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Islam and the Other: the al-Wala wal-Bara Doctrine

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Muslims’ own image is that they are peaceful tolerant human beings, while the non-Muslims are aggressors, imperialist-colonialist occupiers. Therefore, it is the role of Islam to retaliate and fight back against oppression and evil as a defensive policy.

This ethnocentric approach explains the Muslims self-image of being always the victim who takes only defensive measures, while the Kuffār are always the war-instigators.

This duality is a conspicuous characteristic of Arab-Islamic political culture. It means that Muslims can viciously attack at almost every situation possible and at the same time to cry out they are victims being under oppression and aggression. They can perpetuate obscene inhuman acts of violence, to terrorize and intimidate, while they accuse the other of colonialism, apartheid, racism, and Islamophobia.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Sha‘rawi, the al-Azhar Egyptian exegetes, explains in his book al-Jihād fil- Islām that Islam is in no way aggressive violent, that it does not live and expend on the sword, and that it does not coerce the infidels to convert to Islam or be killed by Jihad. Islam tolerates the non-Muslims and bases its approach only on peace, mutual security and cooperation, and not on war, killing and coercion. Jihad is defensive and intends to repulse hostility and to fight back oppression and aggression. The call of Islam is only through Da‘wah and good intentions.            

This idea is so common among the Muslims that they wholeheartedly believe in it, and that is why Islamic propaganda, the Da‘wah, the political deceit of the Kuffār, the infidels, is so successful. It also explains how Islam is the most ethnocentric religion and political culture. It differentiates the world between Dār al-Islām against Dār al-Harb; between the good and righteous society and the bad and unclean society; it is the right against wrong; and it is the pious against the evil-doers; it is Paradise or Hell. There are no legitimacy, consensual recognition and acceptance of the other, unless he becomes Muslim or he is subdued to Islamic rule.

Moreover, everything in Islam is perfect, un-comparable and un-imitative: Allah is the one and only. Muhammad is the seal of all prophets, the perfect human and the most praised and blessed one; the man with Nûr Allâh (the light of Allah) and ‘Isma (immunity of error) who was sent as a mercy to the world, “the excellent example” for the believers to be entirely imitated, wholeheartedly admired, and totally followed without any doubt or question. The Qur’ān is the perfect replica of the mother book which exists eternally in heaven, a literary masterpiece ever written that no human can imitate. Islam is the perfect religious system, the only supreme ultimate true religion upon Earth; and the Muslim believers are the favored, the best of all peoples ever rose upon mankind, with three objectives commanded upon them: to seize power over the universe, to subjugate the world under the Sharī‘ah, and to establish a world Islamic Ummah.

That is where the doctrine of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ operates. Literally it means the total loyalty to Islam and the total disavowal and enmity to the other. It has become one of Islam’s main foundations and of paramount importance, directly representing Imān, and is second only to Tawhīd, the oneness of Allah. The total allegiance and love are only to be given within the Islamic community, and rejection, hate and enmity against the other is commanded, based upon Qur’anic foundations.

In his introduction to the book of Sheikh Muhammad al-Qahtani, al-Walā’ wal-Barā’, Sheikh Abdar Razaq Afīfī, Deputy President of the Department of Guidance and Member of Board of Great `Ulamā’ of Saudi Arabia, declares:

The subject matter is of paramount importance and utmost interest: it is concerned with one of Islam’s main foundations, which has two major prerequisites of true faith: al-Walā’ is a manifestation of sincere love for Allah, his prophet and the believers; al-Barā’ is an expression of enmity and hatred towards falsehood and its adherents. Both are evidence of Imān.

Ibn Taymīyah, the medieval exegete, one of the most cited authorities by Wahhabi jurisprudence, has referred to the issue:

Whoever loves for the sake of Allah, and hates for the sake of Allah, and whoever seals a friendship for his sake, or declares an enmity for his sake, will receive the protection of Allah. No one may taste true faith except by this.

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ and the Kuffār

The issue of the Kuffār, infidels, is one of the most important in the Qur’ān. The amount of verses devoted to the Kuffār is huge: 64% of the total Qur’ān; 81% of the Sīrāh; and 37% of the Hādīth; that is 60% of the Sharī‘āh is devoted to the Kuffār. The Qur’ān makes it clear that Islam is not about universal brotherhood, but about the brotherhood of believers only under Islamic Ummah, and the total denunciation of the other. There are over 400 verses in the Qur’ān alone that describe the torment in Hell-fire that Allah has prepared for the Kuffār. The Qur’ān dehumanizes the Kuffār, being vile animals and beasts, the worst of creatures and demons. They are perverted transgressors and partners of Satan to be fought until religion is Allah’s alone. They are to be beheaded; terrorized; annihilated; crucified; punished and expelled; and burn in Hell-fire. The believers must fight the Kuffār as a constant matter.

The Qur’ān tells Muslims to be compassionate with one another but ruthless to the Kuffār, it is commanded that the Kuffār must not be taken as friends. “Hostility and hate” exist between them forever until the Kuffār “believe in Allah alone.” They are unclean people who wish to extinguish the light of Allah. Bernard Lewis has put it:

Islam is still the ultimate criterion of group identity and loyalty. It is Islam that distinguishes between self and other, between insider and outsider, between brother and stranger… the ultimate definition of the other, the alien outsider and presumptive enemy, has been the Kāfir…  

The Qur’ān and other religions

The Qur’ān says that all other religions as such are cursed by Allah. All those who join idols, or false gods to Allah, or invent lies about him, or deny Allah, or change even one word of Allah’s Book, or does not believe in Muhammad — are to be “seized wherever found and slain with a slaughter.”

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: “I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle.”

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been made victorious with terror, and while I was sleeping, the keys of the treasures of the world were brought to me and put in my hand.”

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ by the Tawhīd

A second aspect of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is when the Muslims solemnly declare the Tawhīd: La Illāh ila-llâh (there is no god but Allah), it means they clearly state that all other religions are denied, sinful and unlawful. According to Ibn Taymiyah:

It is not possible to achieve complete happiness by loving Allah, except by the full rejecting all other things. This is what the words, “There is no god but Allah” mean; this is the spirit of Dīn.

On many verses, the Qur’ān reiterates the commandment that it is forbidden to associate other gods with Allah, and Islam should be adhered to become the only legitimate religion on earth. It is followed by the swear-belief that Muhammad is his messenger, that his conduct embodied Islam and Qur’ān. Muhammad’s words are absolutely the best to follow, being religiously unassailable. Moreover, the mission of Muhammad is to all humanity, so actually humanity must obey Muhammad as much as Allah. Those who disobey Allah and his messenger will be led into the torment of Hell-fire to live forever. Tawhīd will never be achieved on earth until the believers apply the doctrine of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’, by total following of Muhammad’s way of life, al-Sirāt al-Mustaqīm.

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ by the prayer

In each of the five daily prayers, Muslims declare the total allegiance and submission to Islam and objection to the other, as appears in Surat al-Fātihah, 1:5-7

Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom you have favored, not of those against whom there is wrath, nor of those have gone astray.

Those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the Jews, and those who go astray are the Christians. al-Tabari (838-923), in his Tafsīr, cites Surat al-Ma’idah 5:60, which name the Jews as those with whom Allah is angry with, turned into apes and pigs; and al-Mā’idah 5:77, which name the Christians as those who go astray from the right path. Narrated by Adi bin Hatim: I asked Allâh’s Messenger about the statement of Allâh ‘not (the way) of those who earned your anger,’ he replied: ‘They are the Jews; ’and ‘not those who went astray,’ he replied: ‘they are the Christians.’

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ and the supremacy of the Muslims

Another aspect of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is based on the Qur’anic declaration that the Muslims are the best of all peoples ever raised up for mankind, and their profit is a luxurious life in Paradise. Islam is the perfect religious system, beyond and above all other religions. It clearly declares that its aim is to subjugate the world under the Sharī’ah, until Islam is the only religion upon earth. Its utmost goal is the establishing of a world Islamic Ummah under the Khilāfah, Caliphate.

The believers follow in total submission and devotion to Allah, and are “kneeling and bowing in reverence, seeking Allah’s favor in acceptance; their mark is on their foreheads from the effect of prostrations.” That is why the believer whose heart is at peace welcomes with a smile death and all worldly obstacles. Death is seen as the most desired result of life. This is according to the verses in Surat al-Fajr: “Return to your Lord, pleased and well-pleasing. Enter among my servants, and enter my Garden.”  

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ and the ‘Just war’ (Siyār)

The last aspect of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ is related the issue of war and peace. Since the world is divided into two distinct realms: Dar al-Islām and Dar al-Harb, the normal and only justified relationship is a state of infinite war. There is no peace in Islam toward the other but temporary, elaborated by Majid Khadduri. Islam has no concept of “Just War,” since any war directed against the Kuffār, whatever are its grounds and circumstances is morally justified and religiously legitimized. A lasting peace between Dar al–Islām and Dar al–Harb is impossible, until Dar al–Harb no more exists.

Jihad reflects the normal relations existing between the believers and the Kuffār. There are no unbelievers or disbelievers in Islamic scriptures but only Kuffār. That is why the Islamic wars are Futuhat, in the sense of opening the world to the call of Islam, whereas the Kuffār wars are Hurub. Any territory conquered during history by Islam becomes Waqf, never to be returned, while any territory conquered by the Kuffār is considered occupation that must be returned by force. By this reasoning all territories of the Kuffār must be occupied and subdued by Jihad.

When the entire world becomes Dar al–Islām, submission to Allah will be the law of the whole universe, and Jihad al-Akbar reigns. Until then, war is the normal and lasting state of affair (Jihād al-Saghīr). Jihad as a Just War against the Kuffār appears as follows: Qur’an – 24%; Sīrah – 67%; Hādīth – 21%. The total Sharī‘āh – 31%.

Domestic realm: al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ and al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah

The issue of Walā’ wa-Barā’ has also a domestic framework. Salafi-Jihadi groups and the Wahhabi Muslims believe they are the Saved Sect (al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah), the only group who has the correct Islamic beliefs. They are the real Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jamā‘ah, while all other manifestations of Islam have deviated from the ‘straight path’ (Sirāt al-Mustaqīm), and by that destined for hell as ‘apostates’. This principle is the basis of Takfīr doctrine the Jihadists use to identify their domestic Muslim enemies and to justify their elimination, as we see in Dawlat al-Khilāfah al-Islāmiyah.

Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb’s concept of Takfīr, includes the command that anyone who does not show sufficient levels of Walā’, allegiance to ‘true Muslims’, and adequate Barā’, rejection of ‘sinners’, is at risk of committing apostasy. Abū Qatāda, the Jordanian-Palestinian preacher, has written on the subject. al-Tā’ifah al-Mansūrah reinforces Jihadists’ self-belief being righteous; strengthen their mutual solidarity; and allows them to fight opposition to their views.

This has also to do with the issue is Tāghūt (false deity). Muslims have an obligation to struggle against Tāghūt on the mere assumption that it is against Allah or what Allah has revealed. This approach of Tāghūt depends on religious rulings issued by Wahhābi clerics, yet it is defined as anything that is antithesis of Islamic monotheism. ‘Abd al-Majīd bin Muhammad al-Munī‘, a leading scholar for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, explained that in order to achieve Tawhīd, which is the highest requirement of every Muslim, one must explicitly reject Tāghūt, otherwise he is an apostate.

Tāghūt is at the heart of the Salafi-Jihādi struggle against Arab-Muslim regimes that do not comply with their Islamic conceptions, and it legitimizes religious rationale behind their terrorist attacks. These are also based on the Hādīth: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” Salafi-Jihadi groups can accuse any ruler who implements a political system that conflicts with their exact interpretation of Islam as being Kafir.

al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ and al-Fitrah doctrine

The Fitrah doctrine is the Islamic concept of human nature, as the right action of submission to Allah. Fitrah is associated with the Dīn, as how Allah has created mankind and universe. Islam is called Dīn al-Fitrah, the religion of human nature, because its laws and its teachings are relevant to all universe and human beings.

The highest important Islamic use of Fitrah is the belief that actually all mankind from eter¬nity are Muslims. Allah, having created humankind, took a covenant with them that they all will believe only in Islam and obey only him and his messenger. All babies who come to the world were born Muslim, and only their cruel inconsiderate parents have changed their religion. The proof comes from the Old and New Testaments: all Jewish and Christian patriarchs and prophets were Muslims who preached Islam from the outset, and clearly testified that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and the ‘Seal of all Prophets.’

In Sūrat al-Baqarah, Abraham prayed: “make us submit, oh Allah to your will.” Later on one finds Jacob’s sons declaring: “We shall worship your Allah and the Allah of Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, the one and only Allah; and to him we submit.” And later on, Jesus declares: “I am indeed a slave of Allah. Allah is my lord and your lord, so worship him alone.” Then he asked: “Who will help me in the way of Allah?’ And his disciples answered: we shall be the helpers of Allah. We believe in Allah; and you are our witness that we submit and obey.” In Sūrat al-Nisā’, one learns that Jesus, son of Mary, was only an apostle of Allah.

In its outrageous impudence, Islam declares that there are proofs of Muhammad’s prophecy in the Old and the New Testaments. They quote Deuteronomy 18:17-9 and 34:12 that promise the coming of Prophet Muhammad as the seal of all prophets. In Deuteronomy, 33:2, when they quote: “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran.” For the Muslims, Sinai is the place where the Moses spoke to Allah and received the Taurât; Seir, is the place where the Jesus received Divine Revelation; and Paran is in Mecca in which Allah manifested himself to mankind for the last time through his revelation to Muhammad.

This is the basis of Islamic Messianic conversion. Aslim – Taslim was the strategy, the slogan-message that Muhammad sent to the non-Muslims, literally meaning “submit and you will be safe”. This was accepted by all Muslim leaders: Da’wah Qablal-Jihād: the call to submit to Islam before Jihad war. Nowadays, the Da’wah, the propagation arm to deceive the infidels, works effectively to conquer the world by conversion, and the Fitrah doctrine has become the means to achieve it.

Summary

The doctrine of al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ signifies critical importance to understanding Islamic worldview and its conceptions towards the other. Befriending believers and battling infidels are critical pillars in Islam. It is so important that is it second only to Tawhīd, the oneness of Allah. Faith is incomplete without it, including renouncing and fighting domestic rulers. It is the criterion of distinguishing between the believers and the enemies of Islam. That is why Tawhīd will never be achieved on earth until the believers apply al-Walā’ wal-Barā’, by total following Muhammad’s way of life, al-Sirāt al-Mustaqīm.

According to the Fitrah doctrine, it is the deep Islamic belief that Islam has the obligation to rule the world and to impose its Sharī‘āh on humanity. The Kuffār who resist Islam and do not accept it by their own free choice are responsible for the persistence of violence and the absence of world peace. If only they were to accept the unavoidable reality and submit to the propagation of Islam, then the Muslims would not have to use al-Barā’ and would not have to resort to Jihad to kill them. Submission is the only solution to world peace and it is for the best interest of humanity.

He who wishes to understand why the Muslims hate us so deeply; why Islam is a murderous automatic machinery system of hatred against the other; why this venom is so thoroughly implanted in every Muslim from infancy — al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ doctrine is the source and the answer.

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How divine books guide and socialize an individual into society

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When an individual born it  interact with social group in which it is present. The term socialization refers to the process of interaction through which the growing individual learns the habits, attitudes, values and beliefs of the social group into which one has been born. … Socialization prepares people to participate in a social group by teaching them its norms and expectations. But why there is need of socialization ? The answer is we are born there is something in our DNA that make us feel there should be some one who we need to follow, that there is someone who make us, who is very superior to us.

Very interesting question. what a religion actually is. As per the Oxford dictionary, “religion” is:   “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.”

That is what religion is very simply put .strictly speaking, all “religions” in the world revolve around this same concept: a belief in a superhuman controlling power. They all build on this central concept, assigning various different attributes and holy books to this superhuman controlling power.

In Hinduism, this “power” is called Brahman and has many forms, manifesting itself in every sentient being, In Islam it is called “Allah” and so on so forth. But the bottom line of all these religions is: There is a god.

There is God who have sent us and give us the way to live the life. Through the learning process one give  priority to the religion it follow. The religion guide us through holy book. Divine books are four in numbers revealed to different Prophets i.e.

Tawrat to  Prophet Musa

Zabur to Prophet Dawud

Injil to Prophet Isa

Quran revealed to Prophet Muhammad SAW

but Muslim believes that they all carry a same message or guidance for humanity. Divine books provide set of rules to live a life. They can also act as a source of history and motivation for the followers. Quran is last Divine book but it contains some  references of all other Divine Books.

Divine books act as source of religion provider. Beliefs, values and practices related to spiritual concerns are described by religion. It is also known as crucial roadway of socialization for many people. In many religious institutions like temples, churches and mosques individual of many religious communities assemble to glorify and to grasp knowledge. Many ceremonies related to structure of family like marriage and birth are also related to religious celebrations. Shared set of socialized value which passes through society are foster by organized religion. Each social theorist define religion according to their own perspective

The purpose of sending divine books to the followers of certain religion was to give them the principles of religion. The teachings of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity are very similar to each other. The conflict occurs in their ideology and oneness of God. Reforms in individual life and society’s life like harmony and unity are brought by these books. They act as a balance between life of both the individual and society by safeguarding rights, assigning individual responsibilities which are guided by Divine books. Divine books deals with the demand of society and behave as building block of thinking and behavioural processes and lay stress on Faith  , through this human hearts and minds are completely transformed and remodelling  of our thinking and behavioural pattern occur  which as a result changes the whole society.

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Pakistan On Its Way to Promote Interfaith Harmony

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People from various cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds live in Pakistan.  96.28 percent of the country consists of a Muslim population. Minority groups make up 4% of the population, with Christians at 1.59%, Hindus at 1.60%, and Ismaili and Qadianis make 0.22 %. Unluckily this diversity is now being mistreated. Whether it is the ongoing violence against non-Muslims or the sectarian violence among Muslims across the nation, these misperceptions about other religions are a major contributor to violence among religious communities. Unfortunately, Pakistan has fallen prey to these social ills.

The government of Pakistan has contributed significantly by carrying out numerous initiatives and plans to guarantee all of Pakistani society with various religious and ethnic backgrounds the opportunity to socialize with one another.  The 1973 Constitution of Pakistan specifically mentioned the rights of minorities to preserve interreligious harmony.  To represent religious minorities’ voices Article 51 (2A) of the Constitution grants ten additional public services to the Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi religious communities in the national assembly. The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan mandated the establishment of a National Council for Minorities. The prime objective of the Council is to oversee, the effective application and protection of rights guaranteed to minorities by the Pakistani Constitution. The Council also demands from the Federal and Provincial Governments to structure the policy proposals to uphold and defend the rights of minorities as per the 2014 Jurisdiction of SC.

Since the last decade Pakistan has been working on the issues of protection of religious minority’s rights however, the process speeded up in 2018.  The Ministry of Human Rights created the Action Plan against Religious Persecution in 2016. The election campaign of the political Party “Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf” introduced, in their manifesto to establish a “legally empowered, well-resourced, independent National Commission on Minorities, followed by provincial Commissions/Departments”.The strategy outlines a strenuous effort to be undertaken with numerous stakeholders to protect and advance religious minorities so that they are better able to contribute to the peace and development of the nation and become a part of Pakistan’s mainstream social fabric fearlessly. It constitutes a task force at the federal level for developing a strategy for promoting religious tolerance. Curb hate speech in social media. The creation of an endowment fund for student scholarships, development of a complaint/redress mechanism, review/proposal of amendments for discriminatory laws, and protection of places of worship are just a few of the initiatives mentioned in the Action Plan. Others include raising awareness and providing training on interfaith harmony, reviewing and revising education curricula at all levels to foster a peaceful and inclusive society, and raising funds for student scholarships.

Subsequently, it is pertinent to mention here that religious harmony is crucial for maintaining interreligious relations. For this purpose, On January 16, 2018, a National Narrative (Paigham e Pakistan) for Peaceful and Moderate Pakistani Society based on Islamic Principles was presented under the watchful eye of government officials. In January 2019, the Paigham-e-Pakistan Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies released a fatwa (verdict) signed by over 1800 Pakistani religious scholars denouncing suicide bombings, armed uprisings, and other acts of terrorism committed in the name of Sharia.

One of the main issues facing minorities, which is being echoed around the world, is the forced conversion of young girls. The Hindu Marriage Act of 2017 was passed by the National Assembly in response to this challenge, covering all of Pakistan except Sindh. To make it easier for the Hindu community to get married under the Sindh Hindu marriage Rules, 2019, the Sindh government passed the Sindh Hindu Marriage Act 2016 (amended in 2018). Additionally, to resolve the issue and dispel any negative perceptions about forced conversion, the Pakistan Hindu Council and Ulema confined an agreement. According to this agreement, the law approved by the Parliament will be adopted regarding conversion. Any Hindu who approaches ulema for conversion will be reported to the local Hindu community leader, to meet with their parents (in absence of Ulema), until the law is approved. Still, if he/she wishes to convert will be allowed to do so.

The Pakistani religious and political elite have used religious segregation by emphasizing “divide and rule” and discouraging the idea of “unity in diversity to effectively consolidate their power. Segregation based on religion has become a major tool for encouraging violence against non-Muslims. This encourages extremism by instilling the desire in jihadist groups to commit acts of religious terrorism against members of other faiths. It is therefore essential to oppose any misuse of religion. Likewise, we must guard against religious fanaticism and extremism to promote interfaith harmony. Under the guise of religion, encourage hatred or even terrorist acts are destructive and poses a serious threat to the peace and prosperity of Pakistan.

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Betting on the wrong horse: The battle to define moderate Islam

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Proponents of a moderate Islam that embraces tolerance, diversity, and pluralism may be betting on the wrong horse by supporting Muslim scholars on autocrats’ payroll.

Polling in the Middle East seems to confirm that state-sponsored clerics lack credibility.

Recent research suggesting that non-violent protest has increasingly become less effective magnifies problems posed by the clerics’ legitimacy deficit.

The combination of lagging credibility and reduced effectiveness enhances the risk of politically inspired violence.

Add to that that young Muslims gravitate towards militancy in a world of perceived persecution of the faithful.

Tam Hussein, an award-winning investigative journalist and novelist, who has spent time with jihadists in various settings, noted in a recent blog and an interview that a segment of Muslim youth, who see Western militaries operating across the Muslim world, often embrace the jihadist argument that Muslims would not be victims if they had a genuinely Muslim state with an armed force and religious laws that would garner God’s favour.

Achieving a state, the jihadists say, has to be ‘through blood (because) the rose isn’t got except by putting one’s hand on the thorns.’

Mr. Hussein cautioned that “this sentiment of young Muslims…cannot be combated with platitudes, ill thought out deradicalisation programmes, and naff websites set up to combat social media.”

Mr. Hussein’s insight goes to the crux of a rivalry for religious soft power in the Muslim world that, at its core, involves a struggle to define concepts of moderate Islam.

In essence, Mr. Hussein argues that a credible response to religiously inspired militancy will have to come from independent Islamic scholars rather than clerics who do Muslim autocrats’ bidding.

The journalist’s assertion is undergirded by some three-quarters of Arab youth polled annually by Dubai-based public relations firm ASDA’A BCW who have consistently asserted in recent years that religious institutions need to be reformed.

Commenting on the agency’s 2020 survey, Gulf scholar Eman Alhussein said that Arab youth had taken note of religious figures endorsing government-introduced reforms they had rejected in the past.

“This not only feeds into Arab youth’s scepticism towards religious institutions but also further highlights the inconsistency of the religious discourse and its inability to provide timely explanations or justifications to the changing reality of today,” Ms. Alhussein wrote.

Mr. Hussein warned that “what many…well-intentioned leaders and Imams don’t realise, and I have seen this with my own eyes, is that radical preachers…have a constituency. They hit a nerve and are watched” as opposed to “those they deem to be ‘scholars for dollars’… There is a dissonance between the young and the imams. …

When the no doubt erudite Azhari sheikhs such as Ali Gomaa seemingly support Sisi’s killing of innocents followed up by Habib Ali Jifri’s support for his teacher, one cannot help but understand their predicament and anger,” Mr. Hussein said, referring to scholars of Al Azhar, a citadel of Islamic learning in Cairo.

Mr. Hussein was pointing to Ali Gomaa, who, as the grand mufti of Egypt, defended the killing of some 800 non-violent protesters on a Cairo square in the wake of the 2013 military coup led by general-turned president Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. The coup toppled Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brother and Egypt’s only democratically elected president.

A Yemeni-born UAE-backed cleric, Mr. Al-Jifri, a disciple of Mr. Goma, is part of a group of Islamic scholars who help project the Emirates as a beacon of an autocratic form of moderate Islam that embraces social reforms and religious diversity, rejects political pluralism, and demands absolute obedience of the ruler.

The group includes the former Egyptian mufti, Abdullah Bin Bayyah, a respected Mauritanian theologian, and his disciple, Hamza Yusuf, one of America’s foremost Muslim figures.

Mr. Hussein could have included Mohammed al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League, the primary vehicle employed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to garner religious soft power and propagate his autocratic version of Islam.

Autocratic reformers such as UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed and Mr. Bin Salman offer an upgraded 21st-century version of a social contract that kept undemocratic Arab regimes in office for much of the post-World War Two era.

The contract entailed the population’s surrender of political rights in exchange for a cradle-to-grave welfare state in the oil-rich Gulf or adequate delivery of public services and goods in less wealthy Arab states.

That bargain broke down with the 2011 and 2019/2020 popular Arab revolts that did not spare Gulf countries like Bahrain and Oman.

The breakdown was sparked not only by governments’ failure to deliver but also by governments, at times, opening political space to Islamists so that they could counter left-wing forces.

Scholar Hesham Allam summarised the policy as “more identity, less class.” In effect, Middle Eastern government were hopping onto a bandwagon that  globally was empowering religious and nationalist forces.

Using Egypt as a case study in his just publisjed book, Classless Politics: Islamist Movements, the Left, and Authoritarian Legacies in Egypt. Mr. Sallam argued that” in the long run, this policy led to the fragmentation of opponents of economic reform, the increased salience of cultural conflicts within the left, and the restructuring of political life around questions of national and religious identity.”

To revive the core of the social contract, Messrs. Bin Zayed and Bin Salman have thrown into the mix degrees of social liberalization and greater women’s rights needed to diversify their economies and increase jobs as well as professional, entertainment, and leisure opportunities.

At the same time, they have cracked down on dissent at home and sought to impede, if not at times brutally, reverse political change elsewhere in the region.

Even so, researcher Nora Derbal describes in her recently published book, Charity in Saudi Arabia: Civil Society under Authoritarianism, discrepancies between interpretations of Islamic guidance as provided by government officials and state-sponsored clerics and charity and civil society groups that have their own understanding.

In one instance, Ms. Derbal noted that the government sought to restrict charity recipients to holders of Saudi national id card. She quoted a representative of one group as saying that “Islamically speaking, any person, Muslim or not Muslim, deserves aid if in need.”

Nevertheless, the notion of an autocratic moderate Islam appears to work for the UAE and holds out promise for Saudi Arabia but is on shaky ground elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

Recent polling by ASDA’A BCW showed that of the 3,400 young Arabs in 17 Arab countries aged 18 to 24 surveyed, fifty-seven per cent identified the UAE as the country where they would like to live. Thirty-seven per cent wanted their home country to emulate the UAE.

The survey’s results starkly contrast Mr. Hussein’s perceptions of discontented, radicalized Muslims and jihadists he encountered in Syria and elsewhere.

The diverging pictures may be two sides of the same coin rather than mutually exclusive. The survey and other polls and Mr. Hussein likely tap into different segments of Muslim youth.

Nobel Literature Prize laureate Orhan Pamuk described the men and women that Mr. Hussein discussed as having a “sense of being second or third-class citizens, of feeling invisible, unrepresented, unimportant, like one counts for nothing—which can drive people toward extremism.”

Some of those responding to polls may be empathetic but probably wouldn’t pull up their stakes because they are at a point where they have too much to lose.

Even so, recent surveys by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy showed that 59 per cent of those polled in the UAE, 58 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 74 per cent in Egypt, disagreed with the notion that “we should listen to those among us who are trying to interpret Islam in a more moderate, tolerant, and modern way.”

Given that in the milieu that Mr. Hussein depicts, the UAE is “seen by many as actively subverting the aspirations of millions of Arabs and Muslims for their own political ends, one can see why these (angry) young men will continue to fight,” the journalist said.

“When scholars don’t act as their flock’s lightning rod, or do not convey their sentiments to power, or are not sufficiently independent enough, the matter becomes hopeless and young men being young men, look for other avenues,” Mr. Hussein added.

Pakistan is one place where Mr. Hussein’s scenario and Mr. Pamuk’s analysis play out. In July, a United Nations Security Council report said that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, boasted the largest number of foreign militants operating from Afghan soil.

The report suggested that many of TTP’s 3,000 to 4,000 fighters were freed from Afghan jails shortly after last year’s fall of Kabul.

Recent academic research suggesting that non-violent dissent is seeing its lowest success rate in more than a century even though the number of protests has not diminished magnifies the resulting threat of militancy.

One study concluded that the number of protest movements worldwide had tripled between 2006 and 2020, including the dramatic 2011 popular Arab uprisings. Yet, compared to the early 2000s when two out of three protest movements demanding systemic change succeeded, today it is one in six, meaning that protests are more likely to fail than at any time since the 1930s, according to Harvard political scientist Erica Chenoweth. Ms. Chenoweth suggested that the sharp decline was starkest in the past two years.

By comparison, armed rebellion has seen its effectiveness decline more slowly than non-violent protest, making the two strategies nearly tied in their odds of succeeding. “For the first time since the 1940s, a decade dominated by state-backed partisan rebellions against Nazi occupations, non-violent resistance does not have a statistically significant advantage over armed insurrection,” Ms. Chenoweth said.

Ms. Chenoweth and others attribute the evening out of success rates of violent and non-violent agitation to deep-seated polarization, militant nationalism, media echo chambers, increased restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression that cut off avenues to release pent-up anger and frustration, and an enhanced authoritarian toolkit. The toolkit includes divide and rule strategies, digital repression, propaganda and misinformation, and the declaration of emergency powers under pretexts such as the recent public health crisis.

Said Ms. Chenoweth: “As authoritarian movements gain ground, democratic movements worldwide are struggling to expand their constituencies among those who have grown frustrated with the systems of inequality and injustice that continue to plague…countries worldwide.”

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