It is narrated on the authority of Hadhrat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah ennoble his countenance): “When you see the black flags, then remain on the ground, and do not move your hands or your feet. Thereafter there shall emerge a weak folk to whom no concern is given. Their hearts will be like the iron rods. They shall be the people of the State (Ashab al-Dawla). They will fulfil neither covenant nor agreement. They will invite to the Truth, though they are not from its people. Their names will be with ‘kuna’ [plural form of kunya; a teknonym in Arabic names. A kunya is expressed by the use of ‘Abu’ that means ‘father’], and their ascriptions will be to villages (or places) [i.e., al-Misri, al-Harrani, al-Baghdadi, etc.]. Their hair will be long like that of women. [They shall remain so] till they differ among themselves, and then Allah will bring the truth to whomever He wills."Kitab Al Fitan (Book of Tribulations) by Nu'aym ibn Hammad)
Before delving deeper into some details related to the above text, one must take into consideration that the narrator of this text is Nua’ym Ibn Hammad who was the Sheikh (spiritual teacher) of Imam Bukhari and whose narrations were authentically accepted by all the famous six compilers of Hadith-books known as Sihah al-Sitta (the six most authentic books of Hadith). Hazrat Nua’ym recorded this Hadith of Hazrat Ali in his Kitab al-Fitan (The Book of Tribulations) to refer to the people of Tribulations who in recent times are ISIS, The Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Let Us Divide The Text Of The Hadith Into Parts As Follows;
1. When you see the black flags, then remain on the ground, and do not move your hands or your feet.
2. Their hearts will be like the iron rods
3. They shall be the people of the State (Ashab al-Dawla).
4. They will fulfil neither covenant nor agreement.
5. They will invite to the Truth, though they are not from its people.
6. Their names will be with ‘kuna’ [plural form of kunya; a teknonym in Arabic names. A kunya is expressed by the use of ‘Abu’ that means ‘father’]
7. Their ascriptions will be to villages (or places) [i.e., al-Misri, al-Harrani, al-Baghdadi, etc.].
8. Their hair will be long like that of women. [They shall remain so] till they differ among themselves
The part of the text “When you see the black flags, then remain on the ground, and do not move your hands or your feet” implies that when you see the people carrying the black flags, you should remain on the ground, that is, in your own place, town or country at large. It is not difficult to know the ISIS and other similar Jihadists carry the black flags. Thus the implication is that you should not go to join the rank of these people, as they are the people of the Tribulations who create disorder in the land of the Lord Almighty.
The hearts of the ISIS, Taliban and Al-Qaeda are really like the iron rods. They have mercilessly killed thousands of civilians including children, women, the weak and the old in several parts of the world, especially Iraq and Syria.
The phrase “They shall be the people of the State (Ashab al-Dawla)” indicates that these people of Tribulations will claim to establish their own Dawla meaning State without gaining votes of civilian-majority.
That “They will fulfil neither covenant nor agreement” is undeniable truth in terms of ISIS and other similar militant groups. They have broken all the globally accepted covenants of peace and harmony worldwide.
The part of the Hadith “They will invite to the Truth, though they are not from its people” could be applied to these militant groups as they claim to follow the Quran and Sunnah whereas they are not following these books in their true forms. They apparently invite to Islam, but their merciless crimes and false creeds bear witness to the fact that they have nothing to do with Islam.
“Their names will be with ‘kuna’”. The word ‘Kuna’ is the plural form of kunya, which is used as a teknonym in Arabic names. A kunya is expressed by the use of ‘Abu’ that means ‘father’. See the members of ISIS, you will find that approximately all of them are using their names with ‘Kuna’, for example, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ (leader), Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (founder; killed in 2006), Abu Ayyub al-Masri (killed in 2010), Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi (killed in 2010), Abu Suleiman al-Naser (head of military shura; killed in February 2011) and so on.
Another sign of the inciters of tribulations mentioned in the above Hadith of Hazrat Ali is that “Their ascriptions will be to villages (or places).” In this regard you will not find it difficult to notice that they add the names of the places to their names, such as al-Misri, al-Harrani, Zarqawi, al-Baghdadi, al-Kurdi, al-Iraqi, al-Maghrebi, al-Kurdi, al-Alwani, al-Jazrawi, al-Shishani, al-Almani etc.
The narration also says, “Their hair will be long like that of women. [They shall remain so] till they differ among themselves, and then Allah will bring the truth to whomever He wills.” On searching the images of ISIS members on the internet, it will appear to you that their hair is long like that of women.
The above details conspicuously signify that ISIS and other similar Jihadists are the ones that have been indicated in the Hadith of Hazrat Ali (May Allah be pleased with him). And therefore we reinforce our calling upon Muslims that they should not go to join the rank of ISIS- the people of Tribulations whose work is simply creating the disorder in the Land of the Lord Almighty. As for those who hold sympathy for ISIS and other similar Jihadist outfits, they should take this Hadith as an eye-opener and reform their viewpoint before it is too late.
In the wake of ‘love jihad’ ordinance promulgated by the Uttar Pradesh government and many other BJP ruled states announcing their desire to do the same, we have a perfect example of how something which has no empirical basis can find huge traction, not just in law but even in the imagination of people. The UP ordinance does not use the word ‘love jihad’ and understandably so because the term has no basis in law. Instead, it uses the phrase ‘Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion Bill 2020’. One of the clauses includes ‘alluring into marriage’ as sufficient ground for invalidation of marriage. Clearly then, it is targeted at potential inter-religious couples which is seen as an anathema by the majority in Indian society. In making this age old Indian prejudice into a law, the state of Uttar Pradesh is only playing to the old majoritarian fears in this country.
The ordinance is justified in the name of stopping religious conversion. But anti-conversion laws already exist in different parts of the country. There is already a prohibition in force if any religious conversion is done on the grounds of ‘force, coercion or deceit’. We even have discriminatory laws in place to check conversion into Islam and Christianity. Thus if a Dalit becomes a Muslim or a Christian, she loses all the benefits that might accrue from a Dalit identity. What then is the need for another law? Clearly then, the new law is specifically designed to punish those who want to marry outside their religious community. By making conversion for the purpose of marriage a criminal offense, the law sends a clear warning to all those who want to break free of their religious boundaries. The state in the third world was always meant to play a modernising role with the law as its barometer. What we are witnessing today is the very regression of that principle. The state is fast becoming the repository of all things medieval and conservative.
By keeping terms such as ‘allurement to marriage’ deliberately vague, the real use of the law lies in its misuse, which will be widespread. It will empower the police and other law enforcement agencies to exercise their arbitrary power of blackmailing and arrest. The law is also religiously neutral in the sense that it will criminalise all inter-religious conversions but we know that the real intent of the law is to punish potential marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women. In the name of protecting Muslim women, this government targeted Muslim men by criminalising triple talaq and in the name of protecting Hindu women, it will similarly target Muslim men for ‘luring’ Hindu women into marriage. Any Muslim man wanting to marry outside his community will have this law to deter him from doing so. And that it is precisely what this law wants to achieve: that Muslim men become fearful of even entertaining any thought of having any liaison with Hindu women.
Earlier, we saw this in Gujarat and other places where Muslim men were excluded from the Dandiya and other convivial celebrations. The objective was always to keep community boundaries separate; the passion of youth was understood as a force which had the potential of destabilising the old order. This obsession with purity was coterminous with a certain caste location. In this scheme of things, the Muslim was always the perennial Malecch, the impure, dirty outsider, whose very presence would pollute the sacred boundaries. But the mere fact of being an outsider also made the Muslim as the desired other. To make matters worse, the Muslim was not just an outsider, he was in reality an insider-outsider and therefore his very presence was understood as tempting and threatening at the same time. Muslim men were therefore portrayed as having a voracious sexual appetite, only interested in producing babies by preying on more and more women. And such thinking about Muslims was not just the preserve of the Hindu right, but was drilled into popular consciousness multiple writers, many of whom were celebrated by the erstwhile secular Indian consensus.
Even before the BJP made this into an electoral and political issue, the sentiment that Muslim men were after the womb of Hindu women with the express purpose of producing more Muslim babies, had become widespread, especially in the region of western Uttar Pradesh. Historians like Charu Gupta have documented how this fear of the ‘loss of our women’ was one of the important factors in the mobilization of Hindu sentiments against Muslims. More recently Aparna Vaidik has shown how through pamphlets, during the 1920s, the Hindu imagination was drawn towards the ‘lustful’ Muslim, all in the name of protecting Hindu women. Through these pamphlets, Hindus were warning each other of the presence of Muslim men in their body politic, and how this presence posed a threat to their women. This was nothing but a concern for racial purity, the Muslim being seen as immoral yet virile potential violator. And certainly this concern with racial purity has historical linkages with certain castes in this country.
The specific contribution of the Hindu right was to link such notion of Muslim masculinity with their religion and attribute every act of Muslims with a religious motive. Thus Muslim men were on the look-out for Hindu women, not just for satisfying their own sexual lust but also for converting them to the cause of Islam. The possession of Hindu women’s body was understood as a sort of religious victory for Islam. The fact that such regressive laws have widespread acceptance within the Hindu society is because such ideas about Muslims have been around for many years. All that the Hindu right is doing is building upon those old stereotypes in an effort to refashion Hinduism as a religion which needs to be saved from Islam. One must add that the insistence of many Muslim men to change the religion (and name) of their would-be non-Muslim wives has not helped either. But that is another story for another time.
Ultimately, it is the Hindu women’s body over which this new Hinduism will encode itself. Policing women have been the favourite past of right wing politics, be it Hindu or Muslim, and so it is not surprising that the UP government is always preoccupied with protecting women’s ‘honour’. And one of the many ways in which women’s honour has been protected in this country is to deny them any agency. What is the point of choosing or even thinking when the whole state apparatus is there to do it for you? If young Hindu men and women start to surrender their sovereignty of making even intimate choices to state, then we are really headed for dark times. Much like Islamization amongst Muslims, it is Hindu women who will have to bear the direct consequences of such community and state policing. And it is they, along with like-minded Hindu men, who should be at the forefront of opposing such a regressive law.
One of the narratives used by the Jihadist groups to win the support from the naïve Muslims is ‘the black flag’. Approximately each of the modern radical groups such as ISIS, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, the Chechen Jihadist Fighters is willing to get highlighted as a prominent feature in the media, with carrying the black flag in their hands for its ‘symbolic value’ based on some weak narrations.
Historically observing, the black flag was utilized by the Prophet (peace be upon him) but not as a ‘symbol’ of his movement. He used it merely for differentiating between his army and the enemy’s. According to a variety of reports, the Prophet also used other colours in his military flag.
It was the Abbasid revolutionary movement that conspicuously used the black flags for winning over the support of the Muslims. The Abbasids reportedly felt that it had been their right to rule the caliphate state as a result of having their direct family connection with the Prophet (peace be upon him). Therefore they rebelled against the Umayyad caliphate. With the utilization of the black flag as a symbolic worth, the Abbasid revolution brought down the Umayyad dynasty and established its own caliphate state in Baghdad in 750 C.E.
The historical reports suggest that a number of false stories and narrations were created even during the Abbasid revolution in a bid to win over the people’s support for the Abbasid revolution. One of them might be regarding the ‘black flag’ which became the official flag of the Abbasid dynasty.
The Quran does not offer any single verse or word to push or regard the black flag as sacred. At the same time, it is not a coincidence for the present-time Jihadists to use the black flags. They use it for a certain purpose. That is to win the support from the common Muslims and inspire them to join their struggle. Since the Jihadist theological basis of the black flag is derived from the Hadith, we must check the authenticity of the Hadith so that we can ascertain their credibility in Islam.
The Hadith predicts about an army emerging from a region known as Khurasan and carrying the black banner before the end of this world. In some narrations of such Hadith, it is reported that the Muslim Messiah, Imam Mahdi will arise from this army, lead it to gain the victory against the enemies of Islam and restore the glory of Islam. Muslims are thereby called to join the army of the black flag when it appears. As per the Hadith reports, the army carrying the black flag is ‘a truth bearing group’, ‘a legitimate struggle’, ‘a victorious group’ and ‘a group which Muslims are obliged to support and join’.
It should be noted that the Jihadist groups such as ISIS, Taliban, Al-Qaeda etc have disagreed with one another; each with carrying the black flag identically and claiming their respective movement to be the only group ‘which Muslims are obliged to join’. We should take into consideration that their narrative of the black flag is based on weak Hadith and thus not reliable for authenticity. For that matter we made a thorough analysis of all the Ahadith (plural of Hadith) associated with the black flag. However we would not quote all of them with technical details in this article but only a few of them in a bid to simply prove that they are not acceptable and that Muslims should not believe the reliability of such Ahadith.
It was narrated by Abdullah bin Masud that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A Nation will arise from the east (Mashriq), carrying the black flags and they will ask for some goodness (authority) but the people will not give them. Then they will fight and win over those people (who refused to give them authority). Now the people will give them what they asked for, but they will not accept it until they will hand it over to a person from my progeny who will fill this earth with justice just as it was previously filled with oppression and tyranny. So if anyone of you finds this nation (i.e. from the east with black flags), then you must join them even if you have to crawl over ice”
The Argument That This Hadith Is Not Reliable
This Hadith was recorded by the two books of Ahadith namely ‘Sunan Ibn Majah’ and ‘Musnad al-Bazzar from the narration of Yazid ibn Abi Ziyad, who took it from Ibrahim al-Nakhai who took it from Abdullah bin Masud to the Prophet (peace be upon him).
However the author of ‘Musnad’ and scholar of Hadith, Imam Bazzar (827-904) said that Yazid ibn Ziyad, who is the narrator of the above mentioned hadith, was unknown in terms of taking the Hadith from Ibrahim al-Nakhai. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali school of Jurisprudence, substantiated the same view. Another scholar of Hadith Waki’ Ibn al-Jarrah Iraqi said, “This hadith is unknown”.
That Yazid Ibn Ziyad is a weak Hadith narrator is reinforced by Imam Zahabi in his book ‘Siyar al-Aalam’ and by Imam Ibn Hajar Asqalani in his ‘Taqrib al-Tahzib’.
The description by these scholars of Hadith makes it patently clear that the above hadith is weak and thus not reliable.
It was narrated that the Prophet said, “(Armies carrying) the black flag will come from Khurasan. No power will be able to stop them and they will finally reach Eela (Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem) where they will erect their flags”.
The Argument That This Hadith Is Not Reliable
Imam Tirmidhi, the author of Jami’ Tirmidhi (a popular hadith book) described this hadith as weak and unreliable because the real chain of narrators (sanad) is doubtful, because some narrated this hadith from Yunus, who narrated it from Ibn Shihab, while others narrated it from Rusydain who took it from Ibn Shihab.
It is reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Three will fight one another for your treasure, each one of them the son of a caliph, but none of them will gain it. Then the black banners will come from the east, and they will kill you in an unprecedented manner. When you see them, then pledge your allegiance to them even if you have to crawl over the snow, for that is the caliph from Allah, Mahdi”.
The Argument That This Hadith Is Not Reliable
Numerous Hadith scholars such as Imam Zahabi, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Turaifi, Tabarani and many others rule that such Ahaidth or narrations on the black flag are not reliable or acceptable because the content of this hadith has been intermixed with other narrations associated with the black flag of Khurasan and Imam Mahdi.
It can be thus concluded that Muslims or anyone else should not believe, support or join any Jihadist group that uses the black flags for the purpose of legitimizing their movement. They should not accept them as a ‘trustworthy group representing Truth’ merely on the basis that they carry the black flags.
Hardline Pakistani cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi recently passed away. He was known for spearheading the movement on retaining blasphemy laws, lionizing the murderers of “blasphemers,” instigating youth to murder, and calling for the death punishment of Aasia Bibi of Pakistan. A few years ago, he was noted for using abusive and foul language and one would have thought of him as a fringe figure. Yet, aerial views of his funeral indicate that it was widely attended by an overwhelming mass following in tens of thousands. Another cleric Muhammad Raza Saqib Mustafai, banned in Denmark and Australia for his extremist views, mentioned in a video that his followers were not in lakhs (hundreds of thousands) but crores (tens of millions).
Social media including reporters, writers and columnists like Orya Maqbool Jan and Khalil ur Rehman Qamar are expressing their profound grief and referring to him with honorific titles. The fact that Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was called a “dog” and an “agent of Jews” by him, also tweeted his condolences, indicates the extent of his power and influence. Indeed, he leaves behind an institution where equally talented orators and fiery sermon deliverers would easily perpetuate his legacy. In short, just as there is a wave of Hindutva and Modi mania in India, Pakistan has come under the grip of clerics like Khadim Rizvi.
What explains the rise to power of obscure clerics like Rizvi? Is it the observation that he emerges from the class of people that shares economic frustrations due to rising economic inequality and which therefore seeks to redress its perceived “inferior” position by recourse to a narrative that emphasizes the “superiority” of Islam? However, economic opportunities would not necessarily assuage the perceived grievances of such a people, as access to increased resources would simply embolden them to perpetuate their narrative on a global scale. This much is true given the influence of such clerics on the Pakistani Diaspora in western countries. Alternatively, it is perhaps the establishment that is behind the rise to power and influence of such clerics.
This may be noted from the observation that many of Rizvi’s fiery speeches extolled a hawkish approach of firing missiles against the enemies of Pakistan and Islam but a predominate silence on the plight of the Uighur Muslims in China. Additionally, he targeted politicians across the spectrum keeping them in check and confirmed the tropes that keep the establishment relevant on defense by weaving patriotism with religion through tales of past Muslim warriors.
The role of the establishment in addressing religious fanaticism can be gleaned from the divergent viewpoints of Adam Smith and David Hume in the literature on the economics of religion. Hume favoured a state sponsored Church where the clergy could be bribed into indolence. Smith, however, favoured a free religious market where the size of each group or sect would be diminished by competition from rival factions.
It bears to be noted that the U.S. has a free religious market where fundamentalist Christian groups freely promote their anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ views, whereas the U.A.E has heavy regulation of Friday sermons and quickly clamps down on anti-state elements. But the Pakistani situation is far more complex than picking the ideas of either Hume or Smith to address the fanaticism that has crept into the mainstream.
State regulation of religion in Pakistan is seemingly futile as the authority of any state sponsored religious group towards “moderation” would be flouted on their being stooges complicit in supporting state autocracy. The opposition to U.A.E. sponsored Mauritanian religious scholar Abdullah Bin Bayyah is one such example. In Pakistan, Dr. Fazlur Rahman Malik had to leave the country in 1968 despite patronage from the then president Ayub Khan, as he faced threats from conservative clerics. In recent times Javed Ahmad Ghamidi had to go into self-imposed exile for similar reasons.
On the other hand, free religious markets only work to diminish fanaticism if the market share of each group is competitively small and not oligopolistically large. However, one religious group can acquire a higher market share if it has access to a key resource another group lacks in terms of human capital through powerful orators with sharp memories and the charisma to connect with the masses. Additionally, the establishment itself can skew the market share if it overtly or covertly supports one group over another in a game of thrones, for example, by distinguishing between the good and the bad Taliban.
Therefore, Hume’s approach does not work if the state is weak and Smith’s approach does not work if the state supports a particular religious group, both of which impede curtailing fanaticism in Pakistan.
Religious extremism has become mainstream in Pakistan. This is evident not just by the grief expressed in Pakistan social media on Rizvi’s death but also from the observation that powerful members of the establishment have connections with such clerics who officiate their marriages and other religious rites. The position of liberal or left-wing critics is too ineffectual and weak to pose any challenge to the status quo.
Additionally, Pakistanis in the Diaspora are busy earning a livelihood or addressing racism in western societies to focus on the conditions in their mother country. Some western Pakistani youth latch on to movements like BLM, adopt social justice activism on indigenization and decolonization, all of which arise within a certain western context and use a western jargon for any of it to be relevant to addressing the pressing realities in Pakistan.
Other western Muslims become defensive and engage in whataboutism by deflecting to problems in other communities and countries. They pressingly want to address racism and Islamophobia but do not tackle religious fanaticism with the same fervour. Those that do address the fanaticism on blasphemy end up engaging with long winded textually religious arguments, which is necessary but also makes one wonder that even in 2020, such an approach is required for an issue as simple as not killing someone for a cartoon or caricature. Regardless, all of this means that if neither Pakistanis in Pakistan nor Pakistanis in the Diaspora are able to do much, the status quo is sustained, and religious fanaticism becomes mainstream in Pakistan.
Junaid Jahangir is an Assistant Professor of Economics at MacEwan University. He is the co-author of Islamic Law and Muslim Same-Sex Unions. With Dr. Hussein Abdullatif, a paediatric endocrinologist in Alabama, he has co-authored several academic papers on the issue of same-sex unions in Islam.