By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New
political theology developed over centuries under conditions of empire but
elements of it continue to resonate to this very day”, writes Prof. Ebrahim
Moosa, noted scholar of Islamic thought, law, and theology. He has elucidated
in his paper as to what political theology is. It is in the words of Jan
Assmann, “the ever-changing relationships between political community and
religious order, in short, between power [authority] and salvation”, he writes
in his remarkable essay on Muslim political theology (1).
pro-government political theologians in Muslim countries have propounded a
complete political theology—an exclusivist and totalitarian theology which
undermines the democratic, moderate and progressive thoughts flourishing in the
liberal Muslim minds. Regrettably, many religionists in those countries are
falling prey to this unceasing ideology endangering their lives and
stigmatising the religion in general. Unless this retrogressive theology of
political hue is contested, there will be no way forward to progressive
thinking in Islam in the 21st century. It actually poses a direct ideological
threat to the rich spiritual traditions—unity of existence, pluralism and
multiculturalism—that Muslims have inherited in various countries.
deplorably for the gullible Muslims the world over, political theologians in
their countries have often legitimised the acts of sadism and persecution
perpetrated by the Islamist regime or extremist outfits.
begin with the topmost Islamist theologian of today, Shaikh Yusuf Al
Qaradawi—the chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. He has his
theological underpinnings behind his call to kill Syria’s armed forces,
civilians, religious clerics and even the common citizens which he calls
‘ignorants’ and “illiterates”. He blatantly states that it is permitted [in
religion] to target “anyone who supports the Syrian regime” (2).
al-Qaradawi, who is also the contemporary ideologue of the Egyptian extremist
outfit, Ikhwan-ul-Muslimin (Muslim Brotherhood), is the chief Islamist jurist
who secures fatwas and religious decrees in favour of the Qatar government’s
policies and practices. He is the first contemporary Islamist jurist to have
justified suicide bombing as a war tactic in ‘certain circumstances’. He gave
this fatwa in his worldwide exposure via Al-Jazeera television through his
weekly program “Sharia and Life” (al-Shari’awal-Hayat). Al-Qaradawi’s fatwas
justifying the violent jihad and suicide bombing provided theological
legitimacy to those fighting the Kuffar (infidels) and Murtaddin (apostates).
His fatwas also promoted and legitimized martyrdom operations referring to them
as “a higher form of jihad for the sake of Allah”, as Al Arabiya reported (3).
Al-Qardawi also stated that “he was not alone in believing suicide bombings as
legitimate form of self-defence for people who have no aircraft or tanks”.
“Hundreds of other Islamic scholars are of the same opinion”, he said.
Al-Qardawi is not alone in promulgating the takfirist political theology. There
are many equivalents of Al-Qardawi in today’s Muslim world. In Turkey, Sheikh
Hayrettin Karaman is the Islamic legal expert who can be better known as
‘Erdoğan’s chief fatwa-supporter’. He has approved of the torture, abuse and
the mass purge of the innocent civilians in Turkey. Karaman has issued several
religious edicts (fatwas) endorsing the wrongdoings of the Turkish President
and absolving his responsibilities. He wrote several articles in the Erdoğanist
newspaper, Yeni Şafak declaring the purge and persecution of the Turkish
civilians as “lesser crimes”.
Turkish President Recep Tyyip Erdogan has successfully secured the edicts
(fatwas) of the pro-government Islamist jurists and legal experts (muftis) in
order to satisfy his religious electorate. Several Turkish ulema and muftis
have endorsed his regime’s brutalities in the recent the mass purge of the
Turkish civilians. But Sheikh Hayrettin Karaman has emerged as the chief
Islamist theologian in Turkey and pro-Erdogan fatwa-issuer. In his recent
theological writings and columns, he has endorsed the grave human rights
violations under Erdogan’s autocratic regime. Karaman has passed as bizarre
fatwa as this: “Those who do not cast
votes in favour of the ruling party—Justice and Development Party (AKP)—are
opponents of Islam.” In his regular column published in what is known as the
Erdoganist mouthpiece Yeni Şafak, a Turkish newspaper, Karaman states that all
people in the “no camp” [no voters]—supporters of the main opposition
Republican People’s Party (CHP), pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP),
white Turks and Kemalists—are “opponents of Islam”. He writes: “Most of them
are notably from the CHP and HDP, white Turks, Kemalists — opponents of Islam,
fans of the West who are estranged from their own values, those who don’t want
Turkey to be strong, those who don’t want the Islamic world to be united, those
who don’t want Turkey and the East to leave the orbit designed by the West.
That is the main reason behind ‘no’”.
staggeringly, the political theologians and fatwa-issuers in Turkey like
Karaman have propounded an untenable theological justification for the rampant
corruption and persecution in the country. They aver that Turkey still falls
under the category of ‘Dar al-Harb’ (non-Islamic land) and, therefore, the
government’s Islamist forces who are doing ‘jihad’ in the country in order to
convert it into the ‘Dar al-Islam’ (abode of Islam) are well-intentioned and
‘infallible’. For them, winning the elections is winning an Islamic expedition
or ‘ghazwa’. Thus, the winners are entitled to maal-e-ghanimah (war booty).
They can bend Islamic rules, as per the needs, and also break the country’s
official law. Karaman also decreed in his fatwa that religious individuals and
groups can be sacrificed for the sake of the state. He cited the example of
Muhsin Yazycyoy-lu, a Turkish civilian who was killed in a dubious helicopter
accident. This is precisely how the political theologians of Islam produce
fatwas favouring Erdogan’s regime in Turkey and legitimizing his government’s
corruption and unlawful practices of his Islamist politicians.
this sorry state of affairs, noted Turkish academician, Ehsan Yilmaz, a
frequent contributor to Today's Zaman, an independent media outlet, which the
government has now shut down, writes:
elected Islamist politicians can get bribes in the form of 10 to 20 percent
commission on public tenders worth billions of dollars from building
contractors. Erdogan had to actually defend this corrupt practice after his
ministers were caught red-handed by prosecutors with concrete evidence. He
reportedly said that since it was not stolen from the treasury but given by the
businessmen, it was not corruption. Nevertheless, until the Dec. 17, 2013
corruption investigations, so few people knew this. After the December 17
investigation, Erdogan's chief fatwa-giver Hayrettin Karaman started writing
openly about these issues. I think, he was trying to convince Erdogan's
religious voters that: "Yes, Erdogan did corrupt things, but it was for
the dawah, jihad and the Islamist cause, not for himself."
interesting to note that Sheikh Karaman wrote two entire columns in the
pro-government Turkish newspaper—Yeni Safak—against the writings of Yhsan
Yilmaz, accusing him of committing ‘irtidad’ (apostasy)—the gravest sin in
Islam. “After this fatwa and Erdogan's proclamation at a public gathering that
I was a traitor, I have been receiving death threats. Since there is no
independent judiciary, I cannot even complain about these through appropriate
legal channels”, wrote Yilmaz (4).
the fanatic fatwas of Sheikh Karaman that looms large in the Turkish Muslim
society is against the participation in interfaith dialogue. He decried it as
‘un-Islamic’ in a bid to curb the peace activism and dialogue efforts of the
faith-based moderate Turkish community inspired by the Sufi-oriented scholar,
M. Fethullah Gülen. This fatwa has emboldened Gulen’s arch rival, Tyyep Erdogan
to categorically state in a speech during his visit to Pakistan on Nov.17, 2016
that, “interfaith-dialogue between Islam and Christianity is impossible” and
that the “dialogue with Vatican is ruled out”. Tellingly, Gulen has inspired
the global movement of Hizmet (service) with a worldwide network of volunteers
actively engaged in interfaith dialogue and peace activism with a broader
spectrum of cultures and faith traditions. But with the fatwa of the leading
political pro-government theologian in Turkey, Erdogan has launched a strike
against the Hizmet’s core belief in interfaith dialogue, religious pluralism
and peaceful coexistence of Muslims and non-Muslims. No wonder then, Sheikh
Karaman, in his fatwas against the Hizment, also known as the Gulen movement,
has ruled that the movement is working against the state interests and creating
‘fitnah’ (tribulation), thereby, it can legitimately be destroyed by the state.
Turkish President and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have come under
strong criticisms in the last several years for reintroducing torture, abuse
and ill-treatment in detention centres and prisons. But very few analysts and
observers have contested the political theology providing the stimulus behind
this spade of torture and mass persecution.
A New Age Islam columnist, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is
well-versed in Islamic Studies and comparative religion. He can be reached at