February 16, 2005


I write much (too much) of Sayyid Qutb here, following his tortured and torturing readings, so perhaps as a change of pace, a quote from Tariq Ramadan I came across the other day. I don't know much about Ramadan; I didn't quite understand what Paul Berman had against him in Terror and Liberalism except that he wasn't as cool as Camus (something to which few scholars can aspire...)


(...actually, just looking at that photo makes me long for a gaulloise with black coffee on the side...)

... but back to Ramadan. I don't think the U.S. government ever offered much by of explanation as to why he wasn't allowed to accept an academic post at Notre Dame (I seem to recall), but I didn't get especially incensed about that one way or the other, although I seem to recall the Washington Post published, as is sometimes their habit, a hyperbole laden commentary calling Ramadan the Muslim Martin Luther.

In any case, as I mentioned somewhere below as well as above, I came across an interesting quote from Ramadan that seems worthy of typing in here:

So individuals, innocent and free, have to make their choices (either to accept or to reject the Revelation); there will necessarily be diversity among people, and so these three seemingly similar verses contain teachings that augment and complete each other: "Had God so willed, He would have united them [human beings] in guidance, so do not be among the ignorant"; "If your Lord had so willed, everyone on earth would have believed. Is if for you to compel people to be believers?"; "If God had willed, He would have made you one community but things are as they are to test you in what He has given you. So compete with each other in doing good." The first verse instructs us that diversity is willed by the Transcendant, the second makes clear that, in the name of that will, compulsion in matters of religion is forbidden, and the Revelation teaches that the purpose of these differences is to test us in order to discover what we are going to do with what has been revealed to us: the last commandment is to use these differences to "compete in doing good." Diversity of religions, nations and peoples is a test becasue it requires that we learn to manage difference, which is in itself essential: "If God did not enable some men to keep back others, the world would be corrupt. But God is the One who gives grace to the worlds"; "If God did not enable some men to keep back others, hermitages, synagogues, chapels and mosques where the name of God is often called upon, would have been demolished." These two verses give complementary information that is of prime importance: if there were no differences between people, if power were in the hands of one group alone (one nation, one race, or one religion), the earth would be corrupt because human beings need others to limit their impulsive desire for expansion and domination. The last verse is more precise with regard to our present discussion; it refers to places of worship to indicate that if there is to be diversity of religions, the purpose is to safeguard them all: the fact that the list of places begins with hermitages, synagogues and chapels before referring to mosques shows recognition of all these places of worship and their inviolability and, of course, respect for those who pray there. So, just as diversity is the source of our test, the balance of power is a requirement of our destiny.

It seems a bit more intellectually stimulating than a reading of the Qur'an as a rather complicated firearms permit, but perhaps I just don't understand these nuances at all...

Meanwhile, while the craving for cigarettes and coffee has passed, I can't help thinking how pleasurable it would be to read the The Stranger again...Regrettably, I don't have a copy in the house. Have to content myself with something else...

Posted by Ideofact at February 16, 2005 11:22 PM

John Rosenthal blogged on Tariq Ramadan a few months ago.

I can't assess his assessment of Ramadan, but I was living in continental Europe at the time of 9/11 and I know that his version of what happened there in its aftermath accords, on the whole, with what I saw and heard.

On the other hand it seems to me that his piece on French-German TV station Arte does not tell the whole story.

Posted by: tm at February 17, 2005 10:06 AM

Serendipity struck this afternoon. I was poking around in my hard drive and I came across something I'd forgotten about, another critical piece on Ramadan: Ramadan est un chef de guerre (in French).

Posted by: tm at February 18, 2005 12:00 AM


It makes sense that you would find Tariq Ramadan and Alija Izbetgovic more accessible and more interesting than Sayyid Qutb.

While Sayyid Qutb did spend some time studying western culture, Ramadan and Izbetgovic were both products of the European environment and obviously understood it at a a much deeper level.

Beyond that, when they wrote, they were writing for an audience of both non-Muslims and Muslims who were similarly the products of European culture.

So for many reasons beyond the substance of what they are saying, it would be expected that you could relate much better to Ramadan and Izetbegovic.

Although Qutb is certainly read by Muslims all over the world, Qutb's intended audience was Muslims in the Muslim world at a certain time and place. (This is especially true of works like Milestones or the others you've read as compared to "In the Shade of the Qur'an," which because it is a commentary on the Qur'an will naturally assume a more timeless quality.)

Posted by: Abu Noor al-Irlandee at February 22, 2005 03:49 PM

I wasn't aware that Islam made a distinction among ethnic groups -- that European Muslims differed in character and quality from Arab or Persian or Mongol Muslims.

I'll try to remember that.

Posted by: Bill at February 23, 2005 12:12 AM


Thanks for your bizarre non-sequitur.

I NEVER wrote that Muslims of ethnic groups differe in "character or quality," nor would anyone who even knew me in the least ever imagine I would say such a thing.

Sometimes during this discussion when you attribute wicked ideas to myself or to people I admire I often get hurt because as much as I sometimes like to play at being a revolutionary, in a lot of ways I'm much too concerned about everybody liking or at least understanding me to ever really be one. May Allaah help me with any negative effects of that characteristic.

Then, you make a statement such as that one, to remind me that you literally don't know the first thing about me or what I believe so how could I possibly worry about what you think.

Reread my post -- I don't think its too difficult to understand. Perhaps you read it late last night and were tired...I certainly understand that. Other than that, I can only really think of two possibilities: you are not sincere in the discussion and were simply using sarcasm to attribute something to me you know I don't believe (to what purpose I'm not sure -- amusing yourself?) or you're just projecting your own beliefs about the differences between European Muslims and others. (So far the Muslims you like all seem to be European ones).

Allaah knows best.

Posted by: Abu Noor al-Irlandee at February 23, 2005 09:50 AM

Flippant as my comment was, I think it's bad faith on your part to attribute differences in thought among Izetbegovic, Ramadan and Qutb solely to their respective cultural milieus, or my responses to each of them as being determined by mine.

That was the point I was trying to make.

Posted by: Bill at February 23, 2005 10:24 AM