Islamic scholars must realise that issuing fatwas against terrorism will be inconsequential unless key areas in the Sharia which allow the jihadis to thrive are attacked.
On 2 December, fourteen Americans were killed by self-motivated jihadis Tashfeen Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, at San Bernardino, California. The Pakistani couple carried out the attack in support of the Islamic State (ISIS). On 9 December, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed that the duo discussed jihad and martyrdom a year ago. Some media reports said that the two were radicalized as early as 2012, when ISIS did not exist. Even the four youngsters from Mumbai who went to Iraq and joined ISIS had left India a few months before ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself as the Caliph of all Muslims on 30 June last year.
It is true that Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan radicalize Muslim youths towards jihad, but the same Deobandi madrassas in India do not do so. But this is not because Islamic scriptures do not teach jihad. It can be seen that on the Sharia’s theological principles regarding the apostates (those who leave Islam), blasphemy (criticisms of the life of Prophet Muhammad) and Shia Muslims (who are deemed infidels by some Islamic groups), there is no difference between the ISIS and Barelvi scholars across India. The reason Indian Muslims have generally not been attracted to the jihadi message of Al-Qaeda and ISIS is because India’s vibrant democracy, tolerance and co-existence are positively consequential on the life of all Indians, including Muslims.
On 9 December in the northern town of Bareilly, Barelvi clerics led by Mufti Mohammed Saleem Noori and Hazrat Subhan Raza Khan issued a fatwa against ISIS, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, saying these are “not Muslims.” Mufti Noori also said-
From Sunday [December 6] onwards, when the annual Urs began, members of Dargah Aala Hazrat have been distributing forms among followers seeking signatures to show that those signing stand against terrorism. Nearly 15 lakh Muslims have recorded their protest. Around 70,000 clerics from across the world, who were part of the event, passed the fatwa.
Such fatwas must be welcomed, but these fatwas cannot be consequential.
The message of such fatwas does not resonate with Muslim youngsters because such fatwas are against ISIS and Al-Qaeda, not against the Islamic theological principles that are taught to Muslims from madrassas, mosques and jalsas (religious congregations). So, instead of issuing fatwas against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the ISIS, there is a need for Barelvi and Deobandi scholars to unite on a single platform and support my six-point fatwa against jihadis of all variety. My six-point fatwa declares the following-
- We consider all Shias as Muslims. This point is especially important because Barelvi scholars in India consider Shias as infidels.
- We consider all Ahmadis as Muslims.
- Prophet Muhammad was a historical personality and therefore it is right for non-Muslim and Muslim journalists and academics to evaluate his teachings critically.
- The Sharia law on apostasy is not relevant for modern times and Muslims who want to leave Islam will not be killed.
- All non-Muslim citizens of a Muslims country will be allowed to become the head of the state. This is a vital point because many Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives and others do not permit their own non-Muslim citizens to become the head of state. The Pakistani constitution expressly bars all non-Muslim Pakistanis from becoming the country’s president.
- A Muslim woman will be allowed as per Islamic Sharia’s theological principles to become the head of a state.
These are the six key areas in the Sharia which allow the jihadis to thrive. A fatwa that does not address these six points means absolutely nothing. We know that Barelvi clerics teach the same theological principles for which jihadis attacked the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, or in Pakistan, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was killed by his Barelvi security guard Malik Mumtaz Qadri. Mumtaz Qadri belongs to Dawat-e-Islami, a Barelvi movement that has become popular recently in India.
It might look like that ISIS is new but the fact is otherwise: exactly for similar theological principles, the streets of Lahore witnessed the same kind of jihadi activities in the 1920s to 1930s that are being seen in the streets of Paris today. Ghazi Abdur Rasheed and Ghazi Ilmuddin were the lone wolf jihadis of that era. It is also the time that the Indian government banned the teaching of Allama Iqbal from universities because his writings spread jihadism.
Early this month, I was invited by the Afghan government to speak on how to counter religious extremism at a conference in Kabul. At the conference held on 2 December, I stressed the message that in modern times any Muslim country or society cannot hope to progress if women, half of their population, are left behind.
Modern civilization is characterized by the increasing role of women in public sphere of life. We are more civilized because every day more and more women enter schools and universities, shops, police forces and government departments. In this process of civilization, our efforts must be this: every shop, every madrassa and every college must have at least 50% women on staff. This cannot be achieved in one day, but this must be the goal.
Muslim leaders routinely blame the Indian government for their backwardness, but when it comes to our women, we prevent them from studying, from doing businesses, from running for political offices. It is sad that madrassas are occupied by Muslim men. It is extremely sad that all mosques are personal fiefdoms of Muslim men. It is worrying that alljalsas are addressed only by Muslim men. Unless Muslim women take control of mosques, madrassas and jalsas, Muslim communities in all countries will remain backward. At least 50 percent of all teachers in madrassas must be women. Male Islamic clerics are theological dictators who rule over the women’s life. It is essential to counter the role of men. If Indian Muslims want to progress, it is also necessary that all girls be taught mathematics, economics and sciences from first grade to 12. If you can teach the Quran from LKG, why not teach mathematics from Grade 1? To achieve this objective, all madrassas must hire teachers to teach mathematics, English and sciences.