Extremists distorting message of Islam by manipulating religious texts: Lecture

ABU DHABI, Islam is a religion of peace, love and tolerance and bestows mercy upon everyone, but extremists have sought to distort its message by sowing fear and confusion with their manipulation of religious texts, scholars Abdulrahman Saeed Ali Al Shamsi and Maria Mohamed Ali Al Hatali, told a packed house at the Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed on Wednesday.

During the course of their panel discussion, titled The Manipulation of Religious Texts by Extremists, Al Shamsi and Al Hatali said extremist groups had misinterpreted sacred texts from the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Hadiths, using them to serve their own agendas and political goals. The discussion was attended by H.H. Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, as well as other dignitaries.

Al Shamsi, Director of the Preaching Department at the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments (GAIAE), and Al Hatali, Chief Preacher at GAIAE, said extremist groups have always sought to use fiery and passionate rhetoric, shunning the language of reason and logic, to try and sway the public, especially the impressionable youth. They have also steered clear of the true scientific approach followed by scholars to protect Islam and its tolerant values from misrepresentation, distortion and ignorant interpretations.

The extremist groups have attempted to distort Quranic concepts and prophecies by quoting Sharia texts out of their historical and scientific contexts, the Majlis heard. They have also chosen to ignore the specific context within which the Quranic verses were revealed and the hadiths uttered, Al Shamsi, who is also co-preacher at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and Al Hatali, a member of the Committee for the Preparation of Preaching Content, pointed out. They said extremists had confused fundamental verses with abrogated ones, the general with the specific, and the absolute with the restricted, as well as other essential concepts that were key to understanding religious texts on which genuine scholars have based their interpretation.

For instance, the extremists had tried to distort the concept of Hijra (the peaceful migration of Muslims to countries where they would be spared persecution), in the Quranic verse: “He who forsakes his home in the cause of Allah, finds in the earth Many a refuge, wide and spacious: Should he die as a refugee from home for Allah and His Messenger, His reward becomes due and sure with Allah: And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” Verse (4:100) These extremists groups have wrongly interpreted this verse to mean that Muslims should migrate from the house of Kufr (disbelief in Allah) to the house of Islam, claiming that Muslims dwell in the house of Kufr if they have to live and interact with non-Muslims, the panelists said. They have incorrectly urged people to head out of their safe homelands and abandon their stable lives to migrate to a place of conflict and unrest.

Yet, the migration referred to was specific to the time of the Prophet, when people did not enjoy freedom of belief and religion and their lives and property were under constant threat from the Quraish tribe in Mecca. That is when God ordered them to migrate to Medina, and this migration ended with the Conquest of Mecca. The Prophet’s Hadith clearly states: “There is no Hijra after the Conquest.” The extremists have instead deliberately taken this out of context.

They have similarly manipulated textual references to jihad which speak of the necessity of defending the homeland. The groups have distorted these references to suggest that Muslims should fight those who disagree with their belief at all times and places, by selectively quoting the Quranic verse: “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them.” Verse (9:5) There is nothing to indicate that the Prophet fought Mecca’s polytheists because they disagreed with his beliefs. Even when he led an army against them, it was to make sure that the battle was not fought on his land, with the understanding that hostilities would end the moment Mecca’s polytheists ceased their aggression: “And if they incline towards peace, you should also incline towards it.” Verse (8:61).

Clearly, there is nothing to support the extremists’ claim that those who hold different beliefs should be attacked, and it provides another instance of how extremist groups act contrary to the Prophet’s teachings. Nor would the Prophet have fought those who disagreed with his beliefs for the Quran is full of verses that speak of forgiveness, religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

The panelists concluded by saying that the community had a responsibility to counter the extremists’ discourse by highlighting the humanitarian, tolerant and moderate values of Islam. The extremists’ attempts at distorting the message of Islam has to be defeated and replaced instead with teachings that spring from genuine, tolerant Islam, they said. Spreading its true message of peace and equality, accurately and powerfully, is the need of the hour.

Source: Emirates News Agency