Jawdat SAID was a Syrian Islamic thinker and philosopher of Circassian descent. Born in 1931 in a village not far from the city of Quneitra, Syria, SAID passed away today the 30th of January 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey, to which he fled in 2013 following the bombardment of his native village by the Assad regime army and the killing of his brother by a regime sniper.
In 1946, he started a 10-year stay in Egypt studying at Al-Azhar, majoring in Arabic Language, during which he was greatly influenced by a number of Islamic thinkers, most notably Malek Bennabi, whom he met in person in 1957 after he was greatly influenced by his writings.
After he returned to Syria, he was arrested several times for speaking his mind and this culminated in depriving him in 1968 of his passion: teaching.
To earn his living, he resorted to beekeeping and some agricultural small projects, but he never left getting himself involved in intellectual debates that addressed the hot issues in Islam and the Arab world, not to forget having his say in the world affairs.
After the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011, many young men and women especially in the suburbs of Damascus countryside found in him an inspirational leader. He also took part in some of the peaceful demonstrations in 2011, setting a down-to-earth example for an intellectual leader who applied what he believed regardless of the danger engulfing such brave but truly risky deeds.
SAID has been widely known as the Gandhi of Syria for being a strong advocator of the movement of non-violence to which he devoted his whole life in Syria and abroad. However, what makes SAID’s concept of non-violence unique is that he derived its roots from the teachings of Islam, not outside it. This is exactly what differentiates him from other renowned non-violence world figures such as Ghandi.
SAID argued that the Prophet of Islam adopted non-violence as the means to bring about change, stressing that Jihad in Islam was only for establishing justice and ending prosecution.
SAID believed that Muslims should never start a conflict, and should call people to Islam through peaceful means. And war should be governed by mature and rational authorities and force should be proportionate.
SAID not only opposed the Baathist and later the Assad regime, both father and son, he was also critical of all despotic regimes in the region, strongly calling for peacefully resisting all forms of dictatorships.
SAID remained faithful to non-violence throughout his entire life. He left a number of books of original content supporting this school of thought. For more on Jawdat SAID’s books, lectures and ideas, please visit his website.