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Political Play
Ratan Sharda
Can Muslims be De-radicalized? 24 March, 2016
Sultan Shahin, who has published this book - The Missing Introspection - A Critique of Current Muslim Approaches – The way forward' needs to be thanked for giving new direction to a debate about Islam. This book is a collection of lectures and essays of Mr. Shahin. He has been invited to various international forums of UN and other Human Rights group to present his views on issues arising out of Islamist extremism and terrorism.

It is an important document that tries to raise a question - ‘Can Muslims be De-radicalized?” and tries to provide some answers. His hypothesis is that Muslim leadership will have to be pro-active. You cannot de-radicalize a Muslim who is already radicalized with Madrassa kind of education where no questions are asked and logical queries are discouraged.

He illustrates his point by quoting extensively from the books taught in Madrassas funded by petrodollars to brainwash young minds with worse form of bigotry in the name of Islam. He strives hard to portray as religion of peace and brotherhood. He asserts that Arab supremacist ideas are feeding Islamophobia.

This question of possibility of de-radicalization becomes more valid in the shadows of Brussels attacks.

Mr. Shahin is deeply read scholar and a devout Muslim who has very good grasp over different aspects of Islam. For people who are neutral or allergic to Islam it is a good starting point of understanding Islam in its glory and also see its warts that the author strives to expose with humility and logical reasoning.

Sultan Shahin is clearly allergic to ‘Petrodollar Islam’ that promotes Wahhabi and Salafist view of Quran and Hadees. He stresses that root cause of radicalization of Muslims across world is interpretation of these scriptures without context of the time in which they were revealed or written.

I have tried to paraphrase key points brought out by Mr. Shahin in this book -


  • He asserts that Quran is a created book that progressed with march of events. It is a divine revelation that was received by Prophet Mohammed over 23 years as he faced various situations in life and when he faced adverse situation arising out of attack on young faith of Islam propagated by him as the word of Allah. Holy Quran is not an uncreated book, not is it a copy of original lying secure in lauh-e-mahfooz safe in heavens.
  • Revelations of Quran can be broadly divided into two periods of Prophet’s life - his stay in Mecca where he propagated Islam as a religion of peace and brotherhood to his people fighting each other. Second part of revelations belongs to the period when he had to fight for survival of young Islam and protect his faithful followers. Muslims were allowed to defend themselves by picking up sword 13 years after Quranic revelations began. This was a violent part hence revelations support violence to protect Islam and wage war against infidels or enemies of Islam. Most of its contextual, war-time verses are not applicable to Muslims today, except those that advocate shunning aggression.
  • His second contention is that apart from Quran, there is no sanctity in treating Hadees as holy. Only Quran can be treated as holy revelation, not Hadees. Hadees are based on stories about life of Prophet Muhammad collected and produced up to 300 years after his death. There is no reason to follow them word by word. Prophet’s life and lectures were based on that period and civilization of Arabia, his home. You cannot transpose those acts or practises on Muslim living in different civilizations and countries like India or Indonesia.
  • He is against treating Shariah as holy or non-alterable. It was largely based on jurisprudence practised in Arabia of 1400 years back. Shariah codification has been done throughout Islamic history. Present form mostly flows from codification done 120 years after Prophet’s demise in Umayyad and then later in Abbasid era. Shariah should be altered based on the societies in which present day Muslims live. For example Shariah has been modified even in professed Muslim countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia as per local customs.

Sultan Shahin believes that if Muslim youth can be de-radicalized on the basis of above three premises. Iron grip of Maulvis and Taliban can be loosened if youth can be taught about these three issues.

It is ironical that Islamophobes and ISIS kind of people of different hues quote same Verses of Quran or narrations of Hadees without reference to their context, so people cannot be blamed for taking a negative view of Islam as broadcast by extremist and violent groups.

Unless the followers of Islam decide to modify their world-view vis-à-vis other civilizations and religions they cannot really claim not to be what they are accused of being.

He points out that Muhammad never picked sword for conquest but only to defend his faith when there was no other alternative. These war-time verses must not be taken literally and used to justify violence today. He argues that parts of Islam that teach brotherhood, peace and tolerance to other faiths must be highlighted and adopted more vigorously by followers of Islam.

He notes that silence of majority of Muslims over destruction of precious Islamic heritage, most prominently in Saudi Arabia is ‘overwhelming’. He questions the right of Muslims’ to claim religious freedom when they don’t speak up against religious persecution of other religious minorities in Islamic nations.

Muslims demand not only Shariah where they are in simple majority but now even where they are in a minority. None has agreed except India so far and now UK in a small way. We can see consequences of such ghettoization in UK as well as in India. Wahhabi Salafists are discouraging logical debate in their Madrassas, whether in Pakistan or UK. Reports from UK about radicalization of youth through Madrassas are alarming.

Sultan Shahin reminds readers that Prophet Muhammad set up a secular state. Medina was declared a nation state, not a religious state. Whole multi-religious population was called Ummah not only Muslims as done now. All religious groups, for instance, Jews, followed their own religious laws (i.e. Shariah). Islam is not exclusivist but preaches peaceful living with others. He quotes authoritatively from Quran to prove his point.

Sultan Shahin tries to spell out how Muslim Indians need to think or follow clear thoughts propagated by truly moderate Muslims. He believes that only Muslims of India can play a role in bringing together Sunnis and Shias as they have lived more peacefully together than Muslims in many other countries. They must work hard to establish the Quranic ideal that killing even one innocent is like killing humanity. They must not fall for victimhood mentality and conspiracy theories being fostered by exclusivist Wahhabi theology and propaganda.

He tries to make out another point that Hindus are people of book (ahl-e-kitab) mentioned in Quran. So, Muslims must live peacefully with them, like all other ‘people of book'. He quotes repeatedly to stress that true Muslims cannot be intolerant to followers of other religions. He gives example of Prophet Muhammad allowing visiting Christians to offer prayers in his own mosque.

Quran tells us that there were 1,24,000 prophets before Muhammad and asks its followers to respect all of them equally. Though Prophet asks all people following these prophets to be treated as ahl-e-kitab, Wahhabi-Salafists now treat, even others within Muslim fold, as Kafirs even if they are ahl-e-kitab, leading to blood and mayhem.

A chapter towards end of the book talks of parallels between Vedic thoughts and Islam starting from concept of One God (advaita) that both follow. He quotes various Hindu scriptures – Vedas, Upanishads and modern Rishis and from Sufis to show how two world views can be synthesised. He quotes Swami Vivekananda who had wished for a new India with a Hindu soul and with a body of Islam and laments why we cannot take that syncretic path. Though one may not agree with Mr. Shahin on his interpretation but it is an honest attempt and opens your mind to possibility of this symbiosis.

I have always wondered how a moderate Muslim thinks and responds to intolerant scenario in our society, on one side created by their own brethren who have closed minds and resent majority; on the other side support or lack of it from Hindus around them. I am sure it would not be an easy life.

Will moderate Muslims be able to have their way and come up with an Indian version of Islam like Indonesia did years back that is synthesis of ‘respect for all faiths’ and their own monotheism? That adopts Ramayana with as much ease as it practices Islam. Will they be able to establish a softer version of Islam that highlights the peaceful side of Quran but shuns the violent part; something Christians did with modification of Bible to suite new age and modification of world view in changing world? Or will they be brow beaten or silenced by vocal orthodox followers who are in a minority but rule with powerful backing of vested interests.

I hope more moderate Muslims who are against extremism and feel as Indian as any other Indian will come out to support people like Sultan Shahin, Tufail Ahmed and many other men and women of their kind. I also hope majority community would stop treating all Muslims with cynicism and give space to Muslims who truly believe in universal values of religious freedom and human rights.

It is a book not only for Muslims but also others who wish to understand struggle within Muslim world to take Islam out of clutches of Islamo-fascists nurtured by Petrodollar Islam.

You can view most of the articles that are part of this book and others from international authors on the website run by Sultan Shahin, newageislam.org.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
Ratan Sharda is a citizen journalist. He has authored books like 'Secrets of RSS'. A marketing consultant by profession, Mr. Sharda is a keen observer of the country's political scenario.
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