Open Letter to Maulana Firangimahali: Why Do Moderate Ulema Stay Silent When Terrorists Claim - Islam Has Never Been A Religion Of Peace, Not Even For A Day
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I have been watching you on television channels in the last few days, defending Islam as a religion of peace, calling the so-called Islamic State “un-Islamic,”, expressing sentiments and opinions that I entirely agree with. But this has made me wonder why do you and your fellow ulema keep completely silent when self-styled Khalifa al-Baghdadi and his followers say repeatedly that “Islam has never been a religion of peace, not even for a day,” and that “it has always been a religion of war and conflict.
I didn’t see you or any other ulema questioning your Nadwi colleague from Lucknow, the influential Salman Nadwi when he became the first Indian Muslim alim (Islamic scholar, singular of ulema) in July 2014 to convey his allegiance to the same Khalifa, addressing him as Ameer-ul Momineen, leader of the global Muslim community. No wonder, his name now figures in the list of ulema who have influenced Indian Muslim youth who have joined and some even migrated to the so-called Islamic State.
I didn’t see you questioning the notorious tele-evangelist Dr. Zakir Naik when he said: “all Muslims should be terrorists” or when he said: “Quran allows Muslims to have sex with female slaves.” Indeed, you all kept quiet when Naik made hateful remarks like the following: “People in the west eat pork and hence behave like pigs. Pigs are the only animals in the world that invite their friends to have sex with their partners. Westerners also do the same.” Naik has made insulting other religions in the guise of comparative study or interfaith dialogue his speciality. But I find almost the entire fraternity of Muslim ulema coming out in his defence when it was discovered that his discourse inevitably inspired several people around the world who took to the path of terrorism.
Worst of all, you and all other ulema kept quiet when Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi of Hyderabad asked Muslims to pray for the Islamic State. In a press release available online he said: “Condemnation of their (Islamic State’s) action may not be called sagacity and will be considered against the spirit of Islam. … they have tried to fulfil the dream of a large section of Muslims and their determination has infused a new life into the concept of Caliphate. Their announcement (of caliphate) has surpassed Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Abul Ala Maududi’s powerful writings and speeches about Caliphate and has realized the concept practically. … This has sparked a new life in the dormant political life of Islam and this might have certainly heartened religious Muslims as more or less after one hundred years Caliphate has come to existent (sic). In other words, Islamic Caliphate is no longer a concept but seems to have become a reality.”
Most disturbing of all is your and other ulema’s complete silence over a seemingly very well-reasoned, coherent fatwa, citing verses from Quran and narrations of Hadith, of the Hyderabadi Maulana, seeking to prove that Islam asks beleaguered Muslims to fight and not sit helplessly when they perceive being under attack by non-Muslims whom he calls “infidels” and “idol-worshippers” or kafirs and mushriks respectively.
In a booklet entitled “Use of Force in the light of Quran,” written in response to Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi’s essay renouncing offensive violence in the name of Islam, Maulana Islahi, says:
The summary of whatever Dr Saheb (Dr Nejatullah Siddiqi) has written is that … no matter what the flag bearers of Hindutva may do, taking any step against them or confronting them with the use of force will be wrong from the point of view of Shariah and harmful for the Muslims.
On Page 10/11, in a chapter entitled “Jihad is not violence,” he says, “In the light of the Quran and hadith, calling punishment for crime violence is very wrong. It is an un-Islamic idea. In fact, the punishment that is given for preventing the criminal from committing crimes is not violence and atrocity but a benevolent act and a blessing. However, whatever meaning the word ‘violence’ may convey, calling violence permissible only in two situations by Dr (Nejatullah Siddiqi) Saheb is also extremely erroneous and is akin to striking a hard blow at the purpose of the prophethood of the holy Prophet. Please see Surah Tauba, Chapter 9 of the Quran, verse No. 29:
“And fight against those who do not have faith in God and in the Day of Judgment and declare haram what God and his prophet have declared halal, and among those people of the Book do not accept the true faith until they pay the Jizyah with their own hand and are subdued." (Quran 9: 29)
“In this verse, fight has been ordained against those under three conditions until they pay jizyah: a) they do not profess faith in God and Day of Judgment; b) do not accept as haram what God and his prophet have declared haram; c) do not accept Islam as their religion.”
One of the cornerstones of moderate Islam is the often-quoted verse “La ikraha fiddin,” (Let there be no compulsion in religion.): Quran 2: 256. But the way Maulana Islahi turns it around is worth noting. He says: “This does not mean that ahl-e-Kufr, (infidels) should be left totally free on earth with their un-belief and should not be made accountable. If this were true, what do we mean when we say that the religion of God has been revealed to dominate the world?
"It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikoon (polytheists, idolaters, etc.) hate it." (Quran. 9: 33)
“What will this verse mean then and what relevance will the obligation of jihad have?
“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 (religion) God as 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.
"And fight them until there is no fitnah (mischief) and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah. And if they cease - then indeed, Allah is Seeing of what they do." (Quran. 8:39)
“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).
“United, fight the polytheists as they fight against you.” (Quran. 9:36)
On Page 17, Maulana Islahi says: “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.”
Maulana’s entire essay is a call for the Indian Muslims to fight the forces of Hindutva. But none of you ulema, Maulana Firangimahali Saheb, have refuted Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi, as you have not denounced Dr. Zakir Naik or Maulana Salman Nadvi. Not even when it became known that Maulana Islahi had inspired the Indian Mujahedin group. Perhaps your problem is that you cannot, as you yourself cannot but believe in what Maulana Islahi says. What Maulana Islahi or Zakir Naik are saying is primarily based on the current theology, the theology that you all have studied and teach in your madrasas and universities. How you can you condemn that.
The most authoritative book of Islamic jurisprudence to date, Al-Mausu’ah al-fiq-hiyah al-Kuwaitiyyah (Kuwaiti Encyclopaedia of Islamic Jurisprudence), prepared in Kuwait by a consensus of ulema from all schools of thought, after nearly half-a-century’s effort, and whose Urdu version was released on 23 October 2009 by Vice President Hamid Ansari in Delhi, defines Jihad thus: “Terminologically, Jihad means to fight against a non-Zimmi unbeliever (a kafir who is not paying jizya to an Islamic State), after he rejects the call towards Islam, in order to establish or raise high the words of Allah.”
Clearly, the consensus Maulana Islahi claims for his Islam supremacism, exclusivism and xenophobia is not wrong. Making Islam dominant over all other religions is indeed the goal of all ulema, past and present. All the intolerance and xenophobia of political Islam flows from there. It’s only when one studies these theological tomes one can see that it is not possible for you ulema to refute your Jihadi ideologues in any meaningful way. Making dishonest, false statements of peace and pluralism to the non-Muslim media is also allowed under the Doctrine of Taqaiyya mainly derived from the Quranic verse: 3:28: “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as auliya (supporters, helpers, etc.) instead of the believers, and whoever does that will never be helped by Allah in any way, unless he does it out of fear or taqaiyah (pious dissimulation). And Allah warns you against Himself (His Punishment) and to Allah is the final return.” This doctrine used to be mainly part of Shia jurisprudence, but it seems Sunnis have also adopted it under the onslaught of global media that is now asking informed questions.
Nothing is thus going to change, unless all you ulema are prepared to move forward from your present position, renounce the theology of violence and exclusivism, intolerance and supremacism, that exists today in the form of Islamic theological literature and help us ordinary folk evolve a new theology of peace and pluralism. Islam is undoubtedly a religion of peace and pluralism, love for all and spiritualism. It does indeed teach harmonious co-existence. But Islamic theology of today, as taught in madrasas and universities, doesn’t. The theology that you ulema have studied and teach to our hapless children is a theology of supremacism. Islam is in crisis today. It has become practically synonymous with terrorism.
Wake up, Maulana Firangimahali Saheb, and start taking remedial action at least now. If you can’t do that, at least stop deceiving the world through your peaceful pronouncements. We are now living in a world of internet. Scholarship is available on fingertips. Everyone is a scholar. You can’t hide anything.
To tell you the truth, you are not deceiving any one, not the least our children who are running away to the so-called Islamic State, even when you call it the “un-Islamic State.” Intelligent, educated, they all know the truth. You recite peaceful Meccan verses of pluralism, co-existence, good-neighbourliness, exhortations of patience in times of adversity, etc., in your appearances on television or when forced to issue a fatwa against terrorism. But you teach in your madrasas, tafasir (interpretations) of Quran like, say, the Tafsir Jalalain, considered one of the most authentic. It explains the Doctrine of Abrogation, widely accepted by ulema, whereby peaceful Meccan verses are said to have been abrogated by the later Medinan verses of war. By and large the doctrine is based on the following verse of the Quran: 1: 106, in which God says: “None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?”
The so-called sword verse alone, according to Jalalain, abrogates no less than 19 Meccan verses exhorting peace and patience in the face of persecution. This Verse (Quran 9:5) says: “When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.”
One of the Jalals, Jalal al-Din 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr al-Suyuti (1445-1505) interprets 9:73 (O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them. And their refuge is Hell, and wretched is the destination) as a case of postponing the fight until Muslims become strong. His argument is that “when Muslims were weak, God commanded them to be patient.” Another revered Quran exegete, taught in all madrasas and departments of Islamic studies in universities, is Ibn-e-Kathir (1301-1372). He says that the sword verse (Quran 9: 5) "abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term...” Similarly, Ibn Juzayy (d. 1340), another respected Qur'an exegete says: The Verse of the Sword's purpose is "abrogating every peace treaty in the Qur'an.""
Then there are ahadith (plural of hadith, so-called sayings of the Prophet pbuh) that terror ideologues use to justify terror and you Maulana Firangimahali and your fellow ulema consider akin to revelation.
Take, for instance, the most widely quoted hadith in this context: "I have been commanded to fight all mankind till they testify that there is none worthy of worship but Allah, and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer perfectly and pay zakat. If they do this, they have protected their lives and their wealth from me except for Islamic laws and their reckoning will be with Allah the Almighty.”
--- Sahih Bukhari (Vol.1. Book 2, Number 24, page 402) as well as (Sahih Muslim, 31:5917), the two books of Hadith considered the most reliable and authentic by all ulema.
My problem with this Satanic Hadith is: Can the prophet (pbuh) do or say something against the express exhortations of the Holy Quran, as he seems to be doing in this case, violating the universal declaration of Quran, quoted above, Quran 2: 256; “La ikraha fiddin,” (Let there be no compulsion in religion) and many other similar Meccan verses of peace, pluralism and co-existence, teaching Muslims to be patient while facing persecution? I would say, NO, the Prophet can never do or say anything that violates universal declarations of the Quran, which is the word of God revealed to him.
But you Maulana Firangimahali and your fellow ulema would say the following: “this hadith (“saying” of the prophet) is as good as a revelation and since it came, like similar war-time verses, later than the previous universal declarations of freedom of religion, pluralism and co-existence, it has abrogated not only the above but many other peaceful verses revealed earlier at Mecca when the foundation of the religion of Islam was being laid.” You all will say this because all the universally revered exegetes of Quran say the same thing, except Mu’tazilah (rationalist) scholars like Abu Muslim Al-Asfahani. You read these secondary Islamic literature, the exegeses and interpretations by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, (Jamie Al-Bayan: 7/646), Ibn-e-Kathir (1/207 and 2/774), Jalalain (51 mention of abrogation in numerous places in Tafsir al-Jalalain), Al-Qurtubi (Al-Jamie Li Ahkam Al-Quran 10/157), etc., believe in these analyses and exegeses unquestioningly, and teach this in your madrasas. Tafseer Ibn Katheer:
Do you know how many children in India have started calling their parents kafir? And for good reason. On the one hand you teach the children Jihad in the sense of Qital against all infidels and polytheists (kuffar and Mushrikeen) and on the other ask them to practice peace and pluralism, and co-exist with the same kuffar and Mushrikeen. Please be honest, call for war against the so-called infidels and idol-worshippers, as Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi, Khalifa Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other Jihadi ideologues do, or renounce your theology of violence and supremacism and let us common Muslims evolve a new and coherent theology of peace and pluralism, co-existence and acceptance of all religions as valid paths to eternal salvation.
Sultan Shahin is the Founding Editor of a Delhi-based, multilingual, progressive Islamic website NewAgeIslam.com. He considers Islam a spiritual path to eternal salvation, one of the many, not a political ideology of world-domination.
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