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The Underpinnings of Violent Discourse

In times of war, the Prophet peace be upon him said, "Do not kill an old man or a young child or a woman. Do not be extreme in your conduct and do good to others... Do not kill a baby or a laborer or a farmer. Do not desecrate corpses. Do not cut or burn a tree or cut down a fruit-bearing tree..."

Politics is that, which does not contradict what the Shari’ah explicitly states. To argue that politics is what has been explicitly stated by the Shari’ah is wrong and misleading.


1. The meaning of hakimiyya (sovereignty)

Violent extremist discourse is based on several underpinnings, including a literal understanding of sovereignty, whose apparent meaning refers to implementing God’s word. Forreligious scholars, however, it means to reflect on and analyzesacred texts in order to understand the meaning intended by God and place that meaning within a real-life context using the tools of fiqh al-ta’weel (the jurisprudence of interpretation)and fiqh al-tanzeel (the jurisprudence of applying interpretations within a particular context).

The contents ofhakimiyyaare produced by scholars throughinterpretingsacred texts and applying them within their context to arrive atspecific rulings.This is a human effort influenced by the rules of interpretation and contextualization, not a literalunderstanding limited to reading the words of the text. Such interpretation gives rise to multiple meanings, unless itrelates to sacred texts that clearly have a conclusive meaning.

In contrast, violent extremist discourseviews the application of sacred texts as an automatic implementation of rulings. This discourse obfuscates the difference betweentext and interpretationof that text, between the divine meaning of the text and its human interpretation.

According to this approach, Shari’ah is reduced to a series of punishments, commands and prohibitions while it is, in reality, a guiding path for Muslims in terms of ethics, behavior, knowledge and life in general.

Shari’ah is a form of guidance for Muslims, an ideal that they try to come close to and attain in their own lives. This difference betweena literal understanding and a purposive understanding of Shari’ah and politics is age-old.

2. Ibn‘Aqeel and the jurisprudence of governance

IbnQayyim al-Jawziyya says in his book “A’laam al-Muwaqqi’een”, "There was a debate between Abu al-WafaIbn‘Aqeel and some Islamic jurists. Ibn‘Aqeelargued that‘politics is about firmness and requires a leader’. Others said, ‘Politics is only that which is approved by the Shari’ah’. Ibn‘Aqeeldisagreed, writing that, ‘Politics is about acts or deeds that lead people closer to the good and away from corruption, even if it was not commanded by the Prophet peace be upon him or stated in divine revelation. If by your statement that politics is only that, which is approved by the Shari’ahyou mean that does not contradict what the Shari’ah states, then this is correct. But if you mean that politics is only what has been explicitly stated by the Shari’ah, then this is wrong and misleading.”

A literalist understanding of provisions and reducing Shari’ah to the literal words of the text would mean criminalizing differences of opinion andijtihad(independent reasoning),and condemning those who differas apostates or disbelievers.

The only act thatIslam requires ofthose embracing it is todeclare their faithand performtheir religious obligations. Meanwhile,extremist and violent extremist discourse has expanded the requirements of faith to include contentious issues that they consider to be conditions for proving or disproving the validity of a person’s faith.

Thus, this discourseopens the door for declaring others to be apostates or disbelievers, narrowing the parameters of faith and excluding most believers from it. It seeks to claim a monopoly on religious belonging, limiting Islam to a single, small sect and dividing the world into the“world of Islam” and the“world of disbelief”, in which they permit violating the sanctity of people’s lives, property and dignity.

3. The consequences of takfiriextremism

Extremist takfiri discourse, which is discourse that seeks to exclude fellow Muslims from the fold of Islam, leads to fanaticism based on the doctrine of al-walaa w al-baraa (allegiance and disavowal), where one set of Muslims are labeled believers and the rest are cast out and labeled apostates or disbelievers.The doctrines of al-firqa al-najiyaand al-taifa al-mansoura state that only one group (those adhering to takfiri thought) will be saved in the Hereafter and enter Paradise, while all othersare branded infidels, having stepped outside the boundaries of the righteous path of the salaf (early Muslims).

Thus, violent takfiridiscourse limits the definition of believers to the few who believe in its precepts and consider themselves al-taifa al-mansoura (the “victorious sect”), al-firqa al-najiya (the “sole surviving righteous group”) and the group of fighters who will restore Islam to the glory of its early days.

Extremist takfiri discourse leads to segregation from society, encouraging its followers to distance themselvesfrom others. This can range from a silent, passiveboycotting of society to more active behavior such as separating oneself off or avoiding contact with others, unless with the intention of converting them to one’s doctrine and building popular support for it.This conditionleads to emotional isolation from society, whichhelps to explain how some violent extremist groups can so cruelly and callously targetand kill innocent people around them.

Those who adoptextremist takfirithoughtdo not give any importance todissenting opinions or any form of criticism, because they believe they possess the absolute truth. Theybelieve that they are living according to God’s will,buoyed by His inspiration and armed with His help.

The violent extremist discourse of Salafi Jihadismhas violated the highest moral values of Islam, as expressed by the noble Prophet,peace be upon him,in his commands toMuslimswho fought inbattles in the early days of Islam, at a time when there were hostilities between Muslims and thepagans, "Do not kill an old man or a young child or a woman.Do not be extreme in your conduct and do good to others... Do not kill a babyor a laboreror a farmer. Do not desecrate corpses. Do not cutor burn a tree or cut down a fruit-bearing tree or slaughtera camel except for food. When you pass by people in worship, leave them and do not disturb them." These values enabled Islam to win people's hearts and minds.

These teachingsembody the concept of Shari’ah as stated by Ibn al-Qayyim, "Shari’ahis based on the governance of people’s affairs and interests. Itis justice, mercy and wisdom, and everything that achieves people’s interests. Every matter thatviolates justice, mercy, wisdom or people’s rightful interests is not from the Shari’ah, even if interpreted as such in past jurisprudence.The Shari’ah is Allah’s justice between people,His mercy for His creation, His shadow on earth, His wisdom and proof of the message of His Prophet peace be upon him. It is His light, with which we see. It is His guidance, by which we are guided. It is His relief for everyailment and His straight path.”



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