Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ibadhis and Terrorism

This article seeking to explain the lack of Islamic militancy in Oman needs at least some adjustment. My concern is with this part:
"The reason for terrorism not occurring in Oman is mainly attributed to the peculiar religion of the Omanis, who are followers of Abdallah ibn Ibadah al-Maqdisi's branch of Islam, a breakaway from the Khariji ('quietist') movement in Basra in 650 AD. Some experts suggest that the movement is an offshoot of a dissident Shiite sect hailing originally from Ibadh in Saudi Arabia, which was introduced to Oman in the eighth century.

"Oman is the only Ibadhi country in the world, with its tenets closely linked to the Maliki Sunni school. Ibadhism rejects primogeniture succession and asserts that the leadership of Islam should be designated by an imam who is capable and elected by the people. In fact, both political and religious Ibadhi leadership is vested in an imam.

"The Ibadhi orientation, which many Muslims consider unorthodox, has conditioned the society in such a fashion that in a region extremely conscious of sectarian affiliations, the 2004 census did not even seek to ascertain the composition of the Omani population along divisive lines, though it is understood that roughly 25 percent of the population is estimated to be Sunni. Further proof of Oman's uniqueness lies in it becoming the first Gulf Cooperation Council country in December 1994 to host an Israeli prime minister—Yitzhak Rabin—though there were murmurs of discontent among the Islamists."

The Kharijites are in no way quietists. The word actually means "Seceders," and was originally applied to those who rejected Ali's decision to agree to arbitration rather than fight at Siffin. Ironically, they were the early Islamic world's version of terrorists, having among their tenets ist'rad, which Hans Wehr translates as "to massacre without much ado" and which they applied to those they considered unbelievers. They were also radical in that they declared Muslims who were not of their own sect unbelievers, much as the modern jihadist movement.

Within the Kharijite sect, the Ibadhis arose, and they were more quietist in seeking their goals, though never pacifist. There are just as many excuses that could justify terrorism in Ibadhism as in any other religion. If Oman does have less militancy, I'd look in part to the fact that Ibadhism, simply because it is a different sect, is isolated from the currents which seek to create puritanical versions of Shi'ism in Sunnism, and in part to the fact that Oman, by reputation anyway, is more traditionally conservative and therefore those who in other environments might be reactionaries have little against which to react.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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