12. Two concepts to reconsider

Article summary: 

The monopolized religious authority is an echo of the political monopolized authority and the

result of hard financial conditions and regressing social and educational values.

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At the beginning of his

article, Jābir ‘Asfūr cites Muhammad ‘Abduh’s words, the former

Muftī of Egypt [1849-1905], who expressed that there is no religious authority whatsoever in Islām.

Islam gives nobody, except for God and His Prophet, the authority over the creed and the faith of people. The

Prophet Muhammad was a messenger and a reminder rather than a dominating figure. He never gave any of his relatives

the authority to judge others.
For ‘Abduh, faith liberates believers, and Islām equalizes between

all people; powerful or weak people, do not have the right to judge the creed of others, only to advise them. A

Muslim can refer to the Qur’ān to learn about God and to the Hadīths to know about the

Prophet Muhammad, but not to any other religious authority.
Muhammad ‘Abduh said the above

mentioned words in 1903 while stressing the relation between Islām, science and civilization. He asserts that no

one has the authority to assign himself, his institution, trend or group as a dominant power that Muslims must obey

and refer to. Those words of ‘Abduh invalidate the claims of all those who consider themselves the

highest authority in Islām.
‘Asfūr asserts that the current religious preaching is full of

scorning vocabulary of authority and Takfīr that overtake the generosity of Islām. Real Islām, in his

opinion, is being distorted and changed into a means of terrorism in the hands of different groups, institutions

and parliament members, in addition to the different shaykhs who are issuing random

Muslim scholars, he adds, are more traditional and stagnant. They are against

Ijtihād and they stick to the literal superficial meanings of the holy texts. They forget what

Muhammad ‘Abduh stressed, namely that Islām has principles, the most important of which is reasonable

judgment to achieve faith and giving reason priority to the superficial sense of law when it contradicts reason.

Denouncing Takfīr, following God’s rules with His creatures and abolishing religious authority are

other principles of Islām.
‘Asfūr expresses that these ideas of the great former

Muftī of Egypt are missing and have been replaced by fundamentalism and suppressive religious

authorities that deprive people of Ijtihād or any discussion of religious issues. Every group

considers its beliefs and principles to be the right and best, accepting no other opinion or

‘Asfūr attributes the monopoly of authority that religious groups and

institutions seek to confirm to the financial benefits that these groups get from their authority, especially when

some of them are recognized and supported by the government or some strong foreign donors.
The other reason

for the monopolized religious authority of some groups is political. Political Islām groups try to establish their

religious authority, aiming at establishing a religious state. Such groups, if they succeeded in taking over

political power will deem all others Kāfir. The present political situation in Egypt is another

political factor; for, according to ‘Asfūr, the monopolization of religious authority is an echo of

the political one.
The third reason is cultural and related to the prevailing traditional education that

makes Egyptians vulnerable to anyone who takes religion as pretext. [Reviewer: This is what is stated in the

article. The author is claiming that one can convince Egyptians of anything if s/he finds a religious reference

that seems to support what s/h are calling for or trying to convince them of] Most Egyptians easily believe in the

anti-progression ideologies, especially when they use religion as a pretext. The social content plays an important

role with the degrading social values attributed to the hard financial crisis which are a result of a lack of

social justice.

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