In some parts of Africa, especially in Mali, Libya and Egypt, the graves of some of the very righteous people in the continent’s history, are being regularly desecrated. In some cases the remains are removed and thrown on dumps. The people who do this say that they are acting on behalf of Islam, and that they are destroying all remnants of shirk. They call: “Allahu Akbar” and other litanies when they do this. In Afghanistan, during this week, a young woman accused of adultery, was shot to the cheers and laughter of a large number of Muslim males. There are no accounts of the arrest and trial of this young lady and also no mention is made of the man that she was involved with. The news of the desecration of graves in Mali and of the shooting of this young lady, have spread throughout the world. One asks the question: Is there a rampant barbarism that has emerged from the Muslim community and which is set to destroy all the religious decency and dignity of which Islam was characterised? It is at moments like these that one appreciates being in a Sufi Order in which the original teachings of Islam abound. What we see today is a barbarism that was predominantly characteristic of the Khawarij of this holy religion during the reign of Sayyiduna Ali (r.a.) during the seventh century.
Perhaps one of the greatest features of Islam that came to us from Allah (ﷻ) was the restoration of human dignity that had been lost during the many centuries prior to the coming of Islam. Islam taught men and women that they were dignified human beings and that this dignity applied even after their deaths. And so respect of human beings, both alive and dead, is characteristic of the teachings of Islam. The opening of graves, the removal of bodies and the dumping of such bodies are totally contrary to what Islam teaches. When one thinks of the primitive action of people who, in the name of Islam, show massive disrespect to the dead; then one can only consider such actions to be a form of barbarism that have either come out of the Muslim community or that had penetrated the community from outside. Of course, the lack of respect shown to the dead is a reflection of the lack of respect being shown to the living. This is demonstrated by the perpetration of different forms of violence against children, women and old people; all supposed to be in the name of Islam.
The shooting of the woman in Afghanistan supposedly for an act of adultery leaves us with many questions. There were no reports on the circumstances of the case or with whom she had committed this adultery and what sentence was passed on the man. We only know that for adultery to be proven, four individuals have to see the actual sexual penetration and they have to make sure that there was penetration. That is why adultery is almost impossible to prove in Islam. How does one classify these men cheering and laughing when a life is being taken that for all intents and purposes, appears to be contrary to the teachings of our religion. In their laughter and their cheering, they reduced the Holy Message to regulations of barbarism and violence. These people give the world the impression that they are the defenders of the faith. One can only experience shock at what is being done today in the name of our holy religion. I sometimes wonder whether her death was not the result of backyard vigilante justice. I am slowly coming to understand what was meant when the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), “The Mercy to all of creation”, spoke about Islam becoming strange during the last period of human history.
All over the world today, large sections of the Muslim Ummah have adopted an understanding of Islam born a few centuries ago in Najd in Arabia. It is this understanding of Islam that has contributed in no small way to the present religious barbarism that is pervading the Muslim world. About 658 A.D., a group called the Khawarij came into existence. They were those who opposed the legal ruler of the Ummah. Sayyiduna Ali (r.a.) managed to break up the movement in 658 A.D., but they continued to rebuild their ranks. The Kwarajites believed in equality amongst Muslim and that the community could elect and dethrone the leader, and that any Muslim could run for office. In 684 A.D., the Kwarajites split into various factions, which spread into Iraq, Kazakhstan and in the eighth century, they spread further into Persia, Iraq and North and East Africa. Members of one of the sects, the Ibadite, live in Oman, North Africa and some Arabian countries. Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ) spoke about them more than 1400 years ago. Jabir bin Abdullah reported that a person came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) at Ja’rana on his way back from Hunain, and there was in the clothes of Bilal some silver. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) took a handful out of that and bestowed it upon the people. He (the person who had met the Prophet at Ja’rana) said to him: “Muhammad, do justice.” He (the Holy Prophet) said: “Woe be upon thee, who would do justice if I do not do justice, and you would be very fortunate and a loser if I do not do justice.” Upon this Umar bin Khattab (r.a.) said: “Permit me to kill this hypocrite.” Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: “May there be protection of Allah (ﷻ)! People would say that I killed my Companions. This man and his companions would recite the Qur’an but it would not go beyond their throat, and they swerve from it just as the arrow goes through the prey.” (Sahih Muslim: Book 5, number 2316).
In one narration the words are:
A person among the people then sought permission (from the Holy Prophet) for his murder. According to some, it was Khalid bin Walid who sought the permission. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “From this very person’s posterity there would arise people who would recite the Qur’an, but it would not go beyond their throats; they would kill the followers of Islam and would spare the idol-worshippers. They would glance through the teachings of Islam so hurriedly just as the arrow passes through the prey. If I were to ever find them, I would kill them like ‘Ad. (Sahih Muslim: Book 5, number 2318).
Another narration explains the event:
That man then returned. Khalid bin Walid then said: “Messenger of Allah, should I not strike his neck?” Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: “Perhaps he may be observing the prayer.” Khalid said: “How many observers of prayer are there who profess with their tongue what is not in their heart?” Upon this the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “I have not been commanded to pierce through the hearts of people, nor to split their bellies (insides).” He again looked at him and he was going back. Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: “There would arise a people from the progeny of this (man) who would recite the Qur’an glibly, but it would not go beyond their throats; they would (hurriedly) pass through (the teachings of their) Din just as the arrow passes through the prey.” I conceive that he (the Holy Prophet) also said this: “If I find them I would certainly kill them as were killed the (people of) Thamud.” (Sahih Muslim: Book 5, number 2319).
This narration tells us that it was both of the Companions who asked for permission (to kill him).
This hadith has been narrated through another chain of transmitters and (the narrator) made a mention of elevated forehead, but he made no mention of tucked-up loin cloth and made this addition: There stood up ‘Umar bin Khattab (r.a.) and said: “Should I not strike his neck?” Upon this he said: “No.” Then he turned away, and Khalid the Sword of Allah, stood up against him, and said: “Prophet of Allah, shall I not strike off his neck?” He said, “No,” and then said: “A people would rise from his progeny who would recite the Book of Allah (ﷻ) glibly and fluently.” ‘Umar said: “I think he (the Holy Prophet) also said this: ‘If I find them I would certainly kill them like Thamud.’” (Sahih Muslim: Book 5, number 2320).
Other narrations regarding the Khawarij state that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “There would arise in this nation a people and you would hold insignificant your prayers as compared with their prayers. And they would recite the Qur’an which would not go beyond their throats and would swerve through the Din (as blank) just as a (swift) arrow passes through the prey. The archer looks at his arrow, at its iron head and glances at its end (which he held) in the tip of his fingers to see whether it had any stain of blood.” (Sahih Muslim: Book 5, number 2322).
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Leave him, for he has friends that everyone among you would consider his prayer insignificant as compared with their prayer, and his fast as compared with their fasts. They would recite the Qur’an but it would not go beyond their collarbones. They would pass through (the teachings of Islam so hurriedly) just as the arrow passes through the prey. He would look at its iron head, but would not find anything sticking) there. He would then see at the lowest end, but would not find anything sticking there. He would then see at its grip but would not find anything sticking to it. He would then see as its feathers and he would find nothing sticking to them (as the arrow would pass so quickly that nothing would stick to it) neither excrement nor blood. They would be recognised by the presence of a black man among them whose upper arms would be like a woman’s breast, or like a piece of meat as it quivers, and they would come forth at the time when there is a dissension among the people.” Abu Sa’id said: “I testify to the fact that I heard it from the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), and I testify to the fact that ‘Ali bin Abu Talib fought against them and I was with him. He gave orders about that man who was sought for, and when he was brought in, and when I looked at him, he was exactly as the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had described him.” (Sahih Muslim: Book 5, number 2323).
There appears to be no doubt that the activities of groups of Muslims today, especially in their killing sprees, are as if they are direct descendants of the Khawarij. And so today large numbers of Muslims live in danger of a type of Islam that is a caricature of what the Prophet (ﷺ) brought.
What is happening in Syria, with the wholesale destruction of Muslims by Shi’ah Alawites, tell a similar story of barbarasim. Thousands of people have been killed and tens of thousands have fled the country as the Alawite president, Assad, pours a violence on them that they had never dreamt of. A few years ago with the Iranian Revolution, many of us were sympathetic towards the Shi’ate cause. What have we to say today when Iran supports the Alawites in Syria? What do we tell the people of Syria as the bombs rain down upon them? And I might add here there does not appear to be very much support for these people from the rest of the world.
Today we have reached the sad stage in our history at which Muslims can be killed willy-nilly by other Muslims or by troops of one of the major powers. And we do nothing. The continued problem of Israel in the Middle East, and now of the people in Syria, tells us the whole story of the extent to which the Ummah has broken up. In a certain sense, this Ummah has had it. It’s disintegration through cultural invasion from Europe and America has now lead to its further destruction from within the Ummah. Many of us stand appalled at the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have been killed by other Muslims during the long course of human history. One day when the history of this Ummah is going to be written, we will all hang our heads in shame because of what had happened to a religion that brought sunlight to the world. Not only has this Ummah dimmed the sunlight, but it has also systematically gone out of its way to kill each other. In a certain sense, I am glad that I have reached senior years, because I know that witnessing the spectacle of the disintegration of the Ummah of Nabi Muhammad (ﷺ), causes major psychological pain. Even if I do leave this planet, it does not mean that the psychological pain suffered by the senior citizens today will cease. It appears that it will continue, and everything else that goes with it, until the final Trumpet. How are we going to answer our Lord when He asks us on the Day of Reckoning about ourselves and the roles we have played in encouraging the breakup of this community? The Muslim Ummah is the final religious community on the surface of this earth, and slowly its days are coming to an end. We ask Almighty Allah not to make us responsible for what has happened to this Ummah during these days, amin.
[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]