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GHANNUSHI, RASHID AL- (b. 1941), Islamic thinker, activist, and political leader in Tunisia. Born to a peasant family in Tunisia, Rashid al-Ghannushi (often spelled Ghannoushi in Western literature) is the head of the Hizb al-Nahdah (Renaissance Party; formerly called Harakat al-Ittijah al-Islami, or Islamic Tendency Movement) and its chief theoretician. Ghannushi grew up in a religious household and received his early education in the traditional Zaytunah schools. In 1968 he received a degree in philosophy from the University of Damascus, Syria. After a year in France, Ghannushi returned to Tunisia to become a secondary-school philosophy teacher, and to establish-along with a group of young Tunisians increasingly at odds with the secular policies of Habib Bourguiba’s regime-an organized Islamic movement. In 1981 he was sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment for operating an unauthorized association; he was released in 1984. In 1987, he received a life term of forced labor but was discharged in 1988. In the early 1990s Ghannushi was living in Europe as a political exile.

Ghannushi’s thought reflects a masterly understanding of western and Islamic philosophies and a genuine concern for reconciling the basic tenets of Islam with modernity and progress. Ghannushi maintains nontraditional views on several issues. He evaluates the West within the philosophical dimension of East-West dialogue. Unlike Sayyid Qutb of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, he perceives the West as an ideological counterweight to Islamic doctrines: the West is considered neither superior nor inferior to Islam. Ghannushi sees coexistence and cooperation as the basis for the relationship between the two. What sets the two worlds apart, however, is the difference in their perception of the fundamental concepts, or “effective ideas,” that move their cultures: the value and place of humanity in the universe. Islam replaces the Western “man-god” formula with an Islamic one, “man the vicegerent of God on earth”; Islam posits God as the ultimate value in the universe; it acknowledges the material and spiritual essences of humanity and attempts to reconcile them; and it directs human activities according to the divine regulations and concise values embodied in the shari’ah.

Ghannushi acknowledges that the system of democracy was a direct consequence of a particular Western experience. He perceives democracy as a method of government and as a philosophy. In his view, the Muslims’ problem is not with democratic institutions themselves, but with the secular and nationalistic values behind democracy. Islamic democracy is distinguished from other systems by its moral content as derived from the shari Ghannushi makes an important intellectual contribution by linking westernization with dictatorship. He believes two common characteristics dominate the political systems of the Arab and larger Muslim world-westernization and dictatorship by ruling elites. Because of its alienation from the masses, the westernized elite resorts to violent and repressive means to impose its foreigninspired models and perpetuate its rule.

Ghannushi advocates an equal role for women in society and their right to education, work, choice of home and marriage, ownership of property, and political participation. He considers the veil a matter of personal choice that is not to be imposed by the state.

Because he takes a gradualist stance in advocating social and political change, Ghannushi seeks to inspire a more vital cultural model. He relies on orthodox ideas while in fact reinterpreting them to accommodate the modern issues of his society. His ideas, though sometimes controversial, are paid much attention by Muslim activists and intellectuals. Ghannushi’s intellectual contributions and political activism have gained him prominence within the contemporary Islamic movement.

[See also Hizb al-Nahdah; Tunisia.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ghannushi, Rashid al-. Maqdldt (Essays). Paris, 1984. Collection of articles written by Ghannushi from 1973 to 1982.

Ghannushi, Rashid al-. Fi al-Mabddi’ al-Asdsiyah lil-Dimuqratiyah waUsul al-Hukm al-Islami (The Principles of Democracy and the Fundamentals of Islamic Government). N.p., 1990 Comparison between Islamic and Western perspectives on the principles of democracy and government.

Ghannushi, Rashid al-. “We don’t Have a Religious Problem” (interview with Wendy Kirstianasen). Middle East 203 (September 1991): 19-20.

Ghannushi, Rashid al-. Tanqund ild al-Haddrah (Our Path to Civilization). Tunis, n.d. Insightful interpretation of the causes of the decline of the Muslim nation and ways to its recovery.

Ghannushi, Rashid al-, and Hamidah al-Nayfar. Ma Huwa al-Gharb? (What Is the West?). Tunis, n.d. Critical overview of the West and its basic philosophical values.

Ghannushi, Rashid al-, and Hasan al-Turabi. Al-Harakah al-Islamiyahwa-al-Tahdith (The Islamic Movement and Modernization). N.p., n.d. Important analysis of contemporary Islamic movements and the strategy of Islamic activism.

Shahin, Emad Eldin. “The Restitution of Islam: A Comparative Study of the Contemporary Islamic Movements in Tunisia and Morocco.” Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1989. Study of the evolution, composition, and dynamics of the Islamic Tendency Movement in Tunisia and an analysis of Ghannushi’s thought.

EMAD ELDIN SHAHIN

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/ghannushi-rashid-al/
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  • writerPosted On: June 8, 2013
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