In cases where modern ideas clash and intersect, the mind frees itself from all constraints and all limitations, from mental padding, and restricting control is lost over what innovative fingers write. Here are some examples of the progress of rationality in this respect.


THERE IS NO CREATIVITY, progress or civilizational growth – cultural, technological or scientific – while thinkers remain boxed in by the Islamic heritage of the Qur’ān, the Sunna, the Hadiths and whatever Muslim imams come up with. Thinkers, wherever their orientation, are unable to innovate anything while their intellectual infrastructures are governed by past ideas. Any breaking away from this obscurantist situation is to be considered a journey into a wider space of truth.

Formerly I would say that it was necessary to bring a modernist reading to religious texts, especially those of Islam. But now I suggest leaving the religious text to the clerics altogether and removing it from the circle of your thinking. Place your reliance instead on what your mind dictates, for it is the rule of reason that is the way to the future. Any past reading of the text will fail to make you mentally creative and will limit your intellectual productivity.

Our society must extricate itself from the phase of orality to the phase of scrutiny

Our society must extricate itself from the stage of passive listening and cross over into the stage of active reading and research, that is, to emerge from the phase of orality to the phase of scrutiny of what has been written and recorded in books and their sources, for the purpose of establishing the truth of the matter oneself as opposed to hearing it from the mouths of others.

The Arab/Muslim thinker in particular lives under a sense of threat at various levels. These include a fear of the institutions of official authority – the judiciary and the security services. After that there is the fear of the clerics and the religious institutions, such as Al-Azhar and the religious authorities in Qom, Najaf and so on.  Finally, there is the fear of their followers the general public, who act as the clerics tell them. So the Arab Muslim thinker is on the one hand overshadowed by the weight of the past Islamic heritage, and on the other hand has to live in an environment of fear.

The Arab Muslim thinker has to live in an environment of fear

Now with regard to the persecution of thinkers I should quote the following: 

  1. The terrorism of the intelligence services: the Egyptian mukhābarāt dumped the poet and writer Naguib Sorour in a mental hospital, where he died in 1978 at the age of 46; 
  2. The declaration as apostate of the thinker Dr. Naṣr Ḥāmid Abū Zayd who died in 2010. He was prosecuted on charges of apostasy, and made to divorce his wife Dr. Ibtihāl Yūnus;
  3. Dr. Farag Fouda was assassinated in 1986. When his killer ‘Abd al-Shāfī Ramaḍān was interrogated, he stated that he killed Farag Fouda in response to a fatwā issued by Dr. ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, the muftī of al-Gamā‘a al-Islamiyya that the apostate was to be killed.  When asked from which of his books he had ascertained that he was an apostate, he replied that he could not read nor write.[1]
  4. Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimnī passed away in 2022, but according to a press statement put out by his daughter Engineer Salwā Al-Qimnī, he had received many death threats ever since the Ṭābā bombings, some of them from Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia led by Abū Muṣ‘ab Al-Zarqāwī via the Internet, particularly following an article he had written entitled This is our Egypt, you dogs of hell.[2]
  5. Islam Beheiry holds a master’s degree from the University of Wales for his paper ‘Methods of Dealing with the Heritage’. But in 2015 he was convicted by an Egyptian court on charges of contempt of religion, sentenced to five years in prison with hard labour. The sentence was later commuted to one year, and he was subsequently released with a presidential pardon in 2016 by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

I should say here that I did not speak of thinkers in the West, because these have already been liberated from any theological or ecclesiastical restrictions. The problem lies in the East, among the Arab Muslims specifically and not the Muslims of non-Arab countries such as Malaysia, for example, which is more developed than the Arab East. The Arab thinker must rise up, shake off all the entire legacy of the heritage, and free himself from the authority of the clerics and the forced domination of all of the religious institutions, if he wishes to bring enlightenment to the Arab mind, and contribute towards the creation of a better, more civilised Arab future.

[1] On this see the Almuslih article: Intellectuals and their assassination over the centuries.. (Ed.)

[2] The article إنها مصرنا يا كلاب جهنم appeared in the journal Rūz al-Yūsuf and concluded caustically: “Isn’t it time for our shaykhs to get together meaningfully for once in their long history, and give something useful to humanity? Tell us, gentlemen, what is our homeland and what is our identity? Is the homeland Islam or is it Egypt? For depending on the answer this homeland can either be built up or destroyed in blood.” (Ed.)

Dr. Naṣr Ḥāmid Abū Zayd: declared an apostate