by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
This article first appeared in Q-News, the Muslim magazine.
On September 11th our lives changed forever. We witnessed an act of aggression that in many ways does not have a parallel in past or present times. There are several elements that make this act unique, from the use of civilian planes as weapons of mass destruction to the attack on the most widely recognized skyscrapers in the world. Nor have we ever witnessed the terrible indictment of Islam as having a part to play in such a heinous crime, writes Hamza Yusuf.
Unfortunately, the West does not know what every Muslim scholar knows; that the worst enemies of Islam are from within. The worst of these are the khawaarij who delude others by the deeply dyed religious exterior that they project. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said about them, “When you see them pray you will consider your own prayers insignificant. They recite the Qur'an but it does not exceed the limits of their throat .”In other words, they don’t understand the true [m]eanings. The outward religious appearance and character of the khawaarij deluded thousands in the past, and continues to delude people today. The Muslims should be aware that despite the khawaarij adherence to certain aspects of Islam, they are extremists of the worst type.
Our Prophet said, peace be
upon him, “Beware of extremism in your religion .”Islam is the middle way
between excess and neglect. Zealots are a plague upon religion. These extremists
come in two types. The first is a reactionary extremist who falls far right
of a centre-point. Reactionary extremists do not want any pluralism; they
view the world in melodramatic, black and white, good and evil terms. They
are good and anyone who opposes them is evil. From among the Muslims these
are people who ‘excommunicate’ any Muslim who fails to share their interpretations
The second group are radical extremists, who while they are almost identical with the former group, differ in that they will use violence to further their cause. They are actually worse than the first. They believe like every nefarious secret society before them that ‘the end justifies the means.’ They see any act as acceptable if it will further their ‘cause.’ This is blatantly anti Islamic for a number of reasons.
Firstly, Islam’s means must
reflect its noble ends. Any means that does not embody the core truths
and ethics of Islam is not from Islam and thus denounced as aberration.
Secondly, Islam is not a secret society of conspirators who no one knows
what they are planning. Islam declares openly its aims and objectives and
these are recognized by good people everywhere as pure and congruent with
their own wisdom and traditions. In the case of many of these extremists
even the non-Muslims recognize that no religion of any weight could sanction
the taking of innocent lives.
Thirdly, they are invariably people who have never taken a true spiritual path to God and nor have they studied the humanities. I can almost guarantee that you will not find a scholar of poetry among the whole vile lot of these people. They have no true knowledge of Arabian culture, which is centred in the idea of futuwwa; a word akin to the western word chivalry. The terrorists posing as journalists who killed Ahmad Shah Masuud were cowards of the worst type. Killing themselves was not bravery but stupidity, but killing one’s enemy in such a way is the worst form of treachery and the Arabs have many poems denouncing such type of people.
Our real situation is this:
we Muslims have lost theologically sound understanding of our teaching.
Islam has been hijacked by a discourse of anger and the rhetoric of rage.
We have allowed for too long our mimbars to become bully pulpits in which
people with often recognizable psychopathology use anger - a very powerful
emotion - to rile Muslims up, only to leave them feeling bitter and spiteful
towards people who in the most part are completely unaware of the conditions
in the Muslim world, or the oppressive assaults of some Western countries
on Muslim peoples. We have lost our bearings because we have lost our theology.
We have almost no theologians in the entire
The reality is we are an Umma that no longer realizes that Allah is the power behind all power; that it is Allah who subjugates one people to another; that He gives dominion to whom He pleases and He takes it away from whom He pleases. Our understanding of tawhid has fallen into such disarray that we can no longer introspect when afflictions befall us and then wonder in amazement at why the Americans seem incapable of introspection. Indeed, I personally attended a memorial service in San Francisco with over 30,000 people and the Reverend Amos Brown said in no [u]ncertain terms that America must ask herself what she has done either wittingly or unwittingly to incur the wrath and hate of people around the world. Muslims on the other hand, generally prefer to attack the West as the sole reason for their problems when the truth is we are bankrupt as a religious community and our spiritual bankruptcy has led to our inability to even deliver the message of Islam to Westerners in a time when they were giving us platforms to do so.
It is ironic that the Western media while producing many vile programs on Islam has also produced and aired material of the highest quality with a high level of accuracy only to be vilified by Muslims because it was not good enough. Where is our media? Where are our spokespeople? Where are our scholars? Where are our literary figures? The truth is we don’t have any - and so instead of looking inward and asking painful questions such as why we don’t have such things and such people, we take the simple way out by attacking people whom Allah tells us will do mean things, say bad things and plot against us. And always when we are warned we are told to be patient, to work for the good, to trust in Allah, to return to Allah, to implement our deen.
Conspiracy or not, we are
to blame for the terrible backlash against Muslims. The simple reason is
that when a crazy Christian does something terrible, everyone in the West
knows it is the actions of a mad man because they have some knowledge of
the core beliefs and ethics of Christianity. When a mad Muslim does something
evil or foolish they assume it is from the religion of Islam, not because
they hate us but because they have never been told by a Muslim what the
teachings of Islam are all about