By Sultan Shahin, New Age Islam
October 10, 2016
Fifteen years after 9/11, the scourge of violent Islamist extremism has become even more complex and deadly. The alacrity with which 30,000 Muslims from around the world joined the so-called Islamic State’s war against humanity has puzzled many. How could a peaceful, pluralistic religion be subverted so easily to create inhuman monsters?
Among many factors, social, economic, political, psychological, the one common feature is a brainwashing of vulnerable people on the basis of a supremacist, xenophobic, intolerant, exclusivist and totalitarian Jihadi theology. This is a blatant misuse of Islam, a spiritual path to salvation, that 1.6 billion Muslims believe, teaches peace, pluralism, co-existence and good neighbourliness.
But there has to be a reason why jihadi ideology has gained acceptance so quickly; why fatwas issued by reputed moderate scholars prove so ineffective? How are Jihadis able to create a 100 percent certainty in the minds of some Muslims that violence against innocent people, including Muslims, whom they consider infidel, will please God and lead them to heaven?
Clearly we Muslims need to rethink some basic features of our theology. Success of jihadism lies in the fact that, at its core, the jihadi theology is not very different from the consensus theology of all other schools of Islamic thought. For instance, jihadists are able to misuse the intolerant, xenophobic, war-time verses of the holy Quran, as Muslims believe that all verses, regardless of the context, are of universal applicability. Indeed, the Islamic theology of consensus, taught in all madrasas, says that Quran is uncreated, meaning that it is just an aspect of God; and so, divine like God Himself.
The corollary is that no verse of the Quran can be questioned in terms of its universality and applicability. Indeed, that any Muslim who tries to do so is committing blasphemy and deserves no less than death. Quran on earth is said to be just a copy of the one lying safe in a divine vault in Heaven called Lauh-e-Mahfooz.
This is completely irrational. Suppose Meccan elite had not responded to Islam’s message of equality with violence and persecution, leading to Prophet Mohammad fleeing to Madina. There would have been no battles in Prophet’s lifetime and no war-time verses would have been required. How can these verses then acquire universal applicability and eternal value?
Not only that. There is also a near-consensus in Islamic theology around the so-called Doctrine of Abrogation whereby all peaceful, pluralistic Meccan verses, at least 124, are considered abrogated by the later confrontational Medinan verses. This is most damaging for Islam and useful for jihadism.
How do Islamic theologians reconcile the uncreatedness of Quran, its total, unquestionable divinity, with the Doctrine of Abrogation is beyond a rational person’s understanding. This is a belief with hardly any basis in Quran. It evolved hundreds of years after the demise of the Prophet.
The same is true of the divinity and universal applicability attached to Hadith, the so-called sayings of the Prophet, and Sharia laws. Narrations of Hadith were recorded decades and centuries after the Prophet passed away. Almost the last verse of the Quran (5:3) says that God has now completed the religion of Islam. How can we write books centuries after that and give them the status of revealed literature? Yet, all ulema are agreed that Hadith is akin to revelation. This is clearly the height of irrationality.
Similarly Sharia was first codified 120 years after the demise of the Prophet, based on some verses of the Quran and Arab practices of that era. This has been changing from country to country and age to age. How can we Muslims be told, as we are by a multitude of scholars, that it is a Muslim’s prime religious duty to see that this Sharia is established in the world?
Wherever a Muslim turns, from al-Ghazali, Ibn-e-Taimiyya, Abdul Wahhab, Sheikh Sarhindi, Shah Waliullah to Syed Qutb and Maulana Maududi, he or she gets the same Islam-supremacist message.
Let us see what some of these learned ulema of yore, most revered by all schools of thought, tell us:
Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111): Considered the greatest of all Sufi theologians, and by many as next only to Prophet Mohammad in his understanding of Islam:
“… one must go on jihad at least once a year...one may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them… One must destroy their useless books. Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide... Christians and Jews must pay... on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits on the protuberant bone beneath his ear... they are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells... their houses may not be higher than a Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They have to wear an identifying patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the baths ... dhimmis must hold their tongue...” (Kitab Al-Wagiz FI Figh Madhad Al-Imam Al-Safi’i pp. 186, 190, 199-203)
Imam Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328): Most revered Hanbali jurist and scholar among Wahhabi-Salafi Muslims whose influence has recently grown immensely with the propagation of his creed by the Saudi monarchy:
“Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God's entirely and God's word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought... As for the People of the Book and the Zoroastrians, they are to be fought until they become Muslims or pay the tribute (jizya) out of hand and have been humbled. With regard to the others, the jurists differ as to the lawfulness of taking tribute from them. Most of them regard it as unlawful...” (Excerpted from Rudolph Peters, Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1996), pp. 44-54).
Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624): Indian Islamic scholar, Hanafi jurist, considered Mujaddid alf-e-Saani, the renewer of Islam of the second millennium:
“...Cow-sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices.”
“Kufr and Islam are opposed to each other. The progress of one is possible only at the expense of the other and co-existence between these two contradictory faiths is unthinkable.
"The honour of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One, who respects kafirs, dishonours the Muslims.”
"The real purpose in levying jizya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that, on account of fear of jizya, they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling".
"Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam.”
(Excerpted from Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Agra, Lucknow: Agra University, Balkrishna Book Co., 1965), pp.247-50; and Yohanan Friedmann, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of His Image in the Eyes of Posterity (Montreal, Quebec: McGill University, Institute of Islamic Studies, 1971), pp. 73-74.)
Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1703–1762): Highly revered Indian scholar, theologian, Muhaddis (Hadith expert) and jurist:
“It is the duty of the prophet to establish the domination of Islam over all other religions and not leave anybody outside its domination whether they accept it voluntarily or after humiliation. Thus the people will be divided into three categories. Lowly kafir (unbelievers), have to be tasked with lowly labour works like harvesting, threshing, carrying of loads, for which animals are used. The messenger of God also imposes a law of suppression and humiliation on the kafirs and imposes jizya on them in order to dominate and humiliate them…. He does not treat them equal to Muslims in the matters of Qisas (Retaliation), Diyat (blood money), marriage and government administration so that these restrictions should ultimately force them to embrace Islam.” (Hujjatullahu al-Balighah, volume – 1, Chapter- 69, Page No 289)
Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703–1792): Founder of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi-Salafi creed:
“Even if the Muslims abstain from shirk (polytheism) and are muwahhid (believer in oneness of God), their faith cannot be perfect unless they have enmity and hatred in their action and speech against non-Muslims (which for him actually includes all non-Wahhabi or non-Salafi Muslims). (Majmua Al-Rasael Wal-Masael Al-Najdiah 4/291).
Abul A'la Maududi (1903–1979): Indian ideologue, founder of Jamaat-e-Islami:
“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.” (Jihad fil Islam).
Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi, a Hyderabad-based scholar, justifies indiscriminate violence in his fatwa on the concept of power in Islam. Let me quote a few lines from the writings of this maulana who runs a girls’ madrasa in Hyderabad and is known to have been an inspiration behind Indian Mujahedin:
“Let it be known that, according to Islamic jurisprudence, fighting the infidels (kuffar) in their countries is a duty (farz-e-kifayah) according to the consensus of ulema …
“… I can say with full conviction that qital (killing, violence, armed struggle) to uphold the kalimah (declaration of faith) has neither been called atrocity or transgression nor has it been prohibited. Rather, qital has not only been ordained for the purpose of upholding the kalimah but also stressed and encouraged in the Book (Quran) and the Sunnah (Hadith). Muslims have indeed been encouraged and motivated to engage in qital and they have been given good tidings of rewards for this.”
“It is the duty (of Muslims) to struggle for the domination of Islam over false religions and subdue and subjugate ahl-e-kufr-o-shirk (infidels and polytheists) in the same way as it is the duty of the Muslims to proselytise and invite people to Islam. The responsibility to testify to the Truth and pronounce the Deen God has entrusted with the Muslims cannot be fulfilled merely by preaching and proselytising. If it were so there would be no need for the battles that were fought.
“Jihad has been made obligatory to make the Deen (religion) dominate and to stop the centres of evil. Keeping in view the importance of this task, the significance of jihad in the name of God has been stressed in the Quran and Hadith. That’s why clear ordainments have been revealed to Muslims about fighting all the kuffar (infidels): “Unite and fight the polytheists (mushriks) just as they put up a united front against you” (Surah Tauba: 9:36)”.
[Excerpted and translated from Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi’s Urdu booklet "Taqat ka Istemal Quran ki Raoshni Main," ‘The use of violence, in the light of the Qur’an’]
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (Born 1925), otherwise a promoter of peace and pluralism, says the following:
"Efforts on the part of prophets over a period of thousands of years had proved that any struggle which was confined to intellectual or missionary field was not sufficient to extricate man from the grip of this superstition (shirk, kufr). (So) it was God’s decree that he (Prophet Mohammad) be a da’i (missionary) as well as ma’hi (eradicator). He was entrusted by God with the mission of not only proclaiming to the world that superstitious beliefs (shirk, kufr) were based on falsehood, but also of resorting to military action, if the need arose, to eliminate that system for all time".
[From Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s book “Islam – Creator of the Modern World,” re- printed in 2003].
It is ironic that even an indefatigable promoter of peace and pluralism among Muslims has to concede on the basis of commonly accepted Islamic jurisprudence that the Prophet’s job was to eradicate unbelief from the world, even using military means. And if this is so, what would stop Bin Ladens and Baghdadis of this world claiming that they are simply carrying forward the Prophet’s unfinished mission?
The message from all these sermons is clear. Islam must dominate the world and it is the duty of every Muslim to help the process. Wherever a Muslim turns to he gets the same Islam-supremacist message. The latest among the most authoritative books on Islamic theology is a 45-volume comprehensive Encyclopaedia of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). It was prepared by scholars from all schools of thought, engaged by Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs, Kuwait, over a period of half a century. Its Urdu translation was released in Delhi by Vice-president Hamid Ansari on 23 October 2009.
This most influential book of Islamic jurisprudence has a 23,000-word chapter on jihad. We moderate Muslims and Sufis keep talking ad nauseum about struggle against one’s own nafs (lower self, negative ego) being the real and greater jihad and qital (warfare) being rather insignificant, lesser jihad. But except one sentence in the beginning, the entire chapter talks entirely about the issues related with combating and killing enemies, i.e. infidels, polytheists or apostates, starting with the stark declaration: “Jihad means to fight against the enemy.” There is no mention of real or greater jihad.
Then Ibn-e-Taimiyya is quoted to say: “… So jihad is wajib (incumbent) as much as one’s capacity”. Then comes the final, definitive definition: “Terminologically, jihad means to fight against a non-zimmi unbeliever (kafir) after he rejects the call towards Islam, in order to establish or raise high the words of Allah.” (Translated from original Arabic)
It is not difficult for an intelligent, educated Muslim to discover our hypocrisy. Clearly what is censured by us moderates as radical Islamist theology is not substantially different from the current Islamic theology accepted through a consensus by ulema of all schools of thought.
Late Osama bin Laden or his ideological mentor Abdu’llāh Yūsuf ‘Azzām, now called father of global jihad, and his present-day successor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not invent a new theology. Their use of consensual theology is what lies behind their great success in attracting thousands of Muslim youth in such a short while. They will continue to attract more and more youths until we mainstream Muslims realise our hypocrisy and change course.
What are the ingredients of this consensus theology that is leading to radicalisation of our educated youth? A few examples:
1. Following a literal reading of some allegorical verses in Quran, far too many Muslims now regard God as an implacable, anthropomorphic figure permanently at war with those who do not believe in His uniqueness. This is a negation of the Sufi or Vedantic concept of God as universal consciousness or universal intelligence radiating His grace from every atom in the universe. Unfortunately, Sufi madrasas themselves have abandoned, at least in the Indian sub-continent, the concept of wahdatul wajud (unity of being) for fear that this would be considered too close to the Vedantic and thus Hindu concept of God.
Instead they teach Sheikh Sirhindi’s wahdatul shuhood (Apparentism, unity of appearances) in the name of wahdatul wajud. Sheikh Sirhindi had invented this concept to counter the growing influence of Sufi masters like Mohiyiddin Ibn-e-Arabi and Mansour al-Hallaj during the reign of Emperor Akbar.
Most Sufi madrasas have thrown out from their curriculum mystical books like Kashful Mahjub by Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh Hijweri, Awarif-ul-Ma’arif by Shaykh Umar Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, Fawaidul Fu’aad by Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, Masnawi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, Gulistan and Bostan by Shaikh Sa’adi Shirazi, Si Asl by Mulla Sadra Shirazi, Fususul Hikam by Shaikh Ibn ul Arabi, Life and teachings of great Sufis like Ghareeb Nawaz Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeri, Baba Fareed, Ameer Khusro etc.
2. Radical ideologues quote militant, xenophobic verses of Quran to support offensive jihad. We moderates from Sufi stream of thought counter that by saying: look at the context. These verses came during war and had to inevitably order fighting, killings, offer rewards for martyrs and show intolerance towards the manifest enemy. It’s not unusual in wars to make binary arguments.
Thus the Muslim-Kafir binary inevitably emerged during wars. After all, most of the war-time verses of Quran revealed in Medina, first permitting and then guiding Muslims in the course of various wars were a response to the evolving situation. But we do not take the argument of these war-time verses being contextual in nature to its logical conclusion, which is, that these verses have now become obsolete; they are no longer applicable to us today when that context does not exist.
3. Not only that we do not call contextual verses of Quran obsolete, but we also agree with the radicals that Quran is an uncreated attribute of God, with all its verses, universally and eternally applicable to Muslims, without reference to context. Every madrasa teaches that Quran is uncreated, divine, direct speech of God, as if God were an anthropomorphic being. This totally defeats our earlier argument that when dealing with Quranic exhortations, we should look at the context. What context?
If Quran is an uncreated attribute of God, immutable, eternal, merely a copy of the original Quran lying in the ‘Heavenly Vault’ (Lauh-e-Mahfouz), then where is the question of context? This makes it possible for militant ideologues to tell our youth that even the militant, xenophobic, intolerant exhortations of Quran that were revealed in the context of war, must be followed and implemented, as there is no controversy about their applicability today in any school of thought.
4. There is consensus in Islamic theology that Hadith, the so-called sayings of Prophet Mohammad, are akin to revelation. These were collected up to 300 years after the demise of the Prophet. Rational Muslims doubt their credibility and authenticity, but even ulema opposed to ISIS, cannot bring themselves to question the Hadith-based millenarian thesis that is the primary cause of ISIS’ great success in comparison to al-Qaeda which did not stress millenarianism.
As a couple of allegorical verses of Quran and predictions attributed to the Prophet have been interpreted to mean that the world is about to end, and Islam is about to be victorious following the end-time war being waged by ISIS, then what is the point of working for corporates run by infidels? Why not join the battle and become a martyr or ghazi just before the world ends? So goes the argument.
One of the permanent bestsellers in Delhi’s Urdu Bazaar is a booklet called “Qeyamat ki peshingoiyan” (End-time Predictions). I imagine a similar booklet selling on streets of Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, Istanbul, wherever. Why should ISIS not make good use of this belief, when it has the unquestioning support of theologians of all schools of thought, including self-proclaimed moderates, who call Hadith akin to revelation?
Ahadith are also used to justify the killing of innocent civilians in a war, although there are repeated and clear instructions in the Quran against that. But the moment you say Hadith is akin to revelation, you are nullifying the impact of your Quranically justified claim that in Islam killing of one innocent person amounts to killing of humanity.
5. Nearly all Muslims consider Sharia as divine and immutable, even though it was first codified on the basis of some Quranic verses and pre-Islamic Arab Bedouin customs 120 years after the demise of the Prophet and completion of the religion of Islam as declared by God in Quran (5:3).
The result is that even Muslims living in non-Muslim majority multicultural Europe demand Sharia-compliant laws. No wonder that those who want to practice what they believe in would want to migrate to the so-called Islamic State, sometimes even with their families. Radicalised youth cannot be blamed for feeling that the moderate Muslims, in India, for instance, are hypocrites. They want to use their purported belief in the divinity of Sharia only for male-supremacist privileges like instant divorce and multiple marriages, whereas the radicals migrating to the so-called Islamic State are willing to accept all the rigours of Sharia’s criminal justice system, namely, cutting off hands for theft, lashes and stoning for adultery and murder, etc.
6. There is consensus in Islamic theology that helping establish and supporting a caliphate is the religious duty of Muslims, even though there is absolutely no such direction in the Quran. But those who believe in the Hadith being akin to revelation are unable to dispute ISIS’ claim to legitimacy on the basis of this Hadith: “Hazrat Huzaifa narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “Prophethood will remain among you as long as Allah wills. Then Caliphate (Khilafah) on the lines of Prophethood shall commence, and remain as long as Allah wills. Then corrupt/erosive monarchy would take place, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. After that, despotic kingship would emerge, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. Then, the Caliphate (Khilafah) shall come once again based on the precept of Prophethood." (Musnad Ahmed inb Hanbali).
7. Hijrat (migration) to the land of Islamic Sharia from Darul Harb where Sharia is not enforced is a religious duty for Muslims. This may appear grotesque at a time when millions of Muslims are marching to the so-called European ‘Darul Harb’ almost barefoot in a desperate effort to escape from so-called Darul Islam of Khalifa al-Baghdadi. The ‘Darul Islam’ of Saudi Arabia has refused to give refuge to a single soul, while the European ‘Darul Harb’ is accommodating millions of Muslims. But the ulema will not allow any part of their theology to be questioned.
8. Theologians of all school believe that some early verses of Quran have been abrogated and replaced by better and more appropriate later verses. This consensual Doctrine of Abrogation is used by radical ideologues to claim all 124 foundational, constitutive, Meccan verses of peace, pluralism, co-existence with other religious communities, compassion, kindness to neighbours, etc. have been abrogated and replaced by later Medinan verses of war, xenophobia and intolerance. As long as Sufi theologians do not contest this Doctrine of Abrogation, their quoting verses from Meccan Quran has no meaning.
9. There is consensus among theologians of all schools of thought that there is no freedom of religion for Muslims in Islam. Apostasy (irtidad or riddah) has to be punished by death. The only dispute is whether the apostate should be given the opportunity to seek forgiveness and revert to his earlier position. With this core aspect of theology, how can Muslims confront terrorist ideologues who order death for vast numbers of Muslims on ground of their having turned apostate? In their eyes all those Muslims who are not with ISIS and other such groups are apostates, particularly all Shia, Ahmadis, Yezidis, etc. How can we prevent radicalisation of our youth unless we confront this theology?
10. The problem is there is no consensus among Muslims as to who is a Muslim? Justice Munir of the Commission of enquiry set up in Pakistan following anti-Ahmadia riots in 1954 reported that no two ulema agreed on the definition of a Muslim. Ideally, Quran should be our guide, according to which even Hazrat Moosa or Moses, who surrendered to God, much before the advent of Prophet Mohammad, was also a Muslim (Quran 10.90).
Allah informs us of Muslims who have converted but ‘faith has not yet entered their hearts’ (Quran 49:14). And yet, Allah does not prescribe any punishment for them, nor are they turned out of the fold of Islam. This means that anyone who claims to believe in or surrender to God is a Muslim. The least Muslims can do is to accept irja, the position of the murjias (postponers), who said let us postpone judgement in matters of faith for the Day of Judgement. Let us allow God to judge people on matters of faith. When we humans do not know what lies in someone’s heart, who are we to punish someone for what he believes in or not? A very rational position, but Muslims will need to embrace rationality or Quran first.
11. The same is true of blasphemy. Consensual Islamic theology prescribes death for the blasphemer, even on the flimsiest of accusations. Many Muslim countries have anti-blasphemy laws, though the one that misuses them most is Pakistan. Unfortunately, Sufi-minded Muslims are in the forefront of those who advocate killing for blasphemy and some are even among the killers for blasphemy. How can we fight ISIS ideology, if our own ideology is the same?
Clearly Islamic theology will have to be rethought, and not just to defeat jihadism, but also to deal with many other pressing issues including human rights of women, children, homosexuals, religious minorities, atheists, etc.
(Sultan Shahin is founding editor of a progressive Islamic website NewAgeIslam.com. This article is based on his address to the UNHRC on September 26, 2016)
This article was first published on Sabrangindia.in