My Reasons for Joining the Quilliam Foundation


My decision to join Quilliam Foundation has required a great deal of thought and months of discussion with Quilliam’s Managing Director, Haras Rafiq. I had to think deeply about past decisions that Quilliam (QF) as an organisation has made that I haven’t necessarily supported and also about the core ethos of the organisation. I have come to the conclusion that QF shouldn’t be defined by controversial decisions of the past but by the values upon which the organisation is founded upon. It may not be coincidence that al-Hakim al-Jishumiyya al-Bayhaqi (a Hanafi Mu’Tazili jurist from the 12th century) in his book ‘Satan’s Epistle’ asks: “if Satan were given the chance to speak on the Day of Judgment, whom would he pay tribute to?”  Al Bayhaqi concludes that Satan would end up praising and thanking every Muslim who adapted ideas that attributed to God things that were irrational, unjust or hideous.  Al Bayhaqi could very well be speaking about current times.[1]   The prevailing dominant reading of Islam is one that upholds aspects that are irrational, immoral and vulgar, emptying Islam of its ethical content. Ever since the death of the Prophet (pbuh) and his close companions there has been a perpetual tussle between two camps within the Islamic tradition, the rationalists and anti-rationalists and unfortunately, due to mainly political-economical factors, the latter now have a stronghold on who represents Islam. The very troubles we see facing the Muslim community today are symptomatic of this tension. For me, the last few years in particular have brought to light a ‘religious’ minority of Muslims whose interpretation of Islam is anti-rationalistic and at odds with basic ethical principles. These protagonists have a disproportionate stronghold on the religious community and merely provide lip service to a rational Islam. For example, they proclaim that Islam is a rational religion whist also arguing that the killing of apostates is Islamic. Any interpretation of Islam to be congruent with reason must recognise universal human rights and the freedom to leave or join any religion. To truly claim Islam is rational, the traction of reason must run through the entire Sharia. Early Islamic scholars like the Hanafi Maturidi/Mu`tazila had kept this spirit alive until their influence was lost.

My convictions are very much in line with the Hanafi Maturidi school of thought. In particular, that human reason, unaided by scripture, can arrive at what is morally right and wrong. This position has provided the rationalist schools with an essential tool to guide the Sharia when arriving at ethical rulings. When classical Maturidi scholars were faced with a problematic Hadith they would override its ‘authority’ since it was at odds with reason. In opposition, the anti-rationalist traditionists regarded this way of approaching scripture as an ‘innovation’ and believed that all answers were to be found in the Sunna, namely in the Hadith (narrations of the Prophet (pbuh)). The very same problematic Hadith would be considered authentic simply based on its chain of narration by the traditionalists.  For me, this is one of the reasons why interpretations of Islam are now plagued with unethical views. That said, the Maturidi position must not be mistaken for the view that it’s a free for all, reason works within a framework outlined by the values promoted by the Qur’an.  Another way of expressing this is that our ethos should be more Qur’an focused rather than Hadith focused. Over centuries the Hadith, to our detriment, has acquired the same epistemic position as the Quran. And so my so-called outspoken views criticising ‘Islamic’ positions on the basis that they contravene reason is not alien to the Islamic tradition, as some have suggested, but is really an attempt to reconnect to a forgotten rationalist heritage of the Islamic tradition. A tradition that goes back to the wife and the companions of the Prophet (pbuh), such as Aisha and Umar (may God be pleased with them), who rejected alleged Hadith if they conflicted with sound principles, rationale or lead to objectionable conclusions. Famously Aisha (may God be pleased with her) rejected a narration by a companion saying women like dogs broke the prayer, on the basis of comparing women to dogs, and this was well before any notion of feminist thinking influenced Hadith scholars!

This facade of rational double-talk is striking to say the least and challenging these views comes with a price. It comes as little surprise that these self-proclaimed protectors of the faith regard the questioning of positions such as apostasy killing, stoning adulteress etc. akin to accusing Islam of being flawed or placatory to the West. Those that speak out against this status quo are side-lined, fervently attacked and smeared; ever since I started being critical even I have been on the receiving end of such attacks.

This was particularly heightened when I appeared on a BBC Panorama documentary and I explicitly condemned apostasy killings and argued that it was dangerous and dishonest to blame foreign policy for violent extremism (an argument entirely at odds with the dominant narrative).

Consequently, I have been on the receiving end of threats of violence, I have been smeared as a government stooge and as a neo-con. The fact that I had never received any government funding and was critical of foreign policy wasn’t even taken into consideration. Rather than debate the issues I had raised they attacked the alleged  ‘motive’ I had for making such remarks. Of course this tactic is nothing new with extremists, who like to denounce others and avoid debate at all costs. Why?

Extremism, in all its forms, is intellectually a weak position and deep down they know it.  But it’s not always to do with intellectual dishonesty as psychology plays a part too. Why is there so much resistance to change? Well in a climate where anti-Muslim sentiments are worryingly growing it is understandable that any type of criticism is frowned upon and is regarded with suspicion and treachery. However, what is overlooked is that Islam holds to the primacy of justice even over the duty of unity. The Qur’an emphatically instructs us that we should bear witness to justice and testify to the truth, this is even against our own families, not to mention fellow Muslims. Critical introspection, a forgotten virtue, is necessary for Muslims to be faithful to the true message of their faith. Again, the ‘vanguards’ of Islam (hiding behind the dogma of unity) want to obstruct such thought, divert our focus away from crucial problems and want to blame the ugly actions of Muslims on the West alone – all part of the creation of a victimhood mentality.  A victimhood complex transforms Muslims into a state akin to that which opium does to users: sedated and merely going through the motions. If we are true to the Qur’anic teaching, then we will diagnose that extremism and acknowledge that this phenomenon has a grip on the activist religious community and on religious leaders, who claim to speak on behalf of Islam today.

In fact, the two most important strands of thought that have infected Muslim minds like a virus are:   Puritanism – a literal reading of scripture that is divorced from ethics e.g. Wahhabism, which has had a disastrous impact on Islamic education. The other problem is Islamism, although for some time I was unconvinced of this term.  Islamism is deemed as Islam with a modern political appendage but if Islam in origin is political, then the term is nothing more than a distinction without a difference. Islam has a political dimension, and to claim it doesn’t, means distorting Islam by ignoring something that is inherently part of it. It is my view that Islam does not have a divinely ordained system of governance, but has political value and is descriptive not prescriptive in nature. Islamism, understood as Islam that is apolitical, is at odds with my understanding of Islam inclusive of a political dimension. For this reason, I regarded the very term defunct. Having said this, I have come to realise that there is a nuance to the discussion that I have overlooked up until recently and it was only when Majid Nawaaz pointed out that Islamism is a politicized Islam that seeks to impose its understanding on others then the penny dropped. This is a distinction that holds ground. This type of politicised reading of Islam is ultimately totalitarian and intolerant and is at odds with the Islamic tradition in its entirety.

Over the last twenty years I have seen the effects that these two trends have had on Muslim minds and it comes as no surprise that Muslims born and brought up in the West travel to join ISIS. The theological stage was set for many years and the ideology of ISIS is one that presents a great challenge to the Muslim because ISIS is not ultimately the problem, but is the symptom of the problem. To merely condemn ISIS is not ethically sufficient we must strike at the heart and condemn the very toxic theology that gives rise to such entities like ISIS in the first place. Ultimately, if Islam is its tradition, its history and its interpretation then we are in desperate need of Islam’s own Enlightenment. An important part of that work is countering extremism and it is for that very reason that I have decided to join the Quilliam Foundation.









[1] Khalid Abou El Fadl, The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books, p. 191



40 thoughts on “My Reasons for Joining the Quilliam Foundation

  1. Well, well. Having usually been one I couldn’t quite figure out in terms of being on total defence of the faith often seemed to lead to deflection and denial regarding certain things, I was surprised by the Panorama appearance, and now not surprised by the subsequent threats.
    I’m sure you very well know who will now go on the attack at least in a social media sense, who may have been a “friend” before. But that is how it seems to work.

  2. Why did it take so long for you to understand you were following a highly politicised brand of Islam?
    From my experience most Muslims stick to everyday rituals such as prayers, fasting and are happy to remain conservative in nature but ignore the rules that blatantly contradict British laws ie stoning and chopping off of hands …..

    Perhaps quilliam work is primarily aimed at members of political groups rather than Muslims in general?

    Just some genuine questions for you. Thanks.

  3. Salam Adam

    congratulations on your new job. Though I have many (serious) reservations about Quilliam, I hope you are able to guide the organization in a positive direction going forward


  4. Adam Deen, I followed your discussion with Bassam Zawadi on Facebook. While Bassam Zawadi is a Salafi and two or three years ago I declared him an apostate because of some of his opinions, it is quite clear that his objection to you was right. In your text you have used the Hanafi Maturidi and Mutazilah schools as a basis for your understanding. Bassam Zawadi threatened to bring up quotes from these schools to prove that specific positions you have go against their positions. You admitted that you are aware of this fact. This is something I really appreciate. But I think you should have cleared this in your text itself.
    The way you have presented your positions suggested that you are following some classical but lost way of Islam. It appeared as if the Hanafi Maturidi and Mutazilah used to deny things like apostasy killings, stoning etc.. You showed honesty in the discussion but in my opinion it is totally necessary to mention this fact in the text.

    1. How could you declare anyone as an infidel? You have no right to call anyone an infidel unless they themselves say they are an infidel. Stop this nonsense. What valuable contribution you have made towards Islam? Brother Bassam Defending Islam from many years and many other Islamic websites link to his website. Stop doing Takfeer, masalaam.

      1. He has many good answers to critics against Islam but that will not make him a Muslim. He made clear statements of Kufr which I read many times. Maybe he retracted but I doubt it.

      2. As long as a person says There is no god but Allah and Prophet Muhammad is his Messenger, Irrespective what he says or do. Until that person and renounce Islam. You and I don’t get to say or declare anyone to be a Kafir. Kafir means one who rejects the truth of Islam in a nutshell. As long as a person reciting a Kalimah you cannot call him a kafir. Allah says every sin is forgiven except shirk.

      3. Provide your evidence, You don’t have any. Visit his website he is against those who ascribe partners to Allah. what valuable contribution you have made towards Islam? He calls himself a Muslim and he made valuable contributions toward Islam, like it or not. Again, you are arguing from silence. There is no point of discussing, I rest my case. Btw, please care to tell me who gets to declare a person is Mushirk or not? we or the Scholars?

      4. Yes Sir, Bassam has good contributions in answering non-Muslim critics. But he also tries to answer true Muslims from the Sunnis schools (Ashari Maturidi). He said that Allah is a body with finite length in all three dimensions and that Allah moves and runs for example during the last third of the night. This is kufr and shirk.
        Maybe he changed his opinion but this is what I witnessed 2-3 years ago.

      5. You called someone a true Muslim and brother Bassam a kafir, How do you know either of those things are correct for sure? You cannot call one a kafir, nor you can call one a true Muslim. Leave it to the God to decide who is a true and who is an infidel. You said Maybe he changed his views visit his website (call-to-monotheism) and show me where he support such idea. He said that two or three years ago, please provide the evidence. Here Brother Bassam Email address My question was who gets to decide one is kafir we or the scholars? cite Some scholars who called brother Bassam a kafir, please.

      6. Yes, I am aware of the fact the back and forth going between Asharis and Brother Bassam. Just because they disagree with each other it doesn’t mean one party can call other infidels, until they themselves said so. Hope you can understand, leave it to the God to decide who is an infidel who isn’t. You can say Bassam is wrong, Bassam is this, he is that, but you and I cannot call anyone a Kafir.Masalam. No hard feeling, Take care!

        My apologies to the admins of this website for going off the topic of this article, please forgive me.

      7. I agree but we have to make sure that that what someone calls Allah or God is the same as what we Muslims believe in. We should tolerate disagreements wherever possible but we cannot do this in such fundamental issues. It’s an issue of belief and belief matters. It matters whether someone is Christian or Muslim, Atheist or Muslim and Anthropomorphist or Muslim.

      8. I said my piece. You arguing from silence. we have to make sure? who are we and why we have to make sure? I already told you it’s a scholarly decision to declare one has an apostate. As long as one calling him/herself a Muslim. We cannot call him a kafir, regardless what heretic beliefs he/she holds. Allah knows the best, leave it to Him and Him alone.

      9. I said my piece. You are arguing from silence. we have to make sure? who are we and why we have to make sure? I already told you it’s a scholarly decision to declare one as an apostate. As long as one calling him/herself a Muslim. We cannot call him a kafir, regardless what heretic beliefs he/she holds. Allah knows the best, leave it to Him and Him alone.

  5. Reblogged this on The Old Brewer's Blog and commented:
    I believe we have some distance to travel before we understand concepts of blasphemy and apostasy and the fundament penalties. Adam talks about rationalist and anti-rationalist camps in Islam. For me Islam only makes sense in a rationalist context.

  6. My comments below –

    @ Dear Brother Adam Deen – Salam,

    Brother Adam it was you who initially utilised the Maturidi theological school to substantiate your position in you QF article.

    Thus, wouldn’t the burden of proof be upon your shoulders? If not, then why? Mufti Zameel is doing counter objections.

    All positions (claims and counter claims) need to be demonstrated.

    This is an ideal opportunity for you, brother, to provide a thorough diachronic and synchronic analysis of the early and later Maturidi theological school in order to actually demonstrate your initial position rather than merely asserting it repeatedly.

    Your engagement up to this point has been devoid of any significant referencing to primary or even secondary sources, or even eminent theologians within the school.

    The first article does not have a single reference to a Maturidi theologian or primer to establish your position.

    This current article provides only two quotes which are not necessarily making any specific or significant point and can be interpreted in your favour or against your. Thus they are not bona fide evidences.

    Could you substantiate the following points from your first article via explicit and specific referencing as well as examples from the Maturidi scholastic literature:

    You say:

    (1) My convictions are very much in line with the Hanafi Maturidi school of thought. In particular, that human reason, unaided by scripture, can arrive at what is morally right and wrong. This position has provided the rationalist schools with an essential tool to guide the Sharia when arriving at ethical rulings.

    – please substantiate your convictions (i.e. your supposed interpretation of the school) with specific quotes rather than general ones.

    Are you making an epistemological or a legal point with regards to “unaided by scripture, can arrive at what is morally right and wrong”?

    Are you saying that, according to Maturidi scholars, epistemological discernment led to legal obligation akin to the Mu’tazila? As to know right or wrong does not necessarily make it legally binding prior to scripture. Please clarify and explicitly reference via the texts.

    Please also provide examples of these ethical rulings which the supposed rationalists derived. What was this ‘aql based usul? How did it work? How did it affect their fiqh? Who (scholars) and where (texts) was it articulated? Why was the Ash’ari school less rationalistic? Again extensive referencing via literature would be ideal.

    (2) When classical Maturidi scholars were faced with a problematic Hadith they would override its ‘authority’ since it was at odds with reason.

    – please provide examples from the theological corpus, as well as the fiqhi one too, to demonstarte this proposition. Three or four examples will suffice.

    I will leave it here and ask further questions once you have provided an actual demonstration to the issues raised above.

    Jazakallahu khayra and requesting du’as.

    1. Zameel shoulders the burden of proof as I have disputed his artificial construct of the Ashari and Maturidi relationship which alienates the Mu’tazila from the Maturidi School. He has not rebutted my criticism. Try and follow the discussion.

  7. I have followed the entire discussion (lets avoid all red herrings and zig-zag rhetoric)but you brother should read my comments very carefully as I have directed them at your first article (above) which you have not still substantiated even now after I have asked for proof.

    Forget Zameel totally for moment. I am engaging you on your position not Zameel.

    You shared a construct so what is the proof for your supposed ‘construct’ of the Maturidi theological position?

    You burden the proof for your initial construct which you cannot avoid or dismiss.

    So demonstrate/substantiate it and avoid informal fallacies and pedantry. Why all the avoidance and deletion of my comments? Why?

    Please answer my questions above or else you should retract your construct as it could be deemed misleading and anachronistic. I am agnostic on your construct. I await your clarification and substantiation.

  8. Jzk. I appreciate you not deleting my comments brother. May Allah bless all of us with immense reward.

    This is not personal rather intellectual.

    Lets do this.

    [1] You and Zameel can concurrently have a seperate dialogue. Objection and counter-objections. Burdens of proof, etc.

    [2] BUT importantly for you. You need to respond to me and demonstate your first article. Your initial burden of proof.

    Thus, I await you response to me with some fascination.

    1. UZara – You posted on a forum I “deleted” your comments. As you were mistaken I think its only right that you correct your statement on the forum.

      ” You need to respond to me and demonstate your first article”
      You may feel i “need” to however, due to time constraints, I can only respond to one person at a time.

      1. Salam Brother Adam Deen,

        Jzk for the response. Yes I believe you (or a moderator known to you) deleted my comments which you have not denied still.

        So are you going to deny that you or someone known to you (moderator) deleted my comments the longish one above as well as three others asking for my human right for my aql and free speech (where are these comments btw?).

        Also, why did you close the comments on the other post?

        Until you deny explicitly and provide plausible reasons how and why my comments disappeared (deleted) I don’t need to change my position or retract.

        However, if you do I will not only correct comments on the forum but apologise to you also. I have no ego and this is not personal.

        Now getting beyond the red herrings and zig zapping.

        Let’s get down to substance of matter.

        The need is for YOU to respond as YOU have used it as a central component for YOUR QF ‘joining’ argument.

        Let me say the entire piece above is a poor construct really. But, we can deal with those questions later InshaAllah – in the second round of the ‘deconstruction’.

        Time constraints?? Seems like excuses, excuses and more feebly excuses.

        As you have been on the forum you must have read that even Mufti Zameel thinks you can not (‘not able to’) respond to my questions. Thus, there is convergence it seems. So, if you can not respond just say it and retract your ‘construct’. Simple.

        Why the whole pretense?? Everyone knows what you are doing. It don’t take a logician to work it out.

        Your initial position is untenable and you need to substantiate your ‘burden of proof’ as if you ignore or just avoid it, it will further reduce your credibility and intellectual integrity.

        I (read we) await your clarification and substantiation with fascination. Btw, this is not a race take a day or two. But not too long.


      2. WS. Sorry. But you’re beginning to sound like petulant child. You don’t seem to understand how blogs work. Your Comments where put on ‘pending’ because I get a lot of abusive comments . once I’ve had time to read them in full. I then approve them. If they were ‘deleted’ they wouldn’t be there obviously. Please do get over yourself brother and grow up. All the best.

  9. Salam, Br. Adam. You seem to be an intelligent man; it would be nice for further clarification on a few unclear matters:

    1) Do you agree or disagree with the notion that Islam is wholly rational? Why/why not?

    2) If it is rational, then, as you rightly said, “the traction of reason must run through the entire Sharia.” Therefore, if there are a small number of concepts which outwardly seem to oppose reason, could it not be possible that the logic of today’s mind has failed them in correctly thinking? Indeed, there are works written by great luminaries of Islam who demonstrated that Sharia and reason are complementary, not competitive (see, for example: Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali; Fasl al-Maqal, Ibn Rushd al-Qurtubi (translated as The Decisive Treatise, Averroes); Hujjat Allah al-Baligha, Wali Allah al-Dihlawi (translated by Mercia Hermanson as The Conclusive Evidence from God)).

    Needless to say, the very authors who advocated consistency between reason and Scripture did not seem to have noticed a flaw within the rulings in which you have not understood.

    I ask Allah to guide us all to the reality.

    I await your reply.

  10. As someone whose initial reply to this post has yet to be posted, I second Uzara concerns that his/her post would be deleted. Glad to see it wasn’t , for the questions asked are worthy of the answer being asked.

  11. With regards to Adam Deen comments at January 17, 2016 at 3:53 pm –

    Salam Brother Adam Deen,

    Two points to reply above:

    [1] ‘Comment delete gate’ controversy – btw are you aware the comments have suddenly opened on the other post? So if my 3/4 comments are pending from the other day then please put all of them up now, Jzk in advance.

    It is very very convenient that you want to pick on red herrings like this to avoid the REAL issue. Now ad hominens too.

    I understand pending quite well, jzk.

    You are saying between Muslims that none of my comments have been deleted on your blog at all?

    If so I will correct and apologise. As a Muslim your word to me a truthful bond. As Allah (SWT) judges all.

    [2] beyond the above red herrings –

    In the way you are concerned about your probity. We should be concerned even more so with truth with regards to the din and potentially incorrect referencing to the ulama.

    Thus YOU NEED TO SUBSTANTIATE OR RETRACT with regards to your construct.

    So let’s get down to the substance of my postings and not obfuscate for the sakes of obfuscation.

    I (We) await, and await, so don’t obfuscate.

    We want substance not red herrings and ad hominens.


    1. You want me to approve your spamming asking why your comments were ‘deleted’? Seriously… Also, you don’t know what ad hominem means. So do look it up. All the best.

  12. Salam Brother Adam Deen,

    Jzk I will go back and re-study ad hominens again while you prepare your substantiation for your ‘construct’ InshaAllah. I (we) await, so don’t obfuscate!

    Please brother come back with some substantiation as people may consider your contribution as also just SPAM (due to the lack of substance and more heat than light approach) and avoidance tactics.


    1. “We”, I wasn’t aware I was discussing with Zameel’s gang. But by the looks of it, he does need the help. “Spam”? Another example of misuse of a term. Seems to be a pattern here. All the best.

  13. Salam Brother Adam Deen,

    You can’t avoid red herrings and zig zagging these are informal fallacies btw.

    I used the pronoun ‘we’ in the context of me and po (see above) and not Mufti Zameel or anyone else.

    I don’t know Mufti Zameel personally. InshaAllah may Allah give me the privage to meet him and you, amin.

    I am not in his gang. But i will join you if you substantiate. That is fair, right!

    There is no conspiracy lol. Just plain simple questions. Again dictionary H/W for me, while substantiation for you.

    Can’t you substantiate or something?

    One word from me to you:


  14. Salam Brother Adam Deen,

    I might set up a twitter account and set up a hastag below and get it trending. 🙂


    Don’t worry I won’t. I would like you to just:


    1. Adam, this is going downhill fast and you are the one looking the worse for it.
      I am actually surprised at the way you are choosing to handle this.
      It is worth noting that you are/were someone well established as an Islamic personality, one able and willing to stand as one of the expressions of islamic scholarship and intellectualism. Matter of fact, whatever credit you were given, was gained from that stance, logic, rationality, balance, knowledge.
      Your post about why you chose to join Quilliam (which is is very inadequate as I mentioned in my yet to be allowed post,since we still don’t know who Quilliam is, and how do you answer the criticisms about their links with the right wing/state backed groups who benefit from and support the war on terror that keeps spitting dead Muslims) is thus supposed to be based on that grounding of knowledge, logic and rationality. If your arguments are found lacking, you have only 4 choices as how to handle it:
      1- Support your argument with the necessary proofs, thereby raising your stock and getting all the credit for it.
      2- Acknowledge your error and revise your argument, which is also a very valuable stance, benefits you morally and intellectually, retroactively and going forth.
      3- Refuse to address it and hope it will go away, which will cost you some but people will still give you the benefit of the doubt.
      4- Handle it as you currently are, with ad hominems and obfuscation, red herrings and accusations, which undermines everything you have said before and going forth.

      Personally, knowing what Qulliam stands for, I wondered why you would join them…am not sure you yourself know yet.

      1. Salam, brother Po. If you have your “yet to be uploaded message” saved, it might be a good idea to upload it onto the relevant thread on the Ahlus Sunnah Forum, as your post will upload immediately, and you shouldn’t need to fear deletions or approvals. It seems an honest discussion can take place there, as opposed to here.

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