Translated by: Manal Samhat
His Eminence, the Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra), once talked about the phenomenon of Takfir in the Muslim communities and the ways to face it, by answering a series of relevant inquiries. His Eminence considered that the Takfiri groups are people who do not know Islam or its truth, and that is why they do not differentiate between disbelief and belief. He also pointed that discussing the matter with them objectively and showing them how wrong they are with regards to the issue of disbelief and belief and deeming certain groups of Muslims as disbelievers and permissible to kill could be a means to treat this phenomenon and limit it…
The Islamic discourse
Q: There is confusion in the political discourse nowadays, due to the contradiction between the terrorist or Takfiri acts and the rightful Islamic thought, so how can we consolidate our Islamic discourse and acts vis-à-vis these challenges?
A: This problem is one of the challenges that Islam is facing, through the enemies of Islam who are trying to distort its image. Concerning the issue of terrorism and violence, we ought to set out to study [the true] Islam in the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet, so as to let all the people know that Islam does not call for violence, but for lenience and that violence is only resorted to in order to face those who impose violence on Islam, according to Allah’s saying: “And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you” (02:190). It is also narrated that the Prophet (p.) said: “Whenever lenience becomes part of something, it beautifies it; whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished” and: “Surely Allah is lenient and loves leniency and He gives for leniency what He does not give for violence”. As such, it becomes clear that the issue of accusing Islam of terrorism is rather political and constitutes a part of our struggle with the axis of international arrogance that is trying to make use of certain controversial acts that some Muslims carry out in different positions or other acts that are based on the misunderstanding of Islam… they make use of these acts and try to employ them in the course of dominating the Islamic world.
We say to the arrogant that if you are talking about certain Muslims who carry out some acts of terrorism or violence to accuse Islam in its entirety of them, then what do you westerners call what you are committing? As you know, there are crime rates in the west that are not present in the Islamic countries. And we know that the Japanese, along with the rest of the world, commemorate the Hiroshima and Nagasaki crimes perpetrated by the American Army against Japanese civilians; is that not terrorism?! Aren’t the acts that the Americans are committing in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries where they support the regimes that persecute their people… aren’t these acts of terrorism?!
Therefore, our job is to show them that Islam is nothing like what they are portraying and to discuss the matter with them by telling them: If you are accusing Islam of terrorism, then we accuse you of terrorism, or else how do you explain the colonization and all your hostile acts in the Islamic countries? How do you explain the mafias that were and are still present in Europe and America?
We should not surrender to these accusations. We should admit our own mistakes and condemn all those who deviate from the authentic Islamic line and might consequently distort the image of Islam. We have to authenticate our Islamic concepts and work and continue working in this course.
At the time of the Prophet (p.), there were challenges, but they were different kinds of challenges that were consistent with that time in which he lived, so they accused him of being a wizard, a forecaster and a liar, while he was the truthful and the honest: “And they say: The stories of the ancients-- he has got them written-- so these are read out to him morning and evening” (25:05) and: “Only a mortal teaches him” (16:103). And finally they accused him of being crazy and insane, and even Abu Lahab, as mentioned in the Prophet’s biography, used to walk behind the Prophet (p.) and say: “Do not believe my nephew, he has lost his mind”. Despite that, the Prophet (p.) confronted all these accusations and Islam persisted while all the others failed. Therefore, we have got to have an authentic Islamic pride and we should not be weakened in front of the others who are accusing us and lying to us and so on…
The cruelty of Muslims
Q: We have come to notice that the Muslims, more than the others, hold the traits of cruelty and hard-heartedness, the concept of Takfir and the idea of killing one another and the others, what is the basis/origin of this upbringing?
A: Perhaps this can be referred to the upbringing process that is based on fanaticism and [the act of] Muslims accusing each other of disbelief and on considering cruelty and hard-heartedness as the best and fastest method of upbringing and education.
Imam Ali (a.s.) and the phenomenon of Takfir
Q: Some people censure the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) that he, according to them, got caught in the mayhem of Takfir and killing following the death of the Messenger of Allah (p.), having killed the Khawarij who were famous for worship and most of whom had memorized the Quran and they had undoubtedly professed the two testimonies, knowing that the Messenger of Allah (p.) says: “Whoever says there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, then his property and blood shall become inviolable”, so how do we respond to those?
A: The thing is that these people do not understand the issue in its Islamic dimensions, historic reality and religious circumstances. When Imam Ali (a.s.) assumed the caliphate, he faced all kinds of mines and traps planted in his way, whether before assuming the caliphate or while being caliph having been pledged allegiance to by the Muslims. The truth is that Imam Ali (a.s.) was the rightful caliphate, even if people had not pledged allegiance to him, as clarified by the Holy Ayah: “O Messenger! Deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people” (05:67) and by the following Hadiths of the Prophet: “You are to me like Aaron is to Moses, but there is no Prophet after me” and in Al-Ghadir Hadith: “Whoever I am his Mawla (leader), Ali is his Mawla”.
When Imam Ali (a.s.) was pledged allegiance to, he started to plan for a civilized Islamic state, and there is no one better than him for this job, but the first thing he had to face was the revolt of Talhah and Az-Zubair who were among his companions, knowing that Az-Zubair was his cousin. After they pledged allegiance to him, they asked him to let them take part in the rule, but the Imam told them that they can take part in the consultation council but not in the caliphate for they were not eligible and he could not grant them such eligibility. He tried to convince them of that, but they insisted on their position and they went to Al-Basrah to incite the people against Imam Ali (a.s.), taking the Messenger’s wife, Sayyeda Aisha, along with them. By that, the State’s order was disturbed and they wanted to rule Al-Basrah at a time the Imam took Al-Kufah as his capital. When the Imam went to Al-Basrah and gathered the people, he tried to reach out to them and discuss the matter with them, and he even sent someone to let the Quran be the judge between them, but they killed him.
At that point, the Imam (a.s.) saw that the best thing was to fight them, yet not on the basis of difference in opinions but on the bases of preserving the Muslims’ general security and maintaining the order of the Islamic State, which the two (Talhah and Az-Zubair) wanted to divide for their personal interests. Fighting Talhah and Az-Zubair was aimed at maintaining the security in the Islamic reality and preserving the unity of the Islamic nation. Afterwards, Mu’awiyah rebelled against him under the pretense of avenging Uthman’s death, although the Imam had nothing to do with Uthman’s killing; he defended him and let his two sons defend him too. If we read in “Nahjul-Balaghah” the letters that Imam Ali (a.s.) sent to Mu’awiyah, which were flourished with great styles and Islamic values, we will notice that the Imam was not in a position of war; all he wanted was to preserve the Islamic State. Afterwards, things erupted and Mu’awiyah waged a war and resorted to arbitration, and from that moment things aggravated. The Imam wanted to send Ibn Abbass for the arbitration, but the pressure the Khawarij imposed on him made him send Abu Moussa Al-Ash’ari, the naïve person who was also complicated from the Imam. Omar Bin Al-‘As defeated Al-Ash’ari, and they (the Khawarij) said: “There is no rule but Allah’s, so how can you rule; O Ali, you have ascribed partners to Allah”. The Imam did not reply and sent Ibn Abbass to discuss the matter with them and he continued to give them their due sums and salaries just as the rest of the Muslims. Despite all that, the Imam (a.s.) did not fight them because they opposed him, but because they started to practice brigandage against the Muslims and they killed Khabbab and his wife. And because the Imam was the religious ruler, he could not but fight them and restore order defending the Islamic order and the Muslims’ security, but some people do not understand these issues as deep as they are and they simply adopt the naïve and superficial titles.
Building praying areas over graves
Q: Can we consider the Ayah: “Erect an edifice over them” (18:21) an evidence that proves the permissibility of making acts of worship and the graves and building praying areas over them, at a time we notice that some consider building praying areas and performing prayers and supplications near the graves of the prophets and Imams as an act of polytheism, especially that the downtrodden who suggested building the praying areas are always the majority?
A: The inquirer here is asking about an issue that was the subject of controversy between certain Islamic sects. A certain sect accuses another of polytheism or what could mount to polytheism when the followers of the latter pray at the graves of the prophets and Imams, so they deem that an act of polytheism, as if they are actually worshipping the prophets and Imams and prostrating to them! The Shiites too have Hadiths that say: “Do not take the graves of your prophets as places of worship”. But the act of taking graves as places of worship pointed to in this Hadith has nothing to do with what the Muslims, be they Shiites or Sunnis, are actually committed to. The reason is that when they prostrate at the grave, they are not prostrating for the person in it, and what polytheism is that when a person performs two Rak’ahs at the grave seeking closeness to Allah and offers the reward to the dead?! By doing so, the one performing the prayer would actually be praying seeking closeness to Allah and he would not address the grave or take it as his direction of prayer, neither would he address his prayer to the person in the grave; nay, he would be addressing Allah. Therefore, this misconception that few Muslims are accused of is actually the result of misunderstanding and misinterpreting the Hadiths on that matter: “Do not take the graves of your prophets as places of worship”, “Do not take my grave as places of worship” and so on.
Indeed, there are certain features that some people resort to as a token of modesty, yet they should abstain from them. An example is when someone enters the shrine of an Imam or a prophet and he prostrates at the door for example… even if he is not actually prostrating to the person whose grave he is visiting in the actual sense of prostration, the look of him doing it suggests to the others what he does not actually intend, even though he would most certainly be doing so out of respect and love. But when a person loves someone, he should not express his love and loyalty to him in a way that makes the people think of what he is doing unlike his real intention. Many of the things the Shiites were accused of were the result of similar kinds of features, for some people, instead of calling on Allah, they say: “O Ali, give us sustenance or heal us”, although they are certain that Allah is the One Who heals and gives sustenance.
Indeed, we do implore the Imams and the prophets and we do consider them to be our intercessors, for Allah says: “And they do not intercede except for him whom He approves” (21:28) and: “On that day shall no intercession avail except of him whom the Beneficent Allah” (20:109), and they were granted the ability of intercession… but we have to balance our emotions, so as not to attribute to them what we do not actually believe in or want.