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Exploiting religion for political purposes has never been a good idea

February 27, 2020 at 9:29 am

Dar Al-Iftaa in Cairo, Egypt [Wikipedia]

Nothing is worse than having “scholars of the Pharaoh”, who employ religion in the service of politics in order to lend religious legitimacy to man-made political regimes. And there is nothing uglier than a scholar or a sheikh who issues religious opinions (“fatwas”) on a political basis, according to the diktats of the security services in his country and not according to the Divine teachings of the religion that he claims to embrace.

One of the Pharaoh’s scholars appeared on social networks recently with a religious fatwa prohibiting public chants in support of Al-Aqsa Mosque; the scholar also attacked Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He said that what a number of Turkish pilgrims did inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah, when they chanted in support of Al-Aqsa Mosque and condemned the Israeli occupation, was nothing but a forbidden act.

The same sheikh has not issued any fatwas prohibiting the killing of innocent children and civilians in Yemen and Libya. He has not spoken about the detention of more than 60,000 Muslims in another Arab country or about the killing and dismemberment of a journalist by an allied state.

All of this is permissible in the religion embraced by the sheikh, but chanting for Al-Aqsa Mosque while walking briskly between Safa and Marwah in Makkah is forbidden. Likewise the killing of children, about which he keeps quiet, but if you ask him about songs and music, he will not hesitate to say that they are “haram”.

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Similarly, as far as this sheikh and his ilk are concerned, adultery is permissible if the ruler commits it. However, they still prohibit men from shaking hands with women, talking to them or mixing with them. Illicit intimacy is allowed, as long as it is not the ordinary poor people who are involved.

Scholars of the many pharaohs in the Arab world are strange creatures. They do not hesitate to issue a religious fatwa and then issue fatwas that are the opposite of their original fatwas a few years later, as if Islam changes at the beginning of each year, or with the change of the regime.

Arab normalisation with Israel

Israel attacks Al-Aqsa Mosque with the help of Arab nations – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Fighting in Syria against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, according to the Pharaoh’s scholars, was commendable jihad until 2016, after which, and without warning, it became terrorism. No one can understand when the fighting is jihad and when it becomes terrorism unless they understand the political position of the country to which that fraud sheikh belongs, because in such cases, the terrorist is anyone who opposes the political regime that the sheikh is affiliated with.

Scholars of the pharaohs are not a new phenomenon, just as the use of religion in politics is not new. Since the Umayyad period (661-1031) and throughout Arab and Islamic history, this phenomenon has existed. The thing that distinguishes the stage in which we live today is the immorality characterised in the hypocrisy towards the ruler and his political regime.

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Moreover, pharaonic scholars have become more exposed these days thanks to social media. With fatwas and opinions shared and accessible online, old and new opinions on the same topic can still be viewed and compared, revealing possible contradictions and giving us an insight into how fatwas can be issued according to instructions from the Pharaoh and not religious texts.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is reported to have said, “If you see a scholar trying to get close to the Sultan, you must know that he is a hypocrite.” Today, however, we find scholars who not only try to get close to rulers, but rather take orders from them and issue their fatwas based on the rulers’ wishes. They receive money from their pharaohs as a price for their fatwas which lend an air of legitimacy to the regime, which is why we see fatwas being issued which are wrapped in politics and have nothing to do with religion. Exploiting religion for political purposes has never been a good idea, but it is prevalent today.

Translated from Thenewkhalij, 25 February 2020

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.