For those who are unaware, there has been an ongoing dispute among some Muslims on Disqus…this post is related…
Someone recently insisted I ask what our scholars say regarding Muslim rulers. Is it okay to declare them apostates?
I was pleased to discover that my views are in accordance with their opinions.
Leave it to the Scholars
From the start of the debate, I had said that I didn’t want to take a position. That I’m a layperson and I don’t understand all of the nuance and the various implications.
Some people continued to insist that I do understand. Most things are understandable at a very basic level. But if we could easily glean opinions based on superficial understanding, there would be no need for the scholars.
The position of our scholars on the matter of apostasy is that we should leave it to the scholars.
Incessantly hounding me to take a stand means insisting that I go against scholarly opinion.
Can Layperson’s Speak or Not?
As far as I know, no one debating the matter on Disqus is a scholar.
Some people have a lot more knowledge than others, but that doesn’t make a person a scholar.
If the idea is that this is a matter that should be left to the scholars, then the discussion should have been short-lived. In fact, it only takes one side to say, “leave it to the scholars.”
If the other party wants to take a position anyway, that’s his or her prerogative. But I don’t see any reason to hound people to offer an opinion or “pick a side.”
If you are a layperson speaking, then from where are you drawing your authority to tell others what to think, say, or do?
The Caliber of Opinion
Not all opinions on a matter are equal. Pretending that an anonymous opinion offered on Disqus carries tremendous weight is absurd to me.
If you’re in America watching a trial on TV, and you say, “I think they should hang the guy!” that is not a legal opinion.
It’s your personal opinion, and it carries as much weight as your legal credentials.
Most of us have no formal legal credentials and will readily admit that. So who would take your proclamation seriously? Let alone act on it, and actually hang someone.
So while I do think “leave it to the scholars” should be accepted as an answer, I don’t think it’s completely out of bounds to weigh in, especially if you can produce evidence to support your view.
If you want to! It’s not an obligation. It’s a choice.
And at the very least, we should be consistent. It’s not reasonable to say that people who agree with one position should go ahead and pontificate as laypersons. Yet those with an opposing view are out of line for doing the same!
Either it’s okay to offer an opinion or it isn’t.
When I was a new Muslim, I was less reluctant to offer opinions. The more knowledge I gained, the more I realized how much I don’t know.
Sometimes things that seem obvious when your knowledge is superficial are not what they seem. If you read a few scholarly opinions that contradict what you first assumed, then you tend to be more cautious.
In the past, I have discussed “apostate regimes” with little understanding of the grave implications.
I read that if a Muslim ruler allies with non-Muslims against Muslims, that is clear disbelief. Unless this behavior can be mitigated by factors such as ignorance or duress, the actions of such rulers put them outside the fold of Islam. They are apostates.
Is it really that simple? I don’t know!
I’ve seen various scholarly opinions. But even if, let’s say, you’re convinced the rulers are apostates. Does that necessarily mean you think they should be killed?
That you justify vigilante attacks on them? Or that you believe that it’s okay to expand that ruling to include anyone you see as colluding with the regime?
It is true that some people take things to such extremes. That doesn’t mean that everyone thinks or does the same!
Nor is it at all reasonable to assume that’s what someone is really advocating if they weigh in on the side of declaring some rulers apostates.
It’s unfair to ascribe motives and meaning to people. You have no idea what they really think unless and until you ask questions and get some answers.
If a person says, “I’m not sure but it seems likely these rulers are apostates,” how is it at all reasonable to start hurling accusations around? Saying that means they support Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the like?
That’s a huge leap and extremely reckless.
I personally have a 7-year online history of speaking out against the killing of innocent people, no matter who is doing it. How does anyone have the audacity to claim otherwise when I have countless witnesses?
Islam opposes the killing of innocent civilians. I’m not confused about that.
The only difference between my views and those held by many others is that I recognize the scale of things.
The Western imperial powers kill far more innocent people than all the non-state actors combined. Not only that, but many of those groups have sprung up in response to unjust foreign policies.
Some of them were even spawned, armed, and trained by none other than the same Western imperial powers!
America, in particular, has a habit of starting fires and then making a big show of putting them out.
If a Muslim is endlessly howling about ISIS but has very little to say about the Western imperial powers, what are we to make of this?
When the US invaded Iraq (again) in 2003, there was no Al-Qaeda in Iraq. That group arose in the aftermath, and ISIS splintered off from them.
If you trace back through the violent series of events we’re witnessing, where do all the trails eventually lead?
If you are someone who can’t work that out for yourself, then that’s your problem. Not mine.
My View Now
I still think I got this right when the debate first started. I was never required to say anything beyond “leave it to the scholars.”
But since I’ve been hounded, falsely accused, and publicly indicted, I don’t mind weighing in. I will give my opinion, for what it’s worth.
I think the stronger argument is that many if not most of these rulers are apostates. And I will say whenever and wherever I please.
Don’t Tell Me What to Do!
The right thing to do was to leave me alone, and allow me to abstain from taking a firm stand either way.
I rarely want to “choose sides” and most issues are not worth sacrificing friends over. At least not to me.
I think anyone who is willing to launch a public crusade against other Muslims over such matters is the one who is engaging in “extreme” behavior.
Honestly, I don’t care all that much if these regimes are apostate or not. Whether they’re treacherous Muslims or treacherous apostates, most are oppressing their own people and that’s wrong.
I think Muslims deserve better leaders. You’d think on that point we could all agree, and dispense with all this squabbling.
What Our Scholars Say
Now, since I was commanded to ask our scholars, I will post two opinions. Both were available online, so it wasn’t necessary to ask them directly:
Shaykh Faraz A. Khan:
“… it is absolutely critical for Muslims to know well that the application of the aforementioned criteria to particular cases, and the determination of whether a Muslim has in fact committed disbelief, is a function relegated only to qualified Muslim jurists of the highest caliber, not to individual Muslims.” ~ SeekersHub Answers
Tell me again why I MUST take a stand one way or the other?
Here is another:
Sheikh Nuh Keller clarifying a cited ruling of Imam Nawawi
“This ruling should not be mistaken as a manifesto to anathematize (takfir) others who outwardly profess Islam, which is the duty of the Islamic magistrate (qadi) alone, not the ordinary Muslim. Nor is it applicable without exception, but rather is subject to legal restrictions and conditions that have been detailed in the third following question, “Is someone who has an idea that is kufr or “unbelief” thereby an “unbeliever”?—to which Islamic law answers, surprisingly as it may seem to many Muslims of our times, ‘Not necessarily.’” ~ SeekersHub Answers
No one on the Disqus channels can say definitely either way! Everyone is speculating, so it’s not necessary to “side” with anyone.
This is not a black and white matter. The answer is somewhere between calling takfir at the drop of a hat, and insisting you can never, ever do so, no matter what is actually happening on the ground.
If people want to speculate, that’s their choice and they will be accountable for whatever they say.
But if a person says, “I don’t know” or “I don’t have a strong opinion” or “I don’t want to take a side” or “I don’t want to weigh in” or “leave it to the scholars,” then I ask…where is the fault in that?
What excuse is there for hounding and harassing such a person? This approach is on the side of caution and respectful of the scholars.
Everyone here has an equal right to offer an opinion.
Lets sat you’re portraying yourself a voice of reason, calling on people to be cautious in declaring others apostates. How then do you feel justified hurling around your own reckless accusations?
Calling people “takfiri” or “khawariji” or “extremist” and extrapolating all sorts of evil motivations!
Either it’s okay to be reckless or it’s important to be cautious. Again, there is the matter of consistency. Not one rule for “us” and another for “them.”
Some people insist that I’m under the influence of Yusuf. As if I can’t think for myself!
How do you know it’s not the other way around? Maybe he’s under my influence! 🙂
Actually, we don’t agree on everything, and we’ve publicly disagreed on more than one occasion.
Many of our main points of agreement we both held before we even met one another! Neither can be credited or blamed for the views of the other.
That said, Yusuf is not hounding and threatening me.
When I said initially I didn’t want to say, either way, he accepted that. He never said I had to pick a side or take a stand.
After all this, I still hold the exact same view I held before this round started.
As a layperson, I find Yusuf’s arguments more convincing. I also recognize my understanding is shallow. So I acknowledge that this matter, like all complex matters, should ultimately rest with the scholars.
I see no fault in this nuanced position, and no reason to change my mind.
It’s beyond why people here with differing views couldn’t simply “agree to disagree,” and allow those of us who wanted to remain neutral to do so.
Self-righteous crusades and spurious accusations are not going to help anyone.
None of this was necessary, and some of the damage done is permanent.