Nabil al-Haidari

This month our dear colleague and enlightenment thinker from Jordan, Shaker al-Nabulsi, passed away. His was a powerful voice in the face of the deviancy that exploits religion to oppose democracy, emancipation and liberalism. He was a critic of extremist currents, and of their thinking and behaviour. He was patron of a great reformist project aimed at changing the Arab world and curing it of its basic intellectual and practical problems that ailed it.

He set out to study the difficulties associated with religion and heritage, and attempted to criticise what may be termed ‘religious sanctity’, particularly the question of the Qur’ān not having been recorded at the time of its revelation and set down in writing, so that it might be properly investigated and studied. He also dealt with the relationship between Islam and other faiths – Christianity and Judaism in particular – and from this angle the issue of tolerance with the former and conflict with the latter. Even if I did not agree with him on the latter issue, and have my own studies and differences of view on the subject, nevertheless this did not in any way diminish our ties of friendship. He undertook the study, analysis and criticism of the experiences of major Arab figures of the likes of Naguib Mahfouz, Ghāda al-Sammān, ‘Abd al-Rahmān Munīf, Ghālib Halsā, Ghassān Kanafānī, Muhammad Darwīsh, Mu’nis al-Razzāz and others.

We are losing him after he had presented us with a host of over 60 valuable books, including Pillow of Ice, America, the Arabs and the Third World published in 1987, Arab Thought in the 20th Century published in 2001, Bin Ladin and the Arab Mindset brought out after the events of 11th September 2001, The Incoherence of Fundamentalism (2009), The Rupture: Essays on Iraq (2005) in which he discusses the events of Iraq, River East: An Analysis of Contemporary Jordanian Culture (1993), a study of Jordanian culture, A Doctrine for the Sword and a Doctrine for War (1985), an elegant study on the writings of Naguib Mahfouz, The Conflict between Politics and Arab Culture (1986), Open-Ended – a study in the writings of Antoine Zhukov, Harvest of Silence: A study on Modern Saudi Poetry (1992), The Arabs between Liberalism and Religious Fundamentalism (2010) and many others, in addition to various researches, articles and studies, some of them published on the leading site for reform – this Almuslih site with all its various associated activities.

I met him during the course of a number of conferences, where we used to sit and exchange views and opinions, ruminating on just how low the Arab world had sunk. He was indeed a great intellectual deserving of all respect, esteem and admiration.

He used to predict the victory of liberal secularism, evidencing a number of proofs such as the abolition of Sharīʻa courts or their limitation to Arab or so-called ‘Islamic’ states, and the abolition of the hadd penalties of the Sharīʻa such as reprisal, execution and so on.

He was brave and fearless enough to enter into prohibited areas that many feared to approach due to the threat of being declared an apostate, and targeted by fatwas and militant groups. He attempted to present his enlightenment thought fluidly in all its depth, with evidences and proof.

What saddens us is that we generally mourn those who have passed away and do not concern ourselves with those living among us until after they have died – so that we pronounce elegies upon them and attend their burials, even though there are many great thinkers alive today who are waging a bitter struggle night and day, exposed to threats, risking their lives, and yet supported by no one, simply because they are free, independent spirits who refuse to join a political party. Few are the people who care for such as these.