Critiquing Hekmatyar’s Comments on Sahih Bukhari

By: Yousufi

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Political Party, is a highly controversial figure. He is the only Jihadi political leader who is still active and, despite the numerous failures he has experienced throughout the highs and lows of his life, he has not given up, living under Taliban rule. He owns a television station, through which he addresses various issues and appears to remain safe from the Taliban’s wrath. Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Hekmatyar’s opinions have largely been in line with those of the group’s leaders, only rarely opposing them. Although Hekmatyar is primarily known for his political and war activities, he has also sought to be recognized for his religious theories and writings. Despite having only a partially completed university education in engineering, during his time in hiding he wrote a commentary on the Quran and treatises criticizing certain hadith books. It is said that he has written more than one hundred books and treatises. Hekmatyar has been interested in religious issues since his youth, and even during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan he maintained study circles in Peshawar, which mainly focused on the interpretation of the Quran.

Recently, Hekmatyar’s statements concerning Sahih Muhammad Bin Ismail Bukhari, one of the most authoritative Sunni books, have sparked debates and controversies. For years, Hekmatyar has been criticizing hadith books, particularly Sahih Bukhari, and advocating for the reform of the narrations contained in them. He has also published a treatise on this subject. To counter Hekmatyar’s assertions about the Muslim hadith tradition, some people have argued that he does not possess the necessary qualifications to comment on this matter, nor has he acquired the scientific and academic credentials required to be an expert in this field.

Despite the reactions, Hekmatyar persists in expressing his views on the matter, seemingly content with his own research and published works. As a result, he believes he does not need to be a student of any particular school.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has discussed a number of topics in his recent remarks concerning hadith books and particularly Sahih Bukhari. He asserted that those who are currently killing people in Afghanistan are adherents of Imam Bukhari and “Ahl al-Hadith”, which refers to the followers of Salafism. It appears that Hekmatyar is attempting to censure the actions of Islamic State-Khorasan (ISS-K) in order to gain the approval of the Taliban. Since the return of the Taliban, ISS-K has taken responsibility for numerous explosions and suicides which have caused the deaths of many civilians, as well as both unknown and well-known members of the Taliban. Some of these attacks have targeted religious centers and mosques. In accordance with the agreement they made with the Americans, the Taliban have made it a priority to fight against ISS-K and other anti-Western groups, utilizing all available resources for this purpose. The Taliban’s battle against ISS-K has provided them with a chance to become more moderate and compatible with the interests of the West. They also wish to overshadow the deplorable human rights situation in their territory by emphasizing this issue. It is believed that Hekmatyar is attempting to bolster the legitimacy of the Taliban by making comments about the “Ahl al-Hadith”, which is thought to be affiliated with the school of thought of the ISS-K.

Hekmatyar’s assertion that those responsible for the destruction of mosques and the killing of innocent Muslims are adherents of Bukhari and Ahl al-Hadith may be partially accurate, but the majority of the truth is being deliberately concealed. Following the Bonn Agreement and the establishment of the Republic government, the Taliban have caused the deaths of thousands of civilians and innocents, demolished educational institutions, bombed mosques, and murdered people while they were praying. They have falsely accused ordinary citizens and sent them to death squads. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have been the primary perpetrators of the slaughter of innocents and Muslims.

The question is, were the Taliban, who initiated the massacre prior to taking control of Afghanistan, followers of Imam Bukhari and Ahl al-Hadith? The majority of Taliban members adhere to the Hanafi sect and not only consider themselves followers of Imam Abu Hanifa but also practice this way. If one argues that the Hanafi Taliban are not genuine adherents and falsely attribute themselves to this sect, the followers of Ahl al-Hadith can also assert that the ISS-K fighters and Al-Qaeda are not true followers of “Ahl al-Hadith”.

Hekmatyar recently echoed a famous saying, stating that “the number of Muslims killed by other Muslims is far greater than the number of Muslims destroyed by non-Muslims.” This statement is accurate. However, the Taliban and Hekmatyar’s political party are examples of Muslim groups that have been more inclined to kill Muslims than non-Muslims.

Following the signing of the Doha Agreement between U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar, it was observed that the Taliban refrained from attacking foreign forces and even provided protection from potential attacks by other groups during their withdrawal from Afghanistan. Instead, they focused on killing civilians and members of the former Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF).

During the civil wars in Kabul in the early 1990s, Hekmatyar was one of the main parties involved in the conflict which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people due to his bombardment, leaving Kabul in ruins. The question is: What was the motivation behind the killings carried out by Hekmatyar and his allies? Is it accurate to say that Hekmatyar committed these massacres due to his adherence to the Hanafi religion, or did he use the teachings of the Hanafi sect to justify the killing of innocents?

If we are to evaluate people’s performance based on the religion and faith they profess, the Hanafi sect is particularly vulnerable to scrutiny and a solution must be devised to rectify this, as most of the violence and fatalities in Afghanistan over the past two or three decades have been perpetrated by adherents of this sect.

In his recent speech, Hekmatyar proposed revising hadith books and distinguishing between true and false hadith. While this is a reasonable suggestion, it is not enough. Replacing scientific and methodical work with ideological propaganda not only fails to reduce chaos, but also increases ambiguity and creates new problems. If our aim is to prevent the misuse of “Muslim intellectual heritage” and stop it from poisoning our societies by exploiting ancient texts, the solution is not only to review the hadith heritage, but to approach the entire religious tradition with patience and the scientific method. At present, there are those who use the Salafist intellectual tradition to achieve their malicious objectives. Additionally, there are those who are ostensibly opposed to Salafism and belong to other schools of thought, but they commit the same violence as the Salafist extremists, and in some cases, even worse. The Taliban, who have now taken control of Afghanistan and claim to protect the Hanafi religion, serve as a prime example of this.

Regardless of the controversy and opposition it may provoke, Hekmatyar’s bold and reckless nature is evident in his handling of important and central issues. It is therefore essential to thoroughly investigate the various aspects of the issue in order to achieve a successful outcome and find a resolution to the chaos that has been embedded in the intellectual heritage of Muslims.

Naturally, there are many people in our society who possess the necessary expertise to address topics such as the correct criticism of Bukhari and the criticism of the hadith heritage or even the intellectual tradition of Muslims more effectively and coherently than Hekmatyar. However, what makes Hekmatyar‘s statement more powerful is his leadership role in the former Jihadi parties. For this reason, his suggestions are likely to be the beginning of a more serious and comprehensive plan of criticism and rethinking of the Islamic tradition in Afghan society, which requires more criticism than other societies.

The Taliban, currently the unquestioned ruler of this country, has imposed a tyrannical and oppressive regime on this land and exhibited hateful behavior. This is the result of a misguided and immoral interpretation of tradition and religious texts. It is important to note that the Taliban is not a single-dimensional phenomenon, and various factors have contributed to its formation. Nevertheless, the religious factor cannot be overlooked in the formation of this group.