Religious Extremism: Causes and Solutions

In ‘Religious Extremism: Causes and Solutions’ Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed repudiates violent Jihad and defines extremism as deviation from the authentic teachings of Islam and its cardinal value of moderation in favour of personal prejudices and arrogance, which leads to “excessive stringency” in religious matters.

Extracted below are the final chapters of the manuscript. Translated from Dhivehi by Ismail Nizam.

Characteristics of Extremists

1- Deficiency in the knowledge of Islam: This is the most recognizable feature of such people. In the least, they will not be converse in Arabic language. They will also not be to understand the meaning of an Arabic writing. Nevertheless, they will try to challenge the scholars of Ummah, issuing verdicts concerning Qur’an and Sunnah, producing CDs, publishing writings on Islam and lecturing on various topics.

2– Open denial of the belief of the Ummah: This is the second most distinguishable attribute of extremists. These people would refuse issues on which scholars have reached consensus, and would prioritize their personal judgments over the consensus. For instance, refusing to join prayers in congregations is something that they do against the belief of the ummah. Following a specific school of thought does not mean bowing to the thought and the leader of that school of thought. There are few differences among the four major schools of thought, yet the scholars of Muslims world have reached consensus and considered all these four school of thought as the Sunnah of the Prophet. Therefore, from a fiqh perspective, following a specific school of thought is not an issue. The problem is egoism and stubbornness, denial of Prophetic traditions and holding solely onto the school of thought. It is compulsory upon each and every believer to hold onto the book of Allah, Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet. The basis of the schools of thought is also the same. It is not the words of the leaders of the schools.

3- Polytheistic labeling of people who commit major sins: According to the belief of the people of the Prophetic traditions, those committing the major sins cannot be regarded as Non-Muslims. The door of repentance is open for them. If they die without repentance, their case is for Allah to judge. If Allah wills, they will be pardoned. He is just in His judgments. Those sinners will not abide in the hell forever. Equating major sin committers to Non-Muslims is the way of extremist groups such as Khawarijun, Mu’tazilin and those have crossed the limits of Islamic principles. These groups of people believe that the hell is the eternal abode of such sinners. This kind of beliefs contradicts with the consensus of the Ummah. This is because the judgment of our deeds in the Hereafter is for Allah.

4- Breaking relationships with people and preferring isolation.

These are the four major characteristics of extremists.

How to Safeguard Society from Extremism

There are various alternative methods to safeguard society from extremism. The methods include religious solution, social solution and use of media.

A) Religious Cure

Ø  Educating the society about the contents of the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet without any furnishing or censoring, and reforming the actions to match the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Ø  Increasing the awareness of the principles of moderation in Islam.

Ø  Instead of giving severe punishments to extremists, they must be debated intellectually and counseled to reach a solution.

Ø  Scholars who lecturer in the mosques should give their lecturers addressing these issues.

B) Social Cure

Ø  Teaching and practicing religion within the family from childhood.

Ø  Recognizing the effort to overcome extremism as a duty of everyone in the society, and standing together to achieve status of extremism free society.

Ø  Youths must be provided with facilities to engage themselves in something constructive during the free times.

Ø  Scholars must do a collaborated effort to teach the true teachings of Islam.

C) Media

Ø  Radio and TV stations can play a prominent role in overcoming extremism by airing programs about these issues with the help of qualified scholars and intellectuals in the society.

Ø  Increasing religious publications in magazines and newspapers to raise the awareness.  The most effective solution could be collaborated efforts of scholars in the community. One of the factors that lead to extremism is disputes among the scholars. A platform where all scholars can gather to debate and discuss religious issues can be arranged so that individual differences can be avoided and consensus can be made in the form of official fatwas.

D) Legal Cure: In the efforts to curb extremism, a legal cure is necessary. This means making laws concerning extremist activities, amending the Religious Unity Act and terrorism laws, and enacting laws that facilitate rehabilitation while in detention.

E) Establishing Rehabilitation Centers

In the international efforts to overcome extremism, the most successful method in overcoming extremism is rehabilitation. The experts also advise the use of knowledge and reason to change the belief of extremist. Therefore, establishing a Rehabilitation Center in Maldives is very important.


Comment: The role of women in civilisation

This is an extract from a manuscript written by State Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed. Translated from Dhivehi by Ismail Nizam. Full version including original Arabic citations is available here.

The notion of excluding women in building civilisations and developing the world is alien to the fundamental principles of Islamic Shari’ah and contradicts the very tenets of Islamic Law.

The reality is that Islam actually gained women their rights and uplifted her status to a dignified and honorable creation. History provides ample evidences that the light of Islam brightened the world during a time when other civilisations degraded women in the darkness of ignorance.

The case was especially severe in the Arabian lands. They traded women as commodities and buried female children alive. The news of the birth of a female was considered a sorrow.

“And when the news (the birth) of a female (child) is brought to any of them, his face becomes dark, and he is filled with inward grief.” [Qur’an 16: 58]

“He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that whereof he has been informed. Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in the earth? Certainly, evil is their decision.” [Qur’an 16: 59]

These were the evil practices of men in history. They did not simply negate the rights of women but tried to eradicate the whole female posterity. In some civilisations, women were burned alive. Women were considered just a physical body to fulfill the sexual desires of men.

When humanity was in deep in ignorance and evil, Allah proclaimed and announced that all human beings (both men and women) are equal in terms of their human qualities and rights. Allah stated;

“O’ mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is one who has At-taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.” [Qur’an 49: 13]

In fact, men and women have equal rights in the rites and rituals performed as ‘ibaadhaat’ and in establishing the Shari’ah jurisdictions. This reality was revealed in the Holy Qur’an as;

“Verily, the Muslim men and women, the believing men and women and the men and women who are obedient to Allah, the men and women who are truthful, the men and women who are patient, the men and women who are humble, the men and women who give sadaqaath (Zakat), the men and women who observe fasting, the men and women who guard their chastity and the men and women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues, Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward (paradise).” [Surah Al-Ahzaab: verse 35]

The equality of men and women in establishing Shari’ah jurisdiction is elaborated in the following verse;

“The women and the men guilty of illegal sexual intercourse, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case in punishment prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment.” [Surah An- Noor, Verse 2]

Islam also granted women their due rights within the family institutions. This is confirmed in the Qur’an as;

“O’ you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take part of the Mahr (dowry) you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honorably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allah brings through it a great deal of good.” [Suran An-Nisa, verse 19]

The preservation of the dignity of chaste women is commanded in the Qur’an as follows;

“And those who accuse chaste women and produce not four witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes, and reject their testimony forever. They indeed are the Faashiqun.” [Surah An-Noor, 4]

The verses above are the evidences in support of Islamic stand on the concept of justice. They are adequate signs of Islam’s superiority over other ways of life and the fairness prescribed by the religion of Islam. And they show the comprehensiveness of kindness and mercy Allah on humanity.

Indeed, under some circumstances where women are esteemed in dignity because of their huge responsibility in the family setups and in nation building.

One day a person came to Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked; “O’ Prophet of Allah! Who should I honor the most among the people?” Prophet replied; “Your mother.” The person asked; “Who next?’ Prophet replied; “Your mother.” The person asked again; “Who next?” Prophet replied; “Your mother.” The person asked for a forth time; “Who next?” And the Prophet replied; “Your father.”

This Hadith clearly indicates the position of mother in Islam who enjoys a dignified position because she borne the pains and difficulties of pregnancy, labor and nursing the child.

At the same time, if a man educates and takes care of a daughter or a sister and brings her up honorably, the man will be rewarded paradise, according to the Hadith of the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him).

The Prophet also ordered the men to be kind to their wives. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said;

“The best among you is the one who is the most kind to your wife and children. And the best among men in this regard is me.” [رواه الترمذي]

Muslim brothers! The Prophet (peace be upon him) described men and women in the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood in blood. Therefore, women participation in Islamic state and Islamic civilization must be recognized on a similar ground as that of men.

During the times of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) Muslim women used to take initiative to solve problems confronted by the Muslim women. And they used to attend the intellectual gatherings and meetings in order to develop their personalities. Further, upon the request of Muslim women, Prophet (peace be upon him) arranged a specific day for them to learn from him.

History teaches us that during the Prophetic era, Muslim women used to work as volunteers among the Muslim community. This is especially evident in their services to the poor and the needy and those with disabilities. Among them are the notable figure Asmaa (r. a), the daughter of Abu Bakur (r. a). During the events of sorrows and mourning, Muslim women used to send messages of condolence and visited such families.

The co-operation and mutual assistance rendered by both the genders in establishing the best community of Muslims was a historical lesson for today’s Muslim societies.

During the times of devastating disasters and wars, Muslim women played a proactive role in the Muslim society. In defending and escaping from the attacks of pagans of Quraysh, Muslim women made commendable sacrifices and efforts. When the Muslims are banned from having transactions with any tribes and were trapped in Shiub Abi Thalib, the mother of believer, Khadheeja (r. a) spent heavily on Muslims from her wealth.

Among the first Muslims who migrated to Madina included women. According to Holy Qur’an, there were Muslim women who made covenant with the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) at the famous Covenant of ‘Aqaba.

The first person to accept and enter the fold of Islam was a woman. She was Khadheeja (r. a), the mother of believers. The first martyr who became the victim of Quraysh oppression was Sumayyah (r. a). At the Peace Agreement of Khudhaibiyyah, the mother of believers, Ummu Salma (r. a) played an important role in giving a constructive advice to solve a major problem faced by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

All these events in the Islamic history provide ample support indicating that Muslim men and women worked in the front-line to establish the Islamic civilisation.

Therefore, the ideas such as Muslim women have no role in building civilization, educating female children is not necessary, and they must be confined only to household affairs, are contradictory to the principles of Islamic Shari’ah and cannot be accepted by any sane person.

As long as women involvement in community does not violate Shari’ah parameters and Islamic Akhlaaq they go along Islamic principles and values. Due to the nature of sexes, one is given superiority over the other in certain cases by Allah and have established justice among His creations.

Hence, I call upon all those who echo the voice of women rights to study Islam and its history. Women have been given honorable position in Islam and have dignified her by protecting her rights. It is apparent that Islam has given women their due rights and has established justice.

The extent and the scope of rights granted for women in Islam are superior to those found in any other civilization or philosophy. Islam protected women’s rights even durng wars by forbidding the killing of them.

However, the opposite can now be observed across the four horizons of the world. Old women, pregnant ladies and female children are being victimised in Ghaza. They are dying because they do not have access to food, drinks or medicine. And worse, they are heavily attacked with sophisticated weapons like fire-rain.

We also see women taking protection in horrific caves of Afghanistan. We often see pictures of women’s chastity robbed and taken away mercilessly in Somalia.

These are open genocides conducted daily against women, slapping the charters of international bodies established to preserve and protect human rights. Protecting those open to such genocides is a responsibility of every individual and state.

Indeed, oppression is prohibited by Allah. Oppression is not merely physical harm and damage.

Today, even in our society, we observe women being victims of violence. Women are being teased for the way they dress up. They are teased on almost every occasion. Our Muslim women are being defamed even in the newspapers and magazines. They are often subjected to rapes and blackmail, sometimes by gangs. These events are observed repeatedly.

Women are also discriminated in employment. The prohibition of women wearing Islamic dress by some agencies, institutions or offices is unacceptable in an Islamic country. If such discriminations and double standards are allowed, certain female segments of the population may be isolated and left unproductive.

The resulting consequences could be the loss of fairness and harmony in the society. It could also give room for waves of extremism which may drown the whole nation.

Protecting and preserving the rights of women involves honoring them and making their voices heard in the society.

It is not taking her away from the way of her Creator and making her a victim of lust and desires.

It is not making them actresses on various stages to give pleasure to eyes of the viewers.

It is also not making them models to advertise the products of businesses.

However, people who express these ideas today may be labeled as uncivilised and backward. In fact, reality is always bitter!

If we stand within the Shari’ah framework, we will be able to establish a society in which there is a balanced participation of genders.

May Allah show us the straight path and give us the strength to stand for what we proclaim! Aameen.