Elie Elhadj | Ph. D., Author London
April 17th, 2009

Re: ‘Syria is ...

Religious moderation is Syria’s distinctive characteristic. The cultural heritage of the Syrians reflects the evolved cultures of the East and the West over the long sweep of history. Of particular significance is the tolerant attitude of the average Syrian towards other religions and ethnicities. In a Middle East afflicted by religious dogma, extremism, bigotry, discrimination, and violence in the name of God the Syrian society is a refreshing model of tolerance and moderation.
A moderate climate, a well diversified natural resources endowment, and a strategic location at the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and Africa have combined to make Syria a cradle of nearly three dozen different civilizations over the past twelve millennia. The interaction among these civilizations arguably evolved into the earliest models of settled agriculture and urbanized societies, the earliest forms of alphabet and writing, and, significantly, the invention of Semitic deities plus the monotheistic faiths.

Might Syria be true to its heritage of religious creativity? Might Syria produce the future Muslim Martin Luther; or, at the very least, might Syria succeed in separating religion from the state; thus, setting an example for the Arab world, like Kemal Ataturk’s success in separating Islam from the Turkish State following the First World War?

State secularization and Islamic reform are important for two reasons. The first is to set free peoples’ creativity and intellectual reasoning. The hold of the ulama class on Muslim minds is the worst form of slavery. Continued control by the clerics will continue to manacle Muslims to seventh century laws and dogma of the Arabian Desert. Unless this control is ended the Arab and Muslim peoples will sadly remain intellectually barren, trapped in poverty, the object of ridicule and exploitation by the developed world.
To join the ranks of the developed world is to manumit the Muslim mind from the spell of the ulama. Such would free people from the debilitating demagoguery of the belief in predestination, fate, superstition, and psychotic explanations of the evil eye and the machinations of angels and djinn. Release from the ulama’s hold would end personal status laws that reduce women to chattel. Release from the ulama’s influence would also mean becoming free to study the historicity of the Quran and the Hadith scientifically without the fear of being persecuted under blasphemy laws.

The demand for the clerics’ services should be reduced. Muslims can learn from the European experience. Had it not been for separating Christianity from the European state, for ending the tyranny of the church’s clergy, the industrial revolution might not have happened when it did and Western modernity might not have become what we see today. Muslim governments ought to separate religion from the state, institute modern laws and judicial systems, and emphasize in the educational curriculum and public discourse the peaceful and creative parts in the Islamic creed. Separating religion from the state does not mean, however, relegating the religious preferences of individuals a secondary role. The relationship between God and man is a personal matter and must be respected.
The second benefit from state secularization and religious reform is to sharpen the fight against jihadism and terrorism. Release from the control of extremist clerics, who preach violence, martyrdom, and intolerance against other religions and Islamic sects, like what the Saudi Wahhabi clerics teach with impunity, could reduce jihadism and terrorism. Is it a coincidence that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers who committed the September 11 murders, along with Osama Bin Laden and many of his lieutenants, are all Saudis? This is not to imply, however, that 9/11 was a state-sponsored atrocity.

Attempts at secularization and modernization in independent Syria date back to the country’s first coup in 1949, led by General Husni Al-Zaim. During his short four-and-a-half-month rule, Husni Al-Zaim set in motion fundamental changes akin in some respects to the Ataturk reforms in Turkey. For example, literate women were given the vote; the process of breaking up the awkaf (or religious endowments) and of substituting modern civil, criminal, and commercial codes for the Muslim Shari’a law was advanced (Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria, 1986, 58).

Syria’s successive governments since independence from the French mandate in 1946 maintained a drive towards modernization. However, religious reforms have been lacking. Shari’a courts, for example, still hear cases involving personal status, family, and inheritance disputes of Muslims (non-Muslims follow their spiritual courts). Further, although Syria’s constitution is the only constitution in the Arab world, apart from Lebanon’s, that does not make Islam the religion of the state, it specifies, however, that the president must be a Muslim.
While it is safe to say that most Syrians are conscious of the threat Islamist extremism poses to their way of life and age-old religious and ethnic harmony, the forty-year old rule by the “secular” Baath Party has been timid in effecting serious religious reforms. The caution may be attributed to the government’s inability to confront hostilities from two quarters simultaneously; namely, Washington’s political hostility towards Damascus plus the opposition that religious reforms could provoke, especially among the orthodox element of Syria’s Sunni population. Orthodoxy has been on the rise alarmingly in the recent decades as a reaction to political frustrations at home and from abroad.

To fortify against Washington’s pressure, the government projects an image of Islamic piety in order to benefit from Islam’s injunction that Muslims mus t obey the Muslim ruler blindly. God orders in 4:59 of the Quran: “Obey God and obey God’s messenger and obey those of authority among you.” Further, the Prophet Muhammad was reported as saying, according to Muslim’s Hadith collection, “He who obeys me obeys God; he who disobeys me, disobeys God. He who obeys the ruler, obeys me; he who disobeys the ruler, disobeys me.” Abi Dawood and Ibn Maja, also, quoted the Prophet in their Hadith collections as ordering the faithful to hear and obey their ruler, even if he were an Ethiopian slave.

For Syria to embark upon a serious program of secularization and religious reforms, the government needs to concentrate all of its resources to confront domestic religious opposition to secularization and religious reforms, without foreign distractions. Good relations between Washington and Damascus could go a long way towards enabling Syria realize its religious reforming potential.

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75 Responses to the Article

david s Says:

The policy of the Syrian government has always been secularism, and mutual respect amongst varying creeds. I would suggest without hesitation that there is no other country in the Middle east that can compare in religous tolerance and sense of unity to that of Syria. It is a true strength and an exemplar for a region that has been plagued by fundementalism, sectarianism and clannish provincialism!

Mazen Says:

Elie,

Good article, and I agree with most of what you had to say. I just would like to clarify one point and that is that Islam has been hijacked by a succession of rulers and a significant proportion of Islam as it is practiced today is a deformation of the intended message.

A fundamental theme in Islam has been to reject clergy, where people blindly give up their choice and opinion to a small group of priests/rabbis/ulama or whatever you want to label them. Something of that message has survived, where you have not intermediates between man and God. Muslims to not confess to any human being and do not bow to any person.

However, rulers ancient and recent have found ways to circumnavigate the essence of Islam, and many have done it in the name of Islam, Allah, and Prophet themselves. You may be aware that several scholars agree that there was a lot of Hadith falsification introduced into what we today call mainstream Islam. Some of those Hadiths contradict the Qur’an itself, but have taken on a more prominent role in the casting of laws. One example is the freedom of belief. The Qur’an says “La Ikraha fi Deen” (Religious choice cannot be forced upon people), many Hadiths threaten those who change away from Islam with death. These Hadiths – I believe – were implanted by successive rulers as a political weapon, and have sure enough been utilized to the maximum in getting rid of political dissidents in the name of Islam.

Yes, Syria is a good candidate for a Muslim Martin Luther. So is Egypt and Iraq.

Until then, let’s all work to preserve the jewel that is Syria, and protect it from the Samoum winds.

Elie Elhadj Says:

Mazen,
Thanks for your kind comment.
You are correct in saying: “A fundamental theme in Islam has been to reject clergy.” Indeed, the Quran condemns priests and rabbis (5:63, 9:31, 9:34…).

You are also correct in saying: “Muslims to not confess to any human being”. Prayer and other rituals forgive a Muslim’s own sins.

However, in order to guide the faithful into the Islamic way of life, the ulama thrust themselves into not only the spiritual life of Muslims but also into every detail of life’s temporal sphere. The masses seek guidance from the ulama on every worldly and spiritual matter, from personal hygiene, diet, and healthy living, to good manner, family affairs, and religious rituals. The airwaves and newspapers are filled with questions on whether, for example, it is permissible to have a tattoo, colour one’s hair, wear a gold ring or a silk garment, or what to eat, how to greet a guest, and what to say to a person who sneezes, etc…

From mosques, newspapers, radio, and television the ulama vocally threaten those who fail to heed their guidance with the wrath of God, eternal damnation, and hell’s fire. Wrapping God’s law and dogma tightly around the body of Muslims, the ulama created for themselves financially lucrative careers, political influence, and high social standing.

It is interesting to note that as the scope of the ulama’s influence grew, Protestantism stripped much of the Catholic priesthood of its obtrusive control and abuse of power. Martin Luther proclaimed his manifesto against the Catholic Church, the pope, and the clergy in October 1517. Lutheran reforms denied the authority of the pope, abolished the mass, broke the priests’ control over access to salvation, created radically new systems of Christian doctrine, and founded new churches. Protestantism shook the hierarchical, sacerdotal, sacramental church to its foundation. Luther eliminated the distinction between priest and laymen. In its place Luther taught his conception of a priesthood of all believers.

Devoid of intermediaries between God and man, Luther’s conception of the relationship between Christians and God became essentially identical to the original conception of Islam regarding the direct relationship between Muslims and God. Christians, the followers of a religion based on priesthood, evolved under the Lutheran influence into a group that was less controlled by Christian clergy, while Muslims, the followers of a supposedly non-church-based religion became controlled by the ulama class.

Elie

Mazen Says:

Elie,

What you say is true, and there’s more than one hint in your writing that strongly suggest a particular country that uses the very word Ulama more than any other. In that country, the Ulama are a class of unchallenged priests that have been using the telecom technology and the petrodollar to cast as wide a net upon the region as possible.

Driving around in most Syrian cities will visibly confess to their potency which extends to as far out as Algeria and the Philippines.

In the last few years, they have climaxed, and I think they’re in a decline now. However, I strongly agree that Syria should have a more active role in shaping Islam than it does today. The world needs that, and very few other candidates can cut it.

Elie Elhadj Says:

Mazen,
Your last sentence summarizes the reason behind my article: “Syria should have a more active role in shaping Islam than it does today. The world needs that…”.
Yes, Mazen, the world; indeed, Islam itself, cannot afford a greater dose of Saudi Wahhabi Islam.

Elie

ayman hakki Says:

A timely essay. Nothing is worth discussion more than “Syria is…” resistance to fanaticism and sectarianism. Importing this immunity towards that dangerous disease is a worthy cause and I applaud you.

Ibn Arabi was the Grand Sheik of Islam in the 13th century. El-Sheikh Muhideen quarter of old Damascus was named after him. He too was attacked by the mercantile class, in concert with traditionalist ulma. One verse of his speaks clearer to my than any other Islamic quote;
My religion is a flock of deer in a field
My religion is Rabbis in a synagogue
My religion is monks in a monastery
My religion is Muslims in prayer
My religion is love.

I have no idea why popular Islam went from Ibn Arabi to Ibn Abdul Wahab, but I suspect petrodollars were a catalyst of this change. Today’s Islam doesn’t even resemble the Islam of the first Millennia after Muhammad (peace be upon him). Our job is to resurrect that tolerant Islam. Take it back from the Wahabis and put it the hands of Ibn Arabi and Rumi and the other men and woman who spent their last days in the Levant. We Levantines are best suited for the job.

Bisher Imam Says:

Elie

Thank you for tackling this important topic. I agree with most of what you wrote in the article itself and in the subsequent discussion with Mazen. In the main article, you call on the government to “concentrate all of its resources to confront domestic religious opposition to secularization and religious reforms, without foreign distractions”. This is a very delicate issue that must be handled in manners that does not open the door for claims that the state is practicing religious oppression, favoring one interpretation over another, or restricting religious freedom. It is not an issue of appearance, but an issue at the core of what does secularization mean. I believe that from a governance perspective, secularization and religious reforms should be approached independently. Secularization is a state issue. It is an obligation of the state not to favor any religion or sect over another and to ensure that all citizens are subject to the same laws. As for religious reforms, the state should have no direct interference in the dialogue. Its involvement must be limited to its obligation to protect the safety and the intellectual freedom of all of its citizens. As such a threat, explicit or implicit, issued by one of the orthodox ulama in the form of a religious edict, a sermon, or a TV interview, should be taken seriously and litigated in court. But that can only be done if fair hate speech laws are enacted and separated from public decency laws. The state can also revisit its accreditation process. It should rightfully claim the right to decline licensing imams unless they pass a rigorous civics training, and the right to rescind such a license if violations of hate speech laws are determined, by a civil court to have occurred. It is unfortunate that laws in most Islamic countries are designed not to allow reforms, but to suffocate them. Take for example the ridiculous, outright criminal use of Shari’a style laws in Egypt to harass Nawal Saadawi. What a shame.

Elie Elhadj Says:

Ayman,
What a beautiful quote from Ibn Al-Arabi you provided. You have enriched the discussion. Thanks.

May your wish in wanting to take Islam back from the Wahhabis and put it the hands of Ibn Arabi and Rumi become a reality!

You might be aware that in June 2006, Turkey announced that it had formed a committee composed of thirty-five religious scholars to study the removal of all Hadith references attributed to the Prophet that encourage violence against women. The reasoning is that it is impossible to attribute to the Prophet any Hadith that insults women or recommends or justifies violence against them. Leaders of the Hadith project said in February 2008 that successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad.

Bishr,
I agree with what all that you outlined. Thank you.

As a first step, however, might Syria benefit from the Tunisian experience?

Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba (July 25, 1957 – November 7, 1987) was careful to secularize within the framework of a modernist reading of Islam. He presented reforms as the product of ijtihad, not a break with Islam. He abolished Shari’a courts and polygamy.
Such reforms are of critical importance in the modern age. That a “secular” Baath agenda failed after 40 years of rule to institute modern personal status laws is breathtaking.

The contradictions between the Prophet’s fine treatment of His first wife Khadija and the way Shari’a evolved on the treatment of women must be reconciled. We are told that the Prophet’s first wife was the best born in Quraish, a successful businesswoman and, too, the richest. Khadija employed young Muhammad in her business. She proposed marriage to him when he was about 25 years old. She was about 15 years his senior and twice a widow. For the 25 years of the Prophet’s marriage to Khadija, until her death in 620, the Prophet remained monogamous to her. She was the one person to whom the Prophet turned for advice and comfort. Khadija was the first convert to Islam. Such an image makes Khadija an emancipated, commanding woman of high standing in Meccan society and in the eyes of her husband par excellence. The Prophet treated Khadija with respect, faithfulness, and devotion.

Contrast this fine treatment of a wife with the latest despicable pronouncements coming out of Wahhabi ulama and their apologists that sanction the forced marriage of nine-year old girls to men the age of their grandfathers, let alone sanctioning those demeaning Misyar marriage contracts.

Elie

ayman hakki Says:

Great point Elie.

In the sirah, no one had a bigger role than Khadija’s. Traditionalists know this, but being misogynists (as all ancient groups of men tend to be) they sidelined her contribution in their commentary. Her story speaks for itself. I refer you to Randa Hamwi a scholar of Islamic thought and her work on Islam and women. She is a treasure.

I am aware of Turkey’s efforts, but Syrians are better suited for this job> We are Arabic speakers and that gives us a heads up on others in correcting Koranic misinterpretation and catching Hadith falsification. We also have a Nakshbandi tradition of Islamic thought that predates Wahabism by hundreds of years. They must be drawn out of their seclusion to engage the forces of Islamic militancy.

Most secular humanists don’t feel comfortable talking about religion but we Syrians do, so we are the people who will and can take Islam back from the Wahabis.

On a lighter note; one wife is possibly too many, and equality is good only if it allows us Syrian men to rise to the level of our women, not vice versa; ask Abufares about mine, just found out he’s her cousin.

Ayman.

Elie Elhadj Says:

Ayman,

I agree.

The fact that the Prophet, His Companions, the Quran, and the Sanctuaries in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem are all Arabic suggests that Arab scholars should take the lead. However, blasphemy laws must be abolished first so that learned men and women in Arab countries, Syria included, may speak out publically without the fear of prosecution. As you well know, there have been in recent years well-publicized court convictions and severe penalties in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan imposed upon the few who dared to express their opinions on sensitive religious issues.

Regrettably, Syrian, and other Arab officials have not even denounced the sentences imposed on the people involved.

So, if Turkey takes the lead, yet again, why not? Hopefully, Arab clerics will not attack their Turkish colleagues as apostates and blasphemous.

Elie

ayman hakki Says:

Blasphemy laws are a problem, but I haven’t heard of them being implemented in Syria, where I think the debate should end…even if it began in Turkey. Feathers are sure to be riffled.

This blog seems to be trending towards a conclusion; Syria is a mosaic, each individual piece is a jewel, but the whole work needs a historic restoration like one that was performed on the ceiling of the Sistine Chappell. Islam’s older orders are a part of this jewelry and so are other Syrian religious orders like Christendom’s, Judaism’s, even the Druze’s and the Ismailis’ way of worship. Wahabi Islam stands in the way of this restoration. Traditionalists concerns should be addressed, then we must move on in the spirit of “Syria first”.

It’s like this; everyone knows there’s a problem there, no one thinks that it’ll go away on its own, but no one wants to deal with it. It could be that the past 8 years has distorted reality to the point that all of us feel that even a gentle critique of Islam-while it was under attack by the neocons and Christian Zionists-was a bad idea. Obama is now here, Bush and his ilk are gone, so let’s move on. Islam needs to be restored to the way it used to be in 1200 in Damascus not as it was in Medina at the time of the Hijra, or in Mecca today. Islam is not a uniform slab of green marble with a sword etched on its cold smooth surface…our Islam is a warm tapestry of faiths.

Elie Elhadj Says:

Very well put, Ayman.
The value of this blog has been to discuss freely a taboo subject. The heartening discovery is that a bunch of Syrians of different backgrounds are on the same wave length in diagnosing and prescribing a solution to the fundamental issue of religious reforms. With such agreement, modernity in our homeland’s legal system could have a chance.

Elie

Elie

Bisher Imam Says:

Elie
I fully agree with you. It is about time to end the timidity you described earlier. Syria can definitely benefit from the Tunisian experience as well as from the failures of the past and current.

Even a most casual blog surfing will easily demonstrate the extent of the threat Wahabi ideology pose to both modernity and prosperity, and the fact that despite of awareness of that threat, efforts to combat it at intellectual level continue to be timid and highly individualistic, due to the extreme repressiveness, rhetorical violence of the orthoxy, and the physical manifestation of that rhetorical violence. But truth be told, Wahabi ideology is not an outlier with no foundation within the continuoum of Islamic interpretations. And to confront it, one must go further back to identify the true point of departure from what Ayman identifies as Damascus of the 1200. To borrow from computer terminology, we are in desparate need to clean the registry, and to establish a firewall that combines legal, intellectual, and governance mechanisms to inoculuate, as best as possible, Syria from such a bad influence. From what you described, I it seems that what Tunisia did falls in one way or another into that approach.

I am aware of a few isolated, yet individual efforts to do just that, primarily at the intellectual level. My hope is that a critical mass is acheived soon to provide enough momentum to confront the well funded attempts to silence these voices. And that the timidity is brought to an end in manners that are cautious, daring, and above all, intellectually honest.

Again, I must thank you for bringing to the fora this most important topic.

Maysaloon Says:

Elie,
You say that the Middle East is afflicted by religous dogma, extremism, bigotry and discrimination. Not once do you mention that the Middle East is primarily afflicted with the curse of occupation, colonialism and concerted Western efforts to divide, conquer and subdue. You also do not mention the biggest blight, the existence of a Zionist settler state in Palestine, as one of these ills. This is confusing and alarming at once since the tone for the rest of your essay implies that such an omission may not have been an accident. I also think that a vast majority of the people of these monotheistic faiths would be a little bit annoyed with you for claiming that their faith is “invented”, however great an idea you believe it to be.

The next paragraph in your essay is even more terrifying, where you set the tone for your essay by calling for a Muslim Martin Luther and the separation of religion from the state, citing, of all possible examples, the sad catastrophe which is Mustafa Kemal’s decapitation of Turkey. Another of the commentators even had the gall to mention Tunisia as a successful example for Syrians to emulate.

Your argument for state secularization and Islamic reform is dialectic, and with the flimsiest of foundations. The basis for its narrative is one which is perhaps more suitable for a thinktank in Washington DC than on actual facts. Pivotal to your argument is that the reader accepts your claims about the so-called Ulama “class” prima facie. An argument which is then buttressed by ugly language which is evocative of Raphael Patai’s “The Arab Mind” and is in fact racist, hateful and grotesquely Orientalist.

You talk about secularisation and the desperate need for it, yet from Morrocco to Iraq there is not one single Islamic state, apart from Saudi Arabia. The example you give of Syria verges on the criminal when placed in perspective. Syria is in fact a country which has killed 30,000 of its own citizens in the name of the secularism you are calling for. You may wish to read up on this massacre, it is popularly called the Hama Massacre, if you know Arabic it is referred to locally as Ahdath Hama.

Overall, your article appears to be less about what Syria is to you and more about how little you know of Islam, the regions history and your intense dislike of this faith and its adherents. That none of the other commentators on this thread have picked up on this is an indication that either they have not read your article and are simple sycophants, or they themselves know nothing better than what you are presenting them with. Either way, this hardly looks like a promising example for Syria’s brightest and best.

Yours sincerely,
Maysaloon

Alex Says:

Dear Wassim

I will let Elie reply to your harsh criticism if he feels like it. For your information he is 40 years older than you, has two Ph.D’s from reputable universities, was Chairman nad CEO of one of the largest Arab banks, lived in Saudi Arabia for many years, wrote many books on various subjects …

I would have tried a bit harder to be polite when I communicate with him.

I just realized that you have removed me from your list of friends on Facebook. Of course, you also refuse to link Creative Syria on your blog even though Creative Syria links to you.

Perhaps my name, or my site’s name are too filthy for your moral pureness? .. or is it that you can not tolerate views that are different from yours?

Should I make assumptions about your beliefs and value system like you always do about those you do not agree with? … is it because I am a Christian that you removed me from your facebook? should I assume that you believe all Christians and non Muslims will go to hell?

Don’t worry, I know that you do not despise all non Muslims. But if I did make those wild assumptions, i would have been a copy of you … and I wouldn’t want to be that.

You are always welcome to write a post here if you want. This forum is open to all points of view and you are very capable writer.

Elie Elhadj Says:

Maysaloon,

Thanks for the comment.

I have been anticipating a comment like yours for a while.

Opposition to religious reform is typically expected from two sides; the masses who are prisoner of generations of indoctrination and who feel that their dogmatic, but comfortable, system of beliefs is under threat and the clerics, in this case the ulama class, who want to protect a franchise that intoxicate them with lucrative careers, power, and domination over others.

Before Martin Luther’s reforms succeeded in Europe, rivers of blood were spilled.

There is little value to engage here in a rebuttal of your accusations. There is also little reason to repeat why a Muslim Martin Luther is so desperately needed—the article and the comments give a flavour of that. Suffice it to say, however, that the Muslim masses deserve to achieve in the modern age no less than what their Western Christian counterparts have achieved. It is heartbreaking to watch one’s own people mired in darkness and backwardness of their own making. The children of Maysaloon and the Muslim masses merit and can do better. They can earn the respect of the civilized world.

Maysaloon, since I reveal my real name may I please ask you to introduce your good self.

Elie Elhadj

offended Says:

Dear Elie,

Thank you for the powerful article. The opposition to secularization, which you’ve mentioned in your reply to Wassim, is probably much more vehement in reality than you’d imagine. I come from one of those ‘orthodox’ sunni families you’ve mentioned, and I am a staunch supporter of secularism. I had hundreds of arguments in the past with family and friends. And I’d always be looked at with a suspicious eye like I am a collaborator with the global Zionist movement or something. ……It’s very difficult, Dr. Elie, I am telling you. When I ask somebody to put aside his own belief in the absolute veracity of religious creed, so that we could have a balanced and rational conversation, I’d usually be told that asking such question is akin to asking somebody to be stripped off his/her religion altogether.

My continuous and deep contemplation of this subject had lead me to believe that the existence of real and serious problems within the state is the actual reason why people are on the lookout for alternative agenda/ideology. They assume that secularism is bad since it’d been tried but failed to achieve accountability of state. They assume that an official is corrupt because he doesn’t fear God….and so on and so forth.

I am certain, as you’ve indicated in your introduction, that the average Syrian person is at a sufficient level of moderation that when these problems are addressed, I am sure there will be lesser demands for religiosity and lesser extremism.

Maysaloon Says:

Alex,
Our friends and the Truth are both dear to us, but the Truth is dearer still and when the two of these conflict, we must side with the latter. That is proper and good. I actually take offense by your implication that my response to Mr el Hadj was impolite, I may be harsh and scathing in my criticism but I am certain that there is nothing offensive in what I said and I am well within the limits of polite discourse, as I always am and as I am sure you are aware from past scuffles I have had with people I have disagreed with – on this site and elsewhere.

As for the Facebook removal, I’m sorry if you felt offended. I’ve noticed a distinct lack of sportsmanship and in most cases outright hostility from a variety of Syrians who blog or opine on these issues whenever there beliefs or claims have been scrutinised and I had decided to limit the amount of people who have access to my profile. I’m sorry if in fact you aren’t one of them and of course I would be happy to be counted amongst your friends in Facebook again, as in real life.

I will now respond to Mr el Hadj’s response, using my real name.

Regards,
Wassim Al-Adel

Maysaloon Says:

Mr ElHadj,
I assure you that whilst my comments can be abrasive at times, this is strictly within the subject matter we are dealing with and not personal. I can appreciate that you would anticipate a comment such as mine, for it is expected albeit not for the reasons you have in mind. Far from broaching a “taboo” subject, your essay was simply a reflection of the desperation with which the Syrian, and in fact the Arab, intellectual classes, have been trying to explain the reasons for the problem that our peoples face. As the popular saying goes in Syria, you wished to apply eye-liner but instead blinded the poor girl.

There is in fact much value in engaging here with my accusations, since they are in fact the crux of the disagreement between us and also why I think you are wrong in your claims. I also would mention to you that the rivers of blood you speak of flowed *after* Martin Luther’s declarations and not before. In addition, I am sure you are aware that the European Catholic Church, still one of the richest organisations in human history, and its oppression of science, knowledge and justice on that continent, which would have provoked the reaction it did. In fact, right up until the present, and with the exception of Latin America, the position of the Catholic church on political issues mirrors exactly that of the political elites and establishments. Islam has in fact always been a religion which is wary of power, rulers and princes. The warnings that the hadith hold of those who associate and flatter rulers cannot be clearer, and even in Imam al Ghazali’s various letters on religion, we find constant warnings of assocating with the princes and sultans “who have their own valley in hellfire, if they have been unjust”. Your claim of an oppressive and avaricious “ulama class”, hungry for power, is an extreme stretch of the imagination and very hard to substantiate. In short, there is no “ulama” class, simply because it is very hard for anybody to contort religion when the same texts and laws are available for all to read. Imam’s in fact have a tough time in their Friday sermons because they know they can stand to be corrected at any time. This is a tradition that stretches back to the first companions of the Prophet Muhammad. The Caliph Omar (who was probably the strictest of the companions in his adherence to Islamic law) was corrected by a woman on one occasion when he made the wrong decision on a matter. He humbly accepted the correction and acknowledged her knowledge on this matter. That the political rulers of the Muslims leave much to be desired is not due to religious issues and is the ail of human political systems since the dawn of time. The religion itself sets a standard which is very clear and at no time have the Muslims been fooled as to who does and does not live up to that standard.

You mentioned a quote about Muslims obeying the rulers, but immediately following those quotes is a continuation with the caveat that “unless they are unjust” in which case you must fight them. In fact it is religiously incumbent upon all Muslims to stand up to a tyrant should he not rule according to the Islamic Shariah and much work on this matter has been written by Sayid Qutb no less, but also by much more moderate people such as Muhamad Asad and many many others to name but a few.

There is no parallel between Western European Christianity and the Islamic world, both have different historical contexts, problems and underlying beliefs that form the foundation for their arguments. To paint them all with the same brush is ambitious indeed and commits a grave injury to a clearer understanding of what issues need to be tackled by the children of Maysaloon and the Muslim “masses” as you called them.

In addition, I wonder often about this term, “civilized world”, when the most horrible atrocities have been committed by it, far outweighing anything that even the recent phenomenon of “jihadi’s” as you call them,has carried out. This civilized world has plunged the planet into two world wars, nuclear war, a cold war, countless wars in the third world because of their greedy dash for power, the creation of movements such as the Khmer Rouge, the Stalinist purges, the Holocaust, global warming and pollution, capitalist excess and the ruination of the livelihoods of millions of people. The proliferation of weapons and small arms which have fuelled countless civil wars. The list goes on and on and on. What civilized world such as I have mentioned even deserves such a respect from us when it is we who are civilized in spite of our lack of “technological” and military might. The material benefits that their way of life has given them does not make them better than us. It is not by bread alone that a man lives…

Yours sincerely,
Wassim Al-Adel

Elie Elhadj Says:

Offended,

Thanks. The task ahead is long and arduous whether at the family home, school, workplace, or the country at large.

Arab kings and presidents alike impose their tyranny aided on every turn by the palace ulama, turning blind obedience to these despots (waliy Al-Amr) into a form of piety.

I agree with you that state misrule has been driving many people towards God. I may add that not only injustice at home is causing this shift but also injustice from abroad; namely, Washington’s policies in the Middle East and Israel’s humiliation of Arabs have been turning the moderate into orthodoxy and the orthodox into jihadism.

However, enacting modern laws, particularly personal status laws, would restore to 50% of society equality with men and that is a good thing.

Elie

Elie Elhadj Says:

Hi Wassim,

It is good to know who I am talking to.

May I point out that in saying “before Martin Luther’s reforms succeeded in Europe, rivers of blood were spilled” I meant that the rivers of blood were spilled as a result of the Lutheran revolution not before.

That the Catholic Church is rich does not mean that lawmaking in Western countries is controlled by the church. While politicians might attend church on Sunday, the legislative process in parliament is free of church interference. Laws in the West are secular. Just witness the frequent news items in London, Paris, and American cities that prohibit the wearing of a cross pendant by a school girl or a teacher in a public school.

The ulama, despite the Quran’s attack on clergy, became in effect a clergy class themselves. Consider the Wahhabi clerics, for example. As I have indicated above; “Luther’s conception of the relationship between Christians and God became essentially identical to the original conception of Islam regarding the direct relationship between Muslims and God. Christians, the followers of a religion based on priesthood, evolved under the Lutheran influence into a group that was less controlled by Christian clergy, while Muslims, the followers of a supposedly non-church-based religion, became controlled by the ulama class.”

In 4:59 and the Hadiths reported by Muslim, Abu Dawooud, and Ibn Maja, mentioned in the article above there is no qualification on the demand for blind obedience to the Muslim ruler. Injunctions that sanction rebellion against a Muslim ruler if he becomes impious or unjust were reported by Muslim, Abi Dawood, and Al-Nasai. They attributed to the Prophet the saying: “Whoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart.” Jihadists rely on such injunction to justify their rebellion against the Muslim ruler.

The civilized world is a general term used here to signify the leading countries in economic welfare and the contributers to the advancement of the arts and the sciences. I realize that it is a rather loose expression.

Hopefully, I answered your points, Wassim.

Elie

Maysaloon Says:

Elie,
You are being unfair with me and holding back in your answers. The process initiated by Martin Luther was not the catalyst for secularism, but rather the treaty of Westphalia, which ensured that kings ruled over there realms with no interference from the Church. Western European countries thus swapped one ruler with another. It is of course understandable that a rebellion would eventually have taken place against the Church, but I did not mean that the Church controls or influences the legislative process in the West in any way, my emphasis on their wealth was to point out a certain imbalance here which brings to mind the saying of Imam Ali, “no wealth or money is accumulated without injustice”. The reason I mentioned all this was to point out the very different circumstances in which secularism was seen as a favourable alternative to the Church’s oppression. I did not mean an attack on the concept itself, but rather to point out that one does not need to take an aspirin if it is his stomach which is hurting. It is the same with calls for secularism in the Arab world.

I will not consider the Wahhabi’s, and in fact they are precisely the “rulers” ulama that you refer to earlier. Even so, not all of them are as you describe and in fact not all of them are as contemptible as you paint them out to be, neither is all that they advocate as heinous a crime as those in the West would have people believe. Again, you generalise broadly for a very large and diverse group of people in a very specific part of the Arab world. What are your sources? Where are you getting the information to back up these exaggerated claims?

With regards to the Hadith’s you quoted, I meant that there are in fact continuations to that theme with the important caveat I noted, for example the Prophet stated that the Muslim is to hear and obey in what he likes and what he dislikes, but if ordered to disobey the laws of Allah then he neither hears nor obeys.

In the Quran there is the command: “oh you who believe obey Allah and the Prophet and your rulers from amongst you and if you disagree then refer to Allah and the Prophet”. The ruler is clearly a peer amongst his Muslims, the resolution of disputes is a return to the Quran (Allah) and the Hadith (the Prophet).

The hadith you refer to are correct and valid, they are also important. But you miss out the nuances in order to provide further ammunition for your argument that Muslims are commanded to be sheeplike in obeying their rulers, however oppressive. This is not the case and the relationship is much more subtle than you make of it. The term “jihadists”, which you use as an epithet, is actually a compliment and not an insult by the way. This too, appears to be a broad brush with which you tar anybody who uses Islam as their inspiration whilst dealing with political issues or in resisting Empire or its croneys.

Your views and mine are quite similar in a sense Elie, but where you see something as good, I see the same thing as bad and vice versa. This is not a misunderstanding or clash of opinions, but a fundamental disagreement based on two very different views of what the world is and the role of people within it. I hope that in pointing out these issues I have at least helped break down the mistaken and simplistic stereotypes of “secularism=good” and “religion=bad” which is constantly being hammered into our consciousness and has its roots in the philosophical and political development of those people (the civilized world) who are still trying to rule and dominate the poor and downtrodden of the world. Incidentally those same countries leading in economic welfare and advancement of the sciences and arts are those who are also responsible for much of the ails that I mentioned previously. Does anybody stop to consider how it is that they are paying for all these things and at what cost for us, the oppressed?

I do not wish to trouble you further, but I wished it to be known that what you have said here did not go unchallenged and that there are those who can articulate, resist and provide an alternative to the world-view that you espoused.

Yours sincerely,
Wassim

Maysaloon Says:

Mr ElHadj,
On one other note, please do not think that I am flippant or disrespectful to you in the slightest. In the realm of ideas and truth, no discussion or exchange can be taboo and I hope we both share an appreciation for that.

Bisher Imam Says:

Elie

Syrian women have made some major gains over the past half century. But most of these gains were made during the lifetime of the pioneers in the late fifties and early sixties. These gains were never a gift from “uli al amr” or from politicians, but the result of their hard work, in the court room, class room, and in the work place. Alas, resistance to removing the “personal status” barriers in front of them continue despite of six decades of struggle, tragedies, and inequity.

In today’s Syria, only the wealthy can survive on a single income. And women permeate many a workplace across all social and economical strata. And yet, their personal affairs continue to be governed with the implicit assumption that they are dependent, despite of the fact that many of them are in fact the true head of the house hold economically. It is about time that they, as well as children be truly emancipated. I am fully in agreement with you regarding the need for major review and rewriting of an enlightened personal status laws. I am not calling for joining the civilized world, I am calling for joining free societies and for enlightenment, for the lack of a better word.

While I agree with offended that serious economic and political conditions contribute to the return to religion as a source of comfort, I believe that an incredible amount of money was spent by entities whose sole interest is to establish their theological hegemony by directing that return into a rigid form in ways that allow them to maintain their hold and to expand it.

But again, my personal encounters with many pious Syrians continue to amaze me for I am finding every day that tolerance and moderations are far more ingrained in their world view than rigidity. It may take some efforts and controversial arguments here and there to scratch the rust, but the essential core remains moderate and surprisingly enlightened. My sample size may be small and a little biased, but I have to hang on to any shred of optimism I can find. And this is why the argument made by offended appeals to me. I hope that I am not practicing self denial.

jad Says:

Waseem,

In your 3 posts on your blog and in both languages attacking every one of us who wrote on here is way out of proportion or logic, you own every person who wrote on here an apology on your own blog on every baseless accusation you labelled them with:

“استخدام اتفه و ارخص العبارات و المواضيع لتحجيمه أمام ما يسمى بالعالم المتقدم”
“that only the most vapid and shallow of presentations are made when presenting Syria’s case to the world in English,”
“بعد قرائتي لعدة مواضيع, وجدت أن ما يشتركون فيه من صفات تتمحور حول النداء لتفرقة الدين و الدولة, و كراهية شديدة لمن يتبعون الاسلام”
“A call for a separation of religion from state, and an intense dislike of those fellow countrymen, women and children who are Muslim.” (Children?)
“ذهبت مبادىء القومية العربية, و الاسلام. ذهبت مبادئ مقاومة الغرب و أسلوب حياته. كل ما كان يذمه أهلنا و آبائنا أصبح اليوم ممدوح و مرغوب فيه”
“Gone are ideas of Pan-Arabism, Pan-Islamism and resistance to the West and its way of life. It is now admirable to be everything that our forefathers despised.”

Elie Elhadj Says:

Bishr,
The gains of Syrian women are wonderful. We should all be proud of Syria’s culture of moderation.

However, more needs to be done towards achieving equality between men and women in marriage, divorce, custody of children, alimony, inheritance, and bearing witness in a court of law. The only way to achieve such equality is to replace Shari’a’s personal status rules by modern laws. This is the only way to protect women from abuse and stop the development of outrageous marital laws like the Mut’a and the Misyar contracts in the future.

True, thankfully in Syria, the Misyar marriage contract is not an issue (to my knowledge), but in Egypt and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia such shameful marriages are widespread. Misyar was sanctioned by a fatwa from Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti and the chairman of the committee of senior ulama, and by the grand mufti of the Al-Azhar. On April 12, 2006, the Mecca-based Islamic Jurisprudence Assembly sanctioned the misyar marriage as well declaring that “a marriage contract in which the woman relinquishes [her right to] housing and support money . . . and accepts that the man visits her in her [family] house whenever he likes, day or night . . . is valid.”

Elie

Bisher Imam Says:

Elie
May I also add workplace equality, wage equality, hiring and promotion , and maternity and childcare issues. There is no reason we should not address these issues simultaneously with personal status issues. I fully agree with you on all of your points, and this is why i believe that all gains are incomplete unless the personal status laws are modernized.

Bisher

offended Says:

Wassim,

On a state level, the “religion=bad” and “secularism=good” ‘myth’ (as you chose to describe it) is actually true. If you disagree, and I am sure you do, please go ahead and write an essay for your vision of what Syria’s future form and creed of governance should look like.

And Wassim, please remember: it’s always easy to take up cheap contrarian positions…

ayman hakki Says:

The past few exchanges show me two things. One, discussions on religion are futile. Two, at our worse we Syrians are more civilized than any other group. Both facts were not a revelation, they simply confirmed belief that we are tolerant by nature…though we can be excitable. I’ve read blogs by Lebanese, Israelis and Tunisians that were less polite and moderate on less volatile subjects. We are not as tolerant of each other’s opposing views as I’d like, but we’re more loving of each other than all others combined. No Wahabi would tolerate what the Nakshbandis consider their simple religious duty.

Both western secularism and eastern Islamism are clearly not the way to go in the Levant. The middle way is often the right way (both Elie and Wassem can find innumerable religious quotations that point to this fact). Waseem and Elie are both right. To safeguard Christians, women, and others we must consider a secular type of governance, but to safeguard our unique spiritual outlook Islam must be taken back from the Wahabis. I’m not a supporter of the Judaeo-Christian assault on Islam but I think Wahabism is very odd and alien to true Islam. I offer no greater proof of the absolute error of the Wahabi way than the desecration of the Prophet’s tomb and Ahdath Najaf in the late nineteenth century. Ahdath Hama a century later suggest that secular (or anti-Sunni sectarianism) is also not a great idea.

Civilization is city based mode of behavior (civil means city) and no one is less “civilized” than Al -Aarab. There are verified Hadith that warn us about them and they are not the Meccans. The Meccans lost a war to them, and the Aarab now rule Mecca Medina and also influence Islam. If this seems like an anti-Saudi diatribe I apologize but the pact they made with the devil stands. All loving Muslims (including the people of Najd Mecca and Medina) must help us Syrians confront Wahabism. Not by force, but by scholarship and religious argument.

Both Elie and Wassem are presumably Syrian, thus I trust they will find a solution that fits us and our lovely mosaic. In the interest of full disclosure I’m a proud Sunni, my grand father Adel El Solh is Lebanese and rumored to be from Quraish (the tribe of the prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him.) I am also a believer, so I’m not secular by belief, but I like Elie’s arguments. My instincts tell me I should have stayed out of this issue but I trust that if we Syrians (of all kinds) can’t have a civil discussion about this thorny issue no one can.

Ayman Rajai Hakki MD

Elie Elhadj Says:

Ayman,

Wahhabism must not be allowed to hijack Islam.

Due to its extremism, Wahhabism is followed by a tiny minority among Sunnis. Wahhabis total an estimated 2% of world’s Sunnis, mainly in Saudi Arabia. The remainder of the world’s more than one billion Sunnis follow the other three surviving schools of jurisprudence, the Hanafite, the Malikite, and the Shafeite. Hanbalism, the inspiration of Wahhabism is incorporated in Wahhabi numbers.

You are correct in saying that there are verified Hadith that warn against the Al-Aarab, the Beduins. Indeed that Quran condemn them in no uncertain terms:

In 9:97: “Al-Aarab are most confirmed in unbelief and hypocrisy.”
In 49:14, the Quran warns that when “Al-Aarabt say we believe, tell them: you do not believe . . . for belief has not yet penetrated your hearts.”

Yes, Ayman, “All loving Muslims (including the people of Najd Mecca and Medina) must help us Syrians confront Wahabism.” The place to start is Lebanon.

Syria must stand in the way of Saudi Arabia’s encroachment of Lebanon. Some Wahhabi clerics fantasy over a second conquest of the Levant in order to install “true Islam”.
Syria must stop Saudi Arabia’s instrument in Lebanon, that Trojan horse loaded with Saudi money called Al-Hariri.

Elie

ayman hakki Says:

Dear Elie

Saad Harriri is a parasite not even worthy of mention but our problem is with the Wahabis in Saudi Arabia…not the Sunnis in Lebanon.

It is true that numerically Wahabis are few but since 1973; 6-8% of all oil revenue has been deposited in their coffers. That allowed them to send an “Imam” to every small mosque in the world with a suitcase of cash. I site the case of an Uzbek woman who I met in the US who claimed that since the day a Wahabi Sheikh came to her small town women’s rights disappeared. The same has happened everywhere. In DC they took control of the Mass. Ave Mosque from the Azhar scholars and immediately separated the prayer areas relegating women to the down-stairs section. Another example is the campaign the Saudis mounted in Damascus to destroy the tomb of Ibn Arabi because the Wahabi’s take Mohammad’s sayings and enforce them literally. “Min al Turab Illa al Turab,” etc. There has never been a more lovely form of Islam than that practiced in Sarajevo and the Wahabis tried to kill it. Islam is colorful and paining it in black and white is wrong.

This makes Islam monolithic and sidelines its diverse spiritual nature. It is a shame…but only when Saudi Arabia looses its clout will the true bright hues of Islam be allowed to shine, only then will the literalists and the obtuse people who believe in actual-not figurative-virgins in heaven see that killing innocent people (even while advancing a just cause) is forbidden. I know I’m getting in deep water here but bear with me; I respect everyone’s opinion so hear mine. Islam is the religion of peace and we Muslims should return to our old religion. I have no quarrels with any school within Islam I just don’t see why the Wahabi sect, the Hanballi sect and the Ibn Taymieh crowd should be allowed a disproportional influence on my Islam.

Please don’t confuse my loving rhetoric with Western Judeo-Christian anti-Islamic and very hateful rhetoric. I just think that Jihad should be waged on military targets and that innocent civilians should be spared. It is just as heinous to kill Israeli Arabs or Jews in a Pizza joint in Haifa as it is to kill unarmed Gazans. The ends don’t justify the means in Islam. No matter how cruel our enemies may be…we should conform to Allah’s words and remember that killing one innocent person is like the killing all of humanity.

You may want to read a little gem of a book called; The Monks of Tibhirine, by John Kisser. The Trappist Monks of Algeria during the civil war were uniquely aware of this dilemma (injustice breeding terror) and preached love at a ghastly cost, we Muslims should emulate them. Wahabism is a clearly AArabi school of militaristic Islam and should be stopped by us Syrians, only we know the difference between Godly love and hate and only we are positioned to argue that difference. They may have had the bucks to invade our mosques and infest them with their hateful version of our beloved Islam but we have the spirit that’ll win. We’ve done it for millennia, they’ve been around for a century…and it won’t be long before they too go away.

Ayman Hakki

PS. I’d love to read Waseem’s response beacause I do admit that my sources are Western although my ideas are Syrian and Muslim. If Waseem thinks that Wahabism is as benign as its 2% representation implies and that its not behind AArabi Militarism I’d like to see his evidence for that. A lot of what we now think of Islam just…isn’t.

Elie Elhadj Says:

A correction of two typos in the immediately preceding comment. Sorry.

Ayman,

Wahhabism must not be allowed to hijack Islam.

Due to its extremism, Wahhabism is followed by a tiny minority among Sunnis. Wahhabis total an estimated 2% of world’s Sunnis, mainly in Saudi Arabia. The remainder of the world’s more than one billion Sunnis follow the other three surviving schools of jurisprudence, the Hanafite, the Malikite, and the Shafeite. Hanbalism, the inspiration of Wahhabism is incorporated in Wahhabi numbers.

You are correct in saying that there are verified Hadith that warn against the Al-Aarab, the Beduins. Indeed the Quran condemn them in no uncertain terms:

In 9:97: “Al-Aarab are most confirmed in unbelief and hypocrisy.”
In 49:14, the Quran warns that when “Al-Aarabt say we believe, tell them: you do not believe . . . for belief has not yet penetrated your hearts.”

Yes, Ayman, “All loving Muslims (including the people of Najd Mecca and Medina) must help us Syrians confront Wahabism.” The place to start, in my opinion, is Lebanon.

Syria must stand in the way of Saudi Arabia’s encroachment of Lebanon. Some Wahhabi clerics fantasize over a second conquest of the Levant in order to install “true Islam”.

Syria must stop Saudi Arabia’s instrument in Lebanon, that Trojan horse loaded with Saudi money called Al-Hariri.

Elie

ayman hakki Says:

I responded to you two minutes before you posted your typo correction, how funny is that. I would love to see Waseem’s reply to my comments, I may be less educated about the subject than he!

Elie Elhadj Says:

Dear Ayman,

Thank you for the excellent graphic description of what the Wahhabi clerics have been doing wherever they land. The image that you painted, which is accurate and true, is frightening. I had lived in Saudi Arabia for most of 1990s and gained during that period a first hand knowledge of what Wahhabi politics aim to achieve and the workings of the powerful propaganda machine they built to reach that end.

I would like to add to your description of the ills that Wahhabi clerics leave behind the effect which some among the many millions of expatriate workers who had worked in Saudi Arabia during the past 35 years and who have been indoctrinated in the Wahhabi creed on the spreading of Saudi Islam. Just consider the effect of this fifth column in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India on fomenting political unrest there. Also, the effect of this fifth column on the other countries that exported expatriate workers to Saudi Arabia, particularly, on Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. I wish that someone would research this issue in some depth.

Although the evil of these men go far and wide, I am concerned over the damage that Saudi influence in Lebanon can have on Syria’s age-old moderate tolerant way of life and ethnic harmony.

Damascus must resist Wahhabi attempts to make Lebanon a gateway to Syria. Even if Syria reaches its own peace agreement with Israel in the future, Damascus must strive to keep Lebanon free of Wahhabi control.

That certain factions amongst Lebanon’s Maronites and moderate Sunnis, let alone the Druzes, have found it financially lucrative and politically convenient to ally themselves with the Hariris is like the lamb befriending the wolf.

Elie

ayman hakki Says:

The natural enemy of wahabism isn’t secular humanism, it is Shiaa Islam and the Shiaa forces that guard Lebanon from them are strong.

I worry more about Syria because every time I visit it seems outwardly more pious and inwardly more impious. That is the hallmark of Aarabi duplicity. They actually say; who knows what’s in a man’s heart but we can all see his beard length. Implicitly they argue that we’ll let you do anything you want to do, as long as you pray five times a day and cover your women up. The theological cover for this obvious duplicity is simple; they claim-rightfully-that Wahabism is a reform movement that calls people to a return to the Medina style of Islamic life. The concept that Islam is “in the heart” is anathema to them. Islam-they preach-is in its practice. Karen Armstrong at the end of her book The History of God calls this the Idolatry of tradition.

That is exactly what it is; elevation of tradition above piousness is idolatrous and Syria’s Nakshbandis know it. The Sufis also know this but the traditionalists claim that Sufis are heretics that are so self centered they neglect the world, a valid yet hateful condemnation of a mystical tradition of love unparalleled in human history. Syria was the epi-center of Sufism and it is soon going to become its epicenter again, but it’s not enough. We must merge our own traditionalist sects (like the Nakshbandis and Shiaa) with our esoteric sects (like the Aalawis the Ismaiilis and the Druze) and together rid Syria-and possibly the world-of Wahabism. I’m getting deeper and deeper into trouble here but I can’t help share with you this truth (Hakkika.)

Intelligent pious men like Waseem (and a dear old friend of mine-who I haven’t seen in 40 years-Rodwan Aanan) argue-with good intentions- that wahabism isn’t bad because writers like Said Qutb seemingly embraced it. The catch is that Qutb embraced it for worldly reasons. Few care to make that distinction because Saudi money is indirectly behind almost every Sunni mosque built today. How can that be bad, they ask? It isn’t bad at all…but at what price! The Afghans found out, and their women sure found out…still the Taliban are well funded and seemingly resurgent. Most Syrians get that distinction and only in Syria will they-one day-unleash their tongues and do the greater Jihad. Elie, anyone can blow himself up but only the great speak up.

Your fight for Syria’s soul can’t be fought alone (even with Alex’s help ;) . Sunnis must also engage our traditionalist in loving debate.

Elie Elhadj Says:

Ayman,

You are so right, Ayman. It is refreshing to read your ideas.

In the fight for the soul of Islam the battle today should be between enlightened Muslims like you and the’ seventh century culture of the Arabian Desert to which the Wahhabis belong.

The Key to winning the confrontation is free debate. Religious extremists are violent dictators. They cannot deal and do not accept free debate. Whenever they feel cornered they become violent; accusing the other side of heresy or apostasy, with all the murderous consequences that that entails.

Muslims in the 8th. century were by far more enlightened and tolerant than their descendants today. 8th. century Muslims in Damascus and later Baghdad, freely debated controversial philosophical questions. Influenced by St. John of Damascus, the Qadarite School in the 700s advocated free will and opposed the concept of predestination. The Mu’tazilites, starting around the middle of the 700s, placed reason above revelation, argued that the Quran was created, and advocated man’s free will. Mu’tazilisim survived for about three centuries and during the reign of Caliph Al-Mamoun (813-833) it became the official doctrine of the Abbasid state. By around the mid-900s, however, Mu’tazilisim lost out and its advocates were persecuted. Mu’tazilisim was supplanted by the deterministic and authoritarian theology of Abulhassan Al-Ash’ari (d. 935) who advocated strict adherence to the literal meaning of the Quran without speculation or conjectural explanations and rejected all notions of causality, eliminating the right of further interpretation of the Quran and the Sunna, or of forming a new religious opinion. Al-Ash’ari’s ideas smothered intellectual curiosity. The end of Mu’tazilisim would prove to have dealt a severe blow to Muslim fortunes. How truly sad!

I believe that the battle to cleanse the minds of those who became indoctrinated by Wahhabi propaganda can eventually be won, despite the awesome effect of the Wahhabi purse on the masses and clerics who suffer abject poverty. I say this because It is one thing to profess Wahhabism but it is another thing to truly believe in its intolerance, discrimination, hatred, and dictatorship. As mentioned earlier, Hanbalism, due to its extremism, has had a very minor following through the ages. Moderation and reasonableness always win the day.

Who would not condemn a Saudi university professor who demanded on a TV program proof that the tsunami, which struck the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, was truly a natural phenomenon, suggesting in the course of the discussion that it might have been the work of the CIA?

Who would not object to the explanation given by Dr. A.R. Al-Sudais, the imam and the preacher of Islam’s holiest mosque in Mecca, who preached on November 13, 2006 that the drought in Saudi Arabia that year was caused by the proliferation of sin in Saudi society, specifically, dealing in usury, bribery, lying, dishonesty, and violating God’s rules?

Who would not lament that fatwa in 2006 by a former dean of the Shari’a faculty at Al-Azhar, declaring that, being completely naked during the act of coitus annuls the marriage.

Who would forget the fatwa issued in May 2007 by the dean of the Hadith faculty, also at the Al-Azhar University, in which he invoked Prophetic traditions reported by Abi Dawood and Muslim in order to opine that, as a way to avoid breaking the Islamic rule that forbids the genders from being alone together, a woman may breastfeed her male co-worker a total of five times.

Who would not be repulsed by the clerics who advocate publicly the forced marriage of girls aged 9, or even less.

While it is impossible to engage in free debate on religious issues in Arab countries or on the many Saudi funded TV stations, forums like the forthcoming Islam Comment would be helpful.

That sayyed Qutb embraced Wahhabism does not vindicate Wahhabuism. On the contrary, it reflects badly on Sayyid Qutb.

Elie

Maysaloon Says:

Dear Ayman,
I apologise firstly for the late reply as I have been busy somewhat with other matters. Firstly I’d like to say that it would naturally be very difficult for anyone to provide evidence in a discussion which is dialectic. You yourself admit that your posts are more rhetorical than they are demonstrative so to some extent it is good that we define the nature of our discussion to avoid digressing.

I agree with you 100% in that Wahabism is in fact behind what you call “Aarabi Militarism”. Not only that, but I will tell you that whilst Wahabism has its criticisms (and I am not an adherent of it), the seeds for Wahhabi thought are in fact, Islam.

There has been a tendency here, and in other fora, to pine with nostalgism for some “Sufi” inspired Islam based on the writings of Rumi, Ibn Arabi and others. Whilst admirable in sentiment, we must remember that the encouragement for this “nostalgia” is purely orientalist and was incubated in the academic circles of Western Europe.

So far what has been become clear in the thread above is a dichotomy between the Islam of the prophet and that of the “Aarabi’s”, between Islam and Sufism, and between Sufism and Wahhabism. Yourself and Mr el Hadj have come up with a convenient and simplistic account of “good” versus “bad” Islam that verges on the downright false. Much of what you say about the diversity of Islam, the colour and the variety is noble, but it is in fact incorrect. You have grasped the subtleties in Islamic thought which have led to such a myriad of expressions but I fear that you have missed the underlying essence that animates all, as such, it becomes difficult for you to see where some expressions become contrary to that spirit of the faith (referred to as Bida’a). Wahhabism was purely an attempt by some people to rid the faith of these innovations. As fallible humans, much of what they have done is wrong, but they have also gotten some things right and again, an understanding of Islam itself would have helped you to grasp this subject matter and present a much more coherent understanding. Also, there is a tendency in some of the posts to confuse the Sufi notion of Love with the Christian notion that God is Love and in fact, an unconscious sympathy to such an incorrect doctrine. Islam is not Christianity and the Prophet came to correct the errors that the Christians and the Jews had fallen into. Understanding this distinction is at the core of being Muslim and at some point, peaceful coexistence does have to concede to the differences as well as the similarities. It cannot be any other way and this coexistence is the most that can be hoped for since there is no way that one group would grasp the “Truth” of the other faith completely without compromising its own core belief system. In simple terms, each adherent really believes in what their holy book says and to conveniently gloss over parts of it to acknoweldge the “truth” in all would be to undermine ones own faith.

With regards to the different “schools” of thought, again, it would be wise to remember what Imam al Ghazali had said concerning this in his series of books Ihya Oloom al Din. The different Imams are not in conflict, nor should we see that somehow their students eventually came to different interpretations of faith. Their differences were as a result of different conclusions reached on matters in which debate and discussion are allowable in Islam. If a matter is stated in the Quran or the Hadith, there is no “Ijtihad” a word popularly flashed around by enemies of Islam as the wonder-cure for the religion and its followers. Ijtihad is in matters in which there is no text, that is, none in the Quran and the Hadith. As for the spirit of Islam, that is one and the same and recognised by all.

You are also confusing this Wahhabi “invasion” with current geopolitical factors. The fact that Syria and Saudi Arabia are today at loggerheads with one another is due to political and not religious considerations. It is also important to remember that whilst the Saudi royal family are vassals to the Americans, they are also not synonymous with the Wahhabis. It is the religious vacuum created by their political and financial clout that has allowed a relatively minor and uninspiring school of thought to gain such prominence and pose such a problem to “orthodox” Islam (as much as I hate using that term), and this for the simple fact that the countries where such orthodoxy existed were politically opposed to the American and Israeli project in the region, as a result, they were to be weakened if not destroyed. Your grind is with the Saudi royal family and their American overlords and not the Wahhabis for the situation which displeases you so much. You also confuse what are proper dictates of Islam with Wahhabi austerity, which go beyond that. These dictates that you find yourself unhappy with such as issues to do with beards, praying five times a day and the dress of women, are essential parts in Islamic piety. The harsh Wahhabi austerity must by nature include these particulars but inevitably the methods of enforcing these thus take on a Wahhabi hardness and inflexibility. We must not confuse these matters.

Moving on, I also worry about your over emphasis on Sufism as some kind of solution. Real Sufism is not the Sufism which was hatched in SOAS or in some Western European university by well meaning children of Arab or Muslim immigrants and it is not something any of us here are qualified to talk about let alone attempt to define (based on the arguments I have read so far). There is no shame in us admitting that and leaving this matter and also in admitting that what Karen Armstrong mentions in the book you quoted is in fact applicable to anybody who argues from your position. This “Idolatry of tradition” is something we are all susceptible to and which the Prophet had fought hard against throughout his life. It is he and only he, from whom we should seek example and not Jalal al Din Rumi, not Ibn Arabi and not Ibn Abd el Wahhab. You do a grave injury to the Prophet’s Islam when you are more sentimental about the offshoots and fallen fruits than about the magnificent tree from which they sprouted.

Finally I wish to say a word about Said Qutb, currently the most maligned and discussed of Islamic authors, and also the one about whom very few people actually know what they are talking about. Said Qutb is not a Wahhabi, he is also not from the Muslim Brotherhood. Sayid Qutb, quite simply, was an independent and fresh minded Islamic thinker. I would advise both you and Elie to think very carefuly before throwing around assumptions of the man’s positions and sentiments without having read his works, the most notable of which are Fe thelal al Quran and, of course, Ma’alem fil Tareeq.

Thank you for your patience.
Wassim

Maysaloon Says:

Elie,
I have a few comments regarding a reply of yours to Ayman. These are to do with your comments regarding the Mutazalites. Firstly the period during which the Mutazilah view of the createdness of the Quran is known as a period of great Mihna during which many people (most of whom did not understand what the whole issue was about in the first place) were executed. Clueless Muslim prisoners of the Byzantines were asked prior to being manumitted whether they believed that the Qur’an was created or not. If they thought it was eternal they were left to rot in a Byzantine dungeon. One of the most notable casualties of this great purge was the Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali school and a student of one of the companions of Abu Hanifah and also a student of Imam al Shafi’i. This period of Mihna was a dark period in Abbassid history and hardly the oasis of free thought and intellectual inquiry that you imply.

Also, al-Ash’ari, who had broken from the mu’tazillah view, was the prime influence on the thought of Imam al Ghazali, who would later become the Sufi par excellence and subsequently would right his monumental Ihya Oloom al Deen and the Deliverer from Error. The inference you give that the Ashari thought stifled philosophical thought is actually wrong. Their belief on predetermination and free will diverged from the Qadarites and also from the Mu’tazilla and they held a complex and today difficult to understand view of Kasb as a means of joining between free will and Allah’s will. Also, a quick reading of the thought of al Ghazali will show you that whilst he is commonly held to have stifled scientific inquiry, in fact, he opened the doors to it. His most famous example of fire burning cotton was a precursor to Hume’s skepticim and a read through his Incoherence of the Philosophers, taken mistakenly to be an attack on philosophy and science, will quickly show us that he is not against science and progress in the slightest. This is a notion which Orientalist historians introduced in order to explain the degeneration of the Arabs and that many have ingested without thinking it through. Also, his attack on the philosophers was not an attack on Philosophy, as a love of Wisdom, but on the inconsistencies and mistaken claims of his predecessors who themselves were viewing the works of Plato and Aristotle through the five hundred year lense of Neo-platonic thinkers. The Incoherence of the Incoherence by Ibn Rushd roughly 120 years later pointed out the problems in both al Ghazali’s and al Farabi and Ibn Sina’s positions. I know this because my thesis is on the subject and I am happy to discuss this further, but it pains me to hear yet again, historical events distorted and melded to fit in with your argument.

In light of all this, your claim of the death of Mu’tazilism as a blow to Muslim fortunes sounds all the more amazing. In fact, the fatwas you lament are a symptom not of the entwinement of religion with the state, but of the emasculation of religion by the state.

Regards,
Wassim

Maysaloon Says:

Apologies for the spelling and grammar mistakes above, I wrote the above in a hurry.

Alex Says:

Wassim,

“Islam is not Christianity and the Prophet came to correct the errors that the Christians and the Jews had fallen into. Understanding this distinction is at the core of being Muslim and at some point, peaceful coexistence does have to concede to the differences as well as the similarities. It cannot be any other way and this coexistence is the most that can be hoped for since there is no way that one group would grasp the “Truth” of the other faith completely without compromising its own core belief system. In simple terms, each adherent really believes in what their holy book says and to conveniently gloss over parts of it to acknoweldge the “truth” in all would be to undermine ones own faith.”

1) Your religion is the foundation of your character and the basis of your value system… religion comes first… it defines you.

2) You believe your religion is significantly superior to that of the lesser humans (Christians and Jews for example) … their moral values are probably also flawed?

so .. religion forms your and my foundations, and your religion is superior to mine … so you are fundamentally superior to me.

I don’t find that a very interesting basis for true coexistence … except if each stays in his separate geographical territory…

How do you define coexistence?

ayman hakki Says:

Maysaloon.

Thank you for your thorough reply. You enrich the discussion with your exacting knowledge of this subject, just as Elie brings his loving spirit to it. And this love I speak of is “Godley”, it is Islamic, and the fact that Jesus said it first doesn’t make it less Islamic in any way…everything in Islam depends on holly revelatory continuum.

You wrote “Yourself and Mr. el Hadj have come up with a convenient and simplistic account of “good” versus “bad” Islam that verges on the downright false.” Here you are putting words in my mouth, I never wrote of a good Islam vs. “bad” Islam! So, let’s put this to rest. I said this: Wahabi militant “bad” Islam versus non-Aarabi “good” Islam.

One day when you meet a good Wahabi, invite him to a discussion with me and you’ll see yourself on my side and Elie’s. There’s no such thing as a good Aarabi, period. Lest someone misunderstands me; Aarabi isn’t another word for Arab. I’m an Arab, but I’m not an Aarabi, neither are Meccans or Medinans for example; Al Saud are Aarabis.

And also; as far as the Sufis being hijacked by Western liberal mystics, you’re right, but most traditionalists have been hijacked by Wahabis, and of these two; I prefer Sufis. Our real issue (divested of politics, money and rhetoric) is this; is Islam mostly in the heart or is Islam mostly in its practice…and here you and I may agree to disagree.

Ayman.

Ps. sure Sayed Qutb was not a wahabi of an Ikhwanji. He was a militant Islamist who deserved to be heard not executed. Then, after being heard he could have been refuted because his rhetoric was as flawed as his youthful embrace of communism. I read his books, and at 15 I loved them. Now, I re-read them Iand shudder at his militancy.

ayman hakki Says:

Alex.

We can coexist and disagree. I’d love to live by Waseem, though I’d probably have more fun living by you because I think you’d appreciate my daily single glass of scotch more than he may. I think he may also object to my wife’s attire while you would absolutely love it. So, the point you should be making is this: I know you think you’re right. I know you feel strongly that your Islam is the only real religion. Let’s discus this. Ayman’s Love-based Ibn-Arabi Islam sure sounds more like my “Jesus-loves-you” Christianity than your version of Islam, so there may not be a monopoly on the truth. We Syrians are a lovely mosaic.

Ayman.

Ps. I’m sorry if I attributed Jesus-loves-you to your religion, because Christians also come in a variety pack. I was trying to be funny. I do absolutely love Jesus, Moses, all the prophets and the angels. If any of your readers are about to throw up because of my “superstitious” love thy neighbor stuff: Ask about me. You’ll find that I’m consistent in my attitude: no Syrian is ever irredeemable by nurture or nature.

Maysaloon Says:

Alex,
I worry about not being able to hold an objective discussion about these things with you because you are quick to take offense. Yes, number 1 is correct in your list. In number 2 you start talking about “lesser” humans, who said anything about that? Not I. I also did not say that it is only Muslims who believe this, but Christians and Jews as well. I really don’t see why we should quibble on this, or lose any sleep over it either, I know I don’t. I go for dinner with my family’s Christian friends almost every other week and we sometimes talk about these very things without any offence caused (or received). Please don’t misconstrue my arguments, I know I have not been in your good books anyway recently but I’m not one to take cheap shots or to descend into such a petty your religion my religion debate. I haven’t got any issues with you, trust me!

Maysaloon Says:

Ayman,
When you say “Wahabi militant “bad” Islam versus non-Aarabi “good” Islam” then that is the same as saying there is a “bad Islam” versus a “good Islam”. Surely?

With regards to your query about where “true” Islam resides, whether in the heart or elsewhere, I would recommend you read al Ghazali – My Dear Beloved Son” which is available online and is a summary of his thought in the Revival of the Religious sciences. It would help your understanding of this issue immensely and believe me, I am a very big fan of Imam al Ghazali.

As for Sayid Qutb and the flaws of his rhetoric, I guess this is a matter of opinion. I’m also not so sure about what you said of his youthful embrace of communism. Anyhow thank you for the debate.

Alex Says:

Ayman,

I actually don’t drink … Perrier, that’s it : )

But your love-based Ibn-Arabi Islam, or Jesus loves you, of Gandhi’s wisdom, … we share the same “religion”.

Wassim,

“My family has Christian friends” does not mean a thing… the fact you do not say out loud “my religion is better than your religion” does not mean a thing … you keep finding comfort in those pretentious superficialities and you keep analyzing, admiring or worrying about small details.

The big picture is: You find it easy to come here attacking every single person on this “unCreative Forum” … yet you want to attack others who do not differentiate between good Wahhabis and bad wahhabis.

I am not sensitive … I am just continuing to play a role … imitating your religious sensitivities … and I am glad that, again, you are finding me too sensitive to engage in a useful debate.

Should I go for a third round?

Maysaloon Says:

Alex,
You are angry because I have attacked Elie’s article, yet I have backed up my argument in each case with examples and apart from criticism, which is well deserved, I was not actually rude to the man. You digress with me now to the most petty of topics for an example which I wouldn’t have given even an afterthought and which is actually true. What I have said is an accurate summary of the truly religious person’s sentiment be they Christian, Muslim or Jewish. Are you angry because I’m right? Either way, I don’t see what there is for you to be glad about in this whole exchange.

You can go for as many rounds as you feel fit, I didn’t even know you had started. Alex, the problem with you is that you cannot differentiate between the politically correct sphere of “gentleman’s” politics which only exists in “tink-thanks” and TIME magazine, and between real politics, which has always existed and it is dirty and mean. It does not care about our sensitivities, religion or ethnicity.

Elie Elhadj Says:

Maysaloon,

Thanks.

Mutazilite thought survived for about three centuries. The Mihna was labelled as such on behalf of those who had suffered persecution when Mutazilism became the ideology of the state under the caliph of Al-Mamoun. There is no argument that Al-Mamoun’s heavy hand represent a black page. However, the fact that the ideas behind Mutazilism were debated freely for such a long time is a testimony to the tolerance of that age, which is superior to what the ulama and their benefactor tyrannical Kings and presidents allow today.

The intolerance, persecution, and violence that followed the obliteration of Mutazilism is the true Mihna. The killing of innovation that led to the current sad state of backwardness of the Muslim and the Arab world is the true Mihna. Stifling free thought, smothering intellectual curiosity, and discouraging innovation is the true Mihna. Can anyone today debate the createdness of the Quran? Or the authenticity of many Hadiths?

Three centuries after the printing press was introduced in Europe, the Ottoman ulama still considered printing in Arabic and Turkish to be an undesirable innovation. Finally, on July 5, 1727, an Imperial Ferman was issued, giving permission for the establishment of a Turkish press.
However, fifteen years later, in 1742, the press was closed, not to be reopened until forty-two years later in 1784.

Three centuries of delay in introducing the printing press into Ottoman life slowed Muslim progress at a time when Europe was charging ahead with great inventions. When the Ottomans woke up, it was too late.

The delay in introducing the printing press was presumably to accord with the Prophet’s reported rejection of all things innovative. According to Al-Bukhari, the Prophet said: The most evil of all matters are those that get modernized. Also, according to the Hadith collections of Abi Dawood and Ibn Majah, the Prophet’s teenager widow, Aisha (transmitted 2,210 sayings), reportedly said that the Prophet had rejected any deviation from His teaching. Abi Dawood and Ibn Majah reported the Prophet saying: Beware of innovation, for every innovation is heresy, and every heresy leads to the wrong path.

Can anyone discuss the authenticity of these sayings without persecution, even the threat of death? Can anyone attempt to reconcile the contradictions between the Prophet’s fine treatment of his wife Khadija with the treatment of women as chattel that evolved under Sharia?

The fatwa issued in May 2007 by the dean of the Hadith faculty at the Al-Azhar University (to avoid breaking the Islamic rule that forbids the genders from being alone together, a woman may breastfeed her male co-worker a total of five times) is based on Prophetic traditions reported by Abi Dawood and Muslim. Are these sayings true? If true, what fun awaits office workers! And, why retain segregation of the sexes culture?

The discussion here ought to focus on how Islam as practiced today might evolve so that the Arab and Muslim worlds might finally be able to catch up with the modern age and stop being the focus of ridicule of the world.

Elie

Elie Elhadj Says:

I might add after: “When the Ottomans woke up, it was too late” by saying that, while Ataturk’s answer was to secularize Turkey as the solution, the Muslim brotherhood’s answer, along with the answer of the Wahhabis, was to cling on to Islam and Hanbali extremism as the solution.

Maysaloon Says:

Elie,
With regards to the causes of Arab decline, I strongly disagree with you on a number of issues. I would recommend a wonderful book by Janet Abu-Lughod which focuses on a world system that was centred on the Middle East and East Asia. Her argument, and I find it highly convincing, is that this economic system was destabilised by the period of plagues and then the Mongol invasions. The devastation to the lands of Islam, the sacking of Baghdad and Damascus as well as the Crusades, all weakened the people of the region considerably. There is much work that has debunked the commonly spread assumption that there was something backwards in the religion or nature of the Arab and Muslim peoples. The backwardness was a symptom of the economic and social decline of the area as a matter of fact and by the time this period was over, European weaponry put them at a considerable disadvantage.

You mention Ottoman Turkey as an example but I disagree. Ottoman Turkey was a Muslim empire which had placed all its faith in its strength of arms. When this was no longer enough to hold back the European hordes, a crisis of identity amongst some Turks led them to blame a faith, a way of life and a long history, as the cause of their decline. This is where Ataturk later steps in with his decapitation of the Ottoman empire, reaching the ridiculous conclusion that they should change their alphabet and ban the wearing of the fez. I would recommend that you read on Said al Nursi, a luminary Islamic thinker who, according to your arguments, should not exist.

Your position with regards to Islam reminds me of the position of people who opposed philosophy in the Middle Ages, it brings to mind a response similar to Averroes’. Elie, you attribute a harm to Islam which is accidental to it and not essential. This is akin to banning the drinking of water because some people had choked on it, but the greater harm is in preventing those who are truly thirsty from drinking it. Of course people can discuss the authenticity of hadith’s, but a level of competency in the subject is required before any amateur decides to cut and paste the religion to suit their interests. The fatwa’s you cite are indeed ridiculous, but I have told you previously that these are a symptom not of the interference of religion with the state, but the emasculation of religion by the state. To the point where qualified people who can stop such travesties are either dead, exiled or in prison.

I disagree with you that it is Islam which needs to evolve. My belief is that any progression can only be done once we get over the decaying colonial legacies which are the real restraint on Arab and Muslim thought. By legacies I refer to the mode of thought that underlies both your article and the argument regarding the separation of “religion” and state. Only once that is done can it be possible to conceive of an innovative, pragmatic solution that would be the Arab or Islamic alternative to the political cul-de-sac that the West has driven the world into.

Alex Says:

Wassim,

Please understand that I am not angry, I have been trying to explain that I am only pretending I am angry simply to give you a feeling of how your anger looks like to those you attack when you are angry… very often the past year.

You and Elie are engaging in a very interesting and enjoyable debate.

But I am still waiting to hear from you regarding your three posts on your blog about everyone who wrote here, not only Elie.

I’ll remind you again of your statements and I hope to hear from you if you still believe in what you generalized about everyone on this forum:

“استخدام اتفه و ارخص العبارات و المواضيع لتحجيمه أمام ما يسمى بالعالم المتقدم”
“that only the most vapid and shallow of presentations are made when presenting Syria’s case to the world in English,”
“بعد قرائتي لعدة مواضيع, وجدت أن ما يشتركون فيه من صفات تتمحور حول النداء لتفرقة الدين و الدولة, و كراهية شديدة لمن يتبعون الاسلام”
“A call for a separation of religion from state, and an intense dislike of those fellow countrymen, women and children who are Muslim.” (Children?)
“ذهبت مبادىء القومية العربية, و الاسلام. ذهبت مبادئ مقاومة الغرب و أسلوب حياته. كل ما كان يذمه أهلنا و آبائنا أصبح اليوم ممدوح و مرغوب فيه”
“Gone are ideas of Pan-Arabism, Pan-Islamism and resistance to the West and its way of life. It is now admirable to be everything that our forefathers despised.”

Elie Elhadj Says:

Wassim,

You state that “this economic system was destabilised by the period of plagues and then the Mongol invasions”.

What have the plague and the Mongols to do with Sharia’s treatment of women in the modern age as chattel. The plague and the Mongols did not make today’s ulama proclaim that marrying nine year old girls is legitimate. The plague and the Mongols have nothing to do with sanctioning the mut’a and the misyar marriage contracts. As was discussed above, Sharia’s mistreatment of one half of society today finds its roots in archaic personal status laws that implement 2:228, 2:282, 4:3, 4:4, 4:11, 4:24, 4:34, 18:46…

How does one reconcile these verses with the Prophet’s reported fine treatment of Khadija? How does one reconcile the Prophet’s respectable treatment of Khadija with those unflattering attributions to the Prophet such as:
“Most of those in hell are women” (according to Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Al-Tirmithi.
Women’s “lack of intelligence” is the reason a woman’s testimony in an Islamic court of law is equal to half that of the testimony of the Muslim male” (according to Al-Bukhari and Al-Tirmithi).
The reason women are prohibited from praying and fasting during menstruation is due to their being “deficient in religious belief” (according to Al-Bukhari, and Al-Tirmithi).

Do you really believe that the plague and the Mongols inspired the fatwa just mentioned above issued in May 2007 by the dean of the Hadith faculty at the Al-Azhar University that to avoid breaking the Islamic rule that forbids the genders from being alone together, a woman may breastfeed her male co-worker a total of five times. What inspired this ludicrous fatwa is the tradition reported by Abi Dawood and Muslim. Are these traditions true?

Please let us deal with the hard facts, not tangents here and tangents there, and not at apologists’ pontifications.

ayman hakki Says:

Alex.
I meant that you may “object less” to my scotch, while sipping Perrier.
But I admit that I would put it aside gladly to hear Waseem; he’s smart.

Waseem.
You’re avoiding challenging my good Muslim bad “Aarabi” construct & I refuse your saddling me with a good Islam vs. bad Islam construct.

Elie.
The breast feeding fatwa was ridiculous, but there are equally ridiculous Christian and Jewish positions on day to day issues.

People: The issue isn’t about us, it is about Syria; can Syria’s mosaic nature capture both traditionalist Muslim Syrians (Waseem) and non-traditionalist Syrians (Elie, Alex & I)? If yes…great, if no…too bad.

Alex accuses Waseem of saying I’m better than you, because…
Elie accuses Waseem of supporting out dated Islamic misogyny…
I accuse Waseem of being a closet Wahabi Qutby sympathizer…
And Waseem accuses us of a “Good” Islam “bad” Islam construct…
All of the above contradictions may or may not be true, and they all make us brighter –not duller– if they are not personal in nature.

There’s a place for us all in Syria, a Syria that’s not fascist Attaturk Turkey but a spiritual Muslim Syria. I know this seems like a contradiction but it’s not. During the Ayoubi Dynasty Ibn Arabi (who actually may have hinted that he was God) was not only tolerated but protected by Saladin’s son. If something as controversial as Ibn Arabi’s “Wihdat al Wojood” concept can be tolerated in 13th century Syria, can’t we tolerate our much smaller 21 century disagreements?

Ayman.

ayman hakki Says:

Waseem.
As for the communism of Sayed Qutb. When I was reading him (at the Hraki Mosque) our teacher, who I think was Ustaz Aayti, told Rodwan Anan and I that Sayed Qutb was educated in The Soviet Union and began his spiritual journey as a dedicated Communist. He then read the Koran, and wrote his lovely book “In the shadow of the Koran”. I never agreed with all his convictions, but the majority was sound. The fact that he was very sharp makes his arguments (and yours) powerful but not infallible. Since only God is infallible we should be humble in our argument…time will tell whose right and whose not.
Ayman.

Maysaloon Says:

Alex,
Yes I do stand by what I have said. In my opinion there is far too much intellectual tummy-rubbing take place here, and yes, in the articles which do call for the “separation of religion and state” there is the theme I have mentioned. As for being against Pan-Arabism and Pan-Islamism, again, these are things which our forefathers at the eve of independence from colonialism would have rejoiced in, and did, yet today we treat them as a dirty word and head in the opposite direction. In fact, just as you selectively quoted parts of my post, please refer readers back to the entire text, which I thought summed up my position on this adequately. So again, I stand by what I said. Good to know you are not angry…for your information neither am I.

Maysaloon Says:

Elie,
My point on the Mongols and the plague were in fact to correct your previous comment concerning the Mihna and the alleged stifling of intellectual thought in the Muslim countries during the Middle ages. I certainly did not intend that to explain the symptoms you mention today, for which the answer is quite clear and resounding. It is colonialism which has introduced these problems. The damage caused by colonialism was not just through occupation, but also in the subsequent absence of the factors which would have prevented the situations you mentioned.

You later say:
As was discussed above, Sharia’s mistreatment of one half of society today finds its roots in archaic personal status laws that implement 2:228, 2:282, 4:3, 4:4, 4:11, 4:24, 4:34, 18:46…

I say: These are not “archaic personal status laws”, this is the Qur’an. As a Muslim, I find these laws there for a reason, the interpretation, application and perception of these is for those who put in the effort to learn the Qur’an and the Hadith. Since they are many, pick a nice short one (for brevity’s sake) and I am happy to discuss it and go through with it, along with any contradictions you think there are.

Then you say:
How does one reconcile these verses with the Prophet’s reported fine treatment of Khadija? How does one reconcile the Prophet’s respectable treatment of Khadija with those unflattering attributions to the Prophet such as:
“Most of those in hell are women” (according to Al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Al-Tirmithi.”

I say: The Prophet lived his life according to the Qur’an, utterly. There is no contradiction between the verses that he was dictated and between his application of these amongst the people he lived with.

As for what you said about the saying of the Prophet, yes, there is this hadith and there are thousands of others. What do you want me to do with it? There is a discipline called Hadith studies, which actually teaches the student the context and full understanding of each Hadith, as a Muslim, I do not take one hadith and run off with it, I need to understand it and if I do not, I can ask those who have studied this more than I and I can then understand it from them. I recommend you do the same. There is nothing wrong with this hadith, the Prophet said it and under the context that he did, it is of course correct.

Give me hard facts by all means, but don’t try to swamp me or refer to specific comments I make in differing contexts, it then makes it hard to keep this discussion useful.

So again, the plague and the Mongols was my response and correction to your allegations on Islamic attitudes to Medieval philosophy and science and to what you think triggered the decline of the Muslim peoples. As for the ridiculous fatwas you mentioned, then my answer is the same as it has been in earlier responses. Colonialism and the corrupt secular rulers of our countries. My gripe with your position is that you are recommending an aspirin for somebody with a stomach ache (for want of a better example). We must identify the illness, then make prescriptions.

Maysaloon Says:

Ayman,
Tomayto or tomato, I really don’t see the distinction you are trying to make. Anyhow, of course we can tolerate our 21st century arguments – as long as they are well made…

In the end we are all fallible. Everything I have said or done that is right is from Allah and all the mistakes are mine alone.

jad Says:

Waseem,
standing by what you wrote or not, we both know that what you wrote about secularism in not true because secularism doesn’t mean anti-religion on the personal level or to despise other people’s religions the way you describe it, It’s also redundant to be offended by secularism and write an essay defending Averroes, forgetting that he was the first philosopher to come close to secularism in his ideas while he was a Muslim in the 12th century not the 21st.
I don’t know where you live but how about that country you live in decides to become politically religious and rejects secularism? Are you going to be happy being the minority where you have to live by other religious rules or are you going to reject the system?
Since you are that much consumed by religion, could you please tell us, in case the Syrian’s majority (60%) rejects secularism as the right choice for a healthy political system, what is the alternative? Are we going to replace it with an Islam ruled society? In that case and in the spirit of your comment that Islam came to correct Christianity and Judaism how are you going to correct me as a Syrian Christian, in what means and what if I don’t want to be corrected? What are you going to do to ‘fix’ my wrong beliefs when I refuse your rules? What will happen to the ‘Christians familial law’ we gain couple years ago in Syria? Are you going to abolish that and replace it with Sharia law? Do you think of any of those questions when you project your personal religion as a political system on the Syrian religiously mixed society?
How about other Syrians, the Shia, the Alawite, the Druzes, the Ismaelis and the Yazidis what will happen to them? How God’s political system would work on all of us?
J.

Maysaloon Says:

Jad,
I can see why you are confused. You have mixed up a lot of what I have written with a lot of your assumptions. I would only like to point out that Averroes is *not* what you think of him and neither am I. If you read my comments as closely as I am sure you have read the comments which suited your opinion, you would note that I am not saying the things you mention.

Regards,
Wassim

ayman hakki Says:

Maysaloon.

The warning of our prophet against the Aarab had no tomato-tomato ambiguity. Al Saud and Abdul Wahab were Aarabis by any definition. They usurped the care of the sacred grounds of Islam by force from ahl-al-beit. There reform movement was as you indicate needed but I would like to enroll you in the possibility that they went too far. Banning Al Mawled al Nabawi is just as silly as celebrating it excessively. Destroying the Tomb of Mohammad (peace be upon him) was as symbolically frightening as glorifying it. Had another invading force done this under the pretext of “Min al Turab Ila Al Turab” would you have accepted it? You believe that the Koran and the hadith are mostly infallible and yet you ignore the warning against the same people who now claim to speak for us all, do you support that?

The distinction between good Non-Arabi Islam and bad Militant mujrem Islam is clear. Though many issues may bind all Islamic schools of thought (including what to me is abhorrent Wahabism) the difference is one; tolerance…or in Arabic an even better word; Al Samaha. This tolerance is the hallmark of our God our very own distinctly Islamic “Rahman Al Raheem” by any definition and it was (pre-seventh century) the hall mark of our religion. Jad, Elie, Alex and my personal favorite Dr. Zaki Fteyha (my Jewish chief resident at Al Mouassat hospital in Damascus) would be welcome in Ibn Arabi’s Damascus and not welcome in Awlad Al AArabis Kingdome. Good Islam vs. bad Islam…NO, but good Islam vs. Wahabi Islam…absolutely. Have you ever been to Saudi Arabia Waseem?

Ayman.

Maysaloon Says:

Ayman,
Thank you for taking the time to clarify your position concerning the Aarab. Yes, you are correct, the Prophet Peace and Blessings be upon him had no tomato-tomato ambiguity in this regards and he has warned us of them – I agree with you one hundred percent.

One small thing – I take it you are also aware of the warnings regarding alcohol both in the Hadith and in the Qur’an, and also with regards to the way you say your wife dresses, and, I might add, with regards to raising arms against fellow Muslims in, say, Iraq for example? Or with regards to overeating? I do hope you are just as zealous in adhering to the other warnings in our most beautiful of faiths as you are when it comes to protecting yourself from Aarabi fitna?

Regards,
Wassim

PS. I have in fact lived in Saudi Arabia. I have also lived in the West. I can categorically confirm to you that the ideology of the West is far more dangerous than that of any crazy Wahhabi (it has killed far more people and destroyed far more lives).

Jad Says:

Waseem,
With all due respect, I think there are some facts you have not considered in my ‘assumptions’ and you didn’t even explain what are my misunderstanding of Averroes secularism philosophy that beside me all over Europe consider him as a secular philosopher.

I also appreciate if you take time to enlighten all of us what is wrong with the secularism that I and lots of Syrians strongly belief in as the best political choice for our Syrian society but this time I’m asking for more than three ‘judgmental’ lines and more clear explanation.
Also, what are the alternatives you can introduce to unite all of Syrians around other than a religious political system? So ‘I’ in particular see how wrong I was translating your lines.

Thank you
J.

ayman hakki Says:

“I take it you are also aware of the warnings regarding alcohol both in the Hadith and in the Qur’an, and also with regards to the way you say your wife dresses, and, I might add, with regards to raising arms against fellow Muslims ”
……………………………………………..
Dear Waseem.

After reviewing the Koran carefully and coupling my old review with my recent review of the Harvard study on the beneficial use of alcohol (in moderation) in the prevention of strokes and heart attacks, it becomes clear that “Ijtinab” al Khamer is a valid yet not absolute dictum. If you compare Tahreem Lahm al khanzeer (and the unbelievable coincidence of the outbreak of swine flu) the issue becomes clearer. I had my surgery because I was addicted to food, but I was never addicted to alcohol. A single scotch is not only acceptable islamically it is protective cardiovascularily. But, I promise to not impose my view regarding alcohol on you, if you agree to avert your eyes from my wife’s dress choice and my occasional drink.

Waseem, we can argue day and night about what is truly Islamic vs. what is interpretive but we cannot afford to disregard the big picture: Aarabi Islam bad…non-wahabi Islam good. Islam is the religion of Al Rahman al Raheem and He not so some backward cleric will be judging me on the gates of heaven. Only then will we know for sure whether you or I are right, and I’ll leave it at that.

As far as Elie’s Syrian unification question…it is imperative that we address this issue with a modicum of heart. The non-Sunni 40% of Syria must be encouraged to freely contribute to Syria’s un-tethered revival, and my take on Islam is compatible with this inclusive vision. Secularism is a great tool when it’s not an excuse to attack religion.

Waseem, heed the Prophet’s injunction on the hypocrisy that permeates all Aarabi hearts. Aarabi Islam is not only cumbersome it is downright subversive; it is al Nifaq in its most obvious form. If you lived in Saudi Arabia and saw them in Southern France you’ld understand my point, and sayidna Mohammad’s point (peace be on him).

As far as raising arms against Muslims; it’s an egg vs. chicken debate; 9/11 was a Wahabi inspired act of “Jurm” and what followed after it is equally inexcusable. I’m not defending George Bush’s “Ijram,” I’m just saying his “Jurm” was an act of obtuse messianic aggression that does not in any way justify Wahabi actions. Both are wrong and we Syrians know it. Our job is to unite and find the middle road between them.

offended Says:

Alex,
Yes I do stand by what I have said.

Wassim, as I don’t possess the same arsenal of rude expressions that you do, I only going to draw your attention to a simple observation; what you wrote in Arabic here describes your own style of debate very well:

استخدام اتفه و ارخص العبارات

Maysaloon Says:

Ayman,
With regards to your first paragraph. Let’s just agree to follow what Allah and the Prophet have asked us to. I think that would leave us both happy :)

Offended,
I say this to you with the utmost of humility and honesty, you have not got a clue what you are talking about…

ayman hakki Says:

Secular versus Religious; a post copied and pasted here from “The Middle East Open Forum” blog, with the permission of the author.
………………………………………………….

The fundamental distinction between democracy and theocracy resides in sovereignty, i.e. the source of law. Clearly every organized society needs laws. The Greeks of Plato and Aristotle were the original proponents of democracy wherein sovereignty resides in elected officials. This was a bottom-up approach to law giving [1]. On the other hand, in theocracy, dating back to ancient polytheistic Egypt, sovereignty resides in divine law, i.e. top-down approach.
Modern day democracy had its intellectual justification in the works of Hobbes, Hume and Locke in the eighteenth century [2]. It was revulsion at the religious wars that ravaged Europe for a couple of centuries that finally led intellectuals to conclude that the theocratic basis for government is fundamentally flawed. These intellectuals provided the impetus for secular democracy in which sovereignty resides in the people. The impact of their intellectual work is seen in the democratic institutions of the post revolution French Republic and the American constitution.

But a careful look at many present day governments shows that the question of sovereignty is not black or white, i.e. it is neither totally secular nor religious. At the risk of being quantitatively inaccurate it is helpful to view the sovereignty scale shown above as an indicator of the balance between the secular and the religious in the make up of any country’s legal framework. The two 100% extremes are rare in the modern world but one can site example:
Communism (100/0 blend): At its inception communism in Europe viewed religion as distinctly evil and a threat to society. Sovereignty in communism was exclusively secular and the state was hostile to manifestations of religiosity. Interestingly, after several generations of communist rule and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, religion emerged as a thriving force in Eastern block countries. The conclusion to be drawn is that regardless of the effort to squelch religion, it plays an important and indispensable role in the lives of people.
America (90/10 blend): The founding fathers concentrated legislative powers in the hands of elected representatives. But the US constitution also protected religious freedom of individuals. The separation of church and state (establishment clause) prohibits the government from promoting religion. Nevertheless, the influence of religion is small but measurable. For example issues of right to life, stem cell research and same sex marriage are deeply religious issues. In addition, one of the hallmarks of the US constitution is the protection of minority rights and the curtailment of tyranny by the majority. This protection derives from the Christian ethic of tolerance.
Turkey (98/2 blend): After the fall of the Ottoman empire, Attaturk devised a new secular constitution that purged religion (Islam) from practically all aspects of legal and civic life. The constitution went as far as prohibiting personal attire that might be a manifestation of religion such as women’s head cover. The system worked well for several decades, but extreme secularism eventually was met with resistance by deeply religious Turks. The result has been the ascendancy into power of the Islamic Party of Erdogan.
Saudi Arabia( 0/100 blend): In this country the sovereignty resides in divine law, the Koran. At least that is the intent. In practice, however, the Koran is not a constitutional document setting the legal framework of the state. Therefore, the Saudi legal system is a combination of human interpretation of the Kuran in addition to a historically disputable set of precedents and quotes that date back to the seventh century C.E. This has led not only to rigid and regressive legal code but to outright contradictions within the religious framework. Consider for example the Saudi law that requires the stoning to death of adulterers. There is no such requirement in the Koran. In fact, the Koran explicitly describes the marriage restrictions imposed on adulterers in addition to the social ostracism to be imposed on them , clearly signifying that they are not to be put to death for this sin. The current Saudi law of stoning is based on tradition that derives from Judaic law that was practiced by Jewish tribes at the time of the Prophet.
Iran (20/80 blend): Iran on the sovereignty scale falls close to the theocratic end. It has some trappings of democracy in the sense that it has an elected parliament and president. But effective power resides in the Iranian clergy who vet candidates prior to elections and allow only those who subscribe to the clergies’ notion of fitness to serve. The clergy also monitor legislation and block laws that they consider to be “inappropriate”.
Egypt ( 80/20 blend): Egypt has a predominantly secular government. But Egyptians are deeply religious just as their fellow Turks. This religiosity has become the source of power of the Muslim Brotherhood who are officially banned as a party but hold considerable number of seats in parliament. If the Egyptian government were to allow all parties to participate in free elections it is safe to say that the Muslim Brotherhood will gain even more seats and sway the sovereignty scale decidedly towards theocracy.
Israel (20/80 blend): In spite of the myth being promulgated in Western media about Israel being a democracy, the fact is that Israel is a theocracy. Israel certainly has an elected parliament and hotly contested politics. But in Israel, Jews enjoy exclusive legal rights by virtue of their religion. Muslim and Christian Palestinians are denied rights that in any other country would be considered to be discriminatory and a violation of their basic human rights.

The ideal blend of secular/religious sovereignty for each country depends critically on its cultural, religious and social structure. The misguided notion of the Bush administration to push Jeffersonian style democracy on the Middle East failed to account for crucial differences between those societies and that of the US. After the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq the US sent constitutional scholars to help draw up constitutions that would be suited for those countries. One of those scholars was Noah Feldman who understood the importance of tailoring the constitution to the specific needs of each society. In his book[3] he wisely proposes a secular/religious blend that could be described as 50/50 for countries such as Iraq. His approach is basically correct as described in a previous essay[4] but the question becomes how far to swing towards one end or the other of the sovereignty scale.

In conclusion, there is no unique blend of secular/religious on the sovereignty scale that is applicable to all states. It is fair to say that neither extreme is viable. Experience in Turkey and elsewhere shows that, for the foreseeable future, religion plays an important part in the lives of citizenry. However, the legal space allocated for personal religion in each country must depend on the specifics of culture, demographics and religious make up of that country. It is also safe to say that this blend can and should evolve with time as conditions change.

Basil Hakki

[1] Basil Hakki “Of Democracy and Religion”, http://www.middleastforum.com, March 3, 2007.
[2] Mark Lilla, “The Stillborn God”, Knopf, New York, 2007.
[3] Noah Feldman “The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State” Princeton Univ. Press, N.Y. 2008.
[4] Basil Hakki “Noah Feldman: The Islamic State”, http://www.middleastforum.com, April 2

Elie Elhadj Says:

Dear Ayman,

Thanks for this interesting article.

Mr. Hakki’s concluding remark is important: “The legal space allocated for personal religion in each country must depend on the specifics of culture, demographics and religious make up of that country”.

This statement means that for best results, law making should be left to the majority of the community, or to the majority of the community’s representatives.

I believe that not only the Greeks, Hobbes, Hume, and Locke advocate the supremacy of the people; The Prophet Muhammad, too, sanctifies the verdict of the community or the community’s majority. According to Ibn Maja, Abu Dawood, and Al-Tirmithi, the Prophet reportedly said: “My community reaches no agreement that is an error”. Further, the Prophetic statement, according to Ibn Maja, specifies that in the event of disagreement, the opinion of the majority must prevail.

Why has Consensus of the ulama, not the consensus of the community, become a source of Sunni law? The answer is that before the advent of electricity, computers, telecommunications, and modern polling techniques, gauging the opinion of the Muslim community in its far-flung lands was a practical impossibility. So, a caucus of religious experts was needed. The ulama were the obvious choice. Their specialist knowledge qualified them for the task.

In the modern age, however, electricity, computers, telecommunications, and modern polling techniques have made referendums on specific issues simple just as they made the election of community representatives easy. Modern technology has rendered the consensus of a narrow and un-elected caucus like that of the ulama obsolete. It may be said that modern technology has enabled the prophecy: “My community reaches no agreement that is an error” to become a reality.

Elie

ayman hakki Says:

Elie.

Well put, if you get the chance, go to http://www.middleastforum.com and post a comment. It is my Uncle Basil’s blog and it is very thoughtful.

I’m going to take the liberty of copying and pasting your response above, as a comment on his article. He’s very interesting; at seventy he looks like he’s thirty and in way back in 1964 his name appeared in Who’s Who in American Science as the “first American of Arab origin in Who’s Who in American Scientists.” (google him and you’ll see).

There so many people like you and my uncle in Diaspora it’s gratifying, but at the same time it is frustrating…if you know what I mean.

Ayman.

Elie Elhadj Says:

Ayman,

Thanks for your heartening kind words.

I have posed the following on middleeastforum.com:

“Dear Mr. Hakki,

I am grateful to Mr. Ayman Hakki for posting the second comment above under the name “anonymous”, which I had posted in response to your excellent article on creativesyria.com: The Democracy/Theocracy Blend.

I would like to take this opportunity to add that the implications of the above mentioned Prophetic Hadith can be far reaching especially as relates to Islamist politicians and rulers who proclaim that elections, including those to legislative assemblies are alien to Shari’a.

Modern technology has enabled the prophecy: “My community reaches no agreement that is an error” to become a reality.

Let free and fair elections be adopted in the manifestos of Islamist political parties and implemented in countries ruled in the name of Islam.”

Elie

ayman hakki Says:

Dear Elie.

Though I believe the Hadith you mentioned is correct in spirit, I feel that it’s inaccurate in a way; a true majority (even an electronic and scientifically poled majority0 may be in error when it is not educated on an issue and follows its prejudices. Look at women driving in Saudi Arabia for example, would you trust a Saudi majority vote on that one?

My beef with Hadith (in general) is that at Mohammad’s death they were reportedly less than 5000 thousand Hadiths, and the Hadiths of Abu Hurairra alone are over 20,000 in number. It would all be fine and dandy had the prophet (peace be upon him) himself not enjoined his followers “not” to record his saying. He reportedly feared that it would one day attain the status of Godliness; a status he made clear he reserved only for the Koran (a rather prophetic statement in itself.)

The fact that I’m basing my argument against Hadith on a Hadith makes it more confusing. Elie, you’re better versed at this than I am (and I thank you for joining this debate.) So please give us a sense of what you believe to be right and wrong with my Hadith disparagement, a disparagement I don’t make lightly because I’m a Muslim who believes in God (but who can do without everything I know about Wahabi-inspired Islam.) I’m an Ibn Arabi Muslim not an awlad Aarabis one.

I don’t think a majority of uninformed umma is infallible and I would not want my fate decided by that umma (or any other). Give me the rule of law, and checks and balances and I’ll be OK, give me umma majority judgment…and I’m out’ a there. 50/50 secular / religious also scares me so give me a respectful secular government that says religion should be in the heart not the law.

Ayman Hakki

Elie Elhadj Says:

Dear Ayman,

I agree with your reservations on the veracity of certain Hadiths. In addition to the points you mentioned, and notwithstanding the reported integrity of the six collectors (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abi Dawood, Al-Tirmithi, and Al-Nasai) and the care that they must have taken to ensure the credibility of the thousands of attributers and the authenticity of the hundreds of thousands of Prophetic traditions that grew over more than 200 years, it remains impossible to know with absolute certainty whether every word and comma in every attribution by every memorizer was perfectly authentic and reliable and in the true chronological order in which the Prophet had announced and acted. What is known, however, is that during the first two-and-a-half centuries following the death of the Prophet, the generations of Hadith attributers and collectors were witnesses to momentous doctrinal, legal, and political conflicts. Aside from the great Arab conquests, which established one of the world’s largest empires in a relatively short time, major intra-Muslim conflicts erupted during that era. There were four civil wars, seven state capital cities, and numerous violent political and religious rebellions. These events spilled rivers of blood and divided the nascent Islamic nation into many factions and sects. Under such circumstances, it is fair to say that some attributors, not to mention the collectors, had financial, political, career and other personal interest in the outcome, or they might have simply forgotten what was said or heard.

Additionally, the six canonical collectors lived under Abbasid rule during the turbulent decades of the 800s. The Abbasid Hadith transmitters, upon whom the six collectors relied, were in turn reliant on transmitters who had lived for almost one hundred years under the rule the Abbasids’ great nemesis, the Umayyads. Abbasid politics and fervent hatred of the Umayyads could have played a role in choosing or ignoring attributers, as well as altering certain attributions considered pro-Umayyad.

Nonetheless, for Islamist politicians and rulers the six canonical collections must be beyond doubt. As such, for the Wahhabis along with other Islamists, for example, the Hadith quoted above (My community reaches no agreement that is an error) should stand. It follows that when the Saudi regime and its likes declare that elections are against Shari’a, they would show themselves as hypocrites and exploiters of Shari’a picking what suits them and discarding the rest. If, on the other hand, they would deny the authenticity of this Hadith, what would be left of the whole corpus of the Hadith, which they claim to be an indispensable part of their system of existence?

Elie

jad Says:

Dear Dr. Elie,
Could you please take a look at this SYRIAN CREATIVITY and give us your input, Thank you

سورية اول بلد بالعالم يسمح فيه للمسيحي بالزواج من اثنتين

المحامي ميشال شماس : ( كلنا شركاء )
25/ 05/ 2009
أثار سخطاً وجدلاً واسعاً

لجنة حكومية أعدت مشروع قانون للأحوال الشخصية السوري

بتاريخ 7/6/2007 اصدر السيد رئيس مجلس الوزراء القرار رقم 2437 قضى بموجبه تشكيل لجنة مهمتها إعداد مشروع قانون الأحوال الشخصية السوري، و بتاريخ 5/4/2009 انتهت اللجنة المذكورة من إعداد مشروع القانون المذكور، وقد جاء المشروع جامعاً في أحكامه جميع الأديان والطوائف واحتوى على 665 مادة. وخص المشروع الطائفة الدرزية بالمادة 619، وخص الطوائف المسيحية من المادة 620 وحتى المادة 655، ومن المادة 656 وحتى المادة 665 للطائفة اليهودية.

وعُلم أن رؤساء الكنائس المسيحية في سورية فوجئوا بمشروع القانون، إلا أن المفاجأة الأكبر بالنسبة إليهم كانت في حرمان الكنيسة من الإشراف على عقد الزواج وتنظيمه وجعله من اختصاص موظف يعينه وزير العدل، بينما أبقى المسائل المتعلقة بانحلال الزواج وأثاره من اختصاص المحكمة الروحية لكل طائفة، وأضاف إليها أحكاماً تتناقض كلياً مع الأحكام الخاصة بالطوائف المسيحية. وقد وصف رجل دين مسيحي الأحكام المتعلقة بالطوائف المسيحية الواردة في المشروع بأنها تنسف العقيدة المسيحية، ورأى فيه مشروع فتنة. وقد أجمع جميع من أطلع عليه من المسيحيين على رفض الأحكام الواردة في المشروع باستثناء بعض الأحكام المتعلقة بأسباب بطلان الزواج والتطليق.
فمشروع القانون الجديد نص في المادة 627 من المشروع: ( لا يتم انعقاد الزواج إلا بوثيقة رسمية صادرة عن موثق يعينه وزير العدل. بعد إبراز الوثائق المنصوص عليها في المادة 76 والتحقق من أهلية الزوجين )). أي لم يعد للكنسية أي دور بشأن مراسم عقد الزواج.
وخلافاً للأحكام الكنسية التي تحرم الاقتران بأكثر من امرأة في وقت واحد ، فقد شرعن مشروع القانون المذكور تعدد الزوجات للمسيحيين حين سمح للزوج المسيحي الزواج بزوجة ثانية، وهذا ما يفهم من نص المادتين 639 و640، فالمادة 639 نصت: ( يجوز لكل من الزوجين أن يطلب التطليق بسبب زنى الزوج الأخر، أو زواجه الثاني، أما المادة 641 فقد نصت : ( 1- تسقط الدعوى بانقضاء ستة أشهر من تاريخ العلم بوقوع الزنى، أو الزواج الثاني. 2- ولا تقبل الدعوى إذا صفح الزوج عن المخطىء، أو كان الزنى والزواج الثاني برضاه). وهذا ما يتناقض مع المادة 624 التي نصت في فقرتها الأولى ” 1- لا يجوز لأحد الزوجين أن يعقد زواجاً أخر مادام زواجه قائماً” بينما حافظ مشروع القانون على الأحكام الخاصة بطائفة الدروز لجهة عدم تعدد الزوجات كما جاء في المادة 619 بند 2-لا يجوز تعدد الزوجات في آن واحد..؟؟ وهو أمر لا يمكن أن تقبل به الكنيسة ولا المسيحيين أيضاً. خاصة في ظل مطالبة الكثير من السورين بمختلف انتماءاتهم الدينية بمنع تعدد الزوجات.
والغريب أن مشروع القانون في المادة 625 منه حظر على المسيحيين الزواج أكثر من ثلاث مرات ” التزوج في المرة الرابعة بعد التزوج ثلاث مرات وحصول المفارقة باطل”. فماذا يفعل الرجل المسيحي إذا توفيت زوجته في المرة الأولى بحادث سير، وكان زواجه الثاني باطلاً، أو توفيت امرأته لسبب من الأسباب في المرة الثالثة.
كما ألزم مشروع القانون المرأة المسيحية بالعدة الأمر الذي لم يكن معمولا به عند المسيحيين على ما نصت عليه المادة 626: ( لا يجوز العقد على من انتهى زواجها إلا : أ- بوضع الحمل المستبين.ب- بعد سنة لغير الحامل من تاريخ انتهاء التطليق أو وفاة الزوج). بينما نصت المادة 248 من نفس مشروع القانون أن عدة المرأة المسلمة للمتوفى عنها زوجها إن لم تكن حاملاً بمضي أربعة أشهر قمرية وعشرة أيام من يوم وفاته، وثلاثة أشهر للمرأة المطلقة..! وأبقى مشروع القانون على عدة المرأة فيما يتعلق بطائفة الدروز على حالها وهي أربعة أشهر تبدأ من تاريخ الطلاق أو التفريق أو وفاة وتنتهي عدة الزوجة بوضع حملها. مع العلم أن المرأة باستطاعتها أن تعرف إذا كانت هي حامل أم لا بفضل التحاليل الطبية.
ومشروع القانون ميز بين المسيحيين والمسلمين حين حدد للمسيحيين طريقتان فقط لإثبات الزواج، بينما أجاز للطرف المسلم إثبات الزواج بشتى طرق الإثبات وفقاً لنص المادة 630 ( 1- لا يجوز إثبات الزوجية إلا بالوثيقة أو بالإقرار القضائي. 2- إذا كان الزوج مسلماً جاز أثبات الزواج بشتى وسائل الإثبات الشرعية ).
وفي المادة 38 منه استخدم معدوا المشروع كلمة ذمي بدلاً من كلمة مسيحي في الفقرة الثالثة : 3- تجوز شهادة الذمي إذا كانت الزوجة كتابية حين الضرورة .. ولكن لا يثبت الزواج إذا جحده الزوج المسلم ويثبت إذا جحدته الكتابية. وفرضت المادة 620 على المسيحيين بوجوب” 1- إشهار الخطبة . 2- يصدر وزير العدل قراراً بالتعليمات التنفيذية اللازمة لذلك 3- لا يجوز عقد الزواج إلا بعد خمسة عشر يوماً من تاريخ إشهار الخطبة”.
وأبقى مشروع القانون على بطلان زواج المسلمة بغير مسلم، وزواج المرتد عن الإسلام أو المرتدة ولو كان الطرف الأخر غير مسلم. أما زواج المسلم بغير المسلمة باطل ما لم تكن كتابية.
ونصت المادة 325 من المشروع بند 3 – إذا اسلم الزوجان معاً كان القاصر من أولادهما مسلماً سواء أكان مولوداً بعد الإسلام، أم قبله. وأما البند الرابع منها فنص على أنه إذا أسلم أحد الزوجين كان دين الصغير هو الإسلام على أن يبقى له حق اختيار الدين عند بلوغه سن الرشد خلال شهر من بلوغه، بينما المدة في القانون الحالي هي سنة من تاريخ بلوغه سن الرشد. وذلك خلافاً لأحكام المادة 129 من كتاب قدري باشا المنصوص عليه في قانون الأحوال الشخصية السوري الحالي، التي نصت حرفياً: (( إذا أسلم أحد الزوجين وكان بينهما ولد صغير أو ولد لهما قبل عرض الإسلام على الأخر أو بعده يتبع من أسلم منهما إن كان الولد مقيماً في دار الإسلام سواء كان من أسلم من أبويه مقيماً بها أو في غيرها، فإن لم يكن الولد مقيماً بدار الإسلام فلا يتبع من أسلم من أبويه)). ومعروف أن مفهوم دار الحرب والإسلام قد سقط نهائياً على يد كمال أتاتورك عندما أنهى الخلافة العثمانية .وأما المادة 293 فنزعت حضانة الأم غير المسلمة من حضانة الطفل عندما يبلغ أربع سنوات من عمره. فهل يعقل نزع هذا الطفل من حضن أمه؟ أية قسوة هذه ؟
كما نص المشروع وخلافاً لما نص عليه القرار 60ل0ر بأن إشهار الإسلام يتم في المحكمة الشرعية وليس في دار المحافظة. وبدون حضور رجل الدين الذي يتبع له طالب الإسلام، ويمتنع سؤال طالب الإسلام عن سبب إسلامه أو الباعث إليه.
واللافت في هذا المشروع أن الأحكام المتعلقة بالطائفة الدرزية بقيت كما هي منصوص عليها في المادة 307 من قانون الأحوال الشخصية الصادر بالمرسوم التشريعي رقم 59 لعام 1953.
ونص مشروع القانون في المادة 21على إنشاء نيابة عامة شرعية لها حق التدخل في بعض قضايا الأحوال الشخصية أو رفع بعضها إذا لم يتقدم أحد من ذوي الشأن وذلك في كل أمر يمس النظام العام. وعبارة النظام العام هنا مطاطة يمكن تحميلها الكثير، كما يجري في مصر في قضايا الحسبة.
وفي سياق أخر أبقى مشروع القانون في المادة 44 منه على زواج الصغيرة والصغيرة بقولها ( إذا ادعى المراهق البلوغ بعد إكمال الخامسة عشرة أو المراهقة بعد إكمالها الثالثة عشر وطلبا الزواج يأذن به القاضي إذا تبين له صدق دعواهما واحتمال جسميهما. بينما المادة 82 تمنع توثيق عقد الزواج أو المصادقة عليه ما لم تتم الفتاة الخامسة عشر عر ويتم الفتى السابعة عشر من العمر وقت التوثيق. مع العلم أن هناك مطالبات كثيرة بمنع زواج الصغيرات وتحديد سن الزواج لفتى والفتاة بسن البلوغ وهو ثمانية عشر.

والسؤال الذي يطرح نفسه الآن بصدد هذا المشروع وما قد ينتج عنه من ردود فعل نحن بغنى عنها، هو هل يتحمل الوطن هكذا مشروع ؟ فإذا كان متعذراً في الوقت الحالي قيام تشريع زواج مدني على أساس قانون مدني واحد فوق الطوائف مع ترك حرية الاختيار لمن يرغب من المواطنين مباركة زواجهم عن طريق المحاكم الشرعية والروحية والمذهبية،فلماذا لا نترك المفاعيل الدينية للزواج كما في شروط عقده وانحلاله وفسخه للمراجع الدينية لكل طائفة؟. ثم نعمل معاً على سن قانون أحوال شخصية موحد لجميع الأديان والطوائف ينظم مسألة الآثار والمفاعيل المدنية المتعلقة بالزواج وما ينتج عنه من أثار تتصل بالحضانة والمسكن ونفقة الزوجة والولد الصغير والكبير ونفقة الأقارب والولاية والوصاية والإرث والوصية والأشياء الجهازية ..الخ وذلك على أساس المساواة التامة بين الرجل والمرأة سواء أكانوا مسلمين أم مسيحيين أم دروز أويهود وفقاً لما نص عليه الدستور السوري ولاسيما المادة 25 منه فقرة 3 ” المواطنوان متساوون أمام القانون في الحقوق والواجبات. وكذلك المادة 35 فقرة 1- حرية الاعتقاد مصونة وتحترم الدولة جميع الأديان”، وبما ينسجم مع العهود والمواثيق الدولية ذات الصلة.
نحن لا نطلب الحق في ممارسة الشعائر الدينية فقط ، بل نطلب حق التمتع بمبدأ المواطنة الذي يساوي بين المواطنين على اختلاف مشاربهم السياسية والدينية والمذهبية والعرقية..الخ. فنحن السوريين بجميع أطيافنا وانتماءاتنا كنا ومازلنا شركاء في هذا الوطن منذ آلاف السنين، شركاء في الحلوة والمرة، شركاء في الدفاع عنه،وسنستمر كذلك.. فما الذي يمنع بعد كل ذلك من أن نشارك في بناء هذا الوطن على أساس الكفاءة وعلى أساس الاعتراف بالآخر وحق الاختلاف معه…وعلى أساس القبول بهذا الآخر وحقه الإنساني دون حدود فقهية وتشريعية.؟؟
باختصار.. نطمح إلى بناء وطنٍ يكون لجميع أبنائه، يرتكز أولاً وأخيراً على مبدأ المواطنة الذي يتيح لجميع المواطنين التمتع على وجه الخصوص بحرية الفكر والعقيدة وسائر الحريات العامة والخاصة بصرف النظر عن الدين أو الجنس أو العرق أو اللون..ونطمح أيضا إلى نظام يحمي المعتقدات الدينية والفكرية والسياسية، وإن اختلفت، نظام يكون على مسافة واحدة من جميع مكونات الشعب دون تفضيل فريق على أخر..

المحامي ميشال شماس – كلنا شركاء

This is the lovely law, ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
http://all4syria.info/content/view/9218/38/

Elie Elhadj Says:

Jad,

Thanks for the link to Syria’s proposed new personal status law.

Reading the proposed law is depressing and saddenning. The proposed law is an embarrassing development for a country eager to portray itself as progressive and modern. The proposed law retains from the existing law its cruel and humiliating treatment of women. The proposed law violates women human rights.

The use of words like “dhimmi” (for Christians) is offensive and “nikah” (for marriage) is vulgar.

That Syria’s women parliamentarians, cabinet ministers, Baath Party officials, university professors, and other learned professionals and intellectuals will continue to suffer under the proposed new law; just as an example, the indignity of having one half of the voice of a man in a Syrian Shari’a court, even if the man is an illiterate vagrant, is scandalous.

Where are the respect, faithfulness, and devotion that the Prophet had accorded his wife Khadija, as we have been told, during their 25 years of marriage until her death in 620?

It is with deep retgret that an opportunity appears to have been lost to finally modernize this most important of laws that could help usher Syria into the modern age. Instead, a supposedly “secular” Baath government works on promulgating a personal status law that should make Islamists everywhere rejoice. This law is certainly not an illustrious page in the reform agenda of a supposedly “secular” political party.

It is incumbant upon Syria’s enlightened women and men today to demand a modern secular personal status code that would abolish Shari’a courts altogether and that would equally apply to all Syrians irrespective of their religious or sectarian colours; Sunnis, Alawites, Druzes, Christian, and Jews instead of this primitive retrogressive code.

Elie

jad Says:

Dear Dr. Elie
Thank you, I appreciate your views and explanations.
I had the same impression when I read the proposed law and to be honest I couldn’t believe what I am reading inside it. It’s frustrating that the government approach something that important with this superficial and ignorant way.
I did contact many people so far and the worst part is that none of the Christian official churches in Damascus has been invited to share writing or even to consult writing such shame.
I also start a petition regarding this huge step backward and I will post it on every Syrian news site I know, it is unacceptable that we throw all the progress we did since the Ottoman in the garbage and borrow some Taliban law to rule us. It is disgusting.
I also just read this
http://nesasy.org/content/view/7371/110/
Hopefully it’s true though I doubt until we read anything from the government about the matter.
J.

eatbees Says:

Elie,

You seem to miss the fact that Syria is a one-party police state.

Maybe that should be reformed first, before we get into the sensitive question of the role religion should play in the political life of a free people.

gry hazardowe Says:

gry hazardowe…

Models Galore, A Cruise Ship Entertainer And A Gry Kasyno Dealer: Meet The Ladies Who Law Lets Gry Kasyno Dealers Accept Personal Tips…

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