan’s use of shahāda here also resembles alQaradawi’s use of intra- and extra-da’wa as a strategic means to drum into the consciousness of Muslims the responsibility of reflecting both an inward and an outward expression of religious commitment, fusing them in such a way that one seems insufficient without the other. What makes Ramadan’s approach appear slightly different (and consequently advantageous), however, is his avoidance of categorically freezing out “non-practicing” Muslims from relating to their religious identity in spite of his firm belief in the significance of religious practice. Thus, the scholar’s position
to the ritualistic dimension of Islam.
The second promising element of Ramadan’s approach is his rhetorical attempt at annulling the traditionalist Muslim perspective that religious identity and secular national identity are incompatible with one another. Through his thesis of the divineintended symbiosis between the Revelation and the universe and his subsequent restructuring of both these elements into mutually-complementing systems that can be used to formulate a coherent Islamic way of life, which is discussed in Chapter 5.3.1, Ramadan not only introduces sufficient flexibility into the traditional definition of Muslim identity that allows it to cope with the constant reconstruction of national identity, but also reorients Muslim thinking to accept that there is no inherent, irreversible conflict in being both a national of a secular European country and a sincere practicing follower of Islam. This, by extension, allows the scholar to reshape WesternMuslim perception of the European context, redefining the space as, first, a generally non-hostile home that lends itself to the rights and needs of Muslims to practice their faith, and second, an “area of responsibility”, in which it is religiously-incumbent upon Muslims to do justice to the message of Islam by way of participating in society, respecting the value of diversity, and personally exemplifying the teaching of Islam.
Furthermore, by approaching this issue from a religious point of view, Ramadan has a conveniently artful, and potentially propitious, way of rewiring Muslim minorities’ thinking to, first, see the process of finding a genuine sense of national belonging that is grounded in shared values as an “Islamic” duty, and second, embrace the positive aspects of the secular society that can help develop a coherent image of “EuropeanMuslim” identity.
third positive feature of the scholar’s modernist orientation, the scholar takes a critical attitude towards the commonly-cited intra-Muslim problems of minority mentality, sectarianism, isolationism, and identity confusion in negotiating ethnic, religious, and national characteristics. Many of his ideas and recommendations, though more rhetorical than direct, tend to come across as a “reality check” for Western Muslims, particularly those who wallow in a defeatist frame of mind and attribute socio-economic and political problems (many of which supposedly stem from within themselves) to the inadequacies of the European models of integration. Thus, instead of pinning all the blame of the Islam-West conflict on the socio-political configuration of the secular West, Ramadan appears to give a fair-minded analysis of the dynamics of said conflict, calling on Muslims to “own their part” in the issue and make necessary internal amendments, in addition to criticizing the inconsistencies of European integration policies, particularly those of the French Laïcité.
Ramadan’s recommendation above that Muslims rectify their own shortcomings goes together with his decision to place significantly more emphasis on “role-modeling” than “verbal preaching” as a means for Muslim minorities to convey the message of Islam (as mentioned in Chapter 4.3), which is the fourth strength of his approach. In correlation with his general disagreement with the idea of “Islamizing” the West and his long-standing emphasis on the reformation of the Muslim psyche rather than that of Islam, Ramadan places on Muslims the responsibility to conduct the process of disseminating the message of Islam primarily from within their own selves.
Approaching the Muslim duty of proselytization this way is conducive to the sociopolitical context of the West in two important ways. It is possible to perceive, first, that
not contradict national values, is in tune with the Western principle of “freedom” in its general sense, wherein people from all walks of life are free, within the remit of the law, to embody and express in the public sphere their peculiar individualities that reflect their personal beliefs. Subsequently, and this is similar to what has been pointed out in Chapter 4.2 about al-Qaradawi’s approach, it dovetails with the idealistic notion of “model minority”, wherein Muslims are encouraged to show the positive aspects of their religion through their behaviors and attitudes, which may help counter the growing misperception of Islam and concurrently rectify the previously-mentioned defeatist and divisive intra-Muslim attitudes.
Besides the advantages that come with Ramadan’s approach to the question of Western-Muslim identity through his use of shahāda, several more arise from his transformative model of reform (as discussed in Chapter 5.3), particularly in relation to the development of Islam in the modern world. One of the most important breakthroughs in Ramadan’s transformative reform, which makes the fifth crucial component of his overall approach, is his proposal for the equal division of authority on the formulation of human ethics between the ‘ulamā of Islam and experts of the natural and human sciences. Controversial though it may be to suggest this, many of the classical Muslim dictations in the social dimension of Sharia have shown to be inconsistent with natural modern contextual changes. Coupled with the reality that the prevailing perspective on the search of education and knowledge centers mainly on the pursuit of depth in a very narrow field of study, the multi- and interdisciplinary nature of contemporary problems facing society naturally necessitates a corresponding multifaceted approach that can only be attained through collaboration between experts
hand, the dictatorial prescription of rulings at the expense of Muslims’ wellbeing and rights (in addition to reducing Western Muslims’ dependency on the ‘ulamā in the Muslim world), and on the other hand, the freewheeling pursuit of the luxuries of modernity at the expense of their essential religious beliefs.