Islam and jihad
2) Who speaks for Islam?
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!"
York Times, 11/21/05
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
speaks for Islam?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
then are we to make of the English-reading Qur'an?
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.
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.
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
- issues directly relating to credibility, and again ones that may surprise
3. Muhammad's four major disciples.
are revered within Islam as the Rashidun or "four rightly-guided
caliphs (meaning "successor to the messenger of God") are Abu
Bakr, Umar bin al-Khattab, Uthman bin Affan, and Ali
bin Abi Talib.
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:
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.
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
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
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.
: Pre-Islamic Arabia
web sources on Islam and jihad (no particular order):