by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 8, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1437)
It would have been far better for the nearly 200 Islamic scholars gathered in Grozny to avoid hurling labels of takfir at those they disagree with. Instead, they should have condemned their actions.
At the end of August, some 200 Islamic scholars from different countries participated in an Islamic conference held in the Chechen capital Grozny. But there was something unusual about this conference: nobody was invited from Saudi Arabia. Naturally, the Saudis were furious; how could there be an Islamic conference at which they were not present? In the past, they paid for such conferences and demanded prominent representation as well as sufficient deference. This conference was different: it was convened to condemn Wahhabism and its poisonous offshoots Da‘ish and ISIL/ISIS, better known as takfiris.
The conference did more: it declared that Salafis are not Sunnis. In fact, the conference agenda was to define what or who comprise Ahl al-Sunnah wa-al-Jama‘ah. The final communiqué stated that Sufis, Ash‘aris, and Maturidis are all part of Ahl al-Sunnah wa-al-Jama‘ah. The Saudis have traditionally railed against these groups placing them outside the fold of Islam. Now the shoe was on the other foot. There was very strong reaction from the Saudi court preachers. How dare anyone, especially the alims of al-Azhar who were present in large numbers at the conference, show such ingratitude when the Saudis have not only funded al-Azhar but also shored up the Egyptian regime?
The Saudi regime and the groups it has financed over the years launched a concerted campaign to have the conference reverse its decision about the Salafis/Wahhabis. After weeks of intense pressure, the final communiqué was altered to include the Salafis and Wahhabis among the Sunnis. That still left the following question unresolved: do the Wahhabis (we make a distinction between Salafis and Wahhabis; not all Salafis are Wahhabis) consider the other Sunnis as Muslims?
Quite aside from this waxing question, we have always maintained that it does not serve the interests of Islam to brand other Muslims as kafirs, for that is what the Grozny conference did even if it did not put it in such stark terms. To declare that the Salafis and Wahhabis are not “Sunnis,” was tantamount to saying they are not Muslims. After all, these groups are not Shi‘is whom they denounce as non-Muslims.
It would have been better if the scholars at the conference had denounced the takfiris and their terrorist activities that are clearly contrary to the teachings of Islam. Similarly, they could and should have denounced their sponsors and financiers, which the Saudis are. By their demonic practices, the takfiris have distorted the teachings of Islam. In fact, they have been willing tools in the hands of the imperialists and Zionists causing immense suffering to Muslims.
We, in the Crescent International have always taken a clear stand against the Saudis and the damage they have caused to Islam and Muslims. We have been very clear on this point since the establishment of this magazine when other Muslims still harboured illusions about the Saudis’ Islamic credentials. Today even ordinary Muslims have seen through the Saudis and the damage they have and continue to cause to Islam. But we do not believe hurling accusations of takfir at other Muslims advances the cause of Islam. Instead Muslims should expose the un-Islamic practices of the Saudis and Wahhabis, and work to get rid of this decrepit regime.