In the world media, “terror” and “Islam” are frequently mentioned; phrases such “Islamic extremists” and “Muslim Terrorists” have become a commonplace. There is a complete chaos of terminology, particularly when it comes to terms associated with Islam. This has been furthered by a number of factors including the hijacking of the Islamic teachings by a handful of insane people who have interpreted Islam according to their own whims. Not to mention, there are also some who do not identify themselves as Muslims, either due to a lack of understanding or to create propaganda, have attached new meanings to the Qur’an and the sacred Prophetic traditions. Through various media platforms, these forces have disseminated their warped interpretations of Islamic terminology throughout the world misleading the Muslims and non-Muslims communities. Take the wok “Jihad” which has been wrongly portrayed to mean indiscriminate murder or holy war whereas it has very unique and multidimensional connotations. The literal meaning of the word Jihad is to strive for some objective, which can be in many dimensions, some off which are:
- Defensive Dimension means to fight those who wage war against you
- Psychological Dimension means to psychologically fight against the inner desires and inclinations
- Intellectual Dimension means to intellectually serve humanity through scholarly work in various fields of academia.
- Social Dimension means to serve humanity through humanitarian work and peaceful, democratic and constitutional struggle against oppression and exploitation.
Muslims from across the world including clerics, Imams and community leaders have continuously denounced the atrocities committed by extremists groups like ISIS, Boko Haram and others. The very act of terrorism is in direct contradiction with the basic principles of Islam based on love, peace and mercy. Over the past few years we have seen a sudden rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq who have perpetrated some of the worst acts of violence and terrorism. The perverted ideology in reality is a cancer to the society and if this ideology is not challenged ideologically and intellectually it will continue to proliferate in the world. One of the leading scholars of the Islamic world Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri who issued a very comprehensive 600 page Fatwa against terrorism and suicide bombings, in which he challenges the ideology of the terroristic groups through the Qur’an, Prophetic traditions and Classical Muslim authorities. The Fatwa furnishes theological arguments, which annihilates the theory, and the superficial arguments provided by ISIS and extremist groups for their acts of terror and indiscriminate murder. Recently he launched a full-fledged ‘Islamic Curriculum on Peace and Counter Terrorism’. The Curriculum will equip young people with sufficient knowledge to combat the manipulative ideology of ISIS and other extremist groups both within the community and online. It is the responsibility of the Muslim community and the West to derive benefit from this curriculum if they are serious in combating extremism. Here I would like to provide some examples that have been extracted from the curriculum that shows how ISIS is in direct contradiction to the basic teaching of Islam. First we will take the act of indiscriminate murder of people.
1. The act of murder is one of the worst a person can carry out and there is severe punishment in store for those who perpetrate such heinous crimes. In the Qur’an
Almighty Allah says:
“Whoever kills a person [unjustly], except as a punishment for murder or [as a prescribed punishment for spreading] disorder in the land, it is as if he killed all of humanity”
Almighty Allah employs the word “nafs” (single soul), which is a general expression and gives the verse a broad based application. From the above verse it becomes clear that unjust killing is completely prohibited within the parameters of Islam regardless of what faith, language and ethnic background you associate with. Therefore killing a Muslim or non-Muslim citizens living in an Islamic State falls in the same category.
2. ISIS uses coercion to either make non-Muslims accept Islam or force Muslims to accept their perverted ideology. This act is against the letter and spirit of the teaching of the Qur’an and Prophetic tradition. In the Qur’an Almighty Allah states:
“There is no compulsion in Din”
Ibn Kathir elaborated on this verse in the following words:
“Do not coerce anyone to embrace Islam for its proofs and evidence are clear, obvious and manifest. There is no need for anyone to be coerced into embracing it”
In another verse Almighty Allah States:
“So will you coerce people until they become believers?”
ISIS continues to subjugate and impose their cancerous ideology on the people under their rule and anyone challenging their views is tortured and put to death. Yet they fail to understand that Islam is not merely a profession of faith or the performance of bodily rituals: its requires the confirmation and conviction of the heart: and in matters of the heart there is no scope of coercion
3. Act of decapitating the living and ISIS carries out desecrating the dead bodies. This act has strongly been prohibited in Islamic law and under no circumstances can such atrocities be carried out. It is not even permissible for Muslims to torture prisoners of war let alone the citizens. This reality is reflective from the following sayings of Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him) where He said:
Verily, Allah will torture those who torture people in this world”
In another tradition it is stated:
“Do not torture the creation of Allah Almighty”
Islam emphasizes great importance on caring for the creation of Almighty Allah even protecting the rights of animals. It is stated in a Prophetic tradition:
“A woman was punished due to a cat she imprisoned until it died, so she was made to enter hellfire because of it. She didn’t feed it or give it to drink nor did she let it eat from the vermin of the earth”
So if punishment can be granted to a woman who tortured a cat, what will be the punishment of those who indiscriminately torture human beings?
4. Another claim made by ISIS is that they are trying to fight against the corrupt Government so that they can establish the rule of Allah. This notion in itself is strongly rejected from the established principles of Islam. The Islamic law has made a categorical declaration that an armed struggle against Muslim Government is prohibited, even if the Government is corrupt, sinful and oppressive, unless it makes and open declaration of disbelief (kufr bawah). This is proven from the following tradition narrated by Junada b. Abi Umayya (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
“We went to see Ubada b. al-Samit when he was sick and we said to him, “May Allah improve your condition! Narrate to us a tradition the Allah benefited you with and you heard from the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon Him). He said, “The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon Him) called us forward and we pledged fealty to him. In our pledge of fealty, he made us commit to hearing and obeying both when energetic and tired, and in difficulty and ease, and that we ‘do not come in conflict with the leaders that are over you unless you witness manifest disbelief for which you have proof with Allah”
The commentators of Prophetic traditions have explained the phrase “manifest disbelief” to be explicit which leaves no room for an alternative interpretation. The act of revolting against a Muslim government is not only prohibited within the scope of Islamic law but such acts are branded as disbelief. Islam promotes to adopt legal, constitutional, democratic and peaceful means of struggle against a corrupt, oppressive and unjust government.
Final saying I would like to quote is from Sayyedna Abu Bakr who advised Yazid b. Sufyan by saying:
“I command you to observe ten things: Do not kill a young child, a woman or an elderly infirm man. Do not cut down fruit bearing tree or demolish buildings. Do not slaughter a sheep or camel except for food. Do not drown or burn date palm trees. And do not steal from the war booty or show cowardice”
Only a few examples have been mentioned in how ISIS and similar groups contradict the basic Islamic teachings through their conduct. In essence they have hijacked the pure teachings of Islam for their own political agenda. They have used the name of Islam to justify their inhumane acts and unfortunately have succeeded in fooling some to believe that this is Islam. The Islamic literature is replete with numerous examples of tolerance and mercy shown to people of other faiths. The Islamic Curriculum on Peace and Counter Terrorism is a very comprehensive curriculum covering all the concepts mentioned above with references from the classical Muslim authorities. It is a great contribution from Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri for the Ummah and it is our responsibility to derive benefit from this great scholarly masterpiece.
It is imperative sufficient measures are taken from both Muslims and non-Muslims Governments to sincerely tackle the problem of extremism in order to protect our coming generations and promotion of global peace. Western Governments should tackle extremism and Islamophobia simultaneously because both feed off each other rather than just focusing on extremism.
Terrorism is a crime against humanity. Terrorism has no religion and it should not be linked with any faith let alone Islam, because at the heart of each faith there is sanctity of human life. Every faith strongly condemns all forms and manifestations of terrorism. When an act of terrorism takes places it has five other crimes contained within it:
- Crime against the Creator
- Crime against Humanity
- Crime against those its directed towards (victims)
- Crime against the perpetrator himself
- Crime against the community which he belongs to
Above I only listed some of the brutalities carried out by ISIS and similar groups, which are in direct contradiction to the teaching of Qur’an and Prophetic traditions. How could their actions be associated with Islam? Islam calls for protection of human life, freedom of religious practice, justice for all, respect for the other faiths and equality. The world should not buy into the propaganda promulgated by ISIS which will further lead to division within the community and that is exactly what they desire. We should stand firmly and confront these groups with the power of unity and dispel myths around the faith of Islam and other faiths.