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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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“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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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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Think Muslims Haven’t Condemned ISIS? Think Again

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

A very common, oft-repeated mantra among pundits and “experts” is that Muslims haven’t roundly condemned the extremism committed in Islam’s name. So many times, we hear people saying, “Where are the Muslim voices in condemnation?” “Why aren’t Muslims speaking up against extremists like ISIS?”

Well, the fact is, Muslims have been speaking out against ISIS and other extremist groups. The problem is, some times, people either don’t know or choose not to know this fact. Enter in this excellent post by Media Matters For America, which documents the round condemnation of ISIS by Muslim groups all across the world:

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The Organization Of Islamic Cooperation: The Islamic State Has “Nothing To Do With Islam,” Has Committed Crimes “That Cannot Be Tolerated.” As the Vatican’s internal news source reported, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 1.4 billion Muslims in 57 countries around the world, condemned the Islamic State’s persecution of of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq, saying the “forced deportation under the threat of execution” is a “crime that cannot be tolerated.” According to the Vatican:

The Secretary General also distanced Islam from the actions of the militant group known as ISIS, saying they ‘have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.’ [Vatican Radio, 7/25/14]

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Al-Azhar: Islamic State Is Corrupt And “A Danger To Islam.” Lebanese paper The Daily Star reported that Al-Azhar’s Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, Egypt’s highest religious authority, denounced the Islamic State as a threat to Islam and said that the group both violates Sharia law and humanitarian law: “[They] give an opportunity for those who seek to harm us, to destroy us and interfere in our affairs with the [pretext of a] call to fight terrorism.” [The Daily Star, 8/13/14]

Arab League: “Strongly Denounced” The “Crimes Against Humanity” Carried Out By The Islamic State. On August 11, Nabil al-Arabi, the Arab League Chief, denounced acts committed by the Islamic State in Iraq as “crimes against humanity,” demanding that they be brought to justice. According to Al Arabiya News, he said in a statement that he “strongly denounced the crimes, killings, dispossession carried out by the terrorist (ISIS) against civilians and minorities in Iraq that have affected Christians in Mosul and Yazidis.” [Al Arabiya News, 8/11/14]

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Turkey’s Top Cleric: Islamic State’s Threats Are “Hugely Damaging,” “Truly Awful.” Turkey’s highest ranking cleric, Mehmet Gormez, decried the Islamic State’s declaration of a “caliphate” and argued that the statements were damaging to the Muslim community, according to Reuters:

“Such declarations have no legitimacy whatsoever,” Mehmet Gormez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the highest religious authority in Turkey, which, although a majority Muslim country, has been a secular state since the 1920s.

“Since the caliphate was abolished … there have been movements that think they can pull together the Muslim world by re-establishing a caliphate, but they have nothing to do with reality, whether from a political or legal perspective.”

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Gormez said death threats against non-Muslims made by the group, formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), were hugely damaging.

“The statement made against Christians is truly awful. Islamic scholars need to focus on this (because) an inability to peacefully sustain other faiths and cultures heralds the collapse of a civilization,” he told Reuters in an interview. [Reuters, 7/22/14]

CAIR Repeatedly Condemned The Islamic State As “Un-Islamic And Morally Repugnant.” In a July 7 statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called the terrorist group “un-Islamic and morally repugnant,” noted that the Islamic State’s “human rights abuses on the ground are well-documented,” and called on other Muslim community leaders to speak out against the violence. CAIR reiterated the condemnation of the Islamic State as “both un-Islamic and morally repugnant” on August 11, and on August 21, CAIR once again condemned the group, calling the killing of American journalist James Foley “gruesome and barbaric”:

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We strongly condemn this gruesome and barbaric killing as a violation of Islamic beliefs and of universally-accepted international norms mandating the protection of prisoners and journalists during conflicts.

The Geneva Conventions, the Quran – Islam’s revealed text – and the traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad all require that prisoners not be harmed in any way. There can be no excuse or justification for such criminal and bloodthirsty actions.

We also call on those holding Steven Sotloff and other prisoners to immediately release them unharmed so they may return to their loved ones. [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 7/7/14; Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/11/14; Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/20/14]

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The Muslim Council Of Great Britain: “Violence Has No Place In Religion.” The Muslim Council of Great Britain condemned the Islamic State’s actions and expressed that they do not represent Sunni Muslims, according to The Independent. Shuja Shafi, a member of the council also said: “Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion. It is prohibited for people to present themselves for destruction.” [The Independent, 7/11/14]

The Islamic Society of North America: The Islamic State’s Actions “Are To Be Denounced And Are In No Way Representative Of What Islam Actually Teaches. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) released a statement denouncing the Islamic State “for its attacks on Iraq’s religious minorities and the destruction of their places of worship.” ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid said, “ISIS actions against religious minorities in Iraq violate the Quranic teaching, ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ (Surat al-Baqara 2:256),” adding, “Their actions are to be denounced and are in no way representative of what Islam actually teaches.” [The Islamic Society of North America, 8/9/14]

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100 Sunni And Shiite U.K. Imams: The Islamic State Is An “Illegitimate, Vicious Group.” As the Huffington Post reported, 100 Sunni and Shiite Imams from the U.K. came together to produce a video denouncing the Islamic State, releasing a statement that they wanted to “come together to emphasise the importance of unity in the UK and to decree ISIS as an illegitimate, vicious group who do not represent Islam in any way.” (Please see below)

Saudi Arabia’s Highest Religious Authority: Terrorists Like The Islamic State Is The “Number One Enemy Of Islam.” On August 19, Al Jazeera reported that Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, the country’s top religious authority, said that terrorism is anti-Islamic and said that groups like the Islamic State which practice violence are the “number one enemy of Islam”:

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Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilisation, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims. [Al Jazeera, 8/19/14]

Muslim Public Affairs Council: Condemned The Islamic State And Called For “Stand Against Extremism.” On August 20, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) released a statement condemning “the barbaric execution of American Journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).” MPAC urged “all people of conscience to take a stand against extremism” and offered condolences to Foley’s family. MPAC also noted the importance of countering ISIS and other extremist groups by working “to empower the mainstream and relegate extremists to the irrelevance they deserve.” [Muslim Public Affairs Council, 8/20/14]

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So, the next time you hear someone say, “Few Muslim voices have condemned ISIS or any other extremist group,” know that this statement is clearly not true.

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Nothing “Islamic” About ISIS: How Those Barbarians Defame Islam

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

That I condemn ISIS with every cell of my body goes without saying. Their barbarism knows no bounds, and I pray that the Lord brings to an end their reign of terror and inhumanity. The murder of American photojournalist James Foley, who was exposing the Syrian government’s brutality, just further shows that these thugs are nothing more than psychopathic barbarians, cloaking their evil in religious garb. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mr. Foley and all other victims of ISIS’ brutality.

That being said, they do purport to act in the name of Islam, and they claim to have re-established a “Caliphate,” which is a polity allegedly governed in succession to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Yet, what they do defames both the letter and spirit of the Prophet and his faith. This is the first in a series of posts that will outline how far they have strayed from true Islamic teaching.

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First and foremost, ISIS violates the sanctity of life, which the Qur’an defends vigorously:

Come, let me convey unto you what God has [really] forbidden to you: “Do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him; and [do not offend against but, rather,] do good unto your parents;  and do not kill your children for fear of poverty – [for] it is We who shall provide sustenance for you as well as for them;  and do not commit any shameful deeds, be they open or secret; and do not take any human being’s life-[the life] which God has declared to be sacred -otherwise than in [the pursuit of] justice: this has He enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason. (6:151)

And do not take any human being’s life -[the life] which God has willed to be, sacred-otherwise than in [the pursuit of] justice. (17:33)

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In no way, shape, or form does the killing of Foley, or any other civilian, even possibly come close to being in the “pursuit of justice.” In fact, the Qur’an deems that the taking of innocent life is like killing all of humanity:

Because of this did We ordain unto the children of Israel that if anyone slays a human being-unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth-it shall be as though he had slain all mankind… (5:32)

How is punishing Foley because of – justified, I might add – American attacks against ISIS be just? How could killing people – just because they follow a different religion – be characterized as just? It is not. It is inhuman, and completely un-Islamic.

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Which brings me to the second (of many) point about ISIS. News reports detail how the barbarians of ISIS told Iraqi Christians: “convert, pay a tax, or die.” This is wholly antithetical to both the letter and the spirit of Islam. Freedom of faith is paramount in Islam. The Qur’an cannot be clearer:

There shall be no coercion in matters of faith…(2:256)

That verse is enough, but the Qur’an goes even further:

And [thus it is:] had your Lord so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained to faith, all of them: do you, then, think that you could compel people to believe? (10:99)

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But wouldst you [O Muhammad], perhaps, torment yourself to death with grief over them if they are not willing to believe in this message? (18:6)

And say: “The truth [has now come] from your Lord: let, then, him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it.” (18:29)

Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you… (5:48)

For had God so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community; however, He lets go astray that wills [to go astray], and guides aright him that wills [to be guided]; and you will surely be called to account for all that you ever did! (16:93)

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Have, then, they who have attained to faith not yet come to know that, had God so willed, He would indeed have guided all mankind aright? (13:31)

And [because He is your Creator], it rests with God alone to show you the right path: yet there is [many a one] who swerves from it. However, had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright. (16:9)

It is not required of thee (O Messenger), to set them on the right path, but God sets on the right path whom He pleases. (2:272)

This mantra “convert or die” is not and has never been part of Islamic teaching. In fact, the only groups who believe that Islam says “convert or die” are Islamophobes and the barbarian terrorists to who kill in its name. (More about the “tax” on Christians later)

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Bottom line: there is nothing remotely “Islamic” about ISIS and its ilk. They are evil, satanic, barbarians, and they must be resisted – in other words, a jihad must be waged – against them by all who believe in decency and justice.

To be continued…

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A Prayer For Peace In The Holy Land

In The Name Of God: The Infinitely Merciful And Compassionate Beloved Lord

It has been heartbreaking to see conflict emerge – yet again – in the Holy Land over the last several weeks. Children being murdered: shot to death and burned alive. Rockets being fired at civilians, and bombs being dropped on houses. People all across the Holy Land are being terrorized and forced to mourn for the loss of their loved-ones, and the hatred and guile that fuels more death goes unabated, unopposed. In fact, it looks like the conflict has no end in sight.

Precious Lord our God, please stop the killing.

Glorious Lord of Hosts, take the hatred away from the Holy Land so that her children can live and play in peace. This is the land of Abraham, father to us all; the land of David, Singer of the Lord’s Praises; the land of Solomon, Majestic King and Servant of God; the land of Christ, who walked to and fro calling his people to the Lord. And this is the land to which the Prophet Muhammad was brought, to pray to God as one, in solidarity with all his Prophet-brothers of old.

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Precious Lord our God, please stop the killing.

For far too long has the soil of the Holy Land been poisoned by the blood of innocents. For far too long has mother had to wail over the death of her child. In a place that has been blessed since the start of creation, for far too long has the legacy of Cain stained the land and her people.

Precious Lord our God, please stop the killing.

I will leave the analysis of why this war started and who is to blame to the analysts. I think if we knew the real truth behind all this violence and conflict, we would be disgusted to the core. But all I want is the killing to stop. All I want is the death to stop. All I want the pain of loss to stop. I know first-hand the horror of losing a child: my eldest daughter died of cancer five years ago. I do not wish that on anyone, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

And so, all I can do is pray: Precious Lord our God, please stop the killing.

 

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Ramadan And The World Cup: There Ought To Be No Controversy At All

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

Although the number of Muslim football players participating in this year’s FIFA World Cup has dwindled considerably, there are still a number of players who are slated to play this weekend in the Quarterfinal matches. A number of them have already indicated that they will not be observing the fast of Ramadan, due to health reasons.

As a physician, I completely understand this stance. It is quite dangerous to play a fast-paced football game without the ability to hydrate oneself (if the game is before sunset). A couple of years ago, I simply played golf (riding in a cart, no less!)  in a hospital outing on a very hot day and nearly collapsed after six holes. I vowed never to do that again, and that sort of “physical activity” pales in comparison to a football game in the World Cup.

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And the players have received scholarly support from Al Azhar University in Cairo, one of the oldest Sunni Islamic institutions in the world:

[German player Mesmut Ozil] has been backed by the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, who reached an agreement with the German FA in 2010. The Central Council had asked for an expert opinion by the Islamic Al-Azhar academy in Cairo, which came to the conclusion that fast-breaking is allowed for professional footballers.

Of course, for some Muslims, this may be seen as controversial, as the fast of Ramadan is one of the most important rituals in Islamic practice. Yet, there really should be no controversy at all. The Qur’an gives Muslims “an out,” so to speak, with respect to the fast of Ramadan:

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 Whoever of you is ill or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days… (2:184)

In other words, if you are traveling, you are exempt from the fast of Ramadan, although you must make up the days at a later time (before the next Ramadan).

Thus, there should be no controversy about whether a player should fast while playing a game in the heat and humidity of Brazil. Since they are traveling, they are allowed to break the fast. It is true that whether or not a person chooses to fast is personal, and it should not be the subject of international media attention. Nevertheless, the Muslim players should have no anxiety about not fasting during the World Cup at all. They are traveling.

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Of course, the fast of Ramadan is more than just abstaining from food and drink: it is also about upright moral conduct, self-reflection, self-discipline, charity and concern for the poor. I would hope and pray that the players keep this in mind as they rest and recuperate before the games tomorrow and Saturday, even if they are not fasting.

It would be great, in fact, if they would all get together to pray the nightly Taraweeh vigil, as a show of religious solidarity and keeping in the spirit of this blessed month. It would go a long way to show that, even if they are on opposing teams during the World Cup, they are still brothers in faith and can stand side-by-side in prayer to God. We will have to see, I guess.

But, they don’t have to fast, regardless of the medical reasons, because the Qur’an allows travelers to break their fast. And they can make up those days missed in the winter…when the day is much shorter.

A most Blessed and Happy Ramadan to all!

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Ramadan in Summer: No Less Dread, But Fasting In June and July Is The Very Least I Can Do

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

I cannot lie: I have no small amount of dread at the coming of the month of Ramadan, which starts June 28. Due to the lunar nature of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan this year (and for the next ten years) will fall during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. This means that fasting will last from approximately 3:30 AM until 8:30 PM, with frequently hot weather to boot. It is by no means an easy task, especially since fasting includes abstinence from even water. I pray the Lord that He makes the fast easy for all those who choose to do so, including this poor soul.

But I cannot lie and say I’m excited about fasting in June and July. In truth, I should be very excited: there is so much blessing and reward in this month. Islamic tradition states that the gates of Paradise are open, and the gates of Hell are closed; demons and devils are chained up; the reward for righteous deeds are multiplied many times over in Ramadan; during this blessed month, the Qur’an was revealed so that I can live a life in the light of God’s guidance and mercy.

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But I cannot lie and say I’m excited about fasting in June and July.

During Ramadan, Muslims’ homes and their houses of worship are alive with people, and worship, and prayer, and the recitation of scripture. It is a wondrous time of fellowship and piety. Frequently, Muslims will get together to break the fast, and it is nice to get to see people you may not necessarily get a chance to see during the year. It is also a wonderful time of charity and concern for the other, especially since the fast of the day reminds you of those less fortunate, who frequently go hungry out of need and not choice. And with so many crises in the Muslim world today, concern for the less fortunate is particularly acute.

But I cannot lie and say I’m excited about fasting in June and July.

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Yet, my God, look at me! All this whining about fasting during – yes – a very long day! Of course, if there one cannot fast due to a medical reason, then the fast is no longer obligatory on that person. In addition, pregnant and nursing mothers are also exempt from fasting, but they must make up the days later.

Still, every time Ramadan comes for the last few years, my face strains from the dread of knowing that I can’t drink my cup of coffee on my way to work…for a month. I can’t have that coveted 3PM cup of coffee that is just enough to keep me going until the end of my shift…for a month. I can’t have that occasional iced coffee (that is only 99 cents now) on the way home from work because, even after I leave from a long day at the hospital, there is still well over three hours before the sun will set…for a month.

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My God! I am such a whiny wimp. Summer fasting is the very least that I can do for sake of my Beloved.

Now, of course, if Ramadan was not in the summer, I seriously doubt I would voluntarily fast (which would truly be magnanimous) on a long and hot July day. There are many Muslims who do just that, and my the Lord bless them tremendously. But, now, Ramadan is in the summer. Thus, if I am able to do so, I see fasting as the very least I can do in gratitude for all that the Beloved has done for me.

There is not a day that goes by during which I am not making mistakes; not falling short of what God wants of me; not succumbing to my weaknesses as a human being. Yet, despite the ugliness of my sins, the Lord shows me the Beauty of His Grace. Despite the horrible face I show Him, He continually shows me His Beautiful Countenance.

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Thus, when the time comes for Ramadan, I should shut up and fast. It is time for me to show my gratitude in a way that I would not normally do: not eat or drink for 17 hours in the summer. It is time for me to step up for God because so many, many, many times, God has stepped up for me.

No, it is not going to be easy, and I cannot say that I will be fasting with a smile on my face. But, what keeps me from going into a full-on panic is the fact that – for every single moment of this man’s life – the Lord continually graces me with His Love, His Grace, His Beauty, and His Mercy. And I’ve done nothing – and can never do anything – for God to deserve this Grace.

So, when Ramadan starts this weekend, I plan to shut up and fast. It is the very least I can do.

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‘Islamic Jew-Hatred': It’s NOT in the Quran

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

Pamella Geller has put up bus ads in Washington, D.C. that say:

Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran. Two-thirds of all US aid goes to Islamic countries. Stop racism. End all aid to Islamic countries.

Her contention is flat-out wrong.

The Quran is full of positive references to the Children of Israel and Jewish history. Many of the Jewish Prophets, in fact, are mentioned more by name than the Prophet Muhammad himself (peace be upon them all). Here is what the Quran says about the Torah, the Jewish Scripture:

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It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). (3:3)

It was We who revealed the law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light…And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear God (5:44,46)

Does this sound like “Islamic Jew-Hatred” to you?

Here is but a small bit of what the Quran says about the Jewish Prophets:

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Say ye: “We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them, and to Him have we submitted ourselves. (2:136)

Behold, we have inspired thee [O Prophet] just as we inspired Noah and all the prophets after him – as We inspired Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, including Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon; and as We vouchsafed unto David a book of divine wisdom (4:163)

And We bestowed upon him [Abraham] Isaac and Jacob, and We guided each of them as We had guided Noah aforetime. And out of his offspring, [We bestowed prophethood upon] David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron: for thus do We reward the doers of good. And upon Zachariah, John, Jesus, and Elijah: ever one of them was of the righteous; and [upon] Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah, and Lot: every one of them did We favor above other people (6: 84-86).

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Does this sound like “Islamic Jew-Hatred” to you?

Now, indeed, there are seemingly tough verses in the Quran about the children of Israel:

Those of the children of Israel who were bent on denying the truth have [already] been cursed by the tongue of David and of Jesus, the son of Mary; this because they rebelled [against God] and persisted in transgressing the bounds of what is right. (5:78)

There a few points here: first, the verse does not say that “all Jews are cursed.” The verse says that those children of Israel who did wrong were cursed by David and Jesus. And here is the scriptural evidence for this:

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (Matthew 23:33-35)

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The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel. For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. (Psalm 78:31-33)

Moreover, there are some verses in the Quran that are oft-quoted by those who claim “Islamic Jew-Hatred” which seem to call Jews “apes” and “pigs and monkeys”:

And well you knew those among you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath. We said to them ‘Be ye apes, despised and rejected.’ (2:65)

And ask them about that town which stood by the sea: how its people would profane the Sabbath whenever their fish came to them, breaking the water’s surface, on a day on which they ought to have kept Sabbath – because they would not come to them on other than Sabbath-days!…And then, when they disdainfully persisted in doing what they had been forbidden to do, We said unto them: ‘Be as apes despicable!’ (7:163-166)

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Say: ‘Shall I tell you who, in the sight of God, deserves a yet worse retribution than these? They whom God has rejected and whom He has condemned, and whom He has turned into apes and swine because they worshiped the powers of evil: these are yet worse in station and father astray from the right path [than the mockers].” (5:60)

 

Indeed, some Muslims have claimed that Jews are “pigs and monkeys,” apparently based on these verses. As horrible as their claim is, their use of the Quran is completely incorrect.

As the verses clearly show, the Quran is not saying “Jews are apes and monkeys.” In fact, there is no verse in the Quran – none – that says “Jews are apes and monkeys.” The verses above speak about the Sabbath Breakers: it was they who were turned into apes because they broke the law of the Sabbath. Commentator Muhammad Asad (a Jew who converted to Islam) explains this story:

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Under Mosaic Law, they were obliged to refrain from all work – and, therefore, also from fishing – on Sabbath-days, with the result that the fish were more plentiful and would come closer to the shore on those days: and the inhabitants of the town took this as an excuse to break the Sabbath-law.

In fact, according to Asad, the term “be ye apes” may only be metaphorical and not literal:

As for the substance of God’s decree, “Be as apes despicable”, the famous tabii [student of the Prophet’s (pbuh) Companions] Mujahid explains it thus: ‘(Only) their hearts were transformed, that is, they were not (really) transformed into apes: this is but a metaphor (mathal) coined by God with regard to them, similar to the metaphor of ‘the ass carrying books’ (62:5)”…A similar explanation is given by Raghib. It should be borne in mind that the expression “like an ape” is often used in classical Arabic to describe a person who is unable to restrain his gross appetites or passions.

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The point is: there is no basis for the claim that “Islamic Jew-Hatred” is in the Quran. In fact, there is no such thing as “Islamic Jew-Hatred.” Islam does not command Muslims to hate anyone, Jewish or otherwise.

Now, are there Muslims who hate Jews? Most definitely. Are there Muslims who cite the Quran as their basis for hating Jews? Most definitely. Are they correct in their interpretation? Most definitely not. Don’t put your filthy words in God’s Holy Mouth.

 

 

 

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