New Age Islam
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Debating Islam ( 3 Nov 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Do Muslims need to disassociate themselves from Salafi, Wahhabi ideologies of permanent war with non-Muslims and moderate Muslims? A New Age Islam debate


By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

3 Nov 2012

Dear Naseer Saheb,  This dialogue has taken a rather serious turn in a somewhat different direction with wider implications. I am, therefore, taking it to the home page for a wider participation of our readers.

 Religion may have nothing to do with terrorism in our view. But when terrorists put out manifestos (you have read Osama bin Laden’s letter to America, now on the site) and publish magazines (look at Nawa-e-Afghan Jehad, for instance, and many others) which shout from rooftops that their inspiration for terrorism for the sake of world domination is their religion, Islam, and Islam is our religion as well and I don’t think that my religion teaches terrorism, then I do have to protest. I do have to point out that though these people are indeed part of my religion, they are a small group called Wahhabis or Salafis and they all come from only one set of madrasas, Deobandis, which were founded over a century ago with similar intentions of “fighting the infidel.”


Osama bin Laden begins his terror manifesto in this way: 


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,


"Permission to fight (against disbelievers) is given to those (believers) who are fought against, because they have been wronged and surely, Allah is Able to give them (believers) victory" [Quran 22:39]


"Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut (anything worshipped other than Allah e.g. Satan). So fight you against the friends of Satan; ever feeble is indeed the plot of Satan."[Quran 4:76]


Before you go further reading this comment, please go to  Find a recent issue, say July 2012.  The cover Story screams “Shariat ya Shahadat” (Islamic code of life called Shariah or Martyrdom). It asks Muslims to choose between the two. There is no third choice: either establish Islamic Sharia in the world or gain martyrdom.  And, I am sure you know that many Muslims around the world including those living in and enjoying the munificence of the West have made this choice in favour of Martyrdom in the pursuit of establishing Shariah.


In this issue alone you will come across articles like: Sahaba-e-Karam rizwan alaihum ka shauq-e-Shadat (how the companions of Prophet Mohammad saw loved martyrdom) by Shah Moinuddin Ahmad Nadwi Rahmatullah Alaih, How companions died for the Prophet by Hafiz Ibnul Imam, My Days With Shaikh Osama bin Laden Rahmatullah Alaih, (a tribute  to the late terrorist-in-chief ) by Shaikh Dr. Aiman Al-Zawahiri madzillahu, A call for action to my brothers in the land of revelation and Islam – Saudi Arabia – by Shaikh Dr. Aiman Al-Zawahiri madzillahu, Woh haalatein ke jin mein kuffar kea am logon ka qatl jayez hota hai (Situations that religiously justify killing common people among infidels by Shaikh Yusuf al-Abeeri Rahmatullah Alaih Ta’a’la, Jihad fi sabeelillah aur uska maqsad (Jihad in the way of God and  its objective) by Maulana Manzoor Ahmad Nomani Rahmatullah Alaih, In praise of martyrdom by Muhsin-e-Ummat Shaikh Osama bin Laden Rahmatullah Alaih , Wana Operation ke bare mein Lal Masjid ke fatwa par Pakistani ulema ka ittefaq (All Pakistani ulema agree on the fatwa given by Mullahs of Islamabad’s Red mosque denouncing Pakistan’s political, bureaucratic and military leadership for their WANA operation), the criminals of Jamia Hafsa by Silsabeel Mujahid, Why we reject the United Nations way of life and accept Allah’s way of life by Abdul Aziz al-Jaleel and so on.


Each and every paragraph, if not sentence of the thousands of pages on this terrorist publication contains references from Quran and Sunnat and Hadees and their interpretation in the way they are taught in Wahhabi madrasas of Saudi Arabia and Egypt (where Osama bin Laden, Aiman al-Zawahiri and all the 9/11 terrorists studied) and Deobandi madrasas of Pakistan where the Taliban studied.


 You and I say Naseer Saheb that terrorism has nothing to do with any religion. But Terrorists are shouting from rooftops that they are Islamists and their only objective is to establish Islam in the same way as Prophet Mohammad did. They say Prophet Mohammad used war as a way of establishing Islam and so should we. They use the inspiring stories of Prophet Mohammad and his Companions fighting in Jange-e-Badr and Jang-e-Uhad and so on. They use verses from the Quran to justify killing innocents. You have now read how they religiously, Islamically, justify killing of innocent people. 


Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, the founder-ideologue of Jamaat-e-Islam which in turn helped found the Taliban is one of the oft-quoted:


"When every method of persuasion (over 13 years of preaching) had failed, the Prophet took to the sword… that sword removed evil and mischief, the impurities of the heart and the filth of the soul. The sword did something more. It removed their blindness—they could see the light of truth—and it also cured them of their arrogance; arrogance which prevents people from accepting the truth… stiff necks and proud heads bowed with humility."

— From Jihad Fi Sabillilah


“To change the old tyrannical system and establish a just new order by the power of the sword is also Jihad, as is spending wealth and undergoing physical exertion for this cause.” — From Jihad Fi Sabillilah


Another oft-quoted quotation in Taliban Jihadi literature from the same book is: “It must now be obvious that the objective of the Islamic jihad is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system, and establish in its place an Islamic system of state rule. Islam does not intend to confine his rule to a single state or a hand full of countries. The aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution. Although in the initial stages, it is incumbent upon members of the party of Islam to carry out a revolution in the state system of the countries to which they belong; their ultimate objective is none other than world revolution."

(Jihad Fi Sabillilah: Jihad in Islam by Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi “– Chapter 3, Pg 10)


I think we the overwhelming majority of Muslims who see Islam as a religion of peace should disassociate ourselves from the Saudi, Wahhabi, Salafi, Deobandi brand of Islam and point out why we do not agree with their primitive, atavistic, obscurantist, extremist, exclusivistic interpretation of Islamic scriptures that has spawned terrorism, is providing inspiration to terrorists and is keeping their anti-Islamic mission afloat. We believe in the Islam that produced great Sufi saints who spent their lifetime serving God and the people and who introduced us non-Arab Muslims to Islam, scientists and philosophers who introduced science and philosophy to the Medieval Europe and helped modernize it, the poets and artists whose art and poetry appreciated by the entire world and gives a message of peace and equality and progress.


But in order to defend the Saudi, Wahhabi, Salafi, Deobandi brand of Islam that is spawning Islamist terrorists, you start finding terrorists among Bareilwis who constitute the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Indian or now South Asian sub-continent. Thankfully, you could only come up with Mafia Don and ISI agent, Dawood Ibrahim who organized in 1993 bombing of Bombay Stock Exchange, the most destructive terrorist bombing in Indian history. Wikipedia describes Dawood Ibrahim as “don of the Bombay-based international organised crime syndicate named D-Company, which had also operated as a terrorist organisation..[6][7] Nowhere is there any mention of his philosophy or ideology or even Bareilwi persuasion. You are the only person I know who treats Dawood Ibrahim as a Bareilwi ideologue. He may have been visiting Sufi shrines. All criminals show great religiosity, spend large amounts of money, give large donations to mosques, temples, shrines, maybe churches and synagogues too. Does that make them ideologues of that religion or stream of thought within a religion? 


About binary vision. Does Allah have binary vision? Did Mohammad have binary vision? Did they not ask Muslims, when in the middle of a war, kill the infidel wherever you find them? Did Allah and Mohammad not know that the infidel of today could turn into the greatest stalwart of Islam tomorrow? Were not all the companions of the Prophet including Hazrat Umar (raziallal taala) all infidels opposed to the spread of Islam at one time and even prepared to brandish their swords in order to extirpate the infant plant of Islam.


No, Allah and Mohammad didn’t display a binary vision. Rules of war are always different from rules of peacetime. Most of the kuffar and mushrekeen killed in battles of Badr and Uhad could have turned into stalwart defenders of Islam later, but had they not been killed, Islam itself would not have survived. So Allah and Mohammad had to display binary vision and give clear-cut orders for the war. These orders do not apply to us today. They were meant for those wars. This is what I want Deobandi Wahhabi ulema who issue fatwa against terrorism to tell their militant followers: these instructions given by God and Mohammad in the wars against kuffar and mushrekeen in the early days of Islam are no longer valid and applicable to us today.


Should such verses quoted by the Deobandi Taliban to justify killing innocent people be taken out of the Quran? No. These verses are invaluable. They tell us the inspiring story of what near-insurmountable odds the prophet and early Muslims had to face to establish the religion. They were permitted to fight only when they were left with no option. They even fled from Mecca to avoid bloodshed. But when Meccans followed them even in Medina with the intention to kill them, what option did they have. So these war verses are valuable to us as history but no longer applicable in today’s circumstances. However, they are taught as of universal application in Deobandi, Wahhabi, Saudi, Salafi madrasas. This is spawning terrorism. This is buttressing terrorism. This is helping Islamist terrorists keep their inhuman movement afloat.


We are in the middle of a war. Tomorrow your son or nephew or niece could turn into a suicide bomber. He or she would not turn into a terrorist because he or she is offered large amounts of money or any worldly possession. Muslim youth from secular, liberal, moderate Muslim families are embracing terrorism because of the binary vision God and Mohammad displayed in the early wars (rightly so) and the verses of Quran and purported sayings of Prophet Mohammad are taught in Deobandi, Saudi madrasas and on the internet as valid and applicable for all times (which they are not).


I wonder where did you find “proof of binary mode of thinking” in the following paragraph that I wrote in my last comment:


“Personally I do not consider Bareilwi ideologues paragons of all virtues. In fact I find many things wrong with them. Nor do I consider Deobandis personification of evil. I abhor certain Bareilwi practices and admire some ideas and qualities of the Wahhabis. However, the limited point I am making repeatedly on the site is that Bareilwis have a largely inclusive understanding of Islam and Wahhabis have a more exclusivist ideology which is a danger to Islam as much as to modern civilisation."

Sultan Shahin

3 Nov 2012



Dear Shahin Sb,


You repeatedly provide proof of binary mode of thinking. Who gave you permission to label me as a Deobandi? Not a Barelvi must mean a Deobandi and now not a Deobandi would perhaps mean Wahabi! None of these would leave you totally confused.

You do not seem to get it although I have been screaming from day one of my association with this site that terrorism has little to do with religion as cause. Yet, you seem to think that I am trying to say that all Muslims are terrorists! I have objected to the use of terms such as Islamist and Islamism precisely because these terms incorrectly attribute religion as a primary cause of terrorism. Dawood Ibrahim was cited as an example because Barani claimed that not a single Barelvi was involved. It was to discourage such sectarian thinking and not to encourage it.

By Naseer Ahmed - 11/2/2012 8:00:48 PM


Dear Naseer Ahmed Saheb,


Why should one substitute Deobandi or Wahhabi with Muslim to get the argument of Islamophobes? By the grace of God, Wahhabis still constitute no more than 5/10 per cent of the Muslim community. Of course, their influence is growing and their ideology is becoming more and more acceptable among Muslims under the onslaught of ubiquitous Wahhabi media propaganda financed by petrodollars and protected by the sole super power of the world.


It is heartening for me, a mere journalist, to find that even when an intellectual like you  tries to prove that all Muslims, and not just Wahhabis, are extremists, you are only able to come up with the example of Dawood Ibrahim,  the Mumbai gangster, now ISI-agent who was behind the 1992 terrorist act in Mumbai. I am sure you must have searched for extremist ideas among Bareilwi ideologues and you couldn’t find any. So you had to resort repeatedly to Dawod Ibrahim as an example of a Bareilwi ideologue. However, I can assure you even Deobanids other than you would not consider Dawood Ibrahim a Bareilwi philosopher. He was a small time crook in the beginning of his career but obviously thanks to his intelligence, cunning, brutality and total lack of scruples he grew into a notorious mafia don, and then shifted to Pakistan. ISI utilized him to carry out terrorist acts in India to provoke massacres of Muslims which fortunately did not happen. If he is the best example you could find of a Bareilwi ideologue to prove that all Muslims, not just Wahhabis, are extremists in their approach, I am very happy about that.


If you are looking for another Bareilwi terrorist to be presented as a Bareilwi ideologue, I can refer you to the rascal who killed Governor Salman Taseer. He also comes from a Bareilwi family and it was indeed on the incitement of a Bareilwi Mullah that he killed the governor whom he was being paid to protect as a bodyguard.


I have already made the point several times that the Wahhabi extremist virus has infected the Bareilwis too and extremism has grown exponentially among the Muslim community in general all over the world. Even countries like Indonesia and Malaysia that we used to cite as examples of Muslim moderation are now in the throes of a Wahhabi epidemic.


Personally I do not consider Bareilwi ideologues paragons of all virtues. In fact I find many things wrong with them. Nor do I consider Deobandis personification of evil. I abhor certain Bareilwi practices and admire some ideas and qualities of the Wahhabis. However, the limited point I am making repeatedly on the site is that Bareilwis have a largely inclusive understanding of Islam and Wahhabis have a more exclusivist ideology which is a danger to Islam as much as to modern civilisation.


It is gratifying that despite the spreading Wahhabi virus an overwhelming majority of Muslims on the Indian sub-continent are still of Bareilwi persuasion and love to go to the shrines of Sufi saints where they get to interact with people from other religions on a quasi-religious platform and with great bonhomie as they share respect for the same divinity.  That the overwhelming majority of people in Pakistan, where shrines are under daily Wahhabi bombing attacks, are still willing to go to Sufi shrines is a great sign of hope for all of us and a proof that the entire Muslim community is not yet radicalised and is willing to sacrifice life to prove the point.


Regardless of their other shortcomings, I love people who like to co-exist with people from other faiths in our global village and abhor people who provoke confrontation with non-Muslims including ahl-e-kitab on ideological grounds. We Muslims should be able to follow the Qur’anic dictum of “for you your way of life and for me mine.”


Naseer Saheb, sectarianism is certainly a bad thing. Allah and the prophet warned us against this. But does this mean that we should all unite under the sectarian Saudi Wahhabi flag?


Wahhabi propaganda blared through every media organisation is not sectarianism. But when heads of 80 Sufi shrines, having the allegiance of 90/95 per cent of Muslims come together in Moradabad and denounce growing Wahhabi extremism and point to its dangers, Muslim media under the influence of Saudi petrodollars does not even report the event attended by a hundred thousand Muslims. Instead it brings out the issue of sectarianism and suddenly becomes very much opposed to sectarianism among Muslims.  That an intellectual from a Sufi background speaks the same language of the infected Urdu Press is very disappointing. 


Sultan Shahin 11/2/2012 1:34:06 PM


Sultan Shahin Saheb,

I agree with much of your last comment. The Talibans may be inspired by Deobandi ideology, but tribal and regional factors also play a large part in their behavior. I condemn Deoband's anti-reform stance and its failure to denounce terrorism, but I would not say that they are in cahoots with the terrorists.

Ghulam Mohiyuddin, 11/1/2012 3:08:52 PM


"Just that it is their ideology that is resulting in the creation of Taliban and the mindset of Deobandis is the same everywhere though their political, financial compulsions may lead them to behave in different ways."

Substitute Muslim for Deobandi and you have the argument of the Islamophobes. What is different in the two mindsets? Looks like Muslims are incapable of rising above petty sectarianism and cannot think big.
I agree with much of what Ghulam Mohyideen says although I would caution him about the old and the new testaments because much of the Shariat which deviates from the Quran is based on these books such as the punishments for adultery, apostasy, blasphemy and the practice of circumcision etc. I would substitute that with the life and example of all the prophets since Jesus' life is the best example for Muslims to follow in this age.

By Naseer Ahmed - 11/2/2012 12:03:34 AM


Dear Ghulam Mohiyuddin Saheb,


"Articulating a coherent and convincing theology of Reform Islam," should indeed be our primary purpose. But this is something that will emerge and indeed seems to be emerging in our own efforts as well as that of some others in different parts of the world.

However, in the meantime we have to keep denouncing terrorists and fighting terroristic interpretations of our ideology as well. We also need to expose the fallacies of those who never clearly denounce the terrorists, while at the same time maintaining that Islam is a religion of peace and terrorism has no place in it. For good reasons such pronouncements have no effect. Deoband, for instance, has never issued a fatwa against Osama bin Laden or followers of Al-Qaeda or Taliban. Well, Taliban indeed are products of Deobandi madrasas and believe in and say the same thing that, for instance, Indian Deobandi Taliban (students) and ulema would say. The difference is that Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and their teachers (ulema) also do certain things that Indian ulema and Taliban (madrasa students) cannot do. But there is no difference in their thinking and ideology.


This, too, we have to keep pointing out and denouncing while we are engaged in a search for a coherent and convincing theology of Reform Islam, as you put it, that would be more suited for the 21st and later centuries,. The two processes have to go together.

By Sultan Shahin - 11/1/2012 2:32:42 PM


Sultan Shahin Saheb,


 In order to find Christian or Hindu parallels, we would have to time travel to the 12th, 15th or the 18th century. Moreover the differences may be more quantitative than qualitative. The principle is the same, namely resist change one way or the other.

Besides fighting extremism, we need to articulate a coherent and convincing theology of Reform Islam.


By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/1/2012 1:37:38 PM


Ghulam Mohiyuddin Saheb is right:”Enemies of Islam have a high stake in blocking the emergence of moderate/liberal/progressive Islam.”


One Islamophobic website once wrote a 6,000-word essay seeking to prove that everything I had said in a speech at the UN Human Rights Council was wrong and rejected by “genuine” Islam.


But the comparison with Hinduism or Christianity or Judaism doesn’t ring true. – “It is like telling Hindus that the only true Hinduism is to burn their widows, practice untouchability and follow Manusmriti, or telling Christians and Jews to follow the Old Testament's admonitions to kill apostates and to stone to death adulteresses!


The reason is that there are no groups among Hindus and very small groups among Christians and Jews who would say things like that. Even the LTTE never claimed that its struggle was based on a Jihad manual called Gita. They never framed their struggle in terms of Jihad against Buddhism. Khap Panchayats never credit Hinduism for their retrogressive ideas. I do not know of any Christians and Jews who want “to follow the Old Testament's admonitions to kill apostates and to stone to death adulteresses!.” Among Muslims, the most dynamic, the most well-funded, indeed the most influential group today is that of people who claim that the classical sira, Hadith and fiqh (Sharia laws) represent genuine Islam and the moderate Islam is fake Islam so much so that moderates are apostates and deserve nothing less than death in the here and now. Islamic extremists are not only making an ideological pint they are actually practising the killing of moderate Muslims whom they consider apostates and stoning to death alleged adulteresses (without even any need for any proof).


Naseer Saheb has pointed out elsewhere that Bareilwis and Sufis are as much extremists and exclusivists now as the Deobandis,Wahhabis. This is not entirely true yet but the trend is leading towards this denouement. The influence of this group among Muslim masses the world over is growing by leaps and bounds. The extremist and exclusivist message of Islam reaches our homes, our newspapers, our television channels day in and day out. It is only natural for “enemies of Islam”to support this group. The Kharjiite version of Islam, the extremist Islam alone can help prepare Western or Hindu masses to be so fearful of Islam as to be ready for pogroms a la Nazi Germany. You have to give the dog a bad name first before killing it. And if the dog itself is eager to give itself a bad name, why not help it through your own media as well.


But it will not help us moderates to shift our focus from fighting extremists within our own community to our “enemies” who are helping them for their own very good reasons. Christian, Jewish, Hindu fundamentalists support, protect, encourage Islamic fundamentalists: is that reason enough for us moderates also to start doing that?


Let us not succumb to the pressure of “enemies of Islam” to shift our focus away from Islamic extremist and leave the field completely open for them to keep saying that classical Islam based on secondary theological sources is the genuine Islam. You may have noticed the disapproval bordering on contempt that some commentators on this site also have for people they “accuse” of being “Ahl-e-Quran.”This is the age of Ahl-e-Hadeesis. They are out to colonise the Muslim mind.


Let us try and give an alternative vision to the Muslims community while denouncing the extremists within all the while. We can even fall back on some of our glorious traditions of always fighting back Kharjiites and the like and coming up winners. Let us not lose hope this time round too, though the situation today is the most precarious. Never before have the Kharjiites wielded so much power. Never before has the international situation been so favourable to them. They have ganged up with very powerful “enemies of Islam.” Look at the way Al-Qaeda is being installed into power replacing moderate and secular Muslim rulers in the Muslim world. But war within Islam is primarily a war within Islam. Let us keep it that way. Let us maintain our focus where it should remain.


By Sultan Shahin - 11/1/2012 3:29:36 AM


Naseer Sb.,


People want change but have not yet articulated a coherent message with widespread acceptance. An entrenched ideology can be fought only by a well thought out, consistent and cogent ideology.


By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/1/2012 3:05:21 AM


Well said Ghulam Mohyiddin Sb! There are many ills in Muslim society. Attacking well entrenched attitudes and mind sets do not work. Substitution works. Give people alternative ideas to think about and you get change.
Change is brought about gently and in small measures and never by attacking/denouncing/demonizing. The enemies of Islam do not want any change but rather they would like the entire community to regress to the worst possible state. Let us defeat them.

Would like to see articles in New Age Islam that while talking about ills, speak about solutions. Articles that are only critical and offer no solution, only feed the appetite of the detractors. Most articles unfortunately fall in this category of pure criticism of not just of the acts of people but of the entire people based on the acts of a few. Muslims should get out of their habit of cursing, hand wringing and breast beating and start thinking in terms of solutions.
People are what they are because of their situation and circumstances. Change for the better is always possible. Let us work for change rather than indulge in counterproductive criticism. By Naseer Ahmed - 11/1/2012 2:35:38 AM


McCarthy and Baranis will find one way or another to tell us that medieval or mullahish Islam is the only true Islam. It is like telling Hindus that the only true Hinduism is to burn their widows, practice untouchability and follow Manusmriti, or telling Christians and Jews to follow the Old Testament's admonitions to kill apostates and to stone to death adulteresses!


Enemies of Islam have a high stake in blocking the emergence of moderate/liberal/progressive Islam.


By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/1/2012 1:19:34 AM