Doom, gloom and ISIS. It’s all you ever see on the news these days. So you switch off the telly, go on the net, and lo and behold, Social media is full of mindless slur that’s taking a more Islamaphobic tone each day; and the regular Muslims are apologising for crimes they didn’t commit but somehow it’s not enough. Worse than the sinking feeling you get every time these terrorists commit another atrocity is the further sinking feeling you get over the fear-mongering media coverage and the reaction of the masses: Because this is where the bullet hits home. This is how ISIS is really winning.
So how do we make it so they can’t win? First things first, know thy enemy. Yet the Muslim community today is so divided, its priorities so confused, that we can no longer see the threat in our midst, let alone know it. Why else have our youth become easy targets for Religious fanatics online, who are out to groom them for terror that will cost them their lives and their hereafter? Why else are our daughters running off to become the brides of murderers? Have we estranged an entire generation from the faith and values we hold dear?
Not yet –is the opinion of Imam Muhammad Asim Hussain, who has founded YouthWay for the very purpose of winning back UK Muslim youth and the Muslim community at large. We’re catching up with Imam Asim in the run up to his ‘ISIS is the Crisis’ event on December 5, which will coincide with the Manchester launch of YouthWay. We find him to be positive but insistent that we must act now and quickly. He believes that ISIS is one of the many issues the Muslim community must tackle together.
“ISIS has no place in Islam, and we do not consider them to be Muslims,” says Imam Asim. “But because they call themselves Muslims, we’re the ones that have to deal with them. It is the duty of Islamic scholars and Imams to tackle this and protect the masses from what has become one of the biggest fitnas of our time.” The term he uses, fitna, is Arabic for sedition, temptation and civil strife. For orthodox Muslims, this is what ISIS is, and according to Imam Asim, they are nothing new.
“This is a violent, extremist ideology that can be traced back to the Kharijite mentality that existed even in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It’s a mentality, which takes verses of the Qur’an out of context and considers the killing of a fellow Muslim permissible.” According to Imam Asim, there are countless prophetic hadiths, which describe these men in great detail. He quotes one narrated by Sayyidina Ali (kw):
‘I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) as saying: There would arise at the end of the age a people who would be young in age and immature in thought, but they would talk (in such a manner) as if their words are the best among the creatures. They would recite the Qur’an, but it would not go beyond their throats, and they would pass through the Deen [Religion] as an arrow goes through the prey. So when you meet them, kill them, for in their killing you would get a reward with Allah on the Day of Judgment.’ [Sahih Muslim: 005; 2328]
Under the guiding light of many such hadiths, as well as the Holy Qur’an, Muslims can see how the extremist credo has come down through the ages, manifesting under different names. “In recent history we’ve seen the Al-Qaida and the Al-Nusra, to name a few, and today we have ISIS,” Imam Asim explains. “It’s the same extremist culture, a different uniform. But the person wearing it is the same.”
“Right now, Islam and Muslims in the West are coming under attack,” he continues, highlighting the importance of working to reappropriate our beliefs. “People are looking for the line that separates Moderate Islam and Extremist Islam. We, orthodox Muslims, believe that the way forward is in moderation. There’s no compulsion in religion –that’s the fundamental principle of the Qur’an. There is no force, no extremism. Islam has always been a religion of peace. It’s been about helping the creation of Allah regardless of race, religion or creed.”
The work starts at home, in ourselves, our own communities and society at large. Because ‘Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.’ (Holy Qur’an 13:11) “They [ISIS] have created such a backwards, image of religion, that we are now faced with the question of whether Islam should be reformed?” Imam Asim says. “Islam does not need reforming –but we lack leadership and unity and people in prominent positions who can guide the faithful in a language which is relevant. Islamic scholars need to take greater responsibility in tackling this. We need to be more vocal in our communities and in the media. We as Muslims need to stand up to project the true message of Islam and protect our own from these extreme ideas.”
Don’t miss ‘ISIS is the CRISIS’ at 7pm on Saturday 5th of December. Venue: Manchester Central Mosque, Victoria Park, M14 5RU.