2 interpretations of Islam and 4 dangerous ideas perpetuated in madrassas

It is about time that the Muslims all over the world unite and take strong steps against the political interpretation of Islam

ISIS is a serious threat for the entire humanity. The harm that it has caused, and continues unabashedly, is indescribable, unspeakable and extremely horrendous. The most saddening aspect of this aching cruelty is that it has damaged the reputation of the entire Muslim community around the world, the most. Although, it's extremist tactics have affected the entire human community across the globe, but those Muslims have suffered the most who are peaceful and carry the pain of the entire humanity in their hearts; those who do not hate other fellow humans because of their race, caste and religious beliefs and those who want nothing but the betterment of the whole world.

In the same way, the image of the European Muslims is also greatly hurt whenever ISIS strikes in a horrific way as we witnessed in Paris last month. Due to ISIS, most of the Europeans are getting scared of the Muslim community as a whole and I do not blame them.

I know most of the Muslims living in Europe and in different parts of the world also experience the same grievance whenever any terrorist activity takes place. However, there is no doubt that the Muslims themselves are responsible for the hatred which is now shaping up in the West against them. We the Muslims, as a community have failed to renounce this Islamist ideology on a greater note. The most saddening thing for me is that Muslims constantly live in denial by saying ISIS has nothing to do with Islam whereas the reality is exactly the opposite. ISIS has everything to do with political Islam. This denial, I believe, is the root cause of all the problems Muslims are facing today.

Muslims deny the harsh reality when they consider ISIS as un-Islamic and a Western or Jewish conspiracy. Why I believe ISIS has a strong connection with Islam is based on the following reasons.

The religion of Islam has actually two main interpretations. One interpretation is derived from the works of Imam Ghazali. In this interpretation of Islam, the religion has been presented to us in the light of mysticism and Sufism. How the mystics viewed the various religious principles, Shariah and the concept of prophecy has been explained in this elucidation of Islam. This interpretation of Islam gained more popularity amongst the Muslims. Most of the lineage of traditional scholars is based upon this interpretation. Most of the religious seminaries were set up and modelled on the foundations as laid out by this school of thought. A closer observation reveals most of the Muslims around the world consider this school to be in true accordance with the teachings of Islam. This elucidation of Islam was further expanded and explained by Imam Shah Waliullah, a prominent Sufi scholar of Indian who inspired and influenced many movements in the subcontinent, namely the Deoband movement. Imam Ghazali's ‘Ihya Ulumuddin’ and Shah Waliullah's ‘Hujjatullah Baligha’ are the books that represent the entire ideology of Islam in the perspective of classical Sufism.

The second interpretation of Islam is derived from the works and writings of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah. In this elucidation, Islam has been presented to us as a "deen" and not just a "mazhab". According to this school of thought, Islam is not merely a set of rituals but a complete code of life that cannot be separated from the affairs of the state. This interpretation demands control over the entire world. In the last couple of centuries, this school of thought has come to prominence dominating the intellectual thought process and hence cannot be ignored. Jihad is central to this interpretation and the very purpose of jihad according to this school of thought is to spread the dominance of Islam over the world. This elucidation of Islam was further expounded thoroughly by Syed Abul Ala Maududi , Syed Qutb and Hassan Al Bannah.

There have been some Sufis who were quite violent as well like Ghazali (who is considered to be moderate by most of the westerns) and Ahmed Sirhindi (Famous Sufi scholar of the Sub-continent). But, the Sufist interpretation of Islam is considered to be moderate as compared to the political interpretation because it focuses mainly on the inner dimensions of Islam, purification of the soul and not the state. However, during the last few decades we have seen that even the seminaries that claim to follow Sufism, have started teaching the political interpretation of Islam. Hence, this political interpretation has been dominating since the last few decades.

All Islamist terrorist organizations that are now shaping up in today's world have their foundations in this political interpretation of Islam.

Alongside this elucidation, the religious education in the Islamic world is also a matter of serious concern as it is based on these very teachings that take an extreme view and shape up a jihadi mindset. In almost every Islamic seminary, the students are generally taught that:

1.       Anywhere in the world, if someone commits idolatry (polytheism) or apostasy, it is punishable by death and it is our prime responsibility to implement this punishment.

2.       In this world, the non-Muslims cannot live freely and must be oppressed. No one except the Muslims has the right to live with complete sovereignty. No one else can govern a state.

3.       All non-Muslims states are illicit and it is our responsibility to eliminate them whenever we have the power to do so.

4.       The concept of modern state formation is totally against the teachings of Islam. All Muslims are like a single nation and they must have one single state and government (caliphate)

These flaws and the political interpretation of Islam is the main reason for the existence of groups like ISIS. I am not at all ignoring or neglecting the role played by the western imperialism in the birth of such organizations and how the imperial forces used this growing phenomenon to their own advantage.

Most of the Muslims claim that it is the intervention of west in Muslim countries which is the main reason for such group surfacing and creating havoc. They blame the war in Iraq for giving birth to ISIS. Even if we agree that everything is a western conspiracy, there is still something wrong somewhere in our understanding of Islam that Islamists keep using it as the justification of their heinous acts. Further, if we are to consider this conspiracy theory to be accurate, then such terrorists should have also been coming from Vietnam and Japan.

Why do they crop up only in the Muslim countries where religion is central to state? It is time that we wake up from our deep slumber and stop blaming others without looking within. By ignoring the foundation that ISIS has based its ideology on, we are in effect trying to deny the existence of this harsh reality. Behaving like an ostrich and maintaining apologist behaviour won't do us any favour. On the contrary, it would only strengthen the Islamist ideology.

It is about time that the Muslims all over the world unite and take a strong step against this political interpretation of Islam and reform themselves. Likewise, they need to rehash and overhaul religious education system since it is the breeding ground of all terrorist organizations. In reply to this Islamist ideology, Muslims need to put forward the peaceful and tolerant interpretation of Islam. Together with the international community Muslims have to fight against this ideology which has caused unprecedented harm to the Muslims themselves.

ISIS justifies its stance from Quran and therefore it must be countered through Quran. So far we, the Muslims have failed to fulfill this prime responsibility. If there is someone who should be most vocal against this Islamism, it is the Muslims themselves. They need to reclaim the religion which is hijacked by these Islamists. Merely criticising ISIS attacking innocent people and after every attack holding banners that read "I am a Muslim, I trust you, do you trust me, let’s hug" would not do anything good for the Muslims. A strong counter-narrative is the need of the hour.

Ammar Anwer is a student with an interest in philosophy, rationalism and politics

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