How Un-Islamic is the ISIS?


A guest article by Dr Iqtidar Karamat Cheema

The Muslim world is going through a great turmoil — the rise of the barbaric terrorists of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is yet another stigma on the name of Islam. The so-called Islamic State (IS) which previously named itself as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has declared itself a Caliphate. The former collaborators, aiders and abettors of Al-Qaida has now unveiled the plans to expand the so-called Caliphate throughout the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa and parts of Europe.

The formation of a world-wide Caliphate has remained the core of various belligerent Islamic radicals. These radicals blame democracy, capitalism, innovativeness and the secular governments in the Muslim world as the main reason for the decline of Islam. They believe that the resurgence of the Caliphate is the only cure for the ills of the Muslim societies. They seek an idealistic vision where Islam controls the world and everyone is subject to their radical version of Islam.

While discussing the so-called Caliphate of IS and self-declared Caliph Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, one must bear in in mind the history of the institution of the caliphate and the pious Muslim Caliphs. The historical caliphate began with the appointment of the first Caliph, Abu-Bakr, in 632 AD and lasting in some form until 1924. The power, the glory, and proud tradition of the Islamic Caliphate and Caliphs who ruled the Muslim empire for nearly 1400 years, had assumed the title on more "legitimate" grounds, such as being chosen by popular acclamation or by a small committee. The classic Islamic theology exhibits Caliph as successor to the Prophet Mohammed, which gives him superlative authority as both spiritual and political head of the community. He symbolises the unity of the community, which means that only one caliph could rule at a time. He has to be from the Quraish tribe - the tribe of the Prophet Mohammad - and had to have the requisite personal attributes, including being pious, upright, competent, able-bodied, and well versed in the law. Finally, he had to be chosen. In the case of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, he has been acclaimed as Caliph only by his own gang of radicals. He neither has the authentic link to the lineage of the Prophet Mohammed nor has he adopted the personal conduct and attributes of a true Caliph. 

Although the IS and Al-Baghdadi claims to be linked with Sunni Islam but their radical ideologies are closer to philosophy of the Kharijites. The Kharijits who first emerged in the late 7th century, concentrated in today's southern Iraq. Due to their radical acts and ideology, the Kharijites developed extreme doctrines that further set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shiʿa Muslims. The 12th Century famous Hanafi Jurist Imam Al-Kasani in his writing al-Badai-as-sanai described that, ‘The rebels are the Kharijites, and they are a folk who believe that every sin is disbelief, whether it’s a major or minor sin. With their self-styled interpretation they believe it is lawful to kill, shed blood and seize wealth; and they possess force and strength.’   The renowned Muslim philosopher and theologian Ibn Taymiyyah narrates the Kharijites in his scholarly writing ‘Al-Nabuwat’ as follows:

‘Since they were armed and inclined to fight, their opposition to Community (Jamaa) manifested when they started killing the people.’ 

Considering the above narration of Kharijites we can clearly see the similarities in the beliefs and actions of Kharijites and IS.

Iraq is currently seeing the extermination of Shia Muslims and its ancient non-Muslim communities Christians, Mandeans and Yazidis—under the compression of IS terror, religious intolerance, and due to the failure of the government to adequately protect and help them. Under the barbaric rule, Christians face an unadorned choice: convert, pay Jizya or die. The Quran strictly prohibits conversion by force, by saying in its chapter Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) verse 256 ‘There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion’.

Regarding Jizya we must understand that what is the place of Jizya in Islam and is it relevant today? There is a mention of Jizya in the Holy Quran, the tax levied on non-Muslims, in the conquered territories. In accordance with the tenets of their religion which prohibits compulsion, Muslims used to permit the inhabitants of the country they had conquered to remain on their religion provided that they paid Jizya in return for Muslim protection against any external aggression.  But some might say: Isn't Jizya a compulsory means to convert the non-Muslims into Islam to avoid paying it?  Interestingly there was no such tax during the life and times of Prophet Mohammad in Madina where he lived for long years and acted as the chief administrator.  In 622 C.E when Prophet Mohammad signed a treaty with the Jews of Madina, the treaty stipulated a city state in Madina, allowing wide autonomy to communities and protection to Jews in the Muslim State but no Jizya was imposed by the Prophet Mohammad on the Jewish population of Madina.  Jizya was a negotiable tax to be paid at the end of the year; it was levied only on the earning population in exchange for state protection. There was the parallel tax namely Zakat on Muslims, which in many cases was more than the Jizya. It was more than clear that Jizya is not amongst eternal norms of Islam, it is something which has to be decided on social and political circumstances of the place and time. It is worth pointing out that it is not levied on the poor or on those who have no income; nor is it imposed on women and children, or on the blind who have no trade or job, or on an infirm who is in financial straits, or on monastery monks, except if wealthy.  With regard to the value of Jizya, it has been established that it had never exceeded the tax amount non-muslims used to pay to their own government before the advent of Islam. Jizya was lawfully permitted only in return for the actual protection provided by the Muslim State for the non-muslims who were under their rule. No Protection, no Jizya.  Jizya has been discarded since long time and this practice does not exist in the modern world. Therefore, recent imposition of Jizya by the IS on Non-Muslims is greatly deplorable.

The IS is also leading a sectarian war. The maniac has already killed thousands of Muslims as it considers other Muslims who do not follow their interpretation—Sunnis, Shias, Sufis, and similar groups within Islam—to be non-Muslims and therefore enemies. Throughout the recent months the captured fighters - and non-combatants – were shot or decapitated by IS, their deaths recorded in grisly videos which inspire fear and revulsion among opponents. The IS has clearly ignored the saying of Prophet Mohmmad (P.B.U.H.) which suggests "The Believers, in their mutual love, mercy and compassion, are like one body: if one organ complained, the rest of the body develops a fever."

According to Quran and Prophetic traditions of Islam, it is a compulsion on the Islamic State to protect the sanctity of the religious sites and places of worship belonging to Islam and other religion. The Quran mentions in its chapter of AL-HAJJ (the Pilgrimage): ‘Those who were expelled from their habitations without right, for no other reason than they said: 'Our Lord is God.' Had God not driven back the people, some by the means of others, there had been destroyed cloisters and churches, oratories and mosques, wherein God's Name is much mentioned. Assuredly God will help him who helps Him -- surely God is All-strong, All-mighty’.

Ironically, the radical IS has destroyed shrines belonging to Prophet Sheth and Prophet Jonah. Both the Prophets are highly regarded in both Islam and Christianity. In the Quran and the Bible, Prophet Jonah is famous for being swallowed by a fish. His holy shrine dating back to the 8th century BC, has been levelled to the ground. The tomb of Prophet Danial has also been demolished. The ISIS is now planning to capture Karbala and Najaf and destroy the holy shrines related to the family of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and the martyrs of Karbala.  Iran has vowed that Shia holy shrines in Iraq will be defended at almost any cost – particularly in Karbala and Najaf, where ISIS leaders have claimed they will attempt to capture the holy sites. Millions of Shia Muslim pilgrims travel to the revered sites each year.
Despite these despotic acts of IS one should not jump to demonise Islam by the actions of IS. Various religious radicals have used the identity of religion for expansion of their empires, to launch brutal wars, Crusades, Jihads, and Dharmyudhs. The common theme of use of religion in politics is that such a use of religion revolves around the identity related things of that religion and not to the morality of the religion. The fanatics wearing the garb of Islam must be dealt with firmly and human rights of all must be upheld to the fullest extent.



-2 #5 James hopes 2015-12-07 17:31
Nice to see this forums.. Seen in general, Sura 9 has a solid subject of the judgment of god on unbelievers and "associators" (musharikeen) I take this to be Christians as we are the ones who partner somebody with God. On the other hand it is plain that the "musharikeen" are to be dealt with well in the event that they apologize, or look for assurance.
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0 #4 robin fisher 2014-12-13 17:32
What non Muslims such as myself are asking is “what is there to indicate that ISIS is not as good an interpretation of Islam as any one else's?
Can we have a response from a Muslim to these questions? Thanks...
+2 #3 robin fisher 2014-12-13 17:31
Viewed as a whole, Sura 9 has a strong theme of the judgment of god on unbelievers and ‘associators’ (musharikeen) I take this to be Christians as we are the ones who associate someone with God. However it is plain that the ‘musharikeen’ are to be treated well if they repent, or seek protection.
There are several injunctions to fight unbelievers or ‘musharikeen’ and indications that God is doing so( verses 5,14,29 and 30). There are also commands and encouragements to ‘march out’ against the unbelievers . (38, 39 and 41). The word here is definitely a call to arms in the military sense and derives from an Arabic root with this meaning.
There is the well known verse, 73, where the prophet is commanded to strive against the disbelievers and to be harsh with them.
I don't see any verses encouraging Muslims to live at peace with non-Muslims on an equal basis. Can someone point to such verses elsewhere in the Quran?
+3 #2 Julian Bond 2014-11-04 06:59

Have you read Surah at-Tawbah (9) to get the full sense of its context? It does not encourage offensive war.
0 #1 robin fisher 2014-11-01 16:27
thanks for this.
as Sura 9:29says; Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day nor
hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His apostle
nor acknowledge the religion of truth (even if they are) of the People
of the Book until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel
themselves subdued.
Here is averse that expressly encourages war against people of the Book. I suggest that this abrogates the verse you quote. In view of the warlike life of the prophet (PHUH) and the equally warlike early history of Islam, we need to hear a theology of Islam that expressly rejects violence. it is not good enough to say IS is a perversion of Islam. to me it seems a reasonable interpretation of it.

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