Kabob Fest : Shaykh Issues Fatwa, People Get Stoked
Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 at 7:51 pm
In the thriving and exciting world of usul ul-fiqh – Islamic jurisprudence – comes another unbinding legal opinion (fatwa) that is gaining publicity. Pakistani Islamic scholar Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri recently published a 600 page book refuting any and all arguments put forward by groups such as al-Qaeda in support of the use of terrorism (suicide tactics getting a special shout-out).
This is not the first fatwa condemning Islamist terrorism, however it is the first to be as thorough and detailed as it is. Drawing from the various sources – Qur’an, Hadith, qiyas (legal analogy), hundreds of commentaries over the centuries from various scholars, tafsirs (thorough and informed interpretations of Qur’anic chapters) and early Islamic history (during the time of the first three generations of Islam for whom Muslims hold great respect and deduce authority at times). However unlike his contemporaries who have also issued fatwas on terrorism – and suicide bombings in particular – ul-Qadri condemns not only the acts of terrorism as un-Islamic but also claims that individuals who perpetrate acts of terrorism are not upon the path towards paradise but rather hellfire. By engaging in acts which transgress the boundaries put forth by Islam (as outlined primarily in the Qur’an and Hadith), by targeting innocent civilians (women and children especially) either in a state of official war or in implicit war and by committing these acts by committing suicide makes one of kufr or disbelief. And as soon as these acts of kufr are committed, the individual is outside the lines of Islam and ceases to be Muslim.
In a recent interview, al-Sharq al-Awsat asked him why he had chosen to come out with this fatwa now:
The reason that I issued a fatwa at this particular time is because terrorism has become stronger in Pakistan over the past year, and they have begun slaughtering people like sacrificial animals. Some eye-witnesses have even said that they have unearthed the bodies of people that were killed and hung from trees for days…this was done in Sawat [in Pakistan] where many people were slaughtered. They then started targeting mosques on Friday, and this happened in Karachi, not to mention the Army Mosque in Islamabad, and also [mosques in] Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Kohat, and many other places.
So yeah. Kind of a big deal.
While the book is being translated into several languages, it becomes very apparent that one of Dr. ul-Qadri’s primary goals is to address the growing religious divisions and violence raging currently in Pakistan, a country in dire need of more vocal Islamic scholars and academics on this particular issue.
But before you get stoked, hold up. Chances are, as Qadri himself notes, this fatwa isn’t going to deter any individual bent on wreaking destruction vis a vis explosive suicide from doing so. Rather, it is meant to act as a deterrence for those who harbor views or sympathies that not only offer a support basis for those who commit such acts but also can lead otherwise non-violent individuals off the edge and towards a path of destruction. While initially cynical about the impact even then this fatwa would have, after having read up on the religious edict and seen an extremely thorough press conference given by Qadri (only in super rich Urdu, no subtitles!), it’ll definitely be interesting to see to where this leads.
There is no hierarchal clergy system in mainstream Sunni Islam, thus opinions such as this fatwa remain legally legitimate but not binding. And while it may have some ‘positive’ impact on deradicalization of male Muslim youth (however that is determined), it’s categorical condemnation of perpetrators of ‘terrorism’ to hell, specifically, goes against Islamic legal tradition which does not take such unconditional positions on issues, especially those relating to kufr. Additionally, by condemning such individuals to hell, Qadri puts himself – even though a scholar of Sufism – in line with some of the very individuals he seeks to attack or deter. He commits categorical takfir (proclamation of someone being outside of Islam, very touchy subject and often grossly abused) and some thing of that sort can lead to a messy intellectual situation as well as backlash – from people of all walks of life, not just of the ‘extremist’ persuasion.
But that’s a whole other can of worms. Let’s just see how this pans out.