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Muslims Should Band Together and Rise Against the Menace of ISIS as One People-- Not As Shias and Sunnis, Salafis and Sufis

By Idrisa Pandit

Jan 17, 2019

In this part of the essay, I wish to address two things. One, how has Muslim leadership refuted ISIS and exposed the inadequacy of its religious and ideological foundations. Second, as the ISIS issue has already been researched well, and claims of ISIS refuted, what should the Muslim leadership of Kashmir do? How best should they respond to end the menace of ISIS and rise against the tide of sectarian hatred and abuse of Islam, rooted in misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the tradition? This piece derives from two well researched key source documents, a letter to Baghdadi by world’s renowned Muslim scholars, and the fatwa of Shaykh Muhammad Al Yaqoubi against ISIS.

In the initial stages of ISIS in 2014, there were some religious leaders that were excited about the return of the Khilafah. An example would be the letter of praise issued by Maulana Salman Nadwi, causing alarm, including in Indian intelligence circles. It must be noted that in less than a year, Imam Salman Nadwi, recognized that he was wrong in endorsing a group without knowing much about them. He rejected ISIS and its philosophy after witnessing the mayhem ISIS created in Iraq and Syria and admitted publicly that the terror ISIS was breeding is the root cause of the destruction of Muslim unity.

ISIS succeeded tremendously in causing a deep-rooted fear of Islam and Muslims all over the world, especially in the West, giving rise to unprecedented Islamophobia and attacks on Muslims living in the West. Given the gravity of the situation and in a show of international solidarity against the association of ISIS with Islam, a clear condemnation of the group and its ideology was warranted. It resulted in an open letter to Al Baghdadi, signed by the world’s prominent Muslim scholars. This letter is available online in multiple languages and open for endorsements. Although many Muslims remain unaware of this very important letter, it needs to be shared widely, especially with those who want to understand why the foundation of ISIS is purely anti-Islam. The first step for Kashmiri religious leadership would be to endorse this letter publicly.

In this letter, Al Baghdadi is reminded to abstain from issuing Fatwas as he holds no authority. He was told that his Fatwas are a misrepresentation of the Quran and Hadith justifying wrong actions and falsely attributing them to Islam. Other reminders included that in Islam it is forbidden to kill innocents, to kill emissaries, ambassadors, diplomats, journalists, and aid workers. The letter reminded the leader of ISIS that in Islam engaging in war is only permissible for defensive purposes; it is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim;  to mistreat or harm Christians or any “People of the Book”; to reintroduce slavery; to deny women their rights; to force people to convert; to enact legal punishments without following the correct procedures that ensure justice and mercy; to torture people; to disfigure the dead, to attribute evil to God; to destroy graves and shrines of Prophets and Companions; to declare a caliphate without consensus of all Muslims, and so on. This seventy six page dossier answers all issues of concern in a detailed manner and establishes clearly that ISIS is simply on the wrong path and must be rejected by all Muslims.

The other very important response came from Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi in the form of a book called, Refuting ISIS, which he calls as a detailed fatwa of “fighting the Khawarij generally and ISIS specifically.” Shaykh Yaqoubi, one of the world’s influential Muslims, goes so far as to say that for Muslims there is a duty to stand against ISIS and “destroying its religious foundations and proving that it has strayed from Islam and that fighting it is an obligation.” He is also very clear that ISIS in no way represents Sunni Islam and it is important to reject falsely equating ISIS with mainstream Muslim position. In a detailed and systematic way, with lengthy proofs, Shaykh Yaqoubi concludes that “ISIS’ actions are in complete contradiction to the Shariah, that their claims to be a Caliphate are invalid, and that fighting against them is a legal obligation for those in the region in order to dismantle their criminal entity.” This fatwa also condemns the “fanciful notions of Jihad” that delude youth, especially youth who feel oppressed for one reason or another. Such a delusion is rooted in this dream of establishing an Islamic caliphate in every corner of the world, an impracticality rooted in false claims. Every argument presented in this fatwa is from the Quran, the Sunnah, and legal rulings. In his response, the Yaqoubi follows the published proofs of ISIS ideology in their book entitled, Informing Mankind of the Emergence of the Islamic State.

Shaykh Yaqoubi states that one of the primary intentions of the book is to “educate and rescue innocent young men and women who are deceived into travelling from various countries to join ISIS. They come with idealized dreams of an Islamic state that are abruptly shattered when they behold a contemptible gang of criminals.” Since the most vulnerable population in Kashmir prone to fall prey to ISIS’ ideology is the youth, it is important that the youth educate themselves. Kashmir’s religious leaders should use logical Quranic arguments and rulings presented in this fatwa to refute the distortions and misinterpretations that are misleading some Kashmiri youth. Every preacher should be delivering a sermon on this very urgent matter. A copy of the Arabic version of Shaykh Yaqoubi’s book can be found free online and an English version is available for purchase on Amazon. For those who engage in sloganeering or flag-waving without even understanding the real association with the dangerous ideology of ISIS, it is time to pause and rethink. Shaykh Yaqoubi concludes: “Islam disavows ISIS. The Messenger of Allah (saws) disavows ISIS, the scholars disavow ISIS.”

Aside from the religious arguments against ISIS, in Kashmir, as in the rest of the Muslim world, it is necessary to pay attention to the suspicions surrounding this group, its supporters, its alliances, and its objectives. Who is behind ISIS in Kashmir? How hard is it to unmask the masked faces that are hell-bent on destroying the fabric of the community with their Takfiri ideology? Why is it sparking Sunni/Shia divide in Kashmir? There is enough evidence in the recent activities in Kashmir that there are strategists with nefarious designs behind the whole ISIS game. Their aim is to malign the struggle of Kashmiris and to lump it into the worldwide hype of “terrorism.” For the transgressors who participate in this deviant group, Islam is a mere facade. Their main goal is to defame Islam and to tarnish the struggle for justice and freedom in Kashmir, and elsewhere in the world. It is time to wake up and educate, engage and act, against any elements that tear apart the community and sow seeds of hate, and breed violence.

The main victims of the mayhem caused by ISIS have been other Muslims. To end these dirty wars supported by external forces, Muslims must inform themselves and embrace the reality of the ongoing crisis.  Muslims should band together and rise against the menace of ISIS as one people-- not as Shias and Sunnis, Salafis and Sufis. For those who blame Islam for every act of aggression and violence, it is important to remember what the Quran teaches:

“Whoever kills a person (unjustly)… it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he has saved all mankind- Quran (5:32)

Dr Idrisa Pandit is an interdisciplinary studies scholar who writes on issues of Islam, women, and the Kashmir conflict