Over the past two months, Dr. 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, the former dean of Islamic Law at Qatar University and currently a columnist for Qatar's Al-Watan daily, published a series of articles titled "Towards Religious Education that Is at Peace with the World." The articles direct harsh criticism at the curricula taught in the Islamic world, in particular the Islamic studies curricula, which, Al-Ansari says, promote extremist concepts such as jihad as a personal obligation of every Muslim, hatred for those of different faiths or beliefs, and the exclusion of women from the public arena, as well as conspiratorial notions, for instance that the Muslims are under constant attack by secularist and globalist forces.
Focusing mainly on the issue of jihad, Al-Ansari states that the education systems in the Islamic world teach young people how to die for the sake of Allah, not how to live for the sake of Allah. In fact, he says, they inculcate a twisted perception of jihad, whereby Muslim individuals are obliged to fight for any Muslim country that is under attack, and thus incite the pupils to participate in the wars of other countries. It is this distorted conception of jihad, he stresses, that encourages young people to join murderous organizations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Arguing that true jihad is the pursuit of science, knowledge, and technology, Al-Ansari urges the state, the media and the social and religious institutions to adopt a strategy that will immunize the young against misguided perceptions of jihad. He also calls for enriching the curricula with human values that will encourage them to devote their time to productive endeavors.
It should be mentioned that, although Al-Ansari advocates instilling values of tolerance in the younger generation, in this series of articles he uses anti-Semitic expressions to describe the Jews who lived in the Arabian Peninsula in the time of the Prophet Muhammad. In one of his articles he wrote that the Prophet Muhammad initiated a peace and reconciliation agreement with the Jews, but the Jews – whom he calls "violators of agreements and murderers of prophets" – were the ones who quickly defied the agreement, conspired to murder the Prophet, "and were a fifth column and a knife in the back of the Muslims."
It should also be noted that the Qatari school curricula indeed promote the value of military jihad, presenting this as one of the factors that led to the victories of early Islam, as a sign of true Muslim faith, and as an honor that the Prophet's Companions yearned for with all their hearts. Jihad and self-sacrifice are presented as religious duties that earn the believers divine rewards, especially admittance into the highest levels of paradise. In addition, the curricula characterize secularism as heresy and as a threat to Islam, discuss the need to renounce the non-Muslims, present Judaism and Christianity as distorted religions and the Jews as traitors, and claim that the academic field of Oriental studies is a Western-Christian conspiracy against Islam.
Dr. 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari (Source: Al-Watan, Qatar, August 28, 2017)
The following are translated excerpts from Al-Ansari's series of articles:
Curricula In The Arab And Islamic World Preach Hatred, Fanaticism And Extremism
In the first installment of the series, Al-Ansari writes: "Religious education contributes actively and extensively to the shaping of the Muslim's conscience and intellect, as well as his behavior and attitudes toward his society, his country and the world. Hence, the Arab and Muslim countries have a great responsibility in formulating a religious studies curriculum which produces good citizens who devote themselves entirely to the service of their religion, homeland, and nation, in accordance with [the spirit] of the times and its changes. [It must produce people] who do not suffer from anxiety, schizophrenia or disconnection from the modern world, [but are] fortified with the power of faith, self-confidence, an alert conscience and an enlightened awareness which immunizes them against the diseases of extremism, hatred, and fanaticism, [people who are] culturally open-minded, at peace with the world, and contribute to creating a better future.
"[But] in practice, the religious curricula in most Arab and Islamic countries do not achieve their goals, as evident from the phenomena of fanaticism, hatred and extremism, and from the divisions and schisms which prevail in the Arab and Muslim societies. It is therefore incumbent upon those responsible for culture, education, and the media, and upon the intellectuals and the activists, to take a courageous stand, in order to re-examine the religious studies curriculum and review it from a position of shared responsibility.
"The gravest [problem] is that the formulation of the religious studies curriculum is monopolized by only one element in the country, [although] this is the responsibility of us all. It is [therefore] essential for all sectors of society which are involved in the forming and shaping of the citizens' conscience to collaborate and pool their efforts [in formulating a new curriculum], in accordance with a unified, strategic plan. This responsibility rests with us all.
"What are the main components of a religious studies curriculum? Taking a quick look at the curricula and textbooks approved by religious institutes and schools across the Islamic world, we find that, in most cases, the central content and ideas they aim to instill in the mentality and personalities of the young people are isolationism and hatred of other nations and peoples. The following elements are the most prominent:
"1. Presenting the world as an enemy that is lying in wait for the Arabs and the Muslims and conspiring against them [in a bid] to steal their wealth; control their resources; impede their prosperity, advancement and unity, and hinder their access to sources of power and the means to arm themselves. For this reason there is the divine law of jihad, which remains valid until the resurrection of the dead [i.e., until the end of days], and the Muslim must be prepared to fight for Allah in every Muslim country that is subject to aggression.
"2. The Arab and the Muslim nations are constantly under attack [by the following elements]: ideological invasion, abominable globalization, secular schools, Orientalism, missionary activity, atheist ideas, false beliefs, Crusaders [i.e. Christianity] hostile to their religion, identity and language, and the Westernization of the Muslim woman.
"3. It is forbidden to support, befriend or forge an alliance with the Peoples of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians], because Quran [5:51] commands: 'O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another.' This [last point] is part of the religious tenet of 'al-wala' wa-l-bara' [literally 'loyalty and disavowal', i.e. loyalty to Muslims and disavowal of non-Muslims]. If this is necessary for the sake of earning a livelihood, then [the Jews and Christians] should be treated kindly, their greetings should be replied to politely, [and it is permitted] to travel to their countries, [but] the relationship must be [only] superficial, and one must be wary of them.
"4. Non-acceptance of the other [who is different] in faith, doctrine or religion. As a result, graduates of this educational system do not behave tolerantly toward those who are different... They rush to accuse them of heresy and deviance from the straight path, just because they have some dispute [with them in matters of] jurisprudence or belief...
"5. A sick [over-]sensitivity to the social presence of women and their participation in development, society, and politics. This is because these curricula view a woman as qualified for two tasks only: pleasing her husband and satisfying his desires, and providing a good upbringing to his children (motherhood). [According to this view] a woman is closest to Allah when she is hidden deep within her home, in its darkest corner. Thousands of religious schools across the Islamic world, from Afghanistan to Yemen, derive... [their inspiration for] every law pertaining to women from the books of religious heritage that advocate a non-egalitarian approach toward women, the most prominent of them being Ahya' 'Uloum Al-Din ["The Revival of the Religious Sciences", by prominent medieval theologian Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali] and the book Al-Kabair ["The Greater Sins", by medieval scholar Muhammad bin 'Uthman Al-Dhahabi, which is concerned with the major sins and transgressions which a Muslim must avoid]. [According to this view], it is the woman's nature to deviate [from the straight path] due to her intellectual inferiority, emotionality and weakness [when it comes to] making the correct decision and taking the unswerving path, in the absence of solutions from a man who corrects her behavior, protects her from temptations and evil and conceals her nakedness from the day of her birth to the day of her death."
Why Should Youngsters Be Concerned With Fighting? That Is The Role Of The Armed Forces
In the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles in the series, Al-Ansari focuses on the value of jihad that is promoted in the curricula. He writes: "The law of jihad was set out in the Quran to protect life, the homeland and the religion, as a response to aggression, and in order to repel oppression and persecution. [Waging] jihad is permitted only when there is oppression that cannot be [prevented] by any other means. This is expressed [in Quran 22:39] – 'Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought [against], because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory' – and is proven in the clearest of all verses [Quran 2:190]: 'Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.'
"[This verse states] that warfare is directed only against those who fight us but not against those who don't fight us. [It is] a precise verse... not given to interpretation or abrogation... for it is a message from Allah and revoking it... [would mean] falsifying the explicit words of Allah... However, this exalted, humane significance of jihad has been perverted and distorted under the influence of historical developments, political upheavals, human passions, and the interests of the Islamic Caliphate state, which strove to expand. From the second century after the Hijra, jurisprudents were influenced by the social surroundings, the realities of life, and the rationale of the victorious power (the Caliphate state). The jurisprudents... divided the world into dar al-Islam [countries under Islamic rule] and dar al-harb [literally 'the abode of war,' referring to countries under non-Muslim rule, which must be won for Islam by the force of the sword]... [Thus,] approval was given for [aggressive] jihad... i.e. attacking others even if they hadn't attacked first. This was based on a political-religious doctrine that [the jurisprudents] created, which decided the nature of the international relationships between the Muslims and non-Muslims by determining that the basic state of these relationships was one of war and not of peace, and that peace was the exception, chosen only in an emergency to realize a superior Muslim interest.
"This perverted perception of jihad continued to be handed down [from generation to generation] until the modern era, by means of curricula, religious podiums, the media, and fatwas and essays on the topic of jihad. What concerns me here is the curricula which teach the students a military conception of jihad, according to which it is the personal obligation of each and every Muslim to be prepared to defend any Islamic country that is under attack, and [if he does not meet this obligation] he commits the sin of evading jihad. What do young people have to do with warfare? Why do we incite them to fight and defend other countries, and not respect [these countries'] sovereignty over their own land? Should a youngster disobey the authorities, infiltrate [another country] and perpetrate forbidden acts? None of this is appropriate for our times. It suited the period of the Islamic Caliphate, when there was one Muslim country with one Caliph. But that era is gone. This is the era of the nation state, in which countries have become independent, joined the United Nations and committed themselves to international conventions and agreements. Today every state has its own sovereign borders and an independent government.
"It would be better to teach the youth that jihad for the sake of Allah is the aspiration to gain knowledge, whether by a doctor in his clinic, an engineer in his office, the farmer in his field, the worker in his factory, or the scientist in his laboratory, and that every effort which bears fruit, and all knowledge achieved in the name of God, constitute jihad. The youth and the citizens have nothing to do with war and fighting – that is the work of the army and its young soldiers, who are recruited for military service and are trained to defend the homeland.
"In conclusion, we must make a firm resolution to teach the youth that its jihad must be undertaken with complete devotion to investing all efforts in the spheres of building, development, discovery, creativity and invention, and in the issues of freedom, justice, and the fight against corruption – just like the youth in the rest of the world.
"The greatest and most dangerous distortion of the meaning of jihad is wrought by the armed organizations which pretend to wage jihad: Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and [Jabhat] Al-Nusra."
We Must Disconnect Our Children From The Poisoned Ideological Sources Which Entice Them To Jihad And Martyrdom
"For the past fifty years our education and cultural system has been filling our students' heads with the commandment of jihad and teaching them how to die for the sake of Allah, instead of how to live for the sake of Allah and how to love, build and create for the sake of Allah…
"Life is dear to man, it is the most tremendous grace of Allah. One must not sacrifice oneself except for a very worthy cause, and one does not forsake the pleasures of this world, unless it is for more pleasurable eternal life. So what prompted those promising youths to fall in the trap [set for them by] the organizations which preach jihad[?]… All of us – countries, societies and institutions of culture, religion, society and media – are responsible for protecting our young people from this erroneous belief, and it is our responsibility to prevent the hijacking of their future. [This] will be achieved only by dismantling the infrastructure of violent thinking and wrenching [the task of] interpreting [the notion of] jihad from the control of these organizations.
"We must reexamine the education system in general and religious education in particular, especially all the sources that feed the lake of hatred and extremism, which is expanding from day to day... so as to purge it of the poisons of zealotry, violence, discrimination, exclusion and racism, whether it is against women or against others who differ [from us] in their faith, doctrine, or origin... We must enrich our curricula, religious and general, with humane values and promote the value of [respecting] all human beings, regardless of their gender, origin, faith or religious doctrine...
"Following the terrible disaster that struck the U.S. on September 11, 2001, the Muslims, and especially the Arabs, should have declared their complete ideological renouncement of all those poisoned ideological sources that contaminated the minds of our sons and enticed them to carry out actions against life and living beings, namely [actions of] jihad and martyrdom. [This is what] Germany did after the defeat of Hitler. It reexamined the German cultural system that had produced Hitler, his associates and his party, and declared its ideological renouncement of this poisoned heritage. Japan did the same following its defeat [in World War II], when it discarded the heritage of the emperors. We should have done the same with the cultural and ideological system that produced [Al-Qaeda leaders Osama] bin Laden, [Ayman] Al-Zawahiri and [Abu Mus'ab] Al-Zarqawi and [ISIS leader Abu Bakr] Al-Baghdadi, and all their followers.
"Our countries never formulated a comprehensive strategy to immunize our schoolchildren and young people against this murderous and perverted [perception of] jihad, and that is why the disasters of terror continued and cost the lives of thousands of innocent people in the east and the west.
"In sum, we must amend the perception of jihad and teach students that their [true] jihad lies in wielding the weapons of science, knowledge and technology, whereas jihad on the battlefield is the task of organized armies."
The Prophet Initiated A Peace Agreement With The Jews But The Jews – "Violators Of Agreements And Murderers Of Prophets" – Immediately Violated It
In the sixth article, Al-Ansari discusses the term "aggressive jihad" which became the jurisprudents' justification for terrorist attacks: "Jurisprudents divided the [concept of] jihad into two – defensive jihad and aggressive jihad. The first is a natural defense rooted in human nature and is supported by Quranic texts which restrict fighting to defense of life, money, religion and of the homeland, as Allah said [in Quran 2:190]: 'Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.' [The concept of defensive jihad] is reinforced by human rights conventions and UN conventions... As for aggressive jihad – i.e. the invasion of peaceful countries to conquer them and provide the opportunity for [Islamic] proselytizing –there is nothing in the Quran or in the activity of the Prophet which supports this. The Quran absolutely forbids aggression, without exception – not even to disseminate the religion – since attacking peaceful [peoples] is the harshest kind of injustice, and Allah does not condone injustice in any way...
"According to the reliable traditions of the Prophet, he never preached aggression – either in the Arabian Peninsula or beyond it… Our young generation must know with certainty that the Prophet fought only when he was forced to do so to repel an attack that was taking place or that was imminent. As for his wars against the [tribe] of Quraysh and its allies, there is no need to investigate the reasons for each one, for [the Quraish] were openly hostile to him from the start. They tortured his persecuted supporters, shunned them, besieged them, forced them to immigrate and, as if [all] that wasn't enough, chased them to Ethiopia. [They were also] experts at harming the Prophet [himself], while he treated them with tolerance and wanted to guide them to the true path. When they decided to kill him, and Allah [helped] him flee to Al-Medina, they followed him in order to harm him, and tortured the wretched Muslims who remained in Mecca, who cried out to Allah in supplication, 'Take us out of this village whose inhabitants are cruel.' This position [of the Quraish tribe] is sufficient to justify a situation of war, and there is no need, according to international consensus, to investigate the reasons for each of the wars [the Prophet waged against the Quraysh].
"As for the Jews, the Prophet is the one who initiated an agreement of cooperation and peace with them when they arrived [in Al-Medina], but how could those violators of agreements and murderers of prophets [a common derogatory appellation for the Jews] possibly honor the agreement? They soon violated it, assisted the idol worshippers in the [Battle of] Badr, killed a Muslim and planned to kill the Prophet when he came to demand compensation for his killing, helped the idol worshippers in the [Battle of] The Trench and were like a fifth column and a knife in the back of the Muslims.
"With respect to the Persians, [the Prophet] called on their king [to embrace] Islam, but [the king] responded by tearing up the message and ordering his governor in Yemen to bring the Prophet to him. However, [the regions that are today called] Yemen, Oman and Bahrain embraced Islam, which led the Persians to attack them.
"As for the Byzantines, their emperor did not heed [the Prophet's letter] when he saw that the members of his court regarded it with scorn. These evil advisors spread a spirit of hate against Islam and its people in the country, and the [Byzantine] governor in Damascus killed the messenger [of the Prophet]. The [emperor's] response [to the Prophet's letter] was to prepare for an invasion of the Arabian Peninsula.
"In all these wars, it was the other side which was the aggressor..."
"If the Quran forbids aggression... how can anyone convince a passionately religious young man that wearing an explosive belt and blowing himself up in a mourners' tent is [a form of] jihad? We are not familiar with heinous acts [of this sort] among other nations. So why does [it exist] among the nation that has earned the title 'The Best of All Nations'?...
"The root of this is the trend that favored the aggressive meaning of jihad over the defensive [meaning] during the second century after the Hijra, when religious legitimation was granted to aggressive jihad... based on the assumption that it is an efficient vehicle for the dissemination of Islam. This [trend] reflects international relations that are based on conquest, and suit the imperialist character of the Caliphate.
"In conclusion, if in the past the jurisprudents had their own justifications [for propagating aggressive jihad], as those who represented the spirit of their time, there is no reason why today's jurisprudents should not consider the spirit and demands of our [own] time and internalize them. They have driven our young people to die in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, instead of spurring them to [wage] jihad against backwardness, corruption and tyranny, and for liberation from economic and technological dependency."
 See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1442, Review Of Qatari Islamic Education School Textbooks For The First Half Of The 2018-2019 School Year, February 19, 2019.
 Al-Watan (Qatar), August 26, 2019.
 Abrogation (nash) is the principle whereby certain Quranic verses are superseded by later verses which amend or contradicts them.
 Al-Watan (Qatar), September 16, 2019.
 Al-Watan (Qatar), September 23, 2019.
 The Battle of Badr took place in 624 CE between the Prophet Muhammad and his supporters and the Arab tribes of Mecca.
 The Battle of the Trench took place in 627 CE between the Prophet Muhammad and his supporters and the Arab tribes that sought to invade Al-Medina.
 Al-Watan (Qatar), September 30, 2019.