Rethinking Reform

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Event Name: Rethinking Reform
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you to fall under that hadith because it's a 'mutawatir' hadith, it's a factual hadith that has the same strength as a verse in the Qur'an.


Now*[21], I want to close and end this is by saying one of the greatest problems is we have what I call Shaykh Googles'; 'Weekend Muftis'. We have now a loss of authority in our tradition. This has led to people like, what they call Shaykh bin Laden. Somebody called me up on a recent Arabic programme and said: 'What do you think of Shaykh Osama Bin Laden?' And I just said, first of all, what do you want from the question? Do you want me to be, if I answer 'oh, he's a great guy', to be in Guantanamo Bay tomorrow? [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. I mean, is that kind of the idea? Or, what you want is that, you know, I think he's terrible? But, who made him a Shaykh? Really. Who made Shaykh Osama bin Laden a Shaykh? Osama bin Laden is an accountant [APPLAUSE]. Ayman al-Zawahari was a paediatric surgeon. And these people are giving fatwa from caves in Afghanistan telling people to kill people.  00:59:24-7


Now,*[22] their fatwa is based on a famous fatwa from Mardin. The fatwa that killed Anwar El Sadat is the same fatwa. My Shaykh and teacher, Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, recently held a conference in Turkey in the city of Mardin, which is where the fatwa, was..the fatwa was addressing an issue in that city. The fact that the ruler of that city was a Muslim but not applying Islamic law, and he was under the influence of the Moguls who were not Muslim at that time. He was asked, is this an abode of war or an abode of peace? He said, it's neither one or the other. It's a hybrid because it doesn't have the qualities of the abode of war; it doesn't have the qualities of the abode of peace. And then he said something very interesting. He said, therefore, the believer should be treated in accordance with the fact that he's a believer, and the disbeliever should be fought: ‘yoqatalo al-kharij 'an al-sharia be-ma yastahiqoh’.The disbeliever should be fought because he's left the Sharia, and as he deserves to be. Now, Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, when that fatwa was read in Mardin, he said that can't be right, the text.


The 'uluma' that were in the audience - some of them the biggest 'uluma' in the Muslim world -all said SHAYKH, don't change the fatwa. It's Shaykh al-Islam's fatwa. We can address the problems of the fatwa, but don't change the text of the fatwa. Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah insisted. He said, no. Something is wrong with that text. It doesn't work in the Arabic language like that. When he got back to Jeddah, he went to another text and found that it did not say that the one who left the Sharia should be fought. It actually said, instead of 'yoqatalo', it said, 'yo'amalo'. He should be treated in accordance with him being a disbeliever. In other words, there are many rules that relate to disbelievers. Then he asked for the oldest copy in the 'Zahiriyah maktaba' in Damascus, and it came back saying, in fact, that he should be treated, not killed, or fought. That fatwa was published a hundred years ago and has been replicated in countless editions of his ‘fatwas’, saying that they should be fought. That is the basis of Abdul Salam Faraj's ‘fatwa’ to kill Anwar El Sadat. It was the basis of bin Laden's fatwa to kill the Americans, and also to overthrow the house of Saud in Saudi Arabia. It's a misprint. They've based an entire philosophy on a misprint in a text that occurred a hundred years. This is a crisis in our community: the crisis of authority. Who can read these texts and who can determine what they mean? Thank you very much [APPLAUSE].  01:02:12-3


Question / Answer



IMAD AHMED: Thank you very much professor Ramadan, you raised a number of fascinating points. Our time is short now so we are going to launch straight into the question and answer session. We are first going to take our questions from the floor. If you would like to ask a question, please raise your hand and one of the stewards will come to you with the microphone. So, do we have any questions on the floor? Can we have the gentleman here please? 00:50:27-7




DR SHEHAB, SAUDI ARABIA: Assalaamu alaikum. This question is to Ustadh Ramadan. I like what you said, but I need a plan. What you said is very good, but what is the plan to face the challenges and to teach the world of what you said about ethics and about... So we need a plan, not just to talk more and more. So i hope you have something to offer in the plan. 01:51:07-9


TARIQ RAMADAN: 01:51:27-1 I think that many things are already done in some fields, for example I will take the example as I said in medicine, that these councils where Muslim scholars of the text with medical doctors are working together and they are able *[55]   to come with very interesting things on euthanasia and cloning and all that. What I would like is to open up and be effective on this and this is what I want to translate into councils where we are able to come with scholars that are dealing with the text, but more specialised issues. 01:51:51-9


And for example some of the economists - and once again on the knowledge of the world, we need sometimes people who are not Muslims, who are coming and sitting and they can come with for example this economy, from the east and from the west, sitting together. So I would say that we have to go a step further now. It is time for us to call not just the scholars to do the job, but also to the Muslim communities - don't blame the authority when you are not playing the game, you are not accountable, and you don’t understand in which way you have...because we have lots of people in many fields.


For example, in education. That's very good. To think about Islamic schools, and that's fine. Over the last 30 years for example, the Islamic schools are doing much better now than they did before - they are improving, but we need much more than that now. When we deal with acquisition *[56]   of knowledge, and how do we deal with the surrounding world, in Muslim majority countries as well as here. So we need to have things on this where the Muslim scholars should be involved in this discussion, I think that the halal and haram business, was something which is far from - now we live in a very complex world, education is a very complex challenge now.


And women*[57], for example: I’m sorry you cannot just as Muslim scholars, sit as men together and ask for women to give you a report on the situation of women and say okay we are going to change the situation. So in many things we have to come back to the traditions, because many things are done today which are not respecting the Islamic tradition, from the very beginning. Even in our mosques there are things that are unacceptable, not because we are not dealing with the challenges of today, but because we are not respecting what is the Islamic tradition on the firsthand. [APPLAUSE] This is the first thing.


The second thing is really to have scholars and women coming also with this knowledge in our circles, where they can come with this and also understand things - you know - this is something which, we *[58]   are very much integrating in the West and you can show the people are very much integrating with the rate of divorces. This is where we are the best, and are coming very close to what is happening in the surrounding society. But many Muslims are saying yes it means you are lost here, but in the Muslim majority countries, we don’t have so many divorces. Ask yourself why? Is it because it's better? Any one of us who is serious about the issue is just knowing that what is going on now in Muslim majority countries is also problematic when it comes to the way we deal with families and the way we deal with women.


It's not for us to push to do it as it is done in the west, but to be critical enough to come to something which is how do we deal with the right status of women in our societies today? And it means not headscarf and not headscarf. For me it is clear, the headscarf is in the*[59]   Islamic prescription, and after that it should be the right of the woman to wear it or not. This is her free choice. But it is an Islamic prescription and then you decide what you want to do. Now this is not the main concern. The main concern is how do you deal with the family, how do you deal with the husband, when you deal with the kids, how do you deal with your rights, how do you deal with the surrounding society and the public sphere. These are questions that are deeper than that, when you speak about something that is so obvious for us as Muslims you know same skills, same salary.


Let us come to this. Let us come to these deep discussions and not just following the footsteps of “Oh I want to please the west, and say OK remove the headscarf and show that you are liberal Muslims” - what's that? This is not reform. This is just an awareness. This is just silly. This is not what the Muslims need today.


AHMED: Thank you. 01:56:19-6




AUDIENCE MEMBER: Assalamu alaikum. If I could ask the question to both of you, that would be really helpful. How do Muslims have meaningful engagement with the government as active citizens in this country? I know you both touched on it but if you could elaborate, that would be very helpful. 01:56:27-1


AHMED: Thank you. Shaykh Hamza if we could start with you. 01:56:27-1


HAMZA YUSUF: Bismillah. The first thing is that the Muslim community has to understand the concept of citizenship. In the pre-modern tradition there wasn't a concept of citizenship. There was a concept of ‘haakim’ and ‘mahkum’, which is the ruler and the ruled. So the idea that *[60]  people that are under a government can actually participate in the framing of the government itself is a relatively new idea itself, and Muslims in the west are learning this, I mean we now have, it's quite extraordinary, that there is a minister who is from a Muslim family, and some MP's who were elected in the recent election who are from Muslim families, so it is happening here in the UK. But I would argue that the concept of ‘muwaatana’ which is citizenship, the idea that we are not a minority community in the ideal state of western understanding of citizenry, that we are actually fully enfranchised citizens and have all the rights and responsibilities that go with that citizenship - that has to be inculcated into our youth and into our communities. I think the older generation are excused in my estimation, because they came from a very different background. But the younger generation really doesn't have an excuse. I think it's very important that they recognise the importance of fully integrating at that level.


For example in my country, in the United states, especially at local government, you can enact radical changes in your local governments. You can ban alcohol. You can ban gambling. You can do a lot of things. And Muslims, and I agree with Dr Ramadan fully on this, that Muslims need to be productive members of their community. They really need to be engaging the community fully.


One of the biggest problems *[61]  that we have is the concept of ‘al-walaa’ and ‘al-baraa’. The idea, of, there's a certain segment of the Muslim community that teaches this idea, that any allegiance, you have to have allegiance and enmity, allegiance to Islam alone, and enmity to anything other than Islam, and therefore to vote is an act of ‘kufr’ in a non-Muslim state.  And we have people here that get public airspace to expound these ideas on a regular basis. These ideas are sectarian and a very very marginalised view in Islamic history.  Allegiance to a state is not kufr by any means, and Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, argues that the classical formulation of what was called ‘dar al-harb’, ‘dar al-islam’ and ‘dar al-ahad’, or ‘muwada'ah’, those are the three classical formulations, the abode of war, the abode of peace which was the Islamic world, and then the abode where you had treaties with the people.


YUSUF: He argues that there is a new abode, which is what he calls the ‘dar al-muqam’, or the ‘dar al-muwatana’, which is the abode of citizenship *[62]  , which is where Muslims are citizens. And a Muslim can technically become a Prime minister, or at least a President in the United States. And that was argued 200 years ago, it was actually in the constitutional debates, one of the issues raised was that if there were not religious tests, a Muslim could eventually be elected President in the United States. That was argued 200 years ago, by the founding fathers. And the argument was overridden because Iraton argued that if the American people elected a Muslim it would be for one of two reasons - either the Americans had all become Muslims, and then that was their democratic prerogative, and he said that's highly unlikely. And then he said, the other would be that they found in a Muslim all the virtues that they wanted to lead their society, and in that case again it was their prerogative. So they actually voted early on, based on a Muslim issue, so Barack *[63]  Obama has a Muslim grandmother, and he is president of the United States. His grandmother was there, in hijab sitting next to him, at the inauguration.


So we now have a paternal side of the family in the white House that is Muslim. So I mean that is quite extraordinary as an event. And i think we can't underestimate the election of Barack Hussein Obama, because that election first of all signals that the name barrier no longer exists in the United States of America, so if your name is Mahmud or Hussein or Abdullah - it is not a barrier anymore. That is the first important hallmark. The second is that he does openly have Muslim relatives, and that is an incredible statement. And the third, and this is what I find most extraordinary, he is from the Lu'o tribe, in Kenya. In Kenya, had he ran for president of Kenya, he could not have been elected because of the tribe that he is from. And that is a fact that Fuad Nahdi will confirm.  The Lu'o tribe is a weaker tribe. But he overcame tribe and race, in the United States and became President.


So I think it's very important for Muslims to recognise that we do have vital contribution. And finally in Manchester, Bradford, Sheffield, Birmingham, in these cities, we are moving into numbers of Muslims that if the demographics are correct - and they often aren't - So I do put that caveat out, but if the demographics are correct, it won't be long before some of the largest cities*[64]   in the United Kingdom have majority Muslim populations. The Muslims need to very seriously consider the fact that they will have to be running city councils, that they will have to have police stations that are under a Muslim constabulary, all these things really have to be taken into consideration. And Muslims instead of rioting need to think seriously about establishing think tanks, where they can think seriously about their presence in the United Kingdom, and in the United states, and in Canada, and in Germany and all of these places because we need to address these real issues and we need to alleviate the very serious and real fears, and it's not always phobia because phobia by, in a classical metaphysical definition is an irrational fear but the fear of Muslims is not necessarily irrational for many people: The high crime rates that are in our communities in Europe are cause for concern for many, many people in these countries so its very important that Muslims address these issues and one of the most important ways of doing that is through civic engagement.


RAMADAN: *[65]  02:03:23-9 Yes. I want to say something about this because I agree with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf about this, and I have been saying this for years now and I wrote the book 'To be a European Muslim' and said that we have to stop, the very understanding of citizenship is to stop speaking about minority and minority citizenship and not to put ourselves in a situation where we speak as a minority. When it comes to citizenship, of course a religious minority is there, but when we speak about citizenship, we have to be involved. Now the point is, I am not myself against anything that has to do with government, I have been sitting in many councils and committees with governments, and talking and listening and sharing views. But once again as i said, it is really to ask yourselves, what is the intention? What do we want to achieve? Because at the end of the day, you know, for example when I studied all of what was said by scholars about ‘dar al-harb’ and ‘dar al-islam’ and all that, I ended up saying that in the west and also in Muslim majority countries, we are facing something which is ‘dar al-shahadah’. Meaning that we bear witness, in the sense that: li takunu shuhada ‘al an-nas, in order for you to be a witness to your message before people. This is where the world is. I want to be a witness. So ask yourself what is the intention.  02:05:11-8


So there is something which is very problematic, is that some of the Muslims that are dealing with the governments are acting as though they are representing*[66] all the Muslims - and you are not. So first is to say that you are not representing all of the Muslims, and second is to ask yourself what is your role. And this is where the point is for me - the contribution. An ethical contribution. It is to help the politicians and to help the government to come back to politics and not emotional politics *[67]  and not racism, and not discrimination, but to just be there for all citizens. And to be there for all the citizens, is just to be the witness of your message in the way you deal with politics. It doesn't mean you have to be naive and not to calculate, it means you have to be aware of the game and the rules of the game but at the same time, show in which way when you are dealing with the government: you don't represent the Muslims, and second you want to spread around a better understanding of what is happening at the grassroots level, and then to be able to say to the government that you don't only deal with the people you like, but you have to deal with all people. 02:06:20-4


And the last point is never let them think that you can be bought. And I’m sorry there are people working for the governments, getting money from the governments *[68]  and the only thing they are doing is following exactly the agenda of the government, and I think these people are dangerous. 02:06:52-5


AHMED: Thank you Professor Ramadan. Our time is short, so can i ask that the questions are short and that the answers are a bit more condensed. Can I have one question from the gentleman in the leather jacket. 02:07:08-7




KASHIF ZAKIUDDIN, SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFIRCAN STUDIES: Assalaamu alaikum Shaykh Hamza and Professor Ramadan. My question is addressed to both of you. You both spoke of this notion in Islam of a ‘thawabit’. Of constants or immutables within the Islamic tradition. How do you respond to those within the tradition and without the tradition who flag these ‘thawabit’ up, some of these immutables, as concepts as parts of the tradition which are *[69]  incompatible with western liberal democracies. And how therefore do you see a way forward? Because ultimately, often Islamic reform is seen as a means to further integration, and these are flagged up from both sides of the divide as impediments to achieving this goal.


YUSUF: 02:08:07-6 I would say first of all. The area that is problematic, is what is known as ‘ahkam al-sultaniyya’, which are the governmental categories and the penal code. There are issues about sexual morality, homosexuality and also women’s rights that are seen as problematic. The inheritance laws in the Quran are one of the few times where the Quran is very explicit about who gets what. And that's difficult. Although there are some arguments even in juristic preference that some of the Usooli scholars have made of late, arguing other types of distribution that is not incongruous with what the Quran says. I would say that the prophet (saw) stated very clearly that the political tradition of his faith would dissipate very rapidly after 30 years and I think Muslims tend to forget that. That this so called Islamic state has not existed in the history of Islam. And I think that it is a political fantasy that a lot of Muslims hold. 02:09:16-9


And so I think a lot of those areas are not dissimilar to the Jewish orthodox community and other religious communities that have pre-modern aspects of their tradition that are not compatible with western liberal democracy. And I think it is important that Muslims don’t waffle on those issues, and they should state them as they are. And simply, we believe this is a revelation, and there are certain things that are prohibited, In the Quran homosexuality, acting on it is prohibited in the Quran *[70]  - the impulses that people have, that was addressed in our book centuries ago, the prayer of person known as a ‘ma'boon’, a person who has that condition of being attracted to the same sex is a valid prayer, even if they lead the prayer. But the idea of acting on it, and also just purely rectal [inter]course for male and female is also prohibited, it's simply seen as something that harms people, and so that physical act is prohibited.  And I don't think Muslims can change that in any way, because it is ‘ma'loom min ad deen darooratan’ - it is known by all Muslims and it really can't be waffled or fudged.  02:10:37-2


On the other hand I think it is important to humanize people and not to dehumanise people and i think that the types of attitudes that a lot of Muslims have are incompatible to the spirit of mercy and ‘rahma’. And the other thing that is important is that people outside the faith of Islam, according to the opinion that I was taught, are not in any way obliged to follow the details of the Islamic law, so what is prohibited for us is not necessarily prohibited for them if they don't accept Islam as a tradition. 02:11:06-3


RAMADAN: Yes there are many things here. I think that I agree with all that was said. But I want to be more focused on one of the points that you are making. Very often, as Muslims, because we are under pressure - there are in many countries today in the West, a list of questions *[71]  , which you have to respond to, and you are going to be a good or a bad Muslim depending on your answer, so there is a list of questions. The point is that even within some of our texts, when we come to something which is not dealing with the text, but an intrinsic discussion from within, that we have to consider some of the texts that are ‘qat’I thoboot ‘and ‘qat'i dalala ‘meaning that there is no discussion about the authenticity and about the substance and the meaning. It's that if Muslims - we are not sharp and coming with something which is a definitive response to this, it is as if we are lesser Muslims. So let me give you two examples. there is one thing which is quite important, that is we have clear cut texts, and they have to be implemented, But sometimes the context within which you live has to be taken into account to know what you are going to do with this. When for example with Muslims, half of the Muslim organisations in this country stopped to invite me when I called for a moratorium *[72]  on the ‘hudud’. Because some were saying oh you are questioning the very essence of the text - you are questioning the texts themselves. I never did that. You will never find in anything that I wrote something which is saying that it is not in the Quran or it is not in the prophetic tradition.  02:12:57-6 The death penalty is in the Quran, the corporal punishments are in the Quran and the stoning is in the Prophetic tradition. I never said that it's not in the text. What I am saying is that the conditions to implement these texts are not there. So it's impossible to implement. So the best way is not to pretend, in some petrol-monarchies that we are fulfilling or being faithful to Islam. Because the first intention must be faithfulness. So I think what we are doing in the name of Islam is just unjust. 02:13:23-7


So it's not because it's the liberal democracy that someone says 'oh it's a European, it's a Swiss citizen teaching us Islam.' I respond to this by saying, "No, it's a Muslim, asking you as a Muslim, asking you whether what is being done is Islamic.' 02:13:42-5


And like the Mufti Shaykh Ali Gomaa responded, coming to say, that  he was not in agreement with the methodology, with the way I did it, but saying yes, I agree with the substance - that we cannot implement this. And I got many scholars  that were agreeing on principles, but not publically. After a discussion in Morocco some said 'We agree with you but we're not going to say it.'  02:14:07-4


But this is a point which is the crisis of authority. Where we are scared about the repercussion of what the Muslims are going to say about us.  02:14:16-7


So my point here is to say, on your discussion, that there are some principles which, in order to be faithful, we have to look at the environment.  02:14:27-7


Now, on some of the principles, such as when it comes to homosexuality, when it comes to some of these issues, where the Muslims are pushed yet to have to accept this. I say no. And this is why it is so important to be able to come with something which is clear as to the principles and open as to humanity and into humanizing. What I say is to respect the people and to disagree with what you are doing. Saying 'I don't like it, it's not permitted in my  religion, but I respect who you are.' And this is the way I am, this is the way you should be in society.  02:14:59-8


So the Muslims are so much on the defensive that this attitude is sometimes perceived as 'Oh, you are betraying the very essence of the religion.' And I would say exactly the opposite - it is the very essence of the religion that we are protecting by conveying clarity on the principles and openness in what the relationships are that we have with people.  02:15:21-9


AHMAD: Thank you very much. Can I take a question from the gentleman over here?






AUDIENCE MEMBER: Asalaamu alaikum. Basim Elkarra with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Democratic Party. Many communities and mosques in the West are held hostage by a few. These leaders do not give space to other especially the youth. They drive and alienate the youth. Away from the faith. How do we deal with the issue of community leadership. The crisis of community leadership.  02:15:54-7


AHMAD: Can I address that question to Shaykh Hamza?


YUSUF: There's a principle in Islam that the ruler removes difference of opinion. So, for instance, in Ramadan, when do we start? In the West we have problems like in America on which day do we start? They don't have a problem in Egypt because they just announce: 'It's Ramadan tomorrow, everybody fast.' 02:16:21-9


So leadership is a fluid thing. Leadership is about authority and people have different levels of authority. Dr. Ramadan yields a certain amount of authority. I yield a certain amount of authority. But we don't have the type of authority that Hosni Mubarak has in Egypt. And so it becomes …you can't just dictate to people what to do. You can try to convince them with arguments. And that's really what I believe Islam is about. The Quran is about convincing people with arguments and dialectic. And also it's a give and take process.


So I think it's important that especially the youth leaders, they have their own authority, they begin to emerge. People like Rami Nashishibi is a good example in the United States. Intissar Rab. I mean there are many examples. Cream tends to rise to the top. Leadership is often something that is organic. Even in a political process it's organic. It can be spoiled cream as well, so it doesn't necessarily yield always good leadership. Leaders tend to display certain qualities that people respond to and I think it's more of an organic process rather than trying to superimpose on people some sort of models 02:17:44-3


RAMADAN: Yes, but I would say something here, which is that I have a problem with this question. Because it's very… you know we are facing these questions very often. Young Muslims are saying 'how can we get new leadership *[73]  ?' At the end of the day there are two things that are very important. Once again I am always coming back to this, which is the intention of what do you want to achieve. Is it a power struggle or is it something which is our contribution? and are we going to be more effective in the environment?


And there is something else which is working, which is that when you do the job, when the eldest are just seeing on the ground that you're doing the job, at the end of the day you stop being the victim.


It's exactly the same with the women. You want an emancipation process, you want to be free, you want to be autonomous, you want to do the work - do it. Just go for it. And I think that many, many experiences not only here can tell you - even in Muslim majority countries. When I went to Indonesia and I met these young people in Malaysia, when they were working in computing, they're doing the job. They go; they do it. Now it doesn't mean that you have to go to be against the leadership. It's just to be a complementary voice, but do the job. Also men, young people, this is the way this has to be done.


And then your knowledge 02:19:07-1 of your environment. Your knowledge of the environment should be brought to the fore as something which is effective in the way. 01:19:15-6 So respect: this is coming from the tradition. This is something that is important But critical thinking and creativity…We lack creativity in our methodologies. We lack creativity in the way we come with… you know to reform within Islam is sometimes the means that you are using to reach the people. So these are things that are necessary and I would say that our community are too much passive 02:19:41-7


YUSUF:  Just to - I need to bounce off of that a little bit because part of the problem is that - Toynbee argues that the fundamental crisis in civilization is when they confront *[74]  challenges but they don't have creative responses and he argues that creative responses are indeed what saves a civilization


Part of the problem is [that] some of the best and brightest minds that we have no longer go into Islamic studies, they go into medicine. We have incredibly creative responses in medicine to the challenges of medicine. We have incredibly creative responses to engineering. I mean they're always coming up with new ways to build higher buildings. My God I was just in Dubai and that thing - it's almost to Pleiades! But the problem is that when you direct so much of your intellectual energies into these areas and fields of expertise and you don't direct those energies into some of the most difficult questions that face us - which are philosophical, which are ethical.


We need real ethicists. We need people who are trained in ethical philosophy. Not just a kind of modern book on ethics. I mean if you read classical ethical treatises they are philosophical treatises that teach people how to reason ethically, not simply having a hadith that teaches you some ethical truism but to reason ethically…because if we had people reasoning ethically we would never have come up with fatwas that supported suicide bombing, ever. 02:21:10-6


[APPLAUSE] 02:21:11-3


AHMED: Thank you very much. We're really coming very close to the end of our time. So what I'm going to do is take two more questions from the floor and one pre-submitted question. I'm going to put them together and hope the speakers can answer them in bullet fire form. 02:21:36-9


Can I have one here? What you have to do you just walk around and come to this mic here. Whilst you're coming can we have the question from.. one here and one here. So can we start with this one here? 02:21:53-8




IMAM AHMAD SA’AD, NORTH LONDON CENTRAL MOSQUE: My question is actually both for Dr. Ramadan and Shaykh Hamza. Shaykh Hamza first: Don't you think there is a need as well for some kind of an institutional reform for our religious schools? Like where I come from, for example, in Azhar, we had a very interesting experience towards the end of the  18th century in 1970 or 1997 or around that time when the French came to Egypt one of the shuyukh, Shayk-ul-Islam Hassan Al-Attar , he actually realized out of all the shayukh of Azhar that there is a need for him to explore the French - these invaders who actually came to the country - and try to teach them the Arabic and get some engineering knowledge and stuff like that. And that has actually paved the road for people like Rifa'a al-Tahtawi to come to Paris and other shayukh to come to Europe and explore. So don't you think that there is a need actually to reform our institutions of Islamic learning within the Muslim world as well? and as our Shaykh Ali Goma’a speaks about the importance of regenerating sciences as our predecessors have done that.



JOURNALIST, GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER: I just wanted to ask on behalf of all of the government officials here and I should point out at this stage that I'm from the Guardian. But is it a given that reform or renovation - whatever terms you want to use - that will make it less likely that Muslims will be involved in violence against the interests of the West? What the West perceives to be of interest  - is it a guarantee? Or basically my question is about unintended consequences 02:23:50-2



AHMED:  OK and we had one pre-submitted question from IMAM SARWAR from IQRA TV - "Some Muslims would hold that Islam can sit perfectly comfortably within a secular society and the religion does not oblige us to work to change the political status quo. In this light - can it be argued that the Muslim can be a neo-conservative and a good Muslim at the same time?”


YUSUF: *[75]  Just to answer the question about renewal of the colleges - you know I studied in a traditional methodology. A lot of it was rote memorization and there is definitely, a fundamental need for memorization in the Islamic tradition - undeniably - but on the other hand - there has to be other components, particularly a critical reading of text. And that has to be incorporated into the students' understanding early on


You know I would definitely argue - Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah recently - we were at Al-Azhar - and he gave a talk and argued that four subjects need to be renewed *[76]  – ‘tajdeed’. And he said that the first one was ‘usul ul-fiqh’ which I think in many ways he's done, I mean he wrote this extraordinary books “Sena’atal Fatwa” which is the craft of giving a ‘fatwa’ - showing the methodology. And the second one was ‘furoo ul-fiqh’ which is the branches of jurisprudence. And the third was the need for renewal of tasawwuf as the spiritual component or the inward reality of the Sharia.


And I don't think historically there was ever...there was always an understanding of Sharia and Tariqa - that there's an inward road to God and there's an outward road and they have to be traversed at the same time by the same individual. And the final one 02:25:34-8 is the aqidah itself. Many of the ‘aqidah’ the creedal issues that are discussed in madrahsas are absolutely absurd in the light of modern science and even physics. I mean now there are knowledge of modern physics that solves a lot of the early problems that they were discussing. And they were trying to do it. So there needs to be a renewal. On the other hand, it's a work that needs - what Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah says - needs a vast knowledge, because it can't be done by pygmies. It really has to be done by people that are really capable and highly qualified to do that.


And *[77]  then in terms of the Guardian question about reform and violence…I mean, I would argue - Zbigniew Brzezinski who's quite brilliant – Polish-American - I heard him once in a lecture talk about the response to the Black Nationalist violent movements in the United States of America and he said there was a multi-dimensional approach to that problem. One of them was curtailing the violence which was a criminal justice problem. But he said the other one was addressing the real issues that were creating the violence. And as long as we don't address a lot of these issues… And I’ll just give you one example – I’ve read in so many articles …you know Mortimer Zuckerman or whoever arguing that 'Palestine isn't really an issue blah blah blah it's just an excuse' -  Rubbish.




YUSUF: I was just in Morocco which is at the edge of the Arab world - it's the furthest Western Arab country - in Fez, in one of the most traditional cities *[78]  in the Muslim world. The khateeb, who was well into his seventies, he ended his khutbah by praying for Quds, by liberating Quds, by asking God to help the Palestinian people in their oppressed conditions. This is happening all across the Muslim world every Friday. Until people really, seriously address this issue - and the British of all people should be addressing this issue because a lot of the problem stems from early British problems in that area [APPLAUSE]. My country inherited the problems [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] 02:28:09-1


AHMED: and thirdly to Shaykh Hamza - can a Muslim be a neo-conservative and a good Muslim at the same time? 02:28:14-3


YUSUF: I you know - a neo-con is like - Con is where we end it in America. You know. And then you could say "por que neo." Why not neo-fascism? Why not just call a spade a spade. So I think it's impossible for somebody to be true to any real humanity in their hearts to follow a completely patently disingenuous political discourse. Really, disingenuous. They can still be a Muslim though [LAUGHTER] . I don't excommunicate. [LAUGHTER] 02:29:06-8


RAMADAN: Yes, *[79]  just to go for - I think that once again I think it's a serious discussion about Al-Azhar, like what you said. Because I think that when I went there and I had the chance to go to Azhar and follow the tradition and to go with one to one courses - Shaykh Ali Goma’a and others who were teachers and professors there and ulemma at Al-Azhar - I decided to go for this on a one to one courses with all the scholars. Because I think that there is something that should be come which is still the tradition and the pillars. This is very important. now, once again the methodology - when it comes to the way we are teaching by heart when you repeat. You know, I was within ‘usul ul-fiqh’ for example and we had to repeat all this ‘qawa’id’ [principles]. And you get the knowledge when you know it by heart you are not sure to understand the substance and the critical discussion on this. I think that there is a problem of methodology there is a problem of substance.


There is a problem of the critical mind - which was to learn to ask questions - which is the very tradition of Islah, to ask questions. To question the scholars. I agree that we have a problem with authority. But the problem that we also have now with authority is just this blind authority. When we have a Shaykh – it’s just don't ask the question, just follow. I'm sorry this is not...and this is why when this one to one course which I had every morning with Shaykh Ali Goma’ was a discussion, it was taking and giving.  And I think that this is what we need to come to.


Once again what Mohammad Abdou said when he was coming back to Al-Azhar was something of this kind when he said we need other disciplines, but he was also talking about the way things are taught. And I think that this is what we need: now, in the West, in Muslim majority countries. We need to do this in Muslim majority countries. But we need now to institutionalize our presence with institutions in the West doing the job. So, to have this credential now, by having scholars coming from there and working here. Because in our  environment we need this. It's impossible to be a scholar, a Muslim scholar, knowing the state of affairs in our countries in the West if we don't get this critical thinking, understanding. And it's vast. And this is why it's not one who can do that. It's not two. It's something which has to be a collective. We need to make it clear for the Muslim community: don't only put money in mosques but put money in institutions. And put money in things that are how we're going to teach. This is something which is essential [APPLAUSE]. 02:31:53-1


Let *[80] me tell you something here which is - you know - you spoke about Palestine. You know I was in the task force in this country. And I was also when for example banned from the United States of America 80% of the question that I got from the American Embassy in Switzerland were about my position on Iraq and my position on the unilateral support of the United States towards Israel. It has nothing to do with the money I gave. It has to do really with political position. So there is only one way forward. If we accept critical discussion in politics - being able to say [that] there is a lack of consistency in the West with our values - this is the only way for us to be heard by Muslims when we say you can't kill innocent people. This is not Islamic. What I said straight after July the 7th is ANTI-Islamic. When I was in the states in New York just after what happened on September the 11th it's not only non-Islamic it's anti-Islamic. We cannot support this 02:33:01-3


The point is for us is to know where we are, with whom we are talking. So when now we have some Muslims, some Muslims, being able to work with the government *[81] and supporting the inconsistency of the government when they are saying 'condemn violence and don't speak about other things.' No, I'm sorry. That is not going to work. There is no way for us to go towards peace if we are not serious about consistency in politics. Meaning the blood of an Iraqi man is the same as the blood of an American man. [APPLAUSE] 02:33:37-4


This is the starting point of our discussion. It's the starting point of the discussion. I'm sorry to say that some in our government - just I’m finishing on these two points - but this point really - I think that it's very serious. It's very serious. Because you're not going to solve the problem if every time you come with this discourse, our loyalty to the country is challenged and questioned. It's questioned. It's *[82] said, 'Oh you're not a real British' , 'You're not a real American.’ I think it's wrong. This is where we are. The dignity of Britain - the dignity of the United States of America - when we are able to say this as Muslims. So this is our contribution.


I would say that if you deal with governments, if you deal with the Labour party in this country, just to say: 'I’m sorry, what you’re doing is wrong.' So you had the prime minister of this country saying there is no connection between what happened in the streets of London and what we are doing in Iraq. So how can you start a discussion when there is such a state of denial that it's wrong what was done in the state of London but please say that's wrong what you're doing in Iraq and what you are forgetting in Palestine. But now, only by the way - I’m of this opinion: I really want us as citizens not only to speak about Palestine not only to speak about Iraq and Afghanistan but also to speak about Africa, but also *[83] to speak about the fact that people are being killed in our name. In even what happened in Haiti, for example, it's just before the natural catastrophe. The way we are dealing with the government and corrupt people. There I think that this is where we have to be involved. And this is for me a shift in understanding. But I want the government and our fellow citizens to understand what we are talking about what we are doing talking about this.


And then one thing which *[84] is important. I completely agree - a neo-con and being a Muslim is problematic in my mind - I don’t get it. But there is something which is going to be very difficult for all of us. In our involvement in the West - and this happened in Muslim majority countries in a way which was problematic, because when you were following Islamist trends, this is where you were a good Muslim and it's as if all the others were bad Muslims - ... We have to be very cautious here in this political discussion because today we have Muslims who are not going as extreme as neo con or far party or populist. But we will have people in the Labour parties - we will have people in the Lib Dem and in the conservative. We have Muslims *[85] as citizens now. They are everywhere. And we need to be able to get to that level of political understanding of citizens that we may have the same faith we don't share the same opinions.


So there is something here which is very important in our way of dealing. We have to deal with this political diversity as something which is a potential richness and not a liability undermining our community of faith. It's not easy; it's really not easy. Because this judgmental attitude that we can have on the name of our religion because we come from something which is a very specific understanding of Islam - could be very problematic in the political field. In our life in the west this is the challenge also of diversity that we have to deal with 02:37:03-2  [APPLAUSE]


AHMED: Thank you. Our stewards have negotiated a little more time with the theatre so we do have time for maybe one … let's start with one [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] 02:37:24-8



STEWARD: This is a very direct submitted question but no less pertinent. Do both speakers believe that the relationships fostered under the new Labour to counter extremist think tanks such as Quilliam have been productive or counterproductive and is it something that the coalition government should put efforts in pursuing? 02:37:43-0


AHMED: Okay, let's start with Professor Ramadan. 02:37:48-9


YUSUF: I'm from America… [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER and APPLAUSE] 02:37:58-6


RAMADAN: Look. My position on this, it's not a black and white. Because today with Quilliam I am differentiating between people and the objective. There are some people I don't want to talk with them because I have no trust. That's over. I saw, I heard, thank you. Some others that I think that are trying their best in between, so I would say I’m not against the fact that we are in touch with the government. It depends on your intention and what you are producing and delivering on the ground. Today, for me, some of the things that are done by, for example, the Quilliam Foundation are completely counterproductive; completely counterproductive.




RAMADAN: No *[86] , that's not right. It's something which - this is exactly the opposite of what I wanted. I don't want this kind of just throwing away something which is a project. I think that some things are counterproductive. And I think there are other things, other questions that are very, very important. I think that some of the questions which are coming from the Quilliam Foundation and others are very important to listen to. So I'm against this attitude that sometimes we have – ‘Oh, it's coming from Quilliam, so throw it away.’ no. Listen, listen. So, for example, let me tell you something which is not only coming from within the Muslim community but we have for example you know Brigitte Bardot, she's from the far right - very bad - she doesn't like the Muslims. She's clearly a racist. She's a racist. And say they are staring with the sheep and then they will end with us, by slaughtering us. This is what she's saying


But there is something which is very important for me. I was not going to react emotionally. I was going to tell her: ‘look, look you are racist. The way you are dealing with Arabs and Muslims I will never accept that.’ But at the same time she is saying something which is important. Which is: ‘look, Muslims, the way you are dealing with the animals when it comes to Eid-al-Adha is just not respectful - you are disrespectful’ - and I listen to this and I say in all of these you are wrong and in this you are right. I will listen to this and forget about all that. And I think it's exactly the same with the Qulliam Foundation. I’m ready to throw away 90% because I think it's counterproductive and the 10% - welcome to the discussion. 02:40:39-2


AHMED: Thank you very much.




AHMED: Shaykh Hamza 02:40:45-6


YUSUF: On that question… [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. I agree about the sheep. They should definitely be treated with more… [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER, SCATTERED APPLAUSE] Really. And I saw Brigitte Bardot when I was a kid…what happened? [LAUGHTER] 02:41:07-3


AHMED: Okay. We have one final question. Please, a quick question and a quick answer. Can I take it from the lady here please? Thank you. 02:41:21-2



AUDIENCE MEMBER: Asalaamu Alaikum. It's probably not a very sophisticated question; it's more of a practical, real question. I've been just listening trying to take everything in that you’ve been saying, but at the same time, as someone who is very active and has been very active in both Ireland and here and at the grassroots level working with Muslim women's groups and non-Muslim - and the youth..My own experience -if that's anything to go by on activism has left me quite soured and disappointed actually. And how do you reconcile...I suppose that's the question: how do you reconcile the prophetic injunction to plant saplings in the middle of the Hour with the reality that actually for a lot of Muslims it's very hard? The reality of raising children here it's very hard. You know, some people can tell us go back to your own countries.  Well, I don't belong anywhere, or I belong as much here as I belong anywhere. And I find it hard - I find that engagement genuinely hard. And I think that reflects the reality of quite a lot of people - younger and older - trying to raise children, trying to communicate with children, values….when everything else around you says - you're an outsider [voice breaks]- it's very difficult 02:42:49-3


[APPLAUSE] 02:42:50-7


YUSUF: The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said that Islam - it began as an alien thing and it will return to being an alien things, so blessed are the alienated ones. The world's an alienating place. We're all going to be dead in this room within at least the maximum 100 years and there will be a whole new group of people debating and discussing . Maybe, maybe not. But you know it is very difficult.


I was on an airport going to Kuwait and I sat next to Muahammad al- Awadi who's a famous presenter there - a very brilliant Kuwaiti guy - and the stewardess came - and she had Ayesha on her name tag. I asked her where she was from, she said Senegal. And then Muhammad al-Awadi said - she didn't  have a hijab on  - but he said, “are you able to pray on the plane?” And she said, “yes.” And then he said, “Can *[87] I ask you a question.” And she said, “yes.” And he said, “How do you feel about serving wine on the plane?” She said, ‘It's really hard.’ [voice breaks] “but I always use my left hand.” And…you know, I was so moved by that - that attempt - in such an incredibly difficult circumstance - to be as true as she could to what she believed was right. Because Muslims do deal with foul things with their left hand and um… there are a lot of people struggling out there. So God bless you. 02:44:35-8




RAMADAN: There is no way to deny the fact that educating our kids… and you know today - to be a couple is a jihad. To be a father and a mother is a jihad. And to be a kid to be a boy *[88] or a girl is in itself a jihad. The starting point is exactly this one - is just to acknowledge the fact that it's very difficult. But now there are also conditions. And I would say that in the West, it's very difficult today to be a father and a mother. But there are conditions and we have to come back to this. When I wrote the book on "The Prophet," peace be upon him, the point for me was really to look at the way he was and to extract from his behaviour principles.


There is something which is very problematic. When you are scared from the environment, you know when you are full of confidence. It's different than when you are scared. When you are scared from the environment you come with rules because you think that rules are protecting you. But when you come with a state of confidence you know that it's going to be difficult. But you say "natawakkalu ‘ala Allah" [meaning] we rely on God and we go for it.


There is something which are conditions*[89] and the first one is look at the way the Prophet, peace be upon him, was with his wife and with is kids. The second thing which is important is communication and there is no way today in our schools  - or supplementary schools are sometimes Islamic schools - we come with the rules and we forget the fact that we need communication - we need to let the people express. So I would say that in our family there is something which is quite important which is communication - which is  to listen. It is to be able to look and have this - the signs which are coming - and I think this is what is missing today - lack of communication.


The third things which is important in the way that we deal with our kids here is critical thinking. It’s also to let them ask questions - and sometimes make mistakes and try to deal with the environment.


And the fourth thing which is for me important is not to cut them from the surrounding society - is to equip them with critical thinking and allow them to make some choice. It is not going to be easy. No one said that. Critical thinking and then communicating and then trust. Trust. You know I always say something which is a part of my personal experience when my own father. Once when I asked him something he gave it to me. He gave me money and said: ‘Don't do something which is displeasing God.’ And he was sending me a message which I’m not able myself to do with my own kids. Which is trusting the relationships with your conscious.  02:48:00-2


So*[90] I think once again we need to do this - within our family. We need institutions. We need places where we can talk about this. And sometimes there is nothing wrong with having people helping us or