What used to be “Happy Eid” has come this year blood-spattered. Over a thousand people have been butchered mercilessly across the world on orders of the ISIS in this “blessed” month of Ramzan. At the time of writing on this Eid day, Bangladesh is once again under attack, and so is Iraq, with 40 innocents killed. But the Ramzan wave of terror has also signalled a major change in ISIS’ strategy. With three attacks on Saudi Arabian cities, ISIS is going the Taliban way, turning against its very own creator. And the attack on the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, the second holiest shrine for Muslims, has taken the ideological war within Islam to a different level altogether.
All this has happened in the holy month of Ramzan, indeed, most of them in the last ten days that are considered holiest of the holy month. Muslims believe any good deed done in this period is doubly rewarded. Apparently, the terrorists consider their dastardly acts as “good deeds” that will take them to heaven.
What is ISIS trying to achieve through these seemingly nihilistic acts? Is the attack on the Prophet’s mosque in Medina the way to gain global Muslim leadership? Destroying anything that Muslims revere is part of the Wahhabi-Salafi faith. It was as early as 1806 when the Wahhabi army of the first Saudi state occupied Medina and started systematically destroying all the revered relics of Islamic history, including the Prophet’s tomb. Only the widespread outrage of the global Muslim community protected this monument. A product of the same faith, the self-proclaimed Khalifa Baghdadi has gone further. He had even called for the destruction of most revered Kaaba stone a couple of years ago. The ISIS leader had said it was a Muslim’s “religious duty” to destroy the monument of “idolatrous worship”, i.e., the Black Stone, or al- ajar al-Aswad, which is the central shrine object of Islam, located in the centre of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Could the attack on the second holiest shrine in Islam be a precursor to the destruction of the holiest shrine in the Grand Mosque in Mecca too?
Incidentally, this is not a new demand by Salafi-Wahhabi hardliners and not just by Baghdadi. Earlier, a Kuwaiti Wahhabi preacher, Ibrahim Al Kandari had also called for the destruction of the stone that is believed to be of meteoric origin. “The Black Stone should be destroyed to put an end to this ancient pagan ritual and idolatrous worship of images,” he had said. Naturally, following the attack in Medina, Muslim religious leaders worldwide are apprehensive that ISIS could attack the holy site of Mecca too. It has already destroyed the archaeological sites of Hatra, Nimrud and Khorsabad, among others, just as the Taliban, from the same Salafi-Wahhabi stream of thought, and products of Deobandi madrasas of Pakistan, had destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.
One cannot be a Muslim if one refuses to accept the divinity of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism and all previous religions which have any scripture.
Clearly, the ISIS is not interested in winning the hearts and minds of common Muslims, the overwhelming majority of whom it considers apostate. The guiding principle of this onslaught on mainstream Islam is the core saying of Mohammad Ibn-e-Abdul Wahhab, according to which a Muslim cannot interact with non-Muslims, including non-Wahhabi Muslims.
Abdul Wahhab said: “Even if the Muslims abstain from Shirk (polytheism) and are Muwahhid (strict believer in oneness of God), their Faith cannot be perfect unless they have enmity and hatred in their action and speech against non-Muslims” (Majmua Al-Rasael Wal-Masael Al-Najdiah 4/291).
So all those Muslims who interact with non-Muslims, including non-Wahhabi Muslims who are considered apostate, must be hated and treated as enemy. This naturally includes even the government of Saudi Arabia, the main purveyor and exporter of Wahhabi ideology around the world, not to speak of Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia. Every mainstream Muslim government is obliged to interact with non-Muslims of the world. So all of them and their civilian population are targets.
Clearly, a major ideological war is going on in the Muslim world. Or perhaps this is my wishful thinking, because mainstream Islam, even Muslim governments or the ulema have not joined the ideological war. There is a largely one-sided onslaught on mainstream Islam, on Muslims who want to lead a peaceful life, co-existing with others, following clear pluralistic guidelines in the Quran. According to the Quran, belief in previous Prophets of God, no matter what name they are remembered by, considering them equal in stature to Prophet Mohammad, and interacting with their followers, including having the most intimate marital relations, is an essential article of faith. One cannot be a Muslim if one refuses to accept the divinity of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism and all previous religions which have any scripture. But one never finds the ulema stressing on this aspect of our faith. In fact, the Indian ulema refuse to consider Hindus, ahl-e-kitab (people of the book), despite books like Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, Sri Yoga Vasishtha and a host of others, the likes of ancient spiritual literature that cannot be found anywhere in the world. As a matter of fact, I can say with confidence, having been inspired by these books, that if Hindu scriptures are not of divine origin, then there are no books of divine origin in the world. Even Mohammad bin Qasim, the first Arab conqueror of Sindh had recognised the divinity of Hindu scriptures on the advice of the Arab ulema in the early eighth century and treated them as ahl-e-kitab.
A few progressive individuals are, of course, trying to provide a counter-narrative. But they have hardly any resources. On the other hand, Wahhabi, ahl-e-hadeesi preachers like Dr Zakir Naik, for instance, have all the financial and media resources they can possibly require. He was the preacher whose YouTube videos had radicalised the Dhaka terrorists who killed 20 in a café last week. He has also been the inspiration behind Indian Mujahideen, among other global terrorists. But one does not find the Indian ulema engaging with him in a debate at all. They did not debate with him even when he called Yazid, the killer of the entire family of the Prophet, rahmatullilah, thus sending God’s blessings on him. They don’t debate with him when he says Muslims can have sex with sheep, or with sex slaves. They don’t debate with him when he denigrates other religions in full public view on his so-called Peace TV. Not even when he stage-manages conversions of Hindus and Christians in his TV shows, creating disconcert in the country. The contempt he has for other religions is palpable. But no ulema will argue with him. The reason is that what he is saying is based on the current theology of Muslim consensus. Islam requires a new theology, a theology of peace and pluralism. This requires vast, seminal effort. No one seems willing to engage in this battle at the moment. Maybe the present global wave of terror will induce Muslim governments and the ulema to think that they have no option but to join the war within Islam.
Sultan Shahin is the founding editor of a Delhi-based progressive Islamic website NewAgeIslam.com. He believes Islam is one of the many spiritual paths to salvation, not a totalitarian ideology for world domination.