«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
Given Baum’s specific focus on relating Islam to Catholicism and his objective of simplifying the former for the general Christian reader, his analysis does not invest in discovering the practicality of the Swiss thinker’s reformist ideas in the context of Islam in the West, fleshing out problems that may or may not surround the latter’s conservative position on certain Muslims beliefs, and, most importantly, answering whether Islamic principles can be reconciled with the norms of secular society. In addition, the fact that Baum’s analysis does not include Ramadan’s ideas in his Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation (both of these works were published in 2009), means that it misses out on studying the latter’s “transformative reform” (as the main focus of the afore-mentioned book).
Andrew F. March’s Reading Tariq Ramadan: Political Liberalism, Islam, and “Overlapping Consensus” is a brief analysis of Ramadan’s ideas in one of his most popular books on Muslim integration and the issue of European citizenship, To be a European Muslim, on how Muslims can (and should) find a balance of adhering to their Islamic beliefs and fulfilling their European commitments (March, 2007). The work was
of political liberalism (e.g., individual freedom and universalism), and to compare them with the more radical Islamist views in contemporary Muslim thinking, particularly those of the Muslim Brotherhood. March finds that, not only does Ramadan distance himself from the more conservative Muslim thinking in many instances, but he also offers a form of European Islam that is ‘fully supportive of a liberal political order’ in the West (March, 2007, p.412). He bases his positive reading of Ramadan’s thinking on several of the scholar’s main ideas: First, Ramadan’s understanding of Muslim political participation is premised on the duty to protect and serve the welfare of Muslims and non-Muslims alike (as opposed to the former only), with emphasis on universalism and social solidarity; second, Ramadan promotes the value of “freedom of choice”, such as his refraining from taking an absolutist stance on the issue of compatibility or incompatibility between Islamic morality and European liberalism in order to give the new generations of Muslims the freedom to deal with it themselves, his belief that Muslims should be free to abide by religious prescriptions as they wish, and his rejection of Islamization in favor of granting people the freedom to embrace Islam based on informed choice. For March, Ramadan’s main beliefs here reveal that his thinking resonates with the values of mutual recognition, restraint, and individual freedom that are isomorphic with political liberalism, and are thus supposedly evidential of his (March’s) theory of “overlapping consensus”.
1.4 Study Focus and Methodology This comparative and deconstructive study of al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s thinking on European Islam and reform is an attempt at bringing transparency to the
response to their approaches to creating a pragmatic European-Muslim perspective that balances traditional attachment to religious beliefs with progressive commitment to societal harmony and cohesion. It enquires into three key areas of their theological focus: first, European-Muslim identity and the role of Muslims in the West - alQaradawi expresses this through the concept of da’wa (proselytization), while Ramadan does so through the concept of shahāda (testimony); second, their methodologies of reform with regard to fiqh and ethics - al-Qaradawi is noted for his “adaptive” approach, while Ramadan is known for his “transformative” approach; third, their approaches to several critical issues under the banners of criminal law and women’s rights in Islam that have become the centerpiece of the Islam-West debate. The presentation of the analysis of these three themes in the main chapters follows a dual focus approach: First, the study presents and analyzes al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s ideas, and second, it probes into the underlying principles that drive their approaches and the problems raised by their positions. No previous study has explicitly compared (and deconstructed in detail) the scholars’ views on da’wa and shahāda and their adaptive and transformative models of reform.
The study relies on the scholars’ main and most popular works (both paper- and digital-based) that deal wholly or partially with the topic of Islam and Muslim minorities in Europe. For analyzing the afore-mentioned three themes that constitute the main chapters in the thesis, the study makes use of the following books, the first four of which are by al-Qaradawi and the latter three by Ramadan: The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam (2003), Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase (1992), Fiqh of Muslim Minorities: Contentious Issues and Recommended Solutions
European Muslim (1999), Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (2004), and Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation (2009). These books represent the culmination of ideas that al-Qaradawi and Ramadan have been advocating for years and decades, and have accordingly been utilized by academics and analysts in the related field, as seen in the Literature Review. First, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam is a near-comprehensive collection of fatwas by al-Qaradawi, and one that is widely considered to be illustrative of his waṣatiyya position. Most of the scholar’s views in the book are still relevant to the present time and frequently referred to by scholars and laypersons despite a lapse of more than three decades since its first publication. The book is an indispensable resource for presenting and studying al-Qaradawi’s verdicts regarding many of the issues discussed in the main chapters in this thesis (e.g., women’s rights, Islamic law, morality, and interfaith relations)6. Second, Priorities of the Islamic Movement in the Coming Phase contains al-Qaradawi’s formulation of the concepts and boundaries of the global Islamic “revival” project (of which he is one of the main propagators) and his propositions concerning the establishment of Islam in the postmodern world. This work is one of the main sources from which al-Qaradawi’s understanding of da’wa is derived for the analysis in Chapter 4. Third, Fiqh of Muslim Minorities: Contentious Issues and Recommended Solutions is a collection of contemporary fatwas and solutions (produced by al-Qaradawi through the use of fiqh alaqalliyyat) to the problems faced by Muslim minorities in the West in adhering to traditional Muslim beliefs. These fatwas are explicative of the scholar’s reformist thinking and efforts to make Islam practicable in a secular, non-Muslim-majority
world, and are accordingly useful for the discussion in Chapter 5. Fourth, Islamic Awakening: Between Rejection and Extremism addresses the problems of Muslim youth in relation to the tendency of religious extremism and contains al-Qaradawi’s advice on the importance of keeping to the path of moderation. This popular book provides clarity to the scholar’s idea of balance between religious extremism and religious indifference, and is thus useful for the discussion in Chapter 4, particularly on the subject of European-Muslim identity and its expression in the modern secular context of Europe.
Fifth, To be a European Muslim creates a space for Ramadan to attempt at answering some of the key challenges faced by Muslims in Europe pertaining to the questions of belonging, identity and citizenship based on a thorough study of Islamic sources. Sixth, Western Muslims and the Future of Islam encompasses the summation of Ramadan’s ideas in To be a European Muslim and enables him to ruminate on the questions of political and social participation in light of Islamic principles. These two books by Ramadan cover his views on the intangible aspects of European-Muslim identity, and are thus helpful for the analysis in Chapter 4 and (to some extent) Chapter 5. Seventh, Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation deals with Ramadan’s perception of the limitations posed by fiqh al-aqalliyyat and the classical Muslim hermeneutics in addressing contemporary ethical challenges and Muslim issues. Although the book speaks more to Muslims in the modern world as a whole than Muslim minorities in Europe per se, a bulk of the ideas and propositions contained within the book are more feasible in a demographically diverse context where autonomy, freedom of choice, pluralism, and religious and secular equality are upheld as intrinsic values of society, such as the West. This piece of work is a major reference for the theme discussed in
on digital sources on the Internet in order to keep up-to-date with al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s most recent views (both written or oral) that are available on their personal websites and social media platforms.
In conformity with the afore-mentioned methodology, the study is intended to achieve several objectives; first, to reveal similarities and differences between the scholars’ thinking and subsequently judge whether their differences are more a matter of rhetoric or substance; second, to determine whether or not (and if so, to what extent) they take into account the practicalities of life in the West in their reformist approaches;
third, to examine the problems raised by their ideas and recommendations; fourth, to explore the implications of their teachings for the development of Islamic theology in the West; fifth, to identify the overall strengths and weaknesses of their positions. Given its focus, the study employs content and comparative methods of analysis for the purpose of examining both primary and secondary sources on al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s religious thoughts, and exploring their explicit contents as well as implicit.
Due to the scholars’ writings being situated in different cultural contexts, the study keeps its argument and discussion close to their theological backgrounds in order to avoid making simplified comparisons. The study makes primary use of sources in English and refers to those in Arabic where necessary.
In light of the above objectives, this study frames its discussion around the following questions. First, how and where do al-Qaradawi and Ramadan resemble and/or differ from one another with regard to their reformist thinking and methodologies on the construction of European Islam? Second, in accordance with the scholars’ reformist thinking, can Islamic principles be reconciled with the norms of
or Arabize society? Third, how do the scholars help set the boundaries of a form of European Islam that is both true to the Islamic tradition and suited to the practicalities of life in the West? Fourth, what are the problems raised by the scholars’ teachings and the issues that they face in their efforts to accommodate Islam to new situations?
1.5 Thesis Organization The thesis is divided into eight chapters with sections and subsections, as outlined in the table of contents. The first three chapters are of introductory, contextual, and biographical nature, while the succeeding four chapters represent the main analytical body of the thesis followed by the concluding chapter. The following are brief synopses of the chapters in the thesis, excluding this introductory chapter.
Chapter 2 presents a historico-contextual narrative that traces the development of Muslim minority communities in Europe and their subsequent growth from the 70s until the start of the 21st century, with emphasis on the key moments that had a bearing, both direct and indirect, on the characterization of Islam and Muslims in Europe and on the nature of the conflict between the principles of Sharia and the conventions of human rights in Europe. The chapter is divided into four sections: Muslim settlement in Western Europe, political Islam, the “new” generations of Muslims, and the Euro-Islam and Islamic Europe debate.
Chapter 3 presents a biography-cum-investigation of the intellectual formation of al-Qaradawi and Tariq Ramadan as two of the most renowned, controversial, and influential Muslim thinkers in the study of contemporary Islam. It focuses on three aspects of their lives and experiences: First, their early lives, educations, careers, and
Western academia; third, their engagement with and contributions to the affairs of Muslim minorities in the West and the issue of Islamic reform.
Chapter 4, as the first of the main chapters in the thesis, examines al-Qaradawi’s and Ramadan’s ideas, beliefs, and assumptions about the ideal “Western-Muslim” identity and its religious and socio-political functions through the Islamic concepts of da’wa and shahāda respectively. There are four sections in the chapter: Introduction, da’wa, shahāda, and discussion.
Chapter 5 examines and compares the scholars’ differing models of reform (adaptive and transformative) and their conceptual and methodological frameworks; the study’s focus on fiqh al-aqalliyyat in this chapter differs from previous works on the same topic in its more in-depth examination of the roots of the scholars’ methodological choices in the Islamic tradition and its more detailed reflections on the problems that
arise from such choices in the European context. The chapter consists of four sections:
Introduction, al-Qaradawi’s adaptive reform and fiqh al-aqalliyyat, Ramadan’s transformative reform and ethical reference, and discussion.
Chapter 6 explores the scholars’ approaches to the themes of ḥudūd (Islamic criminal law) and women’s rights in Islam, focusing on their views on key issues such as apostasy, homosexuality, polygamy, verbal repudiation of the wife by the husband in the Muslim divorce system, and veiling. The purpose of the chapter is to discover how the two scholars balance their traditionalist and reformist tendencies when dealing with the afore-mentioned issues, and to unfold the underlying philosophies that inform their positions. The chapter comprises four sections: Introduction, ḥudūd and Islamic morality, women’s rights in Islam, and discussion.
precede it and identifies the overall strengths and weaknesses of the scholars’ positions.