Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tawfik Hamid and Islamic Reform

The War on Terror has made a number of sharp turns as it has lurched forward over the past decade or so. Even the acronym WOT now seems so retro, so Bushie, so yesterday. For a short time it was the War on Extremism, but even that expression carried a negative connotation for some people. Radicalization is the new buzzword and the now defunct War on Terror has become the campaign to counter radicalization.

Professor Quintan Wiktorowicz, discussed here on NPR, is the new radicalization czar at the National Security Council, and his "broad tent" approach will certainly include moderate Muslims such as Tawfik Hamid who is the Chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Tawfik recently gave this lecture at the Institute, and also appeared as a guest on the Arabic program Daring Question. His subject on both programs was his plan to deradicalize Muslims by presenting them with a new approach to the Quran. What caught my attention was that none of the attendees in the English lecture, even though they are educated and influential people, knew enough about Islam to counter anything presented by Tawfik. It was quite different in the interview with ex-Muslim Rashid, and I would like to concentrate on Rashid's comments. The material presented by Tawfik was basically the same in both lectures and readers can watch the English lecture to fully understand his perspective. I'll add a few comments at the end.

Rashid began the discussion by asking Tawfik to define moderate Islam. Tawfik said his definition was, "I love you; I don't hate you because you are different than me, and I leave the final judgement to God."

The next question was what it means to reform Islam. Tawfik responded that the relationship of a believer to his religion contains three basic elements. First is the Nuss, the sacred text, second is the Tafsir or interpretation of the text, and final is the thought process of the believer. A radicalized person can take even a peaceful text and reach a violent conclusion based upon his interpretation of that text and the way he thinks.

"We cannot change the original texts," said Tawfiq, "But we can change the way people interpret them by changing the way they think."

"Where does your role come in?" Rashid asked. "Do you begin with the text, or do you teach the radical to interpret the text and think in a new way?"

Tawfik replied that he began with the text itself. The Quran, he said, does not teach Hudud (capital punishment) for Riddah (leaving Islam), and no Ayah commands Rajam for Zina (stoning for adultery). On the contrary, it declares "there is no compulsion in religion"  (Quran 2:256), and "whoever chooses can believe, and whoever chooses can disbelieve" (Quran 18:29). No one has the right, asserted Taufik, to deny anyone the freedom of belief that has been given them by God. By placing our priority on the Nuss of the Quran itself, rather than the Hadith and Sira (sayings and biography of Muhammad), we avoid many problems.

Does this mean, asked Rashid, that you are a Qurani, a "Quran-only Muslim"? (comment: I have discussed this group here). Tawfiq replied he did not follow their ideology because of the Quranic verse "those who listen to the Word and follow that which is good are guided by God and given understanding" (Quran 39:18).

"All truth is the Word," said Tawfik, "Even if it comes in the writings of a Buddhist. I accept what is good in any text. My only criterion is that it not contradict the Quran."

"Does that mean," asked Rashid, "That you accept the peaceful and tolerant Hadith that go along with the Quran, but refuse the violent ones that are not in line with the Quran?"

When Taufik said that was correct, Rashid continued, "Do you reject the saying of Muhammad, "If anyone leaves Islam, kill him."

"I absolutely reject that Hadith," replied Tawfik. "The Quran says that God did not choose to make all people Muslim, and you cannot force anyone to be a Muslim (Quran 10:99). That Hadith contradicts the plain teaching of the Quran."

"But the Ulama," replied Rashid, "Have determined that "if anyone changes his religion, kill him" is an authentic Hadith and its Sanad, or train of transmission, goes directly to Muhammad. It is something that Muhammad said. Even if the scholars agree this is true, do you still refuse it?"

"Of course," replied Tawfik. "I am not refusing anything the Prophet said, but I am suggesting that he did not really say it. There is always room for human error in the Sanad, and just because the scholars agree that Muhammad said something it does not necessarily make it true. The Quran tells us not to think that we are above mistakes (Quran 53:32). The Ulama are great scholars, but they can still make mistakes. I am not denying anything the Prophet actually said, and I am not even questioning the integrity of the Ulama. I am simply stating there is always room for human error."

"But the first Caliphs after Muhammad," countered Rashid, "Were the Sahaba, the companions of the Prophet. They were close to him and received his instructions. They practiced the Hudud for Riddah (capital punishment for leaving Islam). They certainly didn't make this up themselves. They knew that Muhammad said this Hadith, and they carried out his instructions. It sounds to me as if by refusing the Hadith you are saying that Caliph Abu Bakr did not understand, and neither did Caliphs Umar or Uthman or Ali. No one has understood for 1400 years except Dr. Tawfik Hamid!"

"No," replied Tawfik. "I look at it from another perspective. Those generations are gone, with their accomplishments and their mistakes. They have nothing to do with me. On Judgment Day, God is not going to ask me what so-and-so did many years ago. They were not perfect. The Quran says, "Muhammad is no more than a messenger, and there were many messengers before him. If Muhammad dies, will you turn away from him? (Quran 3:144). Who am I to say whether the Sahaba followed him correctly, or turned away from him to use Islam for political purposes? My methodology is to examine the text in front of me, and to understand it irregardless of its traditional and historical context. I set history aside and look at the text as if it were revealed to me just now."

"But that is exactly what the first Muslims did," replied Rashid, "They practiced the Quran as it was revealed to them, with the result that they enforced the punishments of Hudud (capital punishment) including Rajm (stoning)."

Realizing he was on shaky ground, Tawfik quickly shifted direction. "They weren't all the same," he said. "There were always people who disagreed. For example, the poet Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (1165-1240) wrote,

My heart is capable of everything.
It is a pasture for gazelles, and a monastery for monks.
A temple for idols, and the Kabah of the pilgrim.
It holds the scrolls of the Torah, and the text of the Quran.
I follow the caravan of love, wherever it may take me.
Love is my faith and my religion."

"Dr. Hamid," said Rashid. "Ibn Arabi was rejected by the Muslim majority, who considered him a Sufi Kafir (Sufi unbeliever). Sufism is the result of Christian influence on Islam. When you study the Sufi books, you see the deep influence of Christianity. I am not talking about individuals outside the mainstream who were influenced by other ideologies. I am talking about Orthodox Islam. The first four Rightly Guided Caliphs were not ordinary people. They were the successors of the Prophet and they ruled in his name."

Tawfik simply repeated his earlier assertion that no Muslim could justify his actions before God on the Day of Judgment on the basis of what these Sahaba had done, because they were not perfect.

"Let's look at the verses you mentioned," said Rashid, "That say there is no compulsion in religion and everyone has the right to believe as they choose. The Ulama say these verses are Nasikh wal Mansoukh (abrogated). They were revealed in the early Medinan period, soon after Muhammad arrived from Mecca and before he instituted Jihad. Some of these verses were given for extenuating circumstances. For example, Quranic Mufassir (commentator) Ibn Kathir gives the historical context for the phrase "there is no compulsion in religion." The Arab women of Medina had a high infant mortality rate, and would sometimes give their infants to the Jewish woman to raise (comment: The Jewish tribes of Medina followed the dietary and sanitary laws of the Torah and as a result were more healthy than their Arab neighbors). When the Jews of Medina refused to accept Muhammad as a Prophet, he exiled them from the city. The Arab women wanted to bring their children back but Muhammad refused saying, "There is no compulsion in religion; you cannot force your children to return." (comment: rather than being a verse of tolerance, this phrase resulted in the disruption of families). That verse was revealed for a specific situation, but the general rule was to kill those who left Islam."

Dr. Tawfik suddenly looked like a deer caught in the headlights, and it was apparent he did not know the context of the very verse he was quoting. "If you say that verse was revealed for an extenuating circumstance," he said. "You can say the same about the verses of violence. They were also given for specific situations, and are not applicable today."

"Just as others have the right to interpret the Quran as they choose," continued Tawfik, "I have that same right. The Quran testifies that if it were not from God, it would contain many contradictions (Quran 4:82). When there are differences in interpretation we must return to the original text to remove the contradictions. The text does this by saying "there is no compulsion in religion".

"I also do not believe in the principle of Nasikh wal Mansoukh (aprogation)," said Tawfik. "First of all, the Quran says that the Word that comes from God cannot be changed (Quran 50:29). Secondly, the traditionalists say the fighting verses of Medina cancelled out the peaceful verses from Mecca. But the famous phrase "kill the unbelievers wherever you find them" (Quran 9:4) is followed by the verse "if any of the unbelivers ask you for protection, grant it to them so they may hear the Word of God" (Quran 9:6). If the verses of mercy were cancelled out, why would a verse offering mercy immediately follow Quran 9:4?  Even the Medinan suras contain messages of mercy."

"The problem," replied Rashid, "Is that the Quran is not arranged chronologically. The fact that verse 6 follows verse 4 in the text does not necessarily mean they were both revealed at the same time."

When Tawfiq repeated his earlier assertion that he was only concerned with the words of the text and not its historical context, Rashid replied that the trajectory of the entire Quran moved from from the peaceful to the violent. In Mecca, Muhammad tried to gain converts by "preaching that which is better" (Quran 16:125). When he went to Medina he began to fight the Quraysh of Mecca, and by the end of the Quran he was preparing to attack neighbouring countries. The violence followed a pattern of escalation.

"If that were true," replied Tawfik. "Muhammad would have slaughtered the citizens of Mecca when he returned ten years after leaving. Instead it was a peaceful conquest."

"It was not a peaceful return," replied Rashid. "There are many Hadiths that speak of Muhammad's return to Mecca. He was determined to kill his enemies there, and he ordered they be seized even if they were clinging to the Kabah. Why would he kill all the people? He had an army surrounding Mecca of 10,000 soldiers. As soon as he killed the leaders, the city was his."

"The problem," continued Rashid. "Is that Muslim scholars who look at Islam from a historical perspective have evidence for their positions. They have the Hadith and the Sira. You come with just your opinion, and there is nothing historically to support you."

Tawfik responded that those scholars were not always in agreement with each other, and repeated his earlier assertion that if the verses of the Quran were all placed side by side, without bringing in extraneous texts, they would present a peaceful message. He then continued with his reasons for not believing abrogation.

"One of the justifications for the principle of abrogation," he said, "Is the verse that reads "Whenever we Nasikh (abrogate) a verse, we bring a better one (Quran 2:106).  The word Nasikh has two meanings in the Quran. One is to erase, or abrogate. The Quran uses this meaning when it says, "Whenever we give a message to a Messenger, Satan comes and tries to Nasikh (remove) it (Quran 22:52)."

"But there is another definition of Nasikh in the Quran," continued Tawfik, "That means to confirm. The Quran says that on the Day of Judgment the angels will open the books on which they have written down, or confirmed, all our good deeds (Quran 45:29). The verb "to write down" is from the same root as Nasikh.

"If we think of Nasikh as confirmation and not abrogation," said Tawfik. "And apply that to Quran 2:106, it means that the message God gave to Muhammad was a confirmation of earlier messages God gave to Moses and Jesus and all the other Prophets. It is not speaking of abrogating Muhammad's peaceful revelations, but confirming all that was said by the previous Prophets."

"I can appreciate this Tafsir (explanation)," replied Rashid. "But the problem is that you are simply expressing your own opinion. You have nothing to support your exigesis. If we look at Islamic history and all its texts, whether in the Sira or Tafsir or Hadith, we find them in agreement on the principle of Nasikh as abrogation.

"Let's look at alcohol," continued Rashid. "In the beginning Muslims were allowed to drink but commanded to not perform Salat (the prayers) when they were drunk (Quran 4:43). The scholars have explained that Muslims were coming to the Mosque so drunk that when they tried to recite the verse, I do not worship what the unbelievers worship, and they do not worship what I worship (Quran 109:2,3), they got the words all turned around. For that reason the verse was revealed they were not to pray if they were drunk. In a later revelation, Muhammad stated that alcohol was a work of Satan and was to be avoided altogether (Quran 5:90), and this has been applied throughout Muslim history. No scholar would argue today that a Muslim can drink as long as he does not come to the mosque drunk, because that verse was abrogated by the later one forbidding alcohol. The principle of abrogation is an essential part of Muslim theology."

"I completely agree with you, said Tawfik, "That this is the traditional approach. Any child who reads the Hadith and the Sira and the Tafsir will find the principle of Nasikh wal Mansoukh. But even in the verses you mentioned I find a ray of hope. For example, the first verse you quoted said that believers were not to say their prayers when they were intoxicated. Not only alcohol, but some medications and even a lack of sleep can give one a sense of intoxication. So the verse might not have been referring to drinking alcohol, but the intoxication that can result from other things."

Tawfik quickly responded to the look of incredulity he saw come across Rashid's face. "I don't disagree with you," Tawfik said, "Muslim scholars have always looked at that verse in reference to people coming to the Mosque drunk. I'm just saying there could be another way to look at it."

"Dr. Tawfik," responded Rashid, "You are making things up. You are trying to make the text say what you want it to say. Scholars throughout history have made a connection between the revelations given in the Quran and the Sabab al-Nazoul (reasons they were revealed). Do you believe in the Sabab al-Nazoul?"

"No, I don't," replied Tawfik.

Rashid was astonished, "So you want to completely strip the Quran from its historical and cultural context," he asked, "And give it a 21st century meaning as if it were revealed today!"

"I am talking about the meaning of the Quran," Tawfik replied, "I agree with you that Ibn Arabi was persecuted as a Sufi, but his poetry reflects the meaning of the Quran. That is why I said in the beginning I do not rely on the Nuss only, but on a new Tafsir (interpretation) of the Quran."

With this segue Tawfik introduced his second element of deradicalization, a new way of interpreting the Quran, by telling a story from his younger days in Cairo. "I was reading the Quran," he said, "And I came to the verse, "Kill Al Mushrikun (the non-believers) wherever you find them" (Quran 9:5). The verse startled me. Even the thought of harming our Coptic neighbors was impossible to me. I went to a friend who was involved in Islamic Jihad to ask him what the verse meant. He replied that even if we could not kill the Christians now, we were to harbor enmity against them in our hearts for their refusal to accept Muhammad. I could not accept his explanation and went to see a Sufi Imam. His response was simply that we were to love all people and leave the final judgement to God. This was a better answer, but it still seemed as if he were evading the actual text."

"One day I was pouring over the verse," Tawfik continued, "And I realized it was not addressed to Mushrikun in general (an indefinite noun), but to Al Mushrikun (a definite noun). The Quran was not addressing unbelievers in general, but a particular group of unbelievers."

When Rashid asked who the verse was referring to, Tawfik replied it was the Quraysh who had opposed Muhammad in Mecca. He then explained how he used that verse in his work, "If I am speaking to a young radical, I show him this verse and ask him why Allah was angry at those unbelievers. He will reply it was because they persecuted Muhammad and his followers. I will then remind him that at the time the Muslims were the minority, and God was displeased with the Quraysh for mistreating this minority. If you mistreat Christian or Jewish or Buddhist minorities today, God will similarly be angry with you. I turn the verse around, and use it to teach a lesson."

Rashid had a perplexed look on his face at Tawfik's explanation. "In the first place, Al Mushrikun is always used in the Quran to refer to unbelievers everywhere. If the text mentioned the Mushrikun of Quraysh, or the Mushrikun of a certain time, I could accept your interpretation, but it doesn't."

When Taufik defended his argument by quoting that Muhammad "was granted permission to fight those who persecuted him" (Quran 22:39), and that this was a reference to the Quraysh, Rashid noted this was only the first stage of Jihad. In the final stage, Muhammad was ordered to fight unbelievers everywhere "until Allah alone was worshipped" (Quran 2:193).

Rashid then noted that the verse saying Al Yahoud (the Jews) were the strongest enemies of the Muslims (Quran 5:82) was also a definite noun, but Muslims have always interpreted this to mean that Jews in general are enemies of Islam. "If Muhammad would have specified "the Jews of Medina", or "the Jews of Arabia", said Rashid, "I could agree with you. But the Quranic reference is to all Jews."

Taufik responded by repeating his assertion that this reference was only to the Jews of Medina during the time of Muhammad. "How can you hate and insult all the Jews," he asked, "When the Prophet Moses was a Jew, and many of the other prophets mentioned in the Quran were Jews?"

Rashid replied that official Islam excepted the Prophets in its condemnation of the Jews, and then added, "It seems to me that you are an anomaly, a lone wolf in your understanding of Islam. You do not represent official traditional Islam."

"That is true," Taufik responded, "And I am proud of that."

Rashid continued, "To understand how the Ulema have interpreted Islam's relationship to the Jews, we must take it in its historical context. In the beginning Muhammad had no hostility against Christians and Jews, and even sent some of his followers to Ethiopia which was a Christian nation. When Muhammad migrated to Medina he thought the Jews would accept his ideas. It was when he put pressure on them to accept him that the conflict began. At that time, the attitude of the Quran changed towards the Jews and the Christians. It is true there is a verse that says "preach to them nicely", but that verse was from the early Meccan period."

When Taufik countered there were also peaceful verses in the Medinan suras, Rashid replied this was in the first two years of Muhammad's time there, when he was still trying to persuade the Jews to accept him. It was only when they rejected him that he turned against them by changing the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca and the holy day from Saturday to Friday. "But you don't believe any of this," commented Rashid, "You refuse the Hadith and the Sira and the Tafsir and say there are no problems in anything the Quran says."

Taufik reiterated that he did not believe any of the Hadiths that went against his understanding of the Prophet, including Muhammad's marriage to Ayesha when she was nine years old, the benefits of drinking the Prophet's urine, and the need for a woman to nurse adult men if she wanted to be in the room with them.

"That goes against my logic," he said. "How can I believe it?"

"But what are the things you accept?" asked Rashid, "And what are the things that you reject?"

"What I believe in," replied Taufik, "Is freedom of belief. Because the punishment for Riddah is not in the Quran, I reject it completely. I reject stoning for adultery, because that is not in the Quran. I reject the description of Jews as "monkeys and pigs", because that reference was only directed to the Jews of one particular tribe. I reject the choice between accepting Islam or paying the Jizya tax, because the Quran says God does not like aggression. Killing homosexuals is not mentioned in the Quran and I reject it. I reject the idea that Muslims must fight the Jews before the Day of Judgement because that is not in the Quran."

"But Jald (whipping) is clearly mentioned in the Quran," said Rashid, "And so is the amputation of hands. Do you reject that as well?"

"There is another verse," countered Taufik, "That enjoins Muslims to follow the Uruf (Quran 7:199) (comment: English Qurans translate this word as "good", but the Arabic conveys the meaning of the common good or common law). The Uruf in our day is the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention, and we want Muslims to follow this. Even the Caliph Umar suspended amputations for theft during the Year of Poverty, when many Muslims were suffering from hunger. Is anyone going to accuse Umar of Kufr (unbelief)? He did not follow the letter of the law at that time, but adapted the law to the situation."

"The Quran allows men to have four wives," said Rashid. "What is your position on that?"

"When God first created Adam," replied Taufik, "He told him to live with his wife, not wives, in Paradise (Quran 7:19). He created Adam and Eve, not Adam and several wives. For that reason we say God's plan is for men to live with one wife. But when Muhammad lived, polygamy was common. The situation is similar to a man who becomes a Christian in Africa today and has multiple wives. Is he to divorce them, when divorce is not allowed in Christianity? In the same way in Islamic history, there was a time when it was necessary to deal with the problem of polygamy, and Allah allowed men to have more than one wife."

"The example you gave of Africa is different," countered Rashid. "It is one thing for someone to become a Christian when he already has multiple wives, and quite another to tell a man he can marry four. Muhammad did not find men with multiple wives, as the missionaries did, but he told them they could marry four women."

"Let me use this example," replied Taufik, "To move into my third main point, which is to develop a new way of thinking. It is well known that women feel oppressed and mistreated when their husbands take additional wives. The Quran warns that God will severely punish those who oppress others (Quran 25:19). If a Muslim marries a second wife and his first wife feels oppressed, he is in danger of God's punishment. My opinion is that oppression and mistreatment is present in multiple marriages and God hates oppression, so polygamy is not good."

"What about the command to beat disobedient wives?" asked Rashid. "That is a clear command in the Quran (Quran 4:34)."

"First of all," replied Taufik, "There is another verse that commands husbands to treat their wives reasonably (Quran 2:231) (comment: since this is a verse telling husbands how to treat divorced wives, it seems to me Taufik is stretching a little). If the Quran has a general amicable approach for marital relations, the "beating" verse must have another meaning. If a man finds his wife in bed with another man, the Quran orders him not to beat her but to produce four witnesses (Quran 4:15) (comment: Taufik does not mention the second part of this verse, which is that the adulterous woman is to be sentenced to life imprisonment within her house). If a husband does not even have the right to beat a wife he finds in bed with another man, how could he beat her at any other time? I admit, the beating verse presents problems, but there are other ways to look at it."

"Let me be frank with you," asked Rashid. "Is the problem just with the way people interpret the text of the Quran, or is it with the Nuss itself? I am looking at Quran 4:34. It says clearly in classical Arabic, "Beat them."

Taufik repeated his earlier argument that if a man was not allowed to beat a wife in bed with another man, there must be another explanation to Quran 4:34. He suggested that since the verse referred to "women" and not specifically to "wives", it might mean that Muslims at the time of Muhammad were allowed to beat disobedient women in the society, but this did not refer to husbands and their wives.

"I agree with you," said Taufik. "If we take the texts literally there are problems. But we must reinterpret them in light of today. I encourage people to not take the text literally, to not think only in black or white, but to take a deeper approach. The problem in traditional Islam is that every situation is viewed from the perspective of whether it is Halal (allowed) or Haram (forbidden). With polygamy, for example, Muslims have traditionally not questioned it because according to the literal text it is Halal. A Muslim can look at a Christian or a Jew and conclude he is a Kafir bound for Jehenim (hell) based upon the text of the Quran. I want people to look at others from a different perspective."

"Are you trying," asked Rashid, "To establish a new Fiqh (system of Islamic law)? Traditional Fiqh in Islam was built upon a particular way of interpreting the texts. Do you want to do this again?"

Taufik replied he was not necessarily trying to do that, but wanted Muslims to look at their own religion and at non-Muslims in a new and different way.

"But who," asked Rashid, "Will lead this reformation of Islam? Is is you? Al Azhar University? The official organizations of Islam?"

"The leaders of a reformed Islam," replied Taufik, "Do not need to come from Al Azhar University. Although I don't agree with them, the fact is that the most influential Muslims of the past century, men such as Hasan al-Banna (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood) and Sayyid Qutb (a writer who has influenced violent Muslim organizations) did not come from Al Azhar. Current popular preacher Amr Khalid is not from Al Azhar."

"Do you believe," asked Rashid in the final moments of the interview, "That everything Muhammad did was right and he never made a mistake? Do you believe in Usmat Muhammad (the infallability of the Prophet)?"

Taufik replied that Muhammad at times needed to be corrected and guided by God, but that the Prophet always responded to the correction. The Prophet once turned away from a blind man to give his attention to a rich man (Quran 80), but received God's correct guidance and never repeated the same mistake. The Muslim world, he concluded, made a great mistake by concentrating on the externals of Muhammad's behavior such as how he brushed his teeth, washed his hands, or went to the bathroom.


1. I believe that Dr. Taufik Hamid is between a rock and a hard place, and it's not just because his interpretation of Islam differs from that of Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Muhammad has a iron tight grip on Dr. Taufik. As a lifelong believer, he is intellectually incapable of leaving Muhammad behind as Rashid has done. On the other hand, as a upright and moral person, he is unable to accept the Muhammad of history. His solution is to create the Prophet he wishes had existed, the Islam he wants to believe in, and the Quran he wishes were true.

2. Because American policy makers are not themselves scholars of Islam, they rely on people such as Taufik Hamid to teach them about Islam. They rarely realize the extent to which the fanciful information given them differs from the reality of Islam as it exists throughout the world.

3. Taufik's exegesis of Arabic grammar leaves much to be desired. He bases his conclusion that Quran 9:4 refers not to unbelievers in general but only to the unbelievers of Muhammad's day on the fact that the Arabic uses the definite article Al Mushrikun. A grammatical rule of Arabic, however, is that definite nouns are regularly used to express indefinite meaning. To say in Arabic, "I don't like American foreign policy", one says "Ana la uhibb Al siyasah Al Amrikiyah Al Kharijiyah" which is literally "I don't like the American foreign policy." The definite noun is used to express an indefinite meaning.

The reality is that the Quran consistently uses the definite noun to deal with all classes of people. Believers are Al Mumineen, Christians are Al Nasarah, Jews are Al Yahoud, the people of the book (Jews and Christians together) are Ahl Al Kitab, infidels are Al Kuffar, and unbelievers are Al Mushrikun. For Dr. Taufik to argue that the definite article in Quran 9:4 means it refers only to the unbelievers in Mecca is not only bad grammar, but also nothing more than wishful thinking.

4. Dr. Taufik also stated that husbands were not allowed to beat adulterous wives, but commanded to produce four witnesses against them. Apart from the obvious ridiculousness of finding four eyewitnesses of adultery, unless she was sleeping with the entire hockey team, Dr. Taufik ignored the law of Sharia that a husband cannot be prosecuted for murdering a wife who has committed adultery. Taufik's response, of course, would be that even if the entire Muslim Ummah followed this ruling it would mean nothing to him unless he could find it in the Quran.


aemish said...

Please include your scholarly credentials and references for the reader in the future.

John Lollard said...

I am amazed that no one pointed out the glaring inconsistency in rejecting hadith and historical context... except in the case of the verse commanding him to kill the unbelievers that he could never think of harming. Did he not rely on words outside the text in his second main point?

Quotable Quotes: said...


I'm not sure if you mean my academic credentials (degrees and all that), or mean that I should provide better references for my source material. I suspect you mean the first, since I put quite a bit of effort into providing references for what I write. As an example, and as you probably know, Muslims often quote the Quran and the Hadith without giving the references. Taufik Hamid did that a dozen or so times in this interview, and it took some time for me to find and provide each reference.

As for my credentials, although I have an undergraduate degree in Religion from Temple University where I studied Islam years ago with Ismail Faruqi and Sayyid Hossein Nasr, I don't put a lot of stock in that. I had the opportunity to work in the Middle East for a number of years, and learned Arabic there. What I am doing now is basically passing on what I am learning. Everytime I listen to an al-Jazeera interview, or read a book written by a Muslim apologist, I learn something new or gain a new impression, and that is what I pass on in the blog. For example, Rashid said in the interview I just posted that Christianity had an early influence on Sufism. I hadn't known that before.

In short, I just do what I encourage everyone to do - read and learn on my own, and not be dependent on Muslim "scholars" (ie apologists) to tell me what they want me to believe about Islam.

And BTW, I really appreciate all your comments. Keep it up.

Abdallah Muslim said...

I don’t know if both of them are actors or only The Stray (inverse of Rashid), but before I comment on this silly play, I want to start with ALLAH words to you Arab Christian and Jews:

يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لِمَ تَكْفُرُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَأَنتُمْ تَشْهَدُونَ
يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لِمَ تَلْبِسُونَ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُونَ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
وَقَالَت طَّائِفَةٌ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ آمِنُواْ بِالَّذِيَ أُنزِلَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَجْهَ النَّهَارِ وَاكْفُرُواْ آخِرَهُ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

A party of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) wish to lead you astray. But they shall not lead astray anyone except themselves, and they perceive not. (69)

O people of the Scripture! (Jews and Christians): "Why do you disbelieve in the Ayât of Allâh, [the Verses about Prophet Muhammad SAW present in the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] while you (yourselves) bear witness (to their truth)." (70)

O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians): "Why do you mix truth with falsehood and conceal the truth while you know?" (71)

1- About Riddah (leaving Islam)

It was a sign from prophet Muhamad that some of Arabs will leave Islam and some of them will claim prophecy, and we have to fight them so they don’t change the religion and destroy it as you “Egyption Christians” to Christianity and convert it a complete pagan religion, you started Jesus as a mirror of God, then son of God, then his mother is mother of God, then he is God, (see how much stupidity, he is her God and she is his mother, solve it if you can !!!)

But, if one stupid wants to leave Islam like “the Stray”, who will touch him?? When did you see ever they killed someone who left Islam?? Muslims knows that insane can’t be judged because he can’t control his actions, and who leave the way to heaven to throw himself in hell, he will be more than insane, so how we can judge him, actually he leaves Muslim country because he see how much they disgust him…

- About understanding Quran and Sunnah and Sahaba actions,

you must open you heart and mind and not read with Devil eyes then you come to explain Islam, first go and understand your religion first and stop guessing what is your god and what you have to believe and when you are convinced totally that you are totally lost, then come to us and Muslims will explain to you every letter and not word only in Quran and sunnah and sahaba sayings too.

- When Prophet Muhammad prevent someone from accepting Islam or returning to Islam?? when he knew that a jewish son is dying he went to him and asked him to accept Islam, the boy looked at his father, who said to him obey Abu el Kasim (Muhammad), the boy accepted Islam and died, Prophet said: Thanks to Allah that he saved him because of me !! you even convert the good things to bad things in your sick minds..

- About Naselkh wal Mansoukh, how you want to change Arabs from killers, rapist, drunk, thieves to standing in mosques praying and feeding poor in one movement, this from Allah wisdom, and the steps taken are not necessary to keep them, if the move had passed already and because of that it was replaced..(not very difficult to understand !!)

- About the Violence, study how each successful revolution must win, read it on my post “Why Muhammad?” what do you think Muhammad is coming to destroy the Devil kingdom on Earth, that he will let him work peacefully ?? No, NEVER, he will fight him and keep fighting him and they will clash for sure, and blessed this violence that kills 180 infidels only in 10 years and 230 Muslims too and save billions of people from hell, blessed this violence that saves millions of babies that were buried by their infidels fathers because they are female and the blessed Muhammad had save them all, if you still crying on those infidels go to youtube and search for “burying children by Amazon tribes” and tell me how you will sleep tonight , if you have 1 drop of blood, you will cry and say where are you Muhammad to fight with you the first..

Abdallah Muslim said...

- About killing the infidels everywhere “Mushreken”, didn’t you ask yourself, why Muslims didn’t obey that and didn’t kill them everywhere, because this verse comes after opening Makkah and Muhammad gave them 4 months to think and accept Islam, or leave Makkah, or they will be fight, imagine Makkah will be the center of Islam and there are infidels inside who worship idols and bury their babies on desert, but why he didn’t fight them?? Because they all accepted Islam and fought with him in Hynayan 2 weeks later..

- About the 10 who ordered to be killed, those were killers and kidnappers who used to trap muslims and kill them, but only 4 of them were killed, and 6 were forgiven and accepted Islam, means they are assassinators, and you still defending them too, they killed innocent people, not in war like other, WHAT do you work man !!

- About the Jews, are those who dammed on Quran are by David and Jesus words, read the verse again, and for those who said that Marry was a WHORE !!, so if you accept it then DAM you too.

- If you love Jews too much, see the surprise truth for Jews, Muslims and Christains on youtube part 2, and see some Jews happily saying: “We killed Jesus and we are proud of it” !!

- The verse didn’t say that Jews comes from pigs, but part of them who worked against God commands and worked on Saturday were cursed as pigs for 3 days then died all, they are not fathers of any living jews, and because they don’t work on Saturday what so ever…

- About fighting the prophet, it’s not because they didn’t know he is prophet, they knew that but thought it will be easy like Jesus to catch him and crucify him, but after fighting him they knew it will not be that easy, and after that they lived in peace with Muslims for centuries and for your info there are still families in Madina who were Jews and become Muslims and still know tell now that their were of Jews, and also the biggest immigration to Israel of Jews were from Muslim countries 600,000, and they lived peacefully in Andalusia for 8 centuries with Muslims, and when you Christians “by your usual love” exiled Muslims you exiled the Jews with them too, 2 months after Muslims were defeated.

Abdallah Muslim said...

- About polygamy, NO “the Stray” is lying, it was exist before Islam all over the world but with no limit, one can marry 5 or 10 or 100, Islam is the only religion who control it and make it 4 maximum and said One only is better, in your bible Solomon had 700 wives and 300 salve women, of course you know that..

- Polygamy is not injustice, it’s a need for humans society in some cases and there is a study shows that 790 societies of 830 all over the worlds practices polygamy, in addition it has a gene in Men, so naturally they favor it. Also, men die much more than women, so what the unmarried women will do !! make them nuns, but after I read your Coptic story AZZAZIL as “your priests usually don’t worry under wears, honestly saying I don’t trust you any more” and tell me how they don’t wash for years !!!!

- About beating the wife, first you have to talk to her, if not, then avoid her in house and in bed, turn to another side, and by this any reasonable woman will feel that she did mistake or hurt her husband, the last thing is beating, but how ??

- As in Quran says to Pray, but it didn’t explain how to pray it was explained by Sunnah and muslim scholars, the same thing beating is explained. When came to prophet house complaining that their husbands are beating them, he said it in the moseque who did that are not the good among you !! means what ??? beating is not to hurt, not leave a color or a cut, or to break a bone or to hit on face, then where you can beat??

- It’s only on one place in her body, back ….little bit down, gently … which lead to making love and the problem will be solved between each others, but it can be written like that in Quran or in Sunnah, you have to understand it by yourself..

- About having four witnesses when a woman is cheating, it’s not like that, you think an Arab will wait till he goes out and say to his wife wait don’t go and don’t stop keep your “movie” till I bring 4 witnesses and come back !!!

- He will cut them both, but this a warning for anyone not to kill his wife and then say I saw her with a man, so what is the Proof give us the witnesses, but incase he suspected then there is Moulaanah (cursing) that he swear he is honest and she is lying, and she do the same, and they got divorced immediately, God will show the truth later on..

Abdallah Muslim said...

- About Aisha married in 9 years, it’s not a haddith, it’s an Ather, means a second follower mentioned something from a follower from a companion, and Emam Malek didn’t approve it, and there many evidences that she was teenagers between 12 to 18, among these evidences that she participated in Bader as a nurse and this before she married to the prophet, although he forbidden to boys less than 16 to be closed from the battle, how he will let a 9 years old participate in it. He was ordered to take her by God not by his option, because of her brilliant memory and she transferred to us almost 1/2 of authentic hadiths and we are the only religion followers that take half our religion from a woman, the Mother of all Believers.

- About drinking urine, it’s Stray lie as usual, it’s prohibited to touch that how to drink you FOOL, if you want to lie and we know that you don’t respect Muslims, at least respect the non muslims too.

- About leaving woman alone to nurse women, also a lie, imagine that Aisha when prophet Muhammad and his father Abu Baker were buried in her room, she used not to put hijjab, but when Omar was buried she never entered the room without Hijab although he was dead !! Muslim woman put hijab because of a dead man, how if he is living..

Look, whatever you did or do or doing or will do, you will never success, whatever you try to astray people from following Islam, you will never success, you are straying yourself, and sinking yourself deeply in hell

A party of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) wish to lead you astray. But they shall not lead astray anyone except themselves, and they perceive not. (69)


Harry Guggen said...


You have this bad habit of posting long messages, one right after another. Sorry but you stifle any meaningful discourse on this excellent blog.

Instead of cut and paste from wahabi websites, why don't you give us your own thoughts in simple meaningful words.

Harry Guggen
Seattle, Washington

Abdallah Muslim said...

My friend Harry,

If these are from Wahabi site, please google any sentence of them and see from which site then inform me..

Because as I remember that i wrote them at night and took from me less than one hour and I was so tired coming from work that I didn’t have time to review its grammar that much, and paste them immediately.

Harry, these are my blogs:
check it by yourself, if I took a word from another site, I will write it’s reference,

Debate with a Christian, Atheist, Muslim,…


Abdallah Muslim said...

My friend Harry,

If these are from Wahabi site, please google any sentence of them and see from which site then inform me..

Because as I remember that i wrote them at night and took from me less than one hour and I was so tired coming from work that I didn’t have time to review its grammar that much, and paste them immediately.

Harry, these are my blogs:
check it by yourself, if I took a word from another site, I will write it’s reference,

Debate with a Christian, Atheist, Muslim,…


Anonymous said...

I have to say it is very difficult trying to follow the arguments of Muslims regarding all these contradictory verses and authorities. It seems to me that people can argue whatever they want and find sources to support them.

Kill them all - no don't kill them all.

Beat your wife, no don't beat your wife.

It must be exhausting trying to understand what is required, what is permitted and what is forbidden.

And then the minute you think you know, someone else flies into a rage and says you aren't a true Muslim because you forgot what so-and-so said once, 1300 years ago.

Muslims must realize that it makes it very hard to accept the truth of what they are told about Islam to see so many contradictory statements.

When people say "Islam is a religion of peace" - they seem to ignore all these other traditions and verses that say it is a religion of violence. So why should we believe them, especially when we see so much violence and terrorism that claims to be done in the name of Islam?

I hope you all know that Jesus loves you, and that His truth will set you free from all these difficulties.

Abdallah Muslim said...

Dear Friend,

You are talking about the following verse, that Christians like a lot to promote it to show that Islam is religion of Violence, but please read the whole verse first:

Lo! the number of the months with Allah is twelve months by Allah's ordinance in the day that He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred: that is the right religion. So wrong not yourselves in them. And wage war on all of the idolaters as they are waging war on all of you . And know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him). [9:39]

ان عدة الشهور عند الله اثنا عشر شهرا في كتاب الله يوم خلق السماوات والارض منها اربعة حرم ذلك الدين القيم فلا تظلموا فيهن انفسكم وقاتلوا المشركين كافة كما يقاتلونكم كافة واعلموا ان الله مع المتقين

It’s clearly talking about fighting the Arab idolaters that muslims didn’t have to do it by Allah’s mercy, because they accepted Islam after conquering Makkah, and also notice the complete statement “Fight them as they fight you”, means army against army, army of men of course !!, because it’s impossible that such Arabs will fight the muslims by their women and children and we fight them by our women and their children too.

Muslim army never fought civilians in all history of Islam, we don’t have such commands like you have in your bible:

How to do a complete massacre

3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass [1Samuel 15:3]

Or how to kill children and keep the young girls only..

17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. [Number 31:17-18]

Also Muslims didn’t initiate ever worldwide wars that killed 80 million people

Muslims never killed 6 million jews and polish and disable people in Gas furnaces

Muslims never exiled 20 million people to die in the freezing Siberia

Muslims never killed scientists by burning them with their books because they said that Earth is sphere

Muslims never colonized others countries giving them a bible in a hand and taking their lands in other hand, (not to forget to teach them to close their eyes in between and pray to Jesus to save them)…

Muslims never extinct complete nations (like native Americans) and send what is left of them to die slowly in reserves..

Muslims didn’t develop atomic bombs to kill all people in mass destruction, and didn’t pay billions to develop chemical, biological and other mass destruction weapons..

Muslims didn’t initiate crusades that killed men and women and cooked babies flesh in their meals.. (read

If this is your “LOVE” religion, then I ask Almighty God to treat you with the same LOVE that you gave to all nations that suffered of your “LOVE” on the day of Judgment.

Our religion teaches us that we are created from Adam, and we are all his sons and daughters:

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: You are all children of Adam and Adam is from dust.

And said too: The most one that ALLAH will be merciful on is the one who is most merciful to ALLAH’s salves (other humans).

Finally, if you want to follow those who mix the truth with their evil thoughts to deceive others from following Islam, then what you will say to God on the day of Judgment if asked you: Why you didn’t follow my last messenger?

Will you say: well, I asked some Arab Christians about Islam and they said to me, it’s Bad religion and violent!!

Will you think that this will save you??

You will be asked to follow them in hell, and don’t think that they’ll carry a portion of your painful torment even for a day, or hour, not even for a minute, and they will tell you it’s your fault why did you listen to us??

Read what will happen:

Abdallah Muslim said...

Read what will happen:

And those who disbelieve say: "We believe not in this Qur'ân nor in that which was before it," but if you could see when the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong¬doers) will be made to stand before their Lord, how they will cast the (blaming) word one to another! Those who were deemed weak will say to those who were arrogant: "Had it not been for you, we should certainly have been believers!" (31)
And those who were arrogant will say to those who were deemed weak: "Did we keep you back from guidance after it had come to you? Nay, but you were Mujrimûn (polytheists, sinners, disbeliveres, criminals). (32)
Those who were deemed weak will say to those who were arrogant: "Nay, but it was your plotting by night and day, when you ordered us to disbelieve in Allâh and set up rivals to Him!" And each of them (parties) will conceal their own regrets (for disobeying Allâh during this worldly life), when they behold the torment. And We shall put iron collars round the necks of those who disbelieved. Are they requited aught except what they used to do? (33)

And, when they will dispute in the Fire, the weak will say to those who were arrogant;"Verily! We followed you, can you then take from us some portion of the Fire?" (47)
Those who were arrogant will say: "We are all (together) in this (Fire)! Verily Allâh has judged between (His) slaves!" (48)
And those in the Fire will say to the keepers (angels) of Hell: "Call upon your Lord to lighten for us the torment for a day!" (49)
They will say: "Did there not come to you, your Messengers with (clear) evidences (and signs)? They will say: "Yes." They will reply: "Then call (as you like)! And the invocation of the disbelievers is nothing but in vain (as it will not be answered by Allah)!" (50)
Verily, We will indeed make victorious Our Messengers and those who believe (in the Oneness of Allâh — Islâmic Monotheism) in this world's life and on the Day when the witnesses will stand forth, (i.e. Day of Resurrection),— (51)
The Day when their excuses will be of no profit to Zâlimûn (polytheists, wrong-doers and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh). Theirs will be the curse, and theirs will be the evil abode (i.e. painful torment in Hell-fire). (52)

And instead of listening to non-muslims explaining Islam ask them about Christianity, like ask them the following:

Jesus said there will be someone coming after him, the comforter, the spirit of truth, the real prophet and how we can differentiate him from false prophets? See if they can answer you..

Finally, how loving someone will save you ever without doing anything else??

If a student loved his teacher so much, will this allow him to pass the exam without studying or preparing for the test?

If someone loved his manager very much, will this keep him in his work, if he is not working ever?

If the final Judgment on the Final day will be for God ONLY, how can someone like you (i.e priest, another student waiting the exam too) tell you that your sins are forgiven !!

Who is HE to forgive your sins ??
Our deeds rose to God or to him??
He owns the Hell and Heaven or only God owns them?

Think about it..

Abdallah Muslim said...

Dear my friends,

This to show how to differentiate between The "True Prophet" and "False Prophet(s)" in the bible. I just paste it on my blog.


Anonymous said...

Hi I am Mary from Egypt , emailed just want to show u my admiration about your great work , and about your way of thinking as you depend on yourself in understanding the Quran instate on depending on the Islamic scholars.
and plz keep on translating" Daring Question" program. especially this episode is very important as it is talking about the "Popular revolts in Islam"
and if u like, i would share in the translation in finding all the references required .and contact it with

And as i understood from the "Tawfik Hamid and Islamic reform"about the" mothers of el ansar" vowed that their kids at the wombs , would be Jews when they grow up , if they were still safe and alive .
thnx 4 ur gr8 time and waiting for your respond.


Anonymous said...

Hi I am Mary from Egypt , I have emailed u just to show my admiration about your great work , and about your way of thinking as you depend on yourself in understanding the Quran instate on depending on the Islamic scholars.
and plz keep on translating" Daring Question" program. especially this episode is very important as it is talking about the "Popular revolts in Islam"
and if u like, i would share in the translation in finding all the references required .and contact

And as i understood from the "Tawfik Hamid and Islamic reform"about the" mothers of el ansar" vowed that their kids at the wombs , would be Jews when they grow up , if they were still safe and alive .
thnx 4 ur gr8 time and waiting for your respond.


Samir said...


I just want to say :

I don't have enough knowledge in the scriptures to decide which one of those two gentleman is more knowledgeable in the Qur'an.

But it is impossible not to notice that Mr Tawfik Hamid is a good man that comes with the most noble intention.

It is he not Rashid that shows more concern and care for man kind.

It is Rashid that comes to this debate with a real desire and tremble at the thought that someone would be wronged , butTawfik.

When he is ridiculed in this article by wring :

" Dr. Tawfik suddenly looked like a deer caught in the headlights, and it was apparent he did not know the context of the very verse he was quoting. "

I could not help but feeling hurt in his name.

It is for himself that he is afraid but for the life of all man kind.

And though i can not judge the debate on matters of religious expertise ...

It is not hard for me to decide who wins it when it comes to :

A good and pure heart ,innocence bravery and willingness to put himself on the line for the sake of others.

I am sure Allah who sees into the heart of all man ,would see this also.

God bless you Tawfik

Thank you