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Quranist Leader: 'Our School of Thought is the only capable of reforming religious discourse'

Tuesday 01-08-2017 - 03:41 PM
Quranist school of thought: How it evolved and what are its intellectual underpinnings?
The brawl between
The brawl between Quranists and the Sunnites

Cairo - After President Al-Sisi has demanded from leaders of religious institutions in Egypt to reconsider many issues of Fiqh that are the bases of the thought of terrorist organizations, many reformers called for burning of books of heritage and to never allow such books to circulate among Muslims as such books are like time-bombs that carry false hadiths that turn the youths into ISIS terrorists. On top of all reformers who assert this point of view are Quranists who deny and reject Sunna and hadiths, while insisting that only the Quran is enough as the source of legislations in Islam, a view rejected by Al-Azhar.


To discuss this topic further, Al-Bawaba had this interview with Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour, the so-called leader of Quranists who lives in the USA so that his stance and vision on the issue of reforming religious discourse in Egypt becomes clear to our readers. Dr. Mansour, the Islamic thinker and leader of Quranists, says that most Muslims deify and sanctify copies of the Quran as sources of benediction, without pondering its verses at all and that most of them create an imaginary deified figure of Prophet Muhammad, unlike his true portrayal found exclusively in the Quran. He asserts further that the reformist religious discourse needed badly within the Islamic world must show the discrepancy between Quranic values and sharia laws and the sharia laws formulated by those who issue fatwas based on books of heritage. Dr. Mansour maintains that resorting to hadiths written down during the Abbasid Era implies an accusation leveled against Prophet Muhammad that he died without delivering the whole message of Islam. Refuting the accusations leveled at him by Al-Azhar of being an apostate, Dr. Mansour says they have authority and power but they cannot refute or argue against Quranist views, and this is why they intimidate reformist thinkers by the silly, laugher-inducing accusation of showing contempt of religion. The following is our questions posed to Dr. Mansour, followed by his answers.

Dr. Ahmed Mansour
Dr. Ahmed Mansour is an Al Azhar-educated reformist Islamic scholar who resides in the United States

- Question: Who are the Quranists and what notions are distinguishing them from the rest of Muslims worldwide?

- Answer: We have begun the Quranist intellectual trend 40 years ago, since 1977, when we took the initiative to debunk Al-Bokhary book and its assumed sanctification inside Al-Azhar. In fact, we are the one to pave the way as a torchbearer, and we paid a heavy price for it. Within the margin of our intellectual jihad, great many changes have occurred in Egypt: many moderate Sunnites are now criticizing some hadiths while retaining Sunna as part of their religion. These critics have made use and benefited from the cultural climate we have established with our sacrifices and intellectual jihad endeavors, as they write now within a comfort zone of safety when they criticize some hadiths of Al-Bokhary and some other related details within a measure of freedom. Quranists whom we speak now in their name who belong to our website and the VA-based IQC are free individuals who belong to a reformist Islamic school/trend of thought. Quranists are not a sect or a political party; they only seek to resort to the Quran as the only criterion to introduce peaceful reform to Muslims worldwide. Quranists never impose themselves their views on anyone. Quranists pardon as much as they can those who slander and verbally abuse them. Quranists do not claim they have the absolute truth of anything; rather, they wait for Almighty God's judgment on them, on their foes, and on all human beings on the Day of Resurrection.     


- Question: What is the Quranists' view of Sunna?


- Answer: Quranists have their methodology of pondering the Quran within its own terminology without having a prior notion or prejudice to be imposed; we research the Quranic text objectively seeking guidance. Quranists accept criticism and correction, as they are seekers of the Truth. Quranists never assume that their views are those of God or of Islam, but a personal viewpoint owned by whoever adopts them. This is why our fatwas/views are open to discussion within comments written by all people. We have our scientific and objective research method regarding history, heritage, and fiqh schools of Muslims as human thought never to be sanctified and it has its faults and good points. The enormous fault of all is to ascribe such man-made thought authored by fiqh scholars to God and Islamic sharia. We bear in mind that their fiqh is filled with discrepancies and contradictions. A worst fault is to ascribe hadiths falsely to Prophet Muhammad; such narratives reflect the eras in which they were authored. Thus, such hadiths are never part of Islam; the whole and complete Islam is the Quran; no one can add to it after Prophet Muhammad's death. By the way, hadiths were written down during the Abbasid Era onwards; to make them part of Islam implies an accusation leveled at Prophet Muhammad that he did not deliver the Islamic message wholly and left parts of it to be completed after his death. These assumed parts are bottomless, shoreless ocean of narratives filled with myths and sharia laws contradicting the Quran and endorse bloodshed. We, Quranists, clear Prophet Muhammad's name of such lies and falsehoods.         


- Question: Quranists are accused of denying the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad; what have you got to say about that?


- Answer: As per the Quran, the term "Sunna" in some verses means God's sharia laws in the Quran and in some other verses, it refers to God's way of dealing with or punishing of disbelievers/polytheists. This means that Sunna is God's only. As for Prophet Muhammad, he is a role model and sets a good example for us; he has no Sunna of his own. For more details, we refer you to our book titled "The Quran Is Enough and Sufficient Source of Legislation". Words and phrases uttered by Prophet Muhammad are the ones recorded in the Quran in the verses containing the command (Say:...) and the expression (They ask you about...Say...). Thus, the Sunna for Quranists is the Quran per se. God asserts to us in the Quran that the Quran is enough for real Muslims. The difference between Quranists and Sunnites is that the latter insist on hadiths as being part of Islam as 'oral Sunna'; Quranists disagree with that. Yet, both Quranists and Sunnites agree on one thing: the practical Sunna to Sunna in practice are acts of worship: prayers, pilgrimage, etc. 


- Question: What do you think of Al-Bokhary book of Hadith?


- Answer: Al-Bokhary book has been criticized in terms of its series of narrators during the Abbasid Era of Ijtihad, but it has been turned into a holy infallible book within the Mameluke and Ottoman eras of imitation. The Mameluke sultans used to attend annual recitals of Al-Bokhary book every Ramadan in Cairo. Within the 20th century in Egypt, some hadiths of Al-Bokhary book have been criticized timidly, by people like the sheikh Abdel-Rahman Al-Wakeel, the former head of Supporters of Al-Sunna Society, whose criticism focuses on the text of some hadiths like the one about the fly, the one about a Jewish sorcerer harming Muhammad, and the one bout Muhammad pawning his shield to a Jewish man. When we were a moderate Sunnite in the early 1970s, we have criticized Al-Bokhary book using a new methodology: to use the Quran as the criterion or yardstick to judge hadiths. This proved to us that all hadiths of Al-Bokhary are false that this author is an archenemy of Islam. In fact, Al-Bokhary undermines God, Islam, and Muhammad by repeating several hadiths scattered all over his book, phrased in a way to make repeated hadiths with slight variations appear to be 'true'. Later on, we have declared in 1987 that Quranism is true Islam, as the Quran is sufficient in itself as the source of Islam, its sharia laws, and its higher values.    


- Question: What do you mean exactly by saying that most Muslims deify and sanctify copies of the Quran but they hate its text?


- Answer: We mean that most Muslims have abandoned and rejected the Quran, while keeping scattered copies of it everywhere to gain 'benediction'. Most people prefer to believe in books authored by men and they make such books control meanings of Quranic verses and be placed above the Quran itself. For instance, most Muslims disregard about 150 Quranic verses that deny the so-called intercession of Prophet Muhammad in the Hereafter, as they stick to few hadiths asserting such mediation and intercession. Some extremist Sunnites assume that Sunna hadiths replace the Quranic legislations; this means that Al-Bokhary book and other narrators of hadiths are placed above God and the Quran! This is worse than Prophet Muhammad's people during his lifetime who abandoned the Quran. Indeed, the persecution suffered by Quranists who aim at religious reform by resorting only to the Quran is proof that our persecutors hate the Quran and disbelieves in it.  


- Question: Why some Azharite clerics accuse your person of being an apostate?


- Answer: They have their own religion and we have ours; we began our intellectual endeavors by scrutinizing Sufism in our PhD thesis while we were an assistant professor at Al-Azhar University, and this led to our being persecuted for three years. The struggle eventually led to our omitting 2/3 of the thesis, but all of it is published on our website. Later on, we strove to sift through hadiths to reform the so-called Sunna at first, but we were interrogated for two years (1985-1987) within inquisition like Azharite interrogation. We resigned from Al-Azhar University and then we were imprisoned for three months in 1987. Later on, we have reached the fact that Islam is only the Quran: Quranism is the only true Islam. Our book "The Quran Is Enough and Sufficient Source of Legislation" was published in Cairo in 1990, and it is published on our website in Arabic, English, and French.


- Question: How do you now see Al-Azhar and reformist thinkers?


- Answer: Al-Azhar clergymen have authority and power but they cannot refute or argue against Quranist views, as Quranists have more knowledge but they are weak. Each of the two parties wage the war by tools they have: Quranists have knowledge and strong arguments and refutations of hadiths and Sunna, while Azharite men face Quranists with detention, imprisonment, and incarceration by accusing them of showing contempt of religion. The earthly Islamic doctrines of Sufis, Sunnites, and Shiites differ with one another, but they agree on their contradicting the Quran itself. Most of them deify and sanctify things and mortals and allow the prohibited items and prohibit lawful items. For instance, some people prohibit singing though it is never prohibited in the Quran, and endorse massacring innocent souls!   


- Question: Do you think that your Quranist trend of thought will help solve the crisis of reforming the religious discourse in Egypt?


- Answer: If the Egyptian regime adopts what we preach and call for, Al-Azhar will be reformed and the Wahabi danger will be combated (esp. its spectrum of Salafists, the terrorist MB, and other countless Wahabi terrorist organizations). When Quranist reform is applies, Egypt will regain its leadership as a pioneer country on all levels, instead of naming the KSA, established in 1932, as the 'bigger sister' of Egypt, as the millennia-old Egypt is the mother of the whole world civilization and the most ancient nation on earth. By the way, "reforming/changing religious discourse" is a wrong term of politics; this ''change'' might be to the worse, such as replacing Wahabism with Shiite or Sufi ideas. The correct term is "religious reform", which is intertwined with political reform. Any reform must be based on reforming the Law, the Constitution, and many legislations issued in Egypt, so that the freedom of thought and expression and religious freedom are guaranteed. Reforming Al-Azhar is tackled by us in many of our books published on our Quranism website, titled "The Seven Principles of the Real Islamic Sharia and How to Apply Them", "The Cursed Religion of ISIS", and "A Witness of the Earliest Months of The Presidential Term of The Egyptian President Al-Sisi". We refer you as well to our separate articles authored recently on our website. The reformist religious discourse the Islamic world needs now is one about showing the contradiction between the Quranic sharia legislations and higher values (e.g., justice, charity, mercy, dignity, and absolute religious freedom) and the current state of sharia laws of heritage books of Muslims, especially the Sunnite Wahabi books. All judgments regarding religion are postponed to the Day of Judgment before Almighty God.

Editor's Note: This interview originally appeared on Dr. Mansur’s Website and on our Arabic Edition of Al-Bawaba, and is quoted with permission.

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