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Typing error that gave rise to militancy

By Mohamed Guleid

gulleidI heard them (the terrorists) repeatedly telling the Muslims to move to one side, said Cynthia Jerotich, the face of triumph in the Garissa attack, while non- Muslims were asked to go to the other side.

A teary Jerotich narrated at the Garissa Hospital that the heavy gunshots that followed was a sure indication that those who professed another faith other than Islam had been executed in cold blood. Their only mistake was not belonging to Islam.

The concept of political Islam has become a major security issue and as demonstrated in the Garissa attack, those who carry out the slaughter seem to do it in the name of Islam.

In his book, The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington, a neo-conservative American political scientist argues that the axis of conflict in the future will centre on culture and religion. He speaks about the clash between the East and Western hemisphere.

The most pronounced aspect of this conflict is the rise of the Islamic Salafist movements that laid the ground for the August 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and the September 11 in the US.

Huntington’s thesis was written way before the September 11 attacks and before the war in Afghanistan christened the War on Terror. His predictions were quite prophetic.

Indeed, the world seems to be at war with a religious thinking that was hitherto never known.

Many of the militant groups like Al Shabbab that claim to profess the Islamic faith have baffled most Muslims. They seem to crave for blood and are willing to even kill Muslims who stand in their way as happens in Mogadishu and Iraq. They never seek out Christians from Muslims there.

And this warped thinking and the quest to annihilate other religions has got many Islamic scholars especially thinking. Two years ago, a group of eminent Muslim scholars led by a Mauritanian, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bay met in the Turkish city of Mardin.

The purpose was to debunk some of the myths held by a section of Muslims who hold extreme views regarding when and against whom jihad (Muslim Holy war) can be carried out.

The most popular evidence that some extreme Muslim organisation including Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabbab and now ISIS in Iraq and Syria is based on a religious fatwa (religious decree) was thus “discovered”.

By far, the worst and most deadly typing error in history is that of the Mardin fatwa written originally by Ibn Taymiyya (d 1328) from Turkey. The error happened centuries after the original fatwa was written.

Sheikh Abdalla bin Bayyah discovered that an attempt to reprint the Mardin Fatwa led to a typing error which now has become the most devastating aspect that militants use to justify killing and maiming innocent people.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Muslim scholars reprinted the Ibn Taymiyah’s fatwa, but with serious typos. Two words particularly have brought this confusion. The written Arabic can be very confusing. Many of the letters look alike and are differentiated by phonetic signs. For example, the letter ‘Q’ in Arabic and the letter ‘F’ are written alike.

The only difference is that the letter ‘Q’ has two dots on top while the ‘F’ has only one dot. If the dots are omitted, the two letters change to the letter ‘M’, consequently the meaning of the whole sentence is changed. The two words that brought confusion in Ibn Taymiyahs fatwa are the Arabic words (yu’?mal” and “yuq?tal”.

The meaning of the two words are “yu’?mal” (meaning should be treated), but the word was rendered “yuq?tal” (meaning should be fought) in subsequent printings. This typographical error changes the meaning of the phrase drastically.

The fatwa that looked benign all along changed the tone in the end when the letter ‘M’ was changed to the letter ‘Q’ which gave fatwa a whole new meaning, with the deadly consequences that have been brought on the world today.

The investigator who unearthed the Mardin Fatwa error, Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, the distinguished Mauritanian scholar, tracked down the oldest written version of the fatwa from the Asad Library in Damascus, and it is no coincidence he is the one scholar who is currently presenting wise counsel in this very difficult time.

The fatwa addressed a number of issues regarding how Muslim inhabitants of Turkey, which at that time was occupied by the Mongolians (perceived then as infidels) should react to the occupation.

Sheikh Abdalla bin Bayyah discovered that an attempt to reprint the Mardin Fatwa led to a typing error which now has become the most devastating aspect that militants use to justify killing and maiming innocent people.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Muslim scholars reprinted the Ibn Taymiyah’s fatwa, but with serious typos. Two words particularly have brought this confusion. The written Arabic can be very confusing. Many of the letters look alike and are differentiated by phonetic signs. For example, the letter ‘Q’ in Arabic and the letter ‘F’ are written alike.

The only difference is that the letter ‘Q’ has two dots on top while the ‘F’ has only one dot. If the dots are omitted, the two letters change to the letter ‘M’, consequently the meaning of the whole sentence is changed. The two words that brought confusion in Ibn Taymiyahs fatwa are the Arabic words (yu’?mal” and “yuq?tal”.

The meaning of the two words are “yu’?mal” (meaning should be treated), but the word was rendered “yuq?tal” (meaning should be fought) in subsequent printings. This typographical error changes the meaning of the phrase drastically.

The fatwa that looked benign all along changed the tone in the end when the letter ‘M’ was changed to the letter ‘Q’ which gave fatwa a whole new meaning, with the deadly consequences that have been brought on the world today.

The investigator who unearthed the Mardin Fatwa error, Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, the distinguished Mauritanian scholar, tracked down the oldest written version of the fatwa from the Asad Library in Damascus, and it is no coincidence he is the one scholar who is currently presenting wise counsel in this very difficult time.

The fatwa addressed a number of issues regarding how Muslim inhabitants of Turkey, which at that time was occupied by the Mongolians (perceived then as infidels) should react to the occupation.

The discovery of this typographical error is a welcome development as far as understanding the psychic of the extreme groups.

It is also very important so that non-Muslim communities can take note of this confusion and understand that most mainstream Muslims are equally baffled by the extremist views these organisations hold.

Certainly, no one has thought a letter interchanged with another could have such a profound impact on relationships between nations and religions around the world. This matter of course needs not only more publicity, but also further research.

At the very least, the discovery might bring more understanding and reconciliation between the West and the East.

And also so that the theory brought forward by Huntington can be disapproved.

 

The writer is the Deputy Governor, Isiolo County

 

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Post source : The Standardard

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