Muslim Brotherhoods Rejection of Reform

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, (July 10, 1943 – July 5, 2010, Cairo) was an Egyptian Qur'anic thinker and one of the leadingliberal theologians in Islam. He is famous for his project of a humanistic Qur’anic hermeneutics.

Zayd suffered major religious persecution for his views on Qur’an.

In 1995, he was promoted to the rank of full professor, but Islamic controversies about his academic work led to a court decision of apostasy and the denial of the appointment.

In a hisbah trial started against him by Muslim Brotherhood, he was declared an apostate (murtadd) by an Egyptian court, and consequently was declared to be divorced from his wife, Cairo University French Literature professor Dr. Ibtihal Younis. The basis of the divorce decree under Sharia law was that since it is not permissible for a Muslim woman to be married to a non-Muslim man, and since Zayd was an apostate, he therefore could not remain married to his wife. This decision, in effect, forced him out of his homeland.

Zayd in his analysis of the Koran stated, "the proposition that the requirement of Christians and Jews to pay jizyah (poll tax) constitutes a reversal of humanity’s efforts to establish a better world is contrary to the divine verses on the question of jizyah, in a manner considered by some, inappropriate, even for temporal matters and judgments not withstanding its inappropriateness when dealing with the Qur’an and Sunnah, whose texts represent the pinnacle of humane and generous treatment of non-Muslim minorities".

If Muslim countries were to grant their Non- Muslim minorities even one-tenth of the rights accorded to Muslim minorities in non Muslim this would be a step forward for humanity. Islam, instead undertakes mass murder of men, women, and children.

{The stances against reform of Islam are not isolated;

There have been several assaults on liberal intellectuals and artists in the Muslim world in the 1990s.

Dr. Ahmed Sohby Mansour was dismissed from Al-Azhar University and imprisoned for six months. This was based on a verdict reached by the university itself on the grounds that he rejected a fundamental tenet of Islam in his research of truth of some of Muhammad’s sayings, or Hadith.

Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz was stabbed in the neck by an Islamist in 1994, leaving him incapable of using his hand to write.

Egyptian courts were the theatre of different lawsuits brought against intellectuals, journalists, and university professors such as Atif al-Iraqi, Ragaa al-Naqash, Mahmoud al-Tohami, and Youssef Chahine (for his film El-Mohager, The Emigrant).

In Kuwait in 1996, Ahmed al-Baghdadi, a journalist and professor of political science, was jailed for one month for making offensive remarks about Muhammad.

Laila al-Othman and Dr. Aliya Shoeib, two of Kuwait’s top female authors, as well as publisher Yahya al-Rubayan, stood trial on November 10, 2000 for allegedly insulting Islam in their novels. They were convicted of indecent language and defamatory expressions, and sentenced to two months in prison for moral and religious offenses.

In Lebanon in 2003, Marcel Khalife, a well-known Lebanese singer, faced up to three years in jail after Beirut’s newly appointed chief investigating judge reopened a case that accused him of insulting Islam in 1996, and again in 1999, by singing a verse from the Qur’an in one of his songs (Ana Yussef, I am Josef). He was found innocent.}

The Muslim Brotherhood organization (which assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981) said the professor Zayd should be killed because he had abandoned his Muslim faith. Dr. Nasr Abu Zayd was protected by the police, but soon rejected the security. On 23 July 1995, he flew with his wife to Madrid, then decided to go from Spain to the Netherlands, where he was invited to teach as a Visiting Professor at the Leiden University.

On November 8, 1999, he filed a suit against the Egyptian justice minister, demanding that the 1996 ruling which annulled the marriage be declared illegal.

In 2005, he received the Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought, Berlin. His wife returned several times to Egypt for discussion on MA and PhD theses at the French department at Cairo University. Dr. Abu Zayd also returned several times to Egypt after 1995, but mostly to visit family. During a visit in Indonesia he was infected by an unknown virus, and was hospitalized in Cairo. He died at a Cairo hospital on July 5, 2010.


From the beginning of his academic career, he developed a renewed hermeneutic view of the Qur’an and further Islamic holy texts, arguing

That they should be interpreted in the historical and cultural context of their time.

The mistake of many Muslim scholars was to see the Qur’an only as a text, which led conservatives as well as liberals to a battle of quotations, each group seeing clear verses (when on their side) and ambiguous ones (when in contradiction with their vision). But this type of controversy led both conservatives and liberals to produce authoritative hermeneutics.

This vision of the Qur’an as a text was the vision of the elites of Muslim societies, whereas, at the same time, the Qur’an as an oral discourse played the most important part in the understanding of the masses.

Nasr Abu Zayd called for another reading of the holy book through a humanistic hermeneutics, an interpretation which sees the Qur’an as a living phenomenon, a discourse.

Hence, the Qur’an can be "the outcome of dialogue, debate, despite argument, acceptance and rejection".

This liberal interpretation of Islam should open space for new perspectives on the religion and should account for social change in Muslim societies.

Abu Zayd’s analysis of the koran resulted in several calls for social justice.

For instance, when Muhammad was busy preaching to the rich people of Quraysh, and did not pay attention to a poor blind fellow named Ibn Umm MaktÅ«m who came asking the Prophet for advice, the Qur’an strongly blames Muhammad‘s attitude (chapter 80:1–10).

As well, he found a tendency to improve women’s rights, arguing that the Qur’anic discourse was built in a patriarchal society, and therefore the addressees were naturally males, who received permission to marry, divorce, and marry off their female relatives, hence, it is possible to imagine that Muslim women receive the same rights.

The classical position of the modern ‘ulamā’ about that issue is understandable as "they still believe in superiority of the male in the family".

Abu Zayd promoted a view on modern Islamic thought by critically approaching classical and contemporary Islamic discourse in the fields of theology, philosophy, law, politics, and humanism.

The aim of his research was to substantiate a theory of humanistic hermeneutics that might enable Muslims to build a bridge between their own tradition and the modern world of freedom of speech, equality (minority rights, women’s rights, social justice), human rights, democracy and globalisation.

Today, the Muslim world is denial, over the centuries they have suppressed and persecuted the liberal decent free thinkers that have sought to bring Islam into line with modern day standards to the detriment of their own people.

Had the Islamic world not abused and persecuted the liberal mind the world might be a different place today. Now we are faced with the dilemma of having non Muslims attempting to reform an ideology where its own adherents have totally failed and paid a heavy price. The question is, can Islam ever be reformed, or will it always remain a divisive instrument used by radicals to menace and terrorize the world. It is time the Brother hood and their likes are declared as apostates, put on trial for defaming Islam, locked up in secure jails, so the majority of Muslims can practice their faith in peace and private without intruding on our fellow country men or host nations.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *