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By Zafarul-Islam Khan

The present stagnant situation has given birth to two kinds of people in our societies:
(a) Believers in rigid taqlid and proscription of ijtihad. These people include those who stand for an abstract faith where slightest digression from a given position is tantamount to kufr. Within this framework there is no mass participation in the affairs of the Ummah since all activity is elitist to which the masses are simply required to submit unquestioningly as mere spectators not as participants.
(b)Pretenders, who claim to have discovered the total and absolute truth. They not only declare others as kafirs but, at times, believe that it is legitimate to kill, or at least shun, any other Muslim who does not totally share their ideology. The likes of the Takfir wa’l-Hijrah and Jihad groups of Egypt and some factions of the Algerian armed bands subscribe to this view which is totally and absolutely un-Islamic. The Prophet, despite knowing the munafiqs at Madinah by their names, did not kill them or even denounce them by names. Rather, he offered the funeral prayers of some of them. But we, the followers of the Mercy of the Worlds, have little sympathy for our fellow Muslim brothers.

Emergence of terrorist movements
Western support to the illegitimate entity of Israel and the propping up of dictatorships in various parts of the Muslim World made people struggle to get rid of the despots. They succeeded in some parts and the struggle goes on in one way or the other in other parts of the World of Islam. This struggle which should have remained political and peaceful within constitutional and legal means, saw the emergence of a new phenomenon in Muslim history: faceless terrorist outfits operating as self-imposed guardians of Islam and the Muslim masses. This has created a civil war-like situation in some Muslim countries. This should have been avoided at all costs. At the end no one benefits from this senseless and irresponsible blood-letting.

True, Islamic history has in the past known lawless terrorist groups which operated secretly to achieve certain goals, like the Qaramitah (Carmatheans) of the tenth century CE and the Hashshashin of the eleventh-thirteenth centuries CE. But Muslim society and polity never accorded acceptance to such groups which remained to the end an abnormal and peripheral aberration and their activities were never accepted as lawful ‘Jihad.’

In Islamic law and thought, Jihad, meaning fighting or qital, is a disciplined activity undertaken only by a State under a duly accepted/elected ruler, because it is a responsible act in which a clearly identifiable, constitutional and legal entity must be visible and present at all times in order to shoulder the responsibilities of its actions towards fighters, widows, orphans, enemy, conclusion of truce and peace treaties etc. Islamic movements fighting against local despots or foreign colonial rulers waged Jihad under this concept __ they formed a state, howsoever small, and elected a leader (ruler) before waging the Jihad. Ibn Tumart of Morocco (d. 1130CE), Osman Dan Fodio of Nigeria (d. 1817), Sayyid Ahmad of India (d. 1831), Imam Shamwyl of Daghestan (d. 1871) and Abdul Qadir of Algeria (d. 1883) are a few examples of this approach. 

Jihad cannot be declared or waged by individuals and secret outfits. This is utterly against the tenets of Islam which does not approve of treacherous and irresponsible behaviour in both individual and State affairs. Only an elected Imam, leader of a free Muslim community, has the right to wage Jihad. Sayyid Ahmad Shahid (d. 1831) refused to wage Jihad while in British India. He said that such a ‘Jihad’ will lead to fitnah and bawaal, anarchy and lawlessness. In order to wage Jihad, the Sayyid with his followers and supporters migrated to a Muslim area in the Northwest Frontiers, established a Muslim State there and fought from that base. Some such modern groups, like the Syrian Ikhwan and the Egyptian al-Gama’ah al-Islamiah, have recently expressed sorrow and anguish over the path of violence which they trod with tragic consequences for themselves in particular and for the Muslims in their countries in general. Their activities have decidedly set back the cause and application of Islam in their societies, caused immeasurable difficulties to ordinary and simple Muslims trying to live according to Islam and brought disrepute and bad name to Islam and Muslims all over the world to the point that some can claim with impunity today that Islam, the religion of peace, is synonymous with terrorism. This great lie has been justified by the misdeeds of the kind of people who see it fit, as in the Upper Egyptian town of Luxor (Al-Uqsur) on 17 November 1996, to cold-bloodedly kill 58 foreign tourists, ‘guests’ in our Muslim social jargon. Like the Hashshasheen, Khawarij and Qaramitah, they may claim to love and follow Islam but, in fact, they are its worst enemies and follow their whims alone. 

Secret terrorist societies in the garb of ‘Islamic movements’ are a product of the post-colonial period. During the colonial period freedom movements were purely political along nationalistic lines. True, some were inspired, and at times supported, by communists. Their new incarnation in the post-colonial era, in the shape of Egypt’s Jihad Group, or Takfir wal’l-Hijrah or Ben Laden’s Al-Qa’idah, is mostly inspired by the communist revolutionary models of Che Guivara, Mao Tse Tung and the leftist Palestinian outfits like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which resorted to hijackings and senseless murders in order to highlight its ‘cause.’ 

Terrorism under the banner of ‘Islam’ coincided with the Afghani struggle against the Soviet invasion and the Irani revolution against the dictatorial regime of the Shah. Many such movements have sprouted around the world of Islam inspired by these events or directly as a result of the Afghan war where non-Afghani veterans of the Afghani Jihad started such movements either in their own countries, as in Algeria and Egypt, or in other regions such as Central Asia, Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan where they are fighting side by side with the Taliban. Within this environment the kinds of Ben Laden have flourished with political backing of powerful groups in places like Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Sudan etc., who use them for their own purposes while the naïve cadres are led to believe that they are engaged in a divine and sacred mission. Even in our own country we have seen terrorist activities by misguided minuscule Muslim groups who have brought disrepute to Islam and Muslims and placed a question mark on our loyalty to our motherland. 

Muslims must never take the law in their hands or raise arms against each other whatever the level of provocation. The Prophet has said that both, the Muslim victim and his Muslim killer, will go to Hell because even the victim wanted to kill his brother. The so-called ‘Sunni’ Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Sahabah criminals in Pakistan have been gunning down fellow Muslims even during prayers in mosques (like a zionist terrorist did in Al-Khalil (Hebron) mosque on 25 February 1994). Even in ‘Islamic’ Iran, groups, apparently with the approval of a section of the ruling Mullas, have taken to liquidating rivals. When you take up guns, it only means that you have no moral, ideological or legal case, that you do not believe in pluralism and the right of others to dissent and differ. 

Afghanistan is reeling under the rule of a pathetic Dark Ages brand of fanatics who have chosen to close their eyes to the 20th century, not to speak of the 21st century. A poor, illiterate and hungry nation is offered chopping of hands and brutal severing of necks as a sport in big stadiums just like humans being fed to hungry animals in Roman amphitheatres. Killers, after summary trials, are handed over to their supposed victims’ families for barbaric revenge killings as if the State has taken leave and cannot administer justice itself. The administration of justice, with total impartiality and full regard of legal procedures, is the prerogative of the State alone. The case that such ‘justice’ was allowed in some archaic fiqhi works does not hold water at the fag end of the 20th century where human rights of even a criminal have to be protected and ensured in a civilized society. Even the condemned should die with the honour and dignity due to the best of Allah’s creations (ashrafu’l-makhluqat). 

The Way out
The present situation is bleak no doubt. We should not be misled by the glittering lights of some oil-rich Muslim countries. No real human or industrial development has taken place there and the lights will go off as soon as the oil wells run dry. But as people who have made indelible mark on the pages of history, we should never despair. The recovery is difficult but not impossible and it will be possible by using the same worldly laws which apply to all others, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In Allah’s scheme of worldly laws all are equal. We have to go about the chores of this worldly life like anyone else. There are no miracles after the Prophet and there are no short cuts. To be able to gain our own self-respect and the respect of others, we have to excel in all fields of human endeavour. We have to pay extra attention to education, especially technical education with emphasis on electronics. We have to enter into commerce and finance in a big way to compensate for our earlier shortcomings. We have to make our presence felt in the media. It is the accumulated effect of all these activities over a long period of time which will give us our due place on this planet. People preaching or practising short cuts, like resorting to terrorism for political gains, or buying packaged technology or hiring others to do their hard work, are only deceiving themselves and distancing us further from the day we will achieve our rightful place under the sun.

Terrorist activities in many parts of the world have only harmed the cause of Islam and have setback Islamic activities even where no terrorist activities have been committed. In our political struggle we have to resort to only those moral and legal methods which are held acceptable in today’s world. Empowerment today will come only as a result of long-term political struggle not through terrorist activities or military coups. It is the era of democracy, not of autocracy or oligarchy or class dictatorship. It is the era of ballot, not bullet. Muslim individuals or groups taking the short-cut are only running away from the sustained struggle needed to bring about meaningful change here in our own country and everywhere else in our vast World of Islam. 

We have to get used to hard work. We have to be realistic and practical. We have to realize that as in our own lives and careers there are no short-cuts, so too there are no expressways for a community. Only honest and hard work bears fruit in this world of Allah’s unchanging universal laws. No government or authority or institution will do our work in lieu of us and our coming generations. We have to rely on our own resources and strengths and stop relying on doles from within or from beyond our borders. If we want high standard schools and community institutions and clean mosques and localities, we will have to bear the burden ourselves. The present practice of running to the Gulf for funds is an extremely unhealthy trend. It has created unhealthy attitudes and unaccountability on the part of the administrators of our educational and community institutions. Easy money is changing their life-styles. New buildings are coming up in our campuses but the educational standards are fast deteriorating.

Let us start from our own areas and workplaces and institutions. Let us make our own institutions and organizations centres of excellence. As it stands today, these institutions and organizations are not centres of excellence. Instead, they are centres of gross mismanagement, corruption and nepotism. The long march to change our destiny has to start from areas which are under our control and within our grasp:

‘On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear’ (Qur’an -2:286).

Success does not come on a silver platter, while we twiddle our thumbs. We have to work hard to deserve it. This is true for communities and nations just as it is true for individuals. Allah has said:
‘Allah does not change the affairs of a people until they change themselves’(13:11). (CONCLUDED)

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