The Muslims’ Post-9/11 Schizophrenia

Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Afifi Al-Akiti [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afifi_al-Akiti] is an Oxford-based Malaysian jurist who has responded to a “pseudo-fatwa” by a “deviant” UK-based group named Al-Muhajiroun. (De facto judgments by Shaykh Gibril Haddad, who wrote the introduction to this short publication, are indicated by quotation marks.)

Al-Muhajiroun calls the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack as “the magnificent 19”. Shaykh Gibril, on the other hand, expresses in his introduction one of the consequences of extolling the 9/11 event as follows: “Gnarling mayhem separates like with like”.

While he may not have intended to, he effectively expressed the agonizing schizophrenia into which our Ummah has been thrust by the 9/11 attack and subsequent events, as other “wannabe martyrs” crawl out of the woodwork to do their criminally insane mischief.

In the body of his fatwa, Shaykh Al-Akiti begins with several incisive points. First, the targets of 9/11 were without doubt civilians. Second, no Muslim authority had declared war. And third, Al-Muhajiroun has hi-jacked rules from our Sacred Islamic Law which are meant for the conventional army of a Muslim state and addressed to those with authority over it, not to individuals who are not connected to the military or those without political authority over the state.

Shaykh Al-Akiti’s analysis is thus divided into three sections, the issues of 1) the target; 2) the authority; and, 3) the method. If a Muslim voluntarily carries out an attack which violates all three of these criteria Islamically, he becomes a murderer and not a martyr or hero, and he will be punished for that in the Next World.

And yet, those of us who feel the pain and oppression of Muslim brothers and sisters Muslims all over the world, at the hands of the non-Muslims, often could not help but be moved by the fall of the World Trade Center. A group of college students in Jakarta, Indonesia, for example, were seen cheering and applauding the repeated re-runs of the video of the fall of those towers on the day of the attack.

Their teacher berated them soundly, and yet the truth was that much of the Muslim world was cheering the event. And many converts, who had been chased out of their western homes as their Iman became deeper and deeper, also felt a certain inevitability to the 9/11 disaster. Even some non-Muslim social scientists had been warning for years that the ‘American dream’ was overdue to become a nightmare, if certain corrections to the compulsively consumer-oriented society were not enacted.

Some have even expressed 9/11 as inevitable and completely consistent with the oft-repeated Qur’anic history that asserts the guilt of all who reside in any community which has been repeatedly warned by Allah swt regarding their persistent sinful behavior. When Allah’s punishment comes, virtually no one is spared, even the close family of the prophets such as Nabi Nuh (as) and Nabi Lut (as).

Be that as it may, the two feet of many of us may well be stuck one in each camp — 9/11 as a war crime, and 9/11 as an inevitable expression of Divine Justice. In the latter case, those “magnificent 19” were only unwitting tools of the Divine Will, or at least certainly able to succeed only with Divine Permission.

In his final analysis, Shaykh Al-Akiti cautions us to look deeply into the terms jihad, mujahid, and shahid. He says, “The result for Muslims who fail to notice the relevance and fail to connect the dots of our own inherited medieval terms with the modern world may be that they will live in a schizophrenic cultural reality.”

The non-medical meaning of “schizophrenia” has been defined by anthropologist Gregory Bateson in his famous “double-bind” theory. He states that schizophrenia is the result of “…an irreconcilable cognitive dissonance that occurs whenever one’s loyalties are demanded in two conflicting directions, neither one of which may be sacrificed without losing fundamental peace-of-mind”. Many loyal Muslims are now being asked to consider 9/11’s “magnificent 19” as either religious martyrs or criminal psychotics, when in fact they may be both.

At the very end of his fatwa, Shaykh Al-Akiti helps us to resolve this contradiction by referring to Imam Al-Ghazali: “Once the real meaning is understood, there is no need to quibble over names.” And in a deeply-felt conclusion, over which we, who suffer a schizoid existence within our own Ummah, may perhaps rejoice, as Mawlana Rumi (may Allah sanctify his secrets!) teaches us:

Go beyond names and look at the qualities, so that

They may show you the way to essence.

The disagreement of people takes place because of names.

Peace occurs when they go to the real meaning. Every

War and every conflict between human beings has

Happened because of some disagreement about names.

It’s such an unnecessary foolishness, because just beyond

The arguing, there’s a long table of companionship,

Set and waiting for us to sit down.


Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Afifi Al-Akiti’s fatwa “Defending the Transgressed by Censuring the Reckless against the Killing of Civilians”, published in September 2005 (AQSA Press/ WARDA Publicattions)

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