Babri Masjid and the great Indian Muslim divide – Sandhya Jain

Babri Masjid (1991)

Sandhya JainThe Shia Board asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property. – Sandhya Jain

In a stunning blow to the hitherto dominant Sunni sect, the Shia Waqf Board filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on August 8, 2017 fracturing the united front put up by the Muslim community since the dramatic fall of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, asserting that the temple for Maryada Purushottam Sri Rama Chandra could come up at the Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya, and a mosque could be raised at a reasonable distance in a Muslim-dominated area.

As one of the parties to the dispute, the Shia Board claimed that the demolished mosque was a Shia mosque, as the alleged destroyer of the Rama Mandir was a Shia general named Mir Abdul Baqi; hence the mosque built upon the ruins of the temple was a Shia mosque. The Board indicated a desire for peaceful resolution of the dispute which the Supreme Court is not keen to adjudicate upon.

This is a stupendous development as hitherto, since 6 December 1992, all efforts to strike a deal with the Shia community have met with failure as community leaders in Lucknow always pleaded helplessness in opposing the strident Sunni community. The Babri Masjid Action Committee that spearheaded the movement against handing over the site to the Hindu claimants has been dominated by Sunnis. It was the Sunnis who reneged on the promise to the Government of India and the Supreme Court that they would surrender claims to the site if it was established that the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple.

That claim was conclusively proved in a Supreme Court-ordered and monitored excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India. But far from retreating gracefully, the BMAC dug its heels in and refused to retreat from the scene, resulting in a prolonged stalemate.

The sudden divergence of views between the Shia and Sunni Waqf Boards appears to reflect larger Shia-Sunni conflicts in the Muslim world, with Shias being targetted by jihadis in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, and their holy sites desecrated. Iran, the self-proclaimed protector of Shias worldwide, has facilitated the spectacular victory of the Syrian Arab Army against Islamic State jihadis in Syria, thus enabling the survival of the Alawite (Shia) regime headed by Basher al-Assad; it has also prevented Yemen from crumbling before the Saudi assault.

Now, the Shia Board explicitly asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property; hence, “only Shia Central Waqf Board UP, is entitled to negotiate and arrive at a peaceful settlement with other remaining stake holders”.

The Board further opined that proximity of “place of worships should be avoided in as much as both denominations using loudspeakers tend to disturb the religious performance of each other often leading to conflicts and acrimony”. Therefore, “to bring a quietus to the issue, Masjid can be located in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the most revered place of birth of Ram.”

Reports claim that the Shia Board decided late July to stake claim to the Ayodhya site. Such a momentous decision could hardly be taken overnight. It seems likely that Yogi Adityanath, head of the non-communal Gorakhnath Peeth, was selected as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister by Prime Minister Narendra Modi precisely to accomplish an acrimony-free transfer of the sacred site for the Rama Temple. Should this be accomplished, it would be a far greater feat than rebuilding the Somnath Temple in Saurashtra, where the only resistance to be overcome was that of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

In Civil Appeal No. 10836-10867 of 2010, the Shia Central Waqf Board through its chairman, Syed Waseem Rizvi (Respondent No. 24), filed a counter affidavit asserting that the “Babari Masjid” was a Shia Waqf and not a Sunni Waqf as claimed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP. As the Allahabad High Court judgement stated that “Muslims” should get not less than one-third of the disputed area, chairman Rizvi asserted that this obviously alluded to “Shias” as the High Court had rejected the Sunni Board’s claim (based on Notification dated 16 February 1944 by the Chief Commissioner of Waqfs under the Muslim Waqfs Act, 1936) that Babari Masjid was a Sunni Waqf.

The High Court declared the said Notification of 16 February 1944 as illegal as it was issued in violation of provisions of the 1936 Act, as it was made without issuing a notice to the interested persons, which was a statutory requirement. It follows that the Waqf was a Shia Waqf as a waqf must always be Shia or Sunni, according to its creator (Waqif).

Certain Arabic inscriptions in the disputed structure, cited in previous judgments, establish beyond doubt that the mosque was built by Mir Baqi, a Shia Waqif, who created a Shia waqf. All mutawallis, including the last one (1949) were admittedly Shia and were descendants of Abdul Baqi, a Shia from Ispahan (Persia). It is notable that the Baqi family tree has not been seriously challenged. Verses engraved on a tablet in the central arch of the mosque describe Mir Baqi as an ‘Ispahani’, a resident of Ispahan.

On 30 March 1946, the Faizabad Civil Judge, S.A. Ahsan, ruled that it was inconceivable that a Sunni waqif would appoint a Shia mutawalli, or vice versa (Regular Suit No.29 of 1945).

The affidavit states that Muslims must ponder that the entire world wants to know the exact teaching of Islam in respect of the relationship of Muslims with others. Indian Muslims, it says, enjoy a unique position. They have been rulers, they have been ruled and now they are sharers in power. They are not in majority but they are also not a negligible minority and are in fact the most populous Muslim community in the world after Indonesia. As legatees of a huge corpus of religious knowledge, Indian Muslims are exceptionally placed to tell the world the true teachings of Islam, beginning with a resolution of the Ayodhya dispute.

The Allahabad High Court proclaimed Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara as joint title holders to the disputed premises and allotted them one-third share each, with the stipulation that the portion beneath the central dome, where the murti of Sri Rama is installed, would be allotted to Hindus in the final decree. The Nirmohi Akhara would receive the portion including the Ram Chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi, and the parties could make minor and mutual adjustments while dividing their respective shares.

The Shia Waqf chairman observed that the intent of this judgment was that the parties amicably settle the dispute, and his sect was willing to do so. As there has been no dialogue in the matter in the past seven years, he urged the Supreme Court to appoint a Committee headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and two retired Judges of the Allahabad High Court, with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister (or his nominee) and a nominee from the Prime Minister’s Office. The nominees of the Shia Central Waqf Board UP, Nirmohi Akhara and Hindu sect, would offer suggestions for an amicable settlement to this committee.

The Shia leader added that the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP was dominated by “Sunni hardliners, the fanatics, and non-believers in peaceful coexistence, who have absolutely no stake in the present case”. As Babari Masjid was a Shia Waqf, the Shia Central Waqf Board UP alone is entitled to negotiate a peaceful settlement with other remaining stakeholders.

Chairman Syed Waseem Rizvi further informed the Court that after his views became known, he had received threats from the hardliners, and had informed the Government of Uttar Pradesh, which is reportedly taking steps for his security. He reiterated the keenness of the Shia sect for amicable settlement of the dispute.

Should the Supreme Court constitute such a committee, this could be a very different Diwali. – PGurus, 9 August 2017

» Sandhya Jain writes on political and contemporary affairs. She is a post-graduate in Political Science from the University of Delhi and a student of  Indian civilisation.

Ramlalla Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.

Muslim clerics in India unite against televangelist Zakir Naik – Uzair Hasan Rizvi

 

Zafir Naik

Uzair Hasan RizviOne of the most powerful Muslim leaders in Bengal, Syed Mohammad Nurur Rahman Barkati, criticised the Muslim televangelist for misleading people and suggested a ban on all his preaching materials in India. “Zakir speaks rubbish,” said Barkati, who is the shahi imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan mosque. “He is only amassing huge wealth. Who is funding him? The government should also investigate this.” – Uzair Hasan Rizvi

Superstar Islamic televangelist Zakir Naik claims to be a messenger of peace and harmony. Through his channel, Peace TV, he broadcasts his messages to around 200 million people across India and the world. Despite this, he has never been able to unite the different branches, sects and sub-sects of Islam in India. One sign of this is the fact that these various groups continued to celebrate Eid on different days earlier this month.

However, Naik seems to have finally united India’s Muslim clerics.

Showing unprecedented solidarity, Muslim clerics from all sects have come forward to urge strong action against Naik and his channel for misinterpreting the Quran and misleading Muslims with his evangelism.

Naik’s Islam is a particularly conservative brand of Salafism, the ultra-conservative reform movement within Islam, which aims to go back to what its proponents call the fundamentals of the faith.

In the aftermath of the July 1 attacks in Dhaka, there were reports that Naik’s provocative speeches had inspired the militants behind the attack in which 20 people, mostly foreigners, were killed. On Sunday, Bangladesh banned Naik’s channel.

Many clerics in India have now demanded a ban on Peace TV, which is broadcast from Dubai. In 2012, the channel was blocked in India after the Intelligence Bureau red-flagged it for broadcasting malicious and so-called anti-national content. However, illegal broadcasts continue and Naik’s sermons are also available online, thus making it hard for the government to limit Naik’s popularity.

Condemnation across the board

In his Eid sermon, one of the most powerful Muslim leaders in Bengal, Syed Mohammad Nurur Rahman Barkati, criticised the Muslim televangelist for misleading people and suggested a ban on all his preaching materials in India. “Zakir speaks rubbish,” said Barkati, who is the shahi imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan mosque. “He is only amassing huge wealth. Who is funding him? The government should also investigate this.”

Clerics from the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam, which gets its name from Bareilly—the town in Uttar Pradesh where it originated from—also accused Naik of delivering anti-Islamic speeches. During his Eid sermon last week, Maulana Asjad Raza Qadri, head cleric of Bareilly, demanded a ban on Naik for his hate speeches, and said that his activities were against Islam and the culture of India.

In the past, Naik has criticised Sufism—the mystical form of Islam that has been present in India for over 1,000 years. The preacher condemned those who revere Sufi saints and visit their tombs as “grave worshippers”.

Last year, members of the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board, an organisation of Sufi Muslims, protested at the India Islamic Cultural Centre in Delhi after the centre invited Naik for a conference. The members even lodged a complaint against Naik at a local police station, and demanded that he be arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Condemnation from Shias

Naik has also been criticised by the Shias—the second-largest branch of Islam after Sunni Islam.

Shia clerics in Lucknow have accused the televangelist of propagating ideas that attracted Muslim youth to extremism.

Prominent Shia Muslim cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad Naqvi demanded a complete ban on Naik’s books, speeches and lectures. “Zakir Naik is spreading terrorism,” he said. “Naik is a part of the Saudi Arabia-funded Wahhabi terror network, which creates scholars and clerics who in turn brainwash young Muslims.”

Another Shia cleric, Maulana Yasoob Abbas, led a demonstration against Naik in Lucknow during which Abbas burned Naik’s effigy and labeled him as anti-national and anti-religious. The protestors at this demonstration carried a banner, which read: “Protest Against Terrorism” and carried the photograph of Zakir Naik along with those of Islamic State chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed.

Condemnation from Deobandis

However, the most surprising condemnation comes from the Darul Uloom Deoband, the seat of the Deobandi school of Sunni Islam, which is headquartered in Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. The Deobandis are often referred as the Wahhabis, as they share many of their beliefs with Wahhabism. Darul Uloom has issued a series of fatwas against Naik since 2007.

The Deoband school said that religion should be learned through authorised ulema (Muslim scholars with specialised knowledge of Islamic theology) and books, and added that Naik was a self-styled preacher unaffiliated to any of the four schools of Sunni Islamic thought.

One of the fatwas issued by the Darul Uloom against Naik states that “Zakir Naik is an agent of Ghair Muqallideen, away from knowledge and wisdom from the four schools of thought, spreading mischievous things and misguiding simple Muslims to wrong path”.

Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, the deputy imam of Lucknow’s Eidgah, had once come to the defence of Zakir Naik. He had said that if Naik had committed a crime, he should be tried under the law, but harassing the man on a big platform was unethical.

However, in 2008, the deputy imam’s uncle, Mufti Abul Irfan Mian Firangi Mahali, issued a fatwa against Zakir Naik describing him as kafir, or disbeliever. Following that, the Lucknow deputy imam also condemned Naik, and referred to him as a fake scholar. Then, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali said in an online statement that: “Naik has just mugged up some verses from the Quran and pretends to be an Islamic scholar.”

Solidarity from Kashmir

The one place in India where Muslim clerics have supported Zakir Naik is in Kashmir, where the Jamaat-I-Islami and Jamiat-ul-Ahlihadees have condemned what they called a campaign by the government and media against Naik.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, members of the Islamic Fraternity, a Muslim youth body, held a demonstration in support of the televangelist at the Press Enclave in Srinagar last week. The report said that the protesters carried banners which read: “Dr Zakir Naik, Kashmir is with you”, “Zakir Naik is a man of peace and harmony” and “Stop false propaganda against Zakir Naik.”

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the leader of the separatist Hurriyat, too recently issued a press statement in favour of Naik in which he said that the preacher was not involved with incidents of terror in Dhaka, Bangladesh, or anywhere else.

With sentiment against him brewing in India, Naik has released a video saying that he did not inspire the Bangladeshi attackers. Incidentally, in the past, he has, on several occasions, denounced the Islamic State, to which the Dhaka terrorists swore allegiance.

However, Naik is undoubtedly an influential Salafi ideologue whose influence has grown in India and around the world over the years. In fact, last year, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia presented Naik with the King Faisal International Prize for service to Islam, which carried a cash reward $200,000. – Scroll.in, 11 july 2016

» Uzair Hasan Rizvi is an independent multimedia journalist in Lucknow. His Twitter handle is @rizviuzair.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar & Zakir Naik

Must read critique of Zakir Naik and his monotheism: Punya Bhumi and the bleak landscape of one god-ism – Vijaya Rajiva

Zakir Naik & Salman Khan

Reforming Islam: A moderate Muslim’s appeal – Sultan Shahin

World Sufi Forum, New Delhi, March 2016

Sultan ShahinThis appeal was made to the many learned Sufi masters and scholars who gathered at New Delhi in March 2016 for the World Sufi Forum

Respected Sufi Divines,

May peace and God’s grace be with you,

The international counter-terrorism conference […] held at Delhi [on 17 to 20 March, 2016 happened] at a delicate time. Already scores of Indian Muslim youth are known to be fighting with the terrorist army of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a few have even got themselves killed. Over 30,000 Muslim youth from 100 countries around the world joined this takfiri organisation within a year of its announcement of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Khalifa. An influential Indian Aalim Maulana Salman Nadvi even addressed him as Ameerul Momineen (another term for Khalifa) in a letter posted on his Facebook page. Muslim newspapers were in general quite welcoming of the “Khilafat” until ISIS started broadcasting its brutalities in gory details, thus bringing Islam itself into disrepute. Indian Muslim enthusiasm for the Khilafat was not surprising as our current theology calls it a religious duty for all Muslims to help establish a Khilafat. At least 18,000 Muslims had left their homes and jobs in British India in their bid to go and fight for the Khilafat-e-Osmania less than a hundred years ago. Many perished but are today revered as Shaheeds (martyrs) and ghazis (Islamic warriors).

We are living in an environment in which Muslim societies are producing armies of suicide bombers wherever and whenever required by a motivated group with necessary funding and logistics. Our madrasa children already sing songs with refrains like “zindagi shuru hoti hai qabr mein” (life begins in the grave). You can imagine what little effort is required by vested interests to turn people with such a belief system into suicide bombers. No wonder the application form for joining the so-called Islamic State army asks the potential recruits to specify their time and place of death. The ISIS knows no indoctrination is required; Islamic theological books are already doing their job for them.

Terrorist ideologues ask our youths not to wait for reaching the ISIS borders to start fighting Jihad, that has been elevated to the sixth pillar of Islam. Act as lone warriors, is the advice given to them through social media posts easily available to all. “Don’t wait to be trained in bomb-making too; don’t you have a car, just ram it into a crowd of infidels,” is another advice. Some misguided youth have already started following this advice too in different parts of the world.

Respected Sufi divines,

I am sure you will say repeatedly and fervently: Islam has nothing to do with terrorism; Islam is a religion of peace; even killing one innocent person in Islam amounts to the genocide of humanity and saving one life amounts to saving humanity (Quran 5:32). Some of you will probably also quote an iconic Quranic verse of freedom in religion like La ikraha fid deen (There is no compulsion in religion: Quran 2:256) and teachings of co-existence like lakum deenakum, waleya deen (for you your religion and for me mine: Quran 109: 1-6).

 Of course, you will be totally correct and completely justified in making all these observations. Islam is indeed a religion of peace, compassion, pluralism, co-existence, good neighbourliness, complete human equality before God, gender justice and so on.  Indeed, there are at least 124 verses that teach such humane traits. If Muslims were to follow these constitutive verses of the holy Quran, they should have been the most peaceful, pluralistic community on earth, as they have been at various places and in different periods of history.

But the situation today is dire. When self-declared Khalifa Baghdadi announced recently that “Islam has never been a religion of peace, not even for a day,” not one Urdu newspaper in India disputed this, or expressed any outrage, though most editorial columns are now written by clerics. (One Urdu columnist did criticise Baghdadi over this remark, but most Sunni Muslims dismissed that as the rantings of a Shia.)

Scholars of the moderate Muslim mainstream and Sufi ulema and mashaikh in particular have been denouncing terrorism and declaring Islam to be a religion of peace and pluralism repeatedly since September 11, 2001 when Islamist terrorists killed nearly 3,000 innocent people in New York. This denunciation of Islamist terrorism has been going on in India much longer. For, we have been at the receiving end of Islamist terrorism since much before 9/11.

So, I would like to tell the respected divines gracing this counter-terrorism conference with their presence that the issue today is not that of denouncing terrorism as un-Islamic or declaring Islam as a religion of peace and pluralism. Not only Muslims but even the world at large is aware of that. The question before us is the following. How come the more we denounce terrorism and the more we assert Islam’s peaceful nature, the more terrorists we create. What is the source of the terrorist ideology’s strength? Why are some of our educated, intelligent, internet-generation youth listening to the terrorist ideologues and not us, the moderate, the progressive, the Sufi. Why do they consider us hypocrites? Are we indeed hypocrites? Is there some substance in their charge? After all, no intelligent, highly educated person of the 21st century would leave his well-paying job, beautiful wife, children, all living in a peaceful environment, and rush to join a war, with death or severe injury assured, unless he had a hundred percent surety of the correctness of his cause and total belief in his new-found faith. Where does this surety, this faith spring from?

Muslim youth gets the message of Islam supremacism from all the greatest theologians

Let us first see what are our educated youth learning Islam on the internet or in madrasas, colleges and universities, being told by some of our greatest, universally respected theologians? From Sufi Imam Ghazali, Hanbali Ibn-e-Taimiya and Hanafi Sheikh Sirhindi to Abdul Wahhab, Shah Waliullah, Abul A’la Maududi, Syed Qutb, and even an indefatigable promoter of peace and pluralism like Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, the curious Muslim youth gets the same message of Islam supremacism, exclusivism, xenophobia, intolerance and his duty of Jihad in the sense of Qital, in varying degrees. A few specimens:

Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111), considered the greatest of all Sufi theologians, and by many as next only to Prophet Mohammad in his understanding of Islam:

 “… one must go on jihad at least once a year … one may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them…. One must destroy their useless books. Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide…. Christians and Jews must pay … on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits on the protuberant bone beneath his ear … they are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells … their houses may not be higher than a Muslim’s, no matter how low that is.  The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle is of wood.  He may not walk on the good part of the road.  They have to wear an identifying patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the baths …  dhimmis must hold their tongue….” (Kitab Al-Wagiz FI Figh Madhad Al-Imam Al-Safi’i pp. 186, 190, 199-203)

Imam Ibn Taymiyya (1263 – 1328) Most revered Hanbali jurist and scholar among Wahhabi-Salafi Muslims whose influence has recently grown immensely with the propagation of his creed by the Saudi monarchy:

“Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought…. As for the People of the Book and the Zoroastrians, they are to be fought until they become Muslims or pay the tribute (jizya) out of hand and have been humbled. With regard to the others, the jurists differ as to the lawfulness of taking tribute from them. Most of them regard it as unlawful….”  (Excerpted from Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1996), pp. 44-54)

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624) – Indian Islamic scholar, Hanafi jurist, considered Mujaddid alf-e-Saani, the renewer of Islam of the second millennium:

1. “… Cow sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices.”

2. “Kufr and Islam are opposed to each other. The progress of one is possible only at the expense of the other and co-existences between these two contradictory faiths is unthinkable.

3. “The honour of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One, who respects kafirs, dishonours the Muslims.”

4. “The real purpose in levying jizya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that, on account of fear of jizya, they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling.

5. “Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam.”

(Excerpted from Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Agra, Lucknow: Agra University, Balkrishna Book Co., 1965), pp.247-50; and Yohanan Friedmann, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of His Image in the Eyes of Posterity (Montreal, Quebec: McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies, 1971), pp. 73-74.)

Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1703–1762), Highly revered Indian scholar, theologian, muhaddis and jurist:

 “It is the duty of the Prophet to establish the domination of Islam over all other religions and not leave anybody outside its domination whether they accept it voluntarily or after humiliation. Thus the people will be divided into three categories. Lowly kafir (unbelievers), have to be tasked with lowly labour works like harvesting, threshing, carrying of loads, for which animals are used. The messenger of God also imposes a law of suppression and humiliation on the kafirs and imposes jizya on them in order to dominate and humiliate them…. He does not treat them equal to Muslims in the matters of qisas (Retaliation), diyat (blood money), marriage and government administration so that these restrictions should ultimately force them to embrace Islam.” (Hujjatullahu al-Balighah, Volume – 1, Chapter – 69, Page No 289)

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, (1703 – 22 June 1792), the founder of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi-Salafi creed:

“Even if the Muslims abstain from shirk (polytheism) and are muwahhid (believer in oneness of God), their Faith cannot be perfect unless they have enmity and hatred in their action and speech against non-Muslims (which for him actually includes all non-Wahhabi or non-Salafi Muslims). (Majmua Al-Rasael Wal-Masael Al-Najdiah 4/291)

Abul A’la Maududi, Indian ideologue, founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, (25 September 1903 – 22 September 1979):

“Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam, regardless of the country or the nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which nation assumes the role of the standard-bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State.…

“Islam requires the earth — not just a portion, but the whole planet … because the entire mankind should benefit from the ideology and welfare programme [of Islam]…. Towards this end, Islam wishes to press into service all forces which can bring about a revolution and a composite term for the use of all these forces is ‘Jihad’…. The objective of the Islamic ‘jihad’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.” (Jihad fil Islam)

A Hyderabad scholar Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi justifies indiscriminate violence in his fatwa on the concept of power in Islam. Let me quote a few lines from the writings of this Maulana who runs a girls’ madrasa in Hyderabad and is known to have been an inspiration behind Indian Mujahedin:

“Let it be known that, according to Islamic jurisprudence, fighting the infidels (kuffar) in their countries is a duty (farz-e-Kifayah) according to the consensus of ulema.…

“…  I can say with full conviction that qital (killing, violence, armed struggle) to uphold the Kalimah (declaration of faith) has neither been called atrocity or transgression nor has it been prohibited. Rather, qital has not only been ordained for the purpose of upholding the Kalimah but also stressed and encouraged in the Book (Quran) and the Sunnah (Hadith). Muslims have indeed been encouraged and motivated to engage in qital and they have been given good tidings of rewards for this.”

“It is the duty (of Muslims) to struggle for the domination of Islam over false religions and subdue and subjugate ahl-e-kufr-o-shirk (infidels and polytheists) in the same way as it is the duty of the Muslims to proselytise and invite people to Islam. The responsibility to testify to the Truth and pronounce the deen God has entrusted with the Muslims cannot be fulfilled merely by preaching and proselytising. If it were so there would be no need for the battles that were fought.

 “Jihad has been made obligatory to make the deen (religion) dominate and to stop the centres of evil. Keeping in view the importance of this task, the significance of Jihad in the name of God has been stressed in the Quran and Hadith. That’s why clear ordainments have been revealed to Muslims about fighting all the kuffar (infidels). “Unite and fight the polytheists (mushriks) just as they put up a united front against you” (Surah Tauba: 9:36)” — (Excerpted and translated from Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi’s Urdu booklet “Taqat ka Istemal Quran ki Raoshni Main,” (The use of violence, in the light of the Qur’an))

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, (born 1 January 1925), says the following:

Efforts on the part of prophets over a period of thousands of years had proved that any struggle which was confined to intellectual or missionary field was not sufficient to extricate man from the grip of this superstition (shirk, kufr). (So) it was God’s decree that he (Prophet Mohammad) be a da’i (missionary) as well as ma’hi ((eradicator). He was entrusted by God with the mission of not only proclaiming to the world that superstitious beliefs (shirk, kufr) were based on falsehood, but also of resorting to military action, if the need arose, to eliminate that system for all time. — (From Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s book Islam: Creator of the Modern World, re-printed in 2003.)

It is ironic that even an indefatigable promoter of peace and pluralism among Muslims has to say on the basis of commonly accepted Islamic jurisprudence that the prophet’s job was to eradicate unbelief from the world, even using military means. And if this is so, what would stop Bin Ladens and Baghdadis of this world claiming that they are simply carrying forward the Prophet’s unfinished mission.

The message from all these sermons is clear. Islam must dominate the world and it is the duty of every Muslim to help the process. Wherever a Muslim turns to he gets the same Islam-supremacist message. The latest among the most authoritative books on Islamic theology is a 45-volume comprehensive Encyclopaedia of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence). it was prepared by scholars from all schools of thought, engaged by Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs, Kuwait, over a period of half a century. Its Urdu translation was released in Delhi by vice-President Hamid Ansari on 23 October 2009.

This most influential book of Islamic jurisprudence has a 23,000-word chapter on Jihad. We moderate Muslims and Sufis keep talking ad nauseam about struggle against one’s own nafs (lower self, negative ego) being the real and greater Jihad and Qital (warfare) being rather insignificant, lesser Jihad. But except one sentence in the beginning, the entire chapter talks entirely about the issues related with combatting and killing enemies, i.e.  infidels, polytheists or apostates, starting with the stark declaration: “Jihad means to fight against the enemy.”  There is no mention of real or greater Jihad. Then Ibn-e-Taimiyya is quoted to say: “… So Jihad is wajib (incumbent) as much as one’s capacity”. Then comes the final, definitive definition: “Terminologically, Jihad means to fight against a non-zimmi unbeliever (kaafir) after he rejects the call towards Islam, in order to establish or raise high the words of Allah.” (Translated from original Arabic).

It is not difficult for an intelligent, educated Muslim to discover our hypocrisy. Clearly what is censured by us moderates as radical Islamist theology is not substantially different from the current Islamic theology accepted through a consensus by ulema of all schools of thought. Late Osama bin Laden or his ideological mentor Abdu’llāh Yūsuf ‘Azzām, now called father of global Jihad, and his present-day successor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not invent a new theology. Their use of consensual theology is what lies behind their great success in attracting thousands of Muslim youth in such a short while. They will continue to attract more and more youths until we mainstream Muslims realise our hypocrisy and change course.

What are the ingredients of this consensual theology that is leading to radicalisation of our educated youth?

A few examples:

1. Following a literal reading of some allegorical verses in Quran, most Muslims now regard God as an implacable, anthropomorphic figure permanently at war with those who do not believe in His uniqueness. This is a negation of the Sufi or Vedantic concept of God as universal consciousness or universal intelligence radiating His grace from every atom in the universe. Unfortunately, Sufi madrasas themselves have abandoned, at least in the Indian sub-continent, the concept of wahdatul wajud (unity of being), for fear that this would be considered too close to the Vedantic and thus Hindu concept of God. Instead they teach Sheikh Sirhindi’s wahdatul shuhood (Apparentism, unity of appearances) in the name of wahdatul wajud. Sheikh Sirhindi had invented this concept to counter the growing influence of Sufi masters like Mohiyiddin Ibn-e-Arabi and Mansour al-Hallaj during the reign Emperor Akbar.

Most Sufi madrasas have thrown out from their curriculum mystical books like Kashful Mahjub by Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh Hijweri, Awarif-ul-Ma’arif by Shaykh Umar Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, Fawaidul Fu’aad by Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, Masnawi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, Gulsitan and Bostan by Shaikh Sa’adi Shirazi, Si Asl by Mulla Sadra Shiriazi, Fususul Hikam by Shiakh Ibn ul Arabi, Life and teachings of great Sufis like Ghareeb Nawaz Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti Ajmeri (ra), Baba Fareed, Ameer Khusro etc.

2. Radical ideologues quote militant, xenophobic verses of Quran to support offensive Jihad. We moderates from Sufi stream of thought counter that by saying: look at the context. These verses came during war and had to inevitably order fighting, killings, offer rewards for martyrs and show intolerance towards the manifest enemy. It’s not unusual in wars to make binary arguments. Thus the Muslim-Kafir binary inevitably emerged during wars. After all, most of the war-time verses of Quran revealed in Medina, first permitting and then guiding Muslims in the course of various wars, were a response to the evolving situation. But we do not take the argument of these war-time verses being contextual in nature to its logical conclusion, which is, that these verses have now become obsolete; they are no longer applicable to us today when that context does not exist.

3. Not only that we do not call contextual verses of Quran obsolete, but we also agree with the radicals that Quran is an uncreated attribute of God, with all its verses, universally and eternally applicable to Muslims, without reference to context.  Every madrasa teaches that Quran is uncreated, divine, direct speech of God, as if God were an anthropomorphic being. This totally defeats our earlier argument that when dealing with Quranic exhortations, we should look at the context. What context? If Quran is an uncreated attribute of God, immutable, eternal, merely a copy of the original Quran lying in the Heavenly Vault (Lauh-e-Mahfouz), then where is the question of context? This makes it possible for militant ideologues to tell our youth that even the militant, xenophobic, intolerant exhortations of Quran that were revealed in the context of war, must be followed and implemented, as there is no controversy about their applicability today in any school of thought.

4. There is consensus in Islamic theology that Hadith, the so-called sayings of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), are akin to revelation. These were collected up to 300 years after the demise of the Prophet and rational Muslims doubt their credibility and authenticity, but even ulema opposed to ISIS, cannot bring themselves to question the Hadith-based millenarian thesis that is the primary cause of ISIS’ great success in comparison to al-Qaeda which did not stress millenarianism.

 As a couple of allegorical verses of Quran and predictions attributed to the Prophet have been interpreted to mean that the world is about to end, and Islam is about to be victorious following the end-time war being waged by ISIS, then what is the point of working for corporates run by infidels? Why not join the battle and become a martyr or ghazi just before the world ends? So goes the argument.

One of the permanent bestsellers in Delhi’s Urdu Bazar is a booklet called Qeyamat ki peshingoiyan (End-Time Predictions). I imagine a similar booklet selling on streets of Cairo, Baghdad. Damascus, Istanbul, wherever. Why should ISIS not make good use of this belief, when it has the unquestioning support of theologians of all schools of thought, including self-proclaimed moderates, who call Hadith akin to revelation. A hadith are also used to justify the killing of innocent civilians in a war, although there are repeated and clear instructions in the Quran against that. But the moment you say Hadith is akin to revelation, you are nullifying the impact of your Quranically justified claim that in Islam killing of one innocent person amounts to killing of humanity.

5. Nearly all Muslims consider Sharia as divine and immutable, even though it was first codified on the basis of some Quranic verses and pre-Islamic Arab Bedouin customs 120 years after the demise of the Prophet and completion of the religion of Islam as declared by God in Quran (5:3). The result is that even Muslims living in non-Muslim majority multicultural Europe demand Sharia-compliant laws. No wonder that those who want to practice what they believe in would want to migrate to the so-called Islamic State, sometimes even with their families.

Radicalised youth cannot be blamed for feeling that the moderate Muslims, in India, for instance, are hypocrites. They want to use their purported belief in the divinity of Sharia only for male-supremacist privileges like instant divorce and multiple marriages, whereas the radicals migrating to the so-called Islamic State are willing to accept all the rigours of Sharia’s criminal justice system, namely, cutting off hands for theft, lashes and stoning for adultery and murder, etc.

6. There is consensus in Islamic theology that helping establish and supporting a caliphate is the religious duty of Muslims, even though there is absolutely no such direction in the Quran. But those who believe in the Hadith being akin to revelation are unable to dispute ISIS’ claim to legitimacy on the basis of this Hadith: “Hadhrat Huzaifa narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “Prophethood will remain among you as long as Allah wills. Then Caliphate (Khilafah) on the lines of Prophethood shall commence, and remain as long as Allah wills. Then corrupt/erosive monarchy would take place, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. After that, despotic kingship would emerge, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. Then, the Caliphate (Khilafah) shall come once again based on the precept of Prophethood.” (Musnad Ahmed inb Hanabli.)

7. Hijrat (migration) to the land of Islamic Sharia from Darul Harb where Sharia is not enforced is a religious duty for Muslims. This may appear grotesque at a time when millions of Muslims are marching to the so-called European “Darul Harb” almost barefoot in a desperate effort to escape from so-called “Darul Islam” of Khalifa al-Baghdadi. The “Darul Islam” of Saudi Arabia has refused to give refuge to a single soul, while the European “Darul Harb” is accommodating millions of Muslims. But the ulema will not allow any part of their theology to be questioned.

8. Theologians of all school believe that some early verses of Quran have been abrogated and replaced by better and more appropriate later verses. This consensual Doctrine of Abrogation is used by radical ideologues to claim all 124 foundational, constitutive, Meccan verses of peace, pluralism, co-existence with other religious communities, compassion, kindness to neighbours, etc., have been abrogated and replaced by later Medinan verses of war, xenophobia and intolerance. As long as Sufi theologians do not contest this Doctrine of Abrogation, their quoting verses from Meccan Quran has no meaning.

9. There is consensus among theologians of all school of thought that there is no freedom of religion for Muslims in Islam. Apostasy (irtidad or riddah) has to be punished by death. The only dispute is whether the apostate should be given the opportunity to seek forgiveness and revert to his earlier position. With this core aspect of theology how can Muslims confront terrorist ideologues who order death for vast numbers of Muslims on ground of their having turned apostate. In their eyes all those Muslims who are not with ISIS and other such groups are apostates, particularly all Shia, Ahmadis, Yezidis, etc. How can we prevent radicalisation of our youth unless we confront this theology?

10. The problem is there is no consensus among Muslims as to who is a Muslim? Justice Munir of the commission of enquiry set up in Pakistan following anti-Ahmadia riots in 1954 reported that no two ulema agreed on the definition of a Muslim. Ideally, Quran should be our guide, according to which even Hazrat Moosa (AS) or Moses, who surrendered to God, much before the advent of Prophet Mohammad (saw), was also a Muslim (Quran 10.90). Allah informs us of Muslims who have converted but “faith has not yet entered their hearts” (Quran 49:14), and yet God does not prescribe any punishment for them, nor are they turned out of the fold of Islam. This means that anyone who claims to believe in or surrender to God is a Muslim. The least Muslims can do is to accept irja, the position of the murjias (postponers), who said let us postpone judgement in matters of faith for the Day of Judgement. Let us allow God to judge people on matters of faith. When we humans do not know what lies in someone’s heart, who are we to punish some one for what he believes in or not. A very rational position, but Muslims will need to embrace rationality or Quran first.

11. The same is true of blasphemy. Consensual Islamic theology prescribes death for the blasphemer, even on the flimsiest of accusation. Many Muslim countries have anti-blasphemy laws, though the one that misuses them most is Pakistan. Unfortunately, Sufi-minded Muslims are in the forefront of those who advocate killing for blasphemy and some are even among the killers for blasphemy. How can we fight ISIS ideology, if our own ideology is the same?

Turkish Spiritual leader Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet movement calls its approach “Deradicalisation by Default.”  This mainly focuses on the positive features of Islam. Hizmet has vast resources and has deployed them well. It has already taken positions against widely accepted concepts like Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam. But ISIS continues to draw a steady stream of recruits from Turkey and elsewhere. Any strategy that doesn’t appear to be working well should be rethought.

Respected Sufi Divines,

I would, therefore, earnestly appeal to you to use the opportunity provided by the Delhi conclave to go beyond the usual shibboleths. Sufi approach of focussing on the positive features of Islam worked well at one time. There was no internet then. In the internet age everyone is a scholar. In this age of instant scholarship, nothing can be hidden or bypassed.

It must be understood, that the radical Islamist theology and the current Islamic theology of consensus are by and large one and the same. Any differences are cosmetic. ISIS may vanish tomorrow. But the problem of radicalisation will remain. Islam supremacism, xenophobia, intolerance and exclusivism are inherent in the current Islamic, and not just Islamist theology.

Focusing on positive features of Islam is an essential part of de-radicalisation or, more realistically, preventing radicalisation. But it is not bearing fruit in full measure as the core theology agreed to by nearly all Muslims militates against these positives. As briefly outlined above, this core and consensual theology nullifies the impact of all arguments made against violent extremism. It is this core theology that needs to be refuted and changed.  Let us all try and bring the core Islamic theology in line with the actual teachings of Quran and Sunnah. Let us move away from the current theology of violence and xenophobia. Let us move towards a coherent, comprehensive theology of peace and pluralism, co-existence and gender justice. – New Age Islam14 March 2016

» Sultan Shahin is the founder and editor of the multi-lingual Islamic website NewAgeIslam.com. He has acquired expertise in Islamic theology, politics, and culture as well as an empirical knowledge of the impact of religion and ideology over radicalization and radicalism. He is deeply convinced of the need for introspection by Muslims. Contact him at editor@newageislam.com and sultan.shahin@gmail.com.

Sultan Shahin

Saudi funded Rs 1,700 crore for Wahhabi influence in India – Vicky Nanjappa

Vicky Nanjappa“Saudi sponsored Wahhabis are aiming to set up their own education system in India. … Out of the total Rs 1700 crore that has been earmarked for the cause, Rs 800 crore is being spent on setting up universities in different parts of the country. One such university was seen in Andhra Pradesh as well. Over all they propose to set up 4 such universities which will only cater to Wahhabi preachings.” – Vicky Nanjappa

Bommanahalli MasjidLast year violence broke out near a mosque in Bommanahalli, Bengaluru and what was being termed as minor tiff was in fact a case of some youth trying to impose the Wahhabi preachings.

When the seniors in the administration of the mosque opposed these youth, there were clashes in which 4 persons were injured seriously.

In another incident that occurred in Maharashtra, Wahhabi scholars bribed some members of the mosque and attempted taking over the administration. While the Muslims in many states have opposed the Wahhabis tooth and nail, success for the Saudi Arabia sponsored Wahhabis was highest in Kerala.

These are instances that could be read with the recent Wikileaks documents which suggested that Saudi Arabia is worried about the growing influence of Iran over India and the outreach by Tehran to the Shia community was worrying. The Muslim World League also requests Saudi Arabia to establish Wahhabi centres in India to counter the threat from the Shias.

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al SaudHow Saudi Arabia set up Wahhabi centres in India?

Saudi Arabia realizes that the Shias in India are a threat to the dominance of the Sunni community. India houses a large number of Shias and this according to the Saudis gives Iran an upper hand in India. However for Saudi the Sunnis in India have not followed the violent Wahhabi style of Islam and there are many seniors in the Muslim community who will not allow that to happen.

The only way Saudi could instill a radical thinking in the minds of the Sunni Muslims in India was by the establishment of Wahhabi centres. The Wahhabis are an extremely orthodox set of Sunni Muslims. There are several Muslims in India who subscribe to the Wahhabi view [Muhammad Shams-ul-Haq AzimabadiSiddiq Hasan KhanSyed Nazeer Husain, Zakir Naik were and are adherents of this Salafi movement – Ed].

As a first step, Saudi sent in several Wahhabi preachers into India an Intelligence Bureau report states. The years 2011 to 2013 alone saw a record number of 25,000 Wahhabis coming to India and conducting seminars in various parts of the country. With them they brought in Rs 1700 crore in several installments and used it to propogate the Wahhabi style of Islam.

Salafi Masjid, Mudappallur, KeralaWahhabism found success in Kerala

The drive by Saudi to impose the Wahhabi culture in India has not been entirely a success. The highest rate of success that they have witnessed is in Kerala.

This is a lot to do with the fact that there is a large population of people who go to Saudi in search of employment. Many in Kerala have welcomed with open arms the Wahhabi style of preaching and this has let the Saudi controlled lot take control over nearly 75 mosques in the state.

The newer mosques that are coming up in Kerala are also constructed in the manner in which they done in Saudi Arabia.

This is just one small indicator of how much people of the state are willing to follow the radical style preached by the Wahhabi scholars. Moreover the inflow of funds into Kerala from Saudi is the highest when compared to any other part of the country.

It was in Kerala that one got to see posters mourning the death of Osama Bin Laden and also a prayer for Ajmal Kasab after he was hanged. Intelligence Bureau officials tell OneIndia that a large number of youth appear to be attracted to this radical style of Islam, but also add that there are some elders who are trying to oppose it.

Muslims in IndiaThe Wahabi rule book in India

Each time a Wahhabi preacher comes to India, he comes in with a rule book. What they intend to do is ensure that the rule book is circulated in the Mosques.

However when the administration of the mosques have opposed this it has led to clashes. The rule book has a set of guidelines which need to be ahdhered to failing which the horrific Sharia law would be imposed.

Guidelines that have been set as per the Wahhabi rule book

  • Shrines shall be forbidden
  • Every Muslim woman should wear purdah or be subject to severe punishment
  • Men have to compulsorily grow beards
  • Women should not be allowed to work. Exception can be made only if the family is in need.
  • Men and women should not mingle together in public.
  • No weeping loudly at funerals.
  • Abide by the Shariat law; every offence committed shall be punishable under this law.
  • All men should wear trousers which are above their ankles.
  • No laughing loudly or listening to music; no dancing or watching television.

 Faisal Foundation on March 1, 2015 shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz (L) presenting Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in India, with the 2015 King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam in Riyadh. Naik was honoured for being one of the most renowned non-Arabic speaking promoters of Islam. He founded the Peace TV channel, billed as the world's only channel specialising in comparative religion. AFP PHOTO / HO / King Faisal Foundation == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / King Faisal Foundation" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ==Wahhabi universities being set up

The Saudi sponsored Wahhabis are aiming to set up their own education system in India as well. Out of the total Rs 1700 crore that has been earmarked for the cause, Rs 800 crore is being spent on setting up universities in different parts of the country. One such university was seen in Andhra Pradesh as well. Over all they propose to set up 4 such universities which will only cater to Wahhabi preachings.

With the take over of the existing mosques becoming extremely difficult, they have earmarked Rs 400 crore to set up 40 mosques adhering only to Wahhabi preachings in different parts of the country.

A sum of Rs 300 has been been earmarked to set up madrasas while the remaining Rs 200 crore has been set aside as miscellaneous costs which also would include bribes to paid off to mosque authorities as was seen in Maharashtra.

Muhammed ibn Abd al-WahhabThe birth of the Jamiat Ahl al-Hadith

The birth of the Jamiat Ahl al-Hadith took place in India in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. As a first step they wielded their influence on the various mosques which began preaching the Sharia law as mandated by the Wahhabis.

The next stop was Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh following which they began wielding influence heavily in Kerala. The Jamiat Ahl al-Hadith was the umbrella body which oversaw the flow of Wahhabi scholars into India. The same outfit is also making efforts to spread their ideology into Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and until last year Karantaka. – OneIndia News, 25 June 2015

Update

Islam and its interpretations – Hasan Suroor

Hasan Suroor“The Islam preached by the Taliban and their fellow travellers is also Islam; and if you ask them, they will also cite Koranic verses and Hadith to back their claims. Their methods may be extreme but their philosophy does derive legitimately from the same Islamic theology that the good face of Islam does. Muslims must stop being in denial about it.” – Hasan Suroor

Pilgrim in MeccaWhat is Islam?

I know Islam’s critics will be dying to answer this question, but it is more important to hear it from Muslims themselves because, after all, it is their conflicting interpretations of Islam which are behind so much of the confusion and mayhem around the world. A religion of peace, yet a religion which is invoked to wreak such mindless violence. A religion which is said to accord dignity, respect and equality to women; yet a religion in which a woman’s testimony is only half as good as a man’s. A religion which exhorts its followers to gain knowledge even if it means “going to China”; yet some of whose most noisy campaigners despise knowledge and are prepared to kill little girls for attending school. And a religion which preaches tolerance and coexistence; yet which has become synonymous with hate and intolerance.

So, what is Islam really about?

Islamic TheologyIslamic theology

In his book, What Is History?, E. H. Carr urged people to read the historian before they read his or her history in order to get a sense of where that historian is coming from. Many Muslims will say that the same analogy applies to Islam: its interpretation depends on who is interpreting it. So, extremists will interpret it to suit their own agenda while moderate Muslims would offer a different interpretation. But the trouble with this explanation is that it is at odds with the claim that Islam is so perfect, that it is beyond debate or interpretation. Its teachings and edicts are meant to be immutable. Take it or leave it. This claim itself then takes a knock when we hear so many bewilderingly different interpretations that, let alone non-Muslims, even ordinary Muslims are left confused and frustrated. A healthy internal debate is one thing, but tawdry public disputes over the fundamentals of Islam — jihad, sharia, caliphate — is quite another.

What, then, is the problem?

To be fair, it is not entirely the fault of interpreters, and in this I include those who wilfully misinterpret it to promote their sectarian or extremist ideas. The potential for misinterpretation and misunderstanding lies in Islamic theology itself. The Koranic text is a minefield of ambiguity, allowing people to cherry-pick its equivocal and often contradictory verses to back their argument. Similarly, it is easy to manipulate Hadith (a compilation of Prophet Mohammad’s sayings and teachings), another major source of legitimacy for Islamic acts. This is because they are too numerous, were pronounced in vastly different situations, and compiled many years after his death with the result that their precise meaning was frequently lost in translation. Sometimes they were quoted outside the original context. They are routinely plucked out of context to support bizarre claims.

Then there is the problem of “inauthentic” Hadith — sayings attributed to the Prophet which he may or may not have uttered. Even many authentic Hadith have been found to be flawed because of misinterpretation or contextual errors.

Jihadi with beheading knifeOn jihad

We have seen a great deal of quibbling over the meaning of jihad. Muslims insist that the “real” concept of jihad does not involve violence and bears no resemblance to Islamists’ interpretation of it. The “real” or “greater” jihad, they say, means a peaceful inner spiritual struggle. An armed struggle against an external enemy is regarded as “lesser” jihad and permitted only in specific circumstances — for example, in self-defence. Theoretically true. Yet, it is also true that around the dining table in Muslim households, the term jihad is invariably used in its violent sense and mentioned in the same breath as “kafirs.” I grew up in an extremely liberal environment, but I don’t recall, in private conversations, jihad ever being referred to in its philosophical sense. In Indian Muslim discourse, the term normally used for personal struggles, whether social, economic or emotional, is “jaddo jehad” derived from Urdu.

Extremists can be accused of inventing circumstances that, in their opinion, would justify violent jihad, or of targeting the wrong “enemy,” and using appallingly brutal methods of executing their “jihad.” But they cannot be accused of inventing the notion of violent jihad itself. There is no denying the streak of violence which — according to distinguished British Pakistani Islamic scholar Ziauddin Sardar — is “inherent” in Islam. But that is not the point. All religions, especially those which set out to gain followers through proselytisation and to conquer empires, have violent histories. Campaigns to “Christianise” Pagan Europe in the Middle Ages were not always peaceful, and then, of course, there is the bloody history of Inquisition and the Crusades.

To a large extent, Islam is often wrongly and wilfully portrayed as being somehow unique in having had a violent history. But what is unique about Islam is that while other religious movements, particularly Christianity, got over their early violent origins, it failed to move on and update its theological precepts. There has been no Islamic equivalent of Enlightenment and Renaissance, and the Islamic mindset remains awkwardly out of step with historical progress, and therefore with modern times — a hiatus reinforced by attempts to assert an Islamic identity through beards and hijabs.

But to return to the question, “what is Islam?” ask any Muslim and they will solemnly enumerate all its nobler aspects: its emphasis on community and oneness which has made it the world’s fastest growing religion; its rejection of caste or class; the spirit of inquiry it fosters; its command not to bow to any temporal authority (thumbs down for authoritarianism and dictatorship); its stress on simple and spartan living; a unique system of zakat to prevent concentration of wealth in a few individual hands; a complete “no, no” to social and economic exploitation; and its egalitarianism. Prophet Mohammed personally oversaw huge reforms in the pre-Islamic slavery practices in Arabia and appointed a former Ethiopian slave, Bilal Ibn Ribah as the first Muezzin in Islam after helping him gain freedom.

Understanding Islam through HadisFaces of Islam

Muslims will cite Koranic verses and Hadith to underline Islamic injunctions against violence; its command to treat women with respect and accord them equality; its message of tolerance, love, brotherhood, and its exhortation that we treat even our enemies with respect and try to win them over through love and persuasion rather than force. But this is one face of Islam. It also has another, less pleasant, face. For, the Islam preached by the Taliban and their fellow travellers is also Islam; and if you ask them, they will also cite Koranic verses and Hadith to back their claims. Their methods may be extreme but their philosophy does derive legitimately from the same Islamic theology that the good face of Islam does. Muslims must stop being in denial about it.

And this brings us back to what lies at the heart of the problem with Islam — namely the somewhat rough-and-ready nature of the fundamentals of Islamic sources, including the Koran, the central religious text of Islam comprising truths which, Muslims believe, were revealed to the Prophet by Allah from time to time until his death. The Koranic text, in the form of “aayts’’ (verses), is not thematically linked nor provides context with the result that an “aayt” which might have originated in a specific context is sometimes contradicted by another “aayt” on the subject but stated in a different context. This allows a free-for-all scramble for people to grab what might suit them in a given situation. Hence the confusion and the spectacle of extremists and their opponents both quoting the Koran in support of their positions. There is a similar confusion over Hadith, as explained earlier.

The way out is for an Islamic equivalent of the New Testament. Learned Islamic scholars need to put their heads together and present basic scriptures in a manner that the meaning and context of every “aayt” and every Hadith is made unambiguously clear, leaving no room for misinterpretation or misrepresentation. This annotated text should then be declared as the authorised version of Islamic beliefs. Otherwise, we will continue to struggle to understand what real Islam is while leaving the field open for fanatics to distort it at will. – The Hindu, 29 September 2014

» Hasan Suroor is the author of  “India’s Muslim Spring” and is the former London correspondent for The Hindu. E-mail: hasan.suroor@gmail.com