Here yet again we see why there isn’t a large number of genuine Muslim reformers. “Liberal Iraqi Shi’ite Scholar Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji Calls For Reason In Islamic Discourse and Jurisprudence,” by Yotam Feldner for MEMRI, February 21:
On February 18, 2013, the Iraqi media reported that the liberal Iraqi Shi’ite scholar Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji had been arrested the previous day in Qom, Iran, while visiting family.
Sayyed Al-Qabbanji’s revolutionary ideas, especially his focus in the last few years on the need to rationalize Islamic religious discourse and jurisprudence, have made him the bane of the powerful Shi’ite clergy in Iraq, and have sparked accusations of heresy against him there — particularly in the months prior to his arrest in Iran.
The news of the arrest was received with mixed reactions by the Iraqi intelligentsia. While his supporters and fellow liberal scholars and politicians have called for his immediate release, some among the Shi’ite clergy have demanded that Iran prosecute him for “his violations of the sanctity of his [Shi’ite] denomination.”
Following the arrest, Iranian intelligence services deputy director Mohammad Mosajadi was quoted as telling Tehran Radio that Al-Qabbanji was spying for Israel and transmitting “coded information” to it. If found guilty of this, he said, Iran would cooperate with the Iraqi government in carrying out the death penalty.
Meanwhile, in the five days since Al-Qabbanji’s arrest, the Iraqi authorities have refrained from commenting on the matter.
The following is a review of the philosophy of Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji.
Who Is Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji?
Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji is perhaps the most innovative of modern Islamic scholars. His defiance of conventional Islamic beliefs has made him persona non grata in Iraqi television studios. Eventually, Al-Qabbanji turned to the Internet, launching a series of weekly public lectures, which were filmed and posted on a dedicated YouTube channel.
Born in Najaf, Iraq in 1958, Al-Qabbanji studied Islamic jurisprudence at the Shi’ite Hawza of his hometown in the 1970s. In 1979, when Saddam Hussein became president, he left Iraq for Syria and Lebanon, and eventually settled in the holy city of Qom, Iran, where he continued his religious education. After returning to post-Saddam Iraq in 2008, he founded and headed the Liberal Islamic Movement in Iraq. He translated into Arabic several books by the renowned Iranian scholar Abdolkarim Soroush, and authored many of his own books presenting his views.
According to some accounts, Al-Qabbanji fought for Iran in the Iran-Iraq war when he was a believer in the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and lost the use of his right arm during that time.
Since returning to Iraq, Al-Qabbanji has been provoking Islamist ire, challenging the basic precepts of Islam, and demanding that they be modified in accordance with modern-day reason. In October 2012, he clashed with his elder brother, Sadr Al-Din Al-Qabbanji, who is the Friday prayer imam of Najaf and a leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. The latter issued a fatwa declaring that “the ideas promoted by Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji are distorted and un-Islamic… these ideas are part of the war waged by the enemies of Islam, in order to cast doubt on the Islamic religion and its principles.”
Soon after the fatwa was made public, Al-Qabbanji responded, saying: “My honorable [brother] was right. I have deviated from his religion, every bit of which I reject. Let them say that I am an apostate and a heretic. It is true. I am an apostate from their religion, which stirs nothing but hatred of the other — a religion devoid of beauty, devoid of love, devoid of humanity… You have made people hate Allah and Islam. You have turned yourselves into Allah’s police, proclaiming who is a deviant and who is an apostate”¦”…