Friday, July 31, 2009

Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Fighting the War of Ideas: Myth and Reality

    Friday, July 31, 2009   No comments
by Dr. Mohammad Malkawi, Argosy University-Chicago


Research papers on Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) have become recently more frequent. Interest in the activities of HT worldwide has also increased. Some major research institutes have published papers on the issue. In 2003 the Heritage Foundation published a paper by Ariel Cohen [9] and in 2004 the Nixon Center did the same for Zeyno Baran [11, 12]. The Khilafah Conference organized by HT-America in Chicago (on July 19, 2009) has promoted several articles and interviews in different media platforms, including the CBS News report (July 17), the Southtown-Star article on July 17, 2009, and many others. Several Blogs and online articles continue to label HT as a radical supremacist group, although they admit that the group does not engage in violent militant activities. The most significant among these publications is "Fighting the War of Ideas" by Zeyno Baran, published in the Foreign Affairs in its 2005 November/December edition [10]. In that article, Baran argues that HT is a radical organization which poses a real and potent threat. She states:

“HT is not itself a terrorist organization, but it can usefully be thought of as a conveyor belt for terrorists. It indoctrinates individuals with radical ideology, priming them for recruitment by more extreme organizations where they can take part in actual operations. By combining fascist rhetoric, Leninist strategy, and Western sloganeering with Wahhabi theology, HT has made itself into a very real and potent threat that is extremely difficult for liberal societies to counter.”

In this article, I discuss the claims made by Baran from the perspective of a student of both HT literature and the Marxist-Leninist culture. I would like to stress the academic nature of this article, maintaining the integrity of my profession as a professor of business and information technology. My knowledge of Marxism-Leninism goes back to my undergraduate studies in the former Soviet Union, where Marxism-Leninism studies were part of the degree curriculum. My knowledge of HT literature is attributed to extensive study of Taqiuddin An-Nabhani's (the founder of HT in 1953) publications.

HT: The Conveyor Belt

Baran claims that HT acts as a conveyor belt for terrorists. She first made this claim in the extensive report "HIZB UT-TAHRIR: Islam's Political Insurgency" published by The Nixon Center in December 2004, where she wrote:

“It [HT] is in fact more of a conveyor belt, whereby people who have for several years been indoctrinated with HT ideology are produced and who then move to more radical platforms on which they can carry out a common mission.”

In the report published by the Nixon Center, Baran does not provide a proof for this concept; although she cites examples of some groups whose members or founders were once members of HT. The nature of the Nixon Center report may allow a claim to be made without formal and thorough investigation of its accuracy and integrity. However, once the claim is made in a well respected journal such as Foreign Affairs, the proof and evidence requires more scrutiny and elaboration. I read the Nixon Center report and spotted the inadequacy of justification. I only decided to write and question the claims when the article appeared in Foreign Affairs.

The core claim is that HT serves as a conveyor belt for radicals and terrorists "… whereby people who have for several years been indoctrinated with HT ideology are produced and who then move to more radical platforms on which they can carry out a common mission." If one were to prove such a claim, one would investigate the ideology of HT and search for that type of indoctrination which, once undertaken, enables a member to graduate and move into violence. Given that the publications of HT are open to the public since it was established in 1953, the task of verification becomes possible. It is to be noted that the publications of HT were banned only by governments and regimes in the Muslim world, rather than by HT's administration. With the advent of the Internet, the publications of HT have become more accessible to all interested groups.

Having said that, I would like to provide a detailed and structured account of HT ideology and doctrines on the issue of using violence for achieving political goals. Before doing so, I would like to explain the method of HT for adopting ideas, means, rules, methods, strategies, tactics and styles.

HT's Ideological Framework

The ideology of HT is based on the principle that man, life and universe are created by God, and that the relationship between people and God is that of complete obedience and servitude to God's orders and that the people will be held accountable for their behavior in front of God in the hereafter. HT maintains that this principle is the foundation of the creed of its ideology upon which it established all its rules, thoughts, regulations, etc. HT states that this creed serves as its ideological foundation as well as its ideological leadership [1]. The doctrines of the creed are collectively compiled and found in two main sources according to HT: the Qur'an and the Sunnah (statements and acts of Prophet Muhammad). In addition to these two sources, HT believes that the unanimous agreement of the companions of Prophet Muhammad on a certain issue comprises another source of Islamic jurisprudence. A fourth source, Qiyas, or analogical deduction from the texts of the Qur'an and the Sunnah is also admissible by HT as a means of deriving rules and regulations [2].

HT defined two objectives to be undertaken by the party following its establishment in 1953. These objectives are firstly to carry the call for Islam and secondly to revive the Islamic way of life through the re-establishment of the Caliphate (Khilafah).[3]

HT also defined the method by which it will achieve its objectives. In 1954, HT published an internal memorandum, entitled "The Starting Point". In this memorandum, HT clearly defined the objectives it wants to achieve as well as the method it would use to achieve these objectives. I will cite some sections of this publication, which clearly defines the doctrine with which HT 'indoctrinates' its followers. Article 9 says [4]:

“Preparing the Ummah (i.e. Islamic Nation) to carry the Islamic Call means exactly to prepare the Ummah for the political work on the basis of Islam. This task cannot be accomplished unless the Islamic ideas become the dominant ones and unless the political method in the Islamic context becomes clear and dominates all other ideas.”

In this article, HT clearly states that the political process is the only process that it will use.

In article 10, HT states:

“Since the Hizb (i.e. Party) carries the Islamic Call in its form as an intellectual leadership from which the systems of life emerge, and it uses the political process as the only method for this Call…”

HT clearly states here that the political method is the only method it will use in its endeavor to accomplish its objectives. In this context, HT argues that the imperialist foreign powers will try to create rock solid obstacles to prevent the party from achieving its objectives. Nevertheless, HT warns that it must always avoid getting in verbal or physical conflict with these powers, which create these obstacles [5]. In article 12, HT states:

The only weapon in the hand of the Hizb is Islam. It must not use anything else; and the intellectual aspect is what the party as a whole should be equipped with.

In article 20, HT reasserts the concept of only using the thought process and the political method in its work:

“And therefore, the intellectual aspect must always be the foundation, and its connection to the political work only shall be the corner stone of the party's work.”

HT argues that the intellectual and political processes are in complete compliance with the objectives and activities it will carry:

“The mission of HT is to carry the Islamic Call. This makes amongst its main activities the following:

1. To change the way of thinking of the world to that of the Islamic way of thinking.
2. To change the intellectual foundation upon which people base their opinions and ideas to the Islamic intellectual foundation.
3. To replace the thoughts carried by people with Islamic ones.
4. To connect all the thoughts to the Islamic intellectual foundation”

It is important to note that all activities that the HT defined for itself are purely ideological, intellectual and thought related. None of these activities require nor warrant the use of force or violence. In article 33, HT states that this mission requires thinkers, rather than militants.

Article 34 states:

“The method (of HT) in carrying its ideas to the people in the society is to invite them using the method of wisdom, excellent invitation, and the best of argument. Allah says ‘Call to the path of your Lord with wisdom, excellent invitation, and argue with the best of the arguments’ [Qur'an 16:126].”

This method is completely based on the intellectual and political process.

Since 1953, HT has continued to be committed to its ideological framework and to the political and intellectual processes that it sketched out as its only method. In the 1980s the militant Islamic groups gained significant attention in the Muslim world, especially in Afghanistan and Egypt. The militant approach had a great appeal to a significant portion of the Muslims, particularly the youth. Furthermore, the militant Islamic work was, by and large, supported by the USA due to the cold war relationship with the former Soviet Union. Within that atmosphere, HT confirmed its continued belief in the political and intellectual processes and rejected the militant approach. It is important to observe that the pressure against the party to clarify its position related to militancy did not come from regional or international powers. Rather, it was pressed upon the party by peer pressure from Islamic movements and the Muslim masses. The party chose to declare its commitment to the political process at a major conference in December 1989, in St Louis, Missouri, USA [6]. HT presented at the conference "The Method of HT for Change". In page 8, HT restates its objectives:

“Accordingly, HT defined its objective to be the revival of the Islamic life and carrying the Islamic Call, and it mobilized in the Ummah to achieve this objective”

HT also defined the method by which it will achieve its objectives:

“He (i.e. the party) also arrived at the method which he must follow to achieve his objective. The method is based on the method used by the Messenger of Allah since he was chosen by God as a Messenger until he established the Islamic State in Medinah.”

HT believes that the method it has to follow must be based on the method and steps taken by Prophet Muhammad, which led him to create the first Islamic State in Medinah, thirteen years after his mission had begun. HT outlines the reason why its method should be political (page 9):

“And this group work must be a political work, and cannot be anything but political. That is because the establishment of the Caliphate, and the appointment of a Caliph is a political work, and because the ruling according to Allah's revelation is political as well, and cannot be anything but political.”

HT goes further in its argument to claim that any group that assumes any work besides the political work will not be able to achieve the objective of re-establishing the Caliphate. The party goes further to examine all the other differing methodologies which HT thinks should not be followed. Those include the charity oriented groups, the spiritual groups, educational groups, the militant groups that engage in preventing evil by force and groups calling for moral behavior. HT explains how these differing methodologies are not suitable for achieving the objective of re-establishing the Caliphate.

In its literature and teachings, HT discusses at length the issue of violence and carrying arms against regimes which are not ruling according to the Shari'ah (laws) of Islam. The militant Islamic groups use a statement (Hadith) of Prophet Muhammad to justify the use of violence to create the necessary change. The statement was in response to a question posed by one of the companions of the Prophet, called Obadah Bin Samit, who asked "Shall we fight them (the rulers) with our swords?" The Prophet replied "No, unless you see them ruling you with laws other than those revealed by Allah". HT maintains that this Hadith does not apply to the current situation in the Muslim world. That is because the Hadith talks about an already existing Islamic State in which the ruling regime diverts the state from its Islamic status to a non-Islamic one. In other words, the Hadith talks about the potential use of force to preserve the Islamic ruling in an Islamic State. However, the current situation in the Muslim world is one in which the Islamic rulings are absent altogether. As such, the issue at hand is not to preserve an Islamic code, but rather to establish one from scratch. This case is more similar, in HT's opinion, to the case when Prophet Muhammad was in Mekkah and was working to build an Islamic State. HT states (page 18):

“The Hizb is committed to the ruling of Shari'ah and to the steps taken by the Messenger to establish the state.”

The Prophet is known to have established the first Islamic State without using any form of violence or military action. When he was urged by some of his companions to use force against the infidels of Mekkah, his response was “we are not ordered to fight back”. This case is depicted in the Qur'an (Chapter 4, Verse 77):

“Have you not turned your vision to those who were told to hold back their hands (from fight) but establish regular prayers and spend in regular Charity? When (at length) the order for fighting was issued to them, behold! a section of them feared men as - or even more than - they should have feared Allah”

To make the point absolutely clear, and to assert beyond a shadow of doubt that HT will not resort to the military option no matter what the conditions are, it states (page 23)

“Even though the Hizb is committed to his open, frank and challenging approach; he will constrain his activities to the political ones only. He will not resort to material actions against the rulers, or against anyone who stands in the face of its mission, or against anyone who seeks to harm the Hizb. This commitment is in line with the acts of the Messenger of Allah in Mekkah being constrained only to verbal acts without using any material means during his struggle until he migrated to Medinah. When the people who pledged the allegiance to support him in Medinah asked his permission to fight his enemies in Mekkah, he replied to them ‘We have not been permitted to fight yet"’ Allah also asked him to be as patient as the Messengers before him when he is harmed; ‘Messengers before you were rejected, and they remained patient when rejected and harmed until our victory came to them’ [Qur'an 6:34].”

The permission to fight and use military actions was revealed later in Medinah after the establishment of the state. Hence, the rules of fighting in Islam (Jihad) are associated with the state (the Caliphate) rather than with the method of establishing the Caliphate. HT believes that the Caliphate will define the rules of war and peace in light of the Islamic rulings of the political system and the foreign policies of the state. But that will be within the scope of the state rather than the scope of the Hizb and its methodology.

What should be noted here is that HT requires every one of its members to adopt all the ideas and thoughts that HT as a group believes in. Adopting the methodology of HT is a core requirement as much as adopting the basic beliefs of the Hizb. It is reported in the history of the Hizb that in the early 1960s when the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was on the rise, several members of HT were let go because of their inclination towards the militancy of the PLO. Similarly, HT expelled others who sought to follow the militant examples in Afghanistan or Egypt in the 1980s. So the truth of the matter is that some of those who fail to comply with HT's strict political nature leave the Hizb or the Hizb removes them, and they find their way to other groups. In other words, it is not the indoctrination of HT that makes some members more militant. It is the other way around. It is the failure of certain members to be indoctrinated with the ideas of HT that takes them to rather violent and non-political groups.

Therefore, the theory of HT being a "conveyor belt" for militant groups does not hold at all. The contrary is true. The main case that Baran cites as an example of the conveyor belt phenomenon is Omar Bakri Fostoq [aka Omar Bakri Mohammed], the leader of the Muhajiroon group (now dissolved). Fostoq was removed from HT in the mid 1990s because of his disagreement with HT on the basics of the methodology of HT. The doctrines he learned at HT were those outlined in this article, i.e., the political and intellectual struggle. In other words, he was not taught or indoctrinated with militant ideas and was in fact asked to leave the party.

The other case brought by Baran is the case of Sheikh Asad Tamimi who founded the Islamic Jihad Organization in Jerusalem. Sheikh Tamimi was dismissed from HT in 1956 due to conflicts with HT on issues related to parliamentary elections in Jordan. He came back into political action after the revolution led by Khomeini in Iran in 1979.This case should not be brought in connection to HT. A more interesting case, in my opinion, could have been the case of Mr. Hani Al-Hasan, who left HT to become one of the founding members of the Al-Fatah Palestinian organization. He later became a committee member of the PLO. Al-Hasan believed that the military struggle is the only means for liberating Palestine and that HT's approach is not sufficient. Had the relationship between HT and PLO been on the positive side, one would be tempted to assume that Al-Hasan was HT's link into the PLO. The truth of the matter is that HT had a very strong stand against the PLO since it was initially established on January 1st 1964. Only a few days after it was formed, HT declared that the PLO was an illegitimate organization from the Islamic perspective. HT declared that it was prohibited in Islam (Haram) to join the PLO or to support it by money or by any other means.

The conveyor belt theory implies that HT graduates people who are prepared within the Hizb to be militant and ready to pursue violent means of change. The facts, based on HT literature and behavior, clearly show that HT indoctrinates its members only with the political means for change. In fact the arguments that HT brings to the table are far more convincing than all the arguments that argue in favor of the military approach. Lastly, it remains a fact that the number of people who left HT or were removed by HT to join or to form groups with a more militant agenda are far less than those who join HT for the opposite reason. In Uzbekistan, the IMU (a militant Islamic group) witnessed a large turnover from its ranks to HT.

It is also interesting to note that Baran, in her testimony in front of the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia on June 15, 2004 stated that “Unlike many others, however, HT hopes to achieve this goal (the Caliphate) peacefully.” This testimony is based on Baran’s analysis of HT work.

Does HT have a Leninist Strategy?

Baran claims that HT adopts a Leninist strategy, among other things which make HT a real threat:

“By combining fascist rhetoric, Leninist strategy, and Western sloganeering with Wahhabi theology…”

I believe that the mere labeling of HT with a communist flavor is sufficient to discredit the Hizb and to place it on the black list of many, including the Western governments, public opinion, and other organizations. I personally have not seen a study, credible or otherwise, that compares HT with Lenin's communist party or any other communist party for that matter. Certainly, Baran has not drawn any comparison and has not made a reference to any such study. She simply made the claim in her article. From a purely academic perspective, this claim is sufficient to render the article defective. I do not intend to carry a thorough comparative study in this article (though I may do that later). However, I will use my recollection of my studies of the history of the communist party in the former Soviet Union to make some clarifications. My recollection goes back to my undergraduate studies in the old Soviet Union, where the study of communist doctrines was part of the official university curricula.

One of Lenin's strategy articles was under the title "We Shall Not Take This Road". This statement was a declaration of strategy change. Lenin's brother was executed by the Russian government after he was accused of blowing up bridges in Moscow. Lenin decided that the violent approach is not the right approach for the revolution. He made the change in favor of the political revolutionary approach.

In contrast, HT never used the violent approach. Also, HT believes that the approach it follows is derived from divine rules and thus is not subject to change due to harsh conditions or hardships encountered. HT has not made any change in its strategy since it was formed in 1953. HT believes that the tactics and means can change, but not the main approach.

Lenin derived the rules of his revolution from his philosophy of dialectic and historical materialism. This philosophy suggests that the revolution takes place based on the natural struggle between the classes of society. On the revolutionary side is the class of workers and farmers. On the other side is the class of landlords and owners of the means of production. Lenin grew his party and supporters among the two classes of the proletariat.

In contrast, HT derives the rules of political change from the divine revelation as found in the Qur'an and Sunnah. The grassroots of the movement of HT includes all types of people such as farmers, workers, employees, landlords, merchants, teachers, doctors, engineers, professors and others. Lenin propagated the conflicts between the classes of the society in an attempt to create a big rift between the classes as a pretext for the revolutionary change. HT, on the other hand, believes that all the people in the society should be the base for the change, and no antagonism is propagated. HT states [7]:

“The three groups which stand in the face of HT's mission are the rulers, the dark forces, and the ones obsessed with the foreign culture. The plan of the imperialists is to place these forces as rocks in the face of the Call to delay its progress towards achieving the objective. The imperialists know that these rocks do not prevent the Hizb from achieving the objective, although it causes delays. Therefore, the Hizb must avoid the clash with these groups (rocks) and any other rock to be placed in front of him. These rocks must become building blocks of the castles rather than obstacles. In other words, these groups must be won towards the Call. At least it must be understood by them and by all that they are only tools in the hands of the imperialists. If it is not possible to win them over, at least avoid their impact.”

This philosophical argument of HT is fundamentally distinct from the Leninist strategy, which is based on the struggle and conflicts between classes. As I said in the beginning of this section, I do not intend to carry a thorough comparative analysis in this article. However, there is clear evidence that there is no resemblance between HT's strategy and the Leninist one. In the mean time, I think that a thorough analysis is worth pursuing. It is worth mentioning though, that HT published a book entirely devoted to the disproof of the Marxist-Leninist theory [8]. HT provided a thorough criticism of the communist ideology in the book "System of Islam", which is considered the foundation of HT doctrines. The communist economic system is heavily criticized in the book "The Economic System in Islam" published by HT in 1953.

Does HT have a Wahhabi Theology?

Baran claims that HT has a Wahhabi theology, among other things which make HT a real threat:

“By combining fascist rhetoric, Leninist strategy, and Western sloganeering with Wahhabi theology …”

Here again, Baran does not provide any reference for such a claim and nor does she highlight any aspects of similarity between HT doctrines and those of Wahhabism. The purpose of associating HT with Wahhabism is to build an indirect link between HT and terrorism. The western media has already built a case that many of those who are accused of terrorism belong to the Saudi Wahhabi theological school. When Baran says that HT adopts the Wahhabi school of thought, she immediately builds a case against HT. The irony is that she provides no evidence to substantiate this claim, even though it should not be difficult to prove or disprove it. The Wahhabi school of thought is well known in the Muslim world, and the scholars who belong to this school are many and accessible via their websites and official status in Saudi Arabia. It suffices to quote any of the Wahhabi scholars and seek a professional opinion. This is only a shortcut which leads to fair conclusions. A more thorough analysis is warranted if this claim were to bear any credibility.

My quick thought on this issue is that, historically, the Wahhabi movement has been closely associated with Saudi Arabia. Its propagation outside Saudi Arabia has always been enabled by scholars who studied in Saudi schools of Shari'ah. The founder of HT (An-Nabhani) was educated in Al-Azhar in Egypt, which is known not to be on friendly terms with the Wahhabi school of thought. The successor of the first leader of HT (Abdul Qadeem Zalloum) was also educated in Al-Azhar. HT has been heavily criticized by Wahhabi scholars for some of its basic ideas that are related to the foundation of belief. Again, it takes a quick search on pro-Wahhabi websites to find out how much HT is criticized by this school of thought. The claim that HT is a Wahhabi faction is not founded on any evidence. Such a claim will be looked at with surprise by a great majority of Muslims who know HT and Wahhabism. I do not intend to comment on the Wahhabi school of thought in this article. I only want to emphasize that there is no correlation between HT and Wahhabism.


The conclusions of this research paper are clear: HT's methodology and approach have not and will not deviate from the political and intellectual path. The commitment of HT not to be involved in any violent activity is based on its faith and understanding of the revelation of God, which makes its involvement in any terrorist or violent activity impossible, either in theory and practice. No person can integrate into the body of HT until he or she adopts this political and intellectual methodology and approach. Thus, the claim that HT acts as a conveyor belt of terrorism is baseless and lacks any credible evidence. It contradicts 53 years of HT's activities and HT's documented literature that is accessible by the public at large. Any research paper that claims otherwise is defective and does not adhere to the norms of academic research that necessitate approaching any topic with the intention to get correct conclusions, not holding the conclusions in mind and framing the research to justify them. The claims of any resemblance between the strategy of HT and that of Leninism-Marxism, and between HT ideas and those of Wahhabism are contradictory to everything HT stood for since it was established in 1953. Leninism-Marxism stands for the total denial of the existence of God and its strategy is based on the conflicts between society classes, while HT is totally opposite to that. Wahhabism, on the other hand, gained credit among its followers during the times of the Ottoman Caliphate due to its denial of the legitimacy of that Caliphate, while HT stands firmly on the opposite of that. Recent papers by Baran of the Nixon Center and by Cohen of the Heritage Foundation concerning HT were conducted in contravention of standard academic research norms and approached the issue in an entirely subjective manner. Understanding HT must go through the total understanding of its well-documented literature, available to the public. In case any questions are not answered by the literature, HT has official spokesmen in Sudan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Indonesia. HT also has official media representatives in the UK, Netherlands and Denmark. Also, HT has media offices in Lebanon, Turkey, Yemen, Iraq, and Jordan. Any of these officials or offices can be approached with questions to be answered. In addition, such questions could be conveyed to HT's global leadership through these officials. Research based on such an approach and dependent on such official answers would gain significant credit and would be able to stand its ground when cross-examined against standard academic research norms and measures.


1. An-Nabhani, Nidhaam Al-Islam (The System of Islam), 1953
2. An-Nabhani, Shakhsiyyah Islamiah (The Islamic Personality) 3rd volume, 1959
3. Hizb ut-Tahrir, The Starting Point, 1954
4. Previous source, article 9
5. Previous source, article 10
6. "The Method of Hizb ut-Tahrir for Change", Muslim Arab Youth Association Conference, Dec. 1989, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
7. The Starting Point, pg. 3
8. Hizb ut-Tahrir, "Refutation of Socialist Marxism", 1962
9. Ariel Cohen, “Hizb ut-Tahrir: An Emerging Threat to U.S. Interests in Central Asia”, Heritage Foundation:; May 30, 2003

10. Zeyno Baran, “Fighting the War of Ideas”, Journal of Foreign Affairs,, November/December 2005

11. Zeyno Baran, “The Challenge of Hizb ut Tahrir: Deciphering and Combating Radical Islamist Ideology”, edited by Zeyno Baran, Washington, D.C., The Nixon Center, 2004
12. Zeyno Baran, “HIZB UT – TAHRIR, Islam's Political Insurgency” The Nixon Center, December 2004

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Muslims approaches to Interfaith Dialogue : The Authentic and the Apologetic

    Sunday, July 12, 2009   No comments

Muslims approaches to Interfaith Dialogue : The Authentic and the Apologetic

Adis Duderija

This piece of writing was prompted by the author’s attendance of a recently organised inter-faith dialogue in his place of residence, Perth, W.Australia. As a committee member of one of the inter-faith organisations myself which ever since its inception some 4 years ago I found it a welcome development that the local group of Imams have been involved in organising an inter-faith event ,especially given the fact that their attendance at events organised by ‘my’ interfaith group ,apart from one notable exception (an imam who probably is not the member of the council of imams in question), was virtually non-existent. Nevertheless, ,according to one of the ‘traditional’imams , whose talk I will utilise to discuss some broader issues pertaining to Muslim approaches to inter-faith dialogue, inter-faith dialogue was ‘ a burning issue’ of huge socio-political and religious significance.

I would like to analyse the imam’s ( who has a significant following and is seen as ‘progressive’ by many young people) speech in relation to the question of an authentic vs. apologetic approach to inter-faith dialogue. An authentic approach I define as one that deals with the reality of the complex nature ,diversity and at times mutually exclusive strands of what constitutes a religious tradition with the attendant issue of who has the power and authority to ‘canonise’ and interpret that very tradition. An approach which evaluates religious tradition holistically, contextually and in a historically sensitive manner. An apologetic approach, on the other hand, strives to score an ideological point in most cases but importantly it is also a one dimensional approach and an understanding of the religious tradition based on selective utilisation of tradition that suppresses certain aspects of it and privileges others, an approach which is at best semi-contextualist and not attune to the historical circumstances in which the tradition unfolded.

Islam, according to the imam in question, by the virtue of its very doctrine (‘aqidah) has a very ‘inclusivist’ approach to inter-faith, although God recognises one din by which the imam implicitly assumes that that din is the historical religion of prophet Muhammad ( here he neglects explicit Qur’anic verses that do recognise the multiplicity of manahij (paths) towards shari’ah ( pathway to God) and not din as well as his reification of Islam and confluence with the historical Islam of prophet Muhammad . According to the imam this inclusivism is attested by the Islam’s doctrinal principles of unity of God’s Message, the very meaning of Islam/Muslims, the unity of Prophet hood and the historical truth of Islam’s ‘tolerance’ of non-Muslim religions based on the Qur’anically founded principle bestowing upon non-Muslims the right to worship in freedom.

Now this all sounds nice and ‘beautiful’ in the world of late modernity ( or post-modernity) but it is no so much what the imam did say that I am critical of but of the things he did not say that I find problematic.

Firstly, he did not mention that one part of the ‘mainstream’ Sunni Islamic doctrine is the notion of successive nature of Prophethood which was fulfilled and completed by prophet Muhammad which renders all other existing traditions apriori as ‘incomplete’ ,’corrupted’ or ‘deviant’ . Hence, as Muslims, there is nothing we can learn from “Them” ( in this respect let me mention that before he was to speak a Christian representative was speaking on the issue of inter-faith dialogue from a Catholic perspective and based on the behaviour of another younger imam (engaging in talk with someone else) as well as the imam in question (coming late and leaving the room a number of times) - one could clearly see this attitude of ‘ “you have nothing of importance to say’ manifesting itself by their poor listening and inattention as to what the Christian speaker had to say).

Secondly , the way Islamic historical experience of dealing with the other was presented gave an impression that it represented the pinnacle of ‘tolerance’ ( based use of terminology-used in toxicology as to how much ‘medicine’ one can ‘tolerate’ before it starts having adverse effects ). This brushes aside more problematic evidence, for example in contemporary S.Arabia or other countries (e.g. Afghanistan but also some more ‘secular’ Maghrebi countries) , in relation to issues of non-permissibility of restoration of existing churches and the erecting of new ones or the ban on public practise of non-Muslim faiths ,including proselytising , and the non-existing option of choosing to opt out of Muslim faith ( or if you do it would attract capital punishment, albeit as a last resort not often put into practice ). All of these practices and laws are an organic and mainstream component of pre-modern Islamic law, however, none of it was mentioned by the imam and I have significant doubts that he was not aware of this facet of the Islamic tradition.

Thirdly, the imam did not mention other problematic components of the Islamic tradition on the question of the religious other ,especially the hadith literature. Given his external appearance with the emphasis on the fist long beared and trimmed moustache he must be aware of it. Namely, according to several hadith the Prophet had commanded Muslims to ‘distinguish ‘ themselves from the ‘Jews’ (and Christians) by adopting the above and other practices (which I examined in a paper elsewhere ) . This commandment , if authentic, is not interpreted in a context of the political animosity between the 7th century Medinian Muslims whose very existence was under threat and some Jewish tribes at a particular pointing history but is interpreted as a universal principle of a ‘devout’ and ‘pious’ Muslim who keeps the Prophet’s Sunna ( I have also dealt with the issue of what sunah is in a number of academic papers).

Here I am reproducing one part of a discussion from one of my papers on an exclusivist approach to inter-faith by an Islamic group I term Neo-Traditional Salafis (NTS) which encompasses both ‘traditional’ and neo-fundamentalist approaches :

.Qur’ano-Hadithic texts on the view of the religious “other’ based upon NTS approach to interpretation of Qur’an and Sunnah

a.) Qur’anic verses


Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: "The guidance of Allah that is the (only) guidance." Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee then wouldst thou find neither protector nor helper against Allah.


O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks; they will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths; what their hearts conceal is far worse. We have made plain to you the Signs if ye have wisdom.


O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.

9: 5

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.


If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah., never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good).

Qur’anic exegesis has documented the context behind these verses and surahs ( chapters).[1] Broadly speaking at the time of revelation of these verses, and the larger chapters ( surah) they are embedded in, the small Muslim population residing in Medina was under constant threat for sheer survival. The threat was both internal and external. The internal threat came from those that the Qur’an on numerous occasions addresses as munafiqun or religious hypocrites who cooperated with the external sources of threat and attempted to sabotage the Muslim community from within. The external threat, apart from the Makkan tribe of Quraysh, was also ,in particular, increasingly felt from the side of Jewish tribes living in the outskirts of Medina. These tribes at first signed a joint peace treaty ,known as “The Constitution of Medina” ,with and swore allegiance to Muhammad. According to this document all of the inhabitants of the city where considered as one community ( ummah) whose religious difference was respected[2]as attested and endorsed by the Qur’an.[3] Furthermore, this document stipulated that between Muslims and Jews there is to be “sincere friendship, and honorable dealing, not treachery”. All the signatories of the document were also to “ help against whoever suddenly attacks[ed] Yathrib[City of Medina]”.[4] However, as Muslim community grew in numbers and strength and became more “self- reliant” and “self-conscious” these Jewish tribes withdrew their support and started to openly cooperate and conspire with the Makkans against the Muslim community.[5]As such they broke the constitutional agreement outlined in the “Constitution of Medina” document by committing treason. This inevitably prompted responses on behalf of the Qur’an and Prophet as to how Muslims ought to deal with these tribes/individuals. In this context the execution of one Jewish tribe and that of the expulsion of another are often used as examples of exlusivist orientation of Muhammad’s policies and that of the Qur’an. That above quoted verses are ,indeed, contextually embedded, and are not universal in nature is born out of the fact that the Qur’anic discourse pertaining to Jews and Christinas not only contains a large number of conciliatory verses that that will be discussed subsequently but as Miraly argues that the Muhammad’s actions against the Jewish tribes from Medina “was[were] not motivated by any sense of religious exclusivism “ but “were result of irresolvable civic tensions that had no bearing on the Qur’an’s position on religious pluralism”.[6] Furthermore, Armstorng , a non-Muslim catholic nun, asserts in this context asserts that after the events of expulsion and execution of two Jewish tribes in question, “Qur’an continued to revere Jewish prophet’s and to urge Muslims to respect the people of the Book .Smaller Jewish groups continued to live in Medina, and later Jews ,like Christians, enjoyed full religious liberty in Islamic empires.”[7]

In relation to the 3:85 verse , analogous what was said in relation to the changes in the semantical meanings of the words such as mu’min and muslim[8] Esack argues that while the verse in the pre-classical or early stages of Islamic thought was considered to afford salvation to groups outside the Muslim community it was much later when the exegetes had recourse to more sophisticated exegetical devices such as that of theory of abrogation (naskh) were used to “secure exclusion from salvation for the Other”.[9]

Furthermore, in the case of 9:5 its specific rather then general nature is not only based upon the contextual considerations but also grammatical ones. Namely the use of the definite article in the verse limits the content of the verse to specific tribes addressed is not to be understood as universally prescriptive and normative.[10]

b.) Ahadith

The reflection of the above context is also found many ahadith reportedly going back to the Prophet in which the emphasis on the difference between Muslims on the one side and Jews and Christians and thus the creation of a reactionary ,diachotomical identity is noticeable. Here are several examples:

Narrated Abu Hurraira, The Prophet said, "Jews and Christians do not dye their hair so you should do the opposite of what they do."[11] (Bukhari, Sahih, 7.786)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-‘As : Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "He does not belong to us who imitates other people. Do not imitate the Jews or the Christians, for the Jews' salutation is to make a gesture with the fingers and the Christians' salutation is to make a gesture with the palms of the hands.( Tirmidhi , 4648, classified as weak).

Narrated Abu Hurraira : Suhayl ibn Abu Salih said: I went out with my father to Syria. The people passed by the cloisters in which there were Christians and began to salute them. My father said: Do not give them salutation first, for Abu Hurayrah reported the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) as saying: Do not salute them (Jews and Christians) first, and when you meet them on the road, force them to go to the narrowest part of it. ( Abu Dawood, 5186)[12]

Narrated Abu Hurraira: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Religion will continue to prevail as long as people hasten to break the fast, because the Jews and the Christians delay doing so.(Abu Dawood, 2346)

Ibn 'Abbas reported: "The Messenger of Allah fasted on the day of 'Ashurah and ordered the people to fast on it. The people said: 'O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that the Jews and Christians honor.' The Prophet said, 'When the following year comes--Allah willing--we shall fast on the ninth.' The death of the Prophet came before the following year." This is recorded by Muslim and Abu Dawud. In one version the wording is: "If I remain until next year, we shall fast the ninth," meaning, the tenth. This is related by Muslim and Abu Dawud.[13]

It is not difficult to understand that , the above given verses and narrations, reportedly going back to the Prophet, if taken prima fasciae and without taking into account the above sketched historical circumstances and the background behind the Revelation would result in construction of a very negative view of the religious other which would be considered as normative. This is exactly so in the eyes of those Muslims who follow NTS interpretational model of Qur’ano-Sunnahic teachings characterised by marginalisation of contextual background on the nature , content, understanding, interpretation and objective of the above Qur’anic injunctions and hadithic texts. Additionally, the interpretational proclivity to generalise/universalise these contextually –based injunctions , which is another feature of NTS approach to interpretation of Qur’ano-Sunnahic teachings, would result in application of these verses to all Muslim ,Christian and Jewish communities living during and after the Prophet’s death. NTS atomistic or segmentalist approach to textual evidence which does not systematically consider all the textual evidence[14] on a particular theme in order to develop a coherent and holistic view alongside the taking of recourse to the principal of abrogation (naskh) as espoused by classical Islamic legal theory are also responsible for the development of this view. Additionally, the NTS hadith dependent Sunnah hermeneutic and their ahl-hadith manhaj in relation to hadith criticism render the above quoted ahadith as normative ,thus religiously binding. Thus, based on the delineating features of NTS manhaj “verses that appear to inspire intolerance and cohersion were[are] willfully misrepresented , in an attempt to overpower the essential and overarching message of the Qur’an : one of toleration.”[15]

In addition to the above there are several Qur’anic verses and a number of ahadith which , when taken out of their original context described above and applied decontextually , impact upon the view of the religious other and thus impact upon a particular type of religious identity construction vis-à-vis the religious other as they emphasise the tension and enmity that existed between Muslims and Jews and Christians during the time of the Prophet’s early Medinian community for example by invoking God’s curses on them. Here we consider several of those.

c.) Qur’anic verses:[16]


Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou fined the Jews and Pagans

9: 29

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His apostle nor acknowledge the religion of truth (even if they are) of the People of the Book until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.


Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: Allah's Apostle said, "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.(Bukhari, 4. 176)[17]

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Mulaika Aisha said that the Jews came to the Prophet and said, "As-Samu 'Alaikum" (death be on you)." 'Aisha said (to them), "(Death) be on you, and may Allah curse you and shower His wrath upon you!" The Prophet said, "Be calm, O 'Aisha! You should be kind and lenient, and beware of harshness and Fuhsh (i.e. bad words)." She said (to the Prophet), "Haven't you heard what they (Jews) have said?" He said, "Haven't you heard what I have said (to them)? I said the same to them, and my invocation against them will be accepted while theirs against me will be rejected (by Allah).( Bukhari, 8.57)

The conflictive nature of these verses and ahadith texts, again if considered from the NTS interpretational perspective[18], can have very grim implications and provide a religious foundation for a purely oppositional, conflictive Muslim identity construction vis –a-vis the religious Other. This is particularly evident in the following statement by El-Fadl who , in this context asserts,

The puritan[19] worldview is bipolar- on the one end there is Islam which represents the unadulterated good, and on the other end are non-Muslims ,who represent evil. Relying on the writings of some classical jurists ,the puritans advocate a theology known as al-wala’ wa al-bara’ ( the doctrine of loyalty and disassociation) which states it is imperative that Muslims care for ,ally them with , and befriend only Muslims. Accordingly , Muslims may ally themselves with or seek the assistance of non-Muslims only for limited and identifiable purposes. Muslims should do so only if they are weak and in need, but as soon as Muslims are able to regain their power, they must regain their superior status…The fact that non-Muslims are not Muslim is seen as a moral fault …[20]

This type of mentality and approach to Jews and Christians, for example, is promoted by a NTS scholar Albani(d.1999) who considers that Prophet forbade to initiate greetings with Jews and Christians and that Muslims should not develop genuine, human -based relationships with non-Muslims .He basis his decisions upon a complete decontextualist approach to a couple of isolated hadith including the one cited above on the authority of ‘Aisha.[21]

As such this NTS manhaj engenders a construction of a religiously exclusivist Self vis-a-vis the Religious Other.

(end of reproduced section)

This begs the question as the why the imam did not mention this aspect of the Islamic tradition that we as Muslims need to acknowledge and deal with in a methodologically sound and historically sensitive and honest manner, especially if we want to promote inter-religious understanding. Sweeping things under the carpet and pretend that they are not there is not only apologetic but also ‘politically ‘ and ‘morally incorrect. So much for the imam’s own strong criticism of and the contention that the recent efforts in inter-faith dialogue and ‘recognition and appreciation of diversity’ stemming from the ‘West’ was an exercise of ‘political correctness’ whereas in the case of Islam it was from the very beginning indigenous and inherent in the tradition itself.

In what follows I am reproducing some parts of my other writings on this issue of the “Islamic’ perspectives on religious diversity and inclusion highlighting the importance of context :

The Religious Self and the Other in the Qur’an and Sunnah: The Importance of Context

Before examining the question of the Religious Self and the Religious Other in the Qur’an and Sunnah , more needs to be said about the revelatory environment in which the revelation and the Prophet’s embodiment of revelation took place asrevelatory environment relates to the question of the identity of the Self and that of the Other, especially in the Medinan period. Not only was it primarily in Medina that Muhammad’s message—and, therefore, the Muslim identity—became more “Self-conscious,” but also the Medinan model of the Prophetic and early Muslim community is considered by many Muslims worthy of emulation in many respects, including that of the relationship with the (religious) Other. Furthermore, even a cursory examination of the Qur’anic content (and, therefore, of the Prophet’s legacy) was organically linked to this context, especially the dimension of the Qur’anic content bearing on the relationship between Muslims and the religious “Other”.[22]

Several general points need to be considered in attempting to understand, from a religious perspective, the concept of the identity of Self and Other as understood during the Prophet’s time in light of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s embodiment of it.

First, the context behind the emergence of the Prophet Muhammad’s message in 7th century Hijaz was such that it took place alongside already well-established religious communities, most important of which were, apart from the pre-Qur’anic paganism, Judaism, Christianity, and Hanifiyyah.[23] The Qur’an describes several instances of the Muslim community’s attitude toward the non-Muslim Other[24] and vice-versa.

Second, the Qur’anic attitude (and Muhammad’s conduct) toward the non-Muslim Other is highly contextual in nature and, therefore, possibly ambivalent.[25]Also, during much of the Muslim community’s “formative period” in Medina, a climate of friction and hostility between the Muslims, on the one hand, and the mushrikun, large Jewish tribes, Christians,[26] and hypocrites (munafiqun), [27] on the other, prevailed, under which Muslims were constantly concerned about the survival of their community, which often took a reactionary, antagonistic stance vis-à-vis the religious Other. Watt describes the circumstances and motives behind the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, especially between the Prophet of Islam and the Medinan Jews:

In Muhammad’s first two years at Medina the Jews were the most dangerous critics of his claim to be a prophet, and the religious fervour of his followers, on which so much depended, was liable to be greatly reduced unless Jewish criticisms could be silenced or rendered impotent . . . . In so far as the Jews changed their attitude and ceased to be actively hostile, they were unmolested. . . .[28]

This is attested to by the Qur’an itself. The context-dependency of the scriptures toward the view of the (religious) Other (and, by implication, the religious Self) lead Waardenburg to assert that “Looking back at the interaction of the new Islamic religious movement with the existing religious communities, we are struck by the importance of socio-political factors.”[29]

Besides the sociopolitical factors, religious ideas were also significant, since the Qur’anic progressive consolidation of Islamic religious identity is inextricably linked with the religious identity of the Other, notably of Jews and Christians.[30] The aspects of religious identity’s continuity and commonality with other faiths [31] in the Qur’an are intertwined with those of the emergence of, and the emphasis on, the Muslim identity’s originality and distinctiveness.”[32] Thus, the religious aspects of, and interactions between, various religious communities in the Qur’anic milieu led to the genesis of the construction of religious identity of Muslims and played a very important role in its construction.[33]

In his study of the extent of the Prophet Muhammad’s and the Qur’an’s emphasis on confessional distinctiveness, Donner has demonstrated that, in the Islamic scripture and in early Islam, “ the community of Believers was originally conceptualized independently of confessional identities,” and that

It was only late—apparently during the third quarter of the first century A.H., a full generation of or more after the founding of Muhammad’s community—that membership in the community of Believers came to be seen as confessional identity in itself- [check punctuation mark here; hyphen, dash, comma?] when, to use a somewhat later formulation of religious terminology, being a Believer and Muslim meant that one could not also be a Christian, say, or a Jew.[34]

Donner adduces a substantial amount of evidence to support the argument that. Qur’anically, (some) Jews and Christians would qualify as mu’minun (believers) besides the muslimun (those who submit to God).[35]

Another significant trend in the “historicity” of the development of the Muslim religious Self was the gradual but ever-growing religious self-consciousness of the Prophet of Islam and his early community. Whilst attempts to find common ground and syncretism featured more frequently during the earlier periods of Muhammad’s life,[36]later periods stressed “features constituting specific identity and what distinguished one [i.e. Muslims] fundamentally from others.”[37] Miraly asserts that “Whereas pluralism was an essential foundation of Islam, exclusivism was a later addition. In the centuries following the Revelation, the original pluralist impulse that prompted the Constitution of Medina was usurped by politically motivated factions who propounded exclusivist interpretations of the Qur’an in order to justify warfare and territorial expansion.”[38] Similarly, writing about the context of the early Muslim view of the Byzantines in the days of Prophet Muhammad,Shboul echoes this observation by saying that the attitudes of the Muslims developed from sympathy and affinity, reflected in the early Qur’anic verses, to awe and apprehension of Byzantium’s military power, scorn of Byzantine wealth and luxury, and, finally, anticipation of open antagonism and prolonged warfare.[39]

Jews and Christians were eventually recognized by Islam as recipients of previous revelations (Ahl-Kitab) and were awarded by it the status of protected/secured minorities (dhimmis).

Another point to be considered in relation to the question under examination is the Qur’anic concept of a hanif/millat Ibrahim.[40] Qur’anically, this notion may be called the primordial, monotheistic Urreligion based on the belief in the One, True God as embodied in Abraham’s message (Arabic millat Ibrahim) considered as the universal belief system and as potentially the final evolution in Muhammad’s attitude towards the religious Self and the Other.][41]It is, however, unclear, whether the Prophet of Islam himself identified “historical Islam” “as the only or merely one possible realisation of the primordial religion, the Hanifiyyah, on earth.”[42]

Lastly, an “Islamocentric view” of Muslim perceptions of the religious Other stems from a certain interpretation of the Qur’ano-Sunnatic teachings. This view is based upon the premise that the Qur’an is a source of empirical knowledge of the religious Other that is to be applied universally, ahistorically and without regard to context.[43]

(end of second reproduced section)

It is important to keep in mind that this apologetic approach is not restricted to issues of inter-faithonly but is particularly evident in relation to the question of the role and the status of women in Islam.

Namely, based on this very apologetic approach that champions the rights pre-modern ‘Islam’ (it is worthwhile pointing in this respect that early as well as pre-modern Muslim scholarship, unlike the bulk of contemporary Islamic thought did not frame the issues within the framework of whether is “Islamic’ or not but to what extent and on what methodology could one argue that is Qur’anic and the Sunnaic -and later referred it to the opinions of early Muslim authorities such as the eponyms of the various madhahib) ‘gave’ to women 1400 years ago, Muslim women are denied a number of political ( eg. Voting, being elected to highest political office, being a judge ) , legal ( eg. Custody over children, unfair –to the detriment of the female- divorce and marriage laws) as well as the basic freedom such as freedom of movement ( e.g. husband can prevent his wife from even visiting her parents or attending their funeral prayer!). Now there is no doubt that the laws the Qur’an and Sunnah ,and to some extent that of the pre-modern Islamic jurisprudence ushered were ‘progressive’ given the historical era and the historical background within which they operated, these rights ‘islam’ gave to women , were not seen as embedded in and inextricably linked to the moral universe and ‘logic’ of what I refer to as extreme gender role differentiation in a pre-modern androcentric and patriarchal society. This ‘logic’ of extreme gender role differentiation permanently fixes and universalises the socio-culturally, legally and politically contingent conceptions of gender and gender difference clearly evident in pre-modern Islamic jurisprudence and their attendant socio-cultural and legal implications. According to one aspect of this ‘logic’ women have certain ‘character traits’ and ‘emotional predispositions’ which are used to curtail their above mentioned rights.

If we as Muslims ( people of other religious traditions are also not immune to this) wish to engage in inter-faith dialogue in an authentic way rather then in an apologetic manner , we have a moral responsibility to deal with all of the aspects of our inherited tradition ,the good ,the bad and the ugly if we are to enhance and appreciate our understanding of our own tradition as well as that of the other. Only and only in this way are we going to be meaningfully engaged and ready to be transformed through and by the Other for the better.

[1] See for example, K.Armstrong,Islam: A Short History.New York,Modern library,2002.Also Her , Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam.London,Victor Gollancz,1991.;or Watt, Muhammad in Madina,op.cit.

[2] Miraly, Ethic of Pluralism,p.47.

[3] Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore serve Me (and no other).(21:92)

[4] Miraly,Ethic of Pluralism,p.59.

[5] Armstrong,Muhammad,pp.183-184.

[6] Miraly, Ethic of Pluralism,p.62.

[7] Armstrong,Muhammad,p.207.

[8] see footnote 15.

[9] Esack,Qur’an,Liberation and pluralism, p.163.

[10] Miraly,The Ethic of Pluralism,p.39.

[11] ‘Alim for Windows , M. Bukhari, Sahih, volume 7, no.786.

[12] Ibid. Abu Dawud, cf. Muslim-Sahih, 5389- Narrated Abu Hurraira -Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it.

[13] There are several more hadith of this genre for example found in Abu Dawood, hadith number 652 and 4185.

[14] Such as religiously inclusivist Qur

[15] Miraly,The Ethic of Pluralism,p.35.

[16] In this part of the analysis we have not included verses (such as 4:76, 9:5;9:73, 47:4 ,48:29) which address the kafirun not ahl-Kitab, however, as we shall see, in several instances ahl-Kitab are also linked to the root of K-F-R and according to the methodology of NTS could be and are bring applied to Ahl-Kitab including those of today.

[17] cf. Bukhari, 4.791, same narrator - heard Allah's Apostle saying, "The Jews will fight with you, and you will be given victory over them so that a stone will say, 'O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me; kill him!' “; cf. Muslim, Sahih, 6985 –Narrated Abu Hurraira -Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) said: The Last Hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

[18] For an interpretation of these and similar hadith from a PM perspective see A.Noth, ‘Problems of Differentiation between Muslim and Non-Muslims :Re-reading the “Ordinances of Umar” ( Al-Shurut Al’Umariyya), in R. Hoyland (ed.) Muslims and Others in Early Islamic Society, Ashgate Variorum,2004,pp.103-125.

[19] Using our terminology NTS, for definition of puritans, see El- Fadl, The Great Theft- Wrestling Islam from the Extremists, Harper Collins, 2005, pp.16-25.

[20] El-Fadl, The Great Theft, p.206.

[21] N.Albani, ‘Responding to Salaams of the Jews and the Christians’, at, accessed on 15th of October,2007.

[22]For more on this in relation to the concept of “the ethic of pluralism” in the Qur’an see Miraly.

[23]Explained later in this section.

[24]I.e., the mushrikun (“polytheists”), the munafiqun (“hypocrites”), and Ahl-Kitab (“the People of the Book”—primarily, Jews and Christians). For a lucid discussion of this issue, see Donner; also, Maghen. Donner writes (267-268): “Islam’s relationship with the People of the Book has had its ups and downs. The growing familiarity of the inhabitants of the Arabian Penninsula with the ideas, institutions and the communities of the surrounding monotheisms followed by the initial and increasingly intense encounters of the nascent Muslim umma with the same, bred the complex mixture of attitudes to Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism discernable through the classical literature of the faith. The seminal texts and genres—the Qur’an, Hadith, Tafsir, Sharh and fiqh—evince a multifaceted and pendulating posture vis-à-vis the religio-cultural “other” that partakes more of dialectic than dogma.”

[25]Ambivalence and contextuality are also found in non-Qur’anic elements of the tradition as embodied in various Hadith corpora. On Qur’anic ambivalence in relation to the “Other,” see Maghen, 268.

[26]The Christians had a much smaller numerical presence in Medina. Furthermore, they had much less economic influence. Thus, the Qur’an’s “complaints” about Christians pertain primarily to the domain of dogma. For details, see McAuliffe.

[27]A group of people in Medina who only superficially became Muslims in order to procure certain benefits, but, in reality, supported the enemies of Muslims.

[28]Watt, Muhammad at Medina, 217.

[29]Waardenburg, Muslims and Others, 99.; cf. Waardenburg, “World Religions as Seen in the light of Islam,” 245-276.

[30]Zebiri, chapter 1. Also, Donner, “From Believers to Muslims.”

[31]Such as belief in Allah (One, True God), the previous prophets, the Hereafter, the Day of Judgment.

[32]The latter trend being more prominent in the context of Medinan Muslim community.

[33]Zebiri, chapter 1.

[34]Donner, “From Believers to Muslims,” 12; cf.Maghen, 268-269.

[35]Donner, “From Believers to Muslims,” 17-24, 28-34; cf. Miraly.

[36]Such as the importance of Jerusalem and the Muslim practice of turning to it in prayer.

[37]Waardenburg, Muslims and Others, 44. A case in point is that of the change of direction in prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca. Traditions reportedly going back to the Prophet, such as those found in Sahih Bukhari, stress largely the distinctiveness and uniqueness of the Islamic religious identity.

[38]Miraly, 33.

[39]Shboul, 242.

[40]For more details, see Beck.

[41]Waardenburg, Muslims and Others, 87-94.

[42]Ibid., 106-107; also, Qur’anic verses, such as 5:48, seem to present the existence of religious plurality as a manifestation of God’s Will.

[43]In other words, Qur’anic criticisms of certain practices of Jewish and Christian communities living in 7th-century Hijaz apply to all previous and subsequent Jewish and Christian communities in an ahistorical, uncontextualized manner.


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