Hajj, Arab Revolt And Mullah Omar

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Context

At the occasion of Eid ul Adha this year, two important sermons were delivered. One of them was from the Mufti-e-Azam Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah at Arafat during Hajj, and the other came from the so-called Amir ul Momineen in hiding, Mullah Omar. These speeches were delivered at a critical time. The Arab Awakening is spreading, and the ‘Ummah’ is passing through its most dismal state; a large number of civilian are massacred daily at the hands of Al Qaeda and the civil unrest continues in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Horn of Africa and Islamic Maghreb.

Thus, it was a critical opportunity for Mufti-e-Azam to deliver an unambiguous address to Muslims assembled from all over the world at Arafat and help put their affairs in perspective while providing some practical guidance. While there are obvious language barriers in interpreting his address delivered in Arabic, still it was largely a missed opportunity. As Islam does not separate politics from religion, Sheikh Abdul Aziz’s address contained both types of messages. However, Imam’s address looked ordinary and confused, with calls for the destruction of the enemies of Islam. On the other hand, Mullah Omar’s Eid message was much more targeted.

Analysis

The Hajj Sermon

Despite the limitations, certain key political points were delivered in Imam’s sermon. One of them had to do with the role of rulers and those that are ruled, ‘don’t rebel against the ruler’s’ Sheikh emphasized. In the same breath, he added that rules should also respect their citizens and provide for them, and not apply weapons meant for the enemies against their own people. It’s not clear if he was inferring to Syria or other states involved in the war against extremists when he made these comments.

He went on to add that the Ummah is going through a calamity, and innocent blood is shed every day. Therefore, according to him, Muslims should appreciate the security and safety being provided and warned against political wrangling and the design of enemies to create divisions. In the same speech, he emphasized the safety and security people crave will result from applying Sunnah and Shariah. He emphatically rejected terrorism stating that it has no place in Islam while declaring suicide haram.

The Sheikh also had a message for the Media. Clearly, he realized the pivotal role it is playing in framing perceptions and perspectives and wanted it to benefit the Ummah, such as by discrediting violence. He also wanted Media to help Muslim youth maintain its identity and thereby contribute towards the betterment of society. Mufti-e-Azam also mentioned that insults against the Prophet (PBUH) will not be tolerated.

To deal with the social, political and economic decay, the Imam called for reliance on indigenous means. Moreover, he wanted Muslim wealth brought back from the West and applied in local communities while providing justice and eradicating poverty.

Lastly, the Imam also prayed Allah for support and protection of King Abdullah and the government of Saudi Arabia.

Mullah Omar’s Eid Message

Mullah Omar delivered his traditional Eid address on literally the same day Imam-e-Kaba gave his sermon. However, the emphasis of his message was different and quite targeted as he advised his followers to shun the peace process in Afghanistan as long as the foreign occupiers remain there. Although, he clarified that contacts and communications were taking place with the foreigners through the political office. Moreover, Mullah Omar made a point that there was no use in negotiating with the puppet government of Karzai.

“I urge every brave Afghan in the ranks of the foreign forces and their Afghan hirelings who may find an opportunity to utilize this opportunity effectively and quash the enemies of Islam and country in their centers and use all possible means, opportunities and tactics to strike them,” Mullah Omar stressed referring to the green on blue insider attacks.

The very next day on October 26, a suicide bomber blew himself up during an Eid prayer in Maimana city, killing about 40 people. President Karzai commented after the attack, “the enemies of mankind with no knowledge of Islam at all, again left Muslims mourn and grieve their loved ones even on the most auspicious day of Eid.”

While Mullah Omar has repeatedly stressed on his followers that civilian lives be spared, yet innocent people are being targeted. The issue of whether coalition forces or the Taliban, cause the most civilian causalities has remained a serious bone of contention. NATO forces have only recently begun to release some facts about the civilian causalities resulting from its operations. Similarly, the number of civilians killed as a result of drone attacks in FATA has remained vague.

A recently released UN report holds the Taliban responsible for 80 percent of civilian causalities. On the other hand, NATO forces are blamed for 10 percent of these fatalities. The report goes on to state that targeted killings carried out by Taliban and anti- government forces have increased by 53 percent in 2012. Mullah Omar disputed this account in his speech.

Conclusion

Between the two, Mullah Omar’s address was specific and action oriented while that of Mufti-e-Azam was confusing, theoretical, and lacking in specifics and relevance. Furthermore, Mullah Omar was talking to an audience that was not physically present at a location as they were in the case of Arafat. Obviously, there is some margin of error resulting from translations; still, Mullah Omar’s communication strategy appears to be far superior.

For example, when the Sheikh made comments about Muslims should appreciate the safety and security provided to them, it was not clear if he was talking about the Muslims of the Gulf countries particularly. Other than the Gulf region, many other parts of the Islamic world are now acutely lacking safety and security. On the contrary, he may have meant people should not blindly rebel against their rulers since the future of Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria is much more uncertain than before the uprisings.

Furthermore, the Imam did not venture to explain what Muslims should do when their leaders are corrupt, non-representative, and careless towards the plight of its citizens. And, it is this lack of intellectual depth that leaves his address not at par with the challenges Muslims are presently facing. But then Mufti is just a religious figure lacking any political authority to bring about the actions he talked about. And, it is this incongruence that gives even more traction to the message of jihadists.