What and Who is Daesh ("ISIS")? (Part 2)
by Sean Jobst
May 26, 2015
As I discussed in the first part, not only is Daesh ("ISIS") a heretical group that twists Islam while it violates everything held sacred, but from a study of the Islamic eschatological sources it becomes clear they are the modern manifestation of a systematic heresy that reared its ugly head in several episodes in Islamic history. Although the Islamophobic loudmouths and their financial backers subscribe to the same narrative as Daesh sympathizers, both are wrong to view Daesh as anything other than a heretical group that twists and distorts Islam.
"The group itself has assumed the mantle of Islam's earliest years, purporting to recreate the conquests and rule of the Prophet Muhammad and his successors," as the journalists Lee Keath and Hamza Hendawi observe in an article. "But in reality its ideology is a virulent vision all its own, one that its adherents have created by plucking selections from centuries of traditions.
"The vast majority of Muslim clerics say the group cherry picks what it wants from Islam's holy book, the Quran, and from accounts of Muhammad's actions and sayings, known as the Hadith. It then misinterprets many of these, while ignoring everything in the texts that contradicts those hand-picked selections, these experts say." (Lee Keath and Hamza Hendawi, "How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say," Associated Press, March 2, 2015)
ISIS and their ilk will twist the Islamic texts in a decontextualized way, a mirror to the exact same way Islamophobes use in their hatred of Islam. As noted by Ahmed al-Dawoody, assistant professor at the Institute for Islamic World Studies at Zayed University in Dubai, taking religious scriptures out of context "has existed throughout the ages. We should not grant any legitimacy to those who violate Islam, then hijack it and speak on its behalf. This is not Islamic terror, this is terror committed by Muslims."
From their actions, it should be clear to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Islam that Daesh ignores Qur'anic verses and a long body of Islamic scholarship that stresses mercy, preservation of life and protection of innocents, and setting out strict guidelines of conflict. Similar to the Islamophobes, extremists such as Daesh will seize upon verses which speak of war - but ignore the
context, which is established within the verses immediately before and after. Even the Saudi Salafist Hamad Nassar observed how Daesh "appears to have adopted violent ideas first, then searched books of religious interpretation to find a cover for their actions."
Islamic scholars have done an excellent task at refuting Daesh from an Islamic position:
<http://www.lettertobaghdadi.com/>. Countless scholars and public figures from various schools have publicly condemned Daesh: <http://almadinainstitute.org/blog/condemning-isis/>. Trying to stem the tide of misguided youth joining Daesh, 130 UK scholars have publicly denounced the group: <http://www.suffahfoundation.com/index.php/23-featured-news/featured-news/408-130-uk-imams-declare-isis-actions-unislamic>.
"Psychopathic thugs masquerading in a religious construct"
Even some globalists have been forced to admit some about the true nature of Daesh. "They are terrorists, they're criminals," CIA director John Brennan said at an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Most - many - of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers who use a religious concept and masquerade and mask themselves in that religious construct. Let's make it very clear that the people who carry out acts of terrorism - whether it be al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - are doing it because they believe it is consistent with what their view of Islam is. It is totally inconsistent with the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world."
The reality of Daesh as "psychopathic thugs" can best be seen by their recruitment efforts. As noted by Christianne Boudreau, a Canadian mother whose son Damian Clairmont was brainwashed and recruited and ultimately fought with Daesh in Syria, where he was killed by the Free Syrian Army, the sales pitch did not involve citing tenets of Islam. Rather, she likened the sales pitch to a recruiting effort for a gang: as later admitted to her by her son, the sales pitch involved images sent online by the recruiter which depicted dead Syrian Muslims, and the recruiter told him he could "make something of himself" by preventing the slaughter of other Muslims.
ISIS and Wahhabism
While clearly ISIS is a group with shady links with intelligence agencies, as I will soon examine in another detailed article with sources, we still can't deny it recruits from an extremist sect of Islam. The ideas and individuals of that sect has enabled Daesh and its actions every step of the way, even if that group only acts on what remains for the rest of that sect mere ideas.
These ideas include a harsh interpretation of shari'a law, imposing harsh standards upon women, destroying historical relics and sites, and making wholesale takfir of Sufis and Shi'ites - a takfir which justifies killing them and destroying sites which are then used as "proof" of those groups' alleged "shirk." The harsh interpretations of shari'a are most often at variance with the interpretations given by other schools of thought, yet this sect extols its own interpretations as the only "valid" one.
This sect is the Wahhabi sect, which is why there is little surprise the "Islam" as interpreted and practiced by Daesh has so much in common with that of the Saudi state. Daesh's actions are actually a mirror image of the same atrocities committed by the first Saudi state - and the document which justified those atrocities (in the Wahhabis' minds) was the so-called "Kitab at-Tawhid" (Book of the Unity of God) written by Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab (1703-1792). This book has been refuted by orthodox Islamic scholars, due to the numerous errors and deviations it contains.
That ISIS uses Kitab at-Tawhid to indoctrinate followers was confirmed in an Arabic document circulated by a Misrata-based "Da'esh dissident" named al-Mundhir al-Hussaini, which is an interview with a captive ISIS supporter in Sirte. The captive is named Mahmud and he confirms that Daesh subjects prospective recruits to a process of indoctrination to "prove" themselves "worthy" of membership. Mahmud explains how "above all else" the recruits are taught about "tawhid," and are taught specifically from the works of Muhammad ibn Abdul-Wahhab and explanations of it by Saudi Wahhabi scholars.
I do not intend this as an attack upon individuals who choose to believe this interpretation of Islam, but having been a Wahhabi (self-styled "Salafi") for several years after my own conversion to Islam, while most eschew and condemn the actions of ISIS its still a fact that ISIS is merely acting on the central sources of the Wahhabi sect. This is because there are sub-groups within Wahhabism; they may differ on the religious justification of certain actions, but the overall principles are the same - so this is why I say even the Wahhabi leaders who condemn ISIS, still enable that group by their ideas!
ISIS Violates the Covenant of Prophet Muhammad
In another essay, I cited the Covenant which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) signed with a delegation of monks from St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai who came to request his protection in the year 628. He responded with a covenant of protection, complete with his distinctive hand-print stamped onto it. The original was taken to Topkapı Palace in Istanbul by Ottoman Sultan Selim I in 1517, who gave the monks a copy and also sanctioned its terms. The original is still in the Sacred Trusts section of the Palace and the monks of St. Catherine’s still proudly display the copy. I personally saw this document when I visited Topkapı in June 2014. It is worth quoting in its entirety:
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
“Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
“No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil Allah’s Covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
“No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
“Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims, umma) is to disobey the covenant to the Last Day.”
The Covenant's Importance Today
Although much neglected today, this document was influential in that it guided successive Ottoman sultans in their own agreements with Orthodox and Catholic Christian monasteries and churches. It can be seen in the context of the developing millet system of the Ottoman Empire, where minority religious communities were protected and allowed to rule according to their own laws.
One of the leading scholars devoted to highlighting the present importance of this document is the Canadian scholar Dr. John Andrew Morrow, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto with a Metis (First Nations) background and spiritual training in Catholic social teachings (similar to my own Catholic background and lifelong interest in those same social teachings) who converted to Islam with the name Ilyas ‘Abd al-‘Alim Islam. He did much to publicize the document in his book The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (Tacoma, Washington: Angelico Press, 2013).
Unfortunately, this Covenant and other documents like it “have largely been neglected by both traditional Muslim and modern western scholarship, and are practically unknown to the mass of believers,” according to Dr. Morrow. But studying these documents would bring “out their light in this period of darkness in which the People of the Scripture, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, have strayed from their sacred traditions of tolerance and co-existence.” The Covenant confirms the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa salam) had “confidence in his ability to count on the spiritual solidarity of the People of the Book,” and reiterated he “had much more in common with the followers of Christ than with the idol-worshippers who surrounded him.”
The Issue of Destroying Pre-Islamic Relics and Monuments
Aside from stoking the fires of enmity toward Islam and Muslims, the reprehensible acts of Daesh in destroying Christian or ancient pre-Islamic relics or sites is actually a violation of the Sunna of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu 'alaihi wa salam) and the historical practice of the Muslims who have obviously preserved these very same relics and monuments up to the modern day. Daesh is as deviated in destroying these sites and relics, as they are with their destruction of Islamic sites which go against their own narrow Wahhabi interpretation.
"In effect, ISIS/Taliban/Wahhabis and similarly inspired vandals are claiming they are more enlightened than the Prophet Muhammad, his companions, his immediate successors and all previous Muslim rulers and scholars," writes Azeem Ibrahim, an International Security lecturer at the University of Chicago. "According to them, all previous Muslims including the Prophet himself were essentially wrong and their own interpretation of what counts as polytheism and what can inspire it is correct."
In reality, these acts are justified by the arguments of those who enable these extremist views with their ideas - even if they are not themselves acting upon their words. Such people may justify it by pointing out how the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa salam) destroyed the pagan idols that were in the Ka'aba. But those were actually worshipped by people directly, and the city of Makka had just become Muslim. But the relics which have been preserved throughout Muslim countries, and the protected sites of other religious faiths such as Christians, are to be protected.
"Indeed, in the past, many Islamic scholars actively encouraged the preservation of great monuments and relics of civilization, regardless of the fact that they were pre-Islamic," adds Ibrahim. "For example, in Egypt, the pyramids and the Sphinx were actively preserved as a reminder of a great civilization that once dominated the land. That such a civilization could be swept away and swallowed by the sand is also an enlightening Islamic moral: the monuments were a reminder that the Will of God transcends the shifts of history.
"And still it remains a matter of historical fact that in the Golden Age of the Caliphate, the period of history that the ISIS thugs purport to 're-enact', Islam was an open, accommodating culture, not just eager, but hungry to learn as much as there was to know about the world and its cultures, its religions, its monuments. The Caliphs, the true Caliphs, not the obscure 'scholar' at the top of ISIS, did not order monuments to be destroyed or books to be burnt. They ordered monuments to be preserved, or even brought to Islam, and books, from all over the world, from Hindu pagans, from Egyptian Copts, from Greek Atheists to be translated into Arabic. When they did this, Islam was the pinnacle of civilization. But what ISIS preaches is the exact opposite."