Quick post today. For those who don’t know, Nasr Abu Zayd was a Muslim intellectual and a reformist who was effectively exiled from Egypt for allegedly committing apostasy. That’s not literally true, no banishment applied, but he was forcibly divorced from his wife for being declared an apostate despite his forceful denial of this in a ruling by the Egyptian Court of Cassation in 1995. Thus, he either had to leave his wife or leave the country, and it is a sign of who he is that he left the country (returning only for short visits) and remained married, dying in 2010.
“Twenty years ago, ustadh,” you tell me. “Surely, the blog post is a little dated?” Wait, I say, lest we forget, let us remember why he was declared an apostate–not by ISIS, which did not exist, not by Al Qaeda, which did not exist either, not even by the Muslim Brotherhood. By the highest court of general appeal in Egypt under Mubarak. Quite a few reasons given, but having reviewed the opinion today in connection with a casebook on Islamic law I am writing, I found two particularly interesting:
- Condemnation of the forced tax on Christians and Jews living in Muslim lands, known as the jizya
- Condemnation of sex with female slaves that a Muslim man purchases.
These things, the Court says, are not up to debate. You deny them, you aren’t a Muslim.
May we then review?
If Professor Nasr Abu Zayd says we must develop understandings and approaches to our Holiest Texts that do not require that we impose the jizya, or he says we should do the same as concerns the enslavement of non-Muslim women from the House of War for sexual enjoyment, then he is an apostate for denying that which is absolutely clear, say Mubarak era high judges, and Islamist parties in Egypt who threaten his life, and the Kuwaiti authorities who deny him the right to enter that country in 2009 for his apostasy. But if ISIS imposes a jizya, or kidnaps women for sexual enjoyment, then, of course, they are acting totally contrary to Islam, according to those same sorts of authorities.
You can play word games, and suggest ISIS is taking slaves the wrong way, or it is the wrong authority to impose the jizya, and thereby deem it entirely unIslamic, of course. Or you can focus on those aspects of ISIS that clearly seem to be beyond any classical permission, about which I’ve blogged here in relation to killing Christians and here with respect to slavery.
But the ethical problem remains. If Professor Nasr Abu Zeyd is indeed an apostate, then you have to, as an ethical matter, deem acceptable the imposition a tax on people on the basis of their religious affiliation, and you have to, as an ethical matter, find no problem with the abduction and rape of female slaves, so long as it’s done the right way. Or, you can join us renegade liberals, the ones who pull their hair out when they’re called apostates by the Man and pull it out again when the very things they’re called apostates for by the Man are then condemned by the Man when someone actually takes the Man’s words seriously.