Contribution to the conference on modernity and Arab modernity
held in Beirut from 30 April to 2 May 2004).By: Lafif Lakhdar
In an article published in the Paris daily Le Monde (1) under the title ‘Geared up for the 21st century’, Gerome Binde, Director of the Analysis and Forecasting Office of UNESCO, wrote that humanity should rise to meet four challenges dictated by the new century. First, the principle of “lifetime education for everyone” should become a foundation of a new social contract which should substitute the now-decrepit 1945 welfare-state contract. Second, sustainable development should be promoted, since future generations are entitled to a clean environment and abundant resources. It goes without saying that education is a key factor in realising future development. Third, global democracy should be instituted. Again, this challenge can only be met through providing people with a good education, since democracy cannot flourish in illiterate societies, to say nothing of societies which regard democracy as a sign of apostasy, believing in shura (consultation) as an alternative. The fourth challenge is the realisation of peace, which is also a precondition for meeting the three other challenges. Because when education—religious education in particular—advocates jihad (holy war against the infidels) as the focal mission which contemporary Muslims should pursue unto the Day of Judgment, it becomes incapable of meeting the challenge of peace.
On its part, the World Bank Report of 2003 cited education as the central challenge in the development process. A focus on education implies a focus on comprehensive and sustainable development.
I have always believed—and written to this effect since 1993—in the modernisation and rationalisation of education in general, and religious education in particular, as a central mission of the Arab intellectual elite.
The question is why education is so important.
Piaget said that during his time, French schools degraded the genius into a talented person and the talented into a trivial one. Along the same line of thought we can say that, due to the role played by salafi religious education, the Arab-Islamic school—with the sole exception of the modern, rationalist Tunisian school—has followed suit and moved even further: it has degraded the peaceable person into an aggressive one, and the aggressive person into a terrorist.
The self-evident question is why the Arab-Islamic elite provides new generations with an education which falls short of enabling them to cope with the era they live in and to confront its challenges. The answer in brief is that because the Arab elite lacked democratic legitimacy, especially based upon political and socio-economic achievements, it sought to adopt Islamism—without resorting to Islamists—instead of a societal project guided by modernity and rationalism.
The school which embraces such a project should cover the workers of the future, the technicians, engineers, researchers, scientists and physicians. And its job should be to produce citizens who are equipped for the contemporary age, who think independently of their forefathers, and who are good at using logical reasoning instead of leaning on the authority of the text. They should accept, without any complication or feeling of guilt, the rational and human institutions, sciences and values of their age, even those which contradict with their forefathers’ heritage and tradition. Such a school is as yet non-existent in any part of the Arab World except Tunisia, which has managed, especially since 1990, to restructure religious education in a way that breaks away with the salafi school. The salafi school relies on the authority of the literal religious text in its superficial form, steering clear off any interpretation which takes into account the historical reading of the text. It is only through such a historical reading that Islamic religious discourse may be renovated, and Islam may be adapted to modernity, especially since it has become clear that adapting modernity to Islam—the so-called Islamisation of modernity—was a trick to evade modernity itself. Open religious rationalism—subjecting the religious text to rational investigation and research—ought to become the core of the aspired religious education in the Arab-Islamic region, since it is absurd to believe the text and deny reality.
The salafi school instils in the younger generations a religious fanaticism which entails a phobia of dissimilarity and a rejection of the other, to the upper end of approving his or her execution. This rationale has dominated Islamic—especially Sunni—consciousness since the emergence of the Qadry belief (referring to the caliph al-Qader Bi’amr Allah – in 422 of the Hejra).
The rational religious school equips religious education with modern sciences, including the study of comparative religions. This serves to open the Islamic consciousness to extinct religions such as the Babylonian and the Egyptian, and helps to understand the historical development of the three monotheist religions. Actually, without studying extinct religions, comprehending living religions would be mythical. The sociology of religion teaches the young generations the social functions of religion, and how it was exploited by social and political actors. Psychology teaches these generations that God is similar to the father, who is the origin of the idea of God to children and primitive people, and offers them paternal protection as well as comfort and solace during hardships. Religion also responds to a basic deep-rooted need in the human psyche: the need for a second life; Freud said that the subconscious is dominated by an aspiration for eternity. Linguistics teaches young generations that the religious text is a convergence of texts which interacted throughout history, and that each text is prone to interpretation due to its metaphoric character. Students can then think of the sacred text on their own, and interpret it according to people’s interests and needs, as well as the requirements of the times.
Philosophy promotes critical thinking—an ingredient sorely missing in our heritage. Students can thus practise creative questioning instead of relying on ready-made answers either imported from outside or deduced from the heritage of their forefathers. Worth mentioning is that philosophy curriculum now taught in Tunisia in the last two years of secondary education, in accordance with that taught in France. It is also taught at Zaitouna (religious) University, as well as in all other scientific studies, including technical specialisations. Human rights studies guarantee the modernisation and rationalisation of Islamic consciousness through advocating values of modernity and rationalism. Islamic consciousness has so far distanced itself from modernity, on the pretext that it was the domain of Jews and Christians, which according to Ibn Taymiya of the salafi school, should be disproved even if it is good for Muslims.
If we are to aspire to an open religious rationalism, top priority should be given to introducing three main reforms to Islam in order to transform it from a religion based upon Jihad and martyrdom into one based upon spirituality. For centuries, before the Roman Empire adopted it as its formal religion, Christianity had lived on as a spiritual religion—a shelter of comfort and solace to believers in the face of oppression. But when it became the state religion, its spirituality faded and gave way to interference in mundane issues—even though such interference contradicts the message of the gospels. The spirituality of Christianity was only saved through the churches which the state had not dominated, such as the Coptic Church.
As for the Roman Catholic Church, it abandoned Christian spirituality and allied itself with the state, plunging in all its Machiavellian and military practices, even resorting to hiring warriors to launch wars on its behalf, and the atrocious Inquisitions. The Church retrieved its spirituality only when modernity separated religion and state, and clerics were sent to quiet monasteries just as the apostles had lived.
Islam, for its part, will not become a spiritual religion unless it is separated from the state with its mundane practices. Separating the spiritual and temporal aspects of Islam however, can only be realised through two indispensable conditions: reconciling Islam to itself and to the other. The former entails recognising the humanity of women and their equal status in relation to men. Positive law should substitute fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), which deems women deficient in terms of both religion and reason. When the Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abdelazis al-Sheikh announced a few weeks ago that women driving cars were equivalent to adulteresses and had, hence, to be punished by stoning, he showed the world the real and astounding image of non-spiritual Islam: the Islam which is hostile to women and validates physical punishments. Reconciling Islam with the other implies, on the other hand, substituting modern constitutions which recognise full rights for all citizens regardless of religion for fiqh provisions on dhimmis (free non-Muslim subjects living in Muslim countries), which as non-Muslims are considered semi-citizens or even non-citizens. In the same token, such reconciliation involves recognising international law to substitute fiqh regulations which divide the world into dar (zone of) Islam, dar of war and dar of kufr (infidelity).
How can this end be reached?
We should rid religious education and discourse, as well as our laws and institutions, of all the temporal aspects of Islam. A new reading of Islam has to be adopted in school curricula and religious discourse. It should recognise, as its starting point, that the spiritual message of Prophet Mohammed was confined to preaching: “But if they turn their backs, verily unto thee belongeth preaching only” (Surat 3). That the Prophet’s message was restricted to preaching was cited in 13 verses, all of which were in the Koranic chapters revealed at Medina. The concept was expressed in different ways in many verses such as: “Wherefore warn the people; for thou art a warner only” (Surat 88). Thus the spiritual message of the Prophet of Islam was limited to reminding. As for domination or governance, it is the mission of earthly rulers. Verses of spiritual Islam, based upon preaching and reminding, converge with the Biblical verse which was the foundation of separating the temporal and the spiritual in Christianity: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things which are God’s”. But after migrating to Medina, Mohammed became a prophet, an army leader, and a chief of a core of a confederation he called Umma (nation), a Hebrew word meaning tribe. Consequently, Mohammed’s political and military practices as well as the Koranic verses which codify them are not trans-historical but temporal and limited to the era which produced them. Verses on jihad, war, physical punishment and earthly dealings were temporal, and are no longer consistent with Muslims’ and non-Muslims’ needs and interests or with present-day requirements and values.
That some Koranic verses are invalidated by the Koran itself, represents an overt admission that these were temporal verses whose provisions later became out-dated. In this sense, the Prophet’s Companions understood temporal verses. Abu-Bakr abrogated the verse on 'those whose hearts are reconciled': “Alms are to be distributed only unto the poor and the needy, and those who are employed in collecting and distributing the same, and unto those whose hearts are reconciled” (Surat 9). To explain invalidating the verse, Tabari said: “bribery existed during the Prophet’s time, but not after he passed away". Omar Ibn el-Khattab, Ali Ibn Abitaleb, and Moad Ibn Gabal invalidated verses on spoils: “And know that whenever ye gain any spoil, a fifth part thereof belongeth unto God, and to the apostle, and his kindred” (Surat 8). Similarly, faqihs (jurisprudents) abrogated the verses necessitating the existence of written debt-contracts: “When ye bind yourselves one to the other in a debt for a certain time, write it down” (Surat 2). Al-Wenshrisi invalidated verses exempting the Prophet’s relatives from receiving alms. The Companions and faqihs used logical reasons to justify invalidating some Koranic verses and Hadith (the Prophet’s sayings): Abu-Bakr, to justify invalidating the verse on those whose hearts are reconciled, said: “Islam is strong enough and there is no need for them”. Omar Ibn el-Khattab justified abrogating the verse on spoils by the “interests of future generations: “If you take Iraq, what will be left for your successors?” Faqihs justified invalidating the necessity of written debt-contracts by the “widespread illiteracy in different areas”. Al-Wenshrisi considered that “Giving alms to the Prophet’s relatives was more protective of their dignity than letting them beg in the streets”. He said: “Time has dictated the provision of alms to the Prophet’s relatives”. In the meantime, we can build upon al-Wenshrisi’s logic and further say: ‘The passage of time dictates the invalidation of all temporal verses because they are no longer consistent with the needs of the period we live in or the interests of our contemporaries’.
The necessity of separating the temporal verses from the spiritual is no longer an issue to be shelved, but is becoming increasingly dominant in modern Islamic consciousness. Dr Mohammed Abdel-Mutalib el-Houni says: “In brief, a large number of Islamic codes did not operate in a vacuum, but were interrelated with people who had their grievances, cultures, economies and lifestyles. All Koranic verses therefore which enact laws on human dealings are temporal, and should not be endowed with a nature of perpetuity, because they concerned Muslims who lived at that time or in subsequent periods, under similar conditions. At the same time, we must differentiate between crime in the civil sense, the punishment of which should be determined by the people according to the conditions of the time they live in, and in the moral sense, meaning crime of a trans-historical nature. In other words, we should differentiate between crime and sin: the former is dealt with by the people, while the latter is concerned with the conscience, and if it warrants punishment, it is related to the hereafter. Such a distinction has become necessary today so as to differentiate between life and the hereafter.” The passage is a quotation from a forthcoming book entitled: al-Ma’zaq al-Arabi: al-Arab fi Mowagahat al-Istratigiya al-Amrikeya (The Arab Crisis: Arabs in the Face of the American Strategy), in the chapter on ‘Misunderstanding Faith’.
Adopting this kind of historical reading of Islam in religious education, and teaching students that Jihad should be invalidated, are major pre-conditions to transform Islam into a spiritual religion, wherein believers do not die for the sake of God. The situation is inverted in Christianity where God dies to redeem His sons. To entrench this new reading in the minds of the younger generations and realise the enlightened education we call for, many verses may be used as a starting point. One example is the verse “Call upon me and I will hear you” (Surat 23). In this verse, God presents Himself to believers as a sympathiser who wastes no time to respond to their calls. Another verse “He is careful over you and compassionate and merciful towards the believers” (Surat 9) shows God as compassionate and merciful, not requiring believers to die for Him.
Liberating the state from religion has the merit of converting the state into a purely mundane institution which handles citizens from a rational and earthly reference point, away from theological constraints. This entails a modern constitution, law, and education, which all lead to equality between men and women, Muslims and non-Muslims. Moreover, liberating the state from religion would transform the latter into a spiritual and Sufi gift, admired even by those who do not follow any religion. Spiritual religion is close to art, which is enjoyed by all exquisite souls. I feel a special pleasure when reading Sufis of all religions, particularly Ibn Arabi, the founder of the ‘religion of love’, which was developed some centuries later by Seurbach in his book, “Essence of Christianity”.
The religious education prevalent in the Arab World, except for Tunisia, fights the modern reading necessary for Islam today. Consequently, I herewith present models of Islamic education based upon jihad, which antagonises the other in its broader meaning: the self, women, non-Muslims, life and reason. In contradistinction, I will present a sample of the curriculum taught at the Tunisian Zaitouna University, which I consider a solid base for teaching the religious rationalism we so badly need.
Teaching the worship of forefathers
“With the passage of time, far-reaching deviations took place with the message of Mohammed. Many traditions disappeared, giving way to heresy. The Companions and their adherents stood firmly against these heresies and suppressed them. The Companions revealed the truth and annulled matters of suspicion. Whenever a heresy emerges, God sends persons to face it, expose its defects and render victorious the Sunni tradition. And whenever one of those who advocate an aberration appears, God sends a great Sunni figures to confront and defame him through annulling his heresy. When the first heretical tendencies appeared at the time of Omar al-Farouk, God sent Omar who corrected the deviation, punished the whole nation, chastised the deviators through burning them with fire, and ordered to whip those who underestimated the two Sheikhs [Abu Bakr and Omar]. When some people rose to deny the predestination, late companions such as Ibn-Amr, stood against them and exposed their defects. When Gilan al-Demashqui declared his heresy, followers of prophetic tradition stood against him. When he persisted, Hisham Ibn-Abdel-Malik killed him. In the same way Prince Khalid Ibn-Abdullah al-Qasry sacrificed al-Gaad Ibn-Derham. Wherever heresies arose, Sunni multitudes rose to combat them. When advocates of heretical tendencies mobilised, God sent them Ahmed Ibn-Hanbal, the Sunni Imam and the suppressor of heresies. He defeated them, and thanks to God, they never rose again with the same strength. Ibn-Taymiya, the Sheikh of Islam, was a fighter who used his knowledge and rhetoric against those of scholastic theology, philosophy, Sufism and other heresiarchs. His legacy and writings still represent a reference to anybody adhering to Sunni principles and a mote in the eyes of each heresiarch.” Tawheed (monotheism) curriculum, first year of secondary education. (2)
This text is only one of many taught to Saudi young people to coach them in the worship of the forefathers. This worship has been strongly present in the collective Islamic sub-conscience, and it prevented the acceptance and comprehension of the sciences, and especially the humanities, as well as the values of modernity. Moreover, the text instructs pupils to reject the right of disagreement. Muslims other than salafis are treated as heresiarchs or deviators; thus enemies. A student therefore becomes ripe for the execution of all sorts of symbolic and bloody violence; he can burn others with fire as Omar allegedly did, and behead those who disagree with him as Khalid beheaded the faqih al-Gaad Ibn Derham (a ruler of Damascus under the Umayads, known for adopting ideas of Mu’tazela). This shows how could education lead to incitement for terror.
Another text which mirrors the salafi perspective, based upon accusations of infidelity and heresy, reads: “Celebrating the Prophet’s birth implies the imitation of Christians. Thus ignorant Muslims, clergies and mobs gather to celebrate in a way which is not devoid of polytheist and repulsive practices”. (3)
In the same context, Saudi curricula mobilise students to deem those Muslims who depart from the salafi principle infidels. These curricula teach that, “Arab nationalism is an idea related to atheism and jahiliya (pre-Islamic state of ignorance), and aims at fighting Islam and getting rid of its codes and teachings.” (Curriculum of hadith, second year of secondary education). “Nationalist thought overlooks religion and regards it as a stumbling block in the way of nationalism.” (Hadith, second year of secondary school). “Adhering to parties and to nationalism—which is an aspect of racism—is a sign of riddah (apostasy from Islam)”. (Curriculum of Tawheed, third year of secondary education).
“Beyond doubt, the idea of nationalism is a setback towards jahiliya.” “After being politically and culturally invaded by Europe, the Muslim World became subject to these fanaticisms based upon race and nationalism, but people should know that these loyalties represent a punishment inflicted by God on those who turn away from his Sharia (Islamic code) and disavow his religion”. (Tawheed curriculum, third year of secondary education.) (4).
In the context of teaching young generations to reject the achievements of modernity as signs of infidelity, Saudi curricula say: “Muslims should not listen to the press, radio, or television, since these are immoral institutions detached from faith.” (5)
“If a journalist writes that development plans terminate poverty and that progress of medicine puts an end to malady, he is a mushrik (polytheist)”.
“Taking part in activities such as ‘tree week’ or ‘traffic week’ is an mimicking of infidels; students who follow this practice are sinful and disobedient.” (7)
“A Muslim who travels to the countries of infidels to learn, trade or cure, should live with them while harbouring feelings of hatred towards them.” (8)
Al-Azhar curricula make no less effort to inject into the Islamic consciousness legends of the Middle Ages that malign women, non-Muslims, reason and life.
Dr Khalid Montasser says: “If we look into the curriculum of al-Azhar secondary education, we will find a level of intellectual backwardness that the graduate later carries even as he attempts to respond to the latest developments in our time. The books of fiqh that al-Azhar students have to study were written centuries ago. Both al-Raod al-Morabaa fi Sharh Zad al-Mostanqaa which explains the doctrine of Ahmed Ibn-Hanbal, and al-Iqnaa fi Hal Alfadh Abi Shogaa on the doctrine of Shafei, were written four centuries ago, and al-Ekhtebar li-Taaleel al-Mokhtar was written more that five centuries ago to explain the doctrine of Abu-Hanifa. The most recent book is the one on the doctrine of Malek al-Moqarar Mena al-Sharh al-Saghir was written two centuries ago.
The jargon in these titles is surprising. It is natural that these books, written so long ago, should bear some weird and archaic terms and ideas. Enlightened Muslims have called for modernising religious education. Among the most important studies to this effect is one by Alaa-Qaoud in his book on reforming religious sciences, as well as studies by Ahmed Sobhi Mansour, Selim al-Awa, Tareq al-Beshri, and the Sheikh of al-Azhar.
Spotlighting a few points of the al-Azhar curricula may help us realise how dangerous a role they can play in breeding disguised terrorism or at least sponsoring stagnation and bigotry.” (9)
“In the 21st century, students of al-Azhar read what would happen if a man tells his wife ‘I will divorce you if it is found that this flying bird is a crow’. Pupils keep trying to solve this difficult puzzle. They have to study what is the fate of two bisexuals or two lesbians who make love in Ramadan before sunset. Is it necessary to wash if a man inserts his penis in a vulva of a beast? What if a monkey or any animal inserts his organ in a human being? If a woman has two vulvas, what would be the fate of menstruation? We, poor human beings, are ordered to bow down while resting on seven bones: head, two hands, two knees, and two legs; what will happen if one was born with two heads and four legs and four hands?”
“What benefit will our young people and children gain if they have to read strange, archaic terms which appear meaningless to present-day Arabic speakers? The same can be said of the terms these books use to identify measures, shares and weights; they resemble mysteries in hieroglyphic or Chinese. Prayers should be shortened if the distance between one’s home and the place he travels to accounts to 10 farsakh. The weight for giving alms is wesq, which is 60 saa (we know neither the former nor the latter). We should take into account that the Islamic derham is equal to six donaq”!
“The above is a sample of the archaic terms and weird puzzles our poor children and brothers studying at al-Azhar are subjected to. Again, the attitudes and habits of the period when these books were written are elucidated in boring detail. Deplorably, these norms are offered in the form of orders that should be obeyed. In a chapter on wedding banquets and refinement in eating, it says: “One should eat with three fingers and should clean the spaces between the teeth; he should wipe the plate and suck the remaining food and drink. A book on ‘selling’ instructs that it is prohibited to price things and to sell dogs. A section on funeral prayers teaches: “It is better for the patient not to be cured.” Does this imply that we should get rid of health insurance in al-Azhar schools to save effort and money? As for the regulations on testimony, it is written that the testimony of singers and those who eat outside their home, should not be approved. In brief, the testimony of Umm Kolthoum—the greatest singer of the second half of the last century—would not be accepted, neither would that of contemporary pop singer Hisham Abbas or any other singer.
As for you, dear reader, you can be sure that your testimony would never be accepted in a court of law because I am sure you have eaten a sandwich of falafel or Kentucky Fried Chicken one of those days! You should then be cursed and counted among those disreputable people whose testimony cannot be accepted, according to the laws of the honourable al-Azhar.” (10)
“At the beginning of the third millennium, al-Azhar students learn medical myths of old days. They read about cures using camel urine, and are taught that men should never talk while making love because this would result in dumbness or stammering! In the section on ears, these old books instruct muezzins to place the forefinger in the ear while announcing the hour of prayer because this makes the voice louder. The prayer is void if a black dog passes by, because black dogs are devils. Along the same line of thought, the menstrual flow is described in odd terms: ‘the blood departs from the bottom of the womb for feeding and raising children’. The book on funerals indicates that the signs of death are: ‘temples go down, nose leans, hands separate from the body and legs loosen up’! Conservative faqihs have used this quotation to preclude a law on organ transplant and to reject the determination of clinical death through modern medicine. The book on the Shafei doctrine contains so much unscientific information. For instance, it teaches that dead lice and fleas are not impure because they have no blood; water at night is a shelter for jinn; after doing the ablution before prayers, one should not dry himself with the lower part of the robe, since this would bring poverty. Clothes should be folded at night so as not to be worn by jinn. As for the refinements of going to the toilet, it is undesirable to fill the urinary passage with cotton, and one should not spend much time in toilets because it creates pains in liver. When the books refer to nature, thunder is reported as an angel whose wings are the lightning which helps direct the clouds! Relaxation of brain nerves is caused by vapours that rise out of the stomach. The book defines death as: ‘the disappearance of the heart’s consciousness though the organs continue active and strong’. Malek defines twins as: ‘the two sons should be considered twins in their mother’s womb if the time separating their age is less than six months”! (11)
A firmly established concept of Middle Ages fiqh—to this day taught in al-Azhar and other religious institutes in the Arab World except for Tunisia—is antipathy towards women. Women are symbolised by the rapacious mother. The book of al-Raod al-Moraba teaches that a man is not required to pay for his wife’s coffin, since he is only required to pay for her clothes as long as they are married and he can take pleasure in his woman. Again, the same book, in the section on expenses instructs: ‘a husband may not pay for his wife’s medication or doctor fees, because treatment is not one of her habitual necessary needs’. He also has ‘the right to prevent her from attending the funeral of her father and mother and from breast-feeding her baby from another man. He has the right to beat her in a non-severe way if she fidgets while talking to him. Such non-severe beating approved by the book is ten whips—less than a dozen strokes! Definitely, a woman’s deyya (the money paid as compensation for killing someone) is half that of a man’s. Even the aqiqa (the sheep slaughtered to celebrate the baby’s birth) is minor when the baby is a girl: two sheep are slaughtered when the baby is a boy and one sheep when it is a girl. The chapter on making love yields the oddest information one can think of. The husband is obliged to no more than one sexual intercourse every four months and his wife has no right to object. The book sanctions the marriage of a man to a girl who is less than nine years old. Other books which students have to study are full of ridiculous talk on female slaves, regulations for marrying them, their deyya, and on the private parts of the body. Regulations directing the relationship with female slaves are different from those of free women. Strangely, it is better to marry a woman whose mother is dead than one whose father is dead, because mothers spoil their daughters. There are many more terrible things these books cite on women.
The second concept persistent in old Islamic fiqh is resentment towards non-Muslims. Today, leaders of political Islam still call for such concepts to be put into practice. When Mustafa Mash’hour called for expelling Christians from the army and transforming them to dhimmis, he was applying what he had learned in the honourable al-Azhar. A chapter on Aqd al-dhimma (the contract governing the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in Islamic countries) instructs: this contract implies that Muslims approve the infidelity of some non-Muslims under the condition that the latter pay jizya (tribute paid by non-Muslims). They should be humiliated while paying the jizya; they should be forced to stand for a long time with their hands dragging, in accordance with Allah’s saying: “pay tribute by right of subjection”. Further discrimination takes on a horrible dimension; if implemented, society would be ruined. It is recommended that: ‘they (non-Muslims) should not be buried in our tombs; should enter bathrooms with jingles or leaden marks on their necks; they should ride donkeys without saddles, they should not be allowed to ride horses; they should not be allowed to lead meetings; should not be treated respectably when they arrive; they should not be saluted, congratulated, consoled, or wished merry feast; they should be prevented from ringing their (church) bells; they should resort to the narrowest alleys when walking”.
Had al-Azhar resorted to rational thought, it should have taught its pupils and students the book by the Egyptian historian Abbad Abdelrahman Kohaila, “Ahd Omar” Treaty of Omar—the treaty said to have been signed upon the surrender of Jerusalem to the Muslims (Dar al-Dirasat wal-Bohooth al-Insaniyya wal-Igtimaiya, Cairo, 1996). The book manages, through using historical methodology, to show that attributing the Omar Treaty to Omar Ibn-al-Khattab is a myth. Islamic consciousness may thus open to the principles of modern citizenship which reject religious-based discrimination, or that based upon any other difference.
Except for Tunisia, the solid base of religious education in Arab religious institutions is the worship of forefathers, briefly justified by near-mathematical axioms such as: Ijtihad (individual innovative judgment) is not allowed in things regulated by Koran and Hadith. To justify this idea, Rashid al-Ghannoushi (leadr of a Tunisian extremist group) said, “because our nation does not accept anything but what Allah and his Prophet said.” (12)
What does it mean?
It means rejecting everything new on the ground that it is a heresy. Hadith says: “Each heresy is a deviation, and each deviation is doomed to hell”. This implies rejecting modernity together with all its institutions, sciences, values, and lifestyles, since modernity is supposedly an imitation of the infidel Jews and Christians. Ibn Taymiya said in his book Iqtidaa al-Sirat al-Mostaqim Mokhalaffat Ahl-al-Gahim (walking in the right path requires being different from the people of hell): “Our forefathers used to say: if one of our Ulama deviates, it means he is imitating Jews, and if one of our ordinary people deviates, he is imitating Christians.” (13). He added: “Stress your differences from them in some or most things” (14). Because being different from them [Jews and Christians] brings us benefits and good in everything we do. Even the good things they do in their lives could be harmful to us in our lives or in the hereafter, so remaining different from them will bring us goodness”. (15)
Such psychological enslavement is core to the worship of the forefathers, which involves a commitment to their literal orders and prohibitions, and a verbatim implementation of their texts without any independent judgment; otherwise the forefathers would inflict their wrath upon us. “Indigenous people of the Pacific venerate ships, since they believe that the food brought by ships to white colonisers was a gift sent by their ancestors, whereas their own ancestors sent them no similar ships, as a retribution for their disobedience. Not only that, but their ancestors let them be less technologically advanced than the whites. These people then try to satisfy their ancestors so as to send them ships loaded with food instead of those sent to their white enemies.” (16)
Marcia Iliad said: “When anthropologist and evangelist Strehello asked people of the “Arentha” Australian tribe of the reasons behind some of their rituals, they said: ‘because our ancestors ordered us to do so’. In New Guinea, members of the Cay tribe justify their refusal to change their lifestyles by: ‘our ancestors used to do this and we follow them: we must slaughter as they used to do, and we should do today what they did in ancient times’. We hear the same words among Hindus: ‘we should do what our gods did in the early days’. In Hindu tribes, women should sit in a squatting position and men should sit with their legs crossed, because the first woman [Eve] and the killer of the monster [Adam] used to sit so when the universe was first created. People of the Karadgy Australian tribe say that the tribe’s habits and manners such as the manner of cooking crops, hunting animals and the position one should take while urinating, were established by supra-natural beings at the time of dreaming.” (17)
Ancestor-worship impeded the development of primitive people’s consciousness, since it discouraged them from independent interpretation of the words and deeds of their forefathers. The Salafi School followed exactly that same path when it converted the text into an absolute reality—a ceiling to the freedom of thought. The text became a constraint which chained mentalities, at least since the 12th century when traditional exegesis defeated rational exegesis and when traditional jurisconsult defeated rational jurisconsult. In this context, faqihs used to mock the ‘jurisprudence of opinion’ advocated by the Hanafi tradition.
The ancestor-worship which dominates religious education and Koranic sciences, including language, literature, and grammar, has succeeded in sidelining the humanities which specialised in studying religion, such as the comparative history of religion, the sociology of religion, and suchlike. It resulted in a relentless war against the studies of humanities and called for their Islamisation, stripping them thus of their critical momentum. As for the natural sciences, they were either maligned or stripped of their original role—as concepts explaining phenomena—and exploited to serve religious delusions.
Examples abound. In 2000, al-Azhar banned writings on the theory of evolution, and barred all books which contained any sign of critical thinking. It is no coincidence that Cairo hosts an annual gathering on the miracle of science in the Koran—the pretension that the Koran contains all human scientific knowledge. This despite the fact that both Imam al-Shatbi and al-Taher ben Ashour denied the existence of any such miracle of science, on the ground that Allah addressed the Arabs of the age of the Prophet in a manner which then suited their mentality. There have also been repeated fatwas (formal legal opinions voiced by Muslim clergies) throughout more than a century, deeming the theory of evolution a sign of apostasy. The most famous of these fatwas was issued by Sayed Qutb in his book Maalem ala al-tareeq (Milestones on the Path), in which he regarded the theory of evolution, philosophy, and humanities as antagonistic to religion in general and to Islam in particular. In the same context, some faqihs forced the Saudi government to close the institute of genetic engineering, under the pretext that “genetic and bio-engineering represent an interference by creatures in the affairs of the Creator” (18). Saudi and Muslim researchers had to migrate to Canada and the US. In his book “Naqd al-aqliya al-arabiya” (A Critique of Arab Mind), Tunisian researcher al-Hashemy Shaqroun wrote: “Books are still to be written on summing the number of angels, using calculators, and estimating them at 120 million, that could be recruited in the war launched by Arabs and Muslims against Israel”. (19)
The ancestor-worship which dominates education from school to university reigns supreme in all aspects of social life, even those covered with the gloss of modernity. Mid-20th-century Iraqi writer al-Zahawi was right when he said: “We have sciences, a Constitution and a parliament, but the meaning and role of each is distorted”. Ancestor-worship is also manifested in the modernity-phobia which dominates the Arab mentality, modernism being regarded as heresy or imitation of Jews and Christians. This mentality resorts to two subconscious tricks to evade modernity. The first is religious self-sufficient narcissism which considers itself in no need of any kind of self-renovation, on the pretext that “The first left nothing to the last”. This concept dominated the Sunni Salafi jurisprudence of the Middle Ages, which is based upon the superficial literal text, and excludes any interpretation thereof. Those who rely on interpretations are said to “inherit nothing but aberrations”.
The second trick was adopted by most—if not all—Islamic reformers of the 19th century and is still to the present day advocated. It argues that we should renovate our thought so as to evade French modernity. These reformists succeeded in eluding modernity, but did not renovate fiqh due to a very obvious reason: the core of renovating fiqh lies in the adoption of modern legislation, values, sciences, and institutions whose logic and ends are different from those of the fiqh of the Middle Ages. The above-mentioned samples of this school of fiqh are but a mere drop in a sea of outdated values and regulations.
Egyptian Islamic writer Mohammed Emara says: “After Refaa al-Tahtawi (an early 19th century thinker) realised the threat posed by Western non-religious positivism while in Paris, he called for renovating the fiqh of Islamic dealings to prevent Napoleon’s positivist secular law which was already infiltrating the Islamic World’s commercial circles, governance institutions, judiciary and legislation. His student Mohammed Qadry Pasha codified the fiqh of the Hanafi doctrine to meet the same end: filling the void in the then-existing law through renovating and legislating Islamic jurisprudence. The huge effort exerted by the Ottoman state to codify the fiqh of the Hanafi doctrine—published in 1869 in the magazine of judiciary regulations—followed the same path of renovating fiqh, thought and discourse to fill the vacuum in the Islamic World with an Islamic civilisational alternative instead of westernisation.” (20)
In brief, all conscious and subconscious tricks were used to abandon the imitation of Jews and Christians and reject their civilisation. This was achieved either through ancestor-worship in its blunt form, or through the less overt illusion of inventing a type of modernity exclusive to us. The third trick was the schizoid mating of modernity and authenticity, which merely neutralised one by the other.
If my diagnosis is accurate, the exit from the stormy crisis of modernity faced by the Arab World is through a conscious break with “the commitment to be different from Jews and Christians”, especially in the media, education and religious discourse. This implies reconciliation with their modernism—which has become international—without complexes or guilt feelings. Reconciliation with the other—in this case Jews and Christians—is an indispensable pre-condition for reconciliation with their civilisation.
In the case of Tunisia, the media, educational system, and religious discourse began some fifty years ago the break with the Islamic consciousness of the Middle Ages, dominated by a phobia of Christians and Jews. The three concepts central to religious studies in Zaitouna University are the promotion of ijtihad in understanding religious texts without any restriction on rational thinking, the reliance upon rationalist thought and the humanities which specialise in the study of religion during the study of religious texts, and third, the realisation that Islamic consciousness must reinstate the other, particularly the Jew and the Christian.
A law issued on 8 February 1995 delineates the tasks of Zaitouna University and the objectives of the education it provides as follows:
“In view of the general objectives of higher education and scientific research and the mission of universities, and in view of the Tunisian national identity, the commitment to Arab and Islamic civilisation, and the duty to enrich human civilisation, the system of study in Zaitouna aims at meeting the following ends:
1. Securing a cognitive structure which qualifies the learner to discover aspects of Islamic faith, thought and civilisation which lead to the elevation of the human self to a free and responsible personality, able to adhere to the noble ends of religion and at the same time respond to the exigencies of life.
2. Entrenching the awareness that Islamic thought, with its different aspects, is a fruit of the efforts of generations of creative and thoughtful ulama. Commitment to Arab and Islamic civilisation requires inspiration by its brilliant facets, and the focus on ijtihad to advance knowledge so as to add to previous creative achievements.
3. Firmly establishing Zaitouna University as a model of a school for religious thought based upon enduring tolerance, a renovated viewpoint on religion and history, an aspiration to a rich spiritual life and persevering work for the good of humanity.
4. Empowering the learner to interact profoundly with cultures and civilisations, enrich human thought, and combine the brilliance of modernity with that of heritage. This would urge the student to understand well all the various aspects of modern knowledge, and would afford an opportunity to experience directly products of global thought”.
In view of this outlook, I herewith detail the most important parts of “the student’s guide”—the programme of the Higher Institute of Religious Fundamentals of Zaitouna University. I place the model before decision-makers in the educational domain in the Arab World and the whole world, if they wish to prove their sincerity in their pursuit to reform education in general and religious education in particular through versatile rationalism and the reinstatement of Jews and Christians. This should be the gateway to open the consciousness of Muslim young people to modernity.
**Unit of Sira (biography of Mohammed) and Sunna (the Prophet’ words and deeds)
• Writing the Sira: “Objective: The course is concerned with the early writers of sira, particularly Ibn Ishaq, and the nature of writing this art. The aim is to grasp:
a- The historical and mythical aspects of narrating sira;
b- The objectives of Sira associated with glorification of the Prophet and those associated with devotion;
c- The manner in which narrators perceived the Prophet’s character”.
• Sunna, its problematic recording and legislation: “Objective: Justifying the need to record sunna and the conditions which surrounded the process of recording it. How sunna was transformed from a subsidiary of sira into a source of legislation. The aim is that the student understands the historical and scientific difficulties surrounding legislation that is dependent on sunna”.
** Unit of History of Fiqh: “Objective: The course aims at utilising the perceptions adopted by faqihs concerning human society and societal values, based upon Islamic faith. It is concerned with revealing the role of fiqh, studying the early emergence of provisions and how fiqh opinions proceeded to reach the status of doctrines; each doctrine has its own perception, closely related to the society of the faqih with respect to time and place”.
** Unit of History of Religions
• Introduction to history of ancient religions: “The course focuses on ancient religions among Egyptians, the people of Carthage and Indians. It reveals the general conception of these beliefs, and explains their emergence and development; it aims to objectively deduce the features of religious thought.”
I would like to draw readers’ attention to the fact that the ancient Egyptian religion, which influenced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is taught solely at Zaitouna University; no other religious university in the Arab World—including al-Azhar—teaches it. To comprehend the impact of ancient Egyptian religion on monotheist religions, the reader may refer to the book written on this topic in French by Tharwat al-Assuity.
• Introduction to Scriptural Religions: “Objectives: The course scrutinises Judaism and Christianity, explaining their emergence and highlighting the similarities between them two, in a manner which respects the words of their founders.”
I would like to draw the readers attention to the relevance of “in a manner which respects the words of their founders” since it represents the first step towards reconciliation between the fanatic salafi consciousness and religions of the other, particularly the Jew and the Christian. The Tunisian religion curricula—from primary to higher education—prepares the consciousness of young generations to respect both the Jewish and Christian discourses, and to consciously break away with the hatred of Jews and Christians.
**Unit of Old and Modern Doctrines of Commentary:
• Commentary and its doctrines up to the 7th century: “Objectives: The course seeks to reveal the historical character of commentary and the fundamentals of commentators as shown by their works. To achieve this aim, the emergence of the need for commentary and the transformation of commentary into a science is studied, as are the directions of commentary and interpretation, through relating them to the commentators’ concerns and to the period they lived in.
• Commentary currents in modern times: “Objectives: the course seeks to explain how the interests of the Ulama influenced their interpretation of the Koran. It elaborates on the commentators’ concerns, explains their views and investigates aspects of modernity in their discourse as well as the way they grasped preceding methods of commentary.
**Unit of Fiqh and its Fundamentals
• The emergence of the science of fiqh fundamentals and its status among sciences of Sharia: “Objectives: The course focuses on the fundamentals of fiqh as a science which regulates the relationship between faith and the development of society. It explains fiqh fundamentals through Islamic code, divisions of discourses and aspects of reasoning, and it construes the character of fiqh thought and determines the status of fiqh fundamentals among the sciences of Koran and Hadith.”
** Unit of language
• English, French, German, Spanish or Turkish. “Objectives: The courses focus on broadening the first year curriculum, and stress its application to religious texts.”
• Latin, Greek, Persian or Hebrew. “Objectives: The courses focus on broadening the first year curriculum, and stress its application to ancient religious texts”.
** Unit of Islamic Sects: “Objectives: The course is concerned with:
a- The central effect of socio-political factors on infidelity and belief;
b- Differences among sects in interpreting religious texts in accordance with society’s needs;
c- The consistence between sectarian views and transformations of Islamic societies;
d- Foundations of Islamic thought, based upon the different sects”.
Source: al-Nobakhty, Feraq al-shia (The Different Sects); Al-Ashaary Maqalaat al-Islamiyeen (sayings of Islamists).
** Unit of Sufism: “Objectives: The course focuses on studying Islamic Sufism through investigating the history of its emergence, the factors behind Sufism and the roots of Sufi quotations. The course looks into the development of Sufism and the relevance of the answers it gives—through private interpretation and personal worship—to the questions posed by Islamic societies. It deduces the standing of Sufism in the course of Islamic thought.
Source; Ibn Arabi, al-Fotouhat al-Makkiya (Mecca Invasions). Al-Ganeed, Ibn al-Fared, al-Hallag.
I would like to draw the readers’ attention to the fact that most religious curricula, particularly in the Gulf countries, consider Sufism a regression towards paganism, but the Tunisian educational system studies it objectively. We should not forget that Sufism rid Islam—especially Sunni Islam—of part of its coarseness, and provided it with a spiritual breeze that had been always missing.
** Unit of Modern Islamic Thought
• Reformist thought in the 13th century of the Hijra (19th AD) and early 14th century of the Hijra (20th AD). “Objectives: The course is concerned with the emergence of reformist thought in the Arab and Islamic countries throughout the mentioned period. It focuses on the writings of reformists such as Qabado, Tahtawi, Khaireddin, al-Afghani, al-Kawakbi, Mohammed Abdou, Rashid Reda, al-Thaalbi, al-Haddad, al-Taher bin Ashour, as well as the movements they expressed. Their writings are analysed to show the influence of modern values on their opinions.
Sources: Selections of writings by reformists of the epoch.
** Unit of Sciences and Arts of the Arab-Islamic Civilisation.
• History of sciences in the Arab-Islamic epoch: “Objectives: The course is concerned with the classification of the sciences by the Greek philosophers, the development of the meaning of science among Arab-Muslim thinkers, and the way the latter classified the sciences. It is reveals the philosophical prefaces justifying such classifications.
** Unit of Introduction to Linguistics
• Linguistic theories in studying the text: “Objectives: The course stresses the relevance of linguistic concerns in the science of lexical meaning especially in relation to understanding and interpreting texts. To this end, it explains some of the relevant theories of linguistics and reveals their bases in philosophy and knowledge. The aim is that the student would realise the relevance of linguistics in understanding religious texts.”
Source: Ferdinand de Saussure, Lessons on General Linguistics.
I would like to draw the readers’ attention to the central goal of studying linguistics in religious education: ‘linguistics are relevant in comprehending religious texts’.
** Unit of Introduction to the Study of Law
• Introduction to the study of law. “Objectives: The course is concerned with the emergence of the need for law institutions; it investigates aspects of legislation, the relationship between law and society, and the services offered by law to the human value of freedom. It studies the sources and development of contemporary Tunisian law.
Source: Mohammed el-Shorafi, Madkhal ila Derassat al-Qanoon (Introduction to the Study of Law); Institutions and ruling systems in Islamic thought.
** Unit of Fiqh and its Fundamentals
• Tunisian doctrines of fiqh: “Objectives: The course focuses on the history of Tunisian doctrines of fiqh and analyses the reasons behind the emergence of certain doctrines and the absence of others. Specific models of the fiqh on dealings are studied to grasp features of Tunisian thought of fiqh and to analyse them.”
Source: Sahnon, al-Modawana al-Kobra (The Greater Record). Ibn Aby Yazeed, al-Ressala (The Message). Al-Zelaei, Tabeen al-Haqaeq (Revealing Realities).
• Fundamentalist positions on consensus, analogy, and tradition as means of concluding provisions. “Objectives: The course stresses the relevance of these fundamentals among other basics of provisions; it explains questions of consensus, analogy, and tradition, and matters of agreement and disagreement; it manifests foundations of different opinions, investigates the starting point of each current, and deduces some features of old fundamentalist thinking.
Source: selections of books on fundamentals, consensus, analogy, and tradition such as Ibn Hazm and al-Amadi: al-Ahkam fi Ossool al-Ahkam (Fundamentals of Provisions).
** Unit of Scholastic Theology Research and Philosophical Questions
• People’s deeds among the Motazalites, Hanabalites, Asharians: “Objectives: The course is concerned with quotations from the three sects on people’s deeds; the quotations are examined in the light of the societal concerns of their time. The aim is that the student would grasp the development of conviction among Muslims, the perceptions adopted by these sects on man’s status in being, living and the hereafter, and the way they understood the reasoning behind human action. The explanation and interpretation of Koranic texts is the base of studying these questions.
Source: Abedlghabar al-Moghny: Asl-aladl (Origin of Justice); Ibn Batta al-Hanbaly: al-Ibana (The Exposition); Ibn Fork: Mogarad Maqalat al-Sheikh abi al-Hassan al-Ashari (Mere Writings of Sheikh Abi al-Hassan al-Ashari).
• The Question of Freedom in Modern and Contemporary Philosophical Thought: “objectives: The course seeks an understanding of modern philosophical European thought on the question of man’s freedom, will and actions, through investigating the thought of Espinoza and Sartre. It highlights the:
a- Differences between Islamic and modern European thought on the question of fatalism and voluntarism;
b- New values manifested by modern thought;
c- The influence of new modes of understanding on modern Islamic thought.
Sources: Selected writings by Espinoza and Sartre.
• Sacred Religious Books: “Objectives: The course is concerned with the faith of prophecy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; matters of disagreement are analysed.
Sources: The Bible and Koran.
I would like to draw the readers’ attention to the relevance of studying the Bible and the Koran side by side, to re-educate Islamic consciousness as to the equal status of the books of the three monotheist religions. Books of Judaism and Christianity are considered by religious curricula in Arab countries as distorted books devoid of sacredness and whose instructions should not be respected except for those approved by the Koran.
• Human rights in Islam, religious heritage and international and regional conventions: “Objectives: The course seeks to construe the perception of the believer in Islamic revelation on the one hand, and in scriptural religious heritage on the other. The aim is that the student would grasp the interest of all religions in preserving the rights of human beings, and in liberating them from any constraints which hinder their ability to bear personal and civil responsibilities. It is also concerned with presenting international and regional conventions on human rights and analysing the modern values advocated by these conventions. The aim is that the student would be aware that the question of human rights is a totality that leans on global values and represents a consequential for progress. For the question of human rights to be established, daily efforts and a sustainable culture are required.
Sources: Koran, Sahifa, the Bible. Human Rights International and Regional Documents, prepared by Mahmoud Sharif Basuini, Mohammed Said al-Daqaq, and Abdelazeem wazeer.
** Unit of Comparative Fiqh
• Earthly provisions among Sunni and Shiite Imams: “Objectives: The course elucidates earthly provisions as thought of by both Sunni doctrines and Shiite jurisprudence of imams; these provisions are analysed in the light of conditions in Islamic societies. The aim is to grasp how Shiite and Sunni doctrines considered social reform on the basis of faith and interpretation of Islamic texts”.
Source: Malek: al-Maota. Abu Youssef Ketab al-Kharag. Al-Toussi, al-Mabsout”.
**Unit of Comparative Religions
• Monotheism in scriptural religions: “Objectives: The course is concerned with monotheism faith in Judaism, Christianity and Islam; it traces and analyses common and different perceptions.
** Unit of Comparative Religious Research
• Prophecy in scriptural religions
** Unit of Contemporary Commentary on Islam and Islamic thought:
• Modernity in contemporary Arab-Islamic thought: “Objectives: The course deals with the problematic of modernity in contemporary Arab-Islamic thought through explaining:
a- The philosophy of modernity as formulated by some contemporary Arab thinkers;
b- the currents of thought they present to modernise their societies;
c- Foundations of each current in relation to the understanding of heritage and the present challenges of knowledge”.
** Unit of History of the Philosophy of the Middle Ages
• Introduction to political philosophy in Islam: “Objectives: The course tackles the dimensions of politico-philosophical thought in relation to the problems facing Arab-Islamic societies in the Middle Ages. It also focuses on evidence of Greek philosophy in Islamic politico-philosophical thought.
Sources: Al-Farabi, Araa Ahl al-Medina al-Fadela. (Opinions of Utopians).
** Unit of Sociology of Religion
• Currents, methods and problematic of sociology in relation to studying the phenomenon of religion: “Objectives: The course deals with sociologists’ explanations to the religious phenomenon, the questions they deal with when analysing the affect of religious beliefs on social attitude, and the impact of social affairs and societal requirements on religious writings on divinity, prophecy, revelation, Day of Judgement and completion of creation.
Sources: Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life.
**Unit of Methodology
• Research methodology: “objectives: The course tackles four major questions:
a- The character and tools of sociological research;
b- The use of necessary references including dictionaries, encyclopaedia, and original texts such as al-Tabaqat, al-Regal, al-Boldan (Classes, Men, Countries);
c-Summarising articles and books and determining how to benefit from them;
d- An acquaintance with the art of verifying manuscripts”.
** Unit of the History of Ancient Philosophy
• World and divinity in Greek philosophy: “Objectives: the course is concerned with the theory of divinity and the relationship between God and the world in Greek philosophy; it evidences the influence of Greek philosophy on Islamic philosophical thought”.
Sources: Aristotle’s book on Metaphysics; Platos book on Dialogues with Timeos.
Following the above sample of the courses offered by Zaitouna University, is an examination model which summarises the central dimensions of the philosophy of religious education in Tunisia. We hope that they would also become the central dimensions of the philosophy of religious education in the Arab World.
Ministry of Higher Education
University of Zaitouna
Higher Institution for Fundamentals of Religion
Exam for the academic year 1997/8
Class: four credit hours; maximum: 40
• You remember that a number of instances were behind God’s saying: “Let there be no violence in religion” (The Cow). Among these incidents was one in which a man of the Ansar [people of Medina] had a son whom he wanted to force to convert to Islam. When the father raised the issue to the Prophet, the verse was revealed. Another incident was when a man of the Ansar had two sons who were evangelised by Syrian merchants and departed to Syria; he wanted to run after them to bring them back to Islam. A third was when Ansar women made a vow that if they bore a boy, they would make him a Jew or a Christian so as to live longer. Their fathers wanted to bring the sons to Islam. When they raised the issue to the Prophet, the verse revealed and he said: “God asked your friends to choose, if they choose them, they will be theirs and if they choose you, they will be yours”.
• Investigate these stories and use them to elaborate on the Koran’s stance on the freedom of belief, and the question of accepting the other who is different in religion. Try to employ them in accordance with modern requirements to found the civil society, which prerequisites tolerance and coexistence in order to guarantee progress and security, and in accordance with the aspirations by global community to build interactions on a base of the exchange of interests, regardless of colour, sex or religion.
Signature: Mohammed al-Toumi [then head of Zaitouna University, and the present Minister of Religious Affairs].