Informed: Taliban way of thinking


“The Taliban don’t oppose women’s education per se, they just oppose a Western, secular education for ANY Muslim. In addition, I understand that the Taliban justified the shooting [of Malala Yusufzai] using the Khidr reference from Surah 18 (The Cave) i.e. people with superior spiritual discernment can murder disobedient children who will only spread mayhem in the community if allowed to live.”

A reader of my blog posted the above comment on my website. I thank him for the information. His efforts attest to the virtues of crowd sourcing. The correspondence informed me how the Pakistan Taliban-think. I am, of course, generously assuming that the word ‘think’ has a place in the scorched-earth vocabulary of the Taliban. What scares me is how a twisted theology fuels their frenzy of maiming and murdering anyone who disagrees with their ideology and version of Islam. The Pakistani Taliban and their Afghan counterparts have destroyed secular schools, especially women’s schools and killed many young women, the most recent being the attempt on the life of education activist in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala Yusufzai.

Here is the twisted theology of the Taliban, whose conduct truly tarnishes the image and reputation of Islam. The Qur’an has an allegorical story about an episode in the life of the Prophet Moses and his encounter with a mysterious figure called, Khidhr, the Evergeen One. Khidhr is famed for trying to teach Moses the hidden meaning of things in the world. Things have an obvious meaning and a more mysterious account. Only God and those whom God had entrusted with the mysterious meanings of things can grasp things beyond the apparent. Even prophets deputed by God do not have access to such insights. Therefore, Khidhr is unique in the world and plays an allegorical role; nothing he says can be taken literally. Even the Prophet Muhammad did not claim Khidhr-like powers and he always played by the rules. Moses too was outraged by the conduct of Khidhr and finally parted ways with the Evergreen One.

What angered Moses is that Khidhr fixed a wall belonging to a community who refused to feed the two of them; then he sank a boat belonging to owners who gave them a ride and finally, he also killed a youth. All these events outraged Moses. Khidhr then disclosed to Moses that his actions were not without reason and provided explanations. He fixed the wall, he said, because a treasure belonging to underaged kids was buried there and they were not ready to receive it; the boat, he said, was to be confiscated by a tyrant king on the other shore therefore sinking it was a way to preserve it for its owners who could later dredge it for their use. And the youth, explained, was killed because he would adopt unbelief in adulthood, a prospect that would make his parents grieve and cause them pain. Hence, pre-emptive killing!

Khidhr serves as the omniscient eye of the Divine. But the things he talks about, are matters we do not understand and points to the mysterious ways in which the Divine acts in the world. That is the moral of the story: humility in the face of Divine omniscience and power. No one is required to imitate Khidhr in his acts. Instead, we are taught to be like Moses and be outraged by such unlawful conduct and part ways with folk like Khidhr.

Never in all of Islamic history has any theologian or jurist ever justified pre-emptive actions or deeds like killing someone without justifiable reason or confiscating property unlawfully from others. Anyone doing so will experience the full lash of the law. Anyone who claims to know what will definitively happen tomorrow already inhabits a dubious theological status. Anyone who kills someone today because he or she knows such a person is going to kill someone or hurt someone tomorrow is nothing but a despicable murderer.

So the Taliban claim to have superior spiritual insight? So they claim to be Khidhr-like? When did God announce that these miscreants are His emissaries? Who anointed them? If this is what they believe and how they justify their actions, then Muslims have an entire cabinet of theological verdicts to highlight their blasphemy.

A mysterious account in the Qur’an, described as the allegorical verses have been put in service of an evil cause. Many murderers hear voices in their heads and say that they were driven by these voice to commit their craven acts. This is just another crazed account of murderers wrapped in the language of Islamic theology. I trust that the people of Pakistan and elsewhere will see through this twisted ruse of using a Qur’anic story to justify the murder of innocents. These Taliban are not Khidhr, they are crazy.

About ebrahimmoosa

Professor of Religion & Islamic Studies, Department of Religion, Duke University, North Carolina, USA
This entry was posted in Ethics, Muslim Ethics, Pakistan, South Asia and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Informed: Taliban way of thinking

  1. nmr says:

    Ran across this, an exercise in translating the name of an extremist group in northern Africa. Again, the emphasis is on opposition to Western education/values/culture: http://sahelblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/boko-haram-whats-in-a-name/

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