Smug charlatan Hargey screws thousands out of Muslim Weekly

Taj Hargey has won a five-figure sum (also reported here and here) from the Muslim Weekly, a slim tabloid published in London, for their claim that he was a Qadiani. This claim was inaccurate, but the “damage to his reputation” was nothing in the order of five figures since he belongs to the anti-hadith movement which, like Qadianism, is a disbelieving sect which claims Islam while actually being at enmity with the Muslims.

This distinction is probably lost on the judge, and on most non-Muslim observers, but Hargey’s position is clear to any Muslim, or anyone else who knows much about Islam, from the press releases on his website. For example, this article on the subject of men and women shaking hands (unlawful in Islam, according to the vast majority of scholars) contains this:

Clearly, this is tantamount to humans subverting the sublime text of the Creator, replacing it with secondary and controversial rulings (fatawah) from the entirely masculine ulama (clergy). But to maintain God’s exclusive legal sovereignty, Muslims must adhere to the infallible and immutable injunctions contained in the Holy Qur’an alone and not the fallible and undependable conclusions of culturally biased male interpreters.

An article attacking niqab, also on the MECO website, contains the following:

The extremist Muslim priesthood and their following have elevated an unthinking dependency upon the Prophet’s sayings by creating an exclusively hadith-reliant Islam, instead of an absolutely Qur’an-reliant Islam. Most, if not all of the contemporary ‘Islamic’ tendencies and innovations like female head and face coverings, the wearing of unkempt beards, strict sexual apartheid (including no opposite gender hand-shaking) female inferiority, philosophical conformity, ideological rigidity and interfaith intolerance are the inevitable products of a masculine clerical consensus. These ‘rulings’ have no legitimacy whatsoever in the immutable Qur’anic text.

(Some MECO press releases ([1], [2]) do contain references to what they — assuming there is a “they”, and that MECO is not just Hargey himself — admit, or admitted, to be authentic hadith. However, these appeared earlier, leaving open the possibility that Hargey has revised his position; it could also be that Hargey uses hadith when it suits him to do so, and rejects them otherwise. The clear advocacy of an “absolutely Qur’an-reliant Islam” in the press release on niqab from 2007 suggests the former.)

There are two well-known hadith-rejecting groups known to Muslims: the Parvezis of Pakistan and the Khalifites, who originated in the USA although they have followers in various other countries (they have a substantial online presence, and were known for flooding the AOL and Usenet discussion forums on Islam back in the mid-1990s). Whether he belongs to either of them I have no idea, but his pronouncements often have the hallmarks of hadith-rejectors, such as in this video, extracted from a BBC news report, in which he states:

Jilbab is a cultural phenomenon. It is not a religious thing. There is no religious verse, there is no Qur’anic ayah, there is nothing in the Qur’an that says you must wear the jilbab.

There in fact is an ayat which states: “oh Prophet, tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their jilbabs over their persons”, something it is impossible to do without wearing one in the first place. However, that jilbab was not the abaya which is known of today, but was worn over the head and covers most of the body and usually the face; the garment known as bui-bui, worn by east African Muslim women, is probably the closest thing we have to it today. However, there are two salient points to make here.

The first is that Hargey says, “there is nothing in the Qur’an that says …” when this is not a valid objection and it is a shibboleth of hadith-rejectors, since a Muslim would say “in the Qur’an and the Sunnah”, and the Sunnah is mainly represented in the hadith. We are clearly told in the Qur’an, “obey Allah and His Messenger” (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), whose sayings and doings are known as the Sunnah. It is a fact that most of the practice of Islam is not detailed in the Qur’an, but is a handed-down tradition based on what the Companions observed the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) doing and what he told them. How to pray, for example, is not detailed in the Qur’an. Virtually all the specifics of Islam were handed down this way. Rejecting hadith in its entirety leaves you with a drastically pared-down religion.

Second, Hargey is clearly either woefully ignorant of the Qur’an itself, or is a liar. The word jilbab is actually mentioned in the Qur’an, and you can search the Qur’an on a computer and find this out. The idea that someone can be a spokesman for any kind of Islam, or an imam, when he makes such a basic error is preposterous.

The Muslim Weekly are at fault for publishing an untrue fact without doing proper research, but it is difficult to see how a five-figure settlement could possibly be justified. The Qadianis are a much bigger and better-known sect among Indian Muslims than the Khalifites and other hadith-rejectors, but the religious ruling on them — that they are disbelievers — is identical. To Muslims, who reject him and his teachings regardless of how many powerful friends he has, the untruth is the equivalent of saying that a thief stole so many hundreds of dollars when he really stole pounds; to anyone else, it is like saying someone is a Methodist when he is really a Baptist. The difference simply does not matter to most people. Hargey’s views clearly disqualify him from being what the author of the Independent’s report calls him, namely a “devout Sunni Muslim”. In fact, they disqualify him from being called a Muslim at all. It would be a shame if this was the end of the line for this particular legal action; if the facts were presented properly, the settlement could surely be reduced to a nominal sum.

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