Karmatism is a heretical esoteric sect founded by Hamdan ibn Karmat in the ninth century AD. Hamdan took advantage of the poverty of people and was influential, especially in Iraq and its periphery, voicing “collective property” and claiming shares from the rich. These people may have appeared religious on the outside, however, they had an economic theory, political zeal and objectives. They attempted to rebel against the Abbasid caliphate, gathering forces around them, and they tortured Muslims of the Sunni path for years, martyring many. They ambushed pilgrims on their way to the hajj, attacked the sacred city of Makka, and they even stole the Hajar al-Aswad from the Ka’ba and took it to Basra.
Not accepting marriage as an institution, Karmatis named forbidden acts as being “fine arts.” They treated women as collective property and led the youth astray through prostitution, the legitimization of drinking wine and alcoholic drinks, and made every kind of indulgence lawful. In short, enslaved by their carnal desires and aspirations the Karmatis designed a religion of their own; they labeled anyone who did not follow their way as being “hell-bound,” and thus managed to fabricate disunity for a long time. In one sense, they can be seen to be the anarchists or nihilists of their time.
The Kharijites were another heterodox faction which blamed Caliph ‘Ali, first for conceding to arbitration and accepting the treaty at the Battle of Siffin and second for not handing over the caliphate to Muawiya and thus being guilty of a “grievous sin.” They declared all others who did not think likewise-including the Companions of the Prophet-infidels. Although they apparently believed in Islam, their vision was narrow and deprived of sound thinking. Action always took precedence over knowledge and learning for them; they were subsequently dragged into bigotry, hostility, and intolerance, getting mired in harshness, violence, and crudity. They were distracted by their slogans and action, which they had turned into a religion shaped by their rioting and restless character. They were motivated, not by knowledge, but by slogans, enthusiasm, and reactionary mood. Perhaps they read the Qur’an time after time, but it was a literal reading and they always opposed any interpretation other than theirs. They regarded those who thought otherwise as infidels whom were to be obliterated; they were cruel and tyrannical without a single drop of mercy.
Today, we have seen some people who behave like modern Karmatis and Kharijites, obstructing endeavors for dialogue and understanding, disrupting the dreams of peace and friendship. They too call themselves Muslims; yet, they have attacked the religion from some esoteric approach, replacing it instead with their own passions and thrills. Some others, entrapped in bigotry, have construed the literal meaning of the Qur’an and the hadith as the only primary essentials, sharpening their blades of hatred and hostility against other Muslims. A subgroup within them has adopted a deep esoteric understanding, considering themselves as having attained a transcendental existence, and look down on other Muslims. Still others, however, have blindly adhered to overt divine commandments (nass) with no effort whatsoever to use their mind to interpret them. They have been deprived of any proper techniques of teaching faith or of understanding others; they have no code of conduct, good morals, or respect. What all of these people have done was to start the fire of disunity and to fan the movement of tolerance.
These two groups were later joined by a third: anarchist souls. The Karmati zeal and the Kharijite restlessness pushed some Muslims into the web of terrorists, causing them to be involved with chaos, threatening and even murdering people. Whatever the motive was, be it national or religious, some imprudent individuals were manipulated by some dark power sources. They were denied the slightest share of religion by their actions; yet they committed murders on behalf of it, and handed over their trump card to those who were already standing opposed to religion.
Anarchists legitimized the actions of some tyrants against Muslims. They came into being as rebels against the state, and they refused to recognize democracy or the secular system. The natural outcome of such a situation was that the state used it as an excuse to suppress such insurgences. In the meantime, obscure suspicions were construed as actual incidents and many innocent people were hurt on the false grounds that “there is a possibility that they may be dangerous.” In Islam there are no suicide bombers. All throughout history Islam has never issued permission to the murder of innocent people; this is out of the question. However, as a consequence of the actions of some people, people similar to the Karmatis and Kharijites, who have been deceived or manipulated by drugs or in some other way, many other innocents have been defamed, and pristine face of Islam has been tarnished. Muslims, the representatives of submission to God and security, have been depicted as potential terrorists.
Two factors can be listed which aggravate the issue: the first is the fury, coercion, and determination of the tyrants; the second is the actions and conduct of some imprudent people which substantiate the cause of the tyrants.
Throughout the process, the greatest harmed have been those in the middle, those in doubt and hesitation. They have observed what has been going on, and seeing in the front those anarchist souls, nihilists, and a few Karmatis and Kharijites, they thought “they have done far too much, they deserve punishment.” In this way, they have endorsed the coercive operations of the tyrants, perceiving them as being carried out in defense of the system. Moreover, those in the administration either then deliberately overlooked all that was happening, or were incapable of comprehending the true extent of things. Those people who hesitated in the middle were overwhelmed by their doubts and consented to the deterioration of the atmosphere of tolerance and to the hands that had been extended for peace being pulled back.
It is also important to note that it is always easier to inflict damage; damage can be influential, even if it is apparently small in size or carried out by only a few. Destruction is easy. Libeling, lying, slandering can always be done very easily by a few hired writers. Many people, as well as many institutions, have been defamed in this way. They have even organized slander campaigns concealed by the so-called “freedom of press.” These campaigns were always brought to a court of law to be refuted and compensated; however, these trials lasted months and a verdict was reached at a much later date. The evil intentions had already been fulfilled, leaving behind tainted images in some minds.
A small marginal minority which was unsatisfied with everything was behind all this wickedness. They believed in a kind of caste system in which they formed the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth of Divine Existence, whereas the rest of the people were made the fingernails, or in the words of Necip Fazil, they were simply pariahs. If something good were to take place, it was surely accomplished only by them; if any achievement were made, it was certainly them who were to be associated with it. How is it possible that religious people are first to be remembered when dialogue and tolerance are mentioned? How can it be that Muslims are in the forefront of education? This is not possible, it should be these others who are being appreciated for these activities, as they form the eyes and ears, not those whose essence is fingernail. You may call them a marginal group or an oligarchic minority, these arrogant people damaged extensively the peaceful aura that could have surrounded us; what they did was destructive.
Karmati zeal, Kharijite thought, and the anarchist mood have been seen in the past, and they can reappear at any time. As long as people of faith can recover and have an opportunity to express themselves, take a stand in favor of dialogue and understanding, voice peace everywhere and to everyone, surely there will be some others who will be disturbed by them. Perhaps we should ask them this question: “People of faith act upon certain principles and their numbers constantly grow as they are welcomed by everyone; why don’t you use your own arguments of unbelief so that you may grow in number too? You are not appreciated by the society. You have to reach such a level that you are countable, inspire confidence, and become beloved so that you may be welcomed.”
I would prefer not to have mentioned these three groups of evil people, especially as we are experiencing the blissful month of Ramadan. The mention of evil blockades mercy; thus, talking about these people breathing evil may prevent the divine mercy pouring down upon us these days. To ensure that these blessings are continued perhaps we should always speak about the good-doers and take action for the good. I was inspired by the recent fast-breaking dinners of representatives of many different thoughts dedicated to tolerance, each holding each other’s hand, exchanging glances; no more are their looks of “the other.” I wish some people had not sabotaged such activities in the past, that they did not take on hostility and could embrace these gatherings with good intentions; I wish they could at least respond to those hands extended for peace, by holding out an olive branch.
Everyone shows their true character. We are also supposed to continue showing our true character. Our path is that on which we are inspired with faith in God and on which we take positive action. Our duty is to invite others for “conversations about the Beloved for another hour,” as the Companions would do, and in that way to reinforce our faith and to enthusiastically walk, making the truths of belief accessible to others . . . it does not matter what some other people say or do.
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