Islam & Critical Thought, by Cédric Baylocq and Michael Privot

Islam and Critical Thought. An Interview With The French Imâm and Theologian Tareq Oubrou

By Cédric Baylocq*and Michaël Privot**

(preceded by a presentation and followed by an annex)



As it was the case for Judaism in 18th Century Europe[1], new approaches of the Islamic tradition are rising in Secular Europe. Those approaches mostly endeavour to reshape Islamic religious normativity in such a secular context and to re-evaluate the traditional boundaries between politics and religion. Would this peculiar situation allow the advent of the dream that late Jacques Berque[2] formulated around twenty years ago?:

Let us posit the creation of an Islam de France (Islam of France), better than an Islam français (French Islam), or let us say, in order to simplify, a Gallican Islam which would be an Islam informed by the preoccupations of modern society[3], [an Islam] which would have to solve problems that it never had to solve in its societies of origin, and that, for historical reasons, are not societies at the level of Northern Mediterranean ones. Try to figure out the impact of such a progressive Islam (“islam de progrès”) on the rest of the Islamic world.[4]

Fifteen years after the famous French scholar passed away (1995) in southern France, an Islamic thought featuring some of the dispositions Berque whished seems to be emerging within the very same region. After thirty years of daily involvement among French Muslims, Tareq Oubrou, an imâm in Bordeaux (France) aged 50 years-old, is turning to a more theoretical activity. He is a member of the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF) since its very origins in the beginning of the nineties. This Islamic organization is known to be ideologically close to the Muslim Brotherhood, though Oubrou is a pretty free and independent mind within this Islamic trend[5]. In this respect, French imâm Tareq Oubrou’s aim is clear[6]:

As far as we are concerned, we will not use the outdated medieval canonical categorization which subdivides the world in three parts: the abode of Islam (dar el-islam), the hostile non-muslim abode (dar el-harb) and the abode of peace (dar el-ahd). We should remind that those notions are neither quoted in the Qur’an nor the Sunna. In our time, this medieval subdivision of the world is anachronous and devoid of canonical effects. The religious emergency is more about to establish a theoretical frame for a practice of Islam faithful to its sources while assimilating the French reality in its conceptualization[7]

While Oubrou keeps being at the heart of his community by providing friday sermons and maintaining different social activities such as visiting prisons, giving courses, answering some theological supplies of worshippers…, he now endeavours to sketch out an Islamic normativity that would take on board the strong peculiarities of the French and European secular context by bridging modern hermeneutics with traditional Islamic canonism (fiqh).

He began this task in a first volume (out of ten forthcoming) on the conception of the Unicity of God (at-tawhid) in Islam and its theological and ethical implications. In that respect, he explores the historical and anthropological context of the Islamic Revelation (what traditionalists call asbâb an-nuzûl but understood here in a much wider sense) in order to try to make a distinction between what is related to ever changing circumstances (“ce qui relève du circonstanciel”) and what is immutable (“ce qui relève de l’intangible”). In this book, he develops the idea that Arabs from what he calls the “Quranic moment” (i.e. the social, anthropological, sociological, cultural and philosophical context of the Revelation) had an immediate understanding of the meaning of the Revelation and could instinctively get its signification because “they received it in accordance to their Arab linguistic skills and their cognitive way to approach knowledge in general[8]…”, contrary to the other people that did embrace Islam at that time (see annex hereafter).

As a way of consequence, Oubrou notices that the advent and evolution of major disciplines of Islamic theology are mostly due to non Arab scholars. For him, they played a decisive role one should more precisely examines because they participated in preserving and transmitting the spirit of the Message in their own civilisation through others cognitive mechanisms thus preventing as far as they could cultural clashes. Oubrou considers that Muslim minorities in Europe are in such a situation today. This is why he developed the notion of “shari’a de minorité” (shari’a of minority), a broader and more ambitious notion than the well known fiqh al aqalyyiat. Through this “shari’a of minority”, he aims

[…] to draw the canonical basis for a ‘canonico-legal’ Islam, that is to say conform to a shari’a thought and elaborated in the global French juridical and constitutional context. The goal is to realize a double conformity: towards the canon of shari’a on the one hand and towards the law of the Republic on the other hand, showing that there is neither antimony nor fracture between Islam and its secular context. This vision of shari’a is dominated by an “ethic of conciliation”, oriented by the concern of understanding and living Islam as a religion and a spirituality totally integrated in the French reality[9].

Moreover he is currently in the process to complete four volumes on the notion of “interpretation in Islam”.

The following interview is an extract translated from the book “Profession Imam” published in France in October 2009 (Albin Michel). Oubrou focuses here on the possibilities and limits in articulating traditional fiqh with modern critical thought. This contribution could be understood as an answer to the widespread belief that “whilst the Western world, in its position of hegemony, (is) wallowing in self-criticism, the Muslim world (is) fiercely resisting any form of criticism”[10]. Oubrou is willing to show that classical Islamic law has in itself a room for critical thought. For him, it allows the use of reason (aql’) since its very origin.


Baylocq & Privot: Could the principles of Islamic canonism allow taking into account European critical thought in the process of reexamining Islamic law in a contemporary context?

Tareq Oubrou: I should begin by recalling the very foundation of classical Islamic law called usûl al-fiqh, a science dealing with methodology and theory of the elaboration of law and Islamic norms – epistemology of law as we would say today. I propose first and foremost a definition by al-Ghazâlî which would help us to understand the task of dialectic and normative hermeneutic related to sharî‘a. He underlines that “The noblest of religious studies are those that marry reason (al-‘aql) and revelation (as-sam‘) and reconcile the scriptural lessons (ash-shar‘) with discursive reasoning (ar-ra’y)[11]“. Usûl al-fiqh is a discipline “belonging to one of those noble sciences because it considers the spirit of revelation and reason as a common pathway. It is not an entirely rational knowledge that would contradict the revealed teachings – in their formalism (ash-shar‘) –, nor a blind conformity (taqlîd) unconfirmed by reason.” This is in short the intellectual task that the canonist (fâqih) is confronted with.

Thus the problem of legal and moral knowledge with regard to the status of reason has been raised since the very first moments of Islamic law[12]. In fact, we can find in almost every classical usûl al-fiqh book a debate – sometimes particularly bitter – among legal doctrines, on the limits of reason and the potential fields of moral and legal knowledge it could explore, including the question of the possibility (or not) for reason to access – without being supported by Revelation – to the knowledge of the good or the appropriate (al-hasan) and the evil or the bad (al-qabîh). The response was globally positive for some theologians – from ash‘arî, hanbalî or even hanafî backgrounds – albeit with some nuances according to their respective definitions of good and evil[13]. The most formal of them remaining the mu‘tazila, the hanafîs[14] and some hanbalîs. On the contrary, the majority of hanbalîs and ash‘arîs think that it is the Revelation – i.e. the Quran and the Sunna – which eventually illuminates reason on what is good and evil for man. However the ash‘arîs recognize that what is good or evil was known as such by reason itself before the Revelation turned it to norms[15]. And if reason is not provided with legislation by itself for a large number of jurists, they nevertheless consider that the revealed law only becomes a binding law for the believer only once it is properly received, understood and confirmed by reason[16], which is more or less the same thing.

All scholars of Islam, even those who consider that reason is not sufficient in itself and that it needs the lights of Revelation, except for a tiny zâhirî minority[17], agree on the point that Revelation only makes sense after acceptance, understanding and interpretation through reason. Ibn Taymiyya, like many theologians, extends the requirement of reason to the fields surrounding the very foundations of religion: the credo, the dogma of the faith and the corollary beliefs, and not only to the fields of moral practices and law. He says that those very dogma only become so once they have been received and accepted by reason[18]. The jurist, the canonist, must not only activate his reason but must also know how others think with the view to develop his critical instinct. Anyone who does not know comparative Islamic law will not be able to probe the depth of law, as the great canonists like to recall to who wants to reach the level of mujtahid.

So there are no scriptura sola in Islamic hermeneutics. Man is at the core of this device. And because law is made by men in different anthropological and socio-historical conditions, this law can only be plural. Subsequently, it depends for a great part from the conjecture and the episteme[19] or, to use a more common vocabulary among canonists, of zanniyya, which can be translated by the notion of “hypothetical knowledge”.

To be more precise, two critical traditions deeply influenced the history of modern Western thought: the first one comes from Kant and “refers to the evaluative examination of categories and forms of knowledge in order to determine their cognitive validity and value[20]” and the second, from Marxian origin, which “trains the weapons of reason against socio-historical reality and sets itself the task of bringing to light the hidden forms of domination and exploitation which shape it so as to reveal by contrast the alternatives they thwart and exclude[21] (emphasis added)” Is it realistic to imagine a re-reading of Islamic law and jurisprudence which would be inspired by those critical methods as hermeneutical keys?

The picture I have just sketched out suggests the possibility of hermeneutics inspired by the Kantian or Marxian critical approaches you mentioned. This is an open door for a renewal of law – a quite plausible suggestion, especially if one accepts that it is not possible to reflect upon Islam today without taking into consideration our present intellectual, scientific and philosophical universe. One cannot be more orthodox than the founders of Islamic law who introduced Greek logic and other methods of argumentation and reasoning that Arabs from the “Quranic moment” were far to know.

Islam is a religion of the Book. As a result, the thought it produces is necessarily a hermeneutic. “Read in the name of thy Lord who created – created man out of a leech-like clot (‘alaq)… He Who taught (the use of) the Pen, – taught man that which he knew not” (Q. 96, 1-5). The first revealed verse of the Quran announces the nature of Islam and the double hermeneutical characteristic of Islamic thought by opening the believer to another book; that of creation and nature in which I place Man and anything that constitutes him as such (historical, sociological, anthropological… determinations). They phenomenologically inform on its nature, as a propaedeutic to an ontology which can however only be asymptotically reached, not permanently. In this regard we may agree with Kant on the finiteness of man and the relativity of his knowledge. One may partially agree with him on the fact that the nature of man is not his code. Indeed, the Kantian vision defends the idea of a spirit which prescribes its own laws to nature and not the other way around. To this Kantian radicalism, we can substitute a more dialectical vision – which still remains Kantian but reversed – that is to say that there is no way for reason to define its own starting point for investigation. The formula we propose is the following: yes, spirit prescribes its own law to nature, as according to Kant, but it received them from nature itself in the first place. Maybe our problem with Kant lies in the conception of nature that did not contain, for him, man’s spirit, because it places spirit in parallel with nature.

You have understood from the above that Islamic thought is not exclusive to critical thought insofar as submission to Scripture is not opposed to hermeneutics in order to empower knowledge. Indeed, some methods used to investigate nature (sciences) and culture (humanities) are not excluded if we accept that Islam in all its dimensions is not always and immediately understandable through the Scriptures. Establishing a priori a theory of reading that addresses the meaning of Texts and the truth they contain has never been totally ruled out. In this regard the debate between Ancients (es-salaf) and Moderns (el-khalaf) is well known. One fact remains obvious, the cognitive approach does not stop at the level focused on the Texts only (Quran or Sunna), since many Quranic passages call for a double reflection (nazar): one focusing on the Scriptural texts themselves and the other on natural laws and historical social, anthropological laws…

It is a significant opening, but since the Quran is considered as the uncreated and direct words of God (contrary to the Gospels, inspired by God to human beings), the dynamics of hermeneutics stumbles necessarily on unequivocal and intangible passages.

This recurring argument is just a point of view. We have indeed the possibility of conceiving Islam as a religion that can be theologically readable by recognizing the effect of a Cause (God) acting by metonymy. At the same time an intellectual demarcation is needed to counter an identification of God to the Koran itself and / or to Nature, in the sense that He would be anything but Transcendent, ontologically confused with His revealed word and / or Nature. If the Koran is the uncreated and conclusive word of God, the ad extra manifestation of the eternal Verb in its descent (tanzîl) does not mean neither a union nor a substantial or even essential unity. The relation of the expression of the Koran in its vocal articulation with God is only a matter of communication. Whatever the sacred and transcendent order of the Koran, it cannot be equated with God Himself with regard to the expression of its essence. It is an uncreated sign emanating from the Essence of God, but it is not God. It is not God Himself who became Verb, but His Verb that became Book. The confusion between God and the Koran can never happen, because there is always in the Muslim Tradition a clear distinction between the symbolic sign (âyat) and the ultimate Truth. If there had to be a mystery in Islam, in a Christian understanding, there would it be. The Divine act that occurs in time, whatever form it takes, is not subject of worship. In this regard, Koran is revered and sacred but not worshipped through a specific cult. Those who defended the idea of a created Koran, the Mu‘tazila themselves, never affirmed that the Koran would not be the Word of God. It is a Word of God that He created out of Himself, but it remains sacred. That is what is understood by a created Koran. People who use this definition often do not know its theological meaning. Its Mu‘tazila proponents did not infer any particular normative interpretations from it. They participated in enriching debates on the principles of law (usûl al-fiqh), but never succeeded in formulating laws and develop a specific school of law (madhhab). Paradoxically most of them belonged to the shafi‘i and hanafi schools of law. But let us close this digression.

The Quranic injunction: “Read in the name of thy Lord…” (Q. 96,1) is not inviting to a passive recitation of the revealed information under the pretext that it is sacred just as it is not an inactive or merely aesthetic reception of a data coming from nature. It is undoubtedly an interpretation: a hermeneutic (ta’wîl) which takes the scriptural teachings and the causal unfolding of phenomena back to their Source and first Cause: God. This is the very sense of Revelation in Arabic (wahî) which means communicating by signs (âyât), endowed with a double semiological relevance: Quranic and cosmic.

But this would imply a real revolution of the “Islamic mentality” if we might take the risk to use a term somehow essentialist…

Indeed, another obstacle remains to be overcome by the hermeneutics: the relationship to the past. Continuity or rupture? Today, the Islamic narrative has to consist in articulating a new narrative to the original narrative, the one of the scriptural Texts (Quranic and prophetic) understood in the context of their revelation. Let me make myself clear: the hermeneutical work is embedded today in a totally new cultural context that neither the classical interpretative system of the Texts of reference (Quran and Sunna), nor the mechanisms of principology related to the normative aspects have directly approached. It is about coming back, in the context of modernity, to the original discourse which is however inseparable from the context of the “Quranic moment”, without breaking away from it, but without confusing it with the context. In that case, it is not so much the substance of the scripturary teaching (i.e. the letter of the Texts) which would be systematically universal, but the form (i.e. the interpretation) that it could take or receive which would make it so.

The appropriation – in the sense of “to appropriate for oneself” but also “to make appropriate” to the actual context – is therefore one of the finalities of hermeneutics. It must fly over the cultural differences and the age-old distance which separate the original universe of the Koran in order to link with our modern situation. The hermeneutical reflexion becomes therefore as contemporary as our reading of modernity and its very direction. It allows also to struggle against the distance from or the oblivion of the meaning of the Scriptures, that is of the systems of values that the Koran and the Tradition of the Prophet have established during the “Quranic moment”. Said otherwise, interpretation is rendering closer, contemporary, the religious discourse by the renewal of the Quranic and prophetic significations which are appearing, historically and culturally, as distant or alien from our current situation. This is how we can raise the exegesis of scripturary text up to the superior level of authentic hermeneutics, by transferring into a modern cultural situation the essentials of the sense of our Texts, a sense which takes on a form relating to a historical cultural situation that has ceased, since a long time ago, to be ours.

In that way, this exegesis becomes an interpretation, i.e. a translation of the meaning linked to a specific cultural context to another according to rules preserving the equivalence of its sense. Hermeneutics do not consist in a direct reading of the Texts, I think that I have amply underlined it. It innovates within the ambivalence and the voluntary omissions of the scripturary Texts, and this thanks to the original character of situations. Ijtihâd, as hermeneutics, shows that the cultural and temporal distance is a desert to get over, but also a medium to go through. It is the constitutive re-interpretation of a living tradition that caters for the transfer of the Quranic meaning by modifying colours and forms without changing the substance, that is to say the references.

As a matter of consequence, at that level, the synthesis is both intrinsic and historical: intrinsic, with formal mechanisms of interpretation that are permanent, at every age, and that we can therefore apply to ours as they are part of a legacy and of this invariant “Islamic Reason” that perpetuates itself through times; and historical, because knowledge not only grows, but also creates itself in new disciplines, technics, perceptions, methods, and logics at the scale of our century.

And I will finish by quoting a great jurist ‘Izz al-Dîn ‘Abd al-Salâm, called the Sultan of Ulamas, who summarised the determining historical condition of law as follows: “People (i.e. Muslims) are elaborating laws according to every age[22]“.

Today, we have the impression that the Islamic jurisprudence, through a number of discourses, is in reality recommended for another age.



“A brief historical overview of the birth of Islamic theology, its adaptation and formalization”

Translated from Oubrou Tareq, L’Unicité de Dieu. Des Noms et des Attributs Divins, (Op. 1/10), Bayane Editions, Paris, 2006, pp 66-70.

“Theology was formalized, apart from a few exceptions, by Muslims of all sorts of ethnical origins who became fluent in Arabic and also “arabized” (mu’arabûn), but still their anthropological background was different of those of people from Arab countries which were the geographical and cultural place of the Revelation.

Embedded in other philosophical and theological traditions, those Muslims transmitted within their own civilisations, what they understood from the Spirit of the Qur’an with respect to the rules and universal modes of intergenerational transmission of knowledge and values that had been adapted throughout History. The same observation can be done with exegesis of Qur’an and other disciplines of Islamic knowledge. In this later field, the first Arab canonists (the Companions and Followers started to formulate laws and fatawa thanks to a ‘double immediate intelligence’ that was offering them and intuitive normative interpretation of the Text and the context. They were thus able answer instinctively to juridical questions, without feeling the need resort to dialectical demonstration. The context was actually relatively simple. When Islam met more complex civilizations the law was formalized, ameliorated and institutionalized thanks to principology[23] (usul al fiqh), a methodological science dealing about rules, modes of interpretation and elaboration of laws, developed essentially by non Arabs who where mostly Persian. Abu Hanifa (150 A.H.-768 A.D.) who was from Persian background, was one of the first, not to say the first, to introduce dialectics as well as algorithmic and analogical argumentations in Islamic law, by using fictions, which was excluded before him because nobody was trying to anticipate canonical and juridical questions at that time as long as they were not really and concretely an issue.

Law was a field that contributed to strengthen Muslim’s spirit of formalization and systematization. This canonical and juridical formalization aspect had an indirect impact on the birth of a speculative methodological theology. Actually, law oriented them towards mathematics since the beginning to resolve concrete juridical problems. Contrary to European medieval arithmetic[24], the one that interested Muslims at that time contained at its very beginning propositions, resolutions of linear equations, and algorithmic resolutions of equations of the first and second degree. They used those techniques in three domains of mathematics applied to law: transactions, measuring of land properties and inheritance. For ritual reasons, astronomical calculations were called in to establish the lunar calendar[25] and to define the direction of qibla and the Kaaba[26], which stands in Mecca and towards which each Muslim has to turn himself to accomplish canonical prayers. The science of algebra had a practical goal for Muslims. They were generally non Arabs, and were at the origin of most of the scientific adventures. One must also add that speculative theology contributed more or less directly to the development of law and the other way around –as Abû Hanifa’s experience shows it, which began his “career” as a theologian and finished as a canonist and jurist.

Arabic language itself was structured as a real discipline by non-Arabs. The founder of Arabic grammar is no other than Sibawayh, a Persian (180 A.H.-797 A.D.) This natural and intuitive language became consequently the subject of multiple and highly specialized disciplines as linguistics, metrics, prosody…

Those non-Arabs founded disciplines that were distinct of those present during the ‘Qur’anic moment’ and the condition of Arab countries on the questions of intellectual formation, of organisation and technique of knowledge, of writing, of erudition and a certain rationality.

When they became a minority after the expansion of Islam, people from Arab background dedicated themselves mostly to political or administrative functions, abandoning knowledge to the hands of generations of scholar mostly coming from different cultural areas than Hidjaz. Even the political power finally reached the non Arabs, namely the Turks[27].

We can sum up the evolution of Islamic thought in general in two phases of rationality: first and foremost these of “interior rationality”, the interpretation of the Islamic Texts as unformal intuition, which then formalized, in a second phase, at the advent of “exterior rationality” brought by more complex culture that Islam met, without losing its essence

However, our historical, ethnological and anthropological analysis is still cursory, still a simplification of something complicated by nature, one must underline it. The goal is to draw attention one those aspects that must not be denied, considering the genealogy of Islamic theology […]”



 *Cedric Baylocq holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Bordeaux-Segalen. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre Jacques Berque (CNRS, Rabat, Morocco). **Michael Privot holds a Ph.D. in Islamic classical philosophy from the University of Liège, Belgium, and acts currently as Director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR).

[1] See notably Bourel Dominique, 2004, Moses Mendelssohn. La naissance du judaïsme moderne, Paris, Gallimard.

[2] World famous French specialist of Arabic and Islamic studies, former recipient of the “Chaire d’Histoire sociale de l’Islam contemporain” at the Collège de France. He died in 1995.

[3] For a critical approach of the notion of “modernity” as being only a Western characteristic, see Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1993), or a complex assessment of this notion: Bruno Latour, Nous n’avons jamais modernes. Essai d’anthropologie symétrique, Paris, La Découverte, « Poche / Sciences humaines et sociales », 2006 (first edition, 1991).

[4] Berque Jacques (interview with Jean Sur), Les Arabes, l’islam et nous, Mille et une nuits, 1996, p 25-26.

[5] See « The Autonomisation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. Da’wa, Mixité and non-Muslims » in The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, dir. Roel Meijer, Columbia University Press, pp149-168, Octobre 2012.

[6] For a short portrait, see Caeiro, 2005.

[7] Oubrou Tareq, « La sharî‘a de minorité : réflexions pour une intégration légale de l’islam », in Lectures contemporaines du droit musulman, dir. Frégosi Franck, Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, 2004, p 208.

[8] Oubrou Tareq, L’Unicité de Dieu. Des Noms et des Attributs Divins, (Opuscule 1/10), Ed. Bayane, Paris, 2006, p. 64 (see Annexe below).

[9] Oubrou Tareq, Dictionnaire de Bordeaux, ed. Loubatières, Toulouse, 2006, p.420.

[10] Rodinson Maxime, “The Muslim World, A Challenge to Geopolitics”, in Géopolitique, num. 7, PUF, 1984, Paris, p.49.

[11] Ghazâlî Mohammed, Al-Mustasfâ, Dar Al-Kutub Al-‘Ilmiyya, 1993, Beyrouth, p. 4.

[12] Dozens of classical works deal with this question. See for example: Al-Farrâ’ Abû Ya‘lâ Mohammed (d. 1066), Al-‘Udda, Dâr Al-Kutub Al-‘Ilmiyya, 2002, Beyrouth, t.1, p.22-39; Ar-Râzî Mohammed Fakhr ad-Dîn (d. 1209), Al-Mahsûl, Mu’assasat ar-Risâla, 1992, Beyrouth, t.1, p. 83-88 and 105-109.

[13] Zarkashî Mohammad Badr ad-Dîn, Tasnîf as-Sâmi‘, Mu’assasat Qurtuba, 1999, t. 1, p. 140-143.

[14] Ibn-Qudâma al-Maqdisî, Rawdat an-Nâdhir, Dâr al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, [s.d.], Beyrouth, t.1, p. 117.

[15] Ibn Burhân Ahmed al-Baghdâdî, al-wusûl ilâ al-usûl, Maktabat al-ma‘ârif, 1983, Riyad, t.1, p.58.

[16] Zarkashî Mohammad Badr ad-Dîn, Al-Bahr al-Muhît, [s.d.], authenticated by Omar Sulaymân al-Ashkar, t.1, p. 147-148.

[17] Relatively ephemeral juridical school in comparison with the great traditional schools (madhâhib). One of its most illustrious representatives was Ibn Hazm (d. 1063), a Cordoban jurist who was not conceiving any other relationship to the Koranic text than a literalism without concession (zâhir). He was dedicating a particular attention to the occurrences of the imperative mood in the Koran and condemning any interpretation or historical perspective that would take into account the context of the Revelation for example. According to him, any element demonstrating an injunctive character cannot bear any nuance, any relativisation, and is executory. It is this particular thinker that the Pope Benedict XVI evoked in his conference in Regensburg, borrowing his references from Roger Arnaldez, a French Arabist died in 2005, in order to contribute to his reflexions on the relationship between faith and reason. Implicitly, Ibn Hazm appears very logically as a counter-example to the demonstration of the Pope (note from the authors).

[18] See Ibn Taymiyya Ahmed, Majmû‘at al-Fatâwâ, Dâr al-Jîl, 1997, Riyad, t. 10, part n°19, p. 124.

[19] In Foucault’s understanding, that is: a knowledge which is located in a general configuration of discursive practices particular to a time and its “contextual a priori” which frames what it is able to think. See M. Foucault, L’archéologie du Savoir, 1969, Gallimard, p. 250. Free translation from the authors.

[20] Wacquant Loïc, Critical Thought as a Solvent of Doxa, Constellations, 11-1, Spring 2004, pp. 97-101. Available at

[21] Ibid.

[22] Muhammad Badr al-Dîn Zarkashî, op.cit., t. 1, p.166.

[23] One usually attributes the birth of principology to Shafi’i (204 A.H – 820 A.D.), an Arab born scholar. It is not totally correct. He basically drafted and outlined this discipline in his inaugural book Ar-risala, but he never talked about usûl al-fiqh, foundation of law (principology). Indeed, his books is symptomatic of an intuitive spirit and of a keen intelligence but a non formalized one. Principology only became a systematized classical science afterwards. Two outstanding authors basically formalized officially the discipline: Abu Bakr al-Baqillani (403 A.H-1013 A.D), an ashaarite, and al-Qadi ’Abd al-Djabbar (415 A.H.-1025 A.D.), a mutazilite, both two non Arab born theologians pertaining to the canonical and juridical shafei school.

[24] During the 9th and the 10th century, discussions turned around the numbers and their characteristics (even, odd, first…) ; on the relationship between numbers (equal, unequal); on geometric representation of numbers and their different averages.

[25] Astronomy was called in since the first century of Hijra by Mutarrif b. ‘Abd Allah (86 A.H.-705 A.D.). He extolled the virtue of astronomic calculation to fix the beginning and the end of Ramadan. Because of that, he can be considered as of a more forward minded spirit compared to canonists that even today refuse the use of astrophysics.

[26] First sacred house built by Abraham and its son Ishmael in the honor of God.

[27] Islam did not succeed each time to integrate to other cultures. Despite eight centuries in Spain, Muslims did not integrate themselves definitively. They stayed culturally selfish, anthropologically Arab-Berbers, linguistically Arabs and ethnically community based. The so-called model of Andalusian Islam often depicted as a historical success, is not to be considered so. It is more to be considered as a failure to be meditated. This presence, we admit, contributed to the progress of the West. It even indirectly contributed to the advent of the Enlightment, thanks to its intellectual and scientific contribution, but at the same time it participated in energizing a hostile Christianity – which was not originally so – which expulsed it from Europe as a result. While on the contrary Islam succeeded to settle definitely in others civilization and language areas where it was acculturated and consequently still exists nowadays Of course, Christian fanatism played an important role in that rejection of Islam in Spain because after the Reconquista, Christians were not as tolerant as the Muslims had been when the conquered Spain. But we did not mention this aspect in our critic because it is not directly related to our issue, dealing only with intrinsic factors of adaptation.

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RB (2013, 24 mars). Islam & Critical Thought, by Cédric Baylocq and Michael Privot. Iqbal إقبال. Consulté le 13 avril 2024, à l’adresse

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