Osama bin Laden: Islam must introspect
by Sandhya Jain on 10 May 2011 43 Comments

Osama bin Laden’s purported last will and testament, and the manner of his death, holds vital lessons that the Islamic world, particularly the Sunni Muslim Ummah, should urgently ponder. According to the Kuwait-based Al-Anbaa newspaper, bin Laden instructed his wives not to remarry, thus flouting Islamic law and practice, and putting himself at par with Prophet Muhammad, for whom alone Allah made this exception, as per the Koran.


Bin Laden also asked his children not to join the Al Qaeda. By apologizing to them for the lack of time he devoted to their upbringing, Osama virtually repudiated the universal Jihad to which he had committed his life, and those of his followers.


Contemporary Islam’s most charismatic figure, comparable with Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab who inspired the rise of the Saudi dynasty as protector of a new Islamic purism, was doomed to fail in his mission to establish an Islamic Caliphate. For bin Laden lacked the autonomy of the Prophet and the early Caliphs; he was trained and funded by Washington to serve US political objectives. He subordinated himself and his movement to serve a nation leading a civilisation at war with his own Islamic faith; a contradiction of ends and means that ultimately proved fatal.


The idea of the Caliphate attracted Muslim youth experiencing the powerlessness of Islam in the modern era; but the dream was part of the West’s cynical manipulation of Muslim societies, a continuum of its patronage of military dictatorships in strategically important countries. Osama compares well with T.E. Lawrence who instigated the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire to extend British influence in the region; bin Laden provided validation for American overreach in many parts of the globe, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. He became the symbol of the West’s systematic demonisation of Islam.


Strange that a man who propagated the purist Wahhabi Islam of his native Saudi Arabia, and never articulated a viable path for his followers, should have privately nurtured prophet-like ambitions, with the right to demand beyond-death allegiance from his wives. If Sunni Islam accepts this novelty, the Ummah must further introspect and modulate aspects of the faith – specifically Jihad – that put it at odds with the world, particularly non-monotheistic societies.


Since the World Wars, many Muslim leaders have surrendered to Western manipulation in exchange for totalitarian power over their subjects. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, pillars of US-UK control over much of the Muslim world, face a new challenge. As London recovers from the military-economic fatigue induced by World War II and flexes old imperial muscles, and Washington injects fresh adrenalin to maintain sole superpower status, Riyadh and Islamabad must decide if they will continue a ‘friendship’ hated by their own citizens, or will rise in defence of fellow Muslim nations like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, that resist Western power?


More pertinently, will Riyadh and Islamabad resist Western pressure against Shi’ism as represented by Iran and Syria (Alawite), where US wants ‘regime change’? Will Saudis make peace with their Shia population in the north-east; Iraq’s Shia majority which is pro-Iran; and Shia-majority Bahrain? The regime is fragile with rising unemployment and local resentment at the lifestyles of 7000-odd Princelings; the royals depend upon Pakistani ex-soldiers for security.


While Saudi oil wealth lubricates the western economies, Pakistan is critical for America’s renewed interest in Central Asia, where fears of ‘regime change’ again loom. In fact, Iran cannot be contained without a hold in Central Asia.


But the fresh strain in Washington-Islamabad ties following the action against Osama bin Laden has shaken Pakistan’s delicate democracy and made it vulnerable to a military takeover. The question naturally arises – how does America plan to compensate Islamabad – in Afghanistan, or Kashmir, or both? The US has been in Afghanistan from October 2001, and is anxious to quit; Osama’s death provides an honourable exit. A Pak-friendly Afghanistan will upset India, but there is no guarantee that the tumultuous Afghan tribes will defer to America’s non-NATO ally.


A few words about Osama bib Laden’s death are in order. He was killed by American Navy Seals on the intervening night of May 1-2, as attested by his wife and 12-year-old daughter, who said her father was caught and killed in cold blood, unarmed. Pakistani policemen found at least three corpses of unarmed men shot brutally through the nose and ears, lying in pools of blood. No arms of any kind were found. 


There can be only one reason why the world’s most wanted man would live with his family and associates, completely unarmed, in a foreign country, which is that the Pakistan Government had assumed responsibility for his security. Only Islamabad could have enabled Osama bin Laden to live in a sheltered mansion in Abbottabad, within yards of the elite Military Academy and in the neighbourhood of retired military officers. Doubtless this catered to his need for regular dialysis.


Assuming that Army chief Gen. Pervez Kiyani and ISI’s Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha were not informed about the US action, and the Black Hawk stealth helicopters evaded radar detection, but four helicopters could hardly land in a neighbourhood unnoticed. Civilian neighbours watched from their roofs, but local police constables slept through the episode, as did the serving and retired officers. All this reeks of complicity.


It seems likely that Osama bin Laden, suffering from serious kidney problems, diabetes and low blood pressure, was turned over to the Americans because he was near his end. Pakistan would not have been able to conceal his death or manage the fallout in terms of a surge in support for Al Qaeda, funeral crowds, and so on. Maybe his native Saudi Arabia gave the nudge, saying it would not accept his body.


Washington managed all these issues by killing him and tossing his body into the Arabian Sea. A man who died on land cannot be buried at sea; this was a political expedient. The flip side is that it has humiliated the entire Ummah.


Kashmir’s militant Sunni Muslims who are keen to join Pakistan’s US-serving generals would do well to recall how India ensured a respectful burial with appropriate rites to the perpetrators of Mumbai 2008, as also those who attacked the Indian Parliament, after Pakistan refused to accept their bodies. Do they still want to abandon the land of Dharma for the land of deceit?


The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com     

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