Ali Abdel Raziq
Ali Abdel Raziq (Arabic: ﻋﻠﻲ ﻋﺒﺪ ﺍﻟﺮﺍﺯﻕ) (1888-1966) was an Egyptian scholar of Islam, religious judge, and government minister. His writings—some controversial at the time—debated the role of religion and Islamic history in 20th century politics and government. While the implication of his arguments still remain a point of debate, his 1925 book Islam and the Foundations of Governance argued against a role for religion in politics or the political prescriptive value of religious texts. He argued that Islamic texts were and should remain neutral in political debate and civil institution building. He attended Oxford University and was a scholar and jurist at al-Azhar in Cairo.
Ali Abdel Raziq was born in 1888 to a well off family. His father Hassan Abdel Raziq was a large farm-owner and was in 1907 among the founders of the Umma Party. His brother Mustafa Abdul Raziq—a well known philosopher—studied at Al-Azhar University under the famous reformer Muhammad Abduh. Ali later received his "Alim" degree at Al-Azhar in 1911. In 1912 he traveled to Oxford University to study Economics and Political Science, but returned to Cairo at the outbreak of the First World War. Back at Al-Azhar in 1915, he also became Cadi (religious judge) at Mansoura. Ali became famous for his book Islam and the Foundations of Governance (Al-Islam Wa Usul Al-Hukm) published in 1925, and Consensus and Islamic Law (Al-Ijma´ Fi Ash-Shari´ah Al-Islamiyyah) in 1947. Following the popular debate around his 1925 book, Al-Azhar stripped him of his office, though he was re-instituted in the 1940s. Ali, his father, and his brother remained close to the Liberal Constitutional Party. He eventually became a government minister and lost his position as scholar and jurist at al-Azhar. He twice served as Minister of Endowments, one of the three highest positions in religious administration beside the Rector of Al-Azhar and the Grand Mufti. He died in December 1966.
The argument of Abdul Raziq's 1925 book has been summarized as "...Islam does not advocate a specific form of government...", focusing his criticism both at those who use religious law as contemporary political proscription and at the history of rulers claiming legitimacy though the Caliphate. The focus of this debate was Mustafa Kemal's abolition of the caliphate in 1924, and the response of some Arab Muslim scholars that it was incumbent upon Arabs in particular to re-institute the caliphate in Arab lands. Abdul Raziq wrote that past rulers spread the notion of religious justification for the caliphate "so that they could use religion as a shield protecting their thrones against the attacks of rebels." The journalistic and academic debate Abdul Raziq's 1925 book set off projected him into fame.
Abdul Raziq remains controversial as much for the implication of his writing, while his specific arguments are part of a longer tradition jurisprudence and scripture. His work has since been both praised and condemned as a precursor of secularist philosophy in Muslim societies, and has been criticized as having drawn on the works of Orientalist western writers.
Secularism and Islam and the Foundations of Governance
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Due to its controversial standpoints regarding the necessity of the caliphate and religious government, the book triggered an intellectual and political battle in Egypt. In essence the author claims that the Muslims may agree on any kind of government, be it religious or worldly, as long as it serves the interest and common welfare of their society. Abdel Raziq's arguments:
1. The two main sources of Islamic law (sharia), the Quran and the Sunnah (Tradition of Messenger Muhammad), neither demand nor reject the rule of a caliph (caliphate) or imam (imamate).
2. There is no real ijma (consensus) on the necessity of the caliphate.
3. Experience shows that the caliphate entailed a series of disasters for the Muslim community, and there is no single rational argument for the (re-)establishment of the caliphate. As Abdel Raziq recounts the horrors of the caliphate, among other things, one can conclude that he advocated a humanist kind of governance, probably a democratic state.
The word ‘secular’ has come to the Arab lexicon since the turn of the twentieth century, bringing with it a host of meanings and interpretations. It was first introduced into Arab debates with a connotation for a separation between religion and the state. This later evolved to become, "la dini" and now meant irreligious. In present day circles secularism is often understood as "almaniya", and has become associated with immorality or the lack of ethics. Many contemporary scholars who perhaps have confused various notions and meanings of the idea of secularism have claimed that Abdelraziq was an advocate of secularism in this most negative sense, meaning that he was amoral. This is certainly not the case. ALi Abdel Raziq argued for the separation of religion from the state, as he clearly states in his essay. He could never have advocated irreligiosity or the slackening of moral values. He was a man of the highest integrity and he raised his family with great moral uprightness and a deep and true awareness of the importance of the sacred and of belief in God. Should one wish to name or classify his practice of Islam, then we could say that his ‘tariqah’ was that of following the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed in a simple and moderate manner. Perhaps we could even call him a Sufi, although he himself would never have been so bold as to name himself one.
Abdelraziq’s book is an enlightened, scientific reading of the Qur'an – nothing less, nothing more. He has used the holy book as his main point of reference. As a matter of fact most of the chapters contain an on-going chain of versus drawn from the Qur'an but related to the main concern of the book, which is governance in Islam. Equally, he makes consistent reference to a number of solid (sahih) hadiths. In fact, Ali Abelraziq, the man and the thinker, steers far away from secularism – understood as a form of amoralism, and rather, stays very close to the teachings of the sunnah of Muhammed. And this is how he raised us, his family. We learned a moderate Islam under his guidance, one that was based on ease, mercy and asceticism or zuhd.
One allegation is that Ali Abdelraziq did not write Islam and the Foundations of Political Power himself. Rather, it was written by someone else, and then given to Abdelraziq to publish in his name. What the advocates of this theory have overlooked is the fact that I (Amr Hamed, grand son of Sheikh A. Abdelraziq ) possess the original handwritten manuscript of the book, with a lot of corrections, marginal notes, and footnotes made by Ali Abdelraziq himself.
- Abdel Raziq, Ali: Al-Islam Wa Usul Al-Hukm: Bahth Fi-l Khilafa Wa-l Hukuma Fi-l Islam (Islam and the Foundations of Governance: Research on the Caliphate and Governance in Islam). Critique and commentary by Mamdooh Haqqi (Beirut, 1978).
- Marshall Cavendish Reference. Illustrated Dictionary of the Muslim World Muslim World. Marshall Cavendish, 2010 ISBN 9780761479291 p.79.
- Souad T. Ali. A religion, not a state: Ali 'Abd al-Raziq's Islamic justification of political secularism. University of Utah Press, 2009. ISBN 9780874809510
- Thomas M. Leonard (ed). Encyclopedia of the Developing World, Volume 2. Taylor & Francis, 2006. ISBN 9781579583880. p.878.
- Panayiotis J. Vatikiotis. Egypt since the revolution. Issue 7 of Studies on modern Asia and Africa. Praeger, 1968. pp.151-152.
- Bertrand Badie, Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Leonardo Morlino (eds). International Encyclopedia of Political Science, Volume 1. SAGE, 2011. ISBN 9781412959636 p.1350.
- Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab. Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective. Columbia University Press, 2010. ISBN 9780231144896 p.40
- Kemal H. Karpat. The Politicization of Islam: Reconstructing Identity, State, Faith, and Community in the Late Ottoman State. Studies in Middle Eastern History. Oxford University Press, 2001 ISBN 9780195136180 p.242-243.
- Jasser Auda. Maqasid Al-Shariah as Philosophy of Islamic Law: A Systems Approach. IIIT, 2007. ISBN 9781565644243 p.173
- Fouad Ajami. The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice since 1967. Edition 2, revised, Cambridge University Press, 1992. ISBN 9780521438339 p.232
- Kassab (2010) pp.29, 32-33, 173, 225.
- John L. Esposito. Islam and Secularism in the Middle East. NYU Press, 2000. ISBN 9780814782613
- Adams, Charles C.: Islam and Modernism in Egypt. Russell & Russell, New York, 1968 (2ndd Edition). Page: 259-68.
- Meier, Andreas: Der Politische Auftrag des Islam (The Political Mission of Islam). Wuppertal (GER), 1994. Page: 106-114.