Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Interview with The judiciary consultant at the Saudi Ministry of Justice Sheikh Abdul- Mohsen Al- Obeikan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Q) How does one evaluate ideological modification of wanted suspects, some of whom are imprisoned, and how is this process of thought-purification conducted?

(A) The counseling is conducted through discussions in appropriate settings during which the prisoner talks about his beliefs and the evidence verifying them, which we in turn discuss and modify, explaining the true meaning of the evidence he provides as proof for his beliefs. Many, thank God, change their viewpoints in one session. Afterwards, a report is written stating that counseling and discussion has been conducted. In the report, we include what this person”s former ideas were and how they have changed and we then recommend his release. Some have been released and even come to visit me at the mosque every now and then.

Q) What are the most prominent of principles that these men adhere to, and what conclusions do you come to through counseling them?

(A) The most prominent suspicion they have is the takfir (denouncing others as infidels) suspicion. They always consider (that it applies to) the government”s aid — as they think — to the infidels in their war on the Muslims. Naturally this aid has not happened. Anyway, aid is not absolutely banned; there are three cases:

The first case is to have complete and absolute alliance with them. This would be an infidelity that excludes the person from Islam, and this is the aim of those who use takfir. The evidence is that God Almighty said: &#34O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for allies; they are allies for each other. And whoever amongst you takes them for allies, then surely he is one of them, indeed God does not guide the evil doers,&#34 Al-Maidah, verse 51. God Almighty also said: &#34O you who believe! Do not take my enemy and yours for friends, offering them friendship, while they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and expelling the Messenger and you only because you believe in God your Lord. If you go forth to strive in My cause and seeking My good pleasure, take them not as friends holding secret converse of friendship with them, while I am best aware of what you hide and what you reveal, and whoever of you does that, has truly gone astray from the Right Path,&#34 Al-Mumtahanah, Verse 1. Interpreting these verses, Ibn-Kathir, God have mercy on his soul, said: &#34God Almighty has prohibited the believing worshipers from allying themselves with the infidels, or taking them as allies with whom to converse in friendship and not to do so with the believers. Then He threatened whoever does this, ”And whoever does this has deprived himself of God”s blessings,” Al Imran, verse 28. This means that whoever does what God forbade, then God will not bless him. God Almighty said, ”O you who believe! Do not take My enemy and yours for friends, offering them friendship,” until He said, ”And whoever of you does that, has truly gone astray from the Right Path.”&#34 God Almighty said, &#34O you who believe! Do not take the unbelievers as allies, nor other than the believers, is it that you wish to furnish God with clear proof against yourselves,&#34 Al-Nisa, Verse 144. God Almighty also said: &#34O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for allies; they are allies of each other. And whoever amongst you takes them for allies, then surely he is one of them,&#34 Al-Ma”idah, Verse 51. God Almighty said after mentioning the alliance with the believers from Al-Muhajirun, Al-Ansar (those who immigrated with the Prophet from Mecca to Medina, and the people of Medina who received them) and the Arabs: &#34And the unbelievers are allies of each other. Unless you do this, there would be tumult and oppression on earth and great corruption,&#34 Al-Anfal, Verse 73. Imam Ibn-Jarir al-Tabari, God have mercy on his soul, said: &#34Whoever allies himself to them, and supports them against the believers would be one of their religion and creed. No one allies himself to someone else unless he is satisfied with the other, the other”s religion, and the other”s situation. If someone were satisfied with another, and with the other”s religion, then he would be hostile to whatever contradicts with or angers the other, and hence becomes similar to him.&#34 Shaykh Abd-al-Latif Bin-Abd-al-Rahman Bin-Hasan Al al-Sheikh, God have mercy on his soul, said: &#34Sunaa interpreted, restricted, and specified it as general and absolute alliance.&#34 Sheikh Abd-al-Rahman al-Sa”di, God have mercy on his sol, said: &#34If it were complete alliance, then it would be infidelity; there are other levels below this, some of them severe, and others are less severe.&#34

The second case is if there is an alliance to achieve personal interests for the ally and the pursuer, without fear, or something similar to compel such alliance. This is not allowed, but it is not infidelity. The evidence is the story of Hatib Bin-Abi-Balta”ah, God be satisfied with him, which was told by Al-Bukhari and Muslim, God have mercy on their souls, and others. Hatib wrote a message to Quraysh telling them that the Prophet, God”s prayers and peace be upon him, was preparing to march on Mecca; the prophet was preparing for the conquest of Mecca, but was hiding the news to surprise them, and hence the infidels would be forced to agree to peace because the Prophet did not want war; Hatib sent his message with his slave, and she hid it in her hair; God told His Prophet about that, and the prophet sent Ali, Al-Zubayr, and Al-Miqdad, God be satisfied with them, and said: &#34Go to the Khakh Park, you will find a slave with a letter, take it from her;&#34 when they brought the letter, the Prophet said: &#34What is this Hatib?&#34 Hatib said: O God”s Messenger, do not be angry with me; I was an ally of Quraysh, but I was not one of the important ones; those who immigrated with you have relatives there to protect their families and friends; since I do not have such links, I wanted to do them a favor so that they would protect my family; I did not do it because I relinquished my faith or accepted infidelity after Islam. The Prophet, God”s prayers and peace be upon him, said: &#34He is telling the truth.&#34 Umar Bin-al-Khattab asked the Prophet, God”s prayers and peace be upon him, to give him permission to kill Hatib, but the Prophet did not allow him. They say that following this God sent the verses including, &#34O you who believe! Do not take My enemy and yours for friends, offering them friendship, while they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and expelling the Messenger and you only because you believe in God your Lord.&#34 Al-Hafidh Bin-Hajar: &#34When he said in the story of Hatib Bin-Abi-Balta”ah: ”Umar said: O God”s Messenger, let me cut off his head,&#34 Umar only said that after the Prophet, God”s prayers and peace be upon him, believed the excuse of Hatib, because of his strong faith and hatred of hypocrisy; Umar thought that anyone who disobeyed the Prophet deserved to be killed, but he was not categorically sure, and that is why he asked for permission to kill him, and he called Hatib a hypocrite because he was hiding the opposite of what he was announcing. The excuse of Hatib which he mentioned was that he did what he did thinking that there was no harm in it.&#34 With regard to this story, Al-Tabari attributed to Al-Harith, who attributed to Ali: &#34He said: Has he not witnessed the Badr conquest? He said: Yes, but he changed, and he supported your enemies against you.&#34 Ibn-Hazm said: As for some Muslim who is taken by zeal, used military polytheists, and gave them a freehand to kill his Muslim opponents, take their money, or enslave them, if he were to be victorious, and the infidels were his subordinates, then he would perish as an extreme wanton, but he would not be an infidel, because he did not do anything that would make him an infidel according to the Quran or the unanimous opinion.&#34 Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Rida, God have mercy on his soul, said: &#34Therefore, the street did not judge Hatib to be an infidel by allying himself to the polytheists, which was prohibited.&#34 Therefore, the scholars did not mention alliance and support as a reason for infidelity when they talked about the rules of apostasy. This is clear to anyone who reads Al-Iqna wa Sharhuh, Al-Mughni, and other books. It is noteworthy that God Almighty addressed Hatib as a believer when He said: &#34O you who believe! Do not take…&#34 which indicates that he did not become an infidel by his deed. This is despite the fact that God Almighty said: &#34offering them friendship;&#34 and He said: &#34Holding secret converse of friendship with them.&#34

As for the third case, the alliance is allowed only when there is a need and necessity. God Almighty said in the Surah of Al Imran: &#34The believers should not take the unbelievers, nor other than the believers, for allies, and whoever does this has deprived himself from God”s blessing, but you should guard yourselves against them in devotion to God;&#34 therefore, God Almighty exempted the case when the Muslims are afraid and want to avoid the evil of the infidels, as in this case the Muslims are allowed to contract an alliance.

Q) What about removing the disbelievers from the Arab peninsula?

A) This is another issue prominent among the wanted men. We tell them that removing disbelievers from the Arab peninsula in context of the Hadith is not how they interpret it. That is that the area the Prophet (peace be upon him) was concerned about removing the non-believers from was that surrounding the two holy mosques and not other areas such as the Eastern Province or other regions in Saudi Arabia. Another point is that there were non-believers who lived in Saudi Arabia during the Caliphs” times. Muslim men married non-Muslim women and lived together in the region. I even found fatwas for Sheikh Mohammad Ibn Uthaimeen who supported this notion. A third point is that this issue is the business of the country”s guardians rather than the people. The Caliph Abu Bakr did not have the Jews removed from Medina during his time, nor did he ask Omar Ibn Al-Khattab to do so either. A fourth point is that even if non-believers are to leave the region, it does not mean violating their properties or permitting their bloodshed. Furthermore, having them leave the region is related to what is best and it is not an indefinite general predicament.

Q) Through your discussions with these men, how do you think they were influenced and by whom?

A) The influence was from both inside and outside the country but particularly from outside and especially from Al-Qaeda. The books of Abu-Qutada and Al-Maqdasi were most influential. They depend on their books that contain many errors and are misguiding. Their going astray is also due to the tapes and books that have spread all over Saudi Arabia.

(Q) Pardon me, but did those wanted by security, who were advised, go in the past to Afghanistan to fight within the ranks of Al-Qaeda there? Or are they a mixture of those who have been influenced at home and those who were marked by the Afghan experience?

(A) Some of them came from Afghanistan, and others, as you kindly pointed out, were influenced by these ideas at home through the smuggled books and tape recordings.

(Q) What are the aims pursued by those wanted by security?

(A) They think that they are performing jihad for the sake of God, and that they are supporting Islam; this is their mistaken belief.

(Q) What about the establishment of the Islamic state, which they keep repeating in their statements and audio recordings?

(A) Naturally, they aspire to do so; they aspire to establish a state that agrees with their opinions.

(Q) What are their opinions?

(A) They want permanent fighting against the infidels, they want to kill all non-Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula, and they want a complete boycott of the non-Muslims so that we do not sell oil to them or buy goods from them. All this is based on wrong and superficial opinions. They do not have any depth or understanding of the shariah, the reality, the benefits, or the evils. Many of them have no knowledge. They are deceived youths.

(Q) How do you describe their financial and social situation?

(A) The situation of some of them is good. This means that they have not resorted to this path because of poverty or unemployment; on the contrary, most of them were either students or employees.

(Q) What about their age?

(A) They are mostly young, their ages range between 16 and 30 years old.

(Q) Those who are 16 years old, how were they advised?

(A) Naturally, convincing them was easy, because they are young and deceived, and if the evidence became clear to them, most probably, they would be convinced, express repentance, and retreat from their misguided thinking.

(Q) What is the most prominent situation you faced while advising some of those wanted by security?

(A) In fact, we did not receive anything from them except respect and appreciation. We engage in calm discussions. Very few of them show rigidity in their opinions; these are mostly not normal, mentally or psychologically, and their ages range between 25 and 30 years.

(Q) Those you referred to in your answer — those with rigid opinions — do they have jurisprudence knowledge to make your mission difficult when you engage in discussions with them?

(A) They rely on smuggled books, particularly the books of Abu-Qutada and Al-Maqdasi; they quote from them, and they quote from the Muslim Brotherhood books and rely on them.

(Q) What are the prisons you visited and in which you engaged in discussions with those wanted by security?

(A) I paid a number of visits to the Al-Haer prison in Riyadh, in addition to some of the prisons in Abha, Khamis Mushayt, and Al-Taif.

(Q) What is the percentage of response among those wanted by security to the advice sessions, and does the percentage vary from one region to another?

(A) It is more-or-less the same percentage.

(Q) In your opinion, what is the importance of the discussion sessions you carry out in rectifying the thinking of those wanted by security and restoring them to the right path?

(A) There is no doubt that they are mentally ill, because they adopt misguided ideas. They have to be treated by means of discussion, dialogue, and giving them evidence, because punishment alone does not work with such people. What benefits them is discussion. In my opinion, punishment alone is not sufficient; it is imperative to treat them by means of discussion and dialogue.

(Q) Frankly, if we go back in time a little, an important question will come to the fore: What motivated these people to adopt the misguided takfiri thinking? Did they not find anyone to advise them at that time?

(A) No doubt that there were those who sponsored this thinking. At home and abroad; there still are symbols that sponsor this takfiri thinking.

(Q) Pardon me, but where were our moderate ulema?

(A) They were talking and talking. However, you know, these deceived people were warned against listening to the moderate ulema. Some of those who listened retreated, but those who adhered to the instructions not to listen to the moderate ulema remained in the shadows of the takfiri thinking. I would say: Imprisoning the deceived is the equivalent of putting them in medical quarantine. Some people say that some of those deceived have completed their sentence, but have not been released and they ought to be released, and they also say that some of them have not been put on trial; this happens only to those who committed a crime, and the people are confusing the two situations. Those who follow an ideology and commit a crime should be punished for their crime, but they also should be quarantined until their minds recover from the infectious disease of misguided thinking. If they were released before they recover, they would harm themselves, harm others, and corrupt society. Perhaps those who advocate human rights, and those who criticize these measures have not understood this point. However, when the issue is explained to them, they retreat from their demands for trials and for releasing the individual after the end of his sentence.

(Q) Perhaps I should conclude the interview by asking you an important question: Despite the retreat of the Muslim Brotherhood from their fatwas, and after them the retreat of the symbols of the takfiri tendency in Saudi Arabia — Al-Khudayr, Al-Fahd, and Al-Khalidi — ending with the fatwa of Abu-Busayr al-Tartusi, the most prominent theoretician of the takfiri tendency, banning suicide operations, still some of the deceived insist on their takfiri stance. What is your explanation of this?

(A) This is misguidance itself. . God Almighty said: &#34And whoever God guides, none can lead him astray, and whoever God leaves astray, no guide has he.&#34 Unfortunately, God left these people astray, and their guiding is very difficult, but guidance is in the hands of God Almighty and is not impossible.