Muslims urged to control fanaticism

National 2 minutes, 57 seconds


MUSLIM political leaders have called for the application of Wasatiyyah (moderation and balance) to control unhealthy elements of fanaticism, extreme ideologies and radical interpretations of the religion (Islam), said the deputy dean of the Faculty of Usuluddin of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) yesterday.

Associate Professor Dr Ahmed Fadhel Yousif said that a number of academic institutions have also established research centres to study Wasatiyyah in a multidisciplinary and scientific perspective.

Dr Ahmed was one of three speakers at UNISSA’s Liqa’ ‘Ilmy (knowledge convention).

The other speakers were Dean of Faculty of Usuluddin Dr Lilly Suzana Hj Shamsu and Director of Centre for Postgraduate Studies Dr Hjh Rasinah Hj Ahim.

The term Wasatiyyah is derived and elaborated from the word ummatan wasatan (the moderate people), found in Surah Al-Baqarah verse 143.

It also refers to ‘the best, the chosen ones, the just, humble, moderate, istiqamah (steadfast), a follower of the teachings of Islam, not extreme to either ends in matters of the world or the after-life, spiritual or physical, but should be balanced between the two ends’.

In his talk, Dr Ahmed briefly addressed the causes of fanaticism and its place in Islamic traditions, the application of Wasatiyyah in the context of fanaticism, and proposed possible treatments of fanatical ideology.

He said the causes of fanatical behaviour are quite diverse.

“In some cases, the reason is private and personal while, in others, it bears a larger socio-political goal. In other cases, there may be no goal at all beyond the act itself. For some psycho-social analysts, fanaticism is strictly a psychological issue, such as someone with a personality disorder, one that makes the individual highly susceptible to fanatical behaviour,” he said.

Commenting on the place of fanaticism in Islamic tradition, he said contemporary Muslim scholars have difficulties defining the term ‘fanaticism’ since this concept did not exist in early Islamic tradition, literature and scholarship.

He however said that there are a number of Arabic terms, which did convey certain aspects of fanaticism as it is presently known in Western literature.

He gave an example of the concept of al-Assabiyah or al-Taassub (excessive love of one’s tribe), which was very common during the pre-Islamic era and was later developed and defined by Ibn Khaldun’s as a “group feeling”.

Dr Ahmed said, “Muslims were advised to live their entire life balancing spiritual and material concerns. While they should focus on religious duties, they are also warned not to neglect worldly affairs. Even when it comes to performing good deeds, including religious duties, Muslims are encouraged to pursue a path of moderation”.

Speaking on the cure of fanaticism, he said the cure for any issue is dependent on its nature.

“As we have seen, fanatics are a diverse lot. Accordingly, a diverse set of treatments should be administered,” he said.

He said, fanaticism of criminal activists aimed at overthrowing governments can be discouraged via the judicial-legal system, by utilising stricter penalties.

Pathological destructive fanatics can be assisted through mental health professionals. Fanaticism of a nationalist nature can be reduced by granting of greater political rights and freedoms for those concerned, including greater autonomy and decision-making power.

“Unfortunately, these recommendations are not all clear-cut. There are some differences of opinion among jurists regarding fanatical activities and techniques. In fact, if Islamic groups and movements follow to the best of their ability what is permissible and avoid what is not permitted in Islam, then perhaps they will achieve their goals without endorsing fanatical behaviour,” he said.

The Brunei Times