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The significance of honoring scholar Radwan al-Sayed

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

The committee supervising the King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies did well this year by granting the award to Dr. Radwan al-Sayed whose work made significant difference in this field. Sayed is one of today’s few intellectuals who provide a well-formulated analysis of Islamic culture.

By presenting this award to him, the committee is sending the positive message that this is the Islamic ideology we want.

In a speech delivered while receiving the award, Dr. Sayed focused on three challenges which Muslims across the world are confronting: the challenge of saving the national state, as he called it, the challenge of religious reform and the challenge of rectifying relations with the world.

Dr. Sayed, has over the course of four decades, contributed to priceless ideological works that are distinguished for originality rather than repeated traditional thoughts. His ideas discuss the modernization of Islam which bears many burdens that prevent it from progressing, thus making it unsuitable for our current time and place.

Dr. Sayed has a rich and diverse academic career. He left Tarshish in Lebanon to Al-Azhar, then to the University of Bamberg in Germany, and then to the University of Chicago. Also, he studied the different schools of Islam in several Arab cities.

While accepting the award, he talked about his categorization of political Islam’s ideology which is an urgent matter that must be addressed considering the dangerous historical circumstances. The political crisis among Muslims lies in the historic interpretations of Islam – interpretations which parties are being selective about.

Before Dr. Sayed classified this, several groups had created cells whose political Islam ideology established the “legitimacy” of the Islamic state and described how the Muslim individual should live his life. These groups are responsible for the disasters which the world suffers from today.

The significance of intellectuals like Dr. Sayed is their intellectual capabilities. This is, of course, in addition to the respect others have for them and which makes them the most competent to submit a new cultural project that resolves the crisis of a billion Muslims who suffer from restraints imposed on them by their jurists. The latter have either been brainwashed at the ideological level or failed to keep up with the developments which have changed the world.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed



The significance of intellectuals like Dr. Sayed is their intellectual capabilities. This is, of course, in addition to the respect others have for them and which makes them the most competent to submit a new cultural project that resolves the crisis of a billion Muslims who suffer from restraints imposed on them by their jurists. The latter have either been brainwashed at the ideological level or failed to keep up with the developments which have changed the world.

Aware of the challenge

Dr. Sayed was aware of this challenge when he graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo and traveled to Germany to resume his Islamic studies. He says that a German orientalist ironically asked him: “Why do you come to us from Al-Azhar to attain a degree in Islamic studies and we do not feel the need to go to Al-Azhar to study about classical Islam?”

Islamic studies, like all studies, are not exclusive for Muslims and some of the most distinguished works related to Islam are found in Western universities.

Dr. Sayed, who has been at many universities and research centers, believes that participating in establishing and developing the “science of Islam” is a necessary and honorable task performed by respectable institutions like the King Faisal Institution.

Granting Dr. Sayed this award signifies the recognition he deserves. We look up to him, and to figures like him and to modernizing groups because they push the elite towards reforming the underdeveloped and sabotaging ideological situation which does not suit the present of a great nation or its great history.

Developing scientific centers and activating the special ones is the first step towards developing the entire society.

This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on April 06, 2017.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.