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Adv P & H High Court Chandigarh

A group of leading Muslim scholars has put its weight behind the increasing chorus of voices demanding that those who use Islam to justify terror be isolated. Islamic scholars, who had gathered in Turkey, have disputed a 14th century fatwa that divides the world into the abode of Islam (dar-ul-Islam) and abode of war (dar-ul-harb) and is a favourite of Osama bin Laden. Instead they demanded that the entire world be declared a place of tolerance and coexistence. They also discredited the notion of waging jihad against non-believers. This is a welcome move to distance mainstream Islam from radical groups such as al-Qaeda that have used religion to justify terrorist acts.

In India, too, we have seen a vigorous condemnation of groups that use Islam to justify terror. In 2008, the influential Darul Uloom Deoband had declared that Islam teaches its followers to treat all mankind with tolerance and condemns all kinds of violence. Later in 2009, Deoband declared India as dar-ul-aman or abode of peace. The statements by Indian clerics and international Islamic scholars are not academic exercises. By identifying terror attacks as "un-Islamic", the religious legitimacy that the terrorists seek to bring to their violent acts is undermined.

The proclamations by the multinational group of Islamic scholars gathered in Turkey or the clerics of the Deoband school are very much a part of the process of interpretation of Islamic law, which has been going on over a long time. It's a common error to regard Islamic law as unchanging. Though the Quran and the practice and sayings of the Prophet are the primary sources of Islamic law, there is also a place for ijma (consensus), qiyas (analogical thinking) and ijtihad (systematic original thinking). These traditions must be revived if Islam is to be forward-looking and progressive. It is the only way fatwas given several centuries earlier can be overturned and discredited.

At a time when al-Qaeda and its hate-filled agenda are increasingly losing popularity, interpretations of Islam that are in tune with contemporary reality must be encouraged and taken forward. That is precisely what the scholars at the Turkish conclave have done. It is appropriate that the declaration was made in Turkey since it is one Islamic country where Islam and secularism coexist. There are examples of revisionist thinking in other parts of the Islamic world too. These interpretations could very well have no impact on terror groups, but at least they would provide the ideological firepower to ordinary Muslims to counter radical and medievalist strains of Islam.





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