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Middle East and Africa

‘A Satanic Shoot’: the Islamic State in the View of the ulama

The Egyptian press has recently witnessed the different positions expressed by the ulama on the Islamic State. There are those who hold that it is an expression of dissidence; those who believe that it is a disgrace for Islam; and those who argue that it is in the pay of Israel. This is a way for many Muslim leaders to reaffirm their authority.

The Islamic State does not allow Egypt to be, which is already very troubled. The debate created within Islam that has been witnessed by the Egyptian press and reported by the mass media on the legitimacy or otherwise of the Islamic State is a reflection of this. In particular, Al-Yawm al-Sâbi‘, an important independent newspaper, has offered a systematic collection of declarations by various ulama against Isis, all of which agree in defining it as not truly ‘Islamic’ because of the spiral of violence that it has generated in Iraq and Syria. More specifically, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheik ‘Abd al-‘Azîz Âl al-Shaykh, the supreme religious authority of that country, has defined the militias of Isis as ‘groups of dissidents’ who do not belong to Islam or to the ahl al-sunna but, rather, represent an appendix of the Kharijites, the first sect to emerge within Islam which is seen as heretical. This is an identification which appears as a clear distancing on the part of the Saudi leadership which does not want to appear to be in collusion with the Islamic State despite the accusations made by the West and some Arab States that it favoured its birth. ‘A satanic shoot’ is the definition of Isis made by one of the principal Islamic authorities of Egypt, the Grand Mufti Shawqî ‘Allâm, who believes that the self-proclaimed caliphate violates Islamic values, the principles of the sharia, and the universal values of man. The Grand Mufti has invited all Islamic institution to resist Isis: ‘A bloody and extremist group, this organisation constitutes a danger for Islam and for the Muslims, it injures their image, sheds blood, sows corruption on the earth, weakens [Arab] countries and provides an opportunity [to the West] to destroy us and interfere in our affairs on the pretext of a war against terrorism’.



Amongst the members of the Council of the Ulama of al-Azhar, the governing body of the university-mosque, the idea has spread that Islam does not in the least require contemporary man to retrieve the ancient caliphate, above all if this means usurping the holy things of others and attacking people. Because, as the General Secretary of the same council, ‘Abbâs Shumân, argues: ‘Sunnism does not make bloodshed licit’ and Islam guarantees freedom of worship to Christians and other religious minorities. If this was not enough, the head of Azhari ulama expert on hadîth, Ahmad Ma‘bad, draws attention to the warning of the Qur’an that ‘those who kill a believer intentionally will be rewarded with eternal hell, on him will fall the ire and curse of God, and for him will be prepared an atrocious punishment’.



Against Isis, but for different reasons, is the Minister for Religious Affairs of Egypt, Muhammad Mukhtâr Jum‘a, who suspects that the Caliph Abû Bakr al-Baghdâdî is working in the interests of Israel and uses resources in a war that is not authorised by the sharia or by custom or by international law. According to the Minister, al-Baghdâdî has Jewish origins, his real name is Eliot Shîmûn and he is an agent of Mossad.



The Mufti of the Republic of the Lebanon, Sheik ‘Abd al-Latîf Derjân, has also expressed himself against violence in the name of God. He did this in a speech that he gave at the Muhammad Amîn Mosque of Beirut on the occasion of the Feast Day of Sacrifice. ‘Those who commit atrocities in the name of religion do not really know faith’, the Mufti argued. He hoped for a reform of political and social life, of institutions and of religious and cultural thought. According to him this is a reform that is necessary not only to deal with dissent but also to carry out the invitation of Abraham to achieve unity and edify good.