Contemporary free-thinkers and rationalists 

There is a large number of liberals and secularists in the Arab world in addition to a growing number of individuals who identify as non-religious. Many might not necessarily identify as humanists but agree on the principles and share a common goal. Below are just a few of some well-known outspoken writers and academic.

Abdullah Al-Qasimi 

Al-Qasimi (1907-1996) is often labelled the Godfather of Arab Atheism. He was a Saudi Arabian writer who went from defending Salafism to being an outspoken critic of religion and advocate of free-thinking. He survived two assassination attempts in Lebanon and Egypt before dying from cancer in 1996.

Abdullah Al-Qasemi

“Religions triumph in the battles they avoid, they don’t fight against reason nor through reason. They never go in free fights against reason. And that is why they are triumphant”

“Men find their religions as they find their homelands, their lands, their homes and their fathers. They just find them, they do not search for them, do not understand them, do not choose them either.”

“The most cruel of punishments is to be given a contrarian mind in a society that does not protest.”

On Salafis, “They lie to see god beautiful”


Considered to be the greatest living Arab poet, Adunis is also known for harshly criticising Islam and advocating an Arab modernity. Multiple death threats have been issued against him and Islamic authorities have called for his books to be burned.


” If we don’t change the structure of society, by separating radically and totally what is religion and what is cultural, political and social, we will never have democracy.”

“Today we practice western modernity on the level of “improving” and facilitating our daily lives but we refuse to “improve” our mind-set. We accept the end results yet reject the principles and the methodology that produced them. That is the state of dissonance that the Arabs live in today. ”

Murad Wahba 

Egyptian philosopher, author and secularist. Outspoken about the importance of teaching philosophy in the Arab world and the dangers of fundamentalism.


“The most important thing in fundamentalism is adherence to the literal religious text rather than using the mind (to interpret) the text. In other words, it paralyses the mind”

“Today with globalisation which means the death of distance both in terms of time and space, you cannot remain culturally isolated”

“As long as there are people who believe the absolute truth is on their side, there will be no peace”

Farag Fouda 

A prominent writer and human rights activists. He was murdered in 1992 after Al-Azhar accused him of blasphemy.

farag fouda

“The commandments of religion are static and the circumstances of life are constantly changing. When the two meet, a clash has to arise and one of the two has to change. Since we can’t change reality, we have to change the static aspects of religion”

Speaking of Islamists he said: “future can be made only with pen, not the sword, by work and not by retreat, by reason not by Darwish life, by logic not by bullets, and most important they have to know the truth that has escaped them, namely that they are not alone … [in] the community of Muslims.”

Jim Al-Khalili

Iraqi-born physicist, author and previous president of the British Humanist Association.


“Reason, decency, tolerance, empathy and hope are human traits that we should aspire to, not because we seek reward of eternal life or because we fear the punishment of a supernatural being, but because they define our humanity”

“The difference between my beliefs and having a religious faith is that I am prepared to change my views in light of new evidence”


Quotes by Arabs in history 

“We ought not to be embarrassed of appreciating the truth and of obtaining it wherever it comes from, even if it comes from races distant and nations different from us. Nothing should be dearer to the seeker of truth than the truth itself, and there is no deterioration of the truth, nor belittling either of one who speaks it or conveys it”
Al Kindi

“They forbid rational speculation, and strive to kill their adversaries. This is why truth became thoroughly silenced and concealed” 
Muhammad Ibn Zakariya Al-Razi (854 – 925 )

“Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. This is the equation.”
Ibn Rushd (1126-1198)

“Much of the poverty and distress of the times arises from the fact that women are kept like domestic animals or house plants for purposes of gratification”
Ibn Rushd (1126-1198)

“Traditions come from the past, of high import if they be True;
Ay, but weak is the chain of those who warrant their truth.
Consult thy reason and let perdition take others all:
Of all the conference Reason best will counsel and guide.
A little doubt is better than total credulity”
Abul Alaa Al-Maa’rri (973-1057)

“If Madrasahs of those drunks
Became the educational institutes
Of teaching philosophy of
Epicures, Plato and Aristotle;If Abode and Mazars of Peer and Dervish
Is turned into research institutes,
If men instead of following blind faith of religion
Should have cultivated ethics,
If the abode of worships were turned into
Centers of learning of all academic activities,
If instead of studying religion, men
Would have devoted to develop mathematics – algebra,
If logic of science would have occupied the place of
Sufism, faith and superstition,
Religion that divides human beings
Would have replaced by humanism…
Then world would have turned into haven,
The world on other side then would have extinguished
The world would then become full of
And there is no doubt about it.”
Omar Khayyam (1048-1122)