Times of India, Mumbai, India)
The writer is a columnist to
Many people equate terrorism with Muslim fundamentalism,
but do not know that Islam is strongly opposed to all forms of terrorism. Nor
would they know that it is a fairly recent Islamic sect that has succeeded in
capturing the minds of poor Muslims worldwide.
Most Muslims look upon the Qur'an as the infallible, eternal and unchangeable
words of Allah. But not many know how much the teachings of the Prophet have
been revised over the past 14 centuries.
The Qur'an only began to be compiled 14 years after Muhammad's death in 632 AD
when Khalif Abu Bakr gave Zaid Ibn Thabit, one of the Prophet's companions, the
task of writing it.
The third Khalif Othman then announced the definitive Madina version in 665 AD.
Several other versions were gathered and burned.
But the Suras, or verses, of the Qur'an did not answer all the questions of a
changing society. Hence, Muslim clerics sought further scriptural authorities
for interpreting Islamic law.
Two hundred years later the celebrated Al-Bukhari added examples from the life
of the Prophet as the Hadith. He travelled the entire Muslim world to compile
most of it. But he was appalled by the credulity of people and on his own
authority rejected 99.6 per cent of the 60,000 pious contributions offered to
The first schism occurred when the Shia sect split from the dominant Sunnis.
Although it was originally a result of a battle for succession to the Khalifate,
the Shia faith was widely adopted in Persia and allowed many Persian traditions
like portraiture and glorious tombs to continue. It affirmed its faith in the
Qur'an but developed its own Hadith.
But many other sects, with their own interpretations of Islam, kept erupting.
There were the Fatimids, Sufis, Kaljrijites, Ismailis, Zaidis, Nizaris, Alawis
and several others.
By the end of the 13th century the Sunni clerics, on their own authority,
declared that the doors to further revision were closed, but many revisionists
continued to appear.
In the 18th century, Abd Al Wahhab began the Sunni Wahhabiya movement that,
while accepting the Qur'an and Hadith as fundamental texts, opposed all
innovations to espouse a narrow, puritanical interpretation of the fundamental
In their opposition to idolatry, Wahhabis even opposed the worshipping of
Muhammad or other saints and praying at tombs. They demanded very strict
restrictions on the rights of women, wearing the Hijab or Burkah, prohibiting
the wearing of charms, going to sorcerers, etc.
Many of the Wahhabi beliefs, however, went beyond the teachings of the Prophet.
The word jehad is not found in the Qur'an but is referred to 199 times in the
Hadith. They interpreted jehad to mean a holy war, even though it had actually
meant a striving and Mujahiddin was no holy warrior but only one who strives.
Unfortunately, in 1924 the Wahhabi al-Saud dynasty conquered Mecca and Madina,
giving them control of the Haj. The enormous wealth earned from oil enabled them
to fund the construction and repairs of mosques and finance madrassas.
They were vigorous proselytizers, hence their radical
influence quickly spread through the Muslim world to radicalize many previously
moderate communities from Indonesia to Uzbekistan. Wahhabis attacked other
gentler Muslim sects like the Baha'is and Ahmadiyas.
Meanwhile, the massive attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq and Israel's aggression
in Palestine alienated Muslims around the world. Words like 'Axis of Evil'
appear to confirm that the US and its allies were on a virtual crusade to
The fanatics considered the Saudi surrender to the economic and political
influence of America as a great heresy, and Al-Qaida was born.
In this polarised situation, many moderates, including well educated young men
from good families, became much
easier to recruit.
In India, the radicalisation of Hindus with the jehadi rhetoric of Hindutva
suited these radicals perfectly. Revenge is sadly an important element of the
Arabian psyche and a part of Muslim thinking.
This inspired angry vengeance for the massacres after Babri masjid demolition
and the subsequent mayhem in Mumbai and Gujarat.
The moderate Muslim majority will not regain control of the mosques or places of
religious education until the numerous poor Muslims can be educated enough, or
can earn enough, to be liberated from Wahhabi influence.