Abbas Abdul Noor was born in Damanhur in 1927. He was a Sufi Sheikh, a pious Muslim of the Sunni creed, a jurist, and a principal of a Sufi lodge ( تكيّة ). He inherited knowledge of the religion from his forefathers and ancestors, who were recognised for their piety, strength of doctrine, and righteousness. In his city, he led his followers (murids/religious pupils of a Sufi path) upon the path of true faith and devotion to worship.
As a young man, he enrolled in the Faculty of Theology at Al Azhar, where he studied for three years. He decided to complete the fourth year at the University of Fuad I, where he studied under intellectual titans such as Abdel Rahman Badawi, Zaki Naguib Mahmoud, Muhammed Abdul Hadi Abu Reeda, Ahmad Fuad Al- Ahwani, Yusuf Murad, and others.
After completing his degree, he was awarded a scholarship from the Department of Islamic Endowments to study in Paris at the Sorbonne, where he obtained a doctorate in philosophy.
When he returned to his city, he resumed his religious endeavours, and became a preacher, imam, and a speaker in one of its mosques. He then persevered at the local university, teaching and writing erudite philosophical books. He produced a number of publications concerning philosophical, Islamic, and Arabic thought. His works have been reprinted several times in Cairo and Beirut. After he retired, he devoted himself to writing and research in various fields of philosophy, literature, and religion.
But his intellectual life was not without worries, nor was his religious life free of doubts. It is true that he grew up in a pious devout household. Yet he still had misgivings, feelings of inner- turmoil, and endless questions. His mind was raising provocative subjects, but his faith struggled to answer every dilemma.
For Abbas, the conflict between science and religion had started early. It was a conflict that he was unable to make public. If he hadn’t had to suppress this conflict when it first arose, he would not have reached the degree of indignation that he expresses in this book. If he had been allowed to express his mind and heart, he would have reached the same conclusions about his faith, but he would not have expressed them with such intensity and fervour.
Abbas is not responsible for the conclusions he arrived at about the Qur’ān and the God of the Qur’ān. Neither is the Qur’ān or God responsible. It is the adherents—especially the “waffling” Mufassirun—who are responsible for the strange, bizarre view of the Qur’ān and the God of the Qur’ān.
They uprooted the Qur’ān from its environment and presented it to us as an uncreated, eternal, divine text that has no relation to human fallibility, nor any limitations associated with the circumstances of its origins. This is the problem for Dr. Abbas. He wants nothing other than for the Qur’ān to be returned to the course of human history. The Qur’ān is an excellent text for its time, but it is full of mistakes and misguidance when taken out of its time.
We ask the reader to read slowly in order to judge, and to read what the author has gone through, and to let his reason and faith work together. Let the reader know that faith works where reason doesn’t, but not without it. M. H.