Friday, September 26, 2014

Does America need Islam?

My response to “The Key to Defeating ISIS is Islam” Written in the Huffington Post by Salam Al Marayati, the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, DC.

Does America need Islam? I disagree completely with Salam Al Marayati’s statement, “America needs Islam -- not to convert people to the religion, but as the antidote to the toxic and threatening ideology of ISIS.”  (Please see his article, “The Key to Defeating ISIS is Islam” in the Huffington Post. The link is posted at the end of my response.) Personally, I have felt the negative side effects of Islam, which America most definitely does not need! I was born in Islam, did my best to be a good Muslim for 23 years and have studied it for 40 years.

Salam Al Marayati’s article seems to be a deliberate attempt to show Islam as a peaceful ideology and ISIS as a group which Islam does not condone. Let’s look at his claims concerning ISIS and Islam and see the real picture in the light of the Qur'an and what Muhammad taught.

1.) “ISIS calls people to death. Islam responds to the Prophet who calls you to life (8:24) and calls for serving the public interest (3:104).”

Salam Al Marayati does not mention that chapter 8 of the Qur’an is named Al-Anfal - “Spoils of War, Booty.” Muslims had just won a battle against Non-Muslims and then argued over how to divide the booty. To keep his followers from animosity against each other, Muhammad played a spiritual card: that the spoils in fact belong to “Allah and His messenger” – Muhammad.  

 In 8:24, Muhammad urges his followers to obey:

“O ye who believe! give your response to Allah and His Messenger, when He calleth you to that which will give you life; and know that Allah cometh in between a man and his heart, and that it is He to Whom ye shall (all) be gathered.“ - 8:24 (Yusuf Ali).

 Salam Al Marayati totally ignores other verses in chapter 8, which show the context:

“Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do. If they refuse, be sure that Allah is your Protector - the best to protect and the best to help. And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to Allah,- and to the Messenger, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer,- if ye do believe in Allah and in the revelation We sent down to Our servant on the Day of Testing,- the Day of the meeting of the two forces. For Allah hath power over all things. “ - 8:38-41 (Y. Ali)

“O Messenger! Rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand o the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding. For the present, Allah hath lightened your (task), for He knoweth that there is a weak spot in you: But (even so), if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred, and if a thousand, they will vanquish two thousand, with the leave of Allah. for Allah is with those who patiently persevere. It is not fitting for an apostle that he should have prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land. Ye look for the temporal goods of this world; but Allah looketh to the Hereafter: And Allah is Exalted in might, Wise. Had it not been for a previous ordainment from Allah, a severe penalty would have reached you for the (ransom) that ye took. But (now) enjoy what ye took in war, lawful and good: but fear Allah. for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” 8:65-69 (Yusuf Ali)

Since we have already seen some other verses of chapter 8 (“Spoils of War, Booty”), let’s see the context verse of 3:102 which states: “O ye who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam.” (Y. Ali) This obviously refers to Muslims and the desire for all people to become Muslims. Just one verse after we find that this is instruction that among Muslims there should always be a group that act like religious “police” - instructing people to do good, perform their prayers and religious dues. The public interest is in fact Muslim interest and not what Salam Al Marayati states. In fact, this verse goes in favor of groups like ISIS.

2.) “ISIS coerces and punishes Muslims who are accused of not attending prayers. Islam is no compulsion of religion (2:256).”

This statement does not share what Muhammad did. Once he had the power, he destroyed the idols of the Arabs and forcibly compelled the Arabs to submit to Islam. Is Muhammad not as Islamic as Islam can get? Does that sound like “no compulsion of religion”? Scholars believe that Sura 2:256 is later abrogated by Sura 9:73:

“O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell,- an evil refuge indeed.” – 9:73 (Y. Ali)

Al Marayati also fails to mention that the first caliph, Abu Bakr, attacked apostates in the Riddah (Apostasy) Wars. Obviously, “no compulsion of religion” meant nothing to Abu Bakr as he forced the apostates to revert, fight to the death for their right to apostate, or pay a ransom as dhimmis – second-class citizens. Is Abu Bakr, the first caliph, not an Islamic leader?

3.) ISIS spreads cruelty. Islam is spreading mercy (21:107).

It is not Islam but Muhammad is referred to as mercy in this verse of the Qur’an, We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures.” - 21:107 (Yusuf Ali).  Just because a book states that someone is a Mercy does not necessarily mean it is true. Did Muhammad have mercy on the people he ordered killed (men) and enslaved (women and children), such as the Jewish clan Banu Qurayza? I personally do not believe so.

We also find that Sura 21 is a Meccan Sura, revealed when Muhammad did not have any political and military power. Once that changed, Non-Muslims were in big trouble. Instead of mercy, Muhammad said that he was sent to cause terror among those who did not accept him as prophet of God:

Allah's Apostle said, "I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with terror (cast in the hearts of the enemy…)” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Hadith 220: Narrated by Abu Huraira]

About terror, the Qur’an says the following:

“Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the Fire: And evil is the home of the wrong-doers! Allah did indeed fulfill His promise to you when ye with His permission Were about to annihilate your enemy,-until ye flinched and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed it after He brought you in sight (of the booty) which ye covet. Among you are some that hanker after this world and some that desire the Hereafter. Then did He divert you from your foes in order to test you but He forgave you: For Allah is full of grace to those who believe.” – 3:151-152  (Y. Ali)

“Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): "I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them." This is because they contended against Allah and His Messenger. If any contend against Allah and His Messenger, Allah is strict in punishment.” 8:12-13  (Y. Ali)

“And Allah turned back the Unbelievers for (all) their fury: no advantage did they gain; and enough is Allah for the believers in their fight. And Allah is full of Strength, able to enforce His Will. And those of the People of the Book who aided them - Allah did take them down from their strongholds and cast terror into their hearts. (So that) some ye slew, and some ye made prisoners. And He made you heirs of their lands, their houses, and their goods, and of a land which ye had not frequented (before). And Allah has power over all things.”  33:25-26  (Y. Ali)

It is the ideology of Islam that is troublesome in the first place. Yes the Qur’an does have some nice verses, but they are from Muhammad’s life when he did not have the ability to conquer his enemies. Once he had enough power to subdue his enemies, the violent verses were revealed. Nowadays,  countries in which Muslims are in the minority are associated with the first period of Islam, before Islamic violence started. The caravan raids (and the Battle of Badr in which Muhammad first showed his military prowess) began the revenge mentality against the unbelievers for rejecting him. Muhammad did not obey Jesus Christ’s command to love his enemies once he had the power to attack them or retaliate against them. ISIS is doing the same as Muhammad and later his Khulafa (successors) did.

4.) “ISIS executes people under the rule of their iron fist. Islam is establishing the rule of law (16:90).”

What ISIS is doing is what the majority of Khulafa (successors of Muhammad’s political leadership) did. If a Muslim killed a Non-Muslim, he could not be given capital punishment for it. In many cases not even blood money was given. If a person was accused of blasphemy against the prophet, that person could easily be killed.

About Sura 16:90, it is said to have been revealed to Muhammad at the time when he and his people started immigrating to Medina. The people who welcomed him there were called the Ansar, the helpers. To bring unity between the immigrant Muslims from Mecca and those of Madina, this passage refers to having justice and kindness among the Muslim brotherhood.

5.) “ISIS confronts others and spreads intimidation Islam is engaging others (16:125).”

This verse, 16:125, is about inviting Non-Muslims to convert to Islam, since the Qur’an teaches:

 “It is He Who hath sent His Messenger with guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it).” – 9:33 (Y. Ali)

“It is He Who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion: and enough is Allah for a Witness.” – 48:28 (Y. Ali)

“It is He Who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth, that he may proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it).” – 61:9 (Y. Ali)

Once he had the power to do so, Muhammad confronted Pagans and People of the Book (Jews and Christians). We learn from the Qur’an, the traditions (ahadith), and the biographies about Muhammad concerning how he treated those who steadfastly rejected him.  We learn that Muhammad destroyed the pagan gods that the Arabs used to worship and forced them to submit to Islam. Muhammad forced the Jews (that he did not expel from Medina or kill) and Christians into dhimmi status, second-class citizens forced to pay the jizya (poll tax). He left instructions for his successors how they should deal with non-Muslims including Jews and Christians. We do not have to go to secondary sources like the Ahadith. Here the Qur’an has all the ammunition of hatred:

“O ye who believe! Truly the Pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque. And if ye fear poverty, soon will Allah enrich you, if He wills, out of His bounty, for Allah is All-knowing, All-wise. 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. The Jews call 'Uzair a son of Allah and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are    deluded away from the Truth! – 9:28-30  (Y. Ali)

Muhammad made both Christians and Jews second-class citizens. During the period of 1300 years of the Khulafa rule, privileges were available to only a few who were used as pawns by the Islamic hierarchy, to keep control over the minorities.

6.) “ISIS is locked into the past. Islam is looking to the future (28:83).”

“The future” in this verse of the Qur’an is mentioned as in the hereafter, akhira. It is for those who are not corrupt. Anything which is not Islamic is seen as corrupt. Thus, through the centuries it has been clearly understood that to have the eternal life in the hereafter, one has to be a good practicing Muslim following what Allah in the Qur’an has said and similarly, following Muhammad’s instructions and life example. The verse Salam Al Marayati references does not talk about the future as the secular West understands it. It talks about the future when Allah will bring the last day, and will judge people. This verse refers to that future and not what Salam Al Marayati is pretending.

7.) “ISIS is based on hate and vengeance. Islam is forgiving and persevering (16:127).”

I wish that were true. However once again the context clearly refers to a time when Muhammad was not powerful enough to conquer his enemies through force. At that time, he was willing to be patient and persevere. But when power came, things changed. He later basically told his followers that peace with unbelievers is only allowed when Muslims are weak:

“AND SO, [when you fight in a just cause,] do not lose heart and [never] beg for peace: for, seeing that God is with you, you are bound to rise high [in the end]; and never will He let your [good] deeds go to waste. “ – 47:35 (Asad)

ISIS, contrary to some Muslims influenced by Western ideals, is not begging for peace. Since the Qur’an and the life of Muhammad are as Islamic as Islam can get, it is important to understand that ISIS seeks to obey the Qur’an and follow Muhammad’s political campaign of dominance. Granted, some Muslims, heavily impacted by Western ideals of tolerance ever since the caliphate ended in 1924, do not obey the violent verses of the Qur’an or follow Muhammad into fighting Non-Muslims. ISIS however despises Western influence and seeks the return of the caliphate in order to advance the Muslim dominion of the world, begun by Muhammad and continued by his successors.

Interestingly, Salam Al Marayti, in his article, neglects to mention the verses of the Qur’an that motivate Muslims not influenced by the West to fight disbelievers: (2:190-193; 2:216; 2:244; 3:167-171; 4:74-77; 4:84; 4:89;  4:95; 8:12-17; 8:38-41; 8:65-75; 9:1-5; 9:12-14; 9:28-33; 9:44-45; 9:81-83; 9:86-88; 9:123; 33:25-27; 47:4; 47:20; 48:15-17; 59:2-4; 61:4).

8.) “ISIS responds to evil with evil. Islam is repelling evil with goodness so those with whom there is animosity become your close friends (41:34).”

Let’s see what this passage says:

Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allah, works righteousness, and says, "I am of those who bow in Islam"?  Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!” - 41:33-34  (Y. Ali)

This passage needs to be compared with other verses in the Qur’an concerning friends:

“O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not take for your bosom-friends people who are not of your kind. They spare no effort to corrupt you; they would love to see you in distress. Vehement hatred has already come into the open from out of their mouths, but what their hearts conceal is yet worse. We have indeed made the signs [thereof] clear unto you, if you would but use your reason. “ 3:118 (Asad)

“O ye who believe! Take not my enemies and yours as friends (or protectors),- offering them (your) love, even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the Prophet and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in Allah your Lord! If ye have come out to strive in My Way and to seek My Good Pleasure, (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: for I know full well all that ye conceal and all that ye reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the Straight Path.” – 60:1 (Y. Ali)

Many Muslims accuse me of rejecting the  “Truth” and “Faith” and “the Straight Path” (Islam to them but not to me). Thus, I am considered by some a “renegade.” The Qur’an gives the following command to Muslims about what to do to renegades:

“They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks;” – 4:89 (Y. Ali)

Some Muslims also accuse me of be waging “war against Allah and His Messenger” though I have never killed anyone. They accuse me of striving “for mischief” though I teach the Truth (Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah who died for us, rose again and will return). Because of this, they consider me a prime candidate for the punishment stated in the Quran:

“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a       heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;” – 5:33  (Y. Ali)

As a result, several sincere Muslims, including my own father, have attempted to kill me after I became a Christian. (I thank my Heavenly Father for rescuing me!)

Back to Salam Al Marayati’s article, I do wholeheartedly agree with this statement: “Bombs cannot destroy ideas. Decapitating the leadership of ISIS will not stop violent extremism.”

Jesus Christ did not teach violence against enemies, but rather taught love for one’s enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27-37). While it is difficult to love those who hate, God’s love through Jesus Christ dissolves the cycle of revenge and hatred in the hearts of those hurt by injustice. As a former Muslim who has accepted God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, I love those who hate me through God’s Spirit filling me with His love even for those who want my death.

It is the ideology in the Qur’an and traditions that is a problem. A true Muslim is just the prey of it. Unless Muslims fully shun the ideology of Islam, movements like ISIS and others will keep rising.

Thank you for taking the time to read my response.


Steven Masood

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