Lahabism: A new definition for Islamophobia

Abū Lahab and his tribesmen persecuting the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his companion, Abū Bakr.

As Muslim intellectuals continue to participate in the public discourse, it is imperative that they understand the concepts that they are not only adopting for themselves, but also using to describe the questions that are pertinent to them.

Islamophobia is a term that has been gaining traction, and for good reason. It gives a name to a sentiment that is felt and has been felt by many for a long time. Unfortunately, the term is philosophically ambiguous, given its unclear relation to race and culture. When one is critical of Islam, are they merely racist?

Given this ambiguity, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad proposes in his recent collection of essays Travelling Home, a new term, Lahabism:

“To avoid the ugly Arabo-Greek coinage, which seems problematically to insist on an analogy to other ‘phobias’ and suggest that the enmity is always and essentially an expression of fear (phobos), we might propose a more indigenously Islamic term: ‘Lahabism’. This immediately offers more clarity and links modern day psychic enmities to the recognizably comparable chauvinisms of pagan Mecca. Abū Lahab, the oligarch of Quraysh, had initially promised Protection to the nascent Muslim community, not out of religious respect but because the honour code of his tribe impose rules of hospitality. Made angry by Muslim difference and increasing numbers he then turned against the faithful and hurled furious brickbats at them, lampooning (hijā’) the Man of Praise and raising anti-Muslim feeling wherever he could in the City and among the wandering tribes. In this fanatical hijā’, in his slogan tabban lak, ‘may you perish,’ we find the true dark beginnings of anti-Muslim hate, a latter-day version of the scorn which seems invariably to attend prophets and sages. Lahabism is based not only on fear, but more significantly on self-centredness and arrogance, kibr, superbia, greatest of the seven deadly sins.” (Murad, Abdal Hakim. Travelling Home: Essays on Islam in Europe, p.36–37)

Aspiring student of the Master ﷺ with an interest in metaphysics, philosophy, ethics, and the polis.