Field: Islam, Politics
Title: Muslims under non-Muslim Rule

Yahya Michot
Publication: Interface publications 2006

ISBN: 978-0-9554545-6-1

Level: Advanced

Reviewed by: Safwan

The highly academic work was written to shed a light on Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwa regarding muslims ruled by non-muslims. The fatwa is very much concentrated around Mardin, a city in Syria which was ruled by the invading Mongols. The book started with an adequate explanation of its background; being a Turkish town under Najmuddin Ghazi II, allegedly a ‘slave’ of the Mongol Sultan.

It then went on to expound on Ibn Taimiyya’s ruling (fatwa) as understood and quoted by six modern readings, in which five of them have interpreted it in a way that would never be concurred by the Damascene theologian should he be alive today. The arguments were presented around the issues of ‘domain of peace’ (dar al-islam) and ‘domain of war’ (dar al-harb), legitimacy of migration, and jihad against rulers. Ibn Taimiyya’s own arguments from translated texts were laid so as to disown the theologian from the misled justifications used by some islamists today.

The book was then continued by embodying the very six modern readings (mentioned earlier) into its pages. This was done after all the arguments (mainly) against them were presented, aiding the readers to better recognise their fallacies. Yahya Michot very much regretted how the world today- muslims and non-muslims, media and academic- have illustrated the great and respected theologian contemptuously; in a way that he never deserves to be pictured. Often he has been misquoted as the ‘father of Islamic extremism’. Yahya Michot even convincingly showed how Guy Sorman, a reputed professor at the Institut des Sciences Politiques of the University of Paris, blatantly erred when he blamed Ibn Taimiyya for giving rise to every single fundamentalist movements to this date.

Finally, a very helpful chronology of events in Ibn Taimiyya’s life was laid down in the last few pages of the book.



  1. An interesting book to read safwan.

    I guess it is always important to contextualize every piece of writing in the appropriate way, or not any interpretation can be considered valid, regardless whether that particular interpretation is what the author really meant or not. History and background are important.

    Indeed Ibn Taimiyya has been 'misunderstood' a lot. Some even argue that the principal school that is 'big on' Ibn Taimiyya has misunderstood him on occasions. One thing ironic though, as people charge him with fundamentalists movements, the father of Islam Liberal at Indonesia a.k.a. Cak Nur is fond of Ibn Taimiyya too, often quoting him in his writings - albeit in a blatant out-of-context manner.

    Can't wait to read this one, but I guess I have to prioritize my schedule for now =)

    By the way, book review is meant to be book review i guess, but can you give an overview as to what hmm.. what is it all about? Kind of vague as it is... hehe..

  2. Agree. Hehe Taufik, let me forewarn you; the book is not too engaging. It took me some time to understand where I was in relation with the arguments- and I have to be aware of all the jumps and leaps that the author made from one issue to another!

    Anyway if you want to drag the discussion further, I'll be happy to join in =). Have you read the discussion to this book? click the link [discuss] under the review, then only can we do it in full agility! (hehe)

  3. one of the important thing to do while reading books especially from the westerners is to apply the 'deconstruction' of the ideas as used by the ulamak of fiqh..

  4. Sorry for being naive, what do you mean by 'deconstruction' of ideas the 'ulama way, a.s abd mukti? Secondly, what's with the westerners? Are you talking about orientalism? I'd say they are kind of ok, in this post-Said era.

    I think, we should be able to distinguish popular writing from academic writing. For sure, an academic writing tries to cover all views and the author usually presents his arguments the TOK way, trying - yes, trying - to be as unbiased as possible.

    I've just read the [discuss] page. Sorry, I didn't realize you wrote something there. hehe =)Ok, this book must be interesting...

    The hanafi's school position on Dar al-islam and Dar al-harb seems to make the most sense to me (talking about cherry-picking fatwa that you like the most. hehe..) In the sya'fie school, we - erm, 'we' - we have the concept of dar al-ahd (abode of treaty), in addition to the two dar, which takes out the binary way of thinking, and to me, the concept of dar al-ahd suits our current world's condition.

    One brother at the states, Owaymir Anjum (student of Abdal Hakim Jackson) is doing a thesis on political thought of Ibn tamiyya, of course especially his stance against the Mongol ruler and the issue of takfir. So, one interesting theory that sprang out - albeit a crazy one - then we can wage 'war' against secular Muslim rulers (like U... perhaps? ops..)

    There goes again, the importance of contextualization. As you put, "Some even accused him as deviating from ahl al-sunnah wa al-jamaah by waging war against muslim rulers, since it is deeply established in Islam that Muslims are not allowed to do that, so long as the rulers do not publicly apostatize and prayers are still established. So Yahya Michot went on to defend Ibn Taimiyya’s ijtihad saying that the revered theologian’s situation was entirely different- his fatwa was against invaders, not typical rulers."

    Maybe if brother's Owaymir thesis is out, maybe you will be interested in reading that too. Untill then, I have exams coming up. Non-engineering books should be touch only during summer..

  5. btw, U... is erm, UM**, but erm, lupekan lupekan.

  6. salam wbt..deconstrcution ideas is how we should ponder upon the content of the book..What is the message? When is it written? How's the sociology at the time of the writing? What is the reason for the writer to write as such? The same way ulamak have been doing..To see the asbab nuzul and wurud, the illah, the uruf of today...wallahu a'lam..