Monday, September 29, 2014

Do I want to distance myself from ISIS?

This Summer, the western world was shaken by two conflicts, one in Europe, Ukraine, and one, again, in Syria and Iraq. The latter, caused by the arrival of 'Islamic State', a new caliphate, raised some interesting questions to Muslims and those who care for Islam.

Truth is, firstly, both Sunni and Shiah traditions promise the return of a final Khilafah, which will restore justice and bring peace. Another truth is, that, also in Islam, every people has a basic right to found a new state according to its own founding principles, and every person may be elligible for high leadership, as described in Qur'anic verse 3:26. There's no exception to this rule for Islamic peoples. The first topic of interest is, whether it is indeed the promised final, infallible khilafah. Scholars of all main schools of thought in Islam agree, that the Imamah of infallible caliphs belongs to descendants of the Saudi tribe of Quraish. The caliph of Islamic State, however, is Iraqi and the Caliphate is situated in Syria and Iraq. Doubtful therefore is, that IS is the final khilafah as prophesied in the ahadith.

Now the second issue. The media report, that Islamic State kills those of its inhabitants who don't want to convert to Islam. Contrary to popular belief, Islam does not allow Muslims such killing. These ahadith reported by Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim (the two at the end) testify as such:

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 628:

Narrated Salim's father:

The Prophet sent Khalid bin Al-Walid to the tribe of Jadhima and Khalid invited them to Islam but they could not express themselves by saying, "Aslamna (i.e. we have embraced Islam)," but they started saying "Saba'na! Saba'na (i.e. we have come out of one religion to another)." Khalid kept on killing (some of) them and taking (some of) them as captives and gave every one of us his Captive. When there came the day then Khalid ordered that each man (i.e. Muslim soldier) should kill his captive, I said, "By Allah, I will not kill my captive, and none of my companions will kill his captive." When we reached the Prophet, we mentioned to him the whole story. On that, the Prophet raised both his hands and said twice, "O Allah! I am free from what Khalid has done."

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 687:

Narrated Jarir:

The Prophet ordered me during Hajjatul-Wada'. "Ask the people to listen." He then said, "Do not become infidels after me by cutting the necks (throats) of one another. "

Volume 9, Book 84, Number 61:

Narrated 'Aisha: 

 A group of Jews asked permission to visit the Prophet (and when they were admitted) they said, "As-Samu 'Alaika (Death be upon you)." I said (to them), "But death and the curse of Allah be upon you!" The Prophet said, "O 'Aisha! Allah is kind and lenient and likes that one should be kind and lenient in all matters." I said, "Haven't you heard what they said?" He said, "I said (to them), 'Wa 'Alaikum (and upon you).

Volume 9, Book 84, Number 68:

Narrated Yusair bin 'Amr: I asked Sahl bin Hunaif, "Did you hear the Prophet saying anything about Al-Khawarij?" He said, "I heard him saying while pointing his hand towards Iraq. "There will appear in it (i.e, Iraq) some people who will recite the Quran but it will not go beyond their throats, and they will go out from (leave) Islam as an arrow darts through the game's body.' "

Volume 9, Book 88, Number 184:

Narrated 'Abdullah and Abu Musa: The Prophet said, "Near the establishment of the Hour there will be days during which Religious ignorance will spread, knowledge will be taken away (vanish) and there will be much Al-Harj, and Al-Harj means killing."

Volume 9, Book 89, Number 329:

Narrated Jabir bin Samura: I heard the Prophet saying, "There will be twelve Muslim rulers (who will rule all the Islamic world)." He then said a sentence which I did not hear. My father said, "All of them (those rulers) will be from Quraish."

Book 032, Number 6327:

'Urwa reported on the authority of his father that Hisham b. Hakim b. Hizam happened to pass by some people in Syria who had been made to stand in the sun and olive-oil was being poured upon their heads. He said: What is this? It was said: They are being punished for (not paying) the Kharaj (the government revenue). Thereupon he said: Allah would punish those who torment people in this world (without any genuine reason).

Book 032, Number 6328:

Hisham reported on the authority of his father that Hisham b. Hakim b. Hizam happened to pass by people, the farmers of Syria, who had been made to stand in the sun. He said: What is the matter with them? They said: They have been detained for Jizya. Thereupon Hisham said: I bear testimony to the fact that I heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Allah would torment those who torment people in the world.

Al Khawarij are those who think, that rebellion and revolution against leaders is allowed in Islam. Islam, however, asks us to consult with each other in a peaceful manner, as prescribed in Qur'anic verse 42:38, and to obey leaders, even if those aren't always just, as prescribed in verse 4:59.

More importantly, Qur'an itself forbids Muslims random killing of those who reject Islam or left it. Please see one of my previous entries on this blog, The Basics of Islam's Outward Boundaries. Qur'an as reference of judgement in Islam precedes any other scripture, unless explicitly stated otherwise... which isn't often the case. Unbelievers and apostates may be killed only if they kill and persecute believers themselves and neither offer peace nor enter Islam.

We could ask ourselves, if indeed #IS has the right to call itself an 'Islamic' State, if it radomly kills those who live in its newly conquered lands and don't want to convert to Islam or pay 'jizya' tax. How violent has the relation of local Muslims, Christians, Yezidi, and other groups been? If it wasn't violent, then IS has no case.

There's a third question of interest: Is any party allowed to retaliation? The answer to that one isn't simple. Islam allows the faithful retribution for those who were killed, according to these Qur'anic verses:

002.178 Surah 2 Verse 178

O ye who believe! the law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord. After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty.

002.179 Surah 2 Verse 179

YUSUFALI: In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) Life to you, o ye men of understanding; that ye may restrain yourselves.

002.194 Sura 2 Verse 194

YUSUFALI: The prohibited month for the prohibited month,- and so for all things prohibited,- there is the law of equality. If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, Transgress ye likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.

017.033 Surah 17 Verse 33

YUSUFALI: Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred - except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law).

The law of equality prescribes, that any retaliation against other people's harmful behavior must be of equal value, law which may also be applied to offenses slighter than killing. This issue, however, touches the history between Islam and the West. IS may have a point, when it triumphantly announces killing of the British, American, and other western journalists or workers they captured. There's a long line of killing and retribution of killing in our joint western and middle eastern histories; recent history has shown a revival since the US-presidencies of the Bush family, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. And the Middle East has been of the receiving end, mostly, and grossly. Against the killing of every American or European, we've seen at least 10,000 Iraqi, Afghani, and other killings in the Middle East by western armies. And journalists or workers may be an interest party in this war. The temptation to retaliate may have been less, if the West had paid better compensation for the suffering and loss of property during colonial occupation, during bombardments, etc. Not without reason, Islam offers a way out of retaliation with forgiveness. At some time, the cycle of retaliations should end.

Then there's a fourth, final question, not a slight one either. None of us can effectively act, unless we know who we are dealing with. Rumor has it, that IS may be fake. There are plenty of videos circulating, saying that the beheadings of journalists are fake. Therefore, I looked at mainstream footing as these:

Don't worry--the images aren't scary, no one is actually beheaded in these videos

In this case, James Foley, I find the accusation credible. I see two different people here; obviously their voices and their facial movements differ. So what really happened to James Foley? And why the fake? Is IS real, at all? Why was its initial name changed, a name that reminded of forgotten Egyptian goddess Isis? I find the thought tempting, that this group may not at all be a Muslim group. They may be a group of provocateurs, enabling some parties a new war. What if the USA, Iran, any other country, have a hand in that? What must happen to all their military personnel, should war be over? Military personnel may suffer the same trauma as jihad travelers do, after all. Not to mention the tempting shine of the oil. The strangest aspect of it, is the anonymity of thousands of casualties resulting from bombardments versus the flagrant cruelty of one, or a few, beheading(s) of a journalist, who has a name and a face. It does make those 10,000 seem equal to this one person. And that fact, on the other hand, is exactly what Muslim extremists are fighting against, and they have a point here, too. The question is, really, who is the extremist here. The Americans and other westerners have dug themselves deep into the Middle East with their warfare. It's not easy to stop that. One may wonder, if the west is really fighting itself, before any one else.

Is there a solution to this latest problem? The only solution may be a full lock-up of the area occupied by IS, so that no one may enter or leave it, and aid and shelter for the many refugees. IS will have to leave the area, or it has to isolate itself. This will probably leave the least damage.

University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts)