«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
and uses the Qur’an and Sunna to justify his position, while Ramadan follows a common humanist thinking in recommending Muslims frame their opposition to such norms within their personal space and to respect others’ choices.
issues chosen for discussion, the study brings to light the fact that al-Qaradawi shows a greater tendency than Ramadan to perpetuate classical Muslim perspectives57, although both scholars equally do not reject the idea of veiling as an obligation, polygamy as a concession, and male repudiation of the wife as an authorized procedure for effecting divorce under strict conditions, and refuse to consent to the notion that a Muslim woman can lead a congregational mixed-gender prayer. It is indicated that what makes Ramadan’s approach different from al-Qaradawi is his preference to speak of women and men as being equal before God, and to call on the former to realize their power and right in making their voices heard in any decision-making process58. Having showed this difference, the study states that both al-Qaradawi and Ramadan are willing to make compromises, such as the former’s recommendation that Muslim women in the West abandon their obligation of veiling when left with no choice and the latter’s call on Muslim men in the West to steer clear from polygamy in respect of the law in which they live.
limit their use of ijtihād in dealing with the discussed issues despite their usual support for critical reasoning. The two scholars abide by the classical bifurcation of Islamic
associated with the constitutionally-guaranteed principle of freedom of choice fall within the second category, leading to their prohibitions in Islam being perceived as “unchanging”. The study goes further to reason that the scholars’ positions reflect a two-sided representation of Sharia and the human; first, Sharia is a liberating, yet limiting force, and second, the human is God’s best creation by virtue of their intellect, yet is limited intellectually, weak, and prone to erring. These two representations seem to serve the purpose of confirming the Muslim belief that God’s laws, as interpreted by human beings, are absolute, and that reason alone is inadequate to determine what is good and bad for humankind. It is concluded in the chapter that the difference between Muslim thinking and modern sensibilities in the context of the issues discussed seems to be driven simply by a difference in values - the virtue of “self-restraint” in Islam, and that of “self-determination” in the secular modern society. It should be noted, however, that the findings in this chapter are plausible only insofar as the particular few issues chosen for discussion are concerned.
8.2.4 Strengths and Weaknesses of al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s Positions Chapter 7 takes a panoramic look at the findings made in the main chapters that precede it and identifies the strengths and weaknesses of al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s ideas, recommendations, and overall thinking on European Islam and reform. The study deduces that the reasoning of al-Qaradawi and that of Ramadan are preponderantly similar in terms of strengths, but entirely different in terms of weaknesses. On the one hand, the similarities in their strengths appear to give them an equal edge in terms of cogency and practicality, while their few differences only serve to further accentuate
the considerable extent to which they project their own worldviews, fears, expectations, and hopes – all, no doubt, shaped by their cultural, social, and educational backgrounds
- onto their readings of the Islamic tradition.
Despite the similarities in their pragmatic, yet cautious interpretations of the Islamic revelation and their attempts at rectifying rejectionistic, ethnocentric, and divisive Intra-Islamic sectarian attitudes among Muslim minorities, the study points out that each of the scholars’ positions appears to sway towards either side of the “IslamWest” pendulum; al-Qaradawi’s rhetoric seems to be more “Muslim-centric”59 than that of Ramadan, whereas the latter stands out as being more “European-friendly”60 than the former. It is mentioned in Chapter 7 that, in the context of their strengths, the scholars’ unique proclivities here - al-Qaradawi prioritizing the wellbeing of Muslims and Ramadan emphasizing the good of the common society as a whole - are merits unique to each of their approaches. The study cautions, however, that the strengths of alQaradawi’s thinking are counterpoised mainly by the Islamist sentimentality that he embeds within his ideas and recommendations, while those of Ramadan are undermined by the oblique nature of his propositions and his seemingly-meandering rhetoric.
overall approaches. First, they use ijtihād unhesitatingly to deal with issues that do not involve the core aspects of Islam; al-Qaradawi, however, has applied ijtihād even in
feel at ease adapting their beliefs to the realities of the European context and adopting a positive integrationist outlook overall, while the principles of universality and respect to which Ramadan adhere add realism and sensibility to the notion of co-existing peacefully in a shared environment. Third, both scholars acknowledge the importance of attaining social cohesion in the wider society. Finally, similar to what has been emphasized in every each of the preceding sections, both scholars appear to strive to balance standing up for the fundamental defining markers of Islam that identify one as “Muslim” and revisiting classical Muslim perspectives, notwithstanding the problems that they face in their efforts to achieve this.
objectives and questions that guide this study, three concluding points can be put forward concerning al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s thinking, the feasibility of reform in Islam, and the present and future of Islam in the West.
consisting of a few overlapping features whose resemblance is obscured by only rhetorical decorations, are distinctive enough to be considered different and unique in their own right. While the similarities61 in their approaches boil down to their intention to keep to the “equilibrium path” in their reformist thinking, their unique
proclivities; first, al-Qaradawi is principally a jurist with decades of experience and indepth expertise in a wide range of Islamic sciences, while Ramadan is mainly a philosopher grounded in the study of Western philosophy with considerable knowledge of classical Islamic scholarship; second; al-Qaradawi was born and is domiciled in a Muslim-majority environment in the Middle East, while Ramadan was born and raised in the pluralistic setting of Europe; third, al-Qaradawi’s Islamist thinking is plausibly a product of his idealization of Hasan al-Banna (who rejected all notions of Western influences), while Ramadan is professedly impartial to the late figure’s thinking despite their blood relation. It is likely that the coalescing of all these factors is the major contributor to the scholars’ ideological differences.
Muslim understanding of morality and ethics and the secular understanding of human rights are irreconcilable in al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s thinking. However, it is also obvious that it is not the intention of the scholars to find a way to liberalize Islam to the same degree as the conventional human rights thinking in Europe and the West as a whole; the “middle” position in which they situate themselves, thus, can never be considered as a perfect balance between two sides - it is subject to being perceived as “a little too traditional” or “a little too liberal” depending on how and by whom it is seen, which Ramadan himself repeatedly admits in his own work, and which al-Qaradawi often finds himself criticized for. For the purpose of addressing the question of adapting Islam to the modern context and that of being Muslim in the modern world, however, the positive aspects of al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s thinking seem to provide the
trends that stick to either side of the dichotomy.
Third, the findings established in the main chapters prove that Islam has the means to be accommodated, for the most part, to new situations, but whether this can be done in a manner that does not fuel the embers of the existing intra-Muslim disunity depends on the direction in which the prevailing Muslim thinking is oriented. The compromises that al-Qaradawi and Ramadan make in their reformist approaches play the most vital part in helping them reconstruct their models of Islam to better fit the modern context. Where they differ, the scholars are equally able to show that their ideas and recommendations have bases, whether explicit or extracted, and whether legitimate or questionable, in the Islamic tradition, and that each of their readings has an edge over the other in different ways; while al-Qaradawi’s position presents itself as the better solution to Muslim problems in the context of fiqh and theology, that of Ramadan stands out as the more pertinent choice for Muslim issues in the context of social integration and cohesion. Various 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 main chapters and summarized in the previous sections. However, the weaknesses of their positions (al-Qaradawi’s Islamist ideas and Ramadan’s unclear propositions) and the reality that some Muslim beliefs are believed to be “uncompromisable”, are, and will continue to be, a major concern as to the feasibility of the enculturation of Islam in European society. While it seems clear that the notion of “Europeanizing” Islam (in the sense of making Islam European “in essence”) does not have a place in either of the scholars’ thinking, Ramadan’s approach shows willingness to participate in debate with other systems of thought and belief
instituting a rigid social Islamic structure in Europe. Having suggested so, the gradual shift towards “assimilationist” policies that can be discerned generally in the contemporary European political discourse will likely lead to the scholars’ conceptualizations of European Islam being perceived, nevertheless, as leaving a lot to be desired.
To project further into the future and speculate the impending trends of Muslim integration and thinking in the West based solely on the findings of this research, and especially without considering the progress made by socio-scientific and ethnographic studies of the real lived experiences of the target Muslim minorities, is a complicated task that comes with the risk of making prejudicial and/or ambitious predictions and losing touch with reality. However, it may be safe to suggest in the least that the positions that al-Qaradawi and Ramadan find themselves in, the roles that they play as two of the most influential Muslim “reformers” in the modern world, and the propositional models of reform and Muslim thinking that they promulgate will remain relevant for as long as Muslims continue to face challenges in dispensing with a hermeneutics that reads the Revelation from the prism of cultural displacement and moral absolutism. The positive facets of their propositions provide a sound blueprint for the future of European Islam.
8.3 Suggestions on Future Research The scope for what remains to be studied in this under-researched area of theological study is large and only limited by one’s creativity. The limitations of this thesis already point to various gaps in the existing literature that should be addressed in
aspects of al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s ideas, they represent only a few highlights in the bigger scheme of their complex and sophisticated theologies. The use of various other dimensions of their thinking (e.g., al-Qaradawi’s “fiqh of balance”, “fiqh of priorities”, and “fiqh of citizenship”, and Ramadan’s theory of “The Seven Cs”) scattered throughout books and speeches in their native languages (Arabic and French) may expand on the current findings or even evoke different results that can bring further transparency and fairness to the scholars’ theologies. On the specific issue of women’s rights in Islam, engaging with a more substantial volume of “Islamic-feminist” and “Islamic-humanist” interpretations may significantly help in showing the contrast between the various streams of “balanced” Western-Muslim reformist thinking in order to examine further the question of whether, and how, Islam can be accommodated to the modern context. Finally, all these new bases for analysis may help bring further theoretical and practical contributions to the theological discussion on European Islam and reform and complement the findings made in the socio-scientific and ethnographic studies on Muslims minorities’ experiences in the West.
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