The debate on Islam and secularism in Egypt

The debate on Islam and secularism in Egypt

Fauzi M. Najjar


The intellectual crisis agitating muslim minds today centers on the relationship between modern Muslims and their past. For the last two centuries, Muslims have found themselves caught up between authenticity (attachment to their values and culture) and modernity. They view most Western ideas, ideologies and institutions as a threat to Islamic law, values and culture. Among these foreign imports, secularism seems to represent the greatest danger. As separation of religion and state, secularism was first championed by Christian writers like Ya’qub Sarruf, Faris Nimr, Nicola Haddad, Salama Musa and others. Except for Salama Musa and Lewis Awad, these Christian immigrants were Syrians, who had found refuge from Ottoman rule in British-occupied Egypt. The first Muslim religious scholar to advocate secularism was Shaykh Ali Abd al-Raziq (1888-1966) in his al-Islam wa ‘Usul al-Hukm, published in 1925. In that famous and controversial work, Abd al-Raziq asserted that Islam was a religion and not a state, a message not a government, a spiritual edifice not a political institution, a proposition that led to his defrocking by the Azharite Committee of Ulema.

Abd Al-Raziq’s book has been the most momentous document in the crucial intellectual and religious debate of modern Islamic history. This is not the place to detail the controversy generated by the publication of this work; enough has been written about it. Suffice it to say that while the debate maintained its course between secularists and Islamists, modernization and secularization filtered into Egypt and other Muslim countries, paying a little more than lip service to Islamic concerns. The recent Islamic resurgence with its call for “return to Islam” or “Islam is the solution,” has rekindled the debate between secularists and Islamists, giving it an urgency and intensity previously unknown. Capitalizing on the failure of the various political and economic systems to solve society’s problems, Islamists have, one may say, encapsulated the Muslim world’s problems into a struggle between religious and secular forces. The seriousness of the current debate arises from the fact that Islamists have converted the terms “secularism” and “secularist” into slogans of opprobrium, in order to discredit, silence or liquidate those who oppose their struggle to establish a true Islamic state. Outspoken secularists have been vilified, threatened, beaten and even murdered by militant Islamists. To the Islamists in general, secularism is equivalent to jahiliyya (paganism), a slogan resurrected by the Pakistani scholar, Abu al-A’la Mawdudi, and propagated by Sayyid Qutb in his book Ma’alim fi al-Tariq, charging modern society with kufr (unbelief). Equating secularism with kufr has forced some writers to shun the use of the term “secular,” replacing it with “civil,” as in civil society or state.

An acrimonious debate, aptly described as “secular fundamentalism vs. religious fundamentalism,” has been raging between the secularists and the Islamists. Entrenched in opposite camps, they hurl accusations and charges against each other, with no promise of a constructive dialogue. Secularists have been accused by the Islamists of being apostates from Islam, and agents of Western powers and culture. In turn, they accuse the Islamists of being ancestral, reactionary and obscurantist. The arguments and methods used by both sides are so contrary, warranting the delineation “two cultures,” with hardly any communication or connection between them.(1)


The Arabic term for secularism is ‘almaniyya. According to the Arabic Language Academy in Cairo, the term is derived from ‘alam (world), and not from ‘ilm (science), as some think, thus giving the wrong impression that science is opposed to religion. Some writers suggest the Arabic term ‘alamaniyya in order to avoid the confusion. Others prefer dunyawiyya (worldly) in contrast to dini (religious). In Coptic liturgy, the term ‘almaniyyun is used to connote laymen (most of the members of the congregation) who do not belong to the clergy class.2

In Egypt, the term ‘almani was first used in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century in the sense of worldly and non-ecclesiastical. When the Wafd Party was established in 1919, it was called Hizb ‘Almani (Secular Party), meaning that it was based on social, political and national identities, with no reference to religion. Its slogan was al-din li-Lah wa al-watan li al-jami’ (religion belongs to God, the homeland belongs to all). The party was not opposed to religion; it simply rejected any ecclesiastical order in Islam, as well as the King’s attempt to use religion to buttress his authority.(3)

In 1924, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk abolished the Caliphate, and established in Turkey an anti-religious political system in its place, described as laique (secular). Thus the term acquired its “bad” connotation in the Muslim world, and ‘almaniyya has been associated with irreligion ever since. Nowadays, Islamists have succeeded in equating it with atheism in the mind of the public, using it as a slogan to intimidate their political adversaries, charging them with apostasy and unbelief, deserving the death punishment.

Most Islamists look upon secularism as a kind of kufr (unbelief) and irtidad (apostasy). Whoever advocates secularism is an apostate from Islam, according to Muhammad al-Ghazali, a leading Egyptian theologian. “As separation of religion and state, secularism is unadulterated kufr.”(4) The Saudi Arabian Directorate of Ifta’, Preaching and Guidance, has issued a directive decreeing that whoever believes that there is a guidance (huda) more perfect than that of the Prophet, or that someone else’s rule is better than his . . . is a kafir. It lists a number of specific tenets which would be regarded as a serious departure from the precepts of Islam, punishable according to Islamic law: The belief that (1) institutions and laws enacted by human beings are superior to the Shari’a; (2) Islam has been the cause of the backwardness of Muslims; (3) Islam is not applicable in the 20th Century; (4) Islam is limited to one’s relation with God, and has nothing to do with the daily affairs of life; (5) the application of the hudud (legal punishments decreed by God) is incongruous with the modern age; and (6) it is permissible not to rule according to what God has revealed. It concluded whoever allows what God has prohibited is a kafir.(5)

Muslim liberal thinkers, secularists and Westernized writers have always been looked upon as renegades from Islam. Abd al-Raziq’s case mentioned above was a high-water mark in the tension between Islamists and secularists. For his contention that the Prophet was only a messenger and not a ruler, that he preached a religion and not a state, and that the caliphate was not a part of Islamic dogmas, al-Raziq was vilified and excommunicated. He became anathema to Islamists, and those who upheld his views invoked vengeance or retribution from extremists.(6)

Simultaneously, Taha Husayn (1889-1976), Egypt’s blind literateur, suffered a somewhat similar fate for his Fi al-Shi’ir al-Jahili (Pre-Islamic Poetry), published in 1926. In that book, Husayn argued that “religious motives had contributed to the forging of so-called pre-Islamic poems,” and that the Quranic stories of Ibrahim and Isma’il were myths. For such unorthodox opinions, he was branded an apostate by al-Azhar, and al-Manar magazine demanded his dismissal from the university. Under pressure, the book was withdrawn from circulation, and reissued under a different title, with the reference to Ibrahim and Isma’il deleted.(7)

Husayn did not fare any better with the publication of his Mustaqbal al-Thaqafa fi Misr (The Future of Culture in Egypt), published in 1938. For his advocacy of separating religion from politics, and of adopting Western ways in research and education, he was vilified as the “living symbol” of secularism. Following in the footsteps of Europeans was to him the key to reform.(8) More recently, Husayn has become an object of abuse, condemnation and ridicule by Islamic extremists. He has been called, abusively, “the hero of Enlightenment heroes” (batal abtal al-tanwir).(9) Calls for banning his writings from schools and removal of his books from libraries come from all directions. In a recent publication, Taha Husayn: Wanted Dead or Alive, the late Ali Shalash provides a list of accusations hurled at the Dean of Arabic literature by Islamists of all shades and colors: “atheist,” “Masonic,” “baptized in one of France’s churches,” “the leading communist in Egypt,” “a mouthpiece for Jews and Zionism,” “Pharoanic who hates the Arabs,” “stupid” and “fickle.”(10)

In an article entitled, “To Secondary School Students: Beware of the Writings of Taha Husayn,” published in al-Mukhtar al-lslami (17 April 1992), Dr. Layla Bayyumi charges that including Husayn’s novel al-Shaykhan in the curriculum is intended to “disseminate the poison and ideas of Husayn and the like, those who always were supporters of the Crusades, Christianity and Zionism, and leaders in Westernization and secularization.” The central point in the novel for which Husayn is condemned is his contention that the Qur’an did not prescribe a system for the selection of caliphs; neither did the Sunna. Bayyumi regards the novel as a “specimen of the conspiracy to confuse the minds of the youth of this Muslim nation, and a proof of Taha Husayn’s falsification, hatred and hostility to Islam.”(11)

Taha Husayn’s case has not been unique, but it has proven to be durable. Other contemporary Egyptian writers have suffered a similar fate. Accused of advocating secularism (sc. kufr), they have been vilified and threatened. To mention only the eminent few: Yusuf Idris, Muhammad Khalaf Allah, Fu’ad Zakariyya, Zaki Najib Mahmud and last but not least, Najib Mahfuz, the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature.(12)


The assassination of Dr. Faraj Foda by two members of Islamic Jihad on 8 June 1992, for having been a secularist and an outspoken critic of Islamic organizations, underscores the degree of bipolarization in Egyptian society. Foda, a former university professor and a prominent writer, had published a number of books and articles in support of freedom of expression, democracy and separation of religion and politics. While the Islamists described his arguments as mantiq al-kufr (logic of blasphemy), he accused them of obscurantism, narrow-mindedness and bigotry, and called them “enemies of democracy and freedom.”(13)

Following in the footsteps of Abd al-Raziq, Foda maintained that the caliphate was a worldly and not a religious affair, a political and not a divinely-ruled institution. Islamic history provides sufficient evidence that mixing religion and politics has been responsible for violence and intolerance in Islamic movements, he asserted. His most powerful guns were turned against the Islamist idea of a religious state, which “neither the modern age would accept, nor the watan (homeland) could embrace without endangering its unity, and destroying whatever margins of culture it has acquired.”(14) A religious state, he added, “is bound to lead to rule by divine right, a kind of rule Islam did not know except at the time of the Prophet. Rule by divine right cannot be exercised except by clergymen, either directly or indirectly, which would certainly lead to the collapse of national unity in Egypt.”(15)

Foda’s debating style, as much as his advocacy of secularism and civil government, irritated even enlightened and moderate Islamists. This was evident in a debate on Civil vs Religious State, sponsored by the Egyptian Book Organization during the 1992 Book Fair, in which Foda disputed and ridiculed the views of Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali, who argued in favor of an Islamic State. For example, Foda often addressed al-Ghazali, sarcastically, as “‘ustazana al-jalil wa shaykhana al-fadil” (our venerable master and eminent shaykh), asking: “Which of the contemporary Islamic states, Iran or the Sudan, would you want us to take as a model?”(16)

While the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights deplored the assassination of one of its founders, calling him “a martyr of freedom of thought and belief,” and many Egyptians and non-Egyptians expressed outrage and moral indignation at this senseless act of murder, others regarded Foda’s execution as an act of divine justice.(17) This latter position was forcefully articulated by Al-Ghazali himself, who despite his expounding of the merciful virtues of Islam, argued that a secularist must be punished by death. In his testimony before the High Court of State Security on 22 June 1993, in the murder trial of the Islamic extremists accused of Foda’s assassination, the Muslim scholar stated that a secularist represented danger to society, and it was the duty of the government to put him to death. He added that if the government failed to carry out that duty, groups or individuals were free to do so. In his view, a secularist is an apostate and secularism as separation of religion and state is an unadulterated kufr. Al-Ghazali also argued that whoever kills an apostate is guilty only of an act of ‘ifti’ at (arrogating to oneself an action which the authorities, which have the best right to do so, have neglected to do) against the authorities. When asked if there is a punishment for ‘ifti’at, al-Ghazali answered: “I do not recall there is any such punishment in Islam.”(18)

Reactions to Al-Ghazali’s statement, which is tantamount to an apologia for Foda’s assassination, were highly critical. The Egyptian Organization of Human Rights regarded the fatwa as an act of takfir (excommunication) of a large section of Muslims, conferring legitimacy on terrorism and armed violence. The fatwa, the Organization’s statement said: “. . . is a symptom of a new qualitative deterioration in freedom of opinion, expression, thought and belief, and a warning of a new unprecedented wave of violence and terrorism.”(19) The idea that an individual can with impunity execute a judgment issued outside judicial proceedings is preposterous. It is a license to kill, and a cause of civil strife and disintegration in society, the statement implied.

More important, although Islamic jurisprudence has established that apostasy is a sin, subject to penal sanctions, there is no agreement among jurists as to what actually constitutes apostasy, and what the legal punishment is. The Qur’an contains no such provision, and the authenticity of many traditions is highly questionable. According to the great jurist Abu Hanifa (d. 767), no one can accuse a Muslim of apostasy unless he himself states that frankly. Moreover, Islam allows freedom of belief and disbelief, and warns Muslims against accusing anyone of blasphemy. On 1 February 1990, Shaykh al-Azhar, as head of the Fatwa Committee, issued a fatwa renouncing hadd al-ridda, on the basis that the Sunna alone is not sufficient to enact binding legislation.(20) Whatever the case may be, there was nothing that Foda had said or done that warrants an accusation of apostasy. On the contrary, Foda considered himself a true Muslim; his only sin is that he advocated separation of religion and state, and opposed violence in the name of Islam, a position extreme Islamists reject as un-Islamic.

On 30 December 1993, the High Court of State Security sentenced the first suspect, Abd al-Sharif Ahmad Ibrahim, to death, and Abu al-A’la Muhammad Abd Rabbu to fifteen years hard labor. In its legal reasoning, the Court said it could not accept the defense argument that the assassination was an execution of a shar’i judgment that the government had failed to perform. Articles Seven and Sixty of the Egyptian Penal Code could not be construed to allow killing for reasons of ethics or religion, but only in self-defense, or in defense of honor (‘ird) and property. In conclusion, the Court said no one is allowed to accuse others of kufr and apply the punishment according to his own whims, or according to misguided and misguiding fatwas by those who claim authority in religion and fiqh. Otherwise, there would be chaos and sedition among the people.(21)


Not all Islamists countenance the vilification and murder of secularists. Moderate or enlightened Islamists have advanced serious arguments against adopting secularism, a peculiarly Western institution. They regard the secularists as misguided or simply wrong, even though they may be well-intentioned. They blame them for being so enamored of European culture, and for assuming that everything Western is superior. They agree with the secularists that there are certain things that Muslims can adopt from the West, but only selectively. However, they reject any suggestion that the secular principle of separation of religion and state could be adopted in Islam without undermining its basic nature as a religion and a community, a spiritual message and a law.

In the following paragraphs we shall focus on the views of a leading Egyptian moderate Islamist, who has best articulated the position of this school of thought. Dr. Muhammad Imara, a prolific writer on Islamic matters, divides the secularists into two categories: the extremists, a minority, who reject religion altogether, and the moderates, the majority, who believe in God, have no quarrel with religion, or who may even observe religious rites and duties, but they advocate separation between religion and state. As Imara puts it, “They are believers in God as Creator of the universe, and non-believers in Him as an administrator and ruler of worldly affairs. They are not absolute infidels, neither are they full believers; they believe in parts of the Book and disbelieve in others.”(22) Fahmi Huwaydi, a columnist for al-Ahram, adds that moderate secularists accept the dogma, albeit with reservations, but express serious misgivings about Shari’a application, lest it would jeopardize freedom, equality and democracy.(23)

Muslim scholars have always regarded secularism as a purely European phenomenon, the outcome of certain conditions related to the Middle Ages, and to the hegemony of the Catholic Church. Unlike Christianity, Islam is a faith and a law, a Shari’a that envisages a religio-political community (umma) governed by God’s rules. Hence, there is no way Islam can be separated from state or the spiritual from the worldly. Moreover, Islam does not admit of an ecclesiastical order, which can impose its will on the community, or create new doctrines. “Islam is a religion and a state” (Islam din wa dawla), goes the often repeated dictum. For this very reason secularism would undermine Islam’s basic principles. In the words of Tariq al-Bishri, “secularism and Islam cannot agree except by means of talfiq [combining the doctrines of more than one school, i.e., falsification], or by each turning away from its true meaning.”(24)

Of all Western institutions, theories and ideas thrust upon Muslims by European imperialism, secularism has been regarded as the most dangerous challenge to Islam. Compared to the dangers of Westernization in the modern age, the Crusades were less threatening, because “they had brought along nothing that was attractive to Muslims. Rather they returned carrying with them elements of Islamic culture.” They were, in the words of ‘Usama b. Munqiz (1095-1188), an Arab knight and a man of letters, who fought the Crusaders and sometimes befriended them, “animals lacking all virtues except that of fighting.”(25)

In modern times, the situation is quite different. Under Ottoman rule, the Muslim world stagnated for centuries, while the West was undergoing change and progress. Consequently, when the confrontation took place in the Nineteenth Century, there hardly could have been any resistance to Western intellectual influences, cultural values, lifestyles and modes of thought. The dazzling quality of Western civilization left little room for those who sought an Islamic renaissance to think of an alternative cultural paradigm. Western civilization was “human civilization,” “world civilization,” or “the civilization of the age;” everything else belonged to a bygone heritage, or the dump heap of history. No wonder that certain Muslim minds have been captivated by Western ideas and systems. However, Imara asserts that, “We do not reject secularism because it has been imported from the West. We need only examine our circumstances in light of our Islamic religion and its nature, to find out whether secularism would mean progress for us in the same way it did for Europe, or whether it would prove to be inappropriate and harmful” (p. 11).

In his effort to demonstrate that secularism is either inimical, extrinsic or inappropriate to Islam, Imara, somewhat apologetically, focuses on certain basic differences between the two ideologies: (1) Whereas Islam gives priority to public interest, even over a religious text, and sanctions what the Muslim community considers good and beneficial in its worldly affairs, Western secularism is utilitarian, with self-interest as its primary value. (2) It is true that secular society stands for change and innovation (tajdad), but so does Islam; its endorsement of progress knows no limit. Why then, he wonders, should Muslims look to secularism for inspiration? (3) Lack of interest in the supernatural and emphasis on human reason is another distinguishing feature of secularism. Well, Islam’s partiality to reason and rationality is quite clear, certain and decisive. The Qur’an, which is a supernatural miracle, enjoins the use of reason in interpreting its verses. (4) Secular society is indifferent to traditional values and conservative tendencies. Islam, on the other hand, distinguishes between reactionary values that are inimical to progress and development, and those which play a positive role in the life of society, rejecting the former and accepting the latter, even if they were ancestral and traditional. The criterion is the public interest. In conclusion, Imara categorically declares that Muslims have no need for secularism, if they are true Muslims (pp. 12-18)!

In contrast to the attitude of the Catholic Church toward science and scientists, reason and rationality, Islam, says Imara, has made scientific inquiry a shar’i obligation, not just a human right. It follows that “our historical, cultural and intellectual development is not only different from Europe, but is also contrary to it.” In Europe, the hegemony of the Church meant oppression, ignorance and ages of darkness and decline, whereas the rule of Islamic Shari’a was associated with originality, creativity and prosperity. The difference between Islam’s attitude toward science and that of the Catholic Church precludes the secularist solution for Muslims. The antagonism between religion and science is a Catholic-European phenomenon (pp. 22-23).

Imara admits that throughout Islamic history there have been attempts, “inadvertent and unconscious,” by some Muslim ulema to imitate Christianity, and act as “men of religion,” arrogating to themselves the power to permit and forbid (tahlil wa tahrim), and posing as official spokesmen of Islam. But, he says, this was a historical development alien to Islam. Only in Shi’ism is the doctrinal authority of the clergy an acceptable principle. In Sunni Islam, the ijtihad of the Mujtahid is not binding except on him alone. Hence to remedy this historical aberration he suggests turning to true Islam, and not to secularism, which denies religion. In Islamic thought, seeking knowledge is the religious duty of every Muslim. It is this fact, and not what the “men of religion” claim that one should keep in mind, he counsels. “The Arabic-Islamic civilization, rational in substance and essence, is based on Islam, as modern European civilization is based on Christianity.” The Mutazilites are cited as having been the founders of Islamic rationalism (pp. 24-25).

Central to Imara’s argument is the difference in the nature of the two monotheistic religions. Whereas Christianity is a purely spiritual religion, that enjoins rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s, Islam does not separate between the two realms: the spiritual and the mundane. Christianity has defined for the Church a certain domain, that of the salvation of the soul, beyond which it should not go. In contrast, Islam legislates for matters of state and social relations. Although it does not lay down any specific institutions, theories and laws for the Islamic state, leaving it to reason and experience, Islam does lay down the philosophy, ideals, criteria, intentions and ends for these institutions, theories and laws. The public interest is the criterion by which changes in laws and institutions are to be judged. Islam, Imara asserts, is free of Christian dualism which gave rise to secularism in Europe (pp. 25-28).

In addition to being a natural reaction to the tyranny of the Church over the affairs, material and intellectual, of state and society, and to its rigidity and excesses, secularism was also the true and natural solution within the framework of Christian civilization. Secularism does not represent an encroachment on Christianity and its Church; rather it represents a rectification of a historical condition of errors and evils, which would direct the Church and its theology back to their true and natural origin (p. 28).

Muslim secularists are rebuked by Imara for holding that Islam is only a spiritual message and has nothing to do with state, politics and power. “Those of us who choose secularism, or those who strive to establish a religious state are, consciously or unconsciously, imitators of the encroaching Western civilization. They are an offense to the Islamic religion.” Secularism, Imara concludes, is not “…our way to progress. . . . Our way to progress lies in the full knowledge of Islam’s true position, which rejects secularism as it rejects the clerical and religious authority and state as they were known in the West” (p. 31).

Unlike many Islamists, Imara agrees with the secularists that the state is not one of the essential elements of Islam. The Qur’an does not set in any detail a constitution (nizam) for an Islamic state. Yet this does not mean that there is no relationship between religion and state, as the secularists maintain. Although the Qur’an had not ordained a state for the Muslims, it had prescribed certain religious duties which cannot be fulfilled without the establishment of an Islamic state, such as levying the zakat, applying the hudud, regulating the judicial system, etc. This state is unlike any other state. “It is the Islamic state which alone is the instrument capable of overseeing the performance of the shar’i duties. . . It is a civil obligation required by a religious obligation.” Most Muslim jurists agree on the necessity of an Islamic state, as they agree that it is from the furu (branches) and not from the ‘Usul (theoretical bases of Islamic law), or one of the essential elements of religion. It is a “civil obligation required by religion for the well-being of mankind in this life. . . . To say it is a civil duty implies that it is neither a theocracy nor a secular state separated from religion” (pp. 34-38).

The main thrust of Imara’s argument is to prove that the essential characteristic of Islamic civilization is that the Islamic state is simultaneously civil and Islamic, without being theocratic or secular. The Islamic state is a matter of public interest and social organization, not an article of faith. The city state of Madina, which the Prophet ruled, had come into being as a “military, political and social contract” (bay’at al-‘aqaba), an agreement between him and seventy-five personalities of the Aws and Khazraj tribes. The constitution of this “believing community was a political constitution,” based on the Qur’an. The two most important component groups of this state, the Immigrants and the Supporters, constituted the core of the religious ‘Umma, which “is one ‘Umma unlike the rest of mankind.” In short, it was a complete state, founded according to a constituent contract and a constitution. Muhammad was the head of state, its military leader and Imam. He was assisted by ministers, advisers, ambassadors and military chiefs (pp. 40-47).

After the Prophet’s death, and except for the Shiites who, not unlike the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, uphold the rule by divine right, all Muslim sects agreed that authority in the state is of civil nature, Imara asserts. It is the community that chooses the ruler, holds him to account, and deposes him, by force if need be, if he fails to execute the law, which is the product of human shura and individual opinion (ijtihad), so long as they lie within the bounds of the fixed principles of religion and divine revelation. The ruler is not more than an executor of the law; he derives his authority by delegation (tafweed) from the ‘Umma. By stressing that the ‘Umma is the source of powers, and that the law (qanun) is the product of reason, circumstances and public interest – so long as they are consistent with the “intentions of the Shari’a” – Imara implies that Muslims do not need to look to the West for a liberal, rational and democratic system. Religion has a function in the state, but this does not mean that the two are united and indistinguishable. The secularist fear of a theocracy is unjustified (pp. 48-51).

The fundamentalist slogan la hukma illa li-Llah (sovereignty belongs to God alone) repudiates the notion that the ‘Umma is the source of powers, and plays into the hands of secularists, who see in it a threat to the basic principles of modern society. The utterance was first used by the Kharijites when they opposed Ali’s acceptance of submitting his conflict with Muaawiya to arbitration. However, later jurists, like al-Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) and al-‘Amidi (1156-1233), used it to affirm God’s sovereignty? In modern times, the notion of hakimiyya was resurrected by Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi (1903-1979), who rejected democracy as the “sovereignty of the masses,” and later popularized by Sayyid Qutb, a leading spokesman of the Muslim Brothers, who was executed in 1966.(27) Imara accuses the secularists of exaggerating the implications of hakimiyya for their own purposes. He also dismisses the extremist Islamist view that a true Islamic state has to be governed by what God has revealed, and that human beings cannot legislate (pp. 88-95).

Finally, Imara contends that neither in origin, nor in Mawdudi’s version, has hakimiyya had any place in Islamic political theory. It is a slogan foreign to “our heritage and to modern ijtihad.” It had been abandoned even by those who invented it, and the essence of Mawdudi’s thought is at variance with how his followers and his enemies understand it. Imara attributes the revival of this notion to Ayatollah Khomeini’s doctrine of wilayat al-faqih, and to the juridical interpretation of hakimiyya contrary to the true course of political thought in Islam.(28)

Imara’s position on state and religion, inspired by the teachings of the reformists Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh, and shared by many enlightened Islamists, may be summarized as follows: (1) Islamic revival must be based on fundamental Islamic principles, which constitute the cultural identity of the ‘Umma. The cultural distinctiveness of the ‘Umma is a historical reality, an indispensable condition of reform, and a safeguard against the cultural distortions that would result from Westernization. (2) Islam, renewed by “rational ijtihad,” is the natural and firm foundation upon which the Arab-Islamic renaissance should be built. “The renewal of our worldly existence is conditional upon the renewal of our religion.” (3) To build a modern Islamic civilization on the basis of the old one does not mean casting the present and the future in the molds of the ancestors and the experiences of the ancients. But it would mean reinterpreting the fixed forms of identity in terms of the requirements of the age. (4) To Islamize the state does not make it a theocracy in the Western Catholic sense of the term. “There is no religious authority in Islam except that of good counsel [Cf. Qur’an 16:125], entrusted to every Muslim by God, and not only to a caliph, judge or mufti.” (5) Neither does it make it a secular state outside the scope of the Shari’a, because Islam is not only a spiritual message, but also a comprehensive philosophy and ideology for a civil order. The religious order involves the worldly order. (6) Consequently, the state is Islamic and civil at the same time; the Shari’a has the upper hand in its daily life and in the laws that regulate it. The ‘Umma is the source of power in legislation and government, and in the fulfillment of the intentions of the Shari’a (pp. 97-100).


Having been on the defensive, Egyptian secularists and intellectuals have finally taken certain measures to counteract the Islamic tide. Convinced that the triumph of the Islamist movement would set Muslim society apart from the rest of the world, and out of date and out of touch with real life, they argue that Islam, properly understood, is in harmony with the modern age. In their interpretation of Islamic doctrines, they make the distinction between general principles in the Qur’an and rulings upon specific and concrete historical issues, which constitute the bulk of what is called the Shara’a. Shari’ rules are the product of human reasoning, subject to change according to changing circumstances. Islamic history as well as the demands of the modern age provide sufficient argument in favor of the use of reason in the management of human affairs. The efforts and activities of these thinkers and writers have been somewhat timid, sporadic and haphazard. Yet enough has been written and done to form the core of a promising intellectual and cultural movement.

Worthy of mention is the New Appeal Society (Jam’iyyat al-Nida’ al-Jadid), established in late 1992, as a “platform for liberal thought.” The founders, mostly Muslim Egyptians, university professors, businessmen, media persons and leading thinkers, stress the need for disseminating and strengthening liberal values and ideas, as a prerequisite for Egypt’s ability to face the 21st Century. They also believe that Egypt had experienced a great liberal tradition, worthy of revival and development, and that enlightened and conscious understanding of Islam and Arab culture would demonstrate that they are in harmony with liberty.

On 20 February 1993, the Society inaugurated its “cultural season” with a lecture by its president, Dr. Sa’id al-Najjar, an economist and former World Bank official, on “Egypt and the Challenges of the Age.” In his presentation, Najjar outlined the radical changes that have taken place in the world, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp, the failure of economic and political totalitarianism, and the trend toward market economy, private enterprise, democracy and human rights. Stressing that Egypt has a long way to go before becoming a democracy, he called for a revision of the Constitution, political reform, popular participation, freedom of the judiciary, the press and the rest of the media.

It is such considerations that prompted the founding of the Society, described as “a liberal, cultural society,” which seeks to promote development “with a human face.” As such, it seeks to influence economic thought in the direction of economic freedom, private enterprise and market economy. It is a liberal society in the 19th Century sense of the term, with the belief that the individual is prior to the state, and that individual freedom is indispensable for development, as it is the basis of cultural progress, and the source of values and creativity. To soften the imbalances that may be generated by extreme individualism, the Society stresses social justice, but the individual remains the final end of development.

The Society’s position regarding the Islamist tide is based on five principles: (1) Recognition of the truism that a nation without a history is a nation without a future. Therefore, the Society affirms its attachment to the Arab-Islamic culture, and its adherence to that identity. (2) Belief that Islam is the religion of reason, and reason dictates change according to changing circumstances. The program invokes the shar’i principle “taghayyur al-ayyam yaqtadi taghayyur al-ahkam” (change in time calls for a change in rules). (3) Egypt’s and the Muslim world’s deliverance from underdevelopment, poverty and dependency requires the adoption of the “achievements of reason” in the natural and social sciences. (4) Enlightened interpretation of the Shari’a would demonstrate that it is not incompatible with fundamental human rights. (5) All political forces must be bound by a set of human values, which no one can infringe, not even a parliamentary majority.(29) Although the Society’s program addresses issues unrelated directly to Islam, it is quite clear that it presents a positive alternative and a challenge to the Islamist tide.


A more direct and important challenge to the Islamist tide comes from the Enlightenment Society. Established in October 1992 by a group of Egyptian intellectuals, the Society seeks to counteract the claims, teachings and interpretations of the Islamists, whom it describes as salafi (ancestral) and reactionary, by disseminating liberal and rational ideas, and by reviving Egypt’s enlightenment tradition. In addition to holding seminars, lecturing and writing, the Tanwiriyyun, as they are called, publish an irregular bulletin (al-Tanwir) to propagate their views. The first issue appeared in December 1993, and contained articles by the late Faraj Foda, Yunan Labib Rizq, Rif’at al-Sa’id, Sa’d al-Din Ibrahim, and others.(30)

Of equal importance is a series of books (kutub al-tanwir), published or reprinted by the General Egyptian Book Organization. The fact that the Book Organization is a government institution reveals where the authorities stand on the question of the Islamists. The sixty or so books already published are divided into three categories: (1) Books on enlightenment, rationalism and scientific thought. Most of these are reprints of publications that had challenged the traditional Islamic outlook on society, law and culture, such as Taha Husayn’s Mustaqbal al-Thaqafa fi Misr, Salama Musa’s Ma Hiya al-Nahda, Farah Antun’s Falsafat Ibn Rushd, Ali Abd al-Raziq’s al-Islam wa ‘Usul al-Hukm, and the like. (2) Books that continue the tradition of enlightenment, such as Jabir Asfur’s al-Tanwir Yuwajih al-Zalam, Mihnat al-Tanwir, and books by the late positivist philosopher, Zaki Najib Mahmud. (3) A collection entitled al-Muwajaha, consisting of articles and studies dealing with extremism, national unity and the application of the Shari’a.(31)

The event has been hailed as a sign that the Egyptian mind has not succumbed completely to the forces of darkness. Writing in al-Ahram on 26 May 1993, Abd al-Muati Hijazi, first president of the Society, applauded the courage and dedication of the early pioneers of enlightenment, who risked everything to move Egyptians out of darkness into light, defend democracy and constitutionalism, condemn backwardness, fanaticism and oppression, and call for separation of religion and state. “They sought to liberate the mind from rigidity and bondage, to save women from ignorance and idleness, emancipate them from the harem-prison, and to open up to different cultures of the world. They recognized that culture, throughout history, has been a common endeavor, to which all nations contribute, and that truth is not the preserve of any one culture. For a nation to be closed upon itself,” he concluded, “is a sign of weakness, backwardness and inertia.”

In a three-day workshop on the enlightenment movement in 19th and 20th Century Egypt, sponsored by the Committee on History and Thought of the High Council for Culture, and held under the auspices of the Minister of Culture, Faruq Husni, the Tanwiriyyun stressed that Islam and Islamic thought encourages the use of reason. In his presentation, Dr. Asfur, Secretary-General of the High Council for Culture, defined tanwir as simply the “use of reason.” He cited statements by early Muslim philosophers extolling reason as being the source and foundation of knowledge, and that knowledge emanates from reason as light emanates from the sun. By relating reason to light (nur), he sought to convey that enlightenment is ingrained in the Islamic heritage. Hence, “enlightenment means giving priority to reason in apprehending existence and the world.” The Mutazilites, he said, were the first champions of reason in Islam. In modern times, the reformist Muhammad Abduh stressed that rational inquiry is one of the principles of Islam.(32)


Of all Muslim authorities summoned by the Tanwiriyyun in support of the use of reason, none has been given greater coverage and importance than the philosopher Abu al-Walid Ibn Rushd (1126-1198), known to the West as Averroes. Dr. Murad Wahba, professor of philosophy at ‘Ayn Shams University, was the first to call for an Arab enlightenment movement based on the philosophy of Ibn Rushd, in particular his theory of ta’wil, allegorical interpretation. According to the Maghribian philosopher, the religious text has an exoteric and an esoteric meaning. If the exoteric meaning is at variance with reason, the text must be interpreted according to reason. His assertion that there is no authority above reason made Ibn Rushd’s thought one of the roots of the European Enlightenment, says Wahba. He recalls that Frederick II (1194-1250), Emperor of Germany and King of Sicily, had ordered Ibn Rushd’s works translated so that he could use them as a strong argument in his war with the religious authorities. Frederick realized that Ibn Rushd’s ideas would support his attacks against religious government.

After a brief review of the influence of Averroism on European thought, Wahba mentions how the great philosopher was persecuted for his ideas, his books burned, and how he was tried for kufr and zandaqa, and banished to his village. His theory of ta’wul subordinated religion to reason, and turned it into a collection of representations, as al-Al-Ghazali had put it. In general, Muslim ulema reproach Ibn Rushd, and insist on the literal meaning of the text. Conservative Muslims have always regarded philosophy as an enemy of religion. That is why when Farah Antun’s book, Ibn Rushd wa Falsafatuhu, one of the first reprints by the Enlightenment Society, was published in 1903, al-Manir magazine accused him of blaspheming Islam and its ulema. It was Rashid Rida, editor of al-Manar, who urged Muhammad Abduh to respond to Antun’s contentions, accusing him of atheism, as he later accused Ali Abd al-Raziq for his views in al-Islam wa ‘Usul al-Hukm.(33)

It is safe to say that the thoroughgoing naturalism and rationalism of Averroism provided a philosophical justification for the doctrine of separation of church and state. Secularism in the West may claim Ibn Rushd as one of its philosophic exponents. It is for this very reason that his teaching has had no influence in the Muslim East. While Ibn Rushd is alive in the West, says Wahba, he is dead in the East, and where Averroism is dead, enlightenment is dead. Muslim conservatives have always been intent on “smothering the seeds of secularism” in Ibn Rushd’s thought, because if these seeds germinate, they would emancipate reason, whose absence in the Muslim world is at the bottom of its backwardness, Wahba contends.(34)

Dr. Wahba is one of the pioneers in the enlightenment movement. In 1975, he edited a “Supplement on Philosophy and Science” for al-Tala’a magazine, with the first issue appearing in April of that year. It came to an abrupt end when in March 1977, President Sadat ordered the closing down of the magazine. At the time, Wahba stressed the need for a cultural revolution based on the “emancipation of reason, which is the distinctive feature of the Age of Enlightenment.” The emancipation of reason, he suggested, calls for a commitment to apply reason in addressing the problems of society, just as the advanced world had done.(35)

As a contribution to the enlightenment movement in Egypt, Dr. ‘Atif al-Iraqi, professor of Arabic philosophy at Cairo University, and a champion of the philosophy of Ibn Rushd, edited a volume on the Muslim philosopher, with contributions from eighteen scholars, among them Dr. Ibrahim Madkour, president of the Arabic Language Academy, Dr. Murad Wahba, and the late Father Georges Anawati. The book was published by the Committee on Philosophy and Sociology of the High Council of Culture. In it, as well as in his other writings, Iraqi stresses Ibn Rushd’s rationalism, his impact on European thought and the need to rehabilitate his philosophy in the Muslim world?

Following Aristotle, Ibn Rushd gives priority to demonstrative proof (burhan), the highest form of certainty, over dialectic and rhetoric. Wisdom is inquiry into things in accordance with the rules of demonstration, he asserts. While philosophers apply demonstration, theologians use dialectical and rhetorical arguments. The principles guiding “men of demonstration” are rational and logical. Demonstration determines that we know things by their causes, and that is true knowledge. The condition for true knowledge is that conclusions necessarily follow from necessary premises or propositions, which are neither impossible nor variable. Among the theologians who deny or belittle the role of reason, al-Ghazali and the Ash’arites receive the most devastating critique by Ibn Rushd, and their arguments are dismissed as mere sophistry and contrary to human nature.(37)

Iraqi insists that only through reason and the rational method can Muslims address properly issues like enlightenment, religious extremism, heritage and modernity. He maintains that Europe progressed because it adopted Ibn Rushd as a model. In contrast, the Arabs have regressed because they followed traditional thinkers, like al-Al-Ghazali, the Ash’arites and Ibn Taymiyya, whose thought and teachings augur backwardness and descent into the abyss. Had the Arabs taken Ibn Rushd’s call to science and its reasons to heart, they would have achieved greater progress in thought and culture. Unfortunately, “we are still talking about mythical and legendary beings, and things that elude the imagination.” Muslims tend to mix science with religion, and, according to Iraqi, there is no relationship between philosophy (science) and Islam; all attempts to reconcile the two have failed drastically. “Woe to the Arab nation when it seeks to derive scientific theories from Quranic verses. Such an attempt is totally wrong and would cause harm to both religion and science.”(38)

To recover from their “deplorable state,” the Arabs must demolish the traditional and replace it with the rational, elevating reason, “God’s noblest gift to man,” to a level of sanctity, Iraqi avers. He goes further to advocate that the Arab World become “a part of Europe,” bringing to mind Khedive Isma’il’s (1863-1879) famous statement. Iraqi considers Europe to be the prototype of the advanced cultural way of life. “It is our shame that we have neglected the heritage of Ibn Rushd, the doyen of rational philosophy, who wrote as if he had anticipated what the fundamentalists and quasi-educated would propagate about Western culture, science, and what they call the cultural invasion,” he adds.(39)

Laudable as its activities have been, the Enlightenment Society has not escaped criticism, even by some of its supporters. Needless to say, the Islamists look upon it as a sinister secularist movement, enamored of Western thought and culture, and a threat to Islam and its heritage. On the other hand, critics have questioned its credibility, and wondered whether enlightenment is a goal or only a means to confront the obscurantist Islamic tide? What concrete program has the Society presented? they ask. Its discourse is “suspended in thin air, lacking a true social foundation, wandering aimlessly in circles of intellectuals,” characterized as socialists, nationalists and liberals.(40) Dr. Hasan Hanafi, a professor of philosophy at Cairo University, has described most of the contributions in the volume on Ibn Rushd as “rhetorical,” and blamed the authors for using Averroist philosophy to attack religious extremism in the name of reason, and by so doing buttress the regime against its political enemies.(41)

Dr. Mustafa al-Nashshar disputes the Tanwiriyyun’s premise that every advocate of enlightenment is a secularist, and every secularist is an advocate of enlightenment. Although they were linked together during certain periods of the Western Renaissance, enlightenment and secularism had different origins, al-Nashshar asserts. The result of this linkage, which liberated the Western mind from the hegemony of the Church, has been progress in the sciences, politics, economics and the arts. But despite this historical linkage, many Western thinkers, like Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) and Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), have lamented the fact that spiritual and moral development has not kept pace with material progress. They warn that unless the balance between the two is restored, the downfall of Western civilization is inevitably coming, he contends. Thus Western enlightenment in the Twentieth Century is no longer tied to secularism; it stresses the role of religion and moral thought in human life, and the development of religious and spiritual consciousness has become in the eyes of Western advocates of enlightenment one of the foundations of modern education.(42)

Unfortunately, al-Nashshar continues, at a time when Western thinkers have come to this conclusion, and some of them have converted to Islam, Arab advocates of enlightenment are mounting a secularist campaign against Islam, claiming that they are only challenging extremist Islamist ideas. Having “thumbed” a few issues of the Tanwiriyyun’s magazines, he is appalled to discover how they have become mouthpieces of Western thought and opinion. He warns against the possibility of falling victims to Western intellectual and literary hegemony. He is filled with amazement at Arab-Muslim thinkers mounting a campaign against Islam and Muslims, simply because some youth have misunderstood, or deviated from, Islamic teachings.

Lest he be misunderstood, al-Nashshar hastens to add that, as a student of Western philosophy, he is not against enlightenment or in favor of turning away from the West. He says he is simply calling for truth and objectivity in dealing with national issues, and to be faithful to the fundamental values of religion and nation. “We ought to be committed to our problems, and to defend our interests and cultural identity, and not be blinded by Western media hegemony, and be alert to the implications of the ‘clash of civilizations,’ which the West is stoking for its own interest.”(43)


Muslims have been struggling with the issue of modernity and Islamic heritage for more than a Century. Regrettably, the recent debate adds little to illuminate this critical and sensitive issue. The Muslims’ concern about living an Islamic life they can call their own is not in question. What is missing, however, is an agreement on what to retain from the heritage or incorporate of modernity. Even the most sophisticated are unable to define what exactly constitutes Islamicity. The emergence of the militant Islamists who reject everything Western and modem, and resort to random violence and terrorism, has obscured the central issue.

Advocates of a moderate Islamist trend have, partly under pressure from extremists, been reluctant to come forth with clear-cut propositions regarding what kind of Islam they seek to reformulate in the modern age. They seem to be in a quandary: How much of the past is to be admitted as relevant to the present, and how much of Western institutions, practices and values is to be accepted without jeopardizing what is strictly Islamic? For example, some Islamists reject democracy as a Western innovation, and call for an Islamic shura. Others argue that modern democracy is actually the shura, and therefore would fit into an Islamic scheme. There is more agreement on prohibiting usury, but no convincing explanation as to how a modern economic system would function without it. More serious is the Islamists’ ambiguous position regarding the status and role of women in the new Islamic society. The extremists would have women stay at home and take care of the children and other household chores. Moderate Islamists may not go that far, but they are reluctant to allow women complete freedom to choose their careers or their husbands. In contrast, secularists call for complete freedom and equality for women.

There is greater disagreement among Islamists over the restoration of the caliphate and Islamic unity. Some question its feasibility in present world conditions. Others set it as a final goal rather than an immediate project. Some Islamists agree with the secularists that the caliphate is not one of the essential elements of Islam. As a slogan, the caliphate has a great symbolic and political significance. It conjures images of a glorious past, but it also betrays a political ambition masquerading as an ideological commitment to establish a true Islamic state. In short, the Islamists are quite ambiguous about what kind of an Islamic state they seek to establish: is it a theocracy (dawla diniyya) or an Islamic civil state, as Imara calls it? What most Islamists agree on is that the introduction of secularism into the Muslim world is a deliberate Western plot to undermined Islam. Muslim secularists are regarded as misguided, willing or unwilling agents of Western political and cultural imperialism. At best, they are victims of the allurements of Western culture and way of life. In any case, they are renegades from Islam. Islamists rule out any reconciliation between Islam and secularism.(44)

Despite the heated debate between Islamists and secularists, the encounter may be overacted or largely politically motivated, simply because most Muslim secularists are avowed believers in Islam, and are proud of its cultural and moral legacy. If by secularism is meant unbelief, there are few, if any, secularists in the Arab-Muslim world. Jacques Berque, the well-known French orientalist and Arabist, has characterized the encounter most succinctly. In an interview published in Arabic, he states that the widespread debate taking place in the Muslim world between secularism and the application of Shari’a is a “false battle, because of an absence of clear definitions.” The worldliness of society does not mean that it is irreligious. “For example,” he adds, “I am an avowed secularist and a Catholic at the same time. . . I understand the ulema’s anxiety about secularism, but they confuse it with irreligion; they are wrong.”(45)

Along similar lines, Ahmad Abd al-Mu’ti Hijazi argues that secularism is not incompatible with the “essence of Islam.” Secularism, as he defines it, “means that man is the master of his earthly fate, and that reason is his primary means to controlling his destiny, and achieving progress for himself and for mankind. Freedom is the condition of a rational human existence.” Stressing that a liberated mind can apprehend this world, and that knowledge is the only way to progress, Hijazi says that a distinction must be made between religious and natural sciences, between the work of the clergy or jurists and that of the statesman and ruler, between what produces happiness on earth and what guarantees happiness in the hereafter. Consequently, he suggests that Arab secularists can defend their secularism “not only by its indispensability for progress, democracy, liberation of thought and reason, and the assimilation of the culture of the age, but also by its compatibility with the essence of Islam, which glorifies human life, rejects priesthood, encourages ijtihad, and makes the public interest the guiding principle of investigation and choice.”(46)

A more critical view of the Islamist trend is expressed by Mahmud Amin al-‘Alim, a leftist Egyptian writer and leading secularist. Asserting that there is no contradiction between secularism and faith, he says: “The contradiction is between secularism and the Islamist understanding of religion: a fanatic religious thought marked by rigidity, literalism, unhistoricalness, narrow-minded absolutism and a condescending sense of superiority.” Secularism, he adds, “does not mean losing one’s identity, humanity, spiritual and cultural depth or national peculiarity. . . It is an outlook, a process, and a method, embodying the essential features of man’s humanity, and expressing his physical and spiritual ambition to overcome all obstacles which stand in the way of his advancement, happiness and prosperity.”(47)

Departing from the main stream of the debate, Ghali Shukri, a liberal thinker and writer, contends that neither in Egypt nor in any Arab state is there any secularism of any definition. Instead, there are states laboring to be civil, Egypt in particular. Yet it cannot become a true civil state and society unless it frees itself from three flaws, common to all Arab states: (1) The union (marriage) between autocracy and theocracy, i.e., between the political and religious institutions; (2) The cognitive structure of learning (al-nizam al-ma’rifi) prevailing in the Arab mind, a system governed by the supernatural and dominated by miracles more than it is governed by reason; (3) Women’s status; no matter what women have gained in political and legal rights, they remain captive of a cultural attitude of inferiority, shaped largely by the first two flaws out of the prevailing value system of patriarchy and male superiority. With such learning and value defects, there is no secularism and no civil society, because secularism is not an ideology or a political doctrine; it is one of the concomitants of democracy, and no Arab regime can claim to be democratic.(48)

Finally, what can one conclude from all this? Intellectually, theologically and rhetorically, the arguments presented by both sides are a reiteration of ideas and views expressed many times in the past. The charge that the current debate between Muslim secularists and Islamists is a dialogue of the deaf is not a presumptuous or an unfair judgment. If there is no conflict between faith and secularism, or if there is no secularism in the Arab-Muslim world, what is the ado all about? One is bound to find some justification in the accusation that the Islamists have equated secularism with blasphemy and atheism in order to discredit their adversaries, and undermine regimes under which they have suffered deprivation, repression and exclusion from political and social decision-making.

Most observers perceive the Islamist trend as an outcome of frustration and hopelessness. Others stress the motivation of leaders who have capitalized on popular frustration for their political ends, or for amassing large fortunes. Undoubtedly, there are Islamists who advocate a return to Islam or the application of the Shari’a out of deep conviction and commitment; not all Islamists are opportunists or misguided. However, the violence and emotionalism associated with the Islamist movement have blurred the central issue, and reduced what otherwise could have been a constructive debate into a shouting match. Whatever the motivations, political, social and economic conditions in the Arab-Muslim world are playing into the hands of the militant Islamists, causing a disruption in the quality of life, political and social instability, and slowing down the much-needed economic and political development.


1. Fu’ad Zakariyya, “al-Thaqafatan,” al-Ahram, 19 January 1994.

2. Muhammad Nur Farahat, al-Mujtama’ wa al-Shari’a wa al-Qanun (Cairo, 1991), 114; al-Ahali, No. 567, 19 August 1992.

3. Muhammad Sa’id al-‘Ashmawi, “al-Islam wa al-‘Almaniyya,” al-Abram, 23 March 1993.

4. Muhammad Ibrahim Mabruk, al-‘Almaniyyun (Cairo, 1990), 148.

5. Ibid., 149.

6. Ahmad Baha’ al-Din, Ayyam laha Tarikh, 3rd. ed. (Cairo, 1967), 213-222.

7. Pierre Cachia, Taha Husayn: His Place in the Egyptian Literacy Renaissance (London: Luzac & Company, 1956), 60.

8. Muhammad al-Bahi, al-Fikr al-Islami wa Silatuhu bi al-Isti’mar al-Hadith (Cairo, 1970), 175-184.

9. Jamal al-Banna, al-Islam wa al-‘Aqlaniyya (Cairo, 1991), 6.

10. Cited in al-Ahali, no. 646, 23 February 1994.

11. Al-Ahali, no. 579, 11 November 1992.

12. Mabruk, op. cit, 120-135.

13. Yahya Hashim Farghal, Haqiqat al-‘Almaniyya (Cairo, 1989), 315-316; Faraj Foda, Qabla al-Suqut (Cairo, 1985), 26-28.

14. Ibid., 51.

15. Ibid., 52-53.

16. Misr Bayna al-Dawla al-Diniyya wa al-Madaniyya (Cairo, 1992), 37-40; 67-69.

17. Al-Ahali, no. 557, 10 June 1992.

18. Al-Ahali, no. 612, 30 June 1993. See also Mabruk, op. cit., 148. I owe the elucidation of ifti’at to Dr. Farhat Ziyadeh.

19. Al-Ahali, no. 612, 30 June 1993.

20. Ahmad Subhi Mansur, Hadd al-Ridda: Dirasa Usuliyya Tarikhiyya (Cairo, 1993), 92, 95-97. For a contrary interpretation, see Abd al-Azim al-Mat’ani, Uqubat al-Irtidud ‘an al-Din (Cairo, 1993).

21. Al-Ahram, 23 January 1994.

22. From an article in al-Sha’b of 7 January 1994, as quoted in al-Ahram of 17 January 1994.

23. Fahmi Huwaydi, “Tahrir al-Mas’ala al-‘Almaniyya,” al-Ahram, 1 September 1992; Muhammad Imara, Ma’rakat al-Islam wa ‘Usul al-Hukm (Cairo, 1989), 170-171.

24. Al-Ahram, 12 December 1989. See also al-Sha’b, no. 316, 24 December 1985.

25. Muhammad Imara, al-‘Almaniyya wa Nahdatuna al-Haditha (Cairo, 1986), 9-10. Henceforth, page references from this work shall appear at the end of the sentence in the text.

26. Subhi al-Mahmasani, Falsafat al-Tashri’ fi al-Islam (Beirut, 1965), 19, note 4.

27. Sayyid Qutb, Ma’alim fi al-Tariq (Cairo, 1964), 9, 29, 31.

28. Muhammad Imara, “Nazariyyat al-Hakimiyya fi Fikr Abi al-‘A’la al-Mawdudi,” in Ishkaliyyat al-Fikr al-Islami al-Mu’asir (Velletta, Malta, 1991), 139-157.

29. The program was summarized in both al-Ahram of 23 February 1993 and al-Ahali, no. 595, 24 February 1993.

30. Al-Ahali, no. 637, 22 December 1993.

31. Al-Ahram, 2 June 1993.

32. Al-Ahram, 17 April 1994.

33. See Murad Wahba, “Ibn Rushd bayna Farah Antun wa Rashid Rida,” al-Ahali, no. 607, 26 May 1993.

34. Al-Ahali, no. 581, 25 November 1992.

35. Milaf Abd al-Nasir: Hiwar al-Yasar al-Misri ma’ Tawfiq al-Hakim (Beirut, 1975), 128-129. See also al-Ahali, no. 586, 30 December 1992.

36. Atif al-Iraqi, ed. Ibn Rushd Mufakkiran Arabiyyan wa Ra’idan li al-‘Ittijah al-‘Aqli (Cairo, 1993). See also al-Ahali, no. 657, 11 May 1994.

37. Al-Ahram, 12 December 1993 and 15 May 1994.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid.

40. Al-Ahram, 29 May 1994.

41. Al-Ahali, no. 657, 11 May 1994.

42. This theme has been propounded by many Islamists, none more vehemently than Fahmi Huwaydi of al-Ahram. See his “Muraja’ at ‘Almaniyya,” al-Ahram, 21 June 1994; “Hakimiyyat Qanun al-Suq,” a commentary on a conference on “The Downfall of Secularism and the Islamic Challenge to the West,” organized by the Center for Democratic Studies of Westminster University, al-Ahram, 5 July 1994; “Mukhatabat Allah bi al-Fax,” al-Ahram, 12 July 1994.

43. Mustafa al-Nashshar, “al-Tanwiriyyan al-Arab wa Risalatuhum al-Haqiqiyya,” al-Ahram, 16 January 1994.

44. See Jamal al-Banna, al-Da’awat al-Islamiyya (Cairo, 1978), 86; Muhammad Muru, Tariq al-Bishri: Shahid ‘ala Suqut al-‘Almaniyya (Cairo, 1980[?]), 9, 27-28.

45. Al-Ahali, no. 543, 1 January 1992.

46. Ahmad Abd al-Mu’ti Hijazi, “al-‘Almaniyya Faridat al-‘Ilm wa al-Hurriyya,” al-Ahram, 26 July 1989.

47. Quoted in al-Ahali, no. 632, 17 November 1993.

48. Ghali Shukri, “Wa Laysat Misr ‘Almaniyya,” al-Ahram, 18 May 1994.

Fauzi M. Najjar is Professor Emeritus in the Center for Integrative Studies, Michigan State University. He was the first president of the Association of Arab-American University Graduates.

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