Yesterday, I attended the launch of a fatwa condemning suicide bombings and terrorism. The document was compiled by Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, the head of Pakistani based Sufi organisation, Minhaj ul-Quran. Reproduced below is a short analysis of it which I co-authored with my colleague Houriya Ahmed for today’s Independent.
This is not the first time that such a condemnation has been issued by a senior Islamic authority. Yet there are two aspects to this one which set it apart from the rest.
It is an unequivocal denunciation of suicide bombings and terrorism. Dr Qadri criticises others who condemn acts of terror, while at the same time providing a catalogue of excuses for it. Addressing the audience at the fatwa launch in Westminster he said: “A total condemnation should come from the Muslim world without playing with ifs or buts. No pretext, no foreign policy, no talk of occupation.”
Previous condemnations have often referred to terrorism as haram (forbidden). Dr Qadri takes this a step further by comparing today’s terrorists to the 7th century Kharijites, who were excommunicated because they permitted the killing of anyone deemed to be an obstacle to ‘the rule of God’. Dr Qadri insists that terrorism is not just a forbidden act, but one that leads to expulsion from Islam: “it is an act of kufr (disbelief)”.
Dr Qadri’s message is expressly non-political. He recognises that terrorism feeds on the politicisation of religion, and he made this clear in his presentation. It is also important to note that Dr Qadri’s fatwa is not the product of his own ijtihad (interpretation of religious texts); rather he is relaying previous edicts taken from orthodox and classical Islamic texts – the authenticity of which no Muslim can dispute.
Minhaj ul-Quran is based in Pakistan, and its decision to launch this fatwa in the UK was clearly a symbolic one. Britain is the European hub of international terror, with the majority of British terrorists being of Pakistani descent. This country sees high levels of extremist traffic—British citizens travel to Pakistan to strengthen their ideology as well as receive terror training. They then return to Britain seeking to commit or facilitate acts of terror.
Whether or not this fatwa will be effective remains to be seen, however, this is an important document and its real value lies in whether its intellectual capital is able to find popular purchase.