City of Brass

City of Brass

the khutbah (sermon) of Yusuf al Qaradawi in Tahrir Square

Dr. Yahya Michot, professor at Hartford Seminary with the collaboration of student Samy Metwally, has prepared a complete translation along with an introductory analysis of Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s khutbah (sermon) in Tahrir Square on February 18, 2011.

Here is the PDF with the analysis and the translation. I am reproducing the

translation of Qaradawi’s sermon below.

Praise is due to God! “Praise is due to God, Who has guided us to this. We could not truly have been led aright if God had not guided us” (Q. 7:43). Our Lord, to You the praise is due, as befits the majesty of Your Face and the greatness of Your might. Praise is due to God, a praise abundant, excellent and blessed, which fills the heavens and fills the earth, fills what is between them both and fills anything You want besides! Praise is due to God, Who helps the believers to win and humiliates the wrongdoers! Praise is due to God! We praise Him and we ask Him for help; we ask Him for guidance and we ask Him for forgiveness. We seek refuge in God, Exalted is He, from the evils of our souls and the bad of our actions. We praise You, O God, and we thank You. We cast off and we abandon whoever rejects You. There is no god but You. There is no god but God alone. He has made His promise be true. He has helped His servant to win. He has strengthened His soldiers. He alone has defeated the unjust. I bear witness that there is no god but God alone, Who has no partner. I bear witness that there is no god but You, “the Owner of the sovereignty. You give the sovereignty to whomever You want and You take it away from whomever You want. You strengthen whomever You want and You humiliate whomever You want. In Your Hand is the good. You are powerful over every thing” (Q. 3:26). And I bear witness that our master and our imam, our model and our loved one, Muhammad, is the servant of God and His Messenger, the blessings of God and His peace be upon him, and upon his brothers – the Prophets and the Messengers, especially “the resolute among the Messengers” – Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, the blessings of God be upon all of them – and those who follow them in beneficence, until the Day of judgement.

Now, to our topic. O brothers, O my sons and my daughters, O my brothers and my sisters, O my grandsons and my granddaughters, children of Egypt! The usage of preachers, for their sermons, is to say “O Muslims!” but me, I say in this Square, “O Muslims and Copts! O children of Egypt!” This is the day of the children of Egypt all together. It is not the day of the Muslims alone. I am addressing them from this tribune (minbar), and from this Square, Tahrir Square – or, rather, from this day onwards, it ought to be called the “Square of the Martyrs of the January 25 Revolution”. O Brothers, I am addressing you from above this tribune and from the Square of the Martyrs of the January 25 Revolution, this revolution which has taught the world how revolutions should be. It was not an usual revolution but it was a revolution teaching something. The youth who have triumphed in this revolution did not triumph over Mubarak only. They triumphed over Mubarak, they triumphed over injustice, they triumphed over falsehood. They triumphed over robbery and they triumphed over plundering. They triumphed over egoism and they initiated a new life by this revolution. The first whom I will congratulate are these youth, some of whom thought that they would not triumph. As for me, in my last sermon, I swore on the pulpit, I swore by the Great God that this revolution would triumph and that this youth would never be let down, because I believe in the ways (sunan) of God which do not fail to manifest and I believe in the promise of God, Who never lies. God has indeed promised to help the believers to win, and God has promised to make the truth win over falsehood. “And say: Truth has come and falsehood has vanished away. Surely, falsehood is ever bound to vanish” (Q. 17:81). It is not possible that falsehood should triumph over the truth. Falsehood has an hour but the reign of truth will last until the coming of the Hour. “As for the scum, it passes away as a worthless thing; while, as for that which is useful to mankind, it remains in the earth” (Q. 13:17). It was inevitable that this revolution should triumph, and that its believing children should triumph over this tyrant (tâghût), over this Pharaoh who threatened and menaced. But the believers – Egypt once it believes – made answer to Pharaoh.

That Pharaoh had said to the Egyptians: “Do you believe in Him before I give you permission?” (Q. 20:71). Similarly this Pharaoh said: “Do you make a revolution before I give you permission to make a revolution?” It is not allowed to the minds to be convinced, nor to the hearts to believe, nor to the limbs to move except with an authorization from Pharaoh! “You are making a revolution before I give you permission to make a revolution?” “You are believing in Him before I give you permission?” The children of Pharaoh, Egypt, once they believed, said to Pharaoh, defiantly: “We will not prefer you to what has come to us of clear proofs and to Him Who made us; therefore, decide what you are going to decide” (Q. 20:72). Observe the human being when he believes and the human being before he believes! The magicians whom Pharaoh had brought together from all the regions of Egypt threw their cords and their rods and said: “By Pharaoh’s might, we will surely be the winners” (Q. 26:44). And “they said to Pharaoh: ‘Will there surely be a reward for us if we are the winners?’ ” (Q. 26:41) – ‘Is there money?’ – “He said: ‘Yes, and surely you will then be of those who are made near’ ” (Q. 26:42). – ‘There is money, positions, and many benefits!’ – And what did these authentic Egyptians say once they believed, the truth having appeared to them? “We will not prefer you to what has come to us of clear proofs and to Him Who made us; therefore, decide what you are going to decide; you can only decide about this world’s life. Surely we believe in our Lord that He may forgive us our sins and the magic to which you compelled us; and God is better and more lasting” (Q. 20:72-73).

This is Egypt when it believes. This is why these youth from all regions in Egypt, from all social classes, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, workers and cultured – though the majority were cultured and educated people -, we saw altruism increase among them. They became, they fused into, one melting-pot: Muslims and Christians, radicals and conservatives, rightists and leftists, men and women, old and young, all of them became one, all of them acting for Egypt, in order to liberate Egypt from injustice (zulm) and tyranny (tâghût). It was inevitable that Egypt be liberated, because these youth willed it, and when the youth will, their will participates of the will of God. In the past, we learnt by heart this poem of Abû l-Qâsim al-Shâbbî:

Surely, the day the people (sha’b) wills to live, the divine decree (qadar) must inevitably comply! The divine decree… Some people (nâs) say: “Does the divine decree follow people?” Oh yes, the divine decree… God Most High says: “God does not change the condition of a folk until they first change that which is in yourselves” (Q. 13:11). Change what is in yourself, and God will change your situation and your condition. The people (sha’b) changed, so God changed its condition! The people (sha’b) endured, it was put to the test, it made sacrifices, it was determined, and the fear was removed from it. The pharaohs, in the past, made people (nâs) fear, they used to gain victories by frightening them, they used to throw fear into the hearts of people. But people did not care about Pharaoh, nor about Korah (Qârûn), nor about Hâmân, nor about the State Security, nor about torture, nor about the camels, the mules, the horses, nor about the snipers, nor about any of all these things. They were determined, the people (sha’b) was determined, the youth were determined, the youth of the revolution were determined to continue, and God realized their hopes, God realized their goals.

My congratulations to this people (sha’b), my congratulations to these youth, the revolutionary youth, whose hands I would like to kiss, one by one, because they have raised our heads by what they have realized, by their enduring, their outdoing all others in endurance and their remaining steadfast, these young people who have made this revolution, and have given mankind the highest example. I consider them, in some way, as like the Helpers, whom God described in His Book by saying: “They prefer them before themselves though poverty may afflict them” (Q. 59:9); the Helpers who have been described as being many when it is about succouring others, and few when it is about cupidity. One of them remains hungry so that his brother may eat his fill, one of them works hard so that his brother may rest, one of them stays up at night so that his brother may sleep; he prefers them to have the bed and the cover, the food and the drink. These are the youth of Egypt.

I recommend to these youth to keep their spirit. The revolution has not ended. The revolution has just started producing fruits. Do not think that the revolution is over! Consider that the revolution is continuing, because we will participate in the construction, the construction of the new Egypt, Egypt which has learned many things from this revolution. Be patient with your revolution and preserve it! Beware lest someone steal it from you! Protect this revolution! Be on your guard against the hypocrites, who are ready to put on, every day, a new face, and to speak with a new tongue! “When they meet those who believe, they say: ‘We believe'; and when they are alone with their devils, they say: ‘Surely we are with you’ ” (Q. 2:14). Yesterday they were against the revolution and, today, with the revolution! Be on your guard against those! Say to the youth: “Protect your revolution! Be vigilant about this revolution, and continue to protect it!” This is what I demand from my children, the youth of the revolution: to continue their revolution and to preserve their unity. Beware lest someone enter among you who would corrupt this excellent relationship and this fraternity which has brought you together in this Square. These are my words to the youth of the revolution.

Other words now to the Egyptian people (sha’b), to the whole Egyptian people (sha’b), the great people (sha’b) whom God has mentioned in the Qur’ân. Note that the Qur’ân has not mentioned any country by name, except two countries: a country mentioned in one verse, Babylon, with its magic, and Egypt, which He mentioned five times in the Glorious Qur’ân. No country is mentioned in the Qur’ân more than once except the country about which He said: ” Enter safe into Egypt, if God wills” (Q. 12:99). And those wrongdoers did not want anyone to enter into Egypt except with fear. They sowed fear and took away the things by which society is sustained. Hunger and fear: they imposed these two together on people. Hunger and fear! They were getting fatter and the people (sha’b) of Egypt was perishing from emaciation. They were stealing in millions and the people (sha’b) of Egypt was getting its salaries and wages in millims. They used to plunder the wealth of the country and to smuggle it abroad. It has been said that what was plundered from Egypt during these years amounts to three trillion dollars. Three trillions of dollars, not billions! Three trillions of dollars! If this money were returned to Egypt, or if half of it were returned, or a quarter of it, the debts of Egypt would be repaid and it would pay for the projects to build Egypt in the future.

I say to the Egyptian people (sha’b): “Felicitations to you, O people (sha’b)! This great people (sha’b) which embraced Christianism and gave thousands – souls and blood – for Christianism. They fought the Byzantines, despite the fact that they were Christians like them, because they were opposed to them in the matter of doctrine. There used to be periods which are called the “Eras of the Martyrs”. And when it embraced Islam, it sacrificed itself for this Islam. It fought the Crusaders and it made King Louis IX prisoner in the house of Ibn Luqmân in Mansoura. It fought the Tatars and the battle of ‘Ayn Jâlût took place on 25 Ramadan of the year 658 H., led by the Mamluk commander al-Muzaffar Sayf al-Dîn Qutuz. He defeated the Tatars against whom nobody was standing. The army of Egypt triumphed over them – Egypt which has been the qibla of Islamic culture throughout the past centuries, the qibla of Islamic sciences and of the Arabic language.

Egypt, O brothers, has triumphed in this revolution and has triumphed over what has been called “sectarianism”. There was something which they used to call “sectarianism”, and which they themselves had produced. In this Square, the Square of the Martyrs of January 25, the Christian stood with the Muslim, side by side. I remember that yesterday, while I was coming from Qatar, a young man came to me, saying: “I am So-and-so, son of So-and-so, from Egypt. I am a Christian. I am one of those who follow the program The Sharî’a and Life and your Friday sermons in Qatar. I am proud of you, you who are calling for the unity of the Umma, and you…, and you…” I said: “Praise is due to God!…” In Tahrîr Square, the Copt brothers were standing as guards of their [Muslim] brothers while they were praying. And today I invite them not to guard their brothers, but to prostrate with their Muslim brothers in thankfulness to God Most High. To prostrate is something that the Muslims and the Christians both do. In this square, this sectarianism has come to an end, this cursed sectarianism. Yesterday, Ahmad Ragab, the satirist writer, mentioned that he had visited Tahrir Square and found a young Muslim girl pouring water for a Muslim man for the ablution; he said: “Now, the revolution has succeeded!” As for me, my granddaughter was leading a group of young people washing and cleaning the squares, and painting various things in need of paint. A priest passed by them, a priest, who said to them: “Do you need some help? I, I can help you.” They said: “Yes, please”, thinking that he would work with them. He took out a hundred Egyptian pounds and said: “This is my help to you.” They said “God is greater!” (Allâhu akbar!) and bought some brushes, paints, and other things. This is the Egyptian spirit, the spirit that encompasses all. I hope from the people (sha’b) of Egypt that it sticks to this unity, the unity of a line of people praying. Let there be no fanaticism! We are all believers. We have to believe in God and to deepen our faith. We are all Egyptians. We are all rising up against falseness (bâtil). We are all angry on behalf of the Truth. That spirit must persist, O my brothers and sisters, O my sons and daughters!

Some words now to the army of Egypt. Some words to the army of Egypt. I salute the army of Egypt. I salute this army which is the armor of the people (sha’b), its support and its pride. Some of the brothers told me: “Don’t overpraise the army! It might let you down and not help the revolution to win!” I said to him: “By God, they will not let me down!” When I preached my latest sermon, after the first communiqué that had been issued and many people had been struck by disappointment because of it, I said: “I believe that the army of Egypt will not be less patriotic than the army of Tunisia. The army of Tunisia helped the revolution of Tunisia to win, and the army of Egypt, which entered four wars for Egypt and for Palestine, it is not possible that this army betray its country, it is not possible that it sacrifice the youth for the sake of a single individual. This army is too reasonable and too noble to do that. And I swore that the army would join with the people (sha’b). The army joined with the people (sha’b), issued these decisions which we had seen, and announced from the first day that the right to express itself peacefully was guaranteed to the people (sha’b) as long as it remained peaceful. It also announced that it understood the demands of the people (sha’b) and that it would not intervene against it; and it did not and would not use force against the children of the people (sha’b), who are making the revolution and demonstrating peacefully. This army, which has announced that it is not an alternative to the legitimate order (shar’iyya) which the people (sha’b) wants and which the youth of this square would be pleased with. It also announced that it is attached to freedom and democracy. It has set up this commission for revising the constitution – within ten days! – and it is in a hurry that life be changed into civilian life – this commission which is chaired by this eminent man, the legal adviser, the jurist, the historian, the thinker, the moderate, the fair-minded, Târiq al-Bishrî. We want from this commission that it play its role as soon as possible.

And we demand from the Egyptian army that it liberate us from the government that Mubarak formed in his time, a time now over, annihilated. We want a new government, in which there are none of these faces which people cannot bear anymore. Every time people see them, they remember the injustice, they remember the killing, they remember the falseness, they remember the raid of the camels, the mules and the horses, they remember the snipers who kill people, they remember the vehicle which is going right and left, back and forth, and is killing people, running people over! Twenty people were killed, run over by this vehicle! People do not want to see these faces. We demand from the army and from its command that it liberate us from this government and set up a government, form a civilian government from the children of Egypt – and how many they are, the noble children of Egypt who did not commit such crimes! We also demand, we demand from the army that it immediately set free the political detainees and the political prisoners whom the prisons are holding and who have lived long years under the vaults of the prisons after being judged by military tribunals or emergency tribunals that give no evidence and do not care about the truth. The traces of these tribunals must be erased. I do not want our brave and noble army to be charged with any sin. Every day which passes while those people are in prison, every day which they spend in prison, or even, every hour, all those who caused this injustice and are not correcting it are committing a sin. Inasmuch as we are able to correct this injustice, this injustice must cease.

Before I finish speaking, I want to turn to the children of Egypt. I know that the children of Egypt have suffered a lot of injustice. Various groups of workers, peasants and employees, how long they have suffered injustice! However, God did not build this world in a day, nor in hours. He built it in six days, although He had the power to build it with a “‘Be!’ and it is”, in order to teach us perseverance. We inevitably must be patient, a little longer. I call on everyone who has stopped working, or is striking, or is sitting-in, to contribute to this revolution with his work. Egypt wants you to work. The Egyptian economy is underdeveloped and it is not permitted to us who have supported the revolution, it is not permitted to us to be a cause retarding the construction of Egypt, retarding the economy of Egypt. On the contrary, we must convince all our brothers who are striking and who are sitting-in, to be patient a little longer. I am calling on the army to contact them, to reassure them and to promise them that this is indeed what we want, so that Egypt moves along in its construction, in the phase of construction. All the children of Egypt are now ready to build. Everyone is ready to take a stone and to build something in this country. I call on all the children of the country to work for construction. We are in a new phase, a phase in which the truth triumphs and falseness is brought to naught. Surely, it is the right of all these Egyptians that they get their rights, that they obtain that which they deserve and that they be treated equitably, but it is also our duty to be patient with our brothers in the army, so that all hopes be achieved, one after the other. “And say to them: ‘Act!’ God will see your action, and so will His Messenger and the believers, and you will be brought back to the Knower of the invisible and the visible, and He will inform you about what you used to do” (Q. 9:105). Pray to God Most High and He will hear your prayer.

Praise is due to God, the Forgiver of sins! Who has no partner. Those who are in the heavens and on the earth glorify Him. To Him belong the sovereignty and the praise, and He is powerful over every thing. I bear witness that our master and our imam, our model and our loved one, Muhammad, is the servant of God and His Messenger, the bearer of good tidings, the warner, and the enlightening lamp, the blessings of God and His peace be upon him, upon his family and his Companions, who believed in him, backed him up, helped him to win, and followed the light that had been sent down with him. Those are the successful! Pleased be God with those who forward his call, are guided by his Sunna and struggle as he struggled, until the Day of judgement!

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. “Say: ‘In the bounty of God and in His mercy: therein let them rejoice. It is better than what they gather’ ” (Q. 10:58). We ask the Mighty and Majestic God to render this day of this Umma better than its yesterday, and its tomorrow better than today. O God, be generous with us and don’t treat us with contempt! Give us and don’t deprive us! Give us more and not less! Prefer us and don’t prefer others to us! Be pleased with us and make us pleased! O God, we ask You to pardon us, and to grant us to do well in our religion and in this world, in our family and in our wealth. O God, cover our deficiencies and appease our fears! Protect us from before us and from behind us, from our right, from our left, and from above us! And we take refuge in Your might against being destroyed from under us. O God, open things for this country in a manifest opening! O God, guide its inhabitants on a straight way! O God, help them to achieve a strong victory! O God, give them Your grace completely, make Your serenity come down into their hearts and pour upon them Your favour and Your mercy! O God, purify our sayings from futility, our actions from foolishness, our souls from weakness, our hearts from disloyalty, our tongues from lying, our eyes from betrayal, our acts of worship from simulation, our life from self-contradiction! O God, render this day better for us than our yesterday, and render our tomorrow better than this day! Make our end excellent in all affairs and draw us away from the ignominy of this world and from the torment of the hereafter! O God, draw us away from the ignominy of this world and from the torment of the hereafter! O God, in Your mercy we hope; so, don’t entrust us to ourselves even for the twinkling of an eye! Correct for us all the evil done by us. There is no god but You. O Ever-Living, O Self-subsisting, to Your mercy we appeal for help. O Ever-Living, O Self-subsisting, to Your mercy we appeal for help.

Before I conclude my speech and these invocations, I will say some words to the regimes ruling in the Arab countries. I will say to them: “Don’t be arrogant! Don’t delude yourselves! Don’t stop History! Nobody will be able to fight the divine decrees, nor to delay the day when it rises. This world has changed and the world has evolved. The Arab world has changed from the inside. So, do not stand against the peoples (sha’b). Try to come to an understanding with them! Don’t deceive them! Don’t try to get them with empty words! It is not possible that peoples (sha’b) remain silent. Dialogue with them in a real dialogue, not to patch things up, but with constructive actions, constructive actions that put things in their places, respect the minds of people (nâs) and respect the minds of the peoples (sha’b)!” This is my message to the rulers of the Arabs.

Now, a message to our brothers in Palestine. Myself, I have the hope that God, Glorified and Exalted is He, just as He has cooled my eyes with the victory of Egypt, will cool my eyes with the opening (fath) of al-Aqsâ Mosque and will make it possible for me to preach in al-Aqsâ Mosque. O God, make it possible for us to preach in al-Aqsâ Mosque and to enter al-Aqsâ Mosque safely, without fear or dread! O God, make for us a reality of this manifest opening!

O children of Palestine, be confident that you will be helped to win! The Rafah crossing will be open for you. I demand this from the Egyptian army, from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces: “Open the Rafah crossing! Open that which stands between us and our brothers! Ghazza is part of Egypt and Egypt is part of Ghazza. Egypt must be a support, an armor, a fortress. For Egypt which has fought four wars for Palestine, it is not proper to block the road. The crossings that are in our hands must necessarily be open, especially the Rafah crossing. We should open it to the convoys that used to be prevented from giving succour to our brothers.” This is what I demand from our dear, brave and noble army.

I am asking God, Glorified and Exalted is He, that He make us see the right conduct in our affairs. Our Lord, forgive us, as well as our brothers who preceded us in the faith! Do not put in our hearts any malice toward those who believe! Our Lord, you are Kind, Merciful! O God! Amen. O God, bless Your servant and Your Messenger, Muhammad, his family, his Companions, and those who follow them in beneficence until the Day of judgement!

Stand up for the prayer! Surely prayer keeps one away from lewdness and what is reprehensible.

  • Andy

    Islamo-Correctness at Hartford Seminary
    February 28, 2011 By Andrew Bieszad
    Andrew Bieszad graduated from Hartford Seminary in May 2010 with a master’s degree in Islamic studies;
    Islamic studies in Europe began as a Christian missionary enterprise, born out of necessity rather than interest. Islam was the first religion Christianity encountered that, as theological doctrine, sought to convert Christians and regulate their religious practices. In turn, Catholic priests and monks, particularly in the Middle East, Spain, and Italy, worked to convert Muslims from Islam, as well as to educate Christians so they would not convert.[1] This changed following the fall of Muslim Spain in 1492 and the military expansion of Spain and Portugal and later England, Holland, Belgium, and France into Islamic countries. Catholic and Protestant missionaries followed their nations’ armies and compiled information about Islam and Muslim peoples. This information made its way back to European universities and gradually transformed Islamic studies from a missionary enterprise into a full-fledged academic discipline, sometimes called Orientalism.
    Orientalism was originally defined by both political and religious visions. Politically, the colonizing governments sought to understand people to rule them more efficiently. Spiritually, missionaries sought to understand Islam to convert Muslims to Christianity more effectively. Both groups took an interest in studying the Muslim world. They translated and studied thousands of Islamic texts from Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish sources. Their work formed the foundation for academic disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology, Egyptology, Assyriology, and of course, Islamic studies.
    Islamic studies changed significantly in the decades following World War II, with the massive reorganization of European empires, national boundaries, and colonial identities. One idea that gradually took root in academia was that the Muslim world was the victim of systematic prejudice stemming from European “ignorance.” The only way to rectify this was through embracing Islamic ideals and peoples while repudiating the Christian and Hellenistic roots of Europe. Edward Said, the Palestinian-American professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia, eventually codified these views in his highly influential Orientalism, in which he argued that criticism of Islam or of the Muslim world is either a covert attack on the humanity of Muslims or gross ignorance in need of enlightenment.[2] Simultaneously, Muslim groups exploited this situation to promote Islam by funding Islamic studies programs and cultural venues at universities, who in turn reformed curricula in order not to offend Muslim sentiments. In a short time, scholarship in Islamic studies was overtaken by Islamic missionary and political interests.
    Academia is filled with biases and presumptions upon which entire belief systems are constructed. The inhabitants of the West are privileged to have the freedom to examine and criticize ideas and beliefs and respectfully agree to agree or disagree. This concept is anathema to Islam, since in Islam academia exists to propagate orthodox Islamic dogma. In Islamic studies at universities today it has become difficult to disagree with Islam and still maintain one’s credibility, safety, or ability to study in school. Academia has refused to question Islamic teachings, and has thus become a participant in promoting Islamic orthodoxy at the expense of academic integrity. I know this because I am a product of this environment.
    My story begins at Hartford Seminary (HS) in Hartford, Connecticut, a small Protestant seminary with the oldest Islamic studies program in America. HS’s Islamic studies program began through the influence of the Scottish Orientalist Duncan Black MacDonald in 1893, and it both employed and produced many well-known early twentieth-century Protestant missionaries, professors, and martyrs. HS is a model for the changes that have occurred in Islamic studies, as it turned from being the premier Protestant seminary for missions to the Muslim world into an institution promoting Islamization.
    I was at a seminary gathering in 2009 when I met one of the last HS missionaries to the Muslim world before the missionary program was discontinued in the early 1950s. This man and a group of fellow missionaries reported back to HS that they believed Muslims did not need Christianity because they already “knew God.” These reports started a chain of events that led to the disbanding of HS’s missionary program, followed by its secularization in 1972 from solely Christian to an “interfaith” seminary. The Islamic studies program continued, however, and while HS did not receive large donations from Muslim sources as other schools have, it self-censored its own academic program in the name of respect for Muslim students. As part of this process, critical research and disagreement with Islamic teachings were eventually worked out of the curriculum.
    I was only partially aware of this when I enrolled in the master’s program in Islamic studies at HS in fall 2007. I had already been studying Arabic at the seminary for two years via a joint program with my undergraduate alma mater, Central Connecticut State University. Dr. Jane Smith, the former dean of Islamic studies, indicated that I would be a unique addition to HS because of my strong interest in and strong disagreement with Islamic teachings. She informed me that she respected my beliefs, and that I would serve as a good counterbalance in the program. Over the next three years, I would come to understand how much of a “counterbalance” I was.
    Hartford Seminary prides itself on its large number of Muslim students, both domestic and foreign-exchange. Among my first experiences with the Muslim students there was in a class on interfaith dialogue. I had done interfaith dialogue before, so this was not a new experience for me. We were separated into groups for the dialogue, and when I was permitted to speak, I said, “I am Catholic, and I do not believe in Islam.” Following me, one of the Muslim students spoke. She said that she was Muslim, and then she addressed me directly. In a soft, Arabic accented voice, she told me, “You are an infidel because you do not accept Islam” and that “according to Islam you do not deserve to live.” A second Muslim student heartily agreed, and after repeating the first student’s comments, she added that “in Islam, the Koran and the tradition of the prophet are very clear about this” and that “you deserve to die.”
    This was one of several publicly-made threatening statements and insults that I would receive from Muslim seminary classmates for my open disagreement with Islam. In another incident, I was in a class on modern Islamic thought and an American male convert to Islam informed me in front of my classmates and the professor, “You deserve to die on account of your disagreement with Islam.” Another student, an American Muslim woman of Egyptian heritage, informed me that I was “dirty” on account of being a Christian. When I tried to address these and other incidents with the HS administration, I was told directly that I was “intolerant” of Muslims and needed to show a better “understanding of Islam” as a solution. No action was ever taken by the seminary.
    What bothered me were neither the insults nor the menacing remarks, but the pervasive notion that respect for Muslims was conditioned upon intentionally avoiding criticism of Islam. Not a single classmate, Muslim or non-Muslim, ever spoke up in support of my opinion, even on the principle that different views should be respected. In class, non-Muslim students and even professors showed a disproportionate respect for Muslim students when speaking about Islam, would not criticize certain matters, and even apologized for asking questions. Muslim students, on the other hand, were free to speak critically and even condescendingly about Christianity without any objection from my classmates and professors.
    For example, in “Contextual Biblical Interpretation,” students were encouraged to explore Old Testament Biblical themes in the context of homosexuality, class discrimination, and women’s liberation from patriarchal oppression. It was one of the most outrageous and humiliating classes I ever had, because as a Catholic I was forced to make outlandish and blasphemous arguments in order to pass with a reasonable grade. It was not possible to disagree with arguments made in that class, because doing so would invite being labeled “racist” or “intolerant,” not to mention possibly receiving a failing grade. However, in any class that discussed Islam or Muhammad, the professor never spoke about contextual Koranic interpretation, let alone from a homosexual, socialist, or feminist perspective. The Koran was taught from the perspective of orthodox Islamic theology as the uncreated and eternal word of Allah. Any HS student who disagreed with this perspective was looked upon as disrespectful of Islam and Muslims or simply uneducated.
    In other classes, students were preached to about the merits of conversion to Islam from Christianity. This was usually done either through a professor or a prerecorded video lecture given by a well-known Muslim convert such as Suhaib Webb or Zayd Shakir. If the speaker did not preface his talk with a brief summary of his life as a Christian and before Islam, he began by speaking about the logic, benefits, and wonders of Islam and the blessings conversion had brought to him.
    In all cases, such speeches had two effects upon the students. For Muslim students, it emboldened them to speak about Islam, and particularly against Christianity, which only solidified their own unexamined beliefs. For non-Muslims and in particular for Christian students, this tended to cause them to question their own beliefs, leading them to ignore or to hide their own spirituality when speaking with Muslims, and to put aside questioning Islamic beliefs for fear of “offending” Muslims.
    Although I don’t know anyone who converted to Islam because of a class, HS has plenty of pro-Islamic/anti-Christian missionary literature available, particularly at the seminary’s MacDonald Center for Islamic Studies. During my time as a student, pro-Islamic/anti-Christian missionary literature was displayed openly on tables and bookshelves, free for student taking. I am not objecting to the presence of such literature, but what bothered me was that when I asked about putting out Christian missionary literature, MacDonald Center staff told me that it would be “offensive to Muslims” and I was forbidden to do so. When I brought this up to the HS administration, I was told, as in previous situations, that I needed to be more “tolerant” of Islam.
    Hartford Seminary does employ brilliant, highly-educated Muslim and non-Muslim professors who value scholarship and were helpful to me in my academic formation. Unfortunately, it was my experience that their efforts were often overshadowed by the many other HS professors who seemed more interested in engaging in Islamic apologetics than in critical historical or theological exegesis about Islam. This produced many curious results in the classroom. In some cases, the course material presented did not correspond with its advertised content. One such class was advertised as “Medieval Islamic History Prior to 1500,” but instead preached the benefits of early twentieth-century Islamic revivalism while bewailing Israel’s existence and “Zionism.”
    In other classes professors would ignore, denounce, or belittle students who asked questions critical of Islam. Students who spoke favorably of Islam, however, were permitted to speak and engage in discussion. One of my Muslim professors was among the 138 keynote scholars who sent “A Common Word between Us and You,” an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI asking to engage in dialogue.[3] Yet this same professor was unwilling to acknowledge any critique of Islamic theological tenets as legitimate for class discussion. Another Muslim professor was even more emphatic, and outright mocked students’ intellectual capabilities and interrupted their questions if they criticized Islam.
    I realized that my beliefs were strongly different from those of the majority of HS students and professors, but I did not fully internalize the extent of it until two incidents occurred in early 2009. It began when I sent a private email to a blogger friend in which I mentioned Dr. Ingrid Mattson, then president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and a professor I had for a class. My email referred to recent events in the news surrounding Dr. Mattson, ISNA, and its indictment by the federal government over terrorism charges.[4]
    What happened next I did not expect. My friend published my email online, with neither my knowledge nor my consent. I was not aware of this until I was asked to come to the office of the dean of students. The dean presented me with the email’s text, and I was immediately accused of racism, bigotry, and spreading hatred of Muslims, none of which is true. I maintained my composure, but internally I was furious, because this was the same faculty member to whom I had made appeals after being harassed and discriminated against by fellow students who were Muslim and by professors because of my differing beliefs and opinions. When I asked the dean if he, Dr. Mattson, and I could meet to discuss these accusations, I was told that she was “uncomfortable discussing them with me,” and that no meeting would be possible. I was permanently barred from the MacDonald Center for Islamic Studies and told not to contact Dr. Mattson.
    A few weeks after this incident I submitted for review my original master’s thesis, written on the concept of human dignity in Islamic theology. My advisor at the time was a Jewish professor known for his work in interfaith relations with Muslims. About a week later he called and asked to meet with me at the seminary. He began our meeting by repeatedly asking me if I “hate Muslims,” “feel angry towards Muslims,” am “uncomfortable with Islam,” and many other questions. All the questions had the underlying theme of attempting to link my disagreement with Islamic theology in my thesis to a personal hatred of Muslims. I repeatedly explained to him that I do not hate Muslims, and that my views on Islam are borne out of Islamic theological teachings, not personal experience. After two hours of discussion, he returned my thesis to me, looked me in the eye, and said that he could not accept it and that “the Muslims will not accept it.” I asked him to explain his statement, and he told me that I made “the Muslims feel uncomfortable”—although he would not specify who “the Muslims” were.
    I now had a better understanding of how Egyptian-born Professor Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd felt during his imbroglio with Al-Azhar University in Cairo in 1995. Dr. Abu Zayd’s dissertation was rejected because, among many charges, he merely hinted at viewing the Koran through a viewpoint other than that of Islamic theological orthodoxy. He was expelled from Al-Azhar and labeled an apostate from Islam, for which the penalty is death under Islamic law. Dr. Abu Zayd and his wife fled to Holland as refugees, where he worked as a professor until his death in 2010.[5] Although my situation did not have the same gravity, my difference of opinion with the presumed Islamic theological orthodoxy was seemingly justification enough to reject my thesis. Word of the incident spread among the faculty, and it was suggested that I abandon my master’s work and resign from the program. Thankfully, with the help of a professor friend, I was able to reorganize, write a new thesis, and graduate from HS with a master’s degree in Islamic studies in May 2010.
    As I reflect on my time at Hartford Seminary, I realized that in almost no class was I ever required to delve deep into Islamic sacred tradition, especially if it involved challenging Islamic beliefs. I spent much time studying Islam on my own and I could have just educated myself instead of spending three years defending myself against accusations of bigotry, “Islamophobia,” and ignorance simply because I refused to submit intellectually to Islamic belief without question or disagreement.
    If a student wants to learn about specific spiritual beliefs, there are religious schools dedicated to that purpose. Hartford Seminary posits itself as the opposite—a secular seminary with a religious history in which all faiths are welcome to dialogue. As such, students there must be free to believe and think as they wish, and teachers must be free to express their own opinions. Shutting down discussion about Islam out of supposed fear of or respect for Muslims is disrespectful of others and violates everyone’s rights.
    Hartford Seminary’s Islamic studies program is representative of many Islamic studies programs across America and Europe, which manifest in different forms but have the same fundamental problems. Typically, the situation is the worst in programs that have significant foreign funding from Muslim sources, such as from Saudi Arabia or the UAE, because academic institutions are unwilling to allow criticism of Islam lest it jeopardize endowments. I fear that as orthodox Islam takes deeper root in Islamic studies in America and Europe more institutions will come to resemble Hartford Seminary until eventually their scholarship is swallowed up by submission to Islamic orthodoxy.
    As long as Islamic studies uncritically defers to Islamic theology the situation will never improve. This is because Islamic theology, compared to the theology of the other great faiths, is extremely intolerant of everything that does not support its own viewpoint and aggressively seeks victory over, rather than an understanding of, opposing views.[6] Islamic studies in the West grew out of the theological differences between Christianity and Islam, and it was believed that Europe could effectively respond to Islam by studying, understanding, and freely discussing these differences. The greatest threat to Islamic studies today is that the intellectual freedom that characterizes the Western approach to scholarship will be abolished if the discipline operates in accordance with Islamic principles.
    On the walls of Hartford Seminary’s library hang plaques of seminary graduates martyred by Muslims while doing missionary work in the early twentieth century. These individuals cared enough about Muslims to learn about Islam and peaceably discuss religious differences with them, and they died because of it. I sympathize with them, because my academic career was nearly destroyed by students and professors who hid behind arguments of religious tolerance, and made unjust accusations of ignorance and bigotry to promote—both passively and actively—Islamic orthodoxy to the detriment of true intellectual engagement. As Islamic studies arose out of necessity and not interest, it must now be born anew if it is to be of any help to the West in its future relationship with Islam.

  • Victor

    When the September 11 attacks occurred, I was in Fresno, Calif., researching my M.A. thesis on the Battle of Yarmuk, one of the first yet little-known battles between Christendom and Islam, waged in 636 A.D. That battle, in which the Arab invaders were outmatched and yet still triumphed, would have immense historical repercussions. A mere four years later, Egypt and Mesopotamia, and all the land between, would become Islamic. A century later, all the land between southern France and India would be added to the House of Islam.
    The next time I came across any reference to this pivotal battle was four years later, as I was translating the words of Osama bin Laden. Surprisingly, an event that seemed so distant, almost irrelevant, to the West was to bin Laden a source not only of pride but of instruction. For him it was not mere history but an inspiring example of outnumbered and under-equipped mujahedin who, through faith-inspired courage, managed to defeat the Western empire of Byzantium. When the Arab and Afghan mujahedin, including bin Laden’s nascent Al Qaeda — outnumbered and under-equipped — defeated the Soviet invaders, history was repeating itself.
    Yet why would this band, so reminiscent of their seventh-century forebears, attack the United States, its onetime ally against the Soviets, and in such a horrific manner? What was its motivation?
    Finding answers seemed easy enough. From the start, the Internet — unregulated, uncensored, unfettered — has been Al Qaeda’s primary mouthpiece. Then, as now, whenever Al Qaeda has wanted to communicate with the West, it has posted videotaped messages, some complete with English subtitles.
    After the events of 9/11, my increased interest in Arabic language and history led me to enroll in Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. Before and during my studies at Georgetown, I avidly read any and all posted Al Qaeda messages. The group’s motivation seemed clear enough: retaliation. According to its widely disseminated statements, the West in general and the United States in particular had been — overtly and covertly — oppressing and exploiting the Islamic world. The accusations included: unqualified U.S. support for Israel at the expense of Palestinians; deaths of Iraqi children due to U.N. sanctions; U.S. support for dictatorial regimes in the Muslim world; and, most recently, Western occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Every single message directed to the West by Al Qaeda includes most of these core grievances, culminating with the statement that it is the Islamic world’s duty to defend itself. “After all this, does the prey not have the right, when bound and dragged to its slaughter, to escape? Does it not have the right, while being slaughtered, to lash out with its paw?” bin Laden asks.
    An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Even the 9/11 strikes are explained as acts of reprisal. After describing the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, where several high-rise apartment buildings were leveled, reportedly leaving some 18,000 Arabs dead, bin Laden, in a 2004 message directed at Americans, said: “As I looked upon those crumpling towers in Lebanon, I was struck by the idea of punishing the oppressor in kind by destroying towers in America — giving them a taste of their own medicine and deterring them from murdering our women and children.”
    Soon after relocating to Washington in order to attend Georgetown, I landed an internship, which later evolved into a full-time position, at the Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, where thousands of new books, serials, and microfilms arrive yearly from the Arab world.
    Numerous Arabic books dealing with Al Qaeda passed through my hands in this privileged position. A good number contained not only excerpts or quotes by Al Qaeda but entire treatises written by its members. Surprisingly, I came to discover that most of these had never been translated into English. Most significantly, however, the documents struck me as markedly different from the messages directed to the West, in both tone and (especially) content.
    It soon became clear why these particular documents had not been directed to the West. They were theological treatises, revolving around what Islam commands Muslims to do vis-à-vis non-Muslims. The documents rarely made mention of all those things — Zionism, Bush’s “Crusade,” malnourished Iraqi children — that formed the core of Al Qaeda’s messages to the West. Instead, they were filled with countless Koranic verses, hadiths (traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), and the consensus and verdicts of Islam’s most authoritative voices. The temporal and emotive language directed at the West was exchanged for the eternal language of Islam when directed at Muslims. Or, put another way, the language of “reciprocity” was exchanged for that of intolerant religious fanaticism. There was, in fact, scant mention of the words “West,” “U.S.,” or “Israel.” All of those were encompassed by that one Arabic-Islamic word, “kufr” — “infidelity” — the regrettable state of being non-Muslim that must always be fought through “tongue and teeth.”
    Consider the following excerpt — one of many — which renders Al Qaeda’s reciprocal-treatment argument moot. Soon after 9/11, an influential group of Saudis wrote an open letter to the United States saying, “The heart of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is justice, kindness, and charity.” Bin Laden wrote in response:
    As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High’s Word: “We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us — till you believe in Allah alone.” So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility — that is, battle — ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed, or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy! Allah Almighty’s Word to his Prophet recounts in summation the true relationship: “O Prophet! Wage war against the infidels and hypocrites and be ruthless. Their abode is hell — an evil fate!” Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred — directed from the Muslim to the infidel — is the foundation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and kindness to them.
    Bin Laden goes so far as to say that the West’s purported hostility toward Islam is wholly predicated on Islam’s innate hostility toward the rest of the world, contradicting his own propaganda: “The West is hostile to us on account of … offensive jihad.”
    In an article titled “I was a fanatic … I know their thinking” published by the Daily Mail soon after the London and Glasgow terrorist plots, Hassan Butt, a former jihadist, helps explain the Islamist dichotomy between the propaganda of reciprocity and the theology of eternal hostility toward the infidel: “When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network … I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings, and 7/7 was Western foreign policy.”
    One is reminded of the captured video showing bin Laden laughing and gesticulating soon after the 9/11 strikes, boasting that many of the hijackers weren’t even aware that they were on a suicide mission. Butt continues:
    By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed this “Blair’s bombs” line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology. … As with previous terror attacks, people are again saying that violence carried out by Muslims is all to do with foreign policy. For example, on Saturday on Radio 4’s Today program, the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said: “What all our intelligence shows about the opinions of disaffected young Muslims is the main driving force is not Afghanistan, it is mainly Iraq.”
    Whatever position one takes as to why Al Qaeda has declared war on America, one thing is clear: We must begin to come to terms with all of Al Qaeda’s rhetoric, not just what is aimed specifically at Western readers. We must particularly come to better appreciate the theological aspects that underpin radical Islam. As Butt puts it:
    The main reason why radicals have managed to increase their following is because most Muslim institutions in Britain just don’t want to talk about theology. They refuse to broach the difficult and often complex truth that Islam can be interpreted as condoning violence against the unbeliever — and instead repeat the mantra that Islam is peace and hope that all of this debate will go away.
    When news of The Al Qaeda Reader leaked to the press in 2005, some on the left questioned whether the book would be a pseudo-scholarly attempt to demonize Muslims. Others on the right worried that unfiltered exposure to the radical beliefs and propaganda of bin Laden and his cohorts might unintentionally lead to more converts or sympathizers.
    My reply is simply this: Whatever one’s position in regard to the “war on terror,” understanding the ideas of our enemy is both a practical necessity in wartime and a fundamental liberal value. It is my hope that both sides in this bitter debate will profit from a deeper acquaintance with these works. In any case, it simply will not do to dismiss Al Qaeda as an irrational movement without ideas.

  • Lucic

    The second Pakistani cabinet officer in two months has been assassinated for opposing his country’s death-for-blasphemy law. This hideous news clarifies the ineluctable logic of the Islam problem, which not a single person occupying responsible public position in the West is capable of understanding:
    According to Islam, if you insult Islam or Allah or his Prophet, you must die.
    This Islamic law, so horrible and anti-human, is a scandal to the conscience of humanity, and both non-Muslims and some Muslims naturally get the idea of reforming Islam, so that it will no longer require the death penalty for insulting Islam.
    But as soon as any Muslim speaks up against the Islamic law that that requires death for insulting Islam, he is killed by his fellow Muslims.
    Therefore no reform of Islam is possible.
    This is the reality that not a single person in a responsible public position in the West is yet capable of understanding.
    However, though no reform of Islam is possible, this doesn’t mean that there is no solution to the Islam problem. In fact, there are two, and only two, possible solutions to the Islam problem, one from the non-Muslim point of view, the other from the Muslim point of view.
    From the non-Muslim point of view, the only possible solution to the Islam problem is that Islam be segregated and quarantined from the non-Muslim world, so that it cannot work its evil and threatening influence on non-Muslim countries.
    From the Muslim point of view, the only possible solution to the Islam problem is that Islam cease to exist, meaning that Muslims renounce Islam so that the religion no longer has any influence over them as individuals and as societies.
    I realize that this sounds hopelessly extreme. But our current situation is hopelessly extreme, and no one says that therefore it can’t be true! If our current, hopelessly extreme situation can exist, then its opposite can also exist.
    8. Currently the two dominant belief systems in the world are liberalism (in the West) and Islam (in the Islamic world). Cumulatively these two belief systems dominate the world. A world dominated by liberalism and Islam is a world spiraling toward a horrible end, with each downward swoop of the spiral more horrible than the last. If the world is to be saved, both liberalism and Islam must be defeated, or at least disempowered, so that other belief systems take their place as the dominant belief systems.

  • Teed Rockwell

    “But as soon as any Muslim speaks up against the Islamic law that that requires death for insulting Islam, he is killed by his fellow Muslims.
    Therefore no reform of Islam is possible.”
    Check the link in this message There was a petition denouncing “death to apostates” that was signed by over a hundred prominent Muslim clerics from all over the world. None of them was killed for this. Your ‘reality” is a paranoid delusin.

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