The significance of Islamic State marking Ramzan's end with attacks on Islam's holy site

The most distressing news for Muslims today emanating from the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia, is the attack on the holiest Islamic city, Madina towards the end of Ramzan. After the extremist jihadists carried out several terror attacks around the world in recent days, the IS appears to have timed its latest ghastly suicide attack in Madina on 4 July, 2016 towards the end of Ramzan.

According to the Saudi media sources, the attack took place close to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina, Masjid al-Nabawi, which is venerated as the holiest site in Islam along with the Ka’bah, the Grand Mosque of Mecca. Besides Madina, terror attacks were also launched in the Saudi city of Qatif, which has a large number of Shia Muslims as well as people of other faith. In total, four suicide bombs were blasted in three locations in Saudi Arabia. One of them in the parking lot of the Prophet’s mosque, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi which left a number of people dead, while the second and third attacks targeted a Shia mosque in Qatif.

People stand by an explosion site in Medina, Saudi Arabia. AP

People stand by an explosion site in Medina, Saudi Arabia. AP

Clearly, the attack is in full consistence with the call of IS to its hardcore followers to mark the holy month of Ramzan as ‘a month of mayhem for the disbelievers’. They are actively engaged in the wanton terror attacks in their crazy bid to fulfill this nefarious jihadist resolution which they pledged in the beginning of the Islamic month. The experts quoted in The Washington Post report have rightly pointed out that the IS has deliberately attempted to use the Islamic month of Ramzan to further it nefarious ends.

The latest brutal attack in Madina was a similar attempt by the extremist and puritanical Salafist jihadists who justify the killing of other Muslims — Sufis and Shias, whom they consider beyond the pale of true Islam.

The city of Madina is mostly revered by Sufi Muslims because the Holy Prophet’s mosque is located in it. They visit and venerate the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to seek his blessings and find spiritual solace. Sufi practitioners believe that there is no virtue in the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca without paying a visit to the Prophet’s tomb in Madina. This goes completely against the puritanical view of the radical Islamists inspired by the Wahhabi version of Islam. It views the shrine visitation of Sufi Muslims as akin to polytheism (shirk) and thus declare them polytheists and disbelievers. Similarly, they have declared the Shia Muslims beyond the pale of Islam.

From the killing of liberal democrats in Paris, Belgium and Orlando to the murder of Sufi singer Amjad Sabri in Pakistan, Istanbul massacre to Bangladesh terror attack, Baghdad brutality to the latest dance of destruction in Madina, the Takfirist doctrines of the Islamic State are at play. One thing is common in all this spate of terrorist attacks: The radical religious zealots are killing those whom they declare infidels (kafir), polytheists (mushrik), apostates (murtad) heretics (mulhid) and blasphemers in their retrogressive jurisprudential terms applied in the self-imposed Islamic caliphate.

In this violent takfirist worldview, people belonging to all these ‘un-Islamic’ categories are mubah-al-dam (whose blood can be shed) and wajib al-qatl (whose killing is obligatory in religion). With the IS gaining strength of western-supplied weaponry of mass destruction, the violent jihadist doctrines are playing havoc across much of the world, both in Islamic and non-Islamic countries. Though their actual targets are the ones who have been specified in the above jurisprudential Islamic terms, the common non-combatant civilians, regardless of faith and creed, are also massacred in the wanton jihadist killing as ‘collateral damage’.

Most particularly, liberal democrats, free thinkers, bloggers and secular activists of both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities are hacked to death. The constant brutal terror attacks in Dhaka, Bangladesh, are gruesome examples. The perpetrators of Dhaka attack have all been described as “well educated and from affluent families.” Obviously, they were not ‘paid fighters’, nor they were ignoramuses. Their eyes were set on seeking martyrdom in the holy month of Ramzan in a crazy bid to make the month ‘a mayhem for the disbelievers’, as they were taught by the IS ideologues.

At the beginning of Ramzan, IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani exhorted the jihadist followers around the world: "Get prepared, be ready to make it a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers”. Thus, the wave of the ongoing jihadist atrocities is against the ‘kafirs’ and ‘mushrikin’ (disbelievers), a term which the IS jihadists take to include both non-Muslims and moderate Muslims.

It is utterly shocking for the common Muslims that Ramzan which is a month of spiritual devotion, self-restraint and introspection, is viewed by the jihadists as a month of conquest and dominion over the world.

In an article on BBC, Shiraz Maher, the author of Salafi-Jihadism has explained why so-called Islamic State chooses to bomb during Ramzan. He writes: “Juxtaposed alongside that ascetic puritanism is the view of radicals who regard Ramzan as a month of conquest and plunder....They believe it is an opportune moment to double down on their millenarian war against civilisation and therefore launch more attacks than normal....Indeed, Al-Qaeda's official chapter in Syria, the Nusra Front, recently described it as "a month of conquests.... To the radical mind, if additional prayer and alms giving is encouraged in Ramadan — then why not more bloodshed too?”

It is also noteworthy that the suicide attack in Madina happened at a time when Islam’s biggest festival Eid-ul-Fitr is around the corner. Eid is celebrated as a day of complete peace and pluralism, social cohesion and communal harmony. In the sermons of Eid (khutbah), the moderate imams exhort people to hold delicious feasts and invite friends and neighbours from all faith communities to their tables. All such celebrations like the Eid-ul-Fitr which foster pluralism, social affinity, interfaith harmony and brotherhood of mankind are despised by the exclusivist ideologues of IS.

One can recall that the extremist religious clerics of Daesh (IS) allegedly banned the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, last year, in its occupied lands. They argued, “Eid was never a part of Islam.” This argument was fully consistent with the outcry of the self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the chief leader of IS who stated: “Islam was never a religion of peace, not even a single day”.

In fact, any Islamic festival that imbibes peace and pluralism in the views and practice of Muslims has been demonised by the IS and its affiliates. Hence, they could not tolerate Muslims celebrating Eid and rejoicing its festivities last year in Iraq and Syria, and this year in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the cities of Madina and Qatif.

Since the mainstream peace-loving Muslims did not give up their traditional and age-old celebration of peace and pluralism well-embedded in Eid, the IS jihadists — the followers of the ultra-puritanical Islamism — marked the end of Ramzan and Eid-ul-Fitr with fierce attacks on the holiest site of Islam.

The author is a Scholar of comparative religion and classical Arabic-Islamic sciences, Researcher in Culture & Communication Studies and Commentator on Muslim Affairs in Media. He can be contacted at

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Updated Date: Jul 06, 2016 12:17:22 IST

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