I’m not quite sure who this Islam al-Buhayri fellow is, or why he has suddenly become controversial in Egypt. His facebook page describes him modestly as a an “A Reforming [lit.: “correcting”, musahhih] Islamic Researcher.” One issue that seems to have stirred the pot is his claim that it is impossible to describe the People of the Book, i.e., Jews and Christians, as kuffar, i.e., non-Muslims, from the perspective of the Quran. Here is a link to a very interesting fatwa by Yusuf al-Qaradawi on this question. Qaradawi’s basic position is that kafir — disbeliever or non-Muslim — has two meanings in Islam. The first is a legal category, and applies to anyone who has not affirmatively embraced Islam. The second is a theological category, and applies for purposes of reward and punishment in the next life. In the second case, a person is only a kafir and subject to divine punishment if the person, despite subjectively recognizing the truth of Islam, refuses to become a Muslim out of obstinacy and spite. As for this life, Muslims and non-Muslims according to him are supposed to cooperate on the basis of justice, not whether they have the same belief. This view itself grew out of a series of theological debates that took place in the Azhar in the second-half of the twentieth-century. I have written on this debate in a paper titled, “No Salvation Outside Islam: Muslim Modernists, Democratic Politics, and Islamic Theological Exclusivism.” That paper was one chapter in the larger book. “Between Heaven and Hell: Islam, Salvation and the Fate of Others,” edited by Mohammad Hassan Khalil.Read More
Qays b. Mulawwih was an early Islamic Arab poet who gained fame for his absolute, unqualified, and all-consuming love for Layla. So complete was his obsession with her that people assumed he was mad, thus earning him the sobriquet in the poetic literature of Majnun (the madman) of Layla (Majnun Layla).
Two of Majnun’s more famous lines about his love for Layla go like this:
أمر على الديــــــار ديار ليـلى … أقبل ذا الـــــــجدار وذا الجـدارا
وما حب الديار شـــــغفن قلبي … ولكن حب من ســـــــكن الديارا
“I pass through the lands of Laila, kissing this wall and that one;
it is not the love of the land that has filled my heart, but love for the one who dwelt there.”
Many people in Egypt today speak of patriotism, but it is a false patriotism, a patriotism not devoted to the love of the people of Egypt, with all their virtues, and vices, but for an abstract idea of Egypt that is little more than a reflection of their own fantasies, nightmares, or both. The great president Sisi, for example, recently accused the Muslim Brotherhood of wanting to empty Egypt of its Pharaonic heritage by destroying the pyramids and destroying ancient temples. Aside from the sheer absurdity of the statement, this is from the spokesman of a regime that has, from a practical perspective, been a complete failure in preserving Egypt’s cultural heritage, even allowing the Great Pyramids, through years of neglect, to turn into an urban slum.
Like Qays b. Mulawwih, we Egyptians should reject the false patriotism which is based on love of an abstract place — perhaps best exemplified in the absurd plans announced yesterday for the construction of a new capital — for the complete, absolute and unconditional love of the people, embracing them completely, even with their faults. That is what democracy is about: letting the people govern themselves, knowing that in the long run, they will get things right. This kind of patriotic love for the people — not the contempt for them which is the only thing that unites Egypt’s elites — might lead us out of this dark tunnel. But, for many reasons, I doubt any one will listen to Qays b. Mulawwih. After all, he was crazy.Read More
Religious Arguments, Non-Religious Arguments and Public Reason: the Special Case of Transitional Societies
My friend Andrew March recently published an interesting article on the use of religious arguments for public justification and their relationship to public reason. The article is well-worth reading in its entirety for its interesting taxonomy of the different kinds of religious arguments that might be presented in political life, and crucially, how such arguments interact with different registers of political concern. In short March argues that a much more sophisticated approach to religious argument and its relationship to a civic life in a politically liberal state is required that goes beyond the binary choice of either never admitting the legitimacy of religious arguments or always admitting them.Read More
Please take a few minutes and sign this petition (http://bit.ly/Egypt528) expressing your opposition to the mass death sentences recently pronounced in Egypt. This petition is sponsored by, among others, Amnesty International, which is especially eager to garner Arab-American and Muslim-American signatures for the petition to present to the Egyptian government:
Dear friends and family,
Please join me and take a stand against the Egyptian government’s human rights crackdown!
Sign the statement:
The Egyptian government is engaging in a massive crackdown on its critics. Thousands of people have been jailed from across the political spectrum. Now, a total of 1,211 people have been sentenced to death or life in prison in two mass trials that were fundamentally unfair.
Please join me in signing this statement opposing the mass sentences: http://bit.ly/Egypt528
During this difficult time, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans must stand in support of human rights in Egypt. These death sentences are the latest horrifying development.
Right now, the U.S. and other governments are debating how to respond. We need to be heard.
Please sign the statement here: http://bit.ly/Egypt528