Citation for Rashīd Riḍā, Muḥammad

Citation styles are based on the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Ed., and the MLA Style Manual, 2nd Ed..


Shahin, Emad Eldin . "Rashīd Riḍā, Muḥammad." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Nov 29, 2021. <>.


Shahin, Emad Eldin . "Rashīd Riḍā, Muḥammad." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed Nov 29, 2021).

Rashīd Riḍā, Muḥammad

Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā (1865–1935), Islamic revivalist and reformer, was born in a village near Tripoli, then part of Syria, to a family that claimed a line of descent from the prophet Muḥammad. After his early education in a traditional religious school, Riḍā attended an Islamic school established by an enlightened scholar, Shaykh Ḥusayn al-Jisr (d. 1909), who believed that the way to the progress of the Muslim nation was through a synthesis of religious education and modern sciences. Riḍā thus acquired a thorough education in the doctrine and traditions of Islam and a fair knowledge of the natural sciences and languages (Turkish and French). He studied the works of al-Ghazālī (d. 1111) and Ibn Taymīyah (d. 1328), which inspired him with the need to reform the declining conditions of Muslims and purify Islam from degenerate Ṣūfī practices.

By the end of the nineteenth century, a broader movement of reform, the Salafīyah movement led by Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī (d. 1897) and Muḥammad ʿAbduh (d. 1905), was underway in Egypt. This movement, provoked by the stagnant and vulnerable conditions of the Muslims, sought to reinvigorate Islam; it stressed the need for the exercise of reason and the adoption of modern natural science, for agitation against tyranny and despotism and resistance to foreign domination, and the promotion of Muslim solidarity. The tenets of this movement were expounded in al-ʿUrwah al-wuthqā (The Indissoluble Bond), which al-Afghānī and ʿAbduh published in Paris in 1884. Instilling new ideas such as freedom, independence, unity, and the rights of the ruled into the minds of its Muslim readers, al-ʿUrwah made a deep impact on Riḍā; it broadened his idea of reform and brought him to a new stage in his intellectual life.

In 1897, Riḍā left for Egypt to join ʿAbduh and he soon became one of his close associates and leading disciples. In Cairo, Riḍā published his own magazine, al-Manār (The Lighthouse), which first appeared in 1898 as a weekly and, subsequently, as a monthly until his death in 1935. The objectives of al-Manār were to articulate and disseminate the ideas of reform and preserve the unity of the Muslim nation. Riḍā was a prolific writer, producing more work than ʿAbduh and al-Afghānī. Besides editing most of the articles that appeared in al-Manār, he wrote several books on various Islamic issues.

Riḍā, like ʿAbduh, believed in the compatibility of Islam and modernity. ʿAbduh emphasized ijtihād (independent judgment) in an effort to reinterpret Islamic doctrines and give Islam a new vitality, but Riḍā, faced with more ominous challenges, insisted on certain criteria for Islamic reform. Riḍā's time witnessed the disintegration of the Islamic caliphate, the fragmentation of the Muslim world, and the ascendancy of the advocates of wholesale adoption of Western models, who tried to take ʿAbduh's reinterpretations of Islamic doctrines to secular conclusions (probably contrary to his intentions).

Concerned with the unity of the Muslim community and the preservation of its identity and culture, Riḍā viewed the original Islamic sources, the Qurʿān, sunnah, and ijmāʿ (consensus of the companions of the Prophet), as the basis of reform. Riḍā, however, distinguished between acts of worship (ʿibādāt) and matters concerning interaction with others (muʿāmalāt). Since the ʿibādāt organize human behavior, were revealed in the Qurʿān, and were laid down by authentic ḥadīth, they cannot be changed. But human relations, in the absence of an explicit, authentic, and binding text, can be reinterpreted according to the interest (maṣlaḥah) of the community. Ijtihād can be exercised in light of achieving the common good of the Muslim community. By emphasizing maṣlaḥah and ijtihād, Riḍā allowed room for human legislation.

Throughout his intellectual career, Riḍā was preoccupied with the issue of reform. He believed the decline of the Muslim nation was due to the stagnation of its scholars and the tyranny of its rulers. He viewed European dominance over the Muslims as a result of the latter's weakness, which he attributed to the Muslims’ inability to master the sciences, form organized political institutions, and restrict the power of their governments. Considering education a precondition for political reform and independence, Riḍā urged the Muslim peoples to acquire the commendable aspects of Western civilization, such as science, technical skill, and wealth. His emphasis on education was manifested in his founding of the School of Propagation and Guidance in 1912; here Riḍā attempted to combine modern education with religious teachings.

Central to Riḍā's scheme of thought was the concept of the caliphate and its indispensability to the coherence of the Muslim community. On the eve of the breakup of the Ottoman caliphate in 1923, Riḍā wrote a treatise, The Caliphate or the Supreme Imamate, which included an elaborate discussion of the caliphate and a plan for its restoration. Realizing the obstacles surrounding the revival of a proper Islamic caliphate of ijtihād, Riḍā proposed a caliphate of necessity, a temporary one, to preserve the solidarity of the Muslims. Essential to this caliphate were the issues of shūrā (consultation), ahl al-ḥall wa-al-ʿaqd (those who bind and loose), and ijtihād to ensure the adaptability of Islamic laws and the sovereignty of the Muslim nation.

Riḍā's ideas, particularly in the interwar period, gave an Arab emphasis to the Islamic reform movement. As a result of the repressive policies of the Turkish government in 1911, Riḍā held the non-Arab peoples, namely the Turks, responsible for the decline of the Muslim world. Glorifying the role of the Arabs in history, he placed them at the center of a revived Islamic state. Riḍā also participated in several parties and associations advocating Arab independence and freedom.

Riḍā contributed greatly to the preservation and dissemination of the ideology of Islamic reform. He perceived clearly the challenges and threats that led to the disintegration of the Muslim nation and constituted a link between al-Afghānī and ʿAbduh and the succeeding generations of Muslim activists and thinkers who appeared in the third decade of the twentieth century. He developed his own thought and attempted to elaborate a specific and systematic doctrine of Islamic laws and policies. Riḍā's ideas shaped modern Islamic thought with moderate and activist features that influenced later Muslim thinkers.



  • Adams, Charles C.Islam and Modernism in Egypt: A Study of the Modern Reform Movement Inaugurated by Muhammad ʿAbduh. London, 1933. Classic biographical source on Rashīd Riḍā and the Manār school.
  • Arslān, Shakīb. Al-Sayyid Rashīd Riḍā wa-ikhāʿ arbaʿīn sanah (Rashīd Riḍā and Forty Years of Brotherhood). Damascus, 1937. Excellent biographical source on Rashīd Riḍā by one of his close friends.
  • Enayat, Hamid. Modern Islamic Political Thought. Austin, Tex., 1982. Excellent analysis of Rashīd Riḍā's perceptions of the Islamic state and the caliphate.
  • Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798–1939. London, 1970. Provides indispensable background to Rashīd Riḍā and his thought.
  • Kerr, Malcolm H.Islamic Reform: The Political and Legal Theories of Muḥammad ʿAbduh and Rashīd Riḍā. Berkeley, 1966. Thorough analysis of Rashīd Riḍā's interpretations of legal doctrines and the caliphate.
  • Khadduri, Majid. Political Trends in the Arab World: The Role of Ideas and Ideals in Politics. Baltimore and London, 1970. Introduction to the basic intellectual components of the school of Islamic revival.
  • al-Manār (1898–1935). Riḍā's periodical and a necessary source for understanding his thought and the political and intellectual currents of the time.
  • Rashīd Riḍā, Muḥammad. Al-khilāfah, aw, al-Imāmah al-ʿUẓmá (The Caliphate, or, The Supreme Imamate). Cairo, 1923.
  • Rashid Rida, Muhammad. The Muhammadan Revelation. Al-Saadawi Publications, 1996.
  • Rashīd Riḍā, Muḥammad. Tārīkh al-ustādh al-Imām al-Shaykh Muḥammad ʿAbduh (The Biography of Imam Muḥammad ʿAbduh). 3 vols.Cairo, 1931. Excellent biography of Muḥammad ʿAbduh and a significant source on the Islamic reform movement.
  • Rashīd Riḍā, Muḥammad. Mukhtārāt siyāsīyah min majallat al-Manār (Political Selections from al-Manār). Introduction by Wajīh Kawtharānī. Beirut, 1980. Excellent analysis of Rashīd Riḍā's thought and well-selected texts from al-Manār.
  • Safran, Nadav. Egypt in Search of a Political Community. Cambridge, Mass., 1961. Critical and contextual study of Rashīd Riḍā and his intellectual contributions.
  • Shahin, Emad Eldin. “Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā's Perspectives on the West as Reflected in al-Manār.” Muslim World 79.2 (April 1989): 113–132.
  • Wood, Simon. Christian Criticisms, Islamic Proofs: Rashid Rida's Modernist Defence of Islam. New York: OneWorld Publications, 2007.

© Oxford University Press 2007-2008. All Rights Reserved