Middle East Online : The Faithful Fight Against Terror
Last week, Muslim cleric Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against terrorism in general, and suicide terrorism in particular. His is not the first, just the latest -- comprehensive and powerful, says Hesham Hassaballa.
It was so good to see this time that CNN covered the event: Last week, a prominent Muslim cleric, Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against terrorism in general, and suicide terrorism in particular. Although edicts such as these have been issued in the past, this particular fatwa is important in that the scholar who authorised it is the founder of the Minhaj-ul-Quran International movement, with centers in 90 countries.
And it is important in that he goes as far as saying that suicide terrorists are "kafirs," or unbelievers. As Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri, a 59-year-old cleric from Pakistan, said in a recent phone interview, "Until now, scholars who were condemning terrorism were conditional and qualified what they said. I didn't leave a single, minor aspect that, in the mind of radicals or extremists, can take them to the direction of martyrdom."
Manan Ahmed, assistant professor of Islam in South and Southeast Asia at the Institute for Islamic Studies in Berlin told CNN: "This is a landmark theological study -- a careful and systematic treatment of a thousand years of legal tradition dealing with armed resistance against the state, rules of engagement, aspects. The fatwa itself ... is categorically and comprehensively against terrorism in any form and for any cause."
This import religious edict has come two years after the Deoband Declaration, which is famous throughout the Muslim world, but went almost completely unreported. The Darul Uloom at Deoband, founded in 1866, is the most influential Muslim religious school in South and Southeast Asia. It is, in fact, the second most important institute of Islamic learning after Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. The statements, declarations and fatwas that come from this institute hold great influence in the Muslim world.
At its "All India Terrorism Conference," held on February 25, 2008, the institute declared:
[At] this All India Anti-Terrorism Conference attended by the representatives of all Muslim schools of thought organized by Rabta Madaris Islamiah Arabia (Islamic Madrassa Association), Darul Uloom Deoband condemns all kinds of violence and terrorism in the strongest possible terms.
Maulana Marghoobur Rahmad of Darul Uloom said, "There is no place for terrorism in Islam. Terrorism, killing of the innocent, is against Islam." This is particularly significant as many extremist leaders, such as Mullah Omar of the Taliban, have claimed to be associated with Deoband's religious schools.
There has been much heard from critics of the Muslim community that "the voices of condemnation against terrorism and violence among the Muslim community are completely silent." Many times, people ask, "Where are the moderate Muslims speaking in condemnation?" And the implication is made that there must be a silent and tacit approval of the atrocities committed in Islam's name.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, there is a long history of Muslim voices loudly and forcefully condemning terrorism and violence for centuries, beginning with the Prophet Muhammad himself. The problem is, so many people choose not to hear them.
From issuing fatwas against terrorism and violence, and collaboration with law enforcement officials in fighting the spread of extremism, to fighting extremism -- even using Rock and Roll music -- Muslims the world over have been fighting the good fight against the vicious murderers who claim to be fighting in the name of Islam. Far from being "silent co-conspirators," the overwhelming majority of Muslims have completely rejected the worldview of Al Qaeda and their neo-Kharijite ilk. and are actively engaged in the struggle against them.
When the U.S. government officials failed to heed the warnings of the Christmas Day bomber's own father, it did not make critics of Islam and of Muslim communities pause to acknowledge that Muslims are at the forefront in the struggle against violent extremism and terrorism. And Muslims should be: not only because of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the victims of terrorist attacks by Muslims are innocent Muslims themselves, but that their faith demands that they stand up to injustice, even if it be from within their own community.
Some may ask, what is one more fatwa going to do? Do terrorists even listen to the numerous fatwas that are issued which condemn their actions? Most probably do not. But the fatwas that are issued, such as the one last week by Muhammad Tahir al-Qadri, are not aimed at them, but rather to instruct any potential recruits of these terrorist criminals.
The more Muslims understand that the path of terror and violence that the criminals are calling them to does not lead to virgins but to condemnation, the less likely they will follow that path. And that means t the swamps in which the terrorists breed will dry up all the sooner. And the day can not come too soon that they all fade away into oblivion.
Hesham Hassaballa is a physician and writer living in Chicago. He is co-author of The Beliefnet Guide to Islam (Doubleday).