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On Saturday 30th April, I attended Cumberland Road Mosque’s conference 2016 which was entitled “Reclaiming Islam From Extremists” which consisted mainly of lectures given by renowned imams and students of knowledge on the issue of extremism within the traditions of Islam. On the bill were Taalib Alexander,a known student of knowledge who has delivered various lectures in South London, Abu Taymiyyah, student of knowledge from Leicester and Abu Usaama Adh-Dhahabi, Imam from Green Lane Masjid who filled in at the last minute for Abdur-Rahmaan Hassan. Taalib Alexander gave us an insightful lecture on the contemporary manifestations of extremist movements within the arab and muslim world. Focussing on Isis and Boko Haram, mainly, Taalib explained how these were organisations whose main aim was money and power and he gave examples of how these groups have killed muslims in order to attain power and influence.

 

His talk was beneficial because it gave the conference a more of a contemporary feel, since many of these lectures focus on the khwaarij mainly but Taalib exposed how these groups target muslims and other people of all faiths and none in the name of their own ideology, especially the targeting of young children which goes beyond all bounds and ethical norms. Abu Usama Ath Thahabi explained the Islamic definition of extremism and the position of islam and the traditional scholars on the issue of extremism, which they call ‘Ghuloo’. He explained that Islam doesn’t only recognise the far right extremists, which is those people who go overboard within religion which they impose on others, but there is also a recognition of far left extremism, which is the secular types who make up reasons for not practicing islam and the example he gave of this type of extremism was Quilliam Foundation. He explained that Islam was in the middle of these two extremes which is not to overburden yourself to the far right or not to be too relaxed in religion which is the far left but rather to stay on the middle path as explained in the Qur’an and the Sunnah & to finish off Abu Taymiyyah spoke about the contextualisation of violence within the sharia and gave examples of how, even though in some circumstances violence could have been used, the Prophet Muhammad(saw) chose peaceful methods when it came to dealing with people. From my experience in counter extremism work, those three topics were enough in terms of providing an over-arching framework of the extremism debate within Islam which provided enough scope for further issues to be discussed so with this in mind, I asked two questions at the Q&A session.

 

My first question was directed at Abu Usama my question was pertaining to the concept of Al Hakimiyyah (Sovereignty to God) and how extremist groups differ in their understanding to that of the understanding of the orthodox muslim scholars. Abu Usama explained that traditionally the Sunni Scholars have three categories in relation to the Oneness of God. Tauheed al Ruboobiyyah (Oneness of God in His  Lordship), Tauheed al Uloohiyyah (Oneness of God in his Worship) Tauheed al Asma Was As Sifaat (Oneness of God in His Names and Attributes) and he said that within these attributes, one can come to the understanding that God is al-Hakim (The Sovereign). So with this understanding, one is still within the orthodox sunni understanding of Islam however he went on to explain that extremists have come up with a fourth category which is Tauheed Al Hakimiyyah (Oneness of God in His Sovereignty) and what they have done is focus on the category of Al Hakimiyyah & politicised it to the detriment of all the other obligations within islam. So with this politicised category of Al Hakimiyyah there are no agreements with different states, there are no boundaries or nation states, mankind has no place in the interpretation of divine laws and regulations, there is no room for different opinions etc because everything and everyone comes under the rulership of God, well according to the way these extremists understand the Sovereignty of God. This question was needed to be asked because I wanted to focus on ideology which Abu Usama explained well Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God) but the debate on extremism is changing. It is not just solely on political violence anymore but it has evolved in to one of the friction between liberalism and conservatism. So with this in mind, I asked Abu Taymiyyah the question about the killings of the secular bloggers in Bangladesh and how muslims should deal with secular atheist bloggers in muslim majority societies. Both he & taalib denounced the killings of these bloggers stating that extra-judicial killings is against the rulings of Islam and it is only the prerogative of the ruler to deal with those subjects who may have broken the law of the land. Abu Taymiyyah went on to explain that muslims should deal with Secular bloggers with dialogue and debate, not violence.

 

Although there was a lot of benefits in going to this conference, I do have some lines of constructive criticism for the mosque committee and speakers. Although I understand that the speakers came from far and there were time limitations, for lectures that are essentially annual conferences for masjids and religious institutions I would have liked to see the use of audio visual equipment like, pictures, video etc by the speakers to compliment what they are talking about as it was billed as a conference so there could have been room to spice up the talks especially now that there is a lot of online verified testimony from people who have escaped the clutches of ISIS and Boko Haraam, seeing some of these videos as part of their talks would have been a nice compliment. So that’s my first point of constructive criticism. The second point comes with a caveat, although I understand the masjid was a small masjid and the lectures had to take place in the mens prayer space but to me you cant advertise something as an event for all of the community, only to find that at the event, there is a total lack of the presence or the participation of women. That, as well as of the issue of writing questions on paper for women, some would say, is almost discriminatory and I don’t think this has any place now as women, as should rightly be in my opinion, are involved in all aspects of public life. So for future events, I would suggest the renting of a hall where women are present and are participating in the event (by this I mean, you can have women speakers as well) or to extend the mosque where you have shared spaces where you can host your annual conferences and other events.

I would suggest the further development of halls in mosques as then when you do events, you can incorporate things like entertainment such as poetry or acapella rap or acoustic nasheed singing so the event is fun but also more importantly educational as well.

 

But with these points of criticism, I still commend the brothers for hosting an event on such a topic, it was very beneficial and I wish them all the best for the future by the Will of God.

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