Middle East Resources

THE PASSING OF SAYYID AL-QIMNI

Bassam Michael Madany

14 February 2022

On Sunday the 6th of February 2022, Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni, an Egyptian author and human rights activist passed away at his home in Cairo.

On 8 February 2022, the Arabic section of BBC News gave a brief report on the event.  The following is the translated text:

“The Egyptian intellectual Sayyid Al-Qimni passed away on Sunday at the age of 75. In his writings and speeches, Al-Qimni advocated the updating and reforming of the hermeneutics of the Qur’an and Hadith. Some critics charged that his proposal was inspired by a Marxist ideology. Others claimed that Al-Qimni should have refrained from dealing with sacred subjects that must be shielded from any critique.”

Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni founded the Egyptian Secular Party. He lectured at the meetings of the Party that have been archived on YouTube.

I had expected that by mid-week, some online Arabic newspapers and magazines would have commented on the passing of Sayyid Al-Qimni. Perhaps editors of the Arabic media are hesitant to comment on the work of a controversial scholar whose critique of Islam was considered harsh and quite shocking. A week later, the event is still ignored by most of the Arab media. At the same time, a lively debate is going on in Egypt where friends and foes of the late Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni offer their positive or negative views of him. Reports indicate that he was refused the normal funeral service at the Mosque. Family members and friends are active defending his contributions to the cultural and political life of Egyptians.

A major Cairo daily Al-Ahram published the news of Al-Qimni’s passing, in its Arabic and English editions. The following are excerpts from the English Al-Ahram of Thursday, 10 February 2022.

Sayyid El-Qimni, the Religious Critic Who Met Fire with More Firei

“Controversial Egyptian secular thinker and researcher in the history of religions, Sayyid El-Qimni, who rattled Islamists and gained both criticism and praise from academic scholars, died on Sunday at the age of 74. The late author stirred up controversy over his views on the Quran and his battles with Al-Azhar accusing the latter of sponsoring terrorism. El-Qimni, who was born in 1947, focused mainly on the Islamic tradition and the history of monotheistic religions. He offered what he labelled a socio-political reading of the life of Prophet Muhammad and the beginnings of Islam, in a series starting with Al-Hizb Al- Hashimi (The Hashimite Party), Huroob Dawlat Al-Rasoul (The Wars of the Prophet’s State), and Naskh in Al-Wahy (The Abrogation in the Revelation).

“His problems with Al-Azhar and the Islamic Research Academy came in 1996 after he published his book Rab Haza Azzaman (The God of This Age), which the academy demanded be confiscated.  In 2005, he received death threats on the internet from Al-Qaeda, which prompted him to stop his writing in the media. In 2009, El-Qimni was awarded the state’s appreciation award for his body of work.

“El-Qimni’s thesis that treats the Quran as a historical text that can be examined in a critical fashion, brought the wrath of scholars and Islamists who asserted that the Quran is the word of God, and not an earthly text. His critical approach to Islam brought accusations of apostasy and blasphemy on him.”

I am disappointed but not surprised that some major Arabic online dailies and journals have ignored the event. At the same time, a lively debate is going on in Egypt where friends and foes of the late Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni offer their positive or negative views of him.

To get an idea of the encyclopedic learning of this Egyptian scholar, here is a list of some  of the speeches and lectures he gave, both at home and abroad.

On 31 May 2013, Al Qimni described “The conditions and future of the minorities according to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Jurisprudence.”

On 7 and 8 December 2014, Sayyid Al-Qimni lectured on a Cairo TV Station on “The Right of a Secular Egyptian to Life and Freedom.” 

On 7 June 2016, Al-Qimni spoke at conference in Brussels, Belgium, on “The Roots of Violence in Islam.”

On 13 August 2015 and 22 August 2016, Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni lectured at Egypt Secular Party’s Headquarters in Cairo.ii 

While the lecture was delivered in Arabic, those who don’t know Arabic, by listening to it, may experience the passion of a pioneering scholar who attempted to reconcile Islam with modernity! 

 

__________________________________________________________

i Sayyid El-Qimni, the religions critic who met fire with more fire - News - Books - Ahram Online

ii المحاضرة الكاملة للدكتور سيد القمني في الحزب العلماني المصري - برنامج البط الأسود ٢٢٠ ( حلقة خاصة ) - YouTube