Radical Islamism and Jihad(29 Apr 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)
Preventing Further Radicalisation Is the Challenge Muslims Must Undertake: Some Concrete Suggestions

 

 

By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

27 April 2015


[This article is a slightly updated version of a presentation made by the author in an international conference on counter-terrorism in Jaipur (India) 19--21 March, 2015]



A Brief Summary of Some Concrete Suggestions


 Now the question is, how do we go forward? If we really want to make a difference, we will have to start a substantive dialogue with the ulema and make sure that they agree to:


 1) open the gates of ijtihad, rethinking all tenets of Islam in the light of the situation prevailing today. As we have not done our homework for over a millennium, this will have to be pretty revolutionary.


 2) declare that only constitutive and essential, not the contextual and allegorical verses of Quran, are meant to guide us today.


 3) compile Qur'anic verses in the order in which they were revealed, thus restoring primacy to Meccan verses that mostly constitute the essential and universal teachings of Quran, as they can be understood without any need for knowing the context in which they were revealed.


 4) declare that Ahadees cannot be considered any form of revelation from God. Islamic State’s millenarian thesis is almost entirely based on ahadees, though they use some allegorical verses of Quran as well. The claim of al-Baghdadi leading an end-time war, al-Malhama, just before the final Armageddon, has been a big draw. Some Muslims have come to think life on earth has no meaning left in the times of al-Malhama and so are rushing to join the war.


 5) declare that Sharia (fiqh) is not divine. It was created over a century after the demise of the Prophet by ulema who tried to codify laws on the basis of Qur'anic postulates and Arab cultural practices.


 6) declare clearly that Islam believes in co-existence with other religions, not dominion over the world.


 7) re-define commonly used Islamic terms like Muslim, kafir, mushrik, ahl-e-kitab, jihad, qital, farz, sunnat, etc.


 In a word, we must evolve a truly Islamic and a coherent theology of peace and co-existence, moderation and modernity, to counter the very coherent theology of violence and xenophobia, intolerance and supremacism that Jihadi ulema have created over centuries. All ulema say Islam is a religion of peace and co-existence. It's time for them to walk their talk. But if they refuse to consider change, we will need to directly reach the Muslim masses.


Finally, the larger Indian community too should introspect. As Daniel Pipes said in an international counter-terrorism conference in Jaipur recently, in this war of ideas, the world should not only encourage and support progressive, modern Muslims but also oppose and refrain from supporting the fundamentalists and extremists. ...


1) Our national leadership supported Khilafat in 1920s, considering it an essential part of Islamic theology. That was wrong. Now we must repudiate that stance and acknowledge our mistake.


 2) Muslim Personal Law in India has not been reformed even to the extent it has been in Pakistan and Bangladesh. This must change. At least General Ayyub Khan’s reforms in Pakistan must be introduced and Ulema should be told to accept what their Pakistani and Bangladeshi counterparts did decades earlier. This is not a satisfactory solution but at least it will be a start and it is doable.


 3) Madrasa education is a serious violation of the human rights of Muslim children. It destroys their lives and fills their minds with xenophobia and intolerance. Our government not only allows this but partly funds some madrasas. This must stop, unless, of course, madrasas actually change to become modern versions of what madrasas used to be like, in the Golden Age of Islam, and produce scientists and philosophers. A secular, democratic government should not be in the business of funding xenophobia and intolerance.


 -----------------------


The Challenge of Radicalisation


 Indian Muslim ulema and intellectuals denounced terrorism vehemently in a recent anti-terrorism conference held in Delhi on 19 April. But it was obvious from their speeches that they continue to remain in denial of any link between Islamist terrorism and Islamic education and theology. Our non-Muslim liberal intellectuals too encouraged this tendency in the conference by claiming there is no link between any aspects of Islamic theology and terrorism. Ulema and intellectuals, Muslim and Hindu, all seemed completely detached from present reality. They might as well have been holding this conference in the time of Akbar The Great. They appeared to have no idea that terrorists from Muslim background have reduced the slogan of Islam-a-religion-of-peace to a joke. And clearly, not one Alim in India is willing to counter the theology of supremacism, hatred, intolerance and xenophobia that is attracting our youth and pushing them into the cauldron of violence.


This is not only sad but alarming in an atmosphere of growing radicalization of Muslim youth all over the world, particularly since the declaration of Khilafat by the so-called Islamic State. There are clear signs of this radicalisation in India too. One would seldom find any denunciation of the Jihadi theology of violence and supremacism in the Urdu Press, for instance.

But around the world, more and more strategic thinkers and politicians are now realising that the most important aspect of the war on terror would be fighting a war against the ideology that leads to terror. Ideas cannot be shot down by guns and tanks; they have to be fought with ideas, contrary ideas, better ideas. But first let us understand the route through which the radicalisation of Muslims is taking place.

Most of the radicalisation is happening today in mosques, madrasas, print, electronic media and above all in cyber-space. Social media has particularly emerged as a hub of radicalisation. In countries like Pakistan, Jihadi print media too plays an important role. One study had found that already by 1989, there were 150 Jihadi journals in print from Peshawar and Quetta. But while media is used to disseminate Jihadi ideas, those who create this literature are products of ordinary madrasas, teaching essentially the same text books, with minor sectarian differences.

While the task of creating Jihadi literature was assigned to Deobandi and ahl-e-hadeesi madrasas during the Afghan war against Soviet Union in 1980s, Barelwi madrasas too had by and large discarded Sufi literature and adopted Dars-e-Nizami curriculum long ago. Developed under Emperor Aurangzeb Dars-e-Nizami had abandoned Sufism and inclusive, pluralistic teachings of great Sufi saints. Some Sufi-Barelvi madrasas had continued to teach 13th-century Persian poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic Maulana Rumi's Masnawi and one of the greatest poets of the classical literary tradition Sheikh Saadi Shirazi's Gulistan and Bostan in their Islamic ethics and Persian classes. But when proficiency in Arabic became linked to jobs in the Gulf, even these madrasas stopped teaching Persian and Sufi classics. But worse, in the name of teaching Arabic literature, they started teaching even Syed Qutb, considered the father of modern Islamist terrorism in the Middle East. Introducing young impressionable minds, even in Sufi-Barelvi madrasas, to Qutb in the name of teaching literature was a very unfortunate choice. Wahhabi-Salafi madrasas have, of course, been teaching Ibn-e-Taimiya, Mohammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab, Syed Qutb, Maulana Abul Ala Maududi and other extremist ideologues for a long time.

Thus the media discourse and school curriculum emanate from the prevalent Islamic theology and it is the theology we have to focus on. It's gratifying that even a conservative Muslim scholar like the head of Jamia Azhar, the oldest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, is now willing to admit a link between terrorism and Islamic education and theology. Jamia Azhar's Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb did that recently and of all palaces at a counter-terrorism conference in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Needless to say, the significance of this admission lies in the fact that Saudi Arabia has been the fountainhead of extremist education and biggest exporter of intolerant, xenophobic text books. This is also an admission that mere tinkering with Islamic text books is not working. Saudi Arabia had engaged in some reform of its text books in 2002.

Fourteen years after 9/11, in which 16 of the 19 terrorists were Saudis, the world is facing a more complex, more diverse and a more dangerous threat. Part of the reason certainly is that the international community has not clamped down on Saudi export of text books containing lessons in xenophobia, intolerance, exclusivism, supremacism and hatred of and enmity towards all non-Wahhabis, as mandated by Mohammad ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab. A mere look at some portions of Saudi text books meant for impressionable young minds will tell us why so many youths, particularly from Saudi Arabia and other countries where these texts are taught are leaving their homes and schools for doing what they consider Jihad in the so-called Islamic State.

But what did  Taqi-ad-Deen Ahmed Ibn-e-Taimiyya and Mohammad ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab teach and what is being taught to our children today across the Islamic world and, indeed, even in the West? One of the most important lessons in these text books is expressed through the concept of Al-Walaa' Wa Al-Bara (which essentially means showing loyalty towards Wahhabi Muslims and bearing enmity towards everybody else). Ibn-e-Taimiyya taught Muslims supremacism, intolerance of others and exclusivism. He says:

"Whoever does not consider the Jews and Christians to be disbelievers and does not hate them is not a Muslim according to the consensus of the Muslims. One's ignorance of this [rule] does not excuse him. Rather, he is a disbelieving Apostate." - Ibn Taymiyyah (Majmu al-Fatawa 27/264)

Eighteenth century scholar of Najd Mohammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab adopted and refined Ibn-e-Taimiya's extremist thoughts that demanded complete intolerance of any other interpretation of Islam. He said:

“Even if the Muslims abstain from Shirk (polytheism) and are Muwahhid (strict believer in oneness of God), their Faith cannot be perfect unless they have enmity and hatred in their action and speech against non-Muslims (for Wahhab this term includes all those Muslims who are non-Wahhabi).

------ Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, Majmua Al-Rasael Wal-Masael Al-Najdiah 4/291

Indian scholar and founder-ideologue of Jamaat-e-Islami Maulana Abul A'la Maududi explains his vision in these words:

“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.”

-----  Abul A'la Maududi in Jihad fil Islam

The most influential radical ideologue Sayyid Qutb said:

 "Islam is not confined to this (mere beliefs and worship rituals). (Fee Zhilal Al-Quran [English trans.], 7/125]

"Those who think that this religion will confine itself to preaching and to the explanation of its message when the forces of evil try to put every type of impediment in its way have little understanding of its true nature." [Fee Zhilal Al-Quran [English trans.], 7/182

"We must not be intimidated by the Orientalists' attacks on the concept of Islamic jihad, or allow the pressure of world political powers to weigh heavily on us, so as to seek justification for jihad that do not fit with the nature of Islam." [Fee Zhilal Al-Quran [English trans.], 7/21]

"We acknowledge allegiance only to an Islamic leadership that strives to re-establish Islam in practical life, dissociating ourselves from all other types of society and leadership." [Fee Zhilal Al-Quran [English trans.], 7/143]


Teaching Islam: Saudi School Text Books


Let me quote from a chapter on Saudi education from a celebrated study of Islamic education titled “Teaching Islam" by Professor Eleanor Abdella Doumato:

 “"It is a law of Tawhid that one should show loyalty to the Unitarian (Muwahhid, Wahhabi) Muslim and bear enmity toward his polytheist (Sufi, Non-Muslim) enemies," says the text. "The place of Al-Walaa` Wa Al-Baraa` has great standing in Islam," the lesson says, "as the Prophet said: 'The strongest bond of belief is loving what God loves and hating what God hates,' (10b: 110). The lesson elevates enmity for the sake of God above the pillars of Islam: (10b: 110).

“Who are the polytheist enemies against whom the monotheist Muslim must bear enmity? To MIAW (Mohammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab), polytheist enemies were other Muslims, especially the Ottoman Turks, Shi`a, Sufis, and anyone who wore amulets or practiced magic. The school text specifies new ways to become an enemy, explaining why Muslims must be alert to show hostility toward the offender. (10b: 111).

“In the Fiqh and Hadith texts, imitating the Kuffar (unbelievers) is presented as morally corrupting. Women who dress like foreigners, for example, invite temptation and corruption, so the fabric of Muslim women's dress must be thick enough not to show any skin and wide enough to conceal the contours of the body, and the face must be covered to protect her personality. Imitating the Kuffar is an insult to God... (10b: 118). To say Eid Mubarak happy holiday) to the Kuffar is as bad as worshipping the cross; it's a worse sin against God than offering a toast with liquor; it's worse than suicide and) worse than having forbidden sex (Artikab Al-Farj Al-Haram); (10b: 118).

“Imitating the Kuffar by using the calendrical designation "A.D." instead of the Hijra year is another problem,..... As Ibn Taimiyya said, "Agreeing with the Ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book) on things that are not in our religion and that are not the customs of our ancestors is corruption." ...

“One should not employ an unbeliever if there is a Muslim who can do the job, ... (10b: 121). Nor should a Muslim accept employment from an unbeliever, for a Muslim should never be in a position of subservience to the Kuffar, .. A Muslim should not live permanently among Kuffar because his faith will be compromised and that is why God required Muslims to migrate from a land of unbelief (Bilad al-Kufr) to a land of belief (Bilad Al-Islam). (10b: 121)

“The chapter warns against music, laughter, and singing. ... The lesson explains that the Kuffar (infidels) assign value to unimportant things because, absent religious faith, their lives are empty.

“What are these unimportant things? First, there are the performing arts, such as singing and playing instruments, dancing, and theatre and cinema, which are visited-by people who are lost from the truth. Then, there are the fine arts (Al-Funun Al-Jamila), such as painting, drawing, and sculpture. (10b: 124-125).

“Forbidding celebrations of birthdays, especially the birthday of the Prophet, and prohibitions against fine and performing arts are all part of the modern fabric and the historical legacy of Wahhabi culture.”It’s hostility to any human practice that would excite the imagination or bolster creativity," says (Dr. Khaled Abou) El Fadl (2003), is "perhaps the most stultifying, and even deadly, characteristic of Wahhabism." Anything that suggests a step toward creativity," he says, "constitutes a step toward Kufr [infidelity]."

Saudi text books are the most easily available across the world. With Dars-e-Nizami curriculum accepted by nearly all madrasas in the Indian sub-continent, the process of radicalisation started in the seventeenth century itself. Most Muslims are far more attached to their religion and dependent on the ulema (classical Muslim scholars) for guidance in matters of religion than is realised. So de-radicalisation essentially means de-radicalisation of ulema (plural of alim, scholar). Preventing radicalisation will be extremely difficult until ulema do not change. This is easier said than done. They continue to remain in denial.

Gates of ijtihad (religiously mandated rethinking of issues to update Islamic mores) were closed over a millennium ago, in mid-8th century AD, in the time of Imam-e-Azam Abu Hanifa. Imam Ahmad ibn-e-Hanbal opened the gate again, but after him in mid-9th century AD, it was firmly closed. Imam Ahmad Ibn-e-Taimiya and Mohammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab's work (also considered by some as ijtihad) was essentially in the Hanbali tradition. Muslims were asked to blindly follow one of the four imams of fiqh, Islamic law, and by and large they have been doing so. Any alim (scholar) who dares to claim engaging in ijtihad (independent reasoning) is excommunicated. This happens even if the subject of ijtihad is something as inconsequential as the appropriate size of the Islamic beard. If an alim (scholar) just shows the signs of being an Ahl Al-Rai (now a derogatory term, used for someone having an independent opinion), he would lose his job and face social boycott.


Terrorist ideologues distort the inclusive, liberal message of Quran with the tacit support of Islamic scholars


And yet an alim like Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi who is the ideological inspiration behind the terrorist group Indian Mujahedeen continues to be a respected alim in the eyes of Indian ulema. Not one alim has condemned or criticised him, not to speak of boycotting him. He continues to write his books and run his madrasa for women in Saidabad area of Hyderabad with aplomb.

Let me give you an example of perfidy in his work. There is a verse in Quran that shows that Islam allows complete, unrestricted freedom of belief. “La ikraha fiddin,” meaning, "there is no compulsion in religion or way of life (Deen)." This is an absolute, clear, unconditional statement. Now see how Maulana Islahi distorts it, with the tacit approval of other ulema in India.

He says: "La ikraha fiddin”. There is no compulsion in religion (Deen).  This is an established fact. But it is related only with accepting or not accepting the belief. This does not mean that ahl-e-Kufr, (infidels) should be left totally free on earth with their un-belief and should not be made accountable. If this were true, what do we mean when we say that the religion (Deen) of God has been revealed to dominate the world?" Then he quotes a contextual verse from Quran and asks rhetorically: "What will this verse mean then and what relevance will the obligation of jihad have?"

In a booklet in Urdu "Taqat ka Istemal Quran ki Raoshni Main" [‘The use of violence, in the light of the Qur’an’], Maulana Islahi, who was with the Jamaat-e-Islami until recently,  claims that “war has been ordained against those who meet three conditions until they pay jizyah [a tax on religious minorities]: do not profess faith in God and Day of Judgment; do not accept as haram [forbidden] what God and his Prophet have declared haram; and do not accept Islam as their religion”. It is, Maulana Islahi argues, “the duty of Muslims to struggle for the domination of Islam over false religions, and to subdue and subjugate infidels and polytheists”.

Despite his xenophobobic, supremacist views, the Maulana continues to be a esteemed member of the Indian ulema community while ulema continue to make repeated claims of Islam being a religion of peace and pluralism, which, of course, it is.

However, despite the difficulties involved, Muslims, who are concerned at the state of affairs, and the humanity at large, that has a stake in maintaining peace, will have to take the bull by its horns and rein in this ideology.

It should be no longer difficult to see how Jihadis are able to snatch our children away from us, brainwash them and convert them into bombs? Clearly, this happens because Jihadi ideology is deeply entrenched in common Muslim beliefs.  Jihadis are not saying anything very different. After all, the Taliban, for instance, were ordinary madrasa students. The relevant question for us in India is: do these Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan that produce Taliban teach anything very different from what is taught in the original Darul Uloom Deoband or for that matter other madrasas in India?

We are horrified by the atrocities perpetrated by Boko Haram. We consider it an African and a 21st century phenomenon. But what does Boko Haram mean? It means “western education is sin.” Have we forgotten that Indian ulema are the original Boko Haramists? It was their 19th century fatwa saying “English education is sin” that kept Muslims backward. When Sir Syed Ahmad established a college in Aligarh to teach English, they passed numerous fatwas of kufr against him. Of course Indian ulema did not go out and kill, but there was no need either. Muslims in India fell in line and even Sir Syed could only make a slight dent.

Thus it is because of their deep roots in commonly accepted and commonly espoused Islamic theology that Jihadis are able to convince our children that we, the peaceful mainstream Muslims, are actually hypocrites and cowards, not willing to sacrifice our lives for the sake of establishing Islamic domination over the world.

There are verses in Quran, revealed to help the Prophet cope with a war that had been imposed upon him. These verses naturally talk of fighting and killing. But no alim will say in clear terms that these verses were only meant for that period in 7th century Arabia and are no longer applicable to us today in the 21st century.

Every alim, Jihadi or non-Jihadi, Wahhabi or Sufi, says that Quran is uncreated, divine, like God himself, and all verses of Quran have universal and eternal validity. Why should the Jihadi ideologue then not use the contextual, militant verses of Quran to lure our children away to war?

 The same is the case of Ahadees, the so-called sayings of the Prophet. These were collected up to three centuries after the demise of the Prophet. What kind of sanctity and authenticity they can possibly have for any rational person? But nearly all Muslims consider them as almost as authoritative and sacred as the Quran. Why is it any surprise then that the Jihadis use them to justify their atrocities?


Some Concrete Suggestions


One can see how difficult it would be to de-radicalise our ulema. But this is a task that has got to be done.  When armies of suicide bombers emerge from Muslim societies whenever and wherever needed by determined Jihadi groups, Muslims and the world at large cannot afford to remain silent spectators.

Now the question is, how do we go forward? If we really want to make a difference, we will have to start a substantive dialogue with the ulema and make sure that they agree to:

1) open the gates of Ijtihad, rethinking all tenets of Islam in the light of the situation prevailing today. As we have not done our homework for over a millennium, this will have to be pretty revolutionary.

2) declare that only constitutive and essential, not the contextual and allegorical verses of Quran, are meant to guide us today.

3) compile Qur'anic verses in the order in which they were revealed, thus restoring primacy to Meccan verses that mostly constitute the essential and universal teachings of Quran, as they can be understood without any need for knowing the context in which they were revealed.

4) declare that Ahadees cannot be considered any form of revelation from God. Islamic State’s millenarian thesis is almost entirely based on ahadees, though they use some allegorical verses of Quran as well. The claim of al-Baghdadi leading an end-time war, al-Malhama, just before the final Armageddon, has been a big draw. Some Muslims have come to think life on earth has no meaning left in the times of al-Malhama and so are rushing to join the war.

5) declare that Sharia (fiqh) is not divine. It was created over a century after the demise of the Prophet by ulema who tried to codify laws on the basis of Qur'anic postulates and Arab cultural practices.

6) declare clearly that Islam believes in co-existence with other religions, not dominion over the world.

7) re-define commonly used Islamic terms like Muslim, kafir, mushrik, ahl-e-kitab, jihad, qital, farz, sunnat, ummah, etc.

I must explain this point a bit. Justice Munir Ahmad of Pakistan, investigating anti-Ahmadiya riots in 1954 asked leaders of all Islamic sects and schools of thought the question, who is a Muslim, in order to determine if Ahmadiyas can be called non-Muslims as many ulema were claiming. He found that no two ulema agreed on the definition of a Muslim.

Recently a researcher in Quran and a regular contributor to the Islamic website I edit NewAgeIslam.com studied all verses in Quran that have the word kafir or its variants. He concluded: “the Quran does not identify kafir by his/her belief or faith but by certain specific characteristics that make the person an active enemy of Religion, God and the people of faith. In Quran, a kafir is one who actively hinders people from practicing their faith, persecutes people of faith, opposes humanitarian practices such as giving of charity, shunning usury etc. A kafir could be a Muslim, Jew, and Christian, polytheist or atheist. The term is faith-neutral.” But none of the ulema we approached to discuss this understanding of the word Kafir, one of the main issues that divide Muslims with others, showed any excitement or even any willingness to engage with the issue. Similarly, no classical alim is genuinely prepared to treat Hindus, Christians, Jews, etc. as ahl-e-kitab (People of the Book), despite very clear instructions in the holy Quran. So it is absolutely imperative that Muslims confer with one another and develop a better understanding of many of the commonly used terms that terrorist ideologues use to lure our youth.

In a word, we must evolve a truly Islamic and a coherent theology of peace and co-existence, moderation and modernity, to counter the very coherent theology of violence and xenophobia, intolerance and supremacism that Jihadi ulema have created over centuries. All ulema say Islam is a religion of peace and co-existence. It's time for them to walk their talk. But if they refuse to consider change, we will need to directly reach the Muslim masses.

Finally, the larger Indian community too should introspect. As Daniel Pipes said in an international counter-terrorism conference in Jaipur recently, in this war of ideas, the world should not only encourage and support progressive, modern Muslims but also oppose and refrain from supporting the fundamentalists and extremists.

1.    Our national leadership supported Khilafat in 1920s, considering it an essential part of Islamic theology. That was wrong. Now we must repudiate that stance and acknowledge our mistake.

2.    Muslim Personal Law in India has not been reformed even to the extent it has been in Pakistan and Bangladesh. This must change. At least General Ayyub Khan’s reforms in Pakistan must be introduced and Ulema should be told to accept what their Pakistani and Bangladeshi counterparts did decades earlier. This is not a satisfactory solution but at least it will be a start and it is doable.

3.    Madrasa education is a serious violation of the human rights of Muslim children. It destroys their lives and fills their minds with xenophobia and intolerance. Our government not only allows this but partly funds some madrasas. This must stop, unless, of course, madrasas actually change to become modern versions of what madrasas used to be like, in the Golden Age of Islam, and produce scientists and philosophers. A secular, democratic government should not be in the business of funding xenophobia and intolerance.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/radical-islamism-and-jihad/sultan-shahin,-editor,-new-age-islam/preventing-further-radicalisation-is-the-challenge-muslims-must-undertake--some-concrete-suggestions/d/102729