Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabian Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh warned against the dangers of the Al-Qaeda organization and its leader Osama Bin Laden and emphasized that this organization has brought nothing but “chaos and destruction” to the Muslim world. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Al al-Sheikh emphasized the insincerity of Bin Laden’s call and said: “A Muslim should not be deceived by propaganda and his position on any call should be based on reflection and on close scrutiny of its outcome”. He described the Al-Qaeda organization as “a bloody and corruptive organization that sows corruption in the ummah [Community of Islam] and destroys property”. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia is not totally satisfied with the steps being taken to repulse the danger inherent in the ideology of the terrorist organization, saying that “there is delinquency” in this regard. He said that ideological terrorism is “dangerous and a prelude to practical terrorism”. He emphasized that the war on deviant thoughts should be the strongest. Sheikh Al al-Sheikh believed that the fierce media campaign against Saudi Arabia is a “tribulation from God”. He did not express any surprise that the kingdom is being subjected to such attacks by those that he described as “enemies”. He responded to those that describe Saudi scholars as “Wahhabis” by emphasizing that those that use this categorization claim that Wahhabism is “a group that is outside the Shariaa trend”. He said that this is falsification used by the proponents of “an ancient infidel principle”. Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, who gave this exclusive interview to Asharq Al-Awsat in the headquarters of the Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Mosque (in central Riyadh), commented on the debate that has been raging these days between the Sunnis and Shias by saying that one should be governed by God’s holy book [the Koran] and the sunnah of His prophet, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him. In his remarks, the mufti emphasized that the issuance of fatwas should be rationalized. He said that he is witnessing a race in some satellite channels for some propagators that may be referred to as this or that. They are exploited to issue fatwas on Shariaa matters about which they do not know anything and that they do not understand. This leads to the issuance of wrong fatwas.
The text of the interview is as follows:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] First of all, what are your thoughts on the campaign that some media outlets are waging on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leaders? Do you think this campaign is driven by political or other motives?
[Al-Sheikh] In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate; praise be to the Lord of the universe and may God’s prayers and peace be upon Muhammad and all the members of his household and companions. God Almighty, exalted be His name, says “You shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you, from those that received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods” [Koranic verse, Al-Imran (The Family of Imran,3:186]. Thus, God Almighty showed the ummah that they will certainly hear from their enemies verbal harm and suffer physical harm. If the enemies are unable to harm the ummah with deeds then they will resort to words and if they can combine the two they will resort to harm by word and deed. The Muslims should confront all the false and evil claims of their enemies and should not pay attention to this evil. They should also expose this evil with clear argument. They are indifferent because they view it something strange, but is not strange. They have to confront these falsehoods with arguments based on the Shariaa and with categorical proof that expose the corruption of this way of thinking. The Muslims should use the domestic and external media outlets to defend the entity of this ummah and defeat these falsehoods with clear proof. Let those that perish do so fully aware and those that survive do so fully aware.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you mean within the context of the tribulations of the country and the ummah?
[Al-Sheikh] Yes, the ummah, the country, and the leaders are being tested. These tribulations may come in all the affairs of daily life. But we do not rule them out and are not amazed at them because they come from the enemy. But we have to confront this evil and the vicious campaigns with clear facts and categorical arguments in order to defeat those and clarify to them our position.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your position regarding the various forms of slander that Saudi religious scholars have been the recipients of. They are labeled as “wahhabis” and “takfiris” [those that hold other Muslims to be infidels] while some of them are said to be “the ulema of the regime” and so on?
[Al-Sheikh] The ulema in this land, praise be to God, and the leadership are one. They cooperate closely with one another and are strongly tied to one another with one side strengthening the other. The Ulema are in dire need of the support of the leadership and the leadership also respects them for their status and good deeds. The cooperation between the ulema and the leadership is deep-rooted. It is firm and ancient and not something recent. The ulema of this country and their leadership are on the same line and the righteous path. There are no differences between these and those. In fact, the ulema do what they have to do and the leadership carries out the instructions and guidance of the ulema. One complements the other. As for labeling them “Wahhabis”, they are so called under the claim that [wahhabism] is outside the Shariaa trend. These are all falsifications. When Sheikh Muhammad Bin Abdul-Wahhab made his call, he did not make it for himself or for his school of thought. He made it for God Almighty, God’s holy book, and the Sunnah of the prophet, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him. Those that describe others as Wahhabis believe that his call was false. All these are falsifications. The dawa of the sheikh, may God have mercy on his soul, was a call for justice and righteousness and he was supported by Imam Muhammad Bin Saud, may God have mercy on their souls. They described this call as wahhabism after they saw that it governs by Shariaa and it propagates virtues and prohibits vices as it establishes justice and calls for goodness. These epithets are bad ones and they are old, not new. As soon as this reformist call was made, its enemies have been describing its followers with such epithets, just as Quraysh describe the prophet as a Sabean and his followers as Sabeans. This shows that giving those that do good and benevolent deeds vile epithets is an old infidel principle.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Moving on, what is your opinion on the efforts being made to combat the ideological terrorism that came with the Al-Qaeda organization? Do you think there is a delinquency in this regard?
[Al-Sheikh] The fact is that ideological terrorism is dangerous and physical terrorism is the result of ideological terrorism. We have to fight ideological terrorism by exposing the corruptness of this evil thinking and the harm it does. We have to expose its origins and from where it derived these falsehoods and this corruption. If we deal with wrong thinking in a scientific way we will be able to deal with physical terrorism which is the result of ideological terrorism. The followers of ideological terrorism are maligning the ummah, proclaiming its members as infidels, and sanctioning the murder of its sons and the destruction of their property. They are framing the ummah with false charges and then they build on these bad thoughts by advocating evil, destruction, and corruption. We say that no doubt there is some form of delinquency in combating such thoughts. It is our duty and we all- the media, the universities, mosque imams, and mosque preachers – are responsible for fighting these evil thoughts and those that promote them. Such thoughts should be discussed and their corruption exposed. Even the fathers and mothers should fight these thoughts. We all should show the people the right path and call for good deeds. The people should be warned against these evil thoughts. We pray to God Almighty that the war on ideological terrorism be fierce and strong and be based on solid foundations and good curricula so that we can close the doors of evil with God’s help and God will grant us success.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Turning to Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, there are still some citizens in the Islamic countries, and perhaps within Saudi Arabia, that consider him their symbol. What are your thoughts on this subject ?
[Al-Sheikh] A Muslim should not be deceived by any propaganda or any call that is made. A Muslim should reflect deeply and should scrutinize its consequences. We do not immediately accept anyone that claims to be good or that hides behind a good deed. We should debate and examine the thinking of this person or any other. We must reflect on his thinking and from where he derived it and we must ask ourselves about the sides that support him. We must analyze a thing very carefully because if we wish to judge it we should analyze it well in order to expose its blemishes, defects, and corruption. Al-Qaeda and everything else were brought to fight Islam, divide the unity of the ummah, bring chaos in its ranks, and provide an opportunity for the enemies that covet the land of Islam. If a Muslim were to examine closely all these things and terms of the age, he would find them to be bloody, corruptive, and based on killing, sowing corruption in the ummah, and causing chaos in the Muslim world. How can anyone be satisfied with such thinking or support it or justify its position? The ummah should be alert and vigilant and should not remain silent over injustice and falsehood. The ummah should expose falsehood and those that are false. It should unmask their ugly deeds. Bad deeds alert one to the presence of bad beliefs and unsound thinking.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] On the issue of fatwas, lately channels issuing fatwas have diversified. What do you think of the importance of rationalizing fatwas and restricting their issuance to only official channels?
[Al-Sheikh] Fatwas issued by individuals have been present ancient times, since the days of the Companions of the Prophet. However, in early times, disagreements on fatwas by the people were simple and minor disagreements on the interpretation of one of the prophet’s sayings or about a general subject. They did not have dangerous differences and thus disagreement was something desirable. However, in this age unfortunately, some fatwas have taken a bad course and some channels began to exploit some of those that are not scholarly in religious affairs. They may be symbols that are referred to as this or that and they are exploited to issue fatwas on Shariaa affairs about which they do not know anything. Thus, the issued fatwas may be wrong ones because they are not based on the holy book and the Sunnah unless someone issues a fatwa based on the holy book and the Sunnah while disagreeing with me on a point about which I had disagreed with him. Such a case would be easier. But it is a disaster and a calamity when a person issues abnormal fatwas that violate justice and that are not based on general rules and constants claiming that he wants to simplify matters and make things easy to understand.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Let us move to the issue of the hour; namely, the ongoing rivalry between the Sunni and Shiite ulema and the talk about a Shiite upsurge in Lebanon that is inhabited by a Sunni majority. Where does the mufti of Saudi Arabia stand on this rivalry?
[Al-Sheikh] In my opinion, the efforts of the Muslim Ulema should be directed to correcting mistakes and to showing the mistakes of both sides because we will not come out with a result if we seek to foment the fire of difference and animosity. The result that we should come out with is deeply reflecting on discussing the differences and the disputes in order to show what is correct and thus acceptable and what is incorrect and thus unacceptable. We do not proceed from the premise of this or that but from the premise that we should explain our path and our approach to anyone that disagrees with us on the basis of the holy book and the sunnah. If we use the holy book and the Sunna has the two basic sources to explain any differences that may take place between us, we would benefit and gain a lot. God Almighty says: “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best and most suitable for final determination” [Koranic verse, An-Nisa (The Women), 4:59]. The Muslim that disagrees should be told the truth that Islam teaches us to refer any difference to the holy book and the Sunnah. If we make our basic reference the holy book, the Sunnah, and the interpretation of the revered Companions of the Prophet and those that came after them, if we make all this the reference to the solution of any difference, I hope that the matter would end well.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The Commission of Senior Ulema plays an important role. Would you tell us about the role of this commission at this stage?
[Al-Sheikh] The Commission of Senior Ulema is a scientific consultative commission that consists of the best Muslim scholars and esteemed figures. They discuss scientific matters that are referred to them by the Wali al-Amr [the guardian of the Community of Islam] and debate any issue that is raised. The commission deals with issues in a scientific manner. It is a scientific body that deals with the issues of the ummah on the basis of the holy book and the sunnah. Its decisions are for the good and its approach is clear. The guardians, may God grant them success, back it and support it and refer to it. Cooperation between the commission and the leadership is great and the connection between them is strong. I pray to God to make the people obey Him.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The debate has renewed on the sighting of the moon based on astronomical calculations. Do you think this debate is justified in light of the studies made by the Commission of Senior Ulema shortly before the start of the holy month of Ramadan this year?
[Al-Sheikh] During the first century [7th-8thCentury A.D.] in the lives of the Companions of the Prophet and those that succeeded them, all the Muslims followed the same path. Each district would fast when they sighted the crescent and thus the Muslim in Al-Sham, Hijaz, and Iraq would fast and there may be a difference of one or two days between them. This did not cause any dispute or division. Although the science of mathematics existed then, they did not take it into consideration. Mathematics was not something unknown to them and it existed even in the days of pre-Islam. However, the Muslims followed the saying of the prophet, “fast when you sight the moon and break your fast when you sight the moon”.