Saturday, June 22, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Fundamentalist Islam

Update : 26 May 2013, 06:51 AM


Waliul Haque Khondker

I would like to congratulate the author for a well researched article, albeit lopsided! He missed out on the fact that Bengal has been inhabited primarily by Muslims of Hanafi Jurisprudence since 9th century AD. The recent discovery of two Abbasid coins in Bangladesh, one from Paharpur dated 172 Hijri corresponding to 788 AD from the time of Khalifa Harun al-Rashīd (786-809AD) and the other from Mainamati minted during the reign of Khalifa Abu Ahmad ‘Abd-Allah al-Muntasir Billāh (861-862AD), attests to this early Arab - Bengal trade link with which came the Ulama-Mashaeks to preach the religion of peace, Islam.

They came with the “Message” to Bengal, and not the Arabian culture within which Islam flourished in the Arabian peninsula! Eventually Islam spread in Bengal amongst the indigenous people and within its culture. Pala dynasty of Buddhist origin being the rulers at the time, made the job of the Ulama-Masheks relatively easy!

Trade with the Arabs continued and one of the trading items was Arabian horses!

The conquest by Ikhtiyr al-Din Muhammad Bakhtiyār, a Turk from the Khalij tribe, in early 13th century was not the first contact with Muslims in the region. The story goes, when Bakhtiyar appeared before the gates of Nawdia, the capital of the Sena dynasty of Bengal, with only eighteen horsemen, the people guarding the gates of the city mistook them for a party of Muslim horse traders and opened the gates. This certainly suggests that Muslim horse traders were a familiar sight in Bengal before the conquest.

The Salafi movement started in the 13th century by Ibn Taymiyya the grandson of Imam Hanbal (of Hanbali jurisprudence), which has now broken up into over 150 groups on various differences including supporting and opposing suicide bombings!

Haji Shariatullah and his Faraizi movement was like a passing shower which dissipated soon after the death of his son Dudu Mian! Instead, the likes of Nawab Abdul Latif, coincidentally from Faridpur also as Haji Shariatullah, came up with developed ideas following the ideology of Sir Syyid Ahem of Aligarh University. Disillusioned with the pitiful social, political, economic and intellectual condition of the Indian Muslims at the time, Sir Sayyid argued that the Muslims had no choice but to cooperate with the ruling British authorities to enhance their political standing and, at the same time, pursue modern education and learning (especially that of modern science, philosophy and technology) in order to reinvigorate Islamic thought and thereby improve the existential condition of the Indian Muslims.

Such a reformist approach to Islamic thought was shared and successfully implemented by Nawab Abdul Latif in Bengal, who is today widely considered to be the father of Islamic modernism and re-awakening in Bengal!

So it would be erroneous to conclude that "Salafists have been part of the Bengali Muslim story since at least as long as Salafism has been around," as the author propounds!

Nabil Ahsan

I wonder why the author brought into focus the incidents of terrorism from 2001 onward. The discussion that followed is more of a discussion of jurisprudence. The introductory paragraph, when read in context, however, leads one to conclude that “Salafis” are terrorists. This I believe is not an accurate presentation of facts. On the contrary, the more relevant discussion in connection with terrorism would have been the developments in the Arab world during the tyranny of Arab leaders who in guise of introducing secularism engaged in widespread uprooting of oppression of Islamic clerics. This was perceived as a threat to Islam, the reason why most Islamists in the Muslim region are suspicious of western secularism. This lead to the development of radical ideas of anarchy, those inspired to some extent by Syed Qutb and adopted by Iman Al-Zawahiri, the mentor of the infamous bin Laden. The 19th century is the era of discussion if one wants to find the root cause of terrorism in the Muslim community. The “Salafi Jurisprudence” while it may be criticised on a number of grounds should nonetheless be equated with terrorism per se.


Nabil Ahsan: Thank you for your considered comment; you raise some good points. Sadly, the conclusion that Salafists are engaged in terrorism, given that Al Qaeda, the Taliban and even our domestic JMB and Huji are Salafists, is inevitable. I'm aware of the fact that others, such as Hizb-ut- Tahrir are not, but one wonders if it’s not just a matter of time. But the reason for listing those attacks was not because I wanted to make a connection between terrorism and Salafism, but because I wanted to show that some of the 13 demands in Hefazat's charter have been raised before, albeit violently.

Regarding your questions about the causes of terrorism: I have in fact attempted to establish the link between colonisation, oppression, marginalisation and reactionary violence, from the 13th century up to the 19th. I have also shown how imprisoning or persecuting clerics can aggravate the situation.

Hope that helps.

 Also I wouldn't call Salafism a jurisprudence. I call it an ideology. That's my modest opinion.


The author does not explain why the Salafist movement, whose roots he traces back to the Hanbali madhab, should find a footing in our Qawmi madrasas which, to the best of my (albeit, very limited) knowledge, overwhelmingly subscribe to the Hanafi madhab.

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