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Time Ulema Came Out Of Denial: Imam Of Mecca Sheikh Kilban’s Confession Leaves No Room For Doubt That A Pernicious Islamic Theology Is Fuelling Radical Jihadism

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

16 June 2016

Though the US government has not yet confirmed, media reports say that the self-declared Caliph of the so-called Islamic State Abu Bakr Baghdadi has been killed in an air raid in Syria by the US-led coalition. Most notably, the ISIS has released a poster in Arabic in which it has glorified the ‘martyrdom’ [istishad] of al-Baghdadi as al-khalifah al-mujahid (great fighter and caliph) and ameerulmu’mineen (chief of the believers).The ISIS has commemorated the ‘sad demise’ of its chief quoting a verse from the Qur’an that reads:

“Of the believers are men who are true to that which they covenanted with Allah. Some of them have paid their vow by death, and some of them still are waiting; and they have not altered in the least” (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:23).

It should be clarified here that the above Qur’anic words “those who have paid their vow by death” (مَنْ قَضَىٰ نَحْبَهُ) actually refers to those who have completed their vow [or covenant with God] through sacrificing their lives for the common good of mankind, not to those who try to ‘pay their vow’ by killing and meeting their death in a battle.

However, the more relevant question is: will the nefarious jihadist ideology end with the death of the Caliph of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? Certainly not. The only way to ensure it is to root out the enforcement of theological underpinnings and fatwas of Ibn e Taimiya and the ilk that directly influence the global jihadist movements.

The exclusivist, xenophobic, retrogressive and chauvinistic jihadist theology does exist, threatening the existence of the spiritual Islam we profess and practice in our social and cultural life. Our ulema and well-versed theologians have not yet gone beyond the cliché that the self-imposed caliphate of Abu Bakr Baghdadi is brazenly un-Islamic. They are still living in denial. The refuse to accept the existence of an exclusivist religious ideology that calls for eliminating all democratic and liberal systems of governance from the world, replacing them with an “Islamic State”. Consequently, the jihadist theology, which is indeed inconsistent with the essential peaceful Islamic principles, is playing havoc across much of the democratic and liberal world.

It might help the ulema come out of denial if they listened to the confessions of former senior imam of Haram, the Grand Mosque of Mecca,Sheikh Adel al-Kilbani. To our utter surprise, SheikhKilbanihas admitted that the jihadist theology emanates from the same Islamic literature being taught in Saudi Arabia. In a TV appearance, he made unequivocal and explicit remarks on the issue. For instance, he said: "IS ideology comes from our own books, our own principles; we follow the same thought—Salafism”. He even dismissed the prevailing self-serving perception in the Muslim community that 'Islamic State is a creature of the American intelligence agencies' and went on to say that "the ideology behind Daesh is the Salafist thought that many Muslims follow, but the only disagreement is with the way in which that ideology is acted out from a public relations perspective”. These are the words of Sheikh ‘Aadel Al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and a Salafi himself, not of any moderate Muslims or Sufi Islamic scholars who keep denouncing Salafism.

The ulema should also note that nearly all radical Islamist outfits quotethe founder of Salafism Imam Ibn-e-Taymiyyah in their justifications of violent extremism. The ISIS, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram are the most notable among them.The IS mouthpiece, Dabiq extensively refers to the writings and fatwas of Ibn Taymiyyah. For instance, this famous religious decree of Ibn Taymiyyah has been quoted in Dabiq (Issue 7, page no. 21): “The basis of religion is a guiding book and a supporting sword” (Majm’u al-Fatawa)

According to a news report published in the Financial Times, Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf clearly stated that his mission is entirely based on the teachings and the books of Ibn Taymiyya. That’s why he named his mosque in Maiduguri “Markaz Ibn Taymiyyah”, which is translated into English as “The Centre of IbnTaymiyyah (The ISIS magazine: Dabiq Issue 7 page 21).

Similarly, Dabiq (Issue 6 page 40) reports how the jihadist ideologues of ISIS and Al Qaeda have learnt from Ibn Taymiyyah’s books:

“In Jordan and its masajid of 'Amman, az-Zarqa, lrbid and other cities, I connected with some of the sons of these cities who called themselves jama'at at-tawhid. Nothing connected us to each other except for ‘al-walawal-bara’ which we learned from the Qur'an, the books of tawhid, and what Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisiwrote regarding disbelief in Taghut[satan] and belief in Allah, what others wrote regarding tawhid such as Ab-dul-Qadir Ibn Abdil Aziz (Sayyid imam) — may Allah bring them both back to what they were upon of truth — and the older books of Ibn Taymiyyah, lbnul-Qayyim, and others. We learned from these books under the direction of senior brothers with shara’i knowledge”. (ISIS Magazine: Dabiq, Issue 6, page 40)

The 14th century radical Islamic jurist Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiya was born in a town named ‘Mardin’ which is situated on the border between Syria and Turkey. This town was attacked by the Mongols in Ibn Taymiya’searly life. Later, when Ibn Taymiyyah assumed the position of the Islamic jurist or Qazi (al-Faqih al-Islami), he declared a fatwa to wage a ‘holy war’ against the common and non-combatant civilians of Mardin.

The ISIS magazine Dabiq (Issue 6, page 40) has also quoted this famous fatwa of Ibn Taymiyyah known as “fatwa Madin” which he wrote as justification for killing Muslim civilians. According to Dr. Syed Aleem Ashraf Jaisi, an eminent classical Islamic scholar graduated from the Islamic University of Libya and Arabic Professor in Maulana Azad National University (MANU), the entire edifice of the salaifiyahjihadiyah(militant Salafi jihadism) is built on the fatwa of "Mardin" which has been refuted by the then scholars of Ahlus Sunnah.

 In fact, Ibn Taymiyyah exerted every possible effort to take Islam and Muslims to what he viewed as the‘puritanical path’ of the ‘only saved sect’. In reaction to his blatant pronouncements against the mainstream Muslims, the Hanafi Islamic scholars and Sufi mystics of his time refuted him. They also refuted another fatwa issued by Ibn Taymiyyah which permitted those engaged in the “jihad ma’alkuffar” (fight against the infidels) to kill other Muslims who might come as roadblocks in the way of targeting the infidels.

The radical Islamists and jihadists quote scores of such treacherous fatwas as a legal religious precedent to wantonly kill all those whom they declare apostates and infidels in their own ‘Sharia-controlled’ zones. As Shaikh al-Kalbani said: “the Islamic State of Syria and Levant (ISIL) follows the same brand of Islam as officially espoused by the Salafist scholars….IS and Salafists in Saudi Arabia shared the same opinion on apostasy, which is that those who leave Islam should be executed. Their blood was shed according to Salafist fatwas (religious edicts) not outside the Salafist framework.” He also viewed the killing of journalists by Daesh, including Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff, which drew global condemnation in September 2014, as a result of the Salafist indoctrination.

However, Shaikh al-Kalbani is not the first Salafi cleric to critique the genesis of the ISIS’s theology. Other salafi Islamic scholars even from Saudi Arabia have also come out against the ISIS’s atrocities with the same ideological arguments. For instance, the noted Saudi scholar Fu’ad Ibrahim’s research has also arrived at the same conclusion. He clearly showed that al-Baghdadi’s expressions replicate exactly the language of Ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder ideologue of Salafism-Wahhabism. He explored that Wahhabi ulema’s books and commentaries of Qur’an are widely distributed in the areas sized by the Daesh.

Most particularly, the dangerous radical doctrine “al-walawal bara” (friendship with Muslims and enmity against the non-Muslims), the centre-piece of Salafism-Wahhabism, is cherished by the ISIS cult. This fatal theological term stems from the Ibn Abdul Wahhab'shard-core belief that “a Muslim cannot be a perfect Muslim (believer) until he/she shows hatred in words and actions against the non-Muslims (including non-Wahhabi Muslims, the Sufis, Shias etc.)”. However, Shaikh Al-Kalbani has moved a little forward in his rebuttal of the Salafist jihadism. He has come out against the core Salafi principles from which ISIS draws inspiration.

At least now when the Salafist scholars themselves have unravelled the truth, the mainstream ulama and Islamic scholars should not have any hesitation to accept the pernicious influence of this theology. They should not waver to admit that since the emergence of Salafism, there has been a complete Islamic theology of radicalism, religious exclusivism, violent extremism and puritanical fundamentalism. From the influence of 14th century Islamic Jurist IbnTaymiyyah who actually propounded this theology to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who is fully practicing it, there has been a spate of wanton killings and mass shootings targeted against the common non-Muslim civilians and moderate or ‘apostate’ Muslims.  Time Ulema came out of denial.

A regular columnist with New Age Islam, Ghulam RasoolDehlvi is Comparative Religion & Classical Islamic Scholar, and Doctoral Research Scholar at Centre for Culture, Media & Governance (JMI Central University). Email:


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