Islam, Islamism, and the difference
Reader comment on item: Guest Column - Radical Islam Exists: Islamism IS the New Totalitarianism

Submitted by Robert Werdine, Feb 17, 2015 23:19

I thank Mr. Diamond for giving us a copious, if turgid, explication of the Islamist interpretation of Islam. His view that it constitutes the one, true, and only Islam dovetails nicely with that of the Wahhabi Islamists themselves. I cannot but think that the leaders of ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban would all happily congratulate Mr. Diamond on his understanding of what "true" Islam is all about. All of them, without exception, openly and unabashedly subscribe to the Wahhabi ideology, as Mr. Emerson himself is well aware.

Readers should by all means take note: this is indeed an Islam that is drained wholly of its moral and spiritual content; it is as harsh, pitiless, and as barren as the Hejaz itself. Islamists are Islamic fascists wish to make the world safe for the free practice of jihad, murder and domination of others. Period.

I must stress that the Qur'an is the highest authority in Islam, not the Hadith, and most certainly not the four Sunni madh'habs themselves, whose rulings on such matters such as jihad and apostasy are largely drawn from the Hadith, and reflected the customs of the time (the 8-9th centuries) in which they emerged, as well as being done at the bidding of the Umayyad and Abbasid secular authorities. The Qur'an is very clear on the issue of compulsion in religion (verses 2:256, 18:29, 10:99, and all six verses of Sura 109), and that matters of disbelief are for God and God alone to punish or forgive as He pleases (verses 3:126-129, and 48:14).

That jurists and ulema in Muslim countries are still issuing rulings consistent with the teachings of these antiquated madh'habs is more a reflection of culturally and politically dysfunctional societies awash in pathologies of violence, oppression, corruption, and cultural stagnation than anything else. The Qur'an simply gives no support to earthly punishment of disbelief or blasphemy. I realize that both Islamists and Islamophobes alike are unhappy with this, but there is not very much that I can do about that. The Qur'an says what it says, QED.

That Mr. Diamond trots out a quote from Mushin Khan's introduction to the Sahih al-Bukhari Hadiths is instructive. Mushin Khan, along with Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali, has authored one of the most infamous, most notorious translations of the Quran ever written. The translation is notable for its bigoted tone and commentary, along with the translators' tampering by interpolating pot-shots at Christians and Jews into the verses that don't appear in the original Arabic text. Mr. Emerson is well aware of what I'm talking about, for he wrote in the NY Post in 2009 about how the Khan/Hilali translation of the Qur'an had been radicalizing prison inmates:

Wahhabist literature, Muslim Brotherhood tracts calling for Jihad, Saudi produced Qur'ans that exude hatred for Jews and Christians – all of this continues to flow into federal and local prisons unhampered.

Daniel Pipes and counter-terrorism expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross have similarly written on the wide dissemination of this "Wahhabi" Qur'an in our prison system. Mr. Diamond writes,

The idea that the Verse of the Sword or 9:29 are limited to a certain time and historical place and have no current application is not shared by any authority I can find.

He must not be looking, for scholars and exegetes have been disagreeing over these verses for centuries. The Qur'an, when read contextually, confirms that all verses enjoining or allowing fighting are thus restricted by the rules of proportionality, and that fighting is allowed only in self-defense or to fight persecution:

[2:190] Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Verily, Allah does not love transgressors.

[2:193] Fight them until there is no more persecution and worship is for Allah. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.

[8:61] If the enemy inclines to peace, then incline to it also and rely upon Allah. Verily, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.

[4:90] So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause for fighting against them.

Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905) has written of verse 9:29 that "Fighting has been made obligatory in Islam only for the sake of defending the truth and its followers," and Muhammad Asad has written of 9:29:

"In accordance with the fundamental principle observed throughout my interpretation of the Quran, that all of its statements and ordinances are mutually complementary and cannot, therefore, be correctly understood unless they are considered as parts of one integral whole, this verse 9:29 too must be read in the context of the clear-cut Quranic rule that war is permitted only in self-defense. In other words, the above injunction to fight is relevant only in the event of aggression committed against the Muslim community or state, or in the presence of an unmistakable threat to its security."

As for Ibn Kathir, in his tafsir on 2:190-193, he states the following on the phrase from verse 2:190: "And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits.":

"[It] applies only to fighting the enemies who are engaged in fighting Islam and its people. So the Ayah means, 'Fight those who fight you', just as Allah said (in another Ayah): (...and fight against the Mushrikin collectively as they fight against you collectively.) (9:36) This is why Allah said later in the Ayah:

And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out.) meaning, 'Your energy should be spent on fighting them, just as their energy is spent on fighting you, and on expelling them from the areas from which they have expelled you, as a law of equality in punishment.'


In answering Mr. Diamond's comment, I will limit myself to three verses he cited in particular. First, verse 3:85.

Mr. Diamond simply misunderstands the usage of the word "submission," i.e., i-is'lami dinan (Literally: submission to God as religion) as it is used in verse 3:85:

[3:85] Anyone who accepts other than Submission [Islam] as his religion, it will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter, he will be with the losers.

The word is used here generically (as in verses 2:112, 2:177, 3:19, 48:28, and elsewhere) to refer to belief in God, "submission to God" and God alone (as against the plurality of gods of the idolaters). It does not declare that all other monotheistic belief systems must be discarded and only the faith of Muhammad accepted and practiced. Thus the phrase in verse 3:19: "The only religion approved by GOD is "Submission" is preceded by this statement in verse 3:18:

"GOD bears witness that there is no god except He, and so do the angels and those who possess knowledge. Truthfully and equitably, He is the absolute god; there is no god but He, the Almighty, Most Wise."

This is another tenet of the Qur'an that non-Muslims often misunderstand. As Professor (and Imam) Khaleel Mohammad has written of this aspect of the Qur'an:

Islam, as in the Qur'an, comes as a lowercase Islam, and an Upper case Islam. The lower case Islam is that form of religion that is monotheistic and wherein all acknowledge God--seeking, as with the Hebrew cognate of shalom, to achieve wholeness. From the Qur'anic perspective then, all true prophets were Muslim. The upper case "Islam" is obviously only after Muhammad, and it would be nonsensical, for example, to argue that the Qur'an sees Moses as a Muslim to mean that Moses observed the same rituals and law that a Muslim of Muhammad's time would have done. No Muslim scholar that I know of says this.

The Lebanese Qur'an scholar, Muhammad Jawad Mughniyya (1904-1979), who was one of the few Shi'a scholars to challenge the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamo-fascistic wilayat al-faqih in his Al-Khumayni wa al-dawlat al-Islamiyya, wrote of verse 3:85 in his tafsir:

When we look at the Qur'anic verses in which the word "islam" occurs, in light of these realities we find that in a number of the verses of God has characterized all Prophets with "islam." On that basis we know that the specification of the verse "inna al-din Allah-al-islam" refers to all religions. This specification is not applied to one religion and excluding all other religions which were brought by all other Prophets of God. The reason for that is that all the religions of the Prophets contain the Islamic teaching in their essence, namely belief in God, revelation, and resurrection. The divergence and difference occur only in the sphere of details (furu) and laws (ahkam), not in the spheres of principles (usul) and belief (iman). (Mughniyya, Tafsīr al-kāshif)


Now verse 5:51:

O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.

The word that is sometimes translated as "friends" is "awliya." Awliya is the plural of "wali." Among other usages, such as closeness or friendliness to someone or something, it refers in this context to someone protective, a religious guardian or councilor. The anti-Muslim hate site,—one of Mr. Diamond's favorites, no doubt—says the following about verse 5:51:

"Some Muslims are embarrassed by verse 5:51 and have gone to elaborate lengths to modify its intent by interpreting the word 'friend' as "guardian" or "protector" - which are just two of several legitimate translations of the Arabic word…However, the word awliyaa is used in verse 5:51 instead of other words that would be more direct if the meaning were "protector" - such as hamin.

In fact, the politically correct translations that do use the word "protector" turn right around and use the word "friend" in other places for the same Arabic word - such as in verse 10:62. In fact, it is verse 10:62 which proves that the word awliyaa truly means "friend" in the Quran and not "guardian" because it refers to associates of Allah (translated "friends of Allah"). If the word meant "guardian" then it would mean that Allah has guardians, which is blasphemy."

This is hilarious hogwash. The phrase is often translated into English as "friends and protectors," "intimate friends," "patrons," "protecting friends," "allies," "reliable allies," "sponsor," "protector," "guardians and confidants," and "guardian." One translation, the Tafsir Al-Muntakhab, which translates as "Do not take the Jews and the Christians -when warring against you- as intimate friends nor favour their tutelage"—clearly emphasizing the protecting, guiding function of awliya in the context of the verse. THAT, btw is about the most accurate translation I know of. Simply put, it is telling Muslims not to turn to non-Muslims as religious guardians. Verses 60:8-9 generically sets down for Muslims their relations with non-Muslims, and it is not "abrogated." I mean, really.

As for verse 10:62 it is merely using awliya in a different context. Many do indeed use the word "friend" in translation, meaning a friend of God in a context of obeisant servitude, not that they are"guarding" or "protecting" God, which would indeed be blasphemous. Muhammad Asad translates it as "those who are close to God." Others translate it as "allies," "faithful friends," "God's adherents," "those on God's side," "friends (saintly servants)," "patrons (pious worshippers)," "guided by God," "patrons and followers," and "servants." Another one is "those whose hearts have been touched with the divine hand who chose to be under Allah's tutelage," which I think is probably the best. All clearly infer a serving, following, and worshipful context that is by no means blasphemous. I don't know who writes the stuff for this website, but it's just nonsense.


As for 22:19, let's have it in context, shall we?

[22:17] Those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, the Christians, the Zoroastrians, and the idol worshipers, GOD is the One who will judge among them on the Day of Resurrection. GOD witnesses all things. [22:18] Do you not realize that to GOD prostrates everyone in the heavens and the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the animals, and many people? Many others among the people are committed to doom. Whomever GOD shames, none will honor him. Everything is in accordance with GOD's will.

[22:19] Here are two parties feuding with regard to their Lord. As for those who disbelieve, they will have clothes of fire tailored for them. Hellish liquid will be poured on top of their heads. [22:20] It will cause their insides to melt, as well as their skins. [22:21] They will be confined in iron pots. [22:22] Whenever they try to exit such misery, they will be forced back in: "Taste the agony of burning."

[22:23] GOD will admit those who believe and lead a righteous life into gardens with flowing streams. They will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold, and pearls, and their garments therein will be silk.

The verses, read in context, say the exact opposite that Mr. Diamond, in quoting verse 22:19 in isolation, intends to prove. 22:17-23, like 2:62, 2:111-113, 2:177, and 5:69 promise salvation to all Jews and Christians who believe in God, the Last Day, and lead righteous lives, and nothing Mr. Diamond says can ever change that. The Qur'an, again, says what it says.

In sum, the only thing that this discussion of ours has proven, is that Islam and the Qur'an have been interpreted by Muslims in a variety of ways for centuries.

For example, modernist reformers like the Anglo-Indian Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), the Indian Cheragh Ali (1844-1895), the Persian Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-97), and Arabs Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905) and Rashid Rida (d. 1935) all began arguing that Islam must reform and adapt if it is to survive. Al-Afghani sought to reconcile Islam with science and rationalist philosophy, much as Thomas Aquinas had done with Aristotle and Christianity. Khan, for example, argued that the Qur'an was wholly concurrent with the laws of nature, and that if there was a conflict between Copernican astronomy and the Qur'an, the latter should be understood metaphorically, and not as supplanting scientific fact.

Khan also argued that jihad was only justifiable in response to attack or persecution, and he cited a Hadith whereupon the Prophet was about to attack a pagan stronghold where Muslims were being persecuted. He would wait until morning, and if the call to prayer could be heard from the Muslims in the pagan camp with the coming of the dawn, he would not attack. Khan argued that since the British colonizers allowed the free practice of the faith, jihad against them was unjustified.

Cheragh Ali sought to reconcile traditional notions of the shari'ah, and how it should be practiced in the modern nation-state:

"The Qur'an does not profess to teach a social and political law; all its precepts and preaching being aimed at a complete regeneration of the Arabian community. It was the object of the Quran neither to give particular and detailed instructions in the civil law, nor to lay down general principles of jurisprudence."

Though Rashid Rida was certainly no secularist, he and Abduh both argued for a more Qur'an centered theology on jihad. Islam, they wrote, called for peace and comity (verse 60:8-9) with those who did not make war on Muslims and oppress them. Rida, writing from the quiet of his study in Cairo in 1916, expressed his concerns about how European nationalism and German militarism were making the world an unsafe place to live in.

These are just a few examples of many that could be cited.


President Obama to the contrary, we cannot fight an enemy that we cannot name, but to this I would add that we similarly cannot fight an enemy that we do not understand. Today, Islamists have locked on to the old classical doctrine of jihad and made it their own, reshaping it in their own image. For them the Dar al Harb (House of War) is wherever they are not. Largely due to the supine purblindness of American and Western leadership, violent Islamists are expanding in reach and power.

ISIS/ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and Hamas are terrorists who all draw their ideologies from Islamic sources such as the Qur'an and the Hadith. That is the truth, and nothing but. It is no less the case, however, that their borrowings are selective, self-serving, and distorting. That is also the truth, and nothing but.

Mr. Diamond will no doubt respond to all this with more of his verse-slinging, quotes from bigoted and supremacist exegetes and clerics (Kathir, Suyuti, Mushin Khan, et al, perhaps even Qutb or Qaradawi), and maybe even a few choice morsels from the sira and the Hadith for good measure. Let him.

He will merely demonstrate that the history of Qur'anic exegesis from the advent of Islam in the 7th century to the present is thus chock full of disagreements and debates on the interpretation of scripture and the application of the Shari'ah, testifying to an extremely diverse and variegated interpretive tradition whose true, and sincere study rewards Muslims and non-Muslims alike in understanding. To understand the difference between Islam as a religion of spirituality and moral guidance on the one hand, and the modern-day phenomenon of Islamism as a political ideology takes the patience to learn, the insight to understand, as well as the lack of hostile prejudice to do both.

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