Authors: Ahmad Turmudzi and Dr. Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat
On June 5, 2017, the Middle East region was shocked by Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut diplomatic relations with its neighbor, Qatar. The decision was followed by other countries in the region including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. After ending diplomatic relations with the tiny Gulf nation, these countries also agreed to impose a sea, land, and air blockade on Qatar.
The factors causing the blockade are partly because of Qatar’s proximity to Iran, a country that has been a long-time enemy of Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar’s support of “terrorist” groups including the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar has rejected the claims and said there was “no legitimate justification” for the severance of relations.
The blockade of Qatar certainly has various implications, including politically, economically, and socially.
The political impact can be seen from the participation of the four Arab countries in severing diplomatic relations with Qatar and participating in imposing a blockade. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s claim against Qatar as a terrorist-supporting country has also tarnished the country’s good name in the eyes of the international community.
Despite not very significant, implications are also felt in the economic field, where Qatar has lost its closest trade partners. Trade cooperation between Qatar and those four countries make up 86 percent of the total trade Doha undertakes with Arab countries.
Not only that, the blockade policy also has social implications, where the land, sea and air blockade on Qatar has made difficult the movement of Qatari people to its neighbouring countries. For example, Qatari nationals and residents have been denied the right to perform Hajj and Umra because of the blockade. In addition, Saudi authorities have imposed further constraints on Qataris wish- ing to perform hajj and umrah, including closing electronic registration, suspending payments, and refusing to coordinate with the Qatari Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.
Looking at the blockade from an Islamic perspective
Saudi Arabia’s blockade policy towards Qatar is an irony, because as a country that is often referred to as the centre of Islam, it fails to become an example for other Muslim countries.
If we look at the Islamic traditions, there is a strong prohibition on mutual hostility and division among the people. Prophet Muhammad, for instance, states that: “Do not cut ties with each other and do not hate each other. It is not lawful for a Muslim to not greet his brothers or sisters for over three days.
The Prophet’s statement is also reinforced by the verse in the Qur’an, specifically in Chapter Ali-Imran verse 103 which reads:
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers.”
The main lesson is that Islam forbids disputes, animosity and divisions that occur between fellow human beings, and it actually calls upon the people to unite with each other. That is the true teaching of Islam.
This is what Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries should remember in their policy towards Qatar. These countries should remind themselves that cutting ties with Qatar is something that is strongly prohibited, more so restricting them to worship.
If viewed from an Islamic perspective, these countries’ actions towards Qatar is unjustified, whatever the reason is. This is due to the existence of religious ties between these countries.
This is strengthened by a Hadith narrated by Bukhari and Abu Musa, Prophet Muhammad said: “A believer with another believer is like a sturdy building that reinforces one another.” This message calls the people to help one another, instead of making each other difficult. Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries should understand that the blockade has imposed various difficulties on Qatar.
There are several Islamic principles that have been denied by these countries: First, the prohibition to cut ties. Instead, they have not only cut diplomatic relations with Qatar since June 2017, but have also restricted Qatar to carry out worship. Secondly, the prohibition to impose difficulties on other people. In this crisis, some Gulf countries have put hardship on Qatar with the blockade. Lastly, the prohibition to have envious trait. In this case, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain based their decision on their hatred of Qatar’s closeness with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The above prohibitions are rules in Islam that have been violated by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations. To maintain its good name as a model for all Muslim countries in the world, Saudi Arabia must change its attitude towards Qatar and it must stop the blockade, because it greatly affects the lives of Qatari society in general. It also needs to encourage other countries to end its action.
Saudi Arabia as a country that is often recognised as the center of Islam should not set a bad example by breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposing a blockade. Saudi Arabia should understand that Islam does not justify hostility between fellow Muslims as stated in several Qur’anic verses and Hadith.
If it continues with its policy, Saudi Arabia will definitely tarnish its good name. In this case, the Kingdom must exert any effort to end its blockade on Qatar and re-establish diplomatic relations with the country.