Abdul-Hakim Murad and Panorama

Still of John Ware outside Tooting mosqueThis is a response to the ridiculous comments that have ensued from the recent John Ware documentary — he appeared in Ware’s earlier Panorama in which Ware attacked certain mosques at which offensive sermons were delivered. Abdul-Hakim Murad appeared very briefly in that programme, alleging that mainstream Islamic bookshops were going under because they could not compete with propaganda material being given out for free with Saudi funding.

Before I proceed, I must say that this cannot be the only reason why bookshops are going out of business. Bookshops everywhere are going under because of something called “the Internet”. Online retailers can use out-of-town warehouses while bookshops have to pay for a retail venue, often in a prime location, with the related overheads. Bookshops of all stripes have been going under in recent years, including Wahhabi-run ones (such as one I remember in Walthamstow). Also, there is still a market for Islamic material of a traditional nature. Still, material being sold cheaply by Saudi-financed publishing houses is a fact.

That over, I find it puzzling that people who demand that we make dozens of excuses for the likes of Abu Usaamah in Birmingham, or Shaikh Sudais, or some other public figure of that stripe, will not do the same for a traditional scholar who criticises them publically. The Wahhabis, after all, did not make any excuse for anyone when they were tearing into each other during the self-proclaimed Inquisition, in the late 1990s. We are expected to assume that Abu Usaamah’s words were taken out of context, but they will make no such excuse for someone they do not agree with who appeared for less than a minute in an hour-long programme. Given that we have already heard claims that those who made this programme lied to the management of a school, and filmed girls without their consent or anyone else’s, what is to say that a long interview was not cut down to a few seconds? What is to say that he knew anything of what Ware intended to do with this documentary, particularly since it was his first? Nobody seems to be asking why he was not in this most recent one — did he refuse, knowing what Ware had done the first time round, or was he not approached?

I’ve had people trying to have a “debate” — I’m not sure what about, given that he last appeared in one of these programmes more than five years ago — but the fact that “neo-cons use AHM” is not a black mark against him as long as he is not actively feeding them inflammatory or untruthful material about Muslims. And they do not say that; they say “they use him”. That’s not proof. I’m not interested in hosting a debate in which mud is slung at a scholar (or anyone else) based on such claims, because it is all just pointless, juvenile backbiting without the slightest Islamic justification.

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19 Responses

  1. Ibn adam says:

    Oh Yusuf , I never claimed that this point in and of itself is my issue . It certainly is true that some Neo-cons like him as an expert and if he is willing to associate then that is naive hence my “fruit on the cake ” phrase but that is not my case. I have other issues. By the way I am not Wahabi, so their is no sectarian intent here. As you are sensitive about it, I shall leave it. I am more than willing to discuss this privately so that you can assess for yourself what I am talking about. You have my email

  2. Amad says:

    salam Yusuf. To be honest, I didn’t see the clip or knew about AHM’s presence. But I should add that he has participated in “wahhabi-bashing” before in many formats, and perhaps that is why people are more sensitive now, even if he was “used” out of context. You’ll hardly ever find Hamza Yusuf or Zaid Shakir caught in such positions. They always try to stay out of turf wars, and I think this part of their characters provides a great deal of fodder for their near universal popularity among Muslims (at least much more than AHM has achieved despite his obvious intellect and eloquence).

    Stay in touch. w/s

  3. Amad says:

    Btw, i just read your article on Panorama… really well done mashallah. We would have loved to cross-post a few days ago… would really appreciate if you could keep me in the loop on such topics of wide interest so we can help disseminate your very valuable insights.

  4. ibn adam says:

    Indeed, in some cases he has place the blame on “Wahabi’s” and “Radical Muslims” for holding positions that are orthodox! In fact there is an Ijma on it. Look at this article


    Now look at his reference

    “The best discussion of the controversy is the book by Mohammed Hashim Kamali, “Freedom of Expression in Islam” (Cambridge, 1997).”

    Interesting that, because the references provided by Kamali have been shown to be revisionist in style. This has been exposed by none other than Fouad Haddad! Yep, the student of Kabbani, who is liked by Murad. See this link


    It is a shoddy piece of work. The Ottoman claim is a historical fiction. We have chased the primary documents on this. The late Ottoman Ulema certainly did not do what Murad claims (that is as far as we know).

    References can be provided for this.

    So let me guess, the references Kamali provides are dodgy, the Ottoman claim is a historical fiction and this is a problem because and I quote

    “Among radical Salafis and Wahhabis who do not accept the verdicts of the Ottoman or the Azhar scholars, it is generally believed that the majority medieval view should still be enforced.”

    By the way, there is no Ijma by the Azhar scholars on this.

    I understand that AHM did not “fabricate” it but he clearly did not go to the primary sources to make these claims. Hey, I could still be corrected.

    Interestingly the Barewli satellite channel has been naughty as well :)


    Note how AHM time frames it as “medieval” as opposed to the “modern” position held by the Azhari and late Ottoman “school of thought”.

  5. Mushtaqur Rahman says:

    Why should he seek popularity amongst Muslims? As far as I’m concerned a lot of politically active Muslims in England are cretins; let’s face it we’re not talking about the majority of Muslims, whose concerns are far more mundane than the nonsense that floats around randomly in the heads of activists. And please don’t start using the facile sheikh x or y doesn’t do this, so why should he: I know enough about SAHM to know his worth.

  6. Mushtaqur Rahman says:

    Just for clarification, Ibn Adam, but can you read Ottoman Turkish?

  7. ibn adam says:

    Why don’t you ask me for the references :) . Maybe, the researcher who did his Phd thesis did.

  8. ibn adam says:

    Oh yeah another revisionist rehash of the traditional scholarship. I quote, from the same article

    “Furthermore, some Muslim scholars will permit a non-defensive ‘idealist’ war to establish justice and freedom in a neighboring country. This is analogous, perhaps, to the decision of the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany on September 3, 1939, in response to the German invasion of Poland..”

    Umm.. I think not. In fact there is a consensus among traditional scholarship that a non-defensive Jihad is an option. The difference of opinion is whether it is recommended, a fard kifayaah, or a fard ayn

    Of course, the idea of a perpetual Jihad is a minority view. The majority do allow a peace treaty (the duration is differed upon, some make it even unrestrited) as an option. I have no idea where AHM got this “some” from . The analogy with WW 2 ? Maybe.

    Interestingly, if he wants to play the “Azhari game”, look at an Azhari view on Milad al Nabi! Yep, the Egyptian government bans the publi gatherings and surprise, surprise some Ulema from Azhar do not like Milad al Nabi. In fact Habib Ali has a debate with them! You can get this on Youtube.

    Here is the link


    Oh what about the attack on the Niqab by the Azhari icon and on and on and on……

  9. ibn adam says:

    Habib Ali was also temporarly banned from Egypt.

  10. ibn adam says:

    I was just surprised there was not fatwa for it lol!

  11. Mushtaqur Rahman says:

    Ibn Adam If that is what we had to wait for, ie your little soliloquy, then it was pretty poor fare. You may be fooled by your own vanity, but you only look like a fool, a prize fool! Well done, then: both barrels straight through the metatarsals.

  12. ibn adam says:

    I have no idea what your comment does to your case. It has no relevance to the any point I mentioned. It would be more meaningful if you addressed the inaccurate referencing and the blame game on “Wahabi’s” and “Radical Muslims” when they hold traditional views.

    Regarding a reference that you may want to read on the Ottoman- Apostacy issue, I suggest you read this thesis:

    Anglo-Ottoman Relations and the Reform Question in the Early Tanzimat Period 1839-1852: With Special Reference to Reforms Concerning Ottoman non-Muslims (The University of Birmingham, 1995) by Turgut Subasi

    Other references if you want:

    “There is not compulsion in Religion. On Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire 1839-1856”, Selim Deringil, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol 42 No 3. (Jul 2000) pp 547-575

    I have many other references if you wish. I think that should be ok as an introduction. Notice both brothers are Turkish by birth.

    Interestingly the Quilliam Foundation used similar logic. I quote

    “…..To introduce a mode ofpunishment that was explicitly repealed by leading Muslim theologians of the then capital of the abolished Caliphate in Istanbul is yet another example of Islamists using democratic rhetoric to get into power, and then going on to abolish fundamental democratic principles and human rights.”

    They went a bit further and similarly this was a historical fiction.

    So yes this is my first point against AHM i.e.

    1-AHM plays the blame game with “Wahabi’s” and “Radical Muslims” when they hold traditional views by using bad scholarship

    By the way, I can chase some other ingenious referencing by AHM if you wish, but those are two for a start.

    I have other points against him, but clearly you have nothing much to say here. .

  13. ibn adam says:

    Sorry Apostasy not Apostacy.

  14. ibn adam says:

    among my other errors lol! Sorry wrote in haste :)

  15. africana says:

    I have read a number of Abdal Hakim Murad’s articles and I find that they make very good motivational reading. I think that, even if one decides not to accept rulings derived by certain scholars, one can usually benefit from their writings in some way, especially when the topic concerns matters like the removal of spiritual diseases and character development.

    Having said that, I do avoid translations by Brelvis from Pakistan and India as I feel that they go to extremes in their veneration of the prophet (salla Allahu allehi wa salam).

  16. ibn adam says:

    I agree africana. One does not throw the baby out with the water. That would just be silly. We take the good and leave the bad from every living soul inshallah.

  17. Mohsin says:


    Ibn Adam, I would be very careful about the endless procession of references you seem to rely on, as unfortunately - and this to me is a sign of God’s justice, though a purely subjective feeling - when people are quite bombastic in their approach it can usually be turned against them in the same manner.

    You mentioned that you chased the primary references on all the claims made. What are those references? Were they chased up in Osmanlici, the language that some may have been written in? If you yourself are not conversant in that, then who is your authority on this, can you name them? Furthermore can you vouch for their probity, do you know them personally? I notice that you referenced two articles on the late Ottoman period and asked us to note that the authors were Turkish. Does the fact that they are Turkish mean anything? Are we to assume that being Turkish makes one more insightful, more reliable, more religious? Furthermore are we to assume that they have a complete grasp of the topic of the language? Interestingly at least one of Istanbul’s municipalities offers Osmalici classes as the vast majority of the populace don’t know it; are we to assume that the authors of said papers do to a sufficiently high quality? Traditional Islam rises and falls on the ability to know that ones teacher is reliable; throwing references around is a world away from what I’d imagine you would valorise. Mushtaqur asked you if you yourself knew Ottoman Turkish, to which you replied maybe the person who did his phd thesis did. Surely you can see how weak that sounds? And you may not know this, but having a phd thesis to your name is hardly a ringing endorsement for reliability. Again, if the references are in Arabic as opposed to Ottoman Turkish the same applies; are we convinced that the researchers are sufficiently trained to interpret it? As an ummah we have been hurt, and hurt badly but poor and wilful translations of arabic time and again.

    Did you really chase all the primary documents on the topic by the way? Who is ‘we’? Was every document examined? In the archives in Turkey?

    Please note this: I’m not here to horsetrade with anyone on religious topics; I have not the sufficient knowledge in all the Islamic sciences and until I do so it would be foolhardy to do so. This is all about methodology and rigor. So what it comes down to is this: if, Ibn Adam, you would like to make claims about anyone, especially someone as knowledgeable as SAHM, for anyone to take such statements seriously you must do the following:

    1 - Name all your references for every single statement made above. And you have made plenty. 2 - For all your references please include information about why they are reliable, who they are from and who these individuals are, a relevant biography may be suitable for this. Ideally primary sources are best of course. 3 - If you are unable to fully comprehend let alone read the language of the primary source, please let us know who can, and again please include information as to why they are reliable. 4 - Please include a detailed biography about yourself: since you are giving us knowledge, or at least attempting to, I think that is very fair: as sunni muslims we must know who we take knowledge from. 5 - Can you kindly let us know about what you did to comprehensively search the primary documents as you say you did? We all need to know that we have all the possible information at hand.

    I think those 5 points are a good starting point for a discussion. Why don’t you try that - and please do take your time we’re not in a hurry - and when you’ve gathered all that up we can see where we stand. If you do think those requests are going to be a bit arduous and unnnecessary I think we will all know the calibre of the discussion and adjust our expectations accordingly.

    With the best wishes and salams

  18. ibn adam says:

    The irony of it all. Look at the burden of proof required after I give secondary references to experts in the field! Subhan Allah, and AHM is providing tertiary sources and one is from an awful modernist book with shoddy referencing. This, by the way, was exposed by your Fouad Haddad. I assume you do respect his credentials right?

    Ok, with regards to point 1, I have already provided adequate references. I have more but I fail to see why these are not good enough.

    Here they are again

    Anglo-Ottoman Relations and the Reform Question in the Early Tanzimat Period 1839-1852: With Special Reference to Reforms Concerning Ottoman non-Muslims (The University of Birmingham, 1995) by Turgut Subasi

    “There is not compulsion in Religion. On Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire 1839-1856”, Selim Deringil, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol 42 No 3. (Jul 2000) pp 547-575

    2- Why are they reliable. ?

    Ok let as look at second author, Selim Deringil. Who is he? Well here is the link to one of the lectures he gave in a conference. Note the, apostasy and Ottoman issue is his pet topic and he is writing a book on it! Furthermore, I will paste his credentials.


    “Professor Selim Deringil is currently Professor of History in the History Department at Bosphorous University, Istanbul, Turkey. He is also Reccurent Visiting Professor in the Nationalism Studies Programme and the History Department at CEU. His interests are in cultural and intellectual history and he is currently involved in research on religious conversion and apostasy in the late Ottoman Empire. His interests are teaching and research on comparative themes in Ottoman/European history. He has written and taught on such topics as citizenship, the relationship of religion and nationalism, nomadism and modernity, the occult in Muslim and Christian societies, and piracy in the Mediterranean.”

    I am sure a Professor of History in Istanbul ” chased up in Osmanlici” the primary documents lol! I found this statement of yours startling

    “Surely you can see how weak that sounds? And you may not know this, but having a phd thesis to your name is hardly a ringing endorsement for reliability”

    So a Turkish native who does his research in this period should not be reliable when it comes to reading “Ottoman Turkish”. You are kidding me right? Surely he at least deserves a look! You may have a point when a non-native speaker does a thesis using only secondary sources, but somebody reading primary manuscripts!?

    Note what he says about the Apostasy issue in the lecture. I quote

    “Although the penalty for apostasy from Islam was death, after 1844 this law was allowed to lapse even if it was never rescinded officially.”

    What if I tell you I have a primary source clarifying Shiekh al Islam’s view in this period ? Go on tempt me :)

    Who is Turgut Subasi?


    You can find information about him on the link

    I am not really sure about your other issues. Could you provide specific statements that I need to give references for.

  19. Mushtaqur Rahman says:

    So what are you, Ibn Adam? Salafi or Islamist or both? Or perhaps you are from the Brelvi bunch? I’m assuming all of this as you cam out with the statement “your Fouad Haddad”? What does th possessive noun mean in this context? You also said “we” with regard to sources and so I asked you whether you could read Ottoman Turkish. Clearly you don’t and so followed some more weasel words. Look, you might like your hypothesis to look like Emental cheese, but I wouldn’t. And no, I don’t assume that a Professor of History will understand Osmanli: it does not follow.