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 - Taliban Facts

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah Rahmatee on Afghanistan and Taliban

    An Interview with Shaykh Ghulaamullaah Rahmatee
    (Former Deputy of Shaykh Jameel ur-Rahmaan, May Allaah have mercy upon him)
    This interview was published in al-Bayaan Magazine in Arabic, no. 170, 22nd Shawwaal, 1422/January, 2002

    Al-Bayaan: Welcome, Shaykh; We ask Allaah to bless you in your life and deeds and to benefit Islam and the Muslims with your knowledge. We would like you to start, Shaykh, by introducing yourself to our readers.

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Most Merciful. All Praise is for Allaah, and that is sufficient; and may Allaah grant blessings and peace to His chosen servants.

    My dear brethren, my name is Ghulaamullaah Rahmatee, from Afghanistan, from the province of Qunduz. I was a graduate of Deobandi madrasahs, then, by the mercy of Allaah, I happened to read books on tawheed and the books of Ahlus-Sunnah, such as the books of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, Shaykh Ibn al-Qayyim and Shaykh Muhammad ibn 'Abdul-Wahhaab an-Najdee. I adopted the beliefs of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah and learned the categories of tawheed and their opposites of the categories of shirk. After arriving at knowledge of the true belief, Allaah enabled me to explain it in Afghanistan, in the province of Qunduz. I was sentenced to ten years in prison for doing so during the reign of Zaher Shah, on charges of being a Wahhabi who denied the Sufi tareeqahs and did not stick to one of the four math-habs in fiqh issues. I had had a madrasah there, in which I used to teach.

    After being released from prison, I emigrated to Pakistan, to the city of Quetta. There was a brother by the name of Shamsuddeen who was a salafee, and he had founded a madrasah called al-Jaami'ah al-Athariyyah. He had studied with me in Afghanistan. When he heard of my arrival in Pakistan, he sent me an invitation to teach in his madrasah, so I proceeded to Peshawar and taught in al-Jaami'ah al-Athariyyah for a number of years. I founded a newspaper there called "The Muslims in Afghanistan," in which we publicized religious issues related to belief, practice and ethics. Then the Society for Calling to the Qur'aan and Sunnah (Jamaa'ah ad-Da'wah ilal-Qur'aan was-Sunnah) was founded, whereupon I became a member of it, and I was a deputy to Shaykh Jameel ur-Rahmaan (may Allaah have mercy upon him) throughout his life until he was killed. We ask Allaah to accept him as one of the martyrs.

    After the killing of Shaykh Jameel ur-Rahmaan, our Shaykh, Samee'ullaah Najeebee (may Allaah protect and preserve him) became the leader of the Society for Calling to the Qur'aan and Sunnah. I was with him until the Russians withdrew. After the Russian withdrawal some things happened that caused me to leave Jamaa'ah ad-Da'wah, for political reasons, not due to a difference in basic outlook. After that I founded a madrasah in Peshawar by the name of Daar al-Qur'aan wal-Hadeeth as-Salafiyyah. It has been running ever since that time, al-hamdu lillaah, and I continue to teach there from the books of hadeeth, belief, etiquette and other subjects.

    Al-Bayaan: You mentioned that you had a close relationship with Shaykh Jameel ur-Rahmaan (may Allaah have mercy upon him). What was the background of that relationship?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: While I was imprisoned in Qunduz and other provinces on charges of corrupting [people's] 'aqeedah and threatening security, they would transfer me from the prisons of one province to another, because they considered me a corrupting influence on my fellow prisoners. During the final part of Daawood's reign I heard from some of the brothers that there was a man who concentrated on tawheed al-uloohiyyah [Allaah's exclusive right to be worshipped], who refuted the beliefs of grave worshippers, and he lived in the province of Kunar. I heard about him but didn't see him. After I emigrated to Pakistan, I asked about him and was told that he was a commander in Hizbi Islami, under the leadership of Hikmatyar. From that time a line of communication was established between me and him, and I knew that he was indeed the same man I had heard about, and I found out that the shaykh had been a student of a Pakistani shaykh by the name of Muhammad Thaher, who was a Hanafee and a Maatureedee and a Naqshbandee and who called himself a Deobandee. Be that as it may, he placed a great emphasis on tawheed al-uloohiyyah, and Shaykh Jameelur-Rahmaan was influenced by him. However, Shaykh Jameelur-Rahmaan was extraordinarily intelligent and arrived at independent judgment and read the books of the two Shaykhs of Islam and the books of Ahlus-Sunnah, which changed him, and he became salafee [in his outlook].

    When we met in Peshawar, I told him, "You won't be able to stay with these organizations forever. You need to set up an organization especially for the salafees." He did not agree in the beginning, but he did agree when Hikmatyar's Hizbi Islami removed him from the command of Kunar. I took that opportunity to tell him, "We must establish our organization." We reached an agreement there, and we founded Jamaa'ah ad-Da'wah.

    Al-Bayaan: You mentioned that you emigrated to Pakistan and that you did not participate in the activities of the various Islamic organizations. How would you evaluate the performance of those organizations in the period that followed the Russian withdrawal, starting from the short-lived regime of Sibghatullaah Mujaddidi?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: After the murder of Shaykh Jameelur-Rahmaan (May Allaah have mercy upon him) the key members of the Shooraa of Jamaa'ah ad-Da'wah agreed to make Shaykh Samee'ullaah his successor. During the period of Shaykh Samee'ullaah's leadership, the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan. The leaders of the jihad organizations met in Islamabad, Pakistan, where they agreed that there had to be an alternative government to the communist government in Afghanistan. They also agreed that Shaykh Sibghatullaah Mujaddidi would be president for a period of two months and after that the leader of that temporary government would be Shaykh Rabbani. On that basis, Sibghatullaah Mujaddidi took the president's seat and became leader of the republic. However he was unable to do anything, because he had no power, and his organization was the smallest of all the organizations. The real power during his reign was with Mas'ood and Dostum. An indication of his lack of power is that when he became president he went to see Dostum rather than Dostum coming to see him, and he announced in his presence in Mazar Sharif that Dostum was the Khaalid ibn Waleed of this age.

    During this period, the Shooraa council of Jamaa'ah ad-Da'wah decided to join that government so that the Jamaa'ah would not remain isolated in Pakistan and end up having no role in the future government of Afghanistan. However, I disagreed with that opinion, for Sibghatullaah was a Soofee who [believed in and preached] fantastic drivel and wrote books preaching clear, unadulterated shirk [assigning partners to Allaah]. An example of that is a small book he wrote called "Matn Bayaaniyyah Sibghatullaah Mujaddidee," in which he wrote that the world had four corners and that in each corner there was a friend of Allaah (waliyullaah) called the Qutb or the Badl, and that those four Qutbs had a free hand in running the affairs of the creation. I had called Sibghatullaah Mujaddidi by telephone while Shaykh Jameelur-Rahmaan was still alive and I told him, "I was informed that you wrote a book by that name; is that true?" He replied, "Yes. Would you like a copy?" I said, "I don't want it, for a copy has already reached me. But I would like to discuss the book with you, for I have some comments on it." He asked me my name, and I told him that I was Ghulaamullaah from Qunduz. He knew me by name, and he laughed and said, "Ah! I know you. You are the big Wahhabi who spoiled the 'aqeedah of the Muslims in Afghanistan, and now you want to ruin the 'aqeedah of the refugees in the camps in Pakistan." He hung up without further comment.

    Al-Bayaan: What is your view about the period in which Rabbani was in power?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: Rabbani took power for a period [that was supposed to last] six months after Sibghatullaah Mujaddidii's allotted period expired. However, he never had power even in Kabul. He was not able to leave Kabul to go to any other city due to the fighting between the various factions. Kabul itself was divided between various organizations of the communists and the Shee'ah, and they had considerable power there. Another area was under Hikmatyar's domination. As a result, Rabbani was unable to move from one area of Kabul to another, although he was, in name, the president of the country. Nothing happened during his reign worth mentioning that you could say, "He did such-and-such." The only thing that happened was infighting between him and Hikmatyar's party, as a result of which more than 50,000 Muslims were killed. There was also fighting between the party of 'Abd Rabbir-Rasool Sayyaaf and the Shee'ah, in which a lot of them were killed. There was also infighting between the factions of Rabbani and Dostum. The relationship between Rabbani and Dostum took a number of turns. At one point Rabbani named Dostum as his deputy in his absence during his trip to Egypt. During that period he would receive him with unparalleled deference and esteem, and he would call him the great general and the great conqueror, because he had conquered Kabul. After that Rabbani's party had a falling out with Dostum, and Rabbani announced that Dostum was a communist, atheist kaafir, and that it was obligatory to fight and kill him. That is all that took place in Rabbani's reign, nothing else.

    Al-Bayyaan: What you have mentioned has to do with political matters and the complexities of political differences, but what about the state of Afghan society itself? Did any changes take place in it under Rabbani's reign, whether in the original six-month period or in the four years during which his reign was extended?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: During Rabbani's era, corruption, immorality, oppression, killing and transgression reached a pinnacle, to the point that it couldn't have gotten any worse. Things happened in his era that should make one cry, but Rabbani didn't have the power to stop it. I mean, every commander dealt with him as if he had no authority, and no one had a right to ask any commander about what he had done. There was no security, and no ordinary man could go from one village to another without fearing for his life or an attack on his property or honor.

    During that period, Shaykh Samee'ullaah went to Rabbani and spoke to him, and Rabbani promised to give him a cabinet post. He ended up giving him the ministry of martyrs and the handicapped. Shaykh Samee'ullaah said to me, "We have to go to Kabul to operate the ministry." I told him, "If the Shaykh [Rabbani] were sincere toward you and the salafee methodology, he would have given you the ministry of education. What are you going to do with the ministry of martyrs and the handicapped? It seems [to me] that it would be better for you to maintain good relations with charitable individuals outside the country, from whom you can collect donations. For myself, I don't want to participate in this ministry." During Rabbani's era, there was no administrative apparatus, no organization, no committee and no ministry for us to work with to enjoin good and forbid evil.

    Al-Bayyaan: If we were to look past what actually took place and discuss any public declarations of an intention to reform and improve, were there any projects proposed for a step-by-step reform process with the intention of implementing the Sharee'ah?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: No, no, there was no ability to do even that, because Rabbani, on some occasions was not even able to venture out of his own house. He wasn't able to protect himself, let alone implement the Sharee'ah. For example, shrines and mausoleums were being visited and worshipped with all forms of worship, and he did nothing about that at all. Also, women dressed in revealing ways, worse than the revealing fashions of the first period of pre-Islamic Ignorance, and he did nothing about it. And oppression had reached a pinnacle; no one's person was safe; no one's property was safe; no one's honor was safe; there was no security of any kind, and he did nothing about it. He had no ability to do so. Highway robbers were everywhere. The state had no constitution and no law to refer to, and the Sharee'ah was not implemented at all. In fact, when Hikmatyar became prime minister, I personally heard Hikmatyar on the radio announce that the cinemas must be closed and corruption must be prohibited. Many people were happy that Hikmatyar was going to do something positive. He had also prohibited women from dressing in revealing ways. However, the next day Mas'ood, who was the actual ruler, personally announced that what Hikmatyar had announced on the radio the previous day represented his personal opinion and did not represent government policy. That was the state of affairs with Rabbani. He did nothing for me to mention. In shaa Allaah, I am not some one who had any personal enmity with Rabbani; in fact Rabbani was closer to Ahlus-Sunnah than the leaders of any of the other organizations, for he had previously announced that he wanted to implement the Qur'aan and the Sunnah without being bound to a particular math-hab. However, after becoming the ruler, he didn't do anything. Anyone allied with him became a virtual saint [in his eyes], while anyone who opposed him became an enemy whose blood became lawful and who must be killed.

    Al-Bayyaan: Some people say that Rabbani's regime was the lawful regime according to the Sharee'ah and that it was unlawful to rebel against it.

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: No one with the least knowledge could say that that regime was a lawful regime according to the Sharee'ah. How was it a lawful regime according to the Sharee'ah when it was only empowered to last for two months or six months? That was the first matter in which it opposed the Sharee'ah.

    Al-Bayyaan: But that six months was supposed to be temporary until elections were held.

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: Yes, but he extended his own term in office unilaterally and then held onto power by force after that. Fighting broke out because of that, because he didn't give up power after six months and said, "I am the lawful ruler, and I will not leave the government." Therefore his regime lacked the attribute of a lawful government. Also, a government has to have authority and power, and he didn't have that. Also, a government is supposed to establish and enforce laws and legal punishments, and he wasn't able to do that. In fact, everyone who had occupied positions under Najeebullaah's government continued to work in the government offices during his reign. [Rabbani's] government was a government in name only.

    Al-Bayyaan: Can we say that these deteriorated conditions that had become widespread during Rabbani's reign were an immediate cause for the emergence of the Taliban movement?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: Yes, that's what I'm saying. I can also say that Rabbani's government gave birth, so to speak, to the Taliban movement, because it arose in response to the conditions that called for a movement to confront the corruption and chaos and to rein in the manifestations of chaos. I have already told you what kind of conditions prevailed in the country during Rabbani's reign. Chaos and corruption were prevalent in everything.

    I'll mention to you one of the immediate causes for the rise of the Taliban movement. Muhammad Omar was a student of knowledge, but he didn't have much knowledge. Before that he had participated in jihad with one of the jihad organizations. After the Russians pulled out, he left all that, thinking that now there was a government made up of Mujaahideen, and there was no further need for jihad after the Russians left, so he returned to studying knowledge in Pakistan. One day a relative of his from Afghanistan came to him in his masjid, weeping. Muhammad Omar asked him, "Why are you crying? Did one of your relatives die?" He told him, "No. Death would be less serious, even if all of us died. What makes me cry is worse than death." The man was from Ruzgan, one of the central provinces of Afghanistan. He began to relate his story to Muhammad Omar.

    His wife had gotten sick, and he decided to bring her to Pakistan for treatment. He took her by car. On the way, every warlord had an area that he commanded, and every one of them imposed "taxes" on the people and "tolls" on anyone passing through their area. Every time the man would pass from one zone to another he was stopped at a checkpoint, and at each checkpoint some of his money was taken in "tolls". Finally he reached a checkpoint, and the warlord stopped him and demanded money. He said, "I don't have anything left. It's all been taken at the previous checkpoints, and my wife is sick, and I need to take her to Pakistan for treatment." The warlord said, "In that case, leave her with me, and I'll see she gets treatment." He asked, "Do you have a clinic here?" He replied, "No, just leave her with me for three nights, and when you come back, you'll find her perfectly healthy." He became certain that the man intended evil, and they started fighting. The warlord's men came and beat the man half to death. They actually thought they had killed him and threw him into a room and took the woman. The man came to in the dark of night, crept out of there and made his escape, until he reached Mullah Omar and related his story to him. Mullah Omar told him, "All right. Stay here. After six days I will return to Afghanistan, to Qandahar, and consult some brothers there, then I will get back with you. What you have told me represents an overthrow of Islam."

    So Mullah Omar went and gathered his companions with whom he had made jihad against the Russians. There were around 17 of them, and they continued with him after that and were ministers in his government. He gathered them, told them what the man had related to him, and said, "We made jihad those long years. Is the fruit of our jihad going to be that we hear about oppression and depravity? I think what is required of us now is that we act on the basis of what we have learned. This is not the time to increase our knowledge, rather it is time to implement what we know." They all agreed that it was necessary to return to jihad. They stood up, got their weapons and attacked the checkpoint where the warlord had abducted the woman. They killed some of them, captured some, and some of them fled, and they killed that warlord who had done that odious act. When they killed him there were about 500 fighters along with him, and they all joined the Taliban. They told them that their commander had been a corrupt dissolute and that they had not been able to oppose him, because he would kill anyone who did so. [They said,] "You have done well, and we are with you."

    Those religious students then decided to go after another of the commanders that was known to be corrupt, but he heard the news and ran away. However, many of his soldiers joined the Taliban. When they returned to Qandahar, it came under their authority without a fight. Then they gained control of Helmand province. At that time political relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan were not good, for Mas'ood's policy was diametrically opposed to the Pakistani government, and his orientation was more toward the Russians than to any Islamic country, and he was also well respected by the French. There were French advisors working with him. The Pakistani government was afraid that Rabbani's government would continue and that it would persist in its orientation toward the Russians. Russia cooperated closely with India, and India was Pakistan's enemy. That was detrimental to Pakistan's strategic interests, so when the Pakistani government heard about Mullah Omar's movement, they contacted him and offered him aid.

    Mullah Omar continued to bring more and more provinces under his control. When he reached Hikmatyar's province, Hikmatyar was locked in fierce fighting with Rabbani, so Rabbani, Mas'ood and Sayyaaf seized the opportunity to contact Mullah Omar. They sat down with the Taliban's leadership, welcomed them and told them, "You all are qualified and have the best right to rule Afghanistan, for you have accomplished many things."

    We observed that whenever the Taliban gained control of an area they would set up a committee to enjoin good and forbid evil. Then they would enforce the legal penalties for crimes set by the Sharee'ah (the hudood), so the security situation quickly stabilized. I can say that the security they established, if it was not greater than the security established by other states, it was not less than that. So everyone was happy about that after having suffered from chaos and fighting. So Rabbani came, according to what I heard, and reached an agreement with them that if they overpowered the evildoers and corrupters and reached Kabul, Rabbani would step down and hand over power to them. Mas'ood and Sayyaf then began helping the Taliban with weapons and money, but their intent in doing so was simply to get rid of Hikmatyar. After the Taliban took control of Hikmatyar's province with minimal fighting, Hikmatyar fled to Laghmaan province and ordered his troops to withdraw along with him, but many of his soldiers went over to the Taliban. Then the combined forces headed for Kabul. They requested Rabbani before entering it to do what he had promised. He responded, "Are you crazy? You are students of religious schools and you want to take over the government? I am the legal head of state recognized by the leaders and heads of state inside the country and outside of it. What you need to do now is go back to your madrasahs and leave the ruling to us." When they heard that reply, fighting broke out between them and Rabbani. During that period they killed the commander of the Shee'ah forces, 'Alee Mazaaree, who controlled the largest armed forces after Hikmatyar. Fighting occurred in Kabul between the Taliban and the Shee'ah militia and between the Taliban and Sayyaaf, and between the Taliban and Mas'ood and Rabbani, without a conclusive result. Then Rabbani turned to Hikmatyar a second time. He sent a delegation to him, saying, "We are both brothers, and the Taliban are our mutual enemy." He invited him to come to Kabul and appointed him prime minister. Then their mutual differences surfaced once more, because Hikmatyar announced the necessity of fighting corruption and immorality and of reducing the number of women employees in the government offices, and Mas'ood declared him mistaken. Fighting broke out once more with the Taliban, who gained control of Kabul and drove Rabbani and Hikmatyar out to the north. Shaykh Samee'ullaah then left Kabul [for Peshawar].

    Al-Bayyaan: Did you observe the Taliban's behavior in the first days after their entry into Kabul?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: A few months after the Taliban took power, they ordered the closing of the shrines and mausoleums and said that such things are not permitted. You may have heard of one such shrine in Mazar Sharif. It is a mausoleum built on a grave that is supposed to be the grave of 'Alee [ibn Abee Taalib] (may Allaah be pleased with him). This grave is called the Sakhee in Afghanistan. By that they mean the one who gives whatever is asked to whoever asks. Men and women, the crippled and the blind would all come to that grave in the hope that the Sakhee would fulfill their needs. There was a custom in Afghanistan that persisted until before my birth that on the first day of spring (Nowrooz) in the reign of a new king they would have to raise a flag known as the flag of the shrine of the Sakhee. The wisdom behind doing so, according to them, was that if the flag was raised and stayed up without falling over, it was sign that the state would not collapse, and if it did fall over, it was sign that the state would soon collapse. A three-day holiday would be declared every year for the occasion of raising the flag, and during it people would come to that shrine in huge crowds, the like of which can not be seen except in Makkah during Hajj. When the Taliban came and the Festival of Raising the Flag drew near, they announced that this act is not in accord with the Sharee'ah and is not permissible, that it is, in fact, opposed to Islam and would not be done from that day onward. And no one would be permitted to come to the shrine during those three days, and those days would not be taken as a holiday, and if anyone stayed away from work on those three days, he would be fired from his job. They prohibited that [act of] shirk, and that is how they acted in Kabul, and that is how they acted in the rest of Afghanistan. There were graves everywhere that were visited and worshipped, but they only allowed graves to be visited between Thuhr and 'Asr on Thursdays, and only for visits in accord with the Sharee'ah. They announced that anyone who visited a grave in order to seek help from it or to increase his provision or to seek a cure for illness or to use the person in the grave as an intermediary with Allaah, all of that is unlawful, and the person doing it was liable to imprisonment, beating or execution, if he refused to repent. This happened after they came, after Rabbani's government.

    Al-Bayyaan: Did you have any personal experience with any of this? Did you see any of this with your own eyes, or is it something you only heard about?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: Yes, I did have a personal experience. There is a shrine in Kabul known as Shaahid Shaamsheraa, which means: The Shrine Of The King With Two Swords. It was a very well known and famous shrine. They say that this king used to fight against the enemy with two swords. When the two swords were broken, he was killed, seeking martyrdom, and he was buried there. This shrine was worshipped with all forms of worship. I personally entered into it and saw the statements of shirk and slogans of kufr written on its walls and stones. Written on the tomb in Pushtu was the following slogan: "We have no refuge and no resort and none to turn to except you," and so on. At that time I had come to Kabul and spoken to Shaykh Rabbani while Shaykh Samee'ullaah was present. I said to him, "You all have announced an Islamic government and said that this is an Islamic republic, so why don't you put an end to the centers of shirk?" Rabbani laughed and said, "Shaykh, you want an automatic Islamic government. You have to be patient." I said, "There has to be, at the very least, a committee for enjoining good and forbidding evil, for these people are dying in a state of shirk, and there has to be someone present to prevent them from these acts of shirk." He laughed and said, "The Islamic government is not going to come about in an automatic form."
    But what I saw when the Taliban came is that they put an end to all of that. They took out everything from those mausoleums, locked their doors and prohibited visits to the graves except for visits that were in accord with the Sharee'ah. I came to Kabul after the word was spread around Peshawar that they were agents of America. And before coming to Afghanistan, I too used to say, "Who are these Taliban?" I used to think that they were agents of America and agents of Pakistan, and it was said about them that they were also grave worshippers and a sect of Ash'arees and Maatureedees immersed in superstitions and fantastic beliefs. All of that was before I came to Afghanistan. When I came, I did so quietly, for I was afraid that those grave worshippers would kill me. I came quietly in a taxi, and the other passengers were a man and his wife and two small children, a boy and a girl. He had a sack with him, filled with a stuffing so that it looked like a pillow. When we arrived in Kabul the man put the sack down in front of a restaurant, then his son, daughter and wife got down. I also got down and took a room in a hotel, where I spent the night. In the morning I passed by that restaurant and noticed that the sack the man had placed was still in the same place. I said to myself, "Isn't that the same bag that the man left here yesterday?" I didn't pay it much mind and said, "Maybe it is another one." Two days later I passed by the same place and there it was, still. After three days I passed by again, and it was still there. I had intended to pass by the Shamsheraa Shrine, believing that the Taliban were grave worshippers. I said, "I'll see what additional manifestations of shirk they have introduced to the shrine." When I got there I found the door locked. I had four friends with me, all of them bearded students of knowledge. I knocked on the door. An old man came and opened it up, but he appeared sad and dispirited.

    Al-Bayyaan: Sorry, Shaykh, but you didn't finish telling what happened to the sack.

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: I'll tell you the story; I haven't forgotten it; the different parts of the story are connected. When I entered the mausoleum I kept my shoes on, which is a forbidden practice [in such places], but we all entered with our shoes on, not caring, and the old man thought that we were Taliban, so he kept quiet. I entered the mausoleum and found no placards or signs or anything expressing shirk. I saw only one sign, which said, "I used to prohibit you from visiting the graves, but now visit them, for they remind one of the hereafter." And there was one other sign that said, "If anyone comes to this grave in order to take it as an intermediary with Allaah or seeking a cure from it or seeking help from it, the penalty for that is death." I was so happy and said, "By Allaah, this is what we were seeking for so long in the past." I stepped out to talk to the old caretaker. I asked him, "Where are the visitors and the old slogans and the boxes for donations in fulfillment of vows? Where did they all go?" The old man thought I was a grave worshipper saddened at what happened to the grave. He said, "Quiet! If those Taliban hear about you, they will kill you. They are Wahaabi kaafirs who have prohibited all these things." I became intensely happy, then I advised him after that. When he understood that I was of the same opinion as the Taliban, he became downcast and said, "Yes, they say the same things you are saying." I left the mausoleum and went to the marketplace. I didn't see one woman improperly dressed. Before that the Kabul I knew was a place where improperly dressed women were everywhere. When the Taliban came they prohibited all that. They also prohibited women from working in all the government offices. When they first came they announced that any woman who had been working and receiving a salary would continue to receive her salary if she stayed at home and took care of some orphans. And I saw that they prohibited songs and immorality.

    I stayed in Kabul for a week, and when I decided to leave it and return [home], I went to the taxi stop where the sack had been in front of the restaurant, but I didn't find it there. While waiting for the taxi I asked the restaurant owner, "There was a sack here for a number of days. Where did it go?" He told me, "Shaykh, that sack has an amazing story to it." I asked him what it was, and he said, "That sack belonged to a man who came here from Peshawar in Pakistan. His house was in Herat. When he got down in Kabul, he forgot the sack and went on. Last night he came back and got the sack. The mouth of the sack was tied tight with a string. When he opened it, it turned out that it was full of money." I joked with him, "Where were you all that time? Were you dead or sleeping?" He said, "Shaykh, the Taliban would have arrested me. No one would dare to try that, because the Taliban keep a watch from hidden places and see who will stretch his hand out to steal what doesn't belong to him, and they cut people's hands for that." That is also something I personally observed.

    When I returned to Peshawar I gave a khutbah in which I said that the Taliban were far better than those who were before them. One of my colleagues heard about that and said to me, "O Shaykh! How did you give the khutbah?" I told him, "According to the Sunnah, with the essential constituents and the praiseworthy non-essential elements as well." He said, "That's not what I meant; rather, what did you say about the Taliban?" I said, "What you have seen." He responded, "How can you say that when they are mushriks?" I said, "By Allaah, that's amazing! How are they mushriks when I saw that they have prohibited the centers of shirk and put an end to manifestations of shirk, whereas Rabbani himself raised the flag of the shrine of Mazar Sharif for the Nowrooz festival during his regime?" I said to him, "So they have succeeded in putting an end to these centers of polytheism, which you all didn't do, and you used to say that the Islamic government will not come about automatically. But when they came to power they did it. So how are they mushriks?" Then I said, "By Allaah, a person needs two basic things in this life: security, in order to live in this world, and faith, in order to live in the hereafter. These Taliban, even if it is said that there is some flaw in their faith, by Allaah, they have brought security, and we hope and expect that they will bring the proper faith as well. As for you people, you brought neither security nor the proper faith." That's what I said, and these words spread among the Muhaajireen and the Mujaahideen.

    Al-Bayyaan: Did you meet any members of the Taliban movement and hear their views?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: Yes, I went to Afghanistan another time, and I met some of the brothers there, and found them to be good in their belief and their deeds. For example, Muhammad Rabbani, who was the prime minister until his recent death (may Allaah have mercy upon him), I met him and heard from him amazing, wonderful speech. He wanted to bring Islamic government to Afghanistan 100%. Because of that they put an end to the outward manifestations of corruption and immorality as well as all the prominent manifestations of shirk. They started with that in Qandahar itself. There was a piece of cloth there that was attributed to the Prophet r. One of the kings, by the name of Ahmad Shah Abdaali, had brought it from Bukhara and placed it there. This piece of cloth was worshipped by every form of worship: with words, bodily acts and by donations of wealth. That piece of cloth was placed on a guarded rack, beneath which was an empty place. People would go down beneath it, make tawaaf around it, touch it and rub their hands over themselves for spiritual blessings. When the Taliban took power in Qandahar they removed that piece of cloth from there and told the people, "There is no evidence that this piece of cloth really did belong to the Prophet r, but since the possibility cannot be ruled out, we will preserve it. However, it is not lawful for you to make tawaaf around it, touch it for spiritual blessings or perform salaah toward it. They prohibited all that and guarded it in a safe place.

    The point is that I met some of them and found them - O my brother, as far as I could tell - to be good people. By Allaah, I never pledged allegiance to the Taliban, nor did I work for them or with them, nor did any of them come to see me here, but I say the truth, because a Muslim is obligated to speak the truth without overshooting the mark and without falling short. People with regard to the Taliban tend to either exaggerate in their favor or against them. Some say they are all pure salafees, which is wrong, while others say they are all mushriks. This last statement is, by Allaah, a lie. Based on what I have seen of the Taliban from personal contact, they fall into three categories:

    The first group, which is the majority, are Hanafees who studied in Deobandi madrasahs, and they place a great emphasis on tawheed al-uloohiyyah and ar-ruboobiyyah. Regarding Allaah's names and attributes, they are Ash'arees, but not fanatically so. I discussed certain issues regarding Allaah's names and attributes with some of them. I said to them, "How can you abandon the view of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah and the view of Aboo Haneefah in 'aqeedah, yet you say you follow Aboo Haneefah in the secondary matters? Did Aboo Haneefah make mistakes in the fundamentals of the religion that you have abandoned his 'aqeedah?" They would laugh and say, "That's how our teachers taught us." One of them said, "Imaam Ibn Hajr al-'Asqalaanee, wasn't he an Ash'aree?" I answered, "Yes." He asked, "Do you consider him to be a disbeliever?" I said, "No." He said, "And Imaam an-Nawawee, wasn't he also an Ash'aree? Do you consider him to be a disbeliever?" I said, "No." What I understood from them was that they were not fanatic about those issues, nor did they call to them, and they liked the salafee methodology.

    The second group, by Allaah, are salafees. One of those I know from among them is 'Abdul-Wakeel Mutawakkil, the Taliban foreign minister. He is the son of Shaykh 'Abdul Ghaffaar, and that Shaykh was killed based on an accusation that he was a Wahhabi. The communist Afghan government killed him at the airport when he returned from Hajj, saying, "You have connections with the Wahhabis." 'Abdul-Wakeel's family are salafees, and I have known them for forty years. And there are others beside. One of them, his name is 'Abdur-Raqeeb, a graduate of the Islamic University of Madeenah, his 'aqeedah is salafee. I know him personally. He was the minister of mining and industry, and there are many others like him.

    The third group consists of Soofees; I don't care to name any of them, so as not to become a source of controversy and dispute, but this element is a minority. That is what I have seen of the Taliban and know about them, and this assessment and testimony are a part of my deen, by which I worship Allaah.

    Al-Bayyaan: Could you shed some light on the term "Deobandi"?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: There is a place in India known as Deoband, which is the site of a major madrasah, founded by certain scholars who called it the Deoband Madrasah. Everyone who graduates from that madrasah is called a Deobandi. They are Hanafees, but there is a difference between them and the rest of the Hanafees. I mean, the rest of the Hanafees include the Brelvis [grave worshippers], and the Deobandis differ with them so drastically that they consider each other disbelievers. The Deobandis have a concern for tawheed al-uloohiyyah and they oppose grave worship. Most Deobandis are Maatureedees. That is the Deobandis in a nutshell. One of the graduates of Deoband is a Shaykh by the name of 'Abdul-Haqq. He has a madrasah in Peshawar called al-Madrasah al-Haqqaaniyyah, named after his [family] name. He was quite a learned scholar and taught all the major books of hadeeth. Most of the Taliban graduated from his school and schools like his. As for Mullah Omar, he is not a Deobandi nor a Hanafee, because he has a general, undetailed belief in all that Allaah's Messenger r brought from Allaah, the Blessed and Exalted. That is his belief and his 'aqeedah. However, if you asked him about issues in detail, he might not know the Ash'aree or the Maatureedee position. He used to say in his public pronouncements, "I want to establish the kind of government established by Muhammad, the Messenger of Allaah r in Madeenah, the city of purity; that is a government by the Qur'aan and the Sunnah." That's what he used to say. And he is not a scholar, but he acts according to the fatwaas of the scholars. He says, "The scholars give their fatwaas, and I implement what they decree." He is neither a Soofee nor a Deobandi, but he likes the salafee methodology, even if he doesn't know about all its details.

    Al-Bayyaan: But do you think he is sincere in what he says and the positions he takes?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: By Allaah, my brother, he is a man of sincerity, worship and asceticism (zuhd). By Allaah, he is neither a relative of mine, nor is he related to me in any way, nor did he study with me, nor did I study with him, nor is he from my village, nor my province. He is from Ruzgan and I am from Qunduz. By Allaah, the first time I laid eyes on him, I thought to myself, "This is a Muslim who is living Islam and practicing zuhd. If his disinterest in the pleasures of this life and his fear of Allaah were distributed over a great number of people like me, it would suffice them." That is what I perceived about him. When I spoke to him, he always spoke about Allaah and supplicated him: "O Allaah…O Allaah…Allaah grant us victory…and there is no victory except from Allaah." He would keep repeating Qur'aanic aayahs such as this. And when he was faced with any difficulty, he would make a lot of salaah.

    Al-Bayyaan: You have spoken to us about the positive aspects of the Taliban endeavor. How do you see the negative aspects in comparison to the positive?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: You know that there is no one in this era who is totally without negative points. Even in the early period of Islam, the society had its negative points. However, regarding the Taliban, their positive accomplishments and the improvements they brought are far greater and more numerous than their shortcomings. By Allaah, I have never heard of any king in Afghan history who implemented Sharee'ah as fully as the Taliban did. To stop women from dressing improperly in public is something that was practically impossible among the Afghans, especially in Kabul. No one was able to do it, but the Taliban did it, al-hamdu lillaah. And regarding the graves, by Allaah, what happened was a total change, because most Afghans are very ignorant. Maybe they will be excused because of their ignorance, but the fact remains that most of them know practically nothing [about Islam]. There is not one village in Afghanistan that does not have one grave or more that is worshipped instead of Allaah. But, al-hamdu lillaah, they were able to fight that during the period of their rule. You may have heard that when the Northern Alliance captured Mazar Sharif a journalist asked one of the caretakers of the shrine there, "How are things now? Are they better now or were they better during the reign of the Taliban?" He answered, "What are you saying, Brother? Do you know what's happened? Today is a day of celebration for us." The journalist asked, "How is that?" He said, "For many reasons. You see how we are able to enter the shrine. Those kaafirs prevented us from entering this shrine for five years. Now, al-hamdu lillaah, you see us, men and women, entering the shrine all together. Another reason is that you don't see anyone now preventing us from shaving our beards. In fact, people are lined up in crowds to have their beards shaved. Another reason: These oppressed women were imprisoned for the last five years."

    Al-Bayyaan: Despite that, we can surely say that they made errors: political errors and errors in religious issues. They are not infallible. Nor do we say that they are 100% salafees.

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: Even people who call themselves salafees and use that label for themselves have their negative points. We established a salafee organization in Kunar that had many good points, but it also had shortcomings. We had graves that were worshipped, and we were not able to get rid of the practice entirely. There was drug dealing going on amongst us, and we were not able to stop it. Some of the scholars among us smoke cigarettes. So you can't say that an Islamic government will be able to get rid of all negative practices. Perfection didn't occur even in the era of the Prophet r, so how are the Taliban going to achieve it at the end of the Twentieth Century CE?

    Al-Bayyaan: The international media is promoting the idea that the Afghan people hated the Taliban rule and that it was imposed upon them against their will. One of the major leaders of the Northern Alliance characterized the Taliban rule as a nightmare for the Afghan people. What's your comment on that?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: This statement is correct from a certain angle, and incorrect from another angle. For example, those who were forced to leave their beards unshaved out of fear were not pleased with the Taliban, nor were women who liked to come out of their houses with their bodies exposed. Likewise, those accustomed to drinking alcohol and the communists did not support them. As for the average people, they loved the Taliban. The majority were pleased with them.

    I'll tell you this: Mullah Omar gathered the people after three days of continual bombing and said to them, "O people! If you are tired of this bombing, [you should know that] it's going to increase in severity many times over what you have already seen. If you've had enough of it, I will turn myself over to that kaafir tyrant, Bush, so that you be spared this tribulation and bombing." The people responded with one voice, "No. By Allaah, as long as a single man of us remains, we will not abandon our resistance to America." That is the feeling of the people in general. And the opinion of the people of corruption, immorality and grave worship is of no consequence.

    Al-Bayyaan: A criticism that some have made of the Taliban is that no one from the other ethnic groups besides the Pushtuns played any role in their government. What is your view on this issue?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: This claim is made by those who either don't know what is happening in Afghanistan and don't know anything about the Taliban or by those who are diehard opponents of the Taliban and simply want to defame them. The Taliban are composed of Muslims from all the ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Yes, the majority of them are Pushtuns, because Pushtuns make up 65% of the population of Afghanistan, so, naturally, there will be more Pushtuns [among them]. If they say that a majority of them are Pushtuns, that is correct, but if they say there is no one but Pushtuns among their leadership, that is an unadulterated lie.

    Al-Bayyaan: People have been dismayed at the Taliban's continual retreats since they first pulled out of Mazar Sharif, then Kabul, then Herat and Qunduz and elsewhere. The international media interpret this as weakness, surrender and defeat. Is there another explanation beside the mainstream interpretation?

    Shaykh Ghulaamullaah: There is no weakness in that, because no real fighting took place between them and the Northern Alliance so that it could be said they expelled them. They left based on their own decision, which left [the Northern Alliance] and America bewildered, wondering, "Where are the Taliban? Where have they hidden?" It is true that some of them were killed and injured, but some of their enemy were killed as well. However the Taliban no longer have any media to explain the reality. The media that are disseminating information now are all the enemies of the Taliban and enemies of the Muslims. There is one matter that is clear to both the enemies and the friends of the Taliban, that when you hear something from them, they don't lie, whereas their enemies lie.

    Al-Bayyaan: We would like to thank Shaykh Ghulaamullaah for responding to our invitation to this discussion. And we ask Allaah to accept from him and from us our sincere deeds and truthful statements.

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