by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 2, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1437)
Fanatics come in all shapes and sizes. There are religious fanatics and then there are secular fanatics. Neither is acceptable. Since Islam has been hijacked by both, it is time for committed Muslims to reclaim it from their clutches.
Islam is the din of fitrah. Its teachings are valid for all times and in all situations. It is not religion per se although people ignorant of its true meaning misinterpret it that way. Islam is from the Arabic root words, aslama or salima. The first means to surrender and the second means to be safe and secure, at peace. By surrendering to the Will of Allah (swt) a person becomes a Muslim. And such a person is at peace with the Creator, Allah (swt), and His creation.
This, however, is not the understanding of most people in the world today. Islam and Muslims are generally linked with violence, extremism, and all kinds of negative acts. This is deliberate. The Western corporate media working in tandem with the imperialists and Zionists want an identifiable enemy. Muslims and Islam are soft targets. Since the demise of communism, Islam has become the number one enemy. The “green peril” has replaced the “red peril.”
Most Muslims are aware of this. What they are not clear about is that some Muslims have also contributed to this negative portrayal of Islam. People with long, unkempt beards brandishing Kalashnikovs or chopping heads in public with huge knives can hardly evoke sympathy. Who are these people that indulge in such acts and why do some Muslims applaud these barbaric practices? True, Muslims have suffered grievously at the hands of imperialists and Zionists but is the conduct of these barbarians a legitimate response and does Islam permit such conduct?
It can be stated with confidence that were there no barbarians masquerading as Muslims, the imperialists and Zionists would have created them. In fact, they have. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and now Da‘ish (aka ISIS/ISIL, or takfiris to the Muslims) are the product of the enemies of Islam. They are needed to justify the aggressive policies of the predatory powers.
This is one dimension of the problem but is the solution to religious fanaticism to be found in secular fanaticism? Religious fanatics and secular fanatics are two sides of the same coin. If religious fanatics are unwitting fools in the hands of imperialists and Zionists, secular fanatics are their willing tools. To use the expression coined by Lord Macaulay as far back as 1885, they are “Brown Englishmen.” These people look like Muslims and carry Muslim names but their habits, manners, and outlook are completely alien to Islam. Such people are in fact more dangerous because they do not evoke the kind of loathing that the head-choppers do. The secular or “liberal” Muslims (as they prefer to call themselves) are in control of governments and policies in almost all Muslim countries. The imperialists also want such people to be in power to continue the policies the West wants implemented.
The image of Islam projected by the religious as well as secular fanatics is totally erroneous. Islam has to be rescued from the clutches of both sets of fanatics but the question is: who will rescue Islam? This is the responsibility of committed Muslims sufficiently grounded in the teachings of the Qur’an and familiar with the Sunnah and Sirah of the noble Messenger (pbuh). The Qur’an repeatedly speaks out against oppression and injustice. Both are strongly condemned. We also learn from the Prophet’s (pbuh) Sirah that he also opposed both. Thus Muslims who are familiar with Qur’anic teachings and the Prophetic Sunnah and Sirah have an obligation to Allah (swt) and His Prophet (pbuh) to step forward to assume their responsibility.
The Qur’an refers to the group of committed Muslims as Ummatun Wasatan — the equitable Ummah or an Ummah that is central to humanity leaning neither to one side nor the other (2:143). There is no fanaticism here. A central Ummah is one that dispenses justice and equity and is not beholden to predatory powers or a tool in their hands.
While the rest of humanity has lost its way in the secular jungle oblivious of the purpose of existence and in denial of the Day of Judgment, hence prepared to commit every crime, many Muslims are also unaware of their true function and role in society. They no longer function as the central Ummah; in fact, they exist on the peripheries. This is the natural consequence of abandoning Allah (swt) and His Prophet (pbuh). He (swt) has thus abandoned Muslims. Allah (swt) has no favorites. If we do not follow His guidance as revealed in the glorious Qur’an and exemplified by the noble Messenger (pbuh), then our condition and situation would be no different than people of earlier scriptures: drifting aimlessly in the world without purpose and direction.
Is it a coincidence that there seems to be a direct correlation between the status and centrality of the Prophet (pbuh) and the status and centrality of the Ummah? The more central the Messenger (pbuh) is to the Ummah, the more central the Ummah is to humanity; and the more “marginalized” the Messenger (pbuh) is within the Ummah, the more marginalized the Ummah within humanity.
Neither the religious fanatics, who are a blot on the name of Islam, nor the secular fanatics, who are bereft of any understanding of Islam and its values, can offer any solution to the problems of the Ummah. It is the responsibility of committed Muslims grounded in the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and Sirah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to reclaim Islam from the corrupters and implement its teachings in society.