Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

The Real Name for ISIS Should Be KIL: “The Kharijites of Iraq and the Levant”

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

Now that airstrikes against ISIS positions in both Iraq and Syria have begun, it seems that the United States has entered into a long war against the barbarians who call themselves the “Islamic State.” Now, I have a real problem with this name, because what they are doing is hardly Islamic, even though they have “Islamic” in their name. In fact, some have noted the deliberate effort on the part of Administration and other officials to call this group by another name: ISIL, i.e., “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.”

Yet, they should not be called ISIS or ISIL at all. I have a different name for them: KIL, or the “Kharijites of Iraq and the Levant.”

Who were the Kharijites?

The Kharijites (lit., “those who went out”) go back to the very beginnings of Islamic history. During the reign of the fourth caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib — the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, and the first Imam in Shia theology — a dispute raged over leadership, and it ended up causing civil war. The governor of Damascus, Mu’awiyah, was one of Ali’s principal opponents, and their forces met during the Battle of Siffin in 658. After this battle, both Ali and Mu’awiyah agreed to arbitration.

The Kharijites rejected this arbitration and rebelled against them both. Their theology was extreme, believing that anyone who commits a grave sin is no longer a Muslim and is to be killed unless they repent. They wreaked havoc on Muslim societies for decades, initiating many rebellions against Muslim authorities. In fact, caliph Ali himself was assassinated by the Kharijites.

The barbarians of ISIS, like Al Qaeda and other extremists, are the Kharijites of our time. If you are not a Muslim like them, then you are an “apostate” who should be killed. The barbarians of ISIS – just as the Kharijites – divide the world into the dar al Islam (“realm of Islam”) and dar al harb (“realm of war,” i.e., nonbelievers). The barbarians of ISIS – just as the Kharijites – believe that a perpetual war must be fought to turn all areas into dar al Islam, and this can include murder against innocents.

The term khawarij, Arabic for Kharijite, has a particularly negative connotation among Muslims across the world, as this history is well-known and well understood. If the prevailing perception of ISIS can be changed from “jihadi” to “khariji,” i.e., Kharijite, it would go a long way to poison their image and expose them for who they really are: violent extremists.

Thus, rather than calling them ISIS, I will call them KIL.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) predicted the coming of the Kharijites:

There would arise from my Ummah (i.e., followers) a people who would recite the Qur’an, and your recital would seem insignificant as compared with their recital, your prayer as compared with their prayer, and your fast, as compared with their fast. They would recite the Qur’an thinking that it supports them, whereas it is an evidence against them. Their prayer does not get beyond their collar bone; they would swerve through Islam just as the arrow passes through the prey.

What’s more, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali, talked about the Kharijites as well:

When you see the black flags, remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet. Thereafter there shall appear a feeble, insignificant folk. Their hearts will be like fragments of iron. They will have the state. They will fulfill neither covenant nor agreement. They will call to the truth, but they will not be people of the truth. Their names will be parental attributions, and their aliases will be derived from towns. Their hair will be free-flowing, like that of women. This situation will remain until they differ among themselves. Thereafter, God will bring forth the Truth through whomever He wills.

The barbarians of KIL are exactly as Caliph Ali described:

  1. Their flags are black.
  2. They will be ruthless, with hearts like “fragments of iron.”
  3. They will claim a state.
  4. They will have long hair (look at pictures of many of their fighters).
  5. Their names will be parental attributions, and their aliases will be derived from towns,” i.e. “Abu Bakr al Baghadadi,” which means “Abu Bakr from Baghdad”; or “Abu Abdallah al Beljiki,” which means “Abu Abdallah the Belgian.”

I have been writing since at least 2008 that terrorists such as Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and now ISIS, should be called Kharijites. All Muslims should heed the advice of Imam and Caliph Ali: “Remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet,” which means do not join them or support them.

No one should be fooled by these religious charlatans. They are barbaric killers, and they must be opposed by every means necessary.  And part of that effort should be calling them who they really are: Kharijites. Thus, from now on, at least to me, ISIS will be now known as KIL, “The Kharijites of Iraq and the Levant.” May the Lord of Hosts destroy them and their evil actions.

Noor Inayat Khan: A Muslim Heroine For Everyone

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

In today’s day and age, there seems to be little patience for context and nuance. Much of the information obtained about truly complex issues is reduced to sound-bytes, headlines, and video clips. This is especially true when it comes to issues related to Islam, Muslims, and the happenings in the Muslim world.

And much of the news coming out the Muslim world today is not good at all.

Worse, much of that terrible news – such as the barbarism of ISIS – gets conflated with Muslims and their faith. Yet, the truth belies the headlines and video clips. There is so much more to the Muslim community, both here and abroad, and there are many, many more good stories about Islam and Muslims than there are bad. They just have to be told.

Enter Unity Productions Foundation, an American not-for-profit media company that seeks to, in the words of co-founder Alex Kronemer, “serve the cause of peace and understanding in part by expanding the narrative about Muslims to American audiences.” On September 9, UPF will air its latest film, “Enemy of the Reich,” to a nationwide audience on PBS. The film is a  “docudrama” about Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman of Indian and American descent who worked as a covert British agent assisting the French resistance against Nazi occupation during World War II.

Driven by deep-rooted Muslim spiritual values, her courageous actions in Nazi-occupied Paris are nothing short of extraordinary. The story of Noor Inayat Khan is truly inspirational, and Ms. Khan is a heroine – a Muslim heroine – that can inspire everyone to greatness. The film is very well done, and it is something the whole family can enjoy.

In an interview for this piece, Executive Producer Alex Kronemer said:

[Co-Executive Producer Michael Wolfe] and I were doing a bit of research and started uncovering several stories of Muslims who did heroic things during World War II.  The more we looked the more we found, such as the Paris Mosque, which hid Jews during the war; the Franco-Muslim Hospital in Paris that sheltered shot down US and British aviators and was awarded a medal from President Eisenhower after the war, the many Algerian Immigrants  who joined there French Resistance, and the fact that the largest volunteer army during World War II were from the Indian subcontinent.  What we found, in fact, was that Muslims did many heroic things during the war on the Allied side, yet few of those stories had been told. 

The release of this film is particularly relevant because, this year is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and as Kronemer said, “including at least one of the Muslim stories…is important at a time when most of what people hear about Muslims focuses on bad guys.”

Yet, as important as telling this story to American audiences is, it is just as important for Muslim audiences as well:

For any one raising Muslim children in America, it is important that they have Muslim heroes and heroines who are relevant to this American society that they are growing up in. There is sometimes a bit of a schizophrenia that our children experience between their Muslim identities and American identities.  This story is one that unites those identities by telling a story of a Muslim woman who did something important to Western History. 

“Enemy of the Reich,” narrated by Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren,  is a truly amazing documentary, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film. I must confess that, before this film was made, I had no idea who Noor Inayat Khan was. I am blessed to know her now, and I am confident you will as well.

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Indonesia: One Of The Many Places You Can Find True Islam (RNS)

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

While the barbarians of ISIS – and Islamophobes – like to claim that they are the only true Muslims on the earth, reality says something much different. My good friend and Editor-in-Chief of the Religion News Service, Kevin Eckstrom, wrote a beautiful post about Islam in Indonesia, and how this is one of the real faces of Islam, as opposed to the barbarism shown by ISIS:

JAKARTA, Indonesia (RNS) I woke up this morning to the news that the thugs in the Islamic State had beheaded yet another American journalist. Not a great way to wake up.

The name “Islamic State” is unfortunate on a number of levels – the group behind it is neither Islamic nor a state. Sure, they may be Muslims acting in the name of Islam, but the Muslim leaders I’ve met here are clear that it’s not a form of Islam that they recognize, or embrace.

“ISIS is not born from the heart of the Muslim people,” said Kyai al-Hajj Ali Musthafa Ya’qub, the grand mufti of the national mosque of Jakarta, using another acronym for the Islamic State. “Islam is what Allah the exalted says, not what Muslims do.”

Here in the heart of the world’s most populous Muslim nation, you encounter a different vision of Islam than the one most Americans see beamed out of the Middle East. Some would call it moderate, or centrist, and tolerance for other faiths is deeply embedded in its DNA. In a country that is 87 percent Muslim, there’s a surprising amount of room for everyone else.

“We need to change this idea that the Middle East is where we need to look” for what Islam looks like, said Lukman Hakim Saefuddin, the government’s minister of religious affairs.

Which brings us back to this idea of an Islamic state — a concept that has never found much favor in a country that claims more Muslims than any other. To be sure, there are controversial blasphemy laws, and the province of Aceh has implemented Shariah law (more on that in a later post). But the country remains a secular democracy whose founding principles include a “belief in the One and Only
God,” but doesn’t mention the term Allah.

Unlike Pakistan or Iran or Egypt, Islam is not the state religion here. Islam certainly has primacy of place, but it’s one of six officially recognized religions. There’s a sense of “Godly nationalism,” as one scholar put it, where Islam is just one of many claims on a national and individual identity.

“We are Indonesians who happen to be Muslims, not simply Muslims who happen to live in Indonesia,” Saefuddin said. For a man charged with safeguarding the faith of some 200 million Muslims, that’s quite a statement.

He goes on to explain the particular characteristics of Indonesian Islam and society. It is a great read, and it shows that the face that ISIS shows the world is far from the true face of Islam, an example of which is shown in Indonesia. Read the entire post here.

Nothing “Islamic” About ISIS, Part Two: What the “Jizya” Really Means

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

Last time, we began the conversation about how ISIS and its actions are hardly “Islamic.” Now, we will delve, a little, into the issue of this “tax” that the barbarians of ISIS demanded be paid by Iraqi Christians, called the jizya. The extremist forces of ISIS told Christians that they can either “covert, pay the jizya, or die.” We already explained how this completely violates both the spirit and letter of Islamic teaching. But, this “tax” called the jizya needs some explanation.

Enter Sohaib Sultan, Muslim chaplain at Princeton and personal friend:

ISIS has also given Christians another option if they want to remain in Iraq: to pay jizya. Jizya is a tax that Muslim empires imposed upon non-Muslim constituents in return for military exemption, protection against persecution and considerable religious freedoms. Most Muslim countries today no longer impose jizya on non-Muslims. The change in political order, rise of nation states and assumptions of citizenship today render certain medieval systems incongruent with modern realities and sensibilities. The Quran makes a reference to the jizya system (9:29), but its application is vague and it can very well be argued that such an imposition was only intended to manage troublesome and treacherous religious minorities. This is all to say that ISIS has no basis whatsoever to force Christians in Iraq to pay the jizya let alone the fact that they cannot even be considered a legitimate government by any stretch of the imagination and, therefore, cannot rightfully impose any taxes on anyone.

Sultan referenced verse 9:29, which the extremists use to justify their imposition of this tax, and Islamophobes use to prove Islam’s barbarity. Here is the verse in its entirety:

[And] fight against those who – despite having been vouchsafed revelation [aforetime] – do not [truly] believe either in God or the Last Day, and do not consider forbidden that which God and His Apostle have forbidden,  and do not follow the religion of truth [which God has enjoined upon them] till they [agree to] pay the exemption tax with a willing hand, after having been humbled [in war].

Qur’anic commentator Muhammad Asad makes these notes on this verse:

Lit., “such of those who were vouchsafed revelation [aforetime] as do not believe…”, etc. In accordance with the fundamental principle-observed throughout my interpretation of the Qur’an – that all of its statements and ordinances are mutually complementary and cannot, therefore, be correctly understood unless they are considered as parts of one integral whole, this verse, too must be read in the context of the clear-cut Qur’anic rule that war is permitted only in self-defense (see 2:190-194, and the corresponding notes).

In other words, the above injunction to fight is relevant only in the event of aggression committed against the Muslim community or state, or in the presence of an unmistakable threat to its security: a view which has been shared by that great Islamic thinker, Muhammad `Abduh. Commenting on this verse, he declared: “Fighting has been made obligatory in Islam only for the sake of defending the truth and its followers…. All the campaigns of the Prophet were defensive in character; and so were the wars undertaken by the Companions in the earliest period [of Islam]” (Manar X, 332).

Asad continues:

This, to my mind, is the key-phrase of the above ordinance. The term “apostle” is obviously used here in its generic sense and applies to all the prophets on whose teachings the beliefs of the Jews and the Christians are supposed to be based – in particular, to Moses and (in the case of the Christians) to Jesus as well (Manar X, 333 and 337).

Since, earlier in this sentence, the people alluded to are accused of so grave a sin as willfully refusing to believe in God and the Last Day (i.e., in life after death and man’s individual responsibility for his doings on earth), it is inconceivable that they should subsequently be blamed for comparatively minor offenses against their religious law: consequently, the stress on their “not forbidding that which God and His apostle have forbidden” must refer to something which is as grave, or almost as grave, as disbelief in God.

In the context of an ordinance enjoining war against them, this “something” can mean only one thing-namely, unprovoked aggression: for it is this that has been forbidden by God through all the apostles who were entrusted with conveying His message to man. Thus, the above verse must be understood as a call to the believers to fight against such – and only such  – of the nominal followers of earlier revelation as deny their own professed beliefs by committing aggression against the followers of the Qur’an.

This is his explanation of the jizya tax, which I find convincing and informative:

Sc., “and having become incorporated in the Islamic state”. The term jizyah, rendered by me as “exemption tax”, occurs in the Qur’an only once, but its meaning and purpose have been fully explained in many authentic Traditions. It is intimately bound up with the concept of the Islamic state as an ideological organization: and this is a point which must always be borne in mind if the real purport of this tax is to be understood.

In the Islamic state, every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to take up arms in jihad (i.e., in a just war in God’s cause) whenever the freedom of his faith or the political safety of his community is imperiled: in other words, every able-bodied Muslim is liable to compulsory military service. Since this is, primarily, a religious obligation, non-Muslim citizens, who do not subscribe to the ideology of Islam, cannot in fairness be expected to assume a similar burden. On the other hand, they must be accorded full protection of all their civic rights and of their religious freedom: and it is in order to compensate the Muslim community for this unequal distribution of civic burdens that a special tax is levied on non-Muslim citizens (ahl adh-dhimmah, lit., “covenanted” [or “protected”] people”, i.e., non-Muslims whose safety is statutorily assured by the Muslim community).

Thus, jizyah is no more and no less than an exemption tax in lieu of military service and in compensation for the “covenant of protection” (dhimmah) accorded to such citizens by the Islamic state. (The term itself is derived from the verb jaza, “he rendered [something] as a satisfaction”, or “as a compensation [in lieu of something else]” – cf. Lane II, 422.) No fixed rate has been set either by the Qur’an or by the Prophet for this tax; but from all available Traditions it is evident that it is to be considerably lower than the tax called zakah (“the purifying dues”) to which Muslims are liable and which – because it is a specifically Islamic religious duty – is naturally not to be levied on non-Muslims.

Only such of the non-Muslim citizens who, if they were Muslims, would be expected to serve in the armed forces of the state are liable to the payment of jizyah, provided that they can easily afford it. Accordingly, all non-Muslim citizens whose personal status or condition would automatically free them from the obligation to render military service are statutorily – that is, on the basis of clear-cut ordinances promulgated by the Prophet – exempted from the payment of jizyah: (a) all women, (b) males who have not yet reached full maturity, (c) old men, (d) all sick or crippled men, (e) priests and monks.

All non-Muslim citizens who volunteer for military service are obviously exempted from the payment of jizyah. My rendering of the expression `an yad (lit., “out of hand”) as “with a willing hand”, that is, without reluctance, is based on one of several explanations offered by Zamakhshari in his commentary on the above verse. Rashid Rida’, taking the word yad in its metaphorical significance of “power” or “ability”, relates the phrase can yad to the financial ability of the person liable to the payment of jizyah (see Manar X, 342): an interpretation which is undoubtedly justified in view of the accepted definition of this tax.

So, this is what the jizya is all about, and like Sohaib Sultan mentioned, it is largely moot in today’s day and age. Just because ISIS has the word “Islamic” in its name, it doesn’t mean that anything it does is in line with true Islamic teaching. In fact, everything ISIS does is the total antithesis of what Islam is all about.

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