Gatech Arabic Module 5


Question Description

short summaries and responses to the assigned readings. Your report must

show mastery of the readings. It must be coherent and it must be written in your own

words. More than 15 words taken from a source will be flagged by the system as

plagiarism. Therefore, try to always paraphrase and use your own languages to explain

the readings. While you can refer to the author, you do not need to cite.

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The Maṣlaḥa of Film Production in Pre-Revolutionary Egypt, 1896–1952: A Sanctioning Apparatus or Covert Censorship? Author(s): Heba Arafa Abdelfattah Source: Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2 (November 2017), pp. 1-37 Published by: Indiana University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 08-08-2018 10:07 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at Indiana University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies This content downloaded from on Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:07:22 UTC All use subject to The Maṣlaḥa of Film Production in Pre-Revolutionary Egypt, 1896–1952: A Sanctioning Apparatus or Covert Censorship? Heba Arafa Abdelfattah Abstract: At the turn of the twentieth century, the lawfulness of film, like other modern innovations, posed a challenge for many Muslim ‘ulamā’. The fact that the film camera was a foreign invention coming from colonialist Europe complicated the challenge. Focusing on the formative years of Egyptian cinema, I analyze Islamic public discourses and legal opinions on the lawfulness of photography and acting, the two principal components of cinema production. I argue that the use of the Islamic legal concept of “public interest” (maṣlaḥa) enabled reformist ‘ulamā’ to positively sanction photography and acting, thereby permitting the production of motion pictures. However, maṣlaḥa was also used as a covert form of censorship. This seeming contradiction resulted from the fact that maṣlaḥa was sometimes reduced to a utilitarian tool that accepted this new medium of communication as a means of promoting Islamic cultural hegemony but disregarded the innovative aspects of film as a domain for creativity and freedom of expression. Heba Arafa Abdelfattah is a visiting assistant professor of Arabic in the School of Modern Languages at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA. She received her Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic studies from Georgetown University in 2017. Her research interest falls in the interdisciplinary area of humanities with special focus on modernity, religion and popular culture. She works with literary texts, archival documents, films, and artistic production to understand discourses of modernity. She is especially interested in issues of cultural production in the context Islamic legal traditions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and global flows. She has conducted archival research on the reception of film by the colonial state, the nationalist elite and the Muslim clergy in twentieth century Egypt. Her publications include “Satire, and Nostalgia in a Time of Revolution – Bassem Youssef ’s Sendup on Egypt’s Golden Anthems,” Review of Middle East Studies (Cambridge Core Cambridge University Press, 2014) and “Mediating Discourse of Democratic Uprising in Egypt: Militarized Language and the ‘Battles’ of Abbasiyya and Maspero,” International Journal of Communication (USC Annenberg Press, 2014). She is currently working on a monograph tentatively titled, “Dreams of Alternative Modernities on the Nile.” Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies, Vol. 2.2, pp. 1–37 Copyright © 2017 North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies. doi:10.2979/jims.2.2.01 This content downloaded from on Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:07:22 UTC All use subject to 2  Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies, Vol. 2.2 Introduction At the turn of the twentieth century, film emerged as a new medium of communication, quickly gaining worldwide popularity. However, film posed a challenge for Muslim ‘ulamā’, who sought to expand and adapt Islamic law to meet changing social conditions and to accommodate innovations while abiding by the Lawgiver’s will, as articulated in the textual sources of law.1 The fact that the film camera was invented in colonialist Europe further complicated this challenge. Simultaneously, the ‘ulamā’ sought to carve out a space for themselves in predominantly secularist efforts to modernize Egypt. They endeavored to show that Islamic law was not an obstacle to social reform; rather, it had a rational frame of reference that was compatible with modern reform projects and could accommodate modern inventions and technologies. To this end, the Islamic concept of “public interest” (maṣlaḥa) was used to derive legal opinions on two primary components of film: photography and acting. Maṣlaḥa, literally a source of good or benefit,2 functions in Islamic legal tradition as a means for finding solutions to unprecedented cases. The use of maṣlaḥa to derive legal opinions was primarily influenced by the debate on the purposes of the law (maqāṣid al-sharī‘a) shaped by Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (450– 505/1058–1111), who placed the purposes of the law under three categories of “interests” (maṣāliḥ): (a) necessities (al-ḍarūrāt), (b) needs (al-ḥājiyyāt) and (c) improvements (al-taḥsīnāt).3 He defined maṣlaḥa as the advancing of “benefit” (manfaʿa) and the averting of harm (maḍarra). He argued for the use of maṣlaḥa only in cases of necessity, in which there was an apodictic (qaṭ‘ī) ratio legis that applied to all believers universally. Furthermore, he excluded maṣlaḥa in cases involving need and improvement unless it was supported by textual source, consensus, or analogy.4 While later jurisprudents accepted al-Ghazālī’s definition of maṣlaḥa, they disagreed with him on the permissibility of maṣlaḥa in the absence of revealed texts and on limiting the use of maṣlaḥa to cases of “necessity” without cases of “need” or “improvement.” For instance, Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (543–605/1149–1209), Shihāb al-Dīn al-Qarāfī (626–684/1228– 1285), Najm al-Dīn al-Ṭūfī (657–716/1276–1316), and Abū Isḥāq al-Shāṭibī (720–790/1320–1388) each developed a model of maṣlaḥa that diverged from that of al-Ghazālī.5 While al-Ghazālī’s model surpassed all others, legal opinions on photography and acting reveal that other models also continued to persist in twentieth-century Egypt. In this article, I translate maṣlaḥa as “public interest” in the sense of “the permissibility of the political authorities to issue rulings that concur with the public good within the sphere of [. . .] politics.”6 Felicitas Opwis distinguishes between maṣlaḥa as “public interest” and maṣlaḥa as “private interest.” She considers maṣlaḥa as “private interest” when a jurist gives a legal opinion on the grounds of maṣlaḥa in a single private case. The advent of print capitalism7 in This content downloaded from on Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:07:22 UTC All use subject to Abdelfattah / The Maṣlaḥa of Film Production   3 the twentieth century blurred the distinction between “private” and “public” interpretations of maṣlaḥa. (When a jurist publishes a legal opinion based on maṣlaḥa in a private case, the circulation of the legal opinion in the press brings it into the public domain and frames it as a public interest.) Print capitalism also gave the ‘ulamā’ more voice,8 allowing them to show that Islamic law possessed a rational frame of reference that was compatible with modern reform projects and that could accommodate modern inventions. The authority of the ‘ulamā’ was thus increased as they became the guardians and transmitters of Islamic knowledge in both public and private domains.9 Their new power also made it possible for the political authorities to appropriate maṣlaḥa to promote the ruling elites’ private interest as a form of “public interest.” As a result, actors in the spheres of religion and politics both used maṣlaḥa as a source of instrumental rationality. With few exceptions, maṣlaḥa was used to sanction positively pictorial depiction and figural representation (taṣwīr)—including photography, and acting—so long as these activities were used as instruments of Islamic cultural hegemony. Focusing on the formative years of Egyptian cinema (1898–1952), this article analyzes Islamic public discourses and legal opinions (fatāwā)10 on the lawfulness of the two primary components of movie production: photography and acting. It draws on a collection of legal opinions published in al-Manār and al-Azhar, the two major religious journals of the time. To make my arguments, I discuss the legal opinions issued by several jurisprudents, including Rashīd Riḍā (1865–1935), Ḥasanayn Makhlūf (1890–1990), ‘Abdullāh al-Ghumārī (1910– 1993), and Aḥmad al-Sharabāṣī (1918–1980). These figures represent diverse channels through which Islamic legal discourses on photography and acting were disseminated during the first half of the twentieth century.11 Rashīd Riḍā, who is often labeled as the foremost representative of Islamic Modernism,12 relied on the legal concept of maṣlaḥa to sanction taṣwīr, which set the stage for the permissibility of photography and acting. Riḍā’s views brought about the concept of “Islamic acting” (al-tamthīl al-Islāmī), which was promoted by the founder of the Society of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ḥasan al-Bannā (1906–1949). By contrast, ‘Abdullāh al-Ghumārī wrote a treatise advocating the prohibition of acting, which he considered as “lying” (kadhib), “frivolousness” (lahw), “reprehensible innovation” (bid‘a) and an instrument of cultural imperialism. He also condemned the concept of “Islamic acting,” which he saw as a threat to the authenticity of the Prophetic tradition. By contrast, Aḥmad al-Sharabāṣī contested al-Ghumārī’s treatise, celebrated “Islamic acting,” and wrote several plays and screenplays. Similarly, Ḥasanayn Makhlūf issued one of the earliest legal opinions on the lawfulness of depicting Islamic history in cinema. I contend in this article that the introduction of photography and acting made it necessary for reformist ‘ulamā’ to reopen a set of classical legal disputes This content downloaded from on Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:07:22 UTC All use subject to 4  Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies, Vol. 2.2 over violating the Islamic doctrine of the oneness of God (tawḥīd), regulating the conduct of Muslim women, and the forging of Hadith. A major key to these disputes was the permissibility of creating images and of making images of the Prophets and Companions in particular. Another major issue was the lawfulness of acting as a profession for Muslim women. By invoking the legal concept of maṣlaḥa, reformist ‘ulamā’ such as Riḍā, al-Sharabāṣī, and Makhlūf were able to sanction photography positively, thereby paving the way for the permissibility of acting in theater and cinema. However, these maṣlaḥa rulings also placed limitations on the scope of acting, limiting its use to cases of necessity and need. This use of maṣlaḥa did not provide room for the innovation that is crucial to maintain the status of film as art and as a domain for experimentation, freedom of expression, and creativity. The use of maṣlaḥa by these scholars was further limited by the legal principle of “blocking the legal means that could lead to sin” (sadd al-dharā’i‘), which overrules the use of maṣlaḥa even in cases of necessity and need.13 Accordingly, the use of maṣlaḥa in positively sanctioning cinema did not resolve definitively previous disputes over the lawfulness of representing Prophets or the participation of Muslim women in theater and cinema, thus allowing these issues to remain controversial today. Early Islamic Discourses on Film Production in Egypt A famous public controversy on the lawfulness of film occurred in 1926 when the pioneer Egyptian theater and film actor Yūsuf Wahbī announced his intention to play the role of the Prophet Muḥammad in the Turkish-German movie, The Prophet Muḥammad.14 Al-Masraḥ (The Theater), a popular variety magazine, campaigned against the film, questioning the company’s motivations for producing the film and calling upon the ‘ulamāʼ of Egypt to protest against it. The magazine claimed that Wahbī’s characterization of the Prophet resembled his earlier characterization of the Russian monk and libertine Rasputin and was thus defamatory. The magazine accused Wahbī of committing an act that made him a renegade (māriq).15 The newspaper al-Ahrām (The Pyramids) published an essay by ‘Abd al-Bāqī Na‘īm Surūr, whom the paper characterized as a keen (ghayūr) Muslim. Surūr claimed that it was anti-Islamic to produce such a film in a country whose constitution acknowledged Islam as the official religion of the state. He urged the government to prevent Wahbī from traveling to shoot the movie in Europe, where people perceived the Prophet differently than in Egypt. Surūr claimed that religion was often subject to ridicule in cities such as Paris, which he characterized as a place of reprehensible leisure and “recklessness” (khalā‘a).16 He concluded that if the movie were to be made, it would disparage the reputation of the Prophet and would serve the interests of the enemies of Islam. Such accusations dispirited public officials, who initially supported the This content downloaded from on Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:07:22 UTC All use subject to Abdelfattah / The Maṣlaḥa of Film Production   5 film. These included the head of the Royal Court, Aḥmad Ḥasanayn, the former Prime Minster Sa‘īd Dhū al-Faqqār, Prince Ismā‘īl Shīrīn, and the Prime Minister Aḥmad Zīwar.17 King Fouad of Egypt (r. 1917–1936) threatened to banish Wahbī and revoke his citizenship if he were to carry out his plans to play the Prophet Muḥammad in the film.18 In response to this media campaign, Wahbī published a letter in al-Ahrām titled Khiṭāb maftūḥ li-l-’ulamāʼ (An Open Address to the Scholars), saying, “I write to you as a Muslim man who loves his religion and his Prophet and as a man who loves his country. I seek your help to decide on a project that, if it happens, might be a major event in the Muslim world.”19 The motivation behind the production, according to Wahbī, was to explain the character of the Prophet Muḥammad to Europeans and to correct the Christian misconception of Muslims as idol worshipers. Wahbī hoped that his letter would encourage the ‘ulamāʼ to approve his project. He emphasized that if he were to refuse the opportunity, the company would assign the role to a European actor.20 He also denied accusations that his characterization of the Prophet was comparable to that of Rasputin. Wahbī assured his readers that he was keen not to violate any religious rules while playing the role of the Prophet and offered to share the publicity photographs taken for the film.21 Wahbī’s letter merely intensified the campaign against the film, with Azhari graduates now taking the lead. For example, Ibrāhīm Jāballāh accused Wahbī of misguidance and deceit. Jāballāh questioned the film company’s motivation for producing the movie and accused it of using religion for financial gain.22 Another Azhari graduate, Aḥmad Harīdī al-Sārī, wrote a response to Wahbī in al-Ahrām calling upon the ‘ulamāʼ participating in the Caliphate Conference, held in Cairo in 1926, to discuss the lawfulness of the movie.23 Al-Sārī claimed that many established legal opinions prohibited the practice of figural representation in general and the depiction of the Prophet in particular. He supported his claim with the argument that the figural representation of the Prophet might lead to the disrespect (imtihān) of Muḥammad’s holy status in the future. Al-Sārī suspected that the movie was a conspiracy to ignite sectarianism (fitna) in the Muslim world. On May 27, 1926, al-Masraḥ published al- Azhar’s response to the debate and described the institution’s intensified efforts to censor the film. These efforts culminated on May 18, when al-Azhar asked the government to contact the German Ambassador in Cairo in order to prevent the Marcos Film Company from producing the film. Al-Azhar also asked the Ministry of the Interior to intervene and prevent Wahbī from traveling abroad to participate in the making of the film. The Ministry called on Wahbī to announce in the newspapers that he had turned down the offer from the Marcos Film Company. On May 30, Wahbī announced that in deference to the ‘ulamāʼ he had declined the offer, noting This content downloaded from on Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:07:22 UTC All use subject to 6  Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies, Vol. 2.2 Figure 1: Wahbī’s publicity photographs published in al-Masraḥ magazine. Image adapted from al-Masraḥ magazine. however, that another company might produce the movie in Algeria or Tunisia. Sarcastically, Wahbī urged those ‘ulamāʼ who supported censorship to contact every other country in the world about the film because censorship inside Egypt would not necessarily prevent the film from being produced outside of Egypt. Wahbī saw the film as a lost opportunity for Muslims to represent their religion for themselves. He realized, however, that the censorship of his role was the symptom of a deeper Islamic discourse on the adaptability of Islamic law to meet new and changing social conditions. He expressed his views as follows: I wonder if it would have been possible for us to have a renaissance in painting (rasm) and sculpting (naḥt), among many other forms of art that flourish in our civilized time, if we had continued to hold onto what some people [in the past] thought of as prohibited, impermissible, and a deviation from religious teachings. However, I would rather not delve any further into this controversial issue.24 During the formative period of Islam, the noun taṣwīr was the principal Arabic term used to signify the representational arts (drawing, sketching, This content downloaded from on Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:07:22 UTC All use subject to Abdelfattah / The Maṣlaḥa of Film Production   7 engraving, and sculpting). The practice of taṣwīr during the lifetime of the Prophet Muḥammad continues to be a subject of dispute among art historians.25 The Qurʼān does not explicitly prohibit painting or other representational arts, and the Arabic root ṣ-w-r appears in the Qurʼān in several forms.26 For example, the term ṣawwarnā (“We fashioned”) in the third person verbal form is usually interpreted to refer to God as the Creator and Fashioner of forms. Similarly, the active participle muṣawwir refers to God as the Fashioner of Forms (cf. Q 59:24). Also, the noun ṣūra—meaning “image,” “picture,” or anything that is formed, fashioned, figured, or shaped—sometimes appears in the Qurʼān as referring to the form of a human being well-fashioned by God (cf. Q 64:3) The first clear evidence for the prohibition of taṣwīr as representational art comes from Hadith literature. The six canonical Sunni collections of Hadith all include a chapt ...
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Running head:SHARIA LAW


Introduction to Islamic Law
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The main difference between modern legal systems and ancient Islamic Law is that the
former is heavily regulated by the state while the latter is influenced mostly by the community.
The biggest strong suit possessed by Sharia Law is its unique ability to adapt to societal changes.
There were many people who made up the Sharia Law System but especially
noteworthyare: the Mufti, judge, law professor and the author-jurist. A Mufti was responsible for
giving answers to legal q...

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