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Indian Muslims Also Need Reform Movement To Counter Islamism – Analysis


By R. Upadhyay*

The growing menace of Islamist terrorism from the birth of al-Qaeda founded by Osama bin Laden in the closing decade of last century to the emergence of ISIS in 1914 has remained a great challenge to entire humanity. ISIS has even declared a Caliphate with an avowed objective to destroy the non-Muslim world.

In between, various Islamist terrorist groups operating in different parts of the world have pledged to establish Islamic government everywhere in the world by launching Jihad.

The Historical Concept of Jihad:

Historically, Islam was born with the spiritual revelations through the Prophet with an objective to create a brotherly fraternity among the warring idol worshipping Arab tribes and was initially used as an ideological instrument in the fight against them. Although, its implementation was through a commonly known concept of jihad (‘holy war in the way of Allah’) but gradually it became a weapon for expansion of Islam in other parts of the world. Over the years it was even twisted by politically ambitious Muslim Rulers for their own gain and political conquest which legitimised the use of violence in the name of this religion.

‘According to Quran, Muslims have a duty to oppose those who reject Islam, by armed struggle if necessary, and Jihad has been invoked to justify both the expansion and defence of Islam’(Chamber Dictionary of World History). Unfortunately, it is an irony that in over 1300 years of Islamic history no leader of any consequence had ever risen to take the initiative for a substantive and effective dialogue with the theologians for a course correction from the violent tendencies seen now.

Failure to ideologically challenge Al Qaeda gave rise to other Terror Groups:

Sad to say that the community failed to provide any ideological challenge to Laden’s call for Jihad against the non-Muslims when he began his movement of Jihad.. This led to the birth of numerous terror groups in the world including India and remained a menace in this modern age..

Although, rational interpretation of Jihad is literally a struggle for spiritual elevation by the followers of Islam, its common interpretation is a fight against the defence of the faith. Contrary to the spiritual interpretation of jihad; the Turkish, Arab, Persian and Afghan invaders used the concept of jihad as an instrument for the expansion of their political territory. They used jihad as an excuse for some of the bloodiest barbarism possible and linked it as a part of the holy duty of every Muslim for the establishment of Darul Islam. Islamist militants too rejected the spiritual explanation of Jihad as dangerous heresy.

Ever since the domination of West and decline in the political power of Muslims particularly after the abolition of Caliphate in 1924 , various Islamist groups like Wahhab in Saudi Arabia, Al Banna in Egypt , Shah Waliullah, Ulema ofDeoband and Sir Syed Ahmad in India launched Islamic revival movements for restoration of the past glory of Islam.

In 1998 Osama bin Laden formed the International Islamic Front against Western Crusaders and Zionist group and gave a call of Jihad which also affected India. Accordingly, the terrorist attacks on America, Kashmir and various parts of India are also understood or misunderstood by Islamists as part of the jihadi onslaught by Islam, which is the ingredient of the ideology of hate against the Qafirs (non-believers).

Instead of using the spiritual concept of religion for the unification of human society, the violent jihad created a gulf of mistrust between the Muslims and non-Muslims. ‘Islam is one faith, which has divided humanity into two permanently warring factions: those who believe in Allah and Mohammad, are the God’s party, and those who do not, are the Devil’s party. The former has the most sacred duty to eliminate and subdue the latter…. Islam calls it “Jihad”, which guarantees the Mujahid (holy warrior) salvation i.e. seat in Paradise.’ (Anwar sheikh, Islam and Human Rights, published by A. Ghosh USA, Houston page 37).

The Indian Situation:

Recent arrests of fourteen Muslim youths by the NIA suspected to have links with ISIS had reportedly planned to raise a unit of Junud al Khalifa-e-Hind( Soldiers of the India Caliphate) in every Indian state and its major cities as franchise of Islamic state to carry out Jihad in this country under the guidance of former Indian Mujahideen member Shafi Armar.

For the Islamist terrorists Jihad at a more practical political level is a means to impose Sharia (Islamic law) in the geopolitical territories of non-Muslims and to bring them under the control of Islamic power. This doctrine is based on the medieval interpretation of the Islamic texts which were primarily for political conquest which has no relevance in modern world.

The clue to the terror doctrine as mentioned in a book -The Quranic Concept of War written by Brigadier Malik of Pakistan suggests that ‘The Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror in the heart of the enemy, known or hidden’. He observed, ‘Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy, it is a decision to impose upon him. The key word here is ‘TERROR’. Such ideology even justified the vision of Zia-ul Haq , the sixth President of Pakistan (5 July 1977-17 August 1988) about Pakistan as a Jihadi state. Also compare it with what General Musharraf of Pakistan who called ‘jihad as a ‘humane’ concept and its execution in Jammu and Kashmir as ‘freedom struggle’. According to a newspaper report (Pioneer, 2 October 2001) all Pakistani soldiers carry an Urdu summary of the book entitled Jihad.

Strategic Defeat in dealing with Islamic Terrorism:

The whole world is aware that ever since the terrorist attack on America on 9.11.2001 and subsequent decision of the then US administration to end the theocratic government of Taliban in Afghanistan this world super power is said to be fighting an enduring war on Islamist terrorism. Now when the US has been found showing its concern to the problem of terrorism through ISIS after a lapse of over 12 year it shows only the strategic defeat of the US in dealing with Islamist terrorism as many terror attacks took place in many parts of the world including its allies in West as well as in India.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a conference on Islamic unity in Tehran held on December 27, 2015 remarked that Muslims must improve the image of their religion, which has been tarnished by the violence of hard line groups such as Islamic State and said, “It is our greatest duty today to correct the image of Islam in world public opinion”. This is first time a leader of a powerful Muslim country has realised that the ongoing jihad by the terrorists has affected the image of Islam.

Similarly, in the first week of December last, over a dozen of self acclaimed secular and liberal Muslims assembled in Washington D.C. and resolved : “We are announcing today the formation of an international initiative: Muslim Reform Movement. We are Muslims who live in the 21st century. We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism, or political Islam. We reject interpretations of Islam that call for a violent jihad, social injustice and political Islam. We are loyal to the nations in which we live. We reject the idea of the Islamic state. There is no need for an Islamic Caliphate.” (…).

Absence of a Nation-wide Initiative in India:

Since India is a major target of Al Qaeda and ISIS and Indian Muslims constitute the third largest population of the Islamic community in the word after Indonesia and Pakistan, the onus also lies on their leaders, intellectuals and theologians to join the initiative taken by International Muslim Reform Movement and Iranian President.

On January 29, 2016 Maharashtra Muslim Front organised a rally “March Against Terrorism” against the ISIS in Mumbara following the Friday sermon from the pulpits of a local mosque. The rally which was led by Maulana Syed Moinuddin Ashraf, popularly known as Moin Miyan while addressing the crowd said, “ We have always been against terrorism, be it al-Qaieda ans its affiliates earlier or IS. Till Qayamat (the day of Judgement) we will keep opposing terrorism”.

Similarly, a newspaper report suggests that All India Muslim Majlish-e-Mushawarat a representative body of Various Muslim Organisations have initiated a move to mobilise the Muslim masses through Islamic clerics, Madrasas and mosques against the ISIS. On February 2, the Union Home Minister met some Islamic clerics and requested them for their co-operation to combat terrorism. Although, the clerics have given some assurance to the Minister but how far they are serious in this direction only time will say.

Even in 2008 Darul Uloom Deoband held a conference on Islamic terrorism but except criticising terrorism it did not formulate any strategy or mechanism to combat the violent ideology of Jihad. Rather the growing trend of radicalism among the Muslim youths towards the ISIS and its declaration of Caliphate suggest that the Islamic institutions in India are not yet serious or unable to combat it.

As far back as in 1972 Moin Shakir, a renowned Muslim author in his book (Muslim in Free India, 1972, page 67) said that ‘the liberal Islam advocates separation of Islam from social and political life of the Muslims’. In 2001 Salman Rushdie, a noted writer pointed out that ‘there needs to be a thorough examination by Muslims everywhere, of why it is that the faith they love breeds so many violent mutant strains.’ (Guardian, 6 October 2001, published in Hindustan Times, 7 October 2001).

Reform Movement?

But in spite of such rational advice no effort from within the Muslim community has so far been made in this direction. Thus, the initiative of International Muslim Reform Movement, remarks of Iranian President and some initiative in this direction from some Indian Muslims are certainly a welcome step. Political and social lives of the Muslims are determined in Sharia which was compiled only after the death of the Prophet. So the question arises- will the Muslim reformers come forward to modernise the Shariat?

Unfortunately, the Muslim world is divided into various warring sects that claim to be the true followers of Islam and therefore, how far a secular interpretation of Islamic text is acceptable to them only time will say.

The Prophet in his ‘Last Pilgrimage’ address said, ‘Oh ye people, a Muslim is another Muslim’s brother and thus all Muslims are brothers among themselves.’ (M.R.A.Baig, The Muslim Dilemma, 1974, page 12).

He however, had himself prophesied that ‘My nation (Ummat) would be divided into seventy-three sects and every one of these sects would go to hell except one’. Replying to a question – who would be his true follower? He said, ‘who tread on the path adopted by me and after me my companions proceed on that’ (Mohammad Yasin, A Social History of Islamic India, 2nd edition 1974, page 64). It is therefore, the duty of Muslim reformers to interpret the Islamic texts in a manner which could show the spiritual path of the Prophet for countering the terror ideology of the terrorists and defeat their mission of political Islam in whole world.

Sultan Shahin, Editor ,Newage Islam said, “Not one Alim in India is willing to counter the theology of supremacism, hatred, intolerance and xenophobia that is attracting our (Muslim) youths and pushing them into the cauldron of violence”.(…).

The Muslim world particularly the Indian Muslims therefore need to demonstrate against Islamist ideology actively and assertively to defeat political Islam and isolate the ISIS

Ideological war against violent terror ideology with rational and humane interpretation of Islamic texts could perhaps be the only answer to correct the violent face of Islam and combat Islamist terrorism by proving the often propagated spirituality of Islam as a religion of peace.

*The author can be reached in E-mail [email protected]

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SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

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