Tufail Ahmad is Director, South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC. A British journalist of Indian origin (he is from Champaran, Bihar), Ahmad is one of the strongest voices against terrorism and staunchest supporters of reform in Islam.
In a brilliantly worded article published in Swarajya, Ahmad takes on the subject of fatwas against terrorism. He says that all fatwas against terror groups or terrorists are inconsequential unless the Sharia itself is reevaluated.
In the article he suggests his own fatwa in six-points that he says would actually help fight the jihadi mindset. Each of his points has been explained with examples.
1. We consider all Shias as Muslims. This point is especially important because Barelvi scholars in India consider Shias as infidels.
It is a truth that the Shia community is persecuted in all Islamic countries where Sunnis dominate. A number of attacks have specifically targeted members of this community in Pakistan and elsewhere.
In fact, Saudi Arabia, a purely Sunni country, and Shiite Iran have a history of political and cultural rivalry. Very recently, Saudi Arabia formed a military alliance of Muslim countries but kept Iran and its allies out of it.
2. We consider all Ahmadis as Muslims.
Ahmadiyaa is a sect founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian in 1889. Its followers are the most persecuted among all Muslim sects in the world. Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia have instituted laws against the Ahmadiyaas because of their beliefs that that Prophet Mohammed was not the last messenger of God.
Pakistan has a law called Ordinance XX especially governing Ahmadiyya community. Only in India are Ahmadiyaas considered Muslims as per law though the AIMPLB does not allow them membership.
3. Prophet Muhammad was a historical personality and therefore it is right for non-Muslim and Muslim journalists and academics to evaluate his teachings critically.
Criticism of the Prophet is considered heresy. In Saudi Arabia, such an act is punishable by death. Blasphemy is a law that many in Islamic countries misuse to carry out attacks on the minority community.
4. The Sharia law on apostasy is not relevant for modern times and Muslims who want to leave Islam will not be killed.
Apostasy is punishable by death in many Islamic countries. It is the law as per Sharia. If the apostate escapes death, he/she risks ostracism from the Islamic community.
5. All non-Muslim citizens of a Muslims country will be allowed to become the head of the state.
Ahmad himself elaborates: “This is a vital point because many Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives and others do not permit their own non-Muslim citizens to become the head of state. The Pakistani constitution expressly bars all non-Muslim Pakistanis from becoming the country’s president.”
This Pew Research report shows that 17 Muslim countries do not allow a non-Muslim to become the Head of the State. Note that Lebanon has a constitutional arrangement which stipulates that the secular country will always have a Christian as a Head of State and a Sunni Muslim as a PM.
6. A Muslim woman will be allowed as per Islamic Sharia’s theological principles to become the head of a state.
Women have held the top post in many countries but they play almost no role in the Gulf countries, Iran and post-Soviet Central Asia. Saudi Arabia was the last country on Earth to allow women to vote!
Ahmad concludes that the Indian government is always blamed by Muslim leaders for their own backwardness, “but when it comes to our women, we prevent them from studying, from doing businesses, from running for political offices”.