This work, firmly rooted in classical Islam, is written by a Muslim schooled in law and philosophy, with an intimate knowledge of the Arab world. That he is also a German diplomat in Morocco and a convert to Islam gives his work unique importance amongst those Europeans who seek to understand Islam on a personal level. In an attempt to build bridges, he tackles all those difficult issues which have helped to form both the old and the new images of Islam amongst Europeans. An important and provocative book, it will further our understanding of the true dimensions of a religion so near to us, yet of which we have so little genuine knowledge; a religion which shapes the lives of a billion people, including increasing numbers of Europeans.
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Hofmann was born a Catholic, but converted to Islam in , while serving in the German Foreign Service as a specialist on issues concerning nuclear defense.
He graduated from Union College in New York and completed his legal studies at Munich University where he received a doctorate in jurisprudence in He became a research assistant for the reform of federal civil procedure, and in received an LL. Recently Dr. Hofmann talked to Biju Abdul Qadir of Young Muslim Digest on a host of issues critical to a proper appreciation of Islam and the Muslim community in the context of the modern world.
Presented hereunder is the unabridged text of the interview. Can you give us a specific instance? This is hard to imagine because today one finds 3. When I became a Muslim that was quite an exotic thing to do. However, at that time, in , people were not yet afraid of Islam in Germany. So I was rather seen as queer than as dangerous. YMD: What was it in the beginning that struck you as the most attractive part of Islam? In doing so I realized that in school, in Germany, we had been kept in the dark about the Muslim input to world civilization.
Do you agree? MWF: It is true that the French as occupation power had done their very best to eliminate Islam from the Maghrib area. But that does not explain the weakness of Islam, as today, in Algeria and Tunisia, both countries being ruled by rabidly anti-Islamic military, pro-French colonels and generals.
After all, the Muslim world, as a whole, does not present a very pretty picture. Most of it is ruled by dictators, and the oil-rich Muslim countries seem to be dazzled by their riches. How can we fight in Germany for the right of Muslimat to wear hijab as long as this is forbidden in Turkey? How do you view the government action of canceling the election? How, in your opinion, have the consequences of such government action in Algeria affected developments in that country and in other countries of the Muslim Ummah?
MWF: The second round of elections was cancelled in because there would have been a land-slide victory of the FIS. The lesson drawn around the world was that the West would applaud the violation of basic democratic rules as long as this helped to keep Muslim parties from power. Ever since, Muslim democrats have been filling the prisons in Muslim core countries. From all this Muslim activists have drawn the conclusion that human rights have blue eyes and blond hair, i.
This has been a contributing factor for the rise of violence. Your comments? There is no excuse for his translating this obsession into a policy of extermination. True, Jewish people all through the ages have been severely persecuted in Europe. But never before had this been done in cold-blooded, industrial, fashion as in Nazi Germany. It speaks for Islam that the Muslim world always welcomed Jewish people and allowed them to thrive.
This is still true today: Anti-Zionism is not an anti-Semitic attitude but a political response to a political challenge. YMD: How do you view the life and works of Anne Marie Schimmel, the renowned German Islamologist who had a certain sympathy for the Islamic worldview, but who never actually embraced Islam, choosing instead to remain a Lutheran all her life?
MWF: Mrs. Schimmel was a good friend of mine, and I admired her devotion to the study of all things Islamic. In true mystical fashion, she tended to overlook features that might separate religions in favor of their common features. Consequently, the Muslim Movements started out with a particular emphasis on politics and Muslim Brotherhood partially underground activities.
The problem with this background is that it does not serve the needs of the Muslim diaspora in Western democratic countries. Muhammad Iqbal, on the other hand, as a Muslim poet and intellectual, falls into an entirely different category. Of the three others, only Syed Qutb had been similarly exposed to Western thought. What counts is that of the four only Muhammad Iqbal was able to act as a bridge builder between Occident and Orient.
YMD: In your view, have the salafist-led groups progressed from being a stagnating, puritanical, reformatory influence to a more socially engaged political force with a movement-based approach in the Ummah today?
If so, how, and, if not, why? There Muslim participation is the key to an essential improvement of the Muslim minority status. YMD: With the tight control on thought and activity of the Muslims in the Arab world in general, and the Gulf in particular, do you think that after the stagnation of the previous few centuries, now it is poised to collapse?
MWF: Muslim thought and academic competence nowadays is found mainly in the Western context. At any rate, Islamic thought is severely restricted within the Arabic Ummah — as proven by the excellence of some publications coming from Islamabad Journal of Islamic Studies ; Policy Perspectives and Kuala Lumpur. YMD: There is a body of opinion in Muslim circles today that the institution of the Khilafath or Imamate is the foremost requirement of the Ummah , and that the need for Iqaamat-e-Deen or the establishment of religion is subordinate to this need.
Classical scholars like Ahmed b. Taymiyah and modern researchers like Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah, on the other hand, are of the view that the first priority for the Ummah — whether as an individual or as society — is Iqaamat-e-Deen , and any mode of leadership or governance that serves this requirement best is acceptable. How do you view this apparent conflict of opinions? YMD: While the act of organizing, and organizations themselves, have been key components in any endeavour geared towards Islamic revival, organizational affiliations tend to be over-pronounced in most Muslim organizations today.
MWF: Muslim should remember that their diversity is a source of richness. Total uniformity is a horrid vision. Of course, we have to draw a line and exclude all those from the Ummah who do not belong to it for major doctrinal reasons — like Turkish Alevis, the Ahmadiyyah Qadiani sect or the Druzes.
Quite apart from its contribution towards the history of liberation struggles, what is its value for the Muslim world in general? How do you evaluate the roles played by Khomeini, Shariati and the Shiite stream of thought in the revolution and the impact they have had on Muslim thought worldwide? MWF: Certain aspects of the Iranian Revolution of hostage taking; extreme intolerance; military pathos; ideology of suicide shocked the entire world and made the life of Muslims in the West much more difficult.
Before , Islam was seen as an exotic creed; after , as a dangerously expansive one. True, many Muslims suffering from an inferiority complex enjoyed the sight of a Western power being humiliated; not realizing to which extent this was counter-productive for the Muslim cause in general. YMD: How correct is it to refer to Islam as an ideology today?
How, in brief, is Islam an antidote for Western short-comings? MWF: That Islam is an ideology is as true as calling communism a religion. In other words: Each religion can be turned into an ideology, and each ideology into a religion. Thank God, Sufism has never died out and continues to counteract the trend to ab use Islam as a political blueprint. YMD: Dr. MWF: Undoubtedly, the modern world in the Occident centers around quantifiable values: money, sexual prowess and frequency, possessions villa, car , beauty and career.
While it is true that the life of Muslims, too, must have a material basis it seems to me that the Muslim world continues more than the Western one to estimate non-quantifiable aspects of life like love, friendship and kinship, leisure and contemplation, i.
Of-course, when shaykh s from the Arab Gulf with their entire family entourage and bird psychiatrists fly to Algeria in order to allow their falcons to hunt, I, too, see little difference to outrageous Western consumerist behaviour.
While his scholasticism is evident in the delicate intellectual balancing act in his 12 September address to the scientific community at the University of Regensburg, his choice of quotations from the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus as a point of departure for his otherwise interesting discourse on the relationship between faith and reason, betrays a certain carelessness, if not outright insensitivity, for the cause of inter-civilizational dialogue.
Pope Benedict above all is a very academic professor of theology, and that explains his short-comings at Regensburg.
Ever since, he has gone out of his way to sooth the Muslim world. This has, however, little chance of success given his view that only the Catholic Church is a true church, claiming that none of the Lutheran, Calvinist and Episcopalian denominations do qualify. What sympathy can Muslims expect from a pope who even excommunicates his non-Catholic Christian brothers?
YMD: We read in European history the Millennia prior to the 20 th century of Germanic tribes massacred for Christ, of Muslims butchered in Jerusalem during the Crusades, of witch-hunts and burnings at the stake, and of expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spain during the Reconquista.
How has the dogma of extra ecclesiam nulla salus One God, One Church contributed to this historical contradiction in pacifist Christian thought and behaviour?
Of course, the Church is in no longer in the position to implement that dictum with fire and sword. We should be aware that another medieval rule — cuius regio eius religio — did play, and continues to play, a devastating role. The trouble is that tens of thousands of Muslim converts in Europe have no place to go back to…. YMD: The late Dr. Ismail Raji al-Faruqi is considered a prominent figure of dialogue — indeed, trialogue — between the Abrahamic faiths in America.
What are your own thoughts regarding his role in the context of twentieth century ecumenism, and in the Islamization of Knowledge — a project which he initiated but could not fulfill owing to his assassination in ? Nor has his project of an Islamization of Knowledge produced results. It could not because it would have required superhuman scientists who would excel in both Western and Islamic sciences.
The effort made recalled the absurd Nazi efforts to distinguish between Jewish and Arian mathematics. In my view all you need for an Islamization of sciences is competent but truly Muslim scientists. As simple as that. What, in your opinion, is the way out of this impasse in Muslim dialogue with the West? MWF: The dilemma you describe is real. Third generation immigrant Muslims suffer most under it because they no longer speak the languages of their grandparents very well and because they have been exposed to Western curricula in school.
There is only one answer: We have to train our own imam s in the West from among the young generation. The result should be immigrant Muslims who are integrated in Western society, yes, but do not assimilate. In your opinion, what should be the ideal approach for such well-meaning intellectuals in the Ummah? What is the role of the scholar-activist — few as they are in the Ummah — as against the mere scholar and the mere activist?
The problem is that a person fulfilling these requirements is unlikely truly to understand the challenges of Western civilization. Easily said…. Also Nietzsche was less of an atheist than a critic of clericalism and Christianity. The real onslaught against religion came from Feuerbach, Marx, and Darwin, later carried to extremes in the Communist world.
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