Revolutionary Revision of the Hadith in Turkey?

February 28, 2008

[Update: Reports of Turkey’s revision plans may have been exaggerated.]

According to the BBC, Turkey’s “Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith….” The Hadith are oral traditions about Mohammed and his cohorts, certain collections of which are generally regarded as sacred by Muslims. Here are a few noteworthy items:

  • The Turks apparently want the Hadith to support their efforts at creating a modern, secular democracy.
  • They are claiming that in their reform, they are actually returning to an original Islam (a claim which may be subject to debate).
  • They are rejecting the doctrine of abrogation (later, violent verses of the Quran replacing the earlier, peaceful verses).
  • They want to end Islamic justification for honor killings and female genital mutilation.
  • It is theoretically possible their efforts could result in a radically reformed version of Sharia, or even an official doctrine of non-Sharia. We’ll see.
  • This is the only instance I’m aware of in which Muslims with this degree of official authority have admitted problems within Islam to this extent. This in itself is a welcome step in the right direction.

And here are some issues that are not discussed in this article:

  • Time will tell how the rest of the Muslim world will respond to this reform. Let’s not expect a sudden utopia.
  • Their reform may turn out to be a worthwhile one, we don’t know yet. However, even if it does, it is quite possible that it will be used by Islamists as taqiyya. The Islamists can say, “See! Sharia’s not so bad,” to sell the West on Sharia, and then do “bait and switch” on us. We need to stay vigilant with those pesky Islamists (or, more accurately, we need to become vigilant in the first place.)
  • From this article, it is difficult to see how their approach can neutralize the many problems in the Quran, such as the calls for Jihad, Jizya tax (extra tax on non-Muslims), and massive Jew hatred.

It is good to see a sign of progress, even if it’s too soon to break out the champagne.

Can We Believe What Muslims Say About Sharia and Jihad?

February 19, 2008

The answer is: sometimes. The challenge is that we know deception is a part of the ideologies of Sharia and Jihad, and an integral part of Islamists’ game plan in dealing with non-Muslims.

Examples of Islamists using Deception (”Taqiyya”)

A Sunday Times reporter in Britain infiltrated the Savior Sect, a group which encourages hatred and violence. According to the Times Online article, the sect’s leader, Omar Bakri Mohammed, condemned the killing of all innocent civilians when giving public interviews. “Later when he addressed his own followers he explained that he had in fact been referring only to Muslims as only they were innocent: ‘Yes I condemn killing any innocent people, but not any kuffar.’” “Kuffar” is the plural form of “kafir”, a derogatory term for unbeliever, which is also used in the Quran.

Notice that Bakri was using a deceptive meaning of “innocent” rather than outright lying. Islamists sometimes intentionally use words like “innocent”, “peace”, and “terrorist” with a very different meaning from that of their listeners.

According to the Israeli National News, senior Hamas leaders have said, in effect, “We’re allowed to lie.” They explained, “A Muslim is permitted to say things that oppose his beliefs in order to prevent damages or to be saved from death.” According to INN, “Senior Hamas terrorists in Samaria, who were recently released from jail, publicly expressed disapproval with the Hamas takeover of Gaza and said they supported the PA forces. [Other senior Hamas leaders] explained that the Samarian terrorists’ announcement was not a sign of dissent within Hamas ranks, but rather a permitted use of ‘taqiyya’ to deceive Abbas and avoid prison sentences.”

In his article, The Development of a Jihadi’s Mind, former Jihadist turned reformer Tawfiq Hamid gives several examples of taqiyya practiced and encouraged by Jamaah Islamiyah, an Islamic organization which is now considered to be a terrorist organization:

“Salafi Islamic texts demonstrate Mohammed’s uncompromising nature…. They encourage devout Muslims to emulate the Prophet’s deeds and to accept and defend his actions in even the harshest passages. When confronted by outsiders, however, these same Muslims insist that such stories are misinterpreted because they are taken out of context—though they rarely, if ever, provide the context. This self-protective denial effectively paralyzes further criticism by the West. Meanwhile, these texts are taught and understood in a very literal way by both the young members of Jamaah and many other Muslims.”

“Among the more appalling notions [Salafi ideology] supports are the enslavement and rape of female war prisoners and the beating of women to discipline them. It permits polygamy and pedophilia. It refers to Jews as “pigs and monkeys” and exhorts believers to kill them before the end of days….Homosexuals are to be killed as well….

“These doctrines are not taken out of context, as many apologists for Islamism argue: they are central to the faith and ethics of millions of Muslims, and are currently being taught as part of the standard curriculum in many Islamic educational systems in the Middle East as well in the West. Moreover, there is no single approved Islamic textbook that contradicts or provides an alternative to the passages I have cited.”

“Muslims who live in the West—who insist to outsiders that Islam is a “religion of peace” and who enjoy freedom of expression, which they demand from their Western hosts—have threatened me with murder and arson.”

So, it is evident that many Islamists believe it furthers their aims to deceive non-Muslims by pretending Islam is peaceful when they really don’t believe it is. At the same time, there may also be some who claim Islam is peaceful and really believe it. Then there may also be some who think if they pretend Islam is peaceful, that will make it come true. However, even if they are sincere or well-intentioned, those who deny Islam’s violent and oppressive doctrines are doing the Islamists’ work for them by fooling the gullible West who wants to think well of Islam, despite the evidence. We need to understand Islam as it is, not as we wish it were. Muslims who wish Islam were peaceful need to reform it by addressing its problematic aspects. Living in a make-believe world won’t help.

What Is the Islamic Basis for Taqiyya?

Sunnis (the majority sect) will often say taqiyya is a Shia doctrine, ignoring the support for deception in Sunni hadith and law. As Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch notes, taqiyya is even practiced on the subject of taqiyya. The examples given above (Savior Sect, Hamas, and Jamaah Islamiyah) are, to the best of my knowledge, all Sunni.

Here are three examples from the Quran which excuse dishonesty:

Quran 3:28: “Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them. But Allah cautions you (To remember) Himself; for the final goal is to Allah.” This means Muslims can only be friends with unbelievers as a means to defend against them, which is not sincere friendship. Muslim commentator Ibn Kathir explains: “[When believers fear for their safety from disbelievers], such believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly.”

Quran 16:106: “Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.” So, it’s fine to deny belief under compulsion.

Quran 2:225: “Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing.” So it does not bother Allah if Muslims make oaths thoughtlessly. Along these lines, in a Hadith recorded by Bukhari, Mohammed says, “…if ever I take an oath to do something, and later on I find that it is more beneficial to do something different, I will do the thing which is better, and give expiation for my oath”. I have found nearly identical statements in 11 additional Bukhari Hadith, as well.

According to several Hadith recorded by Bukhari, Mohammed said “War is deceit”.

Also from Bukhari, Muhammed gave permission for his follower to tell a lie in order to assassinate a critic.

In three Muslim Hadith, Mohammed gives three exceptions to the rule of telling the truth: in battle, to bring about reconcilliation in general, and to bring about reconcilliation between husband and wife.

Taqiyya also has some support from Islamic Law. In Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, (pgs. 744-748) we find a paragraph explaining that lying is prohibited, followed by four pages on “Permissible Lying”, Exaggeration”, and “Giving a Misleading Impression”. Here are some quotes: “…Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali…says: ‘Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible, and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory….But it is religiously more precautionary…to employ words that give a misleading impression….[I]f a ruler asks one about a wicked act one has committed that is solely between oneself and Allah Most High… one is entitled to disclaim it….’” “Scholars say that there is no harm…in giving a misleading impression if required by an interest countenanced by Sacred Law that is more important than not misleading the person being addressed, or if there is a pressing need which could not otherwise be fulfilled except through lying.”

So, according to this source, it’s obligatory for Muslims to lie in order to accomplish an obligatory goal that could not be accomplished truthfully. And what are some obligatory goals? According to Reliance (pg. 600), “Jihad is a communal obligation…” (emphasis added). In addition, we know that the goal of Jihad is to impose worldwide Sharia, so it follows that Sharia is also an abligatory goal. Since both Jihad and Sharia are considered obligatory, it follows that lying about them to non-Muslims would be obligatory if they could not be accomplished truthfully, according to the rules spelled out in Reliance.

This does not mean that all Muslims are liars. However, it does mean that Muslims who take Islamic Law seriously could very well believe that lying to non-Muslims about Jihad and Sharia is justified. This is why it’s important to check multiple sources, including not just supporters but also critics of Islam, and see who has the evidence to back up their position.

Is an Apostasy Movement a Viable Option against Islamo-Fascism?

January 28, 2008

There are enormous obstacles to apostasy (leaving the religion) in Islam. Some ex-Muslims say that in retrospect, their indoctrination into Islam was so intense, leaving it was akin to leaving a cult. This is not intended as a gratuitous insult; there are very real parallels between Islam and cults explained here, and these parallels are highly relevant to the subject of apostasy.

Punishments in this life:

As previously discussed, apostates may live in fear of being killed; some live with constant death threats. Those who are not killed may be treated as a sub-human by Muslims. They may be shunned by the Muslim community, which is a problem if all their family and friends are Muslim, and if there are no employment options with non-Muslims in their area. They may not inherit property from Muslim family members.

Punishments in the next:

Although the punishments for apostasy in this life are draconian, some say the threats of punishment in the afterlife are enough to give a Muslim a full-fledged phobia of even considering leaving Islam.

Former Jihadist turned reformer Tawfiq Hamid has assembled a list of Quran verses that describe punishment in the afterlife in Appendix A of his article, The Development of a Jihadi’s Mind. This is Hamid’s translation (I have compared it with some standard translations and find the meaning to be comparable, yet there are some differences. If you wish to compare for yourself, click the links following each verse):

  • “[…]For those who do not follow Allah garments of fire shall be cut out for them (in the life to come); burning water will be poured over their heads causing all that is within their bodies, as well as the skins, to melt away. And they shall be held by iron grips; and every time they try in their anguish to come out of it, they shall be returned there to and (be told): “Taste suffering through fire (to the full)!” Quran 22:19-22
  • “But those of the left hand (did not obey Allah and Mohammed or follow them)—how unhappy those of the left hand. They will be in the scorching hot wind and boiling water, under the shadow of thick black smoke, neither cool nor agreeable. …They will be gathered together on a certain day which is predetermined. Then you, the erring and the deniers will eat Zaqum (a thorny tree), fill your bellies with it, and drink scalding water, lapping it up like female camels raging of thirst and disease. Such will be their entertainment, their welcome on the Day of Doom … the welcome of boiling water and the entertainment of roasting in Hell. This is the ultimate truth.” Quran 56:41-57
  • “For We have truly made it as a trial to torment the disbelievers. Zaqumis a horrible thorn tree that grows in Hell. The shoots of its fruit-stalks are like the heads of devils. Truly they (the non-Muslims) will eat it and fill their bellies with it. On top of that they will be given a mixture made of boiling water to drink especially prepared. Then they shall be returned to the Blazing Fire.” Quran 37:63-68
  • “Soon will I fling them into the burning Hell Fire! And what will explain what Hell Fire is? It permits nothing to endure, and nothing does it spare! It darkens and changes the color of man, burning the skin! It shrivels and scorches men.” Quran 74:26-29
  • “We have prepared the doom of Hell and the penalty of torment in the most intense Blazing Fire. For those who reject their Lord is the punishment of Hell: Evil, it is such a wretched destination. When they are flung therein, they will hear the terrible drawing in of their breath and loud moaning even as the flame blazes forth, roaring with rage as it boils up, bursting with fury. Every time a fresh crowd is cast in, Hell’s wardens will ask, ‘Did no Warner come to you?” Quran 67:6-8
  • “‘This,’ it will be said, ‘is the Fire, which you used to deny! Is this magic fake? Burn therein, endure the heat; taste it. It’s the same whether you bear it patiently, or not. This is My retaliation for what you did.” Quran 52:14-16
  • “[…]Those who shall dwell forever in the Fire are given to drink boiling water that tears their bowels to pieces, and cutting their intestines to shreds.” Quran 47:15

To non-Muslims, these verses may just sound like a bad horror flick, but remember, most Muslims really believe this stuff. In addition to the graphic quality of certain verses, this torturous punishment is also an extremely pervasive theme of the Quran. A search reveals that 644 of the 6236 verses contain the words “doom”, “punishment”, “hell” and/or “fire”. Flipping through them, it appears that not all but most of the 644 are referring to the afterlife. Also, there are verses which specifically mention how despicable apostates are (2:217, 4:89).

Naturally, we can also count on the Hadith to supply even more examples of a painful afterlife, such as corpses being tortured in the grave. Although threats for punishment in the next life are found in other religions as well, these are arguably more graphic, ominous, and pervasive than those found in other holy books. Fear appears to be a major factor in preventing Muslims from leaving Islam.

Other obstacles

In addition to fear, there are other obstacles, as well. Muslims are conditioned to have an aversion to non-Muslims, taught that they are “unclean”, “cursed by Allah”, and so forth. Muslims are taught to avoid friendships with non-Muslims. Muslims are taught to reject any information that contradicts Islam without even considering it. Muslims are encouraged to sacrifice their own desires and, indeed, their individual identity, for the sake of Islam. (In each case above, by “Muslims” I mean “many if not most Muslims”.)

Apostates are already in danger just for leaving their faith, but the danger factor looms even larger for those who have a mission of bringing more Muslims with them into the world of apostasy. Many apostates do not even tell their friends and family they have left Islam, but communicate anonymously over the internet, instead. The non-Muslim world owes a huge debt of gratitude to these heros.

Political correctness is another obstacle, coming from non-Muslims, of all places. It could be considered politically incorrect to even examine the possibility of an apostasy movement. However, if it is acceptable for members of religions to express what they believe and try to convince others to join them, why would it not be acceptable for apostates to do the same, especially when the apostates’ beliefs could be an antidote for Islamo-Fascism?

Can these obstacles be overcome?

A growing number of people are indeed overcoming these obstacles, and are helping others to do so. If enough people leave Islam, the problematic Islamic doctrines go away.

Muslims may view apostasy as turning their backs on their heritage, but it could also be reclaiming a pre-Islamic heritage that had been taken from them. Based on what we know about Islamic conquest, it is likely that most Muslims today have one or more ancestors who suffered at the hands of the Islamic warriors.

Imagine the plight of Muslims’ pre-Islamic ancestors. They may have been killed outright, their children sold into slavery. They may have been given the two choices of conversion or death, or more commonly the three choices of conversion, dhimmitude (severe underclass status), or death. They may have been women who, as prisoners of war, found their prior marriages instantly dissolved, and found that their captors could legally have sex with them (legal rape). They may have been born as a dhimmi, and then found themselves unable to pay the jizya tax, and thus forced to convert to Islam. They may have sacrificed their own conscience so that they and their progeny could at least survive, because with survival there’s still hope. Depending on their circumstances, they may or may not have been aware that all their descendants would be required to be unquestioningly Muslim, and even be taught to hate their ancestors from the “jahiliyya” (pre-Islamic age of ignorance).

Of course, we all have ancestors who were barbarous murderers and rapists or victims thereof, if we go back far enough. The difference is that we do not all support the belief system that caused this barbarity. Muslims who support the ideologies of Jihad and Sharia do so, even if unwittingly.

To gain a sense of their roots, some apostates investigate their ancestors’ religion, which may or may not appeal to them. But even if it doesn’t, exercising freedom of conscience and choosing ones own religion can be a way of honoring ancestors who were not allowed that choice.

Can an apostasy movement succeed? The obstacles are huge, but anything is possible. Today’s Islamic apostasy movement uses non-violent means of disproving tenets of Islam, with the hope of minimizing the violence and oppression that seem inevitable if Islamo-Fascism were to continue on its present course. Let’s hope they succeed. The non-Muslim world should be supporting the apostasy movement big time.

Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part V: Historical Evidence

January 24, 2008

This is the fifth installment of a seven part series, examining the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, for reforming Islam. I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion (just a way of relating with God, with no fascist doctrines); if it offered persuasive, comprehensive, and truthful challenges to the version of Islam put forward by the Islamists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims.

Challenge: Historical Evidence. To be brief, Islam’s 1400 years of history is riddled with conquest and subjugation [1]. I’ll focus on the earliest history, because Muslims generally believe Mohammed and those who heard his message in person understood Islam the best. If we accept early Muslim sources, we know that Mohammed and his earliest followers conquered everything they could get their hands on, creating a huge empire within one hundred years of Mohammed’s death. If the message of Islam were peaceful, why the rush to conquer the world? To be believed, any reformed Islam would have to be compatible with known history.

What can overcome this challenge?

Frankly, I don’t know. Some apologists put out revisionist histories in which Islam spread peacefully because people far and wide instantly recognized the “truth of Islam,” but it’s hard to put a lot of faith in a deception. In addition, it would dishonor the memory of the conquered peoples to claim they embraced Islam willingly. Ancient peoples lost their lives, religions, and cultures, either quickly or excruciatingly slowly through the pressures of dhimmitude; it would be a further disgrace for them to lose their place in our memory as well. And there’s the old adage: those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

So, what do we say? Mohammed and his earliest followers all misunderstood Islam? Both Mohammed and his early followers were not only human, subject to error, but actually barbarians, subject to gross error? This would beg the question: why would any compassionate god choose Mohammed to be his final messenger? I don’t know, you tell me.

Ideally, a solution would be consistent with the truth (based on the best information we have available), and provide a foundation for a non-militant, apolitical Islam. That’s a tall order.

There is one possibility that I can see, though it may be a long shot. If we regard all the early Muslim sources sceptically, and look instead at the small amount of evidence available from non-Muslim sources, that evidence appears to cast doubt on virtually all of the Muslim version of their early history. This could then be used to challenge the doctrines of Jihad and Islamic supremacy that were formed in early Muslim history.

There is a “lack of evidence, outside the Muslim literature, for the view that the Arabs were Muslim at the time of the Conquest.” [2] The earliest mention of the Quran in a non-Muslim source is from the 8th century, not the 7th century when it originated according to Muslim sources [3]. This is a big problem for the traditional Muslim version of events, because Mohammed supposedly mandated that no one was to be conquered until after they were invited to embrace Islam. Even if the conquered peoples did not fully understand Islam, they would have noticed if they’d received a message saying “embrace Islam and you’ll be safe”, and subsequently they were sacked. This would not be difficult to understand. If this were the case, it is virtually inconceivable that word of this would not get out to areas that had not yet been conquered. The Byzantines, for example, would have been very interested in such information.

According to the Quran, the qibla (direction of worship) was changed from Jerusalem to the sacred Mosque in Mecca during the Messenger’s lifetime (2:142-150). However, archeological evidence shows that mosques built after Mohammed’s life were pointed toward Jerusalem, suggesting the qibla was moved much later than the Quran indicates [4]. In addition, there’s no mention of Mecca in non-Muslim sources of that time period Mohammed allegedly lived there. If Mecca were truly a thriving trading hub as described by Muslim sources, the Greeks or Romans would have mentioned Mecca in their records of trade. Also, Mecca is located in a most inhospitable place, miles away from the natural trade route. Together, this evidence in itself casts doubt on not only the integrity of the Quran as Allah’s word, but also on the entire history of the foundation of Islam.

According to Yehuda Nevo and Judith Koren, the Arabs were most likely pagans when they began their conquest. Wansbrough believed the Arabs gradually formed Islam after making contact with Rabbinical Judaism outside of Central Arabia [5]; certain Islamic themes are similar to those of the Samaritans (of central Palestine) [6]. Michael Cook and Patricia Crone have stated it’s possible the Quran was thrown together from various sources after the early Arab conquests [7]. Lammens believes the entire biography of Mohammed was created to explain the Quran [8], and Wansbrough believes they went to some lengths to give Islam an Arabic identity, distinct from Judaism [9]. According to Schacht, none of the traditions used to support legal doctrines could be taken as authentic [10].

Some have said they have trouble believing any type of sweeping revision of Islamic history, just because the early Muslims would not have fabricated Mohammed with such a disagreeable character. However, I have another explanation for that. What is disagreeable to us may have been considered admirable by those who wrote the story. To the victors of the Arab conquests, whoever they were, savage ruthlessness could have been a virtue. Having many wives and marrying a child could have been evidence of virility and manliness. They may have seen nothing wrong with torture, raiding caravans, trading in slaves, and raping female captives. It is to us, informed by Judeo-Christian values and the norms of modernity, that this is all quite disgusting. In addition, if the story was written when there was a large empire to keep in line, the rulers could have wanted to justify ruthlessness and savagery for their own purpose: keeping their subjects “subdued” with fear. [Note: All links in this paragraph reference early Muslim sources, or a page which links to early Muslim sources.]

The one exception which I cannot explain in this way is the sorry episode of the Satanic verses, in which Mohammed claimed to have been deceived by Satan (according to early Muslim sources). This episode could have been fabricated to justify the corresponding verses in the Quran (22:52-53, 17:73-75), but how did those verses get in there?

I do not know whether any of the revisionist researchers are correct, but it does seem to be an avenue worth exploring. If even one of these theories is shown to be the best explanation of the evidence, it would provide more than enough basis for Muslim reformers to challenge the authenticity of the ideologies of Jihad and Sharia. The challenge then would be to preserve a viable religion that is harmless yet bears some resemblance to Islam. Middle East expert Daniel Pipes believes Islam can survive these types of scholarly challenges, just as Christianity and Judiasm did, and maybe he’s right.

Part VI of this series will examine Muslim culture.

[1] Efraim Karsh, Islamic Imperialism: A History (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2007); Andrew G. Bostom, MD, ed. The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (New York: Prometheus Books, 2005)

[2] “Methodological Approaches to Islamic Studies” in Ibn Warraq, The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, p. 425 (referencing work by Yehuda D. Nevo and Judith Koren)

[3] Ibn Warraq, ed. The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book (New York: Prometheus Books, 1998) pg. 354

[4]Ibid, pg. 32

[5] Ibid, pg. 24

[6] Ibid, pg. 31

[7] Ibid, pgs. 26-27, 32

[8] Ibid, pg. 19

[9] Ibid, pgs. 25, 357

[10] Ibid, pg. 23

Part I: The Quran
Part II: The Hadith
Part III: The Sira
Part IV: Sharia
Part V: Historical Evidence
Part VI: Muslim Culture
Part VII: Conclusions

Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part IV: Sharia

January 23, 2008

This is the fourth installment of a seven part series, examining the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, for reforming Islam. I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion (just a way of relating with God, with no fascist doctrines); if it offered persuasive, comprehensive, and truthful challenges to the version of Islam put forward by the Islamists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims.

Challenge: Sharia. Islamic Law, or Sharia, is recorded in various legal manuals. Sharia is based on the Quran, Hadith, and ijma (consensus of previous Islamic legal scholars, considered to be infallible). The problems with Sharia are obvious from the examples here.

How to overcome this challenge:

Sharia depends on the Quran, Hadith, and ijma. Parts of Sharia, such as the Jizya tax and Jihad fighting, are explicitly called for in the Quran. Just as the Quran is more challenging to reform than the Hadith and Sira, aspects of Sharia based on the Quran are more difficult to deal with than the others.

However, the concept of the infallibility of ijma appears to have scant support from the Quran. Cited in Reliance of the Traveller (pgs. 24-25), there’s a verse which tells believers to obey “those in authority” among them (4:59), and another which threatens believers who do not follow “the believer’s way” (4:115). Then there are some supportive Hadith, which say things like “when the believers are in agreement, they cannot be wrong” and so forth.

Unless there is more support for ijma than what’s listed in this legal manual, it would not have to be difficult to reinterpret this in a credible fashion (at least, in comparison to the difficulties faced with the other challenges). There is a long tradition of ijma, it is highly influential to this day, but its foundation appears to be pretty weak. “Those in authority” could be secular leaders, “the believer’s way” could be reinterpreted any number of ways, and “when the believers are in agreement” could be reinterpreted more literally as a consensus of every single believer, rather than a consensus of a few scholars in the distant past. With “ijma” redefined, all the rulings of the four schools of Sharia could be reevaluated. (Ultimately, it seems the best thing would be to abolish Sharia altogether, but this could be one step in that direction.)

It would also not be difficult to make the case that none of the Hadith are sufficiently reliable to be used as a basis for law. Joseph Schacht, a great Islamicist, found evidence that “[d]etails from the life of the Prophet were invented to support legal doctrines.” [Quote from The Origins of the Koran, edited by Ibn Warraq, page 23.] Schacht also found that for the most part, Sharia was not derived from the Quran.

Another piece of “good news” is that the death penalty for apostasy is never explicitly given in the Quran, but is hinted at there, with more substantiation from the Hadith, and “locked in” by ijma. This does not mean this death penalty would be easy to get rid of in practice, because the tradition is deeply in-grained. Still, any good news, however small, is worth noting. Reforming this one aspect of Islam, if achievable on a large scale, could make a huge difference. Some Muslims make a good case that the death penalty for apostates is “un-Islamic” in theory, although so far as I know, significant numbers of clerics have not gotten on that bandwagon. While cheering on the reformers, it is important for us non-Muslims in the west to be realistic about the current state of things, as well.

Part V of this series will examine historical evidence of Arab conquest.

Part I: The Quran
Part II: The Hadith
Part III: The Sira
Part IV: Sharia
Part V: Historical Evidence
Part VI: Muslim Culture
Part VII: Conclusions

What is a “real Muslim”?

January 4, 2008

Who is excluded from any group helps define who is included. We can gain an insight into the orthodox meaning of a “Muslim” by taking a look at what defines a person who has left Islam, according to Islamic Law (Sharia). This is also essential for understanding the basics of Islamo-Fascism. There are Muslims who do not subscribe to the orthodox view; but substantial numbers, probably more than half of Muslims worldwide, do. I’m defining orthodox as believing the Quran was written word-for-word and letter-by-letter by Allah; believing Mohammed was a superior human worthy of emulating; believing in the authenticated Hadith (traditions) and the Sira (early biographies); and believing in the ijma (consensus) of mujtahedin (great scholars) of Sharia. Many Muslims who are orthodox by that definition are unaware of the full implications of accepting that list of doctrines.

My source text for this article is from Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, 1994 Revised Edition. This manual represents the Shafi’i school (and it’s worth noting that all four schools agree on 75% of their rulings, according to the introduction to Reliance of the Traveller). Dr. Taha Jabir al-‘Alwani, President of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and President of the Fiqh Council of North America, writes “There is no doubt that this translation is a valuable and important work, whether as a textbook for teaching Islamic jurisprudence to English-speakers, or as a legal reference for use by scholars, educated laymen, and students in this language….In view of the utility of this eminent work of Islamic jurisprudence and its rank among well known standard Shafi’i legal texts, its translation into English is regarded as a useful, auspicious step….” The book is certified by the prestigious al-Azhar University, whose certification states: “…we certify that the above-mentioned translation corresponds to the Arabic original and conforms to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni Community.”

In addition, the editors had the option to omit anything they felt was not pertinent information for our times. The introduction states that “rulings about matters now rare or nonexistent have been left untranslated unless interesting for some other reason.” For example, rulings on slavery have been left untranslated (even though slavery and near-slavery are still practiced in parts of the Muslim world.) Additionally, Muslim reviewers of the book on generally find the book to be of practical use.

Reliance of the Traveller lists 20 “Acts that entail leaving Islam” (pgs. 596-598), while mentioning that “There are others, for the subject is nearly limitless.” I’ll be discussing five of these 20 acts:

  • Act that entails leaving Islam: “(7) to deny any verse of the Koran or anything which by scholarly consensus…belongs to it, or to add a verse that does not belong to it….”

So, Islamic Law mandates acceptance of every verse of the Quran. Anyone who denies “any verse” is an apostate. Picking and choosing the desirable verses is not good enough. Here is a small sampling of the verses which a Muslim is not allowed to deny, according to Sharia [bracketed words added by me for clarity]:

“Fighting is enjoined on you, and is an object of dislike to you; and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.” (2:216)

“Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.” (4:34)

“Say: O followers of the Book! do you find fault with us (for aught) except that we believe in Allah and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed before, and that most of you are transgressors? Say: Shall I inform you of (him who is) worse than this in retribution from Allah? (Worse is he) whom Allah has cursed and brought His wrath upon, and of whom He made apes and swine, and he who served the Shaitan; these are worse in place and more erring from the straight path.” (5:59-60)

“So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (9:5)

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.” (9:29)

“Surely Allah has bought of the believers their persons and their property for this, that they shall have the garden; they fight in Allah’s way, so they slay and are slain; a promise which is binding on Him in the Taurat and the Injeel and the Quran; and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Rejoice therefore in the pledge which you have made; and that is the mighty achievement.” (9:111)

“Indeed, there is for you a good example in Ibrahim and those with him when they said to their people: Surely we are clear of you and of what you serve besides Allah; we declare ourselves to be clear of you, and enmity and hatred have appeared between us and you forever until you believe in Allah alone– but not [a good example] in what Ibrahim said to his father: I would certainly ask forgiveness for you, and I do not control for you aught from Allah– Our Lord! on Thee do we rely, and to Thee do we turn, and to Thee is the eventual coming.” (60:4)

If you believe these verses could mean something drastically different from what they appear to mean, read here to find out how mainstream Muslim commentators have interpreted them.

  • Act that entails leaving Islam: “(14) to deny the obligatory character of something which by the consensus of Muslims (ijma…) is part of Islam, when it is well known as such, like the prayer (salat) or even one rak’a from one of the five obligatory prayers, if there is no excuse….”

This manual defines ijma: “Scholarly consensus (ijma’) is the agreement of all the mujtahids…of the Muslims existing at one particular period after the Prophet’s death…about a particular ruling regarding a matter or event….[T]he ruling agreed upon is an authoritative part of Sacred Law that is obligatory to obey and not lawful to disobey. Nor can mujtahids of a succeeding era make the thing an object of new ijtihad [expert legal opinion], because the ruling on it, verified by scholarly consensus, is an absolute legal ruling which does not admit of being contravened or annulled.” (pgs. 23-24) There are also specific conditions for ijma to be reached: that a number of mujtahids live concurrently, and that they all without exception agree on a conclusion which each expresses individually and explicitly.

So, it would seem that according to this manual, in order to be a Muslim, a person must support the ijma of mujtahedin. Excerpts from Islamic manuals indicate that this ijma includes: jihad, death penalty for apostates, lower-class (dhimmi) status for non-Muslims in a Muslim state, and more. To deny any one of these, according to this manual, would constitute apostasy. It is understandable that reform efforts within Islam have not succeeded in the past 1000 years.

  • Act that entails leaving Islam: “(17) to believe that things in themselves or by their own nature have any causal influence independent of the will of Allah….”

I have included this one to illustrate why the Islamic world has been in stagnation for about a millennium. While the Christian world embraced scientific principles and strove to discover natural laws, the Islamic world took the position that the concept of natural laws was blasphemous, because it meant that those natural laws ruled the universe rather than Allah. Recently, in a quick backpedal, Muslim apologists have been “discovering” that all of modern science is miraculously in the Quran, without providing any explanation for why Muslims are now learning science from non-Muslims. Despite the backpedalling on matters of science, Islam has somehow also retained the belief that Allah is micro-managing the universe, as shown by the frequent use of “Insha’Allah” (if Allah wills it). Nothing happens without Allah’s will.

  • Act that entails leaving Islam:“(20) … to deny that Allah intended the Prophet’s message…to be the religion followed by the entire world….”

Thus, to accept other religions or non-religion as equal to Islam is to be an apostate.

And what happens to apostates? According to this same manual, “There is no indemnity for killing an apostate (…or any expiation, since it is killing someone who deserves to die).” (pg. 596) In fact, there is an Islamic practice of “takfir” which means declaring a Muslim to be an apostate. This is often used by Jihadists as an excuse to kill Muslims. It’s against Islamic Law for a Muslim to kill another Muslim, but if the intended victim is declared an apostate, suddenly it’s legal. This is what happened to Rashad Khalifa in Tucson, Arizona, who was declared to be an apostate and assassinated.

However, before rushing off to pronounce takfir on someone, it would be good to also be aware of another way to become an apostate:

  • Act that entails leaving Islam: “(13) to describe a Muslim or someone who wants to become a Muslim in terms of unbelief (kufr)….”

So, if Muslim A declares Muslim B to be a disbeliever, but Muslim B is in fact a believer, then Muslim A has, presto chango, made himself an unbeliever.

Given the importance of being correct when pronouncing takfir, a Muslim’s willingness to do so is a good indication of his confidence in his position. Pronouncing takfir is also a way of marking the “line in the sand” between who is a Muslim and who is not. For this reason, it is not a good sign that currently, the most noticeable group who uses takfir to define Islam is the Islamists.

What would let us know the Muslim world no longer advocated fascist doctrines?

One indication that Islam has been successfully reformed and lost its fascist edge would be if and when the following acts would cause a person to be declared an apostate by all Muslim religious authorities, and all Muslim organizations would declare the following acts to be “un-Islamic”:

  • to express the belief that violent Jihad can ever, under any circumstances, be justified;
  • to express the belief that there should be any penalty whatsoever for apostates, heretics, or critics of Islam;
  • to express the belief that non-Muslims or women should be treated differently from Muslim men under the law;
  • to express the belief that every verse of the Quran (in its traditionally accepted interpretations) must be believed and taken literally as the word of Allah;
  • to express the belief that Mohammed’s actions, as recorded in the Sira and Sunnah, are to be emulated;
  • to express the belief that Islamic law should rule any land.

As I’ve never heard of any one of these acts causing a fatwa of takfir by any prominent group of clerics, I’m not expecting this transformation to happen this week, and perhaps not ever.

Resources for Further Study of Sharia, Islam and Jihad

December 18, 2007

If you want to look further into Sharia, as well as the closely related topics of Islam and Jihad, here are some recommendations.

Ex-Muslim Sites Opposed to Sharia

First, here’s a general comment about ex-Muslim sites. As we’ve discussed, many Muslims believe ex-Muslims should be killed. For this and other reasons, many ex-Muslims are very angry at Islam. They also are among those who understand Islam the best, from the inside. These sites are a tremendous resource, but be prepared for strong language.

Faith Freedom. This is among the best-known of the apostate sites, run by the famous Ali Sina. It includes articles, a lively forum, one-on-one debates, and more.

Islam Watch. This site also includes a great deal of information, including a whole section of online books.

Apostates of Islam. This site comes from a humanist perspective.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. This is a political activist group with specific human-rights goals, listed on their Manifesto. These types of organizations are springing up all over Europe. We hope they reach their goals, and we also hope the United States prevents some of the issues they are having to address in Europe.

Wafa Sultan famously said on Al Jazeera TV that the world is not witnessing a clash of religions or cultures, but a battle between modernity and barbarism. She is interviewed here.

Muslim Sites Opposed to Sharia

Irshad Manji. Author of the book, The Problem With Islam Today, Irshad Manji is calling for Muslims to open the gates of ijtihad.

Muslims Against Sharia. This group is truly looking their religion square in the eye and is willing to do whatever it takes to remove the objectionable portions, even if it means removing a few hundred verses of the Quran. This site was founded by Edip Yuksel, a former student of Dr. Rashad Khalifa, who founded the Submitters sect and discovered a preponderance of the number 19 in the Quran. Khalifa was assassinated by a Muslim for apostasy and heresy.

American Islamic Forum for Democracy. This is a membership organization that makes a stand against Sharia in the United States. Among their stated goals and beliefs, they recognize no clergy in Islam.

Muslim Canadian Congress. This is a membership organization committed to a secular Canada.

Non-Muslim Sites Opposed to Sharia

Answering Islam. This is a Christian site with a wealth of information, including an A-Z index on Islam.

Jihad Watch. This website is directed by Robert Spencer, expert on Islam and Jihad and author of numerous well-documented books on those subjects. This site will keep you up to date regarding Jihad worldwide.

Dhimmi Watch. Another site directed by Robert Spencer, this one focuses on the creeping condition of “dhimmitude”, in which non-Muslims take on a subservient, second-class role relative to Muslims.

Blogging the Quran. This is Robert Spencer’s ongoing blog which covers the mainstream Muslim commentators and their interpretations of the Quran. If you have any interest in studying the Quran, this is a great tool, because you will find out what authoritative Muslims have said on the subject. Blogging the Quran is hosted by

Mapping Sharia Project. This is a group who are gathering intelligence about the 4500 Islamic Centers across the United States. They intend to provide information to law enforcement and the public regarding which Islamic centers promote Sharia, and therefore Jihad. Although I put this in the non-Muslim section, their group includes Muslims as well.

Middle East Forum. This site is directed by Daniel Pipes, a Middle East specialist who promotes US interests in the Middle East. The Middle East Forum has a special section called “Islamist Watch”, which focuses on “Lawful Islamism”.

Sons of Apes and Pigs. The name of this site refers to the Quran’s description of Allah transforming a group of Jews into apes and pigs (2:65, 5:60, 7:166). To this day, some Muslims believe that Jews and/or Christians are the sons of apes and pigs. This site was established by Egyptian Coptic Christians, who know about dhimmitude first-hand.

Political Islam is specifically focused on the dangers of Sharia and Jihad. Their unique approach is to study the foundational Islamic texts using a statistical analysis. In addition to a series of articles, they also have published a number of books explaining Islam from their viewpoint.

The Religion of Peace offers news and information, and has a special feature of a running count of deadly Islamic terror attacks since 9/11. Last I checked, it was up over 10,000.

Islamist Watch has a fantastic resource of quotes from Islamists, as well as a nice introduction to what an Islamist is. offers a great selection of articles on the subject of non-Muslims subjugated under Muslim rule and forced to live as a persecuted underclass. This is what will happen to us all if the Islamists have their way. Site edited by Bat Ye’or, renowned researcher into the subject of dhimmitude. is the site for a civil rights group, the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights. Members include, primarily, various religious minorities that suffer as dhimmis under Sharia law.

Andrew Bostom has written numerous books and articles about Islam. His blog is very informative, as well.

Deafening Silence is a liberal blog against Islamo-Fascism! I’m thrilled to find one. I have maintained that the threat of Islamo-Fascism is too important to be a wedge issue between liberals and conservatives. I believe that many, if not most, everyday liberals would be appalled to know the extent to which liberal leadership in academia, the media, and politics have already acquiesced to the Islamist agenda.

The Center for Vigilant Freedom is an international citizens’ network with over 1000 members who are working to defeat Jihad and Sharia and defend the West. They are associated with The 910 Group, a group of anti-Islamo-Fascism bloggers including Gates of Vienna.

Sites with No Clear Religious Identity Opposed to Sharia:

Secular Islam. I have been unable to confirm who is running this site, but I believe it’s a group of humanists. They promoted a Secular Islam Summit with a mix of ex-Muslim and Muslim speakers. This Summit met in St. Petersburg in 2007 and produced a manifesto, The St. Petersburg Declaration, which affirms specific secular ideals.

These sites can keep you up late for the foreseeable future, and there are more! [Last updated 02/14/08; I have moved this material to the “Resources” page accessible from the top menu, so I will no longer be updating it here.]