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Extremism is Forbidden

Islam Prohibits Extremism

Ibn Taimiyah wrote, “Extremism (Ghuluw) is being over the limit.” Ibn Hajar explained it as “To be excessive and rigid to the point of transgressing limits.” The same meaning was given by Imam Asy-Syatibi. (See Ibn Taimiyah, Iqtidho’ As-Sirat Al-Mustaqim (tahqiq Nasir Abdul Karim), 1404H, chapter 1, p. 289; Ibn Hajr, Fath Al-Bari, Al-Matba`ah As-Salafiah Wa Maktabatuha, Cairo, 1380H, chapter 13, p. 278; Asy-Syatibi, Al-I`itisom, Dar Al-Makrifah, Beirut, 1405H, chapter 3, p. 304)

Islam guides towards moderation, away from extremism. This can be seen from the following arguments;

1. Islam commands that Muslims always pray for the straight and righteous path.

The Quran says:

“Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not those whose (portion) is wrath, and not those who go astray.” (The Quran, 1: 6 – 7)

The ulama explain that what is meant as those who earned the wrath of God were those who made practising religion difficult, while the group that strayed was those who trivialised religion.

The verse teaches the Muslim ummah to distance themselves from two extreme groups, namely the group that neglects the teachings of the religion and the group that is extreme in practising it. Muslims recite this verse in every prayer. That is the extent to which Islam reminds its ummah to avoid extremism.

2. Islam prohibits its ummah from being extreme.

The Quran says:

“These are the limits ordained by Allah; so do not transgress them, if any do transgress the limits ordained by Allah, such persons do wrong (to themselves as well as others).” (The Quran 2: 229)

This verse forbids Muslims from transgressing limits. It also alludes that extremism goes against the teachings of Islam.

The Quran says:

“Do not commit excesses in your religion.” (The Quran 4: 171, 5: 77)

Although this revelation was originally directed to the People of the Book, its message is clear for all – stay away from extremism.

Similarly, Prophet Muhammad said:

“Distance yourselves from being extreme in religion.” (Narrated by Ahmad, Ibn Khuzaimah, An-Nasa`ii, Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim)

3. Muslims are commanded to practise istiqamah (steadfast and straight, without deviations)

The Quran says,

“Therefore stand firm (in the straight Path) as you are commanded, – you and those with you, turn (unto God); and transgress not (from the Path); Verily, He sees all that you do.” (The Holy Quran 11: 112)

This verse commands Muslims to practise istiqamah which is interpreted as moderation.

4. Islam knows the damaging results of being extreme.

The Quran says:

“These are the limits ordained by Allah; so do not transgress them, if any do transgress the limits ordained by Allah, such persons do wrong (to themselves as well as others).” (The Holy Quran 2: 229)

This verse states that the outcome of extremism is cruelty and injustices to others.

Prophet Muhammad said:

“Indeed that which destroyed the people before you is the extremist stance in practising religion.” (Narrated by Ahmad, Ibn Khuzaimah, An-Nasa`ii, Ibn Majah and Al-Hakim)

“Disaster on those who are extreme.” (Narrated by Muslim, Abu Daud and Ahmad)

Prophet Muhammad said:

“Do not make things difficult for yourselves, then Allah will make it difficult for you.” (Narrated by Abu Daud)

These hadiths (Prophet’s traditions) teach that being extreme will cause difficulties to oneself and to others which contradicts the fundamental of Islam mentioned by the Prophet in the hadith:

“Indeed this religion is easy and it will defeat anyone who makes it difficult ” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari)

5. Islam rejects the Al-Mutanattiun

This group was mentioned by Prophet Muhammad in his hadith :

“Destruction upon the Al-Mutanattiun” (Narrated by Muslim, Abu Daud and Ahmad)

Imam An-Nawawi explained Al-Mutanattiun as those who tend to be excessive, who go over the limits in their words and actions. (See An-Nawawi, Syarh Muslim, Dar Ihya’ At-Turats Al-`Arabi, Beirut, 1392H, chapter 16, p. 220)

The Meaning of Extremism according to the Syariah

Among the characteristics of extremism that can be gleaned from the above are;

1. Extremism is when one interprets the text in a strict and burdensome manner in contradiction with the nature of the syariah making it inconvenient for oneself and for others.

2. Extremism is making it burdensome in interpreting and understanding the meaning of divine revelations; going beyond that which is demanded from a Muslim, and going beyond established and accepted methodologies.

Both the above characteristics are part of the Al-Mutanattiun group mentioned in the earlier hadith (Prophet’s saying).

3. Extremism is when one makes an act of worship compulsory on oneself or on others when it is not compulsory in Islam, regardless of how much Islam encourages that act of worship.

4. Extremism is when one treats as haram (forbidden) what Allah has declared as halal, as illustrated in the above hadith (Prophet’s saying).

5. Extremism is when one neglects dharuri (critical) needs like eating, drinking and sleeping.

In relation to point 3, 4 and 5. It was reported in a hadith about 3 men: one who refuses to break his fast, another who prays without stopping for any sleep, and the third who distances himself from women and refuses to get married.

Prophet Muhammad counselled them:

“Truly, I am the most fearful of Allah, and the most pious among you; yet I fast and break my fast, I pray and I sleep, and I also marry women. Then, he who does not like my example, is not of me (not one of my followers).” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari).

6. Extremism is not only in overdoing, but also in neglecting obligations.

Terrorism & Jihad

Terrorism is a form of extremism because it contradicts the fundamental teaching of Islam which prevent the killing of innocents, civilians and non-combatants. It also contradicts the prohibition of the use of violence and force for political objective unless in a legitimate jihad situation.

Terrorism is not justified even if the cause is legitimate e.g fight for independence against occupying force or for if it is committed with good intention e.g in support of the oppressed people.

Act of jihad can fall into extremism if;

1. It is against the priority of the syariah.

See my blog posting on the meaning of jihad.

2. It causes greater harm or against the greater benefit.

Jihad must also observe the following precepts;

a. Harm is avoided according to the capacity to do so

b. A specific harm is maintained to avoid a general harm

c. Should not do something that may lead to something haram (impermissible in Islam), even though it was originally allowed

d. Should not cause a worse harm

e. Harm may not be eliminated with similar harm

f. A big harm is eliminated using a lighter harm

g. When there is conflict between two harms, beware of the greater harm than the lighter one

h. Avoiding harm is more important than acquiring benefit (See As-Suyuti, Al-Asybah Wa An-Nazair, Dar Al-Kutub Al-`Ilmiah, Beirut, 1979, pp. 83, 86, 87.)

3. It does not meet the criteria of a legitimate jihad.

See my blog posting on the meaning of jihad.

4. It ignores or disregards international convention on the law of war.

See my blog posting on jihad and international law.

(Adaptation from Seminar Paper 3 presented in Convention of Ulama organised by PERGAS on 13 – 14 September 2003 which was written by me.)

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About Muhammad Haniff Hassan

Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan is a Fellow. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies), Nanyang Technological University. He received his early education in Aljunied Islamic School. He then continued his tertiary education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, National University of Malaysia, with honours in Syar`iah and Civil law. Mr. Haniff is also active in social activities as a member of the Islamic Religious Council Appeal Board, HSBC Insurance Islamic Advisory Board from 2000 to 2014, Association of Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars of Singapore (PERGAS) and Management Committee of Al-Irsyad Islamic School. He writes extensively in Berita Harian (a local Malay newspaper) and has also published articles in The Straits Times. He has published six books in his name, co-authored a monograph and helped publish two books for PERGAS and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. His personal website in Malay is at www.haniff.sg

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  1. Pingback: Extreme Religious Leaders and Pilticians are only Leading the Idiots | baghdadi3 - September 14, 2013

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