Independent Minds : Why the latest fatwa condemning terrorism is a positive step forward
3 March 2010 at 05:42 pm
Shaykh Dr Tahir ul-Qadri (pictured) is a scholar of repute who has following across the East and the West. He is a Muslim scholar who had the likes of the al- Azhar institution of Cairo advocating his scholarship and knowledge. Al-Azhar in fact is seeking for the first time to have a college in Pakistan under Qadri’s auspices.
Yesterday he launched his extensive fatwa - a religious edict addressing all of the basic issues of terrorism, taking civilian life, tactics of terror but also details and ancillary issues that relate to Islamist terror tactics such as taking civilian hostages, attacking people in “occupied territories”, “resistance” and foreign policy and defining rules of conduct during warfare.
But the fatwa does not stop there. His ruling goes on to clearly declare that not only are the actions of a terrorist something antithical to being a Muslim (he quoted a number of Prophetic sayings stating that “A Muslim is someone whom people are safe from his hand and tongue”), but moreover a terrorist believes his or her actions are sanctioned and in fact, obliged by Islam. This is then something that contradicts the fundamental principles of Islamic belief and would take someone out of the ambit of Islam.
This theological point is strong and powerful. The essential point is someone that seeks to make licit what is explicitly illicit in religious terms, and agreed upon to be so by Muslim doctors of scripture, would then be considered to have permitted what God forbade and to do so would take someone outside the pale of Islam.
He then cited Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi from the 4th century of Islam, a scholar who is considered one of the two leading authorities in Sunni orthodox creed. He clearly stated that those who permit spilling the blood of innocent people are committing "kufr" (disbelief) and are outside the pale of Islam. He then applied terrorists who justify the killing of innocent people, whether women, men or children, as falling under these categories. He explained that there could also be no usage of language for political purposes surrounding the phrase “innocent people”. He emphasized that all people by virtue of their humanity were innocent, with no buts or ifs. (He was quite emphatic in making this point).
He elaborated that the Prophet Muhammad and the four caliphs had made the Islamic stance clear and beyond dispute; killing civilians, in fact chopping down trees, was against the rules of conduct during war.
He then went onto discuss the various sayings of the prophet elaborating that the Kharijite tendency would exist within Muslims. The kharijites were a religious sectarian group, which were the first to use the slogan of ‘only the rule of God’, as a political slogan to justify killing those against the rule of God in their eyes. They were the group behind the assassination of the fourth caliph Ali, the son in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.
Dr Qadri, cited jurists from all of the four main sunni schools of religious rules, and independent authorities such as Ibn Taymia in justifying all of the above points of view. He acknowledged that some scholars of the past have fallen short of describing such people as outside the pale of Islam, but all agreed that they should fought.
He condemned Islamists who seek to reject democracy, liberty and human rights due to a warped interpretation of Islam, and advocated that Muslims engage and recognise that Islam was a faith which welcomed democracy, human rights, liberty and modern states. He refuted the idea of the need for a single caliphate. Rather all states where there was justice were Islamic. All states could claim to be caliphates if there was democracy and justice.
In a Q and A afterwards he explicitly condemned all sorts of terrorism without reserve, and explained that even if people have just causes, or perceive that they have just causes, they cannot engage in terrorism. He condemned suicide bombing and terrorism in Israel and Palestine, and anywhere else in the world.
He ended with a note that people, Muslims and non-Muslims, should unite in this fight against the common enemy, the enemy of humanity, Islam and Muslims, the terrorists.
The power of these words amongst Muslims is yet to be seen. As a scholar, his words are headed amongst Muslims. Fundamentally as a scholar, who has following across different sects, different schools of thought, shafi’I in Yemen, Hanafiya in Pakistan – including some deobandi as well as Barelawi schools. This is something that will have impact amongst Muslim communities both in the East and the West.
At least the scholarly and well cited writings, from various Qur’an exegesis, hadith collections, and authorities on medieval and post medieval Islamic scriptural exegesis, should at least make people take this seriously. Communities should be emboldened by his stance. Those justifying acts of terror or supporting the cause, should be challenged and on the back foot. Those walking the trajectory towards terrorism, may or may not take up all of his words, but it may go some way to producing elements of doubt in the “Islamicity” of their cause and end point – not paradise.