Rashīd Ridā

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Raschīd Ridā before 1935.

Raschīd Ridā (with full name Muhammad Raschīd ibn ʿAlī Ridā  /محمد رشيد بن علي رضى / Muḥammad Rašīd ibn ʿAlī Riḍā , born September 23, 1865 in the village of Qalamūn near Tripoli in Lebanon ; † August 22, 1935 in Cairo ) was one of the most influential thinkers and authors of reform Islam and Arab nationalism at the beginning of the 20th century.

As the most prominent student of Muhammad Abduh , Rashid Rida continued the Islamic reform movement and gave it a new direction. He was a Muslim intellectual who stood up for the preservation of his own identity in a time of upheaval and at the same time wanted to promote the progress of the Islamic community. His name remains associated with his magazine al-Manar , one of the most important and influential publications on reform Islam.

Youth and influences

Raschid Rida came from a pious village family in the then Ottoman province of Beirut , his descent is said to go back to the Prophet Mohammed . Unlike the earlier reformist thinkers, Raschid Rida received a modern education during his school days. He first attended the Koran school , he was later taught in the National Islamic School in Tripoli. He gained further contact with Western ideas through conversations with Christian intellectuals and missionaries in Beirut. Due to his extensive education, he got into the ranks of the ulema early on .

In his youth, Rashid Rida joined Sufism and was engaged in al-Ghazālī and asceticism. He also became a member of the Naqschbandi order. But when he saw a dance performance by Mevlevi - Dervishes , he loudly expressed his horror at these "forbidden acts". His preoccupation with rationalist reformers and the later turn to Salafism led him to strictly reject Sufi practices.

Under the influence of the magazine al-'Urwa al-wuthqa ("the strongest bond") he got to know the reform movement under Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani , which impressed him so much that he tried to join al-Afghani as a student . Through the magazine he came to the realization that Islam does not only concern the individual, but is a complete, global and universal teaching. Afghani's ideas also introduced him to the idea of ​​pan-Islamism.

For political reasons he emigrated to Egypt in 1897 , where under the British occupation there was greater freedom of expression than in the Ottoman-ruled Greater Syria of Sultan Abdülhamid II. In Cairo, he joined Muhammad Abduh as a student, whereby the teacher-student relationship between them was within of Sufi orders.

Rida separated from his first wife, who did not want to follow him to Egypt, and remarried after another unsuccessful marriage. He had several children with his wife Su'ad, five of whom grew up.

The Early Years: Political Visions

At first Rida was enthusiastic about a Turkish-Arab unity in the Ottoman Empire . In Istanbul he tried to found a school that should counter religious fanaticism . His plan was to use modern methods of education and western culture while keeping religion intact. Overall, for him, education was the single most important factor that guaranteed the supremacy of the West and also made political development possible. Education was so important to Rida that he found the establishment of schools more important than the establishment of mosques . Talented girls should also have access to education, even if, in addition to general education, they should primarily acquire “female” skills. However, when Rida noticed that his project should be controlled by the Young Turks and used for the Turkishization, he accused them of atheism and freemasonry .

Another of his assumptions was that progress in the West was catalyzed by political associations that could attack the position of absolutist rulers. In the Orient such collective movements were largely unknown, Rida why even four times as initiator was employed.

The magazine al-Manār

From 1898 until his death, Raschid Rida published the magazine al-Manār ("the lighthouse"), which served as the mouthpiece of the reform movement and exerted a great influence on the Islamic world. Al-Manār initially appeared weekly without much response, but after a few years it established itself as the leading monthly magazine. Printing took place in Rida's own house, which he also used as a bookstore. The magazine contained analyzes of the situation in the Muslim world of that time and dealt intensively with the question of why the West was superior to the Orient. Sultan Abdülhamid II banned the magazine in the Ottoman Empire due to reform proposals relating to the Ottoman administrative system . Another important part of the magazine were the legal opinions, fatwas , which the editor himself issued. Al-Manar also contained book reviews by European writers and travelogues by Rida. The intended function of the magazine was to provide the reader with "practical ammunition against common Sufism, popular practice and taqlid (imitation), and perhaps to encourage them to make use of them."

Ridā published almost all of his writings first in this magazine. However, he also published many important articles by his teacher Muhammad Abduh , such as the essay “Islam and Christianity in relation to science and civilization”, which he published again separately in 1902. Between 1912 and 1916, Taufīq Sidqī was an important contributor to the magazine. He wrote primarily on subjects such as the reliability of the Sunnah, Christianity, and the compatibility of modern medical and scientific discovery with Islamic concepts. It was through al-Manār that ʿAbduh's ideas were only able to achieve their widespread dissemination, so that they even outshone the important role that Rida himself played in the reform movement. From 1900 Rida published in al-Manār a modernist commentary on the Koran by Muhammad denAbduhs, the "tafsir al-Manar", based on his notes from ʿAbduh's lecture on Koran exegesis at al-Azhar University . After ʿAbduh's death he continued this Tafsīr independently, which was reflected in its orientation.

Rashid Rida has also covered the subject of Zionism several times in his magazine .

Islamic theology

Starting in 1901, Rida published in al-Manar , based on Ibn Qaiyim al-Jawzīya, a fictional dialogue between a young reformer and a traditional sheikh, "Muhawarat al-muslih wa-l-muqallid", in which many of his lines of argument regarding the renewal of the Find Islam. The imitation of the traditional conceptions, "taqlid", was therefore the most important reason for the stagnation of the ulema , which prevented the progress of the Islamic world. The opposite of this is “ ijtihad ”, the independent striving for interpretation that was abandoned in the Middle Ages. A principle of the reformers was to only refer directly to the Koran and Sunna if the quotations were clear and the tradition was certain (tradition handed down several times, Hadith mutawātir). That is why the differences between the four major schools of law and even between the various groups of Sunnis and Shiites were attempted to be overcome in favor of Islamic unity. In turn, the blame for the fragmentation of the Islamic community was ascribed to the dogmatic sectarianism of the legal scholars.

The principle of "maslaha", usefulness for the Islamic community or the common good, which was already prominent in Ibn Taimīya, was considered an important source of law . This principle was given such a decisive position in Rida that it replaced the conclusion by analogy ( qiyās ) as a means of finding law. All in all, Rida longed for a new generation of modern ulema who would do justice to their profession and who would not remain stuck in medieval traditions. Like the other modernists, Rida saw no contradiction between religion and reason , which is why he did not shut himself off from sources of scientific knowledge.

Rida advocated defensive jihad in the event that the peaceful spread of Islam is not possible or when Muslims cannot live according to their religious law. The non-application of the Sharia leads to the fact that the ruler can be declared unbelieving ( Takfīr ), so this applies to the application of European law in the Orient. The jihad should even in the event of external aggression be allowed, so that anti-colonial resistance was justified by the fact. This attitude was in tension with the fact that Rida personally preferred life under British rule in Egypt to the Ottoman Empire. He refrained from spreading Islam by force because of the principle that no coercion should be used in religion.

On the question of apostasy from Islam, he made a distinction between those apostates who openly apostate from Islam in such a way that they pose a danger to the Islamic religious community and those who only secretly abandon the faith. Only members of the first group should be killed.

View of the west

The decline of the Islamic world after the golden age of the four rightly guided caliphs was a central theme in the question of today's relationship between the former and the West. In the historical reasons for the theory of decadence, Rida cited Ibn Taimīya's apologetic tradition of conspiracies by enemies of Islam and pseudo-converts who let human weaknesses gain the upper hand over Islamic principles. Furthermore, Rida claimed that the principle of violence only found its way into Islam through Muʿāwiya's example. This statement glorifies the previously ruling, rightly guided caliphs, under whom the rapid expansion of Islam took place; on the other hand, it shows how early the fictitious decline of Islam occurred in the opinion of the Salafis .

According to Rida, Europe's positive achievements were limited to things that the Arabs brought there either via Andalusia or through the Crusaders . Rida also considered women's rights in Islam to be superior, while in his opinion the Europeans were only gradually introducing Muslim "achievements" in this regard, such as divorce, and would probably also allow polygamy in the future . He accused the two faces of the western powers, which appeared internally as progressive civilizations, but externally were oppressive colonial powers.

Ridā also dealt intensively with Christianity. Between 1901 and 1904 he published a number of articles in loose succession, in which he dealt with Christian publications on Islam. He later summarized these in a monograph under the title Šubuhāt an-Naṣārā wa-ḥuǧaǧ al-Islām ("Doubts of Christians and Arguments of Islam"). The book was translated into English by Simon Wood. After he and other Muslims had heard a Christian missionary sermon on the "dogma of the cross" in an English school on Muhammad Ali Street in Cairo and his request to be allowed to respond had been rejected, he published in 1912 together with Taufīq Sidqī in al -Manār a commentary on sura 4: 157 , in which he rejected the Christian theology of the cross. The text was later published again separately under the title “The Dogma of Crucifixion and Redemption” ( ʿAqīdat aṣ-ṣalb wa-l-fidāʾ ). Taufīq Sidqī, who was extremely critical of Christianity and its history, also gave Ridā important insights into contemporary Western biblical studies .

From Pan-Islamism to Arab Nationalism

Especially after the death of Abduh in 1905, who had refused political activity, Rida became involved as a representative of pan-Islamism . In 1911 he founded the "House for Daʿwa and Spiritual Guidance" ( Dār ad-daʿwa wa-l-iršād ) on the Nile island of Roda near Cairo , where students from all over the Islamic world learned for free from March 1912 until the beginning of the First World War . In this context, he also turned against national Arab nationalism. So he founded a secret organization called the “Ottoman Consulting Society”, whose western arm in Paris also included the officers of the “Committee for Unity and Progress” , the so-called Young Turks . This was supposed to bring Arabs and Turks together in an Islamized multi-ethnic state, but these goals collided with the nationalism of the Young Turks.

In this way, even in those years, Ridā became a proponent of Arab nationalism . In 1912, together with Rafīq Bey al-ʿAzm and Muhibb ad-Dīn al-Chatīb, he founded the "Ottoman Party for Administrative Decentralization" ( Ḥizb al-lā-markazīya al-idārīya al-ʿUṯmānīya ), which is open to Arab autonomy within the Ottoman Rich entered. In the same year he published in his magazine al-Manār a sharp criticism of the Indo-Islamic scholar Shiblī an-Nuʿmānī (1858-1914) of Jurdschī Zaidāns "History of Islamic Civilization", which was directed against the poor representation of the Arabs in this work. As he explained in his preface to the book edition of the Critics, he hoped that the criticism would be translated into Turkish as before Zaidān's book itself, so that "the preachers of Turkish chauvinism would be restrained, the publication of the translation (of the work of Zaidān) as Used means to scorn the Arabs, to degrade their civilization and (as a reason) to favor non-Arabs. "

Even before the First World War, Ridā founded a secret "Arab League Society", which was supposed to counter the impending colonization of the Arab territories. It was supposed to bring the rulers there together and connect the Arabs inside and outside the Ottoman Empire. This should lead to the establishment of an independent Arab state. However, Rida was not naive about pan-Arabism, but strived for a decentralized organization of the state in order to do justice to the different regional conditions. But the plan was rejected by Sharif Hussain of Mecca in 1914 . For his part, Rida did not recognize him as caliph, but supported the Arab revolt of 1916. The subsequent development, which contributed to the fragmentation and colonization of the Levant , led him to become politically active in the 1919 Syrian National Congress, of which he became president . However, the occupation by France brought this project to an abrupt end.

In this context, Rida's only trip to Europe took place when, in 1922 as Vice President of the Syro-Palestinian Congress in Switzerland , he wanted to bring Arab independence closer to representatives of the League of Nations ; he also toured Germany. His travelogue al-Rihla al-'Ūrubiyya (The European Journey) appeared in seven parts in the magazine al-Manār .

Rida's ideal “new” caliphate is, in terms of ideas, a return to an “Arab” caliphate instead of the historically past “Turkish” version, Ottomanism .

The Caliphate

The disempowerment of the Ottoman Caliph by the Young Turks in 1922 prompted Rida to write "The Caliphate or the Greatest Imamate" ( al-Ḫilāfa au al-imāma al-ʿuẓmā ). According to this, the ideally Arab caliph should be the leading mujtahid, i.e. the theologian practicing ijtihad, of all Muslims. In a seminar, capable men were to be trained, among whom the most suitable would be elected as caliph, while the others, as a controlling body, were to combine the role of various groups important in Islamic law, according to the "ahl al-hall wa-l-'aqd" ( People of loosening and binding), the members of the " shura " (deliberation), the "ulu l-amr" (those with authority) and the mujtahidun, whose ijma '(consensus) has binding effect.

"According to Rida, the cure for the" decline of Islam "has been to" restore the dignity of the imamate and the power of Muslim decision-makers, the people of loosening and binding ... so as to restore the true Islamic state. " best of all states not only for Muslims, but for all of humanity. ""

- Raschīd Ridā, quoted. after Henri Laoust , 1986, p. 116

Opponents and Salafization

The traditional Muslims, vehemently criticized by Rida, also attacked him physically, for example when he described the frequently practiced invocation of mediators as polytheism in Damascus , so that he had to leave the city. On the other hand, his enemies were those modernizers who took over Western concepts without criticism and who, in his view, sold out Islamic culture and civilization. The secularism as the separation of state / society and religion viewed Rida it as a serious threat to the identity of Muslims. When secularists like another 'Abduh disciple, ʿAlī ʿAbd ar-Rāziq , came from similar starting points as Rida to other, non-Islamic conclusions, Rida withdrew to more conservative positions. Like other Orthodox Muslims, he rejected the controversial book by Tāhā Husain , according to which some Koranic prophets were fictitious as literary figures, because it would deny the unity of divine revelation . He considered the author to be an unbeliever ( Kāfir ).

Politically, after the disappointment caused by the Hashimites in 1918, he sided with the al-Sa'ud family , whose conquest of the Hejaz in 1924 he welcomed. Ideologically, this fit in with his beginning favoring the Wahhabis . From 1925 he began to re-publish the works of those medieval scholars of the Hanbali school of law whose ideas had strongly inspired the Salafist movement, such as Ibn Taimīya , Ibn Qaiyim al-Jschauzīya or Muwaffaq ad-Dīn ibn Qudāma .


As a student of Muhammad Abduh , he wrote his biography "Tarikh al-Ustadh al-Imam al-Shaykh Muhammad 'Abduh" in three volumes in 1931. He tried to emphasize its orthodoxy , whereas the orientalist Elie Kedourie assumes that Abduh like Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani were merely political activists before him, but not devout Muslims; with Rida he does not accept this from Kedourie. Shortly before his own death, Rashid Rida published an autobiography, "al-Manar and al-Azhar". He influenced, among others, Hasan al-Bannā , the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, who continued al-Manar. Thus, many of Rida's ideas found their way into the broad Islamist movements of the 20th century. On the other hand, Rida's political projects have failed. In his doctrine, too, he did not make the decisive leap into modern times, but ultimately returned to traditional ideology .


  • (Ed.) Al-Manār ("the lighthouse"), magazine
  • Tafsīr al-manār (Muhammad Abduh and Raschīd Ridā). Koran exegesis
  • Muḥāwarāt al-muṣliḥ wa-l-muqallid
  • Subuhāt an-Naṣārā wa-ḥuǧaǧ al-Islām
Simon A. Wood (translator): Christian criticisms, Islamic proofs: Rashīd Riḍā's modernist defense of Islam. Oxford: Oneworld Publ. 2008, ISBN 978-1-85168-461-8
  • al-Ḫilāfa au al-imāma al-ʿuẓmā
Henri Laoust (translator): Le califat dans la doctrine de Rasid Ridā. Traduction annotée d '"al-Hilâfa au al-Imâma al-'uzmâ" (Le Califat ou l'Imâma suprême). Verlag Jean Maisonneuve, Paris 1986 ISBN 2720010464 (There was a 1st edition in the series: Publications de l ' Institut Français d'Etudes Arabes de Damas , 14.- Beirut 1938)
  • al-Manar and al-Azhar (autobiography)
  • Abduh biography


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Individual evidence

  1. a b W. Ende: Rashīd Riḍā. Encyclopaedia of Islam. Editors: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, CE Bosworth, E. van Donzel and WP Heinrichs. Brill, 2008.
  2. Sirriyeh p. 184
  3. Shahin p. 113
  4. ^ A b Muhammad Zaki Badawi: The reformers of Egypt . London: Croom Helmet, c1978.
  5. ^ Adams p. 179
  6. ^ Hourani p. 225
  7. Sirriyeh p. 184
  8. Busool p. 279
  9. ash-Scharabasi S. 220-224
  10. Tauber, p. 105
  11. Shahin p. 116
  12. ^ Adams p. 195
  13. a b Shahin p. 121
  14. Shahin p. 117
  15. a b c Shahin p. 118
  16. Skovgaard-Petersen p. 96
  17. Salem p. 38
  18. a b Shahin p. 114
  19. See Skovgaard-Petersen p. 103
  20. Olaf H. Schumann: The Christ of the Muslims. Christological Aspects in Arabic-Islamic Literature . Gütersloh 1975. pp. 115, 132.
  21. ^ Riyadh: Islamic Reformism and Christianity . 2009, p. 21.
  22. Busool p. 286
  23. Beška, Emanuel: Responses of prominent Arabs towards Zionist Aspirations and Colonization prior to 1908. In Asian and African Studies, 16, 1, 2007. [1]
  24. Skovgaard-Petersen p. 97
  25. ^ Hourani p. 240
  26. ^ Hourani p. 233
  27. ^ Hourani p. 234
  28. ^ Hourani p. 239
  29. Kerr p. 157
  30. a b c Hourani p. 237
  31. Peters p. 126
  32. Kerr p. 173
  33. Kerr p. 173f.
  34. ^ Riyad p. 95
  35. Shahin p. 131
  36. ^ Riyadh: Islamic Reformism and Christianity . 2009, p. 19.
  37. ^ Riyadh: Islamic Reformism and Christianity . 2009, p. 22.
  38. Schumann The Christ of the Muslims 123.
  39. ^ Riyadh: Islamic Reformism and Christianity . 2009, p. 54.
  40. ^ Tauber 105 and Ignaz Goldziher: The directions of the Islamic Koran interpretation . Leiden 1920. pp. 344f.
  41. a b Tauber p. 112
  42. ^ Salem p. 39
  43. ^ Salem p. 41
  44. Werner Ende: Arab Nation and Islamic History. The Umayyads as Judged by 20th Century Arab Authors. Beirut-Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner 1977. pp. 43-47.
  45. Quotation at the end of 46.
  46. Salem p. 42
  47. Tauber, p. 106
  48. a b Salem p. 43
  49. Kerr p. 165
  50. Kerr p. 197
  51. Dean Commins, p. 130
  52. Shahin p. 119
  53. ^ Riyad p. 105
  54. Sirriyeh p. 187
  55. Kedourie, pp. 63f
  56. Sirriyeh p. 190
  57. Section 3: Formative Exponents, Chap. 1: Al-Afghani and Rashid Rida