Tabah Futures Initiative Latest Report: Parallels between Far-Right and Muslim Religious Ideological Extremism

Countering religious ideological extremism in Muslim countries has been a relevant and important issue in the Muslim world and the West for a number of years. However, there are other forms of extremism, which are often overlooked and pose an equally serious threat to our societies. Far-right extremist movements have become increasingly popular in North American and European societies. Oddly enough, these far-right groups echo a number of similar claims that Muslim extremist groups propagate. This research brief examines the growth of far-right extremism and draws parallels to Muslim religious ideological extremism. Through examining these parallels this report provides insights into the ideological underpinnings of extremist thought from these differing strands and will discuss implications for countering violent extremism policies for both of these forms of extremism.

You can download full report here

Islamic Education in UAE: Strengths, Gaps, and Opportunities

On October 22nd, 2018, Tabah Futures Initiatiave  launched its latest report “Islamic Education in UAE: Assessment of Strengths, Gaps, and Opportunities”. The launch event was held in Tabah Tent in Abu Dhabi.

Islamic Education at the elementary and secondary school level has become the primary means through which generations of Muslim children in the Arab region are learning about their religion. In many cases, school-based learning is the only means of direct religious instruction that young people receive. As a result, contemporary Islamic Education curricula and pedagogy bear an immense responsibility for shaping religious identity that was in previous generations more evenly distributed across society. This responsibility has been amplified and increased due to the problems of religious extremism with which the region has been afflicted over the last two decades. This report discusses the findings of the Tabah Futures Initiative study of Islamic Education in the UAE. Informed by a series of in-depth interviews with professors, consultants, school administrators, teachers, and parents, this report provides unique insights on some of the opportunities, gaps, and challenges associated with Islamic Education in the region.

⇓ You can download the full report here.

Must Modern Science Have Philosophical Foundations?

A lecture organized by Tabah Foundation was given by Mr. Hassan Spiker, researcher in Islamic philosophy logic and mysticism, in Cairo on April 2017.

Many natural scientists today believe that their disciplines are objective, universal, neutral and value-free, and that their truth claims are completely independent of any form of philosophy. Moreover, although the claims of positivism were decisively discredited long ago, many contemporary scientists and science enthusiasts still believe that physics, chemistry and biology are the only sources of real knowledge, leading them to claim that the true answers to metaphysical questions, like that of the existence of God, cannot possibly be known – or even that such questions are meaningless.

However, the popularity of this type of scientism is particularly surprising when one considers the consensus amongst even mainstream modern philosophers that physical science, far from being capable of dealing with all questions, accounting for all aspects of reality, or providing the basis for all forms of objective truth, actually has to assume a great many of its first principles, and cannot itself ‘prove’ a great many of the facts that it must accept in order to be able to operate. Indeed, in order to do so, it must employ another discipline, historically considered the most scientific of the sciences: metaphysics.

The talk, moderated by researcher  Ahmad AlAzhari at Tabah Foundation,  considered something of the history of the relationship between metaphysics and the natural sciences both in the West and in the Islamic world, and arrived at answers that would be of crucial importance to contemporary debates about the scientific status of the traditional Islamic disciplines.

Delegation of the European Union Visits Tabah

On Monday 19 December, Tabah Foundation hosted a special visit from the Delegation of the European Union to the UAE. The delegation was led by Ambassador Patrizio Fondi and Mr. Jan Figel, EU Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief Outside the EU, who was on a special visit to the UAE. They were received by Noureddin Harthi, CEO, and Abaas Yunas, Analyst at Tabah Futures Initiative.

Discussions were wide ranging and highlighted important issues related to religion and the contemporary world, including the role of faith and reason in the Islamic tradition, the depth and diversity of Sharia and it’s central importance to the religious practice of Muslims, the application of Sharia in non-Muslim majority countries and the dependence of a correct understanding of Sharia on sound scholarship as embodied in the mainstream Islamic scholastic tradition. Mr Yunas explained that since the world is a bastion of a plurality of ideas, value systems and worldviews, then true dialogue and tolerance can only emerge when there is universal acknowledgement of this plurality. Mr Figel stressed the importance of promoting the understanding of religion in all sectors of civil life and commended the work of Tabah Foundation in this regard.

Birthday of Prophet: The Ardour of the Emirates

In the atmosphere of love and tolerance that the United Arab Emirates experiences on the occasion of the Prophet’s blessed birthday s, the Tabah Foundation held a presentation entitled “The Prophet’s Birthday s: The Ardour of the Emirates” in the Capital Abu Dhabi, given by researcher and poet Thāni al-Muhairī. He presented works of art expressing aspects of the Prophet’s birthday s by artist Saif ‘Ali as-Sādah.

In attendance at al-Muhairī’s presentation was Chairman al-Ḥabīb ‘Alī al-Jifrī, along with several other notables, and a number of youth ardent for this momentous occasion celebrated throughout the Islamic World. He started by looking at scholarly works dealing with the blessed biography of the Prophet s, and finished his roundup by looking at works authored specifically about the Prophet’s birthday (Mawlid) s beginning from the Fourth Century AH. He showed that the Mālikī scholars have over a hundred compositions that are recited on this blessed occasion, some of which are mentioned by the Imām and Ḥadīth scholar ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Kattānī (d. 1962 CE) in his book, at-Ta’ālīf al-Mawlidiyyah, in which he relates the works that have been authored in this field by the great legal and Ḥadīth scholars of the Muslim Community through the centuries. Such include al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn al-Jawzī al-Ḥanbalī, al-Ḥāfiẓ al-‘Irāqī in his book al-Mawrid al-Hanī, al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Sakhāwī, and others.

Scholars have found it fitting to celebrate the Mawlid since it was first instituted by King Muẓẓafar of Irbil, the son-in-law of the victorious Sultan Ṣalāḥu’d-Dīn al-Ayyūbī, and one of his chosen few. Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Kathīr said in praise of him that he was, “One of the great, magnanimous rulers, and the majestic kings. He had a positive legacy … He used to observe the blessed birthday in Rabī‘ al-Awwal, and celebrate it in a most tremendous fashion. Nevertheless, he was a chivalrous, courageous and ferocious champion, as well as an intelligent and just scholar, may God have mercy on him and be gracious to him in his final abode.” The Mawlid he held was attended by a group of legal and Ḥadīth scholars (Muḥaddithīn and Ḥuffāẓ) and they approved of it, among them Sheikh Dār al-Ḥadīth al-Ashrafiyyah, the Muḥaddith, Abū Shāmah al-Maqdasī (d. 655 AH), may God have mercy upon him.

The people of the Emirates have also contributed to this authorship. The Sheikh ‘Abdullāh Bin Muḥammad Bin Ṣāliḥ al-Khazrajī put the evidences for the Mawlid of Imām al-Barzanjī into poetry, naming it, al-Shāhid al-Munjī li’l-Mawlid al-Barzanjī.  Sheikh ‘Abdullāh studied with his paternal uncle, Sheikh Ḥasan al-Khazrajī in Dubai, and he authored a number of works in various branches of Sacred Knowledge. Other scholars, such as the Sheikh and Minister Muḥammad al-Khazrajī authored a treatise concerning the legal ruling upon celebrating the Mawlid. Also included are the Sheikh and Muḥaddith Aḥmad Bin Sheikh Muḥammad Nūr Bin Saif al-Muhairī and Sheikh ‘Īsā Bin ‘Abdullāh Bin Māni‘ al-Ḥumairī, and others.

Al-Muhairī also reviewed the notables who used to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday s in the Emirates, starting from the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and going through the various emirates, finishing with the Emirate of Fujairah. The dignitaries and sheikhs of Abū Dhabi and Dubai were wont to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday s every year. Among the most important gatherings in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, after the Gathering of Āl Nahyān held by Sheikh Shakhbūṭ and Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan (may God have mercy on them both) in Qaṣr al-Ḥoṣn, were the Gathering of Āl Ḥāmid, the Gathering of al-‘Utaibāt, the Gathering of H.E. Ahmad Bin Khalifa al-Suwaidi, the late Omeir Bin Youssef, and Justice ‘Alī Bin ‘Abdu’r-Raḥmān Āl Ḥāshim.

He noted that in the eighties, many of the stewards of the Mawlid in Abu Dhabi passed away. They used to celebrate it in a distinct and unique fashion – the likes of the late Sheikh Muḥammad Bin ‘Abdullāh al-Qamzī, Sayyid ‘Abdu’r-Raḥīm al-Hāshimī, the Judge of Abū Dhabi, and the distinguished poet ‘Abdullāh Bin Sulayem al-Falāsī. Also amongst them was Sheikh Jābir Bin Rashed al-Hameli, Thani Bin Murshid al-Romaithi, Rāshid Bin Khalaf al-‘Utaibah, Darwīsh Bin Karam, and others. Some groups kept this classical style alive, and the Hāshimī descendants of the Prophet s continue to pass it down, preserving this legacy.

He also mentioned the families that celebrate the Mawlid in the Emirate of Dubai, such as Āl Mejren and al-Futtaim, as well as some of its stewards, such as Sheikh ‘Abdu’r-Raḥīm al-Murīd and Sheikh Aḥmad Bin Ḥāfiẓ.

The Women’s Mawlid

In addition to the Mawlid celebrated by the men, some of the women also celebrate it in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, specifically the gatherings of some of the Ladies (Sheikhas) and particular families. Amongst the matriarchs famous for celebrating the Mawlid in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is Zulaikhah Bint Sheikh Abū Dhīnah.

Mawlid after the Unification of the Emirates

The Prophet’s blessed birthday s is considered an official holiday in the United Arab Emirates, and the government has undertaken the patronage of this great event, holding celebrations in its honour. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments holds a celebration of the Mawlid every year, attended by Sheikhs and dignitaries, just as the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charity Work does in Dubai.

The historical information presented made a great impression upon the attendees, as did the feeling of pride and belonging to a nation whose very basis is the love and tolerance inherent in the identity of its people. Amongst the comments, Dr. Hessah Lootah, Professor of Media at UAE University said, “…it is an essential part of our culture and heritage such that we cannot conceive of a wedding without a celebration of the Mawlid”. The evening was concluded with a prayer for the Muslims of the world, and humanity in general, for the advent of love and peace, along with a donation of the reward for reciting Sūrah al-Fātiḥah to the soul of Sheikh Zayed Āl Nahyān, may God have mercy upon him.

Canadian Ambassador Visits Tabah

On Sunday 4th December 2016, Tabah Foundation was pleased to receive Ambassador of Canada to UAE, Masud Husain, and Political Counsellor at the Canadian Embassy, Hamza Abdulbasit.

Ambassador Husain and Mr. Abdulbasit met with Abaas Yunas, Head and Analyst at Tabah Futures Initiaitve, and Adel Alkaff, Initiatives Manager. Mr Yunas welcomed the Ambassador on behalf of Tabah Foundation’s Founding Chairman, Habib Ali al-Jifri.

Discussions centred around understanding Tabah Foundation’s role as a specialist research institution dedicated to creating new paradigms of understanding religion in the contemporary world. Mr Yunas explained Tabah Foundation’s areas of expertise and highlighted current projects and their relevance to addressing immediate issues in the public religious space. Views and opinions were also shared on a number of different matters pertaining to changes in the regional and global religious landscape.

Ambassador-at-Large for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Processes for UN Visits Tabah

 On Tuesday 29 November 2016, Tabah Foundation was pleased to receive Mr. Pekka Metso, Ambassador-at-Large for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Processes at the Unit for UN and General Global Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Mr. Metso met with Habib Ali al-Jifri, Tabah Foundation’s Chairman, Noureddin Harthi, CEO, Adel al-Kaff, Manager of Initiatives, and Abaas Yunas, Analyst at Tabah Futures Initiative.
Mr al-Jifri welcomed Mr Metso to Tabah Foundation and highlighted the key importance of dialogue and interreligious exchange. He explained that the world today is in need of dialogue that stems from a shared value of respect and acknowledgement of the plurality of thought that distinguishes the various regions of the world. Mr. Yunas introduced Tabah Foundation’s mission and areas of expertise, and highlighted Tabah’s recent initiatives and research themes, and its view on events in the region and beyond, including extremism and trends in religious identity.
Mr. Metso commented on the need for a deeper appreciation and comprehension of the role of religion in the contemporary world, and commended Tabah’s efforts in advancing the discourse on understanding this role. Mr Metso explained initiatives that his unit has run and their experience in fostering dialogue and understanding in Finland and the region.

Tabah Foundation Participates in Fez Summit 2011-03-17

Walead Mosaad, Cultural and Education Project Manager, attended the 3 day summit held in Fez, Morocco entitled “Towards an Alliance of the Middle Way, and organized by the Radical Middle Way organization. It brought together such notable luminaries as Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayya, who spoke about the challenges scholars face in addressing contemporary societies, Habib Umar bi Hafiz, who spoke about the scholars’ role in developing virtuous societies, and Shaykh Usama Al-Sayyid, who spoke about the role of Al-Azhar in the formation of the Egyptian Muslim. The Mufti of Bosnia, Dr. Mustafa Ceric, also addressed the summit, speaking about the need for a spiritual revolution in Muslim communities, as well as Shaykh Muhammad Qaribullah, the head of the Samanniya Sufi order in Sudan, speaking on the importance of maintaining and preserving the natural environment, and Shaykh Abdulhakim Murad, speaking about the need for a renewed spiritual discourse for Muslim minorities in Western countries. Also in attendance were some of Morocco’s esteemed scholars from the Qarawiyyin University, such as Shaykh Muhammad bin Hamid Al-Saqqili, Shaykh Abdulaziz Al-Qassar, and Shaykh Idris Al-Fihri.

On his part, Walead chaired the session entitled “Understanding Our Message”, and spoke about the foundations of the Muhammadan message that unite all Muslims. In addition to attendance of the summit, Walead was also part of a delegation that met with the Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs in Morocco, and also visited the newly opened Dar Al-Hadith Al-Hasanyia College in Rabat, Morocco.

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The Moroccan Experience in Restoring Religious Discourse to an Authentic Approach


In the context of its genuine interest in reshaping contemporary Islamic discourse and providing research and consulting services in Abu Dhabi, the Tabah Foundation hosted Prof. Dr. Ahmad Abbadi, the Secretary General of the Muhammadiyah Association of Scholars in Morocco, who gave a lecture in the Tabah Intellectual Tent, titled “The Moroccan Experience in Restoring Religious Discourse to its Authentic Approach”.

In his beneficial and interesting speech, Dr. Abbadi described this experience as a story of crossing from an intellectual geometry to restoring equilibrium to a state of flux, order and authenticity, with renewal in religious speech, inseparable from its purposes, objectives, approaches and programs. It is a six-dimensional geometry that begins with Guardianship (walayat al-amr), the tasks of which include being decisive in establishing peace; the Supreme Scientific Council, which branches out into numerous scientific boards and is concerned with giving guidance according the adopted and followed rules and Fatwa, headed by Guardian to ensure compliance to the set rules. These scientific councils oversee the sustainable development of Imams and prepare them along the lines of the Charter of Scientists’ plan. Additionally, such councils oversee the lessons given in mosques in order to monitor them and maintain control.

Scientific councils supervise all the Sharia institutes and they are entrusted with reviving the al-Qarawiyyin, in addition to considering the context and the areas it covers, hence conducting ongoing contextual studies which care for the religion’s legitimate and realistic dimensions.

The Muhammadiyah Association of Scholars in Morocco was assigned massive tasks across 21 research units, including units dedicated to combating extremism, others for addressing various deviant behaviors, capacity-building and preparing a homogeneous generation of intellectuals and scholars in accordance with formative guides. This is in addition to the “Board & Pen” unit, which cares for children and gathers both the children of royal families and the children of shelters under the same umbrella. This unit with its well-studied programs has been very useful; it has 35,000 articles written by children for children. Such endeavors seek to protect the young people and generations from invasion by aberrations, misguided and diseased ideas and extremism.

Dr. Abbadi stressed the need to dismantle the powerful slogans and false claims with which ISIS seeks to attract the youth, revealing ISIS’ misguided paths and evil deviations and showing how they are, in fact, mavericks (using the expression of the Prophet) when it comes to matters dealing with major necessities; i.e. preservation of religion, life, intellect, lineage and wealth, all of which ISIS violates, infringes and offends.

The lecturer stated that the Kingdom of Morocco exerts much effort to care for these necessities through enforcing the function of the state and its role to ensure the safety of its people, care for their security and secure and develop the conditions of their life and affairs.

The attendees interacted with valuable interjections and questions that focused on benefitting from the Moroccan experience – and the role of scholars and society at all levels in combating extremism to care for the nation’s youth and prevent them from slipping into the traps of aberration, delusion and fanaticism, through highlighting the authentic structure of their religion’s construction and necessities (as established since the era of prophecy on compassion and beauty, as well as the development of the youth’s capacities’ and investment in righteousness, giving, knowledge and growth).

Among the attendees were scientists, advisors, ambassadors, diplomats, researchers and media figures, including His Eminence Mr Ali Hashemi, Advisor to the President of the United Arab Emirates for Religious and Judicial Affairs; Adam Shahedov, Advisor to the President of Chechnya for Religion Affairs; His Eminence Sheikh Osama Al-Azhari, Advisor to the President of Egypt for Religious Affairs; Dr. Idris al-Fihri, Imam of al-Qarawiyyin Mosque; Dr. Ahmed Mamdouh, Egyptian Dar Al-Ifta; a high-level delegation from the Sufi Complex in Sudan and a number of ambassadors and their deputies, including Mohamed Ait Ali, the Moroccan Ambassador to UAE; Hatem Al Saim, the Tunisian Ambassador; Dr. Aref Nayed, the Libyan Ambassador and Mr. Sayed Abdullah BaAlawy, the Comoros Ambassador, in addition to a number of employees from various research and study centers in the state. Among the interventions that took place in that gathering was initiated by a comment from Dr. Mona Al Bahar, former member of the National Council and Dr. Hessa Lootah, Media Professor at the UAE University.