By Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam
26 September 2017
UNHRC, Item 9, General Debate, September 26, 2017,
Oral Statement by Sultan Shahin
On behalf of: Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum
Sixteen years after 9/11, the issue of Jihadi terrorism has become even more complex and widespread.
First, though Jihadism is a violent offshoot of Wahhabism and Salafism, the international community has allowed the fountainhead of Wahhabi/Salafi ideology to continue to spend tens of billions of dollars to Wahhabise the world Muslim community.
Second, we recently saw with horror, but without any protest from the international community, the sight of a UN-designated terrorist, with a ten-million-dollar bounty on his head, launch a political party and nominate another US-designated terrorist to contest democratic elections in Pakistan. Apparently, some countries can ignore UN directives with impunity.
Third, the Muslim community has failed to grasp that Jihadism spread so rapidly around the world because at its core it is not very different from the theology of consensus that informs the religious beliefs and practices of all Muslim sects. That is why Jihadis are not impressed when we Muslims either proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace and pluralism or when we try to wash our hands off Jihadism by claiming that it has nothing to do with Islam. If we Muslims want to live as honourable citizens in the 21st century’s globalised world, we must rethink our consensus theology in all its dimensions and make revolutionary changes to bring it in line with the needs of present times.
Let me elaborate a little on the similarities in the core theologies of Jihadism and mainstream Islam as well as suggest the contours of an alternative theology of peace and pluralism, inclusion and acceptance of diversity, respect for human rights and gender justice. What are the fundamental elements of theologies of all sects including Jihadism that are the same and what can be done about them. Let us discuss a few here briefly.
1. Infallibility, universality and uncreatedness of Quran, regardless of the context in which some of God's instructions came in Quran to guide the Prophet and his followers on matters that needed to be urgently taken care of then, but are no longer relevant in the vastly different circumstances today.
This belief is common to all sects and sub-sects of Islam today. There is a consensus around it. So Jihadis are not inventing a new theology if they say that those Muslims who do not follow the war-time verses of Quran literally by fighting the kuffar constantly or staying away from all non-Muslims in day-to-day matters are hypocritical, and that a good, honest Muslim is one who is perpetually engaged in offensive Jihad against non-Muslims. After all, this is what is taught in all religious schools or madrasas, regardless of the sect. We are told in our theological books that the only relationship between a Muslim and a non-Muslim is that of war, and that it is the religious duty of all Muslims to bring Islam to power in all corners of the world, either by persuasion or force.
A new theology would seek to break this consensus and try to convince Muslims that war-time verses of the Prophet’s time maybe important as a historical account of the near insurmountable difficulties the Prophet had to face to establish Islam but do not apply to us today in the 21st century. We cannot possibly be fighting similar wars. Muslims were fighting existential battles in the early seventh century. Islam was in its infancy and infants do need to be taken special care of. Now the seed that Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) planted in the inhospitable terrain of the Arabian desert has grown into a giant tree with branches across the world. There is no need for us to be fighting offensive Jihad “at least once a year” as Imam Ghazali advised in late 11th and early 12th century CE.
2. There is a consensus among ulema (religious scholars) of all sects that Hadith narrations (the alleged sayings of the Prophet) are akin to revelation, even though these were collected up to 300 years after the demise of the Prophet and contradict many of the core teachings of the Quran, the exhortations of God whose messenger the Prophet was. This theology of consensus implies that the Prophet spent the better part of his prophetic career preaching against the messages revealed to him in the holy Quran.
What has actually happened is that in the 48th year of the demise of the Prophet, his entire family was massacred and reins of power taken over by scions of the inveterate enemies of Islam who had fought battles against the Prophet and joined Islam only after his victory at Mecca, in a clear bid to subvert Islam from within when they failed to destroy it from outside. But they had to rule Muslims for whom Quran was the only holy scripture, which they understood, as well as had mostly memorized and written down. To undermine Quran, and create a distance between Muslims and the Quran, they evolved over the coming decades and centuries two institutions that remain very powerful until today. One was Hadith, that was called akin to revelation, and the other was that of Ulema or clerics who were proclaimed to be of the status of heirs to the Prophet, much better able to explain religion to Muslims than they themselves could.
The new theology will have to bring the focus back to Quran, and seek to dislodge both Hadith and Ulema from their present position of pre-eminence. These institutions evolved in the era of dynastic, despotic rulers, called Khalifas. It was natural for them to look for scriptural justifications for their exploitative, tyrannical, imperialist, expansionist, and supremacist policies. Not able to find justification for their policies in the Quran, which essentially guided Muslims on a spiritual path to salvation, they naturally created another scripture and put that on the same pedestal as Quran. The ulema were also deployed to subvert the meaning of Quran’s verses of war and make contextual verses into universally applicable instructions for permanent war.
3. Sharia Laws were first codified 120 years after the demise of the Prophet and have been changing since from time to time and place to place. It is only marginally based on Quran, most of it has been borrowed from pre-Islamic Arab practices. But the theology of consensus insists on calling it divine.
The new theology will go strictly by the spirit of Quran and allow Muslims to formulate their laws according to the needs of their time and place. Laws are and should remain dynamic and just.
4. The theology of consensus propounds a Doctrine of Abrogation, whereby earlier Meccan verses preaching peace and pluralism, patience and perseverance, religious freedom for all, etc., have been abrogated by later Medinan verses of war, asking Muslims to fight, and talking about virtues and rewards of contributing to war efforts in the way of God. It is said that the so-called sword verse (9: 5) alone has abrogated 114 verses of peace and pluralism revealed in early Islam at Mecca.
The new theology of peace should emphasise that the Meccan verses are the foundational and constitutive verses of Islam. They cannot be abrogated by any later verses of war. The Doctrine of Abrogation will need to be rejected in toto. It is the latter Medinan verses of war that have lost their relevance not the original Islam preaching peace and pluralism as revealed at Mecca.
5. The concept of Caliphate has no basis in Quran, but our theology considers it almost mandatory. This consensus view needs to be corrected in the new theology.
6. The theology of consensus is of the view that Muslims should migrate from Land of Conflict (Darul Harb) which is dominated by non-Muslims to Darul Islam (land of Islam). This has no basis in Quran. This is not even practical in contemporary world, though ulema keep using these terms. Even individuals have great difficulty getting visas to visit any country, these days, what to speak of millions of Muslims settling down in, say, Saudi Arabia, the pre-eminent Darul Islam. Saudis did not take even one Syrian refugee despite their horrible situation, though Germany (so-called Darul Harb) took a million Muslim refugees out of compassion for the suffering humanity. The new theology will have to reject such medieval ideas as completely irrelevant and un-Quranic.
Clearly Muslims have much hard work to do. We will need to bring about revolutionary changes in our theology to make it compatible with the holy Quran as well as the needs of modern times.
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Shahin sahib’s latest comment to Mr. Naseer is worth focusing.
I agree that critical
and objective approach to any scholar of the past is most welcome and that the “use
of insulting, contemptuous language for the revered scholars” is not good.
How did kafir come to mean disbeliever in the post classical period except through bigotry of the scholars? How did fitna come to mean shirk? How did Shuhuda come to mean martyr? How did fight to end persecution become fight to end shirk? It takes some effort and bigotry to distort the meaning of words and verses.
You are free to revere the imams and scholars and denigrate the Quran instead. The Book is clear, lucid and poses no problem if taken literally. It is rejecting the literal meaning by the scholars and their fanciful interpretations employing verbal acrobatics which is the problem. However, my clearing up the confusion caused by them appears to you as verbal acrobatics. Strange indeed!
The proper way to fight the tradionalist/extremist/bigot is not to imitate them which is to fall into a trap. In a war of abrogation and misinterpretation, the tradionalist/extremist/bigot is way ahead and has all the ulema, imams, muftis of the past and present on their side. The way to fight them is to expose their hypocrisy and distortion of the message as I have been doing. However, in this forum, when I criticise such scholarship, it is strongly defended by of all people, Shahin sb and Yunus sb!
I have shown that the so called “sword verses” by themselves, without considering any context outside of the Quran, or any other verse, gives a message of compassion, reconciliation and accommodation and is consistent with the rest of the Quran. No part of the Quran promotes mindless violence. When no verse of the Quran contradicts another, where is the case for treating any verse as abrogated? The verses that you would like to be ignored have been considered by me in formulating the “Principles of war in Islam”. What part of this do you find irrelevant for the 21st century?
The Principles of War from the Quran
The failure is of Islamic theology that while it gave us the five pillars and the six articles of faith, it has failed to codify the Islamic principles of war and the principles for maintaining inter-faith relations and gender related issues. The remedy lies in filling this gap and not in ignoring any of the verses. Those who advocate ignoring any part of the Quran will be ignored as apostates and hypocrites by those who wish to follow the Quran faithfully.
2:85 Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? but what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?- and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
(47:24) Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur´an, or are their hearts locked up by them?(25) Those who turn back as apostates after Guidance was clearly shown to them,- the Evil One has instigated them and busied them up with false hopes.(26) This, because they said to those who hate what Allah has revealed, "We will obey you in part of (this) matter"; but Allah knows their (inner) secrets.
There can be no dispute that the principles underlying every verse are of eternal relevance. The solution lies in extracting those principles and living by them. I have covered these in my articles:
The Principles of War from the Quran
Islam's Relationship With The Rest Of The Word - The Current Problem Of Extremism In A False Ideology And The Antidote From An Authentic Understanding Of The Truly Humanistic Message Of The Quran
The problem with the bigoted and sub-standard Islamic scholarship is that they have corrupted the meaning of the Quran by corrupting the meaning of the words which is what prevents the clear principles from emerging which is what must be set right. Islamic scholars will have to answer to the following;
How and when did kafir come to mean disbeliever?
How did Shuhuda become martyr?
How did fitna come to mean shirk itself?
How did the permission to fight the persecutors become permission to fight to end disbelief?
….and many more questions.
For the young (full of idealism and eagerness to follow Islam), if the only choice that they have, is to follow the path of the tradionalist/extremist/bigot or the path of the apostate/hypocrite, many will choose the former as they have done till now. The path of the hypocrite/apostate was always open to them from the times of the Prophet (pbuh) and many were/are hypocrites/apostates. That is nothing new. To wean the idealistic youth away from the path of the tradionalist/extremist/bigot, the alternative must be a demonstrably authentic version of Islam that makes the tradionalist/extremist/bigot look like the misguided people that they are. Fortunately, Islam is fundamentally and literally a religion of peace believing in peaceful co-existence with the rest of the people and the task is therefore easy and straight forward if the people are honest and straight forward.