Home Articles Questioning the “vision” behind Zakir Naik’s “Peace”

Questioning the “vision” behind Zakir Naik’s “Peace”

By A. Faizur Rahman for TwoCircles.net

Chennai witnessed a rare show of Shia-Sunni unity when the Chief Qazis of both these communities lodged a joint complaint with the authorities against Dr. Zakir Naik’s Peace Exhibition and had it shifted from Chennai to the outskirts of the city. The Qazis had actually wanted a total ban on the exhibition but the organisers managed to get permission, apparently after accepting to abide by the strict conditions imposed by the law enforcing agencies. The case of the Sunni Qazi was that Zakir Naik showed disrespect to Prophet Muhammad while the Shia Qazi objected to Naik’s eulogizing of Yazeed, who, according to the Shias, was responsible for the assassination of Iman Hussian, the grandson of the Prophet.

To be fair to Zakir Naik, the “disrespect” he showed to the Prophet was unintentional and a genuine slip of the tongue for which he promptly apologised. But his remarks on Yazeed were certainly unwarranted given the uneasy peace that exists between the Shias and the Sunnis. Well-known Islamic author Maulana Waheeduddeen Khan commented in an interview to NDTV that Zakir Naik, not being a scholar of Islam, should not talk about the intricacies of Islamic theology. But unfortunately, the televangelist does not confine himself to his strong point, which is, his verbatim imitation of Ahmed Deedat in debating aggressive Christian missionaries. He seems to be oblivious of the damage he may be causing to the Muslim community which may end up paying the price for his needlessly polemical attacks on other religions groups.

Naik must also take cognizance of the fact that the moderate majority of the Muslim community is upset with him for promoting Salafism in the name of Islam. The recent debate pertaining to his “Peace” conference on Twocircles.net was reflective of this perception wherein many Muslim writers condemned the streaks of “extremism” and “Salafism” inherent in the “vision” that is propagated through the Peace Convention. A dispassionate analysis of the ideology of those behind the concept of this exhibition certainly gives the impression that the accusations against this event are not without basis.

For instance, according to its organisers the “Peace Exhibition” derives its theological legitimacy from the official patronage of a diehard Salafi ideologue, the late Ibn Jibreen. The official “Peace” website (http://www.peacevisionofislam.org/) proudly proclaims: “Peace exhibition concept has been endorsed by Shaykh Abdullah Ibn Abdur-Rahman al-Jibreen, a member of the General Presidency of Islaamic Research, Iftaa, Call and Propagation, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” A scanned copy of Ibn Jibreen’s handwritten certificate is displayed prominently on this website as if to over-awe the Muslim masses into visiting the exhibition.

It would be interesting to know from the “Peace” group their justification for seeking and trumpeting the endorsement of a cleric who is well-known for his extreme views. Surely, they cannot feign ignorance of the ideology of this “Noble Sheikh” who once praised Osama bin Laden saying, “Osama was mujahid in the path of Allah before. And he had major efforts in the land of Afghanistan. May Allah give him success and make him victorious and make victory happen by him. Until now he is still participating in Jihad.” (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5TvlNECROM)

Presented below is a comparative analysis of Prophetic statements and some of Ibn Jibreen’s radical pronouncements extracted from the book Fatawa Islamiyah collected by Muhammad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Musnad.

This book, published by Darussalam, contains fatwas by five authorities namely,

1. Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz
2. Muhammad bin Salih Al-Uthaimeen
3. Abdullah bin Abdur Rahman Al-Jibreen
4. Permanent committee for legal rulings (Saudi Arabia)
5. Fiqh Council of Saudi Arabia

Husband not obliged to pay for wife’s treatment:

In one of his fatwas Ibn Jibreen says, “ It is not an obligation upon the husband to pay the cost of his wife’s treatment, nor the cost of the medicines, nor the doctor’s fee, because this not part of her normal essential needs; rather it is something temporary, so it is not required of him.” But if he pays “it would be an act of generosity, virtue, and righteousness.” (Volume 5, p.184)

Compare this to the kindness of our beloved Prophet who said: ‘The most perfect of the believers in matters of conviction (eeman) is he who is best in conduct (khulq), and the best of you are those who are best to their wives” (Tirmizi). In another saying the Prophet said, ‘The best dinar a man spends is the dinar he spends for his family” (Muslim).

It is the belief of Muslims that those who differ with the Prophet’s understanding of Islam (particularly when it is made known through an authentic report) commit kufr, the most blasphemous of all crimes in the eyes of Allah.

Associating with non-Muslims:

Prophet’s greatest qualities included his humanitarianism and mastery of interpersonal skills which has been praised by the Quran in following words: “It is part of the mercy of Allah that you (O Prophet) deal gently with them (the people around you). Had you been severe or harsh-hearted they would have broken away from you.” (3:159).

It was this concern for peaceful coexistence with all human beings that made the Prophet repeatedly underscore the importance of neighbourliness and the value of preserving friendship. He said:
“Make good neighborly connections with one who is your neighbor, for you will then be a (true) Muslim, and keep good company with one who keeps company with you, for you will then be a (true) believer.” (Tirmizi, Ibn Majah).

In fact, such has been the emphasis placed by Islam on the rights of a neighbour, the Prophet once feared (in a report that is found in both Bukhari and Muslim) that neighbours would be granted inheritance rights in the properties of Muslims along with their legal heirs. No wonder the Prophet instructed the Muslims saying, “When you cook broth, increase its water and give some of it to your neighbour” (Muslim). It may be noted here that in none of the aforementioned reports the Prophet differentiates between a Muslim and a non-Muslim neighbour. In other words, a neighbour is a neighbour and, insofar as a Muslim is concerned, he/she enjoys all the rights conferred on him/her by Islam irrespective of his/her religion, caste, colour or social status.

The Quran goes a step further and says, “Repel evil with goodness; then will he between whom and you was hatred become as it were your friend and intimate” (41:34).

But the endorser of Zakir Naik’s “Peace” seems to differ with the universalism of the Quran and Prophet. Reproduced below is another fatwa by Ibn Jibreen in the form of a reply to a question about associating with non-Muslims.

“Q: I am living in Jordan in a house populated mostly by Christian brothers, and we eat and drink together. Is my prayer invalid, and is my living with them permissible?

(Ibn Jibreen): “Before answering your question I would like to make a point: I hope that it was a slip of the tongue when you said “I live with Christian brothers,” for there is absolutely no brotherhood between the Muslims and Christians…..So it is not permissible for the Muslims to describe the disbeliever- whatever his brand of disbelief, be he Christian, Jewish, Magian, or apostate- as a brother; so beware my brother of using such expressions.” “ ..It is necessary to avoid mixing with non-Muslims, because mixing with them causes the loss of one’s religious zeal from the heart and may even lead to affection and love for them.” (Volume 1, pp 263-265)

Astonishingly, these sentiments seem to have found a seat deep in the heart of R.K. Noor, the Correspondent of the International Islamic School run by Zakir Naik at Nungambakkam in Chennai. In an interview given to Twocircles.net (http://twocircles.net/2010jan19/zakir_naik_s_team_responds_controversies.html) R.K.Noor categorically states: “But on this issue, I am very firm and I do teach myself in my classes that Muslims should not greet the people of non Muslims faiths in their festivals such as Christmas, Pongal, and Diwali etc. How can a Muslim greet “Happy Christmas” which will be a direct connotation or a determined reference more similar to “praying expression” to Jesus Christ to whom we don’t believe?” So will be Pongal and Diwali.”

The Ibn Jibreen mind-set is clearly evident here, and this is no “slip of the tongue.” And it has serious implications for the future of Muslims in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society like India. To paraphrase Voltaire: to be a good Muslim should one become the enemy of the rest of mankind? Well, if one were to go by Zakir Naik’s philosophy (as voiced in the video below) a Muslim would be left with no other option but to look down upon all non-Muslims, maybe even hate them for not being Muslims.

Answering a non-Muslim in the Guftagu programme on QTV as to why Muslim countries do not allow people of other religions to propagate their faith, Zakir Naik said that Islam being the only true religion, and all other religions being totally false, the question of allowing either Christians or Hindus to build Churches or Temples to propagate their religion in a Muslim country does not arise. But on the other hand, he said, the Muslims, as a matter of right, were entitled to propagate their faith in non-Muslim countries because “we are trying to get them to the right path of Islam.” This prompted narrator in this YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YAWq89kYHw) to ask whether the mentality of Zakir Naik was any different from that of the Taliban. Some may even be tempted to equate it with the communalism of the RSS or the Bajrang Dal. It is indeed shocking that for a person who sermonizes on “peace” Zakir Naik seems to have ignored the fact that although as a devout Muslim he may believe Islam to be the only true religion it does not give him the right to publicly demean other faiths. Nothing can be more unIslamic and arrogantly judgmental.

Muslims who do not pray are apostates and should be killed:

Another example of religious fanaticism can be found in the following fatwa issued by the Saudi cleric, the late Uthaimeen, who enjoyed status on a par with Ibn Jibreen. When asked about a person who does not perform salah, that is, namaaz, Uthaimeen ruled that such a person “is a disbeliever and he is outside the pale of Islam. He must be called upon to repent; if he turns to Allah in repentance and prays, then Allah will turn to him in forgiveness…but if he does not repent, he must be killed as an apostate and buried outside the graveyards of the Muslims without being washed or shrouded, and without prayers being said over him” (Fatawa Arkanul Islam, pp 389-390).

Books such as the Fatawa Islamiyah and Fatawa Arkanul Islam are freely sold at the Peace Exhibition and other salafi bookstalls across India. Although it may be claimed that the exhibition itself does not propagate this narrow-minded interpretation of Islam, the easy availability of these books to the unsuspecting lay visitors may lead to their adopting an intolerant attitude towards others. And this certainly is not the “vision of Islam” that is found in the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet. The truth is that the Salafi fatwa books which betray an intolerant Khawariji mind-set have no place in modern Muslim society. If our beloved Prophet were alive today he would have unequivocally condemned such provocative books. While freedom of expression is one of the basic doctrines of Islam, it cannot be invoked to misrepresent Islam and pollute gullible minds. The innocent people who throng to listen to Zakir Naik deserve an explanation from him and his promoters.

The author is the Secretary General of the Chennai-based Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought in Islam. He may be reached at [email protected]