Let me start by clarifying that terrorism has no religion. We find terrorists professing various differnt faiths. There are athesit terrorists, there are muslim terrorists, christian terrorists, buddhist terrorists, jewish terrorists, hindu terrorists, etc. The hype created by the media of Islamic terrorism is false. Infact there are many more non-muslim terrorists than muslim terrorists. The Israel’s occupation of the palestenian land, the killing of civilians in muslim lands by the US forces, the torture and killing by Asad forces in Syria and the recent killings in Myanmar by the Buddhists are all acts of terrorism and needs to be condemned and strategies need to be made by all peace loving nations and people to stop these acts of terrorism.
However in this article I intend to cover those terrorists who use the name of Islam to target innocent civilians in Muslim and non-muslim countries. Is that Jihad? Is that Islamic?
God clearly forbids targeting innocent civilians
“On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.”
But if Quran clearly forbids killing of innocent civilians, how can these heinous crimes be justified in the name of Islam? Some might justify as reaction to the western and Israel’s terrorist acts in the muslim lands. They might say that we must ignore them as atleast they are doing something rather than nothing.
Sheikh Yasir Qadhi responds to this contention in his video ‘Hindsight is 20/20‘
And as for the claim that we should simply ignore them because they are doing something and you are doing nothing, honestly, I find this claim – with all respect – ludicrous. In my opinion, the analogy that I have is that of a house that is burning down and there may be people inside that house and there are two people outside of the house seeing the house burning down. One of them becomes completely paranoid and begins jumps up and down and starts screaming and ranting and raving and says, “The house is burning! The house is burning!” And he starts throwing anything he can at the house, and most of what he throws is nothing but more fuel and stones and sticks and wood. He is jumping up and down and screaming, “The house is burning! The house is burning!” and he is doing something. The other person next to him is trying to calm him down and saying, “Look, I know the house is burning. Let’s think of something and see if we can call somebody and see if we can get help,” and he is not participating in throwing more sticks and more firewood at the house.
This is the example that I have. The house is burning. There are serious issues to deal with. In my humble opinion, militant rhetoric is simply throwing more firewood at the fire. The actions of these people and the rhetoric of these people is only making the fire worse. It’s not that we ignore the fire. It’s not that we don’t care about the people inside the house. It is that – I believe firmly with Allah ‘azza wa jall as my Witness – the way to solve this and the way to quell and extinguish the fire is not the way that currently some of our other du’aat are saying.
The Sheikh continues and says that we should learn from our history. He says
If we examine and if we look at our own history to try to benefit from the successes and try to learn from the failures and faults, then insha’Allah ta’ala a lot can be done.
Let us start with the hadith of the prophet (PBUH). Our Prophet predicted the coming of an extremist movement, and that extremist movement is known as the Kharijites. Now I am not equating any particular person, any particular da’ee, or any particular movement with the Kharijites. However there are certain charactersitcs of the Kharijites that are present is some of these militant groups. Let us see some of the hadith
Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri narrates that the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “There will be differences and splits in my ummah. My ummah will split up, and a group will come out who are good in their speech but terrible in their actions. Their speech is flowery; their speech is attractive, but their actions belie their very words. They shall recite the Qur’an, but it will not leave their throats. They call to the Book of God but they have nothing to do with it.” (Abu Dawud)
Narrated by Abu Said Al Khudri
I heard God’s Messenger (saws) saying, “There will appear some people among you whose prayer will make you look down upon yours, and whose fasting will make you look down upon yours, but they will recite the Quran which will not exceed their throats (they will not act on it) and they will go out of Islam as an arrow goes out through the game whereupon the archer would examine the arrowhead but see nothing, and look at the un-feathered arrow but see nothing, and look at the arrow feathers but see nothing, and finally he suspects to find something in the lower part of the arrow!” (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.578)
Sheikh Yasir Qadhi explains
What can we learn from all of this? We learn that of the characteristics of the Kharijites is that they are speaking that which sounds like it is good and true. They are reading the Qur’an and quoting the Qur’an and they are speaking the truth and are enticing and mesmerizing. Of the characteristics of the Kharijites: they truly appear like lions; you think that they are the best of creation; they are calling to the Book of Allah ‘azza wa jall, but there is something wrong with them. Apparently, they don’t understand the Qur’an because the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) is saying they recite it, but it doesn’t go beyond their throats. This is an expression in Arabic. It is stuck right here; they know how to pronounce it, but they don’t understand it. They are reciting it and are quoting it, but they are not applying it properly.
We have a beautiful statement of Ali ibn Abi Talib. When the Kharijites came to him, and when the Kharijites wanted him to apply the Book of God, and they wanted him to be a better Muslim and they said, “Let us judge by Allah ‘azza wa jall.” But they didn’t mean what they were saying. Ali ibn Abi Talib said, “This is a true statement, but what they mean by it is evil.” What they are saying is good, but the consequences of their actions are evil.
With these ahadith in mind, let us analyse a few modern militant movements among muslims. The first of these is the movement of Juhayman ibn Sayf Al-Otaibi. Juhayman was a Saudi national. He was a religious person. Growing up in 50s 60s 70s he saw Saudi change from bedouin land into land of wealth and fame and riches. He saw excesses of materialism. He saw Americans arrive and take over many cities and build their own cities. He saw the corruption amongst the royal family and the elite. He saw the pervasiveness of fahishah, of evil. He saw women without hijab.
He quit his job and joined Al-Da’watul Muhtasibah (The Movement of Accountability), which was a Dawah movement to bring the masses to following Islam. He studied and became close to some of the very well known scholars of his time. However, as he began to rise in the ranks of the movement, and became a director at one of the main branches of this movement, he decided to change the direction of the movement to become more political. But since other members did not agree, he left the movement and started his own group, which he called Ikhwaan (not to be confused with the Egyptian Ikhwaan Al-Muslimeen)
Many students of knowledge joined this movement. As one sheikh recalls, “SubhanAllah it was usually the huffadh who joined his movement.” He preached openly and secretly; secretly only to its members.
On the 20th of November 1979, Juhayman and a group of around 250 men entered the Haram from different doors, with guns hidden in women’s jilbabs and on the coffin biers. After salat al-fajr, when Shaykh Muhammad ibn Al-Subayil finished saying the tasleem, Juhayman stood up and took his gun out and took the microphone from Shaykh ibn Al-Subayil and his followers immediately surrounded the guards and took their guns away. Juhayman ibn Sayf Al-Otaibi began announcing the coming of a new era.
He began announcing the coming of the promised Mahdi, and as the world watched in shock, he shut down the doors of the Haram, and thousands and thousands of people remained hostage inside the very structure that we know. They killed Muslim guards coming to see what the commotion was. For two weeks Juhayman held the Ka’bah hostage. For two weeks, tawaf stopped around the Ka’bah, adhan was not called, people did not pray, blood was shed, and the world was engulfed in chaos.
Do you know what his demands were? No more women in television, no more music in the streets, get the Americans out of Arabia.
Of course the Saudi security forces were forced to try to take over the Haram. Juhayman was captured alive and was executed. His brother-in-law who was the supposed Mahdi was actually killed in the Haram. As mentioned earlier, many of those men who had joined the movement were students of knowledge. These were people who were studying and who had a love of God and His Messenger. But what did they achive? Nothing. Infact, they only caused harm.
What drove these people to such depths of believing that they were doing something good for the ummah? How can you possibly think that you are doing something good for the ummah when you’re taking the Ka’bah itself hostage? Sheikh Yasir Qadhi comments “Well, that is exactly what happens when you have a mentality of ‘the world is out to get you’ and a mentality of ‘we have to do something to change for the better.’”
Juhayman wrote a number of articles. He also has an entire tract which is a tafsir of Surah Ta Ha. He reads this tract in a modern light. He is Musa basically, and the Firwan is all of the government leaders of our times. he says, “And the Firawns made fun of Musa just like the people of our times make fun of the ulema, and the Firawns imprisoned Musa just like the people of our times imprison scholars.”
When he was asked, “What do you say to those who are older than you and wiser than you? What do you say to Shaykh Ibn Baaz who is your teacher and doesn’t agree with you?” Juhayman had to say he dismissed them outright because they were government scholars and basically payrolled by the government. About Shaykh Ibn Baaz, he said, “He is a scholar, I agree, but he doesn’t know the reality of the situation. I know better than him. I know the reality better than him.”
Perhaps we can learn more from Dr. Fadl, who has had a first hand experience of one such movement. Dr. Fadl was recruited by Ayman Al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaeda fame. Dr. Fadl converted to these jihadist movements and migrated to Afganistan after the death of Sadat. He continued to rise in the ranks of the jihad against the Soviet Union. Eventually, Dr. Fadl became the intellectual architect of the movement. He began to write a lot of writings. He wrote a book which in English is called the Encyclopedia of Jihad and is basically a huge compendium of over a thousand pages long in which he discusses the importance of jihad, the ahadith on jihad, the ayat on jihad, and what the scholars of the past said about jihad.
Dr. Fadl wrote a much larger book in the 80s, and it is available and composed of ayat, ahadith, and statements of the scholars, but of course he means with it something other than what most likely those scholars meant in those days. When the Afghan War died down, he moved to Yemen, and he continued to write his books over there. 9/11 happened and even before 9/11, between Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Dr. Fadl, a rift began to appear. They exchanged a number of harsh letters and harsh words. After 9/11 happened, Dr. Fadl broke away completely from the movement that in all honesty he had been the intellectual founder of and had been involved in for the last 30 years.
Dr. Fadl recently wrote a book entitled Tarsheed Al-Jihad (Reclaiming Jihad – re-guiding jihad and diverting jihad back to where it should be; you are giving jihad the rushd or the guidance it should have). This book sent panic waves amongst the jihadists and militant movements. Why? Firstly because of who wrote it. This was a person whose books they grew up reading. This was a person who was their intellectual mastermind. He was their ‘alim. Secondly, because he was speaking from experience. This is not some pacifist, and this is not some government-employed scholar. He cannot be accused of wanting to live a cushier, cozy life in Egypt or America or some place. This is the man with the credentials, and he has lived the life of a ‘real’ jihadist. He participated in the Afghan jihad, and then he moved forward, so when he was writing, he was writing from personal experience.
Dr. Fadl writes in this book
“These jihadists of our times cut and paste from the books of the past, but they have no idea of the reality that they are living in.”
he further says,
“These are the people who can quote you the texts, but they have no idea of reality. They don’t understand the current circumstances.”
He accuses the jihadists of many things. He says that these people don’t care about scruples and morals and want to get money from any way possible. He says even from haram means they just want to get money, even if it is through stealing or something as long as they then can justify the use for jihad – the ends justify the means. He criticizes them for the spilling of innocent blood, and he says, “There is no crime worse in our Shari’ah that is worse after shirk than spilling innocent blood.” He asks them, “What will you answer to Allah ‘azza wa jall for all the blood that you have shed?” And then, he tells them, “Let the kuffar shed the blood that they are doing. What else do you expect them to do? We are Muslims whom Allah has given a Divine guidance, and we should be role models. We shouldn’t stoop to their level.”
He advices “O believers, don’t listen to those with fancy slogans who entice you to enter a conflict you are not qualified to participate in. Don’t listen to fancy rhetoric and slogans when people are enticing you to enter a military conflict. You are not qualified!” He accuses the jihadist leaders of not only lacking Islamic knowledge, but he says, “You have no knowledge of warfare. You have no knowledge of politics. You have no knowledge of modern economics. You are a bunch of rebels who think that they are going to change the system without knowledge of the Shari’ah and without knowledge of reality, what do you think you are going to accomplish?”
And he says, “The harm that you bring about is more than any good that you think you gain.”
I would like to conclude with the advice given by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi at the end of his talk
Brothers and sisters, it never ceases to amaze me how shallow militants are and how overzealous and undereducated they are. They cannot think two steps ahead but only one step of “Kill, kill, kill! Get rid of them!” Well, what is going to happen after you kill the person in front of you? What will be the retaliation? What will be step two? They never think two steps ahead. What did Juhayman think when he trapped the Ka’bah and held it hostage. What would happen after that? What did Jama’ah Al-Takfir think when they assassinated Sadat? What did they think would happen after that? What did Al-Jama’ah Al-Islamiyyah think when they massacred hundreds of civilians in Egypt? It is another long story that we don’t have time to talk about. What did Hasan Abu Nidal think when he killed a bunch of American servicemen? What would be the retaliation? What would be the next step? You are going to make life even more difficult for your Muslim brothers and sisters.
In conclusion, brothers and sisters – especially brothers – there is a lot to be angry about in the world today. There is a lot that deserves our condemnation. There is a lot that should make our blood boil. But our religion is not based upon mere knee-jerk emotional responses. Our religion is better than that. Be angry, I tell you. Wallahi, be angry! Be angry every time a bomb is dropped on innocent civilians in the name of the war on terror. Be angry every time our tax dollars are spent to oppress yet another group of innocent Palestinians. Be angry every time more draconian measures are utilized against us in this greatest democracy on earth. Be angry! And if you are not angry, then there is a problem in your Islam and you know what, there is even a problem in your humanity. Be angry!
I’m not telling you not to be angry, but what I am telling you is to channel that anger in a productive manner and channel that anger in a useful manner. Don’t be like the person who is just throwing more sticks at the fire thinking that he is doing something. Be the person who uses his rational head! Be the person who uses his iman and taqwa to control that anger! Channel that anger not into acts of rage and not into acts of violence and not into acts of militancy and not into foolish, useless rhetoric that will only bring about undue attention to you and greater suspicion of the Muslim community.
Don’t be an overzealous kid with foolish dreams! If you are not going to allow religious sentiments to be tempered by the religion itself, then at least learn from history and be tempered by the lessons that history teaches us.
In the upcoming article we will, God willing, try and understand the correct concept of Jihad as taught by Islam