By Syed Zafar Mehdi

'Making Tehran Geneva of Muslim world panacea to problems’

December 27, 2018 - 9:49

TEHRAN - At a time when the forces of Takfirism have become menacingly stronger across the world, bringing bad name to Islam and Muslims, it has become extremely important for the liberal, educated Muslims to stand up and retune the discourse around Islam in the light of holy scriptures.

of. Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi is a noted Islamic scholar and author based in Kashmir. He has headed the department of religious studies at Kashmir University and served as the director of Shah e Hamdan Institute of Islamic Studies, Kashmir.

In an interview to Tehran Times, Prof. Rafiabadi talks about the challenges facing Muslim Ummah today, the need for unity and why Muslims need to be vigilant of the sinister plots hatched in the West.
Following are the excerpts:

Q. Islam is perhaps the most misunderstood and maligned religion today. What reasons would you attribute to it?

A. Since Muslims themselves are not following the religion properly, behaving irresponsibly and defaming their faith, Islam has become the most misunderstood religion in the world. We have a very strong case but our advocacy is very weak. We need real representation on the global stage.

Q. Groups like ISIS, Taliban, Boko Haram have brought bad name to Islam and Muslims across the world. As a scholar of Islam, how would you counter their narrative in the light of Holy Quran?

A. All these groups are either being patronized by the enemies of Islam or they are a misguided lot. The relationship between ‘superpowers’ and these groups can be proved by the fact that some of these groups used to sell oil to almost 40 European countries. How come it was possible that the powers that could topple big empires were showing timidity before these groups.

Q. In the West, Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims have grown alarmingly in recent years. Based on your research and observations, what has been the main trigger for it?

A. The powers inimical to Islam have started an un-holy campaign against Islam and they are triggering this hate campaign by spending lot of money for the purpose. Sometimes they even use Muslim countries to trigger these feelings and unfortunately these gullible Muslims don’t understand how they are being used against their own brethren.

These anti-Islamic forces start whipping sectarian passions by creating different lobbies within Muslims. The Quranic injunctions regarding the intrigues of enemies of Islam have been disregarded by some Muslim countries and they have ended up becoming pawns in the hands of these powers and have rendered Muslims vulnerable to conspiracies in the Muslim lands itself!

Q. Muslims ruled the world for eight to nine centuries and brought people out of barbarism into civilization. Even hard-nosed European evangelists admit that the modern world was built on the scientific breakthroughs made by Muslim scholars. Then what led to the decline and degeneration of Muslims?

A. Muslims left behind the basic sources of inspiration, i.e. the Quran, Sunnah and the path of pious Islamic personalities. They manufactured sectarian divisions based on jurisprudential or political differences and allowed non-Muslim nations to exploit their resources owing to their backwardness in science and technology and human resource.

Since the Islamic legacy was basically rooted in the foregrounding and ambience created by Quran, the degeneration of Muslims also started when their relation with Quran became weak. They were rendered directionless in the wake of Greek philosophies replacing the pristine teachings of Quran.

Q. At a time when the despicable project of Takfirism is being used by enemies of Islam to create divisions, how important has it become for Muslims to forge unity?

A. The only way to get rid of these ailments is to return to the Quran, make unity among Muslims a duty for clergy and intellectuals of community and work for reconciliation on the basis of a minimum common programme.

The minimum common programme can be chalked out by identifying the basic survival denominators relevant to both Sunni and Shia Muslims and those can be identified without any difficulty if we make our resolve to unite.

When the Western and European powers could take Muslim countries along in their unholy war against various Muslim countries, why can’t Muslims forge unity among themselves for common causes like Palestine and non-interference of foreign powers in the affairs of Muslims worldwide?

The sagacity and magnanimity is needed to bring Muslims on one platform, not the sectarian approach both Sunnis and Shias are adopting when it comes to the problems Muslim world is facing presently.

Q. Kashmir is known for its syncretic Sufi culture. Could briefly tell us about the genesis of Sufism in Kashmir and how it has influenced the way Islam is practiced in the Himalayan region?

A. Sufism was a part of dawah employed by Muslim preachers from Iran and Central Asia when they came to Kashmir and other parts of Asia and it was not something alien to Islam. Present world is in need of spiritual panacea and Sufism in its puritanical form can help us preach Islam in this mystic parlance.

But we don’t need to insist on the terminology. We can use terms like Ihsan, Tazkiyah and Wilayat instead of Sufism and try to utilise only the ethical part of Sufism and leave its metaphysical aspects behind as these were influenced at times by Hinduism or Buddhism and at times by Christianity as has been mentioned by Sir Mohammad Iqbal and Dr. Ali Shariati also.

Q. Western powers led by the U.S. continue to wreak havoc in the Muslim world and some of the Arab countries have unfortunately become their pawns in this sinister game. How did you see this nexus?

A. It is really unfortunate that Muslims are helping their enemies against fellow Muslims in different parts of the world. Be it Russia or U.S., they are using Muslims and their resources to create their hegemony in several parts of the Muslim world especially West Asia.

Muslims have to realize that unity is important if they want to defeat their enemies. If Sunnis and Shias leave their differences aside and focus on commonalities, there is no reason why they cannot regain their glorious traditions of brotherhood.

Three countries of the Muslim world need to forge unity for unifying the whole Islamic world: Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.Though this proposition seems utopian right now, but in the long run this is the only way to bring kinship among all sections and factions of Muslims worldwide.

Q. What according to you is the biggest challenge facing the Muslim Ummah today and what's the solution?

A. The biggest issue for Muslims today is the lack of Islamic education and leadership based on Islamic ideals. And of course, a group of thinkers who can understand the challenges posed to Muslims and Islam and exert their ijtihadi capabilities to find solutions to these problems.

We need to join our efforts and heads to help each other in identifying these issues and use our resources for redressing the problems. We need a pan-Islamic approach to solve these problems, and we can start by establishing linkages through dialogue on the intra-faith basis in various parts of the Muslim world.

The Muslim world today needs science and technology policy and cooperation among themselves to share their expertise in this field. The Madrasatul Zahra envisaged by Nursi in Turkey and making Tehran the Geneva of the Muslim world as dreamed by Sir Mohammad Iqbal is one viable solution to our many problems.

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