If you liked regular Islam then you’ll love ISIS.
Why? Well, because their version of Islam is the back-to-basics genuine article, indistinguishable from the original Islam as practised by Mohammed and then by the first Caliph Abu Bakr. On the other hand, if you don’t like ISIS then you shouldn’t like Mohammed, and if you don’t like Mohammed then you shouldn’t like Islam.
“That’s an appalling thing to say” you might respond, “Everyone knows ISIS is just the most primitive, brutal manifestation of a religion which has many different versions, some benign and some maybe not so benign.”
Okay, okay. So I haven’t been to AL-Azhar, and I haven’t even had it all explained properly to me by my local imam, so let me tone down my claim. It merely appears to me that ISIS’s Islam is the modern equivalent of Mohammed’s Islam, which was itself fairly primitive and brutal, and I await correction. While we’re waiting (it could be a while) let me try to persuade you.
It is striking how closely the jihadis of ISIS appear to follow both the scriptural precepts of the Koran and the example of Mohammed (the Sunnah) in their activities. Robbery, beheading, ransoming, crucifixion, amputation, sex slavery, forced conversion, jizya, stoning and the use of terror have all been well attested and even filmed for propaganda purposes. These were all trademark items of Mohammed’s rise to power. Takfir, another ISIS speciality, came a little later.
a. Robbery. We have all read the reports of ISIS supplementing their income by robbery, for instance from the Mosul central bank, originally claimed to be to the tune of $400 million but later downgraded to merely “millions”. Their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is simply following the example of Mohammed who started his political and military career as a caravan raider who was given divine guidance on the division of the spoils:
And know that anything you obtain of war booty – then indeed, for Allah is one fifth of it and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and the orphans, the needy, and the [stranded] traveler… (Koran 8:41)
We do not yet know al-Baghdadi’s formula for sharing out the loot but, judging by the Rolex, he does not appear to be stinting himself.
b. Beheading. ISIS’s enthusiasm for beheadings comes both from the Koran:
So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them]… (47:4)
and from the example of Mohammed who had 600 members of a Jewish tribe beheaded in Medina.
c. Ransom. As above, (47:4). ISIS attempted to ransom James Foley for $100 million – before beheading him.
d. Crucifixion and amputation. The brutal punishments we saw in Syria were in line with this sura:
Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land… (5:33)
e. Sex slavery. There are reports of non-Muslim women being married off to jihadis or sold as sex slaves, or to use Allah’s charming phrase “those your right hands possess”.
And also prohibited to you are all married women except those your right hands possess…. (4:24)
f. Stoning. There have also been detailed reports of both men and women stoned to death for adultery.
…Verily Allah has ordained a way for them (the women who commit fornication), When a married man (commits adultery) with a married woman…there is (a punishment) of one hundred lashes and then stoning (to death)…(Sahih Muslim 17:4192)
g. Forced conversion. Did you see the photo of a room full of very glum looking Yazidi men repeating the shahada?
We are often told that “There is no compulsion in religion” and that “Islam was not spread by the sword”. Anyone who has checked out the sources knows better. For instance, Mohammed’s last military excursion was to engage a Byzantine army in what is now Syria. Not finding the army, Mohammed had a letter delivered to the nearby Christians of Aylah, a fishing town at the head of the Red Sea:
To John ibn Rubah and the Chiefs of Aylah. Peace be on you! I praise God for you, beside whom there is no Lord. I will not fight against you until I have written thus unto you. Believe, or else pay tribute. And be obedient unto the Lord and his Prophet….If ye desire to have security by sea and by land, obey the Lord and his Apostle, and he will defend you from every demand, whether by Arab or foreigner, saving the demand of the Lord and his Apostle. But if ye oppose and displease them, I will not accept from you a single thing, until I have fought against you and taken captive your little ones and slain the elder; for I am the Apostle of the Lord in truth. (Sir William Muir The Life of Mahomet)
h. Jizya. This is the tribute referred to above, a tax which Christians and Jews were required to pay to be allowed to survive and practise their religion, and which is being reinstated by ISIS:
Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled. (9:29)
i. Terror. ISIS have cannily broadcast their atrocities as they went, encouraging surrender, or in the case of the Iraqi army, running away.
Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with terror (cast in the hearts of the enemy), and while I was sleeping, the keys of the treasures of the world were brought to me and put in my hand.” (Bukhari 4:52:220)
j. Takfir. This is where Abu Bakr the first Caliph comes in. After Mohammed’s death he fought a series of bloody campaigns (known as the Ridda or Apostasy Wars) throughout Arabia to force reneging tribes to resubmit. The Islamic practice of takfir, adopted by al-Baghdadi, is regarded as originating with Abu Bakr, not Mohammed. Takfir means declaring other Muslims not real Muslims and therefore apostates…and you know what happens next.
Just as the current ISIS leader styles himself the second Abu Bakr, will what is currently happening in Syria and Iraq one day be known as the Second Ridda Wars?
[Update – Perhaps you are wondering where the more recent immolation of the Jordanian pilot and the throwing of homosexuals off high buildings come from.
Although supposedly learned authorities have claimed that burning people is specifically unIslamic there are at least two incidents which show Mohammed was quite comfortable with the practice:
“Certainly I decided to order the Mu’adh-dhin (call-maker) to pronounce Iqama and order a man to lead the prayer and then take a fire flame to burn all those who had not left their houses so far for the prayer along with their houses.” (Bukhari 1.11.626)
Regarding Kinana ibn al-Rabi, the treasurer of a conquered Jewish tribe, Mohammed said…..“Torture him until you extract what he has.” So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad b. Maslama and he struck off his head, in revenge for his brother Mahmud.” (Ishaq:515)
Regarding homosexuality, this is the relevant hadith from the collection of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence: “….The Sahaabah [companions of Mohammed] were unanimously agreed on the execution of homosexuals, but they differed as to how they were to be executed. Some of them were of the view that they should be burned with fire, which was the view of ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) and also of Abu Bakr (may Allaah be pleased with him), as we shall see below. And some of them thought that they should be thrown down from a high place then have stones thrown at them. This was the view of Ibn ‘Abbaas [the cousin of Mohammed] (may Allaah be pleased with him).” Ahmad (2915)
What next…. the tearing apart of someone by camels like that poor Umm Qirfa? End of update]
Muslims have asked ISIS when they would launch a jihad against Israel. Their response was:
“Allah in the noble Quran does not command us to fight Israel or the Jews until we fight the apostates and the hypocrites”.
Naturally this has sent waves of alarm through the region, as there are plenty of hypocrites and “Muslims who are not Muslim enough” to be found there, even to the extent of Saudi Arabia calling on the US to fight ISIS (for them).
All this seems to show that ISIS’s motivations, strategy and tactics are very Islamic indeed.
And yet there is an almost unanimous chorus from Muslims, non-Muslims, politicians, church leaders and the media denying that the ISLAMic State has anything to do with ISLAM at all. Despite all the cries of “ISIS is unIslamic”, I have yet to see any serious attempt to show how it contradicts Islamic teachings.
Here are a couple of Muslim reactions:
Egypt’s top religious authority, Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, condemned ISIS, saying,
“An extremist and bloody group such as this poses a danger to Islam and Muslims, tarnishing its image as well as shedding blood and spreading corruption”.
In his statement the Mufti made no attempt to show how ISIS are in fact extremist or unIslamic. His concern appears to be primarily for the image of Islam.
The Muslim Council of Britain:
“ISIS does not speak for Islam, and has been repudiated by all Muslims. Their message only appeals to those who are easily duped by their twisted message purporting to be Islam”.
Perhaps the MCB should explain which of the so called “terror verses” of the Koran ISIS have actually twisted?
Come to that, why do the imams of the mosques where British born jihadis learned their Islam not point out in detail where they have actually got it wrong? Is it not because it would necessarily involve denying Mohammed? It is one thing fobbing off the kuffar with “The Koran in no way encourages violence” and suchlike platitudes but explaining to a fellow Muslim why Mohammed is not actually calling for bloody jihad until “Islam is superior over all religions” might be a stretch.
Among our leaders no discussion of ISIS takes place without the ritual “It has nothing to do with Islam” caveat. How do the people who say it know? Here are a selection of our politician theologians:
Barack Obama “ISIL speaks for no religion”.
Philip Hammond, British Foreign Secretary “Isil’s so-called caliphate has no moral legitimacy; it is a regime of torture, arbitrary punishment and murder that goes against the most basic beliefs of Islam”.
Yvette Cooper, British Shadow Home Secretary “[Isis] extremists are beheading people and parading their heads on spikes, subjugating women and girls, killing Muslims, Christians and anyone who gets in their way. This is no liberation movement — only a perverted, oppressive ideology that bears no relation to Islam”.
The media too are at pains to dissociate ISIS from Islam. In fact the only place you will see the connection made is in the comments columns of the papers. You might expect that in the Telegraph but when it’s the same in the left leaning Independent and Guardian you know there is a major disconnect between what we are being told and what we can see for ourselves.
And then there is the church, represented here by the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge who said
“The extremists’ barbarism seems apocalyptic. It has nothing to do with real Islam or God and is blasphemy of a kind”.
So the Archbishop knows what the real Islam is. Would it not be nice for him to tell us what it is and back it up with some theology? Not a chance. Perhaps he has a deep but private understanding of Islam but if so, why did he then call on Christians to launch a 21st-century “prayer crusade”? Even you or I would realise how offensive that phrase would be, not just to ISIS but to Muslims generally.
Let us end though with another Archbishop, the exiled Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Amel Shimoun Nona, who does see the connection and warns us of what is coming our way:
“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive.
Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home”.