‘Reckless takfīr by people who should know better’ is a response by Caner Dagli to the devastating review of The Study Quran by Shaykh Gibril Haddad. Dagli (picture below) is professor in Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross USA and a general editor for The Study Quran.
I was hoping Dr Dagli would reply to the substantial accusations by Shaykh Gibril Haddad:
‘The Perennialist leitmotiv of the universal validity of all religions is perhaps the chief original message of The Study Quran which readers will not get anywhere else, because it is as alien to the Qur’ān and Sunna as it is alien to Islam and all other religions.’
GF Haddad has written a “review” of The Study Quran. Here I only wish to concern myself with his brazen act of declaring us to be kāfir. He does so by making his own characterization of our position, and then quotes al-Nawawī in order to declare that each of us is “a kafir”. Later he goes so far as to accuse us of “atheism”. He does not anywhere in the review differentiate between the notion of absolute takfīr (where one considers a person to be no longer Muslim) and accusing someone of kufr in the sense of an error or sin which nonetheless does not take them out of Islam. Had he made this basic distinction, well known to Islamic intellectual history, and criticized us for having incorrect views (as others such as Mobeen Vaid have done) I would not have objected as strenously as I have.
The quote that appears in the Haddad review from Nawawī, again, without qualification and using Nawawī as an authoritative source to express his view against us:
“Someone who does not believe that whoever follows another religion than Islam is an unbeliever, like the Christians, or has doubts about declaring them to be unbelievers, or considers their way to be correct, is himself a kāfir even if with that he professes Islam and believes in it.”
Here’s the Arabic:
It comes from a section of his book where is he summarizing some positions from Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ’s al-Shifāʾ. Let’s look at the relevant section, in the midst of a section on topics related to takfīr of various views:
…Al-Jāḥiẓ said something similar, as did Thumāmah, i.e. that many of the common people of the Jews and Christians—namely the women, simple-minded, and people who have to follow authority—are such that God has no proof against them, since they have no faculty/nature by which to reason [faith in Islam].
And [Abū Ḥāmid] al-Ghazzālī said something similar to this in his Tafriqah.
Anyone who says any of this is kāfir by consensus, based on [the principle that] one who does not call any Christian or Jew (or is other than the religion of Islam) a kāfir is guilty of kufr, or stops short of declaring them kāfir, or doubts it.
Here is the Arabic:
In case you have any doubt that Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ is condemning Ghazzālī here, remember this is the same man who gave a fatwa that Ghazzālī’s Iḥyāʾ be burnt. Those who are committing takfīr against us are basing themselves on a view and a person who did takfīr against Ghazzālī and ordered his books to be burnt. Do those who condemn us with takfir agree that the Iḥyāʾ should be burnt? Was Ghazzālī guilty of kufr, as Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ said, for believing that God had no proof against the simple-minded amongst the Jews and Christians? How can you explain being selective?
It is profoundly disappointing that people who claim to have studied for years cannot even understand the implications of what they are quoting. Even worse, these people protest (justifiably) whenever Wahhabis or others call them kāfir for celebrating mawlid or having a shaykh or visiting tombs, but seem to show no restraint in committing takfīr when it suits them. Takfir is a dangerous form of incitement in the present political and social situation, and should not be done except with the greatest care and unless one is absolutely forced to and one has no other choice. These people who recklessly quote from Nawawī, without making sure that the reader not draw drastic conclusions about our faith, have not reached out to us, even though they could have, and have not made any attempt to make excuses on our behalf, which any decent scholar would do. Rather, the approach seems to be shoot first, and refuse to answer questions later.
Hamza Yusuf has pointed out (more than once) that when a person bases their view on a ta’wīl of the Quran (as we have done, extensively, comprehensively, and in detail, unlike most of our detractors who barely seem to know most of what the Quran says about other religions) one does not commit takfīr against them. This was an option available to people like Haddad. But they chose to frame their disagreement in the form of takfīr. They were not forced to do this, but instead elected to do so when they could have pursued a different path.
The idea being floated by some that Haddad is not making “explicit” takfīr here is really very silly. If you claim that I kill people for money, and then point out that the dictionary defines assassin as “people who kill for money” can you really then claim that it is the dictionary, and not you, who are calling me an assassin? That’s the structure of Haddad’s argument. Haddad says that we do x, then quotes Nawawi as an authority saying that anyone who does x is a kafir. How could this be any more explicit?
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