Ramadan Koran lesson: Curse Jews and Christians 17-times daily, pt. II

The notion that ambitious western powers worked hand in hand with duplicitous Arab rulers to advance western interests and to crush Islam became a pillar of Muslim revivalist discourses.

Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, | updated: 09:59

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PART 2 (for part I, click here)

Dissenting glosses on Koran 1:7 certainly do exist, but they remain marginal. Al-Razi (d. 1209), dubbed “independent-minded,” and willing to stray from analyses of the Koran reliant upon “tradition-based exegesis,” i.e., “sayings of the Prophet and first generations [of Muslims],” provides perhaps the best “classical” era example in his respected Koranic commentary. But al-Razi, who argues for a more qualified general interpretation of Koran 1:7, “it is possible to say that the former [those incurring wrath] are the unbelievers, and the latter [those who are astray] the hypocrites,” still concedes,

The well-known opinion [among exegetes] is that those who incur wrath are the Jews, based on: ‘those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath’ (Koran 5:60), and that those who are astray are the Christians, based on: ‘…who went wrong in times gone by, who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even way’ (Koran 5:77).”

More importantly, as Professor Gordon Nickel has described with elegant understatement, Al-Razi, so-called champion of the “self-evident truths of reason” sanctioned merciless jihad depredations against all non-Muslims per his glosses on Koran 9:5 and 9:29, rendering his “iconoclastic” gloss on Koran 1:7 no barometer of rational ecumenism. Al-Razi, linked:

…the theological error that he attributes to the People of the Book [Jews and Christians, primarily] with a command to fight them. He even seems to suggest that the imposition of jizya [the deliberately humiliating poll-tax tribute]  was a ‘kindness’ that the People of the Book did not deserve….[their] false faith…and no other reason…made them deserving of Muslim attack ‘until they pay the tribute readily, having been humbled’….‘accepting the jizya from them and sparing their lives is a great blessing for them’.”

Nickel adds,

“In the case of idolaters, however, there was no question at all of their deserving kindness. In his comments on Q [Koran] 9.5, the so-called ‘sword verse’, al-Razi explains the phrase, ‘…kill the mushrikin [idolaters] wherever you find them…’. The exegete simply writes, ‘That is the command to kill them without restriction, in any time and in any place’.”

The gloss of “al-Manar modernist” (named after the periodical, “Al Manar”, [“The Lighthouse”]), Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), is perhaps most often touted—at present—as representing this ostensibly more “ecumenical” interpretation of Koran 1:7. Rather ironically, Abduh’s disciple, and collaborator on the Al-Manar Koranic commentary, Rashid Rida (d. 1935), contradicted his mentor’s gloss (pp. 66-68) some 30 pages later (pp. 97-98). Although Rida acknowledged a weakness in the transmission chain of a hadith account (cited previously) supporting the traditionalist view, he re-affirmed Ibn Kathir’s gloss (quoted earlier), and added another concordant exegesis by al-Baghawi (d. ~1117-1122), who also referenced Koran 5:60 and 5:77:

“It is said: ‘Those who invoked wrath’, are the Jews, and ‘those who went astray’ are the Christians. For Allah Almighty penalized the Jews with wrath, as it is said: ‘They are the ones who Allah has cursed and who incurred His wrath.’ (5:60) And He penalized the Christians with straying, as it is said: ‘Do not follow the inclinations of a people who have already gone astray.’ (5:77)


Professor al-Deeb pronounced this warning during an interview posted online in January, 2017: “You have to pay attention to what is said in the mosques, and what Muslims pray every day…Imagine a person repeating in their prayers, daily, such a sentence of hate . Could you imagine the consequences of this prayer on his mind, on his psychology? Can he really live in peace with his neighbor?
Perseverating on semantic disagreements between Abduh and Rida about which “unbelievers” Koran 1:7 in fact references, obscures the Islamic supremacist ideology they shared, and was later imbibed, enthusiastically, by their ideologically heirs, Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna, and in turn, today's Yusuf al-Qaradawi (extensively quoted in part I).

Ignaz Goldziher (d. 1921) is still regarded as the preeminent Western scholar of Islam (a giant among giants in the era prior to cultural relativism), and a highly sympathetic, albeit honest observer of the creed. Goldziher analyzed the doctrines of the Al Manar reformers in his 1920 study on Koranic exegesis, “Schools of Koranic Commentators,” specifically, the concluding chapter, “Islamic Modernism and the Interpretation of the Koran.”

Redolent with unapologetic insights, the clarity and validity of Goldziher’s assessment have been confirmed with the passage of time, and at present, are of even more urgent importance. Elucidating the theology of these so-called modernists, whose writings not infrequently quoted for support the medieval “fundamentalist” Hanbali jurists Ibn Taimiya and his pupil Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d. 1350), while making clear its absence of any “conciliatory” impetus vis a vis non-Muslims, Goldziher provided this definition—“cultural Wahhabism” –i.e., cultural jihadism, as a final characterization.

“Ibn Taimiya and Ibn  Qayyim al-Jawziyyah are the religious leaders deserving the title shaykh al-Islam. In al-Manar are to be found quotations from these theologians as supporting evidence, but also extensive passages from their published and unpublished works for one’s benefit and for the theological edification of its readers…

"The Egyptian [al-Manar] movement…operates under the aspect of theology. It derives its reformative demands from theological considerations free of alien influence. It insists on the redress of abuses, not so much because they are hostile to culture, but because they are hostile to Islam, and contrary to the Koran and the authentic tradition……The cultivation of natural sciences (and its related technical sciences) has for Islam also an eminent practical purpose, closely related to the political position of Islam. This Muhammad Abduh teaches [in his Koranic exegesis] with reference to [Koran] 3:200: ‘O believers, be patient, and vie you in patience; be steadfast; fear God; happily so you will prosper., And [Koran] 8:60-62: ‘And if you fearest treachery any way at the hands of a people, dissolve it with them equally; …make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to terrify thereby the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them that you know not.’

"This means that according to the rules of Islam [quoting Abduh] ‘the unbelievers must be fought with the same weapons that they use in fighting Islam. This means that in our time we must compete with them in the production of cannons, rifles, sea and air armaments, and other war material. All this makes it incumbent on Muslims to achieve perfection in technical and natural sciences, because this alone will lead to military readiness.’…[T]hey attach importance to the preservation of their individual character as Muslims and Orientals, and despise the thoughtless and servile imitation of European manners, warning their co-religionists of their disadvantages and harm.

"They continuously and vigorously endeavor to stress the Arabic Basis of Islam and want to keep everything that is beneficial, retaining all the Oriental idiosyncrasies which are reconcilable with their theological theory. But we cannot—as it has been done recently—call their ideology a conciliatory theology. For such a role they are too radical regarding abuses. A more appropriate definition might be cultural Wahhabism…The struggle of these ‘cultural Wahhabis’ deserves our interest…[emphasis added]

Goldziher further observed that Abduh had praised the Najdi (Arabian) Wahhabi iconclasts as advocates for true Islam in  violently confronting bidah [innovation], while he reproved the mid-19th century Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali for attacking the Wahhabis.  

Confirming Ignaz Goldziher’s prescient characterization (from 1920) of the entire al-Manar movement, Abduh’s “co-modernist” pupil and promoter, Rashid Rida (d. 1935) evolved into a full-throated, public supporter of the political aspirations of Ibn Saud’s Wahhabism, most clearly manifest in a pro-Wahhabi tract Rida wrote entitled, “The Wahhabis and the Hijaz”.

Consisting of a series of articles originally published in al-Manar, and Egyptian newspapers, during the Hashemite-Saudi conflict, Rashid Rida’s apologetic for Ibn Saud, “The Wahhabis and Hijaz” sought to vindicate Wahhabism’s reputation, and champion the Saudi-Wahhabi side in the struggle for control of Islam’s holy places in the Hijaz. Rida maintained that with the end of the Ottoman era, and formal dismantling of the Caliphate, the Wahhabis, despite misgivings about them, were renowned for their pious adherence to Islam and hostility to foreign influence. In contrast, Rida argued, their adversaries, the Hashemites under Sharif Husayn, were notorious for plotting with Islam’s enemies for the sake of personal ambitions.  Rida asserted that a devout, powerful Muslim ruler, such as Wahhabi potentate Ibn Saud, unlike the seditious Husayn (and his sons), would be a bulwark against the realization of Britain’s desire to “eradicate” Islam as a political force and, eventually, even as a religious doctrine and belief system.

As David Commins observed in his 2006, The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia,

“The notion that ambitious western powers worked hand in hand with duplicitous Arab rulers to advance western interests and to crush Islam would become a pillar of Muslim revivalist discourses…The apprehension of a sinister alliance between voracious foreign powers and corrupt local rulers figures prominently in the outlook of the contemporary Muslim revivalist movements. The oldest and most influential such movement is the Muslim Brothers, founded in Egypt in 1928 by a twenty-two year old schoolteacher, Hasan al-Banna…”

Professor Johannes J.G. Jansen re-affirmed Goldziher’s seminal assessment of the “Manar modernists”, and also highlighted the direct nexus between Rashid Rida, and Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna.

Jansen drew attention to Rida’s insistence

"…that Koranic punishments or hudud [or hadd, i.e., according to the Sharia, the acts of unlawful sexual intercourse, false accusation of unlawful sexual intercourse, drinking wine, theft and highway robbery, as well as unrepentant apostasy, are punishable by flogging, limb amputation, or death] cannot be abolished by governments which feel they do not belong in the twentieth century."

Rida’s discourse both rationalized and embodied the yearning of the Muslim masses for a return to mainstream Islamic orthodoxy—in his era, and ours. Thus Jansen observes, regarding the draconian, Sharia-mandated hudud punishments.

"Public opinion in the modern Muslim world attaches importance to these Koranic punishments…When the Koranic punishments are carried out, and especially when the authorities take care that they are carried out in public, many Muslims see this as a sure sign that Islam finally has its way…"

Jansen concludes his analysis of the Manar modernists—their own legacy, and direct linkage to Hasan al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood movement—with this apt, if unromantic appraisal:

"In retrospect it is evident that Rida shared these popular feelings about the Koranic punishments. Moreover, he appears to have subscribed to the radical view that condemns modern heads of state in the Arab world as apostates from Islam, and it is difficult today, to see why an earlier generation of orientalists regarded … Abduh, and Rida as modernizing, westernizing liberals.

"The desire for the return of the glory of Islam, which these three reformers felt so strongly, and the particular socio-political circumstances in which they lived made them not [emphasis in original] into liberal modernizers but into the founding fathers of Islamic fundamentalism. In October 1941 the Egyptian government suppressed Al-Manar, which a certain Hasan al-Banna had recently taken over from the heirs of Rashid Rida. It is with Hasan al-Banna that professional violence became part and parcel of the movement we now call Islamic fundamentalism."

Charles Wendell introduced his elegant 1978 translation of five Al-Banna treatises with a brilliant and remarkably compendious assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood founder’s worldview. Wendell stressed not only Al-Banna’s seamless connection to the Al-Manar modernists, but to traditional Islam itself. Moreover, Wendell’s final observations remain critical to understanding the deep Islamic religious animus towards Israel—so much in evidence today—that Al-Banna and his movement both inspired, and reflected. 

“… Hasan, like…[Muhammad] Abduh, castigated the clerics for their withdrawal from the real world around them…Hasan’s answer to this was essentially that of both the fundamentalist Hanbalites and the ‘Manar’ modernists, especially Abdhu’s disciple Muhammad Rashid Rida, whom he admired more than Abduh himself: ‘Back to the Qur’an and the Sunna!’… Hasan al-Banna’s fundamental conviction that Islam does not accept, or even tolerate, a separation of ‘church’ and state, or of either from society, is as thoroughly Islamic as it can be.

"Any attempt to translate his movement into terms reducible to social, political, or religious factors exclusively simply misses the boat. The ‘totality’ created by the Prophet Muhammad in the Medinese state, the first Islamic state, was Hasan’s unwavering ideal, and the ideal of all Muslim thinkers before him, including the idle dreamers in the mosque. His ideology then, before it was Egyptian or Arab or whatever, was Islamic to the core…Practically all of his arguments are shored up by frequent quotations from the Qur’an and the Traditions, quite in the style of his medieval forbears.

"If one considers the public to whom his writings were addressed, it becomes instantly apparent that such arguments must still be the most compelling for the vast bulk of the Muslim populations of today… To this [Islamic] revivalist mentality, nothing could be more hateful than further diminution of the lands traditionally dominated by Islam. I believe that much of the fury and unconcealed hatred of the Zionist state which is expressed by the majority of Arabs will become more comprehensible in light of what the Islamic domain as a concept really means to the Muslims, seen through the lens of Hasan’s exposition.”

Finally, Olivier Carré’s 1983 analysis characterized the profound regional impact of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood during the 1950s, through the beginning of the 1980s, anticipating what has transpired till now. Carré described what he termed, aptly, as “a striking phenomenon”, which pervaded the Arab Muslim Near East, borne out most recently and dramatically  by the unfolding events of the so-called “Arab Spring”—embodied by al-Qaradawi himself--and its still unresolved, simmering aftermath

“[W]hen one discusses Islam, as one often does in terms of a social and political ideal, whether out of religious conviction or because it is in the news, a common language…is found in all Eastern Arab countries—in Muslim schoolbooks, in the speech or behavior of people, whether friends or casual acquaintances, or in press reports on various current events. This common language is derived, ultimately, from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood of the Nasserist period and also from what I shall call the ‘new Muslim Brothers’ of the 1970s and 1980s…

Consistent with Sheikh Qaradawi’s Ramadan “reminder,” irrefragable evidence that his understanding was, and remains, the vast majority consensus interpretation of the Fatiha’s last verse, was compiled in a 2014 monograph by Islamic Law Professor Sami al-Deeb (2017 English translation here). This analysis of 87 authoritative Sunni and Shiite Koranic commentators whose glosses on Koran 1:7 spanned the 8th century through the early 21st, described how 10 of the 13 Shiite commentaries, and 68 of the 74 Sunni commentaries, i.e., 78 of the 87, total, provided glosses maintaining the Jews incurred Allah’s anger, and the Christians went astray.

Of the eleven most recent commentaries whose authors were alive into the 21st century, ten reiterated this still predominant, traditional gloss on Koran 1:7.  Furthermore, to underscore, as in the case of the classical commentator Al-Razi, discussed earlier, that not abiding the consensus interpretation of Koran 1:7 is hardly predictive of extolling Muslim “ecumenism,” the modern Sunni jihadist theologian par excellence, Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), who authored the magisterial “In The Shade of The Qur’an,” was one of the 9 “dissenters”!

Based upon meticulous study of glosses on Koran 1:7 across almost 13-centuries, and his life experience in the Middle East, Professor al-Deeb pronounced this warning during an interview posted online in January, 2017:

“You have to pay attention to what is said in the mosques, and what Muslims pray every day…Imagine a person repeating in their prayers, daily, such a sentence of hate . Could you imagine the consequences of this prayer on his mind, on his psychology? Can he really live in peace with his neighbor?...Every time he has to think, oh yeah, this is a Jew, then he is incurring the anger of God. Oh yeah, this is a Christian, this is a misguided person.”

Al-Deeb’s candid, informed observations expose how demonizing the so-called “radical Muslim Brotherhood ideology,” epitomized by Qaradawi, is yet another deliberately craven and cynical strategy to avoid discussion of the impact of canonical, mainstream Islam.




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