The Jihad For Our Times

A great deal of misunderstanding exists about the concept of jihad in Islam among not just non-Muslims but many Muslims as well. ‘Jihad’ is a term that has many different shades of meaning. It refers to all efforts, undertaken to the limits of one capacity, for any noble purpose. Fighting against external enemies is only one form of jihad, for which the term qital is used in the Quran. Truly speaking, it could be said that qital is just an exceptional form of jihad, and not the rule. Qital, or armed jihad, is permissible only in defence, in the face of aggression on the part of an enemy.

There are numerous references in the Quran and in the corpus of Hadith that mention jihad in its general sense of determined effort made for any noble cause. Thus, for instance, the Quran says:

‘And those who strive in Our [cause]—We shall certainly guide them to Our paths: for verily God is with those who do right’ (29:69)

In a similar vein, the Quran speaks of engaging in jihad with one’s wealth (49:15) and with the Quran itself (25:52). The Prophet is said to have termed serving one’s parents and the pilgrimage to Mecca as forms of jihad. Likewise, numerous hadith reports refer to the struggle against one’s baser self (nafs) as jihad. The Prophet is said to have declared, ‘The highest form of jihad is to utter the truth before an oppressive ruler’ (afzal ul-jihad kalimato adlin ‘inda sultanin ja‘ir).

All this clearly indicates that jihad does not necessarily or always mean fighting against an external enemy, unlike what is commonly imagined. As Hasan Basri, the famous scholar from among the generation that came after the Prophet’s companions, said, ‘Some people never use a sword but still engage in jihad.’ This is in accordance with the Quranic injunction:

‘Therefore, listen not to the unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness, with the [Quran] (jihadan kabira)’ (25:52).

Obviously, this exhortation to engage in jihad with the Quran implies a struggle at the intellectual level to appeal to and convince non-Muslims about the truth of Islam, by providing them with adequate proofs.

It is crucial for us to seriously ponder on what form of jihad is required in today’s context for Muslims to engage in and focus on. Such jihad must be in consonance with the aims and spirit of the Quran, the Prophet’s practice (sunnah) and with the general interests of Islam and its followers.

For this purpose, it is crucial to bear in mind that today we Muslims live in a state similar to that of the Prophet and the early Muslims in Mecca. At this stage the Prophet focused all his energies only on da‘wah or inviting others to the path of God, tabligh or communicating God’s word to others, and providing moral instruction and training to his followers. At this time, the Prophet and his followers were instructed by God to restrain themselves in the face of the extreme oppression that they were subjected to, and to establish worship and help the poor and the needy. The Quran refers to this when it says:

‘[T]hey were told to hold back their hands [from fight] but establish regular prayers and spend in regular zakat’ (4: 77).

Under such circumstances, when the Muslims were subjected to extreme oppression, God commanded them to refrain from violence, and, instead, to strengthen their faith, determination and their own morals. In this context, it can be said that, today, radical self-styled Islamists who are seeking to provoke Muslim youth to engage in terrorism in the name of jihad are totally ignorant of the principles of Islamic mission that are exemplified in the above-mentioned Quranic verse. Nor do they possess the capacity to seriously analyse today’s complex political context.

According to a well-known hadith, on his way back from a battle the Prophet is said to have declared, ‘We are returning from a lesser jihad (al-jihad al-asghar) towards the bigger jihad (al-jihad al-akbar)’. The latter form of jihad is the jihad against one’s baser self. In this regard, the noted classical Islamic scholar Ibn Qayyim classifies jihad into 13 different types, of which four are directed against the baser self. He was of the view that the jihad against the baser self is more important that the jihad against external enemies.

The noted contemporary Islamic scholar Allama Yusuf al-Qaradawi writes in his Fi Fiqh al-Awlawiyyat (‘Fiqh of Priorities’) that while jihad in the sense of qital is temporary and need not be engaged in at once, jihad through the Quran, that is the work of inviting people to the path of God (da‘wah) and guidance (nasiha), is to be engaged in at all times. In this regard, it is crucial that we ask ourselves what precisely we are doing with regard to this latter form of jihad. How are we, if at all, seeking to reach out to others, in a spirit of peace and goodwill, with the message of Islam? How are we seeking to counter, using peaceful means, the wrong images and claims put forward by the critics of Islam? How are we countering the misunderstandings that many non-Muslims, and even a large number of Muslims themselves, have about Islam? These are all crucial forms of jihad that must be engaged in at all times.

It seems, however, that we are doing little, if at all, on this front. It is crucial that we take up the work of peacefulda‘wah with all the seriousness it deserves, using modern means of communication to reach out to people across the globe. Some groups and individuals are doing this in their own ways and their work and success have been remarkable. This is the jihad that we must engage in. This is the major jihad for today’s age. As Allama Yusuf al-Qaradawi perceptively remarked on launching what became an immensely popular Islamic website (which, lamentably, seems to have closed down now), ‘This is today’s jihad. Today, offensive jihad is not desirable.’

To reiterate, the real jihad for our age is peaceful Islamicda’wah work and practical efforts to establish and confirm Islam at the intellectual plane and to counter the intellectual and cultural imperialism that the entire world is presently a victim of. This work must also aim at countering the spread of immorality, selfishness, corruption and moral decay that are an inevitable result of the revolt against religion that is wrongly seen as inseparable from modernity. Alongside this, there is another jihad that we need to wage: against widespread illiteracy, poverty, ill-health, conflict, civil war, inequality, dictatorship, and exploitation in the name of religion among Muslim communities and in Muslim countries. To ignore all of these and, instead, to focus simply on combating other real or imaginary external enemies is pointless. It is like watering a dead plant that cannot be revived.

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(Maulana Waris Mazhari is the editor of the New Delhi-based monthly Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom, the official organ of the Graduates’ Association of the Deoband madrasa. He can be contacted onw.mazhari@gmail.com

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion at the National Law School, Bangalore.)

Why Indian Monetary System Is Pro-Capitalist?

Though we ‘the People of India’ solemnly resolved ‘India to be a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens Justice, social, economic and political liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and practice, equality of status and of opportunity’ but we have yet to realize that despite 63 years of independence, our monetary system is not socialist but continues to be Pro-Capitalist as designed by the capitalists during the British India rule.

During British rule the Indian resources had been draining towards to British because capitalists of East India Company had made India a colony for the British. When the pro capitalist British India reeked that the agitations for India’s freedom may increase in future and the British may need to quit India, they strategically incorporated a monetary system in the form of the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934 on dated 6th March 1934 to allow the capitalists keep on exploiting the Indian economy even after India’s independence. Thus RBI Act 1934 made Indian’s monetary system Pro-Capitalist through which the capitalists empowered to lend and invest on interest basis.

Even though India got political freedom from the British in 1947, the capitalist forces kept on exploiting the Indian economy through pro–capitalist monetary system. After independence, the capitalists dominated lobby incorporated the Banking Regulation Act 1949 on 10th March 1947 even before enforcement of the constitution of India. The strategy was that the capitalist could exploit the opportunities through accumulation of interest on monetary transactions; and the non-capitalists groups could not organize the financial resources in socialist manner. Since the Banking Regulation Act 1949 blocked scope for promotion of interest free banking in India, during last 63 years the capitalist group kept on capitalizing the opportunities whereas the socialist and cooperative movements suffered due to unfair financial regulations. This led dominance of capitalism over socialism and we moved towards so called liberal but pro capitalist economic system. As a result the cooperative institutions hold just 12 percent share in Indian credit market.

Due to unfair financial regulation for the capitalist and socialist groups, Co-operatives failed to succeed at rate of private banks and public companies are being liquidated. Capitalist always got an edge in banking and financial sector, thus kept on capitalizing the resources whereas the socialist were not allowed to organize the interest free banking and financial system. This increased the economic disparities in India. The common Indian became poorer and Capitalist turned into Corporate and Multinational Companies. They are now in a position to rule Indian economy. The interest factor killed the spirit of cooperation among socialist groups in India so cooperatives continued to deteriorate.

This trend will continue till we understand the concept of economic wisdom. Though in recent past the East India Company has been bought by an Indian, considerably that Indian is also a capitalist. In short we never thought about freeing India from capitalism. Historically India was conquered when it was known as Golden Bird, and presently capitalists keep on exploiting India through pro-capitalist financial regulations. Today if the capitalists seek to make any country as a colony, they don’t need to conquer that nation, the liberalized pro-capitalists financial regulations are sufficient for it.

The capitalist had biggest threat from Islamic Economics because they had the fear in mind that if India adopts democratic political system of Islam, after understanding the potentials of Islamic welfare economics, India can also adopt the Islamic monetary and financial system which may end the road for capitalist in India. They knew that Islamic system is more socialist and discards economic supremacy of capitalists. Thus after independence, Indian monetary regulators not only approved to continue the British made Reserve Bank of India Act 1934, but also enacted the Banking Regulation Act 1949 in line of Capitalist policies. This kept ‘interest’ as prime factor to regulate the monetary system, and disallowed interest free banking which could have otherwise opened way for socialist pattern of banking and finance in India.

Since economic growth is not possible without banking services we need to ensure financial inclusion of poorer and more backward section of our society. The motive behind financial inclusion mission by capitalist group is to find new markets for earning interest over idle capitals. After observing saturating financial sector growth in developed economies, the capitalist managed banks and financial institutions found huge potential to earn higher interest through financial inclusion mission. This emerging market to earn better rate of interest by way of appeal for financial inclusion has convinced the governments as well who otherwise failed to provide banking services to poor.

Does the financial inclusion mission or working of micro finance institutions serving the purpose of inclusive growth? Had this been done, the credit deposit ratio for poor Indian Muslims might have increased and their proportionate share in Gross Domestic Income would have increased. But we just find conflict of interest in this business of financial inclusion. The Capitalist want to earn higher interest, the Micro Finance Institutions want major shares in Micro Finance businesses whereas the poor farmers, artisans, labourers and petty traders seek alternative mode of affordable credits. No player in this business of Micro Finance wishes to ensure inclusive growth. There is still any report to prove the micro finance business as positive for inclusive growth. Growth should not be measured in terms of credit income ratio, but should be measured as effectiveness of Micro Finance to bring positive change in proportionate share of poor in national income during different periods. Has the share of poor workers associated to rural economy increased with growth of micro finance business in India? The answer will open mind of those who seek to evaluate effectiveness of micro finance for inclusive growth.

The Ministry of Finance should evaluate the effectiveness of our banking regulations and credit policies in financial inclusion and inclusive growth. How we could empower the cooperative based interest free banks in India should be worked out. India needs to test at least a pilot interest free cooperative bank to empower the poor and vulnerable through principles of mutual cooperation. Only after that we may find alternative to Pro-capital monetary system. Poor should be allowed to organize and utilize their financial resource through cooperative interest free banking. Is the Reserve Bank of India ready to experiment it or fears that it may saturate scope of interest based banking which is backbone of capitalist growth in India.

The Earth Is A Mosque

By Ibrahim Abdul-Matin,

Last Thursday, on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I found myself thinking back to my first hiking trip to New York’s Bear Mountain. I was six years old. Having grown up in Brooklyn, New York, I thought the entire world was a sea of concrete buildings. But that trip changed my reality. I remember moss growing on rocks, small streams of water and fresh air.

When it came time to pray, my father, a convert to Islam, shared with me a saying of the Prophet Muhammad: “The earth is a mosque.”

Ever since that hiking trip, I have contemplated the sacred nature of the earth. The entire planet is meant to be a place for worship of its Creator. Anyone can kneel down in prayer on the grass, on the sand, on a mountain or in a cornfield. Our planet, because it serves as a medium to reach God, deserves to be protected.

I believe my faith is intrinsically connected to the environment and that people of all faiths can be great advocates of the earth. In Arabic, deen is defined as a religion or a creed, a faith or a belief, a path or a way. Christianity is a deen. Judaism is a deen. Buddhism is a deen. Islam is a deen.

Along these lines, I would like to propose a “Green Deen”, the choice to practice one’s religion while affirming the synergies between faith and the environment.

Islam is what motivates me to be a “steward of the earth.” But this role is not limited to me. In Islam, all humans are considered “stewards of the earth” and, in the Qu’ran, God sets forward clear principles about this stewardship that include taking care of one’s self, others and the planet. These principles can be adopted by anyone trying to live a Green Deen.

Today, more than ever, people of faith need to join the global conversation on climate change. Too often we get caught up in the details of the debate. Some just plain don’t believe in climate change. Some say it’s about politics, others say it’s about facts.

I say: it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter to me if climate change is a fact or façade. It doesn’t matter to me if science has proven that the ozone layer is deteriorating or not; and it certainly doesn’t matter to me who is ultimately to blame.

What matters is that the way we treat our planet affects our ability to live here, together. Our patterns of over-consumption – buying things and throwing them away – is creating massive amounts of waste that is becoming a burden on landfill sites and a drain on resources.

America leads the world in this waste production. Americans make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population and we create over 25 per cent of the world’s waste.

As a Muslim living in America, this concerns me, especially since Islam speaks out against waste: “O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer; eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters” (7:31).

Islam respects the cycle of life and encourages humanity to do the same. The Prophet Muhammad once said, “Muslims will always earn the reward of charity for planting a tree, sowing a crop and then birds, humans and animals eat from it.”

I have a desire to connect Muslims with people of other faiths, not to debate the intricacies of theology, but to recognise that collectively, grounded in spirituality, we can work together to protect the planet.


Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is a Policy Advisor in the New York City Mayor’s Office on issues of sustainability and author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet (www.GreenDeenBook.com), slated for an October 2010 release by Berrett-Koehler publishers. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

One-third Of World Population In 2050 Will Be Muslim

By Anis Ansari,

Recently many studies have been published about composition of the world population in 2050. People are fascinated by the changes that will happen in the next few decades. Many of us may not be alive to see these changes. However, it is interesting to know what will be the regional and geographic shift. Europe will see negative growth while Asia a population explosion. Muslims will be one-third of the world population in 2050.

Survival of civilization depends on its fertility rate. In order to maintain the same population composition, birth rate of two or more is required. U.S. has fertility rate of 2.1, partly due to immigration. At this time more than 80% of the babies born are in Asia and Africa. Japanese are aging so rapidly that by 2040 senior citizens will account for 40% of their population.

While Africa and Asia will have population explosion, twenty countries will have negative or zero population growth. They are all in Europe except for Japan. This is unprecedented in history. Only Austria in Europe will have positive population growth while Russia will lose 28% of its population (46.8 to 33.4 million). Due to low fertility rate, Germany and Italy are encouraging parenthood with cash payments. European population is expected to decrease by 7% by 2050.

World population is expected to grow from 6.8 billion now to 9.3 billion. Population of developing countries will grow from 5.8 to 8 billion. Developed countries will go from 1.2 to 1.3 billion according to the October 19, 2009 issue of Newsweek magazine.

Demographic changes will be dramatic in U.S. White majority will become minority by 2050 while Hispanic population is expected to triple according to Pew Research Center. Portion of White population will decrease from 67% in 2005 to 47% while Hispanic portion will increase from 24% to 29%. African-American population is expected to stay at 13%. U.S. population is expected to be 438 million with most of growth coming from immigrants and high Hispanic birthrate.

Muslims account for 23% (1.57 billion) of 6.8 billion world population today. Of these 60% are in Asia (Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) and 20% in the Middle East and North Africa. More than 300 million Muslims or 1/5 of the world’s Muslim world population live in countries where Islam isn’t the majority religion. Indian Muslims are the third largest worldwide. In 2005, Muslims represented 23% of world population (One out of four). This figure will attain 33% in 2050 (One out of three).

The Muslim population of the European Union is going to reach 20% in 2050 compared to only 5% in 2009.The main factors for the increase of European Muslim population are the high number of immigrants from Muslim states, and their higher birthrate compared to the European population, the BBC reported. States like the UK, Spain, and the Netherlands are going to reach the 20% Muslim population threshold much earlier than the other EU countries. In 2009, Muslims make up 9% of the population of France. In cities like Marseilles and Rotterdam the figure is 25%. In London and Copenhagen, the Muslims are 10% of the total population. Spain has seen the largest increase in its Muslim population as it has attracted 1 million Moroccan immigrants in recent years.

Population increase doesn’t need to be feared. While developing countries may be mired in poverty, disease and struggle to provide basic necessities of life (water, electricity, food and security) to its population, developed countries will march ahead in science and technology, bringing prosperity and raising the standard of living for their citizens. China, India, Brazil are the perfect examples of that.

(The writer is medical doctor based in Clinton, Iowa (U.S.)

Islam And Muslim Women’s Social Roles

By Maulana Waris Mazhari,

The issue of Muslim women’s freedom is a much-debated subject today. The traditional ulema and the modern educated Muslim intelligentsia appear to be completely at loggerheads on the issue. The former insist that women must be controlled as much as possible in order to protect Muslim society from immorality and sexual licentiousness, and that they must remain confined to their homes. They believe that women must play no social roles outside the domestic sphere whatsoever. If women are permitted to do so, they argue, it would open to floodgates of chaos and lead to a breakdown of society. On the other hand, the modern-educated Muslim intelligentsia is in favour of expanding women’s roles outside the narrow domestic sphere, and many of them go so far as to consider the hijab or modest dress for women as a symbol of oppression.

The female personality, it must be admitted, is extremely sensitive. On women the character of a society depends as much as it does on men. It must also be admitted that the attitude of Muslim religious circles towards women and women’s issues is influenced less by Islam and shariah norms than by other factors, among these being a marked reaction to the perceived widespread immorality in the West as a result of the free intermingling of sexes in Western societies. While in the West women have made important gains in several respects, it cannot be denied that in the name of women’s liberation and freedom they have been turned into sexual beings and commodities. This unfortunate phenomenon has led to a reaction among the ulema, leading them to insist on the control of women and on confining them to the domestic sphere as a defence mechanism for fear of Muslim society also falling prey to the same social ills that today plague the West. This stance may have had some temporary benefits, but it has caused a tragic loss to the Muslim community by denying half its population—Muslim women—the opportunity to develop and put to proper use their talents, skills and capacities.

It is not just the traditional ulema who, because of their excessively defensive and cautious approach to women’s social roles, have caused such damage to Muslim women and to the wider Muslim society. Even the supposedly ‘enlightened’ and more ‘modern’ Islamist scholar, Maulana Syed Abul ‘Ala Maududi shared similar views. In fact, in his widely-red book Purdah Maududi comes across as even more stern and extreme in his opposition to women’s freedom than the traditional ulema. For instance, the putative founders of the four major schools of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence and their followers all allowed for Muslim women to keep their faces unveiled, while Maududi stiffly opposed this, along with several modern ulema, claiming that a woman’s face was the centre of her beauty and, hence, a principal source of fitna or strife. It is striking to note that the classical ulema did not consider this argument as worthy of attention. However, going against their opinion, the influential twentieth century Deobandi scholar Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi even went to the extent of insisting that a woman’s name must never be mentioned in a newspaper. An ideal woman, according to him, is one who hides in her own home and is so unknown outside that her neighbours are not even aware of her existence. He allowed for girls to acquire only basic literacy skills but not to advance beyond that. Thanwi’s contemporary and virulent opponent, Ahmad Raza Khan, the leading figure of the Barelvi sect, was even more dismissive of women, going so far as to demean them. So opposed to women’s rights were some of these ulema of relatively recent times, who are still immensely popular among their followers today, that they upheld and propagated a completely baseless and utterly laughable theory that women’s voices were also to be ‘veiled’. It can be confidently said that their approach towards women and their rights and roles was in marked contrast to that of the early ulema, who were clearly more accommodative and accepting of women and their social roles.

How this strong misogynist streak and extreme defensiveness and sensitivity with regard to women emerge among the ulema is a subject that requires close and detailed historical scrutiny. The origins of this lie far back in history, in the medieval period, when, in the wake of the Tatar invasions and devastation of Muslim lands, chaos reigned supreme. It was perhaps but natural that a marked defensiveness and insularity emerged at this time in order to consolidate Muslim society that had suffered such widespread destruction and bloodshed. This was reflected in increasing restrictions on women, which were absent in the early Islamic period, including at the time of the Prophet. It was at this time that questions such as the permissibility or otherwise of women learning to read were hotly-debated. The renowned medieval Hanafi scholar Mulla Ali Qari went so far as to issue a fatwa declaring it impermissible for women to learn to write, and even wrote an entire book on the subject to justify his point, although there had been notable literate women in the early Islamic period, many of who were, in fact, the teachers of renowned male ulema. For over six hundred years the ulema continued to inconclusively debate whether women were permitted to read and write, and it was only in the late nineteenth century that a fatwa was issued, by the noted Indian scholar Maulana Abdul Haye Firanghi Mahali, abrogating the fatwa of Mulla Ali Qari.

Islam, it must be stressed, does not support the sort of emancipation of women as is current in the West, but nor does it stand for the sort of extreme restrictions on women, tantamount to imprisonment, that many traditionalist Islamic scholars advocate. The Islamic position is somewhat in between these two extremes. It stands for freedom of women at the social level within certain limits and with certain conditions. If the issue is looked at from the perspective of the Quran and the practice of the Prophet and the early Muslims, it would be evident that Islam does not place any restriction on the physical movement of women. It also outlines women’s social roles in considerable detail, roles that early Muslim played, not being bound within the four walls of their homes. A good illustration of this is the appointment of a woman, Shifa Bint Abdullah al-‘Adawiya, by Umar, the second Caliph of the Sunnis, as the superintendent of the market of Medina, the then capital of the Islamic Caliphate. Today’s traditional ulema might regard the marketplace as the most potent site of fitna or chaos, but yet this woman was appointed to oversee Medina’s commercial hub. At the time of the Prophet, women were free to pray in mosques and even offered their services on the battlefield. They would listen to the sermons of the Prophet in the presence of men, without any restriction, and would ask the Prophet questions. Umm-e Haram, a woman companion of the Prophet, requested him to pray for her so that she might be able to participate in jihad in the path of God. During the Caliphate of Uthman, the third Sunni Caliph, she sailed to Cyprus, where she participated in a battle. Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, father-in-law of the Prophet and the first Sunni Caliph, helped her husband Zubayr Bin al-Awa‘am in his work outside their home, and would even massage his horses and travel a long distance to get grains for them to eat, which she would carry on her head. The case of the Caliph Umar being corrected by a woman while delivering a sermon and making him admit his error is well-known.

From these instances, it is clear that in this period of Muslim history women’s minds and voices were not ‘veiled’. Nor was there any discussion of keeping men and women rigidly separate from each other. The books of Hadith are replete with narrations that clearly indicate that at this time men and women saw each other’s faces, spoke to each other, engaged in transactions with each other and assisted each other in different activities. The wives of the Prophet, known as the ‘mothers of the believers’ (ummhat al-mu‘minin), were specially required, as the Quran indicates, to observe purdah, but this did not stop male companions of the Prophet from appearing before them and learning from them. The youngest of the Prophet’s wives, Ayesha, had many male disciples, to whom she related numerous narrations of and about the Prophet.

Besides these examples from early Muslim history, one can cite references in the Quran to prove the point that certain forms of interaction between men and women is indeed permissible in Islam, in contrast to what many traditionalist ulema might argue, Thus, for instance, the Quran talks about the meeting between the prophet Solomon and Bilqis, Queen of Sheba and their conversation; the meeting between Zachariah and Mary, mother of Jesus; and the meeting and discussion between the daughter of Shoeb and Moses and of the former taking the help of the latter to provide water to her animals. Since the Quran exhorts Muslims to emulate the practice of the previous prophets, it is obvious that these forms of interaction between men and women are also permitted to Muslims.

The Quran states: ‘The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil’ (9:71). The Quran considers it the responsibility of both men and women to perform various social roles, the performance of which is not possible without their common participation and mutual assistance. Given this, the extreme hesitation or reluctance of some Islamic scholars to allow Muslim women to play these legitimate roles has, to a large extent, to do with local cultural mores rather than with the teachings of Islam or the practice of the Prophet and the early Muslims.

It is a fact that misogyny has been in existence for centuries, and traces of it remained in societies that later became Muslim even after accepting Islam. At the same time, it is also undeniable that, for the first time, Islam sought to provide women with their legitimate rights, and to provide them an elevated status in society. The Prophet and his companions strove to combat deep-rooted prejudices against women, not just on the ideological plane but also in practical terms. However, after the early Islamic period, when Muslim society entered a phase of decline, women’s status suffered a major set-back. Just as Islamic justice demanded that slavery be abolished but, yet, slavery still remained, so, too, while Islam sought to emancipate women, anti-women prejudice could not be fully rooted out from Muslim society. To buttress this prejudice, many narrations were concocted and were falsely attributed to the Prophet and to his companions that projected women in an extremely derogatory fashion. One such false narration, which, lamentably, is still often quoted in traditionalist ulema circles, exhorts: ‘Take the advice of women but do the precise opposite of what they advise.’ Another such tradition declares: ‘To obey a woman is a matter of shame.’ A third such fabricated narration declares: ‘Men were destroyed when they obeyed women’. Yet another such concocted narration claims: ‘If women did not exist, the right of God to be worshipped would have been performed in a better way.’ Likewise, the following statement was falsely attributed to the Imam Ali: ‘Woman is wholly bad.’

In this light of all this, it is incumbent on Islamic scholars to review their position on and understanding of women and critique and challenge the deep-rooted misogyny that is, unfortunately and wrongly, seen as inseparable from Islam. It is imperative that our traditionalist scholars no longer stand in the way of Muslim women being able to access the rights granted to them by Islam, and which they enjoyed at the time of the Prophet.

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(Maulana Waris Mazhari is the editor of the New Delhi-based monthly Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom, the official organ of the Graduates’ Association of the Deoband madrasa. He can be contacted on w.mazhari@gmail.com.

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion at the National Law School, Bangalore.)

Why I Hate The IPL

Dr. Shah Alam Khan,

To qualify as an Indian, it is essential that you love cricket, it is important that you gossip, it is vital to fall in love with pelvic thrusting actors and cajoling actresses on the celluloid screen and it is quintessential that you make money the quick (and sometimes the wrong) way. The saga of Indian Premier League (IPL), the beleaguered cricket league of India, is no exception to these general rules of Indianness.

The vulgar display of money, power and beauty is there for all to see. From selfish business tycoons to iconic players, all adorn the masala called IPL. It is surely entertainment at its best. The kind of recipe which made a friend’s eighty-five year old grandma vouch for a team (it’s a different matter that she can’t make out why the two brothers, called “mid off” and “mid on” play for every team!)’. IPL is fun as long as it confines itself to the cricketing field. Last week the game spilled over, flooding our fragile democratic institutions and drowning a lot in its wake.

To believe that all what happened in the last couple of weeks is the result of an ego clash between Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor would be rather stupid and naïve. In fact are we being made to believe that a shrewd businessman and a newly crowned politician do have an ego? Doesn’t make sense to me. In all its three years of existence, IPL was not about cricket. It was about money. About a lot of money! The unprecedented value of the IPL was too much to be resisted by all – politicians, administrators, business moguls, cine stars. Everyone wanted a piece of this rich pie. But are we really interested in the Tharoors, Pawars, Ambanis and Modis? Corruption in the IPL does not really worry me. From the day of its conception the IPL was not a sanctum sanctorum. “Brand IPL” as it is tried to be labeled by those who believe in the politics and power of “brands” was a hot bed of vested interests. It was an outlet for black money. Yes, they also played cricket to keep the likes of us think that the league represented a sport so close to a billion Indian hearts.

The financial aspects of IPL are not only murky but an eye opener for those who thought that India was a poor nation with more than forty percent population living below the poverty line. The total value of IPL, which even Mr Modi cannot predict with surety, is expected to be around 70000 crores. This unaccounted money is available to the richest people of India. No doubt the rich got richer in the IPL. Compare this to a cumulative expenditure of mere Rs. 27.59 crores in the prestigious National Rural Guarantee Scheme of the Government of India for the state of Orissa in 2008-09. The Orissa example is even more glaring as this is the state where hunger deaths are reported on a regular basis. Some may argue and correctly so, that it is foolhardiness to compare a government scheme with a privately owned sporting event which is meant for entertainment. Sure, but this is the best way to show how India entertains and Bharat survives under one roof. The contrast of IPL money and the lack of it in governmental schemes shows the divergence of thought and responsibility which goes in making India a nation of such huge contradictions. It is this thought process which gives birth to Maoists, Naxals and other elements of state defiance. With the muck and shame of IPL written large on the faces of corporate and political class of India, words of our Hon. Home Minister, Shri P Chidambaram sound so hollow, “we shall counter the Maoists with force. They are the gravest internal security threat to our country”. How can we even expect to believe a word of what he says? Maoists, Naxals, Naga Militia. Are any of these a bigger threat to the nation than the financial scamsters of IPL? Shouldn’t the equation be set right now? May be one Maoist for every thug involved in the IPL? How about “neutralising” the threat of Lalit Modi and his brigade before “neutralising” the alleged mastermind of the Dantewada massacre, Ramanna Paparao?

IPL even described socialism in its own new way. According to a report released just before the end of IPL2 (2009) by the equity research firm IIFL, Rajasthan Royals, the team representing Jaipur would have made the highest profit of Rs 35.1 crore in the group matches of the second edition of the tournament even when their performance was below par compared to their champion status of 2008. Knight Riders, which finished at the bottom in the league table in South Africa, nevertheless ended up with the third highest profit of Rs 25.8 crore in IPL 2. King’s XI representing Punjab, which also did not make it to the semis, just beat Kolkata to second spot with a profit of Rs 26.1 crore. How interesting is that! Teams doing poorly in terms of cricket will not necessarily fare poor in their financial gains. It looks as if Lalit Modi and his gang of franchises have defined what could be called as “IPL Socialism”.

The IPL also represents a loot of public funds, my and your money, which doesn’t even get noticed. Each day & night match of the IPL played under flood lights, consumes electricity enough to run 500 average Indian homes for a month. The provision of subsidised electricity doesn’t make things any different. It is believed that the average electricity bill for a single day and night cricket match of the IPL is more than 15000 US Dollars. For those interested in numbers, this is the government’s expenditure on health for ten adult Indians if they live up to an age of 70 years (at the rate of 21 dollars PPP). Water, a deficient resource in cities like Mumbai and Delhi is used to keep the fields green during the IPL. This, in a country which is now at the top of the childhood malnutrition charts of the globe with lack of clean water being the primary cause of a large number of infant and childhood morbidity and mortality.

The money and its earthy use in the IPL is a matter of shame for each Indian. We all love cricket but surely not in a way in which Lalit Modi packed it for us. The very fact that a large part of our society is still deprived of basic daily needs including food should always weigh heavily on our conscience. Why are we as civil society becoming oblivious to the needs of the common Indian? How can we even accept an Agriculture Minister presiding over the functions of the IPL when hundreds of farmers are committing suicide day in and day out? How are we justified in condemning the Maoists when the Indian society gives them an IPL every now and then? If the law of the land does not permit theft, how can it allow this unprecedented day light robbery? The vulgarity of IPL stands defiant. If Mr. Lalit Modi and his band of filchers cannot feel for the poor they should at least respect poverty.

Interest-free Microfinance: Best Tool For Poverty Eradication

By Abdul Aziz V. K,

The interest-free microfinance can be defined as provision of financial services to those people who are denied access to the financial market; opens new perspectives, and empowers people who can pursue projects with their own resources, and who lack assistance, subsidies and dependence. Besides, it provides financial services to those, who are traditionally non bankable, mainly because they lack guarantees against a loss risk.

In the spirit of Islam that goes beyond mere profitability, this new financial system aims to maximize social benefits as opposed to profit maximization. This can be done through creation of healthier financial institutions that can provide effective financial services also at grassroots levels. Some authors (Al Harran, 1996) argue that Islamic finance, if inserted in a new paradigm, could be a viable alternative to the socio-economic crisis derived out of interest-based economic system.

Both Islamic finance and microfinance seem to be concepts surrounded by a “fashionable aura” in Muslim as well as other developing countries. Banks, financial institutions, MFIs, NGOs are taking keen interest and most of all in the relation between the two, especially when it comes to fighting poverty. Strange enough, even if the interest is high, there are very few examples of actual MFIs operating in the field of Islamic finance and Islamic banks involved in microfinance.

Microfinance is a very flexible tool, whose models can be replicated but require to be tailored on the local socio-economic and cultural characteristics; and secondly, the potential demand for tailored microfinance services is still largely unmet. Some surveys proved that there is a high demand for Islamic Micro-financing especially in low and middle income predominantly Muslim societies.

At a very basic level, the disbursement of collateral free loans in some cases constitutes an example of how Islamic banking and microfinance share common aims. Thus, the Islamic banking and microcredit programs may complement each other in both ideological and practical terms. Even if they both constitute fairly new trends in the financial environment, the inclusion of Islamic finance and microfinance in the activities of the traditional banking system evolved in a quite similar way.

Three main instruments of Islamic finance; mudaraba, musharaka and murabaha, are tools generally used to design successful microfinance program.

Islamic Microfinance is growing rapidly

The Banker (2007) estimated the total assets of Islamic financial products at US$500.5 billion and the Islamic finance industry’s 100 largest banks have posted an annual asset growth rate of 26.7 percent, outpacing the 19.3 percent growth rate of their conventional counterparts.

The global Islamic finance industry is rapidly growing. In the past 30 years, the industry has witnessed the development of over 500 Sharia-compliant institutions, whose reach now spans 75 countries (KPMG 2006). These institutions include 292 banks (fully Islamic institutions and those institutions with Islamic subsidiaries), 115 Islamic investment banks and finance companies, and 118 insurance companies.

Despite its origins in the Middle-East, the Sharia-compliant banking has proved popular with Muslims in other countries as well, leading to the development of new Islamic banks across North Africa and Asia. Of the total global Islamic finance market, 36 percent is located in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE), 35 percent in non-GCC Southwest Asia and North Africa, and 23 percent in Asia (primarily Malaysia, Brunei, and Pakistan) (The Banker 2007).

Over time, Islamic financial services also have expanded well beyond the Muslim world and are offered not only by Islamic banks, but also by Islamic subsidiaries of international financial institutions. Islamic financial services are currently provided in countries such as India, China, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. The United Kingdom, which currently ranks tenth in The Banker’s listing of “Top 15 Countries by Sharia-compliant Assets” (2007), has recently announced its aim to make London a global center for financial markets in the Muslim world.

Government Promotion of Islamic Microfinance

In the case of larger Islamic banking industry, government regulations can play a significant role in the expansion of the Sharia-compliant microfinance.

Indonesia today provides a supportive regulatory framework and has licensed 35 new Islamic rural banks in the past five years. The State Bank of Pakistan, which already has a legal and regulatory framework in place for conventional MFIs, also developed guidelines in 2007 for the rapid expansion of Islamic microfinance.

Although there is ample evidence of demand for Islamic microfinance products, it however requires that low-income clients are comfortable that the products offered are authentically Islamic. Critics of Islamic finance products suggest that the pricing of some products offered as Sharia-compliant too closely parallels the pricing of conventional products. For example, some institutions offer murabaha where interest appears to be disguised as a cost markup or administration fee. Islamic finance sometimes suffers from the perception that it is simply a “rebranding” of conventional finance and not truly reflective of Islamic principles.

Consequently, low-income populations, who often rely on local religious leaders to address questions of religion, must be convinced of the authenticity of Islamic financial products if Islamic microfinance is to reach its full potential. Greater efforts should be explored to (i) increase collaboration between financial experts and Sharia experts on product authenticity, (ii) encourage exchange of experiences among religious leaders (particularly those serving poor populations at the local level) relating to Sharia compliance of microfinance products, and (iii) educate low-income populations, in collaboration with local religious leaders, on how financial products comply with Islamic law.

Throughout the Muslim world, microfinance (Islamic or otherwise) is still seen as a philanthropic activity rather than a business enterprise. Consequently, in the context of Islamic microfinance, there is a growing tendency to view zakat (funds donated pursuant to the Muslim obligation to pay alms) as a source of funding. Indeed, given the underlying principle of Islamic finance to promote the welfare of the community, zakat funds appear ideally suited to support Islamic microfinance. However, a heavy reliance on charity is not necessarily the best model for the development of a large and sustainable sector, and more reliable, commercially motivated streams of funding should be explored.
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Mr. Abdul Aziz Valiyaveetil is an Indian national currently working as the Director of Al Hayat Int’l School, Jeddah. He has got vast experience in Conventional Banking (Federal Bank, India), for around 15 years and Islamic Banking (Al Rajhi Bank, Islamic Banking and Int’l Banking division, Head Office, Riyadh) for more than 10 years.  His contact mail: azizvk@yahoo.com

Narendra Modi: Travails Of Travel Abroad

While law of the land is trying to catch up with the acts of commission and omission in the Gujarat carnage, another set of laws, the global ones have been very clear about permitting the entry of a person like Narendra Modi into their country.

Recently (April 8, 2010), a group of German MPs justified the denial of visa to Modi. They advocated a ban on his visiting Europe. This parliamentary delegation was on a two day visit to the city of Ahmedabad to study the state of minorities in Gujarat. It concluded that the European Union (EU) decision not to grant visa to him was justified. They went to the extent of banning his trip to Europe in near future. They pointed out that “the Chief Minister of Gujarat has a radical tone to his politics and is described as dictatorial. He has a wrong perception of religious freedom.” This four member team has been closely following developments in the Gujarat riot cases.

One member of delegation pointed out that he was shocked by parallels between Germany under Hitler and Gujarat under Modi. Incidentally in Gujarat school books Hitler has been glorified as a great nationalist. Modi, in response to this has written to Prime Minister to seek apology from the German delegation for tarnishing the image of democratically elected head of state. The Congress Government endorsed Modi’s view and clarified that the EU had put a ban on Modi’s visit in the aftermath of Gujarat carnage but that has been withdrawn. Also that it was not an official delegation. Whatever that be, the opinion of the members of the delegation does reflect a deeper truth of our political phenomenon.

That apart, this is not the first time that such a thing has happened. Modi was earlier denied visa to US. On March 18, 2005 in a severe rebuke to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the United States denied him entry to America. US Consular division had taken a strong stand against Modi, the Hindutva icon. They denied him diplomatic visa apparently holding him responsible for communal carnage of 2002. In addition, his tourist/business visa which was already granted was revoked under a section of US Immigration and Nationality Act since he was not coming for a purpose that qualifies for a diplomatic visa.

In response to the query that he was already holding a tourist-cum-business visa, the Consulate pointed out that the “existing tourist/business visa has been revoked under Section 212 (a) (2) (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” According this section any foreign government official who was responsible or “directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religions freedom” is denied the visa. The decision of US authorities was based on the observations of India’s National Human Rights Commission findings and other independent Indian sources.

The observation of German delegation raises one additional major point about the state of Gujarat being similar to that of Germany under Hitler. Who will know it better than Germans who have suffered the political tragedy of fascism for bad many years? Modi’s point that he is an elected person again matches so well with Hitler. One recalls, Hitler came to power through democratic means and then he gradually eroded liberal-democratic norms from inside to bring in worst type of fascist state. The parallels are unmistakable. There are some differences from German fascism here but all the same the basic phenomenon is the same. Fascism is a politics where the liberal democratic space is abolished in the name of targeting some section of society for the supposed cause of National interest. In case of Germany the process was accompanied by a cultural paradigm shift and political aggression against communists, then trade unionists and then the Jews. Millions of Jews were subjected to the gas chambers, one of the greatest tragedies of the human history of twentieth century.

The politics of Hitler, and his clone Mussolini was praised by M.S. Golwalkar the ideologue of RSS, the organization where Modi has been indoctrinated and trained. Golwalkar’s formulations of aggressive nationalism and relegating minorities to second-class citizenship are being actualized by Modi and company in different ways.

While the similarities with German case are so glaring, there are some differences as well. The German fascism began to take social roots after the economic crisis generated in the aftermath of First World War. The cultural offensive in the field of arts, music, literature and the ‘glorification of ancient past’ picked up rapidly. In one of the major assaults on democracy, the fire at Reichstag was attributed to having been done by Communists, and physical violence was unleashed against them. Analogies with Godhra train burning are unmistakable.

Here the ascendance of Modi comes on the background of the economic crisis of the decade of 1980s, the adverse effects of globalization picking up, the loss of jobs of the downtrodden due to closure of textile mills, the attacks on the dalits OBCs in the name of anti reservation riots. The cultural manipulation began with Ram Temple movement, and spreading of hate against minorities, Muslims first and then the Christians, who by now have been relegated to second class citizenship in Gujarat and some other states and the trend in other states is going in that direction.

While in Germany whole of the Nation came under the grip of fascism, the saving grace in India is that the electoral face of ‘Indian fascism’, BJP, has not been able to come to absolute majority in the center by itself. That’s not to say that fascism is not marching. In Germany the defeat of Germany in Second World War led to the collapse of the nation along with the edifice of fascism with the fascist-in-chief committing suicide. In India here it has gripped Gujarat in full, while in other states like Karnataka, Orissa, MP its presence is getting strengthened by and by. At national level though BJP might have faced two electoral debacles, the infiltration of fascist ideology through the pores of Indian democracy is going on in various ways. The phenomenon is creeping slowly though section of media, communalization of education, and infiltration of the followers of this ideology in different section of state. The gradual attempt to erode the liberal and plural values is a dangerous portent for democracy. Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit’s alleged involvement in Malegon blast may just be the tip of the iceberg. The judicial pronouncements that ‘Gita should be our national book’ are also reflective of the same phenomenon.

Indian fascism is a slow growing one, capturing different aspects of society one by one. It is not for nothing that Modi is the darling of big capitalists, who stand to gain maximum from the fascist type set ups. One can label Indian phenomenon as a chronic fascism, going in a step ladder pattern. Those of us relived because of electoral debacles of BJP at center need to wake up and realize that fascism is marching, irrespective of BJP’s electoral debacle in last two general elections.

The incidental observation from German delegates report is that since Germany went through such a painful period of history, many Germans realize and can sense the symptoms of fascism so easily. Same applies to many Japanese joining anti-Nuke protests and campaigns against Nuclear weapons. Who knows better than them as to what a nuclear weapon can do to the society?

So while here in India the justice to Modi ilk is elusive, globally there are norms which do recognize the nature of incidents happening here, the politics which abuses religious identity to come to power is in essence a variant of fascism whatever be its other characteristics.

The Green Hunt, But The Red Haunts

By Soroor Ahmed,

The indigenous fountain-heads of inspiration, motivation and support for Maoists are inflicting more casualties on the security forces than the external ones. The April 6 Maoists’ attack, which killed 76 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in one go in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state in central India is ample evidence to this fact. The Left extremists––or for that matter any other militant outfit––could never wreak so much havoc among security forces when they had moral, material and ideological backing from Maoist China between 1967 and 1972 or Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist Soviet Union immediately after independence.

The Operation Green Hunt was launched by the Indian para-military forces, the CRPF, with the view to overcoming the Maoists, who now it seems are much more committed and have better fire power and organizational skill than anticipated. They are very much different from those Communist revolutionaries who carried out the Telengana revolt in 1948 and the Naxalbari insurrection of 1960s-70s.

Though the Maoists of today may be relying less on their comrades from outside they have compensated this disadvantage by other means. Unlike their earlier versions, Maoists of today have acquired much longer experience of taking on the security forces on their huge home turf. So while the Socialist India managed to crush two such revolts in a matter of few years the post-1991 India of free economy may have to go a long way.

The lesser dependence on the external support is, in one way, an advantage to the Maoist of today. They do not have to work under the external pressure. For example, the then Soviet leader Josef Stalin backed out when the Communists rebelled just after independence as he wanted to have a good relationship with India. This came as a big blow to the movement then.

As Naxalism travelled from the highland of Darjeeling district of West Bengal in late 1960s to reach the land-locked plateau of heartland of India in 21st century it passed through rough history as well as geography. In the way they lost the proximity to the international border and got ensconced in the deep forest and hills of the country––not far away from Telengana in Andhra Pradesh from where they started.

History stands as the testimony to the fact that unlike the northern Indian plains it was always difficult to conquer this part of the country. Though far away from international boundary and coast line they apparently got cut off from the external supply lines yet, thanks to the topography, they continued to grow stronger.

Till recently India had disturbed borders be it in North-East, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, or Darjeeling during the earlier Naxal upsurge, but now the deep forests in the interiors are up in flames. True the first Communist uprising also took place in Telengana, not far away from the present epicentre of violence in 1948, yet it is a fact that the situation in the new-born India, especially in the Deccan Plateau, was quite different. The Indian state was at the same time taking action against the Nizam of Hyderabad––the Telengana region was part of it.

Unlike in the past large-scale blasts-cum-ambushes by Maoists on security forces started taking place at the turn of the 21st century. Earlier the armed resistance was of a different form in Andhra Pradesh. The Naxals of West Bengal indulged in targeted killing as well while in Bihar they massacred landed class, many times in revenge.

Three months before the advent of 21st century 37 policemen were killed in land-mine blasts on the parliamentary election day in Hazaribagh district of Bihar in September 1999. Then the Maoists turned their heat on the new-born state of Jharkhand, which lost more than 200 personnel in several daring attacks on police stations and land-mine blasts on convoys. Even the insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir did not lose so much securitymen in that period.

Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal were next in the list. In March 2007 as high as 55 police personnel were killed in a similar explosion-cum-ambush in Chhattisgarh. In all these attacks the purpose was to inflict casualties and loot arms. As these states are mineral-rich and dynamites are used in mines there is no dearth of smuggled explosive for them. Besides, such huge track of land was never available to them in the early revolts.

Be it the March 2007 land-mine blast-cum ambush or the April 6 one––or many other such incidents––the tragedy is that the security forces were taken completely off guard and failed to inflict any casualty on the Maoists.

The scale of devastation caused by these land-mine explosions-cum ambushes is much more than what the ultras in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir or North-East could do. However, it is also true that the insurgents in these bordering states also took on Indian army while the Maoists are essentially fighting the para-military forces. It is also true that many army personnel lost their lives in Operation Blue Star launched in June 1984 to get rid of Sikh militants holed up inside the Golden Temple. But then the army killed many times more the Sikh militants, including their leader, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. In the case of Maoists the security personnel are repeatedly proving sitting-ducks for them. In retaliation, it is alleged, they kill innocent villagers and tribals.

The fact is that over the years the Indian state allowed the Maoists to grow strong. The pro-capitalist economic policy created more poor in the rural areas, where starvation and suicide are quite rampant. Besides, the country’s establishment as well as the media concentrated more on the militancy having the backing from across the border and not the one growing within. The act of terror in the urban centres like Mumbai, Malegaon, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad etc got much more media coverage than the repeated massacres of security forces in Chhattisgarh, the daring jail-break in Bihar, loot of 2,000 rifles in one strike in Orissa and virtual take over of Lalgarh township in West Bengal.

[Photo by:Namaste Neil]

Ibn Taymiyyah And His Fatwa On Terrorism

Terrorism has become a worldwide disease which is swallowing the lives of thousands of innocent people in certain intensive conflict areas like Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, North East India, certain other parts of India, South Thailand and so on. There are different reasons for terrorist violence in different conflict areas which vary from political to socio-economic injustices.

However, it must be clearly understood that terrorism does not suddenly drop out of heaven; it originates here on earth in response to acts of omission or commission by the ruling classes. But soon it acquires dynamics of its own and ceases to be mere response. It becomes phenomenon in itself and various vested interests, political, economic and those relating to armament market beginning to support it directly or indirectly. No terrorist movement can survive long without such support and merely as a response.

I would also like to say here that the very terminology ‘Islamic terrorism’ is a media creation and it reflects, besides prejudices and ignorance, hostile attitude towards anything Islamic or to do with the Muslim world. No religion can ever encourage mindless violence as terrorists resort to. Religion in its essence is nothing more than moral and ethical way of life upholding the highest values of life. Everything else is culture, politics or other interests. Any conduct or behaviour which does not reflect this moral and ethical core is anything but religious.

Here in this article we are concerned with the terrorist violence which was unleashed by Al-Qaeda led by Usama bin Laden with his attack on New York Business Towers in 2001. We are not going to analyze here why he did it. We have thrown enough light on this in several other articles. We are concerned here with what legitimation he found to justify this attack.

All analysts and scholars agree that Usama and his followers used Ibn Taymiyya’s famous fatwa on use of violence against unjust rulers. Ibn Taymiyyah was borne few years after the Mongol sack of Baghdad and unimaginable savagery committed by them killing hundreds of thousands of people in most barbarous ways. Taymiyyah, himself a great jurist, was follower of Imam Hanbal. Imam Hanbal prohibits rebellion against unjust authority as it would result in anarchy and more bloodshed.

However, Ibn Taymiyyah, as against teachings of his own school issued a fatwa justifying violence against unjust and authoritarian rulers so as to re-establish the Islamic rule and rule of Shari’ah. This fatwa is being used by the terrorists to justify their attacks as ‘Islamic’ and many young Muslims who do not even know who Ibn Taymiyyah was and in what circumstances hr issued this fatwa, get misled and find ‘Islamic legitimation” in his fatwa.

Initially the Ulama, though did not necessarily approve of use of this fatwa, kept mum or just whispered heir opposition not to be loud enough to be heard. But when violence intensified and became uncontrollable, their conscience revolted and many of them decided to call al-Qaeda’s bluff by opposing the fatwa. Now many of them are coming forward condemning use and misuse of Ibn Taymiyya.

Ibn Taymiyya, undoubtedly a great scholar and eminent jurist, had issued a set of four fatwas known as Mardin fatwas. Mardin was a Turkish fortress in South East Turkey with mixed population. And Osama had quoted this Mardin fatwa repeatedly in his calls for Muslims to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and wage jihad against the United States. Some prominent Ulama from the Islam world decided to meet in Mardin to discuss Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwa towards the end of March 2010

This historic document was referred to by these Islamic scholars and took decisive stand against it. They said, “Anyone who seeks support from this fatwa for killing Muslims or non-Muslims has erred in his interpretation.” They further said, “It is not for a Muslim individual or a group to announce and declare war or engage in combative jihad…on their own.”

Those who use Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwa totally ignore the circumstances in which the fatwa was issued. Nothing can be valid unless seen in historically concrete circumstances. Ibn Taymiyyah himself, as pointed out above, had gone against his own Hanbali School in issuing the fatwa. Even then all Islamic scholars had not unanimously endorsed it. Moreover, as pointed out by an Islamic scholar from Belgium Prof. Yahya Michot, Mardin fatwa has some ambiguity which has been ignored both by terrorists as well as many western scholars and commentators.

It is important to note that the Mardin conference gathered 15 leading scholars from countries including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India, Senegal, Kuwait, Iran, Morocco and Indonesia. Among them were Bosnian Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah of Mauritania and Yemeni Sheikh Habib Ali al-Jifri.

It would be seen that while Ibn Taymiyyah was alone in issuing the fatwa here a galaxy of prominent Ulama and Muftis from across the Islamic world from Indonesia in South East to Algeria in the West Africa gathered and rejected the fatwa. It is representative statement of the Islamic world rejecting terrorism. Not that those terrorists are going to stop violence and come on table for negotiations for peace.

There are too powerful interests to care for any such rejection from across the Islamic world but it certainly sets norms and indicates what the Islamic world stands for. For sure even then anti-Islamic tirade is not going to stop and many western commentators and anti-Islamic forces will continue to hold Usama bin laden as real representative rather than this galaxy of Ulama from across the Islamic world.

It is not only these Ulama who met at Mardin who have condemned terrorism but several other conferences and congregations have been taking place in several Islamic countries condemning terrorist violence. Several books are also being written and discussed. One of the remarkable works in this respect is that of Maulana Tahirul Qadri of Pakistan who has compiled a six hundred page volume quoting authorities from beginning of Islam through medieval ages to the present day opposing terrorism and senseless killing of innocent people and non-combatants which is strictly prohibited in Islam.

Another seminar took place at Oxford when some Islamic scholars met to discuss a book written by Prof. Yahya Michot, an Islamic scholar from Belgium who teaches Islamic history and culture in Belgium University. This book, Muslims Under non-Muslim Rule, has been written on four fatwas issued by Ibn Taymiyyah known as Mardin fatwas. The book, besides discussing life and work of Ibn Taymiyyah, analyses the four fatwas issued by Ibn Taymiyyah.

Yahya Michot maintains that Taymiyyah issued these fatwas in certain historical context and hence it is imperative to study and explore his writings in the existential circumstances in which they were produced otherwise one is not only likely to misunderstand but also misinterpret them. His Mardin fatwa is a good example. Mardin “occupies a strikingly strategic location. It is dominated by a fortress reputed to be unassailable, from which the view reaches deep into the vast plain of upper Mesopotamia.”

Though the precise date of the fatwa is not known, Ibn Taymiyyah issued it in response to a request to clarify whether Mardin was a domain of peace (dar al-salam) or domain of war (dar al-harb). According to Prof. Yahya there is sort of ambiguity in this fatwa and there is no clear answer coming from the fatwa.

In his own words, “Is (Mardin) a domain of war or of peace? It is a (city of a status) composite (murakkab) in which both the things signified (by those terms are to be found). It is not in the situation of a domain of peace in which the institutions (ahkam) of Islam are implemented because its army (jund) is (composed of Muslims. Nor is it in the situation of domain of war, whose inhabitants are unbelievers. Rather, it constitutes a third type of (domain), in which the Muslim shall be treated as he merits, and in which the one who departs from the Way/law of Islam shall be combated as he merits.”.

Thus it is important to note that Ibn Taymiyyah refused to say whether Mardin was a domain of war or peace and it is most significant aspect of the Mardin fatwa which has been ignored by Usama as well as western scholars who demonize Ibn Taymiyyah. Today’s world is almost entirely composite in nature. There are either significant Muslim majorities or minorities.

The Ulama opposing terrorism are repeatedly emphasizing this fact of religious plurality of world today and no medieval opinions expressed by jurists can be valid. Any fatwa, like the Mardin one, can be issued without taking concrete conditions into account and there is unanimity among Islamic scholars that if Muslims are allowed to leave in peace and have guaranteed religious freedom such a region cannot be but dar al-saqlam i.e. abode of peace, in Taymiyya’s own words. No violence can be justified in such region. Thus terrorism has no place for modern world.