Islamic Political and Legal Thought Against Extremism and Terrorism

Over the centuries, Islamic political and legal thought has accumulated a huge set of seemingly contradictory ideas on all key issues that are directly related to modern terrorism. Some of them, most often torn from their original historical context, are often used these days to justify political extremism, terrorism, intolerance and cruelty.

An analysis of traditional and modern Islamic legal thought allows us to conclude that, along with the postulates that serve extremists, opposing principles rejecting radicalism occupy a prominent place. Moreover, these values can be found in Islamic jurisprudence, which is more convincing in its justification for them than those who oppose their ideals.

It is no accident that modern Muslim moderate thinkers have come to the conclusion that the postulates which serve as the ideological basis for terrorist activity in the name of Islam contradict the general meaning of Sharia. The main thing in it is the emphasis on not blindly following the letter of its precepts, and instead comprehending its main goals and comparing the damage and benefits that a “practical” implementation of the provisions of the Qur'an and Sunnahs of the Prophet Muhammad can bring. Given this orientation of Sharia, authoritative representatives of modern Islamic thought refute extremist views using exactly Islamic legal arguments. This primarily concerns jihad, which modern Islamic legal thought understands as only calling for armed violence under one condition – in response to aggression. The actions of the terrorists contradict the clear instructions of Sharia law and in no case can be considered jihad.

The views of the proponents of an Islamic extremist ideology also contradict the position of modern Islamic legal thought on other points. This, in particular, concerns the approach to the state, and other legitimate institutions of power. Examples of a narrow, extremist interpretation of Sharia Law by Muslim radicals which do not take into account the meaning and purpose of the specific norms of the Qur'an and Sunnahs of the Prophet Muhammad, indicate eloquently enough that they refuse to look at Sharia as an integral system of consistent divine decrees. This means that they have essentially rejected monotheism, preferring to it their own arbitrary interpretation of the commandments of Allah. They do not see the main thing, the meaning of these rules, behind the individual Sharia prescriptions of their choice and miss the goal for which they were formulated.

The implementation of Sharia in worldly affairs doesn’t call for strict and blind adherence to once-established standards, but a rational understanding of and solution to any problems Muslims face, in the spirit of gradualism, moderation, the elimination of extremes, and a search for compromise, in a way that isn’t personally burdening. To ignore such features of Sharia as flexibility and the ability to develop and correspond to each era under any conditions, taking into account and respecting the customs and traditions of Muslims, means misunderstanding the meaning of the instructions of the Qur'an and Sunnahs of the Prophet Muhammad.

Modern Islamic jurisprudence not only contraposes its conceptual approach to the views of the ideological leaders of Muslim radicals, but also very accurately qualifies terrorist activity from the Sharia perspective. In accordance with the prevailing position, the responsibility for terrorism is provided for in the following provisions of the Qur'an: “The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. Except for those who (having fled away and then) came back (as Muslims) with repentance before they (the authorities – L.S.) fall into your power; in that case, know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful ”(5:33-34).

The crime mentioned in this passage is one the Islamic legal science considers Hirabah, which is usually translated as “robbery” or “plunder”. It is characteristic that in Arabic the given term is a cognate of the word harb – war. Modern Muslim scholars believe that these two concepts have something in common. First of all, it means disobeying state power, infringing on security and stability, undermining the social and economic foundations of society, infringing on the right to freedom of movement and choosing a place of residence, as well as inciting people to feel fear for their lives and property. All this is the result of the aggressive behaviour of “warring against Allah and His Messenger,” which often comes to massacres and the seizure of property or its destruction.

Some authoritative Muslim thinkers are convinced that it is not enough to call modern Muslim terrorists “misguided” ones or a certain group that has simply gone awry. They are criminals fighting with Allah and His Messenger, and for their atrocities should be held accountable by the Qur'an. Moreover, along with the perpetrators of such crime, the responsibility for crimes should be shared equally among their organisers, inspirers and sponsors.

Political Islam and Conflicts in the Middle East
Mohamed-Chérif Ferjani
Political Islam, as Political Christianism and any other ideologization of religion everywhere in the world, is a reaction against modernity, democracy and secularization: It’s not the same thing as traditional forms of political instrumentalization of religion.



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