Abdul Hameed Ahmed Abu Sulaiman And his Intellectual Legacy

Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef *

Leading Islamic thinker, author and scholar Abdul Hameed Ahmed Abu Suleiman died at the age of 84 on August 18, 2021, in a hospital in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Abdul Hameed Ahmad Abu Suleiman was born in 1936 in Mecca. After completing his secondary education in Saudi colleges, he went to Egypt for further studies, where he did his BA in Commerce and MA in Political Science from Cairo University in 1950. Ten years later, he received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. His Ph.D. thesis was:

Towards An Islamic Theory of International Relations: New Directions for Islamic Methodology and Thought

This monograph was later published in book form by the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Washington DC and translations of this book were also published in Urdu, Arabic, and other languages. After the writings of late Dr. Mohammad Hamidullah a luminary scholar of Islam of twentieth century, it is considered to be the best and most trending work on international concepts of Islam so far. Ideologically, Ahmad Abu Sulayman was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, but there was no stagnation in his thinking, but evolution is seen when you go through his books, articles, and speeches. No doubt that he gave new ideas to the stagnant Muslim world. He wrote and spoke with equal proficiency in both Arabic and English, so he wrote many thought-provoking books in both languages, including: 

·       Parent-Child Relations: A Guide to Raising Children, Washington: IIIT, 2013.

·       The Qur’anic Worldview: A Springboard for Cultural Reform, Washington: IIIT, 2011.

·       Revitalizing Higher Education in the Muslim World, Washington: IIIT, 2007.

·       Marital Discord: Recapturing the Full Islamic Spirit of Human Dignity, Washington:   IIIT, 2003.

·       Crisis in the Muslim Mind (Trans. Yusuf Talal De Lorenzo), Washington: IIIT, 1993.

·       Towards an Islamic Theory of International Relations, Washington: IIIT, 1993.

As it is obvious from the topic of his writings and books modern political thought of Islam, women’s rights in Islam, the intellectual crisis of Muslims, and increasing trends of violence among Muslims, education, and training of children were his special fields. He was a good administrator and expert in education too, this is why during his presidency of the International Islamic University Malaysia from 1989 to 1999, the university developed from a modest Islamic seminary to a prestigious formal international university. After retiring from IIUM, Abdul Hameed became the president of the well-known intellectual and research institute; International Institute of Islamic Thought at Washington DC (Founder Dr. Ismail Raji Al-Farooqi Shaheed). The institute is known around the world for its research and intellectual studies on issues and problems related to Islam. Its chapters are working in the United States, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, and India. So far, IIIT has published numerous books and research works on Islam in various world languages. It has been conducting conferences, seminars, and discussions on relevant topics.

Ahmad Abusulaiman was also closely associated with the powerful idea of Islamization of knowledge, emerged in thinking Muslim minds in the seventies, and got momentum with the migration of many thinkers and scholars from the Mideast to the Western world. They established a centre named International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)in Washington DC . Great minds like Ziauddin  Sardar were also not only attracted to this concept but contributed a lot to this venture, though now some have a second thought to that movement like Sardar himself. IIIT was the fountainhead of this revolutionary idea. Many thinkers, writers, and Muslim scholars have been associated with this notion. Yet it seems, to me, that this movement is so far unsuccessful in creating any conducive and favorable atmosphere for science, scientific knowledge, and scientific temperament in Muslim societies in general and in Muslim majority countries in particular.

Dr. Abdul Hameed Abu Suleiman’s writings highlight the fact that Muslim scholars do not have a coherent understanding of the texts, but often read texts out of the context which resulted in drawing wrong conclusions. He cites that the texts presented to justify the beating of wife or the justification of hostility towards the non-Muslims or the notions that justify coercion in Islam are all part of a partial and out-of-context understanding of the texts. He was also of this opinion that Islamic Fiqh itself is not the Shariah, but it is should be taken as one of the sources of the Shariah, which needs to be reviewed in modern times. Abu Sulayman’s view is that the biggest crisis facing Muslims is that as a Muslim community, Muslims do not have a truly creative Muslim personality, so the first need of Muslim societies is to educate and train children in the correct Islamic way. To this end, he founded the Muslim Children’s Institute (Muslim Institute for the Training of Muslim Children) and published a lot of literature.

 Dr. Ahmad Abu Sulaiman was the best writer of the Arabic language. He followed the glorious style of Syed Qutb (may Allah have mercy on him) yet wrote long sentences. For the Islamic intellectual and creative training of children and youth, he wrote a literary book in the style of legendry Arabic text by ibn Muqaffah; Kalila Wa Dimna (كليلة ودمنة)named The Island of Constructors  جزيرة البنائين)) in which the animals of the forest play different roles. It has also been translated into Urdu.

 Yes, indeed the late Dr. Abdul Hameed Ahmad Abu Suleiman was a great writer on education and training and Islamic political thought and one of the great minds of the Islamic world. His departure has created a vacuum.

May God Almighty bless him, he was a wonderful freeman.

*Research Associate with Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India AMU Aligarh

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