Several reasons have been advanced by analysts and experts as to the cause of terrorism and the rise of terrorist organisations like the Jama’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l Jihad, commonly known as Boko Haram, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrib (AQIM) and Al Shabbab, just to mention but a few.
It has been argued by some that poverty, illiteracy and underdevelopment are the fundamental causes of terrorism. These factors are said to be responsible for the hopelessness among the people affected, thereby making them vulnerable and susceptible to radical ideology that teaches acts that constitute terrorism. I quite agree that these factors generally contribute to the rise in terrorism but disagree that they are the fundamental causes.
Boko Haram and the other Islamist terror groups came about as a result of radicalisation arising from hate preaching, violent and intolerant extremist teachings not only found in the doctrines of deviant sects and other Muslim groups but in mainstream Muslim theology in the name of Islam. Some of these teachings promote negative comparative religious studies and outright hate for people of other faiths. The young men and women that congregate in these terror groups are only putting into practice what has been taught over a long period of time, unchecked, and believing it is a sure means to salvation.
It is unfortunate that mainstream Muslim leaders and followers alike are quick to deny that Muslims are responsible for Boko Haram and stridently dissociate the beautiful religion of Islam from terrorism. This self-denial is becoming the reason why these dastardly acts may never cease. Muslims must begin to take full responsibility for these actions and take deliberate steps to rid the very beautiful, peaceful and just religion that is Islam of radical doctrines that have led to this ugly situation. We need to clearly redefine our faith so that the light of Islam can shine forth and illuminate the world with peace, love and happiness.
A background check on some of the leading figures in these groups shows individuals that are very educated, from privileged backgrounds and some were born and bred in very advanced Western countries. This clearly puts a doubt as to whether Illiteracy, poverty and underdevelopment are truly responsible for terrorism.
Nigeria’s case is particularly interesting. Radicalisation starts from the home, with negative utterances by parents against people of other faiths, to the Islamiyya, where religious supremacy and negative comparative religious studies are taught , and much later in life, reading and digestion of poisonous literature, which teaches hate and intolerance of people holding different views from you, have produced generations of potentially radicalised Muslims with some only putting to practice what has been imbibed over time in the form of Boko Haram terrorist acts. Boko Haram is a Muslim problem that can ultimately be solved only by Muslims in the long term. It is not enough to proclaim Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance, we must deepen this by teaching our young children to love and tolerate other people of different beliefs. The curriculum of our various Islamiyya should be revised to extensively include the teaching of love and tolerance so that the next generation of Muslims will be largely saved from radicalisation.
There are so many mainstream Muslim doctrines that are sources of radicalisation. In this piece, I shall highlight just three fundamental beliefs that are Muslim but not Islamic.
(1) Concept of Caliphacy that is successor to the Noble Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This singular belief, which is entrenched and widespread among Muslims, has no basis in Islam. A successor to the prophet is tantamount to another prophet. A mere mortal without divine authority cannot be said to a successor to the prophet. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the last and seal of all prophets. The Holy Quran is very clear on this issue; “Muhammad is not the father of any of you men, but he is an Apostle of God, and the seal of prophets: and God has full knowledge of everything.”
The concept of and belief in Caliphacy is central to the major shism in Islam that is today the Shia/Sunni divide and other sectarian crises that have rocked the Muslim Ummah since the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632AD. The aspiration to revive the Caliphacy, which never existed in the spiritual sense, is a major force driving violent and “radical Islam.” This can never be achieved, just as it was never achieved before, because Islam is an empire of faith and Muslims are united in faith and belief in Almighty Allah, without compulsion. Quran 2 vs 256 states clearly, “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error: Whoever rejects false worship and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And God hears and knows all things.”
(2) The question of the People of the Book; Jews, Christians and Sabaeans are regarded as believers and worshippers of God. However, there has been a noticeable shift from this position by some mainstream Muslim doctrines and theology. The People of the Book are now widely regarded as outright unbelievers and are treated as such. This explains why they are targets of terrorist acts and violence in the name of the religion. Some claim that it is idolatry for Christians to believe in Trinity. Again, this is far from Islam. The concept of Trinity has been part of Christendom since 325AD after it was accepted as canonical at the first council of Nicea, convened by Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire. This is three centuries before the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), which means that Christians referred to as People of the Book believed in the concept of trinity and God did not denounce them as idolaters. Quran 2 vs 62 states clearly, “Those who believe, those who are Jews, and the Christians, and Sabaeans, and all who believe in God and the Last Day and act rightly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and know no sorrow.”
(3) The Takfiri doctrine and the question of Bid’ah (innovation): Whereas all forms of innovation are prohibited in the practice of Islam, there are disagreements as to what constitutes an innovation or not. Opinion varies and there is no clear consensus on all issues concerning innovation in Islam. Theological disagreements have evolved and crystalized over the years and deeply divided the Muslim Ummah. In Nigeria, the initial dominance of Sufi theology was radically challenged by the rise of Jamat Izala tul Bidah wa Ikamati Sunnah (JIBWIS), a Salafist Muslim group popularly known as the Izala sect, beginning in the 1970s. These disagreements between the Salafi Izala sect and the Sufi Tariqa Tijaniyya sect were often very bitter, with one calling the other unbelievers. This practice of denouncing fellow Muslims as unbelievers, simply because of disagreements on some interpretations of aspects of the scriptures, was what has degenerated into terror groups like Boko Haram targeting fellow Muslims they consider not true Muslims hence no better than unbelievers.
The designation of People of the Book [Jews and Christians] as unbelievers and the equation of disobedience [innovation] to disbelief [Takfiri] in addition to the aspiration by many a Muslim for an Islamic state [Caliphacy] are the doctrinal foundations of the radical Islamic ideology propelling the global jihadi terror networks. And these are the reasons Boko Haram insurgents kill Muslims and Christians in Nigeria to make way for an Islamic state.
Whereas their actions are not Islamic, unfortunately, members of the Boko Haram terror sect are Muslims who are motivated by the aforementioned doctrines. Islam is a peaceful religion and is a blessing to mankind. The virtues of mercy, grace, love, justice and forgiveness are the hallmarks of this great religion. Muslims must reflect on these virtues always, as the essence of Islam will always be a mirror of their conduct as Muslims.