We’re all afraid whether we admit it or not. We’re afraid that one day these terrorists would one day come to attack us. And the worst thing is we won’t see it coming, just like the indigenes of Mosul, Iraq hadn’t seen it coming.
After a month of research into the subject matter, I found some valid reasons why we have Islamic fundamentalists and why they’re attacking.
Islam had been a peaceful religion from the start. Even though, its origins have been just as harsh as any other religions. The West have always viewed Prophet Mohammed as a violent and oppressive leader, but In her book Islam, Karen Armstrong had told us that such view isn’t accurate. She told us that Prophet Mohammed had avoided violence when he could. Once Prophet Mohammed had fought and the war was very aggressive. Lots of people from the opposition had died. This event has shown us that Prophet Mohammed might have been a ruthless leader and our argument that Islam is all about war might have been justified. But Karen Armstrong had disagreed, she told us that Prophet Mohammed had been very smart. He had known that if he hadn’t fought, his subjects would have viewed him as a weak ruler and so they might have faced wars from other neighbouring communities. The result of which might have been catastrophic.
Mohammed was so important a ruler, whether religious or political that he was regarded as the greatest man to have ever lived [even ahead of Jesus]. Mohammed’s religion had been very peaceful and violence was not used until it was very necessary. But after Mohammed’s death, the Muslims had began to expand. Many people had began to convert to Islam. We should be reminded that early Islam had not coerced conversion. In fact, conversion was not advised as the early Arabs had wanted Islam to be their own religion.
After a long time, everything started to change. The laws provided by the Koran was too simple to guide a large community. Complex laws needed to be developed for the growing religion. These laws were based on the Koran and the Prophet’s Hadith (quotes) and were known as the Sharia.
The Sharia laws may be very harsh in today’s perception but we should not forget that in those barbaric days, such were the laws that guided everyone. Before Islam, the Arabs had always practiced an egalitarian system. Every person were regarded as equal. If a person from community ‘A’ kills a person from community ‘B’. Any person from community ‘A’ could be killed if the murderer escapes. This was the system before Prophet Mohammed brought Islam.
Even in the early days of Islam, there had been extremists. As a result of this, Koran had advised Muslims to avoid theology, as points debated in hot theological arguments could not be ascertained. In Christianity, theology was the core of the religion. Such beliefs like the trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and the belief that Jesus died for our sins cannot be ascertained.
The early Muslims had slowly expanded, and just like how the Jews had attacked the Christians, the Christians began holy wars known as Crusades to wipe out Muslims away from the ‘holy lands’. Many Muslims will never forget this event.
On the eve of the second Christian millennium, the Crusaders massacred some thirty thousand Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem, turning the thriving Islamic holy city into a stinking charnel house. For at least five months the valleys and ditches around the city were filled with putrefying corpses, which were too numerous for the small number of Crusaders who remained behind after the expedition to clear away, and a stench hung over Jerusalem, where the three religions of Abraham had been able to coexist in relative harmony under Islamic rule for nearly five hundred years. This was the Muslims’ first experience of the Christian West, as it pulled itself out of the dark age that had descended after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, and fought its way back on to the international scene. The Muslims suffered from the Crusaders, but were not long incommoded by their presence.
The British rise to power was an event unparalleled through out history. The British had become the most civilized people in the world. And they had began to turn other countries into their own colonies. The British masters had tried to achieve such a civilization in other countries in a very short time. In other to beat the British at its own game, the Arabs would need to develop and civilize in a very short period of time. They would need to develop at such a rate that they would have to achieve, in a short time, the civilization which had taken the British 300 years.
The British Civilization is very similar to the periods when the Islamic empire came into power in the seventh and eight centuries. But at this point, the Islamic empire had not developed to a stage like the British. The British Civilization had been one with a lot of trials and errors and had moved at a steady progress. Well, they had faced problems also. They developed in the face of set-backs, wars and diseases. But nothing can hinder scientific progress.
To beat Europe at its own game, a conventional agrarian society would have to transform itself from top to bottom, and re-create its entire social, economic, educational, religious, spiritual, political and intellectual structures. And it would have to do this very quickly, an impossible task, since it had taken the West almost three hundred years to achieve this development.
Whereas Europe had civilized at its own pace, the colonized countries were forced to develop at such a rate that is disastrous. The Europeans had developed industries and other technological development and had not relied on agricultural surplus, like the Arabs did. These colonized countries were forced the British ways and soon they began to catch up. But the outcome is not surprising.
If you look around the world, you’ll notice that most countries in Africa and Asia are still suffering from poverty, fear, corruption and bad governance. Even though the British had taught its ways, these countries will still need to develop in its own way.
As an illustration, if you do not have all the ingredients to make a cake, and you replace sugar, flour and eggs with the substitutes that you have, the taste of your cake will greatly differ from the original. Similarly, outcome of these colonized countries is different because the ‘ingredients’ have been different.
An evidence of this is seen in Japan, a country which was not colonized.
But whereas the British had instilled its ways, what had the Muslims thought?
The Arabs had felt that the British ways were godless. How could they develop all they had, and God was not central to them? The Arabs had believed that whatever was not of God is evil, so since they had believed that the British ways were godless, it was evil. Moreover, the British had come with coercion. They had forced its ways to the Arabs. Lots of people had been killed. How could such people be good? They had asked.
The Arabs had dealt with double blows from the West. First, the Crusade and then later, the colonial period. Some were convinced that the British were of the devil.
This was the birth of Islamic fundamentalism.
The eminent scholar Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855), who founded one of the main schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, was jailed and once flogged unconscious in a dispute with the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad. Nearly five centuries later, another supreme theologian of the same strict orthodox school, Ibn Taymiyya, died in prison in Damascus. These two men are seen as the spiritual forefathers of later thinkers and movements which became known as “salafist”, advocating a return to the ways of the first Muslim ancestors, the salaf al-salih (righteous ancestors).They inspired a later figure whose thinking and writings were to have a huge and continuing impact on the region and on the salafist movement, one form of which, Wahhabism, took his name.Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab was born in 1703 in a small village in the Nejd region in the middle of the Arabian peninsula.A devout Islamic scholar, he espoused and developed the most puritanical and strict version of what he saw as the original faith, and sought to spread it by entering pacts with the holders of political and military power.In an early foray in that direction, his first actionwas to destroy the tomb of Zayd ibn al-Khattab,one of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, on the grounds that by the austeredoctrine of salafist theology, the veneration of tombs constitutes shirk, the revering of something or someone other than Allah.But it was in 1744 that Abd al-Wahhab made his crucial alliance with the local ruler, Muhammad ibn Saud. It was a pact whereby Wahhabism provided the spiritual or ideological dimension for Saudi political and military expansion, to the benefit of both. Passing through several mutations, that dual alliance took over most of the peninsula and has endured to this day, with the House of Saud ruling in sometimes uneasy concert with an ultra-conservative Wahhabi religious establishment.The entrenchment of Wahhabi salafism in Saudi Arabia – and the billions of petrodollars to which it gained access – provided one of the wellsprings for jihadist militancy in the region in modern times. Jihad means struggle on the path of Allah, which can mean many kinds of personal struggle, but more often is taken to mean waging holy war.But the man most widely credited, or blamed, for bringing salafism into the 20th Century was the Egyptian thinker Sayyid Qutb. He provided adirect bridge from the thought and heritage of Abd al-Wahhab and his predecessors to a new generation of jihadist militants, leading up to al-Qaeda and all that was to follow.Creative CommonsBorn in a small village in Upper Egypt in 1906, Sayyid Qutb found himself at odds with the wayIslam was being taught and managed around him. Far from converting him to the ways of the West, a two-year study period in the US in the late 1940s left him disgusted at what he judged unbridled godless materialism and debauchery,and his fundamentalist Islamic outlook was honed harder.Back in Egypt, he developed the view that the West was imposing its control directly or indirectly over the region in the wake of the Ottoman Empire’s collapse after World War One, with the collaboration of local rulers who might claim to be Muslims, but who had in fact deviated so far from the right path that they should no longer be considered such.For Qutb, offensive jihad against both the West and its local agents was the only way for the Muslim world to redeem itself. In essence, this was a kind of takfir – branding another Muslim an apostate or kafir (infidel), making it justified and even obligatory and meritorious to kill him.Although he was a theorist and intellectual rather than an active jihadist, Qutb was judged dangerously subversive by the Egyptian authorities. He was hanged in 1966 on charges of involvement in a Muslim Brotherhood plot to assassinate the nationalist President, Gamal Abdel Nasser.Qutb was before his time, but his ideas lived on in the 24 books he wrote, which have been readby tens of millions, and in the personal contact he had with the circles of people like Ayman al-Zawahiri, another Egyptian who is the current al-Qaeda leader.Another intimate of the al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden said: “Qutb was the one who most affected our generation.” He has also been described as “the source of all jihadist thought”, and “the philosopher of the Islamic revolution”.More than 35 years after he was hanged, the official commission of inquiry into al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in 2001 concluded: “Bin Laden shares Qutb’s stark view,permitting him and his followers to rationalise even unprovoked mass murder as righteous defence of an embattled faith.”And his influence lingers on today. Summing upthe roots of IS and its predecessors, the Iraqi expert on Islamist movements Hisham al-Hashemi said: “They are founded on two things: a takfiri faith based on the writings of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and as methodology, the way of Sayyid Qutb.”The theology of militant jihadism was in place. But to flourish, it needed two things – a battlefield, and strategists to shape the battle.Afghanistan was to provide the opportunity for both.
Although news networks like BBC and CNN will tell us about the harm and damages caused by the Islamic State, we should not forget that these fundamentalists are merely acting on revenge. Although, this does not justify their action in any way, it’ll help to provide us a new point of view to the attacks.
1. Islam By Karen Armstrong
2. A History Of God by Karen Armstrong
3. BBC World News