By Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam
November 14, 2013
I have been talking about
the growing impact of Wahhabism in India, including on Sufi institutions, for a
long time. Now an important article has appeared in the Frontline Magazine, which
more or less substantiates the same point, though it does not talk about the Wahhabisation
of Sufism in India. Before I offer this article to New Age Islam readers, let
me provide some background in which to view the issue of grave concern to
Indian Muslims. Unfortunately, few Muslims look at the issue with the gravity
and concern that it deserves. Indeed, many simply criticise me for highlighting
the issue and indeed accuse me of seeking to divide the community.
Though Wahhabism started
making a noticeable impact since 1974 when Saudi Arabian economy started getting
a massive injection of Petrodollars. But Wahhabism has been spread aggressively
since the 1744 pact between Muhammad bin Saud and Muhammad ibn ʿAbdul Wahhab which marked
the emergence of the first Saudi state. But even
before that Mohammad Abdul Wahhab had started implementing his perverted ideas
of stoning women accused of adultery to death and destroying Islamic heritage
buildings with the help of Uthman ibn Mu'ammar, the ruler of his native village
Uyayna in Najd. He had personally organised the stoning of a woman accused of
committing adultery a la Taliban and
Boko Haram in our times. Even before meeting Ibn-e-Saud he had destroyed the
grave of Zayd ibn al-Khattab, a companion of Prophet Muhammad (saw), whose
shrine was revered by the local population. After the pact with
Ibn-e-Saud, of course, a wave of killings and destruction of Islamic heritage
Wahhabi preaching and practice of forcible conversion to Wahhabism (which was
considered synonymous with Islam, as Wahhabis do not consider non-Wahhabis
Muslim), killing of those who did not convert, and destruction of Islamic
heritage has been going on for almost 300 years. Wahhabis consider themselves
non-sectarian, as they believe only their sect has the divine right to survive.
Once all Muslims have been forced to convert to Wahhabism or been killed,
sectarianism will vanish. Mohammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab’s mentor Ibn-e-Taimiyya
was violently opposed to the idea of different people interpreting Quran in
their own way. He just wanted his own interpretation to prevail.
has given the spread of Wahhabism an immense impetus. It has been there for
quite some time (discovery of oil in 1938 and large-scale exploitation after
World War II), but the volume of petrodollar quadrupled all of a sudden at the
end of 1973 following the Arab-Israeli war of October 1973. And since then the
crude oil prices have been spiralling much to the detriment of peaceful,
One of the mysteries of how
Wahhabism spread around the world is the support it got from the West. The West
did not object to Saudis massively increasing the volume of money they spent on
indoctrination of Muslims around the world into Wahhabi ideology and forcing
them to adopt seventh century Arab cultural norms and practices like stoning
women to death if they dared to show the slightest amount of independence. All
that happens in Saudi Arabia in terms of treatment of women or happened in
Afghanistan under Taliban (and probably will happen again elsewhere, most
likely in Africa and Middle East) was a manifestation of Wahhabi ideology in
action. The West probably did not object because Wahhabism had helped them
defeat the last Muslim Khilafat, Turkish Khilafat-e-Osmania, and would (they
apparently hope, according to a widespread conspiracy theory among
Sufi-Barailwis) help them destroy Islam finally, something crusaders had failed
to do in the absence of Wahhabism. The conspiracy theorists ask: have you
noticed the reverence with which Wahhabism is treated in the Western media:
they call it a puritan sect. This leniency towards Wahhabism continues even
after 9/11 in which 16 out of 19 terrorists were Saudi Wahhabis and the rest
Egyptians schooled in Wahhabi ideology.
According to this
ideology, Muslims should never befriend non-Muslims including those Muslims who
are not yet Wahhabi. There is a reason why the West is helping Saudi
Wahhabism’s latest project: to install Al-Qaeda dictatorship in all erstwhile
secular Muslim dictatorships. Have you not noticed the Wahhabi demand in
largest-circulated Pakistani newspapers: “Kafirs (Shias) convert to Islam
(Wahhabism), or pay jizya, or leave
the country, or be responsible for being killed, your women being made
concubines of your Wahhabi killers, and children being enslaved by them?”
This is not just a demand: it is actually being implemented.
However, I would like to
clarify, that not all those i who consider themselves Wahhabi are exclusivist
or takfiris, i.e. those who consider all other Muslims Kafir. Even those
whose ancestors turned to Wahhabism a hundred years ago, may still be
inclusivist, peaceful people, not aware of the details of Wahhabi ideology.
They are merely opposed to qabr parasti (grave worship) and fateha
khwani (offering sweets or food to
the dead ancestors amidst recitals of Quran’s verses) and practised
rituals like saying aaameeen loudly at the end of Surah Fateha in
nimaz, as against non-Wahhabis who
say the same Aameen softly. By and large, that is as far
as their Wahhabism went. It’s only in the last decades that some Wahhabis’ mind-set
has gradually changed towards exclusivism, xenophobia, intolerance and radicalism.
1.6 billion Muslims in the world would not abide by the tenets of Islam if they
considered it a religion of violence and intolerance. Most Muslims live
peacefully everywhere in the world. Yes, with the onslaught of Wahhabism and
the massive propaganda unleashed by the US-protected Saudi regime, the
situation is changing, has already changed quite a bit. Many people who still
consider themselves Sufi/Bareilwi have also turned intolerant and are accepting
force and coercion and violence as an ideology. Their madrasas have stopped
teaching many Sufi books. They are becoming Wahhabi in their mind-set, though
many are not even aware of it.
is the biggest protector of Wahhabi Islam even after 9/11 in which all the
terrorists involved were Wahhabi, 16 out of 19 Saudi and three
Egyptians. It has not stopped Saudi Arabia from spending tens of billions of
petrodollars exporting Wahhabi Islam. Scores of chartered planes fly from
Jeddah practically every day carrying Tablighis to all corners of the world,
seeking to impose Seventh-century Arab cultural norms on Muslims.
Muslims are inheritors of a 5,000-year-old civilisation. Our civilisation was
the best in the world in every possible way. But we are being told we must now
supplant our culture with the desert Bedouin culture of 7th century Arabia. We
should all become illiterate 7th century baddus, if we want to remain
Muslim, so we are told. We should start raiding rival sect’s colonies, kill the
men, possess their women as concubines, and enslave their children, as is
already happening in Pakistan.
history. Wahhabi Islam would not have been able to install itself in what was
then Hejaz (now the only country in the world to be named after a king and
called Saudi Arabia) and destroy over 300 Islamic monuments from the earliest
period of Islam without British help. It would not be able to destroy the
remaining Islamic sites today without American help. There perhaps is a reason
why all forces opposed to Islam call Wahhabi Islam as true Islam, never
question their ideology, do everything possible to propagate Wahhabism as true
Opposing qabr parasti
(grave-worship) doesn't make one a Wahhabi. It's simple common sense. A
manifestation of our belief in tauheed. However, destroying Sufi
shrines, raising to the ground all historical monuments associated with the
earliest period of Islam, killing people who visit Sufi shrines, including some
jahil qabr parasts (ignorant
grave-worshippers), does make one a follower of the Wahhabi
ideology as propagated by Syed Qutub and Maulana Maudoodi in the last century, Ibn-e-Taimiya
in the 13th-14th century and Mohammad ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab in the 18th century.
Even maintaining silence over the spiralling violence does make one a Wahhabi
or at least a tacit supporter of Wahhabi violence.
[Incidentally most people
who visit Sufi shrines are not qabr parasts (grave-worshippers). They go there to show their
reverence to Sufis, and learn about people who spent a lifetime in the worship
of God, lived a pious life, preached love of God and humanity, and who
introduced our ancestors to Islam and were and are loved by all communities,
thus making the occasion a multicultural event promoting integration.]
This inclusivist religious culture associated with Sufi shrines in the
Indian sub-continent is now under threat. As a matter of fact, Wahhabi
militants are not only threatening but actually going into Sufi mosques and
shrines and blowing themselves up, having been convinced by their ideologues
that by doing so they will go to Heaven. Easiest route to Heaven is push the
button on your suicide belt in a mosque or a Sufi shrine or destroy a Muslim
girls' school. The militant Wahhabi ideologues know that they will not be able
to justify indiscriminate killing of innocents of any community, much less
Muslims of any sect, on the basis of Quran. That would be well-nigh impossible.
Quran very clearly stands for peace and compassion for all. So, instead of
debate, terrorism is being encouraged. The earlier Muslims in India too realise
the dangers of growing Wahhabi impact on their community the better. I hope
readers would benefit from the following article, considering it an objective
voice of reason.
--- Sultan Shahin, Editor, New
By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta
November 13, 2013
THE PHENOMENON of Islamist terrorism has received considerable attention in recent times. Pointing to a trend of increasing radicalisation of Indian Muslims, Indian intelligence has expressed concern that it is becoming a paramount national security issue. However, in looking at Islamist fundamentalism as one of the causes for communal polarisation in the country, many observers tend to portray the Muslim community as a homogeneous group. The Muslim society is equally worried about the growing radicalisation of Indian Muslims.
In fact, the increasing influence of radical streams, especially Wahhabism, within Islam; the rising Islamophobia across the world; and the strengthening of Hindu nationalist forces in India are issues that are frequently debated among Indian Muslims. The growth of radical Islamist streams became visible only in the past two decades. The unprecedented polarisation of the political environment in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 not only broke a long history of communal harmony in India but also gave rise to insecurities in both Hindu and Muslim societies. Fundamentalist groups in both societies, interested in creating communal disharmony, found ample scope for the radicalisation of the youth. Communal riots have erupted before 1992, but systematic campaigns to polarise religious groups gained currency only post-Babri Masjid.
The influence of Wahhabi Islam in the Indian Muslim community started growing around this period. Indian Muslims have a long tradition of Sufi Islam or what is called the Barelvi tradition. A milder form of Wahhabism exists in the subcontinent in the form of the Deoband theological school, which commands a large following but has always coexisted with other forms of Islamic traditions. This has made Islamic practices in India dynamic and syncretic. No wonder then that many sections of the Muslim community have resisted the strict code of conduct and practice of a “puritanical” religion advocated by the Wahhabis.
The time when Wahhabism was trying to get a foothold in India was also a time when the Muslim community was trying to strategise its resistance and highlight its concerns. The secular section of the community believed that in order to contain the growing radicalisation, the insecurities among Muslims would have to be addressed. A large section of the community believed that the problems could be resolved within the democratic framework of the Indian state, a reflection of the faith it reposed in India’s secular ethos. This has been the legacy of the Indian state since the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1969, in which many Muslim-majority countries participate. A second group of Muslims doubted the Indian state’s intentions to resolve the problems facing the community and campaigned against its inconsistency in upholding secularism. It challenged the Indian state within the constitutional and secular framework, by seeking political action through civil society groups. These groups also canvassed for Hindu-Muslim unity in the face of an adverse environment. The third group, comprising clerics belonging to a few revivalist schools and some Western-educated Muslims, denounced the capacity of the state to be secular altogether and believed that only the true practice of Islam could redeem the community. It is among members of this group that Wahhabism, a revivalist movement founded by the 18th century theologian Abd al-Wahhab in Saudi Arabia, started to gain ground.
The Wahhabi movement denounced all the Islamic schools of jurisprudence which it thought wrongly interpreted the Quran. It championed Tauhid (the oneness of Allah) and argued against the Shafi, Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali schools of jurisprudence. It advocated “going back” to the Quran and the Sharia (Islamic law). It described Islam as a “code of life” and not a religion, in the same way the Sangh Parivar describes Hindutva as “way of life”. The Wahhabis demanded a return to the Salaf (golden age of Islam, the caliphate). The movement found political patronage in Saudi Arabia, which continues to adhere to its principles. In the early 20th century, Wahhabism flourished with renewed vigour when Maulana Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, and Sayyid Qutb, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, espoused its ideals to form a “true Islamic society and considered proselytisation as true jihad”. Wahhabism considers the Western world and people from other religions Jahiliya (ignorant) and believes that fighting against them will lead one to Allah (God) because, according to Wahhabism, only Islamic law can ensure a just society.
The majority of Muslims find this strand of Islam fundamentalist. Ali Mamouri, a theologian based in Iran, says: “The fundamentalists emerged not out of conservative circles but rather out of reformist movements which were aiming for an ‘Islamic awakening’. The goal of fundamentalism is to return to the ‘sacred text’, carefully executing what it says, without any interpretations, and rejecting the official, and more conservative, historical interpretations of it.”
It is not surprising that most militant Islamist outfits, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jammat-ud-Dawa, draw their inspiration from the strict theology of Wahhabism. Embracing this insular approach towards Islam, these outfits justify severe punishments such as beheading, stoning to death and flogging of people who do not follow the Sharia. Wahhabis consider all modern governments illegitimate as they are an intervention in the workings of the Sharia.
With the passage of time, this tradition of Islam gradually lost acceptance except in Saudi Arabia, only to find new strength in the 1990s. “Saudi Arabia pumped millions of petrodollars into the madrasas and mosques of the subcontinent to propagate the Wahhabi theology,” Javed Anand, general secretary of Muslims for Secular Democracy and co-editor of Communalism Combat, told Frontline. “This led to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and its influence travelled east for the ‘liberation’ of Kashmiri Muslims,” he added.
“No doubt the continued bleeding of Palestine, Bosnia and Chechnya provided extra charge to global jihad. But it is important to remember that Maududi had fore grounded global jihad on the Muslim agenda before the surfacing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Qutub’s vision, too, was never limited to the solution of the Palestinian problem,” Javed Anand has written in an article in Seminar.
Observers have pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s brand of Islam was tacitly promoted by its most important ally, the United States. “We all knew it but it was exposed in the recent war on Syria. Recently, on the instruction of the U.S., Saudi Arabia stopped channeling Zakat’s [Islamic tax] fund to a few madrasas, which means that Washington controls where the money goes from Saudi Arabia. Recently, a Saudi Minister went on record saying that thousands of youth from his country have gone to Iraq to wage jihad. Both the U.S. and Israel are against Islamic fundamentalism but they shelter its most vociferous supporter, Saudi Arabia,” said senior journalist Md Ahmad Kazmi.
It is the promotion of Wahhabism in the Kashmir Valley that led to the bombing of Sufi Dargahs. The Wahhabis advocated a ban on music, a prominent feature of the subcontinent’s Sufi Islam, and issued directives to make the wearing of the Burqa by Muslim women compulsory. They also introduced new prayer rituals. “The attack on Charar-ei-Sharief and other Dargahs in the recent past can be contextualised within this Wahhabi campaign,” Md Ahmad Kazmi said. He said that the growing conflict between the Shia and Sunni sects could be attributed to the increasing influence of Wahhabism. “After the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran, the conflicts between Shias and Sunnis had decreased tremendously. The re-energising of Wahhabis in India is precipitating renewed conflicts. The Wahhabis teach that killing Shias will lead them [its followers] to Jannat [heaven],” he added. He pointed out that the influence of Wahhabism was spreading in the rural areas of north India and was leading to the destruction of Dargahs and Sufi shrines. (Wahhab had condemned the cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visits.)
Influence in South India
The influence of Wahhabism is much stronger in south India than in the north. Groups such as the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its political front, the Social Democratic Party of India, have gained considerable influence in Kerala and coastal Karnataka. Reports about the PFI running terrorist camps in northern Kerala surfaced last year, following which several PFI leaders were arrested. In July 2010, PFI activists reportedly chopped off a professor’s hand, apparently for preparing a question paper with blasphemous references to the Prophet Muhammad.
The PFI has been charged with kidnapping and also the murder of several Communist Party of India (Marxist) activists and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh workers in northern Kerala. Political observers have opined that Wahhabism in south India is an import from the Gulf region, where many south Indians have migrated for work.
One of the main activities of the Wahhabi groups in India is mobilisation of students groups in colleges. The PFI and its front organisations have begun to wield considerable influence in many private colleges. In their desire to take forward their understanding of puritanical Islam, they issue diktats against Muslim women who refuse to wear the Burqa. Rayana R. Kazi moved the Kerala High Court in 2010 seeking police protection after she received threatening phone calls asking her not to wear jeans and shirt. Similarly, Shirin Middya, a lecturer in Aliah University near Kolkata, was asked by the students union to wear a burqa if she wanted to teach. The students’ union even banned her from entering the university premises.
In Tamil Nadu, too, the influence of Wahhabism has increased in rural areas. The Tamil poet Salma said: “A woman writing is considered a sin. It was very difficult. People would come and threaten my family.” Pointing out that the level of intolerance had increased in recent years, she said that the Wahhabis advocate child marriage, discourage women from studying, and campaign among Muslim families to live according to the Sharia laws. “You cannot question the traditional way of divorce in front of them. They become militant,” she said.
The PFI is said to be an offshoot of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which was banned in 2001. SIMI functioned as a student movement but bracketed Islam within the strict codes of Wahhabism.
“The nefarious nature of SIMI has been evident from the moment it emerged from the womb of the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1977. Character building to fight against the perceived twin evils of communism and capitalist consumerism with its ‘degenerate morality’ was the declared objective. But in less than a decade, this self-styled moral brigade metamorphosed into ‘the real inheritor’ of the legacy of the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, who argued that all Muslims must strive for an Islamic state. True to its ideological mooring, in the ’80s, SIMI produced eye-catching stickers proclaiming ‘Secularism, NO; Democracy, NO; Nationalism, NO; Polytheism, NO; Only Islam’. These stickers adorned many Muslim homes and shops throughout India,” Javed Anand has said in one of his essays.
At its Mumbai meeting in 2001, SIMI for the first time declared that the time had come for Indian Muslims to launch an armed jihad to establish an Islamic caliphate. Posters issued by SIMI following the demolition of the Babri Masjid had declared: Ya Ilahi, bhej de Mahmood koi (Oh Allah, send us a Mahmud), in reference to the Turkish conqueror Mahmud of Ghazni.
“These groups, while trying to impose a strict Sharia code of conduct in Muslim households, are also changing the language of Indian Muslims. They advocate the use of Allah hafiz as a parting phrase as opposed to the traditional Khuda hafiz,” Kazmi said. Allah, an Arabic word for God, is considered appropriate by the Wahhabis as opposed to Khuda, which is a Persian word. “They ask [Muslims] to keep chanting Allah hoo to call God, but they are strictly against finding meaning in Quran or studying the history of Islam. They are trying to box the religion,” Kazmi added. Similarly, these clerical groups force Indian Muslims to address the Islamic holy month as Ramadan (which is Arabic), as opposed to Ramzan.
The phenomenal rise of two Wahhabi groups, Tablighi Jamaat and Ahle-Hadith, in the past five years is noteworthy. Tablighi Jamaat has been growing stronger, especially in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. This group is trying to appropriate the syncretic culture of “Aalmi Tablighi Ijtema” (world conference held in Bhopal), which attracts at least 10 lakhs of the faithful every year. Tablighi Jamaat wants to hold similar Ijtema in Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and Hyderabad. Tablighis reportedly also control the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and most Waqf boards. Its members visit villages and hold congregations of local Muslims and propagate the group’s six-point programme. The six tenets are: Kalimah, which teaches Muslims to follow only Allah and no other God; Salat, which stresses the need to pray five times a day; Ilm and zikr, which invoke the Hadith; Ikram-e-Muslim, which stresses the need to respect other Muslims; and Dawah, which urges every Muslim to live according to the Islamic virtues practiced by the Prophet. Apart from this, the Jamaat encourages its followers to go on Khuruj, a conversion tour.
Such hard-line teaching is also preached by the Ahle-Hadith, which denounces all other traditions of Islam and claims to follow true Islam. It invokes Hadith, accompanied by the Quran, and is strictly opposed to the Sufi tradition. Both these groups promote a minimalistic lifestyle and irreverence towards other cultures.
Influence on Politics
The growing influence of Wahhabism is having considerable impact on the Indian political scene, especially south Indian politics. Parties such as the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK), considered to be moderate parties, have started taking hard-line stances. The IUML recently supported the campaign for a separate Tirur district to be carved out of the existing Malappuram district.
This campaign was originally started by the SDPI in 2010 and subsequently it gained resonance in the Gulf region among the migrant Muslims of Kerala. The SDPI had originally demanded a new district comprising Tirur, Tirurangadi and Ponnani Taluks and some portions of the Chavakkad region in Thrissur district. This led to intense communal debates, especially between the upper-caste Nair community and the SDPI.
In another instance, the IUML quoted the Sharia in its circulars to demand that the marriageable age for Muslim girls be reduced from 18 years. The party leaders also declined to light lamps at public functions, claiming that it was a Hindu practice.
In Tamil Nadu, the TMMK has displayed aggression in its protests. It demanded a ban on Kamal Hassan’s Vishwaroopam and some other films ostensibly for being anti-Muslim. In 2008, it demanded that Muslims be allowed entry into a mosque located in a protected monument.
Kalanthai Peer Mohamed, the award-winning Tamil writer, commentator and observer of Muslim politics and culture, told The Hinduon August 5: “Within the TMMK itself, a radical wing emerged, led by the charismatic P. Zain ul Abideen, who formed the TNTJ [Tamil Nadu Tawheed Jamat]…. The TNTJ, largely a one-man show, eschews electoral politics and confines itself to its communal ideals. It blindly backs acts of omission and commission committed by the Arab world under the garb of Islam. When the whole world found the beheading of the Sri Lankan Tamil Muslim girl, Rizwana, revolting, Zain ul Abideen vociferously justified the act. It’s worrying that the community in Tamil Nadu does not have representatives who can articulate their voice in a reasonable manner within a broad humanistic and universalistic framework.”
Some political observers, however, say that parties such as the IUML and the TMMK have been courting and serving feudal interests of affluent Muslims. Behind most of the issues raised by them are the commercial interests of a few leaders of these parties. But the issues have subsequently been communalised. A case in point is the communalisation of the IUML’s campaign to start four universities in Malappuram district. It later turned out to be an effort to appease the real estate interests of the Muslim elite and some party leaders. A cause of concern for secular Muslims of Kerala is the increasing criminalisation of parties such as the IUML in recent years.
The electoral impact of these organisations and cultural fronts promoting “true Islam” has been minimal. However, several Wahhabi groups, such as the Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force, the Muslim Defence Force, and the Islamic Defence Force, were founded in the past decade. Most of these organisations engage in proselytisation activities. But there are no reports of their involvement in terrorist activities. Acting as the cultural vanguard of “true Islam”, these organisations invoke the sense of injustice among Indian Muslims and pave the way for their cultural assimilation. There is the possibility of working-class Muslims, already strained by poverty and injustice, getting carried away by such campaigns.
It would be inappropriate to say that the Wahhabis have been highly successful because they do face resistance from Sufi traditions. As opposed to the theories of Hindutva ideologues, it is the pluralistic practice of Islam in the subcontinent that acts as a strong defence against such insular radicalisation. Indian Muslims, not Hindus, are facing the brunt of such radical tendencies. However, if the Indian state fails to adhere to its secular ethos, a far worse situation could arise.
The anthropologist Irfan Ahmad noted in one of his papers on SIMI: “The formation of such illegal groups by a segment of Muslim population also points towards an affinity between the geography of riots and cartography of Islamist radicalism. Over 15% or 20% of SIMI’s members came from Maharashtra, Gujarat and U.P., States where the masculine, virulent Hindutva has far more impact, and which have a history of the worse riots in the past two decades.” It is, therefore, binding on the government to intervene positively to address the problems of Indian Muslims.
Dear Naseer Saheb Observer. All you say about Barailvism may
indeed be true, some I know myself
to be true. But Sufi shrines and Barailwi visitors to the shrines in the
sub-continent and spiritually inclined peaceful Muslims everywhere are under
attack. Saying that peaceful victims are also bad people is no defence of the
terrorist. It is only an attempt by you, as usual, to divert the issue.
one thing that we learn from you is that Wahhabi-Salafi extremism cannot be
defended. There is no defence. Saying, as you and Mohd Younus Rational keep
saying, that victims of Islamic terrorism are also bad people, given the
opportunity they will also kill, does not exonerate the Islamist killers and
destroyers of Sufi shrines and Islamist heritage.
Mr Sultan Shahin,
The myth of tolerance
among the Barelvis was exposed long ago when Ahmad Reza Barelvi, the founder of
this sect and his supporters did not participate in non-co-operation movement
against the British on the plea that it was led by a Hindu leader Mahatma
Gandhi. Pronouncing a fatwa he not only denounced the Deobandis as Kafirs and
condemned them for accepting the leadership of a Hindu leader during freedom
movement but also criticised those Muslims who joined hands with Kafirs
(non-believers) even if it was for attaining Islamic objectives. His fatwa
warned the Muslims neither to attend to the ailing non-Muslims nor to
participate in their funerals.
As a foremost campaigner
of Sufism, Ahmad Reza was also responsible for bringing the Indian Muslims into
conflict with the Hindus by providing the theoretical basis for asserting a
separate national identity in support of two-nation theory. It was the joint
effort of the Barelvis and the Muslim Leaguers who spearheaded a movement for
creation of a separate state of Pakistan for the Muslims.
A fact not to be missed is that except
Deobandis, all the other Islamic sects in Indian sub-continent like Barelvis,
Shias, Ismailis and Ahmadias joined the Muslim League and strongly supported
But a review of the
history of Pakistan movement suggests that majority of the All India Muslim
League leaders from Bihar, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and the erstwhile undivided
Bombay state who were from elite section of the community belonged to the
Barelvi Sect. After partition they migrated to Karachi, the then capital of
Pakistan and Barelvis still constitute the single ethnic majority in this city.
It equally represents
religious orthodoxy and share most of the perspectives of terrorism and want to
establish Islamic political order as articulated by them.
By the middle of
nineteenth century the central authority of Islamic power in Delhi became weak
and a sizeable section of Ulema took advantage of the Sepoy Revolt of 1857 and
tried to turn it into Jihad which was crushed by the British. Another section
of Ulema particularly the parental family of Ahmad Riza Khan and their clan
remained aloof from this Jihad. The British exploited the situation and remained
soft towards the followers of Ahmad Riza Khan.
Barelvis have an
unrelenting aversion to the Deobandis and Deobandi-aligned movements such as
the Nadwat al-Ulema, the Tablighi Jamaat and Jamaat-e-Islami.
If Pakistan which is
dominated by Barelvi sunnis is the epicenter of terrorism, then who is
responsible but the Barelvis who dominate both politics, army and the
Who are in the forefront
of blasphemy cases to harrass the minorities in Pakistan? The Barelvis of
course. Who are in the forefront in the abduction and forced conversions of
Hindu girls? The Sufi/Barelvis.
From temple to shrine:
Formation of the Sunni
Pir Ilyas Qadri's
reluctance to adopt violence against Deobandi jihadi groups led to a
mini-rebellion among his followers, particularly those who had studied at
Barelvi madrassahs. Consequently, a small group led by Saleem Qadri founded the
Sunni Tehrik in 1990. Saleem Qadri wanted to meet Deobandi violence with more
violence, as Pir Ilyas Qadri's "non-violence was not taking the Barelvis
anywhere." However, Saleem Qadri
did not break his religious allegiance to Pir Ilyas Qadri even after leaving
his group, nor did he ask his followers to break links with the Dawat-e-Islami.
This approach worked and soon the ranks of the Sunni Tehrik swelled. The
membership of the Dawat-e-Islami and the Sunni Tehrik also overlaps at the
lower levels with several other Barelvi groups.
The Jamaat Ahle Sunnat
Challenges the Military's Pro-Jihad Policies
Saleem Qadri had played
an important role in radicalizing the Barelvi youth, though neither he nor his
spiritual leader, Pir Ilyas Qadri, were able to provide effective leadership to
the ever growing numbers of restless Barelvi youth. This leadership was
eventually provided by the hitherto dormant Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, the religious
party of the Ahle Sunnat ulema. Dawat-e-Islami and the Sunni Tehrik had played
an important part in reviving the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, which held a convention
in Multan on April 1-2, 2000. It was the biggest gathering of Barelvi groups in
more than a century. The convention was very critical of the Pakistani
military's pro-jihad policy and support to Deobandi groups. In his speech,
Jamaat leader Syed Riaz Hussain Shah came down hard on the military, saying:
"If the civil war in Kashmir is the right policy, the government must
involve all the Muslims in it. It will be dangerous, as is becoming evident, to
arm only a few sects [such as the Deobandis]." However, the most important thing was that the
Jamaat Ahle Sunnat had adopted the Sunni Tehrik narrative of a forceful defense
of Barelvi interests as its own. The Jamaat Ahle Sunnat emerged much stronger
after the convention and began to play a major part in the country's Islamist
The first opportunity
for the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat to show its strength came in the fall of 2005, when
Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper published 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet
of Islam as a terrorist. The cartoons created anger among Muslims across the
world. The fiercest demonstrations took place in Pakistan, where the Jamaat
Ahle Sunnat and other Barelvi groups (including Dawat-e-Islami and the Sunni
Tehrik), remained in the forefront of the demonstrations and sustained them for
months. Every time the government indicated its intention of amending the
blasphemy laws, the Islamists descended to the streets with a vengeance. Again,
each time the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat and other Barelvi groups were in the forefront
of the protests. The Jamaat Ahle Sunnat also led demonstrations against the
release of Aasia Bibi, an illiterate Christian farm worker and mother of five
who was accused of committing an act of blasphemy (insulting the Prophet
Muhammad) and sentenced to death by a lower court based on the evidence of her
Although the Barelvis
are the majority Muslim sect in Pakistan and in South Asia, Pakistan's
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), under Saudi pressure, did not allow them to
take part in the Afghan jihad. When the jihad in Afghanistan started in 1980,
the Saudis agreed to match American donations dollar for dollar, but also made
sure that the Barelvis and
Shias were kept out of the jihad although the Barelvis are more hardline than the
Deobandis in many respects. However, the Barelvis show their street
muscle through their numerical strength. The groups discussed in this article
make up the backbone of the growing Barelvi/Sufi extremism in Pakistan. While
the Dawat-e-Islami prepares the masses and the Sunni Tehrik counters violence
from Deobandi and Ahle Hadith groups with more violence, the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat
dominates the street with its madrassah-educated cadres to promote Sufi
Islamism. The assassination of Governor Salman Taseer shows that Sufi Islamism
can be a bulwark against or an alternative to Deobandi and Ahle Hadith jihadism
but it is in its own way as great a threat to international security as the
militancy of the Deobandi and Ahle Hadith movements.
Only the non-Barelvi scholars are known to take principled stands
It was the Jamate Islami
leader Maulana Mududi who refused to sanctify the incursions in Kashmir in 1948
with a fatwa of Jehad. He again refused to issue a fatwa of Jehad to support
the war in 1965 for which he went to prison and was tried for 'sedition'. Similarly,
several Deobandi ulema refused to issue of fatwa of jehad even for the war against
the Russians in Afghanistan since there was no official declaration of war. Not
one Barelvi/Sufi ulema took a similar principled stand. If they were kept out
of the `jehad’ in Afghanistan, it was because of Saudi Arabia and not because
of any reluctance on the part of the Barelvis who were only too eager to join and who agitated and got a piece of the action in Kashmir.
Dear Sultan Shahin
Some moderate Muslims influenced by Christian views on sex in
which sex is dirty are disturbed by the quoting hadith related to sexual behavior
of the prophet. These Muslims have no guts to call spade a spade instead they
accuse, malign, insult, demand ban, advocate penalty for apostasy just for
quoting from the authentic sources of the Islam Those Imams who collected, wrote,
distributed and earned huge profit are revered by all Muslims including moderates.
Most of the Muslims don't consider these ahadith pornographic otherwise how
could they be read for blessings.
Only God may know (if he exists and posses the knowledge he
is attributed with) what are the true intentions of people including you. All
evils are done in the garb of goodness. All wars (including Islamic and
unislamic) are fought with good intentions.
Muslims went for jihad to save and propagate Islam (is there
any doubt in the nobility of the cause?) and Christians went for crusades to
save Christianity and their lands (is there any doubt in the nobility of
Naseer Saheb observer loves calling me sectarian. I usually ignore his vile
attacks as well as his foul language, though it has forced some people to stop
posting comments for fear of becoming his target. . [Before leaving the site,
they wrote to me demanding a ban on Naseer Saheb's postings ad incidentally,
also of Mohd Younus Rational. But banning is not my policy Our own website
remains banned in Pakistan yet.]
However, while most readers know my position, I must reiterate my stand for
the new readers.
I am conscious of the myriad ills of
Barailwis. But if they are not violent and I say they are not violent, that cannot mean I have joined or am
propagating their sectarian ideas. Perhaps there is not one article supporting Barailwi ideology on this site. A lot of
intellectual violence and gender injustice is inherent in Barailwi ideology
too, for instance, on the issue of apostasy. All Indian subcontinent's Muslims
used be Sufi-Barailwi at one time. Then gradually, with growing Saudi
influence, following the setting up of the Wahhabi kingdom earlier last
century, things started changing. Now perhaps few Barailwis are left as far as
their mindset is concerned. Many still go to shrines and say Aameen
quietly but in their thinking they too have become largely Wahhabis.
It is Sufis who brought Islam to the sub-continent, not Wahhabis. Under Sufi
influence, Muslims lived peacefully for centuries. Plunderers ad looters came
and went but peace and amity largely prevailed, of course, thanks also to the
large-heartedness and broad-mindedness of the local population which did not
mind if their neighbours converted to Islam. Unlike Muslims who would kill the
people they call apostates, Hindus accepted plurality of religion in
its true spirit.
Sufi saints too had a similar temperament of pluralism and harmonious
co-existence. It's Wahhabis who have changed all that. India is still largely
safe, but one can see things changing here too very fast. If opposing Wahhabi
ideology of Islam-supremacism, exclusivism, intolerance of other religions,
etc. means being called names like sectarian or whatever, then so be it.
This does not mean that other sects of Islam do not have these and other vices.
But you oppose those first who challenge you, threaten to kill you, threaten to
destroy your way of life, destroy peace of the world. Hence the opposition here
to violent Takfiri-Salafi-Wahhabi-ahl-e-Hadeesi ideologies.
Barailwi ideology needs reform, but Wahhabi ideology needs to be fought.
The viciousness of an Islamist mind is truly unbelievable. And this after almost three months of fasting and longer durations of prayer in this holy month of Ramazan.
Well, I shouldn't be surprised. After all, Islamists elsewhere continue to kill and maim and rape and enslave other Muslims in this holy month meant for training oneself in piety, self-sacrifice.
That's why I recommend a serious dose of introspection for all Muslims.