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Muftī of Egypt are missing and have been replaced by fundamentalism and suppressive religious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