We do not lack evidence and proofs to claim that the crisis that the Muslim community is experiencing is primarily intellectual. Its simplest demonstration is that Muslim societies, from Tangier to Jakarta, share similar visions and ways of thinking, despite their huge differences in the economic, social, historical and ethnic backgrounds.


AMONG THE MOST prominent features of this crisis, and evidence of its intellectual background, are the following:

  • The tendency of the Muslim individual, in general, to look at and deal with complex issues in a superficial manner, and to accord a religious character to the various aspects of his life. This can easily be confirmed when looking at the statements and slogans put forward by jurists and spiritual leaders, and even many Muslim politicians, where we find that these do not extend beyond highly simplified formulas such as: “Islam is the solution”, “The state of this Nation can only be reformed by the reforms of the first ancestors,” and “Apply God’s law” and so on.
  • Acquiescence, in most cases, to the theory of permanent conspiracy. Although this theory is can be found among a limited number of politicians and thinkers in both the East and the West, to a large extent it still dominates the collective Muslim mind – by which we mean the set of ideas and processes by which this mind deals with facts and events – which only views most events taking place in the world as a matter of Jewish conspiracies and the like.
  • The domination of a fatalistic tendency, resulting from the influence and deep rooting of the jabariyya[1] school of thought, which holds that a person’s actions or the events of his life are predetermined by the Creator, and the Muslim has therefore nothing to do but accept them and submit himself to them. The preponderance of this tendency has led the Muslim mind to be dominated by a characteristic of laziness in generating and adopting new ideas, and an implicit denial of the law of cause and effect.
  • Pathological attachment to the first Islamic state in the past and a belief that it could be repeated, despite all the differences in place and time. Not only that, the collective Muslim mind deals with that past with a sense of exaggerated pride, and goes to great lengths to ascribe unreal and illogical traits to its signal figures and events, in so doing passing over the abundant facts recorded in Islamic history books by their contemporaries at the time which pile up a mass of evidence for the failure of that view.
  • The delinquency of political and intellectual discourse which aims to elicit tendentiousness, stir up emotions, and obstruct the path to approaches and methods of rational thinking. It is therefore hardly surprising that millions of Muslims, all over the world, marched in mass protest against cartoons insulting to the Prophet Muhammad which were published in an obscure European newspaper, in response to sermons of mosque imams, at the same time as terrorist attacks attributed to Muslims have struck hundreds of locations the world over, claiming the lives of thousands of innocent people, pious Muslims included, without a single march taking place in the entire Islamic world to condemn those terrorists who kill people in the name of Islam.
  • The extremely modest performance indicators, quantitatively and qualitatively speaking, reflecting the achievements of the Muslim community in various fields  such as health, education, per capita income, sports, science, culture, art and literature compared to other societies.

All of the above illustrates features that are closely related to the Muslim collective mind. However, the most dangerous of these in our opinion is the deeply held belief among Muslims in the existence of an integrated system of fixed legislation (Sharī‘a) which is unaffected by the changes of time and space, and which has the capacity to direct any human society and its challenges. This tendency is linked to the intellectual and cultural structure of Muslim societies, a structure that transcends geographical, political, economic and social boundaries. The basis for this intellectual and cultural structure is the conviction that the Muslim is required by his faith, to recognize that his society is to be governed by these legislations, and that he is to consider the first Arab Islamic state as his main reference point for building and administering his current nation. This belief is held to be a divine imperative – and not merely an option – to be followed by the Muslim in recognition of the provisions of a collection of texts that have been extracted from their original contexts.

This belief derives its authority from texts such as the following Qur’anic verses: 

And whoever does not judge by what God has revealed, they are the disbelievers [2]

What the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain from it [3]

… and many others. It is for purely ideological reasons that the jurists and commentators elicited, from their interpretation of these texts, one of their rules, that: “The lesson is in the generality of the text and not in the specificity of the reason” in order to validate the concept that Islam is both a religion and a state. In so doing they simply bypassed other rules that they themselves laid down, such as Ibn Taymiyya’s declaration that: 

Every verse and Hadith should be viewed with due regard to its particularity and its context, and the way that its meaning may be clarified by referring to analogous usages and indications. This is an important and productive principle in understanding the Qur’an and the Sunna.[4]

Ibn Taymiyya similarly opined:

Knowing the reason for the revelation of the particular verse helps to understand it, since knowledge of the cause bequeathes knowledge of the [divine] Causer.[5]

In the same sense, Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya declares that: 

The expressions are not made in and of themselves, but rather are indicators by which the intention of the Speaker is determined. If His will is manifested, and is elucidated by any way whatsoever, He acts accordingly whether by sign, text, gesture, mental indication, current context or habit of His.[6]

The texts they invoke that Islam is ‘a religions and a state’ and that there are timeless rules for directing people’s live (i.e. the Sharī‘a) are texts whose meaning is actually far removed from what they claim, once they interpretated according to the context of the revelation, instead of via the rule of “The lesson is in the generality of the text and not in the specificity of the reason”! For example, all the verses mentioned in the Qur’an – and there are very many – which refer to the term ‘ruling’ came about in the context of litigation between adversaries, and have nothing to do with ‘ruling’ people in its political dimension, and so on.

[1] Al-Jabariyya, (from the Arabic root ajbar ‘compel’), a tendency in early Islamic thought that held that humans are controlled by predestination and therefore without the capacity of choice or free will.

[2] Qur’an V (al-Ma’ida), 44.

[3] Qur’an LIX (al-Hashr), 7.

[4] Ibn Taymiyya, مجموع فتاوي شيخ الإسلام أحمد بن تيمية مجمع الملك فهد لطباعة المصحف الشريف Vol. 6, p.18, ed. 2004).

[5] Op. cit., Vol. 13 – p. 339.

[6] Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, إعلام الموقعين عن رب العالمين , Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Dammam, 1st ed., Part 2, p.385. 

Main image: Arab students burn a Danish flag after newspapers published controversial pictures of the Prophet Muhammad