Once upon a time, the Scholars of Islam used to gain prominence for their works, teachings and most importantly, maintaining independence from political authorities on the matter of issuing religious edicts (fatwas). The independence of a scholar generally indicates objectivity and integrity, which was a trait of the pious scholars (Ulemas) of the past. They zealously maintained their independence from the Islamic governments even during the apex of the Islamic civilisation.
Renowned scholars like Abu Hanifa and Ahmed Bin Hanbal were imprisoned for their refusal to conform to the views of the rulers. Islamic rulers (Khalif) like Harun Ar-Rashid sat in the circle of the leading Ulemas as a humble student as opposed to the Ulemas sitting in the courts of the Khalif like hired employees to rubber stamp their decisions. Therefore, by greater reasoning it is an absolute must for the present day Ulemas to maintain their independence from the governments that are non-Islamic i.e. secular.
The recent fatwa issued by the grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz, condemning the bombings against the security forces of the country as a ‘sinful’ act is a perfect example of a fatwa issued for the convenience of the rulers. The first point is that where was his voice and the fatwas, when the Americans were slaughtering the Muslims in Fallujah couple of week ago? Why such ‘Ulemas’ have been spectators to the half a century of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, which includes the third holiest site (Jerusalem) in Islam? Who can forget the murder of the twelve year old child Muhammad Durrah captured on TV, where was the voice of the grand Mufti then? Perhaps, the open collusion of the Saudi regime with the US and hence by implication Israel makes such criticism inconvenient!
Second point to note is that the US aggression in Iraq was conducted from the military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. If killing innocent fellow Muslims is a sinful act than surely aiding the crusader forces committing mass murders in Iraq is a sinful act by far greater degree! Therefore, it seems that these types of ‘Ulemas’ only emerge with their ‘fatwas’ when the elites of their own tribes are targeted by the oppressed masses in the society. The issuing of the fatwa has to be consistent. Selective issuing of fatwas indicates ulterior motive(s), impartiality, and dishonesty.
The third point is that the security service is an unlawful institution according to the Islamic law as it protects the tyrannical rulers and terrorises the ordinary masses by engaging in activities such as spying on fellow Muslims, clearly prohibited in the Quran. Furthermore, these tyrannical rulers are openly allying with the American crusaders, and those who ally with the enemies of Islam/Muslims becomes one of them according to common sense and the Quranic principles. So these rulers and their security apparatus are far from being innocent.
The blood of these tyrannical rulers and their machinery are more expendable than the belligerent disbelievers. This is because the disbelievers are relatively innocent as they may not be aware of the message of Islam and there is a chance that they may gain understanding and guidance, and enter the fold of Islam. Where as traitors have no sanctity, and there is nothing lower than them, a general principle upheld in all societies. Treason is a capital offence in most countries.
The Mufti Abdul Aziz went on to address the security forces and stated:
“You have to be vigilant and have strong will in defending the religion and the Muslim country against these people."
So what does ‘defending’ the religion (Islam) mean? The cause of the recent bombing can be attributed to the alliance of Saudi Arabia with the US and by implication Israel; both parties are engaged in murdering Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Therefore does such an alliance constitute ‘defending’ Islam? Does ‘defending’ Islam mean to squander the vast amounts of petrodollar to aid the American economy and the recent war in Iraq whilst remaining oblivious to the needs of the Arab/Muslim masses? Surely part of ‘defending’ Islam means to have a strong military with effective conventional and non-conventional weapons! Yet, how much of the petrodollar has been used to strengthen the Arab/Muslim armies. In the mean time the US continues to arm Israel to teeth with the latest weapons.
These arrogant Saudi ‘princes’ behave as if they can simply buy everything in life. One of them even tried to buy the Americans after 9/11 and the mayor of New York, Rudi Giuliani returned the cheque, of course one can see the reason, impoverished America was need of such money! In the twisted logic of these Arab princes and sheikhs, even the animals in London Zoo were deemed to be more worthy of receiving millions of pounds in aid than the oppressed and the impoverished Muslims around the world as it happened in the 1990s.
Perhaps these extravagant acts are desperate attempts to gain some respects from the Europeans, who look upon them with scorn. Where was the grand Mufti with his scholarly pronouncements in exposing such ‘sinful’ acts in squandering the resources of the Muslims community (Ummah)? Such matters are never discussed in the vast number of religious institutions. Is it because there is a convenient ‘fatwa’, which regards such, matters a form of religious innovation (Bida) that we constantly hear so much about?
Then the Muslim Ummah are constantly told that the Saudi rulers are the protectors of the two Holy Mosques (Khadim Al-Haramain) but why are they silent over the third holy Mosque (Masjid Al-Aqsa)? Perhaps that has been sold just like the oil, at rock bottom price as evidence of their ‘generosity’! These rulers are not Khadim Al-Haramain but Taghut (Oppressor) Al-Haramain.
There is the wider political dimension of issuing fatwas. Fatwas are usually given prominence by the mass media, if it either supports the imperialist agenda of the west or the schema of the militant secular fanatics that are littered within the Muslim countries. Thus, even if the pronouncement of the recent fatwa in Riyadh was correct, the Ulemas should have provided the entire context in terms of the factors that have led to those committing such actions. They should know that people do not resort to such measures without good reasons unless the Ulemas are content to accept the US version of such things – that all such individuals are simply irrational.
A similar example of taking the wider political dimension into account is the pronouncement of the fatwas on the issue of women. The ‘Islamic’ moderates parading the secular feminist views under the pretext of women’s rights in Islam often highlight the example of an ignorant Muslim acting contrary to the Sharia rules. Thus the Ulemas have to be take into account that their fatwas on such cases does not become like a rubber stamp for facilitating the attack upon the Sharia rules in general by the ‘Islamic’ moderates and the militant secularist.
Many of these people use such examples to further their agenda of the exclusive Muslim ‘problem’, the need to reinterpret the texts. Under the notion of ‘interpretation’ the heretical Qadiani sect was born with the aid of the British to contain the Jihad in India. Even today one can see the similarities of ‘Islamic’ moderates advocating ‘peaceful Islam’, nullifying Jihad, whilst ready accept any doze of the US led carnage. Some of the more extreme ‘Islamic’ moderates are advocating the abolishing of the Sharia rules under the pretext of ‘scholarly Ijtehad’ (interpretation) of Islamic texts.
Islamic knowledge is not academic and has a practical dimension to it. Any individual with a basic rudimentary knowledge will know the basic principle of the Islamic belief manifested in the actions. On a societal level the divine knowledge should be applied to the current scenario, which requires a comprehension of the current political circumstances. The application of the Islamic knowledge, which includes the issuing of fatwas, should be for the furthering of the welfare and the interests of the Muslim community (Ummah).
Unfortunately, many of the Islamic scholars are confining to personal rituals like prayers, fasting and other mundane issues. Their role is ineffectual as far as society at large is concerned. They don’t undertake any proactive actions nor do they respond in a reactionary manner to defend Islam and the Muslims. On the rare occasions that they do speak out that often turns out to be another misfortune for the Muslims. I even remember receiving emails on courses being organised by such groups to study the Islamic laws pertaining to marriage when the bombs were raining down over Baghdad. It reminded me of when Napoleon invaded Egypt claiming to be ‘liberators’ like the US today in Iraq but what followed was carnage and destruction. The response at that time from many of the leading Ulemas was to study the classical Islamic text instead of encouraging Jihad. Through the passage of time such attitude has remained unchanged.
The final category of Scholars are those who have sincerely spoken out, issued various fatwas and as a result have ended up in prison. However, oppression cannot be used as an excuse to proactively issue ‘fatwas’ that legitimises the policies of the oppressive secular regimes. If one is unable to challenge the government then keeping silent is the best option. This is understandable as not everyone has the capability of challenging the tyrants and possibly face imprisonment and torture. Therefore, silence will serve the Muslims Ummah far greater rather than the foolish fatwas that does not take into account the wider political circumstances and its negative impact upon the Muslim Ummah.