It is difficult to define someone who recognises no limits, if the definition of limits is constantly changing.
ACCORDING to the West, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), is the world’s most dangerous extremist. Is this a fair statement?
An extremist is a transgressor, who recognises no limit in his mind, speech and acts. He could be anybody. Defined as such, an extremist is not necessarily an Arab or a Muslim, as it is commonly portrayed in the media.
He could possibly be a Christian, a Buddhist, a secular democrat, a scientist, a human rights activist or a feminist.
What makes al-Baghdadi an extremist in the eyes of the West is perhaps his terror tactics, but the same could be said of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.
Being elected through a democratic process does not give them the right to determine the life or death of the rest of the world. But that was precisely what Bush and Blair did to the Iraqis, and that has made them the extremists in the eyes of Iraqis and Muslims in general. In the definition above, it is assumed that there must be a limit for everything for it to be rendered good and acceptable.
So an extremist is not a good person because he trespasses what others consider as the limit, regardless of whether he does not know the limit or he simply does not want to honour it knowingly.
But the real problem is, what are those limits? And on whose authority are they to be accepted as the limit that everyone has to observe?
In the man-made system known as democracy, man is said to be the measure of everything, so the limit is determined by man. But what kind of man is actually determining the fate of the world today?
What is the idea that governs his actions and behaviour, like his idea about truth and reality? About right and wrong? And about happiness?
For a secular man, reality is limited to physical reality and truth to factual scientific truth. Based on that, he has developed a peculiar idea about happiness and morality that is basically in constant change.
A secular world view lacks permanence because of its affirmation and preoccupation only with the evanescent aspect of existence. In fact, it is the world view that is built upon the rejection of anything permanent.
So by nature this world view actually has no place for god and religion, because it insists that what is understood by “god” and “religion” must also be open to change and reinterpretation.
Coming back to our definition of extremism, we must conclude in the first place that secularism is itself intrinsically an ideology that recognises no limit. It is based upon the rejection of a permanent truth and reality, making it impossible to agree upon a definition.
Without an agreed upon definition, how are we to know that a limit has been trespassed, effectively making the trespasser an extremist? Yet the secular western world has been all too certain that they always “know” the limit and hence the transgressor.
A correct definition would tell the limit of the thing defined. An extremist is the person who does not know the definition, or he does but does not honour it because he believes that a definition of something could and should change with time.
Not knowing the definition is a simple ignorance that can be easily remedied by imparting the knowledge. But when the person is bent on believing that no definition is forever fixed, something is appallingly wrong with his way of thinking. It is an indication that his belief is characteristically similar to that of the secular man that we have described above.
The so-called jihadis are extremists by virtue of their ignorant rejection of important definitions agreed upon by Islamic scholars throughout the ages. Inspired by the misguided Wahhabi ideology, they have caused great confusion and disunity among the Muslims worldwide.
They are the ones portrayed in the Western media as the Sunnis, yet the title has nothing to do with Islamic orthodoxy known as Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah. The term “Sunni” has been hijacked by the fanatic Wahhabis, who have neither respect towards nor affiliation with authentic Islamic tradition and scholarship. They are the ones who have caused a great anxiety to the West and the world today; yet both are similar in one respect: they do not know the limit.
> Md. Asham Ahmad is Senior Fellow of Ikim’s Centre for Shariah, Law and Politics. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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