Quarterly: Issue No 86
INTERNATIONAL UNION OF ISLAMIC SCHOLARS (ILUM)
By targeting Islamic scholars (ILUM) from Malaysia to Tunisia, Saudi Arabia has placed itself in the bull’s eye. Saudi Arabia is confronting some of the world’s foremost Islamic political parties and religious personalities, opening itself up to criticism for its offers to Israel that is fuelling controversy in countries like Malaysia and Tunisia. In an earlier statement, Saudi Arabia charged that ILUM was “using the Islamic religion as a cover to facilitate terrorist activities”. The banning of ILUM goes to the heart of the Gulf crisis that puts the UAE-Saudi-led alliance against Qatar - driven by United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed’s opposition to any expression of political Islam.
The UAE for several years has sought - with little evident success - to counter ILUM’s influence by establishing groups like the Muslim Council of Elders and the Global Forum for Prompting Peace in Muslim Societies as well as the Sawab and Hedayah Centres’ anti-extremism messaging initiatives in collaboration with the United States and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. The ban appears to have been designed to position Saudi Arabia as the arbiter as it constitutes “pristine true Islam”, which is marking the next phase in a four-decade long, $100 billion campaign waged by the kingdom to counter Iran by spreading - for the very long period of time - Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism that often served as an ideological inspiration for jihadist philosophy, which ultra-conservatives have condemned.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed - a prominent Saudi journalist and columnist for Al Arabiya – said that ILUM “worked on destroying major religious institutions in the Muslim world, like the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia and Al-Azhar in Egypt,” one of the foremost institutions of Islamic learning. Al Arabiya’s owner, Waleed bin Ibrahim al-Ibrahim, was among the kingdom’s top media barons arrested in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent purge of members of the ruling family, senior officials, and businessmen under the anti-corruption act.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed also said: “The terrorism project hiding under Islam launched its work around the same time organizations which issued extremist fatwas (religious legal opinions) were founded. Like al-Qaeda and ISIS, these jurisprudential groups said they refuse to be local as they view themselves as global organizations that cross borders. The most dangerous aspect of terrorism is extremist ideology. We realize this well now”.
The Council of Senior Scholars, despite having endorsed Prince Mohammed’s reforms, is a body of ultra-conservative Islamic scholars. Various statements by the council and its members critical of aspects of Prince Mohammed’s economic and social reform since his rise in 2015 suggest that support among its scholars is not deep-seated. Prince Mohammed recently vowed to move the kingdom away from its embrace of ultra-conservatism and towards what he described as a more “moderate” form of Islam.
Speaking to The New York Times, Prince Mohammed argued that at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him), there were musical theatres, an absence of segregation of men and women, and respect for Christians and Jews, who were the People of the Book in the Qur’an. “The first commercial judge in Medina was a woman. Do you mean the Prophet was not a Muslim?” Prince Mohammed asked.
Days later after the above statement, authorities banned pilgrims from taking photos and videos - in the harams of Makkah and Madinah - in line with an ultra-conservative precept that forbids the possession of living images. In reality, the ban was imposed after Israeli blogger Ben Tzion posted a selfie in Makkah on social media. Authorities banned non-Muslims from entering the two holy cities, which authorities said the ban was intended to protect and preserve Islam’s holiest sites, prevent the disturbance of worshippers, and ensure tranquillity while performing acts of worship.
Founded by the Egyptian-born scholar Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of Islam’s most prominent living clerics and believed to be a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, ILUM members include Rachid al-Ghannouchi (co-founder and intellectual leader of Tunisia’s Brotherhood-inspired Annihada Party) and Abdul Hadi bin Awang (Malaysian member of parliament and head of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS)).
Shaikh Al-Qaradawi, a naturalized Qatari citizen who, in the past justified suicide bombings in Israel but has since then condemned them, was labelled a terrorist by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June 2017 as part of their diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar. The UAE-Saudi-led alliance demanded that Qatar act against Shaikh Al-Qaradawi and scores of others as a condition for lifting the six-month-old boycott.
Shaikh Al-Ghannouchi was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012 and Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2011. He was also awarded the prestigious Chatham House Prize. Shaikh Al-Ghannouchi is widely credited for ensuring that Tunisia became the only Arab country to have successfully emerged from the 2011 Arab popular revolts as a democracy.
The banning of ILUM has, moreover, sparked political controversy in Malaysia. Karima Bennoune, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for cultural rights, recently noted a deepening involvement of Malaysia’s religious authorities in policy decisions, developments she said were influenced by “a hegemonic version of Islam imported from the Arabian Peninsula” that was “at odds with local forms of practice.”
“Arab culture is spreading, and I would lay the blame completely on Saudi Arabia,” added Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. Critics of Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) demanded that Mr. Bin Awang, a vice-president of the group, “come clean that he does not preach hatred” in the words of former PAS leader Mujahid Yusof Rawa, and called on the government to ask Saudi Arabia for information to back up its charges against the union. Mr Bin Awang, referring to Saudi King Salman, asserted last week that he relied on the “Qur’an (for guidance) although the ruler - who is the Khadimul Haramain - has forged intimate ties with Israel and the United States.
Just like Qatar, PAS had tried to curry favour with Iran in an attempt to cover both bases, along with Saudi. Now the chicken has come home to roost, and just like Qatar, global minnows like PAS find themselves caught in the middle between the two Muslim world influencers,” said Malaysian columnist Zurairi Ar.
Among other members of ILUM is the Saudi scholar Shaikh Salman al-Odah, who was among clerics, intellectuals, judges and activists arrested in the kingdom weeks before the most recent purge. With millions of followers on social media, Shaikh Al-Odah, a once militant scholar, turned a decade ago against jihadis like Osama bin Laden and played a key role in the kingdom’s program to rehabilitate militants, but retained his opposition to the monarchy.
Let us now reflect on what Allah (SWT) says:
O you who believe! Take not as (your) Bitaanah (advisors, consultants, protectors, helpers, friends) those outside your religion (pagans, Jews, Christians, and hypocrites) since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, but what their breasts conceal is far worse. Indeed We have made plain to you the Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses) if you understand. (Surah Aal Imraan: Chapter 3: Verse 118)
Allamah Ibn Katheer (ra) said: The words of Allah, “Take not as (your) Bitaanah (advisors, consultants, protectors, helpers, friends) those outside your religion” mean people other than you, the followers of other religions. A man’s bitaanah (advisors, friends, etc.) are his closest friends who know about his private affairs. Then he narrated the report of Ibn Abi Haatim with his isnaad from Ibn Abi’l-Dahqaanah, who said: It was said to Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA): There is a slave from the people of Heerah who is literate; why don’t you employ him as a scribe? He said: Then I would have taken a ‘bitaanah’ from people other than the believers. Ibn Katheer said: This report, along with this verse, indicates that it is not permissible to employ ahl al-dhimmah as scribes in a position of authority over the Muslims where they can become acquainted with their private affairs, where there is the fear that they may disclose them to enemies among ahl al-harb. Hence Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely”.
O Allah! Help us to see the weaknesses within ourselves and help us to overcome them. Do not leave us without Your assistance for a moment. Ameen!
ISLAM AND TERRORISM
Let us first define Terrorism.
Who started the first world war? Not Muslims.
Who started the second world war? Not Muslims.
Who killed about 20 millions of Aborigines in Australia? Not Muslims.
Who sent the nuclear bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Not Muslims.
Who killed more than 100 millions of Indians in North America? Not Muslims.
Who killed more than 50 million of Indians in south America? Not Muslims.
Who took about 180 millions of African people as slaves and 88% of them died and were thrown overboard into Atlantic ocean? Not Muslims.
First of all, we will have to define terrorism accurately.
If a non-Muslim does something bad. It is crime. But if a Muslim commits the same. He is a Terrorist.
May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger Muhammad, his family and all his companions. Ameen.
O Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more hope in Your Mercy than in my own deeds.
Requesting your duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Kyalami Glen, Gauteng
Johannesburg, South Africa