By Mohamed R. M. Farook –
A microscopic group of a recent origin and ‘supposed to be Muslims’, indoctrinated, grown and nurtured in terrorism by, may be, extremists ISIS and by all standards apparent apostates of Islam, executed the massacre on Christians on 21st April 2019 in Sri Lanka where the different communities had been living with understanding and mutual respect whatever there had been in terms of war or violence which were based essentially in politics, racism, chauvinism, geopolitics etc. The entire Muslim community, like all other communities, was shocked, saddened and grieved at this tragedy of suicidal mass killing. Muslims were angry and shocked because the perpetrators were supposed to be ‘Muslims’ and there is no room in Islam to hurt, let alone kill, any other religionists. Qur’an: “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion”, implying that those who follow other faith(s) are free to do so and not to be antagonised. Yet the duty of Muslims (as of any other religionists) is to convey the message of their religion (Islam) in peaceful manner, Qur’an: “Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and reason with them in ways that are best and most gracious”. This is the correct approach not only for Islam but for all religions.
The message of Islam must be made reachable to all so that anyone having any misconception of Islam may be made aware of the true Islam. This process should be through discourses by speech, print or electronic media and never through arrogance, force or physical / mental manipulations. Qur’an: “There is no compulsion in religion” – this means that Muslims cannot force others to become Muslims. This Verse is Universal and for all times and so under no condition should an individual be forced to accept a religion or belief against his or her will according to the Quran. The above Verse “There is no compulsion in religion” does not get abrogated by any later Verses as had been erroneously interpreted out of context by a few early Islamic scholars, Christian interpreters of the Qur’an and finally as of today by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and his ISIS followers and cohorts. The prophet of Islam was sent to preach the good news of Islam and to warn and correct those who were in complete error. Qur’an: “And We have sent you [O Muhammad (SAW)] only as a bearer of glad tidings (news) and a warner”.
It is the prerogative of Allah (swt) to make one accept Islam or not and Muslims can go that far in their Dawah (religious propaganda) work in upholding preaching only and no other influencing interventions whatsoever. “Indeed it is not such that you can guide whomever you love, but Allah guides whomever He wills; and He well knows the people upon guidance” [Qur’an 28:56]. Therefore, Muslims cannot get involved in or commission any practical interventions or conceptual formulations in their Islamic propagation efforts that will go against the Qur’anic verses cited above. Thus all the suicide bombers of the Easter massacre were adherents to a criminal ideology created and developed by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and his cohorts – ISIS – who are infidels / apostates of Islam.
This is what the Muslims say of the suicide bombers. Unfortunately, or rather impulsively, different segments of the Sri Lankan society formed their own opinions as to the identity of the perpetrators of the Easter massacre and were erroneously trying to assign the blame on the Muslim community. This is to be expected as contemporary Sri Lanka had been immersed in racial and religious prejudice and violence against the Muslims by a small group of extremist Sinhala Buddhists. Yet, the Christians and their churches understood the real perpetrators and were silently grieving on the deaths of their brothers and sisters without intending to unleash any harm on the Muslim community. Archbishop His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of the Catholic Church was immediate in his declaration that the Muslim community of Sri Lanka should not be blamed for what a deviant group of eight terrorists ‘supposed’ to be ‘Muslims’ were responsible for the Easter tragedy. This prevented any backlash on the Muslim community.
By now all must be able to note what type of deranged persons the suicide bombers were – they must have been trained, indoctrinated and inculcated with hatred towards specific religious groups on the premise what they (the extremists / terrorists) uphold to eliminate (kill) their others (opponents) is correct, justifiable and absolutely necessary in the present context of anti-Muslim world hegemonies. This ‘philosophy’ is un-Islamic and the only entity that preaches, advocates and implements this criminal ideology is none other than Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and his ISIS. The purported rationale of ISIS for their attacks on Christians and American interests is taking revenge for America’s enmity towards Muslims in terms of murdering Muslims worldwide – this does not hold water as ISIS have murdered more Muslims than others for not following their (ISIS) criminal ideology which is nothing but Satan inspired Jewish creation. Islamic history has many instances where devout Muslims have gone astray through Satanic influences and that is the case with Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and his ISIS which does not have Islam in its structure and therefore an outcast of Islam. ISIS is a hidden arm of Jewish terrorism.
While the Easter massacre has made the Muslims to be pejoratively looked upon with a sense of suspicion and guilt as if they were responsible for the tragedy, three weeks after that a different calamity emerged in the form of anti-Muslim violence in Negombo, Chilaw, Kurunegala, Gampaha, Minuwangoda. The police curfew declared to contain the violence was of no help to the Muslims of the areas. It helped the rioting mobs to destroy Muslim homes, business places and in the murder of an adult Muslim. The government should have foreseen that violence against Muslims could happen making use of the Easter tragedy and pro-actively taken measures to contain any violence. The government failed to do this though this government have all information regarding violence against Muslims in the recent past from Aluthgama, Beruwala, Ampara, Digana and connected areas.
Along with the tragedy and violence emerged a challenge to a certain group of the Muslim women viz. covering the face in public places was banned under security measures. Public security takes precedence / primacy over any other issues even religious – Islam allows this – Maslaha (Public Interest). Muslim community accepted this without any reserve. All Muslim women do not cover their faces (Niqab). Those who cover their faces follow the translation of a particular interpretation of the Qur’an whereas other interpretations allow the face to be uncovered. Islam allows under exceptional situations such as personal reasons of safety, public security, hardships, misuse / abuse of Niqab by criminal elements, Muslim women need not cover their faces. Islamic scholars throughout had been divided over the issue of face-cover each group citing valid evidences to justify their stand. There are two schools of thought prevailing for and against face-cover (Niqab). But from a global and local present day situational aspects with intricacies involved in the outdoor commitments in work, societal and domestic environments, it will be prudent for Muslim women to be without face-cover under the concept of ‘public interest’ (Maslaha).
Next let us look at the misunderstood and feared word ‘Thawheed’. Thawheed an essential attribute to be adhered to by Muslims is misrepresented and shamed after the Easter massacre due to ignorance as to what it means. Thawheed refers to believing in the Oneness of Allah (Islamic monotheism) with no partner or associate in His Lordship and His Divinity. Every Muslim must uphold Thawheed – worship Allah (swt) only and seek help from Allah (swt) alone giving up all shirks (polytheism / polytheistic rituals) and Bidah (innovations). Thus Thawheed is one among the three main characteristics that must form the personality of a true Muslim – the other two being Thabligh and Sunnah.
In fact, the Thawheed movements came into being to get rid of the Muslim community from the traditionally oriented shirk (polytheistic rituals) and bidah (innovation) that were prevalent among the Muslims. Gradually they were successful in their mission with intense oppositions from traditionally oriented Muslim community. With the successful growth of the movement and more Muslims supporting them with the eventual decrease in the traditional un-Islamic rituals, continual splits took place first in the main Thawheed movement and thereafter in the splintered groups and there are about seven or eight groups as of today in Sri Lanka. The splits could have occurred due to policy conflicts, leadership struggles, personality conflicts, organizational politics, financial benefits and various other matters. Whatever the reasons for their divisions, the main theme of eradicating Shirk (polytheism) and Bidah (innovations) were the main focus of each group and they were successful. Yet all these groups erred in parts of their sermons and activities in one way or other as they discoursed solely on their personal understanding of Islam without an in-depth study of Islam from all relevant sources. Then all of a sudden people heard of the National Thawheed Jamaath (NTJ) (banned now) responsible for the Easter Sunday massacre and its true image as a terror-based un-Islamic outfit got projected only after the Easter tragedy – until then even other ‘Thawheed’ organizations would not have realized the true nature of NTJ as a terrorist based group in line with the Islamic State or ISIS and therefore would have looked at NTJ as preaching Islamic Monotheism in an aggressive form not being able to comprehend what NTJ was really propagating is completely anti-Islamic ideology of hatred and killing of people of other faiths especially the Christians. When everyone came to know the true orientation / nature and the modus operandi of NTJ it was too late – deaths, damages and destructions have occurred.
The word ‘Thawheed’ was (and is) already having distasteful connotation with the conservative Muslims who are accustomed to rituals and practices that have no standing in Islam. Some within the conservative Muslims of various groups and sects did not want to give up any of their supposed to be religious practices / rituals even when they have been made aware of what they had been doing are un-Islamic. While unjustifiable opposition to the activities of Thawheed groups or the very notion of Thawheed itself was prevailing within the Muslim community, there emerged suddenly the Easter mayhem done by the National Thawheed Jamath. The word Thawheed now took an entirely different ‘image’ among the people, law enforcement authorities, political parties etc. Now the word ‘Thawheed’ is looked at with suspicion by all concerned – this notion must be get rid of if Sri Lanka were to move in the right direction. Thawheed is Islam or Islamic monotheism and every devout Muslim must uphold Thawheed – there is no question about it.
But what has happened is that the purity of Thawheed is being intentionally ‘spoilt’ or ‘twisted’ by the West by naming it as Wahabism – which is essentially a Western construct. There is nothing called Wahabism in Islam now or ever. The West is free to call anybody by any name pleasing to its liking but that does not change the sanctity of any concepts of Islam and in this case Thawheed. Opportunists abound in all societies especially after a calamity. And this is what happened in Sri Lanka after Easter tragedy. Opportunists of various types – political, religious, racial, ethnic etc. – are in action to gain for their advantage and not to address the issue at hand viz. eradication of global terrorism that has penetrated Sri Lanka.
The Muslim community has by now learnt that their selfishness, silence, indifference and inactions, by each and every Muslim organizations, political and intellectual personalities, as to what had been taking place within the Muslim community from the Dawah (propaganda) interventions and other relevant matters, have cost the lives of innocent people, brought immense distress and fear to the Muslims, setback the progress of Sri Lanka and finally the economies of individuals and all communities to suffer alike. Another lesson learnt is that some of the Muslim politicians, community leaders, academics, professionals, activists and even the Ulama who took part in various media briefings, individually and collectively, were espousing their personal notions and behaviours as Muslims and not what should be as per Islamic way of life – this is very dangerous because members of other faiths would wish the Muslims to conform to what have been said by these modernist Muslims. Where the subject matter should have been solutions to the curtailment of the ISIS based terrorism, violence against Muslims and subsequent assistance to life, property and the economy of the affected Muslims, these participants at media briefing were giving prescriptions as to how the Muslims, men and women, must adapt their lives and behaviours, particularly in dressing style, to be inclusive with other communities. Muslims had been always inclusive in their interactions with other communities, Sinhalese and Tamils, keeping their Islamic identity intact whether they were wearing sarong and coat (men) and sarees (women) in the distant past or wearing Abayaa and head Scarf today as per changing fashion in the Muslim Ummah worldwide.
Another episode we see in the aftermath of Easter massacre and violence against Muslims is the partial consolidation of the groups and sects of the conservative Muslims involved in practices and rituals that are un-Islamic coming to the fore and shaming those who are upholding Thawheed in their lives and demanding that all Thawheed Associations (Jamaths) be banned. Definitely any organization calling itself Thawheed or by any other name advocating terrorism must be banned. But organizations that are involved in propagating the teachings of Islam and taking their guidance from the Qur’an and the Hadiths (Sunnah) and where necessary the practices of the three immediate generations of the Islamic Ummah (nation) known as Salaf-Us-Saliheen (the Salafs) and devoid of Shirk (polytheism) and Bida (Innovation) are in the correct Islamic path and thus they should be untouched. Another phenomenon that has emerged is that the government, may be under pressure from vested interests – both Muslims and others – is trying to reform Muslim Personal Laws. One minister says the existing Sharia Laws will be amended and another minister says Sharia university will not be permitted. Both are diversionary tactics to hoodwink the people particularly the Sinhala Buddhists. When the Constitution guarantees religious freedom, how does the government trying to take away the Personal Laws of a religious community? Or is it only for Muslims? Who is asking for Sharia university? A non-existing issue. Further we have seen through media that the Prime Minister has said that the Muslim Marriages and Divorce Act (MMDA) will be amended to make the minimum age for marriage for Muslim girls as 18 years to be in lime will the general law of the country. MMDA is in hold at present due to diverse views to its amendments. The government should not make use of the present crisis to corner the Muslim community in various ways for pleasing the politico-racial element in the general populace and especially Sinhala-Buddhist racism. Any quick-fix to any issues making use of the present crisis and thereby not finding solutions to global terrorism that was seen in the Easter tragedy and the subsequent violence against Muslims will lead Sri Lanka towards the path of destruction for which the rulers of the present government will be held responsible and answerable by the would be future rulers.
The Muslim community has to learn deeply from all that have been mentioned above and seek multiple ways of moving forward. The Muslim community is essentially weak as a large number of Muslims are leading lifestyles for the love of this world (Dunyah) only and paying lip service to the Hereafter (Ahkirah) thus ignoring the foundational teachings of Islam. Allah (swt) tells us that His trials on the wrong doers will not only affect the wrong doers but also the righteous. This is what the Muslim community is experiencing now and this has to be rectified before Allah (swt) sends a greater calamity than what we see today. Let us first ask for forgiveness (Istighfar) and then supplicate to Allah (swt) to guide us to be in the righteous path of Islam. Why were the Muslims of yester years got the respect and goodwill of the Sinhala and Tamil communities? Muslims behaved according to Islam – they were trustworthy, honest, helpful, empathized with the difficulties of others, never hypocritical and so on. But today most of the Muslims, especially businesspersons, lack the qualities thus said and also indifferent to haram and halal in their earnings. Let each and every Muslim resolve to be a better Muslim day after day and seek the help of Allah (swt) in all their rightful and righteous endeavours.