Guest contribution by Sadia Dehlvi
Something good is happening in the Muslim world. A man with a half Muslim parentage will soon take oath to the highest office in America. The Malegaon blasts are being fairly investigated, something the community has been demanding. The possibilities of” Hindu Terror”, are surfacing and being condemned by secular Indians, forming the majority of the country. Recently Muslim scholars, activists and clerics got together and issued fatwas delinking Islam with terror. An eighteen coach Sheikh ul Hind Express from Deoband carrying two thousand clerics set out on a journey with a message of peace and integration. A total of six thousand clerics from twenty one states met in Hyderabad to issue more fatwas against terror activities making the message is loud and clear for both Muslims and non-Muslims. From shock and denial modes, the Indian Muslim community has begun to introspect and take positive efforts.
Now, a collective body of Muslim clerics adhering to different schools of jurisprudence have taken another commendable step by denouncing Dr. Zakir Naik’s speeches and demanding a ban on them. Popular Muslim resentment against Dr. Naik became evident last December when he used the phrase, “May Allah be pleased with him”, for Yezid the debauch, tyrannical murderer of Imam Hussain; the Prophet Mohamed’s grandson who was martyred at the battle of Kerbala. Throughout Islamic history, these particular words been used only for the Prophets trusted companions. Anger has now peaked with Dr. Naik declaring that praying to Prophet Mohammed and seeking his intercession with God is heresy. Dr. Naik does not even address the Prophet respectfully (something that even Allah does not do in the Quran), doesn’t use the prefix Prophet or similar titles or add (duroord) the traditional blessing after pronouncing his name.
I have been particularly disturbed by the growing popularity of Dr. Naik, founder of Peace TV and the president of an organization, “ The Islamic Research Foundation”. Dr. Naik is not an Islamic scholar or a cleric and can best be described as a preacher famous for his computer like memory of almost all religious scriptures including the Bible, Vedas and the Quran. A medical doctor by training and inspired by the late Indian born South African evangelist Sheikh Ahmed Deedat, Dr. Naik loves to debate with Hindus on the Vedas, with Jains about vegetarianism and atheists on religion and science. In the garb of interfaith dialogues, Dr. Naik not just runs down all major religions, but also rubbishes as haraam (sinful) all Muslim devotional aspects that differ from his viewpoint.
His much advertised programs like, “ Dare to Ask” appear more like Question and Answer reality shows than any serious dialogue on Islam. An effective discourse on Islam should on Islam should be warmed by emotions of love and sincerity, moving listeners to tears with the Love of God. In contrast, Dr. Naik’s Q and A usually produce thunderous rounds of applause. Islamic values and tradition are no about proving its upmanship, but about co existing in peace with other communities. The Quran affirms that God himself made us “into nations and tribes so we may know each other”.
Many amongst my own family members and friends in different parts of the world are regretfully extremely taken up by Dr. Naik. They flout his brilliant memory and believe he has converted many to Islam. Since when has the ability to memorise passages from the Quran become the scale to judge religious scholarship. I often remind them that mere conversion is no testimony to faith. The Quran clearly differentiates between a “muslim” and “momin”.It refers just a few times to Muslims and constant talks about those who have “imaan”. According to many sound transmissions of Hadith, Prophet Mohammed defined the completion and perfection of “imaan” as a state where one loves him more than anything else in the world. True love of the Prophet has to be demonstrated by following the highest ethical ideals as established by him.
In the subcontinent, Islam is the legacy of Sufis who gave us traditions of syncretism and communal harmony. Their tombs remain our historical, cultural and religious reference points. Through condemning Sufi followers as “grave worshippers”, Salafi and Wahabi ideology inspired speakers such as Dr. Naik reject an entire historical body of Islamic scholarship, jurisprudence and almost seventy five percent of Islamic literature. Sufism is a major theme with over eighty percent of Muslim communities worldwide.
Dr. Naik is on record saying, “ If Osama bin Laden is terrorising America or the enemies of Islam, every Muslim should become a terrorist. If someone is terrorising a terrorist, he is following Islam.” Excerpts of this video are circulating on the Internet, damaging the already wounded perception of Islam and its followers. We all accept there are elements of state terror in our societies, but the answer does not lie in retaliating with more terror but in engaging with dialogue through a peaceful social political process. When questioned about the above statement on television, Dr. Naik argues that he does not know Osama Bin Laden personally and therefore cannot decide whether he is guilty of terrorism or not. I don’t think any of us personally know Osama Bin Laden personally, but we are all aware of the kind of terrorism he and Al Qaeeda stand for and must condemn violence of any kind on innocent citizens anywhere in the world. Nothing is worse and more threatening to democratic societies than religious based intolerant ideologies, irrespective of what religious group it stems from.
According to some newspapers, investigation reports on Kafeel, the suicide bomber who rammed into the Glasgowairport revealed that the Glasgow bomber was deeply influenced by Dr.Naik’s rhetoric. This variety of Muslim evangelists is largely responsible for sowing seeds of intolerance in Muslim youth. The young educated Muslims joining terror outfits are clearly misled by their confrontationist attitudes. Without classical scholarship and guidance, religion can go horribly wrong.
Social injustices cannot be used as a theme to create havoc and destruction in society.
However, some rabid ideologues continue providing fuel to Muslim animosity by overturning the spirituality of Islam into a rationalized discourse leading to pragmatic political activism. If Muslims insist that Hindutva ideologues be quietened, we must do the same with Muslim radicals.
Traditional Islam accepts the Quran as a source of spiritual nourishment and not a political document. Two types of Islam existed in the first Islamic century where extremism was a recognized discourse. The first was the kind taught by Prophet Mohammed and the other as practiced by the Kharijis, a group that developed takfiri, a political philosophy that identified anyone who disagreed with their understanding of Islam as unbelievers. This extremist ideology resulted in the dissident group justifying the killing of innocent people including women and children. In order to protect the true Islam, Ali ibn Talib, the son-in-law and cousin of Prophet Mohammed militarily fought the Khwarijis and was assassinated in the process. The current battle within the Muslim community is between the Islam of Prophet Mohammed and the modern Khwarijis who are waging a war of terror using Islamic terminology under the banner of Muslim faith.
Dialogue within the Muslim community on what form the rightful Islamic traditions has long been overdue. Thankfully, Muslims are now on an alert mode, identifying and rejecting intolerant elements within their own people.