Mahmūd Muhammad Taha

John O. Voll

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:
Mahmūd Muhammad Taha

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Mahmūd Muhammad Taha (b. 1909/1911?–d. 1985) was a Sudanese Muslim activist advocating a radical form of Islamic renewal. He developed an important conceptual framework for interpreting the Sharia that distinguished between the revelations made to Muhammad in Mecca during the early years of Islam and the revelations that came after the early group of believers migrated to Medina, where they established a socioreligious community. In Taha’s framework, the Medinian revelations represent the first application of the message of divine revelation to a particular community and are the First Message. However, the more general, primary texts are, in this conceptualization, the Meccan revelations and comprise the Second Message of Islam, which is to be implemented for all humanity. For Taha, the history of Sharia is the history of the evolution of human understanding of the primary message and how its implementation necessarily changes as historical conditions do. Taha received his university degree in engineering in Sudan and was active in the nationalist movement in the mid-20th century. He spent time in prison for opposition to British administrative rulings and helped to found the Republican Party, a small political organization that tried unsuccessfully to counter the domination of northern Sudanese politics by the leaders of large, old-style Muslim groups. His aims and message became more oriented to issues of faith and belief, and when political parties were outlawed by the then new military regime, the organization became the Republican Brotherhood, a small but visible group advocating major Islamic renewal. Taha opposed the 1983 decrees of the military regime of Jaʾfar Numayri, which imposed a harsh interpretation of Sharia on Sudan. In 1985 he was executed by the Numayri regime. Taha’s legacy is seen in the works of people who were part of his movement, the most important of whom is Abdullahi al-Naʾīm, an internationally known lawyer activist in the area of human rights.

Article.  2051 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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