Spero Forum : Islam: A fatwa against religious justifications for Islamic terrorism
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
A 600 page document by Prof. Tahir ul-Quadri, against violence, signals the beginning of a new season in the Islamic world. Like the pope in Regensburg, he says that God is reason and is against violence. Now a movement of people is needed to purify the disfigured face of Islam.
Beirut – On March 2nd , Tahir ul-Qadri, a Pakistani sheikh Soufi, declared to the BBC that he had produced a 600 page document that demolished the ideology of terrorist groups who refer back to the Qur'an and Sunnah. Al-Qaeda, he says, is "an old evil under anew name”. The fatwa defies the religious justifications of suicide bombers who dream of the paradise promised to martyrs. They are not martyrs at all, they are simply criminals. The organization of Dr Qadri, Minhaj ul-Quran International, which has about 5000 members and 10 mosques in Britain, undertook to distribute this document and the teachings of the spiritual master. God be praised! Al-Hamdu li-llah! Finally, an authoritative and learned voice that loudly proclaims what everyone has long held at the bottom of their hearts, that violence cannot be justified in the name of God and that while injustice can explain certain reactions, it can never justify them!
Violence: characteristic of Islam?
Certainly, there has been violence as long as man has walked the earth. In one way or another, almost all cultures and mythologies have practiced it. The mythical story of Adam and Eve in the Bible shows that harmony lies in submission / obedience to God, and it introduces a “heavenly” life, while violence lies in rebellion / disobedience to God In the Koran, Islam brings to salâm (submission to God creates peace and harmony), rather than ‘isyân (rebellion) which leads to disorder and violence.
The story of Cain and Abel (Qâbîl wa-Hâbîl), indicated in the Bible as the children of Adam and Eve expresses this reality: extreme violence, murder, are enrolled in the human heart and are a rejection of God, which leads to our own rejection by men. We find the same approach in the Koran, although with different formulas, the sura of Mâ’idah (he Table Spread") 5, 27-32, with this conclusion that clearly shows the link with the Jewish tradition (v. 32):
"For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s sovereignty), but afterwards, lo! Many of them became prodigals in the earth. (trans. UCOII).
We know how the anthropologist René Girard has developed this founding myth in his book "Violence and the Sacred" (1972), edited by Ottavio Fatigue and Eva Czerkl (Milano: Adelphi, 1980).
The fact is that man from every cultural or religious tradition has practiced violence, and has often sought to justify his actions in the name of God. No religion, no culture is exempt.
For this reason, throughout history, violence is not typical of Islam. I would say that it is typical of human beings, the only being capable of practicing violence even when it is not a vital necessity.
Non-violence as a program
However, it is task of spiritual reflection to try to eliminate violence, to place rejection of violence, "non-violence", at the heart of culture. In our time, Mahatma
Gandhi (October 2, 1869 - January 30, 1948) established non-violence not only as an ethical principle, but also as a political program. He was not he the first to choose this path, but he was the first - I believe - to have instilled this goal in the masses, and practically demonstrate the effectiveness of this ideal. And we also know that he paid the price for this peaceful political revolution, with his martyrdom.
Non-violence in Islam?
Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri has dared to oppose the destructive power of terrorism to wrest any religious pretence from it: in the name of Islam or in the name of God – be he called Allah, God, or by any other name - no one can claim to obtain goodness and justice through violence. God - whatever description men (considered prophets) gave to him - cannot identify with violence. Quadri is not the first to condemn Islamic terrorism: before him, different Muslim religious figures have done so. Among them: the Grand Chancellor of the University Al-Azhar, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi. But Quadri is certainly the first in Islam to address the issue in a radical way, writing a treatise of 600 pages to respond to all the arguments inspired by the Quran or the Sunnah (tradition) of Islam. It is characteristic of Islamic terrorism to justify its practice by relying on arguments based on Quranic verses and the Sunnah. In order to ensure that they – by carrying out an act of terrorism - make the supreme act of piety, they do so only after receiving a fatwa. Instead, for Quadri violence is never acceptable, it is against God himself. This is precisely what Benedict XVI developed his own way in Regensburg, in his famous speech of 12 September 2006, saying that violence is an irrational act and therefore contrary to God, who is reason itself, and thus contrary to religion.
Violence justified by injustice?
It is often said that Islamic terrorism is merely a reaction against the injustice suffered by the Muslim world at the hands of colonialism and imperialism. Frequently cited examples of this include the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 on the land of Islam (Dâr al-Islâm) and terrorism practiced by Western countries, especially the U.S., against the Muslim world. Particular reference is made to anti-US sentiment, especially after George W. Bush spoke of the war against Iraq using the term "crusade". However, there is a difference of degree between "Islamic terrorism" and the "terrorism of the U.S.": the former relies on the Koran and fatwa issued by men of religion, the latter does not rely on the Bible and the Fathers of the Church nor on the teaching of the men of religion, rather it acts in the name of its civilization.
Thus it is hardly surprising that the world considers the religion of the former and the civilisation of the latter both horrible.
This is why it is important that Americans take to the streets to protest against the terrorism carried out on behalf of their civilization, and that Muslims protest against the terrorism carried out in the name of their religion.
Taking to the streets does not translate into an admittance of guilt. It is a form of protest against misdeeds carried out in the name of my religion and therefore in my name. In any case I am certainly not responsible for what others do. Everyone is responsible for his or her actions, and nobody is responsible for those of others. As the Koran says (6 / 164): "no soul earns (evil) but against itself, and no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another”.
Violence in the name of Islam, moreover, is so widespread that it is now carried out more against other Muslims than against the "unbelievers” (kuffar): think of Algeria in the years '92-2002, where more than 100 thousand Muslims (from 60 to 150 thousand, according to estimates) were killed, often with their throats cut or disembowelled alive, think of the bloodshed between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq or Pakistan ... We often hear that the fanatic crowds are manipulated by their governments that want to divert attention from the real problems of their people. It's true! But why is it that, in order to do so, these governments use Islam? The fact is that too many Muslims are easily manipulated in the name of Islam. As always, it is important to underline the difference: religion has nothing to do with defending the land and the concept of "Islamic land (Dâr al-Islâm) is now outdated and unacceptable in international law. If a country is attacked, I will defend it whatever nation it may be, in the name of international law and justice, but not in the name of a religion (unless that religion is sensitive to international law and justice). Unfortunately, the violence and terrorism of the Islamists have almost become the normal way to settle scores. And the worst is that this is justified by resorting to religion.
Quadri’s fatwa is an important gesture. It may be as be but a ripple in a pool, but on the other hand it may also be the beginning of a movement of thought and action! The fatwa itself will not change things. As they say: one swallow does not a summer make, and likewise, a fatwa is not a doctrine.
Especially since thousands of fatwa are now issued each year on diverse and often obsolete topics.
However this fatwa is a prophetic act. A fatwa of 600 pages (in reality a treaty) could provoke debate among intellectuals and religious. It is an act of reason, matured and reflected upon over the years.
It now depends on the Muslim scholars and Muslim masses (but also on us all) to see that this document become a current of concerted action and reflection, to wash Islam (and every religious current) clean of the shame of having attributed God as the source and inspiration of absolute evil.
This world needs positive acts.
It is not enough to say and repeat that "Islam means salâm, peace!" It is too easy. We need gestures. In the same way there are mass demonstrations - inflamed by the speeches of the Ulema - against the "Danish cartoons" or against the speech of Benedict XVI in Regensburg, or - more recently - against the person and the thought of Talima Nasreen in Karnataka , so we need mass demonstrations of people for non-violence. Days ago, President Gadhafi has declared a jihad against Switzerland, to save the honour of his son Hannibal! How is it possible that this is the only reaction to occur to a head of state? Our Muslim world is in a crisis and has been for many decades. We do not dare confront modernity to rethink ourselves, to distinguish positive from negative, and propose reforms that are not a throwback, to a pseudo-golden age, that of the "rightly guided caliphs (al-khulafâ’ ar-râshidûn), of whom three out of four were assassinated. We must make our reforms, to regain our dignity in this Arab-Muslim world. Perhaps then, the West will regard us in another light!.
 As recently as Sunday, March 7, 2010, the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar gave a report on page 11 by the Palestinian Jawwad al-Bashir on the latest fatwa of the Saudi Sheikh Abd al-Rahman al-Barrak, which supports death to any person who authorizes mixed schools.