"Fifteen-year-old Abdel Kareem Mohammed Abu Habel sits in an Israeli prison after he tried and failed to martyr himself last year. Would he do it again? Without a doubt, he says.

...“We don’t want the Jews on this world,” he said."

- San Francisco Chronicle
Aug. 15, 2005

"My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews.

We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. "

- Hamas' website, 2/15/06

"I have repeatedly asked that [moderate Muslims] confront and refute the Islamic arguments of jihadists -- which is the one thing they must do if they are going to prevail in the Islamic community, and which shouldn't be difficult in light of their insistence that Islam is fundamentally peaceful.

But despite a great deal of bluster, there is no large-scale organized movement of Muslims countering the jihadists, and no coherent moderate Muslim theology that teaches against jihad and the subjugation of unbelievers on Islamic grounds…"

- Robert Spencer

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Residents of a southern Somalia town who do not pray five times a day will be beheaded, an Islamic courts official said Wednesday, adding the edict will be implemented in three days.

...Those who do not follow this edict "will definitely be beheaded according to Islamic law," [Sheik Hussein Barre] Rage told The Associated Press by phone. "As Muslims, we should practice Islam fully, not in part, and that is what our religion enjoins us to do."

- Yahoo News, 12/7/06

"The earth is flat. Whoever claims it is round is an atheist deserving of punishment."

- Sheik Bin Baz fatwa, 1974

The letter "X" soon may be banned in Saudi Arabia because it resembles the mother of all banned religious symbols in the oil kingdom: the cross. The new development came...in order "to prevent filthy Christian conspiracies from infiltrating our thoughts, our beliefs, and our feelings."

...One of the most criminal travesties committed by the commission's foot soldiers, the Mutawaeen, or religious police, was...when the Mutawaeen forcibly prevented girls fleeing a burning school from leaving the building because they were "improperly dressed."

...The [Islamic religious] police stopped men who tried to help the girls, warning the men: "It is sinful to approach them." Of the 800 teenage pupils in Mecca, 15 burned to death and more than 50 were injured.

- New York Sun


Islam and jihad
2) Who speaks for Islam?


"Go to hell, enemy of God!" shouted the man, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, as [Nicholas] Berg's screams were broadcast. "Kill him! Kill him! Yes, like that! Cut his throat properly. Cut his head off! If I had been there, I would have burned him to make him already feel what hell was like. Cut off his head! God is great! God is great!"

- New York Times, 11/21/05

"The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace."

- George W. Bush, 9/17/01


Who speaks for Islam?

Which is the real Islam - the kind yielding generally peaceful followers, or the kind openly endorsing violence and murder? That cannot be answered until we determine who's to say which is the real Islam.

Who qualifies as a reliable source on Islam? President Bush states above that "Islam is peace", but he himself doesn't practice Islam nor did he grow up in a Muslim community. Al-Zarqawi, quoted earlier, does claim to follow Islam and did grow up in a Muslim community. However, he practices his faith in an exceedingly more violent manner than most Muslims.

Sayed Ahmed, a Muslim quoted in the New York Times above, isn't like al-Zarqawi or Bush. His attitude may seem identical to that of al-Zarqawi's, but his actions aren't. Why? Does he reject the idea that murdering infidels is Islam's true path? Or is he instead living in disobedience to a faith that is actually commanding him to kill?

Whose word on Islam should we accept? I suggest we listen to the following sources (which we'll examine more closely later):

1. Islam's chief texts: the Qur'an, Sunnah, and Hadith

The Qur'an is a collection of Muhammad's sayings; supposedly divine words and visions given to Muhammad from time to time to recite to his followers. The Qur'an was compiled after Muhammad's death from what a group of his followers had either noted in some way (the Bedouin had no written language) or from what they could recite of his sayings. Qur'an means 'the recitation' since it is a collection of what Muhammad claimed to have recited from his visions. 'The recitation' is also a fitting description as the recollection itself was compiled from what Muhammad's followers thought they remembered him saying and could themselves still recite.

Hadith, generally speaking, are the oral traditions recounting the life ways of Muhammad. The Hadith (stories or traditions) are often prefaced by who heard it from whom. These accounts were not put in writing until more than a century had passed after Muhammad's death. When this was carried out, the stories were divided by topic and between what were thought to be from the most reliable sources and the least reliable ones. The more reliable ones comprise what is referred to as the Sunnah; the least reliable ones simply the Hadith.

Interpretive issues will arise in looking at all these, naturally, which I won't go into now except for two; the first being language. Islam's texts are said to still be in the same dialect of Arabic in which they were first written. Islamic apologists contrast this to the translation which has occurred in the case of modern-reading Bibles. Their assertion is that the Qur'an is more likely to be true than the Bible because the Qur'an has not been translated.

What then are we to make of the English-reading Qur'an?

For the same aforementioned reason, some apologists issue the odd disclaimer that what can appear to be inconsistent, inaccurate or illogical in the translated-to-English Qur'an actually reads as clear divine truth in the original Arabic version. According to the harshest critics, this is a crafty punishment targeting those who do not speak or read the only language that Allah accepts - Arabic. I'll leave that to you to decide.

A second major issue of interpretation is abrogation, or nasikh wa mansukh. Abrogation is also absolutely critical to understanding the Qur'an. A proceeding chapter is dedicated to explaining this.


No matter how contemporary Muslims may differ with respect to their own practices and interpretations, all hold Muhammad as their role model. To aid in the study of Muhammad, two chapters are provided on his life as well as one on the Islamic principle of al-Taqiyya and hudna - issues directly relating to credibility, and again ones that may surprise you.

3. Muhammad's four major disciples

These are revered within Islam as the Rashidun or "four rightly-guided caliphs." Those caliphs (meaning "successor to the messenger of God") are Abu Bakr, Umar bin al-Khattab, Uthman bin Affan, and Ali bin Abi Talib.

Even though three of these rightly-guided four were brought to power by murder, they knew the way of Muhammad better than anyone and continued Islam's expansion after Muhammad's death. They are a fantastic snapshot of original Islam for the following reason:

While disagreements over the meaning of passages might or might not be dismissed as interpretive issues because we are so far removed from when and where they were said, one cannot argue the same about Muhammad's disciples. They were not far removed from the times or context. No one can be more clear on his teachings than they. The actions of Muhammad's disciples - now a matter of historical record - are as clear of a picture as we can get of what Muhammad instructed his followers to do and to be.

Just as Christ's disciples reflected Christ's teachings, Muhammad's disciples reflected Muhammad's teachings.

4. Scholars in the faith or persons in some way significant to Islam's history or practice

These sources of information on Islam must include, like it or not, major terrorists and other persons of violence and influence. Why? Because they address the world in the name of Islam, they claim to practice Islam as Muhammad intended it, they have many followers, they are far louder than their nonviolent counterparts, and they seek weapons capable of wiping nations off the face of the earth. If just for the sake of survival, suicidal fanatics who seek or may have nuclear weapons must be given our attention.

Finally, what are my own qualifications to present the topic of Islam?
Primarily that my writings chiefly let Muslims of many persuasions and notorieties speak for themselves through quotations and references. Besides a great deal of reading and personal study, my knowledge of Islam comes from three unrelated missionaries born and raised in Muslim-rich nations (Egypt, India, and Iran; two of whom are converts from Islam), friends who have served or worked in the Middle East, and a Muslim architect colleague from India.

(Exhaustive writings by James M. Arlandson and Andrew G. Bostom were also helpful, as were many of the links provided at the bottom, plus the valuable input of a former Iranian Muslim and his wife who kindly served among my editors for these chapters.)



As a postscript to the above, it might also be asked if the comparatively silent "peaceful" Muslim masses speak for Islam
As an armchair historian of World War II, I assure you that silent masses are just that - silent. Whether we're talking about Russian masses on the person of Stalin, German masses on Hitler, Italian masses on Mussolini, or even American masses who merely wished a conquered Europe well before the Pearl Harbor attack, silent masses are never an impediment to a fanatic with a plan. More on that another time.



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NEXT : Pre-Islamic Arabia


Some web sources on Islam and jihad (no particular order):












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Is the West about to suffer a major and violent religious conquest, under siege for decades by biological and nuclear terrorism?

To listen to some self-proclaimed Muslims, one might fear so. But do they speak for Islam?

Who does speak for Islam?