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The Humanist

November 3, 2006

“True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but [the] truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends [of] his substance – however much he himself may cherish it – upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God.” (2:177)


If you haven’t read my post titled Tribute to Alia Ansari please click here.  

I thought I would start this post off with a verse from the Quran that dezhen had posted on a reply earlier this week.  I love the verse and I believe that it is as appropriate as it can get for this particular post.  Thank you dezhen!

The following comment inspired this post: 

“LGF does post the words of lots of Humanist Muslims and applauds their efforts. Ali, Rushdie, Sultan, Phares, the list goes on. You can’t say they never do.”

hu·man·ist  audio  (hym-nst) KEY  


  1. A believer in the principles of humanism.
  2. One who is concerned with the interests and welfare of humans.
    1. A classical scholar.
    2. A student of the liberal arts.
  3. Humanist A Renaissance scholar devoted to Humanism.

Ali: “Islam is a cult created by a psychopath. It cannot be reformed. It must be eradicated. Islam must be eradicated not because the Quran says Earth is flat or the shooting stars are missiles that Allah fires at the Jinns who climb the heaven to eavesdrop on the conversation of the exalted assembly. These stupid tales could even amuse us. Islam must go because it teaches hate, it orders killing of non-Muslims, it denigrates women and it violates the human rights. Islam must go not because it is false but because it is destructive, because it is dangerous; a threat to peace and security of humankind. With the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Islamic countries, Islam has become a serious and a real threat to the survival of our civilization. ”

“Let us save the world from its certain destruction. We don’t have to face another world war. We can stop this madness now. We can love each other like members of one family and celebrate our diversity like flowers of one garden. We can build a better world for our children. We can sing the songs of joy together. We can make a difference. Let not a psychopath liar fool you. Do not become an instrument of hate. Muhammad lied. This site is the proof.”

:Wafa Sultan: The Muslims are the ones who began the clash of civilizations. The Prophet of Islam said: “I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah (SWT) and His Messenger.” When the Muslims divided the people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called to fight the others until they believe in what they themselves believe, they started this clash, and began this war. In order to start this war, they must reexamine their Islamic books and curricula, which are full of calls for takfir and fighting the infidels. …

I am not a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew. I am a secular human being. I do not believe in the supernatural, but I respect others’ right to believe in it.”

I’m going to stop with these two as I did not have enough time to research Rushdie and Phares thoroughly.  I will say that Rushdie interests me and there is just so much information on him out there that for me to do commentary would require research which I have little time for (as I have typed this hubby has called about 5 times looking for direction on weekend plans, bills do not write themselves out and children have to be picked up from school). 

We can throw in Walid Shoebat if you want.

A number of issues came up over at  Smart and Final Isis’s post Isis’ Guide to Sensible Islam Posting.  Initially, I was taken aback that these people were called Muslim Humanists.  I’m not sure about Phares, but every other name that was mentioned was not Muslim.  Ali has denounced Islam and through the faithfreedom website still insists that their is a god.  Rushdie is a self-proclaimed atheist and Sultana as quoted is neither Christian nor Jewish nor Muslim.   Since I am throwing in Shoebat, he’s converted to his wife’s religion (not sure what that is, just remember reading it in a paper).

So, since these people do not call themselves Muslim, I can safely say that they are not Muslim.  Second issue brought on by this revelation was whether atheists could be humanists or not, in my opinion.  Of course they can and I believe that by most definitions a humanist is a person that does not adhere to the principals of religion or associate to religion.

However, that still doesn’t make these people humanists, in the sense of what I was thinking of when reading “Muslim humanist”.  From the definition that I have given you, if we go by 2.  One who is concerned with the interests and welfare of humans, we have to ask ourselves “are these people interested in the welfare of humans?”.   I’m sure that Jihad Watch would like to answer this question for me with a “why, yes, Samaha, they are concerned with the welfare of humans.  Why else would they battle the big bad demon of Islam?”  But, they are not concerned with ALL humans.  In the statements that I have quoted above, Ali has no regards for Muslims unless they denounce Islam, afterall how do you eradicate Islam without eradicating every follower of Islam, every 1.3 billion in case you haven’t heard, without killing them?

How does Sultana’s argument on Al-Jazeera (excerpt above) show her concern for human beings?  Does Sultana “responsibly” look for dialogue?  While I agree that Sultana made some valid points even thought provoking ones, she also made some slanderous/inciteful ones.  Her tone throughout the whole clip that I had seen was arrogant and full of scorn.  Did she make them think or did she put them on the offensive, moreso, what was in her heart?  Was she looking to create productive, pro-active dialogue or was this a publicity stunt?

I realize that I’m not god, and I don’t really know what was in her heart.  I do know one thing though, I know that if I wanted to, I could become rather succesfull by bashing Muslims.  It’s what’s hot these days. 

Heck, I’ve got lots of things to complain about, but am I doing it responsibly?  Am I engaging in debate with my fellow Muslims in a productive fashion?  That’s a question that I had to ask myself over at Ali’s post Satellite Illogic  (so sorry Anna in Portland (was Cairo) for making you suffer another pal/israeli conflict reply to this thread) and decided that I wasn’t going to continue a debate with one commentor on his blog (not directly, anyway).

Still even on that thread I was arguing with anask in regards to Chomsky and Finkelstien the other side of the “humanist” award.  Two other views that I don’t agree with.  Does it sound too good to be true?  Hmmmmmm, I wonder why.

I mean come on!  Could it be, could it possibly be that Chomsky and Finkelstein are just sell outs that found a way to fame, glory and book deals?  Nah, no way!  Right?

Does anyone out there that quotes Chomsky quote this?: “Although he regularly condemns the Israeli government’s actions in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Chomsky has recently come under fire [28] from some pro-Palestinian activists for his advocacy [29] of the Geneva Accord, which it is argued rules out a one-state solution for Israel-Palestine and negates the Palestinian right of return. Chomsky responds to this by arguing that the right of return, while inalienable, will never be realized, and stating that proposals without significant international backing—such as a one-state solution—are unrealistic (and therefore unethical) goals:

“I will keep here to advocacy in the serious sense: accompanied by some kind of feasible program of action, free from delusions about “acting on principle” without regard to “realism”—that is, without regard for the fate of suffering people” [30].”

Here you will find the Criticism of Chomsky wikipedia entry.

Here is Finkelstein’s as well.

I guess that what I am trying to say here is that there are all types out there.  Remember that just because a certain “humanist” supports a side that we have found ourselves on, does not mean that that persons views are accurate.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2006 8:03 pm

    “I do know one thing though, I know that if I wanted to, I could become rather succesfull by bashing Muslims. It’s what’s hot these days.”

    So if these people are not humanists by your definition can you give us an example of who is (that is still alive) and why?

  2. isis13 permalink
    November 3, 2006 8:28 pm

    Samaha: A great explanation. Look for my ping-back to you on this matter when I discuss how we in the Rightosphere use the term “Humanist Muslim” when we discuss Islam. It will be posted next week.



  3. November 3, 2006 11:48 pm

    Abu Sahajj, thank you for that reminder. That’s what happens when I have to make time to write a post instead of actually writing it when the thoughts are flowing through my mind. Too many things on the plate today.

    As I was looking for Wafa Sultana’s speech, I came accros another Sultana. Sultana Kamal: Sultana Kamal is born in the year of 1950.she is a lawyer and an activist who has challenged the use of Islamic fundamentalist decrees known as fatwas, issued by village religious leaders in Bangladesh against women accused of ‘misbehaviour’. The rising face of fundamentalism in Bangladesh has threatened her, the Sahaba Soldiers have fire bombed her house and terrorised her in many different ways.

    Sultana is not affected – she is the true soldier. Her preoccupation with Human Rights began in 1971, helping war widows, rape victims and orphans – and today she represents the voice of women’s rights. Also a winner of the John Humphrey Freedom Award in 1996.

    There are more Bangladeshis on that link that I consider humanists, including the peace prize winner.

    Shirin Ebadi.

    Moreso, you can take a look at my blogroll and decide for yourself if you consider any of the Muslims as humanists. I certainly do.

    What about the 38 muslim scholars that signed the letter to the pope? How many of them can be considered humanists?

  4. November 3, 2006 11:53 pm

    Look forward to your post Isis 🙂

    Non-muslim humanists:

    I considered the late Pope John Paul to be a great humanist.

    Jimmy Carter

    okay – I think I made my point – I’m burning patatoes over here.

  5. dezhen permalink
    November 4, 2006 1:46 am

    There is a great little book called “Humanism in Islam” by Marcel Boisard, who was a delegate as part of the international committee for the Red Cross all over the middle east. It contains some fascinating insight, especially regarding the legal process in classical Islamic thought.

    For me, both ‘humanist’ and ‘muslim’ are loaded terms, so need to be defined in order to discuss if one can be a ‘humanist muslim’ or not.

    As with samaha, I do not believe those cited above to be Muslim, as they have clearly denounced their faith, quite openly and vehemently in some cases. They can be humanist for sure, but that is only half of the equation that is being discussed in this post.

    The other problem that I see is that ‘humanism’ is based on a certain philosophical and literary tradition, which Muslims generally do not share. If we look at this term in a broader context, however, then I believe it is possible to define ‘Muslim humanism’ through reference to our own religious sources; in fact, I would argue that it is the essence of the Islamic project.

    The issue that then occurs, is that some of the above-mentioned humanists like to quote from the Islamic tradition specific things (a verse here, a hadith there, a classical jurists opinion), but reject the opinions and attitudes of those who are coming from within the tradition that they are speaking out against as outsiders. If Muslim academics and scholars, existing today, cannot speak on behalf of their own tradition, then who can? If they can articulate from within the tradition an attitude or approach which generally corresponds to humanism as we in the West understand it, then who are we to disagree with it or say it is not a legitimate expression of Islam?

    I would think that those who attack the Islamic tradition from outside, even if of Muslim heritage of cultural background cannot be called a practitioner of Muslim humanism for this very reason.

    That is different from being a Muslim humanist though, as it could be a dual-personality, so to speak. Muslim religiously and immersed in the Western humanist tradition on the flip side.

    Anyway, just some unstructured and not completely thought out ramblings. Good discussion so far! 🙂

  6. josh43 permalink
    November 4, 2006 6:10 am

    Nicely done post! I see God has truly made you a thinker!

    Like you, long day today and tomorrow as well. I look forward to responding as soon as I can.

    You are a pleasure to learn from.


    We are all students and we are all teachers. 🙂

  7. November 4, 2006 7:22 pm

    Salaam Dear Sister Samaha:

    You put the human back in humanist 🙂

    Ya Haqq!

  8. November 5, 2006 1:21 pm

    dezhen – so you are saying that you can’t be a Muslim and a humanist?

    Let me give you this for definition – it explains all of the different types of humanism:

  9. November 5, 2006 1:22 pm

    Josh – looking forward to your reply.

    Thank you, Irving!

  10. dezhen permalink
    November 5, 2006 8:07 pm

    Samaha: Nope. 😛 I guess writing last thing before sleep may not be a good idea after all.

    I was trying to say that Humanism itself is based on an intellectual tradition that comes from a specific area and historical process (i.e. the Western tradition), and that the Islamic tradition has its own sources and processes (such as the maqasid al-shariah and so on), which may approximate many (if not most) of the values, but some people do not like it when we use an alien tradition to articulate our views.

    The people you originally quoted do not speak out of the Islamic tradition, they are firmly from the side of the secular humanist tradition, even if they may associate themselves with Islam.

    That is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong! lol I would much rather deal with someone in this position who has the values of Humanism than someone who does not.

    I was trying to articulate the idea that ‘true’ Muslim Humanism, if you see what i mean, as opposed to being a Muslim in belief and Humanist in action, has to come about through dialogue with our religious heritage; most of the people cited above seem to pick specific quotes form the hadith or whatever, but not want to deal with the tradition as a whole. They don’t for example deal with ‘ulum al-hadith and the uses of the hadith the scholars have had, nor do they listen when people quote the likes of Ghazali, Shatibi and so on – even the likes of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya on the idea of maqasid and the area of rights/duties.

    This is why I am interested in the work of Sherman Jackson, el-Fadl and the like, as well as Kamali, the late Abu Zahra and a few others; forward-looking, but with an eye to our intellectual tradition and heritage as well.

  11. November 6, 2006 1:10 pm

    I get it now 🙂

    I think that with all of the differnt types of humanism that we’re fine in using our tradition.

    I guess that we were thinking along the same lines, though I don’t consider some of these so called “humanists” to even be humanist, rather I would say that, at least the case of Hrsi Ali that Hrsi is a missionary with an agenda.

    Although, that might be like my saying that so and so is not a Muslim because (whatever my reason may be), but I can’t be the judge of that.

    I too have been meaning to read El-Fadl. Last year I was trying to get him to speak at a fundraising event for our school, and in the end he couldn’t (due to health reasons). I may try again this year, or if I can get to action I may leave it for fundraising for a school needed in my area.

    I’ve read articles in regards to his work and how he was tortured in Egypt because of his views. I think when I’m done reading Irving’s book that I will pick up one of el fadl’s books. Any suggestions?

  12. dezhen permalink
    November 6, 2006 9:16 pm

    For sure samaha, and this is the issue: do these people live up to the ideals they allegedly espouse, or not?

    I think that those from within the tradition (be it Muslim, humanism, or whatever) have a right to call to account those who state that they represent them in some way.

    Prof. el-Fadl seems to be in a very bad way these days, may Allah grant him shifa. 😦 As for his work, I recommend one of his newest books “The Great Theft”, if you want to read more about Wahabism and Salafism, specifically how they developed and usurped our religious tradition. It is a great read for both those who are involved in the field and those outside.

    Two of his books that I cannot do without are his “Speaking in God’s Name”, which is a devastating critique of literalist readings regarding women’s rights and issues in Islam (with a focus on the fatawa coming out of Saudi), and his “Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law”. The latter was taken from his Ph.D. thesis, which I have as pdf incidentally. It is a very detailed read regarding the history and development of the rules of engagement relating to these areas. It partly also critiques certain interpretations that exist today, and quite devastatingly. I flick through and re-read these quite regularly. Phenomenal work for sure!

    One of my favourites, though, is his “Conference of the Books”, which resonates with me as a book lover. It actually made tears come to my eyes in 3 seperate places: his essays on the life of the Prophet, and his homily to Ibn Rushd.

    It is clear why many don’t like him, and call him a modernist and worse, but he is a prolific author, and in my view his books are worth getting for the footnotes and references alone! 🙂

  13. November 6, 2006 11:18 pm

    Basically we were thinking along the same lines.

    Thank you so much for the breakdown in the books. I think I will start with “Speaking in God’s Name” and then “Conference of the Books” just to read that homily to Averroes!

  14. dezhen permalink
    November 7, 2006 1:39 am

    Speaking in God’s Name delves a lot in to some aspects of both Usul and ‘Ulum al-Hadith, and in some parts is very… geeky, for want of a better word. It is a devastating critique of the authoritarian approach to Islamic law, and worth reading for everyone who has an interest in this area.

    A few people disagree with him on some points, and there are a few (geeky) minor controversies in it, but it is an essential read if you ask me. 🙂

    Conference is just an awesome book – the way he opens at the beginning spoke right to my heart as it is essentially the same as what happens to me!

    There is a recent article about the launch of his new book here. I truly hope he recovers and can keep writing!

  15. November 7, 2006 1:05 pm

    I’ll look forward to reading the books and will look for that article about his new book.

    He sounds pretty sick, does it talk about that in the article?

  16. dezhen permalink
    November 7, 2006 7:56 pm

    It doesn’t really mention it much, but I know (because I chat to some people who have seen him or studied with him) that he had a bran tumour and was in a very bad way for a while. It looks as if he is beating it though, so Inshallah!

  17. November 8, 2006 3:35 pm

    I had no idea!

    Inshallah, he will beat it. Thanks for telling me.

  18. November 16, 2006 8:50 pm

    Humanism entails a commitment to the search for truth and morality through human means in support of human interests. In focusing on the capacity for self-determination, Humanism rejects transcendental justifications, such as a dependence on faith, the supernatural, or divinely revealed texts.

    I don’t see how we can reconcile this definition with Islam, which holds a divinely revealed text as a trascendental justification for major aspects of personal life (prayer, diet, inheritance).

  19. November 16, 2006 8:51 pm

    but if we are talking about redefining the word, or creating a new one, we could choose far more funnier words to redefine 🙂 Monkey comes to mind.


  20. dawood permalink
    November 17, 2006 1:41 am

    Well, the maqasid that shari’a seeks to protect are basically proveable as necessary for the base level of human existence by reason no?

    I agree that the definition is a bit lacking, but surely there is some crossover between different groups? I think this is where the issue lies.

  21. November 17, 2006 8:12 pm

    Yursil, I should maybe update the whole post, I had this in one of the comments. Please take a look and let me know if it jives with your vision of Islam: it explains all of the different types of humanism:

    Please also reread the verse that started this post.

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