A Muslim Counter Narrative

This is a voice that is not heard at all, a Muslim call denouncing terror and attacking civilians.

Rebecca Abrahamson,

Rebecca Abramson
Rebecca Abramson
INN:RB

In the shadow of the terror attacks increasingly aimed at Muslims:

Easter Sunday, Lahore Pakistan: 69 killed and over 300 injured in a public park; Christians were the target, many Muslims were killed as they mingled with their Christian friends on that festive sunny day.

March 26 - Iraq – a suicide attack at a soccer stadium kills 25 and injures many more – Muslims. 

March 16 – an attack in a Nigeria mosque kills 22 Muslims.

But aren't Christians “People of the Book”, and who says that soccer is haram (forbidden) and what objection was there to a mosque? No one is safe.

And at last, some Muslims are speaking out.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is a Muslim theologian who, at personal self -sacrifice, is spreading the word that there can be a peaceful Islam. Websites, interviews on mainstream Muslim media, and recent tours in the States, Australia, and the United Kingdom attest that he is no lone voice.[1],[2] He urges full responsibility by Muslims for the current state of affairs in the Muslim world.  He blames no one but the state of Islam today for terror in its midst. The remedy -  proper education and a vigorous Counter Narrative. [3]

His denunciation of terror is straightforward and unequivocal.

“Suicide bombings are a heinous crime worthy of hellfire!” He states, and, “Killing citizens on purpose is a sickening crime!” He refers to the killing of civilians as barbaric. He states – if you committed a crime do you really think that someone should harm an innocent member of your family? Even in war and jihad there are ethical limits. 

A member of the audience rises to his feet and challenges – “if (in war) non-Muslims brutally kill millions of Muslims, then, according to you, we Muslims should only seek to strike military personnel, who are actively involved in the killings of Muslims, and no civilians?” 

Mr. Ghamidi retorts, “Yes this is exactly what I am saying!”

The onlooker challenges, “Where is this written?”

Ghamidi, “In the Qur’an!”

“Has this ever happened in history?” and Ghamidi insists, “Yes indeed!”[4]

“The only possibility for Muslims to wage a war is in a fight against oppression and injustice…(and) has been given to Muslim communities collectively. ….non-combatants and civilians must not be targeted under any circumstance. The Qur’an has made it very clear that anyone who kills an innocent human being, it is as if he has killed the whole humanity. Killing of innocents… must be unequivocally condemned.”

“In light of the above rules, it is very clear that such barbaric terrorist acts can only be termed as anti-Islamic.” [5](emphases mine).

To get an idea of the kind of support Mr Ghamidi has in the Muslim world, his Australian tour, autumn 2015, was touted “a great success” by a Muslim news service.[6]  There, he spoke at seven venues in five cities with audiences ranging from one hundred to four hundred participants. During his tour in North America, summer 2015, he spoke in six venues.


Ghamidi has garnered over 300,000 “likes” on his face book page, is featured on Muslim media, issues a monthly newsletter.
Ghamidi has garnered over 300,000 “likes” on his face book page, is featured on Muslim media, issues a monthly newsletter complied with about a dozen staff members, thousands of shares and “thumbs up” on his You Tube videos, and many supportive comments from Muslims who praise his intellectual alacrity, use of scriptural sources and his sound logic[7]. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is getting his voice heard.[8] [9] So let’s listen to him too.

He demands that Muslims cease blaming the West for their woes. He notes that the prophets exhorted repentance without laying blame on outside factors, pointing out that the Bible never faults Babylon or Rome for the fall of the Temple, but puts responsibility on the deeds of the Israelites alone. [10] 

Criticizing the current state of the Islamic medressahs (schools) as the source of radicalism,[11] he states that the medrassahs are mistakenly promoting four points – all apostasy deserves punishment, non-Muslims must be subjugated, there should be a single world-wide Islamic government, and that the modern nation-state is itself kufr (disbelief)". He refers to this current narrative as un-Islamic and he challenges it in his essay, “Islam and the State, a Counter-Narrative” from his book, Meezan.[12]

Major points in the “Counter Narrative”: only during Muhammad’s lifetime could apostasy be judged, but since the death of Muhammad, apostasy cannot be properly evaluated by human beings and certainly cannot be punished by a court of law, even more so by the lay individual. 

Concerning government, he maintains that Islam is primarily directed towards the individual. There is no imperative to make an Islamic state, nor is there an imperative to merge one single Islamic caliphate. He notes that the term “Caliphate” (khalifa) is not even from the Qur’an. He cites the two ahadith (commentaries, legends) that are used to justify a world-wide Caliphate, declaring not only may they be inauthentic ahadith, but a careful reading shows that the intent of these ahadith were to prevent rebellion against a just ruler, not that there should only be “one” ruler.[13]

Majority rule is Islamic and preceded modern democracy: “The affairs of the Muslims are run on the basis of their mutual consultation.” (Qur’an 42:38) Should a Muslim state exist, the directives in the Qur’an given to the individual cannot be imposed on society as a whole. Only the directives given to society as a whole can be imposed by the state, and this is only salat - public prayer, and zakat – state tax. And in his words, modern dictatorships can “be sent packing.”[14]

State regulated prayer challenges western sensitivities, but let’s put it in context. Among the positive directives that an Islamic state can ask a Muslim to follow if one wants to be treated as a Muslim legally by the state and enjoy rights as Muslim, then a state can (and not must) see if one is offering the salat to God and paying zakah. In other words, salat and zakah are two legal requirements for being a Muslim in the eyes of the state.

Yearning for a single Islamic government thus cannot be the prime goal of a Muslim. Education and advancement must be the prime directive, and that is what Mr. Ghamidi is demanding now. “Itjihad” is part of this.

Itjihad

Itjihad refers to the use of the intellect to solve challenges that exist outside the specifics of scripture.[15] While scripture is inviolate, areas not dealt with by scripture are open to the freedom of the intellect. This is based upon the hadith in which Muhammed instructs his followers to turn to him for religious teachings, but not for issues that can be dealt with via study and reason. [16]

Mr. Ghamidi thus insists along these lines that all children have a basic right to a broad based education in order to enable such intellectual freedom. He beckons Muslims to reclaim this part of their tradition, which is essential for the advancement of the physical and social sciences. Itjihad surely influenced such great Islamic thinkers as Jabir Ibn Hayyan, whose work on alchemy in the eighth century influenced modern chemistry. Muhammed Al-Khawarizmi, ninth century, built upon Greek and Latin mathematics, developing the system of algebra brought down to this day.  Ibn Sina (Avicenna), eleventh century, authored a medical encyclopedia that was in used in Europe up until the seventeenth century.

There have been more, and at Mr Ghamidi’s urging, there should be more. Freedom of speech, he declares, is essential to Islam.[17]

I wish the entire above article could continue have dealt solely with the concept of itjihad. Indeed, the intellectual freedom that itjihad confers, Mr. Ghamidi strongly implies, is actually a key to lasting peace, with energy taken away from dreams of political dominance that he maintains are not even Qur’anic, freed up for development in the physical and social sciences.

But violence has descended again. Daily threats hinder our ability to view Islam without fear.

Thus, no matter how many fascinating ideas exist in Islam that could enrich us, such as itjihad, our first concern is, again, our security.  We cannot explore that realm until that realm proves that it is not a violent one. 

And that is exactly what Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is doing. [18]

Sources:

[1] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1isGGyqPXxGb3i_Tr6agHg

[2] an example of Mr Ghamidi being interviewed on public media http://www.javedahmadghamidi.com/videos/view/etiquettes-of-gender-interaction-ilm-o-hikmat-dunya-news-29-nov-15

[3] Rabbi Yaakov Nagen of the Otniel Yeshiva declares, “taking responsibility is not the same as admitting guilt or taking blame. The Jewish community took responsibility for violence emanating from its community by holding a prayer rally after the Kfar Dumas arson attack, July 2015, in which three members of the Dawabashe family were killed. We expressed our outrage. When a community takes responsibility for its wrong actions, it uplifts itself, and serves as an example to others for them to take responsibility for the wrong actions that emanate from them. If you condemn something that another community did, you might just create more animosity, but if you take responsibility for your own community, you uplift and enlighten your community and demonstrate to others that they can take responsibility without admitting guilt.”  http://livestream.com/accounts/3116574/events/4361388

https://www.facebook.com/HanochDaum/videos/978968515458175/

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkeere99LBs

[5] https://www.facebook.com/almawridus/posts/1021029707941938

[6] http://www.amust.com.au/2015/11/ghamidi-australian-tour-a-great-success/

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZNHTYU1S2Y&feature=youtu.be

[8] Lectures with English subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1isGGyqPXxGb3i_Tr6agHg

[9] His student Shehzad Saleem has produced many short videos in English that explains many important issues. http://www.dailymotion.com/playlist/x3asf7_drshehzadsaleem_islam-and-non-muslims-some-misconceptions/1#video=x223jcx

[10] Essays on Islam -  Maqamat

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=andINEkrX50

[12] http://www.al-mawrid.org/index.php/articles/view/islam-and-the-state-a-counter-narrative

[13] Essays on Islam – Maqamat, pg 168

[14] Essays on Islam – Maqamat pg 136 under “The Rule of an Islamic Government”.

[15] Essays on Islam - Maqamat

[16] “I am also a human being. When I direct you about something which relates to your religion, take it from me and when I express my own opinion [about something which is outside this sphere], then my status in this regard is nothing more than that of a human being … I had conjectured about  something. Do not hold me accountable for such things which are based on opinion and conjecture. However, if I say something on behalf of God, take it because I will never forge a lie on God … You very well know about your worldly affairs.” Hadith Muslim Al Jami al-Sahih 1038-1039.

[17] Islamic scholar attacks Pakistan's blasphemy laws:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/20/islam-ghamidi-pakistan-blasphemy-laws

[18] An outcry from one of Javed Ghamidi’s followers, posted on his facebook page - the pain of a religious Muslim trying reclaim authentic Islam in the face of threats:

“God O God ...!

Make the cause of truth the most cherished thing for us to live and die for. If life, wealth, honor and freedom of expression are under threat, give us the strength to raise our voice against the aggressors. If people are persecuted and tortured for adhering to the truth, bless us with the courage to defend them. If people jeer and make fun of us to for upholding the truth, instill in us the patience to politely smile back at them.”




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