By Sadia Dehlvi
January 22, 2016
Be it, Indonesia, Paris, Pakistan, America, Africa, Iraq, India or any place else, whenever terror strikes, Muslims experience multiple emotions ranging from shock, disbelief, anger, and fear of backlash. Clearly, the usual response, “Islam is a religion of peace”, rings hollow in the midst of the brutalities and slaughter that Muslim terrorists are perpetrating. Sadly, they are succeeding in globally projecting Islam as inherently violent.
Terrorists have already hijacked the word jihad, a beautiful word, with multiple meanings, once best defined as the struggle against the self to purify the soul of spiritual maladies.
Fortunately, India has the least number of ISIS sympathisers amongst Muslim communities worldwide. This goes to the credit of Indian Muslims, and their clerics, who barring the odd one, do not rave and rant, nor breed terror in madrasas, or fuel the divide between various groups within Muslims, saving us from the sectarian strife plaguing most Muslim countries.
Nothing defames Islam more than ISIS using the image of Prophet Muhammad’s seal on their flag. This is worse than cartoons or writings that attack core Islamic values. Millions gather against blasphemous media depictions, and for religious congregations, such as the recent Bhishwa Ijtema near Dhaka attended by Muslims from about 150 countries. When similar numbers are not seen protesting against ISIS, or the hacking of bloggers in Bangladesh, it is time to recognise the serious problems with mainstream Islamic discourse.
As opposed to traditional Islam, focus has shifted from Tasawwuf, spirituality to Fiqh, jurisprudence. Islam needs rejuvenation, where law is again reconciled with spirituality, and justice tempered with compassion, God’s principle attribute and overriding tenet of Islam.
Cornered, Muslims are defining themselves in terms of “who we are not”, rather than “who we are”. If we proclaim that terrorists are not Muslims, we replicate their way, for they declare Muslims who don’t believe in their ideology as non-Muslims and kill them.
Conspiracy theories of ISIS as Israelis Jews masquerading as Muslims are delusional. Facts reveal that terrorist groups continue to be funded by some Muslim states and rich Muslims. “Nothing to do with Islam”, is poor defence, because terrorists quote the Quran. They do this selectively, ignoring its totalitarian wisdom that explicitly orders to repel evil with good, abhors those spreading Fitna (social strife) that violates an atmosphere of peace.
Rather than through contributions to sciences, arts and gender justice, we have allowed Hijab to define Islam. Why are Muslim voices defending the right to choose wearing the Hijab louder than those against enforcing it legally to subjugate women? Not mandatory in Islam, the increased use of the black Abayas and headscarf Hijab are signs of the increasingly successful export of the hegemonic religious and cultural discourse of some oil rich Arab states. For the last 1,300 years, Islam has not been an archaic unchanging Arab religion. Today, Arabs comprise just 8% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.
Groups like ISIS sell Muslims the dream of returning to some imagined ideal Islamic state, suggesting that Islamic history has failed and they are here to correct it. Islamic civilisation has witnessed a glorious history powered by cultural diversities of largely non-Arab Muslim communities. It created literary, scientific, architectural, philosophical and cultural marvels, which fuelled the Renaissance, carrying its light to Europe.
Hypocrites, terrorists reject modernity, but use its fruits such as modern weaponry, and the internet to propagate their diseased ideology. If not watchful, ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Taliban, and their like will push Muslims into the Dark Ages, when unlike Islam, Christianity had serious problems reconciling with science and reason.
The debates on modernity are complex, because while claiming to return to first century Islam, terrorists actually use modern Salafi Wahhabi Islamic texts to justify their actions. Salafis reject centuries of Islamic philosophy and teachings, which approaches the Quran as a spiritual treatise and not a political document. Dry, rigid Wahhabi narratives do not leave room even for creative expressions of devotion, destroying the rich and textured legacy of indigenous Muslim communities and their local traditions.
Shaykh Google and fatwa dotcoms are by default part of the problem. Radical imams and hundreds of young Muslims are feeling obliged to spread Islam and correct the ways of whom they think as wayward Muslims. But recent studies prove that the majority of new Muslims do not embrace Islam overnight due to pamphlet distribution or through YouTube or television shows. Most conversions take place over years of interaction with Muslims, impacted by their kindness, generosity, values and unwavering devotion to God.
WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter have made it impossible to escape the cacophony of the words “Shirk, Bidah, Haram” (meaning idolatry, innovation and unlawful) by fellow Muslims. Instead of calling to moral excellence, this propagation of an exclusivist fatwa and finger pointing Islam based on trivia is sheer ignorance, arrogance and stupidity.
Unfortunately, the internet can lead to gross misguidance. Viewing remains largely unmonitored by family elders, depriving of traditional learning through Suhbat – companionship of the wise and enlightened. These are challenging times for Muslims, and unless the continuing rhetoric of rage, revenge, conspiracies, blasphemy, evangelism and damning the “other”, is shed, the word Islam is in danger of being used derogatorily, much like the word jihad.