Predictably, Western non-Muslims on their endless search for a Moderate, Peaceful Islam have made a great deal of this new declaration, but the more I see about it, the less impressive it seems. More on this story. “Scholars issue New Declaration on Ibn Taymiyah’s fatwa,” by Talib Bin Mahfoudh for the Saudi Gazette, April 10 (thanks to David):
MARDIN, TURKEY – A conference of notable Islamic scholars to discuss the contemporary relevance of Ibn Taymiyah’s famous 14th century “Mardin Fatwa” ended with a declaration saying that “anyone who seeks support from this fatwa for killing Muslims or non-Muslims has erred in his interpretation and has misapplied the revealed texts.”
That sounds great. It is unequivocal. But what it is unequivocal about is the use of Ibn Taymiyah’s fatwa to justify killing Muslims or non-Muslims. It unequivocally declares that illegitimate. It does not declare illegitimate the killing of Muslims or non-Muslims itself.
Now, I am not saying that these scholars did not mean to condemn the killing of Muslims and non-Muslims in the name of Islam. Maybe they did. But they did not do so by condemning the use of Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwa, for, as I showed here, there are plenty of other Islamic sources that justify the killing of unbelievers.
“There are those who have used the fatwa to justify acts of violence committed in the name of Islam,” said Abdullah Bin Bayyah, head of the London-based International Centre for Renewal and Guidance which organized the event in collaboration with Canopus Consulting from Bristol in the UK and the University of Artuklu in Mardin.
Entitled “Mardin: Abode of Peace”, and broadcast live on the Al-Jazeera network, the conference sought a review of the classical classification of abodes due to “a real need for a sound Islamic and legal vision that does not violate Islamic religious texts, is in harmony with the higher objectives of the Shari’ah, and is suited to our contemporary context.”
The conference studied five main aspects surrounding the fatwa: Understanding the Mardin fatwa in context: The era and its ambiguities; The historical significance of the fatwa; The categorization of an abode from an historical viewpoint and in light of globalization and modern communication; Understanding Jihad: The conditions of armed combat and its rules of engagement – as defined by Ibn Taymiyya and the UN Charter, and concepts of peace and coexistence in Islamic thought.
The “New Mardin Declaration” resulting from the two-day gathering described the issue of fatwas in Islam as “a serious one”, and ruled that “Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwa concerning Mardin can under no circumstances be appropriated and used as evidence for leveling the charge of kufr (unbelief) against fellow Muslims, waging revolt against rulers, deeming their lives and property freely accessible to Muslims, terrorizing those who enjoy safety and security, acting treacherously towards those who live (in harmony) with fellow Muslims or with whom fellow Muslims live (in harmony) via the bond of citizenship and peace”.
Here again, the focus is very narrow: the New Mardin Declaration seems to discuss only Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwa, not the larger question of the Islamic justification for these things outside of that fatwa. But in any case, the part of the Declaration quoted above offers no comfort to unbelievers concerned about being targeted by jihadists. It is only concerned that Muslims do not declare other Muslims to be unbelievers — which is indeed a favorite practice of Salafis in general — and that they do not revolt against rulers (which is probably a slap to Al-Qaeda for waging jihad against the House of Saud, etc.).
It does also rule out “acting treacherously towards those who live (in harmony) with fellow Muslims or with whom fellow Muslims live (in harmony) via the bond of citizenship and peace,” but leaves unclear what exactly might constitute this treachery. This may forbid Muslims in West to commit violent jihad attacks against non-Muslims in their adoptive countries, but it remains unclear whether Muslims in Western countries would be “acting treacherously” by working in non-violent ways to impose elements of Sharia. Would CAIR’s efforts to smear and defame anti-jihadists, and intimidate Americans into being afraid to report suspicious activity by Muslims, constitute “acting treacherously”? Would efforts to secure special privileges for Muslims in workplaces, schools, and public places like airports constitute “acting treacherously”?
It described the classification of abodes (nation, states) as “based on ijtihad (juristic reasoning) that was necessitated by the circumstances of the Muslim world, then and the nature of the international relations prevalent at that time”, adding that circumstances “had changed with international treaties and nation states.”
That’s reasonable, but it raises another question: if circumstances change again, might all this “reform” be out the window? Is the New Mardin Declaration a matter of an evolved understanding of core principles — i.e., a genuine reform — or is it simply a temporary expedient?
“Amongst the priorities of Muslim scholars and Islamic academic institutions should be the analysis and assessment of ideas that breed extremism, takfir (labeling fellow Muslims as unbelievers) and violence in the name of Islam.
Security measures, no matter how fair and just they may happen to be, cannot take the place of an enlightened elucidation supported by proof and evidence.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Ummah’s religious scholars to condemn all forms of violent attempts-to-change or violent protest, within, or outside, Muslim societies. Such condemnation must be clear, explicit, and be a true manifestation of real courage in speaking the truth, so as to eliminate any confusion or ambiguity,” the New Declaration said.
Great. But again, what about non-violent attempts to bring Sharia Westward?
On jihad, the New Declaration stated: “Muslim scholars, throughout the ages, have always stressed and emphasized that the jihad that is considered the pinnacle of the religion of Islam, is not of one type, but of many, and actually fighting in the Path of God is only one type. The validation, authorization, and implementation of this particular type of Jihad is sanctioned by the Shariah to only those who lead the community (actual heads of states).
Great. There are many types of jihad. But there is no rejection of the supremacist character of jihad — i.e., its goal to impose Sharia upon non-Muslims polities. All this is saying is that there are many ways to do that. And that “this particular type of Jihad” — i.e., not all types — is the province of the state to sanction. Thus Osama bin Laden, who couches his jihad as defensive, which he must do since he recognizes that the office of caliph, the only person authorized in Sunni Islam to declare offensive jihad, is vacant, would find nothing in the New Mardin Declaration that would stop him. Defensive jihad in traditional Islamic theology does not need the sanction of the state, but becomes the obligation of every individual Muslim as soon as an Islamic land is attacked.
And the New Mardin Declaration goes on to say just that:
This is because such a decision of war is a political decision with major repercussions and consequences. Hence, it is not for a Muslim individual or Muslim group to announce and declare war, or engage in combative jihad, whimsically and on their own. This restriction is vital for preventing much evil from occurring, and for truly upholding Islamic religious texts relevant to this matter.”
“The basis of the legitimacy of jihad is that it is either to repel/resist aggression: “Fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah likes not the transgressors.” (Qur’an, 2:190), or to aid those who are weak and oppressed: “And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?” (Qur’an, 4:75), or in defense of the freedom of worshiping: “To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; – and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid.” (Qur’an, 22:39). It is not legitimate to declare war because of differences in religion, or in search of spoils of war.”
Osama has quoted Qur’an 22:39 in his communiques. He is waging defensive jihad, not “war because of differences in religion, or in search of spoils of war.” The problem is that with unbelief itself constituting aggression for some Islamic authorities, and given the Qur’anic command to fight unbelievers until “religion is all for Allah” (8:39), it is cold comfort to unbelievers, and no restraint for jihadists, to remind them that they should only be fighting aggression. There is here no simple and straightforward declaration that Muslims should not fight non-Muslims and attempt to subjugate them under Sharia.
The rest has to do again with takfir, the practice of declaring a fellow Muslim outside the fold of Islam. Whatever degree of genuine reform this may constitute, it does nothing about the jihad against unbelievers:
“The concept of loyalty and enmity (Al-Wala wa Al-Bara) must never be used to declare anyone out of the fold of Islam, unless an actual article of unbelief is held by the person.
In all other cases, it actually involves several types of judgment ranging according to the juridical five-fold scale: (permissible, recommended, not recommended, non-permissible, and required). Therefore, it is not permissible to narrow the application of this concept and use it for declaring a Muslim outside the fold of Islam,” the New Declaration said….