October 13, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10259

Kuwaiti Journalist: Extremist Clerics Are The Reason For Moral Deterioration In Islamic World

October 13, 2022
Kuwait | Special Dispatch No. 10259

On August 22, 2022, in her column for the Al-Qabas daily,  Su'ad Fahd Al-Mo'ajel, a journalist and former lecturer at the University of Kuwait, addressed the moral deterioration she claims has occurred in the Muslim societies over the last decades. The reason for this deterioration, she argues, is not Islam itself, which teaches morality and good values, but the influence of extremist Muslim clerics, who preach moral values but are the first to violate these values by issuing fatwas that encourage violence and hatred of the other.  She adds that scaring people with threats of divine punishment is not an effective way to cultivate a decent and orderly society. Rather, civil law and principles of democracy and freedom are the factors that create such societies, as demonstrated by European countries. 

Su'ad Fahd Al-Mo'ajel

The following are translated excerpts from her column:[1]

"It is said that, when he came back from the Paris conference in 1881, the [renowned Egyptian reformist] Sheikh Muhammad 'Abduh uttered his famous statement: 'I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.' This statement reflected the reality back then, but it is a hundred times more true today, when most of the Arab countries are seeing… corruption and deterioration in terms of [people's] morals, values and conduct. This begs the question of whether there is any connection between the increase in preaching, religious instruction and mass religious guidance that we have witnessed in the past four decades and the flawed morals, values and conduct of the public we are witnessing today.     

"When Muhammad 'Abduh made this statement, our countries were not in the dire situation we see today. He no doubt said what he said after witnessing up close that the conduct of non-Muslim peoples was guided by lofty values like truth, honesty, order, cleanliness, loyalty, work ethic, etc.  It is not fair to blame religion for moral deterioration. The rebuke in Muhammad 'Abduh's statement was not directed at Islam, a religion that is essentially grounded in morality… but against the Muslims and the conduct of most of them, which violated the religion, its principles and its terms. 

"Today an entire generation is grappling with an equation that is hard to understand. In mosques throughout the Muslim countries, prayers are held that forbid iniquity and reprehensible acts, and preachers call from every pulpit to uphold morality, values and tolerance.  Yet corruption and sexual harassment are rampant, and from some Muslim pulpits and Islamist mosques we hear shrieks of 'Allah akbar', uttered by extremist organizations that [rejoice] over killings, massacres and bombings perpetrated against those they call 'infidels.' 

"The current generation stands at a crossroads between two kinds of Islam, and sees that most of the preachers who call to uphold the principles of Islam are [actually] the first to violate these principles. They preach decency, tolerance and fraternity, yet believe in the concept of accusing others of heresy, which is very far from the lofty principles advocated by Islam and by all the monotheistic faiths.

"The problem of morality in the Islamic world is that it remains shackled to the rulings and deductions of the Islamic scholars, without considering the record and their behavior [of these scholars].The idea that [religious] sheikhs and jurisprudents are infallible limits people's minds, as evident from the behavior of some Muslims in most of our Arab and Muslim countries. Intellect vanishes, and the shackles of blind loyalty, which does not give rise to morality or reform, prevail. This is evident from the alarming deterioration of morality, work ethic, tolerance and discipline in our Arab and Muslim world.

"The religious scholars studied and learned the sources of morality. They were divided on certain issues and agreed on others, but ultimately, they could probably agree that, in all advanced societies, the moral code develops based on a social contract anchored in rules and norms – first and foremost those of democracy and freedom. These give rise to a sense of responsibility, and hence also a consciousness of the rules and norms that guarantee peace, security, tolerance, and stability for all strata of society.

"It has already been proven that the fear of divine punishment does not deter most people. This is evident from the fact that Islamic societies where civil laws are marginalized and not implemented, whereas [religious] preaching and indoctrination [are dominant], are rife with every kind of corruption, bribery, violence, transgression and lack of work ethic. [But] had the transgressors moved to a society that obeys strict civil laws, they would have followed the law, since punishment in this case is direct and immediate. That is why Arabs in Western countries stand [patiently] in line, obey the traffic laws, dispose of their garbage only in the designated places and perform their jobs sincerely and honestly.

"Many philosophers believe that reason and intellect are the main pillars of human morality. We surely lack much reason and even more intellect."



[1] Al-Qabas (Kuwait), August 22, 2022.

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