Nasr Abu Zayd


The Egyptian scholar who was declared an apostate for challenging mainstream Muslim views. Dr. Abu Zayd's liberal, critical approach to Islamic teachings angered some Muslim conservatives in Egypt in the 1990s. He further argued that the Qur'an was both a literary and religious text, a view that clashes with the Islamic idea that the holy book is the final revelation of God. He also said that Islam should be understood in terms of its historical, geographic and cultural background. In 1995, an Egyptian Shariah court declared Dr. Abu Zayd an apostate from Islam, annulled his marriage and effectively forced him and his wife into exile. The couple moved to the Netherlands. However, he returned to Egypt in recent years, first for lectures and later for health reasons. His scholarship was praised in his book 'Voice of an Exile: Reflections on Islam' published in 2004. Dr. Abu Zayd compared Arab rulers unfavourably with leaders in Iran, Turkey and elsewhere in the Muslim world, where he said religious debate was comparatively freely flowing. He criticised the use of religion to exert political power.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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