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No room for extremism in Islam 

By S.G. Jilanee


May 09, 2008


Jamadi-ul-Awwal 3, 1429


ISLAM and terrorism are as incompatible and as opposed to each other as fire and water or night and day. Even militancy is alien to Islamic culture. How can a faith condone terrorism much less foster it, when it preaches: “Not equal are the good deed and the evil deed. Repel the evil deed by one which is better. Then lo! He, between whom and you there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend?” (Pickthall: Fussilat 41:34)

Muslims continue to adhere strictly to this sermon. They revere the Prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus, son of Mary, as messengers of Allah just like Mohammad (SAW), “making no distinction between one and another of His Messengers” (Al Baqarah: 285).

Some Christians say offending things to denigrate Christ. For example, James D. Tabor in his new book, The Jesus Dynasty, argues that Jesus had a human father other than Joseph, mentioned in John 6:42. He claims that Jesus’ father was a Roman soldier named Pantera, quoting a Greek philosopher, Celsus. But Jesus’ virgin birth is an article of faith with Muslims. Others asperse on his relations with Mary Magdalene.

Similarly, an article in the March 5 issue of The Guardian, quotes Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as saying, “As far as Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either. Or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics.”

According to the professor, “Moses was probably also on mind-altering drugs when he saw the burning bush.” But for a Muslim, even a ‘terrorist’ one, such utterances would be blasphemous, even though Islam and its Prophet are made the objects of damning cartoons, defamatory movies and obnoxious literature.

Killing innocent people is an act of terrorism, even if it is not intended. But there is no concept of ‘collateral damage’ in Islam.

Therefore, where an innocent person is killed, such terrorist act is hit by the injunction “…and whosever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he killed all humankind, and whoever saved the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all humankind” (Pickthall: Al-Maida: 32)

The above injunction is universal in application. It mentions just “a human being.” That human being may belong to any faith or even had no faith at all.

It is a reminder that as human beings, a believer and a pagan are equal before Allah, because He created all. He is rubb-il ‘alameen, the Creator and Sustainer of the Worlds.

A terrorist who claims to be Muslim is not a ‘practising’ Muslim. He is a disobedient Muslim like those who wilfully avoid offering prayers and fasting, paying zakat, or who drink or commit other major sins. He (or she) is at best a rebel against Islam, who acts in clear defiance of its teachings.

There is no difference between him and those Christians who put millions of non-Christians to death all over the world, in blatant disregard of Christ’s instruction: “And unto him who smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other…” (Luke 6:20)

Therefore, to blame Islam for the acts of those who wilfully defy its injunctions is as wrong as blaming Christianity for the excesses of its followers. Muslims are stereotyped as terrorists. But it is not enough to be content with condemning terrorists through an op-ed piece in a newspaper.

That is already being done more forcefully by others. Saudi Arabia has circulated a consensus fatwah and more recently a large, all-India congregation of ulema at Deoband, expressed similar views. The is need to find ways to combat and prevent it. That would require understanding the problem. The fact is that terrorism as indulged in by Muslims today has two aspects. One is political, the other religious.

Political terrorists like the Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians offer some defence for their terrorist acts. Howsoever flimsy, yet it cannot be entirely discarded. Often it is the spontaneous reaction to the excesses perpetrated by the other side.

But for religious terrorism such as sectarian killings and attacks on each other’s mosques and funerals, there can be no excuse. These acts amount to wilful massacre of innocent souls and desecration of places of worship.

Moreover, whereas political terrorism is aimed at non-Muslim invaders and occupiers, religious terrorism is directed against Muslims. It is blatant fratricide, because, “the believers are nothing other than brothers.” (Al hujurat: 10).

Between the Wahabis and Hanafis the differences are almost like between Puritans/Protestants and Catholics. Once upon a time they, too, were at each other’s throats. But they put all that behind long ago. Differences exist but violence has ceased. By contrast Muslims seem still to be wallowing in the Dark Ages.

Sunnis, Shias, Wahabis, Hanafis etc., all are united on the belief in Allah, His Messenger Mohammad (SAW), Day of Judgment, Resurrection, angels, prayer, fasting, hajj and zakat. These are the basic tenets.

All else is supplementary and personal, for which every person is responsible to Allah alone. This is what the Quran repeatedly says: “No bearer of burden can bear the burden of another?” (Al-Najm: 38 and elsewhere).

Moreover, when even with regard to non-believers Islam asks Muslims to tell them, “To you your religion; to me my religion” (Kafirun: 6), and rejects compulsion in the matter of faith (la ikraha fid-deen), why should Muslims of one sect try to impose their interpretation and practice on their brothers of another sect with violence and bloodshed?

How can those who perpetrate such acts claim to be the followers of one whom God sent as Mercy for the universe (Rahmat-al lil alameen)? It is high time that people endowed with wisdom (ulil albab) reflected, imbibed and imbued others with the essence of Islam to receive Divine Mercy.


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