Recently, or specifically on 9th April 2015, in Grand Hyatt Hotel, I was asked by YADIM to present a paperwork entitled “Religious Extremists: Its Solutions”. In the Muzakarah of Malaysian and Indonesion Islamic Scholars themed as The Declaration of Malaysian-Indonesian Ummah Against Extremism, experts from both countries whom are the NGOs as well as scholars had a discussion on many aspects and issues pertaining extremism. During the muzakarah, I gathered plenty wisdom and ideas to be the muntalaq of this topic. May this short writing be the best opening solutions on dealing with this matter.
The rise of these groups or extremist ideologies, radical or extreme, does not happen just in the physical sense; of which are groups of people who only know weaponries, revolt or revolution as the only solutions of certain matters. Extremism and radicalism may also be in the form of thoughts, belief and ideology.
However, both elements; understanding and actions may occur directly, in which a person’s actions may be resulted from his false understanding on what is meant originally by the revelations, hence, they go against it. This can be seen by the formation of certain groups of people who contradicts the revelations.
Upon review on this matter, we can seek and relate on what happened during the times of the Prophet PBUH, where three men met the Prophet PBUH and one of them claimed: I will not marry women; someone among them said: I will not eat meat; and someone among them said: I will not lie down in bed. The Prophet PBUH himself disapproved these actions by saying:
أُصَلِّي وَأَنَامُ وَأَصُومُ وَأُفْطِرُ وَأَتَزَوَّجُ النِّسَاءَ فَمَنْ رَغِبَ عَنْ سُنَّتِي فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي
“I observe prayer and sleep too; I observe fast and suspend observing them; I marry women also? And he who turns away from my Sunnah, he has no relation with Me.”
Sahih Muslim (1401)
Based on this hadith, we can understand that strong determination without true knowledge, we can easily be misguided. In fact, fanaticism and narrow understandings towards any madhab or belief made these people become judgmental towards other people of different opinions.
When one is quick to judge and accuse others of committing an act of disbelief (kafir), bid’ah (go against with the teachings of The Prophet PBUH) and misguided, it is also a form of fanaticism in his own beliefs where he would neither analyze nor try to understand his wants and judgements of people of different ideologies. Hence, this series of Bayan Linnas is a specific discussion on the topic of Religious Extremists: Its Solutions.
Definition of Extremist
Extremists or radicals are a massive threat upon the Muslim ummah. The rise of ideologies or groups resulted from this extremist idea may drive away others and lead to misconceptions upon the Muslim ummah, especially to those who are getting to know Islam. Consequently, this will turn them away from the true understanding of Islam.
Some Islamic scholars stated this as tatarruf. The definition of tatarruf in today’s context may be the result of some issues that revolves around politics, religion, madhab and others. Other matters may also lead towards tatarruf. 
Extreme groups or ideologies or known as the extreme and exaggeration (ghuluw). Being ghuluw in practicing religion is going against the Shari’ah commandments. It is done by being too excessive in his nature until he is driven away of the revelation.
Factors That Leads to Extremism
Extremism is something afar man’s rationale. It leads a person to act beyond the moderation of a human being. Looking back through history, many conflicts and wars occur due to extremism. Among them are World War II, Israel-Palestine Conflicts, as well as tragedy of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda which involves the Rohingya people.
Extremism stains the socio-politic interactions between multiracial communities. Moderation is vital to balance the interaction among them. Malaysia as a multiracial country shall be the model of moderation, especially when it is seldom looked upon when speaking on this among the Muslim countries.
We have to be optimistic in reaching this goal. As an example, the tragedy of killing of the hostages in Sydney and the editorial of Charlie Hebdo, non-Muslims community in Australia and France were also going together in solidarity of their fellow compatriot Muslims from the evil thought of Islamophobia.
Among the factors that lead to extremism are:
- Lack of religious understanding.
- Simply labelling other individuals or groups as being disbelievers (kufur), misguided, fasiq, bida’h, or khurafat, while in fact, it is not related to the issue.
- Being excessively fanatic (taassub) towards any madhab, ideologies, understandings and isms.
- Believe he is always right
- Having bad circle of friends or groups
- Having incorrect views which leads to the behavior of simply labelling people as misguided, disbelief and other false accusations
- Brush up khilafiyyah issues which then leads to defects in ukhwah Islamiyyah. This is stated by Allah SWT in the Quran:
وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ
“And do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart;”
Syaikh Mustafa al-Maraghi says: “Do not raise hatred and animosity amongst you, as they will fill the hearts with fear, facing failures and lose its strength. Lastly, you will easily be defeated by your enemy”.
- Hearts with abundance of mazmumah attributes like hasad (jealousy), ujub, takabbur and others. This is all the poison and virus that will cause animosity, then lead towards other extremes in life according to their beliefs and ideologies.
- Recklessness in gaining something
Dalil of the Prohibition of Extremism
قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا أَهْوَاءَ قَوْمٍ قَدْ ضَلُّوا مِن قَبْلُ وَأَضَلُّوا كَثِيرًا وَضَلُّوا عَن سَوَاءِ السَّبِيلِ
Say, "O People of the Scripture, do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before and misled many and have strayed from the soundness of the way."
Al-Maraghi said: “Allah SWT prohibits the people of the book (ahl al-kitab) who lived in the time of the Prophet PBUH to be blindly fanatic like what was done by their ancestors and the traditions that make them be misguided, following their lust and desire and rejecting the teachings of previous Prophets and righteous people. They are all the people of tawheed, discarding idolatries and not being extreme in religious matters.
يَّاكُمْ وَالْغُلُوَّ فِي الدِّينِ فَإِنَّمَا أَهْلَكَ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمُ الْغُلُوُّ فِي الدِّينِ
‘O people, beware of exaggeration in religious matters for those who came before you were doomed because of exaggeration in religious matters.’
Sahih Ibnu Hibban (3871)
إِنَّ الدِّينَ يُسْرٌ، وَلَنْ يُشَادَّ الدِّينَ أَحَدٌ إِلاَّ غَلَبَهُ، فَسَدِّدُوا وَقَارِبُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا، وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالْغَدْوَةِ وَالرَّوْحَةِ وَشَىْءٍ مِنَ الدُّلْجَةِ
"Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded; and gain strength by worshipping in the mornings, the afternoons, and during the last hours of the nights."
Sahih al-Bukhari (39)
According to the above excerpts of Quran and Sunnah, there are clear commandments of practicing wasatiyyah (balance) and not being ghuluw (extravagant) in religion.
Likewise, the writer also cite the words of al-Hassan al-Basri which are stated by Syaikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradhawi in Zhahiratu al-Ghuluw fi al-Takfir:
العامل على غير علم كالسالك على غير طريق، والعامل على غير علم، ما يفسد أكثر مما يصلح، فاطلبوا العلم طلبا لا يضر بالعبادة، واطلبوا العبادة طلبا لا يضر بالعلم، فإن قوما طلبوا العبادة وتركوا العلم، حتى خرجوا بأسيافهم على أمة محمد ولو طلبوا العلم لم يدلهم على ما فعلوه
“People who are practicing without knowledge is like people who walk on a wrong path. People who are practicing without knowledge will do more harm than good. Hence, seek knowledge without abandoning the practice, and do the practice without leaving the process of seeking knowledge. In fact, a nation who perfects their acts of worship while abandoning knowledge will go against the ummah of Muhammad with their swords. If and only if they seek knowledge, surely, it will not guide them towards what they did.”
Attributes and Indications of an Extremist
In al-Tatarruf...Khubzun ‘Alami, it is stated that some clear attributes of the extremists are:
- Rapid response
- Fast emotional reflex
- Normally, he will believe what he hears
- Easy to feel at ease and blindly do what he is told
The phrase ‘tatarruf’, ‘taassub’ and ‘ghuluw’ have close meaning with what most of the people understand. However, what is closer to the truth perhaps is, taassub and ghuluw are both branches of the tree of tatarruf. Likewise, poverty and oppression are the source of water which make tatarruf be healthily taken care of, which resulted in extremism.
Unity of the nation is the key element in eradicating extremism in this country. Extremism spreads widely because of the negative perceptions towards different groups and religion. The citizens have the strength to diminish these perceptions. The phenomena of multiracial community should be benefited towards forming future great civilizations.
Furthermore, Islam itself teaches its believers to do research and analyze in detail on each opinion, ijtihad and personal views of opposing persons. This may prevent any form of fanaticism and stay firm on beliefs according to authentic revelation and evidence. It is as what is said in the Quran:
أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
“Those are the ones Allah has guided, and those are people of understanding”
Among the Suggestions for Solutions
- To seek for the truth in any rulings (hukm), views and ijtihad, then it is compulsory for us to refer back to the Quran and Sunnah. By following these two revelations, we will be able to determine the right hukm and views. It is in accordance with the saying of the Quran:
فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّـهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ وَأَحْسَنُ تَأْوِيلً
“And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.”
- As an individual, Islam encourages its believers to understand deeper, studying and revising various fields of knowledge as many as possible, especially in religious matters. This should be the main agenda for the Muslims because this is the best way to understand something following to what is meant by the revelations, as well as forming tolerance and open-mindedness. The Prophet PBUH also gave encouragement through his saying:
لاَ حَسَدَ إِلاَّ فِي اثْنَتَيْنِ رَجُلٌ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ مَالاً فَسُلِّطَ عَلَى هَلَكَتِهِ فِي الْحَقِّ، وَرَجُلٌ آتَاهُ اللَّهُ الْحِكْمَةَ، فَهْوَ يَقْضِي بِهَا وَيُعَلِّمُهَا
"Do not wish to be like anyone except in two cases. (The first is) A person, whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously; (the second is) the one whom Allah has given wisdom (the Holy Qur'an) and he acts according to it and teaches it to others."
Sahih al-Bukhari (73)
- The foundation of a family where it puts human development for each family member as one of the agendas in congruent with Islam. Exposure and explanation on religious knowledge especially, are the major responsibility of the family leader. Herewith the saying of Luqman al-Hakim as recorded in the Quran:
يَا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا أَصَابَكَ ۖإِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ
“O my son, establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and be patient over what befalls you. Indeed, [all] that is of the matters [requiring] determination”
Surah Luqman (17)
- The formation of the society and its environment is among the key elements in reducing or eluding the formation of certain groups or extreme ideologies. The establishment of madani society as established by the Prophet PBUH is the greatest example for us to follow.
The Prophet PBUH’s effort of establishing brotherhood between the Muhajirin and Ansar is a means of developing virtuous brotherhood and union. Oppression of the strong towards the weak, repression of women, exploitation of the rich towards the needy and tribal wars that were eradicated and transformed towards the formation of this brotherhood and instilling love. This is the main agenda as stated in the Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّـهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ
"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you"
Surah Al-Hujurat (13)
Besides, tolerance towards religions like Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are also the way of avoiding misconceptions as radical groups of people are formed in order to defend their own beliefs without first understand the views and creeds of others.
The presence of interfaith dialogues and the feeling of assisting one another may reduce the gap of differences and misunderstandings upon the beliefs of one another. The relationship of human being is not only limited to blood relation and religion, but encompasses the humanity in binding the humans between each other in a society. This is what is encouraged by Allah as stated in the Quran:
قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَىٰ كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلَّا نَعْبُدَ إِلَّا اللَّـهَ وَلَا نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللَّـهِ ۚ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَقُولُوا اشْهَدُوا بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ
Say, "O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you - that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah." But if they turn away, then say, "Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him]."
Surah Ali Imran (64)
Extreme ambience and surroundings are also the main reasons of the rise of this whole extremist idea in one’s faith and belief. Hence, more dialogues that could instill and encourage the feeling of helping one another should be arranged as an effort of bridging the people.
- The presence of these extremist and radicals are also a result of massive ignorance and oppression towards the minority made by the rulers or chiefs of a place. This unjustness, oppression and abandonment of the rights are among the reasons of the upsurge of this group of people.
Verily, justice and good relations between the society and the rulers are the main agendas that shall be taken into account by the rulers by including some elements of justice in establishing a harmonized nation. Allah SWT state in the Quran:
وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَىٰ أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا ۚ اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
“And do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.”
Surah Al-Maidah (8)
This main principle shall be made as the agenda of a ruler in establishing a just and harmonized society. The Prophet PBUH himself reminded that one of the people who are under the shades of the ‘Arasy in the Day of Judgement is a just ruler.
Hence, extremism and radicalism will be eliminated if the basis of forming a harmonized society is clear, while preserving justice and openness as the main practice of a government.
THE STATEMENT OF MUFTI OF FEDERAL TERRITORIES
In addressing this immense issue, we need to comprehend moderation and balance (wasatiyyah) properly. Knowledge based on wisdom and correct understanding may be the shield towards extremist idea. A poet once said: “The essence of every goodness are three things: Wisdom, dignity and bravery. All of them has the center point between two extremes; exaggeration and negligence which resulted in disgrace”. Hence, moderation is needed in a Muslim as well as justice in shaping a greatly stabilized society, nation and a country. 
Among actions that can be taken into account are correcting the understanding within Islam and its community as well as understanding the truest form of justice and balance (wasatiyyah). In addition, if a syura system is established in the society, it will surely bring many mutual benefits. Applying the principle of wasatiyyah upon a community that acts in accordance with it is best practiced in Malaysia and Muslim world as a whole. Hence, it is best for all community to work together towards this aspiration.
The concept of jihad shall be widely interpreted by comprehending all aspects of human life like studying, mastering science and technology as well as the economical activities. Let’s open our heart and respect each other by eliminating unnecessary rigid opinions which brings greater harm towards our own selves and close the door of dakwah Islamiyyah. I close this statement with a verse of al-Quran:
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ ۖ
“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you.”
Surah Ali Imran (159)
Syaikh Mustafa al-Maraghi said: “If you (O Muhammad) acts harshly and be close-minded in dealing with them, surely they will run away from you and never will they feel at ease when living with you.”
The life of the Prophet PBUH in Mecca as well as Medina is proof that the command of jihad may only be made by a ruler and it is impermissible to cause the Muslims be in danger and unwanted circumstances.
Thus, jihad shall be defined accurately while protecting the awlawiyyat by following the situation and development because Islam is always relevant regardless of the time and place. Jihad also has many angles to be taken into specific consideration by the rulers, scholars, parents and the society.
A Muslim thinker, Syeikh Muhammad al-Ghazali in his book, Jaddid Hayatak stated: “How unfortunate. There are plenty people who are indulged in the essence of faith in Allah and the Hereafter. According to them, true faith forbids people from truly living like the shade of the earth when it collides with the moon during eclipse. For them, faith corrupts life in which people are driven towards the pit of peculiarity. Far worse, when faith is seen as the cause of sufferings, woes, hardships and sorrows. This kind of understanding is confusing and contradicts the true fundamental of religion. The Prophet PBUH never told us that faith deteriorates life. That is why he made the du’a:
اللهم أصلح لي ديني الذي هو عصمة أمري، وأصلح لي دنياي التي فيها معاشي، وأصلح لي آخرتي التي فيها معادي، واجعل الحياة زيادة لي في كل خير، واجعل الموت راحة لي من كل شر
“O Allah, make my religion easy for me by virtue of which my affairs are protected, set right for me my world where my life exists, make good for me my Hereafter which is my resort to which I have to return, and make my life prone to perform all types of good, and make death a comfort for me from every evil.”
Thus, why is it that they think faith brings hardships, agonies, and sufferings? Why they think that sufferings and sadness are the medium of getting closer to Allah and gaining His blessings?
Let’s remove obsession and excessiveness in doing things that may lead to thoughts and actions that contradict with what is truly meant and encouraged by Islam.
We ask Allah to light up the road to all generation of youngsters, scholars and the rest of the Muslims for us to be protected from excessive thoughts and obsessions as well as the tendency of going astray from the true path.
To close, may Allah shine our hearts and lead the us to be consistent in learning and understanding religious knowledge and never ever group us with those who are astray or who receive His wrath.