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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.

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On the European Christians:

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

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