A Muslim Counter Narrative | VOICES

Feb 2015

Candlelight march against Peshwar attacks in Ambala, Haryana, India | Photo credit: Owais Khursheed

Candlelight march against Peshwar attacks in Ambala, Haryana, India | Photo credit: Owais Khursheed




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Militants in Pakistan have argued in favor of their struggle on a religious basis. In their political and social imaginary, their struggle is justified because the governments against which they are fighting are no longer proper Muslims. This question of when violence is justified has been a major point of argument throughout Islamic history. Sultans and kings, who ruled the Muslim world, could often only be deposed by an armed rebellion, as the army owed personal loyalty to a king or a dynasty, and non-violent modes of change were not possible. Therefore, the jurists or fiqahis of Islamic law explained the principles of kharooj or armed rebellion against the state and the ruling elite. For instance Imam Abu Hanifa (R) gave a ruling or fatwa that kharooj could be allowed against the state if the ruling class is oppressive and that sufficient strength exists for the success of the rebellion. But, it must be noted that Imam Abu Hanifa (R) makes it very clear that insurgency or raiding which cannot topple the government is not allowed.

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The narrative of the militant groups fighting Muslim states is based on this aspect of Islamic history. Their literature is full of fatwas of different imams on the validity of kharooj against the state. Against this narrative, it needs to be argued that Muslim societies have undergone a profound change in the past 200 years. The establishment of nation states and national armies throughout the world has made armed rebellion, as a means to change a regime, obsolete. This is because national armies have such an immense firepower — which includes an air force, armor, and missile arsenals, at its disposal — that a private militia cannot defeat it. A band of militants can achieve nothing more than to spread terror, damage the economy and spread anarchy. Thus, in the light of the ruling of Imam Abu Hanifa (R) and other jurists, armed rebellion cannot be justified.

With the nation state, and the only legitimate means of changing the regime is through the ballot. Anyone who feels that there is injustice in the society or that Islamic shariah is not being followed should present his ideas in front of his nation, which if he succeeds to convince, is given the charge of the state for a specific period of time.

A principle of jurisprudence is that with changing times, the rulings change as well. We must enervate these principles. A reconstruction of our jurisprudence and law is needed, which shall serve as the ultimate counter-narrative to the militant dogma.

Talha Saad is a medical doctor and a writer.

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