Radical Islam and the Revival of Medieval Theology

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Newcastle University]On: 19 December 2014, At: 03:52Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Islam and ChristianMuslim RelationsPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cicm20

    Radical Islam and the Revival ofMedieval TheologySaud al-Sarhanaa King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Riyadh,Saudi ArabiaPublished online: 05 Sep 2013.

    To cite this article: Saud al-Sarhan (2013) Radical Islam and the Revival of Medieval Theology, Islamand ChristianMuslim Relations, 24:4, 540-542, DOI: 10.1080/09596410.2013.821241

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09596410.2013.821241


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  • the many factors that threaten the future of democracy in the Arab world. The future of thepolitical revolution remains uncertain, but this does not negate the significance of theanthropological revolution manifested in the Arab Spring. In the process, the Arab worldacquired a moral authority as the centre of a new assertion of citizenship, which contrasts withthe degradation of politics evident in Western societies since the financial crisis. To whatextent does this moral authority derive from a different understanding of Islam from the onepromoted by the Islamist formations that emerged from the failure of nationalism? The bookdoes not explore this question, but the question emerges naturally from its discussion of howreligion ceased, with the Arab Spring, to be at the centre of politics.

    The New Arab Revolutions that Shook the World is a fascinating book to read. It offers amyriad of insightful micro-analyses to which this review cannot do justice, whilst also tacklingthe big questions. If it is to have a second edition, the publisher would be advised to makesure it has an index to enable readers to find passages of special interest more easily, andshould also ensure greater editorial oversight. The book in its current format contains manyunnecessary repetitions that mar its masterly synthesis of personal observations and insights tobe found in a diversity of written sources. This is regrettable as the book stands to be becomea central reference for the understanding of the Arab Spring.


    Khosrokhavar, Farhad. 2006. Suicide Bombers: Allahs New Martyrs. London: Pluto.Khosrokhavar, Farhad. 2009. Inside Jihadism. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

    Natalie DoyleMonash University, Australianatalie.doyle@monash.edu

    2013, Natalie Doylehttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09596410.2013.816012

    Radical Islam and the Revival of Medieval Theology, by Daniel Lav, Cambridge, CambridgeUniversity Press, 2012, 248 pp., 60.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-1-107-00964-6

    Daniel Lav begins his book by remarking that, while a great deal of attention has been paid tomodern politics in the literature on radical Islamic movements, there has been, with a fewexceptions, very little discussion of medieval theology (12). Lav is right on this point, andhe makes a good case for the importance of studying the theology of radical movements,especially Salaf Jihdism (167169). The book provides a comprehensive survey that tracesthe modern revival of the debate over the theology of faith and its application to the questionof whether the rulers of Muslim countries today are Muslims or apostates (5). The first twochapters deal with medieval theology. Chapter 1 is devoted to the early and classical Murjia,and pays special attention to Ab H. anfas views on irj. This chapter is very important for anunderstanding of the modern debate, but is heavily based on secondary sources. The secondchapter is about Ibn Taymiyyas polemics on faith and is included in the book because manymodern Islamist radicals view Ibn Taymiyya as their intellectual forebear. Lav also drawsattention to Ibn Taymiyyas influence on modern Salaf anti-Murjiism, and provides a shortsummary of his book, Kitb al-mn 1416 [1996]).

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  • Chapter 3 is concerned with the debate between the mainstream Muslim Brotherhood andradicals inspired by Sayyid Qut.b. The author shows that these radicals rely on Ibn Taymiyyasdoctrine of faith in their polemical works against the Muslim Brotherhood. This chapterpresents very important details of Sayyid Qut.bs views on faith and takfr, and follows upwith a discussion of the way radical versions of these views spread among imprisonedmembers of the Muslim Brotherhood due to the major subsequent influence of the extremeinterpretations of Sayyid Qut.b and Ab al-Al al-Mawdd. It also sheds light on theopposing tendency to reject these extreme views that emerged among Muslim Brotherhoodmembers such as al-Hud. ayb, who articulated his position in his famous Dut l qud.t,written in the 1960s and eventually published in an edited version in 1977, adapted in orderbetter to combat the arguments of Mus.t.af Shukr and his group. Chapter 3 ends with ananalysis of the refutation of Dut l qud.t by the Salaf-Qut.b activist, T. riq Abd al-H. alm.This chapter provides a clarification of the differences between the Qut.bs and themainstream Muslim Brotherhood, but Lav nevertheless misses a very important book relatedto the debates on faith in that period Rislat al-mn by the Palestinian radical, S. lih.Sariyya, who led an unsuccessful coup attempt in Egypt in 1975 known as amaliyyat al-fanniyya al-askariyya, and was executed in 1976. Lav also justifies his omission of adiscussion of the views of Shukr Mus.t.af on the grounds that most of the latters works areunavailable. This is not quite right, however, for they have been used by other researchers:for example, see Abd al-Rah.mn Muall al-Luwayh. iq, Al-ghuluww f al-dn f h. ayt al-Muslimn al-mus.ira (1992).

    There follow two chapters on the intra-Salaf debate on faith. Lav devotes the whole ofChapter 4 to Safar al-H. awls book, Z.hirat al-irj (1417 [1996]), which he flags up assignificant for two reasons: first, by relying on Ibn Taymiyya, al-H. awl providedjurisprudential justification for Sayyid Qut.bs doctrines of faith; second, al-H. awl launchedthe intra-Salaf debate by criticizing some Murjiite beliefs held by al-Albn. However, thesignificance of al-H. awls contribution to the debate on faith has received little attention fromthe Islamists. Al-H. awl wrote his doctoral dissertation in 1986 at Umm al-Qur University inMecca, but it was only published as a book in 1996. In addition, the Islamists made onlylimited use of al-H. awl in their debates on faith and takfr. On the other hand, another book,H. add al-Islam wa-h.aqqat al-mn, by Abd al-Majd al-Shdhil (1984), published by thesame university two years before al-H. awl finished his dissertation, has had a major influenceand has been acknowledged by prominent Islamists, such as Ab Muh.ammad al-Maqdis,Rif Surr and Muh.ammad al-Mamn, as the principal work against Murji ideas and asproviding the judicial grounds for Sayyid Qut.bs thoughts on takfr. Yet this book and thewide debate it stirred among the Islamists are mentioned only very briefly by Lav, whichsuggests that he did not have access to it.

    The fifth chapter discusses the later debates between al-Albn and his students on the onehand, and the Salaf-Jihds and other Salaf groups on the other. Although Lav provides anexcellent analysis of this debate, he does not touch upon some early and importantworks, such as Ih. km al-taqrr f ah. km al-takfr (1993) by Murd Shukr, a student of al-Albn. Ibn Uthaymn and the Permanent Committee for Religious Research and Ift (led byIbn Bz) issued fatwas accusing Shukr of holding Murji beliefs. Nor does Lav examine thePermanent Committees refutations of other Salaf works accused of including elements of irj.

    This leads us back to one of the key aims of Lavs book: I hope to show that the fault linebetween radical Islamists on the one hand and the moderate Islamists and mainstream ulam onthe other is, to a large degree, the difference between those who have adopted Ibn Taymiyyastheology of faith and those who have not (9). It is not clear whet