As a former member of the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb-ut-Tahrir, HT), I can really sympathise with my former colleagues and other groups in their struggle to build a genuine Islamic State that would be a source of security, justice and prosperity for all. In the past, the Islamic State was exactly that, a system built on the actual teachings of Islam, where people fled to seeking sanctuary. During the Medieval Inquisition in Europe, the Jews fled to the Islamic State seeking protection. They were offered that and they prospered for centuries. The Muslim Spain is another example of where the society flourished at all levels with Jews, Muslims and Christians living side by side.
I can hardly believe my eyes, as the events have unfolded this year in various parts of the Muslims world. It seems the notion of the Islamic State (The Khilafah or the Caliphate) has been completely hijacked by wild extremists acting in the name of Islam, and their actions are far removed from the action of Prophet Mohammed (SAW), and the actions of the early companions and the generation of Muslims rulers that followed.
In Africa, the Boko Haram group is running riots that have temporarily overshadowed, for the moment, the Somali Al-Shabab group, which was responsible for the attack on the Kenyan Shopping mall. Like bandits, Boko Haram is kidnapping school girls under the banner of ‘Jihad’. The group is opposed to Western education, but has no qualms when it comes to reaping its benefits, as they use the internet and the mass media to deliver their message. If they could get their hands on Western weapons or technology they would not complain either. This gives us a glimpse of their primitive mindset and what is to come in their version of an ‘Islamic’ State.
Over in Syria and Iraq, we see the rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Their leader has declared the Caliphate and so far all we see is chaos and destruction and beheadings of people without trial or without evidence, and there is no mercy. The Christians and Yazidis are being persecuted under ISIS, after living peacefully with the Muslims side by side, for centuries.
When I saw the early images of Alan Henning held captive, the man who left all his possessions and family to help the needy people of Syria, I thought maybe it was media misinformation, because, the Muslims are known for their hospitality toward travellers and in this case, because he was a charity worker, they would have shown him even more courtesy. I would expect that even from ISIS if they had any form of Islamic heritage. His execution left me speechless as did the earlier execution of the journalists. Anyone who has read the biography of the Prophet Mohammed would know that Alan Henning would have been given red carpet treatment rather than held as hostage, and killing him would have simply been unthinkable. The Prophet forgave belligerent individuals many a time. When he was personally attacked and insulted, he did not cause riots in the street calling for the execution of his attackers.
Now we have the Taliban in Pakistan, who have the same aspiration of building an Islamic State and have responded to the air strikes over Waziristan by bombing a school, killing over 100 school children. They will argue “An eye for an eye”, a collective response of war. By that argument, the Pakistani forces could respond too and level Waziristan. However, I am sure many in Waziristan are also horrified by this incident. Many of those children may have grown up and become sympathetic to the Taliban cause. The best response is to treat the Taliban as a group and to confine the military operation to that only. They have clearly lost the propaganda war now.
It would have been understandable to some extent had they attacked a military barrack containing soldiers, rather than school children under the maxim of “An eye for eye” because we know from our religion and history that women and children are to be spared. This was the first instruction given by the Prophet when going to war and his companions followed this tradition. This is clearly documented. Even when there were grounds to take such measures this was avoided, because it runs contrary to the spirit of Islam. Take the classic example of Salahuddin Ayubi when he recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders. He didn’t execute the women and children or the prisoners of war in response to the earlier action of King Richard, even though he had justification for doing so.
In any case, the if Taliban wanted to establish the Islamic State in Pakistan so that it could govern its people with the light of Islam, then it would be contradictory to bring death, destruction and chaos over the same people. I remember the arguments from HT that using armed struggle to bring about an Islamic State would bring about chaos and bloodshed of the very people you are trying to impose Islam upon. This is what happened inside Algeria during the time of FIS (Islamic Salvation Front), and it is happening now on a greater scale.
All of these groups seem to think that invoking penal code at the first opportunity, carrying out executions without trial and waving their guns in their air symbolises the establishment of an Islamic State. This is very crude and their actions fit the description of the early Khawarij movement of the 7th century. They operated on the simple principle that if you differed with them then you were an apostate (Takfir), and the spilling of your blood was permissible. There were no courts, and no trial, and accordingly they created havoc in society and assassinated the fourth Caliph of Islam, Imam Ali. To job of declaring apostasy or applying the penal code is the duty of a qualified judge or a ruler who has legitimate authority, but even before the imposition and application of the penal code, the society must be prepared with education and security. It is well known that certain penal codes were suspended during the reign of the second Caliph of Islam (Umar ibn Khattab) due to famine. What about exercising mercy and forgiveness, which is what the Prophet ( SAW) showed many times. Why the enthusiasm to spill blood at the first opportunity?
As one prominent scholar recently asked about the new ISIS, is it a sanctuary for the ordinary Muslims or is it a sword hanging over their neck, forcing citizens to obey their viewpoint?