The feelings of mainstream Muslims and of political leaders across the world that ISIS is not Islam are understandable. In a world of conflict, it is impossible to fathom that the ISIS Jihadists murdering innocent people would represent any form of Muslim beliefs. Since the world is longing for peace and prosperity and militant minorities are shaking up the order, it appears difficult to distinguish between the religious message and the feelings in the hearts of the people. Moreover, it might be unfair to single out Islam for fact checking while other religions and their sects get away without further scrutiny.
To be as short as possible: Islam is Jihad.
One of the central ideas of the Koran is that Jesus, the founder of Western Christianity, cannot be a divinity in any form or shape[i]
and cannot have resurrected after the Crucifixion. While the Koran accepts Jesus as the Messiah, it fundamentally rejects Jesus as a god, in particular as part of the Trinity, denies the Crucifixion, and opposes his Resurrection. In its mission, the Koran singles out two main enemies: the Jews and the Western Christians, more specifically those of the original Greek Orthodox Christianity and its later off-shoots (former Byzantine Christianity).
Quite clearly, the Koran seems geared against the Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – and the Jewish sects that refused to play along at a time of grave religious turmoil during the seventh century.
“And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God wherever you shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush: but if they shall convert, and observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then let them go their way […]” [ii]
Obviously, the text suggests an ethnic cleansing not unlike what ISIS represents today. Jihad is a holy war against those that join other gods with the single Judaic master god. The Trinitarian Christians, i.e. modern Western Christianity of Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant flavors, are reasoned to be such, because joining Jesus to a Trinity of divinities is Muslim anathema. It is a war in a ‘just cause’ after centuries of bloodshed and oppression.
As if killing Pagans is preferable over beheading Jews and Christians, many modern Muslims claim that this is out of context, refers to polytheists. They say that Islam is a religion of peace. Clearly, the Koran suggests a strategy of conquest and conversion, and it looks at Trinitarians quite logically as joining multiple gods together.[iii]
Except for one that is creatively misinterpreted, there is not a single entry in the Koran that suggests peace other than among their own.
“Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and those who are with him are hard against the unbelievers, merciful one to another. […]” [iv]
This, of course, needs to be extended to all Judaic sectarian creeds. Those even superficially familiar with the religious histories of the past 2,000 years know that there is no foundation to a religion of peace. Christians only need to consult the book of Revelation in order to get a good overview of religious insanity. The bloodshed over doctrinal superiority has been without end for the past 1,700 years. At the time of the composition of the Koran in the seventh century, the Arab nations from Yemen to modern Iraq had long converted to various forms of Christianity, including forms that did not believe in Jesus’s divinity. The polytheist Pagans had long gone by then. Like today with ISIS, the motto of the Koran’s authors was ‘convert or die.’
“[…] God is free from any engagement with the votaries of other gods with God as is His Apostle! If, therefore, ye turn to God it will be better for you; but if ye turn back, then know that ye shall not weaken God: and to those who believe not, announce thou a grievous punishment.” [v]
The ‘punishment’ is typically understood as Hell, but in the real world of ISIS and Islam – or the Taliban and al-Qaeda – it means death by whichever form gets the best media exposure. Not much imagination is needed to figure out that these religious writings and their teachers rape the minds of children – regardless of wishful moderation.
“They who believe, fight on the path of God; and they who believe not, fight on the path of Thagout: Fight therefore against the friends of Satan. Verily the craft of Satan shall be powerless!” [vi]
Instead of a message of peace, what emerges is rather an open call to pick up the fight against those that do not accept Islam. The Koran even provides behavioral instructions in Jihad.
“O believers, when you encounter the unbelievers marching to battle, turn not your backs to them. Whoso turns his back that day to them, unless withdrawing to fight again or removing to join another host, he is laden with the burden of God’s anger, and his refuge is Gehenna [Hell] — an evil homecoming!
You did not slay them, but God slew them; and when thou threwest, it was not thyself that threw, but God threw, and that He might confer on the believers a fair benefit.” [vii]
Modern scholars interpret the preceding passage as expressly commanding the military Jihad. It provides the foundation of the Jihadists in the Islamic State, for al-Qaeda, and others, including Hezbollah or the Taliban. In Palestine, the argument goes along the line that the sheer existence of Israel wrongs the Palestinian people and threatens other Muslim nations. Hence, ISIS is perhaps using the holy text as a counter-part to the ‘Just War’ doctrines of the West. To be sure, believers were to engage in a holy war if called upon – as Caliph Ibrahim of ISIS does. Upon the call to Jihad, the believers are to follow blindly to their death and undeterred from opposing calls by competing imams.
The believers received an advance pardon, and cowardice was to be paid for with hell. As a reward, the fallen achieved the glory of martyrdom — a shortcut to paradise.
“If you are slain or die in God’s way, forgiveness and mercy from God are a better thing than that you amass; surely if you die or are slain, it is unto God you shall be mustered.”[viii]
It is true that Muslims are not to be the aggressors[ix]
and to accept ‘peace,’ if offered.[x]
This peace is subject to the whim of Muslim leaders who would not accept compromises that could have diluted the message of an undivided god. Those that surrendered had to convert or pay heavy taxes.
Thus, that ISIS is not Islam is as patently false as the Western notion that Islam has become a synonym for modern terrorism. While the overwhelming majority of Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims are neither terrorists nor Jihadists, Ibrahim’s spokesman made it abundantly clear:
“The best thing you can do is to make an effort to kill any infidel, French, American or any of their allies.” He continued, “If you are not able to use an explosive charge or a bullet, then single out the American or French infidel or any of their allies and smash his head with a rock, slaughter him with a knife, run him over with a car, throw him from a high place, choke him or poison him.” [xi]
It cannot have escaped anyone that we are living through a full-on jihad, and perhaps those that deny that ISIS represents a doctrine of Islam do not seem to know the Koran well enough. This time, it is not by the order of a despot but by the prayer of a Sunni Muslim Imam. Next time, it is another mad man.
Muslims and religious apologists frequently quote a fragment from a dialogue that suggests that if you kill one person, it is as though you kill all of humanity. However, this is taken out of context. The fragment is embedded in the story of Cain who murdered his brother Abel. Believers consider that the brothers were the first humans born from the arch-couple Adam and Eve that had been created by the god of the Israelites. Hence, killing one of the two has deep implications for all of humanity. The fragment is then embedded in the following verse:
“For this cause have we ordained to the children of Israel that he who slayeth any one, unless it be a person guilty of manslaughter, or of spreading disorders in the land, shall be as though he had slain all mankind; but that he who saveth a life, shall be as though he had saved all mankind alive.” [xii]
It needs to be noted that the Koran here addresses the “children of Israel” rather than the Muslims – a detail that changes the meaning of the text dramatically. Immediately following the passage, the Koran sets out conditions and which exceptions are to be supported:
“Of old our Apostles came to them with the proofs of their mission; then verily after this most of them committed excesses in the land.
Only, the recompense of those who war against God and his Apostle, and go about to commit disorders on the earth, shall be that they shall be slain or crucified, or have their alternate hands and feet cut off, or be banished the land: This their disgrace in this world, and in the next a great torment shall be theirs –
Except those who, ere you have them in your power, shall repent; […]” [xiii]
In short, anyone who claims the passage to be a message of peace does not tell the full story. The Koran reveals that only those that repent get away with their lives, i.e. the converts. All others are considered to committing disorders by having distorted the message of the Torah and the Gospels, meaning Jews and Christians.
A misunderstanding might be suspected considering the vast body of Sharia traditions that sometimes conflict with the Koran. However, in Jihad, Sharia Law and the Koran speak one language: believing Muslims follow the Imam’s call to Jihad. The question to be sorted out – and that is the good news – is who should have the right to be the leader over all the Muslims. It remains the core reason for division and bloodshed between Shi’ites and Sunnis. Since it has never happened in the past, it is not likely that this will ever change; but if it does, then the rest of the world will have reasons to worry.
The great Sunni scholar Bukhari was the author of thousands of Hadiths (Sharia traditions). He highlighted how Jesus’s Second Coming was a common belief among Muslims and Christians.
“By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary [Jesus] will shortly descend amongst you people as a just ruler and will break the Cross [the Christians] and kill the pig [the Jews] and abolish the Jizya [the tax that was imposed on non-believers]. Then there will be abundance of money and no-body will accept charitable gifts.” [xiv]
As the Jews and the Christians, Muslims are waiting for the return of the Christ who would rule through a counter-caliph. Christians are familiar with the story from the book of Revelation,[xv]
in which Jesus, the Messiah, would return soon. In plain words, they were waiting to overthrow those that venerated Jesus as a god on the cross and to cleanse their world of the Jews. It represents quite literally the goals of ISIS today.
The successive laws in the form of the prophet’s sayings delivered the intellectual foundation for the brutality that endures today with ISIS.
“The Jew brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from amongst them who have committed (adultery) illegal sexual intercourse. He ordered both of them to be stoned (to death), near the place of offering the funeral prayers beside the mosque.”” [xvi]
The Sunni Bukhari utilizes strong words against his foes:
“The Jews will fight with you, and you will be given victory over them so that a stone will say, “O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me; kill him!”” [xvii]
When the minds of children are exposed to such terrifying doctrines, one must not wonder why Muslims hate the Jews and why they collectively desire to get rid of Israel. Of course, the hatred is mutual to this day, and most live in denial that this has everything to do with religion and its teachings.
“Allah’s Apostle said, “When the Jews greet you, they usually say, ‘As-Samu alaikum (Death be on you)’, so you should say (in reply to them), ‘Wa’alaikum (And on you).’”” [xviii]
They are all in possession of divine mandates to kill each other. It continues today among Palestinians and Israelis, and it appears quite likely that ISIS, should they advance that far, will make true of the promise.
Given the difficult political circumstances of ISIS’s rise, Jihad is surprisingly straight forward and needs no additional clarification.
“The Prophet was asked, “Which is the best deed?” He said, “To believe in Allah and His Apostle.” He was then asked, “Which is the next (in goodness)?” He said, “To participate in Jihad in Allah’s Cause.” He was then asked, “Which is the next?” He said, “To perform Hajj-Mabrur.”” [xix]
Jihad is a fight in the cause of God. Martyrdom is upheld in highest regard, and terrorism is a tool of necessity and publicity. This approach of intimidation is well documented from Islam’s beginnings.
“Nobody who enters Paradise likes to go back to the world even if he got everything on the earth, except a Mujahid who wishes to return to the world so that he may be martyred ten times because of the dignity he receives.” [xx]
When it comes to ISIS and their murderous practices, there is no room to declare them non-Muslims. Indeed, those that reject Jihad are probably the lesser Muslims than the Jihadists – certainly, they are less fundamental.
Thus, when modern Muslims reach out for peace, they are hopefully on their path to becoming less fundamental and more secularized – which we must embrace. As hard and embarrassing as it is: Sunni Muslims are following protocol with ISIS. Saying that ISIS does not represent Islam is like declaring the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh un-American.