Who are the real Muslims?
A lot has been recently said about who represents “real Islam” and who doesn’t. In the case of Christianity, especially during the Reformation era, the accusation of heresy was made by Christians of a certain fraction against Christians of another fraction; and vice versa. However, during this Daesh era, we often hear both Muslims as well as non-Muslims lashing out saying that particular groups of Muslims are not “true Muslims” and do not represent “real Islam”.
So who does represent “true Islam” and who are the “real Muslims”?
Ask this question to ten different people, and you will probably get ten different answers, each providing what he/she believes is indisputable “evidence” and “proof” that his/her understanding is the correct one.
The first era during which this question was asked in Islam was soon after the death of the Prophet Mohamed PBUH. Almost immediately after his death, Muslims split up between Sunnis and Shia. The Sunnis argue that they follow the path of the prophet and his Sahaba (ie Companions), and the Shia claim that they follow the path of Ahl Al-Beit (The People of The House) who are the descendants of the Prophet through his cousin Ali the founder of the Shia sect. Fourteen hundred years later, the Sunnis claim to be the ones who are on the right path and that the Shia are not true Muslims; a view that is reciprocated in the manner they are perceived by the Shia.
In other words, there is no common consensus as to whether Sunnis and Shia are both “real” Muslims”, or otherwise, if only one of them is, which one!
The question becomes more subtle when more details are considered, and it would be a needless and tedious exercise to consider all subdivisions. So let us only consider one major current division here; the division between Jihadi and non-Jihadi Muslims.
The Jihadi description used herein does not only apply to Daesh but also to all other organizations that call for the forceful spread of Islam. They are all the same.
When it comes to Jihadi fundamentalists however, one needs to understand what Jihadis really are. To understand their mindset, one has to first and foremost go to the rubbish bin to dump and put to rest the myth that alleges that Daesh and similar organizations are merely a Western creation. I will say it till I am hoarse; the West has systemically capitalized on a pre-existing ideology. It fed it, armed it, facilitated its operations, used it to achieve certain military targets, but the West did not create its ideology. That ideology has been around long before the CIA was established, long before the founder of Wahhabism, Mohamed Bin Abdelwahab, was born, and long before Columbus laid a foot on American soil. If one is not convinced of this, a ceiling will be placed on his/her understanding of the nature of the issue we are dealing with.
Jihadists are a very highly indoctrinated lot. They are not mere NATO pawns. They have fought alongside America and against America in the past, and they will probably repeat both roles in the future. Until the West stops playing with fire and until it seriously comprehends that it has helped create a monster that ought to be eradicated, Jihadists will continue to fall in and out of its favour and flavour.
This article however is about ideologies and not about politics. According to Jihadists and their own understanding of the Quran, which I must emphasize is a gross misunderstanding, Daeshites and co believe that they are the “real Muslims” and that they represent “true Islam” more than couch-Muslims who don’t want to partake in changing the world and establishing the law of Sharia all over the globe.
According to Jihadists who “fight for Islam”, the epitome of piety is to abandon one’s home and fight. So according to them, Muslims who are not fighting for the “cause” are materialistic cowards and hypocrites who believe in something and do something else. Non-fighting Muslims are therefore regarded by them as not true Muslims.
Pacifist Muslims, who are obviously the overwhelming majority of Muslims of all fractions individually and combined, feel rightfully offended by the view the world that is regarding Islam through the sword of Daesh and even that of Saudi recognized authorities. Many well intentioned supporters endorse that view, and for that, they ought to be commended.
It is clear that it is from this perspective that we now hear statements such as “Daesh is not Islam”, “Wahhabis are not Muslims” and other statements of similar nature and intention.
However, those statements do not clearly identify who the “real Muslims” are and what “true Islam” is. Even as an overwhelming majority, pacifist Muslims cannot evade answering the questions of what “true Islam” is, how is it different from that of Jihadis, and what makes them (ie the pacifists) the “real Muslims”?
These questions have been evaded, and this is an undeniable truth. In a recent televised interview (in Arabic), prominent Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan has criticized the formal Saudi Wahhabi clergy for not denouncing the violent ideology of Daesh. To be fair to the Wahhabi clerics, even the Grand Azhar of Egypt; considered by most Sunnis as the impartial head of Sunni Islam, was unable to issue a Fatwa declaring that Daesh is a heresy. Not even the Ayatollahs of Iran, the staunch theological Shiite opponents, have been able to denounce the fundamental basis of violence in Daesh from a proper Quranic approach. For the clerics to do so, they will first need to review their own interpretations of the Holy Quran and be prepared to challenge their own beliefs. Last but not least, they must be prepared to change those beliefs if they find out that they contradict with the true message of the Quran. This is a step that they are not prepared to undertake, and therefore, theologically-speaking, they are unable to refute the violent doctrine of Daesh.
A revealing article has been written by Noureddin Shami and published on The Saker a few weeks ago (http://thesaker.is/the-truth-about-islamic-fundementalism/). One does not need to endorse all of its content, it does however raise serious issues regarding the need for reform within Islam and inadvertently points to the author’s view of “true Islam and “real Muslims”.
Non-fundamentalist Muslim clerics, both Sunnis and Shiites, find it much easier to simply reiterate that Daesh does not represent “real Islam” without being prepared to take the challenge to present what “real Islam” is, and why it is that they are its followers and not Daesh.
Muslim and non-Muslim supporters of human rights, freedom of worship and freedom of expression have all the humane reasons for doing so. Once again, their stand to support those who need support is highly commendable; and this is an understatement. That said, calling group A or B as “not Muslims” and that they do not represent “true Islam” is quickly becoming a cheap cliché that does not have much underlying substance.
Without unequivocal denunciation, coming from the highest authorities in Islam, of all forms of violence as a means to spread the faith, Daesh will continue to be able to reach out to new recruits. And if Daesh is defeated today, future organizations will use the same recruitment drive.
Whether one wants to believe in the Quran or not, surely, it must be the prime basis, perhaps the only undisputed basis of “real Islam”. And for as long as the Holy Quran clearly denounces coercion (Quran 2:256), then any alleged Muslim interpretation, sect and doctrine that believes in forceful expansion and world dominion, whether they actually engage in reaching this objective or not, is intrinsically an interpretation that is in contradiction with message of the Holy Quran. As they stand today, they all do.
The questions of what “true Islam” is and who are the “real Muslims” will not be answered until the good pacifist Muslims rise to the occasion and seek and achieve the necessary reform that refutes violence in the name of religion.