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From Battling the Grass Roots of Extremism in Islamic History

Bismillah, al-Hamdulillah, Wassalatu Wassalamu ^ala Rasulillah.

It was said that: Muslims in the past, as is the case today, have encountered many deviant factions that thrived on and advocated the dogma of extremism that resulted in injustice and heinous crimes of terrorism of dire consequences.


The wise leaders of the past, when they enjoyed the threshold of power and ability, battled the extreme factions and nipped their buds in their early stages.


Their strategy was based on two essential elements: to destroy the credibility of the extremists and to defeat them militarily, in the same order.


The credibility defeat entails gaining political ground by drawing the masses away from such factions. Without first discrediting these factions, military triumph, no matter how expansive, cannot bring about and secure a lasting and permanent victory.


The credibility defeat requires Muslims who are soundly and highly knowledgeable about the religion to spread the correct religious knowledge. This knowledge reveals the religious proofs that enable the people to know, for example, that committing suicide is an enormous sin punishable in Hellfire and likewise, killing an innocent soul. Once this knowledge is instilled in the minds and hearts of the people, they will be shielded against the dogmas of the extremist factions and their invitations.  Ultimately, these factions will be unmasked and will lose their credibility.



Unfortunately, today's so-called "War on Terror" lacks every wisdom and insight in achieving a credibility defeat. On the contrary, the orchestrators of this war have done everything in the book to grant a credibility victory to the extremist scavengers. Most likely, they are driven by their own biases, little knowledge of Islam, and ambitious agendas to fulfill goals they mistakenly deem fruitful, just, and fair. A thorough study of the problem would require a different article to enumerate and critique the driving factors.


This negligence behooved me to shed light on lessons that could be learned from the rich history of Islam.  However, before I engage in the body of the work, let me highlight that the prime notion under which extremist groups operate is to pervert the meanings of the religious texts and use them as grounds to declare heads of states, their subjects, and everyone who opposes them as blasphemers, thereby legitimizing their bloodshed and the usurpation and destruction of their properties, a scene we have abundantly seen in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey and other countries.


It was during the Caliphate of ^Aliyy bin Abi Talib, the fourth rightly guided Caliph, that the dogma of bloodthirsty extremism, of the same nature as we encounter today, emerged.


The faction known as the Kharijites rebelled when Imam ^Aliyy accepted the contribution of two arbitrators. Some of the people who had fought alongside Imam ^Aliyy splintered and saw the arbitration as misguidance and blasphemy. They said, 'how could it be acceptable to seek the arbitration of a creature when Allah said in surah Al-An^am, 57:

{ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلاَّ لِلّهِ   }

Which means: [The ruling is but for Allah to give.]'


They thought, as a result of their ill comprehension of the Qur'an, that ^Aliyy had contradicted the text, whereas in truth he did not. Imam ^Aliyy commented on their statement: 'they took a word of truth [referring to the ayah of surah Al-An^am, 57] and meant by it something ill.' That is, they did not use the ayah in the proper context.


The Kharijites were the first faction to deviate from the correct belief of the companions.  Imam ^Aliyy fought them and eradicated them save a few.


Among their errors is that they judge the enormous sinner as a blasphemer. Moreover, they attribute blasphemy and everlasting Hellfire to everyone who opposes their belief. In fact, the blasphemy of the Kharijites themselves can be deduced from the saying of the Messenger of Allah:

<< لئن ادركتهم لاقتلنهم قتل عاد و فى لفظ ثمود>>

Which means: <<If I catch up with them, I shall kill them the way the people of the tribe of ^Ad (Thamud in another narration) were killed.>> From earlier sources we know that the ancient tribes ^Ad and Thamud had been divinely punished and eradicated for their blasphemy.


Also the blasphemy of the Kharijites can be deduced from the saying about them by the Messenger of Allah:

<< هم شر الخلق و الخليقة>>

Which means: << They are the worst of the creations>>,



And from the saying of the Messenger of Allah:

<< انهم ابغض الخلق الى الله تعالى>>

Which means: << They are the most unaccepted creations to Allah.>>


An army of twelve thousand people lifted the sword against Imam ^Aliyy. Although he was equipped with multitudes of soldiers and a gigantic military capability, he chose to establish first a credibility victory over the Kharijites. Through a structured campaign of forums, debates and teachings, he managed to remind the people about the true meanings of the religion and the texts. Indeed, he did re-instill the proper knowledge in the chests and minds of the people. As a result, eight thousand soldiers gave up their swords and retracted their positions of enmity.


Imam ^Aliyy and Ibn ^Abbas fought the remaining four thousand soldiers and eradicated them, save a handful of about nine people. These nine fled and spread in different parts of the land. Two fled to Sagistan, two to Yemen, two to  ^Uman, two to the Arabian Peninsula, and one to al-Abar region.


 Over the years, one of their descendents, Abu Bayhas Hasim bin ^Amir, led a faction known as al-Bayhasiyyah, which was named after him. In the same way that the Kharijites had treated Imam ^Aliyy, this faction fabricated and spread the false notion that if the Head of State makes a ruling  contradictory to the Qur'an, even though he retains the belief that the ruling of the Qur'an is the proper one, he blasphemes and should be ousted. Moreover, they deemed that if his subjects do not rebel against him or if they remain working under him in the institutions of the state, they also blaspheme and their properties and bloodshed become lawful. They judged themselves as the true believers following the Qur'an and the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, and whoever opposed them as blasphemers.


Again this ill school of thought was eradicated at the hands of the conscientious and just Muslim rulers.


About seven hundred years ago, Ibn Taymiyyah (died 728 AH), revived the thought of the Bayhasiyyah movement. Some two hundred years ago, Muhammad bin ^Abdilwahhab—the forefather of the Wahhabi movement—embraced Ibn Taymiyyah's thought and brought about much of the menace and mischief that all of us are witnessing today. A similar thought was embraced and advocated by Sayyid Qutb, a man who derailed the movement of Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimin, which was once soundly managed and led by the late Imam Hasan Al-Banna.


Today, there are several branches of these movements engaging in the same ill school of thought, which is foreign to the teachings of Islam.


 Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibin ^Abdilwahhab, Sayyid Qutb, and their likes are notorious for contradicting numerous cases in the religion. The reputable scholars of Islam have authored many works refuting them and warning the Muslims against their straying. They have done that out of religious obligation and out of conviction that unmasking such factions, through spreading the correct knowledge of the religion, shields the people and drives them away from their ill methodologies. This also establishes the credibility victory for the People of Truth over the factions of extremism.


Detailed religious refutations and the many examples of dispute even among these factions might be of little interest to the Western World, but this body of knowledge remains the grounds for drawing the people away from extreme dogmas.


Contrary to what is required in terms of securing the credibility victory, we find that the orchestrators of the "War on Terror" actually call for perverting the religion of Islam by demanding changes to the texts with which they disagree, canceling Islamic Schools, and advocating a so-called "modernization of Islam." They think it is feasible to convince the Muslims to alter and give up certain Qur'anic and religious texts. It could be said this is a prime recipe to grant an ultimate credibility victory to the factions of extremism.


To top that, they allow the extremist factions to take the lead, masquerading as peacemakers, in defending issues of strategic importance and concern to all Muslims. Such issues include defending the religion from perversion, addressing the Palestinian cause, liberating Iraq, propping up the failing leadership in the Muslim countries and their deteriorating economies, and pursuing vanishing dreams of future prosperity and freedom.


The moderate Muslims around the world are a massive majority, whereas the sympathizers with the principles of the extremist factions do not exceed two million people. Yet, the orchestrators have elected, through their short-sighted strategy, to delve in the mud and step into the home of every Muslim, tracking dirt and arousing massive aggravation and alienation.


It would have been much wiser for the orchestrators of the war, prior to entertaining  military action, to win the political war by establishing the credibility victory and unmasking the religious ignorance of the factions of extremism.  This matter requires engaging the mainstream Muslims who are soundly knowledgeable about the religion in taking a leading role in structured and massive educational programs and institutions.


Ironically enough, the orchestrators have stretched their hands to every Tom and Jerry capable of speaking either in an undisciplined way about Islam or in a way that crosses the acceptable bounds of the religion. They did not yet deal constructively with the true moderate Muslims who stand mid way between laxity and exceeding the acceptable religious bounds. They have ignored the moderate Muslim groups, perhaps because they do not know how to deal with the fact that there are points of disagreement between the teachings of Islam and their own schools of thought. Thus, they prefer to label the truly moderate Muslims as dangerously questionable with long term agendas, rather than submitting to the very teachings of the Democratic society that allows and acknowledges the different points of view of its people.


Rather than speculating and theorizing, what is really needed is a genuine effort to understand the differences between Islam and other schools of thought, and to reveal the vast common grounds that truly exist, upon which coexistence and mutual building of sound societies can stand tall.