Manifestations of Extremism in the Concept of Loyalty and Disavowal
The principle of loyalty and disavowal is one of the major principles of Islam and there is much textual proof for it.
There are boundaries for having loyalty and disavowal. Having less than the required loyalty is negligence and having more than the legislated disavowal is extremism.
The following are some manifestations of extremism in loyalty and disavowal:
Firstly: excessive loyalty to one’s sect or group.
Excessive loyalty and bigotry come about due to several reasons, including personal whims and loving one’s leader to the extent that a person may believe himself or his group to be infallible.
A person’s belief that his sect is following the truth may be the root of his bigotry. Such beliefs are not permissible in Islam because truth is measured by the Qur’an and Sunnah, not any individual group. The people who claim the truth is solely with their group are the ones who have caused division and become factions. Allah describes such people saying, “Each faction rejoices in what it has.” The followers of all factions that corrupted their religion rejoice, believing themselves to be upon the truth; however, the truth is only in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Bigotry has been present throughout the history of the Islamic nation and it is quite obviously still present. Belonging to a sect or group has become tantamount to a religious principle. Everyone claims that his sect is upon the truth and that everyone else is upon falsehood.
Secondly: bigotry in making a group or sect the source of truth.
Extremists give too much credit to their sects and only accept the religious tenets their groups approve of. This is in direct contradiction to Islam’s teachings. One of the principles of Tawheed is believing in the revelation our Messenger Muhammad was sent with, obeying him, loving him, honoring him, and submitting to his judgment.
It is obvious that extremists blindly follow their groups, loving and hating others based on vain desires. In order to accept the truth, they stipulate that it comes to them by way of their group or sect.
Upon reading the books of contemporary extremists or debating with them, you will find that one of their main characteristics is that they only accept what their sect or group teaches, thus they act upon pure whims.
Thirdly: bigotry toward leaders.
The opinion of everyone except Allah’s Messenger is subject to acceptance and rejection. All people need the Qur’an and Sunnah and everyone must judge their affairs according to the teachings of Allah’s Messenger. Whatever agrees with them is true and whatever differs with them is false.
Extremists differ with this great principle, putting their leaders on the same level as Allah’s Messenger and unconditionally obeying them. Contemporary extremists are guilty of this bigotry and blind obedience, just as Abdur-Rahman Abul-Khair mentioned about his group, Takfir & Jihad.
This applies to leaders in every time and place: their followers always go to extremes, raising them above their due positions and pledging unconditional allegiance to them. Because of some people’s love for their leaders, they make their behavior a standard by which they judge the soundness of other methodologies.
The same is true when it comes to pledging allegiance to leaders: some followers apply the religious texts dealing with allegiance to leaders of the Muslim Nation to the leaders of their groups. This pledge of allegiance to a leader is found in some extremist groups, which they market as an individual obligation upon every member of the group.
Extremists’ views on leadership can be summarized as follows:
1. Based on the idea that their group is the only true Muslim group, they believe the group’s leader is the leader of the entire Muslim Nation.
2. They believe that their leader has the right to do whatever he wishes with others’ wealth and lives and that his followers have no right to object to his decisions.
3. They believe that their leader must be unconditionally obeyed and that there is no need to explain the reason or the wisdom in doing so. Followers have no right to ask why their leader should be obeyed.
Fourthly: extremism in renouncing disbelief.
Renouncing the religions of non-Muslims is part of our religion and there is scriptural evidence to substantiate this principle. Renouncing non-Muslims’ faith, however, does not mean oppressing them, wronging them, or denying them their rights; in fact, it does not even mean being unjust to them. Allah the Almighty says, “Do not let your enmity toward a people prevent you from being just [to them].”
Some extremists these days misunderstand the concept of disavowing disbelievers, believing that doing so means openly fighting them at all times without considering the Islamic parameters for fighting them.
Fifthly: extremism in disavowing Muslim societies.
Disavowal should only be toward those who despise and fight against Allah’s Religion. On the other hand, believing Muslims who happen commit some sins should only be disavowed to the extent of their sins. Whenever disavowal extends to people Islam does not command, this disavowal is blameworthy extremism. Some Muslims these days are extreme in disavowing entire societies; this becomes clear upon reading the books of extremist writers. The source of their misunderstanding lies in their faulty definition of disbelief; they call entire societies un-Islamic and disbelieving then disavow them.
Sixthly: stating that it is obligatory to migrate from Muslim societies and declaring those who continue to reside there disbelievers.
Migrating for the sake of Allah from the lands of disbelief which do not allow Muslims to practice their religion and fight against Islam to the lands of Islam is an act of worship in Islam and anyone who does so is praiseworthy. However, residents in the lands of disbelief may not unconditionally be deemed sinners, much less a disbelievers; this is a complicated issue.
Some people go to the extreme of declaring anyone who fails to migrate a disbeliever. Others, such as Abu Muhammad ‘Esam Al-Maqdasi in his book Al-Kawaashif Al-Jaliyyah, have went to the extreme of claiming that migrating away from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is obligatory.
Manifestations of extremism related to being harsh on one’s self and others:
Firstly: being harsh on one’s self.
Allah made fulfilling religious duties according to His Servants’ ability, and when they are faced with some hardship He makes exceptions for them out of His Mercy. Muslims are forbidden from placing undue hardship on themselves. The Prophet said, “Do not be harsh on yourselves or harshness will be shown to you. [In times past] people were harsh on themselves so Allah made things hard for them. Their remains are in the temples and monasteries. Their priests innovated [acts of worship] not prescribed upon them.”
Whenever someone purposely makes things difficulty for himself, he is being harsh. Harshness can come in the form of treating acts of worship as obligatory when, in reality, they are not even recommended. It can also come in the form of treating things as forbidden when, in reality, they are not even disliked. Because harshness is related to difficulty, it should be known that there are two types of difficulty:
1. Normal difficulty: every action, be it religious or mundane, involves some degree of difficulty. Just as religious obligations require effort, every action that humans take in this life requires effort.
2. Abnormal difficulty: if we want to define this type of difficulty in light of Islamic scripture, we should look at an action and its consequences; if one cannot consistently perform an action, or if doing so is harmful, it is considered abnormally difficult. Here are the details of these two categories:
A. Not being able to consistently perform an action. This is the case if one of two things happens:
• The person becomes bored while performing the action then eventually leaves it off altogether. This is sometimes referred to in Islamic literature as “despising an act of worship” and “becoming bored with an act of worship.”
• Abandoning an action because of having too many responsibilities.
B. If an action is physically or emotionally harmful and the person performing it undergoes torture by denying himself basic necessities of life, taking this action as an act of worship is being harsh.
Secondly: being harsh on others.
A survey of Islamic scripture shows that Allah made this religion merciful and easy for people, removing the burdens present on followers of other faiths. The Prophet used to command his Companions to take it easy on other people. When sending Mu’ath Ibn Jabal and Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari to Yemen he said to them, “Facilitate things and do not complicate them; give glad tidings and do not drive others away.”
People are allowed to adopt slightly stricter practices within the boundaries of what is permissible in Islam, such as making long prayers, but they may not force others to adopt these practices. Coercing others to abide by what Allah commands is not harsh; harshness is forcing people to do other than what Allah commands. This falls under two categories:
1. Things with no basis in the religion.
2. Things with a basis in the religion that are practiced in excess.
A modern-day example of this is found in Maher Bakri’s book on Hijrah: “There is absolutely no difference between the word ‘sinner’ and the word ‘disbeliever.’”