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Zakir Naik’s Puritanical and Intolerant Approach to Religion Is the Opposite of What Muslims Need Today

By Zeenat Shaukat Ali

July 19, 2016

Zakir Naik

Last Friday – while interacting with media via video conference – preacher Zakir Naik was defensive and elusive, complaining about a “media trial”, “hate campaigns” and “doctored videos”. Even though he condemned terrorism and killing of innocents in terrorist attacks – including the recent one in Nice, France – and labelled Islamic State as the Anti-Islamic State of Islam and Syria, he refused to acknowledge Osama bin Laden as a terrorist and maintained that 9/11 attacks were an inside job.

Further, even while condemning suicide bombing, he added an unacceptable rider on its permissibility. The issue of equality of women in Islam or importance of respect for other religious traditions in India were left practically untouched.

Bearing in mind the present fragile climate, Naik should have touched upon the crucial subject of de-radicalisation of Muslim youth. In the present charged atmosphere where – from IS to Boko Haram to Al-Shabab – the Islamic world is facing a multitude of challenges, we see more and more youth, primarily Muslim, pledge allegiance to extremist and jihadist organisations and succumb to the beguiling allurement of IS.

There is an unprecedented need for collective action on the part of all Muslim communities to protect their youth. The most formidable challenge is that radicalisation is not the monopoly of the unschooled and economically deprived.

Frequent dogmatic and intolerant vocalisations, from different quarters, unfortunately often raise the pitch of xenophobia and Islamophobia, inundating Islam’s instruction on resistance to provocation and aggression through the means of patience (Sabr) and gentleness (Rifq), to actively reject violence (Unf) and Fasad (disruption of the social system causing losses in life and property), to protect the sacredness of human dignity and to engage peacefully in resisting oppression (Zulm). Islam instructs engagement through peace-making, confidence building and avoidance of confrontation or conflict. Jehad was an “effort” in this direction. The tradition of the Prophet said, “He who commits acts of tyranny is outside the pale of Islam” (Tabarani).

In sharp contrast to Naik a statement was recently made, not by ‘liberal’ Muslim elements who regularly criticise Salafism, but by Sheikh ‘Aadel Al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and a Salafi himself: “IS is a true product of Salafism, and we must deal with it with full transparency.” In two articles in the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, Al-Kalbani criticised elements in the Salafi stream for appropriating the truth and Islam and for permitting the killing of their opponents, and likewise criticised clerics and society that dared not come out against them. He has harshly attacked suicide bombings, published a fatwa permitting poetry, and called for allowing women to drive cars.

Naik, however, did not deem it necessary to acquaint his followers on Islam’s respect for other religions or inter-religious harmony in Arab countries and inform them of the temples, crematoria and churches that exist in several parts of Arabia, particularly in Dubai and Bahrain even today. The UAE is known for its tolerance and respect for other religions and residents can freely pray at a Hindu temple, a Christian church, Buddhist monastery or a Sikh gurdwara. Likewise Bahrain is tolerant towards other religions; Catholic and Orthodox churches, Hindu temples as well as a Jewish synagogue are present on the island.

Unfortunately Naik’s discourses border either on the puritanical or on the mundane, without any reference to enlightened values and key concepts in Islam like Ijtehad (creative interpretation) that require urgent discussion and application in the modern age. Nor have they attempted to illuminate Muslims and non-Muslims on Islam’s vision on the crucial subjects of democracy, (Q 3:159), secularism (Mithaq-e-Madina – the Covenant or the Constitution of Medina), religious freedom (Q 2:256), gender equality both in the material and spiritual world (Q 33:35), human rights – dignity and equality irrespective of religion, ethnicity, race, colour or gender (Q 17:70), peace, reconciliation and non-violence (Q5:30-34). His ultra-conservative views on Salafi/ Wahhabi Islam border on mediocrity.

It needs to be added that hate speeches from all religious and political leaders need to be contained. Inflammatory sermons from leaders like Sakshi Maharaj, Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi have so far faced no media trials. Last Thursday Sadhvi Prachi pronounced a death sentence on Naik, thundering that any person who goes to Saudi Arabia and beheads him can take home a Rs 50 lakh reward. This is shocking.

There is an obligation on all religious leaders, including Naik, to observe the rule of law. Decisive action by disciplinary authorities after due investigation, needs to be taken against those who fragment society through hate speeches. Likewise, those who mudered rationalists like Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi need to be brought to book.

Had Naik made the effort to warn young minds on the dangers of extremism and intolerance, striking a note of harmony through compassion and inter-religious dialogue instead of propagating devious views on Osama bin Laden and suicide bombings, he would have done a great service to Islam.

Though contemptuous of the Sufi tradition, he would do well to imbibe the wisdom of Sufi scholar Shaikh Saadi Shirazi in his classical poem ‘Bani Adam’: “Human beings are members of a whole/ In creation of one essence and soul/ If one member is afflicted with pain/ Other members uneasy will remain/ If you’ve no sympathy for human pain/ The name of human you cannot retain!”




Total Comments (8)

  • 8 .
    Thanks for this Post.It is Required now for our Current Issues with Dr.Naik.
    New Age Islam is Posting very thought Provoking articles and Posts Frequently.Today's Muslims Need to read and think about these kind of articles.I am remembering Late Dr.Asgar Ali Engineer here , because his writings are also like this.He was Inspired such type of thought Provoking articles in his Writings.
    By ದೋಣಿಮಲೈ ಇಸ್ಮಾಯಿಲ್ 23/07/2016 01:46:56
  • 7 .
    Jayaraman Subri, . . .
    Taqiya simply refers to precautionary denial of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution. Most Muslims have never heard of it but the Sanghis seem to be experts on it and mention it every chance they get! Nether Muslims nor Hindus would prefer death to lying to one's enemies. An article in New Age Islam a few years ago reported that there are several examples of taqiya in Hindu scriptures.  Several Christians in ancient Rome practiced taqiya during the times when Christians were being fed to the lions in the Roman Colosseum.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin 20/07/2016 14:41:22
  • 6 .
    Your muslim friends must be using AL convince you to read books on Islam..
    ( they flatter you on your face , & laugh behind you back )...
    For a change , try to convince your muslim friends our books...or to eat OUR meat ( Jhatka meat ) ...
    By Jayaraman Subri 20/07/2016 10:59:35
  • 5 .
    All your double , triple , multiple check will come to noughts...
    believe me..
    I was born & bought up in undivided Bihar..I have spent more than my share of time with muslims of All walks of life..from muslim doctors , engineers , teachers in English medium wallas , rikshaw wallas , fruit sellers , with petty thieves , criminals & pimps in brothels...
    You will be surprised to know what all I have learnt from these lechers..AT CLOSE QUATERS...
    All of them think that they are direct descendants of Moguls..that they were once our rulers & we were their slaves..
    Do you know WHY...??
    Because for the last 60 yrs our school books was repeatedly teaching / force feeding this LIE down the throat of the children of this country..
    It is Now High Time that people like you , start telling the world about US..
    The REAL STORY - The TRUTH...about our great civilisation...
    Instead of spending your time - telling us about the ' beauty ' of Islam...
    Please read our Upanishads..Our Vedas..
    By Jayaraman Subri 20/07/2016 10:38:20
  • 4 .
    Deepa Natarajan..
    I hope the statement made by Al- Kabani does not come under ' AL TAQYA '...
    AL TAQYA - is actually a deceit ,( eg. telling lies to save a muslim ) , is permissible in Islam to hood wink the Non believers..
    If a rapist is 20 yrs of age , the muslim community ( including educated muslims ) go all out to prove that the rapist is a 17 yrs..there by saving him from capital punishment..
    Like wise Musharaf of Pakistan continued telling lies to the international community that Ben Laden is not in the country..
    Same way the muslims are now saying that the driver of the truck who ran over & killed 84 innocent men , women & children - IS MENTALLY UNSTABLE..
    If this fellow was mentally ill he could have easily ran over his truck in top of the muslims after the Friday prayers , outside any mosque in France..
    Now the same is being said about the 17 yr old Afghan boy who went on a killing spree with an axe in Germany..
    I hope you see the pattern...
    BEWARE...OF...The Preachers Of Islam..
    You have to take them with a pinch of salt..
    The prisoners of Guantanamo Bay who were sent back to Saudi Arabia , are living life - King Size.. 
    By Jayaraman Subri 20/07/2016 04:16:56