This review of the fatwa is being written because I've heard all kinds of speculation concerning Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul- Qadri's religious decree (fatwa) on terrorism and suicide bombings that was issued and released in 2010. But there's a lot that the speculators have neglected to mention.
It is important to note that the fatwa comes from a source that is likely to be considered authoritative by large numbers of Sunni Muslims. Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri appears to be well merited with his studies and tutelage in classical Islam under various eminent scholars. He has received around 500 authorities and chains of transmission from famous scholars in the Muslim world in hadith and classical and spiritual sciences. Dr. Qadri also has a modern academic education in Islamic law through to the level of a doctorate, is a leading jurist in Pakistan, and has a presence on Pakistani cable television. He is also known outside of Pakistan due to his educational work.
The fatwa's contents and argument include many citations of Islamic sources in Qur'an and hadith references, as well as the repeated opinions of notable Muslims. This reaches well beyond 400 pages of text and selections of its contents can only be described in a cursory way in this short article. At its fundamental root and core, Islam is a religion of peace: a Muslim is the one who embodies peace, sanctity and protection for all the whole of mankind. If these are followed by a believer, Islam in its wider perspective is a religion that ensures peace and security for everyone at all levels, individually and collectively. Dr. Qadri provides a larger perspective and scope on the meaning of the religion in toto, its fundamental purpose and end results, none of which are consistent with terror.
The fatwa also has material with relevance to Islam and pluralism. Dr. Qadri presents Qur'an and hadith selections that argue indiscriminately killing Muslims is unlawful. This is clear. However, he also presents Qur'an and hadith selections with convincing arguments that terrorism against non-Muslims is unlawful. Dr. Qadri opines that the conduct of today's terrorists defaces the 1400-year history of Islam's excellent treatment of non-Muslim citizens and the acts of terrorism committed today do not champion the cause of Islam, rather they malign its good name. Dr. Qadri also describes that religious freedom is given to non-Muslims in Islam and that Islamic government is not to interfere in their religious affairs: Islam grants non-Muslim citizens of Islamic lands safeguards for their places of worship and for complete freedom to practice their religions without any interference. Dr. Qadri argues that there are established legal maxims about protecting non-Muslim citizens in an Islamic state. Terror and compulsion in religion vis a vis non-Muslims is to be seen as clearly not the norm in Islam. Peace and tolerance would rather be the norm.
Qadri opines that, the problem of terrorism has been bringing the Muslim umma and Pakistan in particular into disrepute, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims opposes and condemns terrorism in unequivocal terms. He opposes the faulty logic of the perpetrators of terror. The danger facing Muslims is one of more foreign interference and pressure on Muslim nation-states, as well as pushing humanity towards interfaith antagonism at the global level, reducing the possibilities of peace, tolerance and mutual coexistence. Supposedly good intentions, referenced by terrorists, do not make vices into virtues. It is within this understanding and context that Dr. Qadri's interpretation of Qur'anic and hadith selections are important in showing how mainstream Islam wants nothing to do with this extremism.
Dr. Qadri also offers a final short chapter describing the peaceful method of struggle in an Islamic state, this being the proper way of facing corruption in a Muslim state. This can be done politically and democratically as a struggle against injustice and oppression. Rebellion is unlawful. Dr. Qadri describes a number of peaceful means and ways to expose injustice and oppression of unjust rulers in a Muslim society.
Muslims in non-Muslim societies are duty-bound to obey the laws of the land as long as the laws do not entail disobedience to God and that they contribute to the well-being of society at large. It is forbidden to violate the law, foment sedition, or otherwise harm peaceful citizens. Dr. Qadri ends with an interpretation of one hadith that Islam does not teach us a binary, black-or-white view of things, where others are either completely "good" and "Islamic" or "bad" and "un-Islamic." The end result would appear to be a religion fully consistent with societal harmony and good relations amongst Muslims and others, solving its own problems in a highly civilized manner, this including the political discourse.
The contents of the fatwa may be considered a major reference work to be drawn upon for a good understanding of Islam and its abhorrence of terror done in the name of Islam. It should appeal to Muslims in minority situations interested in opposing terror as well as to Muslims in the Muslim world interested in opposing terror and ultimately in building consensus in their own country.
For all those wondering about who's really behind the fatwa, they may have overlooked the obvious. Certain South Asian Sufis are known for making being very nice a fine art form, analogous to Islamic calligraphy or Islamic architecture. Dr. Qadri may be quietly fostering this South Asian Sufi tradition of being very nice and fostering its expansion internationally. Promoting Islam as a religion of peace would be consistent with that agenda.
I gratefully acknowledge permissions: this article draws on my previous work "A Review of Shaykh ul-Islam Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri's Recent Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings: The Contemporary Importance and Relevance of the Fatwa for Pakistan," The Journal of Rotterdam Islamic and Social Sciences, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2011, pp.149-160. Islamic University of Rotterdam, Netherlands. This article also draws on material from Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, "Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings," (London, UK, Minhaj ul-Qur'an International) 2010 www.minhajpublications.com.