Islamic Theology Does Not Condone Extremism
(March 31, 2011) In its continuing response to extremism, ISNA hosted a roundtable discussion for government and interfaith leaders, entitled, “Understanding Extremism, Embracing Tradition: How Islamic Theology Can Undermine Violent Extremism” in Washington D.C. The discussion, led by Sheikh Habib Umar bin Hafiz, Director and Founder of Dar al Mustafa in Yemen, took place on Monday, March 28 from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM EST.
Sheikh Umar, who has memorized the Quran and the core texts in fiqh, hadith, Arabic Language, and other religious sciences, has a long history of teaching tolerance and utilizing Islamic theology to give useful strategies to the community to overcome extremism and promote peace. Sh. Umar established Dar al-Mustafa, an educational institute, to which students from across the world have come to study. The event marked his first visit to the United States.
The main purpose of the roundtable was to engage leaders in a dialogue about the role Islamic theology plays in countering extremism. Sheikh Umar began by dispelling the misconception that extremism is condoned in the Islamic theological tradition. He described how Muslim extremists interpret verses of the Qur’an outside of their proper context. This is how the divergence from mainstream Islamic tradition that is used to justify extremism originated.
Sheikh Umar explained that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions felt that treating those who wished to harm them with respect and kindness was a way of worshiping God. They did not use ill words, let alone, resort to violence. As a result, they had an impact on millions of people throughout generations. Indeed, Muslims believe that “If anyone kills a person – unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land – it is as if he kills all mankind (Qur’an 5:32).
Sheikh Umar emphasized spreading a religious conscience and embracing traditional religious scholarship as the best means of tackling the problem of extremism. He said that oftentimes, extremists act the way they do because they feel that other people have committed violence or other acts of oppression against them. However, it would be more theologically correct for them to let the established laws serve as the mechanism for justice.