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.

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Separatism in Kashmir will not be cured by dialogue – Ajay Chrungoo

Kashmiri youth in Srinagar

Dr Ajay ChrungooA de facto Muslim state on the territory of India was bound to move towards religious fascism just like Pakistan. … The present unrest in Kashmir is an expression of a totalitarian stranglehold on the social milieu and political establishment. The unrest is fundamentally regressive in content. It has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with the destruction of freedom. – Dr Ajay Chrungoo

Allowing democratic secular space to promote and perpetuate a regressive fascist political order is the ultimate crime against democracy as well as secularism. In the name of political process this crime has been committed with impunity in Jammu and Kashmir. We have now a situation in Kashmir where religious fascism is expressing itself boldly and brazenly.

What is now being recognised as the radicalisation of the polity is actually continuity. We have seen the progression of an exclusivist religion-based identity movement into an unabashed fascism. In fact, special status, greater autonomy, self-rule, independence, secession to Pakistan or building up of an Islamic caliphate now clearly appear to be stages of an evolving totalitarian religion-based fascist order.

The root cause theories of erosion of autonomy, rigging or bad governance have been actually concoctions of the Indian political class. This class indulged in concoctions to avoid contesting the religion-based identity politics in J&K. They did it so because of a belief that in a Hindu majority country only Hindu communalism has to be fought. They thought all minority communalism is merely a reaction and will be cured automatically if Hindu communalism is contained and defeated.

They forgot that J&K was the only Muslim-majority state in a Hindu-majority country. Its functioning as a healthy secular polity was no less critical than the functioning of the rest of India as a secular polity. It ended up creating a permanent Muslim sphere of interest in J&K. Instead of delegitimising the two-nation theory for all time to come after Partition, they helped to create a special state on the territory of India which was premised on the same principle as the creation of Pakistan.

A de facto Muslim state on the territory of India was bound to move towards religious fascism just like Pakistan. The genocide of Bengalis in undivided Pakistan was the expression of fascism. The genocide of Hindus of Kashmir in J&K is similar. The present unrest is an expression of a totalitarian stranglehold on the social milieu and political establishment. The unrest is fundamentally regressive in content. It has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with the destruction of freedom.

The separatism in Kashmir now needs to be exposed with all its regressive content. The political class must realise that it is not the number of people supporting a movement that makes it sacrosanct but its ideological content that makes it progressive and revolutionary.

Separatism in Kashmir will not be cured by a dialogue but by clear ideological contestation. Fascism is fascism, and it doesn’t matter how many people support it. – Deccan Chronicle, 1 September 2016

» Dr Ajay Chrungoo is chairman of Panun Kashmir

Kashmir Security Force

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

Jihad in the cause of Allah – Maria Wirth

Mosques and madrasas are the centres for jihad indoctrination.

Maria WirthTerror and hatred for other human beings is inhumanity. How do we know? Because we have a conscience which tells us what is right and what is wrong. This conscience must be the holy book for us. … Anyone who demands that we ignore our conscience and instead believe blindly what he tells us, has an agenda. He wants sheep who don’t think for themselves and who he can use for his own purpose. – Maria Wirth

There is no doubt that we have a problem in today’s world. It’s a big problem. The strange thing is that apparently we don’t want to solve it, because we close our eyes to the problem and to its root cause. This closing of our eyes is officially endorsed by almost all governments in the world and is seen as politically correct. Naturally, there is no chance to improve things but it’s likely to get much worse.

The problem is a faulty, black and white mind-set of a huge chunk of the world population and the root cause is what these people were taught to believe as the truth. The founders and subsequent authorities of those belief systems claimed that the Highest himself has revealed it. This was an ingenious way to prevent any criticism of the whole belief system, including those aspects of it which were against common sense.

I have earlier written on how Christianity was the first to cleverly claim that God himself has given the full truth only to the Church and everyone must believe it at the cost of their lives. And Islam followed with a similar claim. Terrorism in the name of God started right then, by forcing “those who are wrong” into the “right” faith or killing them. Millions of people were killed—from America to India and beyond. In history lessons, Christianity and Islam were mentioned together with communism, fascism and Nazism in having caused the maximum number of human beings murdered.

In primary school I learnt that Islam expanded through “fire and sword”. I remember this because “Feuer und Schwert” was a meaningless phrase for me as a child. Only later, it dawned that it involved tremendous cruelty. This cruelty was not restricted to Islam. The Christian “expansion” and the Inquisition were equally brutal.

In the 1970s when I was in university, we debated why religion has caused so much bloodshed. The debate was only on ‘why’ not on ‘whether’.

In 2000, a change in this approach became apparent. When the Pope John Paul II finally acknowledged the cruelty of the Inquisition, and publicly asked forgiveness from God, he did not blame the Church but “sons and daughters of the Church” who committed “mistakes”. He tried to absolve the religion and laid the blame on “misguided” followers.

This same pattern is followed today regarding Islam. When jihadis attack innocent citizens shouting “Allahu Akbar“, politicians and media are quick to declare that those terror acts have nothing to do with Barack ObamaIslam but are the handiwork of misguided or deranged individuals.

The reaction is meanwhile so predictable. The standard version is:

The attack is shocking, repulsive, a cowardly act, but we stand united, won’t allow another attack, won’t be intimidated but continue with our lives, we won’t let them win, etc….

Then Muslim representatives come on air stressing that they also condemn the attack. It is the act of a disturbed person, has nothing to do with Islam, there are 1,5 billion peaceful Muslims, which is proof of the peaceful nature of their religions, etc….

Then in major cities (provided the attack happened in the West) a landmark building is lit up in the colours of the country where the attack happened, candles are lit….

We have gone through these motions far too often and there is something fake about it. The pain of those affected is real. Others may be grateful that it had not hit them—at least not this time. Yet those, who are supposed to protect us, are not honest.

True, the attacks are shocking and repulsive, but they are not cowardly acts. The jihadi kills because he is convinced that it is his duty to kill kafirs—and he is even ready to die in doing what he feels is right. This shows courage. All those terrorists are young. It is not normal, nor easy to risk one’s life by killing others, unless he is absolutely convinced that the benefit is greater than the cost.

And what does he expect as benefit?

Probably he was taught already as a kid or has read it later on the internet that killing kafirs pleases Allah. By doing so, he can make his life truly worthwhile, and he will be richly rewarded: he will have a better status in paradise than those who did not kill kafirs.

Now here is where we kafirs are cowards. We don’t dare to point to passages in the Quran, which support his expectation, for example Quran 4.95 and ask what it means if not what is written there.

Those believers who stay at home—having no physical disability—are not equal to those who make jihad in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their persons. Allah has granted a higher rank to those who make jihad with their wealth and their persons than to those who stay at home. Though Allah has promised a good reward for all, Allah has prepared a much richer reward for those who make jihad for Him than for those who stay at home. They have special higher ranks, forgiveness and mercy. Allah is forgiving, merciful (Q 4. 95-96).

Imagine a pious, young, hot-headed Muslim reads this—would he not be inspired to make his life worthwhile? Even more so, if he has fantasises of becoming a hero with a gun?  He probably considers dying as a small price for a greater glory. As Sultan Shahin pointed out, children in madrasas sing songs with the refrain “zindagi shuru hoti hai qubr mein” (life starts in the grave). See reference below.

Curiously, old, sick Muslims don’t seem to be interested in the “higher status in paradise” when it would make much more sense for them. Does it mean, they are more mature and know that the Quran must not be taken literally?

Is it not their and our duty, to save not only the potential victims of future terror attacks but also the young Muslims who are ready to throw away their lives for a promise which may not be kept? After all, Christianity also claims that only those who are baptized can enter heaven.

We need to ask probing questions.

Yes, it is difficult to believe that terror attacks have anything to do with religion. Religion is understood to be something good. It connects us with the Highest and is meant to make us better human beings. We want to believe that the cause for terror attacks is something else. “All religions worship the same one God. No religion can possibly condone killing others”, those of us who have not been brainwashed into a dogmatic religions, will naturally maintain. But is it true?

We need to find out. If we don’t dare to do this, we are cowards.

Let’s imagine we come to the conclusion that indeed there are passages in the Islamic texts that condone terror against infidels, what will be the next step?

Then we need to bring in common sense and reason and debate on the meaning of life and enquire into the absolute truth. India has the knowledge and must take the lead in this, because the Christian West is handicapped. Both, Islam and Christianity, divide humanity into “us versus the rest”, which results in a divisive mindset. Instead, another dividing line must be drawn which Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned it in one of his speeches: It is the line between humanity and inhumanity.

Terror and hatred for other human beings is inhumanity. How do we know? Because we have a conscience which tells us what is right and what is wrong. This conscience must be the holy book for us. It is the voice of the Divine which guides us through life. If we listen to it, we realize that the whole of humanity is one family. The life in all of us comes from the same, most powerful yet invisible, source.

Anyone who demands that we ignore our conscience and instead believe blindly what he tells us, has an agenda. He wants sheep who don’t think for themselves and who he can use for his own purpose.

Suicide bombers are not cowards, but they are not smart. They got the purpose of life wrong. – Maria Wirth Blog, 17 June 2016

Reference

Bobby Jindal

» Maria Wirth is a German psychologist and author who has lived in Uttarkhand for many years. Tweet her @mariawirth1.

VIDEO: Orlando terrorist attack and vibrant diversity – Black Pigeon

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

The Paris Mastermind: Abdelhamid Abaaoud or Ibn Taymiyyah? – S. Gurumurthy

Ibn Taymiyyah

S. Gurumurthy

“IS is the latest manifestation of Wahhabi Islam. It attracts Jihadists from all over the world on the theology of Al-Wahhab—read Ibn Taymiyyah. … Russian President Putin has said that 40 nations, including some G20 constituents, fund the IS. … Ibn Taymiyyah’s theology is at the root of the problem of Islamist terror. Is Abaaoud then the mastermind of Paris Jihad? Not at all. He is at best the master-hand. The mastermind is Ibn Taymiyyah who re-weaponised the Jihad and that impelled Abaaoud. It is Taymiyyah’s Jihadi exposition which blew up Paris. In the last several decades, his concept of Jihad has snuffed out hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.” – S. Gurumurthy

Abdelhamid AbaaoudFrench intelligence has named Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national, as the mastermind behind the Paris carnage. He was killed later. Four of the seven attackers who perished in the process are French. Fifth, the first woman bomber of Europe, later killed herself. Sixth, possibly a Syrian, had landed in Greece in the guise of a refugee and weeks later he bombed Paris. An Egyptian too was perhaps involved. The configuration of unrelated persons raises some fundamental questions that touch the basics. Syrians may target France which had bombed their nation. But why should a Belgian, when France has done no harm to his nation. What have the four Frenchmen to do with Syria or Iraq by birth, language or culture? Why should they target their own nation? Mow down their own people? How they blew themselves to smithereens to harm their own motherland brings out the intensity of their hate. Why such hate for one’s own nation, culture and people? Belgian, Syrian and French, including a woman—the group cannot be more disparate. No one can seriously deny that the common idea that bound and motivated the disparate group is Islam. What strand of Islam it was may be debated, but that their motivation is some strand of Islam is indisputable. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS) has proudly claimed that it did the Jihad in Paris. But the IS is only the hand that hits. Ideology is that what really motivates the hand. What, and not who, made this disparate group converge is the real issue.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (2004)IS Emerges

The IS, led by its supremo Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, aims to re-install the Caliphate—the Islamic State to rule the Muslim world—under a Caliph believed to be descendent of Prophet Muhammad. Tracing the lineage of Al-Baghdadi to the Prophet, the IS appointed Al-Baghdadi as the Caliph, in June 2014. Relying on the Islamic law which mandates all Muslims to owe allegiance to the Caliph, Al-Baghdadi called upon Muslims through a radio message in July 2014 to immigrate to the Islamic State to perform their highest duty of Jihad. Responding to his call, within nine months, by March 2015, some 22,000 Jihadists from 100 nations landed, on their own, in Syria and Iraq. By May, their number rose to 25,000. Take France, the latest victim of Jihad, for instance. Some 520 French (116 of them women) are currently engaged in Jihad in Syria and Iraq with some 137 already martyred.

Islamic terrorist outfits and mobile terrorists are multiplying exponentially. In November 2014, the UAE named 83 Islamist terrorist groups. A study says that, by November 2014, some 60 Jihadist groups in 30 countries had announced support to the IS. The “Caliph” Al-Baghdadi now controls vast parts of Iraq and Syria—in terms of area, population and revenues. Media reported in September that Russian intelligence had offered to the Central Intelligence Agency (US) and the Interpol a massive list of 87,000 Jihadists roaming around in US and Europe, but they refused to receive it because it was “not politically viable in the present atmosphere”. The Paris assault happened exactly 60 days later. Is it a surprise then that on just a radio call of Al-Baghdadi, thousands of ready-made Jihadists roaming all over the world rushed to join IS-led Jihad? Al-Baghdadi just opened the tap of readily available Jihadists. What, then, motivated the huge army of Jihadists ready on the tap? It calls for a throw back to 14th century when, after long lull, militant Jihad again became part of Islamic tradition—an interesting insight into the history of Jihad that has huge contemporary relevance.

MohammadIbn Taymiyyah

In his book God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad, Charles Allen, a renowned historian of the British Raj in India, traces the history of Wahhabism, the guiding ideology of Islamist modern terrorism. Wahhabism was founded in the 18th century but its seeds were sown centuries before. The 14th century Islamic scholar who re-invented and re-weaponised the concept of Jihad was Ibn Taymiyyah.

In Prophet Mohammed’s times, Jihad was an obligation on Muslims to strive for their faith until the entire world had converted or submitted to Islamic authority. But as Islam transformed into a multi-ethnic world religion, the literalist view of Jihad gave way to pragmatism. The pragmatists cited the famous declaration of the Prophet in Hadith on his return from the battle of Bard, that marked the end of his military campaign against the polytheists, that the Lesser Jihad (Jihad Kabeer) was over; the Greater Jihad (Jihad Akbar) had started. This statement was interpreted in Islam as meaning that the outer and less important physical struggle for Islam was over and had given way to a more important inner, moral struggle. But, after Mongols devastated the Islamic heartland, Ibn Taymiyyah found that the Greater Jihad idea had weakened Islam. He stood for a literal, and against a liberal, idea of Jihad. He defied the Prophet Himself on the pragmatic Greater Jihad. Citing two verses in the Quran (Chapter 2, Verse 193; Chapter 8, Verse 39) Taymiyya argued that the Prophet’s division of Jihad in Hadith was not authentic because it contradicted the words of God in Koran. He declared that the (indivisible) Jihad against Islam’s adversaries was the finest act a Muslim could perform. Taymiyyah also classified the infidels of Islam in four categories: the Christian; the Muslims with infidel habits unless brought back to Islam; the Muslims not carrying out Islam’s rituals; and those who rejected Islam while still claiming to be Muslims. He declared that no peace was possible with the first two and the next two must be mercilessly killed.

Muhammad ibn Abd al-WahhabAl-Wahhab

Taymiyya’s theology was rejected in his times. He was branded as a heretic. Even imprisoned. But, says Charles Allen, Taymiyyah’s theology continued to attract adherents. A most famous adherent of his was Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, who founded, in early 18th century, what is now known as the Wahhabi strand of Islam. This most virulent strand of Islam, rejected in the 14th century, was reincarnated four centuries later. Allen says that Al-Wahhab was schooled in Medina under Mohammad Hayya Al-Sindhi and his father from Sind in India, both followers of Ibn Taymiyya. They encouraged their students to “view the militant jihad as a religious duty”. When Al-Wahhab was studying in Medina, Shah Waliullah Dehlawi from Delhi too was in Medina studying Hadith under a Taymiyyah disciple who was the master of Al-Wahhab’s teacher. Al-Wahhab and Shah Waliullah, both young, went back to their respective countries to implement the radical teachings. In Delhi, Waliullah called for “a return to the first principles of Islam”. He attempted to restore “Muslim rule in Hindustan” by even inviting the Afghan ruler Ahmed Shah Abdalli to invade India and destroy the Hindu Marathas in battle to bring back the golden days of Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb. But Ahmed Shah was defeated and the Maratha gained dominance in northern India.

But Waliullah’s Medina-mate Al-Wahhab went beyond. Allen says he “was able to construct and apply almost unchallenged a brand of confrontational and heartless Islam, the like of which had not been seen since the days of Mahmud Ghazni, the butcher, who led twelve loot-and-destroy raids on India in the eleventh century, justifying his actions in the name of Islam.” Al-Wahhab’s book Call to Unity, which later became a four-volume affair, expounded the Wahhabi theology. It declared that there should be but one interpretation of the Quran and Hadith—Al-Wahhab’s—and none else. Pointing out that Islam rose only by Jihad against idolaters and polytheists, it concluded that loving the true Muslims and hating the infidels was the only way—the Wahhabi way.

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al SaudRe-weaponised Jihad

A historic turn came in Islamic history in 1744 when Al-Wahhab allied with Muhammed Ibn Saud, a reputed warrior and leader of a sub-branch of the powerful Aneiza tribe. They mutually recognised each other—Saud as the secular leader (Emir) and Al-Wahhab as the religious head (Imam). The rulers of Saudi Arabia are the descendants of Muhammed Ibn Saud. Thanks to Saudi Arabia owning up Al-Wahhab’s theology, Ibn Taymiyya, outlawed long ago, now occupies a place of honour next only to Al-Wahhab’s.

IS is the latest manifestation of Wahhabi Islam. It attracts Jihadists from all over the world on the theology of Al-Wahhab—read Ibn Taymiyyah. It gets funded and supported. Russian President Putin has said that he has shared with G20 leaders the details of how individuals from 40 nations, including some G20 constituents, fund the IS. Many liberals still think that terrorists are just a handful of misguided persons. Thousands are not a few. They are a mobile army conscripted by Wahhabi Islam. The Taymiyyah-Wabhabi theology guides millions and millions of Muslims who are the catchment constituency from which thousands of Jihadists emerge on the tap. The other strands of Islam, moderate or immoderate, are struggling—in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan and elsewhere—for survival. Ibn Taymiyyah’s theology is at the root of the problem of Islamist terror. Is Abaaoud then the mastermind of Paris Jihad? Not at all. He is at best the master-hand. The mastermind is Ibn Taymiyyah who re-weaponised the Jihad and that impelled Abaaoud. It is Taymiyyah’s Jihadi exposition which blew up Paris on Friday last. In the last several decades, his concept of Jihad has snuffed out hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.

Any battle to recover and save moderate Islam should start with disowning Ibn Taymiyyah and Al-Wahhab—the very definitions of today’s hate and terror. There is every reason for moderate Muslims to discard them. For, Ibn Taymiyyah defied the Prophet and Al-Wahhab endorsed Taymiyyah. Will the Islamic world—Saudis in particular—declare them in one voice as apostates of Islam? This will hopefully cause a healthy debate within Islam. Moderate Muslims should ponder.

PS: So long as the world looks at which Islamic outfit organises the Jihad and not look into what so powerfully motivates the Jihadi to kill himself to kill others, it will be missing the cause and treating the symptoms. So long as the root cause remains unaddressed, even if the world weakens one outfit another will promptly emerge—like the IS emerged after the Al Qaeda weakened. – The New Indian Express, 22 November 2015

» S. Gurumurthy is a well-known commentator on political and economic issues.  Email: guru@gurumurthy.net

Jihad