In the Name of Allāh, the most gracious and merciful. All praise belongs to Allāh. May the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon His final messenger, Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), his family, and his companions.
The United States recently signed a historic peace deal with the Taliban to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan. The two past enemies shook hands and signed the peace deal in the Qatari capital, Doha on the 5th of Rajab 1441 – corresponding to the 29th February 2020, after nearly two years of protracted negotiations.
Under the agreement, the United States and the Afghan Taliban movement have agreed for the complete withdrawal of both the US and its coalition forces from Afghanistan within 14 months. There are currently around 14,000 US troops as well as around 17,000 NATO troops from 39 NATO allies and partner countries stationed in the country.
The deal also agreed to work towards the release of thousands of prisoners and to engage with the United Nations Security Council “to remove Taliban members from [the] sanctions list by May 29”.
As part of the agreement, the Taliban ordered all its fighters to halt fighting and “refrain from attacks”, and has described the deal as “a step forward” and that with the deal “comes the end of war in Afghanistan”.
Many Muslim commentators have expressed their deep gratitude for the “victory of Taliban” as an end of their struggle against the US troops. It is undoubtedly something to rejoice over, however this should not leave us blind from seeing the real challenges ahead, in particular for the Taliban, for Afghanistan as a country, and for the Afghans as a people
In order to understand some key challenges, we need to go back to the history of Afghanistan and recall what happened after the Afghans forced the Soviets to withdraw from their land in 1989. Following the withdrawal of the Soviet aggressors, fighting broke out amongst the brothers of jihad and a devastating civil war subsequently took place until the Taliban came and managed to seize control of Kabul and rule the country for a few years.
The September 11 attacks on the United States were then used as a pretext by the US to intervene in Afghanistan, to remove the Taliban from power and to occupy the country. Since then, the Afghan people have been plunged into yet another devastating war. The country’s infrastructure and economy is in ruins due to severe instability and war, which has consequently resulted in the deaths of innumerable civilians, and countless others have been forced to become refugees.
Although we will never be able to escape the qadr (Divine Decree) of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) it could be said that some of this devastation could have been avoided if the Afghan society was solid enough. It is true that the Taliban managed to “rule” the country for a few years, however that was not enough to remove the deep-rooted disagreements between the leaders of the jihad there.
Furthermore, the multi-ethnic nature of Afghanistan is a key factor in feeding unhealthy disagreement that can easily turn into a fight between different ideological groups. In addition, the socio-economic condition of Afghanistan is another key challenge for the stability of this peace treaty. Afghanistan continues to struggle as it remains one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world.
These key challenges should compel the leaders of the Taliban and other Afghan leaders to prepare for the real battles ahead of them.The key challenge was the battle against disunity; the need for cooperation despite differences.
The absence of a strong Muslim voice in the world today is what is causing humanity at large to suffer. This simply cannot be achieved unless the Ummah is united. In turn, this macro unity between different sects, countries and societies cannot be achieved unless micro unity within small communities and between individuals is realised. Unity is one of the key principles Islām calls for. As Allāh tells us:
“Hold fast to the rope of Allāh all together, and do not separate. Remember Allāh’s blessing to you when you were enemies and He joined your hearts together so that you became brothers by His blessing. You were on the very brink of a pit of the Fire and He rescued you from it. In this way Allāh makes His Signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will be guided.”
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says:
“You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin al-Maʿrūf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islām has ordained) and forbid al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief, and all that Islām has forbidden), and you believe in Allāh.”
Establishing the oneness of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) brings light to the life of humanity.
“O mankind! Verily, there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord, and We sent down to you a manifest light.” 
Islām brings ease, tranquillity, and prosperity to our lives.
“…Allāh intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you…” 2
We as Muslims need to show this to society. We need to set ourselves as role models in all aspects to the society at large. The way to do that, in shā’ Allāh, is to learn Islām more, practice Islām more, incorporate it into every aspect of our lives, and be more active in calling towards unity despite our differences.
Moreover, it is true that we need to be optimistic after the departure of the foreign troops from the land, however we also need to be realistic and acknowledge the challenges ahead of us.
The seeds for conflicts and possible fights are still present and it is easy for them to grow. For example, the Taliban have not yet recognised the current government in Kabul lead by Ashraf Ghani. It refuses to accept the current constitution and sees the Afghan government as “a US-imposed puppet regime”.
Even more concerning is the fact that President Ghani’s administration has not yet been involved in direct talks with the Taliban as they refuse to talk to a government that they do not recognise. The absence of the internationally-recognised Afghan administration and President in this historic process to decide the future of the country itself raises questions about the success of the peace agreement.
Furthermore, they have not clarified their position regarding the shape of the future government and the system by which the country should run.
In an article published just days before the agreement, the Taliban stated that they would engage with all the components within Afghanistan. The statement of Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Taliban, after the agreement was signed can be shocking for some “jihadi” groups – including some within the Taliban itself. As the statement recognised the US as a state, it also recognised the international law (it seems that they normally do) and stated that the Taliban and Afghanistan want to live peacefully with the international community. Undoubtedly, these are very positive signs.
However, it is difficult to absorb this while we say that other mujahidin groups did not join the Taliban in signing this agreement. We have also not seen the Taliban acting upon this strategy prior to this declaration. We hope that agreement signifies a major shift in their ideology, yet that is hard to believe. We need to draw the attention of the Taliban along with other leaders to the gravity of the challenges of unity and cooperation that are ahead of them.
We must also ensure that we take the necessary steps towards bringing about peace and security and ensuring that the peace agreement takes place. Unfortunately, just days after the US and the Taliban signed the landmark deal, there have been reports that the Taliban have resumed violence in Afghanistan. In fact, there have been nearly 80 reported attacks in Afghanistan since the US and the Taliban signed the peace deal just over a week ago. The United States also conducted an airstrike against Taliban fighters after they were accused of attacking an Afghan checkpoint in Helmand, an act which is very common across the country.
The Priorities For The Near Future
Apart from the key challenge highlighted above, the Taliban along with the other Afghan groups should set a road map for building their future. What should be their priorities? Let me summarise the outcome of an intensive work and study conducted by one research centre that I am part of. This research is actually based on an analytical study of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. The summary of it can be given by one Qur’anic verse and one hadith. However, as it is stated, this verse and hadith are supported by a number of Quranic and prophetic statements. As for the Quranic verse, it is the duā of Ibrahim (ʿalayhi al-Salām); the first duā mentioned in the Qur’ān after the duā of asking Allāh guidance in Surat al-Fātiḥah.
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) says:
“And [mention] when Ibrahim said, “My Lord, make this a secure city and provide its people with fruits – whoever of them believes in Allāh and the Last Day.” [Allāh] said, “And whoever disbelieves – I will grant him enjoyment for a little; then I will force him to the punishment of the Fire, and wretched is the destination.”
As for the hadith, it is narrated that ʿAbd Allāh b. Salām said: “When the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) came to Madinah, the people rushed towards him and it was said: ‘The Messenger of Allāh has come!’ I came along with the people to see him, and when I looked at the face of the Messenger of Allāh, I realised that his face was not the face of a liar. The first thing he said was: “O people, spread (the greeting of) Salam, offer food to people and pray at night when people are sleeping, you will enter Paradise in peace.”
This duā was made by Ibrahim prior to the establishment of what could be seen as the first Islamic state on earth. The hadith was delivered by the prophet just before he entered Madinah as a leader of the city.
We can see that both statements are very consistent. The first request mentioned in the duā of Ibrahim is establishment of security and peace within that land. The second request was the establishment of the food security. The third need was made more obvious in the prophetic statement, although it was hinted at in the Quranic verse. It is the fulfilment of the spiritual/īmān-based needs. It was amazing that even this need was not made as an activity imposed by the state on people, rather it was made as a personal one. The prophet did not speak about the congregational prayer, nor about punishment or dress code. Rather he spoke about the night prayer which is one of the key foundations of individual īmān.
Let us note that neither the duā of the prophet Ibrahim nor the statement of the prophet spoke about jihad, taking over the world, or even establishing sharia.
Implementing Sharia: is it a priority?
To be able to answer this question we need to define what sharia is and what it means to implement sharia. If we survey the key Qur’anic messages and prophetic statements, we find that they are:
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.”
“Indeed, Allāh orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.”
Abū Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “I was sent to perfect good character.”
The key overall messages are: worshipping Allāh alone, establishing justice, stopping mischief, and spreading goodness. Implementing sharia is not limited to applying the penal code of ḥudūd. It does not mean the prohibition of riba while the entire social economical system is dysfunctional. Ḥudūd were revealed late on in Madinah, and so too was the prohibition of riba. We also find that the prohibition of riba mentioned in Surat al-Baqarah, which is the first and major chapter of the Quran after its opening, Surat al-Fātiḥah, comes after the verses which talk about building a strong financial system through different types of charity.
Let us implement sharia by calling people to glorify Allāh, to love him and to fear him. To love our prophet peace be upon him, to understand his miraculous sharia, and to love to implement it. Let us show them that Islām wants to establish justice in society before it wants to threaten to cut the hands of thieves. Let us show them that Islām cares for them and wants to improve their social and economic welfare system before it wants to force them to wear hijab and grow their beards.
Therefore, the leaders of the Taliban and the leaders of other mujahidin groups should work hard to establish security in Afghanistan. That cannot be achieved if there are deep ideological and ethnic differences between different components of the society, at least not without implementing effective tools to manage such differences. The best tools that can be applied are the etiquettes of managing differences provided by the Islamic tradition.
Once we implement such tools we understand what Muslims share in terms ofʿaqīdah, akhlāq, and ʿibādah is far greater than what they differ on. Therefore, they should invest in what they share and tolerate what they don’t.
We should go beyond that and remember that the current context of the international law is fundamentally different from the context during the time of the Islamic Caliphate. Citizenship today is not also based on values or professed religion, but rather it is based on many other different factors. Hence, most states cannot differentiate significantly between its citizens based on religion – even though powerful western states are often free to do this indirectly and directly. There are some non-Muslim minorities living in Afghanistan. However, they are part of the country and the society. How will the Islamic Taliban and other mujahidin deal with them? They have to find a formula to live peacefully and cooperate for the betterment of the country as a whole. This was the model given by the prophet peace be upon him in the hadith of the boat.
Nu’mān b. Bashīr (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) reported:
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “The likeness of the man who observes the limits prescribed by Allāh and that of the man who transgresses them is like the people who get on board a ship after casting lots. Some of them are in its lower deck and some of them in its upper (deck). Those who are in its lower (deck), when they require water, go to the occupants of the upper deck, and say to them: ‘If we make a hole in the bottom of the ship, we shall not harm you.’ If they (the occupants of the upper deck) leave them to carry out their design they all will be drowned. But if they do not let them go ahead (with their plan), all of them will remain safe”. 
Furthermore, justice breeds stability and development. Allāh says,
“Indeed, Allāh orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” 
He also said,
“Indeed, Allāh commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Excellent is that which Allāh instructs you. Indeed, Allāh is ever Hearing and Seeing.” 
We all need to remember that, although Islām seeks perfection and encourages excellence, it is also a pragmatic and realistic way of life. Hence, the scholars have always spoken about the gradual implementation of its various rulings. This is a great and helpful feature indicative of a perfect system that many leaders have adopted throughout history. The great Caliph ʿOmar b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz, who came as a pious ruler in-between a few others who committed some level of injustice, applied this policy and called for it. Ignoring this policy might result in a miserable failure which leads people to disappointment and to a loss of hope in there being any positive change in Muslim countries. Or it may give rise to justifications for external and internal powers to interfere in the running of the country, or even overthrowing this elected government and replacing it with another, corrupted government.
Seeking and working to establish justice does not mean accepting weakness and vulnerability. Current political leaders will not be successful if they are weak or naïve, or cannot be assertive, brave and aggressive. Our current global context dictates behaviour that would not be acceptable in other contexts. Mercy, which is the second main value beside justice, cannot exist without power to protect it. The life of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and the four great Caliphs is testimony to that. For example, Islām, the most merciful way of life, threatens severe punishments for those who violate its laws. Power is the shelter of mercy and justice. Allāh said,
“[O Muḥammad], inform My servants that it is I who am the Forgiving, the Merciful. And that it is My punishment which is the painful punishment.” 
Politics is an art of achievement with minimum resources. In politics, truth does not need to be uttered all the time. It is also expressed in different ways. ʿĀ’isha (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha), the wife of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
“A man asked permission to see the Prophet. He said, “Let Him come in; What a bad man of the tribe he is! (Or, What a bad brother of the tribe he is.) But when he entered, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) spoke to him gently in a polite manner. I said to him, “O Allāh’s Apostle! You have said what you have said, then you spoke to him in a very gentle and polite manner? The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “The worst people in the sight of Allāh are those whom the people leave (undisturbed) to save themselves from their foul language.”
Likewise, when the city of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was attacked by the disbelievers, he established a treaty with some internal potential enemies to marginalise them and prevent a bigger harm.
Lastly, I would urge the Afghans to benefit from successful models such as that of the Turkish AK Party, as it is one of the most successful models in our time and age. We ask Allāh to grant success to this agreement and we ask Allāh to help Afghanistan to overcome their challenges and to be able to provide for Afghans a much better lifestyle after this long-lasting suffering.
 Al-Qur’ān 3:103
 Al-Qur’ān 3:110
 Al-Qur’ān 4:174
 Al-Qur’ān 2:216
 Al-Qur’ān 51:56
 Al-Qur’ān 16:90
 Al- Bukhari
 Al-Qur’an 16:90
 Al-Qur’ān 4:58
 Al-Qur’ān 14:49-50