A screenshot of the article in Roznama Islam
In a recent article, Pakistani Islamic scholar Maulana Zahidur Rashidi lamented that the Islamic world has failed to respond to the rise of jihadist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS). Without naming ISIS, Rashidi argued that ISIS-like Kharijites rose during the times of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth caliph of Islam, whose caliphate was challenged by rivals, and used the theological principle of apostasy to declare Muslims infidels and kill them.
In the article titled "No Imam Abu Hanifa is Rising", Maulana Rashidi argued that, much like ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, Kharijite commander Zahhak had called for the killing of all Muslims who had in his opinion become apostates (i.e. left Islam). Rashidi says that the Islamic jurist of the time, Imam Abu Hanifa, rose to the occasion and successfully challenged Zahhak on the definition of apostasy in Islam, and as a result, Zahhak and his comrades stopped the bloodshed of Muslims in the Iraqi city of Kufa.
As per Rashidi's article, Imam Abu Hanifa told Zahhak that apostates were those who had left their religion and adopted another religion, an argument the Kharijite leader accepted. However, Rashidi's article is silent on whether a Muslim leaving Islam will or will not be considered an apostate if he/she does not adopt another religion. Rashidi's article was published by Roznama Islam, an Urdu-language daily.
Following are excerpts from the article:
"The Widespread Bazaar Of Apostasy And Killings That The Kharijites Created... Is An Unhappy Part Of Our Past In The Form Of Several Bitter Chapters Of History"
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"In the Islamic world, the tradition of declaring each other apostates and, based on it, killing and fighting is not new; rather it has been continuing since the early era [of Islam]. The Kharijites, who began sedition against the Emir-ul-Momineen [and fourth Islamic caliph] Hazrat Ali, had made [the principle of] apostasy their identity and distinction, and in the blink of an eye had enacted the bazaar of killing and fighting. The Kharijites used to not only consider the order for compromise between Ali and Muawiya [the governor who refused to accept Ali as caliph] and the appointment of an intermediary as kufr [unbelief], but also considered it necessary to kill Muslims guilty of 'major sin' by declaring them apostates.
"Their argument... was derived from the superficial understanding of certain Koranic verses and their act of rhythmic Koran recitation was so famous that they began to be described as the groups of Qaris [those who recite the Koran] - so much so that when they occupied Basra [in Iraq] and killed nearly 6,000 people, it was called the Occupation of Basra by the Qaris. At one stage, Zahhak, a leading commander of the Kharijites, launched a military invasion of Kufa [now in Iraq] and occupied it; and displaying his sword in the Big Mosque of Kufa, standing along with thousands of his comrades, ordered that the people of Kufa come before him one by one and renounce kufr, otherwise he would kill the people there, as he did in Basra.
"It was the courage, strategy and foresight of Imam Abu Hanifa [the founder of the Hanafi school of Islam, one of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence] that became an obstacle in the path of the abhorrent intention of Commander Zahhak; otherwise, the history of Basra was to be repeated at his hands in Kufa... The details about this incident are discussed by Maulana Manaazir Ahsan Geelani in 'Imam Abu Hanifa Ki Siyasi Zindagi [The Political Life of Imam Abu Hanifa].' Its summary is that Imam Abu Hanifa faced the Kharijite Zahhak and asked him why he had ordered the massacre of the public of Kufa? He answered that the people had become apostates and the punishment for apostates is killing, and therefore if these people do not renounce [their apostasy], he would have all of them killed.
"The Imam [Abu Hanifa] responded that an apostate is one who leaves his religion and adopts another religion, whereas the people of Kufa are following the faith and belief on which they were born, and they have not affected any change in their faith and belief; therefore there is no justification to declare them apostates. Zahhak understood this point and he lowered his sword, saying... 'I made a mistake,' and ordered his comrades to lower their swords... The widespread bazaar of apostasy and killings that the Kharijites created in that era is an unhappy part of our past in the form of several bitter chapters of history. The fresh wave of this psychology and trait of apostasy and killings has taken many sensitive regions of the Islamic world in its flame and the forces of the enemies of Islam have developed such an organized plan to benefit from it that the collective wisdom of the Islamic nation is left wounded..."
"Today's Tragedy Is That The Fitna [Mischief] Of Apostasy And Killings Is Taking The Islamic World In Its Flames But There Is No Imam Abu Hanifa To Make The Zahhaks Of The Time Understand It..."
"A quarter of a century ago, the Islamic organizations of Algeria had established a united front called the 'Islamic Salvation Front' and had acquired decisive power in the national politics, and by getting 80% of the vote in the first phase of the general elections, they shocked the international secular forces. But to stop it, elections were rejected; the army took over and in order to weaken the Islamic forces, all possible tactics of oppression and deceit were used. One of these tactics was that walls of civil war and [declarations of] apostasy by Islamic organizations [against each other] were erected; and the precious lives of one hundred thousand civilians of Algeria were sacrificed to it over the course of a decade.
"I have on numerous occasions requested institutions and individuals engage in research and studies to prepare an authentic and comprehensive report on the bloody civil war in Algeria based on apostasy over the past fifteen years and bring it before the nation [of Islam], which would open the eyes of many circles [of people]. But unfortunately, an interest no long exists among us about research, studies, authentic reporting and learning about real objective situations, whose terrible consequences are being faced by the entire Ummah..."
"After Algeria, the same experiment [of using apostasy to divide Muslims] is being attempted to be revived in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and other countries. Ostensibly, it appears that the hordes [of jihadis like the Islamic State] rising in response to the continuing oppression and violence of the rulers in Syria and Iraq have been made to walk on the path of [the politics of] apostasy and killings, which is being irrigated by the deep technique of the Kharijites' peculiar psychology.
"The thinker of Islam Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, worried about the new generation [of Muslim youths] gone intellectually astray under the influence of the Western philosophical and cultural invasion, had written... that apostasy is spreading everywhere but there is presently no Abu Bakr [the first caliph of Islam who enforced the shari'a] to stop it. Today's tragedy is that the fitna [mischief] of apostasy and killings is taking the Islamic world in its flames but there is no Imam Abu Hanifa to make the Zahhaks of the time understand it..."
Source: Roznama Islam (Pakistan), February 17, 2015.