Ishrat Jahan: ‘I Have Fought Many Battles Alone’

IN 2014, Ishrat Jahan’s husband divorced her by uttering the word “Talaq” thrice over the phone from Dubai, and later he married another woman. Ishrat Jahan, along with four other women, filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the practice of instant triple Talaq, and in August 2017 a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar ruled in their favour and declared instant triple Talaq unconstitutional.

Even as there was widespread celebration among activists and liberal sections of society, things have not changed much for Ishrat Jahan. She continues to struggle as a single parent with little support. Despite the fact that her divorce stood annulled after the Supreme Court judgment, the court did not clarify on her marital status, that is whether her marriage subsisted or whether her husband was duty-bound to renew it after instant triple Talaq was set aside. “Why should I go back to my husband after the judgment? He may be ready to take me back, but I do not want to go back to him. I would have considered making a compromise had he not married again. But he married another woman soon after divorcing me. I am not agreeable to be the second wife of my husband,” Ishrat Jahan said in a telephonic interview from Kolkata.

She was in the news again recently because of reports that she had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Ishrat Jahan confirmed that she was a BJP member and promised to work for Muslim women in particular and women in general. Although she was welcomed with open arms by local BJP leaders, and is said to be one of the options the party is considering as its female face among the largest minority, she has neither had a meeting with any top Central leader nor been offered any help in her fight with her former husband. She has not even got back custody of two of her children who, she claims, she could not keep with her owing to financial constraints. Forced to take up tailoring to make ends meet, Ishrat Jahan continues to be financially feeble and politically pretty unaware. Ask her about the much-talked-about Muslim Women’s Bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha following the initiative of the ruling party, and all she can say is that she supports the Bill but is unaware of its details, or whether it will really strengthen the case of Muslim women or if there are enough safeguards for children. Similarly, when she is informed about the lynching of Muslims by those with a soft corner for Hindutva forces, Ishrat Jahan claims she knows little. “I have been so caught up with my life, trying to earn my bread that I do not know what all has happened. All I can say is everybody should have a right to live with dignity, man or woman, Muslim or Hindu.”

Excerpts from the interview:

You are a single woman, stitching clothes for a living. What made you join politics?

After my divorce, I had to make a beginning. I have no family to fall back upon. My sister does help me out, but other than that there is nobody. All this time when I was fighting against my husband, there was very little support for me except from an activist-lawyer friend. All along I was fighting single-handedly. For how long can one fight? However, things have changed a little since the Supreme Court judgment.

How?

The media started following me. Everybody became interested in my story. I felt that for once I could speak the truth about my marriage and divorce. Besides the media, even political parties, started showing concern and interest. I was approached by the Congress party too.

Then why did you join the BJP?

I joined the BJP because they had been coming to meet me for over four months. I had also gone to many of their meetings. After Modiji brought up the Muslim Women’s Bill, I thought he was serious about doing something for Muslim women who have been similarly victimised through triple Talaq. So, when the local BJP leaders asked me to formally join them, I could not say no. It is a new beginning for me. Let’s see how it goes. I need everybody’s prayers and good wishes.

But the Bill has not been passed in the Rajya Sabha. They argue that it rules out reconciliation.

I am not aware of all the finer clauses of the Bill. I am still learning. But why should there not be jail for a husband who throws out his wife by just uttering three words?

After the Supreme Court judgment, instant triple Talaq is not valid in law. The marriage subsists. If the husband is sent to jail, does it not rule out reconciliation?

If the husband and wife want to be husband and wife again, who can stop them? In my case, I had filed a case under Section 498 [of the Indian Penal Code], but when my husband promised to be good to me in future, and swore by the Quran, I took back the case. I even paid for his bail. But what did I get in return?

One understands your problem. However, if the husband is in jail for three years, who will pay for children’s education? Also, who will pay maintenance to the wife? Do you realise the Bill is also against the spirit of the verses of the Quran?

I am not so well-read. I will not do anything that I am not allowed to do by the Quran. But this Bill is brought with the intention of helping Muslim women, and act as a warning to husbands who give divorce in anger. It is still under discussion. So let’s see how it shapes out.

That still does not answer my question about children….

That is all I know. I will have to consult my leaders on this. I plan to work for all Muslim women who are caught in unhappy marriages, violent marriages, or have been divorced through instant triple Talaq.

It is said you are being considered for the BJP ticket in the by-elections.

I have heard that too, but where is the money to contest elections? I can barely meet my own needs. I have not been given any financial help by the party. If I have to contest elections, the party will have to finance my campaign. Personally, I am ready to do whatever the party requires me to.

What about your children? Are you able to meet their financial requirements? Or are they with your husband?

Two kids are with me. Two are with my husband as I cannot look after them, and he sends no maintenance. I work hard, but I do not earn enough.

Since you joined the BJP, videos have gone viral wherein it is alleged that your husband divorced you because you had a relationship with another man. How do you handle all this?

People can say what they want. All I can say is there is no truth to such allegations. My husband gave me triple Talaq on phone from Dubai. He was not even living here. How can he be a witness to the alleged affair?

But this mud-slinging could have been avoided if you had not entered politics. Do you regret joining politics?

Even before I joined the BJP, there was a social boycott. But I remember when I was fighting the battle in the Supreme Court; our so-called society was not there to support me. No Muslim leader of any Jamaat offered to help. Today, I do not bother about the society. But, yes, sometimes I am affected particularly when the media get my daughter who stays with her father to speak ill of me. She was a little girl when we parted; today she is tutored by her father.

Any specific plan to work for women?

I plan to work for all Muslim women, particularly those thrown out after triple Talaq. I will go door to door to seek their support and suggestions. I also want to work for all women of whatever religion or region or caste. Every woman needs education and a job. There should be an end to the exploitation of women. But I have not been given any specific responsibility by the party yet. I can speak more clearly only after I am assigned a role in the party.

Are you not afraid that you could end up as a pawn in the hands of politicians?

I do not think so. I have fought many battles alone. If I could fight then, I can fight now too. Rather, I am looking forward to politics. It is new for me, but I have to make a beginning.

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Stronger, Stable Middle East States the Most Effective Answer to ISIS

ISIS weakness is now tangible. The terrorist group used to control an area as big as the United Kingdom. Now it has lost control even over its stronghold Raqqa.

Once ISIS used to be the richest terrorist group, with an estimated $2 billion in 2015, but now its revenues have dwindled, falling from $81 million per month in 2015 to $16 million per month in 2017.

Despite this, in 2016 ISIS managed to increase in terms of both the number of victims and number of countries in which was operating.

According to the 2017 Global Terrorism Index report published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, ISIS was the deadliest terrorist group with over 9,000 victims in 15 countries, four States more than in 2015, showing that it was enlarging its reach. Are these conflicting data proving that ISIS is not over at all? Maybe not.

Increase In Victims

“The increase in number of victims is only given by the increase in military confrontation in 2016. This is proven by the fact that most of ISIS victims were registered in Iraq, where ISIS has been fought on the ground,” said Alessandro Orsini, Professor of Sociology of Terrorism at LUISS University in Rome.

“The increasing number of countries in which ISIS was operating could be an optical illusion: we see more countries, but it’s actually the result of other terrorist groups that were already there and that decided to use the ISIS brand,” Orsini explained to Al Arabiya.

But even if overall these data might not be as conflicting as they seem, still they do raise questions on the more effective counter terrorism measure that is necessary against ISIS at this point.

“If there is no deep counter-terrorism activity, we risk winning the battle, not the war,” Michele Piras, Deputy of the Italian Parliament and member of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said to Al Arabiya. “We need to rebuild the civil and economic society, we need to rebuild States. Till those areas in the Middle East have no stable sovereign States, ISIS will win,” Piras added.

Counter Terror Methodology

According to a study on how terrorist groups ended between 1970 and 2007 published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, repressive counter terrorism measures have shown to have more success in taking down left wing terrorist groups (26%), but less with religious terrorist organizations (only 12%).

Political settlement managed to stamp out 48% of right wing terrorist groups, while most nationalist groups have ended because of internal splintering.

Terrorist groups wanting territorial change have been the most resilient with 85 of the 165 groups’ still active post 2007.

This shows there isn’t one counter-terrorism strategy that works for all terrorist groups.

In some cases, conciliatory actions, which reward the non-terrorist behaviour of the population from which terrorist groups originate, are more effective at bringing about an end to terrorist activity than repressive measures.

Recruitment Tool

In fact, repressive measures may actually be a recruitment tool for terrorists. So, at this point, what counter terrorism strategy is more effective against ISIS?

“Focusing only on ISIS military defeat is reductive, because the challenge posed by terrorism is a challenge that hasn’t been won yet. Military response is not enough, we need to work on security and to reduce the financing of these criminal groups and operate on a cultural basis,” Paolo Messa, director of the Centre for American Studies in Rome, said to Al Arabiya English.

It’s hard to compare the life and end of other terrorist groups and try to implement a strategy from there, because each terrorist group has its own history, structure and peculiarities. But Professor Orsini has no doubts on the strategy against ISIS.

“The West should stop doing or backing wars which are dismantling sovereign States in the Middle East. Terrorists always lose against strong States, so we need stronger and more stable States in the Middle East,” said Orsini.

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What Is Next For Palestine?

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital came as no surprise to most Palestinians, for, after all the US’ political backing and military funding of Israel is older than the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Trump’s decision, however, has exposed the “peace process” for the last time as a complete charade. It also exposed the Palestinian leadership as corrupt, subservient and politically bankrupt.

If the Palestinian leadership had a minimal degree of accountability, it would immediately undertake a total overhaul within its ranks and activate all Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) institutions, bring all factions together under the umbrella of the PLO and declare a unified strategy inspired by the aspirations and sacrifices of the Palestinian people.

And if Palestinians are to start anew, they have to commence their journey with fresh political discourse, with new political blood, and a new future outlook that is based on unity, credibility and competence. None of this can ever take place with the same old faces, the same tired language and the same dead-end politics.

Since Trump signed the Jerusalem Embassy Law on December 6, many Palestinian intellectuals voiced their ideas about the proper course of action for their leadership and their people.

There has been much talk about a new Palestinian strategy. Palestinian officials have “threatened” to shift the struggle to a one-state solution – as opposed to continuing to pursue the defunct “two-state solution”, to exclude the US from the “peace process” and so on; but there are few indications that their discourse is anything but transient and opportunistic.

In this article, I sought the opinion of 14 independent Palestinian intellectuals from across Palestine and the diaspora. Although they subscribe to different ideological schools of thought and come from different generations and locations, they shared a lot of ideas. Palestinians are demanding change, or, in the words of renowned Palestinian historian Salman Abu Sitta – interviewed below – they want to “go back to the roots”.

Going Back To The Roots  

Salman Abu Sitta – Historian and President of the Palestine Land Society.

The 26-year-old Oslo disaster should have taught those who started the process a lesson or two about proper leadership. It should have taught the Palestinian people that they should stand up in defence of their inalienable rights in their country, Palestine. Neither have learned their lessons.

In the past 70 years, the major achievement of the Palestinian people was to show that we are not pitiful refugees who need food, shelter and work. We are the people of Palestine from Ras al-Naqura to Umm Rashrash. We have the Palestine National Council (PNC), whose members are elected according to the National Charters of 1964 and 1969. We also have the PNC-elected PLO executive.

Today we do not need to invent a new Palestine or a new national strategy. We need to go back to the roots. We need to wipe out the sins of Oslo, which has been more detrimental to the Palestinian cause than the Balfour Declaration.

We need to have 13 million Palestinians, half of whom were born after Oslo, represented in a newly elected PNC, from which a new, young, efficient and clean leadership can blossom. We need to put our support behind the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad, which was formed in Istanbul in February 2017, for the same purpose.

Let us go back to the roots. Complaining and blaming others is useless. This is the time to act, not to talk. Let us do just that.

Rallying The People 

Lamis Andoni – Writer and Journalist Based In Amman, Jordan.

The immediate task ahead is to unify the Palestinian people, inside Palestine and in the diaspora, against US President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” that is swiftly unfolding before our eyes. Trump’s deal is nothing more than another attempt to legitimise Israeli control over all Palestinian territories and delegitimise the Palestinian people’s historic, national and legal rights – especially the right of return.

We should not focus on whether we want a two-state or one-state solution. Instead, we need to focus on uniting Palestinians around the goal of freeing Palestine by dismantling the Zionist colonial project that employs brutal methods to keep them under control, including apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

We cannot ignore the urgency of the reconstruction of the PLO. The Israeli and US governments have been bent on its destruction, and they are being successful. Let us work towards its revival on a wider, more inclusive basis, and its transformation into a body that represents all Palestinians. We should also not accept the criminalisation of armed resistance.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is a crucial tool in this struggle, but it cannot be the only form of resistance. We must take Israeli officials to the International Court of Justice and try them for war crimes. We need to delegitimise the occupation and all its practices, challenges the US at the UN Security Council and use all legal tools to resist Israeli and US pressure.

But first, we must halt our heavy reliance on foreign aid, particularly US aid, which is being used to tame the NGOs and maintain the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a policeman for the Israelis.

Defeating Zionism 

Mazin Qumsiyeh – West-Bank-Based Author, Scientist and Director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History.

Someone once told me that “we are kicking the dead horse of a two-state solution”. I explained that this was an “illusionary” horse invented by David Ben-Gurion in the 1920s for propaganda purposes. I believe there are only three possible scenarios for the anti-colonial struggle:

1 – The Algerian model, which is very costly, rarely successful and unlikely to be implemented in Palestine.

2 – The Australian model, which is a relative win for the colonisers. This model also comes at great cost – in Australia’s case – genocide of the native population.

3 – The “rest of the world” model which was successful in South America, Central America, Canada, South East Asia and South Africa. In this model, one shared country is created for all the peoples of the land after ending colonialism.

Only the third model can be implemented in Palestine and has the capacity to bring an end to Zionist oppression.

I am very optimistic that Zionism will end. We, 12 million Palestinians and millions of others, will make sure this happens sooner than expected.

It is time to reclaim the liberation struggle from those who hijacked it.

Resurrecting the PLO 

Samaa Abu Sharar – Journalist and Activist Based In Beirut, Lebanon.

Palestinians everywhere should adopt a new approach to give more honour to their cause. They should:

1 – Unite all Palestinian think tanks under one umbrella to assess, evaluate and draw up a new strategy capable of dealing with the current Palestinian situation.

2 – Dismantle the Palestinian Authority and revoke the Oslo Accords.

3 – Elect an alternative young leadership under the PLO, representing Palestinians everywhere, capable of uniting Palestinians and working towards a one-state solution with equal rights for Palestinians.

4 – Encourage all forms of resistance in occupied Palestine including armed resistance (which is consistent with international law) until the demise of the occupation.

5 – Mobilise affluent Palestinians abroad to establish a support system on the moral and financial level for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, and refugees abroad.

‘A Third Intifada Is A Must’ 

Ibrahim Sa’ad – Writer and Academic Based In the UK.

“The game has changed”, PA official Saeb Erekat said. When the game changes, the players must also change. In Palestine, obsolete players should retire, and a brave new generation must take over.

If Abbas and the group clustering around him want to go down in history as courageous men, they should pull out of the political arena, leaving behind administrative personnel to run the Palestinians’ day-to-day matters.

I realise that this act may create mayhem – particularly when a third Intifada is about to materialise – but it must be done.

Also, the Israelis should suffer the sour consequences of their actions if they refuse to adapt to the one-state-solution.

A third Intifada is a must. I believe it will be a step towards building one democratic state with equal rights for all and guaranteeing the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

One State For All 

Samah Sabawi – Award-Winning Playwright, Author, Poet and Policy Advisor to Al-Shabaka, Based In Australia.

The Palestinian leadership seems to be stuck in a loop desperately trying to find ways to “save” the two-state solution by seeking a new mediator for the peace process to replace the US.

But having a dishonest broker was only one of many traps within a process that was designed from the start to cripple Palestinian resistance by fostering Palestinian dependency on international aid in exchange for maintaining Israel’s security and well-being.

What is needed today is for the PA to immediately cease all security collaboration with Israel and for the old guard within the PA/PLO to make way for the young generation of Palestinians both in the diaspora and in the homeland, who can lead us in a popular unified civil rights struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

I believe our time has come, and we are ready to turn today’s one-state apartheid reality into tomorrow’s vision of one state for all its people.

Internationally-Aligned Strategy 

Sam Bahour – Chairman Of Americans For A Vibrant Palestinian Economy, Based In Occupied Palestine.

I view Trump’s ill-fated Jerusalem declaration through two vantage points.

As an American, I think the declaration could not have done more damage to America’s already deteriorating standing in the region. This single act has reignited distrust and condemnation from every corner of the globe, brought violence back to the streets of Palestine, and left the door wide open for other regional players, like Turkey and Iran, to fill the policy vacuum.

On the other hand, as a Palestinian, I see Trump’s declaration as a confirmation of what Palestinians have been saying for decades: the US is on the wrong side of this conflict, and has been for 70 years. The opportunity that Trump has provided is for the world to finally act to hold Israel accountable.

Palestinians have shown tremendous political maturity in all of this by not knee-jerking away from their internationally aligned strategy for freedom and independence in the State of Palestine.

Yes To Popular Resistance, No To Political Elitism 

Yousef M Aljamal – Palestinian Phd Candidate at the University of Sakarya, Middle East Institute, Turkey.

The Palestinian People Should Adopt A Three-Level Approach:

1 – The Palestinian strategy now should be based on building a unified Palestinian front, which reflects the aspirations of Palestinians. This front should not include elites who were part of the previous period because they proved to be a big disappointment to our people. This front should represent all Palestinians everywhere.

2 – Palestinians must cease calling for a two-state solution. Instead, they should adopt a new strategy based on gaining equal rights at home and punishing Israel internationally by intensifying the BDS movement’s campaign, which has proven effective in the past 10 years.

3 –  Palestinians should start a large-scale popular resistance movement against the Israeli occupation by building on the support Palestine has gained globally in order to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people.

International Intifada 

Iyad Burnat – The Head of The Popular Committee Against The Wall In Bil’in Village, West Bank.

Today what people refer to as “Trump’s plan” is not Trump’s plan at all. Rather, it is the continuation of the Zionist plan based on “a land without a people for a people without a land”.

This is a plan to evacuate the indigenous inhabitants of the land through ethnic cleansing, to construct a purely Jewish state, and to end anything resembling Palestine.

In my view, the only way out of this crisis is to abolish the PA and to establish a unified national leadership that includes all factions of the resistance and the grassroots. Such a leadership can organise a popular Intifada that would attract the attention and support of a large number of people around the world – an international Intifada!

The end goal for the Palestinian cause should be a single, democratic state where all live in freedom, justice, and equality – a place that exiled Palestinians can also return to. In other words, the answer is a post-Zionist Palestine where Muslims, Christians, and Jews can live in harmony, security and peace.

Full Steam Ahead With BDS 

Randa Abdel-Fattah – Academic At Macquarie University, Australia.

The global rise of far-right, populist racism, coupled with Trump’s indisputable exposure of US bias, offers us an opportunity to reaffirm that our liberation cause is not “too complicated” but is very clearly an anti-racist, anti-colonialist and anti-apartheid one.

I, therefore, believe we must go full steam ahead with the BDS movement, specifically forcing dramatic changes in Israel’s international economic/trade relations.

Academic and cultural boycotts lay the groundwork for promoting public opinion and action in favour of isolating Israel.

Ultimately, we need to “follow the money”. By mobilising a critical mass of support from global civil society, especially in western countries collaborating with Israel (such as my country Australia), we can press for economic sanctions and divestment.

‘Un-participate’ 

Haidar Eid – One-State Activist and Associate Professor at Al-Aqsa University, Gaza.

I think a completely new strategy is needed, one that breaks away from the existing political system, including the “Oslo-ised” and “NGO-ised” opposition. This strategy is a form of “un-participation” from the current political system altogether.

The crisis of the existing leadership, and indeed of all political parties, is now so deeply ingrained that the only way forward may be to “un-participate” in the present Palestinian political system. Otherwise, we will continue to face a very limited set of options – each worse than the other and none realising Palestinian self-determination and rights. One of those limited options is the racist two-state solution that has, ironically, almost managed to gain a consensus from the existing political parties.

Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, followed by the Likud party’s endorsement of a resolution to annex most of the West Bank, have only made us realise the facade of the so-called “peace process” and the myth of independence.

Hence, the solution is a complete divorce from the discourse of the racist two-state solution, and the endorsement of a democratic and inclusive one that is based on the universal declaration of human rights, democracy and on our right to self-determination, i.e. a secular, democratic state on the historic land of Palestine, a state for all its citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, etc.

Fearing the Worst In Gaza 

Rawan Yaghi – Gaza-Based Writer and University Of Oxford Alumna.

In Gaza, we can’t even think of a solution to the current crisis. We don’t feel that our hardship is being taken seriously. The anticipation of new Israeli military attacks is making an already tense atmosphere even worse. The economic isolation and siege imposed by Israel, the PA and the US leave us fearing the worst.

The Palestinian leadership has lost the trust of Palestinians, whether those living in the Occupied Territories or outside. We need an alternative, an encompassing strategy that includes Palestinians everywhere as the legitimacy of the PA and its political decisions are rightly being questioned.

Moreover, ongoing efforts to isolate and boycott Israel are not enough. More needs to be done on that front as well.

Resistance 

Mohammad Nofal – Former Political Prisoner and Retired Teacher

Trump’s decision regarding the status of Jerusalem is foolish, to say the least. However, it would have never been possible without the tacit approval of certain Arab countries, the likes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states. That said, Palestinians, now more than ever before, need to assert their voices.

Here in Palestine, we understand that “what is taken by force, can only be redeemed by force”, not by a “peace process” that was never genuine in the first place. Israel never fulfilled any of its commitments to previous agreements. In fact, it continued to talk of “peace” while expanding illegal settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes.

Also, the US was never fair to Palestinians. Its pro-Israel bias has been glaringly clear for many years. Israel has no interest in allowing a Palestinian state, and the US has no desire to push Israel on that front. The only party that continues to speak of a “two-state solution” is the weak Palestinian leadership.

But the Palestinian people are courageous, strong and steadfast and they deserve a leadership that is equally courageous; one that is not afraid to abolish Oslo, cancel its recognition of Israel and, yes, resume all forms of resistance in the West Bank as we did in Gaza. We must end all security coordination with Israel, end the detentions of Palestinians and commit to the national liberation project.

The Struggle Continues… 

Ahmad Khaleel Al-Haaj – Activist and Writer Based In Gaza.

A proposed settlement presented by any mediator, in this case, the US, is only a trick to detract us from acting according to this universal law – struggling for a decisive victory.

Those Palestinians who accepted proposals such as Oslo, incurred – as we can see – shameful successive defeats and made our people pay dearly with loss of lives and possessions, all for naught. Those who stood by Oslo gained high wages for themselves and their families alone.

Yet the enemy could not and will not secure a final and decisive victory. The struggle continues, and it will carry on until we are victorious and until we return to our homeland. No savage victor will remain victorious, nor will the vanquished be left to roam forever.

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Israeli Nationalists’ Messiah Complex

A senior member of the Israeli government complained last week that despite repeated bombings of targets in the Gaza Strip, from which several rockets were fired at Israel, there had been no reports of wounded or dead Palestinians. “What is this special weapon we have that we fire and see pillars of smoke and fire, but nobody gets hurt? It is time for there to be injuries and deaths as well,” Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel demanded in a radio interview on Jan. 10. On the same day, while eulogizing Rabbi Raziel Shevach, who was murdered in a drive-by shooting near the unsanctioned West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad, Ariel appealed to a higher power to get the job done. “We want divine retribution,” he cried.

The minister, whose far-right Tkuma (Hebrew for “resurrection”) party joined HaBayit HaYehudi in the ruling coalition, vowed not to back down. “We swear to build the Land of Israel, and there is no one to stop the redemption of the people of Israel. … You cannot stop this melody. It is a divine melody and we are its messengers,” added Ariel, himself from the West Bank settlement of Beit El.

When an elected official in a state that presumes to be the only democracy in the region views himself as the messenger of a higher power, he obviously has no use for the Knesset and its laws nor for the government and its decisions. An Israeli soldier who stops Jewish settlers from uprooting the olive trees of Palestinians is preventing the redemption of holy land, and when an Israeli police officer detains a West Bank settler for spitting in the face of a Palestinian woman, he is clearly disrupting the “divine melody.”

If a minister in the Palestinian Authority had complained about the negligible number of Israelis killed and wounded in terror attacks, an almighty storm would have ensued. Imagine the headlines reporting the Palestinian ministerial declaration, “We are the messengers of God. No one can stop the redemption of Palestine in its entirety.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have demanded that President Mahmoud Abbas immediately fire the “wayward” minister and condemn his remarks. Pundits would have pointed with concern to Abbas’ inability to stem the spread of Islamist ideology to the Palestinian leadership’s top echelons.

Fundamentalist, messianic ideologies are nothing new in Israeli society. Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur from the “Od Yosef Chai” yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar justified the execution of the enemy’s babies in their 2009 book “Torat Hamelech,” the “King’s Torah.” The babies and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed since “it is clear that they will grow to harm us” and will have to be killed anyway, the two opined. The police interrogated the two rabbis on suspicion of incitement, but they were not indicted.

Back in the 1970s, the head of the prestigious Merkaz Harav yeshiva and leader of religious Zionism, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, ruled that the government’s order to vacate Sebastia, one of the first attempts to settle in the West Bank, was illegal. Hanan Porat, one of the leaders of the Gush Emunim settlement movement, pledged that the entire world, Arabs included, would “enjoy the realization of [our] redemption.”

Porat, who passed away in 2011, was one of the members of the National Religious Party (NRP) who walked out to protest his party’s support for the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt. Yehuda Ben-Meir, then a member of the party’s young leadership, told Al-Monitor this week that HaBayit HaYehudi, the party established on the ruins of the NRP, would likely have unanimously rejected that peace agreement had it been asked to vote on it today. He noted that the decision by the Mizrachi movement, one of the precursors of the NRP, to support the 1947 UN Partition Plan that divided Palestine between Jews and Arabs, had also been preceded by a stormy party leadership fight.

Ben-Meir, who served as deputy foreign minister in the 1980s government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, remarked that sadly, the reincarnation of the NRP, HaBayit HaYehudi, serves only the settlers and the right-wing Israelis who support them. “There’s no room for pluralism on issues of diplomacy, particularly regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. The old NRP, which had its roots in the Mizrachi party established in 1903, included such moderate figures as Joseph Burg, Haim Moshe Shapira and Zerah Verhaftig, but it cannot be resurrected, he said. “Many of the sons and grandsons of NRP voters draw a line between religion and sectoral ideology,” Ben-Meir said. “Many Israelis adhere to a religious way of life but do not identify with the [settlement] sector. They observe the Jewish Sabbath and lay tefillin, but vote for [centrist, anti-clerical] Yair Lapid, [center-right] Moshe Kahlon and even the Zionist Camp and Likud parties. They integrate into society, industry, science and political life. They do not relate to a sectoral party like HaBayit HaYehudi.”

Attorney Batia Kahane-Dror, who ran in the last HaBayit HaYehudi primaries, left the party in anger in 2015 when she realized that her championing of pragmatic attitudes had left her persona non grata. Kahane-Dror, who heads Mavoi Satum, a support organization for women who are denied divorce under Jewish law, said after her departure that HaBayit HaYehudi leaders were competing for the title of “most messianic” and striving to turn Israel into a Jewish-law state. “I espouse national, right-wing views,” she noted, “but I asked myself how I can stay in a place where ‘peace’ is a dirty word.” Party leader Naftali Bennett “gives the impression of a nice right-winger, a champion of a strong defense policy, but his views are radical and especially messianic.”

Her diagnosis of Bennett might be somewhat flawed. Ahead of the 2013 elections, Bennett forged an alliance with Lapid, who had entered politics riding a wave of secular and pragmatic political messages. This alliance was clearly indicative of Bennett’s willingness to don an everyman persona in his bid to become prime minister. Today, the high-tech millionaire from central Israel appeals to religious youth with light messianic slogans. Tomorrow he might realize that anyone who rides on the back of a tiger could end up becoming the animal’s lunch.

On the day following the November 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Rabbi Yehuda Amital, the head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, warned that Jewish law, known in Hebrew as “Halacha,” “can turn into dangerous explosives when in the hands of young people. … The term ‘Halacha’ is too broad and sacred to be placed in the hands of every Jewish boy and girl.” One might add that this also applies to every politician lacking a backbone and maturity.

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Women’s Campaigns Flourish beyond Iran Protests

As the protests in Iran dominated international news in early January, an editor of Grazia asked Farian Sabahi, a historian who specializes in Iran and the Middle East, to comment on the protests ravaging her country.

Sabahi penned a piece that focused on the role of women in the demonstrations, underlining that they wanted the same thing as male demonstrators — more jobs and more political rights. She said that even though the women’s question remains an important one in Iran, the uprising was not directly triggered by the compulsory veil, or Hijab. She also referred to the “white veil” photo in the media that showed an unnamed woman stood alone without her Hijab, silently waving a white scarf. Sabahi explained that the image did not come during the recent demonstrations, but was taken a day before they started, as part of a movement known as White Wednesday that started months ago. Her commentary underlined that Hijab has no role in the current protests, which rather stem from economic as well as political grievances.

When the article came out, however, Sabahi was surprised to see that its contents had been altered — including the caption that identified the photo as belonging to the White Wednesday movement. The writer thought that all the changes twisted her viewpoint and portrayed women’s desire to take off the Hijab as the engine of the current upheavals. “I wrote an email to the editor-in-chief and she quickly apologized,” Sabahi told Al-Monitor. She also posted a correction on Facebook. But though it was taken offline, the erroneous article remained in circulation in newsstands.

For Sabahi and other academics, this event encapsulates the caricaturisation of the veil and the women’s movement in the Iranian demonstrations. As local and politically outspoken women are Western media click bait favourite, women’s images and statements are frequently used in the stories about protests even if few women are present. The veil, even when it is a minor player, seems to have become a reductive symbol of women’s participation in wider movements.

According to Mahnaz Shirali, a researcher at Sciences Po Paris and author of “The Mystery of Contemporary Iran,” the coverage of the Iranian protests in European and American media has indeed often been “partial and sometimes superficial.”

“It’s true that the question of the veil is important and a symbol of the regime’s repression, but Iranian society’s — and women’s — demands shouldn’t be merely reduced to the veil as a main reason for the demonstrations,” she told Al-Monitor.

“Women are currently complaining about rising prices, corruption, and lack of transparency. Their complaints are on the same issues men are worried about,” Sabahi said. Even if many women joined the movement in the streets, the veil “is not their main focus,” she added.

Ali Fathollah-Nejad, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre, explained to Al-Monitor that although the majority of protesters are young working-class men, the grievances expressed throughout the protests and their slogans “transcend boundaries of gender and even class.”

Although most experts on Iran consulted for this article do not consider the compulsory Hijab one of the reasons in the protests, they do nevertheless consider it a crucial driver of Iranian women’s resistance.

Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad launched the famous My Stealthy Freedom (MSF) campaign against compulsory Hijab in 2014. MSF is currently the largest and best known Iranian online protest against compulsory Hijab. Through it, Iranian women speak out not only against forced veiling but also “the unfairness of Iran’s rules when it comes to women’s rights from employment to marriage and divorce, from travelling to attending sports stadiums and so on,” Alinejad told Al-Monitor.

Alinejad explained how the movement she founded has become more visible in the streets since May through the White Wednesday campaigns. She said the continuous presence of MSF and White Wednesday have contributed to empowering Iranian women to become more aware of their social role. “I received many videos from women who had participated in the White Wednesday campaign who were participating in the [current] protests and were sending me clips,” she said.

Other women in different cities across Iran have followed the example of the young woman who was photographed waving her white scarf. “I couldn’t participate in the recent protests due to health reasons, but I saw the video of that brave girl without Hijab waving it like a white flag. I decided to do something to support her and posted some pictures on Instagram without my Hijab, showing my support,” said Shaparak Shajari, a 42-year-old social media activist who participated in the 2009 protests. “Compulsory Hijab is not the only reason we women want a change. We want to regain our dignity,” she told Al-Monitor.

The Dec. 27 photo and video of the young woman calmly waving her white shawl in the middle of the busy Enghelab Avenue in Mashad, the second most populous city in Iran, went viral. “As the protests spread, many Iranian activists online were inspired by the nonviolent protest of the lone girl,” explained Alinejad. “Thousands of Iranians changed their profile picture to a one depicting her act. Her gesture was seen as a symbol of resistance. Her protest caught the imagination of Iranian women and men, feminists and non-feminists.”

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The Momineen and the Kafirin

Muhammad (pbuh) was the last of the messengers. He was an Ummi prophet sent to an Ummi people. The word Ummi means those without scriptures or from among the people to whom no messenger had come before, and was therefore without scriptures and guidance.

(62:2) It is He Who has sent amongst the Ummi a messenger from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom,- although they had been, before, in manifest error;-

(36:6) In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless (of the Signs of Allah).

(37:156) Or have ye an authority manifest?(157) Then bring ye your Book (of authority) if ye be truthful!

From the above verses, and from the fact that the Quran says that Prophets have been sent to many nations (6:42), and the fact that every other civilized people have their religion and scriptures, makes all such people, the “People of the Book”.  The universalism of the religion of Islam, and its inclusiveness of all other people, is obvious from the following verses:

(2:112) Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to Allah and is a doer of good, – He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

(5:69) Those who believe (in the Qur´an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

The Momineen (faithful) and the Kafirin (faithless) are therefore terms that cannot be associated based on the religion professed, but based on behaviour alone. Else, Islam is not a universal and inclusive religion. Indeed, we do find the Quran judging people by what they do. The Mushrikin in an unjust battle against the Prophet, are referred to as the Kafaru, but the same Mushrikin, after they have been vanquished and are no longer at war, are referred to simply as Mushrikin in verse 9:5 and not as Kafirin. It is therefore the act that you are engaged in, which defines you in that context.

At one extreme are the Momineen, the people of unshakeable faith, who can never do wrong because they are always mindful of God, and at the other extreme are the Kafirin or “those who will never believe”, the likes of the Pharaoh, Qarun, Haman, Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab etc., who are evil incarnate, always opposed to what is just, right and good. In between fall the rest, who can be judged based on the act they are engaged in, and not based on the faith they profess, or their religious identity. We find the Quran doing exactly this.

(49:14) The desert Arabs say, “We believe.” Say, “Ye have no faith; but ye (only)say, ´We have submitted our wills to Allah,´ For not yet has Faith entered your hearts. But if ye obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not belittle aught of your deeds: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Faith is not simply a matter of saying “I believe”, but a state in which one is mindful of God, which helps resist the temptation to do wrong, or impels to do what is right and just, irrespective of the consequences to self. Allah guides those who are always mindful of God in their deeds, to attain complete faith in Him. See 8:23. Faith is not achieved by being born into a Muslim family nor by reciting the Kalima alone, or by affiliation to any religion, but by acts that bring one closer to God.

As it concerns the people in general, we can therefore talk only in terms of their deeds – whether their deed is worthy of a Momin, or whether it is the deed of a Kafir, or whether the deed is pleasing to God or one that God would be displeased with. Why then does it shock people, when I said that the Indian Army performed the deed worthy of the Momineen, in liberating the oppressed people of Bangladesh, from their oppressors? The oppressors were the army of Pakistan, raping and killing defenceless civilians and their deeds were certainly the deeds of the faithless or the Kafirin. People are shocked, because the Indian army is thought to be a Hindu army, and the Pakistan army a Muslim army, and in our bigoted theology, Kafir has come to mean a non-Muslim and Momin is always a Muslim. In our bigoted theology, a Muslim can never be a Kafir, even though the Quran uses the term Kafir, to describe Muslims who consume usury and those who do not give charity and the Munafiqin or the hypocrites.   And if just about anyone who submits to Allah and is a doer of good will be rewarded with Heaven, why cannot such a person be called a Momin irrespective of his religious identity?

Let us consider the adjuration at the beginning of Surah 95:

(1) By the Fig and the Olive,

(2) And the Mount of Sinai,

(3) And this City of security,-

(4) We have indeed created man in the best of moulds,

(5) Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low,-

(6) Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.

(7) Then what can, after this, contradict thee, as to the judgment (to come)?

(8) Is not Allah the wisest of judges?

The City of Security is easily recognizable as Mecca since it is a sanctuary from the days of Abraham and is associated with Islam; the Mount of Sinai is associated with Moses or Judaism. What about the Fig and the Olive? Are these fruits that Allah is recommending? If that were so, it would be a horrible mixing up of unrelated metaphors! The Olive and the Fig must therefore necessarily refer to two other religions. The Mount of Olive is associated with Jesus or Christianity, and the Fig is referring to the Fig tree under which Buddha meditated and received enlightenment or with Buddhism. Why is God swearing by these four religions if these are not a few of the different paths to Him?

5:48 “…..To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute;”

What is common to all the four religions? All the four religions have a clear deontological or rule based moral code. What is uncommon? Buddhism is relatively agnostic about belief in God but strong on its moral code. I repeat, faith is not attained by saying I believe, but by following the path that is steep, which is the path of living a moral life and described as follows:

(90:10) And shown him the two highways?

(11) But he hath made no haste on the path that is steep.

(12) And what will explain to thee the path that is steep?-

(13) (It is:) freeing the bondman;

(14) Or the giving of food in a day of privation

(15) To the orphan with claims of relationship,

(16) Or to the indigent (down) in the dust.

(17) Then will he be of those who believe, and enjoin patience, (constancy, and self-restraint), and enjoin deeds of kindness and compassion.

(18) Such are the Companions of the Right Hand.

What is emphasized above? Good deeds. Anyone who practices the deeds described above, will attain complete faith in God and those who do not, will not attain such faith. And all the deeds described above are emphasized in the four religions mentioned.

What Allah clearly wants from us humans, is that we follow His deen or Laws or Religion which is the moral way of living. It is through such practice, that one can attain faith, and not simply by saying “I believe”.

Just imagine what would happen if the Muslims were to follow what I say. All of them would then be on the path of trying to attain perfection in their deeds to get closer to God and urging others to do the same. This is exactly what Allah wants us to do in Surah 103 Al-Asr:

(103:1) By (the Token of) Time (through the ages),(2) Verily Man is in loss,(3) Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.

They would also then openly hail the good deeds of others as the acts of a Momin irrespective of the person’s religious affiliation gaining their respect and admiration. This would attract others to Islam and its teachings. What do we have now? We call ourselves Momin although we have become among the worst people on this earth and call others Kafir although they are better than us in many ways. Who then wants to be such a Momin? Have we not become the worst enemies of Islam and distorted the religion beyond recognition with our bigoted vision?

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Takfeer, Wala Wal Bara’a, Darul Islam vs. Darul Harb—Three Major Catalysts of the Jihadist Radicalization: Rebuttals from the Classical Islamic Sources

Jihadist radicalization is still robust with the eight major concepts which appear consistently in the jihadist narratives. There is no way out without assessing and dismantling the attraction of these narratives that lure the gullible recruits.

There are many twisted Islamic concepts that have been used to indoctrinate the naive young Muslims, many of them still catching the imagination of the violent ideas. Only a better critical appreciation and rebuttal of these underlying radical narratives can enhance the counter-extremism efforts on both national and global levels. These are the eight exclusivist terms that the radical jihadist ideologues use oftentimes in their discourses to recruit the gullible and naive Muslims: Takfeer, Al-Wala Wal Bara’a, Darul Islam vs. Darul Harb, Ummah, Istishhad or Shahadat, Bayah and Hijrah.

All these terms have been catalysts of the jihadist radicalization across the world. But the first three doctrines— Takfeer, Al-Wala Wal Bara’a and Darul Islam vs. Darul Harb— have been the most obvious jihadist underpinnings. However, they have two diametrically different interpretations: (1) traditional and classical interpretations and (2) hate-driven extremist jihadist narratives. Now, let’s discern between how the terms are used by the Jihadist outfits like ISIS and al-Qaeda and how they are viewed by the authoritative classical Islamic scholars.

ISIS/al-Qaeda’s View of Takfeer

Takfeer literally means accusing others of being ‘Kafir’, ‘infidels’ or ‘non-believers’ or excluded from the bounds of Islam. Islamic history is replete with the instances of how the extremist Islamist factions declared fellow Muslims of being apostate (Murtad), impure, hypocrite (Munafiq) or unbeliever (Kafir). But ISIS, al-Qaeda and the ilk have regularly employed the term in an attempt to disparage other Muslims who oppose them. Therefore, moderate Muslims have now turned into their first targets.

Takfeerist groups form sub-branches of al-Salafiya al-jihadiyah (Jihadist-Salafism) which promulgates strictly narrowed and skewed interpretations of Islamic texts. Takfeeris don’t suffice to only declaring non-Muslims as ‘Kafir’, but also excommunicate fellow Muslims. Found in every age in the Islamic history, they have recently spearheaded in the most violent fashion in Egypt by the name of ‘Jama’at al-Takfeer wal-Hijrah’. Egyptian authorities claimed that the Takfeeris perpetrated the horrific terrorist attack on the Sufi mosque al-Radwa in Sinai last year, which killed 305 people. Takfeeris particularly target secular governments and the Muslim-majority countries that do not rule according to their version of the Sharia law. The Takfeeri mindset has also guided the ISIS attacks on the syncretic (Sunni-Shia, Muslim-Christian) heritage of Iraq, Syria and other Muslim countries.

Classical Islamic View of Takfeer

In the classical Islamic theology, Muslims are forbidden to declare others ‘Kafir’. That is decidedly and explicitly agreed upon by the consensus (Ijm’a) of the imams of all Islamic jurisprudence schools (Mazahib-E-Fiqh). This canonical principle is based on an authenticated prophetic saying or Hadith in which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) warned against Takfeerism: “Do not revert to Takfeer after me by cutting one another’s necks” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

The legal prohibition and denunciation of issuing decrees of Kufr branding anyone as a ‘Kafir’, disbeliever or infidel is part of the Hanafi, Shafe’i, Maliki and Hanbali schools. In most cases, a word or action of a common Muslim is not really disbelief but a difference of opinion and understanding or of secondary or interpretational nature. But branding anyone a ‘Kafir’ on the basis of his/her word or action is not in spirit with the objectives of the four Islamic schools of law (Maqasid al-Shariah).

Even if a person has said a word of alleged or probable disbelief, the basic principle set by the four schools of Islamic law is that the least probability of belief has to be given priority over the most probability of disbelief. It can be explained in these popular texts of the Islamic jurisprudence: “One cannot declare those who use things that apparently cause disbelief, as disbelievers. If someone’s deeds or sayings could be interpreted 99 percent of the time as cause of disbelief and only 1 percent of the time as cause of belief, the latter should be preferred”. Thus, the Muslim individuals or groups who utter something, or have adopted an ideology, which is apparently indicative of ‘disbelief’ in theological and jurisprudential domain of Islam, even then they could not be branded as ‘Kafir’.

Moreover, there is a robust theological refutation of the misguiding ideas of Takfeer, Khurooj and Baghawat (rebellion against the state) in the vast literature by the classical Islamic jurists and scholars of the Hanafi school of thought in particular. Similarly, those subscribing to the Shafi, Hanbali and even Ja’fari (Shia) school, should realize that their imams have strictly prohibited Takfeer, Khurooj, Baghawat antagonism and bloodshed. Thus, these acts cannot be legitimized in any circumstances under the false grab of Islamic state.

One of the Prophet’s companions killed a non-Muslim who was pretending to be a Muslim during a war. When the Prophet (pbuh) came to know this, he asked the companion: “Did you see his heart by tearing it apart?” This Hadith clearly implies there should be no religious justification for declaring others ‘Kafir’ and then spilling their blood.

Explaining the issue of Takfeer, the noted imam and authoritative Sunni Hanafi scholar Allama Tahawi, known as “the most knowledgeable of fiqh among the Hanafis in Egypt” points out that, “theological differences are natural and unavoidable, but we cannot approve of declaring others ‘Kafir’ or infidel or killing them on the grounds of religious differences”. He profusely quoted from Quran, Sunnah and eminent Islamic scholars in monumental work, Aqidah al-Tahawiyya which represents the viewpoint of Ahl-us-Sunnah wa-al-Jama’a (the mainstream Sunni Muslims across the world). This book has been one of the most widely acclaimed and indispensable textbooks on the Islamic beliefs (Aqa’aid) being taught to the students of Fiqh and Ilmul Kalam (Islamic philosophy). The authoritative Islamic jurists including Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal developed an opinion that the doctrines and beliefs enumerated in this book are shared by all the Muslims because they owe their origin to the Holy Qur’an and are confirmed by the Ahadith.

In fact, Imam Tahavi’s findings on Takfeer grapple with the emerging theological questions of today as well. Modern Islamic scholars should critically read and review this book in order to find concrete solution to the rising tide of Takfeer, religious militancy and faith-based violence in different contexts. At least, it should be one of the essential readings in the madrasa curricula, as the saying goes on: “Aqidah al-Tahawiyya, though small in size, is a primary textbook for all times, listing what a Muslim must know and believe and inwardly comprehend”.

Imam Tahawi writes in his elaboration on the Sunni creed: “Faith consists of affirmation by the tongue and acceptance by the heart. A person does not leave faith except by disavowing what brought him into it”. Thus, he concludes that the practice of excommunicating Muslims (Takfeer) is among the worst crimes against Islam and the Muslim community.

ISIS/al-Qaeda’s View of Al-Wala’ Wal Bara’a’

Jihadist cults like the ISIS and al-Qaeda vitiate the global religious atmosphere by fostering the mentality of “us versus them” through the use of the term Al-Wala’ Wal Bara’a. Al-Wala means “to practice loyalty with only Muslims” or simply, keeping them only as ‘friends’. Al-Bara’a refers to the doctrine of harboring and showing hatred against non-Muslims or simply, considering them all ‘enemies’. This concept has largely remained the most common tool for the jihadists to categorize people into friends and enemies. Going by this exclusivist belief, their enemies are not only non-Muslims but many Muslims who subscribe to the sects and schools of thoughts antithetical to the extremists. Thus, the doctrine of “loyalty and disavowal” (al-Wala wal Bara) encourages religious bigotry and hatred against all those who do not follow the extremist doctrines.

‘Al-Wala wal Bara’ has profusely been quoted in the vast literature of the jihadists. In fact, this doctrine underlies al-Qaeda’s body of literature which continued to develop after its initial foundation in the late 1980s.

In his essay released in December 2002, Ayman al-Zawahiri viewed that the world is divided into two warring camps: true Muslims and the rest of the world. “True Muslims must be in a constant state of Wala (being ‘loyal’ to one another in all cases). At the same time, true Muslims must also be in a state of Bara (‘enmity’) where they are either in a constant state of hatred or at least being distant from everyone else”, he wrote. (This essay is available online on a number of sites under the title “Al Wala Wal Bara” (Loyalty and Enmity). It is also available as a chapter in the book The Al Qaeda Reader).

Classical Islamic View of Al-Wala’ Wal Bara’a’

There is no room for “us versus them” mentality in Islam. All human beings are creatures of God and we therefore must show respect to each other. This implies a multi-racial, multi-religious society. Islam came as a Rahmah (Blessing) to the Universe. Qur’an shows Allah’s love for man as infinite and all-embracing: “And My Mercy embraces all things” (Surah Al-A`raf 7:156).

Not a single creature is exempted from Allah’s bountiful grace and divine mercy. The beloved Prophet said, “When Allah created the creatures, He wrote in the Book, which is with Him over His Throne: “Verily, My Mercy prevailed over My Wrath.” (Al-Bukhari) He also said, “Allah has divided mercy into 100 parts, and He retained with Him 99 parts, and sent down to earth 1 part. Through this one part creatures deal with one another with compassion, so much so that an animal lifts its hoof over its young lest it should hurt it.” (Al-Bukhari)

Al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ doctrine originated from the tribal Arab social customs, in which division and fragmentation were and are still prevalent in Arab socio-political life. Unfortunately, the tribal identity is being passed on to the Muslims through this doctrine

ISIS/al-Qaeda’s View of Dar-ul-Islam

The concept of Darul Islam or an ‘Islamic state’ is a constant theme within ISIS/al-Qaeda’s propaganda. It holds that in order to establish the religion, it is first necessary to establish an Islamic state, which, in turn, will then lead to the re-establishment of the Caliphate (Khilafah Islamiyah). It is obligatory for all Muslims to contribute both financially and physically to this end.

Classical Islamic View of Dar-ul-Islam

Most classical Islamic scholars opine that the term ‘Darul Islam’ and ‘Darul Harb’ is a relative term. They do not have a universal application or even a precise meaning. There are no clear injunctions of establishing Darul Islam in the Qur’an and Hadith. Therefore, the justification of killing anyone or spilling blood to achieve this vague notion is considered ‘un-Islamic’.

In India, the authoritative Ulema have not endorsed the war-related concept of the ‘Darul Harab’ (land of war). They rather termed the undivided India as ‘land of peace’ (Dar al-Salaam) because it provided a peaceful environment for the Muslim citizens to freely exercise their religious rights. This fatwa was issued by a leading Islamic jurist and an ideologue of the mainstream Muslims (Ahle Sunnat) in India, Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan (also known as Aala Hazrat). He buttressed his point that ‘Hindustan is not the land of war (Darul Harb) but rather an abode of peace, in his book titled in Arabic, E’laam-ul-A’alam bi Anna Hindustan Dar-al-Islam (declaration of the Ulema that India is an ‘abode of peace’). In his book on the subject of Islamic caliphate (Khilafat), Dawam-ul-Aaish fi Aai’matil Quraish”, Maulana laid out rigorous conditions for an Islamic caliph to be appointed.

Later, the leading Indian seminary Darul Uloom Deoband issued a fatwa which categorically stated India as ‘Dar-ul-Sulah’ or ‘Dar-ul-Mu’ahdah’ (land of reconciliation and peace treaty). Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, founder of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind wrote a book in Urdu, Islam Aur Muttahida Qaumiyat (Islam and Composite Nationalism). He quoted profusely from Quran and Hadith to oppose the two-nation theory. Substantiating the point that Muslims and Hindus were one nation, he argued that the faith was universal and could not be contained within national boundaries but that nationality was a matter of geography, and Muslims were obliged to be loyal to the nation of their birth along with their non-Muslim brethren (Biradran-e-Watan).

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