When I went to Egypt in the beginning of the 90s, in order to study and to get the “ijazaat” (traditional authorizations to teach and implement Islamic sciences), I learnt from Muslim scholars (shuyûkh) through the traditional methodology. I learned a lot in areas related to Islamic sciences : the creed (aqida), sciences of the Qur’an and hadith, law and jurisprudence, fundamentals of law and jurisprudence, and islamic terminology, understanding Islam, creed and doctrine, and shari’a, social and common interests, jihad, etc. Most of my teachers were coming from the reformist trend and advocating renewal within Islam (tajdid) We have studied and understood the hadith quoted by Dr. Jasser: “God sends every hundred years somebody (or a group of people) to this community who will renew for them its religion” What is meant here is a renewed understanding with awareness regarding time and geographical changes as well as dealing with new questions. Having finished, I came back to the West, and as Dr. Jasser said, I spent my whole life in Europe and the West. At the beginning, after my return from Egypt, I was most interested in questions related to law and jurisprudence, understanding shari `a, and implementing Muslim principles in contemporary societies, the secular societies as well as the majority Muslim societies. And after twenty years… I wrote numerous books in the field of application of the law, and understanding the rules in our contemporary world. After twenty years of writing and being active, I observed two things: the first one is that the notion of reform has several meanings among scholars advocating renewal and reform. They all take into account the evolution of time and the diversity of environments; yet some of them offer are caught by a literal understanding – not of the texts – but of the context. The surrounding reality and the ideological pressure, cultural and civilizational overwhelm them and thus, reform is merely an adaptation to a current state of affairs. I called this type of reform in my book “Radical reform”: “the adaptational reform” Dans le domaine du droit et de la jurisprudence, on verra les savants
donner des “allègements” In the field of law and jurisprudence (fiqh), we see scholars and jurists providing “relieves”, always relying on imperative or necessary reasons. This attitude is based on fear and a defensive mentality and posture, trying to preserve Islamic principles and values, without any effective influence on reality. He we are torn apart, between isolation from the world and the people, or the full dilution in the world and among people. There is another meaning, and a different understanding for the notion of reform: in some aspects, there is the type of “transformational reform” whereby we don’t exclusively mean abiding by the Islamic principles and preserving our religion, but also reforming reality in the very name of Islamic principles and in the light of Islamic values and ethics, and the objectives of the Islamic way (shari`a) This is clearly different from “the adaptational reform”. Here’s the second dimension: It is also necessary, in this area, not to neglect and not to forget the spiritual and intimate dimension. “Be imbided God’s spirit” Reform is not just about intelligence and implementation, yet it is also a matter of heart, truthworthyness, sincerity and excellence. The Messenger, peace be upon him, said: “I was sent but to perfect the ethical virtues” and the following verse is very clear: “Thus We have sent you a Prophet from among you, who recites for you Our verses, purifies you, teaches you the Book and Wisdom (Sunna) and teaches you what you did not know.” There is, between recitation and understanding of the Qur’an, purification of hearts purification of the soul. The scholars of the Sufi tradition focused on that dimension As well as on understanding of ethics. The meaning of the purification of the self is reforming the soul. And the goal is changing and transforming, going from the jailed self to the peaceful soul, God willing. From injustice to justice and the peaceful state of the self. We want the same transformation in our societies. We want human dignity, justice, freedom, education for peoples, good governance and peace among peoples It is necessary here,to go back to the philosophy of Islamic legislation, the purposes of shari`a, and the understanding of the ethical dimension of our religion. And if we want to have an impact on reality, and reform the societies, it is essential to bring together scholars of Shari`a and the texts together with scholars of the context. Scholars of the scriptural sources will thus benefit from other knowledges, economics, politics, medicine, etc. And this is the very specificity of this research Center: to bring together scholars of the texts and scholars of the context, to ask new and specific questions, and produce useful research for the scholars in order for them to provide us with responses that are faithful to the texts and relevant to the realities and challenges of our time. But there are conditions to be respected: The first condition is to be faithful to the texts, to immutable and decisive rules: “The licit is clear, and the illicit is clear” And this is an obvious aspect, which is necessary to remember from the very beginning of our work. The second condition is to enforce the rules in the light and understanding of the objectives and ethics: We cannot apply the rules literally, but by understanding the Objectives and our ethical values. The third condition is to review and monitor one’s intention. The main objective of the purifying the self and reforming our societies and communities, For the sake of God’s satisfaction and with sincerity. This is where we want to go in the various fields. As we just mentioned, and so did Dr. Jasser Auda, these are open fields: medicine, arts, economy, environment, education, food, social and political sciences, psychology… As well as “man and woman” issue: we do not want this study to limit itself to “rights and duties of women”. We would rather like to tackle the issue of man’s place in the Arab and Muslim majority societies. We often come back to the hadith: “Each one of you is a guardian…” but taking care is a responsibility and thus subjected to conditions. We do not get it forever, without conditions. It is therefore necessary to revisit the place of man, and the issue of masculinity. The question is aptly put: Where is the “man” in Muslim societies? Where is the Muslim man? Before talking about women, about their rights and duties. We ask God for success. He the Greatest, the most knowledgeable and the best Judge.