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Published On: Wed, Jan 14th, 2015

Fundamentalism, extremism & terrorism: The baseless whopper (1)

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By Sulaiman Badamasi (Mahir)

Now that more than 40 leaders of the world have attended anti terrorists march in Paris, it high time we edify ourselves about the reality that we are not used to knowing. First of all, as a Muslim, I strongly condemned all sorts of terrorist attacks all over the world in their entirety, I find it a good idea to discuss about fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism, they way the three words should have been put and the manner in which they are being used.

This write-up aims to affirming that the words; fundamentalism, terrorism and extremism have been mis-given, misinterpreted by some biased media/individuals while misheard, misunderstood by the audience, due to lamentable acts of some few uninformed/misinformed Muslims, a development which every sensible, concerned Muslim is fretting about – Don’t judge me with the act of another – Thus don’t judge Islam/any religion with the act of few followers! It seems like the media as a source and the people at the receiving end have taken the ‘three different words as the same, yet they obviously differ grammatically and conceptually. The following paragraphs explain the grammatical and conceptual meanings of the words accompanied with Islam’s perspective and teachings about each of them. I will try as much as I can to back my points with textual, doctrinal evidences from the sources of the Islamic teachings (Qur’an, Prophetic tradition and scholarly consensus)

The word fundamentalism originates from ‘Fundament’ which is defined, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “An underlying ground, theory or principle”, while ‘Fundamentalism’ means “a movement or an attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principle”. Thus, a person who adheres to basic principles of any discipline (religious, scientific, social or political etc.) is a ‘fundamentalist’.

The first movement whose act was referred to as fundamentalism was founded by a Christian group which “began in the late 19th-century to early 20th-century among British and American Protestants as a reaction to theological liberalism and cultural modernism. The group argued that 19th century modernist theologians had misinterpreted or rejected certain doctrines, especially biblical inerrancy, that they viewed as the fundamentals of Christian faith” (Sandeen 1970).

In order for one to become successful in any discipline he/she has to follow the fundamentals, pillars and basic principles of that discipline. Before one becomes a successful scientist he/she must adhere to the fundamentals of science. (Dr. Naik).Likewise, before one becomes a true Muslim he/she has to trace the root of the correct Islamic discipline.

The first fundamental in Islam is seeking for knowledge. This can be found in the first verses ever which Allah (God) revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) which says, ‘Read in the name of your Lord who created – (1) Created man from a clinging substance. (2) Read, and your Lord is the most Generous – (3) Who taught by the pen – (4) Taught man that which he knew not. (5)’ (Al-alaq, 96,verses: 1-5) and ” And they were not commanded except to worship Allah , [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion.” (Albayyinah, 98:5)

The priority that God has given to seeking for knowledge before anything else is to make it an ingredient that will help one to understand the five pillars of Islam and implement them accordingly.

The ‘Five pillars’ of Islam are the foundation of Muslim life:

• Faith or belief in the oneness of God and the finality of Prophethood of Muhammad

• Establishment of the daily prayers

• Concern for and alms-giving to the needy

• Self-purification through fasting

• The pilgrim for those who are able

Above are the pillars/fundamentals of Islam by holding onto whom one is a ‘Fundamentalist Muslim’

Therefore, it is an unwelcome injustice for the media/individual to label of person who terrifies, tortures or kills innocent people a fundamentalist. If one looks vividly into the five pillars, Allah does not ask the Muslims to hate, terrify or kill non-Muslims.

The word extremism, in Islam is a meaning of Arabic words ‘Al-guluww’or ‘Al-tatarruf’ which literally means”transgression (to exceed a limit, to over step some limit or boundary)” So “who ever exceeds the limit is an extremist.” Some Muslims scholars have further defined extremism as “exceeding the limit of Islamic discipline by adding something (that has not been ordained) up in terms of intention or actions.” Source: (Prof, Sheikh Abdullahi Alkanhal, in the Arabic version of his lecture; Extremism in Islam: Its meaning, how it is and the danger).A person who exceeds the limits, over step some limits or boundary is an extremist! Talk-less of one who kills innocent persons without a due cause. Therefore, extremism is forbidden in Islam due to the following evidences from the Qur’an (God’s word), the hadith (Prophet Muhammad’s tradition) and the opinion upon which the Muslim scholars collectively agreed;

God says in the Qur’an:”O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth” – (Nisa’ 4:171)and “O People of the Scripture, do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before and misled many and have strayed from the soundness of the way.” – (Ma’idah 5:77)

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said what is in the following meaning;”Those who go to extremes are doomed.” He said it three times. (Narrated by Muslim: 2670) In another hadith, the Prophet said, “Beware of excessiveness in religion. [People] before you have perished as a result of [such] excessiveness. “

The scholars have many explanations for what is meant by extremism and those who go to extremes, all of which are in harmony with one another and do not contradict one another. All of them may be summed up as meaning one thing; it boils down to overburdening oneself and being too strict in matters where strictness is inappropriate. ( 2014)

Indeed, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) always condemned any tendency toward religious excessiveness. He cautioned those of his companions who were excessive in acts of worship, or who were too ascetic, especially when this went beyond the moderate Islamic position. Islam seeks to create a balance between the needs of the body and those of the soul, between the right of man to live life to its full, and the right of the Creator to be worshipped by man; which is also man’s raison d’etre.(Yusuf El-Qardawi)Therefore, ‘extremism’ in Islam is forbidden, thus holding onto the basic principles of Islam does not make one to become an extremist rather, violating the set rules and throwing of the true doctrinal teachings away.

To elaborate what has been written above, even though it’s a mandate on every Muslim to hold onto the basic fundamentals of the Islamic religion, there are three ways in which our action towards that can be described; laxity, moderation and extremism. Laxity implies to adherence to God’s commandments based on I-don’t-care-attitude. In other words, not being careful enough to adhere to the teachings, rules, and standard set by the religion.

Sulaiman Badamasi (Mahir) via


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