Dr. Gabriel's Core Message
Having studied and lectured at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, I know the Islamic mainstream theology in depth. For many years I have written books and lectured in Western countries to teach about the Islamic doctrine taught at Al-Azhar as the most famous, oldest and most influential educational center.
In Western societies, where many people used to believe that ‘Islam’ means ‘peace’, and that Allah and the God of the Bible are the same, I saw a desperate need for a better understanding of what Islam really teaches. In my book ‘Islam and Terrorism’ that has been published right after 9/11 I have explained, for example, that Islamic law does indeed call for jihad.
I felt the need to spread awareness in Western Countries about the Islamic teachings that clash with Democracy and Human Rights.
Today, in a time where ISIS is terrorizing the entire world, people no longer ask whether ‘Islam’ means ‘peace’, but they want to know whether or in how far the ideology of radical Islamic groups really reflects Islamic teaching. The answer is that most of what they do is indeed based on the Islamic writings of some(!) Islamic scholars. Even when ISIS went to the extreme of burning captives they had a theological justification for their action. However, many of the writings and interpretations of such radical scholars are based on ‘weak’ ahadith and on the human opinions and interpretations of these scholars. Hence, they are not infallible.
Since Islamic Law contains many rulings that are based on the human opinions and interpretations of Islamic scholars, I see it as very important to distinguish between Shariah and Islamic law. Shariah is considered to be divine and infallible and refers to the Qur’an and the ‘correct Sunnah’. But Islamic Law is not fully divine or infallible and it can, therefore, be questioned.
During my past years of study and research I discovered that many of the critical Islamic teachings that are widely considered as core Islamic teachings, including for example the death penalty for apostasy, or the stoning for adultery, are based on ‘weak’ ahadith and in fact, even contradict the Qur’an and/or the ‘correct’ Sunnah.
We need to distinguish between Shariah and Islamic Law.
In my recent dissertation on Reforming Islamic Law I have demonstrated that it is possible and legitimate to reform Islamic criminal law and even to reconcile it with International Human Rights.
The new focus of my work is, therefore, to call all Muslims not to blindly acknowledge all the violent parts of Islamic teaching as divine, but to verify and filter for themselves, what Shariah really teaches.
I want to encourage all Muslims to consider the peaceful teachings of the Prophet Muhammad’s early times. These include for example the right to freedom of religion.
I have proven that it is possible and legitimate to reform Islamic criminal law and even to reconcile it with Human Rights.
My appeal to all non-Muslims, both governments and ordinary people, remains that I am calling to distinguish between Islam as ideology and Muslims as people. Also, I keep stressing that not all Muslims are the same.
Despite the problems that we have with radical Muslims and with violent Islamic teachings, we should not be hostile toward all the peaceful Muslims.
It will be more beneficial for both sides to focus on our common ground and common values. As ‘ordinary people’ we should try to live in peace with everyone.