The Atheist Conservative : A fine fatwa and its sad fatuity

A prominent Islamic scholar has issued a religious fatwa condemning terrorism as “kufr” or an act of disbelief so severe that that those who believe in it forfeit their right to call themselves Muslims… Most previous fatwa rulings only go as far as calling terrorism “haram” or forbidden …

Dr Qadri is a “sheikh ul-Islam”, one of the highest positions in Islamic jurisprudence, and also the head of Minhaj ul-Quran, a global Islamic group whose members are mostly from the Pakistani community.

The 59-year-old scholar, who has written more than 400 books on Islamic jurisprudence, told fellow Muslims: “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching [but see our post Thou shalt kill, March 3, 2010, and the Koran and the hadith] and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses of ifs and buts. The world needs an absolute, unconditional, unqualified and total condemnation of terrorism”.

He also denounced those who try to justify suicide bombings by claiming Muslims who carry out such operations are martyrs destined for paradise. “They can’t claim that their suicide bombings are martyrdom operations and that they become the heroes of the Muslim umma,” he said. “No, they become the heroes of hellfire and they are leading towards hellfire. There is no place for any martyrdom and their act is never, ever to be considered jihad.”

Although numerous fatwas condemning terrorism have been released by scholars around the world since 9/11, Sheik Tahir ul-Qadri’s 600-page ruling is both significant and unusual because it is one of the few available in English and online. Those hoping to combat terrorism have long spoken of their frustration at the traditional Islamic hierarchy’s inability to exert their influence on the internet, where violent jihadists and Saudi-influenced Wahabis have long reigned supreme.

The fatwa could of course be a very good thing if all Muslims everywhere obey it. But here is one Muslim’s comment, which discourages the hope that many will.

To quote the greater part of it -

Regarding Shaikh Dr Tahir ul-Qadri’s Anti-Terrorism Fatwa, recently launched in London, I guess any steps forward in fighting terrorism should be considered a good thing. However, these initiatives can be read in many ways and I’ll give you a few points off the top of my head, replicates what many others are thinking in the Muslim community.

Firstly, I doubt this will have the clout envisaged by one of it’s apparent key promoters the Quilliam foundation (a counter-terrorism think tank) as the fatwa itself does not have the unanimous backing of the most prominent scholars and Sheikhs, although the opinions and rulings of some prominent scholars do appear to have been involved in drawing it up. Also this is not the first fatwa to condemn suicide bombings/terrorism, and Qadri is not the first ‘important/eminent’ Sheikh to issue such a fatwa, as many more prominent scholars and Sheikhs have done so already …

Secondly, regarding Qadri’s status, the Sheikh in question appears to head a Sufi organisation and as such there will be many branches of the Muslim community that will not recognise his rulings… because in the past he has made segregating comments about some other [fundamentalist] Muslim communities such as Wahabbis and Deobandis. So I’d suggest that this fatwa is not really groundbreaking apart from inside his own organisation and will never be widely acknowledged apart from by his own followers.

Thirdly, although it is important that such a Fatwa has been publicised, the importance and reach perceived by the press, Quilliam foundation, etc, does appear overrated/overestimated. Why? Because those that commit such crimes have already heard existing Fatwa’s stating it to be wrong and ignore them, those that do not recognise this Sheikh would have already heard existing Fatwa’s stating it to be wrong, those that follow this Sheikh should already be clear terrorism is wrong and do not need a Fatwa to tell them this, and those non-followers that already know it to be wrong do not need another Fatwa to remind them.

I’ve read a cross-section of interesting views which collectively place this Fatwa in it’s correct context and weight it’s relevance:

“The fatwa, running to 600 pages, has been written by Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, founder and leader of a Muslim sect based in Pakistan, and highlighted in a press release from the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremism thinktank which last year received £1m funding from the British government.” (Guardian)

“It (the fatwa) plays on a widely-held (and sometimes willful) misperception that Muslim leaders have not spoken out against Islamist violence. Large numbers of Muslim leaders have denounced violence, suicide bombs, 9/11, 7/7 and many other bloody attacks by Islamist radicals.” (Reuters)

“Tim Winter, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Cambridge University, said while ul-Qadri’s step of declaring “miscreants as unbelievers” was unusual, it was unlikely extremists would take notice of his edict.” (Al Jazeera)

“I don’t think any Muslim will disagree with his fatwa .. Whoever has killed an innocent human beings regardless of religion , colour , race , nationality is a terrorist. At the same time he should have mentioned America and its allies are also terrorists (including govt of pakistan). They have also killed millions of innocent human beings in Iraq , Afganistan … We cant say one side is terrorist and other is fighting for so called democracy.” (Islamonline forum) …

“What’s funny is that the Government have money to waste in what’s supposed to be a recession. They give money to the Quilliam Foundation to elicit fatwas from men who have virtually no influence on the Muslims in the UK… these “scholars” are seen as a joke by the very Muslims they are meant to be deradicalising.” (Islamic Awakening forum)

So thinking more about the ‘Qadri Fatwa’ and the Quilliam foundation there are some concerns that need to be raised. The Quilliam foundation is headed by Ed Husain, a former religious extremist, and actually has minimal support from Muslims. … Husain has realized that, having tried to make a mark in the world through religious fanaticism, he can make more money and career progress by instead jumping on the anti-Islamist gravy train.

When Husain’s not traveling the world lecturing on the threat of ‘Islamist ideology’, he benefits from the fact that the UK government … has thrown more than £1 million of taxpayers’ money at [the Quilliam foundation].

It’s about time the public (including Muslims) begin questioning and criticizing these self-proclaiming fatwa writers and the barrage of advice they give to the police and security agencies on counter-extremism methods that only serve to further demonise and stereotype Muslims.

- from which we may gauge how much effect the well-meaning Sheikh’s fatwa is likely to have on Muslim terrorism.

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