SPECIAL REPORT “Martyrs will be rewarded with 72 virgins in paradise.” This has been the oft-used concept to encourage Muslim men to carry out various activities, including terrorism, which has been perceived by some as a way to achieve martyrdom.
Although the Quran states that all Muslim males, and not just martyrs, will be rewarded with virgins, there is also the ‘hasan’ (good) hadith (report on sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) that refers to the “72 virgins” concept as one of the rewards for the martyr, leading many to be further enticed by this belief.
This is the reason why former army colonel Abdul Manaf Kasmuri – who has experience working in many war-torn countries – believes that it is important to tackle ideologies held on by militants.
“The ‘72 virgins’ concept is very attractive to these people,” Abdul Manaf said in an interview with Malaysiakini.
Abdul Manaf was detained under the now-defunct Internal Security Act (ISA) in February 2003 for his purported involvement with the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiah.
However, the police failed to link him with al-Qaeda and he was released, in October 2006.
The army veteran has consistently denied his involvement with terror groups.
Although Abdul Manaf said he was never part of any militant group, he has seen, first-hand, how ideologies were, most of the time, attractive to many.
“These people believe that Muslims are oppressed. So they believe that they should join groups to get even with oppressors.
“But these people are ignorant. If not, they would not have been influenced,” he said.
Concern over IS attacks
Expressing concern about possible attacks in the country by terror group Islamic State (IS), Abdul Manaf said this could happen as anything based on a particular ideology would take a very long time to be kept at bay.
“Take the communists, for example. How long did we fight them? We had to handle their ideologies, components as well as their mass support,” he said.
Although Abdul Manaf believes that no large-scale attacks would be launched by IS due to its financial constraints, the terror group might have plans to ensure that Malaysia submits itself to the group.
And all these would be made possible through the spread of ideologies and violence, he said.
However, the army veteran is confident that this would be something that can be controlled by the Malaysian government.
“If we can curtail, control and eliminate communism, then we can do this. It is now only in the start, so we should nip it in the bud.”
Military veterans, he said, would not even mind joining in this fight, should their services be needed.
“The ones with experience fighting the communists are our group, people my age,” said the 61-year-old.
Explaining further about IS, which continuously stresses its aim to establish a ‘daulah Islamiyah’ (Islamic state), Abdul Manaf said this means that the ‘khalifah’ (leader) has the absolute power to order everyone to pledge allegiance to them.
“If you refuse to do so, you are considered ‘kafir’ (unbeliever). You are either with them or not.
“Can you imagine if this thing is done here? That’s why IS and al-Qaeda are very dangerous,” he cautioned.
Some Malaysians, he said, have been radicalised due to the lack of understanding on fatwa (Islamic law or ruling) by Islamic scholars, like Ibnu Taimiyyah.
“Ibnu Taimiyyah’s fatwa on jihad (a war or struggle against unbelievers) is that nobody should sit down and not do anything when a jihad is happening somewhere else, that you must participate in.
“(But) this fatwa is meant for his time (and) now it has been brought down here, without proper understanding.”
Abdul Manaf said his firm hold on the Shafie school of thought was one of the reasons why he is here today.
“Followers of (conservative movements) ‘salafiah’ and ‘jihadiah’ hate my guts.
“When I was arrested in 2003, they (the authorities) asked for my advice. I said they should tackle these kinds of ideologies.
“Back then they didn’t understand it. I told them this in 2003, and look at what is happening now,” said Abdul Manaf who believes that followers of the salafi and jihadi movements are the ones responsible for influencing Muslims to join terror groups.
Experience in Bosnia
Citing his experience in Bosnia, Abdul Manaf said many were attracted to the cause of al-Qaeda as they wanted to do ‘jihad’.
“Most of them were young, they wanted to be heroes,” he said.
He cited an acquaintance who had previously “done everything under the sun”, leaving behind everything and upon returning, told everyone that they were not good Muslims.
“(He said that) others were not good Muslims, that they are ‘murtad’ (apostate) and should be killed.
“In one month, he thought that he had become an ulama (Islamic scholar) already. These kind of people turn out as such because they read the Quran and Hadith literally,” Abdul Manaf said.
Jihad, which is a form of spiritual struggle, he stressed, is something that should not be tainted.
He had always ensured that women and children are removed from a particular area of combat before an attack is launched, said Abdul Manaf, recalling his time in Bosnia.
“If we see (even) one or two children, we abstain from attacking the area.”
And this is definitely a huge contrast from the way of IS.
“Now, it’s like a Hollywood movie kind of style – slaughter here, slaughter there. We don’t do that,” said Abdul Manaf, in reference to the terror group’s various video clips showing hostages being beheaded.
‘Shun ideological jihad’
So Abdul Manaf’s advice to those who plan to do jihad is this – do not get involved with ideological jihad.
“Jihad is very special. Its mission, objectives, geographical locations are limited and the reason is specific,” he said.
Jihad, added Abdul Manaf, is supposed to be ‘rahmat’ (blessing) to humankind.
“(It’s about) saving people from destruction. If it’s related to violence, it’s not jihad.”
Jihad involving war that sees killings done should not be seen as an act being done for pleasure, he added.
“I remember when we attacked the Serbs. After they were killed, I looked at them; I was not proud of it at all.
“They are human beings,” said Abdul Manaf, choking back on his tears.
As such, a particular jihad should be a genuine one, he further stressed.
“It’s not about wanting to be a hero. We are based on a school of thought, just stick to that.”
This is the reason why he is of the opinion that nothing about IS is Islamic and whoever that created the group had a very different idea of doing things.
“They want to show the world that Islam is cruel and make sure that people are afraid of syariah law.
“And then people will ask, ‘is this Islam’? But syariah law is not like that,” he said.
Hudud, he stressed, was not all about “chopping off hands” and should only be implemented when everyone has food on the table.
“If people are still jobless and there is not enough food, then there will be no hudud,” he said.
The PAS member, therefore, envisions an ideal Malaysia according to the PAS way of doing things.
‘Islam blessings for whole world’
Non-Muslims, he said, should not worry as Islam is ‘rahmatan lil alamin’ (blessings for the whole world).
“If Islam doesn’t show compassion, then it’s not Islam,” he said.
To illustrate this, Abdul Manaf cited a case involving a hit-and-run incident that is judged according to civil law.
“If you hit someone, you get charged and then fined. But what happens to the widow and children?
“Islam doesn’t work that way. When you are charged, you should pay ‘diat’ (blood money), if you cannot pay, then the government should pay. That’s Islam.”
Lamenting on the focus on chopping off limbs when it comes to hudud, Abdul Manaf cited the time of Prophet Muhammad, where there were only but a few cases illustrating as such.
“Out of many years, only one guy had his hand chopped and only one girl was stoned because of adultery and that’s because she admitted it herself.
“During Caliph Umar’s time there was famine – he released those caught for stealing and blamed himself as he said that he should not have let his people go hungry,” he said.
Abdul Manaf, who has been a PAS member since 1998, also pointed out that PAS is merely a vehicle to ensure that Islamic law gets implemented.
“It doesn’t matter if even Umno wants to do the Islamic way, or even PKR or DAP.
“But the main thing is – follow the Islamic way,” he said. – Malaysiakini
This interview was jointly conducted by Alyaa Azhar and Anne Muhammad.