Rida was influenced by reading the works of Mu'tazila and Sufis and became acquainted with leading members of the movement around Lebanon and Syria, such as Muhammad Abduh, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Sayyid Ahmad Khan. In 1900 he traveled to Istanbul and studied with the scholar Ahmad Fuad and there came into contact with Jamal al-Din al-Afghani to whom he formally submitted, and with whom he could occasionally debate. On a return to Beirut in 1903, Rida made a presentation of his views at a meeting of the rectors of the madrasah al-Turath al-Islami. The result was the foundation of the Deeniyya Fatwa-Eldin (Religious Council) in 1903, although it had no defined mechanism for it to operate beyond the sleepy provincial capitals. Rida would meet regularly with al-Afghani, Fuad and others and was personally stimulated by this towards ever-greater advocacy of the teachings of the Muslims in the face of aggression. Rida kept up a constant study of different religions, especially Christianity, Judaism, and the Bible that were discussed at the Deeniyya. Rather than the writings of ulama, Rida turned to self-study and to the writings of Moors, Sufis such as Makhluk, al-H (Tha'lab), Jabir ibn Hayyan, Ibn Majar [ar], ibn Khallikan etc.
Rida was a member of the Deeniyya Council and delivered over 100 popular lectures outside the workaday sphere, usually attempting to convene people away from the workaday world of village life. He began to encourage his hearers to see in the Western cities the only true source of knowledge in the area of modern times. At a meeting in Tripoli, he announced that the leadership in Beirut had accepted that the Deeniyya Council was just a beginning and called on ulama on the West Bank as well. Ostensibly a reformist, he did not explicitly seek to emulate the intellectual and cultural life of the West. In this intention, he turned to the Muslim philosophers such as al-Ghazali and Ibn al-'Arabi who comprised the intellectual and cultural life of the Middle East in the 13th century. d2c66b5586