COUNTERING RADICALISATION AND VIOLENT EXTREMISM

Let us not link radicalisation of Muslims to a few young Muslims joining ISIS, though none joined al-Qaeda. After all, the Taliban who created a satanic system of mis-governance in Afghanistan were ordinary students and teachers of Deobandi and ahl-e- Hadeesi madrasas in Pakistan, who studied the same text books as do Muslim students of madrasas in India.

So radicalisation is not something new. No less than 18,000 and according to some estimates, 30,000 Indian Muslims left their homes, and, in some cases prized government jobs, and went to Afghanistan in 1920, as they considered British India Darul Harb, the land of infidels, and believed that it is not religiously correct to live in a land not governed by Islamic Sharia. No less an Alim (scholar) than Maulana Abul Kalam Azad gave a fatwa, along with others, saying that it is a Muslim’s duty to leave the Darl Harb and migrate to Darul Islam.

Radicalisation or extremism in thought doesn’t necessarily lead to terrorism. But these states of mind certainly are stepping stones to violence and terrorism. Undoubtedly, there are several factors at play in acts of violence. But for a Muslim, theological sanction is a must in going for jihad in the sense of qital, killing, warfare, and even one’s own death. Every Muslim knows that both killing an innocent or killing oneself are strictly prohibited in Islam. So, persuading a Muslim to kill innocent civilians on any account or commit suicide in order to kill others should be a near impossible task. And yet an army of suicide bombers emerge from within the Muslim society wherever required by motivated groups with the necessary resources.

This should have been deeply, deeply worrying for the Muslim community, as it is to the larger world community. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Of course, there is hardly any recognised Muslim institution anywhere in the world which has not denounced terrorism and sought to delink it from Islam. How come then Muslims continue to be attracted to extremist violence. Almost 30,000 Muslims from 100 countries travelled to the so-called Islamic State within a year. Now, from India too, there are sporadic reports of Muslim youth getting radicalised and some even going to what they must consider the pure land of Islam.

The answer to this lies in the nature of anti-terror fatwas themselves. All these fatwas quote Quranic verses from the early Meccan period but do not engage with the Medinan verses of war, quoted by jihadi ideologues, ordering killing of unbelievers and polytheists. Out of seventy war verses of this period, fifty-nine are of a purely defensive nature and only eleven can be categorised as of offensive or preemptive nature. There should be no difficulty in our ulema (scholars of Islam) telling us that such contextual verses do not apply to us anymore as we are no longer fighting those wars. Not one alim (scholar), however, is prepared to say that.

As a matter of fact, all madrasas teach books such as Tafsir-e-Jalalain, which say that the war-time verses ordering killings of kuffar have abrogated the earlier Meccan verses exhorting peace, pluralism, patience in the face of persecution, etc. But ulema running the same madrasas keep quoting “abrogated” peaceful verses to make the hypocritical statement that Islam is a religion of peace.

Much worse is the case of Ahadees, the so-called sayings of the Prophet. Hadees was collected and written down decades and centuries after the demise of the Prophet. While the Muhaddesin (experts in Hadees) like Imam Bukhari, Muslim, etc studied and authenticated the chain of narrations, they did not study the content to see if they supported or contradicted the holy Quran, the personality of the Prophet (pbuh) and the spirit of Islam.

For instance, the holy Quran says: “if any one slew a person – unless it be (as punishment) for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole mankind: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of thewhole mankind. (Qur’an, 5:32)

But the Prophet, who did everything to avoid war and establish peace, is supposed to have said in a Hadees considered authentic, “I have been ordered to fight against people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah and until they perform the prayers and pay the zakat, and if they do so they will have gained protection from me for their lives and property, …”
This is the same Prophet who had been told in Quranic verses repeatedly that God does not like aggressors (9:36) and (2:190) and to whom had been revealed the pluralistic Quranic verse that says “lakum denakum, waleya deen,” for you your religion, for me mine,” the Quran -109:5. Is it possible for such a prophet to say something like the above? I believe not. But it becomes possible to think so, if you considerpeaceful, pluralistic verses of the Holy Quran abrogated.

Clearly our ulema will have to do better than merely quoting peaceful verses of Quran, which they themselves consider abrogated, if we are to save Islam and the world from an impending disaster caused by rampant Islam supremacism. There is a reason why some of our educated, intelligent youth trust terror ideologues more than the ulema making peaceful noises. It’s not difficult to see who is being hypocritical and dishonest.

Indeed, Islamist terrorism is a product of a theology of violence andsupremacism, exclusivism and intolerance that has evolved over centuries, starting right from the beginning of Islamic history. Not only Arab theologians like the original Khwarij, Ibn-e-Taimiya, Mohammad ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab and Syed Qutb, but also revered Indian scholars like Mujaddid Alf-e-Saani Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi, Shah Waliulllah and Maulana Abul Ala Maududi have given a supremacist vision of Islam based on the Medinan verses of war and ahadees supposedly from this period.

To go forward, we will need to start a substantive dialogue with the ulema and make sure that they agree to:
•Open the gates of ijtihad, creatively rethinking all tenets of Islam in the light of the situation prevailing today.

•Declare that only constitutive and essential, not the contextual and allegorical verses of Quran, are meantto guide us today.

•Compile Qur’anic verses in the order in which they were revealed, thus restoring primacy to Meccan verses of peace and pluralism that mostly constitute the essential and universal teachings of Quran.

•Declare that ahadees cannot be considered any form of revelation from God.

•Declare that Sharia is not divine. It was created over a century after the demise of the Prophet and has changed since from place to place.

• Declare clearly that Islam believes in co-existence with other religions, notpolitical dominion over the world.

•Declare that Khilafat is not an essential aspect of Islamic theology.

•Gradually dismantle the institution of full-time clergy. It has no basis in Islam’s foundational texts, neither in Quran nor in Hadith, nor in early Muslim practices.

•Re-define commonly used Islamic terms like Muslim, kafir, mushrik, munafiq, ahl-e-kitab, jihad, qital, farz, sunnat, etc, and concepts like Al-Wala Wal-Bara (loving friends of God and hating and actively working against enemies of God) and Amr Bil Maroof & Nahi Anil Munkar.

In a word, we must evolve a truly Islamic and a coherent theology of peace and co-existence, moderation and modernity, to counter the very coherent theology of violence and xenophobia, intolerance and supremacism that ulema have created over centuries.

Sultan Shahin is an alumnus of Patna University and is the founder and editor of the multi-lingual Islamic website NewAgeIslam.com. His career in journalism spans 40 years during which time he has travelled extensively in India and abroad and has acquired expertise in Islamic theology, politics, and culture as well as an empirical knowledge of the impact of religion and ideology over radicalisation and radicalism. He has written edit-page articles, opinion pieces, special reports, and columns for major Indian publications such as the Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Times of India, The Asian Age, etc. as well as for international newspapers such as the Asia Times Online, Hong Kong. His website is aimed at engaging with the Muslim communities across the world, to encourage open debate and to rethink Islam by fighting xenophobia, religious intolerance and gender inequality in Islamic societies. Its main focus is to combat jihadi radicalism at an ideological level by promoting a progressive interpretation of the Islamic scriptures.

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