Islamic Studies

The Muslims Need for the Revivalist Thought of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani [part one]

By Dr. ‘Ali al-Qarahdaghi | Translated by Suhaib Webb

“All praise it due [alone] to Allah the Lord of everything that exists. Peace and blessings be upon the one sent as a mercy to all: Muhammad the truthful guide, upon his brothers [in faith] all of the Prophets, his pure family, his noble companions and those who follow their guidance until the Last Day.

The Role of the Muslim Community

Allah [the Exalted] decreed that the Muslim community would be a continuous and everlasting community. Consequently, He made it the best nation sent to humanity and the final community, completing the Prophethood of Muhammad [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him].

Allah says:

“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the prophets; and Allah is knower of all things.” (Surah 33:40)

This means that the divine message was completed in the Qur’an and Sunna making it independent and in need of nothing else to assist it.

Allah Says:

“This day I have perfected your religion and completed my favor upon you and I am pleased for you Islam as your religion.” (Surah 5:30)

Tools for Revival:

The conclusion of Prophethood and the completion of the true religion implies the following:

The message is appropriate for every age and every place, able to solve an assortment of different challenges: religious, thoughts, cultural, intellectual, political, social and economical. This [longevity and comprehensiveness] is due to two fundamental features:


  • Those aspects which are fixed

These represent a protection for the Muslim community from melting away due to challenges brought on by a host of communal and cultural realities.


  • Tools for revival and development

This is accomplished through independent interpretation of the legal sources either by extracting of religious rulings directly from the Book and the Sunna for the one who processes the ability to do so and has met its conditions, or a selective type of legal interpretation related to choosing from previous legal opinions.

Allah says:

“If they would have only referred it to the Messenger, or those in authority over them, those who are able to extract [the trust based on knowledge would have made it known to them.” (Surah 4:83)

This legislative tool [ijtihad] is not restricted solely to the arena of secondary legal issues. On the contrary! It encompasses every [religious] text which is eligible for ijtihad whether issues of creed, thought, jurisprudence, and situations for which a text does not address. Since Allah sealed the previous holy books with the Qur’an, and the prophets and the messengers with our master Muhammad [may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him], He made for the Muslim community scholars, revivers and the divinely assisted group which will remain on the truth, defend it and revive it until the faith it is returned upon what the Prophet [may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] and his companions [may Allah be pleased with them] were upon. The Prophet [may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] said, “Surely Allah will raise for this community, at the beginning of every century, someone who will revive their religion for them.” [Related by Abu Dawood, Hakim and al-Bani considered it sound].

The word “someone” in this hadith reflects a general meaning which could refer to a single person or a group. Ibn al-Athir wrote, “In addition, it is not restricted to the scholars of law because the Muslim community could reap benefits from its leaders, the scholars of hadith, those who recite the Qur’an or those who are gifted speakers.”

Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, commenting on this hadith, adds: “According to my understanding this hadith informs us that no century will appear except there will appear with it a new dawn, new hopes and a new [sense of] revival, such that the Muslim community will face the future with hearts filled with optimism, resolute towards doing good and sincere in their intent towards change. In particular, this is an opportunity for the Muslim community to stand at the dawn of a new century and employ a sincere introspection, engage in an effort to benefit from the past, rejuvenate its expectations and to rise with the future [I’ve honored the original wording of Dr. al-Qaradawi because of its beauty which implies that the future serves as the wings with which the Muslims fly] humbly toward their Lord; hoping that today will be better then yesterday and tomorrow better than today.”

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani:

In my estimation one of the revivers of the 14th century [20th century C.E] was al-Sayid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani [may Allah have mercy upon him]. In fact, he was the leader of those revivers who served Islam and brought the spirit of revival and a comprehensive awakening. Not only did Allah [The Exalted] inspire him towards the development of thoughts and ideas, but He inspired him to develop men and thinkers such as Muhammad ‘Abdu and al-Sayid Rashid Rida. The result was that this school impacted every Islamic reform effort at whose forefront was the Muslim Brotherhood lead by Imam Hassan al-Bana. [May Allah have mercy upon all of them]. We plan here, in this article, to discuss in a condensed fashion the need the Islamic community has for the reformist thoughts of al-Sayid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani al-Hussayni through the methodology of reform and renewal.A Final Word Regarding al-Afghani his origin and religious affiliation: Dr. Muhammad ‘Emarah, answered these contentions stating: “Those who question his race and religious orientation would like to, in light of these accusations, establish his dishonesty, for indeed, he has stated about himself that “I am Afghani.” And his words and writings illustrate that he was a sunni. Thus, the objective of behind these accusations is to destroy the man who is cherished by all.”

On His being a Mason (added by Suhaib Webb)

I have come across published hand written letters of al-Sayid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani that clearly prove he was involved with the Masons. However, some of those letters are authentic and yet others of questionable origin. I asked Dr. Muhammad ‘Emarah about these accusations and he said, “He joined the Masons with the understanding that their general open call was good. However, after some time, he was made aware of their true nature and abandoned them.” Now Dr. Muhammad ‘Emarah has written a 5 volume encyclopedia on Muhammad Abu [may Allah have mercy upon him an others]. He is more than qualified to make such an observation.

Also, I asked Dr. Taha Jabi al-‘Awani about this school and her thinkers and he stated that this school’s main error was in approach and that they were not free of mistakes. He reiterated that, with that being said, we can still take benefit from them. [Suhaib]

End of Part One

*Qatar University member of The International Association of United Muslim Scholars

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  • As-salamu alaikum,

    The author must conclude as he does that Afghani was a great religious reviver since he proceeds from the principles established by Afghani and Abduh, i.e. that deriving rulings directly from the Book and the Sunnah is still possible.

    In other words, this praise comes from a disciple and a devotee.

    This approach deliberately leaves out the consensus, because the consensus of the Ummah was long ago reached that it is not possible for anyone, no matter how qualified, to derive rulings directly from the Book and the Sunnah and so they must adhere to one of the great Imams of fiqh, i.e. the four Imams of the madhhabs, who the Muslims agree unanimously were absolutely qualified to derive rulings directly from the Book and the Sunnah.

    Once a consensus has been reached, there is no reversing it since it is recognised by all the Muslims as the third fundamental principle: the Book, the Sunnah and consensus of the Imams who are valid exponents of ijtihad.

    However, this does not mean that we are moribund and without ijtihad since there are clear and very dynamic ways of exercising ijtihad to meet new situations (for example, see: “Fatwa and Qada’ [sentence] in the Maliki School” by Sidi Ali al-‘Iraqi al-Husaini, but we cannot use ijtihad in areas where unanimity has already been reached, most significantly on the rulings governing usury.

    As-salamu alaikum,

    Abdassamad Clarke

  • Afghani was not only a Mason but an acting agent of the British. Fortunately, there are scholarly works dedicated to the subject of Afghani and his affiliation with the occult. He was a friend of James Sanua, a Jewish-Egyptian actor, who was a traveling companion of H.P. Blavatsky. For those of you who don’t know who she was, she was one of the most important occult figures of the modern era. Nazi occult philosophy was derived from her two books, which are regarded as the “bibles of Freemasonry”.

    According to K.Paul Johnson, in the Hidden Masters Revealed, it was from Afghani that Blavatsky would acquire her central doctrines, similar to Ismaili ideas.

    In fact, Afghani and Abduh would refer to themselves among their Masonic brethren as “Ikwhan as Safa wa Khullan al Waffa”. This is the exact name of a sect of the tenth century, who were responsible for the communication the occult ideas of the Sabians (Batiniyya) which led to the founding of Ismailism.

    It is difficult for Muslims to understand that someone who was so vociferous an opponent to the West could have been their agent. In fact, the hijacking of Islam has been a primary strategy of the Western powers throughout the century.

    In his own words, he said:

    “We do not cut the head of religion except with the sword of religion. Therefore, if you were to see us now, you would see ascetics and worshippers, kneeling and genuflecting, never disobeying God’s commands and doing all that they are ordered to do.”

    Afghani was merely the first in a long line of agents posing as Muslim reformers who would assist the British and then the Americans to pursue their imperialistic objectives in the Middle East. This continued with Aghani’s dispicle, Mohammed Abhuh, who was made mufti of Egypt by Lord Cromer. Abduh was followed by Rashid Rida, and then Hasan Al Banna.

    The MB was founded with a grant from the British, but they soon collaborated heavily with the Nazis. Following their demise, control of the MB was handled by the newly created CIA. This was part of a Cold War strategy that used Islamic fundamentalism to combat the influence of Communists, castigated as “atheists”, in the Middle East.

    The Americans were assisted in their project with financing from Saudi Arabia. Support for the MB is part of an international network of “Islamic” banks with intricate ties with various Western financial institutions, but also dubious ties to a number of illicit activities. This was exemplified with the international network organized by the Iran Contra affair, to create funds to finance the Muslim Brotherhood “mujahideen” in Afghanistan, now acknowledged to have been the greatest CIA project in history.

    I plead with my Muslim brothers and sisters to see the extent of the deviousness that is employed to distance us from the true Islam.

    For further reading, I recommend:

    Nikki R. Keddie, “Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn “al-Afghānī”:
    a political biography

    Elie Kedourie, “Afghani and ʻAbduh:
    an essay on religious unbelief and political activism in modern Islam”

    Robert Dreyfuss, “Hostage to Khomeini”

    Robert Dreyfuss, “Devil’s Game: How the Americans Helped Unleash Islamic Fundamentalism”

    Mark Sedgwick, “Muhammad Abduh”

    Samir Raafat: “FREEMASONRY IN EGYPT Is it still around?”, Insight Magazine.

    David Livingstone & Sahib Mustaqim Bleher, “Surrendering Islam: The Surrendering of Muslim Politics Throughout History to the Present Day”

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