When the global influential preachers like Zakir Naik are still hell-bent on the rationalisation of suicide bombing — the gravest terror tool today — declaring it permissible as ‘a war tactic’, boldly quoting their theological ideologues, there is no point in our run-of-the-mill condemnation of the terror-playing havoc across the globe.
For the Indian Muslims anchored in the progressive values, it was deplorable to see Zakir Naik, in his press conference in Mumbai through Skype from Saudi Arabia, justifying the suicide bombing as ‘a tactic for war’. Blatantly enough, he made an attempt to justify his statement by making a reference to the Second World War, stating that “suicide bombing was used as a tactic during Second World War”.
Actually, his recent press conference was organised to refuse the charges against him that his sermons had inspired terror activities, including the Dhaka attack. Among his provocative statements that have serious repercussions, given the growing radical Islamist onslaughts in the world, is the following:
“Suicide bombings are permitted if a country is at war and is directed by a commander."
When he was particularly asked to make clarifications on his notorious speeches justifying suicide bombings, he averred: "I challenge you to show me any unedited answer of mine where I have not condemned suicide bombing of the kind that is happening." Clearly, he does not categorically condemn all kinds of suicide bombing, but only the “suicide bombing of the kind that is happening”. What if an extremist jihadist indulges in other kinds of the suicide bombings that Naik justifies?
He did say that he considered such attacks as ‘haraam’ (religiously forbidden) in Islam. But he also added: “however, many scholars permit it as a war tactic."
Who are, then, those many scholars who have permitted the suicide bombing as war tactic? Naik has honestly named a few of them like Shaikh Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz, a Saudi Arabian Islamic scholar and a leading proponent of the Salafi sect. Notably, Ibn Baz has served as Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia from 1993 until his death in 1999.
Naik also cited another Salafist Shaikh Abdul-Muhsin al-Abbaad who wrote a complete paper entitled, “With Which Religion and Intellect are Suicide Bombings and Destruction Considered Jihaad?”
The top-most contemporary Salafist cleric and the ideological icon of the Ikhwan al-Muslimin (The Muslim Brotherhood) whose fatwas are authoritative for the global Salafi-Wahhabi clergy, is the Qatar-based Islamist jurist Shaikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi. He has also justified the suicide bombing as ‘a defensive tactic’ in his fatwa issued in the 1990s. Much like Zakir Naik, Shaikh Qaradawi has also repeatedly said that he is not the only cleric to justify suicide bombings and that his fatwa was tailored specifically for helpless Palestinians in their fight against the Israeli occupation.
It would be relevant here to reproduce what the world-renowned moderate Islamic scholar of Turkish origin, Fethullah Gülen, has stated in retort to the theological justification of suicide booming by Shaikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi. Gulen writes:
“Apparently, Qaradawi has said that this is legitimate in Islam since they (Palestinians) have no other weapons to use. I was deeply saddened when I heard this statement by Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b.1926) because he, like Ratib al-Nabulsi (b.1938), said Ramadan al-Buti (d.2013) and Hassan al-Turabi (b.1932) are well-known people in the Muslim world – they are not average people, they are well-known. When they speak, it is as if they speak on behalf of Islam and as a result, Islam is negatively impacted by this statement. How can he legitimise such an act? On what Islamic rule or principle does he base this opinion? That does not mean I am suggesting that we remain indifferent to what is happening there – I die with every person I see dying in those lands. But this form of action is not in accordance with the “pleasure of God” or with reason."
The Pakistani Sufi Islamic scholar Dr Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri wrote a 512-page voluminous book, “Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide bombing” in 2010 in the wake of 9/11 terror attacks. He delegitimised every form of terror activity and suicide bombing in unequivocal and categorical terms. He argued: “Islam never allowed rebellion against the regimes, even if they were unjust or oppressive. Takfiri terrorists, who declare fellow Muslims of being apostates, have existed in every era in Islamic history and will continue to exist until the end times...Some terrorists in fact appear so devout that Hadith warns they would be difficult to target, because their pious works discourage any offensive against them. The violent jihadists' mix of piety and attractive, grievance-based interpretations of political events, especially those that appear to be against the Muslim world, serves as both a powerful recruiting tool and a strong self-defensive measure."
While the authoritative Islamic scholars of the Indian subcontinent have also endorsed the above consistent stance against all kinds of suicide bombings and terror attacks, the country’s Muslims are distressed at the misleading stand of Zakir Naik on suicide bombing adding a qualifier. Buttressing his viewpoint on suicide bombing, Naik has referred to the Salafist-Saudi ideologues who he considers as only the authentic Islamic scholars and authorities in religion. Thus, he is clearly trying to install the exclusivist religious narrative of the Salafi theologians such as Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Abdul Wahhab, Shaikh Ibn Baaz and the ilk, in place of the inclusivist, multicultural and pluralistic Indian Islam. At a time when several Muslim countries like Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Cyprus, Malaysia and Indonesia have banned the books and videos of all these clerics, fearing the influence of their takfirist contents on the young and gullible youth, how come they are still being propagated on a secular soil like India?
A violent jihadist does not spare a moment to rethink his decision before engaging in wanton and virulent killings of innocent lives, especially when inspired by an intolerant theology and emboldened by any religious justification of his attack.
The latest terror unleashed in France and Turkey is a reminder for us to call a spade a spade. Increasing acts of terror in the world are not just a law and order problem. There is a crystal-clear ideological battle that has deep roots in an extremist theology. As long as the extremist preachers continue to cherry-pick and quote the medieval jurisprudential rulings which are canonised in the so-called Islamic State, we should not hope for any tremendous upheaval breaking the cycle of brainless violence.
The author is a scholar of Comparative Religion, Classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org