Of course I wasn’t shocked by the response to what I have to say about self-proclaimed Jihadi bandits going to Syria to “liberate” its people from Bashar Al Asad and his gang. It’s impossible to reason with people who have already gone insane by the smell of blood and grown addicted to death and the illusory idea of martyrdom in the way they’ve chosen to go about it.
There are far too many Muslims who have not read any of their history and live in a romanticized make-belief land with regards to the early generations and what they had to go through. This is further enforced by made for TV Ramadan series on Arabic channels and Hollywood style movies about different early figures in Islam. Shows which by the way are for the most part overdramatized enactments of bad non-academic reading of history and in some cases even on fabrications in history books.
So when a situation like Iraq or Syria takes place, it provides an opportunity for a few to make their fantasy a reality. All one has to do is watch one of their “Jihad” propaganda videos or read one of their public pronouncements to see a people who seem to have stepped into a time-capsule and traveled back a few centuries. One of those videos even had them on horses as a way to entice more recruits to be “just like the Companions.”
When one rejects this façade and points out the numerous religious problems with what they call “Jihad,” emotions run high. To the point of issuing false accusations through misrepresentations. To question the validity of the activities of such individuals automatically entails in their minds and the minds of those supporting them that it’s a questioning of the validity of the Syrian uprising to oust Al Asad and his gang. Instead of responding directly to the points made against them, self-proclaimed Jihadists and their supporters resort to ad hominem attacks.
As far as I’m concerned, I view anyone who joins any of those groups in Syria outside of the legitimate Syrian opposition to Al Asad and under Syrian authority to be a criminal. They are not involved in Jihad whatsoever. Their intentions are irrelevant and even if they happened to be sincere, that does not exonerate them from their criminal activities. I realize that different areas in Syria have different circumstances. But this is not about Syria. It’s about insane men who in the name of Islam and the Quran are claiming to be upholding the Islamic principle of Jihad, all for the sake of vain hopes and dreams of establishing their illusions of an “Islamic State.” Ideally, I’d like it if everyone could ignore their claims. But that is unfortunately not the case. These criminals have done more harm to the image of Islam than anyone who means to do so could hope. I receive numerous messages about Islam, Jihad, Sharia, etc., from many Muslims who seek answers to their growing doubts as a result of this. Hence, I find myself in the position of having to say something about it.
Shaykh Salman Al Odah is a Saudi Muslim scholar who’s quite well-known in the Middle East. He is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and on its Board of Trustees. Of course when it comes to criminals masquerading as Jihadists, these are attributes of a not-to-be trusted scholar. Especially when he’s the one who said in a public letter to Osama Bin Laden:
My brother Osama, how much blood has been spilt? How many innocent people, children, elderly, and women have been killed … in the name of Al Qaeda? Will you be happy to meet God Almighty carrying the burden of these hundreds of thousands or millions of victims on your back?
Al Odah was asked in 2003 about going to Iraq to join in Jihad with the Iraqis against the US-led invasion. He recently tweeted his response to that questioner to another questioner asking about going to Syria. This response of his was also the one he gave with regards to Afghanistan and Chechnya as well. In fact, he repeated the same message in over 260 articles. I decided to translate the most relevant parts of it for the benefit of those who don’t speak Arabic:
Question: May the peace, mercy, and blessings of God be upon you. I’m a father of four boys, and I want to go to Iraq in Jihad, to defend by Muslim brethren. My question: If I went there with the intention of gaining the pleasure of God and I get killed, will I be a martyr? I have only one life and I don’t want to waste it. I want the answer to be supported by the Book [Quran] and Sunnah, and statements of the righteous predecessors.
Answer: First, if we’re not honest and did not interact sincerely with each other during these critically dangerous times, then there is no good in us.
And I don’t claim – my beloved brother – that what I’ll say to you is necessarily correct. But I assure you that what motivates it is what God knows in our hearts towards wanting to prevent Muslim bloodshed and loss of lives, protect them, and seeking their benefits in this world and the next.
There’s no single Muslim except he or she has in their heart anger and indignation over this obscene aggression to the point of almost losing their health and tranquillity, for it’s enough of an ailment to be forcefully subdued.
But we do not want to increase the tribulation by losing more lives of sincere, pious, righteous people who have good intentions, without having any vexing effect on the enemy.
Verily, God, the Exalted, loves the lives of believers, their continued existence, their worship, their prayer, and their recitation. This is what they were created for. The aging of the believer doesn’t increase him except in good, and the best among you are those who live long and excel in their works.
The departure of the believer from this abode is not sought for itself. Rather, it’s permitted if in doing so it brings a greater benefit than that being brought forth from remaining. Hence, if the benefit [of departing] is not existent or barely there, it’s obligatory for life to supersede [everything else].
It’s justice and their right that the Iraqi people, to the extent of their capacities, defend their religion, land, honour, and resources. We are confident that the entering of the American Administration into this swamp was a miscalculation, and time will show that this was the height of folly exercised by someone who has no experience.
But we do not see a reason for the going of any of the Muslims to Iraq to participate in the war for a number of reasons, among them are:
- The majority of the war will consist of destructive aerial strikes. In this it is as easy to kill 100,000 as it is to kill 1000, and the equipment will determine the result of the battle over the short term.
- The inhabitants of Mecca are more knowledgeable about its land [this is an Arabic proverb], its conditions, and its geographical nature. People there don’t need more numbers, and the one going there is likely to be a burden on them instead of being help.
- May be the enemy gets closer and seeks to capture some of the volunteers in Iraq for ulterior political, propaganda, internal, or external motives. So the paths might be cut off for those going there and they could fall into the hands of those who do not fear God or have awareness of Him.
- The lack of operational clarity to the war now and what it will become, whether it will definitely be prolonged or end soon, and how the internal state of affairs are playing out, etc. These, and others are important considerations. By adhering to a bit of patience and self-control you might come to conclusions that have an impact on this decision.
- There are many warring and opposing factions, and they’re all scary, and whoever escapes from one may not escape from the other. You have the invading forces from one side, the opposing forces that are allied to West from another side, some local sectarian forces, some onlooking neighbours with their sights set [for their opportunity], and sides that are connected to the regime. So the one going there will walk between these forces as if he’s going through a minefield – if one misses him the other gets him, and he might find himself on a path he never intended to be on and doesn’t want it.
- From honesty we must say to our brethren: In spite of the bitterness and psychological defeat, the Ummah [i.e., Muslims] must not stop its future collective and individual projects due to this crisis. Rather, we must exert ourselves in creating the future and performing fruitful actions, even if they are not directly related to these events. This, however, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to give more aid efforts, concern, and prayers for this crisis.
- Our brethren will be in desperate need for us to give what we can and help them in all ways possible based on what the situation requires. This oppressive war will leave behind a great number of the wounded, the destitute, refugees, poor people, orphans, and widows. So let us be sincere in our condolences, treating their wounded, sharing with them all we possess, and in standing with them.
- It’s from wisdom for us to have farsightedness, patience, and careful planning so we know where exactly do we have our feet. Verily, any action that is not built upon clear vision and farsightedness may not only not give the desired results, but may harm and not benefit.
For those who do speak Arabic, here’s a short clip where Shaykh Al Odah talks about this matter: