Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Foreign Affairs - The Prophet of Moderation: Tariq Ramadan's Quest to Reclaim Islam - Jonathan Laurence

THE REAL MUHAMMAD: Ramadan's Prophet Muhammad is a humble and compassionate figure, a sponge for learning. He is thoroughly devoted to God, but no fanatic: "Woe to those who exaggerate," Muhammad tells his followers at one point. "Moderation, moderation!" He is a discreet preacher who knows that honey is more effective than vinegar. He wins his followers' hearts with his flexibility: there are no forced conversions, and Muslims may even leave the faith if they find they do not like it. He welcomes the incorporation of local cultural practices, even singing at a wedding (which sharia does not permit), as an "enrichment." At another point, he gives a free meal to someone who has broken the rules of the Ramadan fast -- and he does it with a smile. ---- Ramadan's Muhammad is a model of equanimity, guaranteeing "trust and respect of principles" and inviting his fellow Muslims "to go beyond tolerance to learn, listen, and recognize others' dignity." Even when "relations deteriorated" with the Jews, Ramadan reminds his readers, "the Quran states that any hatred that may incidentally arise from a war cannot obviate the principles to which believers must remain faithful." And in Ramadan's telling, Muhammad's first wife, Khadijah -- the first convert to Islam and a female presence who could almost always be found alongside her husband -- makes a striking case against gender segregation. Muhammad would repeatedly insist before accepting a dinner invitation, "What about her?"


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