What ISIS Really Wants– Point By Point Refutation Of Most Of The Key Assumptions, Statements, Quotations And Charges Made In Graeme Wood’s Essay
By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
(co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.)
25 Feb, 2015
This long article is more of a story than a scholarly report as it features a great deal of inaccuracies, flaws and sweeping exaggerations as listed below:
1. The assertion that “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic – very Islamic” is unsubstantiated. The truth is it stands in stark contradiction to message of Islam and represents an early sect that was outlawed as having lost its faith in Islam. It also supports the legitimacy of ISIS which is challenged on sound religious and historical grounds in the following article:
Ref: Declare The ISIS As The Kharijites (Those Who Seceded From Islam) As This Article Demonstrates And Declares: Global SOS To The Ulama, Muftis, Intellectuals And Scholars Of Islam
2. The statement: “But the religion preached by its [ISIS’s] most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam” is mere conjecture. The author’s knowledge of Islam appears to be based on the media – all negative news selectively from the Muslim world and he conflates the faith with the crimes of its terrorists and criminals. If he has indeed read the Koran, he approached it with skepticism and sought the worst meaning in it while the Koran calls upon its readers to approach it with a positive mind and seek the best in it. What a simple and distorted way to learn about a faith?
3. The article purports to claim that ISIS strictly follows “the Prophet’s methodology.” It is ridiculous to take the words of a criminal on its face value. If someone commits a heinous crime and claims that he is following the example of his religious leader, do you take his word like a gullible giving ear to slander and lies? Any person of discretion will not take the words of the criminals on face value.
4. The author states: “Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.”
Yes. This sect regards all fellow Muslims who do not agree with them as infidels and worthy of being killed. And that is why it was outlawed from Islam. Read details in my referenced fatwa please. It was a member of this sect that assassinated Caliph Ali, the fourth Caliph of Islam and the nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet and in the words of the great Historian Philip K. Hitti cause rivers of blood to flow in the first three centuries of Islam [History of the Arabs, 1937, 10th edition; London 1993, p. 247.]
5. The author says: “When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.”His reason may be religious, but the religion that drives him is based on the barbaric tribal more that characterized the pre-Islamic Arabia and not the noble religion of Islam. The Serbs who thrust rifle bayonets into the chests and breasts of helpless Albanian Muslims during the last genocide draped it with the portrait of Mary. Does it make her an accomplice of the brutal murder? So, saying allahu akbar and killing somebody or committing heinous crimes does not make Allah or its Prophet an accomplice to the crimes.
6. The author quotesBernard Haykel as saying: “Koranic quotations are ubiquitous”. Yes – but not one single quotation that supports killing of innocent civilians. The terrorist adopt an uncanny way of argument by repeatedly quoting unrelated verses from the Qur’an. This is captured in the Refutation of a key al-Qaida Fatwa referenced below in these words:
“The Fatwa is based on the standard juristic methodology of quoting a related, obliquely related, generic or even unrelated Qur'anic verse and then tabling the opinions of different scholars /theologians (ulama/Imams) to connect the quoted verse with the theme of the fatwa through a scholastic method of deduction. …The Fatwa is based entirely on the past fatwas and consensus of the imams and theologians (ijma).”
Refutation of Sheikh Yousuf Al-Abeeri's fatwa appearing in English translation in New Age Islam website supporting wanton killing of innocent civilians under special circumstances and thus justifying the 9/11 attacks - Part-1
Scholastic methodology of the Fatwa
7. The author writes, “People want to absolve Islam,”
Yes. That is true and this is how it must be.
Islam has nothing to do with their heinous ways. This is what the Refutation of one of al-Qaida’s key fatwa reads:
“Each noted point of the Fatwa is convincingly refuted. The concluding claim of the Fatwa of being authenticated by the Qur’an and the Hadith is a blatant lie, as each of its four broken down propositions are refuted on the strength of the Qur’an. This concluding part of the Fatwa has not quoted even a single authenticated (Sahih) Hadith narration, though such a narration would not have lent it any credence as the Qur’an refutes it.”
Re: Refutation of Sheikh Yousuf Al-Abeeri's fatwa appearing in English translation in New Age Islam website supporting wanton killing of innocent civilians under special circumstances and thus justifying the 9/11 attacks – Part-8.
8. The statement,“All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs” defies the historically first hand records of the Qur’an (which is retained without any textual corruption by an unbroken chain of memorizers since the days of its revelation), and testifies that that at least for first 20 out of the 22 years of his mission, barring measured military actions against three native Jewish tribes for their seditious conspiracies, the Prophet was always in the defensive and lived on the edge risking annihilation at the hands of its powerful enemies. The author‘s statement is a white lie as the historical authenticity of the Qur’anic records is beyond debate.
Here are the Qur’anic glimpses on the major events of the first 20 years of the Prophet’s mission – of which the last eight years (622-630), which belonged to the Medinite period (The Prophet was based in Medina) saw armed encounters: [The bracketed code denote the Chapter and Verse number of the Qur’an based on standard convention, and words in italics, are quotes from the Qur’an that can be readily verified.]
Battle of Badr (624)
In the battlefield of Badr, the Muslims were to engage with a militarily and numerically superior army (8:43, 8:47). They were struck with horror (8:6), prayed for God’s help, and were inspired with the hope that God will help them with one thousand angels, one after another (8:9).The revelation subsequently clarifies that God had ordained this hope in their hearts merely to reassure them (8:10).
The Medinite Muslims among his followers were not obliged to take part in the battle as the attackers were only after Muhammad and his Meccan followers and offered them peace, but there is no report of any desertion in the Prophet’s camp.
As the Muslims met the Meccan army, God made this army seem trifling in their eyes, just as He made the Muslims appear to be of little concern to the Meccans (8:44).
(The revelation) commanded the Prophet to inspire his followers and assured them that if they persevered patiently, they would overcome the attackers, even if they were twice or ten times as many (8:65/66).
Battle of Badr (624)
(The revelation commanded Muhammad) to urge the believers to fight without compelling anyone (4:84).
On way to the battleground a faction of Muslims who wavered in faith (hypocrites) withdrew saying, if they knew how to fight, they would have followed the Prophet (3:167).
(As the attackers boasted a decisively superior army, the revelation reminded thebelievers) that at Badr also they were weak and helpless (3:123) and inspired them with God’s promise of sending down three thousand angels (3:124).
The revelation declared that if they stood firm and dutiful in the face of a sudden attack, God would assist them with five thousand angels, swooping down (3:125). (It, however, clarified that as in the battle of Badr) (8:10), God had made this (promise) only to set their hearts at peace (3:126), and thus to enable them to overthrow their enemies and repulse their attack (3:127).
(On the day of the encounter), the Prophet left early in the morning to put his people at battle stations (3:121).
Initially, the Muslims made decisive gains, when some of the fighters weakened: they argued over the order and disobeyed after God showed them what they loved of this world (victory/booty) (3:152).
They ran off, paying attention to no one and ignoring the Prophet calling them from behind. (The attackers struck back in full force and thus) God repaid them (the Muslims) with affliction upon affliction so that they would not sorrow over what slipped away from them (3:153). Two of the factions of believers almost lost hope (3:122).
(The revelation urged the defenders) not to despair or grieve (3:139) (and consoled them that) if they were wounded, their enemies had also sustained injuries. (It reminded them that) these were the days of changing fortune to which God subjects humankind to know which of them truly believe (3:140).
Finally, the Prophet was struck unconscious and word spread that he was killed. The Muslims were terribly shocked and broke into a rout while the attackers left in glory, fully sure of their success in eliminating the Prophet.
The hypocrites were assailed with the thoughts of pagan ignorance. They said, ‘if we had any say in the matter our men would not have been killed (3:154).
Those, who had stayed back, said of their brethren: ‘Had they obeyed us, they would not have been killed (3:168).
(The revelation reminds them that) Muhammad was merely a messenger, other messengers had passed away before him, (and asks,) if he died or was killed would they turn on their heels?(3:144)..
Trench War/ Siege (627)
(As they watched over the horizon) the attackers came on them, waves upon waves. Their eyes dimmed and their hearts rose up to their throats and they imagined (weird) thoughts about God (33:10). This was a moment of trial for the believers as- they were shaken by a most violent shock (33:11).
The hypocrites wished they were in the desert with the Bedouins, inquiring about the news of the believers (33:20).
They said what God and the Prophet of God had promised was mere illusion (33:12).
A party of them said to others to go back as it was no (safe) place for them, and a party of them sought the Prophet’s permission saying that their homes were exposed, though they were not exposed and they only wanted to flee (33:13).
The siege lasted for a month, and it was only the Qur’anic exhortations and the Prophet’s exemplary leadership that kept the Muslims from surrendering (33:21).
Finally God repulsed the pagans in their rage by a severe storm (33:25) and forces invisible (33:9), and spared the believers combat (33:25) and the Muslims were saved from a crushing defeat and virtual annihilation.
And God brought down from their strongholds those of the People of the Book who backed them, and He threw terror into their hearts. A group of them were killed and a group was taken as captive (33:26), and their land, their homes, and their possessions were seized (6:27).
Hudaybiyah Peace Treaty (628)
In the sixth year of the Medinite period, the Prophet had a vision that he, along with his followerswas entering the Sacred Mosque (the Ka‘bah) in complete security, heads shaved (or hair cut short) and without fear (48:27), and he declared his intention to perform the pilgrimage. The nomadic Arabs who were weak in faith preferred to stay back (48:11), as they thought the Prophet and the believers would never be able to return to their families (48:12).
As the Prophet’s pilgrimage caravan camped at Hudaybiyah, some nine miles from Mecca, a powerful Quraysh army camped nearby threatening it with annihilation as the pilgrims had not come with any preparations for war. They waited in gnawing uncertainty - tormented, agonized and utterly confused about what fate had in store for them, when God sent divine peace (sakinah) down into their hearts to add faith to their faith (48:4). God was pleased with them (Muhammad’s followers) when they swore allegiance to him under the tree for He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent divine peace (sakinah) down on them and rewarded them with a way out (48:18), and before long a peace treaty was signed, though in terms that were insulting to the Prophet’s followers and caused resentment among the Prophet’s companions.Peaceful Integration of Mecca (630)
In the year 629, his ninth year in Medina, the Prophet performed the pilgrimage (though not in the hajj season) in accordance with the terms of the Hudaybiyah treaty. Muhammad now envisioned integrating his own people – the Quraysh, whom he loved (42:23),but could not bring to his faith (28:56). He was treaty bound not to interfere with the Meccans, and waited for an opportunity to realize his vision. This came about when the Quraysh took up arms against one of the Meccan tribes who had treaty alliance with him for defending them when attacked. The Prophet set off for Mecca with all his men, all armed for battle if needed.
(As the Muslims began to enter the city), the most fanatic among the Quraysh tried to resist when God sent divine peace (sakinah) upon His Messenger and on the believers, and imposed on them the Word of restraint (taqawa), as they were entitled to it and worthy of it (48:26).
God withheld the hands of the Meccans from the Muslims and the hands of the Muslims from the Meccans (48:24). Had it not been so, the Muslims would have trampled on those believing men and believing women (among the Meccans) they were not aware of (as those Meccans had secretly become Muslims), and thus guilt and stigma would have befallen them unawares? Had the (Meccan) Muslims been separated out, God would surely have punished the disbelievers among them (the Meccans) (48:25)?
Muhammad would have been within his rights to bring the tormentors and killers of the unprotected converts during the Meccan period to justice, execute the leaders of the tribes who had plotted to kill him, who planned and mounted attacks on Medina and broke treaty alliances, but he forgave them all. As he found some Meccans taking shelter in Ka‘ba in small groups not knowing what fate had in store for them, the Prophet is reported to have addressed them in the words of forgiveness that Joseph had spoken to his brothers who had been unjust to him when he was a child: There is no blame upon you today. God will forgive you. He is the Most Merciful of the merciful (12:92).
In the ensuing days, the Meccans came in groups to the Prophet to embrace the new faith (110:2), and the revelation reminded the Prophet to glorify God and seek forgiveness (and thus to remain humble) (110:3). Thus, the Qur’an commanded Muhammad to remain humble at the greatest and most unexpected political cum military achievement of his life, and to seek forgiveness (for any feeling of arrogance or grandeur that might have assailed him).
9. Haykel is quoted to claim that Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”
You cannot blame Islam for the brutalities of the dark through medieval ages - which it came to eradicate, and succeeded to a large extent. There was no less brutality in the Christian West.
10.The statement “The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam.” is just the opposite of the Qur’anic message which declares:
“…And let not the hatred of a people who (once) obstructed you from (entering the) Sacred House, lead you to be hostile.* Therefore, help each other to virtue (birr)** and piety (taqwa), and do not collaborate with each other in sin and enmity. Heed God, and (remember,) God is severe in punishment” (5:2).
“We prescribed in it for them, a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and wounds like for like. But whoever (forgives as a gesture of) charity, this is the expiation for him. (Remember,) those who do not judge by what God has revealed – it is they who are unjust” (5:45).
Besides, the Qur’an refers to crucifixion and amputation punishments against major and heinous crimes that it conflates with ‘war against God and the Prophet and leaves forgiveness clauses in each of its related verses as follows:
“(It is but) a just recompense (jaza’) for those who wage war against God and His Prophet, and storm about the earth causing corruption (fasad) that they are slain, or crucified, or have their hands and feet amputated from opposite sides, or expelled from the land. This has been their disgrace in this world, and a severe punishment (awaits) them in the hereafter (5:33), except (for) those who repent before you overpower them. (If so,) know that God is Most Forgiving and Merciful” (5:34).
“(As for) the thief, male and female, amputate the hands of both of them as a recompense for what they have earned - as an exemplary punishment from God. (Remember,) God is Almighty, Wise (5:38). But (as for) anyone who repents after his wrongdoing, and reforms - God will turn towards him. Indeed God is Most Forgiving and Merciful” (5:39).
11. The statement, “tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba” is Correct!
The Qur’an only authorized the collection of poll tax from neighboring Christian and Jewish settlements that was normative in the era. This wasin lieu of affording them full civil liberties unthinkable for the era and for the rest of human history until modern times. The following terms of surrender as recorded by two of the greatest and internationally acclaimed historians speak for themselves:
The terms of surrender of Damascus (AH 13/ 635) to Khalid ibn al Walid as reported by Philip K.Hitti:1
“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful! This is what Khalid ibn al Walid will offer to the inhabitants of Damascus if he enters therein: he promises to give them the security for their lives, property and churches. Their city wall will not be demolished; neither shall any Moslem be quartered in their houses. Thereunto we give to them the pact of God and the protection of the Prophet, the caliphs and the believers. So long as they pay the poll tax, nothing shall befall them."
Terms of surrender of Jerusalem, reported by Thomas Arnold:2
“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! This is the security which Umar, the servant of God, the commander of the faithful, grants to the people of Elia. He grants to all, whether sick or sound, security for their lives, their possessions, their churches and their crosses, and for all that concerns their religion. Their churches shall not be changed into dwelling places, nor destroyed, neither shall they or their appurtenances be in any way diminished, orthe crosses of the inhabitants nor aught of their possessions, nor shall any constraint be put upon them in the matter of their faith, nor shall any one of them be harmed.”
1. Philip K.Hitti, History of the Arabs, 1937, 10th edition; London 1993, p. 150.
2. Thomas W. Arnold, Preaching of Islam, 2nd revised edition, 1913, reprinted Delhi 1990, p. 56.
12. The statement: “Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State”is rhetorical like “millions” of people are killed though the millions may be actually 4555 according to hospital records (an arbitrary but typical example). The truth is hundreds of thousands of Muslims along with huge number of minorities flee the lands that ISIS brings under their control.
To substantiate the ‘tens of thousands” gravitating to Islamic state, the author furnishes name of one Australian, Cerantantio, on which he devotes a few paragraphs and extensively quote him, practically at will for he can put any word into his mouths. He also quotes Jurgen Todenhofer reporting arrival of a hundred fighters in two days – again these figures are not substantiated by any statistical data. Then he talks about three individuals who planned to join ISIS but failed to do so as their passports that were confiscated – Chaudry, Abu Baraa and Abdul Muhid and devoted a few paragraphs to them. This is all the active research that the author seems to have done before writing a very long peace on a most crucial and complex theme that has confused and alarmed the whole world.
This brings this writer to the section of Apocalypse, which he does not want to tax himself or the readers with, for it is clear that the author is making sweeping statements based on very limited actual research. It is also amply clear that the author’s knowledge about Islam is very limited and distorted and he suffers a great deal of misconceptions by relying entirely on apocryphal reports that choses selectively from Islamic Classical discourses. Since he writes authoritatively based on his misconceptions, he reaches wrong conclusions and can misguide his readers. The whole essay is more of a story, that could be pleasing to those who want to conflate Islam with ISIS and project Islam as a medieval religion, and lacks veracity, depth, intellectual acumen and scholarship. It is like the blind trying to guide the blind.
As for those who regard the Qur’an as an antiquated book, too complex to be understood and prone to divergent interpretations, and dismiss this essay being drawn on porous text, let the following testimony on the relevance and historical authenticity of the Qur’a n speak for itself:
“What happens in the Qur’an is deeply related to the travail of our time, and we need the Qur’anic word in the face of it. This would be true, of course, if only for the reason that multitudes of mankind, to be guided or persuaded about modernity at all, will need to be guided and persuaded Qur’anically.....Even where secularism has gone far among them or irreligion presses, their judgments and their sanity, their priorities and their ideals, will always be in large measure within the mind of the Qur’an.” [Kenneth Cragg, The Event of the Qur’an, Oneworld Publications, USA 1974, p. 22/23.]
“(The Qur’an) “does provide a firm basis of undoubted authenticity” [Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, English translation, 2nd edition, London 1996, p.x, Foreword]
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.