Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mahmoud Muhammad Taha

Mahmoud Muhammad Taha (1909-1985) was a Sudanese engineer turned spiritual leader who was executed by the regime of Jaafar al-Nimeiri. I came to learn about him through his association with another Sudanese intellectual named Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim, a professor of law at Emory University, whom, in turn, I came across with while cruising through Sudanese blogs a few days ago.

I read a fascinating three-year-old lengthy article about Taha titled "The Moderate Martyr: A radically peaceful vision of Islam" on The New Yorker magazine, which is well worth your time to read if you care about human rights and the role of religion, Islam in particular, in politics. Here is a quote from the article:

Naim’s quandary over Islam was an intensely personal conflict--he called it a "deadlock." What he heard at Taha’s lecture resolved it. Taha said that the Sudanese constitution needed to be reformed, in order to reconcile "the individual’s need for absolute freedom with the community’s need for total social justice." This political ideal, he argued, could be best achieved not through Marxism or liberalism but through Islam--that is, Islam in its original, uncorrupted form, in which women and people of other faiths were accorded equal status.
The Islamists of the Sudan led by Hasan al-Turabi may have killed Taha, but they have failed terribly at killing his idea. Naim is the most visible proponent of Taha's idea. You can get a sample of his views from this recent interview at Georgetown University where he asserted that "As a Muslim, I need the state to be secular." Below is Taha's unwavering statement at his kangaroo court trial. Long live Taha!


Unknown said...

Thank you for the article. You can also learn about Taha's thoughts and stances by visiting
There you will read about his biography, and you will find a few booklets describing his thoughts.

enset said...


Thanks for the link. It is a well done web site. I have already linked to it.