Shaikh Yasir Qadhi is an American Sunni Muslim scholar and Dean of Academic Affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute. In a very passionate Facebook Post, Mr. Qadhi recently lamented the rise of sectarianism and the practice of Takfir (anathematization, or refusing to identify sect of Islam as Muslim) amongst Muslims. He said:
“Sadly, sectarianism is still well and alive in the Ummah. Recently, a large group of scholars, primarily of a Sufi/Ashari trend, gathered in Chechnya for a conference whose pre-planned and coordinated conclusion was to claim that Atharis (or ‘Salafis’) were not a part of Sunni Islam, and hence were to be considered a heretical school… Narry a word of protest was heard against this shameless debacle of a conference by mainstream, moderate followers of that trend. Love makes one blind to one’s beloved’s faults.
Not to be outdone, recently the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, as a result of comments of a political nature, criticized the Shi’ites as being ‘sons of fire-worshippers’ (in reference to their Zoroastrian heritage) and effectively excommunicated the entire mass of them from Islam.
Meanwhile, as some followers continue to cheer such rhetoric and blindly defend it, millions of Muslims around the world continue to live in the most unimaginable of circumstances. And even as these clerics issue their fatwas from the comforts of their stable lives, it is the innocent and helpless men, women and children, of Syria, of Yemen, of Iraq (and others…) who suffer as a result of the policies of power-intoxicated Western and Russian backed politicians being supported by the zealousness and short-sidedness and political naïveté of religious fundamentalist clerics.
Yes, I’m angry and frustrated at the situation in the Muslim world. And so should you be as well.”
He then added:
“And I believe that Sunni theology is the valid and correct one, and that Shi’ism has beliefs that are wrong and misguided. Sunnism and Shi’ism have been separate and distinct for the last thirteen centuries, and it is naive to speak of ‘unity’ between them, for our differences are too many and too important to ignore. Nonetheless, Sunnis and Shi’ites should ‘live and let live’ and not resort to violence or killing, as that is impermissible. Debate and dialogue is necessary; blanket excommunication and physical harm is impermissible. And I also follow the mainstream Sunni position regarding Twelver Shi’ism: that they are from the groups within Islam that have deviated in some principles from the truth. I strenuously disagree with those who consider the entire group outside the fold of Islam.”
Basically, the Shaikh was making the case:
1) Yes, there are important theological differences between Muslim sects that cannot be ignored (and that are of an academic nature). These should be addressed through dialogue and debate.
2) Yet, Muslim sects must refrain from blanket Takfir and continue to identify one another as members of the wider Muslim Community.
This is a great message. Except that Mr. Yasir Qadhi endorses the same Takfir and sectrainiam that he despises and condemns as an evil practice.
The ‘Muslim world’ is rife with sectarianism. Intolerance of clerics towards Muslims of other sects is commonplace. In Pakistan, for example, the State (to appease extremist clergy) has officially declared the Ahmadi Muslims a non-Muslim minority. There are special laws in place that imprison Ahmadi Muslims for professing Islam. Saying the Kalima, reading the Quran, identifying as Muslim, saying the Muslim prayer (Salat) publicly, saying the Adhan etc are all ‘crimes’ punishable with three years imprisonment. Most other Muslim-majorty States do not allow them religious freedom either.
Though Shaikh Yasir Qadhi has clearly condemned the oppression of Ahmadi Muslims across the Muslim world (this is note-worthy since most Sunni clerics even refuse to do this much), he has continued to judge the tens of millions of Ahmadi Muslims world over as non-Muslim. Interestingly, his Takfir of Ahmadi Muslims is also based on ‘theological differences.’ He writes:
“There ARE limits, theologically, to what a Muslim can believe… If one chooses to believe that prophetic wahy continues to humans after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam), we mainstream Muslims of the world would consider this to be a theological deviation of such great magnitude that the second kalima is effectively nullified, and hence anyone who believes such would not be considered a member of the religion of Islam.”
Well, the Saudis who declare the Shia Muslims outside the fold of Islam also give the same excuse. “If one chooses to believe (insert your favorite Shia belief you disagree with), we would consider this to be a theological deviation of such great magnitude that anyone who believes such would not be considered a member of the religion of Islam.”
The Sufis who declare the Salafis Kafir also base it on similar theological differences. As such, in principle, there is no difference between Mr. Qadhi’s Takfir of Ahmadi Muslims and Takfir of other Muslim sects by other Muslim leaders. It is also important to note here that not only do the Ahmadi Muslims uphold the Kalima, they are jailed for proclaiming this Islamic creed in Pakistan.
When Mr. Qadhi passed Takfir against Ahmadi Muslims, Mr. Qasim Rashid, scholar and prominent American Muslim writer, who also serves as a spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA reached out to him to further dialogue (the same dialogue that Mr. Qadhi believes is the solution to sectarianism) on this issue. He wrote:
“Nothing in the Kalima states that Muhammad(sa) is the “last prophet,” so I’m unsure what you mean by our belief deviating from the Kalima. This is a question of identity, not nabuwwat. Ahmadi Muslims believe Allah raised Syedna Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), a Muslim, to the status of Messiah and Madhi due to his obedience to the Master Prophet Hazrat Khaatamanababiyeen Muhammad(sa). The orthodoxy believes that a Jewish prophet will physically descend and save Muslims. So it is not a question of whether a prophet will come after Muhammad(sa), but simply who?””
Mr. Qadhi responded:
“This is a point we will have to disagree on. And as you are aware this is not just my opinion, but rather the opinion of all historical sects of Islam, including all Sunni and Shi’ite and Zaydi and Ibadi sects. Again, we will have to agree to disagree.”
Was his point that Takfir is only Kosher when done in mass numbers and condemnable when done by only a few?
I believe the best way for Mr. Qadhi to get his message across to other Takfiri clerics in the Muslim world is to re-examine his own Takfir of Ahmadi Muslims. What if he had said the following about the Ahmadis (replacing Shia with Ahmadi):
“In recent history, a group of Muftis, criticized the Ahmadis as being ‘infidels’ and effectively excommunicated the entire mass of them from Islam. Narry a word of protest was heard against this shameless debacle of a conference by mainstream, moderate followers of that trend.”
I also follow the Orthodox Sunni position regarding Ahmadiyyat: that they are from the groups within Islam that have deviated in some principles from the truth. I strenuously disagree with those who consider the entire group outside the fold of Islam. Debate and dialogue is necessary; blanket excommunication and physical harm is impermissible.”
Dear Shaikh Yasir Qadhi, I agree with your condemnation of sectarianism and Takfir rife in the Muslim world. I think you should start the change with yourself brother. If you continue to insist Ahmadis are “too deviant” to be considered Muslim, then you should not forget that the Takfiri Sunni and Shia clerics you condemn also think the same about one another. Lead by example. Stand on principle. And if you seek dialogue and debate, I am always ready for one.
Physician, Writer and Human Rights Activist; Recipient, Presidential Service Award; Pakistani American; Humanity comes First; Interests: Cardiac Electrophysiology, Human Rights and ‘Halwa Puri’