Deforming Faith and History to Serve a Neocon Agenda Part III – Adam Deen


This third and final part directly continues from the Part II:

Deforming Faith and History to Serve a Neocon Agenda Part I: Rashad Ali

Deforming Faith and History to Serve a Neocon Agenda Part II: Sara Khan

Also operating within the well-oil neocon counter-extremism machine is the Quilliam Foundation, which brings us to Adam Deen’s rather expected (see here also) announcement of joining the cold war-era style state-validator organisation. In his blog piece announcing the squandering of his faith, Deen convolutedly explains why he wants to fight “extremism” but fails to convincingly explain why he would join an organisation born in the lap of another extremism – neoconservatism – which continues to legitimise neoconservative policies.

This equivocation-ridden nucleus in his piece indicates to the pseudo-intellectualism which comes head way in the second paragraph.  Deen is, like Sara Khan, a fan of the deconstructionist, Khaled Abou El Fadl.  The fanboyism, though, is taken to a new level. He writes,

“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.”

This is lifted from Abou El Fadl’s The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of Books almost verbatim:[1]


This plagiarism perhaps intended to lend a cheap air of sophistication also foreshadows the rest of his piece. Deen misleads his readers to believe that “early Islamic scholars like the Hanafi Maturidi/Mu’tazila” adhered to his view that,

“Any interpretation of Islam to be congruent with reason must recognise universal human rights… To truly claim Islam is rational, the traction of reason must run through the entire Sharia.”

He also further claims his view is in line with the “Hanafi Maturidi” school of theology, that “human reason, unaided by scripture, can arrive at what is morally right and wrong”.

Lets take this in order.

Deen is binding the interpretation of Islam to his reasoning which necessitates recognition of “universal human rights”.  Oddly though, and despite speaking of the “façade of rational double-talk”, he states our reading should be “Qur’an focused”. Thus the underlying assumption forced is that the “values promoted in the Qur’an” are “congruent” with the recognition of universal human rights. This, as we later shall see, is not a Maturidi position, but rather mirrors the Mu’tazili position rejected by the Islamic orthodoxy.

Universality of Human Rights

The first question is, which universal human rights? Deen claims he came to the conclusion that Quilliam must be assessed on the values they are founded.  Taking Quilliam’s rhetoric prima facie, these are liberal values and their discourse on human rights is from the secular liberal paradigm. Understanding this, the lying, failed former businessman Haris Rafiq of Quilliam confidently asserts,

“he NOW believes in a human rights values based worldview”.[2]

In other words, his operating paradigm is no longer the primary sources of Islam but an ideology founded in unique, Eurocentric circumstances marked by a repressive attitude to intellectual progress – a context which in the main did not blight the Islamic world.

And what of the claim of “universal human rights” itself?

A Disputed Claim

There is a historically lengthy philosophical debate over the conception, categorisation and prioritisation of rights which impact the claim of “universalism”.  From the etymology of the terms “human rights”, which is rooted in the ashes of World War II, and before that in the 17th and 18th century liberal philosophy of “natural rights” or “rights of Man” (with key proponents being John Locke, Montesqueue, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rouseau), and the conception of human rights as being rooted in individualism (contrasting with the collectivism of Eastern traditions), to the very language of the rights discourse. The root and branch of the human rights discourse promulgates a disputed claim to universality.

The Professor of Law and Associate Dean for International and Comparative Legal Studies, Burns Weston states,

“To say there is widespread acceptance of the principle of human rights on the domestic and international planes is not to say that there is complete agreement about the nature of such rights or their substantive scope – which is to say, their definition.  Some of the most basic questions have yet to receive conclusive answers. Whether human rights are to be viewed as divine, moral, or legal entitlements, whether they are to be validated by intuition, custom, social contract theory, principles of distributive justice, or as prerequisites for happiness; whether they are to be understood as irrevocable or partially revocable; whether they are to be broad or limited in number and content – these and kindred issues are matters of ongoing debate and likely will remain so as long as there exist contending approaches to public order and scarcities among resources.”

Moving on from the philosophic aspects of human rights, the universality is further challenged from a political point of view. Drawing attention to the proximity of liberalism with Christianity, and using the specific example of the conception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, political scientist Joseph Masad points out that “in the case of the three framers of the [UDHR], it would be “Christianity that defined their worldviews”, with one of the three being a “Lebanese sectarian, anti-Muslim and anticommunist conservative Christian Charles Malik”.[3]  It is also noteworthy that the human rights industry was promoted during the 1970s as official US imperial policy.  Amnesty International was founded in the UK in 1961 by Peter Berenson, a Jewish convert to Christianity who had close ties with the British intelligence.  Massad further comments that,

“If democracy, as shown in the previous chapter, was being advanced as the highest state of Christianity, human rights would be tagged as the core Christian (and “Western”) principle from which the quest for democracy issues… Though communism was the ideology that called for internationalism as a way of combating the world capitalist class that had always organized itself on an international scale, bourgeois liberalism would find its calling in human rights internationalism since the 1970s, an internationalism not to facilitate resistance, to an oppressive force that is organized internationally, but one that imposes a Euro-American and West European imperial will on the globe engineered precisely to quash an local resistance (cultural, social, or economic) to imperialism in its myriad forms.[4]

Indeed the usage of democracy and human rights as a tool for global imperialism is central to neoconservative foreign policy.

Deen’s Theological Claims

Deen’s assertion that Islam is to be interpreted in light of “universal human rights” is deeply flawed, philosophically, politically, and as I now demonstrate, theologically. It should be noted that it is upon this last premise – theology – which rests his spurious claim of binding Shari’ah to reason and in turn the recognition of universal human rights.  Deen misleadingly ascribes his neo-Mu’tazili views to the orthodox Hanafi Maturidis and states that “human reason, unaided by scripture, can arrive at what is morally right and wrong”.

The authoritative explication of the Maturidi stance found in the exposition of the renowned classical theologian Mullah Ali Qari (who cites the view of the founder of the Maturidi school) is at odds with this view and exposes the erroneous Mu’tazili-style usage by Deen:

“They [Ustadh Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and the scholars of Samarqand) say that according to the Mu’tazilis, if reason realises good (الحسن) or ugliness (القبح) then that in itself mandates upon Allah and His servants to judge accordingly.  However, according to us, the one who necessitates servants to judge something as good or ugly is Allah Most High, and nothing is made mandatory upon Allah by agreement of the ahl al-Sunnah wa al-jama’.  For us reason is a means by which these judgments are made known to us, that is, by Allah revealing to it the good and ugliness in an action.

“We [the Maturidis] say that some rulings can be known without the aid of a Prophet. This is done by Allah Most High creating knowledge of them in His servants, sometimes not even requiring they strive to acquire [knowledge]. Such rulings would include the obligation to believe in a prophet and the prohibition of harmful lying… We say, however, that most rulings cannot be known except through the Book and the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him.[5]

Deen takes a snippet of the Maturidi position that some rulings can be known without the aid of a Prophet, ignores the fact that most rulings cannot (and those that can be are ones which are already within the paradigm of the Shari’ah) and proceeds to prune well-known Islamic orthodox viewpoints. In short, the Maturidi position makes reason subservient to the recognition of the rulings already established through the two primary sources of Islam (which constitute the Shari’ah), and explicitly rejects the notion that the Shari’ah is to be contorted to reason. Reasoning itself is firmly rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and can only flow from them, not external to them. Deen’s view conflicts with this as he his necessitating reason and by his own extension the etymologically external “universal human rights” to “run through the entire Sharia” – a view more akin to the Mu’tazili.

Definition of “Islamism” and Deen’s Epiphany

Deen states,

“…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.”

Deen now taking his deen (religion) from someone like Maajid Nawaz speaks volumes about the intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy on display.  Nawaaz’s claim is based upon an incident which is often twisted and presented to prove their view.  Quilliam’s Ghaffar Hussain explains this thusly,

“Imam Malik was the supreme authority of Sunni Islam during the time of Saffah, Mansur, Mahdi and Hadi, the first four Abbasid caliphs.  Of them, the last three all wished to impose his teachings, contained in his book Muwatta, upon all Muslims.  Imam Malik refused each time, arguing that other authorities had other knowledge and different interpretations, and it would be utterly wrong to impose one interpretation upon everyone…”

These heavily spun claims are then used to effectively discharge any interpretation from being enforced in adjudication, and of course, opening the door for the likes of Nawaz, Hussain and now Deen to push their distorted views as equally legitimate to established Islamic orthodox views (ironically with the blessings of David Cameron).  The fallacy is that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, himself called people to follow the “enforced” interpretation of divine law of those other than Allah and the Prophet. He conferred this authority to his two closest companions Abu Bakr and Umar (may Allah be pleased with them):

Hudayfah relates that the Prophet peace be upon him said,

“I do not know how long I will remain with you. So follow these two people after me: Abu Bakr and Umar”.[6]

The Arabic word for “follow” used here is “iqtidaa”, which denotes religious following.[7]

One of the senior most Companions and among the most knowledgeable in jurisprudence, Abdullah ibn Mas’ood may Allah be pleased with, advised a judge in the following manner:

“If anyone is faced with a case today he should judge by the Qur’an.  If there is a case where the Qur’an has not ruled, then he should judge according to the Prophet. If a case appears where neither have ruled, then he should judge according to the rulings of the pious. If a case comes where no one has ruled then, he should judge according to his own discretion.[8]

So what then of the specific case of Imam Malik, his magnum opus, the Muwatta and the Caliph’s insistence for it to become the legal school to be followed in all Muslim lands?

The distinction is that Imam Malik’s view alludes to the differences that exist on peripheral points of law, as opposed to well-established rulings such as corporeal punishments which Deen, and the likes of Quilliam take a distaste too.[9]  This is evidenced from the words of Imam Malik himself:

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abdu’l-Hakam said, “I heard Malik ibn Anas say, ‘Harun ar-Rashid consulted me about three things: whether the Muwatta’ should be hung in the Ka’ba and people compelled to follow what it contains… I replied, ‘Amir al-Mu’minin, as for hanging the Muwatta’ in the Ka’ba, the Companions of the Messenger of Allah disagreed about the branches [of knowledge] [furu’].”[10]

The remit of Imam Malik’s own words are clearly limited to the peripheral issues (furu’). None of the early jurists would dispute that the ruler governing Muslim lands would be required to carry out the well-established punishments (when the crimes have been proven concordant to the stringent criteria laid out in the Shari’ah).

Deen’s penny seems to have been heavily twisted (perhaps to fit in with his ethnocentrically biased “reason”) before it dropped, it seems.

The rest of Deen’s piece is the usual mix of the similarly intellectually desolate PREVENT Strategy, the “liberal Muslim” victimhood narrative (I’ve been attacked!), and ISIS.

Concluding Remarks

It is important to understand that the postmodernist pseudo-intellectualism now being promoted as “reformist”, or “rational” have been debated and dealt with in the past centuries by traditionally grounded scholars.  The supremacist, neo-colonial arrogance in asserting the universality of human rights and truncating history to serve an agenda, is also nothing new.  However, all of these aspects are occurring symbiotically beneath the auspices of an overarching framework.

Distorting, twisting and spinning theology and history within the context of the counter-extremism framework seems to be a distinguished trait of the deformist clique made up of shysters like Rashad Ali, Sara Khan, Adam Deen and their compatriots and forebears.  This context proves that such futile efforts are not merely about “debate” or to foster some mythical progressive intellectualism, but to serve and promote an agenda.  The very fact that these traits gloss over the point that the counter-extremism agenda is itself ideological and benefits the neoconservative/pro-Israel lobby, is enough to hammer a nail in their wooden, coffin-destined efforts. However, even if we analyse their deformist rhetoric, the misleading superficiality becomes rapidly evident. Such distortions cannot remain hidden and will always be exposed. It is for the Muslim minority to recognise such threats directed towards them from the perspective of politics and more importantly, from the vantage point of Iman (faith).

“Whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] his soul. And whoever goes into misguidance does so against his own soul. And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And never would We punish until We have sent a messenger.” (Al-Quran, 17:15)

The Prophet, peace be upon him said, “Indeed from the signs of the Hour are three. One of them is that knowledge will be sought from the asaghir (lowly)”. (Al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi)

Abu Saalih says, “I asked [Abdullah] ibn al-Mubarak that, ‘who are the lowly [people?]’ He replied, ‘The innovators in religion.’” (Al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi)


[1] Abou El Fadl, K., The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books, Rowman and & Littlefield Publishers: Oxford, 2006, p.191

[2] The bigoted Maryam Namazie seeks clarification in a Tweet, “Is that Islamic human rights or the universal ones?” Rafiq replies: “Universal”.

[3] Massad, J.A, Islam in Liberalism, The University of Chicago Press: London, 2015, p.143

[4] Ibid.

[5] Al-Qari, M.A., Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar Fi Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar, Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiyyah, pp.306-7.  Arabic:



[6] Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ahmad

[7] Lisaan al-Arab, vol.20 under “Qada”, see usage also al-Qur’an, 6:90

[8] Sunan al-Nasai, Darami

[9] And which can also be found in the Qur’an, See explanation in: ‘Awwamah, M., Adab al-Ikhtilāf, Dār al-Bashā’ir al-Islāmiyyah, pp.36-40

[10] Al-Isfahani, AN., Hilyat al-Awliya (6:332):

ثَنَا عَبْدُ اللهِ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْحَكَمِ، قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ مَالِكَ بْنَ أَنَسٍ، يَقُولُ: شَاوَرَنِي هَارُونُ الرَّشِيدُ فِي ثَلَاثٍ فِي أَنْ يُعَلِّقَ الْمُوَطَّأَ فِي الْكَعْبَةِ وَيَحْمِلَ النَّاسَ عَلَى مَا فِيهِ، وَفَى أَنْ يَنْقُضَ مِنْبَرَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَيَجْعَلَهُ مِنْ جَوْهَرٍ وَذَهَبٍ وَفِضَّةٍ وَفَى أَنْ يُقَدِّمَ نَافِعَ بْنَ أَبِي نُعَيْمٍ إِمَامًا يُصَلِّي فِي مَسْجِدِ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقُلْتُ: يَا أَمِيرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَمَّا تَعْلِيقُ الْمُوَطَّأِ فِي الْكَعْبَةِ فَإِنَّ أَصْحَابَ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِي الْفُرُوعِ وَتَفَرَّقُوا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَكُلٌّ عِنْدَ نَفْسِهِ مُصِيبٌ،

4 thoughts on “Deforming Faith and History to Serve a Neocon Agenda Part III – Adam Deen

  1. Salam Alaykum,
    One big question that is still missing is that even with the above, the classical Mutazili – Sunni argument seems to be much more abstract than what it is made out to be: It seems that the Sunnis and Mu’tazilis do agree broadly on the final conclusions of the rulings of the Shariah, but only how we as humans could know about these matters. Honestly considered, if both classical Mu’tazilis and Sunnis agree, for example, on key marriage or inheritance laws, with one saying that these can be deduced rationally and the other than rather we are in need of revelation, how does this help the “reformists”? [Because even the Mu’tazila would agree on the final law, but would have a very high view of man’s intellectual ability to deduce exactly such a final law].

    • Walaykumsalam, the difference is the requirement to bind the Sharia to reason, and Deens case, universal human rights. Its twisting their beliefs. In any case I agree with your point, the i’tizal was in aqaa’id, in fiqh most followed the Usul of the schools of jurisprudence.

  2. Apologies for using this other account, but also consider in addition to the above: The Mu’tazilis actually seem to take an even more “anti-modern reform” position that the Sunnis: They would be saying that the rulings of the Shariah are so obvious the mind will arrive at them (meaning there is something wrong with one’s thinking and rationality if they do not come exactly to these rulings).

    Even if we pare down many of the rulings down to a Quran-only approach [just hypothetically, to pander to neo-Mutazilis], then there is the obvious ruling on lashings with the explicit warning to not leave the implementation of this Hadd due to feeling bad for the victim.

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