Indian Muslim Clerics Ratify Fatwa Against Islamic State

Altaf Ahmad

2015-09-10
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150910-IN-mosque-1000 Indian Muslims offer Eid-ul-Fitr prayers at Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi, July 18, 2015.
AFP

Islamic clerics across India – home to the world’s third largest Muslim population – are collectively condemning atrocities committed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in the Mid-East as “un-Islamic” and “inhuman.”

More than a thousand clerics have taken the unusual of step of ratifying an 1,100-page fatwa, or Islamic ruling, against IS, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The fatwa denounces acts committed by IS fighters, such as videotaped executions of prisoners and hostages, and says they tarnish Islam’s reputation as a peace-loving and non-violent religion.

“The decree lists several of the extremist group’s barbaric acts, including the incidents of beheadings,” Maulana Asad Khan Falahi, head Imam at the India Gate mosque in New Delhi, told BenarNews.

“They have not even spared women and children. There is no place for excesses in Islam and the religion strictly prohibits violence in all its manifestations,” added Falahi, who was among those who signed the decree.

According to the imam, clerics who put their signatories to it will educate Muslims through their sermons and through awareness-raising camps about how IS will spare no effort to divide Muslims against one another and defame Islam.

The clerics in fact put their names to the fatwa in August, sharing the document with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and sending it to leaders of 47 countries for their endorsement, the Times of India reported on Tuesday.

The fatwa is based on a petition concerning violent acts committed by IS, and which was put before Indian Islamic scholars, the newspaper reported. The decree “fits in with India’s strategy to promote moderate schools of Islam as a counter to the extremist ideology” of IS, it noted.

"The acts of the Islamic State are inhuman and un-Islamic," the AP quoted Mohammed Manzar Hasan Ashrafi Misbahi, a prominent Mumbai-based cleric, as saying in conveying the fatwa’s gist.

Abdul Rehman Anjaria, president of the Islamic Defense Cyber Cell, told AP that Muslim clerics nationwide would explain the ruling’s contents to their followers after Friday prayers.

Ordinary Muslims hail fatwa

Whether this move by India’s Muslim clergy will have an immediate impact toward countering IS’s influence in the country is an open question.

Yet the fatwa apparently is being welcomed by many Indian Muslims, who express hope that the clerics will succeed in foiling IS recruitment efforts in India.

“Although late, Muslim clerics have done a commendable job by issuing the decree against IS,” Farooq Ahmad, a student pursing a master’s in History at Jamia Milia Islamia University in Delhi, told BenarNews.

“In the name of spreading Islamic teachings, the group is committing unprecedented excesses in the Middle East. The decree will send a loud and clear message across the world about their un-Islamic acts, and, more significantly, [it will] prevent many youths from falling prey to its recruitment drive,” he added.

Gazala Sheikh, a school teacher from Lucknow, called the decree timely because many Indian youths, in her view, were gradually drifting toward the extremist group.

“It is good that religious clerics here finally broke their silence about the group. It is due to their abhorrent activities that the image of peace-loving religion was getting a hit,” she added.

According to news reports, IS has not gained much of a foothold in India, whose population stands at 1.2 billion. According to the Times of India, IS has recruited only 17 Indians, and another 38 have been prevented from joining its ranks.

Counter ideology needed

Maulana Wahid-u-din Khan, a noted Islamic scholar and peace activist, weighed in on the issue as well.

“This so-called State is neither a state, nor is it Islamic. It is not a state because the United Nations has not recognized it, and it is un-Islamic because the majority of Muslims disown its claims,” he told BenarNews.

The recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 18th Annual Interfaith Unity convention organized by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in Chicago last week, Khan says that terrorism cannot be eliminated through violence alone.

“Modern-day violent acts perpetrated by Muslim militants are based on an ideology and such acts can be countered only through a counter-ideology,” Khan said.

“The teachings of Islam provide effective arguments to counter the terrorist ideology. At the same time, they aim to re-engineer the minds of those engaged in violence, which will help them adopt the culture of peace,” he added.

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