June 24, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3945

On India Visit, Sufi Mystic from Baghdad Says: 'A Besieged [Muslim] Community Always Looks for Alibis; The War that Osama [Bin Laden] Fought is Not for Real Islam, But Political Islam'

June 24, 2011
Iraq, , India | Special Dispatch No. 3945

The shrine of Sufi mystic Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, India

In a recent interview conducted during a visit to India, Abdul Rahman Abdulla Al-Gilani, custodian of the Baghdad-based shrine of 12th-century Sufi mystic Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, expressed the Sufi viewpoint regarding the deceased Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Rejecting bin Laden's message to Muslims regarding jihad and anti-Americanism, Abdul Rahman Abdulla Al-Gilani said that Sufism does not permit revenge, and guides its followers to seek justice in the divine court. The interview was conducted after the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. operation in Pakistan.

Abdul Rahman Abdulla Al-Gilani argued: "Sufism, which is another name for moderate Islam, has no place for revenge. You can only pray and preach. The prerogative to punish is with God, not man. God is synonymous with justice."

Following are excerpts from the interview:[1]

"We Sufis Completely Reject the Islam that [bin] Laden Preached…; There is No Place for Extremism in Islam; Militant Islam is No Islam"

Q: "For a decade Osama bin Laden epitomized a brand of Islam which is intolerant and anti-America. Do you approve of what he preached?"

Abdul Rahman Abdulla Al-Gilani: "We Sufis completely reject the Islam that [Osama bin] Laden preached and which his many adherents continue to preach and practice. There is no place for extremism in Islam. Militant Islam is no Islam; it's heresy. Militant Islam is a gross misunderstanding and misinterpretation of God's commandments to the Prophet and his followers.

"Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, the founder of Qadiriya silsila (order) of Sufism, preached love to all, including atheists. No wonder the door of his shrine is open to all [religious communities]. Since Allah doesn't discriminate against His subjects, who are we to single out individuals and communities for hate-mongering?"

Q: "Osama justified anti-Americanism for the many 'injustices' done to the Muslims which the U.S. either sanctioned or ignored. So shouldn't Muslims avenge their 'oppression'?"

Abdul Rahman Abdulla Al-Gilani: "Sufism, which is another name for moderate Islam, has no place for revenge. You can only pray and preach. The prerogative to punish is with God, not man. God is synonymous with justice.

"We believe that if someone has harmed you, it's God who will decide the punishment, not a human being. So we tell our people to take grievances to the divine court and seek divine blessings. Of course, unlike the Taliban, we believe that Sufi saints [i.e. mystics] could be mediators between man and God."

"Osama Preached and Practiced Violent Islam and Didn't Show Tolerance to Even Fellow Muslims"

Q: "Many Muslims offered funeral prayers for Osama and mourned his death."

Abdul Rahman Abdulla Al-Gilani: "Sympathy should not be selective. Osama preached and practiced violent Islam and didn't show tolerance to even fellow Muslims who refused to toe the Al-Qaeda's line. The Taliban has attacked Sufi shrines in Pakistan. One can only pray to God to show such people the right path."

Q: "But Al-Qaeda and its many offshoots are against a moderate interpretation of the faith."

Abdul Rahman Abdulla Al-Gilani: "Al-Qaeda or any such organization is not our guide. Our guide is the Prophet [Muhammad] and his revered followers like Sheikh Abdul Qadir, who never preached hatred. The shrine of Sheikh Abdul Qadir and a few other properties belonging to the shrine, of which I am chief trustee, have been attacked too. We never retaliated.

"Violence, as we know, begets violence and this is not our method. Despite attacks and threats, pilgrims continue to pour in to pay homage at the Sheikh Abdul Qadir shrine."

Q: "Why has the cult of Osama gained constituency among a section of Muslims?"

Abdul Rahman Abdulla Al-Gilani: "This is mostly because of the lack of proper education among Muslims. A besieged community always looks for alibis. The war that Osama fought is not for real Islam, but political Islam.

"Political Islam stands for righting a lot of wrongs done in the past. And they don't flinch from using violence for fulfilling their goals. Islam has clearly spelled out that killing of the innocent is haram (sinful). And a sinner is destined to live in hell…"

Q: "What brings you to this country?"

Abdul Rahman Abdulla Al-Gilani: "There are a large number of followers of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani in India. This is my third visit to India. In the 10-day itinerary I have been to Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, and will visit Kochi before I fly to Oman from where I will head home to Baghdad.

"With its rich tradition of Sufism, India counts among the best of places for followers of the Qadiriya order. I am told 80 percent of Sunnis in India follow this order. India's multiculturalism has allowed the Sufi orders to flourish."


[1], India, May 15, 2011. The text of the interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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