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.


14 thoughts on “Religious Extremism: Causes and Solutions”

  1. It really begs the question.

    Would God ever, ever, send down a message that could be misinterpreted so grossly even among followers; that had its peak (in power and loyal following) in the 10th century, and has kept declining since then?

    Its not like the heaven is so congested and we have to exclude the worlds 5 billion, and that is just a snapshot now.

  2. @Ayya on Sun, 19th Sep 2010 7:02 PM
    "It really begs the question."

    Would humans will ever get to understand the reality of their existence and reasons for that?

    Humankind will misinterpret even their own words. So, that's one of our trait. Sometimes we tend to reason out and yet be preconceived with an ideology out of our desires.some may call it bigotry. That's the reason why a guidance is a necessity. This could be a partial answer to your question made with an ideology assuming "men are great".

    We are "knowing-man', "wise-man" at the same time "forgetful-man".

    Allah is the Greatest
    In Allah Almighty We Trust

  3. Just a little taste of beauty of ISLAM
    from a "BBC Four" documentary.

    It's focus is on "ISLAM AND SCIENCE" at the early ages. At the same time it someway explains the secrets behind the followers of that age and their pure understanding. "Their purity of faith towards Allah"

    Fringe elements will be there at any society. Islamic or Muslim communities are no exception especially at this age and time.

    As one reason given by Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem "Deficiency in the knowledge of Islam" is also the main reason even amongst supposed to be Muslims that leads to extremism.

    Allah rejects all sorts of extremism in the "way of life" (Deen).

    Allah Knows Best
    In Allah Almighty We Trust

  4. Somewhere else at this very moment, another Mullah is convincing his flock just the opposite.

    And unlike Shaheem's mistaken belief, these are often people as well-versed in the scriptures as him, if not more.

    If this is the best argument Shaheem has against extremism ('consensus!'), then he is doing a very poor job of it.

    I have labored hard to distinguish between Adhaalathu party mullahs and other 'extremists' that Shaheem often talks about.

    I am assured there is some difference, but I can't find any.

    The entire essence of this post is simply 'if you disagree with me/my party, you're an extremist'.

    Next, can we have a lesson on Humanity from Herr Adolf Hitler please?

  5. i thought the mark of an extremist is a person who tries to impose their ideology onto others by force or threat
    wonder why that didnt make it up there

  6. Who defines extreme?
    If some group believes that its not proper to pray in certain mosques, they can go pray in their own. if some group believes that its not proper to shave and wear long trousers, they can have beard and wear short ones. if some people think that it only proper that they wear face veil, then they can wear it.

    Who is shaheem, or any politician to decide what others should or should not do, as long as they don't force others to follow their way?

  7. I do agree with the comments above which stated:

    "And unlike Shaheem’s mistaken belief, these are often people as well-versed in the scriptures as him, if not more.

    If this is the best argument Shaheem has against extremism (‘consensus!’), then he is doing a very poor job of it."

    However, I think the whole article of trying to moderate Islam and changing Islam to fit this modern way of life in order to not question Western oppression against Muslims is sad. The Scholars that preach moderation are the same ones shaking the hands of the Americans with the authority of dropping more bombs on Muslims in various countries.

    So why shake the hand of a criminal, before he repents? Or is their excuse of lets talk and try to find a peaceful solution going to take another few decades?

    When Maldives was attacked by foreign rebels, did the Maldives people try to send peace messengers for 10 years or more in order to try and solve it in a peaceful manner? Just to show that Maldivians are not violence to the outside world eventhough we were the ones being invaded?

    These moderate sheikhs who at many times are talking about very good things (May Allah reward them for the good they speak), but fail to address the issue of Islam which allows self defense. As Malcolm X said:

    "Concerning nonviolence: It is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself, when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks. It is legal and lawful to own a shotgun or a rifle. We believe in obeying the law."


    "It doesn't mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time, I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don't call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence."

    "I don't favor violence. If we could bring about recognition and respect of our people by peaceful means, well and good. Everybody would like to reach his objectives peacefully. But I'm also a realist. The only people in this country who are asked to be nonviolent are black people."

    (May I point out, these days it is ONLY the Muslims that are asked to be nonviolent).

    "Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression."

    "Truth is on the side of the oppressed."

    "You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom."

    "If you're not ready to die for it, put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary."

    "The price of freedom is death."

    (Now look at the achievement of Malcolm X in history, and compare it to these moderate Muslims who talk big, but no action).

  8. Yeah. I know all about the goodness of it.
    But what I can't figure out is why Shaheem is trying to make it sound logical.

    There are many much bigger illogical things in religions.
    a) At times you are told to think. But when you think and decide on a choice, if it is not inline with Islam, you are to be...
    b) Why would God send his revelation for all mankind in Arabic? Which is understood by less than 10% of population understand? Would not the objective be 'to let every one know' of his great religion? And when the Korean's did not make out anything of the chants, they are blamed for not being faithful?
    c) Arabia : the birth place of our great... Personally I know how they treat us, and others of our color. Seriously do you expect me to believe they are the saviours of our religion? Bullshit!
    d) An indian born same day as my kid. Why must he go to hell, just because he is born of a Hindu family, while my kid has the opportunity to see heaven?
    e) I see how the US and UK generally have much 'better' manners, kindness, and treat others with much respect that the Arab speaking pigs.
    f) All that come out of Arabia are Oil and dates. Oil, because they are blessed with it and Americans help to drill it. NOTHING, has ever come out of Arabia because of them using their brain. Of course on the same belt, there are big contributors to economy like the Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Israel, India, etc, where people work hard to boost their countries economy.
    g) Indonesia, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Mid east, Algeria, Tunisia etc :Religious conflicts have been there for ages. Please help me see the logic here, should not there be one nation thriving on the stability, brilliance of our religion?

  9. Where is the Sheik Salim Bin Waheed to condem Shaheem?? Apparently Sheik Salim Waheed is a religious scholar who know all!! So please come out and call Shaheem a fundamentalist or Extremist!! Come on!! Please do it! Otherwise the "likes of you" will not be happy and content!!

  10. An interesting read:

  11. Ayya: You have very logical questions which I too had before when I did not have much knowledge about Islam and Rasurullah (pbuh). But when I did learn the hadiths, the Quran and much more through the wide lectures available by an english speaking scholar like Anwar Awlaki about the Hereafter, Death, Punishment in the grave, the punishment which awaits for those who think they are chosen people (like the jews, many arabs feel this way while not even practicing Islam). The life of the Prophet (pbuh) who lived the most simplest life (If you study in detail, many Muslims these days would only see him as a low class person due to the simplest clothes he would wear and how even his clothes at many times have patches when he met kings who sat at gold thrones. How the poor Muslims go to heaven much earlier compared to the rich. How the majority of Muslims will go to the lowest heaven and only a few will be accepted in the highest. The levels of heaven and who would end up where according to their deeds. We get our rewards according to our capabilities and how much we try to learn and do more (Hence a person who doesnt know arabic, but still tries hard to read the quran and learn arabic will get much more rewards than one who understands it due to it being his mother tongue, etc). There are reasons why the Quran itself is in arabic and this itself requires much more reading because the meaning understood by lets say an english translation is different if you actually read it in arabic. The beauty is at many times lost. When you read it in arabic.. and if you understand arabic, your heart shivers and tears flow just thinking of the words of Allah (swt). That is just one small example. I too did my own research and came to understand it better as I became more religious (thanks to Allah SWT). Remember the same message was revealed to many nations before us, but the Quran is the final revelation. Ill give you a video link at the bottom.

    There are also hadiths where the Prophet (pbuh) told his companions about the splitting of Islam and fighting which will exist until a certain time. These times are explained in various the lecture Hereafter by Anwar Awlaki. It also tells of a time when most of the arabs will be killed in a huge battle. Hadiths where the Prophet (pbuh) explains to his companions that Islam will not be weak due to its numbers, instead there will be many Muslims but only a few will defend Islam. There are hundreds and thousands of hadiths narrated by Muslim and Bukhari from the Prophet (pbuh) which really explains to us what has been pre-destined and a gimps of what will come in the future.

    If you want another explanation by an english speaking scholar. You may search Nouman Ali Khan based in US who explains many of the technical terms which is not understood by many about Islam. His vidoes can be search online.

    There is MashaAllah so much knowledge in Islam. Especially if you combine your current knowledge about the world, it will bring things into perspective and God willing, we all will be guided. Remember He chooses whom He wills to guide and not. Simply because He does not need us for anything, but we need Him for everything!

    The Hereafter:

    Why the Quran was revealed in Arabic:

  12. @Ayya

    Inimitability of the Qur'an and Some Evidences of It Being From Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala)

    FIRST - Because it is the pinnacle of linguistic perfection. The Arabs [of Jahiliyyah] were not accustomed to its form. Their linguistic abilities were hindered by the fact that its expression was worded in the shortest of forms without loss of clear meaning [bayan].

    SECOND - Its wonderful structure was unique when it comes to the beginning of verses, their termination, and the places where one stops [when rehearsing it]. This is added to a refined way of presenting truth and the true knowledge of God [`irfan]. Its beautiful word and kind insinuation, easiness of construct and correctness of ordering made the minds of the purest of desert dwellers [al-Arba'] amazed and the understanding of the masters of the tongue struck. The wisdom behind this intended differentiation in which the Qur'an was revealed was to leave no doubt for those with wit [fiTna] or give them reason to steal [by producing something like it].

    THIRD - Because the Qur'an has a record of things to come. They came to pass in accordance with the way God has intended. Allah said, "you shall most certainly enter the Sacred Mosque [Mecca], if Allah pleases, in security, (some) having their heads shaved and (others) having their hair cut, you shall not fear." (Surah "The Victory", 48.27)

    FOURTH - What it told about previous generations and the people of yore and it was known [to the people of Quraish] that [Mohammed] was but an illiterate who neither read nor wrote. He did not sit with teachers in schools, nor mixed with the learned. He was raised within a people who knew no book. They were naked [`arin] when it came to scientific inquiry [al-ulum al-`aqliyyah]. Allah said, "Surely this Qur'an declares to the children of Israel most of what they differ in." (Surah "The Ant", 27.76).

    FIFTH - What it revealed of the secrets of those who opposed it and what they used to plot. Their deceit was revealed to the messenger of God.

    SIXTH - That it included knowledge from the smallest of particles to cosmic facts the Arabs did not know in general and neither did Mohammed (peace be upon him); most important, what it included about the science of Shari`ah and how to deduce laws, the ways to logical argumentation [al-hujaj al-`aqliyyah], the wisdom one derives from the stories of yore, the matters of the hereafter and the best of manners and behavior.

    SEVENTH - It is free of contradiction despite the fact that it is
    a large book which includes many facts and various arts. "If it were from any other than Allah, they would have found in it many a discrepancy." (Surah "The Women", 4.82)

    EIGHTH - It is a living miracle for it is read everywhere in
    uniformity, and God has promised to protect it. It is an established argument that, in contrast to other prophets whose miracles disappeared with them, the Qur'an is Mohammed's eternal miracle.

    NINTH - Those who read it are not tired of it. Those who hear it are not bothered by it. And those who rehearse it fall in love with it.

    TENTH - It includes both proof and proven. Those who understand the meaning know how to derive proof and how to find religious dictum at the same time when they consider both the way it is read and the way it is understood. It is conciseness of words [balaghah] which proves its miraculous character. It is with meaning that one finds God's order and His warning. Learning it by heart [hifdh] has been made easy. The fear that comes to the heart when hearing it and the humbleness that surrounds those reading it are beyond description.
    (by Dr. Bilal Philips)


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