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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 7 Oct 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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A total disconnect between Muslims and the madrasa-based clergy

Sending A Wrong Message




 I was asked by a friend why Muslims generally refuse to believe that there are some from their community who are involved in terror attacks. And why they smell, in such a suggestion, a conspiracy to malign them. My response is that Muslims are right in their attitude to the extent that most of them are unaware of the designs of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, best explained in the words of its chief: “Our aim is to weaken India from within and we can do it”. Secondly, and more important, is the fact that there is a total disconnect between Muslims and the madrasa-based clergy, which by its teachings creates a mindset among some that can easily be preyed upon and used by agents of terror for their own nefarious ends.


In this context it may be mentioned that after facing a great deal of criticism, the Deoband clergy responded by organising conferences and rallies against terrorism. I congratulated them after the first such conference in February, and sought their view about the contents of a part of its syllabus prescribed for its eight-year excellence in religion course (Fazeelat). I was keen to know how it could reconcile this syllabus with the unambiguous teachings of Quran on the subject as reflected in its declaration against terrorism. I am yet to receive a reply.


I shall point out the differences between what the Quran says on the subject of jihad and what the Deoband clergy teaches its students. Quran upholds the sanctity of life in most uncompromising terms and says: “If anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”


On the other hand, look at what the Deoband syllabus says: “The destruction of the sword is incurred by infidels, although they be not the first aggressors, as appears from various passages in the sacred writings which are generally received to this effect.”


On the subject of the duty of a Muslim to invite others to the fold of faith, the Quran says: “Invite (all) to the way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance.”


The Quran clearly places limitations on the responsibility of man in this matter. “Not upon you is their guidance but Allah guides whom He wills.” Further, the Quran totally rejects the use of any force and says: “If it had been the Lord’s will they would all have believed all who are on earth! Will you then compel mankind against their will to believe.”


But Deoband appears to approve the use of force to spread religion. Its syllabus states: “When the Muslims enter the enemy’s country and besiege the cities or strongholds of the infidels, it is necessary to invite them to embrace the faith, because Ibn Abbas relates of the Prophet that he never destroyed any without previously inviting them to embrace the faith. If, therefore, they embrace the faith, it is unnecessary to war with them, because that which was the design of the war is then obtained without war. The Prophet, moreover, has said we are directed to make war upon men only until such time as they shall confess, “There is no God but one God.”


The Deoband’s syllabus on jihad is clearly in conflict with the Quran, the book that is believed by Muslims to be the divine word. It is based on the Hedaya, a 12th century compilation of Muslim law, not on the statute books of even any Muslim country today, although in India its provisions regarding personal law are still referred to.


This syllabus is not confined to Deoband, the seminary that was established in 1866, but is prescribed in more than 5,000 of its affiliates across the country and thousands of madrassas in Pakistan run by former students of the Deoband. It is curious that for admission into these madrassas no formal application is needed; instead the madrassas send their recruitment teams to very poor and backward areas emphasising that the education, food, lodging and clothing provided in madrassas are all free. The Muslims who can afford to spend money on education very rarely send their children to madrassas; this makes it impossible for them to know about the teaching and training provided there, leading to the existing disconnect between common Muslims and the madrassas.


Sohail Abbas, a leading Pakistani psychologist, in his recently published study based on personal interviews of 517 mujahideen arrested in Afghanistan and later lodged in two Pakistani jails, asserts that “the figures on rural/urban jihadis become even more interesting as all the jihadis, barring just a few, belonged to the Deobandi school of thought”.


Keeping in mind the gravity of the threat posed by terrorism, it was the duty of the government to keep the public informed about all its dimensions. But when you pin your hopes on the clergy to deliver electoral dividends, then it becomes difficult to bring to light facts that may displease it.

7 Oct 2008


The writer is a former Union minister.

Source: The Times of India, new Delhi