Stop blaming Islam for global terror

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey


Islam seems to have become a soft target for Indian and global media and political leaders as well. In several cases, the poisonous spitting is not even worthy of a reaction. But the matter takes a serious turn, when reputed scholars or journalists target Islam and that too on flimsy grounds, most often after terror attacks in any part of the world. Following the ISIS attacks in Paris alleged Islamic terrorism and Jihad have become burning issues, once again, for the media. Senior journalist Tavleen Singh has written one such article in The Indian Express. The stature of the columnist compels me to take a serious note of her irresponsible observations regarding Islam and the Qur’an. But before countering Ms Singh’s points one by one, let me put across my views about ISIS and terrorism.

We cannot deny the fact that in today’s world, merchants of terror and destruction, like ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram are creating great mischief and shattering peace in the name of Islam. That’s not Islam at all. They are simply earning a bad name for Islam. They are the enemies of Islam and Muslims first and then of the whole humanity.

I feel it my foremost duty to explain things and remove misconceptions, in order to clear the air. I am conscious enough to make this modest effort of mine, academic and objective, sans any sentimental approach. I am sorry to observe that Ms. Singh has very little knowledge of Islam. She has attempted to write a lot on the basis of her personal perceptions without bothering to make any serious effort to learn about Islam or know the fundamental facts about this faith, which unfortunately has been made the most misunderstood religion in the world today.

The distinguished journalist has levelled charges against Islam and targeted its primary sources-the Holy Qur’an and the life of Prophet Muhammad (buh). Obviously, in the present era of revolutionary information technology, anybody with a genuine will to know things can quite easily gain access to all sources at the tip of his or her fingers. I am sorry to say that Ms. Tavleen Singh did not take pains to even make a feeble attempt in this direction. Instead she has projected herself in such a manner as if she  knows all about Islam. She alleges that the Holy Prophet has added such commands to the Holy Qur’an which teach Muslims to behave with all non-Muslims in an aggressive and oppressive way.


Prophet Muhammad isn’t the author of the Qur’an: It is apparent that Ms Singh is not aware of even the basic fact that the Holy Qur’an is a divine book-word of Almighty God and not based on the narrations of the Prophet. She should have known that the holy Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in pieces, over a long period of 23 years. He did not even add a single word to the holy book. One can lay hands on several verses in the holy Qur’an, by which the Almighty has taught the Prophet himself, regarding many things (Holy Qur’an 7-1:80). He has also been corrected by the Lord at some places. (8:48). Almighty God has very strictly warned people against making any change in this book. The holy Qur’an has stated clearly that even the holy Prophet does not know all things, as the real knower is God alone. One verse of the holy Qur’an specifies that the Prophet was not capable of reading and writing (29:49). In the light of the above-mentioned fact, no one can term Islam as a faith created by Muhammad (pbuh), except an ignorant individual who has not even opened the holy Qur’an.


The Qur’an doesn’t allow its followers to behave with others badly: Tragically, Ms Singh is totally unaware of the teachings of the holy Qur’an and its message. She believes it urges its followers to behave with non-Muslims badly. Had she referred to the holy Qur’an’s verse no 8-60, which clearly instructs believers to treat non-believers nicely, politely and piously. It asks its followers to establish justice (for all) as the Lord Almighty likes just people. It declares that its message is for all human beings and not merely for its followers (2:186). It commands its followers, again and again, to make justice prevail and that there should be rule of justice alone.

The holy Qur’an at numerous places (for instance: 2:21, 2:168, 4:1, 4:170, 10:57, etc.) addresses not Muslims alone, but the whole mankind. It asks to spare even animals from any harm, leave apart human beings. There are at least 70 verses in the holy Qur’an, which clearly condemn oppression. It also fixes punishment for such acts (2:124, 2:255, 3:151, 5:29). There are many a verse in the holy Qur’an to this effect. Even during wars, it always instructed Muslim soldiers not to attack the old, women and children and any unarmed man. The Prophet (Pbuh) used to ask his people not to cut or harm the green trees and fields with crops. The lesson here is that Islam as a peace-loving religion can never ask its followers to adopt a harsh attitude towards anyone, even those outside the fold of Islam.

The holy Qur’an clearly spells out that there is no compulsion in faith (2:256). Everyone is free to follow it or not (29:18). It asks Muslims to declare, “Our faith is for us and your faith is for you’ (6:109). It is the age of knowledge and awareness. In such an age how should one blame Islam in such a manner as evident in Ms. Tavleen Singh’s article.


The word kafir isn’t a term of abuse in the Qur’an: The columnist alleges that Islam is such a religion which terms the non-believers kafirs, while no Indian religion uses this word for the people outside its fold. Perhaps, she has taken the word kafir as a term of abuse. She must know that the holy Qur’an has called even Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon) kafir (2:102) and also attributes the word kaafri to Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (4:60). The holy book has described farmers and field workers too as kafirs. In fact, the word kufr means an act of denying. This is not a term of abuse. It indicates someone concealing something or refusing to accept something. Any sincere person can easily comprehend the actual meaning of the words kafir or kufr by referring to any one of the Arabic-English dictionaries.

As far as other religions in India are concerned, we very widely come across words, like naastik for atheist, adharmi for non-believer and maleech (a downgrading term obviously for Muslims and perhaps Christians.These words figure in many ancient and medieval Indian scriptures at various places. It is not a secret for a scholar researcher or student working in related fields. However, we should realise that all such words are essential parts of the teachings of a religion in our country. Finally, Muslim-Kafir, Jew-Goy, Christian-Pagan, Arya-Amarya and even capitalist-proletarit are accepted binaries about which nobody makes any fuss. It is not particular to Islam.


Darul Harb and Darul Islam: It is quite shocking that Ms. Singh has asserted that Allah (God Almighty) desires that all Muslims should essentially fight against others in battle fields in non-Islamic countries. Here, making a tall claim regarding her knowledge of Islam, she offers a reference of Google for knowing the word Darul-Harb (a hostile land). Evidently, she does not know that only the words of Allah are recorded in the Holy Qur’an interpreted through the teachings of the Holy Prophet, (known as Tradition) and the word Darul-Harb is nowhere mentioned in either the holy Qur’an or holy Tradition. I, very respectfully challenge her to show this word in any of the above basic sources of Islam. Google has no significance or authenticity for such issues. It’s not a source for knowing the holy Qur’an or Holy Tradition. The word Darul-Harb was coined by some Muslim jurists during Middle Ages, due to legal and political needs. The simple reason for the introduction of this concept was to differentiate between territories under Muslim rule and those under non-Muslims.

The Muslim-ruled countries or regions were known as Darul-Islam, meaning lands of peace, while areas under non-Muslims-where Muslims also lived as subjects-were known as Darul-Harb, meaning hostile lands. Centuries later, in modern times, a great Indian Islamic scholar coined a new term, Darul-Amaan, land of peace. It was used to mention those countries (India, for instance), where Muslims lived in peace, under a secular regime and they faced no threat to their existence or faith. This approach clearly shows that Muslim scholars, particularly Indian Islamic scholars, did not and do not, believe in the concept of any hostile land. Today, when the whole world has shrunk into a global village, it knows no bounds and no borders. And as a natural consequence, such terms have of late lost their meaning and relevance in the modern context.


Islam in India: The esteemed writer has made another attempt to create a new misconception that in India Islam, in earlier days was different from what it is in modern times. According to her the new Islam has emerged over last few decades. She asserts that Muslims largely follow the Islam preached by Syed Qutb and Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab Najdi. The fact remains that a preponderant majority of Indian Muslims is not aware of the two personalities mentioned by her. Muslim society over the years has produced a number of great Islamic scholars, who differ in their views, but the Muslims as a community have accepted all of them in a democratic fashion. Does it not speak of the flexible approach of Islam and Muslims in an empirical manner? I advise her not to randomly pick up any one or two scholars and keep talking about them, while, she has no basic knowledge about such matters.

Ms. Singh has bitterly criticised even mosques and prayers being observed inside them. I would like to very politely request the wise writer to personally visit mosques and directly witness the prayers being offered there. She must be well aware that there are good and bad elements in all communities and all religions. May I ask her two innocent questions? How many people from the majority community have been caught in connection with terrorist activities in India? And who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi? Was he a Muslim or a member of his own community?


Wars in history of Islam: If some serious and sincere scholar takes pains to study the history of Islam in an objective manner, then the reality would dawn on him that in the earliest period of Islam, all battles fought between Muslims and the people of Mecca were near Medina only. All these battles were fought under the leadership of Prophet himself. And that the Muslims were never aggressors. They simply defended themselves. This shows that it were the Meccan pagans who always attacked Medina, the first settlement of Muslims. On the other hand, one great event, pertaining to peace-Treaty of Hudaibyah-was finalised and signed near Mecca. Does it not speak of Muslims being peace-loving and amicable settlers of disputes. Nevertheless when Mecca was conquered by a Muslim army under the Prophet there was no bloodshed at all. Meccans surrendered without any conflict and were treated with good will. In the interest of lasting peace, the Holy Prophet declared general amnesty for those who embraced Islam voluntarily, and even for those who did not, but agreed to end hostility and lay down arms. Are these not shining proofs of Muslims’ tolerance, belief in co-existence and liberty for all.


ISIS is a merchant of terror, enemy of Islam: Let’s accept realities. We cannot deny the fact that in today’s world, the merchants of terror and destruction, like ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram are creating mischief and shattering peace in the name of Islam. But that’s not Islam at all. They are simply earning a bad name for Islam. They are the enemies of Islam and Muslims first and then of the whole humanity. They are destroyers and not Mujahideen, in any way. They are culprits in the eyes of Allah.

The author  is a former Director, Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies and head of the Department of Islamic Studies at Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi, is presently Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities in India.

Views expressed here by the author are personal.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2016 on page no. 11

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