This article contains some harsh words for those who choose to follow the path of violence. However, I find it necessary to use a harsh tone – which departs from my normal writing style – in order to confront those people who take up arms with the purpose of bringing death to numerous people and reducing societies to ruin.
When I wrote about Al-Qaeda, some of my dear friends took exception to my doing so, warning me that I would be the brunt of libel and attacks upon my honor, or worse. However, I replied that the situation required that we speak clearly and frankly, and it does not matter what people will say.
I have persistently called upon our sincere scholars and preachers – and continue to call upon them – to describe things by their proper names, and to disassociate the word "jihad" (a word rich in meaning which is found in our sacred texts) form the activities of those killing organizations which murder innocent people and undermine security in societies around the world – regardless of whether those societies are Muslim or non-Muslim – since carrying out atrocities and targeting civilians is categorically forbidden in Islam.
Today, I must stress how important it is for us to condemn the abominable and criminal acts being perpetrated around the world in Islam's name and which are being misrepresented as "jihad". We must expose those acts and the people who carry them out by calling them what they really are, whether their perpetrators refer to themselves as Al-Qaeda, or a jihad organization, or a militant organization or an "Islamic State". It is not enough to give vague indications and make ambiguous general statements.
At the same time, I must stress that it is the right of every country in the world to defend itself against external aggression and to carry out resistance against an invader or occupying power. This is an international right acknowledged by all nations. Nevertheless, carrying out such legitimate resistance neither justifies nor excuses the targeting of civilians and innocents, regardless of where they are.
It is not enough that we speak up. Things have gone farther than that. A crisis has rent the intellectual and cultural fabric of our society. Therefore, I appeal to myself and to my fellow preachers to condemn this great evil in the clearest and most unambiguous terms, an evil which is causing bloodshed, destroying society, and blackening Islam's good name. It is also hampering our development, bringing ruin to our countries, inciting transgression against human life, while violating both the tenets of Islam and the dictates of basic human values.
Therefore, we must take care not to confuse our message by discussing other wrongdoings at the same time we discuss this matter, tying them in with each other. Some ignorant people might claim that we are justifying those atrocities or seeking an excuse for them. Indeed, we should not bring up the question of terrorist attacks when we discussing social and political issues, or the media, and say: "This is the cause of that. Avoid these mistakes so as not to give cause for extremism ... " This is not a good way to address the matter. It could make some of those people feel, when they see things they dislike, that they have an excuse to perpetrate acts of violence. We need to make a clear distinction between issues, and take care how we speak, so as not to unwittingly have a negative impact upon such people.
We should be wary of how we use the words "but" and "however", words which can lead some young people to fall into misunderstandings, as if what we are saying has many angles to it which can be interpreted in various ways.
The problem we are addressing is one of blind civil strife, where "every time it seems to come to an end, it just goes on" as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in an authentic tradition describing the tribulations of the Last Days. The onus of quelling this strife and exposing how it violates Islamic teachings falls upon the sincere scholars and preachers of Islam who do not fear the censure of others and who feel no hesitation in calling a crime a crime, regardless of the consequences.
I do not care if some people who dislike what I say are going to accuse me of working for this or that interest group, or of being a "government stooge". I call Allah to witness for what I say. My condemnation of terror stems from my religious faith and my firm convictions. No one has any sway over my beliefs. I am neither for nor against the governments. Regardless of the consequences, I am against deviance, destructive behavior, and acts of atrocity in general, and especially when those acts are perpetrated in the name of religion. I make my position plain.
I do not care if my opponents insist on making false accusations against me. I say what I mean, loudly and clearly. These are my religious beliefs, which I have not changed and which have not been any different in the past. However, there is a more pressing need today than at any previous time to reiterate those beliefs and announce them all the more forcefully. Indeed, ever since the outbreak of these violent acts, speaking out against them has become a religious, educational and moral imperative for anyone who cares about the future of Islam, our country, the generations to come, and preserving what little stability is left in the Muslim world.
I declare that Allah does not make right the deeds of those who perpetrate atrocities. Nor does He bring the plots of the deceivers to right guidance. Those who, in the name of Islam, kill innocents – and very often they happen to be Muslims – or who claim that by doing so they are upholding Islamic teachings, they will not succeed and they will not set things right. Rather, they will face Allah's punishment and become a warning to others unless they repent beforehand.
I call upon those who still make excuses and hesitate when they speak to think about the judgment they will face when they will stand before Allah. They should not let the oppressive acts of governments or their policies – like what took place in Algeria – or the embargoes that governments impose upon them, cause them to be unjust. The heavens and the Earth are only set aright by justice.
The merciful thing to do is to tell those young people who have been deceived, and those who are set to join their ranks tomorrow, that:
"This path you are taking is not going to bring you to your goal. It will not save you from Hell or earn you Paradise. Whoever wants success in this life, salvation in the next, and Allah's pleasure should adhere to the true teachings of Islam and keep far away from bloodshed and strife. Do not attempt to reinterpret the faith so as to justify acts that are clearly and patently evil. In the boldness with which you commit such mortal sins, you engage in crimes far worse in Allah's estimation than those whom you purport to condemn."
This should be the message that parents give to their families, that mothers teach their children, that teachers impart to their students, and that preachers address to their congregations. The condemnation of terror should not be connected with any official campaign, media drive, or salaried work. Rather, it should come from an inner sense of religious duty, from our obligation to raise the next generation correctly and to call people to what is right. It should be carried out with the intention of fostering reconciliation in society and building bridges between ourselves and those who disagree with us, which can be achieved on the basis of our shared concern to safeguard our faith and our worldly lives. In our thinking, we need to get beyond defending our individual interests and look to the general good and to the future. Our concern should be for society: its common folk and its leaders, its rich and its poor, those who are righteous and those who are sinners. All of these people are part of our society, and we must share a sense of loyalty with them all.
When we talk about this issue, which is of the utmost seriousness, we must not mix it up with talk about other things. Those other matters might very well be equally important, or more important, or less. In any case, those issues can be addressed on other occasions.
In all earnest, I call upon our young people to discuss this matter both in person and on the Internet, to uncover the reasons why some people have sympathies for such activities and organizations and how to remedy the causes for those sympathies. I call upon them to hold fast to the clear and explicit teachings of Islam, as set forth in the Qur'an and Sunnah, which warn against sowing dissention, killing, and murder. Indeed, this was one of the last exhortations that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made to his followers at the end of his life, on the occasion of his final pilgrimage.
Some sick-minded people have started talking about assassinations as if they were a tradition established by the Prophet. This is more than a misunderstanding – it is delusional. Did the Prophet permit the execution of the leaders of Quraysh in Makkah when they sought to stamp out the Muslims in their midst? No. Or the leaders of the traitorous hypocrites in Madinah when the sought to undermine the nascent Muslim community? No. Did he call for executing the leaders of the Jews when there was a covenant between them? No. Did he ever grant anyone the right to pass personal judgment over others and their faith and carry out punishments? No. Never did he permit such things. What chaos would have been worse than that? But this is what these people today want to reduce us to.
I assert, on the basis of certain conviction, that the people who follow that extreme path, if they ever come into power, will bring destruction and ruin to everything. Society, from its civil cohesion, to its family integrity, to its agriculture, would waste away. Those people would foster civil strife and suffer for it in turn. This is because they have deviated from the straight path. They have no understanding of Islamic teachings and the wisdom behind those teachings. They are ignorant of the natural laws that Allah has placed in His creation. Therefore, they will never be successful and never find divine support. That is for certain, as anyone who has understanding can see. Nevertheless, those people are quite successful in spreading chaos and confusion. They are good at misleading the simple-minded and causing discord, and they are given support in this whenever we are silent, mince our words, or withhold judgment.
May the peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, who brought the clear message and established the clear proof. And praise be to Allah, the Lord of All the Worlds.
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