By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
29 June, 2015
According to the Urdu daily Inquilab, the new Egyptian government has banned the books of Sayyed Qutb, Hasan al-Banna, Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and all other ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood, accusing them of inciting extremism. Egyptian authorities say they are planning to remove Muslim Brotherhood books from mosque libraries across the country. “Any book authored by a Salafist or a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or Gamaa Islamiya will be removed,” Ministry of Religious Endowments Undersecretary Gaber Tayee said.
There is no doubt that radical religious preachers continue to misguide a section of the gullible and naive followers of Islam today. In this way, impressionable and unquestioning minds are being easily indoctrinated into ideologies of separatism, hatred, exclusivism and religio-fascism, serving the vested interests of radicals.
Extremist sermons directly influence religionists’ attitudes towards other faith traditions and cultures. They play key role in fanning the fires of inter-ethnic, inter-religious, sectarian and faith-inspired conflicts across the globe, particularly the Muslim world.
Although extremist preachers can influence the young and the old alike, the former are more vulnerable to their poisonous tentacles. In most cases, youths motivated by radical speeches of their religious guides try to put ideas into practice. In their energetic zeal, they are driven by the ambition to translate their radical views into practice. Some even get so carried away that they pick up weapons.
Religious speakers and clerics have a wide reach and impact—and this can work for good or for ill. Speakers and preachers who portray the true, universal values of Islam, which is tolerant, liberal, progressive, rational and moderate, can play an influential role in peace-building. On the other hand, radical ideologues, spewing hate through their sermons, must bear most of the responsibility for the extremist views and violent actions of their ideological followers. Hence, community members should concern themselves with the ideas that their preachers promote.
It seems that growing numbers of Indian Muslims are gradually taking cognizance of the impending threat posed by radical preachers. And why not? India has been the land of a vast number of Sufi saints. The Sufi narrative of Islam is anchored in humanism, compassion, goodwill, brotherhood of mankind, peace, pluralism and tolerance, in perfect harmony with the composite Indian culture. Sufi teachings are based on pluralistic traditions and the concept of unity in diversity.
In recent days, Sufi-oriented Muslims have organised large-scale conferences (what they called “Muslim Maha Panchayats”), besides small gatherings, in many parts of India, in an effort to awaken the country’s Muslims. These efforts of Sufi Sunni Muslims, who constitute around 80% of total Muslim population in India, have also been endorsed by the Indian Shias in their resolutions, which have duly been forwarded to governmental authorities. In these gatherings, Sunni Sufis have declared that they accept neither the Imamat (religious leadership) nor the Qayadat (political leadership) of the extremist Wahhabis.
As a result of such mobilisational efforts, radical preacher and ahl-e-Hadeesi televangelist Dr. Zakir Naik faced strong and spirited protest from mainstream Indian Muslims. Dr. Naik, who is President of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation and a frequent public speaker in Muslim countries, organised a public lecture on January 17, 2015 at the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC), New Delhi. A large number of mainstream Muslims, both Sunnis and Shias, gathered outside the premises of the IICC, strongly protesting against his address at the venue. They held that Dr. Naik had not only hurt the sentiments of Shia and Sunni-Sufi Muslims and non-Muslims but had also desecrated the values of religious harmony and respect for all faiths. Therefore, they did not think it appropriate for Dr. Naik to be a guest-speaker at the IICC, which is meant to stand for communal harmony and amity amongst the people of India.
Recently, in a continued effort to reaffirm their stated position, mainstream Indian Muslims organised a mass protest in a peaceful and democratic manner to demonstrate their anger against the impending dangers of the extremist Wahhabi preachers, particularly Yusuf al-Qaradawi. This widely-known Mufti had sought to justify suicide-bombing by so-called jihadists in his Fatwas. Al-Qaradawi continues to enjoy worldwide exposure via Al-Jazeera television, through his weekly program “Sharia and Life” (al-Shari’a wal-Hayat).
Today, many Indian Muslims are alarmed about radical preachers funded by Saudi/Qatari patrons. However, few of them are ready so far to recognise the violent extremist content in al-Qaradawi’s literature. At a time when the Egyptian government has banned radical literature penned by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Sayyed Qutb and Hasan al-Banna, one would be amazed at Indian Muslims’ naivety if they do not shun the same. Scores of Salafi/Ahle Hadeesi madrasas in India have accepted the ideology of these Arab figures, and have incorporated their books on religion and Arabic literature in their curricula. I speak from personal experience. In the Sufi-oriented madrasa where I acquired classical Islamic education, one of our teachers was a graduate of the Dar-ul Uloom Nadwat-ul Ulema, who recommended us the books of Sayyed Qutb to improve our Arabic language skills. Obviously, our teacher’s intention was sincere, but it is not difficult to infer as to what impact it could have had on our impressionable minds, had we been reared on such books since childhood.
Worryingly, even the secular universities in our country do not check with their Arabic and Islamic Departments what sort of literature they are teaching in the name of Islam and Arabic language. Interestingly, in the Arabic Departments in most Central Universities in India, the first- and second-year students are taught a book titled “Mukhtarat Min Adab al-Arabi” (‘A Collection of Arabic Prose’), compiled by the late Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, former head of Dar-ul Uloom Nadwat ul-Ulama. This book comprises writings and opinion pieces by many Islamist preachers, including Sayyed Qutb, that express their particular interpretation of Islam.
It is about time Indian Muslims as well as the Indian government emulate the de-radicalisation efforts of Egypt, Chechnya, Bangladesh and Kazakhstan. These states have banned radical Islamism and Wahhabism in all its forms, particularly in mosques, madrasas and in the school curricula. They have replaced radical Wahhabi imams with peace-loving and moderate ones, with the aim to restore peace and curb extremism. Most importantly, the oldest Sunni-Sufi Islamic educational institution, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, has denounced the Wahhabi ideology of radicalism. The head of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayeb, declared the Wahhabis’ corrupt interpretation of Islam to be the root cause of violent extremism in the Muslim world.
Nevertheless, and regrettably, the Indian government has overlooked the presence and influence of extremist Islamist preachers. Clearly, India is standing at a crossroads and will face serious problems that will grow exponentially if the situation spins out of control.
An ideology of hatred and terror can only be countered by an ideology of love and peace. Moderate Islamic preachers can play a proactive role in countering extremist discourses and promoting progressive and moderate ones. Although civil society activists also have an important role to cover this area, Ulema and other religious scholars can best work out strategies to control extremists’ preaching. First and foremost, they must exhort their youths not to leave doors open to any religious preacher trying to fill their minds with hate-filled sermons. The state also has an important responsibility in preventing radical preachers from spreading their nefarious influence.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, Jamia Amjadia Rizvia (Mau, U.P.), acquired Diploma in Qur'anic Arabic from Al-Jamiat ul Islamia, Faizabad, U.P., and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies, Badaun, U.P. He has also graduated in Arabic (Hons) and is pursuing his M. A. in Comparative Religion from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.