"9/11 and the Muslim Transformation." In September 11 in History: A Watershed Moment?, Duke University Press, 2003, p. 70 - 111.

 By Khaled Abou El Fadl*



The Significance of 9/11 and Orphans of Modernity


Several years ago, I remember seeing a picture of Bin Laden that ominously foretold the tragedy that would come in 9/11.  The picture showed Bin Laden, with his typical slothful and even indifferent look, sitting gripping his Kalashinkov with neatly organized and impressive looking books filling the background.  What caught my attention in this picture were the titles of books.  With the help of a magnifying glass, I was able to figure out the titles of the books appearing in the picture, and to my surprise, and dismay, these were the same titles that I have in my own personal library.  I could have been looking at a section of my library where I keep books on classical Muslim jurisprudence.  There they were -- the texts that represent the cream and kernel of the intellectual tradition of the Islamic civilization.  With very few exceptions, Bin Laden's library contained no works by modern writers; nearly all the books were heavy-duty profound works on pre-modern Islamic law and legal theory.  Bin Laden is not a Muslim jurist, and he does not have the training that would enable him to read or understand these classical texts.  I do not know if it is possible to describe the pain that a Muslim, like myself, feels when they see the heart of the Islamic tradition co-opted in this fashion by a terrorist like Bin Laden.  Much of what is actually in these books would condemn everything Bin Laden represents, but Bin Laden was making a symbolic point.  The point was not simply to claim Islamic authenticity.  In fact, considering Bin Laden's neo-Wahhabi orientation, which tends to be anti-juristic and also tends to be dismissive of the dialectical hermeneutic methods of classical jurisprudence, his display of the books is quite paradoxical.  But with his paltry and rustic furniture, Kalashinkov, and tradition-oriented library, Bin Laden symbolized a rebellion against the prevailing paradigms of the post-colonialism and the culture of modernity.


None of the Muslim revolutionaries of the past concerned themselves with displaying a formidable Islamic classical library.  Even activists, such as the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al-Banna who, unlike Bin Laden, actually wrote a few books in his lifetime, were not bookish people.  Bin Laden has not shown much interest in systematic thought, not even of the revolutionary type, and does not exhibit much familiarity with the constructs or methodologies of Islamic jurisprudence.  In addition, as discussed later, Bin Laden considers the vast majority of the Islamic intellectual tradition to be a bid'a B a deviant and heretical innovation to the true and uncorrupted religion.  Furthermore, unlike the national liberation movement leaders of the 1950's and 1960's, Bin Laden is not interested in publicly claiming responsibility or, in his view, taking credit for his attacks,[1] and unlike the Palestinian Hamas or Lebanese Hizbullah, for instance, he does not make a list of demands or articulate specific objectives, the fulfillment of which would bring an end to the attacks.[2]  Bin Laden's violence has a global and apoplectic quality to it; it seeks to do nothing less than alter the power structures of the world.[3]  The classical juristic texts displayed might generate the impression that Bin Laden is the champion of a lost Islamic authenticity to which he seeks to return, but in reality there is a considerable degree of what might be described as modernistic nihilism in Bin Laden's worldview.[4]  Unlike Islamic revolutionaries of the past, Bin Laden is not focused on overthrowing particular Muslim governments, the establishment of the Caliphate, or even the implementation of the rule of Shari'ah in particular states.  Rather, in many ways, Bin Laden and his followers are the orphaned children of post-colonialism.  He employs the technological instruments of modernity; for instance, in many of his pictures he appears smiling with a cell phone in hand.  But Bin Laden and his followers do not see themselves as partners in the culture of modernity.  It is as if the modern world has imposed a fate upon them that is evil, and this fate must be resisted, even if the resistance is suicidal or utterly self-destructive.  In one of his television appearances, Bin Laden expressed this idea when he claimed that, in general, most nations of the world, and all the Muslim countries, in particular, do not have freedom of will or autonomy.[5]  But this begs the question:  In what way was the 9/11 attack on the United States supposed to empower these countries that have lost their autonomy, or otherwise shift the balance of power in the modern world?  I think that it is not possible to provide a coherent response to this question, and this is why I describe Bin Laden's thought as somewhat nihilistic.  The point of the attacks is to protest against modernity by destroying its symbols, to deconstruct what exists without much thought for what can be constructed in its place, and to draw attention, in the most negative way, to the plight of Muslims in the post-colonial age.


Even with hardly a year gone by, one can safely assert that 9/11 has become a powerful symbolic moment in world history.  Whether 9/11 can be considered a transformative point in history, and very few events can authentically claim this status, remains to be seen.  But as a symbolic moment, the status of 9/11 is secure.  This is not just the date in which thousands of people were tragically murdered, but 9/11 represents the culmination of trends, many of them suicidal, set in motion in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The attacks of 9/11 are the incipient outgrowth of social and political frustrations that have steadily grown since the onset of modernity.  In many ways, these attacks are extreme acts of deconstructionism - a suicidal rejectionism and obsructionism towards the hegemonic power structures that have come to dominate human history for the past two centuries.  Whether the attacks of 9/11 will, in fact, lead to a transformation in the world, these attacks ought to serve as a powerful warning to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  At the most basic level, they are a clear signal that subaltern cultures continue to exist in the shadow of post-colonialism, and that many people who belong to these cultures feel that they do not have a vested interest in the life created by modernity.[6]  I would argue that we ought to be enormously worried that modernity has lost credibility, or perhaps never had credibility in the first place, in the eyes of the subaltern cultures that have not played much of a role in the shaping of modernity.  The makers of modernity are the same nations, and races, that perpetuated colonialism, and in the age of post-colonialism, subaltern cultures, for the most part, continued to be economically dependent, culturally marginalized, and politically dominated.  Contributing to modernity's lack of credibility is the perceived rampant hypocrisy of its leaders.  Countries that have been at the forefront of modernity have employed language that invokes uplifting values.  One cannot exaggerate the impact that concepts such as self-determination, development, social justice, individual rights and democracy have had on the social imagination of the Muslim world, and also one cannot exaggerate the enormous let down felt after it became abundantly clear that the same nations and races who invented the concepts and espoused them are the ones who continued to enjoy them.[7]  And, whether justifiably or not, it was believed, and continues to be believed, that the leaders of Muslim nations were placed and sustained in power through the support of the same countries that once colonized the Muslim world.[8]


Here, my primary concern is not ascribe fault to certain civilizations or vindicate others.  As I argue below, the notion of civilizational superiority, as opposed to supremacy, is a simplistic and unhelpful idea.  A civilization can flourish and become supreme at a particular point in history, but the assessment of the influence and credibility of a civilization ought not become like a beauty pageant competition, in which we engage in the pretentious act of selecting superiors and inferiors.  Contrary to the assertions of some students of Samuel Huntington, 9/11 is not a symptom of a clash of civilizations, and it does not exemplify the tensions between the moral values of the West and Islam.[9]  These types of assertions ignore the fact that the Islamic experience in the modern age has been lived largely in the shadow of colonialism and post-colonialism.  In the past two centuries, the Islamic experience has been largely reactive, and not proactive; it has grappled to come to terms with modernity, with its own marginality and loss of autonomy, and with concentration of power in the hands of the non-Muslim "other."  The attacks of 9/11 were not an expression of an Islamic authenticity, anymore than the impressive display of books transformed Bin Laden into a scholar of Islamic thought.  But to say this is not to say that Bin Laden is not a Muslim or that his experience is not part of the Islamic experience.  Whether one likes it or not, and for better or worse, what a Muslim does in the name of Islam is in fact a part of the Islamic experience.  This is why Muslims should be concerned about what Bin Laden represents.  Although one can plausibly maintain that Bin Laden's behavior was foremost an act of vengeance against a modern reality that has increasingly alienated and marginalized Muslims, and that the classical literary sources of Islam do not support his vengeful behavior, the fact remains that what Bin Laden did does have normative value.  If Muslims do not succeed in debunking, rejecting, and marginalizing Bin Laden's behavior, his ideology, vengeful as it is, will set a normative precedent.  Due to the simple fiat of inaction, Bin Laden's behavior acquires a legitimacy and authenticity that it might not possess at the current time.  I will elaborate upon this below, but perhaps a helpful way of understanding this problem is to assume that meaning in Islam is acquired through the formation of communities of interpretation.  In effect, Bin Laden, through his actions, has offered an interpretive community that is at odds with the main interpretive communities of classical Islam.  If not dealt with appropriately, Bin Laden's interpretive community could become larger, more convincing, more effective, and more mainstream.  But the challenge is that I do not believe that violent suppression will effectively respond to the community of meaning that Bin Laden offers.  The only effective way of responding is to offer alternative communities of meaning that are more convincing to Muslims, and that would act to challenge and negate the worldview of the Bin Ladens of the world.  The problem is, however, that any alternative communities of meaning offered by any Muslim will make sense, or not, only in light of the overall socio-political context in which Muslims live.  For instance, attempts to disseminate an interpretation of Islam that is consistent with normative values that are considered Western in origin, such as democracy or individual rights, often falter because of the perceived Western hypocrisies.


The Transformation of Islam After 9/11


Whether the dominant powers, and especially the United States, will heed the warnings of 9/11, and act to empower and incorporate the orphans of modernity remains to be seen.  Considering the policies, thus far, of the United States and England post-9/11, I am quite skeptical.  American support of highly authoritarian regimes, such as the ones in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt, has not wavered.  In what can be described as typical imperialistic fashion, the United States installed a puppet government in Afghanistan that, to say the least, is of questionable legitimacy and effectiveness.  American support of Israel, despite its consistent and systematic brutalization of the Palestinians, has continued unabated.[10]  In addition, the American and British administrations seem to act on the assumption that it is possible, and even desirable, to beat Muslim dissenters into submission.  President Bush's colorful language about the axis of evil, and the crusade against terrorists has emphasized the unreasonableness and absolutism of the American administration.  The polarizing policies and statements of the wielders of power in modernity has led some commentators to characterize the events of 9/11 as symbolizing the clash of fundamentalisms - the fundamentalism of Bin Laden against that of Bush.[11]  Unfortunately, all indications seem to point to the conclusion that the problems that led to 9/11 are only being aggravated in the current political climate.[12]


Be that as it may, the question is:  What about the Islamic side of things?  Are the events of 9/11 a point of transformation for Islam, and if they are not, should they be?  Initially, there is an important symbolic point, which has been raised by several Muslim commentators.  There have been many shocking massacres in the world including the slaughter of Muslims in Srebrenica and Muslim-Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila.  More recently, Israel has massacred hundreds of Palestinians in the refugee camp of Jenin.  Several commentators writing in the Arab world have protested the significant amount of attention dedicated to the death of Americans when compared to the attention given to the slaughter of Arabs or other subalterns.  Such commentators have noted, for instance, that every Muslim, and even the religion of Islam itself, is held vicariously responsible for any acts of violence.  Often, it is demanded of Muslims to condemn terrorism and to clearly disassociate themselves from acts of violence committed by their co-religionists.  Acts of violence by Christians and Jews are not met with the same expectations.  Jews, for instance, are not regularly asked to condemn the massacre of civilians in the Jenin camp or expected to disassociate themselves from any other acts of terror committed by their co-religionists.  Recently, for example, a Pakistani commentator accused me of being an apologist for the West and a "sell-out" because, after 9/11, I have argued that Muslims ought to re-think certain aspects of their tradition.  This commentator protested that I, and people like me, have not called upon Jews to re-examine their tradition in light of the crimes Israelis committed against the Palestinians.  In addition, in light of Bush's declared Christian convictions, and his invocation of Christian symbolism in his, so-called, war against terrorism, I failed to call upon Christians to examine critically their traditions on war.[13]  The point he is making is that even Muslims like myself internalize and project the hypocrisies of post-colonialism.  He, like many commentators in the Muslim world, contends that even the perception of trauma in the modern world has become relativized.  The slaughter of Muslims is treated as an unfortunate fact of life, but it does not induce people to call for transformations or reconstructions.  Meanwhile, any large-scale loss of Western lives does generate calls for transformations and reconstructions, and also creates demands for a new world order in which villains and violence must be suppressed.


This criticism, although quite rhetorical and even dogmatic, cannot be dismissed as simple propaganda.  I do think, however, that it does exaggerate and essentialize the discourses of non-Muslims about their own shortcomings.  Compared to Muslims, one can argue that Jews and Christians do deal with their own traditions with critical insights that sometimes border on the malicious.  Modernity, with its paradigms of secularism and critical scientism, is often unkind to all religious traditions, including the traditions of Christianity and Judaism.  Moreover, I think that this criticism often ignores the fact that, unlike the major social movements of Christians and Jews, Muslim movements in the modern age often claim to act on behalf of Islam.  Bush or Sharon do not explicitly pretend to carry out the will of God, and do not explicitly cite Canon or Rabbinic law as justifications of their policies.[14]  Activists such as Bin Laden, whether one likes it or not, does claim to act on behalf of Islam.  He does not only claim that God approves of what he does, but goes well-beyond in claiming that Islam affirmatively commands him to adopt certain paradigms and then act upon them.  My point is not to justify what I have described as the hypocrisy of the world powers that are dominant today, and I do, in fact, agree that there is considerable bigotry and prejudice that acts to undervalue the worth of Muslim life.  But it is important that we are able to assess the plight of modern Muslims and Islam from an honest and well-informed perspective.


The issue raised by many Muslims and some non-Muslims is that it is unfair to focus on Islam as a source of problems after 9/11.  These commentators contend that 9/11 would have happened with or without religion - that there are socio-political reasons behind the attacks of 9/11, and that religion plays a marginal role at best.  The likes of Bin Laden use religion to abuse religion to justify their actions, but are not led or influenced by religion to opt for a specific course of action in the first place.  Recently, Tariq Ali went as far as arguing that theology is marginal to either understanding or reacting to the events of 9/11, and in fact, theological arguments are of no real consequence.[15]  Perhaps Ali's point is that it is more useful to speak in terms of transforming the dynamics of power and exploitation than it is to think about the role of religion.


I agree that material conditions related to who possesses power and how power is used and exploited is very significant.  Most certainly, Muslims such as the Taliban and Bin Laden, despite the practice of waving the banner of Islamic authenticity and legitimacy, are far more anti-Western than they are pro-Islamic. Their primary concern is not to explore or investigate the parameters of Islamic values, but to oppose the West.  As such, Islam is simply the symbolic universe in which they function.  Their protest is framed in Islamic terms because they are Muslim, but it is not the case that they protest because they are Muslims.  In many ways, they are not the outgrowth of a religious process, as much as they are a reaction to external, secular forces, such as colonialism, corporate capitalism, or imperialism. Therefore, at the most basic level, one reason for thinking seriously about the Islamic tradition and engaging in religious discourse is to wrestle away from such groups their Islamic banner and to challenge their claim to authenticity.  But aside from the largely apologetic goal of salvaging the image of Islam, there is also the more important and challenging issue of the identity of the Islamic message in the modern world.  In light of the claims of the Taliban and Bin Laden about the religion, the difficult issue that confronts Muslims today is: What normative role is Islam to play, and what ought to be the role of Muslim intellectuals in the world today?


The claim that Islamic normative doctrines played no role, or even a minor role, in Bin Laden's and the Taliban's moral paradigms, I think, is both inaccurate and dishonest.  Religion does not perform a merely cosmetic function in constructing the moral paradigms of a believer.  For a believer, religion is the most authoritative and effective source of ideals.[16]  Confronted by constraining material conditions, a believer will seek to modify these conditions or reconstruct and reinvent his system of belief so as to adapt to the constraints.  But in reconstructing and reinventing his system of belief, the believer also creates normative doctrines for other followers of the faith.  Put differently, believers such as Bin Laden, when confronted with the power dynamics that exist in the world today have two options: either they can seek to alter those power dynamics or they can reinvent Islamic normativities so as to make them consistent with the material realities that confront them today.  There is a third option, if one can call it an option, and that is to exist in a state of perpetual dissonance.  This state of dissonance can appropriately be described as a condition of social schizophrenia in which the believer survives with irresolvable conflicts between his lived reality and convictions - between life as it is and life as it ought to be.[17]  Of course, these three potential responses, modification of reality, reinvention of belief systems, and dissonance, are not mutually exclusive.  For most believers, all three play a role at various times and to different extents.  Importantly, these responses are issue specific; depending on a variety of factors, believers may reinvent their system of belief on some issues, while continuing in a state of dissonance on others.  This depends on the extent to which particular material realities are pressing, the centrality of a particular religious doctrine to the faith of a believer, and the susceptibility of the culture of the believer to change in regards to certain issues.  For example, a wealthy patriarchal society confronted with material conditions that necessitate economic and social mobility of women will react very differently than a financially impoverished society.  The former society might be tempted to alter the material conditions so that they become consistent with its religious convictions while the latter might be tempted to reinterpret or reinvent its religious doctrines.  But in all cases, the response will be affected by the perceived centrality of the religious doctrine to the faith.[18]


Generally speaking, religion matters; it matters because it is an integral part of the frame of reference for a believer, which will guide how a believer chooses to respond to a given situation.  Even a state of dissonance is not a condition of inertia or perpetual dormancy.  It is a state of unrest that is bound to have consequences both for the lived reality and the religious consciousness of a believer.  In many ways, Bin Laden and the Taliban grew out of this state of dissonance, in all probability understood their faith to demand certain things of them, and then proceeded to alter the reality of the world to make it consistent with what they believed are the precepts of Islam.  In doing so, Bin Laden and the Taliban acted upon conviction and also set a precedent for future Muslims.  In this sense, 9/11 could prove to be a point of transformation for Islam.  Unless Muslims carefully analyze and understand Bin Laden's and the Taliban's systems of belief, and also carefully assess the normative impact of the precedents set by them, Muslims will be running the risk of unwittingly acquiescing to a re-constructed religion that, in my view, is immoral and inhumane.  While what Bin Laden did in 9/11, by itself, will not transform or reinvent the Islamic tradition, Muslims are forced to deal with the reality that, considering its scale and impact, Bin Laden's and the Taliban's actions are precedent setting.  The role of Muslim intellectuals is to engage the various precedents set in the name of Islam, and to negotiate the meaning of their religion.  Far from being a "sell-out" position, quite simply, this is exactly what the Islamic duty of enjoining the good and rejecting what is wrong (al-amr bi'l ma'ruf wa al-nahy 'ann al-munkar) is all about.[19]  This is also why the Qur'an commands Muslims to bear witness, on God's behalf, for truth and justice even if the testimony is against themselves or against their loved ones.[20]  In my view, the truthful testimony is rendered on God's behalf because silence in the face of a wrong committed in the name of Islam is a form of suborning the corruption of the religion.


Bearing Witness in the Shadow of Post-Colonialism


When it comes to the issue of Islam and violence, Muslim discourses, for the most part, remain captive to the post-colonial experience.  These discourses are sufficiently politicized and polarized to extent that a Muslim intellectual who addresses the subject often feels that he is stepping into a highly volatile minefield.  It is difficult for a contemporary Muslim scholar to take a critical position on Islam and violence without becoming the subject of suspicion and even accusations as to his loyalties and commitments.  For instance, if a contemporary Muslim scholar emphasizes the imperatives of tolerance and peaceful co-existence in Islam, or emphasizes the importance of moral commitments over political expedience, or perhaps condemns terrorism, this is often understood as a thoroughly political position.  Such a scholar becomes susceptible to accusations of being a sell-out to the West, an apologist for Israel and the United States, or of being insufficiently sensitized to the suffering of the Palestinians, Kashmiris, Chechnyans, or any other oppressed Muslim population.  In addition, it has become a rather powerful rhetorical device to contend that the West is perpetuating false universalisms, and to accuse Muslim critics of being deluded into accepting these universalisms as a God given truth.  These Muslim critics, it is claimed, then project the West's truth onto the Islamic tradition, as if what the West sees as true and good must necessarily be so, and therefore, must be adopted by all Muslims.[21]  Most often, this type of accusation is leveled against Muslim critics with feminist agendas, but it has been also has been utilized rather widely against Muslim intellectuals calling for self-critical re-evaluations post-9/11.  It is a powerful rhetorical device because the user of such a device is positioning himself as the guardian of integrity and authenticity, while positioning his opponents as gullible and even simple-minded.[22]


The issue of, what is now commonly described as, cultural relativism versus universalism is very complex, and this is not the place to delve into it.  I will only note that this whole discourse becomes rather incoherent unless one clearly identifies what specific value being identified as relative or universal.  In addition, Islam, itself, like all religions, is founded on certain universals such as mercy, justice, compassion, and dignity.[23]  Claims of ontological truth, which could be based on reason or revelation, are not an anathema to Islam.[24]  From an Islamic perspective, Muslims are not forbidden, and in my opinion even encouraged, to search for moral universals that could serve as shared and common goals with non-Muslims.  However, aside from the philosophical point concerning the existence of universal and invariable human moral principles, I think that the silencing tactic, mentioned above, points to an unfortunate sociological fact, and that is the primacy of politics in contemporary Islam.


The Siege Mentality in Contemporary Islam


The real challenge that confronts Muslim intellectuals is that political interests have come to dominate public discourses to the point that moral investigations and thinking have become marginalized in modern Islam.  In the age of post-colonialism, Muslims have become largely pre-occupied with the attempt to remedy a collective feeling of powerlessness and a frustrating sense of political defeat, often by engaging in highly sensationalistic acts of power symbolism.  The normative imperatives and intellectual subtleties of the Islamic moral tradition are not treated with the analytic and critical rigor that the Islamic tradition rightly deserves, but are rendered subservient to political expedience and symbolic displays of power.  Elsewhere, I have described this contemporary doctrinal dynamic as the predominance of the theology of power in modern Islam, and it is this theology that is a direct contributor to the emergence of highly radicalized Islamic groups, such as the Taliban or al-Qa'ida.[25] Far from being authentic expressions of inherited Islamic paradigms, or a natural outgrowth of the classical tradition, these are thoroughly a byproduct of colonialism and modernity.  Such groups ignore the Islamic civilizational experience with all its richness and diversity, and reduce Islam to a single dynamic - the dynamic of power.  They tend to define Islam as an ideology of nationalistic defiance to the other - a rather vulgar form of obstructionism to the hegemony of the Western world.[26] Therefore, instead of Islam being a moral vision given to humanity, it becomes constructed into the antithesis of West.  In the world constructed by these groups, there is no Islam; there is only opposition to the West.  This type of Islam that the radicalized groups offer is akin to a perpetual state of emergency where expedience trumps principal, and illegitimate means are consistently justified by invoking higher ends.  In essence, what prevails is an aggravated siege mentality that suspends the moral principles of the religion in pursuit of the vindications of political power.[27]  In this siege mentality, there is no room for analytical or critical thought, and there is no room for seriously engaging the Islamic intellectual heritage.  There is only room for bombastic dogma, and for a stark functionalism that ultimately impoverishes the Islamic heritage.


It seems to me that commentators, who responded to the events of 9/11 by engaging in a knee-jerk reaction of protesting false Western universals, and rejecting introspective self-critical approaches, play well into the hands of this siege mentality.  If critical approaches to the tradition will be consistently dismissed as Western influenced, or as a form of Westoxification,[28] it is difficult to imagine how Muslims will be able emerge out of what I have called a state of dissonance, and into a more constructive engagement with modernity.  Even more, there is the very real risk that in our defensive effort to expunge the moral universals of the West, we will also end up dismissing the moral universals of Islam itself.  For instance, when contemporary Muslim scholars rise to emphasize the numerous moral and humanistic aspects of the Islamic tradition, and they are accused by their fellow Muslims of seeking to appease the West, the real danger is that in this highly polarized and politicized climate, much of what is authentically Islamic and genuinely beautiful will be lost or forgotten for a long period to come.  This, however, points to a more fundamental and serious fallacy, and that is the tendency, clearly emboldened and becoming more pronounced by the events of 9/11, to presume that values can be precisely identified as Islamic or Western.  Values, according to this view, can be identified as belonging to a particular culture, and often, they are not transferable or susceptible to being transplanted into a different culture.  Not surprisingly, the more dogmatic elements in this tendency ended up imagining a grand battle being waged by the bearers of civilizations.  In one corner is the civilization of the West and in the other is Islam.  Presumably, every terrorist organization from al-Qa'ida to Hamas is the representative of the values of the Islamic civilization, which are clearly at odds with Western values.


9/11 and the Paradigm of Battling Civilizations


There is already a rather large body of literature on the myth of the clash of civilizations.[29]  To an extent, this issue has passed from the realm of rational conversation based on historical and doctrinal evidence to the realm of dogma and ideology.  I do not wish to deconstruct the notion that there are cultural values that become prevalent at a particular point in time.  I also do not contest the idea that, as put by Samuel Huntington and Lawrence Harrison, "culture matters."[30]  But I think that there are several important points that ought to be kept in mind when thinking about cultural values, and the role that they are purported to play.  The first point pertains to what I will call "claims of lineage," the second pertains to "claims about the other," the third relates to "the enterprise of meaning," and the fourth addresses what I call "competence."


Proponents of the notion of clash of civilizations seem to rely on an unfounded claim about the specificity and purity of particular values.  Accordingly, they are willing to classify particular values as squarely Judeo-Christian while others are Islamic.  It is as if values have a genealogy that can be clearly and precisely ascertained, which then can be utilized in classifying what properly belongs to the West and what belongs to the Islamic "other."  But the origin and lineage of values are as much of a socio-historical construct as are claims about racial genealogical purity.  Considering the numerous cultural interactions and cross-intellectual transmissions between the Muslim world and Europe, it highly likely that every significant Western value has a measure of Muslim blood in it.[31]  But this is not merely a matter of acknowledging the Muslim contribution to Western thought. Rather, by recognizing the mixed lineage of ideas, a simple and straightforward taxonomy of civilizations and what they are supposed to stand for becomes much more problematic.  Like racial categories, one ought to recognize that civilizational categories are artificial political constructs that do not necessarily fit comfortably with socio-historical realities.


Claims about the so-called pure lineage of values lead me to the second point.  Often the attempt to identify one's own civilization and distinguish it from the "other," has much more to do with one's own aspirations than the reality of the "other."  Put differently, descriptions of the "other," whoever the other may be, often tell us much more about the author of the description than the subject of the description.[32]  For instance, when Westerners attempt to describe the Islamic civilization and what it represents, there is a real risk that the constructed image of the Islamic civilization will only reflect the aspirations and anxieties of those Westerners.  Therefore, for example, if those Westerners aspire to achieve a greater degree of democracy, or are anxious about their own shortcomings vis-à-vis women's rights, it is likely that they will invent an image of the Muslim "other" as the exact antithesis of their own aspirations.  By constructing the other as the exact antithesis, one is then able to be more satisfied and secure about one's own cultural achievements.  The colonial images of the orient - its exoticness, mystique, and harems - had much more to do with the anxieties and fantasies of Western colonizer than it did with the sociological reality of the orient.


There is a further problem with approaches that focus on civilizational paradigms and conflicts.  Values, and their meaning in culture, are not constant or stable.  They are constantly shifting, evolving, and mutating in response to a variety of influences and motivators.  For instance, concepts such as shura (government by consultation), the caliphate, or enjoining the good and forbidding the evil have had very different meanings and connotations from one century to another and one culture to another in Islamic history.  Even when one is considering divinely revealed values, such values acquire meaning only within evolving and shifting contexts.  As noted earlier, interpretive communities coalesce around revealed injunction and values, and then endow them with meaning.  Put differently, there is a socio-historical enterprise formed of various participants that partake in the generation of meaning.  When one speaks of Islamic justice, for instance, one is really speaking of various interpretive enterprises that existed at different times in Islamic history, which gave the notion of justice in Islam a variety of imports and connotations.[33]  When commentators speak of a civilizational conflict between the West and Islam, there is a further creative and inventive process engaged in by the commentator himself.  Since meaning is the product of cumulative enterprises that generate communities of meaning, a student of Huntington, for instance, cannot speak in terms of an Islamic notion of justice or an Islamic notion of human liberty.  The most that this student can do is to speak of prevailing meanings within specific communities of interpretation.  Therefore, a student of Huntington, for instance, would have to speak in terms of a Mu'tazali notion of justice, or an Ash'ari notion of justice.  This argument about meaning being the product of interpretive enterprises generated by various communities has both vertical and horizontal implications.  Vertically speaking, we are reminded of the point about the purity of lineage.  There are a variety of historical contributors to the production of meaning, and it is quite difficult to find a value with a purely Western or Islamic pedigree.  From a horizontal perspective, what is identified as a civilization is in reality a complex bundle of competing interpretations generated by a variety of communities of meaning, with some interpretations becoming more dominant than others at different times and places.  This brings me to the final point, which I described as a problem of competence.


Put simply, who has the competence to describe which of the competing communities of meaning becomes the legitimate and credible representative of the values of a civilization?  In this context, I am not interested in the problem of the dynamics of power and authority within a particular system of thought.  Rather, my concern here takes us back to the problem of the invention and construction of the "other."  It is imperative to keep in mind that when a student of Huntington, for example, claims that the Islamic civilization stands for a particular proposition, effectively, this student is endowing a certain interpretive community with the power of representation.  This student is engaging in choice making by selecting what, in his mind, is the community that best represents the Islamic civilization.  For example, the interpretive community to which someone like Muhammad 'Abdduh belongs may assert "y."   Meanwhile, Bin Laden, and his interpretive community, may assert "x."  By claiming that the Islamic civilization stands for "x, but not "y", Huntington's student is making a choice about representation.  Again, this choice might have much more to do with the choice maker, i.e. Huntington's student, than with the actual dynamics of Islamic societies.


These various cautionary points are intended to emphasize that claims of civilizational conflict are fraught with conceptual pitfalls.  From a pedagogical point of view, such claims are likely to degenerate into powerful vehicles for the expression of prejudice.[34]  As such, they tend to further misunderstandings and promote conflict.  It is no wonder that when one examines the arguments of the Western proponents of the clash of civilizations, one finds that these proponents invariably ascribe most of what they perceive to be good and desirable to the West, and most what of they find distasteful or objectionable to Islam.  They then condescendingly contend that the values of the "other," as terrible as they might be for Westerners, ought to be respected.  Despotism, oppression, and degradation, for example, might be terrible for Westerners, but they are acceptable for Muslims because, after all, Muslims, themselves, do not consider their social institutions as despotic, oppressive, or degrading.[35]


The effect of this doctrinal commitment to the paradigm of clashing civilizations only serves to obfuscate the real dynamics that are, in fact, taking place in Islam.  There are significant tensions within contemporary Islam that are bound to materially impact upon the world today.  Bin Laden's terrorism is not simply the product of a system of thought that he single-handedly invented.  Rather, his violence is an integral part of the struggle between interpretative communities over who gets to speak for Islam and how.


The Roots of 9/11


Islam is now living through a major paradigm shift the like of which it has not experienced in the past.  There is profound vacuum in religious authority, where it is not clear who speaks for the religion and how.  Traditionally, the institutions of Islamic law have been de-centralized, and Islamic epistemology tolerated and even celebrated differences of opinions and a variety of schools of thought.  Islamic law was not state-centered or state-generated, but was developed by judges and jurists through a slow creative, indeterminate, and dialectical process, somewhat similar to the Common Law system.[36] Classical Islam did develop semi-autonomous institutions of law and theology that trained and qualified jurists, who then provided a class of individuals who authoritatively spoke for, and most often disagreed, about the divine law.  The institutions of religion and law were supported by a complex system of private endowments (awqaf), which enabled Muslim scholars to generate a remarkably rich intellectual tradition.[37]  The guardians of this were the fuqaha, whose legitimacy to a large extent rested in their semi-independence from the political system, which was already fairly de-centralized, and in their dual function of representing the interests of the state to the laity and the interests of the laity to the state.[38]  Importantly, however, much of this has changed in the modern age.  The traditional institutions that once sustained the juristic discourse have all but vanished.  Furthermore, the normative categories and moral foundations that once mapped out Islamic law and theology have disintegrated leaving an unsettling epistemological vacuum.  Colonialism formally dismantled the traditional institutions of civil society, and Muslims witnessed the emergence of highly centralized and despotic, and often corrupt, governments that nationalized the institutions of religious learning and brought the awqaf under state control.  This contributed to the undermining of the mediating role of jurists in Muslim societies.[39]  The fact that nearly all charitable religious endowments became state controlled entities, and that Muslim jurists in most Muslim nations became salaried state employees, de-legitimated the traditional clergy and effectively transformed them into what may be called "court priests."[40]  In addition, Western cultural symbols, modes of production, and normative social values aggressively penetrated the Muslim world, seriously challenging inherited normative categories and practices, and adding to a profound sense of socio-cultural alienation.


Most Muslim nations experienced the wholesale borrowing of civil law concepts.  Instead of the dialectical and indeterminate methodology of traditional Islamic jurisprudence, Muslim nations opted for a more centralized, determinative, and often code based systems of law.[41]  These developments only contributed to the power of the state, which had become extremely meddlesome, and which was now capable of a level of centralization that was inconceivable just two centuries ago.  Even Muslim modernists, who attempted to reform Islamic jurisprudence, were heavily influenced by the civil law system, and thus sought to resist the indeterminate fluidity of Islamic law and increase its unitary and centralized character.  But not only were the concepts of law heavily influenced by the European legal tradition, but even the ideologies of resistance employed by Muslims were laden with third world notions of national liberation and self determination.  For instance, modern nationalistic thought exercised a greater influence on the resistance ideologies of Muslim and Arab national liberation movements than anything in the Islamic tradition.  The Islamic tradition was re-constructed to fit third world nationalistic ideologies of anti-Colonialism and anti-imperialism, rather than the other way around.


While national liberation movements such as that of the Palestinian or Algerian resistance resorted to guerilla or non-conventional warfare, modern day terrorism of the variety promoted by Bin Laden is rooted in a different ideological paradigm.  There is little doubt that organizations such as the Jihad, Tanzim al-Qa'idah, and Hizb al-Tahrir were influenced by national liberation and anti-colonialist ideologies, but they have anchored themselves in a theology that can be described as puritan, supremacist, and thoroughly opportunistic in nature.  This theology is the by-product of the emergence and eventual primacy of a synchronistic orientation that unites Wahhabism, and Salafism in modern Islam.  Puritan orientations, such as the Wahhabis, imagine that God's perfection and immutability are fully attainable by human beings in this lifetime.  It is as if God's perfection had been deposited in the Divine law, and by giving effect to this law, it is possible to create a social order that mirrors the Divine Truth.  But by associating themselves with the Supreme Being in this fashion, puritan groups are able to claim a self-righteous perfectionism that easily slips into a pretense of supremacy.


Wahhabism, Salafism, and Salafabism


The foundations of Wahhabi theology were set into place by the 18th century evangelist Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792).  With a puritanical zeal, 'Abd al-Wahhab sought to rid Islam of all the corruptions that he believed had crept into the religion - corruptions that included mysticism and rationalism.  Wahhabism resisted the indeterminacy of the modern age by escaping to a strict literalism in which the text became the sole source of legitimacy.  Wahhabism exhibited extreme hostility to all forms of intellectualism, mysticism, and any sectarianism within Islam.  The Wahhabi creed also considered any form of moral thought that was not entirely dependent on the text as a form of self-idolatry, and treated humanistic fields of knowledge, especially philosophy, as "the sciences of the devil."  According to the Wahhabi creed, it was imperative to return to a presumed pristine, simple, and straightforward Islam, which was believed to be entirely reclaimable by a literal implementation of the commands and precedents of the Prophet, and by a strict adherence to correct ritual practice.  Wahhabism also rejected any attempt to interpret the Divine law from a historical, contextual perspective, and, in fact, treated the vast majority of Islamic history as a corruption or aberration from the true and authentic Islam.  The dialectical and indeterminate hermeneutics of the classical jurisprudential tradition were considered corruptions of the purity of the faith and law.  Furthermore, Wahhabism became very intolerant of the long-established Islamic practice of considering a variety of schools of thought to be equally orthodox, and attempted to narrow considerably the range of issues upon which Muslims may legitimately disagree.  Orthodoxy was narrowly defined, and Abd al-Wahhab, himself, was fond of creating long lists of beliefs and acts which he considered hypocritical and the adoption or commission of which would immediately render a Muslim an unbeliever.

In the late eighteenth century, Al Saud family united itself with the Wahhabi movement and rebelled against Ottoman rule in Arabia, at one point reaching as far as Damascus.  Egyptian forces under the leadership of Muhammad Ali in 1818, however, after several failed expeditions, quashed the rebellion, and Wahhabism, like other extremist movements in Islamic history, seemed to be on its way to extinction.  Nevertheless, Wahhabi ideology was resuscitated once again in the early 20th century under the leadership of Abd al-Aziz b. Sa'ud who adopted the puritanical theology of the Wahhabis and allied himself with the tribes of Najd, thereby establishing the nascent beginnings of what would become Saudi Arabia.  Importantly, the Wahhabi rebellions of the 19th and 20th centuries were very bloody because the Wahhabis indiscriminately slaughtered Muslims, especially those belonging to the Shi'i sect.  In 1802, for example, the Wahhabi forces massacred inhabitants the Shi'i inhabitants of Karbala, and in 1803, 1804, and 1806 the Wahhabis executed a large number of Sunnis in Mecca and Medina, whom they considered heretical.  This led several mainstream jurists writing during this time period, such as the Hanafi Ibn Abidin (d. 1837) and the Maliki al-Sawi (d.1825), to describe the Wahhabis as a fanatic fringe group and labeled them the "modern day Khawarij of Islam."[42] Interestingly, the Wahhabis introduced practices into Islam that were quite unprecedented, and which considerably expanded the intrusive powers of the state.  For instance, the Wahhabis introduced the first reported precedent of taking roll call at prayers.  They prepared lists of the inhabitants of a city, and called off the names during the five daily prayers in the mosque.  Anyone absent without a sufficient excuse was flogged.  In 1926, the Wahhabi hostility to all forms of musical instruments led to a crisis between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, when Egyptian soldiers carrying the ceremonial palanquin to the sound of bugles during pilgrimage were attacked, beaten, and had their musical instruments destroyed.  The Wahhabis also criminalized all forms of Sufi chants and dances in Mecca and Medina, and, eventually, in all of Saudi Arabia.[43]  Perhaps the most extreme form of Wahhabi fanaticism took place recently, on March 11, 2002, when the mutawwa'in (religious police) prevented school girls from exiting a burning school in Mecca, or from being rescued by their parents or firemen, because they were not properly covered.  At least, fifteen girls are reported to have burned to death as a result.[44]

There were four main factors that contributed to the survival and, in fact, the thriving of Wahhabism in contemporary Islam.  One, by rebelling against the Ottomans, Wahhabism appealed to the emerging ideologies of Arab nationalism in the eighteenth century.  By treating Muslim Ottoman rule as a foreign occupying power, Wahhabism set a powerful precedent for notions of Arab self-determination and autonomy.  Two, as noted above, Wahhabism advocated the return to the pristine and pure origins of Islam.  Accordingly, Wahhabism rejected the cumulative weight of historical baggage, and insisted upon a return to the precedents of the rightly guided early generations (al-salaf al-salih).  This idea was intuitively liberating for Muslim reformers since it meant the re-birth of ijtihad, or the return to de novo examination and determination of legal issues unencumbered by the accretions of precedents and inherited doctrines.  Three, by controlling Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia became naturally positioned to exercise a considerable influence on Muslim culture and thinking.  The holy cities of Mecca and Medina are the symbolic heart of Islam, and are the sites where millions of Muslims perform pilgrimage each year.  Therefore, by regulating what might be considered orthodox belief and practice while at pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia became uniquely positioned to influence greatly the belief systems of Islam itself.  For instance, for purely symbolic purposes, the King of Saudi Arabia adopted the lowly title of the custodian and servant of the two Holy Sites.  Four, and most importantly, the discovery and exploitation of oil provided Saudi Arabia with high liquidity.  Especially post-1975, with the sharp rise in oil prices Saudi Arabia aggressively promoted Wahhabi thought around the Muslim world.  Even a cursory examination of the predominate ideas and practices would reveal the widespread influence of Wahhabi thought on the Muslim world today.  Part of the reason for Saudi Arabia aggressive proselytizing of its creed is related to the third element mentioned above.  It would have been politically awkward for Saudi Arabia to be the custodian of the two Holy Sites, but at the same time, adopt a system of belief that is at odds with the rest of the Muslim world.  To say the least, custodianship of the Holy Sites is a sensitive position in the Muslim world, and the Saudi exclusive claim to sovereignty over these cities remained problematic from the 1920's throughout the 1960's, especially because of the Wahhabis intolerant attitude towards ritualistic practices that they deem unorthodox.  In the 1950's and 60's, Saudi Arabia was coming under considerable pressure from republican and Arab nationalist regimes who tended to consider the Saudi system archaic and reactionary.  In the 1970's, Saudi Arabia finally possessed the financial means to address its legitimacy concerns.  The Wahhabis either had to alter their own system of belief to make it more consistent with the convictions of other Muslims, or they had to aggressively spread their convictions to the rest of the Muslim world.  The first would have required the Saudi regime to reinvent itself, but, in many ways, it was easier to attempt to reinvent the Muslim world, and that is the option they chose.


Wahhabism, however, did not spread in the modern Muslim world under its own banner.  Considering the marginal origins of the Wahhabi creed, this would have been quite difficult to accomplish.  Wahhabism spread in the Muslim world under the banner of Salafism.  It is important to note that even the term "Wahhabism" is considered derogatory to the followers Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab since Wahhabis prefer to see themselves as the representatives of Islamic orthodoxy.  According to its adherents, Wahhabism is not a school of thought within Islam, but is Islam, itself, and it is the only possible Islam.  The fact that Wahhabism rejected the use of a school label gave it a rather diffuse quality and made many of its doctrines and methodologies immanently transferable.  Salafism, unlike Wahhabism, was a far more credible paradigm in Islam, and in many ways, an ideal vehicle for Wahhabism.  Therefore, in their literature, Wahhabi clerics have consistently described themselves as Salafis (adherents of Salafism), and not Wahhabis.


Salafism is a creed founded in the late 19th century by Muslim reformers such as Muhammad Abduh, al-Afghani, al-Shawkani, al-San'ani, and Rashid Rida.  Salafism appealed to a very basic and fundamental concept in Islam, and that is Muslims ought to follow the precedent of the rightly guided precedent of the Prophet and his companions (al-salaf al-salih).  Methodologically, Salafism was nearly identical to Wahhabism except that Wahhabism is far less tolerant of diversity and differences of opinions.  In many ways, Salafism was intuitively undeniable, partly because of its epistemological promise.  The founders of Salafism maintained that on all issues Muslims ought to return to the original textual sources of the Qur'an and the Sunnah (precedent) of the Prophet.  In doing so, Muslims ought to re-interpret the original sources in light of modern needs and demands without being slavishly bound to the interpretive precedents of earlier Muslim generations.  As originally conceived, Salafism was not necessarily anti-intellectual, but like Wahhabism, it did tend to be uninterested in history.  By emphasizing a presumed golden age in Islam, the adherents of Salafism idealized the time of the Prophet and his companions, and ignored or demonized the balance of Islamic history.  Furthermore, by rejecting juristic precedents and undervaluing tradition as a source of authoritativeness, Salafism adopted a form of egalitarianism that deconstructed traditional notions of established authority within Islam.  According to Salafism, effectively, anyone was considered qualified to return to the original sources and speak for the Divine Will.  By liberating Muslims from the burdens of the technocratic tradition of the jurists, Salafism contributed to a real vacuum of authority in contemporary Islam.  However, unlike Wahhabism, Salafism was not hostile to the juristic tradition or the practice of various competing schools of thought.  In addition, Salafism was not hostile to mysticism or Sufism.  The proponents of Salafism were eager to throw off the shackles of tradition, and to engage in the re-thinking of Islamic solutions in light of modern demands.  As far as the juristic tradition was concerned, Salafi scholars were synchronizers; they tended to engage in a practice known as talfiq in which they mix and match various opinions from the past in order to emerge with novel approaches to problems.  Importantly, for the most part, Salafism was founded by Muslim nationalists who were eager to read the values of modernism into the original sources of Islam.  Hence, Salafism was not necessarily anti-Western.  In fact, its founders strove to project contemporary institutions such as democracy, constitutionalism, or Socialism unto the foundational texts, and to justify the paradigm of the modern nation-state within Islam.  In this sense, Salafism, as originally conceived, betrayed a degree of opportunism.  Its proponents tended to be more interested in the end results than in maintaining the integrity or coherence of the juristic method.  Salafism was marked by an anxiety to reach results that would render Islam compatible with modernity, far more than a desire to critically understand either modernity or the Islamic tradition itself.  For instance, the Salafis of the 19th and early 20th centuries, heavily emphasized the predominance of the concept of maslaha (public interest) in the formulation of Islamic law.  Accordingly, it was consistently emphasized that whatever would fulfill the public interest ought to be deemed a part of Islamic law.[45]


By the mid-twentieth century, it had become clear that Salafism had drifted into a stifling apologetics.  The incipient opportunism in early Salafi approaches had degenerated into an intellectual whimsicalness and carelessness that had all but destroyed any efforts at systematic and rigorous analysis.  Such apologetics consisted of an effort by a large number of commentators to defend and salvage the Islamic system of beliefs from the onslaught of Orientalism, Westernization, and modernity by simultaneously emphasizing both the compatibility and also the supremacy of Islam.  Apologists responded to the intellectual challenges of modernity by adopting pietistic fictions about the Islamic traditions; such fictions eschewed any critical evaluation of Islamic doctrines, and celebrated the presumed perfection of Islam.  A common heuristic device of apologetics was to argue that any meritorious or worthwhile modern institutions were first invented and realized by Muslims.  Therefore, according to the apologists, Islam liberated women, created a democracy, endorsed pluralism, protected human rights, and guaranteed social security long before these institutions ever existed in the West.  Nonetheless, these concepts were not asserted out of critical understanding or ideological commitment, but primarily as a means of resisting the deconstructive effects of modernity, affirming self-worth, and emotional empowerment.  The main effect of apologetics, however, was to contribute to a sense of intellectual self-sufficiency that often descended into moral arrogance.  To the extent that apologetics were habit forming, it produced a culture that eschewed self-critical and introspective insight, and embraced the projection of blame and a fantasy-like level of confidence and arrogance.  Effectively, apologists got into the habit of paying homage to the presumed superiority of the Islamic tradition, but marginalized the Islamic intellectual heritage in everyday life.[46]


By the 1960's the initial optimistic liberalism had dissipated, and what remained of this liberal bent had become largely apologetic.  Through a complex socio-political process, Wahhabism was able to rid itself of some its extreme forms of intolerance, and proceeded to co-opt the language and symbolisms of Salafism in the 1970's until the two had become practically indistinguishable.  Both theologies imagined a golden age within Islam; this entailed a belief in a historical utopia that is entirely retrievable and re-producible in contemporary Islam.  Both remained uninterested in critical historical inquiry and responded to the challenge of modernity by escaping to the secure haven of the text.  And, both advocated a form of egalitarianism and anti-elitism to the point that they came to consider intellectualism and rational moral insight to be inaccessible and, thus, corruptions of the purity of the Islamic message.  These similarities between the two facilitated the Wahhabi co-optation of Salafism.  Wahhabism, from its very inception, and Salafism, especially after it entered into the apologetic phase, were infested with a kind of supremacist thinking that prevails until today.  To simplify matters, I will call this unity of Wahhabism with the worst that is in Salafism, Salafabism.


Salafabism took things to their logical extreme.  The bonding of the theologies of Wahhabism and Salafism produced a contemporary orientation that is anchored in profound feelings of defeatism, alienation, and frustration.  The synchronistic product of these two theologies is one of profound alienation, not only from the institutions of power of the modern world, but also from the Islamic heritage and tradition.  Neither Wahhabism nor Salafism, nor the synchronistic Salafabism, is represented by formal institutions; these are theological orientations and not structured schools of thought.  Therefore, one finds a broad range of ideological variations and tendencies within each orientation.  But the consistent characteristic of Salafabism is a supremacist puritanism that compensates for feelings of defeatism, disempowerment, and alienation with a distinct sense of self-righteous arrogance vis-à-vis the nondescript "other" - whether the "other" is the West, non-believers in general, or even Muslim women.  In this sense, it is accurate to describe this widespread modern trend as supremacist, for it sees the world from the perspective of stations of merit and extreme polarization.  It is important to note, however, that this trend does not only de-value the moral worth of non-Muslims alone, but also those that it considers inferior or of a lesser station, such as women or heretical Muslims. Instead of simple apologetics, Salafabism responds to the feelings of powerlessness and defeat with uncompromising and arrogant symbolic displays of power, not only against non-Muslims, but even more so against fellow Muslims.


Salafabism anchored itself in the confident security of texts.  But in my view, far from being respectful towards the integrity of the text, Salafabism is abusive.  As hermeneutic orientation, it empowers its adherents to project their socio-political frustrations and insecurities upon the text.  Elsewhere, I have described the dynamics of Salafabism vis-à-vis the text as thoroughly despotic and authoritarian.  Consistently, religious texts became as if whips to be exploited by a select class of readers in order to affirm reactionary power dynamics in society.[47]  The adherents of Salafabism, unlike the apologists, no longer concerned themselves with co-opting or claiming Western institutions as their own.  Under the guise of reclaiming the true and real Islam, they proceeded to define Islam as the exact antithesis of the West.  Apologetic attempts at proving Islam's compatibility with the West were dismissed as inherently defeatist.  Salafabists argued that Colonialism had ingrained into Muslims a lack of self-pride or dignity, and convinced Muslims of the inferiority of their religion.  This has trapped Muslims into an endless and futile race to appease the West by proving Islam's worthiness.  According to this model, in reality, there are only two paths in life - the path of God or the straight path, and the path of Satan or the crooked path.  By attempting to integrate and co-opt Western ideas such as feminism, democracy, or human rights, Muslims have fallen prey to the temptations of Satan by accepting ungodly innovations (bida', sing. bid'a).   They believe that Islam is the only straight path in life, and such a way must be pursued regardless of what others think and regardless of how it impacts the rights and well being of others.  Importantly, the straight path (al-sirat al-mustaqim) is firmly anchored in a system of Divine laws that trump any considerations of morality or ethical normative values.  God is manifested through a set of determinable legal commands that cover nearly all aspects of life, and the sole purpose of human beings is to realize the Divine manifestation by dutifully and faithfully implementing the Divine law.  Salafabists insist that only the mechanics and technicalities of Islamic law define morality - there are no moral considerations that can be found outside the technical law.  This fairly technical and legalistic way of life is considered inherently superior to all others, and the followers of any other way are considered either infidels (kuffar), hypocrites (munafiqun), or iniquitous (fasiqun).  Anchored in the security and assuredness of a determinable law, it becomes fairly easy to differentiate between the rightly-guided and the misguided.  The rightly-guided obey the law; the misguided either deny, attempt to dilute, or argue about the law.  Any method of thought or process that would lead to indeterminate results such as social theory, philosophy, or any speculative thought is part of the crooked path of Satan.  According the Salafabists, lives that are lived outside the Divine law are inherently unlawful, and therefore, an offense against God that must be actively fought or punished.   

Bin Laden, as well as most extremist Muslims, belong to the orientation that I have called Salafabist.  Bin Laden, although raised in a Wahhabi environment, is not, strictly speaking, part of that creed.  Wahhabism is distinctively introverted - although focused on power, it primarily asserts power over other Muslims.  This is consistent with its obsession with orthodoxy and correct ritualistic practice.  Militant puritan groups, however, are both introverted and extroverted - they attempt to assert power against both Muslims and non-Muslims.  As populist movements, they are a reaction to the disempowerment most Muslims have suffered in the modern age at the hands of harshly despotic governments, and at the hands of interventionist foreign powers.  In many ways, these militant groups compensate for extreme feelings of disempowerment by extreme and vulgar claims to power.  Fueled by the supremacist and puritan creed of Salafabism, these groups' symbolic acts of power become uncompromisingly fanatic and violent.


The existence of this puritan orientation in Islam is hardly surprising.  All religious systems have suffered at one time or another from absolutist extremism, and Islam is not an exception.  Within the first century of Islam, religious extremists known as the Khawarij (literally, the secessionists) slaughtered a large number of Muslims and non-Muslims, and were even responsible for the assassination of the Prophet's cousin and companion, the Caliph Ali b. Abi Talib.  The descendants of the Khawarij exist today in Oman and Algeria, but after centuries of bloodshed, they became moderates, if not pacifists.  Other than the Khawarij, there were other extremists such as the Qaramites and Assassins whose terror became the raison d'etre for their very existence, and who earned unmitigated infamy in the writings of Muslim historians, theologians, and jurists.  Again, after centuries of bloodshed, these two groups learned moderation, and they continue to exist in small numbers in North Africa and Iraq.  The essential lesson taught by Islamic history is that extremist groups, such as those mentioned above, and others, are ejected from the mainstream of Islam; they are marginalized, and they eventually come to be treated as a heretical aberration to the Islamic message.  The problem, however, as discussed earlier, is that the traditional institutions of Islam that historically acted to marginalize extremist creeds no longer exist.  This is what makes the events of 9/11 particularly significant for the future of Islam.  9/11 symbolizes the culmination of a process that has been in the making for the past two centuries, in the same way that Salafabism has become the culmination of Salafism, Wahhabism, apologetics, and Islamic nationalism.  It would be inaccurate to contend that the fanatic supremacist groups fill the vacuum of authority in contemporary Islam.  Fanatic groups such as al-Qa'ida or the Taliban, despite their ability to commit highly visible acts of violence, are a sociological and intellectual marginality in Islam.  However, these groups are in fact extreme manifestations of more prevalent intellectual and theological currents in modern Islam.  In my view, they are extreme manifestations of the rather widespread theological orientation of Salafabism.  After 9/11 and the bloodletting that followed, the question is: now that we have witnessed the sheer amount of senseless destruction that the children of this orientation are capable of producing and the type of world that they are capable of instigating, will Muslims be able to marginalize Salafabism and render it, like many of the arrogant movements that preceded it, a historical curiosity?


Is there an Alternative?


The last issue I want to deal with here is perhaps the most significant.  I noted earlier that I believe that theology matters.  In fact, if there is any hope for reversing and marginalizing the supremacist and puritan orientation in modern Islam, it must be engaged and rebutted on theological grounds.  This is not merely a functional point, but it is a matter of principle.  For a believer, there is simply no alternative to the process of persuasion.  A believing Muslim must ultimately confront the questions of faith, such as what does God want, what would God approve of, and does God care.  After the events of 9/11, the issue for a Muslim is not only one of understanding the socio-political circumstances or ideological orientations that contributed to the tragedy, but also the quintessential question of: Is this Islam?  Can this be Islam?  And, should this be Islam?  It is simply too easy to shirk off responsibility for the problem to imperialism, colonialism, fanaticism, terrorism, oppression, false universals, and everything else except a confrontation with one's own conscience.  In every major human tragedy, I think that it is imperative for every person to put aside, for a while, the various intellectual methods by which responsibility is projected, transferred, diluted, and distributed, and to engage in a conscientious pause.  In this pause, a person ought to examine his own system of beliefs and reflect upon the ways that his own convictions might have contributed to, legitimated or in any way facilitated the tragedy.  When I say that every Muslim, and non-Muslim, ought to engage in this pause, it is not because I discretely or surreptitiously believe that Islam is at fault.  But as a way of honoring human life, and honoring God's creation, it is of essence to evaluate one's relationship to the world in which he lives.


Of course, every honest self-critical evaluation is susceptible to abuse by unsavory characters who exploit the honesty of others to service their own prejudice and hate.  There is always the possibility, for instance, that bigoted anti-Semites will exploit the discourse of an honest Israeli who engages in self-critical evaluations of Israel's policies towards Palestinians.  Similarly, the self-critical discourses of a Muslim will be open to exploitation by the same type of bigotry.[48]  This is a serious concern, and in many ways, it is exactly this dynamic that has played a pivotal role in the promotion of apologetic discourses in contemporary Islam.  In response to the often-searing criticisms of orientalists, Muslims have been motivated to close rank, and to engage in a type of unthinking cheerleading on behalf of the Islamic tradition.[49]  The most common comment that a Muslim critic hears from his fellow Muslims is: "Yes, you are making good points, but you are also playing into the hands of the enemies of Islam." For me, these types of comments raise questions of loyalty, integrity, and autonomy.  As noted earlier, the Qur'an instructs a Muslim to bear witness to the truth even if it is against oneself or his loved ones.[50]  As also noted earlier, the testimony is rendered for God, Who is, symbolically, an objective detachment that motivates and empowers aspirations of justice.  It is naïve, in my view, to presume that human beings are capable of transcending the contingencies of their context and rendering objective testimony.  But in Islamic theology, this is what differentiates the divine from the mundane.  God is capable of perfect objectivity while human beings necessarily function in the realm of subjectivities.  This, however, does not preclude human beings from reaching out to divinity.  While humbled by the realization of their unavoidable contingencies, they aspire to transcend the mundane to the sublime.  The closer that human beings move towards the sublime - to a state of balanced justice (qist) - the closer they are to divinity.[51]  The purpose of rendering honest testimony is to reach out to the sublime, and seek out a condition of qist or balanced justice.


In my view, conceding the power of setting the agenda of discourse to the hate promoters is a diversion from the sublime.  Put differently, if Muslims shape their discourses in such a fashion only so as to respond to hate-filled attacks, they have conceded their autonomy to the bigots of the world.  Instead of pursuing and attempting to establish the sublime, they become pre-empted from thinking constructively about their contribution to a more equanimous existence. As discussed below, the Qur'an advises that one of the core moral objectives for human beings is to engage in ta'mir on this earth.  Ta'mir is one of those Qur'anic concepts that are teasingly open to interpretation.  At a minimum, it means to civilize, build, and construct.  I would argue, however, the Qur'an is not referring simply to the setting up of homes made of bricks and walls, but to establishing the conditions for a habitable earth.  Considering the centrality of the concepts of testimony, balance, and justice in the Qur'anic discourse, it reasonable to conclude that the conditions for a habitable earth must include the maintenance and promotion of a state of serenity and equanimity between human societies.  Aside from mere tolerance of the other, I would argue that Muslims and non-Muslims ought to engage in a collective enterprise for goodness.  This would mean the acceptance and internalization of a paradigm of intercourse through discourse in an active engagement in a search for the sublime.  It might be a dialectical process in some cases, in which the participants in the enterprise disagree and become the alternative to the other, but never the negation of the other.  By the sublime, I mean visions of the conditions of life that are necessary in order to avoid injury and destruction to oneself or others, and to create equanimity between human beings.[52]  In the Islamic tradition, there are five core values that are necessary for a moral life.  They are the following: the preservation of life, intellect, reputation, dignity, and property.  Importantly, these are not collective rights and not exclusive Muslim rights, but moral rights that each individual is entitled to enjoy.[53]  I propose that an Islamic contribution to the sublime in human existence ought to focus on investigating the ways to maximize the attainment of these values in human existence while also finding the proper balance between them.


In arguing for a human collective enterprise for goodness, I am painfully aware of the various challenges to this project.  Other than the issue of false universals dealt with above, a major objection will be the charge that hegemonic powers will inevitably engage in hypocrisy and double standards.  But it seems to me that this is an argument for the achieving of a more equitable balance of power between societies and individuals, and not an argument against such an enterprise.  Perhaps it is obvious that in the face of stark inequities, there will be no discourse or enterprise, but only domination and exploitation.  Unless one believes that the best way to create a discourse is by destroying the human beings that could possibly engage in it, one has no choice but to call for respecting the voice and integrity of the diverse matrix of human beings.  Ultimately, as a socio-political matter, it might be that human beings are doomed to dominate and exploit each other - definitely, the state of current affairs does not give one much cause for hope.  Yet, as a matter of principle and as a normative strategy, one must decide whether one ought to encourage the conflict or oppose it.[54]  It is an entirely legitimate means of resisting oppression to insist on the desirability of an alternative normative vision of existence.[55]


The second and, from my standpoint, the more formidable objection is the basis in Islamic tradition for this collective enterprise.  Put bluntly, doctrinally speaking, can the Islamic tradition possibly support such an enterprise?  Can believing Muslims possibly contribute to a non-exclusivist vision of life?  To this I turn next.


The Collective Enterprise of Goodness and Islam:


In my view, Islam, as expounded in the classical books of theology and law, does not bear a message of violence.  In fact, salam (peace, and tranquility) is a central tenet of Islamic belief, and amn and aman (safety, security or repose) are considered profound Divine blessings to be cherished and vigilantly pursued.  The Qur'an persistently speaks of the condition or state of peace as an inherent moral good.  The absence of peace is identified in the Qur'an as a largely negative condition; it is variously described as a trial and tribulation, as a curse or punishment, or, sometimes, as a necessarily evil.  But the absence of peace is never in and by itself a positive or desirable condition.  The Qur'an asserts that if it had not been for Divine benevolence and grace, many mosques, churches, synagogues, and homes would have been destroyed because of the ignorance and pettiness of human beings.[56]  Often, God mercifully intervenes to put out the fires of war, and to save human beings from their follies.[57]  In the Qur'anic discourse, enmity, conflict, and hate are identified as conditions of evil.  Satan inspires enmity and hate in the hearts of people to ignite senseless conflicts between them.[58]  Therefore, the Qur'an, in instructing the Prophet on how to deal with his enemies, advises him to avoid seeking courses of action that would exasperate enmities and increase hate.  For instance, it states: "Good and evil are not the same.  So repel evil with goodness then you will find that your erstwhile enemy has become like a close and affectionate friend."[59]


The Islamic historical experience, itself, was primarily concerned not with war making, but with civilization building.  Islamic theology instructs that an integral part of the Divine covenant given to human beings is to occupy themselves with ta'amir (to civilize, build, and create), and not to ruin or destroy life.  The Qur'an teaches that the act of destroying or spreading ruin on this earth is one of the gravest sins possible.  Fasad fi al-ard, which means to corrupt the earth by destroying the beauty of creation, is considered an ultimate act of blasphemy against God.[60]  Those who corrupt the earth by destroying lives, property, and nature are designated as mufsidun - evildoers who, in effect, wage war against God by dismantling the very fabric of existence.[61]  The Qur'anic discourse on the corruptors of life inspired an extensive juristic debate on extremist groups in Islamic history, such as the Khawarij, who were infamous for their terror inducing tactics, and for waging indiscriminate attacks against non-combatants.  Classical Muslim jurists reacted sharply to these groups by considering them to be corrupters on the earth and the enemies of humankind.  They were designated as muharibs (literally, those who fight society), and they argued that such groups should not to be given quarter or refuge by anyone or at any place.  In fact, Muslim jurists argued that any Muslim or non-Muslim territory that sheltered such a group is to be considered hostile territory that may be attacked by the mainstream Islamic forces.  A muharib was defined as someone who attacks defenseless victims by stealth, and spreads terror in society.  Although the classical jurists agreed on the definition of this crime, they disagreed as to what type of criminal acts would be considered crimes of terror.  For instance, many jurists included rape, armed robbery, assassinations, arson, and murder by poisoning as crimes of terror and argued that such crimes must be punished vigilantly regardless of the theological or ideological motivations of the criminal.  Most importantly, these doctrines were asserted as religious imperatives so that regardless of the desired goals or ideological justifications, the terrorizing of the defenseless was recognized as a moral wrong and an offense against society and God.[62]


Obviously, this juristic discourse is relevant to modern day terrorism.  According to this tradition, Bin Laden would be considered a muharib, and an enemy of humankind.  But even beyond the problem of Bin Laden and terrorism, this discourse indicates an aversion in the Islamic tradition to certain emotional states or conditions that might be forced upon people.  Forcing people to live in a state of fear or insecurity was considered reprehensible.[63] Certain types of conduct were deemed unworthy of a Muslim, and offensive to God. Therefore, for instance, Muslim jurists argued that treachery or betrayal, even in war, is unacceptable. Muslims must observe their treaty obligations, and in all circumstances they cannot attack their enemies without issuing warnings and giving notice of their intentions.[64] Building upon the proscriptions of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim jurists insisted that there are moral prescriptions that must be observed in the conduct of warfare. In general, Muslim armies may not kill women, children, seniors, hermits, pacifists, peasants or slaves unless they are combatants. Vegetation and property may not be destroyed, water holes may not be poisoned, and flame-throwers may not be used unless out of necessity, and even then only to a limited extent. Torture, mutilation and the murder of hostages were forbidden under all circumstances. Importantly, the classical jurists reached these determinations not simply as a matter of textual interpretation, but as moral or ethical assertions.[65]


These discourses enunciate ethical limitations on conflict.  But beyond the problem of regulating conflicts, the larger issue is the attitude towards the "other."  Are there doctrinal means to include the other in an ethical enterprise?  On this subject, the Qur'anic text sets moral trajectories that, one must confess, have not been adequately developed by Muslims.  In several particularly interesting passages, the Qur'an seems to recognize the moral worth of non-Muslims who are just or good human beings.  For instance, it states:  "Surely, the believers, the Jews, the followers of Christ, the Sabians -- whoever believes in God and the Last Day, and whoever does good, shall have his/her reward from God and will neither they have to fear or regret."[66]  Significantly, the Qur'an recognizes diversity among human beings, and even goes further and endorses this diversity as part of the Divine purpose.  It states that God has made people different and diverse, and that they will remain so until the Final Day.  Accordingly, human heterogeneity and diversity are part of the Divine plan, and the challenge is for human beings to co-exist and interact despite their differences.[67]  This is bolstered by a Qur'anic instruction as to the method or style of engagement with the other.  The Qur'an commands that, apart from those who attack Muslims, Muslims should not argue with the followers of other religions except in a fair and kind way.[68]  At one point, the Qur'an asserts: "To each of you We have given a law and a way of life. If God had so willed He surely could have made you one people, professing a single faith.  But God wished to try you by which He had given each of you.  So try to excel in good deeds, and when you return to God in the Final Day, He will surely tell you about that upon which you disagreed."[69]  In a rather unequivocal fashion, the Qur'an then proclaims: "God has made you into many nations and tribes so that you will come to know one another.  Those most honored in the eyes of God are those who are most pious."[70]  From this, classical Muslim scholars reached the reasonable conclusion that war is not the means most conducive to getting "to know one another" (known in Islamic discourses as ta'aruf).  Thus, they argued that the exchange of technology, and merchandise is, in most cases, a superior course of action to warfare.  In the opinion of most classical jurists, war, unless it is purely defensive, is not to be preferred, and must be treated as a last resort because war is not a superior moral virtue.  Perhaps because of these moral imperatives, the Islamic civilization excelled in the sciences, arts, philosophy, law, architecture, and trade, and Islam entered into areas such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and sub-Saharan Africa primarily through traveling merchants and scholars, and not through warfare.


A Muslim ethic of a collective enterprise of goodness can be premised on the dual prongs of ta'aruf and ta'awun. The first, the obligation to know one another, is not achievable without a serious and involved engagement between human beings.  One can reasonably conclude that if ta'aruf is a Divine charge, there is value in the difference of the "other" - put differently, that the other is worth knowing.  In fact, it is highly doubtful that the duty to bear witness for God is possible without an involved knowledge of oneself and the other.  As noted earlier, the risk is that instead of achieving a genuine knowledge of the other, people would simply project their anxieties and weaknesses upon the other.  In order to mitigate against this risk, it is necessary to engage in critical self-knowledge, and in a non-defensive discourse with others. 


I already alluded to the obligation of ta'awun (cooperation) in the Qur'an.  The Qur'an, addressing Muslims, advises them to cooperate in achieving goodness and piety, and in the avoidance of evil and transgression.[71]  Elsewhere, the Qur'an instructs Muslims to adhere to justice, and not to be tempted by the injustice and enmity of others to commit injustice themselves.[72]  Importantly, justice is to be expected from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, in the same way, that transgression is wrongful whether committed by Muslims or non-Muslims.  This appears to me to create a commonality of moral interests.  This does not mean that Muslims are to be expected to dilute the distinctiveness of their laws or moral thinking.  But it does support the idea of a cooperative venture to fend off transgressive behavior and to promote as much justice as possible.[73]


Having made an argument for a collective enterprise of goodness, one must somberly ask, but how about the Bin Laden's of the world?  Where and how do they get their doctrinal support?  Admittedly, one can make a case for a tolerant and humanitarian Islam, but it does exist in tension with other doctrines in the Islamic tradition that are less tolerant or humanitarian.  Many classical Muslim scholars, for instance, insisted on a conception of the world that is bifurcated and dichotomous.  Those scholars argued that the world is divided into the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam) and abode of war (dar al-harb); the two can stop fighting for a while, but one must inevitably prevail over the other.  According to these scholars, Muslims must give non-Muslims one of three options; either become Muslim, pay the poll tax, or fight.  These classical scholars were willing to tolerate differences as long as the existence of these differences did not challenge Muslim political supremacy and dominance.  It is important to note, however, that this dichotomous and even imperialist view of the world, however, did not go unchallenged.  So, for instance, many classical scholars argued that instead of a two-part division of the world, one ought to recognize a third category, and that is the abode of non-belligerence or neutrality (dar al-sulh or al-'ahd) -- an abode that is not Muslim, but that has a peaceful relationship with the Muslim world.  In addition, many classical jurists argued that, regardless of the political affiliation of a particular territory, the real or true abode of Islam is wherever justice exists (dar al-'adl), or wherever Muslims may freely and openly practice their religion.  Therefore, it is possible for a territory that is ruled by non-Muslims and where Muslims are a minority, to be considered part of the abode of true Islam.[74]


The fact that the Islamic scholastic tradition is not unitary, and that it is often diverse and multi-faceted is hardly surprising. The same tensions exist when considering the concept of jihad, which gained much notoriety especially after 9/11.  Jihad is a core principle in Islamic theology; it means to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, and persevere.  Jihad, in the most straightforward sense, connotes a strong spiritual and material work ethic in Islam.  Piety, knowledge, health, beauty, truth, and justice are not possible without jihad - without sustained and diligent hard work.  Therefore, cleansing oneself from vanity and pettiness, pursuing knowledge, curing the ill, feeding the poor, and standing up for truth and justice even at great personal risk are all forms of jihad.  The Qur'an uses the term jihad to refer to the act of striving to serve the purposes of God on this earth, which includes all the acts mentioned above.  Importantly, the Qur'an does not use the word jihad to refer to warfare or fighting; such acts are referred to as qital.  While the Qur'an's call to jihad is unconditional and unrestricted, such is not the case for qital.  Jihad is a good in and of itself, while qital is not.  Therefore, every reference in the Qur'an to qital is restricted and limited by particular conditions, but exhortations to jihad, like the references to justice or truth, are absolute and unconditional.  Consequently, the early Muslims were not allowed to engage in qital until God gave them specific permission to do so.  The Qur'an is careful to note that Muslims were given permission to fight only after they had become the victims of aggression.[75]  Furthermore, the Qur'an instructs Muslims to fight only those who fight them and not to transgress, for God does not approve of aggression.[76]  In addition, the Qur'an goes on to specify that if the enemy ceases hostilities and seeks peace, Muslims should seek peace as well.  Failure to seek peace without just cause is considered arrogant, and sinful.  In fact, the Qur'an reminds Muslims not to pick fights, and not to create enemies because the fact that a particular party does not wish to fight Muslims and seeks to make peace is a Divine blessing.  God has the power to inspire in the hearts of non-Muslims a desire for peace, and Muslims must treat such a blessing with gratitude and appreciation, not defiance and arrogance.[77]


In light of this Qur'anic discourse, classical Muslim jurists debated what would constitute a sufficient and just cause for fighting non-Muslims.  Are non-Muslims fought because of their act of disbelief or only because they pose a physical threat to Muslims?  Most classical jurists concluded that the justification for fighting non-Muslims is directly proportional to the physical threat they pose to Muslims.  In other words, if they do not threaten or seek to harm Muslims, then there is no justification for acts of belligerence or warfare.  In my estimation, while the Islamic tradition does not convey a unitary message, and does not speak in a single voice, the case for a humanistic Islam is a particularly strong one.




Religious doctrine matters - as diverse and contested as it may be, doctrine has a direct impact on what people choose to believe and how they choose to act.  The terrorist attacks of 9/11 came as a gruesome reminder that religion, which can inspire great beauty, can also inspire much ugliness.  In the case of all strongly held systems of conviction, this is a lesson that history keeps teaching.  It is also a lesson not limited to religion; one cannot forget that millions of people died in the name of irreligious, or even anti-religious, ideologies as well.  But 9/11 ought to be a stark reminder to Muslims, specifically.  It should act as a reminder that what I called Salafabism has vulgarized their religion and emptied it of its humanistic spirit.  It should also be a reminder about the role of human agency vis-à-vis religious doctrine.  The impact of the doctrines of Islam entirely depend on how modern Muslims choose to understand, develop, and assert them.  Perhaps it is painfully obvious that Muslims, as the interpreters of their tradition, shoulder the primary responsibility for deciding on the role that their religion will have in the world today.  Perhaps it is also painfully obvious that regardless of how rich, humanistic, and moral the Islamic tradition is, this tradition will be of very limited usefulness if it is not believed and acted upon by Muslims.  But herein is the true travesty of modern Islam, and the agony of every honest Muslim intellectual.  Many non-Muslims suffer from much ignorance and prejudice about Islam and Muslims.  But living in the shadow of the post-colonial experience, and suffering from the movements that arose in that period, contemporary Muslims have yet to seriously engage their own tradition.  It is not only that Muslims are woefully ignorant about their own tradition, but also much of what they do know has been framed purely as a defensive reaction to the post-colonial experience.  Bin Laden is the quintessential example of a Muslim that was created, shaped, and motivated by post-colonialism.  In the past decades, when contemporary Muslim intellectuals have attempted a critical engagement with their tradition and a search for the moral and humanistic aspects of the intellectual heritage, invariably they have been confronted by the specter of post-colonialism.  Their efforts have been evaluated purely in terms of whether it appeases or displeases the West.  Post-9/11, it is clear that it is not Islam that should transform.  Rather, Muslims must seek to emerge from the shadow of post-colonialism, and take their own tradition seriously.





* I offer sincere gratitude to my wife Grace for reading and commenting on this paper.


1.  In fact, consistently Bin Laden has refused to acknowledge his responsibility for the 9/11 attack.  He has praised the attack and praised those who carried it out, but has never clearly confessed the responsibility of his group.


2. At different times, Bin Laden has cited a whole host of grievances, which included, among others, the American military presence in the Gulf, Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, the embargo imposed against Iraq, the spread of Western culture and consumerism in Muslim countries, American support of autocratic and non-Islamic governments in the Middle East, the Shi'ite and Jewish conspiracy to destroy Islam, and the Western exploitation of Muslim wealth and natural resources.  On Bin Laden and his thought, see Peter L. Bergen, Holy War Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (New York: The Free Press, 2001); Roland Jacquard, In the Name of Osama Bin Laden: Global Terrorism and the Bin Laden Brotherhood, George Holoch, trans. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002); Rohan Gunaratana, Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002). For a seemingly authentic and rather sad personal account of al-Qaida by a disillusioned insider, see Aukai Collins, My Jihad (Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2002).  For a thorough overview of modern history of Islamic fundamentalism, the Taliban and Bin Laden, see Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, Anthony F. Roberts, trans. (London: I.B. Tauris, 2002).


3.  In the statements broadcast on al-Jazeerah satellite channel, Bin Laden claimed that a few more strikes like that which took place in 9/11 would cause the economic power of the United States to collapse.


4.  This nihilistic bent was also noted by Niall Ferguson, "Clashing Civilizations or Mad Mullahs: The United States Between Informal and Formal Empire," in Strobe Talbott and Nayan Chanda (eds.) The Age of Terror: America and the World After September 11 (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 115-141.


5.  In this context, Bin Laden used the expression "maslubat al-iradah," which literally means, "of a robbed or stolen will."


6.  On subaltern and post-colonial studies, and the impact of colonialism on modern history, see Vinayak Chaturvedi (ed,), Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial (London: Verso Press, 2000); Dipesh Chakrabarty, Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Robert J. Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001); Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, Margeret Iversen (eds.), Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996); Ania Loomba, Colonialism and Postcolonialism (London: Routledge Press, 1998); Gyan Prakash (ed.), After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).


7.  In the Muslim world, the most problematic and controversial promise of modernity is secularism.  This is partly because unlike values such as democracy, individual rights, and social justice, secularism is not an end in and of itself.  It is seen as a possible means to an end - as a condition precedent that facilitates the fulfillment of ultimate values.  This has led many Islamic thinkers to contend that moral values such as democracy and individual rights can be achieved without secularism.  In addition, secularism has been associated often with moral hedonism or a lack of religiosity, which is seen as destructive and undesirable.  Some Muslim activists claimed that secularism was advocated to Muslims by colonizing powers as a means of destroying Islam or countering the Islamic influence.  For a reader-friendly introduction to historical misunderstandings, and the apprehensions of Muslims, see Rollin Armour, Sr., Islam, Christianity and the West: A Troubled History (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2002), esp. 167-182.


8.  In nearly every recorded speech I have encountered by Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman, they have emphasized the theme of the hypocrisy of the West in dealing with the Muslim world, especially as to the deference shown to Israel.  They also emphasized the dependent status of Muslim leaders and described them as mere stooges to the West.  These allegations are usually couched in highly conspiratorial language.  For instance, 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman claimed that Saddam Hussein is engaged in a conspiracy with the United States to destroy Iraq and Iran.


9.  For the argument that the American government is, in fact, dealing with this crisis as a civilizational conflict, see As'ad AbuKhalil, Bin Laden, Islam and America's New "War on Terrorism" (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002).  Some writers are shameless in accusing Islam of inherent inferiority.  For example, see Paul L. Williams, Al-Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror (New York: Alpha Books, 2002).  The publishers sent me this book before publication, and I advised them that it is rabidly Islamophobic.  They decided to publish it anyway.  The FBI purportedly hired the author as a consultant on Muslim terrorism.  To my dismay, in order to bolster its credibility, they listed me as the co-author of the book on Amazon.co.uk.  Of course, I authored no part of this book.


10.  One of the sensitive points that is consistently mentioned in the Arabic and Persian speaking press is the apparent callousness by which the United States and England treat Muslim casualties in Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq.  No one knows the number of Afghanis killed during the American bombardment of suspected Qa'ida and Taliban sites.  In addition, the American and British response to the suffering and killing of Iraqi and Palestinian civilians is quite mild, rarely exceeding the expression of general regret.


11.  Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (London: Verso Press, 2002).  Ali argues that American and European imperialism has created the fundamentalism of Bin Laden.  Ali also characterizes American and European attitudes towards Muslims as no less fundamentalist than Bin Laden.


12.  See Roger Burbach and Ben Clarke (eds.), September 11 and the U.S War: Beyond the Curtain of Smoke (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2002).


13.  For this debate between me and several other commentators, including the Pakistani critic, see Khaled Abou El Fadl (ed.), The Place of Tolerance in Islam (Beacon Press, 2002).


14.  I am not claiming, however, that religious convictions do not play a role in American foreign policy.  For a collection of articles examining the role of religion in U.S. foreign policy, see Elliott Abrams (ed.), The Influence of Faith: Religious Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001).  In fact, this book contains an article by Habib Malik titled "Political Islam and the Roots of Violence," pp. 113-148, and a comment by Daniel Pipes, pp. 149-151, that are rabid in their hostility to Islam and Muslims.  These articles demonstrate the extent to which religious hate can motivate commentators seeking to influence the foreign policy of the United States.  My point, however, is that in secular Western countries, religious motivations behind foreign policies normally function in a discrete and subtle fashion.  Secular Western countries usually claim religious neutrality, and do not openly herald the cause of God in the conduct of international relations.


15.  For a discussion on the role that religion does play in terrorist attacks, see Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); John Esposito, Unholy War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).  For Tariq Ali's views on this matter, see his article in the collected essays in Abou El Fadl (ed.) The Place of Tolerance in Islam.


16.  There is a fairly huge corpus of literature on the sociology of religion and effect of religious convictions upon the behavior of human beings.  Eric Hoffer's book remains among the best published on the subject.  See Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (New York: Harper Collins, 1951).


17.  Some scholars have argued that most of Muslim society in the modern age is characterized by a cultural schizophrenia in which there are profound distortions in the self-consciousness of Muslims.  See Daryush Shayegan, Cultural Schizophrenia: Islamic Societies Confronting the West, John Howe, trans.  (London: Saqi Books, 1989).


18.  For example, Saudi Arabia responded to the increasing social and economic mobility of women by banning women from driving cars.  Egypt, however, responded very differently.  Some Islamic doctrines, however, such as the man's exclusive power to initiate divorce has proven extremely resilient against change.  In large part, this is due to the perceived importance of this matter to the Islamic faith.


19.  For a valuable study on the duty to enjoin the good and forbid the evil in the Islamic tradition, see Michael Cook, Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).


20.  Qur'an 4:135; 5:8.


21.  Interestingly, the expression "false universalisms" was used by Samuel Huntington in arguing that the Western belief in the universality of their values is both immoral and dangerous, Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations: Remaking of World Order (New York: Touchstone Press, 1996), 310.


22.  Sometimes, this accusation descends into vulgarity.  For instance, because of my critical writings post-9/11, recently a Muslim professor in Texas accused me of prostituting myself and of "pimping" my students.


23.  On this subject, see Khaled Abou El Fadl, And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses (Lanham, New York: University Press of America, 2001), 138-156.


24.  On this subject, see Khaled Abou El Fadl, Reasoning With God: Reclaiming Shari'ah in the Modern Age (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014).  Also see George F. Hourani, Reason and Tradition in Islamic Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).


25.  Khaled Abou El Fadl, "Islam and the Theology of Power Islam," 221 Middle East Report (Winter 2001), 28-33.


26.  On the hegemony of the United States and the West, and Muslim reaction, see Simon W. Murden, Islam, the Middle East and the New Global Hegemony (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002), esp. 43-128.


27.  For a study on Muslims, the West, and the prevalence of siege mentalities, see Graham E. Fuller and Ian O. Lesser, A Sense of Siege: The Geopolitics of Islam and the West (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995).


28.  Westoxification is a derogatory expression used to describe self-hating Muslims who are in awe of everything Western to the point that they seem to be intoxicated on the West.


29.  On this issue, see Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations: Remaking of World Order (New York: Touchstone Press, 1996); John Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, rev ed. 1995); Fred Halliday, Islam and the Myth of Confrontation (London: I.B. Tauris, 1995); Colin Chapman, Islam and the West: Conflict, Co-Existence or Conversion? (Carlisle, U.K.: Paternoster Press, 1998); Karim H. Karim, The Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2000); Dieter Senghaas, The Clash Within Civilizations: Coming to terms with Cultural Conflicts (London: Routledge, 1998).  For excellent studies on the historical misconceptions about Islam prevalent in Europe, see Franco Cardini, Europe and Islam (Oxford: Blackwell Press, 2001); Albert Hourani, Islam in European Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).  The best work on the subject remains: Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Oxford: Oneworld Press, 1960, reprinted 2000). A particularly useful and sophisticated collection of studies, see: John Victor Tolan, Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam (London: Routledge, 2000). For the impact of the Huntington thesis and misconceptions about Islam on American foreign policy, see Maria do Ceu Pinto, Political Islam and the United States: A Study of U.S. Policy Towards Islamist Movements in the Middle East (Reading, U.K.: Ithaca Press, 1999).


30.  Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel R. Huntington (eds.), Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress (New York: Basic Books, 2000).


31.  There are many works that document the influence of Islamic culture and thought on Europe.  Two impressive works are: George Makdisi, The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990); Mourad Wahba and Mona Abousenna (eds.) Averroes and the Enlightenment (New York: Prometheus Books, 1996).  Even when preserving the Greek philosophical tradition Muslim scholars did not act as mere transmitters, but substantially developed and built upon Greek philosophy.   In a fascinating text which demonstrates the level of penetration that Islamic thought achieved in Europe, Thomas Aquinas, in an attempt to refute Ibn Rushd (aka Averroes), whom he labels as a "perverter of Peripatetic philosophy" and Ibn Sina (Avicenna), ends up quoting Hamid al-Ghazali in support of his arguments against Ibn Rushd's.  Both al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd were medieval Muslim philosophers and jurists.  Thomas Aquinas, On the Unity of the Intellect Against the Averroists, Beatrice Zedler, trans. (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1968), 46-7.   For a collection of articles that demonstrate cross-intellectual influences, see John Inglis, Medieval Philosophy and the Classical Tradition: In Islam, Judaism, and Christianity (Richmond, U.K.: Curzon Press, 2002).  For an awe inspiring example of the contributions of medieval Muslim scholars to Greek philosophy, see Kwame Gyekye, Arabic Logic: Ibn al-Tayyib's Commentary on Porphyry's Eisagoge (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1979).


32.  For an analysis of this process of projection and construction of an image of Islamic law, see Abou El Fadl, "Islamic Law and Ambivalent Scholarship," Michigan Law Review, vol. 100, no. 6, May 2002, pp. 1421– 1443. 


33.  For a detailed study on the role of authorial enterprise, communities of interpretation, and Islamic law, see Khaled Abou El Fadl, Speaking in God's Name: Authority, Islamic Law, and Women (Oxford: Oneworld Press, 2001).


34.  Not surprisingly, writers who clearly do not like Muslims very much have exploited Huntington's thesis.  For an example of paranoid Islamophobia, a work that was unfortunately highly praised by various American politicians, see Anthony J. Dennis, The Rise of the Islamic Empire and the Threat to the West (Bristol, IN: Wyndham Hall Press, 1996).  For another example of a work, written from the perspective of a Christian fundamentalist, that exploits Huntington's argument and that is hostile to Islam, see George Grant, The Blood of the Moon: Understanding the Historic Struggle Between Islam and Western Civilization (New York: Thomas Nelson Press, rev. ed. 2001).  Typically, in this genre of literature, Christianity, Judaism, and Western culture is, rather jovially, all bundled up in a single unitary mass, placed in a corner, and then pitted against the fantasized concept of: THE ISLAM.


35.  This is the gist of Huntington's argument about the wrongfulness of believing in universal Western values, Huntington, The Clash, 308-312.  This is also Lawrence Rosen's argument in his The Justice of Islam: Comparative Perspectives on Islamic Law and Society  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 153-175.  See my critique of this book in Abou El Fadl, "Islamic Law and Ambivalent Scholarship."  Also, see Ann Mayer, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 3rd, 1999), 6-9; Khaled Abou El Fadl, "Soul Searching and the Spirit of Shari'a," 22 Washington University Global Studies Law Review, vol. 1, nos. 1 and 2, Winter/Summer 2002, pp. 553 – 72.


36.  On the epistemology of Islamic law, see Wael Hallaq, Authority, Continuity and Change in Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Wael Hallaq, A History of Islamic Legal Theories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)


37.  On this subject, see George Makdisi, The Rise of Colleges in Islam (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981).


38.  Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot, "The Ulama of Cairo in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century," in Scholars, Saints, and Sufis, ed. Nikki Keddi (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 149-165, 162-3.


39.  Allan Christelow, Muslim Law Courts and the French Colonial State in Algeria (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985); J.N.D. Anderson, AModern Trends in Islam: Legal Reform and Modernisation in the Middle East,@ International and Comparative Law Quarterly 20 (1971): 1-21, reprinted in Islamic Law and Legal Theory, ed. Ian Edge (New York: New York University Press, 1996): 547-567; Cleveland, A History, 61-98; Jasper Yeates Brinton, The Mixed Courts of Egypt, rev. ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968); Ruth Mitchell, AFamily Law in Algeria before and after the 1404/1984 Family Code,@ in Islamic Law: Theory and Practice, eds. R. Gleave and E. Kermeli (London: I.B. Tauris, 1997): 194-204, 194-196.  Of course, at times, Colonial powers took over the implementation of Islamic law as in the case of the Anglo-Muhammadan law experience in India.  Syed Ameer Ali, Muhammadan Law (New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1986), 1-4; Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law (London: Oxford University Press, 1964; reprint, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 94-97; N.J. Coulson, A History of Islamic Law (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1964), 164-172.  On the impact on Colonialism on the institutions of Islamic law in India see, Radhika Singha, A Despotism of Law:  Crime & Justice in Early Colonial India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 52-3, 60-70, 294-6, 300.


40.  For an example of this in Muhammad Ali's (r. 1805-1848) Egypt, see Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot, Women and Men in Late Eighteenth-Century Egypt (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995), 136, 141-142.


41.  See, J.N.D. Anderson, Islamic Law in the Modern World (New York: New York University Press, 1959); J.N.D. Anderson, Law Reform in the Muslim World (London: Athlone Press, 1976); Wael Hallaq, A History of Islamic Legal Theories, 207-211.


42.   Muhammad Amin Ibn 'Abidin, Hashiyat Radd al-Muhtar (Cairo: Mustafa al-Babi, 1966), 6:413; Ahmad al-Sawi, Hashiyat al-'Allamah al-Sawi 'ala Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Beirut: Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-'Arabi, n.d.), 3 :307-308.  See also, Ahmad Dallal, "The Origins and Objectives of Islamic Revivalist Thought, 1750-1850," Journal of the American Oriental Society 113, no. 3 (1993): 341-359.


43.  See on these events and others, Michael Cook, Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong, 180-191.


44.  Eleanor Doumato, "Saudi Sex-Segregation Can be Fatal," www.projo.com/opinion/contributors/content/projo.  I confirmed this incident in a conversation with the father of one of the girls who was killed.  Saudi Arabia initially said it would investigate, but a day later it denied that the incident had occurred.


45.  On this process, and the use of talfiq and maslaha in modern Islam, see Coulson, A History of Islamic Law, 197-217.


46.  For a critical, and similarly grim, assessment by a Muslim of the state of intellectual thought in the Islamic world, see Tariq Ramadan, Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity, Said Amghar, trans. (Markefield, U.K.: The Islamic Foundation, 2001), 286-290.  For an insightful analysis of the role of apologetics in modern Islam, see Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Islam in Modern History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977).    


47.  My two books, And God Knows the Soldiers and Speaking in God's Name, are primarily concerned with this phenomenon.


48.  Examples of this are not hard to find. Unfortunately, Paul Williams in his Al-Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror, 184, approvingly misquotes me, in a book that aims to convince the reader that Islam is inferior to Christianity and that it is an inherently violent and hate-filled religion.  Another example of an author who unscrupulously quotes and misquotes the internal self-critical discourses of Muslims to promote a rabid type of Islamophobia is: Steven Emerson, American Jihad: The Terrrorists Among Us (New York: The Free Press, 2002) 159-175.  In his chapter on "Unsung heroes," Emerson primarily relies on the statements of Shaykh Kabbani and Hasan Ashmawi in support of his argument that most Muslim organizations in the United States are nothing but fronts for terrorist organizations.  Effectively, this book incites non-Muslim Americans to be suspicious and even hate American Muslims.  Unfortunately, I have seen this book in every bookstore I have visited in the United States.


49.  On the searing criticisms of Islam by orientalists, see Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1979); Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1994).


50.  Qur'an 4:135; 5:8.


51.  The Qur'an identifies balance (mizan) with godliness.  See Qur'an 6:152, 7:85, 11:84-5, 42:17, 55:7-9, 57:25.  God's perfection is manifested in the fact that God can maintain the balance - a state of perfect equanimity between all things.  The maintenance of the balance is crucial for the achievement of justice, which among human beings means that no one is made to suffer because of the transgression of the other.  This idea is exemplified in the Islamic expressions la darar wa la dirar and la tazir wazira wizra ukhra (no one should suffer for the faults of the other), see 6:164, 17:15, 35:18, 39:7, 53:38.


52.  There is a large body of Western literature on the notion of the sublime and its relationship to aesthetics, morality, and culture. For instance, see Paul Crowther, The Kantian Sublime: From Morality to Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991); Stanford Budick, The Western Theory of Tradition: Terms and Paradigms of the Cultural Sublime (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000); Clayton Crockett, A Theology of the Sublime (London: Routledge Press, 2001); Peter De Bolla, The Discourse of the Sublime: Readings in History, Aesthetics, and the Subject (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1989); Frances Ferguson, Solitude and the Sublime: Romanticism and the Aesthetics of Individuation (London: Routledge, 1992; Jean-Francois, Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994); Immanuel Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991); Bjorn K. Myskja, The Sublime in Kant and Beckett: Literature, Aesthetic Judgment, and Ethics (London: Walter de Gruyter Inc., 2001); Martin Ryle, To Relish the Sublime: Culture and Self-Realization in Postmodern Times (London: Verso Books, 2002);Lap-Chuen Tsang, The Sublime: Groundwork Towards a Theory (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1998); Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (New York: Verso Books, 1997).  This is not the place to engage these theoretical debates, but I do note that I tend to lean towards the Kantian tendency to connect aesthetics to morality.  There is a vast classical debate on husn (beauty) and qubh (ugliness) that, in essence, was a discourse on the aesthetics and morality of the sublime, but the subject has been thoroughly ignored by contemporary Muslims. For an intriguing pre-modern work, which is one of the very few works related to the subject that have been translated to English, see Shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, The Sublime Revelation, Mukhtar Holland, trans. (London: al-Bazz Publications, 1993).


53.  Muslim jurists would typically list: life, intellect, religion, lineage, and property.  I would argue that religion is subsumed under intellect, and the issue of lineage is better guarded by dignity and reputation.  For a discussion on this, see Khaled Abou El Fadl, "Constitutionalism and the Islamic Sunni Legacy," The UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law 1:67-101, 100-1 (2001).


54.  Confronted by the same type of moral dilemma, Dieter Senghaas "pleads" for a major re-orientation in intercultural dialogue.  Senghaas, The Clash Within Civilizations, 105-117.


55.  The idea of a collective enterprise of goodness does not mean that acts of self-defense are illegitimate.  It only means that responses to aggression must be measured, proportional, and necessary.  This means that resistance might be necessary, but it must avoid injury to the innocent, and must aspire to ending the hostilities and returning once again to the collective enterprise.


56.  Qur'an 22:40.


57.  Qur'an 5:64


58.  Qur'an 5:91.


59.  Qur'an 41:34.


60.  For instance, see Qur'an 2:27, 205; 5:32; 13:25.


61.  Qur'an 2:27; 13:25.


62.  For a detailed study on this subject, see Khaled Abou El Fadl, Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).


63.  Qur'an 8:60, advises Muslims to maintain their military strength so that their enemy will fear them.  Various Islamophobics gleefully jumped on this verse to prove that the Qur'an supports terrorism.  This verse is emphasizing the importance of deterrence, in the hope of avoiding war.  It is not endorsing terrorizing people.  However, the fact that Bin Laden has cited this verse in support of the morality of terrorism has definitely contributed to the misunderstanding.


64.  The Qur'an repeatedly emphasizes the importance of observing one's treaty obligations and all other contracts, see 2:177, 6:152; 9:4, 17:34.


65.  It is reported that the Prophet used to instruct his armies not to hurt a non-combatant or needlessly destroy property or vegetation.  It is also reported that after a battle, upon finding the corpse of a woman, the Prophet became very upset, and reproached his army for killing a non-combatant. On this subject, see Khaled Abou El Fadl, "The Rules of Killing at War:  An Inquiry into Classical Sources." The Muslim World 89, no. 2 (1999): 144 B 157; Khaled Abou El Fadl, "Holy War Versus Jihad: A Review of James Johnson's The Holy War Idea in the Western & Islamic Traditions." Ethics and International Affairs 14 (2000): 133 - 140.


66.  Qur'an 2:62, 5:69.


67.  Qur'an 11:118.


68.  Qur'an 29:46.


69.  Qur'an 5:48.


70.  Qur'an 49:13.


71.  Qur'an 5:2.


72.  Qur'an 5:2, 5:8.


73.  Tariq Ramadan contends that with the onslaught of secularism, the West lost the moral meaning in life.  He argues that Muslims should assist the West in returning to an ethical and purposeful modernity.  Ramadan, Islam, the West and the Challenges, 296.


74.  On this subject, see Khaled Abou El Fadl, "Islamic Law and Muslim Minorities: The Juristic Discourse on Muslim Minorities from the Second/Eighth to the Eleventh/Seventeenth Centuries." Islamic Law and Society 1, no. 2 (1994): 141 - 187.


75.  Qur'an 22:39; 60:8; 2:246.


76.  Qur'an 2:190, 194; 5:87.


77.  Qur'an 4:90.



Praise for "9/11 and the Muslim Transformation":

------Original Message------

From: john marciano

To: abouelfadl@law.ucla.edu

Subject: thank you

Sent: Feb 1, 2012 5:16 PM

dear khaled abou el fadl,

        i wish to thank you for your fine and powerful chapter, "9/11 and the

muslim transformation," in mary dudziak's "september 11 in history."

        the vast gulf between your sober and reasonable insights on muslim

history and dilemmas and the profound hysterics of many scholars and

virtually all mainstream pundits, is staggering. despite changed

rhetoric from the bush era, however, the policies of our nobel

laureate president have continued and deepened the fundamental

"exceptional" premises of washington -- promising this nation and the

islamic world endless imperial wars unless checked by an activist and

vigilant citizenry.

        my knowledge of the historical currents and contradictions within

islam -- and their relationship with the west -- has been enhanced by

your chapter. thank you.


john marciano

professor emeritus, suny cortland


santa monica, ca