When Hamas is not Islamic Enough (Part 1)

On 4 May 2009, Abu Yunis al-Abbasi wrote an article critiquing Hamas’s supposed “neglect” in implementing strict sharia law in Gaza. He claimed that his article was a response to a lecture that two alleged Hamas jurisprudents, Mazen Haniyah and Wael al-Zard, gave to the student council at the Islamic University in Gaza. His critique provides excellent insight into many of the issues takfiris have with Hamas since it took power in Gaza.

Al-Abbasi started his article emphatically stating, “Our demand is sharia rule, it is not a demand for implementing boundaries only,” implying Hamas is only employing partial sharia law and that will not do. He stated that sharia law is important for five reasons:

  1. Protecting Islam by punishing those who leave it with death
  2. Protecting oneself by punishing aggression with “reprisal”
  3. Protecting the mind by punishing aggression upon it with 80 lashes, an example of violating the mind is drinking alcohol
  4. Protecting honor from slander with the punishment of 80 lashes
  5. Protecting money from stealing with the punishment of amputation

Al-Abbasi claimed that a common question regarding Hamas’s use of law is, “Isn’t this implementing the provisions of sharia?” He replied that the need to ask such a question proves that Hamas is not employing full sharia law, which is “a great defect.” However, he did provide several of the examples al-Zard gave allegedly demonstrating how Hamas has employed many aspects of sharia such as “jihad and martyrdom …  steadfastness in the face of a series of struggles, and banishing drugs and debauchery.” He cited four reasons why these claims are incorrect. First, he maintained that Hamas achieved most of its accomplishments before it seized power in Gaza.  Therefore, the accomplishments could not be a result of sharia. Second, he stated that Hamas’s assertion that it was steadfast “in the face of a series of struggles” is incorrect because it is based on nationalism, not sharia. Third, in regards to Hamas and drugs, he mentioned that every government fights drugs and that Hamas is using temporal laws to fight drugs instead of God’s law. He complained that Hamas does not attempt to right the supposed other wrongs in society like makeup, unveiling, and “shameless parties.” Finally, he faulted Hamas for supposedly using many sources of law, like the Bible and Torah, as well as the Quran. He claimed that this is grounds for being an infidel and furthered his point by stating that the Mongols and the Jahiliyah period Arabs, presumably all infidels, used varied sources as well.

Allegedly, al-Zard stated that if Hamas ruled by sharia, the results would be negative. Al-Abbasi responded by citing evidence that when Muhammad was surrounded in Medina during the Battle of the Ditch, he did not give up Islam. Al-Abbasi continued, “Who ordered us to rule by sharia? Was it not God? Therefore, it is not permissible for us to fear anyone when we implement it because he who orders us to implement sharia will defend us and will not surrender us to our enemy when they fight and make war upon us.” It is possible that when al-Zard spoke of the negative results from implementing sharia, he was speaking about the probable negative repercussions to Hamas’s popularity. Gazans may be conservative, but there is little evidence that they aspire to a Taliban-like state as al-Abbasi proposes.

Al-Abbasi continued his attack with four responses to al-Zard’s supposed commentary that implementing sharia is not possible because Hamas is not powerful enough. First, he claimed that executing temporal law also requires power and since Hamas has enough power to implement temporal law, there is no reason for the organization to not employ sharia. Second, he maintained that since the Hamas government is independent it should be able to institute sharia, even if it is under siege. He cited the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddha statues in 2001 as evidence of a government under siege that was still able to assert its authority using sharia. Third, he maintained that if Hamas can defeat Israel, it could implement sharia. Finally, he claimed that the Taliban, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and the Shabab al-Mujahideen all successfully implemented sharia. Thus, Hamas can too. Again, al-Abbasi ignored the popular backlash that resulted due to the Taliban and the ISI supposedly ruling by sharia law.

Finally, al-Abbasi countered al-Zard’s supposed claims that Hamas has found a middle way in Islam by “feeding the hungry, not amputating the hand of the thief.” He stated, “Islam is the religion of moderation, without a doubt. However, moderation is not limited to whims and temperaments. Rather, it is bounded by legal guidance from the Quran and the Sunnah.” Unlike Hamas, takfiri organizations are not known for their charitable work, another reason why they generally are not very popular in the communities they wish to rule.

This summary of the first half of al-Abbasi’s argument illustrates some of the ideological differences between Hamas and takfiris. (Look here for Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s take on Hamas.) Al-Abbasi was emphatic in stating that Hamas has not implemented what he considered sharia law and that the organization does not intend to do so anytime soon, which he believed is a mistake. Thus far, al-Abbasi has refused to consider that the extreme nature of the ISI and al Qaeda makes them unpopular in the Arab world. This lack of retrospection will lead like-minded individuals and groups to new failures and will make it difficult for them to achieve a large following in the Palestinian Territories.

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3 Responses

  1. I believe that Hamas has evolved over time (especially since the 2007 elections) demonstrating sometimes a suprising moving to pragmatism (not as pragmatic as Hezbollah – sic). This doesn’t mean that Hamas as a less religious agenda but rather that this (long-term) religious agenda is balanced with (short-term) political views which need a small amount of pragmatism. The exemple of its security policy shows the necessity for Hamas to keep the total control over Gaza by fighting against jihadi groups such Jaysh al-Islam/Jaysh al-Sunna. As these groups could destroyed the stability of Hamas in Gaza and help the PLO(Fatah) to be back in the game, they need to erase any threat… Exemple: http://www.cbsnews.com/track/rss/blogs/2009/05/27/monitor/entry5044608.shtml?CMP=OTC-RSSFeed&source=RSS&attr=InternetTerrorMonitor_5044608

    No surprise that jihadi groups see Hamas as not Islamic enought…. Hamas is moving toward more Politics than Islamic.

    ps: Team Jihadica, you’re doing an amazing job with this blog… Keep going to feed us with articles !!!

  2. HAMAS’ political goals are informed by its religious and social programs and ideologies. One can separate the two. HAMAS is pragmatic in its program, operations, and goals. Period.

  3. Regardless of what Hamas’s political goals may be – as long as they harbor radical, fundamentalist, Islamic sentiment they can not be trusted in the transformation of a new, independent Palestinian state. Hamas remains part of the problem.

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