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Ideological Roots of 'Islamist' Terrorism: Options before Moderate Muslims



By Basil Hijazi, New Age Islam

21 May 2014

It is commonly stated that Islam is a religion of peace and moderation and that there is no room for extremism, violence and terrorism in it, mostly with reference to the holy Quran that says in this regard:

“(O Glorious Messenger!) Invite towards the path of your Lord with wisdom and refined exhortation and (also) argue with them in a most decent manner. Surely, your Lord knows well the one who strayed away from His path, and He also knows well the rightly guided” (16:125).

Thus, they tend to prove that the armed Muslim militants and terrorist organisations like al-Qaida and Boko Haram are not representing Islam. We often hear such statements from the Islamic preachers who try hard to present the image of Islam in a way that can convince the common Muslims and non-Muslims.

But the reality is that the image of Islam has been tarnished so much that even the modern and educated groups of young Muslims the world over are reluctant to accept this moderate narrative of Islam, because it stands brazenly contradictory to the Islamic history that is replete with wars, atrocities, stories of tyrannical rule and inhumane fatwas and statements issued by Muslim jurists.  However, we don’t have to concern ourselves with what went wrong in the past, rather we have to focus on the ideological roots and theological basis on which the entire edifice of the "Islamic" terrorism is based. We should engage in an ideological exercise to find a cure for this dangerous disease which is now prevailing in almost all parts of the world, creating havoc to both Muslims and non-Muslims. I think the main reasons behind the ideological extremism are the following:  

(1)    Believing that the path to the truth is only one and that there will be only one group to be saved in the hereafter.

(2)    Believing that each and every man can find the truth because the true religion is fully compatible with the rationality and nature, as the holy Quran says:

 “So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people” (al-Rum: 30).

3- Believing that the absolute truth is a monopoly of a particular group that is following the only path of the truth.

4- All the above-mentioned beliefs necessarily imply that the other groups are on the wrong path and that despite knowing the truth they insist on following the footsteps of the Satan. This is stated with reference to a verse in the holy Quran: “O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy” (2:208)

5- Believing that it is indispensable to fight the falsehood in order to pave the way for the truth to win. This belief results into the indiscriminate bloodshed of the people who follow the wrong paths, in their view, so that their tribes may be eradicated for good. This is referred to the verse in the holy Quran: So fight against the allies of Satan. Indeed, the plot of Satan has ever been weak (al-Nisa: 76).

6- Believing that the only world to live in is the hereafter and that this world is just a hall of temporary exams so that a clear distinction between believers and non-believers can be made. Therefore, no importance should be attached to this world.

7- The last thing that forms the bedrock of all the above ideological underpinnings is what results into the grave violation of basic human rights and infringement of human dignity.

The entire edifice of terrorism is based on the very ideological bases which have, very regrettably, deep roots in the Muslim minds today. Therefore, the world at large speaks in unison that every Muslim is a terrorist in his actions or ideas. As for the solution to this problem is concerned, it can be one of the two: either Muslims will have to leave Islam and turn into heretics or atheists, as some of them are doing today, or follow the spiritual path of the saints who keep themselves away from all the above-mentioned ideological anchors. As a matter of fact, while the former option will be too difficult for many to choose, the latter could be an easy solution, which can be understood from the following standpoints:

To believe that the ways to the truth are manifold and every community or religion has got one or some parts of the truth, not the whole.

To believe that finding the truth is an uphill task, as it is a matter of heart, rather than an academic or intellectual exercise.

The logical outcome of both the above points is the belief that no religion has got the absolute truth to the exclusion of other faiths.

And the core essence embedded in all the above three points is that it is not permitted to cause harm to the followers of other religions under the false assumption that they are on the wrong path following the footsteps of Satan.    

The service to the truth implies that man has to exert every possible effort to reach the true path. And the easiest and the surest way to achieve this goal is rendering selfless services to common people and providing solutions to their problems, rather than fighting and nurturing hatred against them.

To believe that the hereafter esoterically exists in the very world of ours and what we know as paradise, hell and resurrection etc. are other parts of it. However, it does not imply that life after death has no existence at all. It does exist but only for the righteous people. Although no rational proof can be produced on life after death, but believing in it causes no harm to the people of this world.

In a nutshell, all the above-mentioned spiritual standpoints conclude that every human being, regardless of his or her faith and creed, should be accorded full dignity, human rights, fair treatment and a decent life to live. The most glorious bounty that the Gracious God has bestowed upon man is a decent life to live in this world.    

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