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How Extremism Overshadows Islam: The Result Of Intellectual Shallowness And Lack Of Religious Insight

04 July 2016

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

The recent bomb blasts and suicide bomber attacks in the Kingdom have brought to surface once again the terror that lurks beneath. The perpetrators, who in carrying out their evil deeds, have ensured themselves a one-way ticket to hell. There are no other rewards in the hereafter for such crimes.

This brings to mind a question I was asked by an American who wanted to understand more about the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East on whether Islam was indeed a radical religion and by virtue did it foster extremism. It was a question that is probably on many minds that are concerned or alarmed on the perceived rising acts of terrorism that the media quickly attributes to ''radical Islam.''

Although my knowledge is limited, I told him all I know from my own personal education and experiences. No, Islam is not radical. In fact, the word Islam means submission and that in itself is not an act of aggression. Unfortunately in recent times it had been hijacked by very narrow-minded people who have manipulated the religion to read what they want to hear.
Sheikh Qardawi, a religious scholar, warned that ''Intellectual shallowness and lack of religious insight result in an intense interest in marginal issues like giving excessive importance to the growing of beard, the wearing of cloths below the ankle, so on and so forth. What is more dangerous is attempting to impose these on others. Sometimes what is obligatory is supplanted by what is recommended, and this is against the spirit of Islam.'' Such extreme views often are adopted by those who choose to believe nothing else.

Extremists also place a lot of emphasis on metamorphic text while ignoring the Qur'anic verses which are straightforward and clear and giving more stress on the allegorical ones is another cause of extremism. They also tend to lack respect for qualified authority on religious subjects. One of the factors of extremism is a reluctance to listen to people who hold different views. Extremists have little interest in discussion or dialogue, as they never imagine that their views could be tested in the light of others, and be either contradicted or refuted. They are often recipients of half knowledge and naturally assume they know it all. These young people ignore the fact that if they want to study Shariah, they must seek help of reliable Muslim scholars. But they simply refuse to do so. They eagerly flock to the calling of those religious scholars who adopt a harsh, non-accepting view of anything different.

Such people are also not familiar of true historical events. They probably were not aware that after the message came to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he spent 13 years in Makkah, performed prayers and the tawaf on the premises of Kaaba, even though it was surrounded by more than 360 idols at that time. Gradually and over time he built a following that grows daily.

According to Sheikh Qardawi, ''Allah created the universe in stages. In the initial call to Islam, initially, Prophet (pbuh) gradually introduced the basic teachings of Islam. To achieve targeted goals, giving the allowance of due time is important. Extremists seem to ignore these two important ways.'' They want change right away and in the manner they feel is right, brutal as it may be, and according to the interpretation they choose to adopt.

The US Ambassador to the Kingdom, Joseph W. Westphal, perhaps said it best for all of us: ''As the holy month of Ramadan comes to a close, Muslims from the United States to Saudi Arabia and beyond should now be celebrating the advent of Eid Al-Fitr. Instead many of us will be grieving, in particular, the families of the Saudi security forces personnel and others who were hurt or killed in the senseless attacks in Jeddah, Qatif and Madinah today.

I condemn, and all decent people condemn, these attacks. All of us deserve the right to worship in peace, and those who would transform this holy time into an occasion for hatred and bloodshed deserve our strongest condemnation.''

It is time for all good Muslims to recognize that extremism does exist within our midst and that we have to collectively take an aggressive stand toward diffusing or stamping it out as it does no service to promote this peaceful religion. Only then will others understand what Islam stands for.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

 

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