Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Long reads
10 February 2010updated 24 Sep 2015 10:46am

Muhammad Rashid Rida

Defender of the faith and key advocate for the Caliphate.

By Ian K Smith

A Syrian student and collaborator of Abduh, Muhammad Rashid Rida was a key supporter of the Caliphate, the Islamic state led by the Caliph, modelled on the earliest form of Islamic government in the Arabian peninsula.

Rida’s ideas have been crucial to the development of political Islam to the modern day. Through al-Manar (“the lighthouse”), the journal that he published with Muhammad Abduh from 1898, he sought to champion political Islam against European colonialism.

After the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, Rida resisted the idea that the Caliphate should be a purely spiritual authority, and promoted sharia, or Islamic law, as an integrated, coherent social and political programme for Muslims. His insistence that all-encompassing sharia is a fundamental part of a Muslim state continues to inform one strand of contemporary political Islam — for instance, the stated aims of Anjem Choudary and the banned group Islam4UK.

At the domestic level, he railed against the Christian missionaries who appeared in the colonies, accusing them of “attacking Muslim beliefs” and pointing to their “ambiguous verses” to undermine Islam. He also argued that Europe’s claim to Christian identity was contradicted by the continent’s materialistic culture.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

On the European Christians:

Content from our partners
“I learn something new on every trip"
How data can help revive our high streets in the age of online shopping
Why digital inclusion is a vital piece of levelling up

The missionaries attacked the Muslims where they were weak . . . they knew that they had abandoned the Quran.

Next: Muhammad Iqbal (d.1935)

Previous: Muhammad Abduh (d.1905)

Back to list.