By S. M. Hali
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh has passed a “fatwa” (religious decree) that in Islam, suicide attacks are illegal and illegitimate. The Grand Mufti has branded suicide bombers as “criminals” who will go to “hell”. The erudite scholar has stressed that suicide bombings are “great crimes” and those who execute the heinous act, are “criminals who rush themselves to hell by their actions.” The Sheikh has depicted suicide bombers as “robbed of their minds…who have been used (as tools) to destroy themselves and societies.”
For Muslims, a Fatwa comprises the learned interpretation from a qualified religious scholar on issues pertaining to Islamic jurisprudence. Contrary to a common misperception, not every religious leader can issue a Fatwa because the decree is neither arbitrary nor capricious but generally contains details of the scholar’s reasoning, logic and reference to Islamic tenets and scripture. Thus the pronouncement is considered binding and its violation is tantamount to an act of infidelity.
A religious decree emanating from the institution of the Grand Mufti is consequential since the position is held in great reverence in Islam, because the incumbent has to be an acknowledged Muslim scholar, who has studied the Quràn, Sunnah and Sharia in great detail, conducted and supervised university theses, and participated in thesis discussions and debates. The office of the Grand Mufti empowers the incumbent to also head KSA’s Permanent Committee for Islamic and Scientific Research and Issuing Fatwas. KSA is home to the Kaaba at Makah and the Prophet’s Mosque at Madina, two of the holiest places in Islam, where millions of Muslims offer pilgrimage every year and hold the religious decrees of the Grand Mufti in veneration.
In the case of Pakistan, the Fatwa by Sheikh Abdul Aziz has come at an opportune moment. For over a decade Pakistan has been ravaged by acts of terrorism, which have claimed nearly fifty thousand precious lives. Scholars and religious leaders of various ilk have condemned terror attacks, deeming them un-Islamic since Islam is a religion, which stipulates peace and harmony, yet the terror mongers have not relented.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has wreaked havoc in Pakistan, employing attacks by suicide bombers as their main weapon of mass destruction. The Fatwa by the KSA Grand Mufti should shake them out of their oblivion to Islamic canons and sensitivity. Ironically, the TTP claim to be striving to impose Sharia law in Pakistan but it has been deliberately targeting innocent civilians including women and children. Besides assailing the law enforcing agencies, the armed forces and government installations, the TTP suicide bombers have not demurred from assaulting places of worship, religious congregations, market places, recreational parks, educational institutions especially those for women, bus stops, railway stations and hospitals. These very despicable acts should have provided a reality check to the doubting Thomas amongst us, who wanted to give the TTP the benefit of doubt.
The TTP, who had tried to gain the sympathy of the average Pakistani for its odious agenda by distorting Qurànic teachings to justify its attacks, now stands exposed in face of the clear cut Fatwa by the Grand Mufti, who has unequivocally declared the acts of suicide bombers to be “haram” (sinful and forbidden by Allah). It leaves little doubt that the perpetrators of this abhorrent weapon are destined for hell and are no friend of Islam.
It is the primary duty of Government of Pakistan to protect the lives of the people and its endeavour to engage the TTP in peace talks is a major step towards it. The process is long, tedious and marked with numerous impediments. So far there have been several terror attacks even after the declaration of a cease fire by the TTP. The main protagonists claiming responsibility for the attacks, although part of the motley group comprising the TTP, are apparently averse to the peace process and have been attempting to sabotage the dialogue and are beyond the ambit of control of the TTP. The government and its law enforcing agencies, including the army, have their task cut out for separating the wheat from the chaff. Identifying those who favour peace and engaging them in dialogue while hitting hard against the harbingers of doom and gloom.
It has been noticed that the TTP too has become media savvy, resorting to both social as well as main stream media for propagating its ideology. The opinion builders in this country need to turn the tables and employ the various media tools to disseminate the Grand Mufti of KSA’s Fatwa and relevant Qurànic injunctions to the TTP so that they see the light of the day. The media however has to tread carefully since the terrorists are now targeting the media directly to deter them from presenting the true visage of the miscreants.