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Wael Farouq: Arab Identities and Tribal Culture

Arab Identities and Tribal Culture
(Wael Farouq, May 23, 2018)

Transcript available below

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About the speaker

In his new book, Egyptian scholar Wael Farouq addresses such issues as tribal culture in Arab identity, the invention of the Caliphate, and the history and the role of the fatwā, including an analysis of what European Muslims are looking for as shown in their requests for fatwās today. Throughout, he examines the deeper roots of the perilous predicament of Arab reason revealed in the contemporary clash between religious and modernist discourse.

Professor Farouq is currently professor of Arabic language, literature and culture at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the Catholic University of Milan (Italy) and at the Faculty of Linguistic Sciences and Foreign Literatures of the same university. Previously, he has been professor of Arabic language at the American University in Cairo (Egypt), Straus Fellow at the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice at the University of New York, and vice president of the Cairo Meeting.

He is author of several books and essays in Arabic, Italian and English in the field of Islamic studies and on contemporary Islamic thinking. Among other publications, he is a contributing author of the book Dio salvi la ragione (“God Save Reason”, Cantagalli, 2007) with Pope Benedict XVI, and coauthor of the book Pope Benedict XVI’s Legal Thought: A Dialogue on the Foundation of Law (Cambridge University Press, 2015). He has recently published two books: Conflicting Arab Identities – Language, Tradition and Modernity (Muta, 2018) and Discourse Analysis of the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity (Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2018).

An excerpt from his monograph Hats and Turbans:  Adaptation to Modernity and Conventional Mind, (New York, 2012), can be read at: http://www.almuslih.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=295:modernity-between-exclusion-and-identification&catid=44:islam-in-history&Itemid=214.

For a companion lecture, see Robert Reilly’s Westminster talk, Not What Went Wrong in the Arab World, but Why It Went Wrong: A Theological Answer.


Barbara Gagliotti:

Good evening, everyone. My name is Barbara Gagliotti and I am the Associate Director of Crossroads Cultural Center and we are co-sponsoring tonight’s event. I’m very sorry to inform you that Robert Reilly will not be here tonight. He broke his arm last Sunday in two places and so he is in a lot of pain and he is also very sorry not to be able to be here to greet Wael Farouq, who is a friend of his.

Audience member:


Barbara Gagliotti:

He didn’t tell me and he seemed like he was… I didn’t want to ask, but of course, he’s on the mend, but, you know, it’s just not been so many days, so he thought he’d be able to throw his jacket over his, you know, arm and get away with it but that was that. He quickly understood that was not going to happen, so he asked me to step in.

And Crossroads Cultural Center is a co-sponsor of tonight’s event and we are an organization that finds its inspiration in the charism of Father Luigi Giussani. It’s a Catholic Lay Movement, which is present in 170 countries throughout the world and our goal is to bring opportunities for education, which offer the possibility to look at reality with- with openness, with curiosity, and with critical awareness.

Often our events, like the event that we’re going to- we participate in tonight, are the occasion for profound dialogue and frank dialogue and the occasion for surprising encounters like the one that we’ve had with our friend Wael Farouq.

Who could have imagined, I think, the importance of the chance encounter that that you between a Christian student of Arabic language and his Muslim professor that generated a long history of friendship and has opened pathways for greater understanding between cultures and religion and, you know, perhaps Professor Farouq will tell us a little bit more about that in the question-and-answer period, but that’s what we do to generate encounter, to generate an affection where you can actually speak of things and have a dialogue about things.

In addition to his academic work, and I won’t go into his biography because you’ve had that in the announcements that were sent out, Professor Farouq was instrumental in publishing the Religious Sense in Arabic. The Religious Sense is the seminal work of Father Luigi Giussani about the human person, about the use of Reason, about religiosity, and Professor Wael was extremely happy to bring that to light in- in Arabic.

He also dedicates quite a bit of his time to promoting dialogue between Christian and Muslim thinkers and leaders and we thank you for that. And the last thing that I’ll mention before I introduce our speaker is that the last time that we had the honor of hosting you was when you shared the stage with Robert Reilly in 2012 and this was at the National Press Club. Bob had just published his work on the Closing of the Muslim Mind and we were in sort of the waning period of the Arab Spring, so we had a very lively dialogue on- on was there any hope coming out of the Arab Spring and I hope that we can get a little update on that tonight, perhaps in the question and answer period.

So the format of tonight’s discussion will be a presentation followed by questions and answers and we ask that during the question-and-answer period that all speakers please approach the microphone because this is being filmed, so that we can put it on the websites and to be as succinct as possible in your comments and- and to make questions in the form of a question.

Please join me in welcoming Professor Wael Farouq, who is professor of Arabic language, literature, and culture at the Catholic University of Milan in Italy. He will speak on his latest work, which is entitled, “Conflicting Arab Identities,” so thank you. Thank you for coming, Wael, and being with us.

Wael Farouq:

Thank you very much, Barbara. I am really honored to be here this evening with you. I am really grateful for Bob Reilly for inviting me and for his hospitality and I’m going to ask you to excuse me for my English at the beginning because it’s not [just] the strong Egyptian accent but it’s also combined by an Italian accent, so God help you. The structure of the presentation I’m going to part from the explosion of the fatwa, this phenomenon that you can find in all [of the] Islamic world, especially [the] Arab world and after presenting this phenomenon I am going to speak about why, and I am proposing two answers, one within the Islamic tradition itself, what I call the ‘duality of Ummah tribe’, and the other one within the form of modernity that has arrived to the Arab world and after this i will move to speak also about the fatwa [in the] West and Muslims living in [the] West, but particularly in Europe because it’s a statistical study that I made on Muslims in Europe.

So this fatwa, this phenomenon is very important and it’s regarding all aspects of everyday life for all Muslims and for Muslim societies. As you can see here, starting from 1990 we have this explosion of this technology called fatwa. We can find fatwa on Facebook. Even the smartphones, there is an app for fatwa that is Google Imam.

There are a lot of forms, you know, of the fatwa in [the] modern world. Just to give you an image about how huge this phenomenon is, we will see that Islam will, for example, you know, you see 170 fatwa 24 fatwa per day.per day. This is only one one website in five languages other- There are others in sixteen languages. There are millions of people who are following… I am not going to read everything so we will stay with time. [There are] millions of people who are following the Imams who are issuing this fatwa and one of them, for example, you know, is followed by Amra Khaled, an Egyptian preacher, and he’s followed by 29 million [people], and he’s followed by 29 million [people], which is 3-4 Arab countries combined together, so it’s a fatwa that you can find in every- everyday life, Muslim, you can find it, you know, present from the very big questions to the very small questions.

One of these fatwas I- I found it, for example, on the Facebook page of Al-Azhar University and it’s about a young man who just was [a] student in American University in Cairo, just that his new smartphone, and as all we do, the first thing he was going to do is to personalize his smartphone. And as a religious young man, the first thing he thought to do was downloading the Holy Qur’an in his smartphone. The Internet is very slow in Egypt, so downloading took [a] very long time and while he is waiting for the download, his stomach started to move.

He got this basic, superficial, but very important need to go to bathroom, but he said okay I’m not going to waste two hours of the downloading, I will resist it until I complete the downloading of the Holy Qur’an and after[wards] he run to the bathroom and when he was on the limits of his tolerance, the download finished, and he started to run towards the bathroom. In front of the bathroom he stopped. It came to his mind a question. Can I enter the bathroom with my phone full of the words of God of the Holy Qur’an, the words of God and the Holy Qur’an and they stopped in front of the bathroom you know divided between the pain of his stomach and the pain of his of his mind cannot make a decision.

This fatwa give an example of what I want what I want to present today this young man is not poor because he is just got his new brand a smartphone he has got the relationship with technology. He is well educated. He is a student in university. He is everything that we used to give that not we used to give as an answer of the crisis of Islam today not the poverty of the lack of education not any of these things. He’s educated. He’s rich. He has he has everything but he cannot make such a simple decision with her to enter the bathroom or not, so this.

What I tried to study in this book what went wrong who is the a Muslim model but before I go through this I wanted to quickly present what is fatwa because fatwa and if there is a very beautiful and important mechanism in Islamic tradition the fatwa in in language the factoid language we see has all of this beautiful meaning of renewal of seeking knowledge of seeking wisdom so it has a beautiful meaning in Arabic language it has a beautiful meaning in Islamic tradition it was mentioned 11 times in the Holy Qur’an always with a very positive meaning the fatto at the end we can say it’s a sort of seeking for perfection in fact in Islamic history we see the first one who issued fatwas God himself in fact we can divide the Qur’an into two different categories one was revealed initially to Prophet Muhammad and the other one was a response to a human question a human curiosity or a human need so the fatwa from its meaning in language in tradition and from its history it’s a very important mechanism not only to keep living in harmonious way with the Sharia but to produce the Sharia to produce the tradition itself so this was in the history in the beginning here in the early history of Islam it used to be like this but this beautiful tradition and this beautiful meaning with style disappeared the fatwa became like a closed form that we have to force reality to enter into it so we see the positive meaning of the fatwa that was at the beginning producing the Shariah producing the tradition guaranteeing a harmonious relationship between what is religious and the reality and the human needs okay the mechanism of fatwah also in Islamic jurisprudence is very interesting because the fatwa cannot exist of there is no curiosity if there is no question the fatwa cannot exist and after issuing the fatwa the people the seeker of the fatwa is not now Italians coming he is not forced to follow this pathway I can accept it or refuse it so the fatwa in summary is based on the freedom the freedom to ask the freedom took suppress your question and the freedom to accept the answer or to refuse it so the freedom is the keyword the keyword of this Islamic tradition the fat one in the Qur’an also as I said present a large part of the Qur’anic verses okay and we see also this is also in rhetorical way the most common the most diffused rhetorical and the linguistic form in the Qur’an is the question so i can say that the most important thing before the Islamic tradition is not the answer given but the question by the man the question the seeking of knowledge the desire of knowledge and the this curiosity is the key of living in harmonious way with Islamic tradition of course here is another hadith you will find it in the and outs the full text of this prophetic tradition and in this hadith we have this principle very important principle that Prophet Muhammad gave it as an answer to some of his companions the seeking the knowledge of what is good and what is bad and the Prophet Muhammad said to him consult your heart the heart is the ultimate reference for a Muslim his heart is his reference of course I said in theory because unfortunately they said the theory but the practice is very different and the reality is very different from from this houses I choose also another another example of the fatwa that I am going to use it as a starting point for this analysis the fatwas speaks about a young lady, a Muslim lady working in an international bank in Egypt, and she was talking with some of her friends relatives and they told a yes okay you have a prestigious work you earn a lot of money you have everything wonderful but all of this is coming from a sin okay? And she said what sin and they said to her you are working in a bank staying in a closed low room alone with your colleague and this according to Islamic tradition is the same so the lady was astonished and because she was sure that in Islamic tradition such a stupid thing cannot exist she called one of the famous TV programs of fatwa because we have a lot of TV programs where the man listen on air to the questions of the audience and give the answers so she was so sure that it’s impossible you know her work is the keenest Islamic tradition she went to she called this TV program ask this Imam if really her work is if she’s really committing the same doing this work staying alone in an in a closed room with her colleague and strangely the Imam was not an ordinary man he was the head of the department of hadith in Allah University and the Faculty of religious foundation and he said to her yes it is a sin. The lady was shocked and not only the lady 35 of Egyptian families are supported by women work by human labor so 35 percent of Egyptian families are going to face serious problems because most of these ladies are working in a condition that from his point of view are not going well with the Islamic tradition so she collapses at them what what should i do I am paying university for my kids what what can I do and this he was astonished by her reactions that I don’t know the what you know the only precedent I can see in the Islamic tradition is that one of mullah a be hot – a young man was adopted by one of the companions of Prophet Mohammed who when the adopting children was prohibited by Islam the Prophet Mohammed I allowed his mother he who adopted him to breastfeed him several times five times in order to be like a mother for him and he can stay in the house so he advised the lady to breastfeed her colleague in work five rice it’s not a joke it might be funny but it’s not at all so he consulted here to breastfeed here keulegan work five times till satisfaction because this is this is you know the literary the tradition that also I you will find it in the handout I think cause so this lady of course was astonished of course not only the lady of the Stone Age the whole society was astonished we have thousands of caricature of article of newspaper of comedians making fun of this fatwa and you know making drawing a line of men waiting in front of the office of a beautiful colleague all of them you know waiting to be breastfeed it you know the whole society was really astonished by by this fatwa but it didn’t stop there because at that time when this fatwa was awesome it was was issued the Muslim Brotherhood the community of Muslim Brotherhood had at that time 25% of the seats of the Egyptian Parliament so when they hear this fatwa all media TV talking about it they said okay this was made by the government to to to defame us and our slogan because the slogan of Muslim Brotherhood is Islam is the solution and the Islam is the solution hell by the application by applying the Islamic law or the Sharia so this is the Sharia nobody will accept to to be applied so they thought they thought this is a plan made by the government against their- their ideology so they revolved in the parliament and they invite the minister of a cough or quiz to question em in in the parliament so the university of al-azhar was also scandalized by the fatwa of its a professor and they decided to send him to retirement the professor revolt why you sent me to retirement I didn’t I didn’t do anything wrong I just followed the rules of the Islamic law that all of us applying it to whatever case comes in front of us the hadith that I used is hadith sahih is correct okay and was never contested you know in the Islamic law books so the jurists of Muslim Brotherhood replied to me s but this Hadees was only for this case of malaria diaper so the debate go went ahead so the professor didn’t accept to go to retirement and he went to the court refusing this the Egyptian government issued an administrative decision that making a fatwa should be by license so if somebody wants to give a fatwa because it’s becoming the case to give a fatwa has to get license from the Egyptian government so it’s a sort of monopolizing the the power the of giving the fatwa because it became a stronger phenomenon in in the society so we see when we speak also what lacks these societies is modernity it’s not true because we see the own the modern institution of the Egyptians that all of them were involve it for years because this lasted for years debating whether a man should be best fitted by his female colleague in order to stay there an officer or not we see the parliament was involved university was involved the government was involved the media was involved the court was involved with all institutions that define what we call modern state we’re involved in this in this debate which put also another big question mark on what we call modern state and Arab Islamic world it it didn’t stop there because after two years one of the councillor of the king of Saudi Arabia he issued again the same fatwa at that time thank God today women in Saudi Arabia can drive their own cars by themselves but at that time it was still prohibited for the women in Saudi Arabia to drive cars so a lady asked it can she make long trip traveling by in his in her car with her male driver and she received the same answer that she has to breastfeed they say all the society that is much more conservative than the Egyptian one they didn’t make joke about it they were very angry so the counsellor of the King a lot I can he answered but you understand wrongly we are not this open-minded stupid like Egyptians it’s enough that the lady put her milk in a cup and the driver drink this cup of milk and that’s it they have to be in contact with her breasts so to make it short again after another year the same fatwa came back again but this time from Tunis the same debate and Tunis is a very secular society very modernized the society they just lately few month ago decided that men and women would be equally in inheritance at all so they think that you know the son gets twice like the daughter has not applied anymore agos according to the Tunisian civil law now but the fatwah also arrived there and there the answer was much more intelligent than the Egyptian and the Saudi one because they said why the woman milk here we have to college today it’s enough to put the web camera in the room so they are observed all the time and there isn’t there is no need there is no need to – this thing of breastfeeding so we see all reactions was to go around the tradition with all of this modern institution we still lock to the presence of women in the public space as a source of sin and and evil so this fatwa gives a clear example not about the conflict between Islamic tradition and modernity but about the very harmonious way of coexisting together but coexisting is not between Islamic tradition and modernity but between defame the Islamic tradition and the defamed modernity so to make it also more clear in all Arab countries mostly in most of our countries we the Parliament the main role of this Parliament is to justify the tyranny so we have most of modern institution are functioning exactly against against their meaning and I am coming to speak about this so this coexisting contradiction this crisis I think and this as the barber mentioned before how I met Robert railing for first time reading his book in which he tried to give an answer to to this crisis and in my book also I try to to give to give an answer so it’s not about two different things that cannot live together it’s about the coexistence and the adapting one we had the adaptation of tradition of the bed elements of modernity and the adaptation of modernity of the bad elements of the Islamic tradition so and I think this starts really from the from the early beginning of Islam there are a lot of main factors dominating the most Muslim thinking today one of them for example is always looking to the past we always searching for legitimacy of whatever we do in the past how we can understand this how we can understand a lot of actual modern contemporary practice of Islam I think we can find this in the moment of the beginning of Islam we see this the first dualism is between Islam and Sharia the word Islam as many of you I think they know very well comes from the root Salameh which means these safety and very beautiful meanings but in the moment of the beginning of Islam two words appeared in the Arabic language the word Islam itself and the word de león the word rahiba always regarded as the pre-islamic period comes from Java which means ignorant and it’s ignorance because people were they didn’t know God and they didn’t accept the faith of God but when we really study this moment of the beginning of Islam we find it’s not like this and there are hundreds of studies by many scholars about this period that proved the JLA is not a period of violence and stupidity and the ignorance in fact I can say with certainty that Islam has adapted 99% of what we call jahiliyya most of the things that we know about Islam today they have existed before it slammed the idea of the one God existed before Islam cutting off the hands of the thief existed before Islam fasting Ramadan existed before Islam play grammage to make existed before Islam everything that characterize Islam today had already existed before Islam what we call jellia doesn’t mean roughly which means ignorance but it means something else i think i presented under associated with violence against the other this is the meaning of the jackal area Alea means basically as a baya or the tribal solidarity why I am saying this because as I said before most of what we call Islamic practice have existed already before Islam and also because of the image of Islam how Prophet Muhammad considered the previous religions of Islam this very beautiful prophetic tradition that you will find it also newspapers Prophet Muhammad is describing himself as just a prick in a huge beautiful building that press present the prophetic tradition before him as you see here you know they asked him what relationship we have with the previous prophets and they said it’s like you know a beautiful beautiful house okay that people go around the 8 and the admiring it how wonderful but they see in this house a missing breakin see if it doesn’t miss this brick it would be perfect so Prophet Muhammad comments that I am the spirit so he is nothing but a brick he is not more important than others adjusted simple break in the building of the religion but it is the one that brings the religious tradition to perfection so this is the role of Islam this what Islam means really Islam came in my opinion and my humble opinion to bring the two perfection the religious tradition not to bring new theology or new ideas no to give space for this religions to be practiced and to be lived correctly somebody said there was Christianity Judaism it were Islam yes but also we know that the majority of Bedouins and pre-islamic period they were Christians the most of tribes the way Christian tribes but they had nothing from Christianity they were the religion of the tribe the religion of the pre-islamic society was the tribal solidarity and the fourth light tribal solidarity all kinds of evil is permitted for the sake of the tribe why the tribe is this important that it makes valueless all of religions and all of human values and the human basis tribe is very important ok this is what I was trying to say before okay tribe was very important in the pre-islamic period because tribe was the only way to survive the desert the tribal solidarity was the only way to preserve life in the cruel environment of of the desert I choose a text a dialogue between one of the Arabian Kings long before Islam and the emperor of persia in which they make a debate it so the arabs are very proud of them ii say how does it come your dis proud you are living like animals you are eating with the worst food i mean you have nothing to be proud of how does it come your dis proud and the Egyptian king and remain Egyptian era the Archangel Norman replied to him giving three pillars of the Arab presenting the three pillars of the Arab identity and this content of this dialogue was repeated hundred times in different hundred papers of scholars through the time since the time for example of algae’s till ahmed amin and the Taha say this content was always repeated this idea of the language the language is the most important element that built the Arab identity and it’s not because all civilizations the language was the element that present the identity of whatever civilization we see the word barbarism came from barber that means he cannot speak the language also an Arabic language the word the foreigner it’s a shammy and the word our journey comes from Ozma this word means it’s animals because animals have voices but it’s not language so even Arabs look to the others like animals because we cannot speak language Romans did the same and everybody else did the same but the language is very particular in in the Arabian case okay of course in the desert life is very particular and there is a great difference between life and death and the life and agricultural society in agricultural societies the cradle of civilization in the space you see in Rome in Italy in Egypt and or agricultural societies its buildings it’s painting it’s the art presented in space is what preserve the memory the ideas the virtues the values of the people but in the Arabian case it’s not the space it’s at a time because there is no space people in desert they move from a place to another they are nomadic people and even when they go back to the first place it’s not any more the same place because with the unpredictable movement of the wind this place changed completely so when you go back to the first place it’s not the same anymore that’s why an Arabic language the word house the world home for example an Arabic language has many words some of you knows Arabic language we know bite in the house what does it mean the word bite in Arabic language the word abide means to spend the night to spend the night wherever you want sleeping or not sleeping if somebody spends a night he bite okay it’s the other world for example is man Z which she comes from the verbenas Allah what does it mean as Allah means to come down to come down from where from the camel so your home your house is where you come off your your camel another word the word Daraa which to make a circle what relationship between Daraa and home because the caravan in desert when the night comes and they want to talk and they make a circle and they sleep inside this circle the ordem askin comes from the webOS econo which means to stop to still stand still so we see all words that express space plays home an Arabic language are expressing a moment of stop in a continuous mobility okay because the biggest friend for the Bedouin is the time why the time because the passing of the time is what kills people the pasok of the time is what makes what makes you know people are forgotten this was the fear of the people living in the desert that’s why all world’s an Arabic language that has a meaning of time has at the same time meaning of something bad or something even we see for example we come back to this we see for example the word day day in Arabic language is young it means a day and it means war we see the word him okay him okay the word Hin okay it means death the word the time itself in Arabic language is salmon it means the time and also it means disease the word bara okay it means a period of time and catastrophe so all words in Arabic language that has a meaning of time as a meaning of evil at the same time so let’s here we see the people in agricultural societies when they meet together the usually they ask what’s your name from where you are from Italy from Egypt from United States but people in desert when they meet they ask from whom you are because people they don’t come from a place people come from a person so people in desert they don’t belong to a place they belong to a tells me to the ancestor of the tribe so the tribe is the only space for existence without the tribe people do not exist that’s why the tribe was very important for the people in the desert it was only a way to survive the desert this tribal solidarity the tribe is the only way to keep the memory we see that the worst punishment in desert wasn’t death there is another you know much worse penalty to be out of the tribe to be cut from the tribe because being out of the tribe means you will be killed and you will be forgotten so the trial was the only way to preserve the life of the person of the individual and also of of the whole tribe so this has resulted a lot of things the reason I’m trying to time is passing so that’s also define the concept of reason in Arabic in Arabic culture because now the reason is not the effort to link and to understand and to generate knowledge race reason became merely the memory in the art we are in the Arabic culture is poetry and they even call one verse of poetry by it which means ohm why because the poetry was they are to keep the memory of the tribe even when a poet was born in whatever tribe they spend years celebrating the born frame as a poet knows as a child for years the celebrating a presence of a poet why because this means the legacy of the tribe will keep to live so we see the concept of reason an Arabic language became – to tie up to keep – do not let go the knowledge and the memory of the tribe and this was passed to Islamic tradition we see here a definition was presented by Al Roselli say art comes from our talent barometer to bind the camel by joining its legs together and the art allowed to hand the calf why because the concept of artal of reason in Arabic language is to keep the knowledge from being lost not to seek the relation to and seek understanding of the relationship between the phenomenon in our in our world so the language became the language became the most important element of the identity of our people when a Norman responded to the emperor of Persia he said to him we have the Arabic language the most beautiful language the language that is better than all other languages which also passed the to Islam it’s the language of the paradise in Islamic tradition people in Paradise – speaks Arabic so try to learn some Arabic if you want to go to Paradise so the second pillar of course is lineage in the Arabic because knowing the line of the tribe blowing is what keeps this tribal blood solidarity pure and the third was the extremism of virgin wife and those who have visited they are a Berlet they can see this by themselves if you go to a very poor family they can even sell their bed to buy for you a decent meal they are extremely generous they can offer everything for their guests they are extreme in God’s virtue and also in bed virtue but from where comes this extremism in virtue it comes also from the pre-islamic period from the culture of the tribe why because the memory the collective memory doesn’t preserve the order the ordinary doesn’t preserve the normal an order to keep for yourself worthless and the collective memory you have to be extraordinary so extraordinary in generosity in encourage in whatever you have to be extreme in order to keep from yourself at least of course I am not going to the whole dialogue isn’t the handout so you can also have a look to it but we have hundreds of stories you know of people in desert also each value each a human virtue has has a symbol as a person that make a sort of incarnation of this value for generosity for example we have had him why because once he had some guests arrived to him he had no food in his home he cannot offer his guests anything so he asked it his son if he except to be slaughtered and decocked to feed the guests the guests and the son for the sake of keeping the virtue of generosity accepted the request of his father of course some people say this is mythology it’s not real but it’s reflecting the very long life of such stories accepted and glorified by the people means it’s responding to some elements in their culture so we see that Islam came basically to fight this tribal solidarity why I am saying this Islam as I told I said to you before didn’t bring anything almost anything new to the world it is learnt right to create a space to the good things brought by previous religion to be practiced and lived ok what was the main obstacle agonist you know this Islamic dream the dream prophet Muhammad to create on earth his utopia a lot of people speaks about Islam as you know you have the paradise you see as we have beautiful women in paradise that people go to explode themselves in fact the attempt of prophet Muhammad was to make a paradise on earth before the afterlife and making this paradise on earth the main obstacle was a tribe because people are divided and the winter comes justice in front of tribal solidarity tribal solidarity wins generosity tribal solidarity tribal solidarity wins and we have a lot of poetry and a lot of stories an Arabic heritage not studied in this context usually when we must speak about islam we go to study the Islamic jurisprudence and the Sharia and these things we don’t study many don’t study the cultural context of this of this Islamic law and it’s the culture context of this Islamic law say the tribe was the biggest enemy of Islam you see when you read carefully Qur’an you see that Islam didn’t to condemn the religions before it but it condemned the worship of others because many times in Qur’an we have mistake and if you ask them who have created the earth and the heaven and the whole world they respond Allah so why you don’t accept Islam no because our fathers didn’t didn’t to do it our Father our fathers didn’t follow new traditions we keep the that’s the road the path that was followed by by our fathers so the tribe was the the main enemy the main obstacle to R’lyeh realized what so called what so called oh man what is on man Alma is the community of believers that gave this space for the human values and virtues to be to be left so we see now the true conflict was not between people who believes in God and other people who do not believe in God the main conflict was between people who want to keep the tribe and the Ummah the Islamic dream to make the brotherhood between all people on the basis of the faith and of Valen of this human virtue this OMA this new society was in in conflict with the tribe for example Muslims when Muslims wanted to start their calendar they affronted this question when Islamic history starts it started when prophet Muhammad was born no prophet Muhammad is just a man by the way prophet Muhammad is sacred for many Muslims but for Islam is not sacred he’s just a man was selected by God to deliver a message but is not a separate there is no Jesus Christ of Muslims because many people think so so he’s just a man so we cannot mark the beginning of the history of Islam by the birth of prophet Muhammad but we can mark the beginning of this land by the beginning of the revelation the Qur’an, the only sacred thing for Muslims no not even Qur’an, Muslims choose the Hegira, the emigration when Prophet Muhammad was persecuted in Mecca and he decided to skim from Mecca and go to al-Medina to another city – they choose this moment of weakness of persecution to mark the beginning of their history why is this because this moment is very significant it is the moment in which prophet Muhammad left the tribe and built the Ummah the community of Muslim believers and even the first thing that graffiti Muhammad did in al-Medina was very interesting he made something recalled and more heavy fraternity the brotherhood between Muslims and that was just you know we are brothers you are my brother I am your bra we are good now it was a legal brotherhood means if somebody dies his this brother can invert this he share of of his fortune so he built this society anti-tribal society in which the tribe is not present even the pagans of Mecca when they wanted prophet Muhammad started to make his propaganda started to preach the tribes had to convince them to to approach to embrace Islam ok so in order to to make the tribes don’t don’t listen to him they said ok what should we say about Muhammad we say he’s a crazy man he’s saying nonsense Mack no this is not true ok he’s a very good speaker he’s very good he is a very convincing we can say it’s just a crazy man ok he is one of these poets who comes every while speaking about human webshop know what he’s saying is not poetry and it’s not similar to poetry so what is prophet Muhammad at the end they decided in the Parliament of the garage because Mecca was the New York of the old world by the way huh the very long-standing words there is no time to say everything but the very long standing war between Percy and basanta has destroyed all roads for trade the only one left was this one in desert that goal goes through Mecca the back ends and the merchants of Mecca they control the wallet trade at that time they were buying from waste and selling for forest and the opposite so they were extremely rich the society in Mecca was multi-ethnic multicultural multi-religious society you find even you know the young men who followed prophet Muhammad at the beginning from their names and their origins you understand Mecca was like New York there was so high from basanta from Roma there was a man from Persia he was Blair from Ethiopia so you see in this very tiny small city in the desert it was a month multi-ethnic society it was multicultural society all of these people were permitted to express their religious and their cultural ideas in fact prophet Muhammad what prophet Muhammad wanted to do wanted to purify Mecca by destroying all this status all this of the different guts of different tribes and the different people and they refused because they saw his claim as a threat of their trade because if we cut off the guts of the tribe from Mecca they will start a war against us and this war is going to be bad for the trade for our economy so they refused the call of Islam for economical reasons also so this pre-Islamic society of Mecca was multicultural multi-religious multi-ethnic societies would not primitive society as we used to read in the box of Muslim scholars later after so when Muslims choose the beginning of their history this was the AMA when the bagans wants to defame prophet Mohammed in foreign front of the tribe they said his not a poet is not a crazy man business he is a person who make hope reach his preaching divide brothers son and father husband and wife so all tribes they will quote prophet Muhammad because he were afraid of his magic that divided the tribe that they constructed a the tribe and this was be the idea that all of them they have adopted so here we see Islam came basically to destroy the tribe why the try because this elements of the tribe deprived the society of truly living and profoundly living the religious values and we see in Islam Christianity Judaism all religion even some so called back and religion will adapt some many say the rock man the word Rahman was not only from Rama but also the word Rahman which one of the names of God was a God worshiped in in Yemen for example we see that Islam tried to adapt everything good and that’s why when Islam spread over in the world never had a conflict there was never a conflict between Islamic law and the local tradition because the main principle of Islamic law is to adopt whatever good in the tradition what is prohibited in Islam is very few things all the rest is permitted and is lawful so this strong conflict between tribe from one side and Ummah from the other side okay in Islamic history created a new entity this coexisting contradiction that I am I am calling why because at a certain time the on my itself became a tribal so the AMA came to destroy the tribe but in the history the per course of history the AMA became a tribe how’s this I mentioned only two elements one historical element soon after the death of prophet Muhammad his companions gather together to decide who is going to inherit his temporal power not spiritual power those of al-Madinah who invited prophet Muhammad to emigrate to them and they protected him as their children and they fought all the battles of Islam they gather together in a place called the certificate a ban aside okay and in this epiphany Shahada they decided they choose one of them to be the ruler after prophet Muhammad those muhajireen the family of not the family from the tribe of Quraysh who have emigrated was prophet Muhammad from Mecca to al-madinah they rush to this place a preferred very Snyder and this know this cannot happen and they started a very long conversation you will find it again in the handouts okay in this conversation to elect and to select the ruler after prophet Muhammad the word Qur’an the word Islam was not mentioned they spoke so low so low merrily only they speak only about about the realistic issues that the tribes on the desert will never accept the power of any tribe a part of that of garage-y that because crime showed the tribe of merchants who to protect their trade make a marriage relationship in each tribe so they are cousins uncles of people in each tribe in the desert that’s why the one who comes after prophet Muhammad must be one of the tribe Quraysh and after in Islamic theology this was developed by the prophet false a prophetic tradition in my opinion that says Imams are from crush but anyway so in this debate about who inherit the temporal power of prophet Muhammad the only thing was present was not Islamic values not Dharma was a tribe the logic of the trial okay and this continued what so-called apostasy world after soon after the death of prophet Muhammad many tribes they don’t want to make part of the AMA anymore we this usually called in the box of Islamic history apostasy wars because they say this tribe would turn it back and they refused the Islam but this is not true this tribe were paying as a cap almonds to Prophet Mohammed why because in the Qur’an there is a very safe take from them fortunes share that to proof purify them and their fortune okay and they said Prophet Muhammad died and the Abu back cannot purify us because he is not a prophet so we are not going to pay this money anymore this was the main reason of the war of the prior of the soon after the death of Ferris the Civil War Abubakar the first hadith he decided to fight all the tribes in the desert using who the baggins of Makkah who just entered Islam after the conquest of Makkah okay they were not those Muslims who fought the battles of Islam know they were the enemies of Islam because when Prophet Muhammad conquested Makkah he gathered the people of Quraysh and asked them what do you think I’m going to do with you and they said to him you are our brothers and the son of our brother and he said to them go you are free and use the word in Arabic at a local tatata which means somebody became free after being a prisoner so the generals of the Islamic army that reconquest stood the Arabic pin salam after islam was led by generals from the tribe of Quraysh from this category of Italica those who were freed by Prophet Muhammad so the tribe came back the trash was the most rich the most intelligent we will prepared most people who can read and write so they take over the administration of the newborn state of Islam and they rolled it according to the rule of the tribe so we see that Islam from its early beginning was living this dualism this coexistence because no one at that time criticized the Prophet Muhammad or criticized to Qur’an all of them were believing in Qur’an and the believing Prophet Muhammad as messenger of that but all of them were behaving at the same time according to the values and rules of the tribe this is one element the second element that I want to mention is the element of language we said that Islam came basically to destroy but right after 4050 years of Islam the Bedouins the Arabs conquested all the ancient world and these Bedouins they went out of the desert and started to live in Iraq in Persia in Egypt in this extremely civilized countries astonished by this civilization how they dress how they eat how they talk and their language started to disappear the new generations were speaking Arabic hardly like those Arabs who were born in West to today and they cannot speak Arabic correctly the Muslims were astonished by this phenomenon and said now we are going to lose everything if we lose Arabic we are going to lose Qur’an and the foolish Qur’an we lost everything Aslam is finished so what they do they khalif’s heavily financed a unique movement in human history in which thousands of scholars they went to the most isolated tribes in the desert many of them were similar to these tribes that they found on every mile in the Amazon completely disconnected was the outside world and they go there to these tribes the some of them they didn’t even know that was there was a prophet sent and the new religion called Islam they knew nothing about this and they spent you know they go there with their camels tons of paper and ink and they stayed here for year there for years writing every word that come out from the mouse’s of this Bedouins the Bedouin became the high reference of the Arabic language because they present the purity of the Arabic tongue which is the main element of the Arabic identity so he it’s very interesting contradiction because Islam came to destroy the tribe but now this collected language the language of the tribe if the only reference to understand Qur’an so we cannot understand the Islam today if we don’t use the language you collect it from these Bedouins and it was very powerful in the the time in which that most Arabic signs and by the way most of Arabic what so-called Arabic signs was thanks to non Arabs the founder of the Arabic grammar see Baba he was a person and boo Harry himself the one who write the second correct book after the Qur’an sahih al-bukhari he is from Ukraine okay so the most of the scholars who have established what we call the Arabic signs were not Arab so in front of this purity of the language of the Bedouins they couldn’t do anything dr. burry and the other other scholars who interpreted Qur’an when they say okay I also you will find now in the book many examples of what I am saying one of the for example interpretations of the Qur’an he about universe about the right to a man to how a man can punish his disobedient wife so one of the things was to a guru hana it means from also hara his rod means to leave them to be caught them this was the rationale so if your wife is disobedient don’t talk to her anymore okay but a tabla said but this is wrong interpretation because the verb ihara comes from the jar and the jar is a sort of Rob that they used to tie up the cameras so they interpreted he chose the right interpretation is to tie up the women to their bits as a punishment for their disobedience so we see this everything everything in Arabic signs that it’s the main source of what so called the today Islamic law everything was really submissive to this language of the Bedouin society that Islam him basically to destroy it and this is the the second element of coexisting diction within the Islamic tradition that’s why in Islamic tradition today I am a Muslim and I believe Islam is really a religion of of peace but I cannot deny that many verses in Qur’an can be easily interpreted completely against the peace why if you follow the line of the tribe within the Islamic tradition because what we call Islamic tradition today is not only Islam is this coexisting elements from Islam and the tribe so the very same well some Qur’an can be trend can be interpreted in a way and then it’s completely opposite way at the same time democracy for example you see some muslims with you know certainty say democracy is you know like atheist misogynist islam because the only legislature is god and democracy give the people the right of legislation so it’s against Islam some other Muslims like Adam mahadji by you me for example made a huge book like this to prove the main inventor of democracy was Islam and was Prophet Muhammad and they document that was written you will find it also in the book that document that Prophet Muhammad wrote when he arrived to al-madinah is the fairest written constitution in human history how can you bring those two things together from one side Islam invented democracy and from the other side Islam condemned democracy how you bring these two things together the only answer that I found is this coexisting contradiction within the Islamic tradition when the AMA that came to destroy the tribe this one map became a tribe you find it even in everyday practice you find today in mosques in Egypt or in Iraq or another Muslim country they pray only for Muslims which is against Islam against the idea of Islam as more in in the on my slam we are obliged to love everybody and to invite him to live within our own even keeping his different faith okay but in the practice today Muslims look to themselves as a tribe not as a amma not as the space that give Liberty and the freedom to everybody to live according to his faith so this coexisting convert I call coexist in contradiction with envy the Islamic tradition okay I will I will go in modernity it’s the same the modernity has the same problem of tradition we see what so-called modernists in Arab world today and the liberalists in Arab world today they are not much different from Salafi and from traditionalists they think in the same way traditionalists everything to be legitimate in ourreality today it has to get a root in the past and we say why Arabs sacrifi why Arabs and sacrifi the past also modernists when they want to say no but there is no contradiction between Islamic law and the and reason what what they do they justify this by going back to figures like every way okay so it’s the only way search in the past for a legitimacy and the present this what I call overlapping discourses and it’s many many elements and I the conflict between or also the instrument came zip became more important than its goal preserving life for example to preserve life we have all of this banana penalties but this penalties became more important than preserving life we see also searching in the past half for a source of legitimacy to exist in the present a contradiction between form and the content I’m sorry I cannot speak about everything but if you are interested you can ask me after justifying instead of this what we said for example in the press feeling case everybody’s justifying nobody had the courage to say this is incorrect or this is not valid anymore for our reality and I am not saying this because I am criticized in his lab in fact this the great scholars in Islamic history depth Abu Hanifa once was one of the founders of the four doctrines of Islam Hanifah doctrine once people went to him and said they deal between the seller and the buyer cannot be concluded as long as they are in the same place and said no this cannot be this is not valid and this enough but this is you know a confirm it prophet a prophetic tradition you cannot contest what Prophet Muhammad said so now I can contest it if it’s again it against reason I can and they said it’s not valid for our reality today imagine if these two persons who made the deal are imprisoned or they are traveling for month in a ship so I come by your shaft using it and after three months I gave it back to you before we get off the ship and said to get back my money so I said no it’s not valid anymore so this way of thinking is not strange for the Islamic tradition in fact it existed but it was marginalized in the history of Islam but today we see what we call modernists and the liberal asti’s are very similar to Trish traditionalists of course also rejected rejection of the positive principles shared by Islam and and the modernity and there is endless exempt examples for this the Faculty of this is also very interesting because the society today they don’t think anymore there is a mediation modernists are mediators between modernity and the it’s societies in West and our local society Salafi are mediators between present and past between people who are living today and the origins and their ancestors in the past okay this is very interesting exclusion of different and the exclusion of difference some Muslims say if somebody’s Christians he has no rights he is out because they think exactly like to be tribal in tribal way others say no there is no difference Islam Christianity are the same there is no difference little things but so or exclusion of the different or exclusion of the difference blocking to the difference as evil not as a grace from God lack of harmony was time and the place and between time and the place why because those who work may choose to be mediator between present and past traditionalists they are living here because they go deep in the roots of their culture but they are not living now because they are alienated from the modern civilization the modernists are the opposite they are living now the moment the civilization of today but we are out of their own local society so there is no harmony between time and the place whether for modernists or traditionalists ok just 5 minutes I not so hot and I talk too much but I would love to also present this study that I made the statistical study I choose one not 1999 questions because usually when you study fatwa we go to study the answer of the amendment and when we go to study the answer we are job we think have in the theology and the debate between jurisprudential schools and all of the things I made a different choice I choose to study the question of people because technology has afford it finally for us for first time these questions because before the question is not there in the answer in the most important now on these websites and this is something really very alarming I advise you to go and they see this website slam question and the answer slam today all of this what websites and see what kind of Islam that they are preaching and you see how hundreds of millions of Muslims are following them specially in West go in the Islam today slap question and answer that is financed by the ministry of our coffe of qatar and search for the war the democracy and they see what will come out for you so for first time we have the text of the questions so I started this texts of question to understand what Muslims okay what Muslims are looking for okay and today and the result was astonishing most of Muslims living in West they don’t care about the stereotypes that we know they mostly care about living in harmonious way with their neighbors and with their with their society okay I you see for example I studied the questions 28% which of the highest one questions about social relationships it in percent about devotional acts worshiping a relationship was non Muslim 17% so you see the true interest of Muslims is not building the mosque is not the veil of the women is not all these stereotypical things that we usually talk about burqa or bikini all of the things are totally marginalized when you go and see what really Muslims are looking before they are looking for a good relationship the others okay the answers are something but the question are really very interesting so these questions reveals that you see here you know alcohol all of these questions.

Now, I think I [have been speaking for] fifty minutes that we agreed to, but if you ask questions, I will answer. These statistical studies show – and now we are doing this on a very large scale with the University of Bicocca in Italy. With the Department of Statistics we are studying now. Up to now, we asked 250,000 questions of Muslims living in Europe and the United States to study the structure of the text of this question and see the amazing things that [are] coming out from these questions.

What are really Muslims looking for in the West? They are looking for living in [a] harmonious way with others. The mosque, marginal. The hijab is marginal. All what we present in media and the public debates about Muslims, Muslims don’t care about it, okay? But this very few percentage makes rumors and they are very loud and they are here and the much more present. I think the best solution to the problems of Muslim of West is to give space for this silent majority of Muslims not living in another continent or on another- living with us here amongst us here in West, giving the same visibility space and voice and this extremist voices will be marginalized because the science prove that the majority of Muslims they don’t care about the other things.

You remember we left this young guy in front of the bathroom in pain. [He] cannot decide if he whether entered the bathroom or not seems very dramatic for us but for him was no drama because in one second he wrote a question to the Facebook page of Al-Azhar, “I am in front of the bathroom with my cell phone full of Qur’anic verses. What should I do?”

And the imam, ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week – not the same imams, they make them [take turns] – he answered to him, “My dear young man, do you by chance  memorize some verses of Qur’an?” The young kid [replied], “Of course, what a question! Yes, I do.” The imam asked him to leave his cell phone and his heart out of the bathroom. And this is what remains of Muslims today if they don’t gain back the attempt to build an Umma and they give up the elements of the culture of the tribe. Thank you very much.

See his Q&A…


Audience member:

I have one question. You talked about the importance of the Muslims in the Western world, this silent majority, how important it is. Okay, you spoke about how important it is for the voices of the silent majority, the Muslims in the Western world, to be heard to sort of overshadow these myths about the hijab and things of that nature. How will that happen? What is the mechanism that will happen when it appears to be that the Muslims, the silent majority, are afraid to express their opinions and concerns because of more radical Muslims?

Wael Farouq:

Yes, I can give an example from my experience living in Italy. In Italy, for example, every year in Christmas debate in newspaper you know for those who defend the right of Muslim kids who do not celebrate the Christmas and debate in the society those who say no, but they came to our society, they have to follow our culture than those who saw all of this debate but when they investigated the Muslims students in a school they found many of them participating in the procedure how do you say in the nativity no no so this is really very important to say what to say integrating people will not be by their submission submissive suck the culture of the society but by a proposal of the society people do not enter great to low people integrate and society but if this society is absent if this society have no culture our proposal if this society have no social space for this new elements these people will live in parallel in parallel society and this is exactly what is happening at least in Europe where I live and where I I study Muslims are living in parallel society in Paris one kilometer away from Torre FL you find a neighborhood that 100% from north northern Africa language voices means everything they are living in parallel society they are not integrated in society why thank you for this question because it’s a very important today in our world that’s two models of integration the French one and the British one the French one is the secularism an order to guarantee for everyone and access to the public space we have to deprive everyone from manifesting his own identity a Jew cannot bring his kappa mo a Muslim woman cannot bring a veil a Christian cannot bring his cross to the public space for example why in order to guarantee through everybody a space for him but what kind of public spaces s where everybody enter only without his identity what kind of person what kind of dialogue between people without identity in public space this has created a parallel society in the French model the British one is an ism is much different in the British society say everyone is permitted to come to public space with whatever kind of clothes of religion or symbols he wants it’s open society for everybody but also this is very dangerous okay because in the absence of a car you know the profound cultural proposal and social proposal this becomes a sort of community community RISM no no so conciliate yes like each community is living enclosed in its door for example a young young lady from Pakistan-ian origins is forced to marry somebody from Islamabad okay or she is deprived of her inheritance she cannot go she cannot go to the civil court to complain why because in the idea of the non multiculturalism they approved the Sharia Court and they have this lady choose to go to the civil court or not to the Sharia Court she will be excluded from a community our community there is no community out of their community there is no society so again these people cannot be integrated because of the lack of the social and the cultural proposal I think the problem of the West today is not that different people who are coming to the West but is they not having the courage to say this is our identity and this is our culture your talk you said that the ultimate authority for behavior is the heart yes and I’m wondering if it is indicates that the decision of the heart is in contradiction to Sharia is in violation of Islamic law is it permissible a Muslim to obey the heart and to disobey Sharia it’s not possible it’s obligatory because what is Sharia the word the law doesn’t exist in Arabic language the word do we use is Roman more cahoon so the idea of law doesn’t exist no what is Sharia Sharia those who knows a little bit of Arabic like Sharia which means treatment so what Sharia Sharia is the very path towards water in the desert and it’s not any any path it’s not any road it’s a that one made by the step of the ancestors of the previous people so it’s a road made by those who have passed the before this in the desert this is the only guarantee for life in the desert you don’t joke say I walk from here I am not following in the path no this means only one thing death so this is the meaning of the Sharia Sharia in Arabic language in Qur

anic context always used in a rhetorical way to say religion faith is the Sharia is the very path toward this eternal life so Sharia doesn’t mean law and now finally the scholars in West started to do this they stopped to write Islamic law and they start to write Sharia because Sharia is not no Sharia is the source of law in Egyptian Constitution of 1970 for the 1971 two presidents that has imposed the second article of Egyptian Constitution that says Sharia is the main source obviously in Egypt in the constitution of 2012 the year after the Egyptian revolution in the Parliament to the majority of Muslim Brotherhood they made a huge battle to change the world the Sharia is a source to say the Islamic jurisprudence why because the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt in a debate about Niqab the burqa in public space in hospitals in the school they have defined the meaning of the Sharia by the general principles of Islam so this is the meaning of the Sharia according to the decision of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt accepted by the majority of Muslims so the Sharia is the principles of freedom justice he is the human values how can heart be in contradiction with justice that’s why that’s why Prophet Muhammad in this prophetic tradition said consult your heart consult say but they say I am an eternal man he said consult your heart I am a simple man consult your heart consult your heart consult your on this is how it’s written in the prophetic tradition so the heart is the ultimate the ultimate reference it cannot be in contradiction with the Sharia because Sharia is not a codified law Sharia is general human principles and values the Islamic jurisprudence can be contested can be refused can be changes this happened in the history of Islamic religion 1000 times before I hope I answered your question okay after a little mystery when useful initiative also tried likewise for supply which is like nothing is it anyway both useful about seven so he’s a housing up home Jesus my understanding is why should I have one time it is very dangerous as a Muslim people see that you can be only a Muslim but you can what can I be as soon so it’s a soubise perspective have yes I think so on as a first say yes Asian nations yes I agree with you about this but the biggest problem of all Sufi movements that they don’t care about the reality in fact the most important the value of Sufi movement is what they call the absence being absent from your surrounding and connected to God this is a disasters my opinion element in the sofa thinking that make it always out of the history the history of Islam Sufi will never counted as a critical element in this history because they choose to be out of all kind of political conflict out of all kind of a social practice out and this even if they have this all of this wonderful ideas about self about God about the relationship between man and God it’s extremely you know they are very beautiful really because they are think they to find the beauty of God in each creature and each human being and the nature place yes this is wonderful but their choice to be out of the reality the don’t mean to do not make a fight to present them to bring their ideas to life is fatal thing because this resulted their complete absence even if in Egypt officially the Sufi registered in Egypt there are 25 millions they are the biggest party, the biggest community ever in Egypt, and the Mara Portland but they never take part of the political life or the social life.

Yes, I understand but how you bring this beauty to reality this is something you know very subtle you know but I agree we love Sufi najara be and all of them yes Rumi all of them they bring you know wonderful readings of Islam, really, but unfortunately, they are always marginalized by their choice, by their choice.

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