Skip to comments.Islam Perverted (The Islamists have got it wrong)
Posted on 11/15/2002 8:52:56 PM PST by Angelus Errare
The Islamists have got it wrong
By Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi
Western observers, both among the general public and the media, commonly make the mistake of thinking that Islamism is the same as traditional Islam. Even Western researchers describe Islamism as a resurgence of traditional Islam. In contrast, moderate Sunni Muslims are characterised as those whose faith is mitigated, influenced by syncretism, or diluted by a certain amount of secularisation and Westernisation.
But this turns reality upside-down. In fact, Islamists depart in important ways from the Islamic tradition. Indeed, some outstanding traditional Muslim scholars, such as Sheikh Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri and Sheikh Ahmad al-Alawi, see Islamism as a symptom of secularisation and as a reshaping of their religion into a modern, ideological totalitarianism. It is this view that I myself share.
The distinction between traditional Islam and Islamism can be seen in many specifics. Tradition says that Islamic jurisprudence can today be practiced according to four legal schools, all of which are legitimate and authoritative; Islamists, by contrast, see the existence of these schools as an obstacle to their concept of lslamic unity. Tradition attributes to the ruler the right to appoint competent scholars as authorized interpreters of the Islamic law; Islamists do not recognise any authority apart from the leaders of their own groups. Tradition makes the authority of a scholar dependent on the possession of written documents of appointment (ijaza) signed by his predecessor; Islamists regularly install people bereft of any theological or legal education into positions of Islamic authority.
Another point: Sunnis do not conceive of Islam as an organisation dependent on a centralised leadership; Islamists, on the contrary, see their leading militants as the Islamic leadership, thereby cutting out the need to refer to traditional scholars for guidance. Perhaps most important of all is the Islamists subordination of religion to politics, our main topic here. Khalid Duran notes the distinction between traditional Islam and its political counterfeit by underlining their different understandings of the relationship between religion and politics:
"Whether Islamists like the term fundamentalist or not, their understanding of religion resembles that of fundamentalists in other religions. This is not to say that Islamists are more religious or more genuinely Islamic than other Muslims . . . Islamism is a late 20th century totalitarianism. It follows in the wake of fascism and communism, picking up from those and seeking to refine their methods of domination . . .
"Few Muslims would deny that political commitment is part of Islamic ethics, but most disagree with the Islamist insistence that there exists a clearly defined "Islamic system," different from all other political systems."
Islamists draw on modern European models that posit a scientific revolutionary movement, an elitist scheme of ruling society by means of secret cults that act behind the scenes, and a manufacture of consensus by means of propaganda. They reject those aspects of the Islamic tradition that do not fit with this political outlook.
Theirs is, in fact, an extremist ideology; they consider their organisations and militants as custodians of the projects for Islamising the world, and whoever criticizes them (be he a Muslim or a non-Muslim) is immediately accused of being anti-Islamic, "Islamophobic," and so forth. Unwilling to be ruled by non-Islamist Muslims, Islamists adopt an approach characterised by political supremacism.
Like other totalitarian ideologies, contemporary Islamism is blindly utopian. It implies a wholesale denial of history; the Islamists model of an ideal society is inspired by the idealised image of seventh-century Arabia and an ahistorical view of religion and human development. It is based on anachronistic thinking that rejects modern concepts of pluralism and tolerance. And it ignores a history of Islam that is rich in models of heterogeneous social organisation and adaptation to the times.
Two Views of Politics in Islam
The traditional view understands the role of politics in terms of what the Quran teaches. It indicates that prophets were sent to humans to teach them truths about God, ethics, ways to achieve prosperity in this world, and beatitude in the hereafter, and to warn about the consequences of injustice and sinfulness. A prophet who is called to preach in a stateless milieu has to assume a role of political leadership; this mantle fell on Moses, as it did to Muhammad (peace be upon both of them). Islamic tradition teaches that when this happens, the two roles are combined by accident; political leadership is not a necessary element of the prophetic mission. By way of confirmation, note that the Quran uses different titles to describe the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) but none of them refers to his political function. Verses 33:45-46 say that he was sent as a witness (shahid), a bearer of glad tidings (mubashshir), one who warns (nadhir), as some one who calls to God (da i ila Allah), and as a shining light (siraj munir). Nowhere does it say he was sent as a political leader or a head of state.
Islamists, however, have a very different interpretation. For them, building an Islamic state is the central achievement of the prophetic mission. Conflating the role of the Muslim scholar with that of a political leader, they hold that the spread of Islam cannot be separated from the creation of what they call the Islamic state.
They argue that "Islam is both religion and government" (al-lslam din wa dawla); and this serves the basic description of their creed. They neglect to mention, however, that this expression is found in neither the Quran, the Hadith (sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad), or in any other of the authoritative Islamic sources.
Two Views of Jihad
In similar fashion, the Islamists deform the meaning of jihad. In traditional Islam, military jihad and all other forms of material jihad constitute only the external aspect of jihad, while the inner dimension of jihad is the struggle that a Muslim undertakes to purify his soul from mundane desires, defects, and egotism. Jihad is not limited to the military arena but denotes striving hard toward a worthy goal. According to some sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), "the best jihad for women is performing a valid pilgrimage, while "the jihad for someone who has old parents is taking care of them. According to a well-known tradition, after coming back from a military expedition, the Prophet Muhammad said, "We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad" (rajana min jihad al-asghar ila jihad al-akbar). The Prophet was asked, "O, Messenger of Allah, what is the greater jihad?" He answered, "It is the jihad against ones soul.
The traditional understanding also includes a military meaning but military jihad is strictly regulated by rules concerning its purpose, means, and resolution.
Purpose: Quranic verses permitting military jihad (22:39-40) indicate that it is not a vehicle to expand Islam but to defend the rights of those who are persecuted because of their religion.
"To those against whom war is made, permission is given [to defend themselves], because they are wronged. And verily God is most powerful for their aid. [They are] those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right [for no cause] except that they say, "Our Lord is God." Did not God check one people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure."
Note the inclusion here of not just mosques, but "monasteries, churches, synagogues" as places where Gods name is frequently mentioned and places that must be protected, if necessary by recourse to war. These lines indicate a militant defence of the right to religious freedom.
Self-defence: The term "self-defence" means just that and must not be stretched. The Quran (2:190) says, "And fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but do not exaggerate. Verily, God does not love those who exaggerate." The typical example of this is the story of Moses and the Egyptian, as narrated in the Qur an (28 :1 5- 1 6). To defend an Israelite being beaten by an Egyptian, Moses killed the Egyptian. No doubt, the Israelite was a member of the oppressed people, one of those who were persecuted because of their religion and enslaved, while the Egyptian was one of the oppressors. The event could even have been described as a legitimate form of jihad. The Quran, however, does not support this opinion, and condemns Moses reaction as exaggerated. Moses himself asks forgiveness for his excess.
Means: Military jihad must be waged by a regular Muslim army against another army. Terrorist acts against civilian populations are not included in the definition of jihad.
Peaceful solution: When a former enemy is ready to stop hostilities and is looking for an opportunity for peace, Muslims must stop fighting and also look for a peaceful solution. The Quran (8:60-61) says: "if they incline towards peace, incline thou also towards it, and put thy trust in God."
This traditional understanding of jihad as warfare to defend the weak, using armies, and open to reaching an accord has been replaced by an aggressive, guerrilla-style warfare that rejects anything less than total victory and a total defeat of the one who is perceived as the enemy (whether non-Muslim or non-Islamist Muslim). The Islamist version of jihad includes and legitimises terrorism against civilian targets such as churches, synagogues, and cemeteries and even against elderly people, women, and babies. Not withstanding the clear Islamic prohibition on suicide, it also includes suicide operations. A recent fatwa by Mufti Farit Salman, deputy president of the Council of Muftis of the European States of Russia, eloquently condemned such behaviour in the aftermath of the sacking of Josephs Tomb, a Jewish shrine in Nablus:
"There are many fanatics in the Holy Land who with their intelligence swayed by Satan wrecked the tomb of the Man of Allah, Joseph, peace be upon him; wrecked the tomb of the man whom the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (blessings and peace upon him), met and conversed with in his ascension to the throne of Allah; wrecked the tomb of one of the dear prophets whom the Holy Quran disclosed as a model of physical and spiritual splendour and of humility . . .How could Muslims do such a thing? No! Those who gave hand to destroy a sanctuary of ours are not of us!... Woe unto those who desecrate the name of names, who demolish tombs of the prophets, synagogues, churches, mosques!"
The origins of modern Islamism trace back to the beginnings of the Wahhabi movement in the early eighteenth century.
Wahhabism was a puritanical uprising based on reinterpreting written Quranic law without the enlightened support of expertise embodied in the Quran and the Hadiths, known as the Sunna. Wahhabis pay lip service to adherence to the Sunna, but in reality reshape it according to their ideology. Many prophetic sayings which constitute the immediate source of Sunna are rejected by means of captious arguments, as soon as they result in tenets incompatible with Wahhabism. When Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (the eponym of Wahhabism) started preaching, the mufti of Medina declared Ibn Abd al-Wahhabs belief a heresy and formally excommunicated him by issuing a fatwa, the text of which said:
"This man is leading the ignoramuses of the present age to a heretical path. He is trying to extinguish Allahs light, but Allah will not permit His light to be extinguished, in spite of the opposition of polytheists, and will enlighten every place with the light of the followers of Sunna."
Sheikh Hisham Kabbani, chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, describes the rise and the development of Wahhabism as follows:
"The premise of this new, narrow ideology was to reject traditional scholars, scholarship, and practices under the guise of "reviving the true tenets of Islam" and protecting the concept of monotheism."
Ibn Abd al-Wahhab encouraged a new interpretation of Islamic law and permitted his acolytes to apply it in light of their own understanding, regardless of their level of expertise in juridical matters. Whoever did not agree with this revolutionary approach he considered outside of the fold of Islam an apostate, disbeliever, or idolater and thus someone whose blood could be shed, whose women could be raped, and whose wealth could be confiscated.
The dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I gave the Wahhabis an opportunity to impose their beliefs and their rule on Muslims of the Arabian Peninsula, which they did not lose. The Wahhabis first conquered the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, transforming these two sanctuaries from centres for the transmission of the Sunni heritage into places for propagating a primitive and literalist cult to Muslims coming from every part of the world. Second, the Wahhabis set up the Saudi state.
Third, expansionist Wahhabism, like other forms of totalitarian ideology, seeks not just to take possession of the whole Muslim world by replacing Sunni Islam with the so-called Salafi school but even to expand its influence beyond it. Dogmatic uniformity has since then begun to suffocate the humane and enlightened Islamic tradition. Since the 1950s, the Muslim Brethren (al-lkhwan al-Muslimun), an organisation founded in Egypt in 1929, has been the main instrument for propagating Wahhabi influence internationally.
After Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in the mid-1950s, the Saudis needed allies against his secular revolutionary policies. So the Saudi leaders supplied financial support to the Brethren. From then on, the vast majority of Muslim Brethren adopted Wahhabi doctrines.
The governments of some Muslim countries, knowing that human and civil rights, democracy, and equality between men and women could represent the end of their power, support Islamism. They work against peace between Israel and its neighbours, fearing that a pacified Middle East could create serious problems for autocratic and feudal systems. Not surprisingly, the Palestinian Hamas is one of the important Muslim Brethren-controlled organisations in the Middle East.
Radicalism in the West
These problems are not limited to the Muslim world but are now also found in the West. Local branches of the radical organisations that promote terrorism in the Middle East are taking root in Western countries. They represent not more that 10 percent of the total Muslim population in those countries but they control the main Muslim organisations and most of the mosques in western Europe and North America. They are a worldwide, organised network, using acronyms, but always ensuring that the Muslim Brethren is the inner circle behind the scenes. They claim to represent all Muslims and get a respectful reception from non-Muslims, who know no better.
This situation has many causes, but the principal one is that while traditional Islam is multifaceted and spontaneous, Islamism is forwarded by a worldwide network of activists funded by the Saudi and some other Gulf governments. Those looking for ways to prevent Muslim minorities in Europe and North America from turning to Islamism find that the Gulf countries represent the main obstacles. Ironically, then, the structure of the Muslim Brethren is supported, in other words, mainly by those countries that are regarded as friends of the West. Muslim Brethren are often appointed as imams of important mosques, especially in democratic countries where there is no ministry of religious affairs to check their orientation, and where imams with the expected permission to teach (ijaza shari) are the exception.
The West is both loved and feared by Islamists. They cannot hope to defeat it militarily so instead they aim to influence it from within. In part, this means that Islamists divide their work between militants and more moderate-sounding types. Militants execrate the US government and call for its destruction, while the more moderate Islamists are honoured guests at the White House.
The United States
The danger is that radical groups could become the official representatives of Muslim immigrants in the West. Let us review the situation in the United States.
Sheikh Kabbani, of the Islamic Supreme Council of America and a disciple of Nazim Adil al-Qubrusi, declared at the US State Department:
"We would like to advise our government, our congressmen, that there is something big going on and people do not understand it. You have many mosques around the United States.... So the most dangerous things are going on in these mosques that have self appointed leaders throughout the United States. The extremist ideology makes them very active.
"We can say that they took over 80 percent of the mosques in the United States .This means that the ideology of extremism has been spread to 80 percent of the Muslim population, mostly the youth and the new generation."
Sheikh Kabbani is trying to show Westerners the reality behind the deceptive facade. The great majority of all mosques in democratic countriesnot only in North America, but in most of western Europe as wellare controlled by extremists.
Looking at two organisations in specific, the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a Muslim Brethren front organisation in the United States that lobbies against journalists and scholars who dare to write anything about Islam at variance with the Brethrens Islamist agenda, such as advocating diversity in Islam. Notwithstanding CAIRs evident connection to Hamas, it is accepted by the US government as a legitimate representative of the Muslim American community. Likewise, the American Muslim Council (AMC) is another branch of the Muslim Brethren. According to Khalid Duran, "The AMCs most remarkable feat was to obtain the monopoly on the training of Muslim chaplains for the US Army (which is like Teheran entrusting the training of its Revolutionary Guards to the US Institute of Peace)." Thus, while non-Islamist Islamic organisations like the Association for Islamic Charitable Projects are more or less ignored by the US government, Muslim American soldiers receive spiritual assistance from Islamist chaplains.
The best means to limit the influence of Islamist factions is by supporting the teachings of traditional, moderate Islam.
In the former Soviet republics the muftis are starting to understand that Wahhabi infiltrations threaten to change the face of their society; they seem to be willing to join forces in a common project of prevention. The president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has recently founded a new Islamic University in Tashkent which has among its main goals the education of moderate imams specially trained to refute Wahhabism and to promote dialogue between Muslims and other monotheists. In September 2000, the mufti of Russia, Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, in cooperation with the muftis of Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetia, Bashkiria, and Siberia, established in Kazan the first Islamic university in Russia; the goal of this university is also to fight extremist influences coming from abroad. This can be understood as a sign that the diffusion of Wahhabism is no longer understood by Sunnis as ineluctable, and that the followers of traditional Islam are starting to realize how such a global menace necessarily calls for a coordinated self-defence.
Non-Muslims also have a role to play. They must overcome their tendency to assume that real Islam is the one propagandized by the Wahhabis and their Islamist network. They need to understand that Islamism is a menace not just for Muslims but for all humans. They should increase their dialogue and work with those traditional Muslims who join them in seeing radicalism as a disease, and who have ideas for an appropriate therapy to heal those afflicted by it.
Let the anti-Islamic remarks begin.
Nice try trying to co-opt the thread. Just one question, if this is mainstream islam rather than Solmon Rushdie islam, what is this guy doing writing in Jewish newspaper in Australia? I mean if there is even a 3% chance this guy is within 10 miles of the islamic mainstream should not he be teaching in Pakistan or publishing in the Arab News?
The very circumstances of the publication is a clue that islam is NOT what he says it is- a religion of peace hijacked by a few extremists.
"There is no possible compromise between biblical Christianity and Islam, and none should be sought"
When Bush says 'religion of peace' he knows its BS. Especially when he as been played by muslin clerics visiting the White House in faux expression of unity, who were actually terrorist supporters according to their previous statements!
Re-read the first two paragraphs of the article:
"Western observers, both among the general public and the media, commonly make the mistake of thinking that Islamism is the same as traditional Islam. Even Western researchers describe Islamism as a resurgence of traditional Islam. In contrast, moderate Sunni Muslims are characterised as those whose faith is mitigated, influenced by syncretism, or diluted by a certain amount of secularisation and Westernisation.
"But this turns reality upside-down. In fact, Islamists depart in important ways from the Islamic tradition. Indeed, some outstanding traditional Muslim scholars, such as Sheikh Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri and Sheikh Ahmad al-Alawi, see Islamism as a symptom of secularisation and as a reshaping of their religion into a modern, ideological totalitarianism. It is this view that I myself share."