: How America is Feathering Her Enemies' Arrows
"The shaft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagle's own plumes.", wrote Aesop of the eagle shot with the archer's arrow. "We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction." Like so many of Aesop's fables, the fable of the eagle and the arrow speaks of a timeless truism: that occasionally we become the unknowing tools of our own destruction. It was true on September 11 when Bin Laden - a one time US functionary in the Cold War - turned the airplanes of Western industry against the twin towers of American capitalism. It is true in the manner in which the Bush Administration is now fighting the "ideological front" of its War on Terror.
Rather than recognise that often decisions forged in the fires of political expediency can have tragic future consequences, the United States has embarked on a course in its War on Terror that seems almost certain to bring about disastrous consequences. In its conflation of Islamic extremism with Islamic fundamentalism, the United States has ignored one of its most potent and powerful allies in the struggle against terrorism.
Muslim extremism did not begin with September 11, nor did it begin with the Gulf War. The first extremist movement appeared shortly after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and has continued, in various manifestations, until the present day. It is a well studied phenomena and Muslim scholars have long dealt with the two empirical causes of extremist behaviour: a pervasive ignorance of Islamic law and a detachment and distance from the bone fide scholars of the religion. The cause of extremism is not, as has been too often argued, simply poverty or political disenfranchisement - although such conditions make fertile ground for the uptake of extremist ideas. Rather, the empirical cause of extremism and the political violence that flows from it, is an ideological and intellectual phenomena.
The question must then be asked: if the root-cause of terrorism is ideological and the Bush Administration has taken upon itself the objective of fighting terrorism, then how does it address the ideological cause? The answer, if the actions of the Administration are any indication, is to attack Islamic fundamentalism and prosecute a war against those who espouse an austere, puritanical version of Islam; a version of Islam that, to the casual observer, resembles extremism in many of its outward appearances and attitudes.
For this reason, the Bush Administration has targeted Islamic charities that espouse what it terms an "extremist" version of Islam although these groups would, more accurately, be considered fundamentalist. Likewise, it is for this reason, that the Bush Administration has pursued an aggressive war against clerics and intellectuals who promote Islamic fundamentalism. In many respects, the reaction of the Bush Administration to Islamic fundamentalism resembles the case of the child with a hammer: every problem is a nail. However, the tragedy is that by conflating Islamic fundamentalism with Muslim extremism, the Bush Administration has hindered and obstructed the only people in the Muslim world who are able to successfully engage the extremists in the ideological war: the scholars. Since September 11, the Bush Administration has, domestically and internationally, taken action, ostensibly to fight terrorism, against individuals and organisations whose natural position is as allies with the United States in their War against Terror. Indeed, many of these organisations and individuals were themselves engaged in an intellectual war against extremism for decades before September 11 and yet by virtue of the United States' ill-conceived and superficial definition of extremism, they have found themselves targeted. There is no doubt, of course, that Islamic fundamentalists will differ with the United States on periphery issues and their appearance and attitudes may resemble what, to the average American, seems "extreme". However, as even a cursory viewing of the books and legal rulings of fundamentalist scholars demonstrates, they have been vociferous and aggressive critics of the kind of political violence that visited the United States on September 11 (but had plagued Muslim societies such as Egypt for years earlier).
In formulating its War on Terror, the United States has relied on bad advice about the nature and scope of its enemy. The objective of many of those who have proffered advice to the United States seems not to address the threat to the American people, so much as a desire to solve Israel's problems in the Middle East. This can only be achieved, they opine, by confronting not just the notion of Muslim extremism which causes Muslims to lash out at non-combatant states such as the United States but rather the Islamic fundamentalism that demands of Muslims that they resist occupation. It is possible that the United States might be able to kill its way to an abatement in extremist-orchestrated violence, but it will never be able to win a war declared against Islamic fundamentalism no more than the Islamic extremists can readily win their war against the nostrums of the secular West. It is this bad advice and flawed understanding of the nature of their enemy, that has led the United States to wage a quixotic campaign against even long-standing and respected institutions and leaders of the American Muslim community: such as the various Saudi-based charities, educational institutions and scholars whose traditional role has been to guide their Muslim communities towards a correct understanding of Islam. Some of these individuals and groups have made repeated and explicit denunciations of terrorism and extremism for years preceding September 11, yet by virtue of their fundamentalism they have been targeted by a US Department of Justice that seems almost desperate to conjure up 'wins' and 'progress' in its War against Terror.
Perhaps no case better demonstrates the misguidance of the Bush Administration's myopic view of Islamic fundamentalism than the recent indictment of American cleric, Sheikh Ali al-Timimi.
Although unknown to many Americans, Sheikh Ali al-Timimi has, for over ten years, been one of the most influential and important figures in Islam in the West. His lectures and writings are a feature of countless Islamic web sites, and he has toured throughout the world exhorting Muslim communities to goodness and uprightnes. At no stage, was any suggestion ever made that Sheikh al-Timimi was promoting terrorism much less involved with terrorists, and indeed his message has always been characterised by an aggressive criticism of both extremes of Muslim thought: the extreme laxity of some and the extreme harshness of others.
One year before September 11, Sheikh al-Timimi had made the remark to me that the greatest fitnah (tribulation) that the Muslim world faced moving forward came from the Jihadi groups whose fundamental ignorance of Islamic jurisprudence coupled with blinding emotionalism posed a threat to both Muslims and non-Muslims if not properly checked. It was a sentiment that manifested itself in many of his lectures where he frequently opposed any suggestion of violence against civilians, the overthrow of governments or terrorism and extremism in any of its many manifestations. It was also an assessment whose veracity was proven with the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Despite his well-known opposition to such things, Sheikh al-Timimi has now been indicted on terrorism-related charges. The basis is that because some people, identified by US authorities as his students, were found to have breached the Neutrality Act by lending support to the Kashmiri struggle for independence, Sheikh al-Timimi is somehow complicit. Only now, over one year since these youths were arrested, has al-Timimi been himself charged which raises serious questions as to both the evidence against him and the sincerity of the government's view that al-Timimi genuinely has links to terrorism.
In fact, if everything that al-Timimi has said or done throughout his career as a leading Muslim scholar is to be believed, then he neither poses any threat nor is he a supporter of terrorism. On the contrary, the evidence clearly shows that al-Timimi is perhaps one of the greatest friends that the United States could find in its effort to eradicate the sort of religious extremism that begets terrorism.
In the aftermath of September 11, Sheikh al-Timimi recognised the grave threat posed to both Muslim and non-Muslim worlds by the event and the reaction on both sides of the civilizational divide. He realised that there was a need in the Muslim world for a more nuanced and informed understanding of what is taking place in the United States and how Americans truly see Islam and the Muslim world. To this end, he and I worked on a series of extensive and detailed reports that examined in detail the relationship between East and West and the need for peaceful coexistence to be found between both civilizations. The report was distributed throughout the religious leadership of Saudi Arabia and was used as the basis for forming the current and dominant view that we must all work towards a more balanced view of each other; that peace between our two civilizations is preferable to war. Of course, there is no doubt that Ali al-Timimi is a fundamentalistMuslim who, like America's fundamentalist Christians, objected to many aspects of our increasingly secular society. He didn't see violence as the means by which change could be effected on his community, but rather he saw the need to work cooperatively with all sections of society - particularly America's Christian community - to build a better and more just society. For this reason, in December, 2003, Sheikh Ali authored a letter, sent in the name of a committee of Muslim scholars and intellectuals, to every major Christian institution in the United States. The letter expressed solidarity with the Christian community in their efforts to reform many aspects of their society, particularly the social problems faced in the United States and elsewhere. Clearly, this is hardly the approach of a terrorist or an extremist; but rather this is the approach of a man who cares deeply about his society and wishes to enact change within the context of American democracy. Sheikh al-Timimi has been, for many zealous youth, a significant force in guiding them away from violence and extremism.
I, like most of those who know him, can personally cite countless examples where he has openly confronted individuals advocating extremism or political violence. That he should now be indicted based on the actions of people who may have been, like many hundreds of other people around the world, people who turned to Sheikh al-Timimi for advice is outrageous and demonstrates not only the failure of US authorities to look at anything that Sheikh al-Timimi has written or spoken about over the last ten years, but more alarmingly it demonstrates a willingness to pursue the very people who have been fighting the intellectual war against extremism and terrorism since long before September 11. The equation is simple: without moderating yet credible voices such as al-Timimi, more Muslims will remain ignorant and out of this ignorance will be born more extremists and, ultimately, more people whose ignorance leads them to violence against the United States and her people. The attempt to imprison Sheikh al-Timimi is a modern day enactment of Aesop's fable of the Eagle and the Arrow: by pursuing scholars such as al-Timimi, America's most natural allies in its war against terrorism, the United States is feathering the plumes of its enemies' arrows; and like the eagle noted in the fable, is paradoxically giving her enemies - the extremists - the means of her own destruction.
“The believers are nothing else but brothers.” (49:10)
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, "You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it," [Bukhari]
Anyone reflecting upon this hadith of Prophet (S) would realize that if in fact the similitude of Muslim Ummah is like a single body, it would be inconceivable to imagine that if one of the Muslims is hurt or is transgressed upon at one end of the world, its impingement or sorrow will not be felt at the other end of the world. Regardless of the geographical location of the Muslims, every Muslim is still an element of this Ummah and the pain suffered by one Muslims is a pain suffered by whole Ummah. Muslims in the United States are certainly no exception to this. Surely the suffering of our dear brother Sheikh Ali Al-Timimi grieves us deeply indeed.
We must remember that whatever happens in this world is decreed by Allah (A) and it is our job to submit to this Divine decree. Say: "Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Maula (Lord, Helper and Protector)." And in Allah let the believers put their trust. (9:51) And this decree was written 50,000 years before Allah created the heavens and the earths. The prophet (SAW) said, "Allah had written the ordained measures (and due proportions) of the creation, fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth and His ‘Arsh was on the water" [Muslim] That unjust verdict given on the 26th of April is no exception to this rule. If such is the final decree of Allah then the true follower of this Deen sees no other alternative besides being patient and supplicating to their Lord. He is our Lord and we seek His guidance alone.
One must also not forget that everything that happens in this world has wisdom behind it. A human being may or may not understand that wisdom. A person may like something which is bad for him and he may dislike something which is good for him. “It may happen that you hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows, you know not.” (2:216) Know that at the end every matter is in favor of the believer. "Strange is the affair of the Mu'min (the believer), verily all his affairs are good for him. If something pleasing befalls him he thanks (Allah) and it becomes better for him. And if something harmful befalls him he is patient (Saabir) and it becomes better for him. And this is only for the Mu'mmin." [Muslim]
A Muslim must also remember that it is an ongoing Sunnah of Allah that he tests the believers and there is there is no change in His Sunnah. The Prophets and Messengers passed through the most severe of the tests. “Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, "When (will come) the Help of Allâh?" Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allâh is near!.” (2:214) Allah also says, “Do you think that you will enter paradise without going through the trial? Allah has not yet tested you to see who among you strive hard for His cause and who show patience in adversity” (3:142). Sheikh Ali Al-Timimi has been tested by Allah and his steadfastness testifies to the strength of his faith and his commitment to the Deen of Allah.
In such tribulations we must remember that a believer must not have any ill thoughts about his Creator either. Without doubt, He is the merciful Lord. “Verily, Allah created, on the same very day when He created the heavens and the earth, one hundred parts of mercy. Every part of mercy is coextensive with the space between the heavens. and the earth and He out of this mercy endowed one part to the earth and it is because of this that the mother shows affection to her child and even the beasts and birds show kindness to one another and when there would be the Day of Resurrection, Allah would make full (use of Mercy). [Muslim]
Those rejoicing today’s unjust verdict are ruining their hereafter by exchanging this world for the next – whether they claim to be believers or not - by transgressing upon the innocent believers for the sole reason that they proclaim “Our Lord is Allah.” These “rejoicers” should also know that a day will come when this moment of rejoicing will turn into distress. This apparent victory is not everlasting. Did you not pay heed to the statement of Allah, And so are the days (good and not so good). We give to men by turns, that Allah may test those who believe (3:140). So the disbelievers will have their day but so will the believers who rely upon none other than Allah and seek his reward.
Those rejoicing in today’s unjust verdict must also not forget that a true believer is less concerned about imprisonment since he already considers himself imprisoned in this world. No matter how enormous this world may seem, a true believer still considers himself incarcerated and follows the commands of his Lord alone. Only those who are short sighted and do not understand the reality of this temporary life see this world as a place where they are not sanctioned by any commands from their Creator. Surely our beloved Prophet prepared us for such instances when he said, “The world is a prison-house for a believer and Paradise for a non-believer” [Muslim].
So in one sense we may agree with our opponents to an extent! Today’s unjust verdict, without doubt, causes our brother to face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Now we must also ask ourselves a question. Which life are we really referring to? If the reference is to the temporary life in this world then we must agree with those rejoicing the verdict that Sheikh Ali Al-Timimi does face life Imprisonment. However, if the reference is to the permanent life of the hereafter, then we must disagree on the basis of the constitution legislated for the whole of humanity – for both the “rejoicers” and the mourners of todays verdict - from the seven heavens. So listen and comprehend if you in fact seek guidance, that imprisonment of fire will be the final and permanent abode for those who reject the Prophets and Messengers and follows a path other than that of the true believers. The rejectors of this divine message will not receive any parole to leave this imprisonment of hell-fire. Allah (A) says: “ Verily! Whoever comes to his Lord as a Mujrim (criminal, polytheist, disbeliever in the Oneness of Allah and His Messengers, sinner, etc.), then surely, for him is Hell, therein he will neither die nor live.” (20:74) The rophet (S) said, “Death will come on the Day of Resurrection like a black and white ram, and it will stand between Paradise and Hell. It will be said, ‘O people of Paradise, do you recognize this?’ They will crane their necks and look, and will say, ‘Yes, it is death.’
It will be said, ‘O people of Hell, do you recognize this?’ They will crane their necks and look, and will say, ‘Yes, it is death.’ Then the command will be issued and it will be slaughtered. Then it will be said, ‘O People of Paradise, it is eternal and there is no death. O people of Hell, it is eternal and there is no death.’” Then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) recited the verse (interpretation of the meaning): “And warn them (O Muhammad) of the Day of grief and regrets, when the case has been decided, while (now) they are in a state of carelessness, and they believe not” ( 19:39)
This is our understanding of life without parole and we fear that those rejoicing our current fate today will be sentenced to this life imprisonment in the hereafter, InshaAllah. So what holds you back from repenting and enjoying the everlasting happiness of the hereafter? Is it you love for this world? Then know that it will surely come to an end. Or is it your hatred for the believers? Then know that your Creator has promised their dominance even if you disdain it.
The world knew that Sheikh Ali Al-Timimi will face this trial bravely as he did and all praise is due unto Allah. His voice still booms in the ears of his students until this very day. By the grace of Allah, his patience, strength, and steadfastness was witnessed by the court that convicted him. Incarcerating him will only result in the strengthening of this Deen since there is no shield between the supplication of the oppressed and the Lord of the Universe. So the choice is yours indeed. Plead guilty in front of your Lord in exchange for the everlasting life in the hereafter. __________________
"Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him if you are believers. Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of a believing people. And remove the anger of their (believers') hearts. Allah accepts the repentance of whom He wills. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise." [Quran9:13-1])
On February 1, 2003, ALI AL-TIMIMI provided the following message to his
This morning, the world heard news about the crash of the space
shuttle. There is no doubt that Muslims were overjoyed because of
the adversity that befell their greatest enemy. Upon hearing the
news, my heart felt certain good omens that I liked to spread to my
First: The Name of the Shuttle: “Columbia” is the name of the
shuttle, called after the name of “Columbus,” the sailor who
discovered the American Continent in 1492 after the fall of
Grenada, the last Islamic stronghold in Andalusia. Historians
know that, after discovering the two American Continents, the
Romans (the Christians of Europe) exploited their wealth in order
to be able to control the Islamic World. The Columbia crash made
me feel, and God is the only One to know, that this is a strong
signal that Western supremacy (especially that of America) that
began 500 years ago is coming to a quick end, God Willing, as
occurred to the shuttle.
Second: The Shuttle Crew: The Israeli Ambassador to the UN
described the Israeli astronaut as someone carrying all the hopes
and ambitions of the Israeli people. And so, God Willing, all these
hopes and ambitions were burnt with the crash and the burning of
the shuttle and one of its astronauts, the Israeli.
Third: The Crash Location: As soon as CNN announced the
crash of the space shuttle nearby the city of Palestine, in Texas, I
said to myself “God is Great”. This way, God Willing, America
will fall and disappear (nearby Palestine). The State of Texas is
also the state of the foolish, obeyed President Bush the son. And
so we hope, God Willing, similar to the crash of the shuttle on his
state, his nation would fall upon his head due to his foolish policy.
Fourth: The President’s Condolences to the American People:
In the words that President Bush used to console his people, he
referred to the Book of Isiah where there is a praise to God’s
creation, His stars and planets. I said to myself, Praise the Lord, in
this same Book of Isiah there are news about the coming of
Prophet Muhammad and a warning of the destruction of the Jews
at the end of time. [A citation from the Koran follows].
And so, there are other signs that would take a long time to
recount. For example, every time the Americans believe that they
control the whole earth and the skies, and act as they wish, there
comes a sign that reminds us that God, Almighty, is greater than
his creatures, sitting on His Chair, handling everything, and that
His angels act according to His commands. And so, he whoever
will try to raise the Jews, who are a nation that God covered with
humiliation and deserved God’s wrath, will be afflicted with divine
humiliation and wrath as much as he supports them.
Tuesday April 26, 2005
Today, after about a week of deliberations, a federal jury in Alexandria
Virgina returned a guilty verdict in the case Dr. Al-Timimi. The jury
found Al-Timimi guilty on all counts.
The sentencing date for Al-Timimi is July 13. He faces up to life in
Today, after about a week of deliberations, a federal jury in Alexandria
Virgina returned a guilty verdict in the case Dr. Al-Timimi. The jury
found Al-Timimi guilty on all counts.
The sentencing date for Al-Timimi is July 13. He faces up to life in
prison. In the meantime, his movement is restricted to his house and he
is only allowed to go out to see his lawyers.
As painful as this verdict might be, we are assured that God's Mercy and
Help is near to us. We ask Him All Mighty to engulf our brother's family
with His Grace and Care, and to guide them through this hardship that
befell the Muslim community.
We would like to remind all of our brothers and sisters that God tests
His slaves with whatever He Wills. Many great Muslim scholars before
have faced the same trials and tests for nothing more than their
beliefs. As Allah said in the Quran "And they witnessed what they were
doing against the believers. They had nothing against them, except that
they believed in God, the All-Mighty, Worthy of all Praise!" [85:7-8]
We accept Allah's Will and we praise Him alone. We thank Him for guiding
us to this religion and we ask Him to keep us steadfast on the right path.
Please don't forget brother Ali and the many Muslim like him in your
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