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Ritual and Faith

Panel IV-29, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Friday, November 3 at 11:00 am

Panel Description
  • This paper examines the Wahhabi perception of religious politics. Previous studies on Wahhabism in the West regarded it as a radical imitation of ibn Taymīya, but they did not examine the original texts authored by bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb. Although modern Islamic studies in the Arab world evaluate Wahhabism as an “Islamic Moderation (Middle Way),” these studies fail to reveal the unique perceptions of the author in the original texts. Therefore, this paper aims to clarify bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb’s perceptions on takfīr and jihād by examining a collection of his epistles and treatises in Ḥusayn bin Ghannām’s History of Najd. His texts will be compared with the “Islamic Moderation (Middle Way)” published in ‘Abd al-̒Azīz bin ‘Abd Allāh bin Muḥammad Āl al-Shaykh’s (al-Mushrif al-‘Āmm) Mawsū‘at al-Wasaṭīya (Khams al-Mujalladāt. Riyāḍ: Jāmi‘at al-Malik Su‘ūd, 2015). After examination, it was confirmed that bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb’s perception of takfīr shared all the moderate and cautious elements of “Islamic Moderation.” In addition, it was confirmed that bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb recognized that it was not he, but his religious opponents, who violated the tenets of tawḥīd and began labeling him a disbeliever (kufr) based on conjectures about him without correct knowledge of the tawḥīd, Qurān, and ḥadīth. Bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb’s perception of jihād was complex. He cited Qurānic verses and confirmed that jihād must be mobilized with caution. His perception of jihād also shared elements of “Islamic Moderation” or defensive jihād. What was bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb’s true reason for fighting battles against Muslims, which is prohibited in Islam? He recognized that it was his religious opponents who made the first violent strike against him. He also regarded his religious opponents as betrayers who failed to confess tawḥīd al-ulūḥīya, which made them deserving targets of jihād.
  • This paper analyzes the laws on rebellion in Hanbali fiqh and the objectives of the Hanbali doctrine of rebellion. Specifically, the research investigates how Hanbali fiqh defines "rebellion" and whose protection the laws are concerned with. While there is ample literature on the topic of rebellion in Islamic law, this research contributes to the body of knowledge by analyzing laws on rebellion in relation to the issue of governmental legitimacy by questioning the extent to which Hanbali jurists were concerned with establishing and protecting legitimacy of rulers. An analysis of Ibn Qudamah’s Al-Mughnī and Ibn Taymiyyah’s Majmū’ al-Fatāwā reveals that the primary concern of Hanbali jurists in developing laws on rebellion was to maintain social stability and protect the state from social unrest or conflict that could lead to the destabilization of society, a concern that was shaped by the discourse surrounding the early Muslim civil wars. The Hanbali jurists emphasized the conditions of rebellion, the treatment of rebels, and the obligation to obey authority - even a usurper - in order to ensure social stability. Hence, despite the premise of a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate rule, such that rebellion might be permissible against the latter, Ibn Qudamah and Ibn Taymiyyah effectively prohibited all rebellion. The laws against rebellion give priority to social and political stability over the ruler’s legitimate or illegitimate claims to authority. Hence, this research concludes that the laws on rebellion in Hanbali fiqh do not primarily assess the legitimacy of rulers, but to ensure order and stability in society. This research further suggests that the Hanbali focus on social stability and preserving the state may contribute to contemporary debates on governance and rebellion in the Islamic world, specifically considering that these laws are brought up in response to protests against state authority.
  • In recent years, there has been a growing interest among scholars to incorporate modern science in the interpretation of the verses of the Qurʾān. So far, various approaches have been proposed to use this interpretative method, but each is flawed in one way or another. More importantly, many modern interpretative methods not only do not follow fixed and specific rules but impose the unsteady findings of modern science on the Qurʾān, disregarding its divine nature and mission. This paper provides an overview of the various definitions and approaches to using modern science in the interpretation of the Qurʾān and critically evaluates their strengths and weaknesses. The paper also discusses the debate surrounding this interpretative method, which has been divided into four groups: necessity, permission, prohibition, and the possibility of using modern science in the interpretation of the Quran. Islamic scholars have differing opinions on this interpretative method. Some object to it, claiming it is either unnecessary or forbidden based on the role of the Qurʾān in guiding humanity to perfection from epistemological, mythological, or linguistic perspectives or by emphasizing the consequences of the interpretive method of the Qurʾān. On the other hand, some see it as necessary or acceptable, with the aim of preserving the Qurʾān's sanctity and showcasing its modern miracle. The paper concludes by identifying the conditions necessary for a correct and meaningful application of the modern interpretative method. These include a faithful adherence to the exoteric meaning of the verses, an understanding of the difference between various levels of modern science, the clarification of the compatibility of modern findings with the exoteric meaning of the verses, a refusal to comment when a such comparison is not possible, and a familiarity with empirical science. Keywords: Qurʾān; scientific miracle; modern interpretation; modern tafsīr; modern sciences
  • Given the apparent eclipse of the humanistic traditions of the classical age of Islamic piety in modern times, I deem it necessary to elucidate the role of the radical Islamist ideologue, Sayyid Quṭb (1906-1966), in departing from the classical Islamic tafsïr traditions as he grappled with modern-day thought. Centring the discussion primarily on the classical exegetical methods applied to key Qur’ānic suras such as the opening sura of the Qur’ān, al-Fātiḥa, the disruption caused by Quṭb, especially in his essentialist and dehumanising views of the Christian and Jewish outsider/other, becomes plainly apparent. In developing my argument, I adopted an interdisciplinary approach, relying primarily in my theoretical assumptions on the insights provided by both Wilfred Cantwell Smith in the comparative study of religion, and those provided by Erik H. Erikson in human development theory on culture, identity and social order. In his work The Meaning and End of Religion(1964), Smith invites us to ponder on his key concept of ‘the cumulative tradition’. As he puts it, the ‘cumulative tradition’ is ‘the mundane result of the faith of men in the past and the mundane cause of the faith of men in the present’. Every religious person, he explains, ‘is the locus of an interaction between the transcendent which is presumably the same for every man, and the cumulative tradition which is different for every man.’ Put differently, Smith argues that ‘each person is presented with a cumulative tradition, and grows up among other persons to whom that tradition is meaningful’. It is noteworthy that Smith’s ‘cumulative tradition’ theory converges with Erikson’s theory which he developed in Identity, Youth and Crisis (1968) in which he emphasises the importance of establishing an ‘average expectable continuity with the past’ in delineating outside-inside divisions. He observes that the matter of establishing an ‘outer world’ is both a necessity and a peculiarity of human societies whereby humans create an outside-inside division which is based on a number of ideological connotations. In conclusion, I find that Quṭb’s thought marks him out as a main contributor to a modern-day trend of thought which I consider to be an almost complete rupture with classical pre-modern Islamic thought. It is particularly discernible that Quṭb fails to identify with any meaningful Islamic ‘cumulative traditions’, thus, falling short of establishing an ‘average expectable continuity with the [Islamic] past’.