Renowned Islamic scholar Muhammad Shahrour dies

The Syrian was renowned for his work in making Islam better understood

KRT WORLD NEWS STORY SLUGGED: SYRIA-OPPOSITION KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL ASSAKER/KRT (June 18) DAMASCUS, SYRIA -- Author and opposition figure Mohammed Shahrour says trying to topple the ruling Baath Party is "just a dream." He adds that the Syrian oppposition has reservations about working with U.S. officials for fear of being let down, and landing in even more trouble with the Syrian authorities.  (Photo by Paul Assaker/MCT/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Dr Mohammed Shahrour, the renowned religious scholar who sparked debate and thought over the future of moderate Islam, has died.

The Syrian academic was widely regarded for his efforts to make Islam better understood in the region and abroad.

A post on the author’s Facebook page on Sunday read: “With great sadness and sorrow, we mourn the death of Dr Muhammad Shahrour, who passed away in the city of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.”

It said he would be buried in Damascus, in accordance with his will. Shahrour was born in 1938 in the Syrian capital.

His nightly Ramadan programme for Abu Dhabi TV in 2018 was the network's most-watched show in a decade.

The series attracted more than three million viewers and sparked fierce debate online as is sought to tackle controversial questions and broaden debate.

He often argued that a literal translation and following of religious texts published hundreds of years ago could not be entirely compatible with modern day life and was not what God intended.

On Sunday, Dr Ali Bin Tamim, who was director general of Abu Dhabi Media at the time the show aired, said Shahrour's legacy would live on in the debates he inspired. He said critics of Shahrour did not read his work objectively.

“One should not take an ideological stance or extreme conservatism while reading his work,” he said, describing Shahrour as “as loyal to the Quran”.

“He studied every word in the Quran and searched for its meaning in both the Arabic language and Quranic context. Independent of other related analytical text associated with those verses.”

Dr Muhammad Shahrour appears on Abu Dhabi TV in 2018. The nightly show was viewed by about three million people in the Middle East. Courtesy: Abu Dhabi Media

He said he believed this way of thinking would only become more popular after Shahrour's death.

“Will Shahrour’s projects to renew Islamic thought and Quranic analytics end now? I do not think so.”

He said it was evident from the reactions to Shahrour's death on social media - which were polarising - that the scholar had many followers, who would carry on with his “project”.

He said, on a personal level, that Shahrour was a lover of knowledge and intellect and that his son, Tarek, appeared to be following in his footsteps by pursing theology.

“It is not possible for upcoming generations to not be influenced by Shahrour because, for the first time, we witnessed with him readings of the Quran that are simple and lack complication.”