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RASHID RIDA, MUHAMMAD (23 September 1865 or 18 October 1865 –Egypt, 22 August 1935), Islamic revivalist and reformer. Muhammad Rashid Rida was born in a village near Tripoli, then Syria, to a family that claimed a line of descent from the prophet Muhammad.

After his early education in a traditional religious school, Rida attended an Islamic school established by an enlightened scholar, Shaykh Husayn al-Jisr (d. 1909), who believed that the way to the progress of the Muslim nation was through a synthesis of religious education and modern sciences. Rida thus acquired a thorough education in the doctrine and traditions of Islam and a fair knowledge of the natural sciences and languages (Turkish and French). He studied the works of al-Ghazali (d. IIII) and Ibn Taymiyah (d. 1328), which inspired him with the need to reform the declining conditions of Muslims and purify Islam from degenerate Sufi practices.

By the end of the nineteenth century, a broader movement of reform, the Salafiyah movement led by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. 1897) and Muhammad `Abduh (d. 1905), was underway in Egypt. This movement, provoked by the stagnant and vulnerable conditions of the Muslims, sought to reinvigorate Islam; it stressed the need for the exercise of reason and the adoption of modern natural science, for agitation against tyranny and despotism and resistance to foreign domination, and the promotion of Muslim solidarity. The tenets of this movement were expounded in Al-`urwah al-wuthqa (The Indissoluble Bond), which al-Afghani and `Abduh published in Paris in 1884. Instilling new ideas such as freedom, independence, unity, and the rights of the ruled into the minds of its Muslim readers, Al-`uruwah made a deep impact on Rida; it broadened his idea of reform and brought him to a new stage in his intellectual life.

In 1897, Rida left for Egypt to join `Abduh and he soon became one of his close associates and leading disciples. In Cairo, Rida published his own magazine, Almandr (The Lighthouse), which first appeared in 1898 as a weekly and, subsequently, as a monthly until his death in 1935. The objectives of Al-manor were to articulate and disseminate the ideas of reform and preserve the unity of the Muslim nation. Rida was a prolific writer, producing more work than `Abduh and alAfghani. Besides editing most of the articles that appeared in Al-manor, he wrote several books on various Islamic issues.

Rida, as did `Abduh, believed in the compatibility of Islam and modernity. `Abduh emphasized ijtihad (independent judgment) in an effort to reinterpret Islamic doctrines and give Islam a new vitality, but Rida, faced with more ominous challenges, insisted on certain criterid for Islamic reform. Rida’s time witnessed the disintegration of the Islamic caliphate, the fragmentation of the Muslim world, and the ascendancy of the advocates of wholesale adoption of Western models, who tried to take `Abduh’s reinterpretations of Islamic doctrines to secular conclusions (probably contrary to his intentions).

Concerned with the unity of the Muslim community and the preservation of its identity and culture, Rida viewed the original Islamic sources, the Qur’an, sunnah, and ijma’ (consensus of the companions of the Prophet) as the basis of reform. Rida, however, distinguished between acts of worship (`ibadat) and matters concerning interaction with others (mu’amalat). Since the `ibadat organize human behavior, were revealed in the Qur’an, and were laid down by authentic hadith, they cannot be changed. But human relations, in the absence of an explicit, authentic, and binding text can be reinterpreted according to the interest (maslahah) of the community. Ijtihad can be exercised in light of achieving the common good of the Muslim community. By emphasizing maslahah and ijtihdd, Rida allowed room for human legislation.

Throughout his intellectual career, Rida was preoccupied with the issue of reform. He believed the decline of the Muslim nation was due to the stagnation of its scholars and the tyranny of its rulers. He viewed European dominance over the Muslims as a result of the Tatter’s weakness, which he attributed to the Muslims’ inability to master the sciences, form organized political institutions, and restrict the power of their governments. Considering education a precondition for political reform and independence, Rida urged the Muslim peoples to acquire the commendable aspects of Western civilization, such as science, technical skill, and wealth. His emphasis on education was manifested in his founding of the School of Propagation and Guidance in 1912; here Rida attempted to combine modern education with religious teachings.

Central to Rida’s scheme of thought was the concept of the caliphate and its indispensability to the coherence of the Muslim community. On the eve of the breakup of the Ottoman caliphate in 1923, Rida wrote a treatise, The Caliphate or the Supreme Imamate, which included an elaborate discussion of the caliphate and a plan for its restoration. Realizing the obstacles surrounding the revival of a proper Islamic caliphate of ijtihad, Rida proposed a caliphate of necessity, a temporary one, to preserve the solidarity of the Muslims. Essential to this caliphate were the issues of shura (consultation), ahl alhall wa-al-`aqd (“those who bind and loose”), and ijtihad to ensure the adaptability of Islamic laws and the sovereignty of the Muslim nation.

Rida’s ideas, particularly in the interwar period, gave an Arab emphasis to the Islamic reform movement. As a result of the repressive policies of the Turkish government in 1911, Rida held the non-Arab peoples, namely the Turks, responsible for the decline of the Muslim world. Glorifying the role of the Arabs in history, he placed them at the center of a revived Islamic state; Rida also participated in several parties and associations advocating Arab independence and freedom.

Rida contributed greatly to the preservation and dissemination of the ideology of Islamic reform. He perceived clearly the challenges and threats that led to the disintegration of the Muslim nation and constituted a link between al-Afghani and `Abduh and the succeeding generations of Muslim activists and thinkers who appeared in the third decade of the twentieth century. He developed his own thought and attempted to elaborate a specific and systematic doctrine of Islamic laws and policies. Rida’s ideas shaped modern Islamic thought with moderate and activist features that influenced later Muslim thinkers.

[See also Modernism; Salafiyah; and the biographies of `Abduh and Afghani.]


Adams, Charles C. Islam and Modernism in Egypt: A Study of the Modern Reform Movement Inaugurated by Muhammad `Abduh. London, 1933. Classic biographical source on Rashid Rida and the Manar school.

Arslan, Shakib. Al-Sayyid Rashid Rida wa-ikha’ arba’in sanah (Rashid Rida and Forty Years of Brotherhood). Damascus, 1937. Excellent biographical source on Rashid Rida by one of his close friends. Enayat, Hamid. Modern Islamic Political Thought. Austin, 1982. Excellent analysis of Rashid Rida’s perceptions of the Islamic state and the caliphate.

Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939. London, 1970. Provides indispensable background to Rashid Rida and his thought.

Kerr, Malcolm H. Islamic Reform: The Political and Legal Theories of Muhammad `Abduh and Rashid Ridd. Berkeley, 1966. Thorough analysis of Rashid Rida’s interpretations of legal doctrines and the caliphate.

Khadduri, Majid. Political Trends in the Arab World: The Role of Ideas and Ideals in Politics. Baltimore and London, 1970. Introduction to the basic intellectual components of the school of Islamic revival. Al-manar (1898-1935). Rida’s periodical and a necessary source for understanding his thought and the political and intellectual currents of the time.

Rashid Rida, Muhammad. Al-khilafah, aw, al-Imamah al-`Uzma (The Caliphate, or, The Supreme Imamate). Cairo, 1923.

Rashid Rida, Muhammad. Tdrikh al-ustadh al-Imam al-Shaykh Muhammad `Abduh (The Biography of Imam Muhammad `Abduh). 3 vols. Cairo, 1931. Excellent biography of Muhammad `Abduh and a significant source on the Islamic reform movement.

Rashid Rida, Muhammad. Mukhtardt siyasiyah min majallat Al-mandr (Political Selections from Al-mandr). Introduction by Wajih Kawtharani. Beirut, 198o. Excellent analysis of Rashid Rida’s thought and well-selected texts from Al-mandr.

Safran, Nadav. Egypt in Search of a Political Community. Cambridge, Mass., 1961. Critical and contextual study of Rashid Rida and his intellectual contributions.

Shahin, Emad Eldin. “Muhammad Rashid Rida’s Perspectives on the West as Reflected in Al-manor.” Muslim World 79.2 (April 1989): 113-132.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/rashid-rida/

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