By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
12 July 2016
Before we get to the main point, it would be relevant to first get acquainted with the Islamic jurisprudential view on televangelism. It has been a very perplexing, yet interesting, subject. The jurists of Islamic Shariah in India popularly known as Muftis held series of debates in their books speaking for or against the religious permissibility of watching or appearing on TV. While the orthodox clergy of almost all Islamic sects have forbidden it in their voluminous Fatwas, the Saudi-backed Salafist Ulema were the first to lift the religious ban on it. Massively funded by the Kingdom’s largesse, they launched their own TV channels and engaged in Islamic televangelism more actively than the Ulema of other groups.
The prominent Islamic tele-evangelists like the tele-evangelist of Peace TV, Dr. Zakir Naik, Maulana Abdullah Salafi, Abdul Hameed Faizi Madani, Abdur Rahman Madani, Motiur Rahman Madani and Dr Israr Ahmad highly spoke of the religious legality of tele-evangelism and its effectiveness in communicating their sermons. An Islamic tele-evangelist based in Qatar— for instance— says that the Islamic status of TV is the same as referred to in a prophetic saying (Hadith), in which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have stated:
“A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, volume 3, Hadith 314).
Thus, he took this Hadith to mean that if Muslims watch Islamic programs aired on TV which may benefit them in their religious matters of life, it is like the perfume shop. But if they watch un-Islamic shows, it is like the blacksmith.
With the commencement of the sacred Islamic month of Ramadan, Muslims the world over, particularly in India, get glued to Islamic TV channels as well as the Ramadan-especial religious programs aired on other common TV channels. In their spiritual quest to find solace and faith inspiration, they tend to watch sermons (Khutbas) delivered by the Islamic tele-evangelists during the entire month. Even in this cyber world, there are many Muslims in the remote areas and villages of different parts of the globe, who do not have an internet access. They manage to follow the Islamic teachings and rulings on several religious issues through the TV channels airing Islamic programmes. Thus, Islamic televangelists are the biggest resource persons for them to know what Islam stands for. They watch them regularly following their exhortations, asking questions and seeking answers from them. In the process, many Muslim youngsters prone to the radical Islamist tele-evangelism unconsciously get indoctrinated into the dogmatic and retrogressive ideas in the name of Islam.
Behind this digital indoctrination of the radical Islamist tele-evangelists, there are established scientific reasons too. Several research studies concluded that television produces serious hypnotic effect. While watching the TV channels, young viewers with impressionable minds put down all their guards and become passive receptive to everything that TV puts on air. Most young viewers let go of their defence mechanisms and thus become vulnerable to the hypnotic vibes emitted by the television including precarious ideologies, subliminal images and their concealed messages etc.
Islamist tele-evangelists enjoy the widest reach and impact among the Muslim viewers, especially during the month of Ramadan. It is not surprising then that the self-styled Islamist jihadists have created global terror and calamity throughout the month of Ramadan. They catapulted an Islamic occasion of peace into a time of terror. For, it has been preached on the radical Islamist and Salafist channels and websites that Ramadan is an occasion to create fear in the hearts of disbelievers, a month of mayhem and calamity for the infidels (Mulhideen), non-believers (Kuffar) and polytheists (Mushrikin), the exclusivist Islamist terms that include both non-Muslims and liberal and moderate Muslims or sects like Shia and Ahmadi. This is what the self-styled jihadists learn from the radical Islamist preachers and tele-evangelists.
After two jihadist militants in the Dhaka terror attacks were found to have been inspired by the radical Salafist tele-evangelist Dr. Zakir Naik, he has now come under the scanner of the Indian government. According to a report by NDTV, the Bangladesh government requested New Delhi to examine the content of religious sermons aired on Peace TV, founded and run by Dr. Naik.
According to the same report, the Intelligence Bureau has taken cognisance of the fact that the Mumbai-based preacher's channel, which is aired from Dubai, is available at many places in India through cable operators. This is despite the Salafist Islamic channel not having the license to broadcast its programmes in India. Therefore, Indian government is prepared to take strict action against those airing his channel Peace TV.
While the two militants—one in Bangladesh and the other in India—have confessed that Naik’s sermons were the motivational stimulus behind their resorting to violence in the name of Islam, Naik has been fiercely attempting to distance himself from the terror-related controversies, responding through a series of videos.
In the six videos of Naik recently uploaded online by his assistant in Mumbai, Naik has made some clarifications which adds fuel to the fire rather than clearing his worsening image. He says in an arrogant and haughty tone:
“I appear on various TV channels. In Peace TV network alone I have more than 100 million viewers. By the grace of God, I inspire millions of people around the world. On my personal Facebook page alone there are more than 14 million likes, of which majority is from Bangladesh. A person inspired by my videos is not shocking”.
However, in his videos which one of his family members shot on a mobile phone in Mecca, Naik denied the allegations that he inspired terrorists to kill Muslims. He says:
“The part, which is reported in Indian newspapers—I inspire killing innocent people—I totally disagree. I have never encouraged any other human being to kill any other human being. This evil act of the Indian media trying to prove to the people that Dr Zakir Naik has encouraged terrorism is devilish. I condemn the media that I encourage acts of terrorism".
For many Muslims inspired by Zakir Naik’s so-called Da’wah work, he is completely innocent and has nothing to do with the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of Islam in Bangladesh, Pakistan or any other Muslim countries where his TV channel is widely viewed. But I find an ideological nexus between his extremist speeches and the violent acts of the self-styled jihadists. For instance, the peace-loving Sufi singer of Pakistan and the lover of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) the late Amjad Sabri was killed by Talibani goons because he would publicly seek blessings from the Prophet (pbuh), something that the Salafists strongly abhor. Sabri was known for his beautiful rendition of the Sufi song or Qawwali: “Bhar Do Jholi Meri Ya Muhammad….Laut ke Main Na Jaunga Khali…Us Nawase Ka Sadqaa Ataa ho Jis Ne Sajde Me Garden Kata Li”… (O’ Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh) grant me your blessings, I will not go empty-handed. Grant us the blessings of your grandson (Imam Hussain) who was martyred while his head was bowed in prayer).
The diehard followers of the Salafist preacher Zakir Naik consider this Sufi song akin to the gravest sin in Islam—shirk (polytheism)—because they think it associates the Prophet with God as the Giver of blessings. Dr. Naik is on record openly saying that, "Aaj Ke Daur Men Muhammad (Pbuh) Se Bhi Mangna Shirk Hai, In Fakiron Aur Babaon Ki Baat To Choro" (It's an act of polytheism to seek blessings even from Muhammad pbuh in this age, let alone the Sufi saints and holy men).
Inspired by this ideological instruction of Zakir Naik, his hard-core followers believe that the brutal killing of the innocent Sufi singer Amjad Sabri in Pakistan was a punishment destined for a 'Mushrik' (polytheist). More to the point, Dr. Naik is on record frequently demonizing the Sufi Muslims calling them "Qabr Parast" (shrine worshippers) likening their 'shirk' to the idol worship of the Hindu community. Like the most Salafist clergy, Dr. Naik has also declared the Sufi and Shia Muslims beyond the pale of Islam based on the exclusivist and sectarian Salafist-Wahhabi theology.
The latter verse of the above-mentioned Sufi Qawwali is attributed to the grandson of the Prophet (pbuh), Imam Hussain (r.a) who is revered as the saviour of Islam from the clutches of evil. But the battle of Karbala between Imam Husain and the tyrant ruler, Yazid has been painted as a political phenomenon in the public speeches of Zakir Naik on Peace TV. More virulently, Naik showed great veneration to Yazid in his speeches recalling him with a great Islamic epithet “Radi Allahu Anhu” (May Allah bless him). It should be noted that Yazid was responsible for the brutal killings of the Prophet’s noble and innocent family along with Imam Husain and his companions. The reason was that Imam Hussain refused to surrender to Yazid, the unjust and tyrannical ruler who brazenly violated the Islamic principles of rule based on consensus replacing it with his dictatorial dynasty.
A regular Columnist with New Age Islam, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Arabic-Islamic Scholar, Researcher in Culture & Communication Studies and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator.
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