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Global Terrorism Stems From Takfirism: How Ulema Can Curb It By Just Issuing Fatwas Of Kufr Against The Terrorists?

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

24 August 2016

Recently, a considerable number of Zakir Naik’s fans on social media, particularly on Twitter and Facebook, have declared all those Muslims who are against Zakir Naik as Kafir (infidel) and Munafiq (hypocrite).  “Those who oppose Zakir Naik are Kafir (one who hides the truth)”, writes a follower of Dr Naik namely Saeed Ibn George on his Twitter account.

Personally, I have also received such an insolent accusation, apart from many gruesome threats from the diehard supporters of Mr. Naik. Of late, an enthusiast female adherent of Zakir Naik seemingly from the UK has posed these questions to me:  

“I don’t know if there is any word worse than Kaffir that I would have used for you. People like you are destroying Islam. ….. Most of the Dehlvi women I know from Delhi are married to idol worshippers. Why don’t you guide them first???” [you are] criticizing Zakir Naik who has helped thousands of people to revert. I personally have 2000 revert friends in UK and each one of them has been influenced by Mr. Naik. What have you done in helping people revert?”

Without any knee-jerk reactions to the lady, I simply expressed my amazement at her naivety. I wondered how many new-age young Muslims like her are consciously or unconsciously being indoctrinated into a dangerous radical doctrine called Takfirism (declaring each other Kafir). At the moment, I was reminded of the Prophet’s hadith (tradition) delivered in his last sermon of the pilgrimage (Hujjatul Wida) in which he warned Muslims:  “Do not revert to takfir (declaring each other kaafir) after me by striking (cutting) the necks of one another” is a part of long discourse delivered by the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) on the occasion of Hujjatul Wida.

As a matter of fact, takfirism is specific to a particular stream of thought in Islam and is not common to all Muslims. This ideological extremism has blatantly abolished all the essential principles of tolerance and plurality enshrined in Islam. While the holy Qur'an repeatedly exhorts that “there should be no compulsion in religion” and that “all people are free to practice any religion they like”, the hardcore takfirist are hell-bent on imposing their beliefs upon everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims alike and declaring those who don’t follow them Kafir (infidel) or at least Munafiq (hypocrite). In their crazy bid to accord it an Islamic justification, they selectively apply verses of the Holy Qur'an and, thus, further their nefarious ends.

Now the question arises: should this takfirist understanding of Islam continue to spread unchecked? Obviously, it threatens not only the individuals but the entire social stability at the local, national, and regional levels creating serious geopolitical dangers to the world at large.

But the most regrettable is the world governments’ inability or unwillingness to stem the tide of growing Takfirism. Particularly, the Western leaders are still oblivious of Takfirism, which originated in the state religion of Saudi Arabia—Wahhabism— which has also given rise to the Takfiri terrorists of ISIS. Similarly, the Muslim governments have not yet curbed Takfirism even after the Takfirists’ attack on Madina, the holiest site of Islam. The USA, France, Germany, Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have already been reeling from a series of brutal Takfirist terror attacks, but they are not yet calling spade a spade.

The national and international media outlets often portray the radical Islamist extremists or terrorists as Jihadists. Of course, Jihadism is not Islam. But the term ‘jihadists’ makes the matter further complicated for the common Muslims unable to differentiate between Mujahid (inner-struggler) and Jihadist (Islamist fighter). Thus, they develop a wrong impression about the media portrayal of the global terrorists who falsely claim to be fighting for the sake of Islam or Muslims.

It can be recalled that the term ‘Takfirism’ or ‘Takfirist’ first appeared in the Western media when the BBC investigative journalist Peter Taylor television produced his series The New Al Qaeda in 2005. But it is still not common in the vast majority of media outlets. However, some sagacious Islamic scholars have referred to all the Islamist terrorists as Takfirists. They identified the fighters and supporters of the Daesh or ISIS as Takfirists, as they emerged in June 2014 claiming to be the members of an “Islamic” State of Iraq and Syria.

The first Islamic scholar who contextualised the religious extremism of ISIS as Takfirism is Shaikh Habib Ali al-Jifri one of the progressive Islamic scholars in the UAE, who also runs Tabah Foundation to confront the extremist ideologies in the region.

In his interview with Sky News Arabia in July 2016, he explains how he seeks to confront the extremist discourse of the ISIS using the references from the Quran and Hadith. Al-Jifri says:

“In order to diagnose and describe the ISIS properly, one part of the problem is that it relies on [referencing] scriptural texts and sources. Some of these texts are inviolable. Some are based on independent legal reasoning (ijtihad) that is open to reconsideration. And some are based on legal judgments that are wrong and were not recognised [by legal authorities]. This part of the problem is related to religious discourse and it is our (religious leadership’s) responsibility to confront ISIS and pay the price of that even if it be with our lives. But we also have to confront those followers and students [of these religious leaders] who do not like to talk about ‘religious renewal’ (tajdid fil deen) which they think leads to ‘dilution of the religion’.”

Habib Ali al-Jifri also expounds in his sermons, very popular among the liberal Arab Muslims, that, “the root-cause of the Islamist extremism is the lack of love and connection with the Prophet Muhammad (pubh)”. (Source: Given the recent terror strike on Madina, where the Prophet himself is buried, al-Jifri’s argument makes sense. Those who cannot harbour love and veneration for their own Prophet can go to any extent in their religious hate, xenophobia and takfirist terrorism. This is precisely what the latest fatwa issued by the Indian Islamic seminary Jamia Manzar-e-Islam has also pointed out.    

Perhaps, Mufti Mohammed Salim Noori, the spokesperson of the seminary has referred to the same hateful ideology in his anti-terrorism fatwa, saying that the terrorists like “Hafiz Saeed promotes people who have written disparaging remarks against the Prophet Mohammed”.

Undeniably, the Takfirists are antagonistic to all the Muslims who love and venerate the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and other holy saints of Islam calling them idol-worshippers and hence Kafir. They show equal abhorrence to the pluralistic Muslims who befriend people of other faiths. This results from the hardcore belief in the Takfirist doctrine of “al-Wala wal-Bara” (loyalty with Muslims and disavowal to the non-Muslims). The 18th century Takfirist ideologue Ibn Abdul Wahhab Najdi wrote in his book “Majm’u al-Fatawa al-Aamma”: “One cannot be a perfect believer (Muslim) until he/she shows hatred in his/her words and actions against the non-Muslims”.

The Indian Express has quoted Mufti Saleem Noori to have said in his fatwa that, “followers of Islam have been asked not to listen to such people or follow them”. This  'fatwa' was issued in a reply to a jurisprudential query (called Istifta) posed by one Mohd Moinuddin of Jaipur who had mentioned that Hafiz Saeed believed in those writings against Prophet Mohammad (pubh).

In his fatwa, Mufti Saleem Noori replied that “having any type of connection with persons working against the dignity of Allah and the Prophet was “haraam (forbidden in Islam)”. “Therefore, it is compulsory for every Muslim not to follow him and keep away from his ideology,” it stated. The fatwa also declared Hafiz Saeed “a man with terrorist ideology”, and the one “whose acts have brought infamy to Islam and Muslims across the world”. Besides, Mufti Saleem Noori hinted at the un-Islamic ideology and points of view that provoked people to create terror. It is also worth mentioning that Jamia Razvia Manzar-e-Islam has launched a course on de-radicalisation titled “Islam and Terrorism”. According to the madrasa rector, it is aimed to teach students a tolerant Islam to curb radicalism and extremism in their respective localities.

But regrettably, the Takfirist writings and thoughts that actually mobilise the potential terrorists are not being rebutted in any so-called anti-terrorism Islamic curriculum.  They are promoted in India today as freely as in Pakistan and other Muslim countries. This rhetoric is the easiest tool for the ISIS and the ilk to catch the imagination of the gullible Muslim youths. The self-proclaimed Khalifa Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has long said: "a generation of Muslim youths has been trained based on the forgotten doctrine of al-Wala wal Bara (loyalty with Muslims and disavowal to the non-Muslims)".

Of course, Mufti Saleem Noori is well-intentioned in his fatwa against Hafiz Saeed, the Pakistan-based Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and his "terrorist ideology" that has "brought defamation to Islam". But the caution is warranted on giving the 'fatwa al-takfir’ (the religious edict declaring anyone kafir). 

True, the terrorists cannot be considered Muslim in the true sense, as the Prophet clearly defined Muslim as “the one from whose hand and tongue people are safe”.  But the Islamic jurists (muftis) must take cognizance of their approach towards countering terrorism. By declaring the terrorists “kafirs” (infidels), they are also, unintentionally, going their way. The Kharjites of ISIS also declare all those who don’t believe in their vile ideology as kafir and mushrik (infidel and polytheist) and hence slaughter them.

The fatwa against radicalisation and extremism is certainly a welcome move. However, the anti-extremism Ulema cannot stem the tide of the global Kharijite terrorism— which stems from Takfirism— by just issuing fatwas of Kufr against the terrorists.

The Barelwi fatwa against Hafiz Saeed and his cult of violent extremism and jihadism is certainly a welcome move. However, the anti-extremism muftis cannot stem the tide of the global Kharijite terrorism— which stems from Takfirism— by just issuing fatwas of Takfir against the terrorists. They must engage in a brainstorming on how they can genuinely counter the extremist jihadist narratives. And it is only possible with a well-considered approach to the refutation and rebuttals of the takfirst theological underpinnings which, unchallenged by the ulema, are impacting on the Muslim religious zealots. To begin with it, Indian ulema will have to evolve a robust and progressive interpretation of the Islamic scriptures and a well-reasoned and rational understanding of the Islamic doctrines such as jihad, hakimiyah (God’s rule over the earth), khilafah (Islamic caliphate) and ishtishhad (seeking martyrdom) and al-wala wal-bara (love and hatred for the sake of God). These are some of the theological terminologies and references from the Quran and hadith that the violent Jihadists misconstrue to justify their atrocities.

Indian Muftis need to articulate a complete and coherent Islam-based refutation of the takfirist theology itself, rather than resorting to the takfirism against the terrorists. Only then they can help to rescue the new-age gullible Muslim youths from the creeping extremist indoctrination.

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a scholar of Comparative Religion, Classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies.


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