Counter Currents in the Arab and Islamic World

The following article and its accompanying video are the first in a series by our Russian correspondent Russkiy.

Russkiy, who understands Arabic, has been studying material by “reform Muslims” on the internet. His first article and translation concern Ahmad al Qabbanchi, a Shia mullah from Iraq whose ideas must surely be considered blasphemous by many of his fellow Muslims.

As a matter of interest, you’ll notice that Mr. Qabbanchi’s description of “Liberal Islam” aligns perfectly with the Brussels Process. It’s part of a worldwide convergence on ideals and principles that all liberty-loving people can agree on.

Counter Currents in the Arab and Islamic World
by Russkiy

Ever since Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch accused all Islamic leaders and most of the Muslim community of speaking double talk in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks — that is, saying one thing to Westerners, assuring them that apparent problems in the Islamic World are nothing other than outdated cultural practices which have no direct connection to Islam as well as reactions to western imperialism and, whilst at the same time urging their supporters to take up arms against the infidels in the name of Allah — I became interested in confirming for myself the truth of this accusation.

In the ten years that followed 9/11 I taught myself Arabic and started following Middle Eastern media. The fact of the matter is that the majority of Islamic leaders and Muslim community are indeed adversarially predisposed towards non-Muslims in general, and the West in particular. However, the purpose of this post and the ones to follow is not to discuss this issue, to which enough attention has been paid, but rather to show the opposing views and currents in the Arab world to this adversarial attitude.

The motivation for my writing this is that I became aware of the anti-Islamic activity going on inside of the Arab world. MEMRI doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to this current, which I believe to be of the utmost importance to the Counterjihad movement in the West, as it validates our understanding of what is happening. Potentially, if these currents manage to gain momentum, they will bring down from the inside the construct that is Islam.

Ahmad al Qabbanchi

The first personality I would like to discuss is Ahmad al Qabbanchi. I found it fascinating to see a “mullah”, as can be seen from this photo of him, acknowledge all the problems that critics of Islam bring up — and then add more.

He rejects Sharia law and religious government by applying simple logic that Muslims actually accept.

Some of the things he believes:

  • That what is attributed to God by Islam is nonsense, and that God the creator cannot have human qualities, and that it’s not God who made a human in his likeness, but rather humans who imagine God in their own likeness, and attribute to God qualities like the Avenger or the Compassionate.
  • That Hell does not exist, as this would contradict the idea that God is Just as no crime is bad enough to justify eternal torment and suffering.
  • That the Quran is actually not the word of God but that of Muhammad inspired by God (He obviously can’t reject the prophethood of Muhammad without being labelled an apostate).
  • That the values Muslims currently attribute to religion are actually instinctive or deduced by the human mind.
  • That Sharia is no longer applicable, as it was given for the circumstances that existed during the life of Muhammad and actually changed depending on circumstances. So how can Sharia have remained the same, since then, for one and a half thousand years? Therefore rulings such as death for apostasy, slavery, etc. are no longer applicable.

One may ask: Is this guy for real? Would anyone listen to him?

What he is saying is completely opposed to the mainstream Islam that we know today. I would say that some people do listen to him, as one of the videos, which depicts him giving a lecture on Liberal Islam to the Amir of Abu Dhabi and his court, testifies. Of course, he doesn’t go as far as saying that the Quran is not the word of God in that lecture; however, he asserts that the basic principles of human rights should be higher in status than the Quran and Sunna.

I have translated a part of an interview with him in which he begins to explain his position. In the coming week I will provide a translation for the remaining parts of the interview, where he explains his views in greater detail.

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for subtitling and uploading this video:


00:20   An Islamic Scholar, but he is not what we have been used to with regard to his writings.
00:25   The nature of the ideas he believes in and fights for,
00:30   the beginning of his scholarly and religious ideas took shape
00:35   in the holy cities of Najaf and Qom but he rebelled against these ideas, traditions and the mainstream religious current
00:40   He conveyed his courageous ideas through his writings and translations
00:55   He is from a traditional religious family, often their world view clashes
01:00   with that of their, as they say, estranged, heretical son.
01:05   With us today Islamic thinker al sayid Ahmad al Qabbanchi.
01:10   We welcome you ,sir on the program — extraordinary biography.
01:15   Dear Audience, we will take a quick look at the summarised biography of our distinguished guest .
01:25   Ahmad Hassan Ali al Qabbanchi born in the Holy City of Najaf in the year 1958
01:40   Studied Sciences of Fiqh and Usul under supervision of famous scholars
01:45   Muhammad Sadiq al Sadr and Baqir al Hakim
02:00   In the year 1979, due to persecution by the Baath Party, he left Iraq for Syria, then went to Lebanon.
02:10   After that he went to Iran following the Islamic revolution there.
02:20   He continued his studies in the Holly city of Qom
02:25   and in the year 1990 founded the Islamic foundation for translation of Islamic books to different languages.
02:30   He composed and translated more than 30 books.
02:35   [Long List of books follows…]
03:45   He returned to Iraq in the year 2008.
03:55   Once again, welcome… this is Islamic Scholar al Sayid Ahmad al Qabbanchi in the traditional Shia clerical gown
04:05   Are you for the religious government governed by clerics?
04:15   In the name of god… I thank you for inviting me to this program
04:20   The question is not clear…
04:25   meaning supporting government composed of clerics or religious government?
04:30   Does one differ from the other?
04:35   Religious government may have many meanings, for example the religious government in Saudi Arabia
04:40   is not composed of clerics but religious in a sense that it imposes Sharia.
04:50   There’s also governments of clerics.
04:55   In the history of Islam there were many Islamic governments that were not run by clerics
05:00   But I don’t support either clerical government
05:05   or religious government in any other form.
05:10   I mean any government that imposes Islamic Sharia.
05:15   Why sir? Why this rejection?
05:18   There’s another meaning.
05:20   I support that meaning, and I think it is necessary.
05:25   That is a government which based on religious values
05:30   with divine principles such as human rights, freedom, plurality, respect for others…
05:35   These are all democratic principles I mean.
05:40   All these ideas and principles are of human origin.
05:45   We as humans don’t take all our principles from religion.
05:50   Most of the principles originate from inside of human beings, based on instinct or deduced by the mind.
05:56   Ok, Just a small comment … these ideas … you called them religious values,
06:00   Human rights, freedom, etc.
06:05   Do you mean that religion or clerics can’t adopt these values?
06:10   The problem with clerics is that they bound themselves
06:15   by the texts, concepts and rulings that helped resolve problems of times long past.
06:20   The problems that existed more than 1000 years ago.
06:25   those problems don’t exist anymore; we have different problems now.
06:30   In the modern person, views and values have changed.
06:35   Not just with regard to some issues,
06:40   concepts, rights, sciences … it’s all changed.
06:45   It is necessary for the religion, if it’s to continue,
06:50   to align with the new ideas.
06:55   And for this reason we propose “Liberal Islam”. What does it mean?
07:00   It means values that all peoples recognise
07:05   like the declaration of human rights that was issued by the United Nations.
07:10   Religion must not contradict these principles.
07:17   Ok, you mean the evolution of religious diktats like ijtihad,
07:20   isn’t that a way of looking at it?
07:25   Ijtihad, I regret to say… we believe in ijtihad,
07:30   but ijtihad currently accepted by the Islamic community is only ijtihad in small details.
07:40   Like in insurance or banking, etc., in these type of things they try to align themselves.
07:45   Now we need ijtihad in the underlying principles.
07:50   I mean we shouldn’t just be trying to rejuvenate the exterior…
07:55   whilst the foundations are old and not suitable. At the moment the foundations of jurisprudence are past their use-by date
08:00   I mean it was appropriate in the feudal age, in the age of slavery…
08:05   I mean the ijtihad in some branches of fiqh is reasonable but
08:10   ijtihad in the foundations of fiqh??? How is that possible?
08:11   We propose a new vision for a person,
08:15   At this moment the sciences of anthropology, psychology, philology are used to explain…
08:25   what is it that can be reinterpreted in the principles?
08:30   With more detail please.
08:35   Let’s take for example the principle of tawhiid (unity).
08:40   The tawhiid… in the past scholars defined it as unity of god
08:45   so the person thinks that the god is one and hence deems himself a believer.
08:55   Now we need to redefine the concept of belief…
09:00   We propose that tawhiid is considered as unity of a person
09:05   To be in harmony with respect to the emotions, behaviour and thoughts…
09:15   Is it not a definition from Sufism?
09:20   This is the religious purpose to believe in unity.
09:30   But as said in the Quran… the Devil believes in the unity of god but he is still labelled as disbeliever (kafir).
09:40   Dear Audience, we will come back in a moment after a short break.

7 thoughts on “Counter Currents in the Arab and Islamic World

  1. I suggest he wear jerseys with stiff leather collars. There is a reason there are no Thomas Aquinas’ in Islam that we have ever heard of.

    But one can always hope.

  2. Yeah,he needs all the encouragement,but lets not forget the Wooden Horse of Troy.

  3. This is worth watching closely. There are many cracks in the Islamic facade. Saudi Arabia recently called an Islamic summit of 50 Islamic states in Mecca to improve unity. The bloodbath in Iraq continues, and Syria will see an even worse bloodbath among Islamic factions after al-Asad is brought down. When “the other” is always wrong, the source of all problems, and the eternal enemy, implosion is a likely outcome.

  4. Bid’ah displeases Allah. Were I a believing orthodox muslim, I expect I’d see visions of hell in this heresy, and that fear, which (understandably) trumps everything, would likely bring out my inner “islamic rage boy.” That keeps the “leftwing subversion,” and other doctrine-reforming currents, from progressing far.

    I wish him luck, though.

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