The mentality emanating from this path of repetition followed the same course: reverence, exaltation, exaggeration and most often takfīr, and was populated by the symptoms of emotionality, tendentiousness, fanaticism and the authority of ‘someone else’. It never occurred to this mentality – even for a moment – to pause to question or scrutinize anything.


WHAT GOVERNED, and still governs, the quicksilver, reverential, justifying mentality, is the assumption of divine intervention in the course of historical events. The course of history, in the perspective of this mentality, moves with a teleological logic, predetermined by a wisdom that has been set down in the ‘preserved tablet’ [1] in all its details and nuances. This proposition is, in fact, a wide open door – at any time, era or place – which makes it possible to avoid or dismiss anything that may cause embarrassment, even matters concerning undisputable concrete reality.

What this quicksilver mentality produces is entirely different from what studies based on research, scrutiny and accountability produce, in that the former approach remains alien to many developments in all fields of knowledge, while the latter remains characterised – or soon will be – by the trajectory of cognitive development as it keeps pace with the language of modern times and respects the mind by refusing the distinction between the ‘elite’ and the ’masses’ on the grounds that everyone has the right to view the facts unmediated by the mind-guardians. This is in place of removing them from view under the pretext of ‘protecting’ people or for fear of ‘misunderstanding’ these facts, or for fear of opening the door to doubt and calling things to account.

They have appointed themselves as ‘guardians of the temple’ of the Islamic heritage and guardians of the general public, or indeed as God’s agents on earth 

The quicksilver, reverential, justificatory mentality never tires of repeating that its purpose is to protect the minds of the ‘masses’, of young people and believers, from what may affect their faith. They have thus appointed themselves as ‘guardians of the temple’ of the Islamic heritage and guardians of the general public, or indeed as God’s agents on earth (the aṣḥāb al-ḥall wal-‘aqd) while the ‘herd’ has nothing to do but obey, follow, repeat and regurgitate.

Today, however, it seems clear that the most effective way to break out of this circle of the herd and counter the mercurial and apologetic mentality is to foster the method of testing argument against argument. Such a method will expose the truth of this mentality, the incoherence of its theses and uncover what lies behind it. It will also show the reality of the various ‘weapons’ and conceptual and normative tools that it adopts in order to carry out its principal function.

One of these tools is the long-standing shutting of the doors of ijtihād, something which has perpetuated the circle of the subordinated herd. It has been fixated on keeping those doors closed on the grounds that what the earlier thinkers have achieved is what is most perfect, complete and correct; one has therefore no choice but to adopt it, swallow it, regurgitate it and reproduce it.

One of its methodologies is the process of mixing-up and disordering. The mercurial mentality’s approach is generally one of confusing and failing to arrange ideas in an orderly and systematic manner, and distinguishing between premises and results and studying the fate of an idea. This resorting to confusion has remained one of the most widely adopted tactics for confronting dissenting opinions, and facing down those who wish question, evaluate and scrutinize.

Deliberate opacity and the twisting of facts enables the mercurial mentality to overcome embarrassment, since in many cases any number of options remain possible

Another methodology is the fostering of opacity, twisting history and facts and portentous events into confused reports that removes any terra firma and any ability to decide on any number of issues met with in the Islamic narrative so that one is scarcely able to understand what it is that actually occurred or to distinguish between what is fact, what has been added, and what has been fabricated.

Deliberate opacity and the twisting of facts enables the mercurial mentality to overcome embarrassment, since in many cases any number of options remain possible. The incident or report thus loses any precision or credibility.

The reaction of the mercurial mentality remains the same whenever an embarrassing fact turns up as a result of studies founded upon scientific research and the latest discoveries of science – it proceeds to resort to the conspiracy theory, a constant reaction to anything that might disrupt its fundamentals.

Reactions of the quicksilver, apologetic mentality generally indicate that recent studies adopting modern approaches and including a wealth of information and knowledge may be described as audacious, but they nevertheless loom as a danger to doctrine. This mentality will not engage in refutation or response in a contemporary language, and contents itself by holding all of this to be a conspiracy hatched by the enemies of Islam.

The Islamic intellectual and knowledge system is still populated by a number of shackled theses, such as the sanctification of the Qur’ānic text, and by this I mean the text of the Qur’ān that we have in our hands today. With Qur’ān sacralised, both in expression and to the letter, the mercurial and apologetic mentality considers any slight change to the Scripture, or any scrutiny and questioning of it, as an deviancy or even a ‘criminal’ act leading to the corruption of religion, the loss of faith and social upheaval.

It appears that the sanctification of the Text was secured ever since the writing of the Imām Qur’ān (the ‘Uthmānī Qur’ān) and itsattempt to destroy all other written copies of the Qur’ān, in order that the Qur’ān of ‘Uthmān could become an absolute law that cannot allow any even one iota of it to be adjusted or emended, and it is this understanding that has been enshrined among Muslims.

[1] The concept of the ‘preserved tablet’ is taken from Qur’ān LXXXV (al-Burūj) 21-22:  بَلْ هُوَ قُرْآنٌ مَجِيدٌ فِي لَوْحٍ مَحْفُوظٍ  Nay, but it is a glorious Qur’ān, On a guarded tablet. The implications of this doctrine caused complications in the medieval period, with the controversy of the ‘createdness of the Qur’ān’. On this, see the Almuslih backgrounder paper on Khalq al-Qur’ān here. (Ed.)

See Part One of this essay here