Here we go again: yet another mainstream media attempt to ensure that Americans don’t think that the Islamic State’s atrocities have anything to do with Islam. 20,000 Muslims from all over the world have joined the jihad in Syria, but the mainstream media and academics like Jocelyne Cesari make no attempt to explain how what they insist is a misunderstanding of Islam has come to be so widely held in the Islamic world. “How does Islamic State justify its atrocities in name of Islam?,” by Hannah Allam, McClatchy, February 6, 2015 (thanks to Herman):
WASHINGTON — Muslims across the globe have condemned the Islamic State’s blood lust, calling the extremist group’s tactics forbidden under Islam and an affront to humanity. So how do zealots claiming to represent a pure and true Islam square their actions with traditional Islamic law?
They cherry-pick Quranic verses out of context,
No example given, or proper context provided.
apply the most rigid interpretations of jurisprudence and excuse just about any brutality by saying they’re waging a defensive jihad on behalf of aggrieved Muslims worldwide, according to Jocelyne Cesari, a renowned
By whom? Where?
scholar of Islam who’s part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s working group on faith and foreign policy.
This is one reason why Kerry is so relentlessly clueless about Islam and jihad: he is listening to people like Jocelyne Cesari. Anyway, she doesn’t mention that “just about any brutality” can be excused by this Qur’an verse, if the case can be made that the enemies of Islam are doing the same thing: “So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you” (2:194).
Cesari directs the “ Islam in the West” program at Harvard University and leads the Berkley Center’s Islam and World Politics program at Georgetown University. Here, in remarks that have been edited for clarity or space, she explains how the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, distorts traditional teachings to justify actions that have shocked the world.
Q: Are the Islamic State’s brutal tactics permitted in Islam?
A: In the traditional Islamic theory of war, there were clear limits. The ruler had to declare jihad and you had to follow certain protocols as far as notifying your enemy and giving ultimatums. And when you waged war, there were limits to the violence: No women, no children, no priests could be attacked. It was forbidden to attack priests because you couldn’t set out to defeat an entire faith.
The “ruler” who has the responsibility of declaring jihad is the caliph, and of course the Islamic State considers itself to be the caliphate, and its caliph Ibrahim has indeed declared jihad, notified his enemies, and given ultimatums. As for killing women and children, the hadith, as is so often the case, contains contradictory information — since the hadith literature was fabricated by rival factions inventing sayings of Muhammad to justify their own positions, this is to be expected. But it allows people like Cesari to claim that what the Islamic State is doing is un-Islamic while ignoring the passages that the Islamic State uses to establish its activities as precisely Islamic. One hadith Cesari doesn’t mention has Muhammad waving away the killing of women and children: “It is reported on the authority of Sa’b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them.” (Muslim 4321) And as for it being “forbidden to attack priests because you couldn’t set out to defeat an entire faith,” this is outright fantasy. In reality, the Qur’an commands Muslims to fight against and subjugate the “People of the Book” — that is, primarily Jews and Christians: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Qur’an 9:29) Muslims must continue to fight until “the religion, all of it, is for Allah” (Qur’an 8:39). But Muslims not “defeat an entire faith”? That’s exactly what the Qur’an commands them to do in these and other passages.
And you couldn’t destroy the land, so not even the eradication of trees was allowed.
What does that have to do anything? No one is accusing the Islamic State of illegitimately eradicating trees.
Q: So what changed?
A: There are two main reasons for the decline of traditional Islam: the nationalization of Islam after the fall of the Ottoman empire, and the globalization of what had been nationalist jihadist projects.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, state rulers built nations and absorbed religious entities, turning Islam into a state institution. And when you receive your khutba (Friday sermon) by fax or, now, by email from the state, the young people won’t listen. That’s when ISIS can say: “We are not the state. We are different.”
Cesari teaches at Harvard? The Ottoman Empire didn’t fall in the 19th century. The sultanate was abolished on November 1, 1922, and caliphate on March 3, 1924. That’s, uh, the 20th century. Also, her claim that the Islamic State arose because it was able to distinguish itself from the state Islam that controlled the contents of the Friday sermons by fax or email applies only to Turkey, which is the only place that dictated the contents of sermons. Yet the Islamic State has drawn jihadis from all over the world — Muslims who never heard a sermon dictated by the state. She offers no explanation for that, and doesn’t mention at all the appeal of the concept of the caliphate. She alludes to it indirectly in saying that traditional Islam went into decline after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but never explains that the “globalization of what had been nationalist jihadist projects” was undertaken with the specific goal of restoring the caliphate — which the Islamic State claims to have done. Thus the Islamic State represents not the decline of traditional Islam, but the culmination of a 90-year effort to restore traditional Islam; but Jocelyne Cesari will never admit that.
Afghanistan was also a turning point, because fighters globalized jihad and broadened the targets from political powers to anyone the fighters considered a tool of or obedient to an un-Islamic system. They consider jihad a duty for all Muslims – they don’t believe in waiting for a ruler to declare it – and there is no mercy for those who don’t participate.
Cesari, despite being “a renowned scholar of Islam,” appears unaware of the distinction in Islamic law between offensive and defensive jihad. In Sunni Islam, only the caliph can declare offensive jihad, and that jihad is an obligation on the community as a whole (fard kifaya); an individual is released from it if others are taking it up. But all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that when a non-Muslim force enters a Muslim land, defensive jihad becomes the individual obligation of every Muslim (fard ‘ayn) rather than a collective obligation of the entire umma, and need not be declared by anyone. Bulghah al-Salik li-Aqrab al-Masalik fi madhhab al-Imam Malik (“The Sufficiency of the Traveller on the Best Path in the School of Imam Malik,”) says this: “Jihad in the Path of Allah, to raise the word of Allah, is fard kifayah [obligatory on the community] once a year, so that if some perform it, the obligation falls from the rest. It becomes fard `ayn [obligatory on every Muslim individually], like salah and fasting, if the legitimate Muslim Imam declares it so, or if there is an attack by the enemy on an area of people.” The Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi’i schools of Sunni jurisprudence further declare that jihad, once it is fard ‘ayn, is no different from prayer and fasting — in other words, to engage in warfare with non-Muslims in that case is a religious devotion that cannot lawfully be evaded. Hashiyah Ibn `Abidin, an authoritative text of the Hanafi school, says that jihad is “fard ‘ayn if the enemy has attacked part of the Islamic homeland. It thus becomes an obligation like salah [prayer] and fasting which cannot be abandoned.” The Afghan jihadis are working from these principles when they say that jihad is a “duty for all Muslims,” basing their claim to be waging defensive jihad on the military presence first of the Soviets and then of the Americans.
Al Qaida’s response to news that Muslims died in the 9/11 attacks was: “Tough luck. They were there and not fighting so they were legitimate targets.”
Actually they considered them collateral damage. The intention was not to kill Muslims, and doing so was unavoidable, and hence justified by the justice of the cause.
Q: What religious grounding does the Islamic State give for its atrocities?
A: They say they’re in survival mode. They believe that conditions for Muslims today are a danger to your soul as a Muslim. They don’t see their jihad as an attack; they see it as defensive jihad.
ISIS is a totalitarian project – like the Nazis or the Communists – where everyone must think the same, dress the same, act the same. If you want to understand it, don’t look at Islam. Look at totalitarian regimes.
Funny how she mentions defensive jihad here but suggested that it was Islamically illegitimate in reference to Afghanistan. In any case, these flat and unsupported assertions ignore the fact that beheading is called for in the Qur’an (“when you meet the unbelievers, strike the necks” 47:4), as is the sexual slavery of infidel women (“captives of the right hand,” 4:3; 4:24; 23:1-6; 33:50).
Q: We’ve seen medieval punishments – beheadings, stonings – still used in some Muslim theocracies. But how does the Islamic State justify burning alive the captive Jordanian pilot?
A: A burning is like a sacrifice. It’s about more than killing the enemy; it’s about destroying them, reducing them to ashes. And I think the fact that he was Muslim had something to do with it. They were going to send a message.
Because they don’t see him as Muslim, his body couldn’t even remain as a Muslim body and be buried because, in their vision, he has to be completely destroyed.
Pure and baseless speculation. In reality, if the pilot was believed to have dropped incendiary bombs on the Islamic State, then they could burn him with Qur’anic justification: “So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you” (2:194).
Q: How does the Islamic State get around Islam’s prohibitions on fornication when fighters take Yazidi and other women captives as sex slaves?
A: They pick and choose references, but mainly they get around it by declaring these women “spoils of war.” They are possessions; they aren’t suitable for wives. But they don’t consider it fornication. It’s just continuing their project, giving relief to the fighters and producing children for the caliphate. The body of a woman becomes a weapon.
Here are the references they pick and choose. Can Cesari produce any to show that how they’re interpreting this material is illegitimate from an Islamic standpoint? According to Islamic law, Muslim men can take “captives of the right hand” (Qur’an 4:3, 4:24, 33:50). The Qur’an says: “O Prophet! Lo! We have made lawful unto thee thy wives unto whom thou hast paid their dowries, and those whom thy right hand possesseth of those whom Allah hath given thee as spoils of war” (33:50). 4:3 and 4:24 extend this privilege to Muslim men in general, as does this passage. “Certainly will the believers have succeeded: They who are during their prayer humbly submissive, and they who turn away from ill speech, and they who are observant of zakah, and they who guard their private parts except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed” (Qur’an 23:1-6). The rape of captive women is also sanctioned in Islamic tradition: “Abu Sirma said to Abu Sa’id al Khadri (Allah he pleased with him): 0 Abu Sa’id, did you hear Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) mentioning al-’azl? He said: Yes, and added: We went out with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi’l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing ‘azl (Withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.” (Muslim 3371) Notice that the controversy is not over whether the Muslims can rape the captives but only over coitus interruptus. The rape is taken for granted.
That Jocelyne Cesari teaches at Harvard, advises John Kerry, and is hailed as a “renowned scholar of Islam” by the McClatchy News Service, while being either abysmally ignorant or utterly dishonest about Islam, is yet another indication of how in our day people rise to the top not because they are competent, but because they reflect the line that the elites want propagated.