Idealism or radicalism? Understanding the reaction of some British Muslims in the context of current national and international events.
Existing concerns about young British Muslims travelling to and fighting in Syria and Iraq – especially for the so-called Islamic State/IS – need to be examined without the alarmist and knee-jerk reactions witnessed among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The situation is a serious one and while many so-called experts and think tanks are keen to talk about the challenges faced, few if any are able to provide practical solutions let alone contexts or understandings of the problem.
I intend to look at some of the pressing issues based on practical experience and knowledge relating to factors affecting some of our brothers and sisters who – like many of us – have legitimate concerns about the plight of Muslims in Syria, Iraq and a number of other countries.
First however, we need to examine the developmental stages and understandings of those who have travelled abroad. Many of the interviews with these brothers and sisters illustrate a youthfulness and zeal for the religion. Their noble intentions to help the oppressed Muslims are supported by Quranic verses and hadeeth – all authentic – but the context among which these texts are applied is where the obscurity lies.
Ibn Umar narrated from the Prophet:
‘For every action there is a period of enthusiasm /activity and for every period of enthusiasm / activity there is a period of rest / inactivity. So he whose period of rest / inactivity is in accordance with my Sunnah then he is rightly guided, but he whose period of rest accords with other than this, then he is destroyed.’ 
If we consider the stages of religious development among the younger brothers and sisters – including converts – there is a cognitive stage of awareness about the religion followed by an idealism to practice and address the problems facing the ummah. These are crucial stages of development where their religious – and often political – influences are shaped
If we begin to understand the factors that affect these stages of development in young Muslims’ and/or converts’ lives, we can be more proactive in addressing the challenges that threaten to adversely radicalise them.
1st Factor: Lack of religious knowledge and/or understanding of contexts within which such knowledge is applied.
- Providing Quranic and prophetic narrations almost as mantras without a comprehensive understanding or context of their applicability and;
- A suspicion or denigration of bona fide scholars as well as a lack of reference to reliable religious authorities. Sticking with this point, we see what one of the Salaf (pious predecessors), Ayyoob as-Sakhtiyaanee said:
“From the success of a youth or non-Arab is that Allah guides him to a scholar of the Sunnah.”
Also, from Ibn Shawdhab:
“From Allah’s blessings upon a youth when he turns to worship is that he is given a brother who is a follower of the Sunnah and encouraging him upon it.” 
2nd factor: Politicisation due to foreign policy and the perceived oppression against Muslims.
There are many examples that can be cited where double standards in how Muslims and other faiths are dealt with, the most recent being the Gaza conflict and massacre of innocent women and children visa viz western assistance to the Yazidis as a minority in Iraq who faced the brutality of IS.
Examples like these continue to be a radicalising factor which western governments like ours (in the UK) continue to ignore or reject…
When many, including non-Muslims, see these inconsistencies, they resort to other methods where they can actually do something themselves – regardless of whether their society considers it correct or otherwise. We only have to look at the actions of few individuals in context to understand how this politicisation due to perceived double standards of governments, as well as the perceived oppression of predominantly Muslim societies, causes some to react violently.
We must be balanced, upon the Sunnah, avoiding the extremes of the Muslims, remembering what Allah’s Messenger said;
“O you people, beware of being extreme and exceeding the limits in the religion, for that which destroyed the people before you was none other than extremism in the religion.” He also said; “The extremists are destroyed, the extremists are destroyed, the extremists are destroyed.”
It is important for us to exemplify what Sheikul Islam Ibn Taymeeyah said about us as Muslims:
“Ahl Us Sunnah wal-Jama’aah follow the Book (Quran) and the Sunnah, obey Allaah and His Messenger; they follow the truth and are merciful to the creation.”
 Reported by Ahmad (2/188 and 210) and others with an authentic chain of narration.
 Reported by al-Laalikaa’ee in Sharh Usoolis Sunnah (no.30) and Ibnul Jawzee (p.18) – graded Hasan
 Reported by al-Laalikaa’ee in Sharh Usoolis Sunnah (no.31) and Ibnul Jawzee (p.18) – graded Hasan
 Taken from Shaikh ibn Baz’s collection of fatawa regarding dawah.
 Qaa’idah Ahl Us-Sunnah wal-Jama’aah fee Rahmati Ahlil-Bida’ wal Ma’aasee. p.5
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