Are Democratic Systems of the modern nation states antithetical to the path of al-Salaf (Islamic predecessors)?

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, Word for Peace

ISIS terror in the Middle East or in other countries is not only a geopolitical problem. It is more about an ideological movement that has direct roots in an exclusivist theology of political Islamism.

As long as the radical preachers of political Islamism keep cherry-picking certain references from the Qur’an, Hadith and Fiqh (medieval Islamic jurisprudence), the entire edifice of the so-called global Islamic caliphate or Khilafah Al-Alamiyah will withstand in a section of the  community. Therefore, any military strike, without an ideological counter-narrative, to stem the tide of the violent extremism will merely turn out to be a mirage.

Contrary to the mainstream syncretic Muslim culture which prides itself in the pluralistic ethos of the modern nation states, the ISIS worked out an exclusivist theology which plaid havoc across the world. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi basically theorised that “Islam has never been a religion of peace, not even for a day,” and that “it has always been a religion of war and conflict”. (Source:

Inevitably, those who paid allegiance to the self-imposed caliph keep playing havoc across the Western world. Now, though the ISIS has been apparently eliminated in its two major strongholds in Iraq and Syria, Daesh’s ideological adherents and sympathizers continue to expand their mission.

The recent Kabul attack again evidences that merely destroying the ISIS strongholds will not reduce the global threat of violent Jihadism in the near future. The world governments as well as the global Muslims should put the nail right on the head. They need to seriously curb those who are reducing Islam to a cult of political ideology, peddling violent extremism and exclusivism in the Muslim localities.

The entire edifice of the political Islam is based on the postulate that the democratic and multicultural values of the modern nation states are antithetical to the ‘puritan’ Islam or what is known as the path of al-Salaf (Islamic predecessors).  

All countries epitomizing the principles of individual liberty, freedom of faith, secularism and democracy are places of shirk (paganism) in the view of the ISIS theological masters. Therefore, ISIS launched both lone-wolf and well-planned attacks in European countries like France in its bid to target the ‘western principles’.

By attacking the democratic systems of governance, extremists actually try to ‘purify’ the lands of Allah in a bid to retrieve the ‘purity’ of the ‘Salaf’ (the Muslim predecessors). But in reality, these ‘puritanical’ Islamists are far removed from the Islam professed and preached by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), let alone his companions whom they consider the Salaf. The prophetic tradition examplifies how communities of different faiths peacefully coexisted as one nation (Ummah). In his state of Madina, all religious communities lived by an alliance of shared values known as “Mithaq-e-Madina”, the written constitution of Medina which had the clear clauses of religious pluralism, universal brotherhood and peaceful coexistence. 

But a blatant strike on the egalitarian messages of the Prophet’s tradition is on the rampage. All terror outfits— Daesh or ISIS, Al-Qaida, Al-Shabab, Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Boko Haram— brazenly breach the foundations of Prophet’s secular system of governance enunciated in Mithaq-e-Madina.

Let alone Muslims, all non-Muslims living in Madina of the Prophet’s times were accorded full protection of life, religious freed and democratic rights. A clause in Misaq-e-Madina was stipulated in these words of Prophet (Hadith): “I shall dispute with any Muslim who oppresses anyone from among the non-Muslims, or infringes on his right, or puts a responsibility on him which is beyond his capacity or takes something from him against his will.” (Reported by Abu Dawood)

Common Muslims living in the democratic countries like India embrace the democratic values and secular ethos by intermingling with other citizens including the Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and adherents of other faith traditions. Thus, they find themselves inclined towards an inclusivist religious narrative focused on a spiritual synergy with the people of all faiths and creeds. But this greatly worries the radical preachers of political Islamism who aim to purge the religion of its age-old tradition of pluralism, universalism and egalitarianism.

Going by the ISIS statement in its propaganda news agency Al-A’amaq, the perpetrator of the attack in central Paris Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki, had developed animosity against the democratic system of governance of his country.

Undeniably, Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki was captivated by the theology which calls for a permanent war against all the ‘un-Islamic’ forms of governance.

But while we disapprove of the idea that extremism emanates from the core of Islam, we need to rebuff the rhetoric of those who conflate Islam scriptures into extremism.

The crucial question is how best the Islamic authorities are reclaiming the peaceful Islam from the extremist ideologues. To a casual observer, they have been staging raucous protests and massive processions carrying fanciful banners of ‘peaceful Islam’ and shouting slogans against ISIS. This has been seen across much of the world for the last decade. But a close study apprises us that it has done little to outlaw the ISIS theology, which if continues to go unchallenged, will give rise to another global terrorist group claiming to ‘fight for Islam’.

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