Al-Ghazali once said: “Only ignorant men rush to accusing others of apostasy.” I’ve memorized this quote ever since I read it and I recall it every time someone makes rushed judgments accusing others of apostasy. When I listen to how they ended up with this dangerous conclusion, I realize that Ghazali’s statement was accurate and true.
If we delve into inherited jurisprudential legacies, we’d notice that takfir, i.e. accusations of apostasy, were common during times of political strife and unrest.
The seriousness of such accusations is that they justify wars, murder and rebellion against political rulers. This is why ambitious politicians and figures behind political revolutions resort to this method to attract followers and break free from loyalty to the current system of governance.
When the first Khawarij rebelled against the man whom the pledge of allegiance was made to, they justified their political revolution with the slogan “There’s no rule but for Allah.” They justified their political differences with others via religious and opportunist excuses. The new Khawarij, i.e. the Islamized Brotherhood and branching groups like Sururists and politicized Islamized revolutionary movements, used that same slogan.
They also adopted the approach of accusing others of apostasy. These takfirist movements, which are called Sahwa, ended in tragedies, destruction, bloodshed and strife. The atheism phenomenon, which has recently spread in modern Arab societies, was mainly due to the violent repercussions and violations of security and stability that rivals committed in the name of religion.
The atheism phenomenon, which has recently spread in modern Arab societies, was mainly due to the violent repercussions and violations of security and stability that rivals committed in the name of religionMohammed Al Shaikh
The murderer screams “Allah Akbar” when he kills and the killed screams “Allah Akbar” while defending himself. Meanwhile, someone else raises religious slogans to justify some actions and another raises different slogans to defend his words and so on.
We must admit – as I’ve repeatedly said – that the murder and Islamized bloody revolutions we’ve witnessed in the past three decades were based on texts from our inherited legacy, and they are not related to conspiracies as naïve men think. Most of this legacy is the result of man’s interpretation of godly texts – interpretations that are not necessarily the only possible ones for this or that Quranic verse or hadith.
The second substantial point regarding the massive amounts of fatwas (religious edicts) and jurisprudential stances we’ve inherited is that there are fixed principles which jurists call “pillars of Islam.” There are variables which are related to man’s life and not to his religion as they depend on his interests and the society he lives in. Therefore, it’s not necessary for what was good years ago to be good for applying now. What matters at all times is achieving interests and warding off evil.
I was one of those thrilled when Saudi King Salman and his guest US President Donald Trump inaugurated the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal) during the latter’s visit to Riyadh. If this center succeeds in monitoring the phenomenon of extremism that leads to terrorism and manages to identify the manifestations of extremism in the inherited legacy and works to correct them through educating and raising awareness via the media, then we will be taking practical measures and making our first step on the right path.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd