India: Muslim moderates declare jihad on terrorism

India’s pro-secular website “Citizens for Justice and Peace” carries the following story on a July 27 fatwa jointly issued by a Muslim mufti (revered scholar) and a Hindu mahant (temple leader) in response to the Mumbai bombings.

Chief Mufti issues fatwa against terrorism
A mahant from Varanasi and a mufti from Punjab came together on a common platform in Mumbai on Thursday to jointly declare a holy war (jihad) against their respective co-religionists who preach hatred and perpetrate violence against innocent citizens.

Issuing a fatwa against terror, the mufti saheb proclaimed that a religion that expressly prohibits any targeting of unarmed civilians and others places of worship can never, never sanction terrorist activities. “In Islam, as in every other civilised social order, acts of terror are nothing but heinous and despicable crimes” declared the mufti. Asserting that there was “a world of a difference between an Islamic jihad and terrorism” the fatwa pointed out that “a jihad secures for people their basic rights while terrorism snatches away these very rights and freedoms from them.”

“Hindu dharam mein ghridaan aur krodh ke liye koi sthan nahin ho sakti”” (“There can be no place for hatred and rage in Hinduism”) declared the mahant. In an obvious reference to Hindutva’s current malicious propaganda, “Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims”, the mahant recited shlokas from the Ramayana to point out that Ravana was “the original terrorist”. He warned Hindus not to fall prey to the politics of hatred and violence.

The Mahant was no ordinary mortal and the Mufti was no small fry either.

Dr. Vir Bhadra Mishra is the Mahant of the ancient Sankat Mochan Mandir at Varanasi that was established by none less than Tulsidas and which was targeted by terrorists on March 7 this year. The attack was clearly meant to trigger a communal bloodbath. But if Varanasi responded with an exemplary show of inter-community solidarity and amity, the principal credit for it goes to Mahant Mishra. At the meeting he recounted how he managed to frustrate the designs of Hindu communal forces from making political capital out of a human calamity.

Mahantji and the Mufti Saheb were in Mumbai at the invitation of Citizens for Justice and Peace for a public meeting (“Citizens Against Terror”) it had organised along with Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD) and some others to felicitate Mumbaikars who went out of their way to the rescue and relief of the victims of the July 11 serial blasts, without consideration of caste or creed.

“Main garv se kahta hoon ki mere area (Mira Road) mein jin logon ne zakhmiyon ko mere aspatal tak laya sab Musalmaan the,” (“I say with pride that those who rushed to help and brought the injured to our hospital were also Muslims”), Raghuvanshi told the gathering. Speaking in chaste Marathi, Pramod Patil narrated how he and his colleagues pushed hard before victim Habib Ahmed’s name got registered among those injured in the blasts. Each one of the “heroes” who recounted their experience in rescuing and rushing the injured and the deceased to the hospitals in different areas expressed their determination stay united and thus defeat the prime objective of the perpetrators of terror: creating a communal divide.

Addressing the gathering, Teesta Setalvad, secretary CJP, said her commitment was relief, succour and justice to the victims of violence, be they the victims of “mob terror” as in case of the Gujarat genocide or “bomb terror” as in case of Mumbai, Varanasi, J&K and elsewhere. English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati translations of the mufti saheb’s fatwa organised by the CJP was distributed among the large gathering. CJP plans to translate the fatwa in other Indian languages soon for wide circulation.

Poet, lyricist Javed Akhtar who excelled himself as compere of the meeting recited his evocative poem against terrorism written after the Mumbai blasts. The meeting was also addressed by Kamal Farooqui, spokesperson All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Rahul Bose, actor, Kumar Ketkar, editor Marathi daily, Loksatta and columnist Hasan Kamaal.

Text of the fatwa:

Fatwa on Terrorism issued by Mufti Fuzail-ur-Rahman Hilal Usmani

(Pronounced in person at a Public Meeting, “Citizens Against Terror,” organized by Citizens for Justice and Peace, Muslims for Secular Democracy and others in Mumbai on July 27, 2006).

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

There is a world of a difference between an Islamic Jihad and terrorism. In Islam, a Jihad is that ultimate stage when, struggling in the path of Allah in pursuit of a noble and sacred task, a Momin [believer] stakes his very life. He does this to break the shackles of slavery so that human beings can be free, so that they enjoy the freedom of expression, the freedom of conscience and all those other fundamental rights that the Almighty in his Grace and Mercifulness has with a special purpose willed for all mankind. Jihad in Islam is a temporary, reformative instrument intended to establish enduring peace and social security.

In total contrast to this, terrorism is aimed at terrorizing people, at creating a climate of terror that snatches away from people their right to life and the right to move around freely.

In other words,

A jihad secures for people their basic rights while terrorism snatches away these very rights and freedoms from them.

Every human life is precious in Islam. The killing of even one innocent person is akin to the massacre of all mankind. Terrorism on the other hand, plays with the lives of innocent people who have done no wrong. In Islam, as in any other civilized social order, acts of terror are nothing but heinous and despicable crimes.

It is oft said that everything is permitted in love and war. But Islam strictly prohibits transgressing the boundaries of human decency even in situations of war. By establishing a code to be followed in battle, Islam has shown to the world that a war must be seen as nothing more than an unavoidable surgical operation for a patient in dire need. That is why, even during war, Islam expressly forbids the targeting of others places of worship, of innocent civilian population, or of hospitals. The destruction of standing crops, the chopping of trees, the poisoning of water sources or of the atmosphere is also strictly prohibited.

Islam aims to create a just and peaceful social order so that the spring sources of terrorism may be capped. It is the duty of compassionate people all over the world to come forward and help create a fair and just social order so that mankind is freed from the curse of terrorism.

Mufti Fuzail-ur-Rahman Hilal Usmani
(Darus Salam Islamic Center Maler Kotla Punjab).

Darul Uloom, Deoband; Chief Mufti, Punjab.
Founding Member and Member, Executive Committee, All India Muslim Personal Law Board; Member, Executive Committee, All India Muslim Majlis Mashawarat. Member, All India Milli Council; Member, Court, Aligarh Muslim University.

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See our last posts on the Mumbai terror and the struggle within Islam.