umm Abdillah, Radio Islam Programming | 2015.06.02 | 14 Sha’ban 1436 H
This is part of a Radio Islam series taking apart the most oft-mentioned contestations of ISIS propagandists. Those who aim ISIS rhetoric at unwitting South African audiences create confusion, mayhem and aim to weaken public faith in the guidance of our Ulama.
Questions answered by Moulana Ashraf Dockrat:
a) There have been allegations that the institute of Deoband faked their efforts against the English and never opposed them via Jihad?
b) There have been allegations by ISIS propagandists that South African Ulama are anti jihad, which is a Quraanic injunction. Is this slander?
a) Ulama of Deoband and Jihad
Firstly let me state that these comments are not formulated because of the circumstances we find ourselves, or in reaction to any person’s position. Ideas about the role of Jihad in the ummah are not new. They have been expressed in every age as a means of resistance against oppression. In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries this was certainly the case in many parts of the globe stretching from Indonesia to Egypt to many parts of Africa. The Indo-Pak subcontinent was no exception. The ulama left an indelible mark in the liberation struggle in the Indo-Pak Subcontinent to free millions from the domination of the Raj. Their contribution is acknowledged by academics, historians, sociologists, economists and anthologists across the Muslim and non-Muslim divide.
With the fall of the Moghul rule and a weakened central Ottoman caliphate, and the growing influence of the East India Company, fortunes of the Muslim ummah in this part of the world took a turn for the worst. Allah Ta’ala’s system is such that people such as Tipu Sultan RA and others offered resistance. The British Mutiny in 1857 which was led by ulama who had established their own Islamic state and fought under a legitimate amir is an undisputable fact of history. Recently internationally acclaimed historians such as Willaim Dalrymple and others have documented these events in detail. British historians and eyewitnesses of the time record not only events, but details of clothes and weapons of these mujahideen. It is at this time that Darul Ulum Deoband was founded.
Let us skip over a few decades and look at the 19th and 20th centuries resistance to the British rule. The freedom of India was gained largely on account of Muslim armed struggle. The resistance of the ulama supported by the public was met with brutal repression. The British had identified the ulama as the leaders of the resistance. They were killed brutally. At the head of the jihad against the British were the ulama of Deoband. While the passive resistance movement had some impact, it was in reality, the rally to Jihad which finally broke the backbone of the mighty Raj. People who claimed that the sun never set on the British Empire had been defeated by simple, sincere believers in La illaha illallah. Ml Mahmudul Hasan RA and Ml Husain Ahmad Madani were incarcerated in Malta. Their concern for the ummah is evident in the ulama support for the Khilafat Movement. What is significant is that these were not isolated events that took place at a certain time in history. These events and the response of the ulama and their conscious decision to fall back on a Qur’anic injunction of jihad set a trend that their students and generations of scholars affiliated with the Deobandi school of thought and the methodology of Deobandi ulama would follow. It would not be an exaggeration to say that if we were to describe the Deobandi manhaj/methodology viz. the Deobandi Way, we cannot do so without acknowledging the role that Jihad plays in their understanding of the pure shari’ah left to us by Muhammad-e-Mustafah sallallahu alaihi wasallam. The lessons they thought, they wrote with the ink of their blood.
So, when it came to establishing Pakistan many were ready to make the same selfless sacrifice. When the so-called super power of Russia invaded Muslim lands in Afghanistan in the 80’s and 90’s, it was not surprising that ulama trained at Deobandi-affiliated seminaries and Darul Ulooms took the lead. As a marginal note at this point it may be necessary for us to remind the South African public that at the time, South African ulama supported the jihad effort in Afghanistan in no small way. I personally met with the ustaadh/teacher of Mullah Umar, Mawlana Samiul Haq and members of the Taliban government when they visited Pretoria. It was crystal clear to me at the time that they were all Deobandi, and spoke highly of arguably the greatest Islamic institution of higher learning.
Any revisionist history to score quick points for an ideology that is quick failing amongst thinking Muslims and non-Muslims alike, will not stand the test of empirical proof, and only serve to further entrench the idea that its proponents are clutching at straws. The tactic of ISIS is to create a straw-man on biased perceptions of ulama, tabligh, and the lowest common denominator of the SA Muslim community. To then try to destroy this straw man is an exercise in futility and one is tempted to ask if it is not an attempt at cheap publicity (or rather every expensive publicity) – one’s aakhirah is in fact very expensive.
To reiterate, the history of the jihad effort of the ulama is not only undisputed historical fact, it is testimony to the fact that they have taken this injunction to heart and lived Jihad, Some examples:
Syed Ahmed Shaheed (RA): Armed struggle against the British and the Sikhs (both) and needs no introduction.
The Battle of Shamli: Led by Shaykh Haji Imdadul-ullah Muhajir Makki (RA), most of the Akabir were directly involved in this Jihad and were Martyred, imprisoned or affected.
Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi (RA) was deputed to get Turks and Afghans on board to get British bogged down in a frontal military attack. Ulama of Deoband were exiled and tortured for close to a decade when the scheme failed.
Note also the Khilafah movement to save the Ottomans.
Kashmir Jihad (Pakistan) in 1948, the rift between Jamaat-e-Islami and (Pakistanee) Deobandees was healed because both supported this.
India Jihad (Pakistan) in 1965: Read the stories of Mufti Taqi Usmani (HA) as a young student of roaming the (Black out) Karachi with the spirit of Jihad.
India Jihad (Pakistan) in 1971:
Afghan Jihad (1979-1989): Prominent Deobandi role
Babri Masjid & Kashmir Jihad : Prominent Deobandi role including that of Maulana Masood Azhar and others
Taliban: Deobandi graduates and students well supported by Pakistani Deobandees.
There can be no doubt in our minds that part of the rich legacy of the Deobandi ulama is their contribution through Jihad.
b) Are South African Ulama opposed to Jihad?
This is like asking if ulama are opposed to salah. Which person can claim that they subscribe to the teachings of the Quran and sunnah and be opposed to Jihad? We have seen that ulama in every age have supported legitimate Jihad. So while every Muslim understands that it is an obligation he/she should constantly ready themselves for, there are the ulama that guide the actions of the ummah. They explain when Jihad is a fard al-kifayah, when it is a fard al-ayn and when not. Din and Shariat-i-Muhammadiyyah is not the name of random plucking of verses and ahadith from the sources. It is a practice on a fiqh that guides our actions. So not only are ulama in South Africa not apposed to Jihad; they actively support the right to assist the ummah and they have aspirations to establish the system of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam-the Nizam-i-Muhammadi-on the face of this earth. True ulama here and in other countries have and will continue to support he jihad. Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam has said: al-jihadu madin ila yawmil qiyamah- Jihad will be sustained till the Day of Qiyamah. We are one ummah and have one obligation. South African Muslims are no different from their brothers and sisters or anyone else in the world. Just a few days ago I met with a respectable historian of the armed liberation struggle in South Africa. He made an interesting connection. SA Muslims who in the 80’s had returned from Pakistan and Afghanistan returned to join the armed struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He has met and interviewed these persons personally. The idea that South African ulama are opposed to Jihad is a misnomer. They have always supported legitimate Jihad. They are not prepared to support any jihad and certainly not the jihad of the ISIS. Their’s is an indiscriminate fight of terror.
The difficulty to understand the position of the South African ulama on the issue of Jihad may arise because of a misreading of their statements. When SA ulama say that they are thankful and happy for the religious freedoms that SA Muslims enjoy; this does not mean that they think that religious freedom is limited to the calling of the azaan and the freedom to wear the hijab. Religion has to include the improvement of and the socio-economic freedom of all the people in SA. The religious freedom to champion this cause is also part of the broader religious freedom we enjoy. Anything less is to misunderstand the very nature of the Din of Islam. Similarly when ulama say that they are supportive of peaceful co-existence with all the people of South Africa, this is often misunderstood and the ulama are accused of being accommodating and anti-jihad. What the ulama are saying is that they do not give up their right to help the ummah wherever the need may be. This may include the need to exercise the right to bear arms in struggles against the oppression of the ummah. The caricature of the ulama that some sketch conveniently miss out on the nuances of the ulama statement. We all know that as Muslims we have to make efforts to realise our dreams of implementing a system of governance and a political way of being as envisioned in the pure shari’ah. We have to hold that vision high and dear. It is an accepted fact that the layman and ulama alike will never be satisfied with the predominant ungodly system. Nevertheless, we realise that getting there is not achieved through a shallow reading of our own situation, or a rhetoric of hate that belies the true Din.
There can be no doubt that the Ulama of South Africa have been, and continue to be supportive of Jihad. This support is not only a duty they have as Muslims, but one they shoulder as warathatul ambiyah – the inheritors of the Prophets AS.