Is Islam a Threat to Freedom?
The purpose of this paper is to show that Islam is more than a religion that one believes in; it is a sociological and political blueprint that encompasses every aspect of life. My goal is to ascertain whether or not it is a danger to human rights and freedoms in general, and the freedoms that Americans enjoy under our Constitution in particular. I will look at Islamic history, law, Muslim commentators, and an example of current Islamic nations – to see if the Islamic principles of governing, and the societal norms that flow from Islamic philosophy are an inherent threat to individual liberty and political freedom for all people in all nations.
First of all, let us define Islam.
The etymology of the word Islam includes the words submission, surrender, and peace: its broad meaning is ‘“…to be in peaceful submission; to surrender; to obey; peace.’ Islam is a verbal abstract to this root, and literally means ‘submission/obedience,’ referring to submission to God.” (Wikipedia)
And first glance, one could assume that this meaning applies to individuals when they accept Islam; which is in part correct. Conversion to Islam is actually quite simple. One only need make of the profession of faith -- the shahadah -- in the presence of another Muslim, and one is thereby accepted as a Muslim – a follower of Islam.
The profession of faith – the shahadah -- is simply this: there is no God but God [or Allah], and Mohamed is His Messenger [or Prophet]. (A History of the Islamic World, Page 26) When one accepts Mohammed as the final and theologically flawless prophet of God (following the prophetic ministries of Adam, Noah, Moses, David, Jesus, and others) and professes that belief in Mohamed’s Prophetic call, he is considered a Muslim.
Hence, he has embraced "Islam." As the definition of Islam implies, the new believer is in peaceful submission to God; he has surrendered to the true faith. He is then expected to obey the rules of that faith, beginning with the "five pillars of Islam.” Those five pillars are: The Profession of Faith (shahadah); The Prayers (salat -- praying five times a day); Fasting during Ramadan (sawm); Almsgiving (zakat); and finally, The Pilgrimage (hajj -- a once in a lifetime trip to Mecca, if financially feasible). (A Concise History of the
However, as we shall see, Islam states of itself that it is not merely a theological path and belief structure that an individual accepts and follows to obtain heaven; Islam boldly declares that it is the rightful heir to the social and her political rule of the whole earth. Inherent in the message of Mohammed and the mission of his followers is the call to subjugate the nations of the world to Islamic Law. In other words, each nation will find peace as it surrenders and submits to and obeys the dictates of Islam.
Hence, historic (or fundamentalist) Islam draws little or no distinction between personal faith and national political duty. Even the so called “moderate” and "intellectual" Muslims acknowledge this: “On the level of generalities there is no dispute among the writers who produced the ideology of political Islam, particularly with regard to the din wa dawla/unity of religion and state. Tunisian writer Mahmud ‘Abdulmahwa stated that ‘Islam is a political system in as much as it is a religious one.’" (The Challenge of Fundamentalism, 159) [Special note: There is no standardized transliteration from Arabic to English, so English transliterations of Islamic words will vary widely. Hence, the various spellings of the Koran, or the name Mohamed or Mecca.]
Before going any further, it is incumbent to address the term "fundamentalism" as it relates to Islam. Our current popular culture and media élite have sought to make a distinction between “the peaceful religion of Islam” and potentially violent “Islamic fundamentalism.” This distinction has absolutely no historical, theological, or cultural meaning in the Islamic mind; moreover, it is a flagrant abuse of the meaning of the English words in question.
The New Webster's Dictionary defines the word "fundamental" as "basic, essential... affecting the foundations of something, deep rooted in a person or being part of the elementary nature of a thing…” and “fundamentalism” as “adherence to traditional beliefs of any kind.” (Webster, 384)
In other words, when applying the term fundamental or fundamentalism to Islam, it would mean taking Islam back to its essentials, its roots, and its elementary nature -- and to adhere to the traditional beliefs of Islam.
We saw in the last century the term "fundamentalist” being used at first to denote a certain Protestant school of theology; over the last generation it evolved into a slur used against Bible believing Protestants, and most recently a pejorative against "fundamentalist Catholics”. In reviewing Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion” the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs stated “Mel Gibson belongs to a fundamentalist Catholic sect that was founded by the extremist French bishop Marcel Lefevre and that repudiates the reforms instituted by Vatican II.” (JCPA) Note the word, "extremist”; a word that is often associated with religious "fundamentalism."
Journalists are distorting or ignoring the long-established meaning of the words fundamental, fundamentalism, and fundamentalist. Consider this example; the Ryerson University School of Journalism employs what it calls a “Diversitywatch” which gives definitions of words to its aspiring journalists. They give this fairly shallow but telling (for the media world) definition of Fundamentalism / fundamentalist: “A Christian concept implying a literal interpretation of the bible. Sometimes used to describe people who base political actions on religious beliefs. Not synonymous with any religion, especially Islam.” This is not the meaning of the word; it is the meaning of the slur.
It is worth noting that this school of journalism vainly attempts to keep the term "fundamentalist" related to Christians, but then tries to shield Islam from the connotations of the intended slur. It is an attempt that has failed, as the phrase "fundamentalist Islam” (used in quotes) shows up on a Google search of articles over 42,000 times (Google) and in a Yahoo search 250,000 times. (Yahoo)
The sheer volume of these quotes notwithstanding, the term “Fundamentalist Islam” is a modern misnomer. It has no historic and theological meaning in the world of Islam. The most accurate description of a devout faith in Mohammed's message (besides simply saying “Islam”) would be Orthodox Islam, or perhaps Historic Islam. The recent rise of a few scattered "Muslim intellectuals” who seek to divorce Islam and the Koran from the mission of world conquest and subjugation have in no way altered the fundamentals – the “basic essential foundations” of the Islamic faith. Moreover, when “moderate Muslims” use the term “fundamentalist” to describe their Muslim brethren, they are knowingly playing to a western ear for sympathy and affirmation. The Islamic world is ignores them in the main, or targets them as traitors.
Why? Because Islam admits no change, but rather deplores and condemns the very notion of change from its original message. Muslims who hold to historic, Orthodox Islam insist on “…the fact that all innovations in Islam and in Islamic beliefs must be rejected. After all, Allah revealed Islam suitable for all times and all ages. Islamic beliefs can never change, and therefore new ideas or beliefs in Islam must be rejected. We must stay with the same beliefs that Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) taught his companions, the first generation of the Salaf [ancestors]. (Al-Islami)
Those who seek to remake Islam in their own image (or in the image of say -- a politically castrated Catholicism in France) have found little success in the Islamic community; they have rather incurred the wrath of the faithful. In fact, it has cost many of them their freedom or their lives: “In this context, the influential fundamentalist Sheikh, the late Mohammed al-Ghazali, has ruled in a notorious fetwa that every Muslim who pleads for the separation of religion and politics, that is, for the suspension of the Shari’a, is to be branded a murtad/apostate.” He also stated that any Muslims who kill these apostates should not be punished, because they were doing a service to Allah; this resulted in intellectuals being murdered in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey. (The Challenge, Page 169) [A fetwa, or fatwa, is a legal decision or sentence issued by a religious leader or scholar – see A History, page 216]
The above quote mentioned the Shari’a. What is the Shari’a, and what role does the Shari’a play in this debate? In political, military, and vigilante terms, the crux of the crisis of the threat of Islam to individual and national freedom emanates directly from the Shari’a.
First, what exactly is the Shari’a, and why is it important?
We must allow Muslim scholars to define their terms. I here refer to Al-Islami:
1. What is the Islamic Shariah?
The Islamic Shariah is the Islamic law which applies to all aspects of the life of a Muslim. The Shariah includes all aspects of life, from daily activities, ibadah (worship), criminal law and everything else. It is obligatory on every Muslim to respect and follow the Islamic Shariah in every aspect of their life. It is also obligatory on Muslim nations to implement the Islamic Shariah, and make it the source of all law and legislation. (Italics added)
2. What are the sources of the Shariah?
The main sources of Shariah as explained by the scholars are the following:
1. The Holy Qur'an
2. The Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him)
3. The ijma' (consensus) of Islamic scholars
4. The ijtihad (opinion of the Islamic scholars based on their knowledge and research)
For a Muslim, all matters, laws and legislation must be according to the Islamic Shariah to be acceptable. The previously mentioned sources of the Shariah must be used in the order they were given.
Therefore, all Muslims should live their lives according to the Islamic Shariah. Muslim nations should strive to implement the Islamic Shariah in all matters. All laws, legislation, trade, politics and all other matters should be conducted according to the Shariah. (Al-Islami, italics added))
In order to clarify and expound on this definition, let us look at a more collaborative definition:
The authority of Sharia is drawn from two primary sources, as well as two secondary sources. The first major source is the specific guidance in the Qur'an, and the second source is the Sunnah, literally the 'Way', i.e. the way that Muhammad (the Prophet of Islam) lived his life. (The compilation of all that Muhammad said, did or approved of is called the Hadith.)
A lesser source of authority is Qiyas, which is the extension by analogy of existing Sharia law to new situations. Finally, Sharia law can be based on ijma, or consensus. Justification for this final approach is drawn from the Hadith where Muhammad states; "My nation cannot agree on an error." The role of ulema, i.e. scholars, is critical, since they are the ones who study the Islamic law and therefore have authority to represent it. Sharia has largely been codified by the schools (madhhabs) of Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh). (Wikipedia)
[Note: For a simplified yet practical understanding, we must know that the hadith and the Sunnah is basically the same thing; many Islamic writers use them interchangeably. Another phrase in English that means the same thing is “The Tradition of the Prophet.” A Concise History Oh If the Middle East, Pages 435 and 453]
It is critical to our understanding to see the separation between the two main sources of the Shari'a. The first source is the Quran and the Sunnah. Most of us know that the Quran is the holy book of Islam. What most people do not know is what the Sunnah is, and what role that the Sunnah plays in Islamic thought and law.
The Sunnah are the recorded deeds and sayings of Mohammed (that are not in the Quran), as well as those things he approved of that happened in his presence. Those sayings and deeds reach a canonical level – they carry a weight that is only exceeded by the Quran itself. It is believed by Muslim Scholars that the life of Mohammed embodied the teachings of the Quran.
The central figures of Judaism are Abraham and Moses. One can expect to see a living illustration of the laws of Almighty God lived out in the life of Moses for it was he the God used to deliver the 10 Commandments. Likewise, the central figure of Christianity is Jesus Christ. One can expect to see the Christian faith lived out most clearly in the life of Jesus Christ.
In Islam, the central figure and hero and messenger is Mohammed. Hence, it is naturally expected that he would embody in his deeds and words the clearest example of a life lived in accordance with Allah’s wishes. Hence, the extra-Quranic record of Mohammed's words and deeds the Sunnah, the hadith, and the traditions, are not only critical to the Shari’a; they are central to the Islamic faith.
Muslim scholars -- whether it Sunni or Shi'ite -- insist that the Sunnah is central to the entire Islamic scheme. Here is an example: “We are talking about the Sunnah in general as a source of legislation and Shariah. We will try to prove that Allah (swt) has commanded Muslims to follow the Sunnah and the holy Qur'an, and that Allah (swt) has made the Sunnah a source of Shariah.
“It is obligatory for all Muslims to follow the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), and it is obligatory to follow all the orders of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and refrain from all what he asked us to stay away from. “ (Al-Islami)
Here's another example of the intertwining of Islam and Shari’a;
Islam: The Universal and Final Message:
We believe that the Shari'ah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the religion of Islam, which Allah has chosen for His servants. He does not accept any other religion from anyone, for He, the Exalted, said: "Surely, the true religion in Allah's sight is Islam" (3:19), "Today I have perfected your religion for you and I have completed My favor upon you, and I have chosen Islam to be your religion" (5:3), and "Whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted from Him, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers" (3:85). (Allaahuakbar)
A Muslim "moderate" acknowledges the connection between Islam, Shari’a, and a Muslims devotion to his faith: “Islamic fundamentalists regularly resort to the concept of Shari’a, and hasten to add that the implementation of Islamic law is the basic criterion for the realization of an Islamic system of government… Not surprisingly, Islamic fundamentalists single out the commitment of a Muslim to an implementation of the Shari’a as the foremost criterion for determining his belief in Islam.” (The Challenge, 169)
Lest we be tempted to think that the belief in the potential or actual implementation of the Shari'a is relegated to the theological debates of dreamy fundamentalists, we must understand that the Shari'a is central to the governments of Islamic nations of today. Let us look at the constitutions of three key Islamic nations; Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan.
We begin with passages from the constitution of Saudi Arabia. Note the pervasiveness of the Shari'a and “the tradition”:
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God's Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, God's prayers and peace be upon him, are its constitution, Arabic is its language and Riyadh is its capital.
The state's flag shall be as follows:
(a) It shall be green.
(b) Its width shall be equal to two-thirds of it's length.
(c) The words "There is but one God and Mohammed is His Prophet" shall be inscribed in the center with a drawn sword under it. The statute shall define the rules pertaining to it.
Citizens are to pay allegiance to the King in accordance with the holy Koran and the tradition of the Prophet, in submission and obedience, in times of ease and difficulty, fortune and adversity.
Government in Saudi Arabia derives power from the Holy Koran and the Prophet's tradition.
Article 8 [Government Principles]
Government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on the premise of justice, consultation, and equality in accordance with the Islamic Shari'ah.
Article 23 [Islam]
The state protects Islam; it implements its Shari'ah; it orders people to do right and shun evil; it fulfills the duty regarding God's call.
Article 26 [Human Rights]
The state protects human rights in accordance with the Islamic Shari'ah.
Article 38 [Punishment, nulla poena]
Penalties shall be personal and there shall be no crime or penalty except in accordance with the Shari'ah or organizational law. There shall be no punishment except for acts committed subsequent to the coming into force of the organizational law.
Article 39 [Expression]
Information, publication, and all other media shall employ courteous language and the state's regulations, and they shall contribute to the education of the nation and the bolstering of its unity. All acts that foster sedition or division or harm the state's security and its public relations or detract from man's dignity and rights shall be prohibited. The statutes shall define all that.
The judiciary is an independent authority. There is no control over judges in the dispensation of their judgements except in the case of the Islamic Shari'ah.
The courts will apply the rules of the Islamic Shari'ah in the cases that are brought before them, in accordance with what is indicated in the Book and the Sunnah, and statutes decreed by the Ruler which do not contradict the Book or the Sunnah. http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/sa00000_.html
There can be no doubt that the Shari’a is central to Saudi Arabian law.
Likewise, Pakistan boldly puts its commitment to the Sunnah -- the tradition of Mohammed's deeds and sayings, which is the foundation of Islamic Shari'a -- in its constitution for the entire world to see.
Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust;
Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed;
Wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah…
(1) All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, in this Part referred to as the Injunctions of Islam, and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such Injunctions.
In the following passage, we see that the secular government submits itself to the ruling of religious scholars and clerics who serve in the "Islamic Council."
(1) The functions of the Islamic Council shall be,
(a) to make recommendations to [Majlis- e- Shoora (Parliament)] and the Provincial Assemblies as to the ways and means of enabling and encouraging the Muslims of Pakistan to order their lives individually and collectively in all respects in accordance with the principles and concepts of Islam as enunciated in the Holy Quran and Sunnah;
(b) to advise a House, a Provincial Assembly, the President or a Governor on any question referred to the Council as to whether a proposed law is or is not repugnant to the Injunctions of Islam; pakistani.org
Here is a sample of Egypt’s Constitution:
Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language.
Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation.
My purpose on focusing on the constitutions of the above nations (which are representative of other Islamic nations) is to show the central role of the Sunnah - the record of Mohammed's words and deeds - and of the Shari’a in the laws of contemporary Islamic nations. This is not a debate about some long abandoned and forgotten school of theology and law; this is something that is with us at this very moment.
This point cannot be emphasized too much, because if we are to understand what is happening in Islamic nations as well as those nations that are outside of the Islamic orbit, we must focus squarely on the life of Mohammed. In a moment, I will spend several pages focusing on the words and deeds of Mohammed which have direct bearing on the actions of independent Islamic groups and individuals, as well as the governments who claimed to be followers of the Quran, the Sunnah, and the Shari’a.
But first, I must make one critical point. Islamic philosophy divides the world into two distinct realms: Dar al-Islam, and Dar al-Harb; the house of submission, and the house of war. The “house of submission” (Dar al-Islam) is those nations that have embraced Islam as its official religion and the Sunnah and Shari’a as the formation of their social and political order. (Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dar_al-Islam)
The “house of war” (Dar al-Harb) is those nations that have not yet bowed the knee in surrender to the claims and dictates of Mohammed. As is implied by the name of the non-Muslim nations, Islam is at war with those nations (and those nations are at war with Islam, in the Islamic scheme) until they surrender to the dictates and laws of Islam. These nations are currently referred to as "infidel" in Islamic preaching and propaganda.
One further point of clarification is necessary: Islamic political philosophy does not require that every single person living under an Islamic government must convert to Islam. In some situations, they are free to believe what they want and practice their religion quietly in their own home. However, they are required to pay a special tax called the “jizra” to the government. This is how non-Muslims show their submission Islam.
Back to the Shari’a. One other reason that American political commentators and analysts do not understand the Islamic mind in the domestic and foreign policy of most Islamic nations is because they have little understanding of the Quran, and virtually no understanding of the Sunnah and the Shari’a. Hence, comments about or analysis of current situations are often woefully misguided. “Experts” try and understand events and decisions through one of many Western grids. (Poverty, feminism, capitalism, lack of opportunity, lack of political freedom, sexual repression, hatred of the West, etc.)
The folly of trying to understand Islamic events without understanding their undergirding philosophy could be compared to trying to analyze communist China without an understanding of Mao and Marxism; or trying to understand Soviet domestic and international policy without knowing the philosophy and history of Lenin and Stalin; or interfacing with the domestic and international goals of Nazism without having read Mein Kampf.
In that light, I'm going to spend several pages looking at key incidents in the life of Mohammed; seminal moments that have had a profound impact on the world for centuries, and still impact the nations of the world up until this very day. These events in Mohammed's life are well-known to Muslims, and form a central core to the way they see the world.
If we're honest, we would admit that the vast majority of Americans have little or no knowledge of the Prophet Mohammed. The central themes of his teachings are a mystery to us, and his life is even more alien to our experience. If a clever trendsetter tried to create a bracelet that said, "What would Mohammed do?” it would at best be seen as a prank—perhaps a kind of political comic relief. In reality, most Americans wouldn't have a clue what Mohamed would do.
We must first understand that the life of Mohammed and the history and contemporary life of Islam is a theocentric (God-centered) blueprint for every aspect of life. Every facet of life for the individual and the community are explicitly under the rule and commands of the Almighty.
Most popular Western “analysts” - whether authors, radio hosts, or "talking heads" on television news broadcasts fail (or refuse) to grasp the significance and the implications of the word "theocentric." To understand Mohammed, Islam, Islamic nations, and even the recent wave of terrorist attacks, one must understand and even immerse oneself in the theocentric Islamic view of life, duty, and death. And if one is to understand Islam, that theocentric view must be seen specifically through the eyes and life of Mohamed.
In that light, it must be asked and answered in deadly earnest: What would Mohammed do? To know what he would do, we must study what he did. Let us continue in that task. As one reads the following accounts, today's headlines suddenly sound like the echo of yesteryear’s events.
For the sake of space, and in order to stay on point with the objectives of my paper, I will focus on one of the most important moments in Islamic history: the battle of Badr. It was a major military victory for Mohammed and the small Muslim community; a victory that was viewed as a miracle from God himself.
We pick up our overview at the time when Mohammed had been preaching the content of his revelations for approximately 10 years (depending on his age when he received the first revelation). He was approximately 52 years old. His preaching had first resulted in his immediate family and closest friends believing that he was "the Apostle of God;" outside of this immediate circle he persuaded an average of one or two people per month to believe his message. When Mohammed left Mecca (under duress) with his band of believers, they numbered approximately 200 people. It is critical to remember that Mohammed left Mecca for Medina in the midst of growing hostility against him. He continuously denounced the pagan idol worship that was rife in Mecca, and called all people to worship the one true God--the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus; the God of Mohammed. We shall return to this point later.
As stated, the first “miraculous sign” for the prophet Mohammed was a battle; the battle of Badr. This battle was a seminal moment for Mohammed as a man and for Islam as a religion. Mohammed, the Quran, the hadith, and subsequent Islamic historians view this battle with all the relish and reverence with which the most important miracles in the life of Christ are honored by Christians. In many ways, it was at this battle that Islam as we know it was born.
The name of every single Muslim soldier who participated at Badr for is recorded with grave spiritual devotion, like the genealogies of the Old and New Testaments; those who converted later and fought in other battles referred to the battle of Badr with envy; those Muslims who died in this battle were instantly heralded as "martyrs;" from this moment forward, the honor of "martyrdom" and the promise of heaven to those who died as a "martyrs" in battle became a part of the very fiber of Mohammed's teachings, and hence a part of Islam itself.
The battle of Badr is central to understanding the life and words of Mohamed from that moment until the day he died. If the battle of Badr had been lost by the Muslims, and certainly if Mohammed had been killed in that battle, Islam would have perished with him. But his unexpected victory did something in him, his followers, and ultimately in many of his enemies. His victory set the stage for the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula under his leadership. For that reason, we must study this battle, Mohammed’s behavior before, during and after the battle, how the Muslims won, and what followed the Muslim victory at Badr.
The battle of Badr was stumbled into quite by accident. About 2 months prior to the battle Mohammed had sent a small raiding party to loot and steal as many goods as possible from a caravan that was passing nearby which was owned by certain wealthy men from Mecca; the same Mecca that had ostracized and rejected Mohammed. His foot soldiers killed one of the men who led the caravan, took two others hostage, stole all of the goods, and brought them to the Prophet.
The dead man was killed on the last day of the “holy month” of that region, which caused a great scandal amongst the Muslims as well as the non-Muslims of Mecca; the scandal of the time of his death (the holy month) was more vexing than his actual murder and the theft of the property. The gossiping and the controversy were so severe that it was necessary for Mohammed to receive a Quranic revelation to vindicate himself and the perpetrators of this act, and to quell the horror of the Muslims who were shocked that this had happened during the holy month.
The Quranic text reads: "They will ask you concerning war in the sacred month. Say: To war therein is bad, but to turn aside from the cause of God, and have no faith in him, and the sacred temple, and to drive out its people, is worse in the sight of God; and civil strife is worse than bloodshed." (Sura 2:217) This verse in particular and this sura in general mark a sudden change in direction for Mohammed. It is in this sura that Mohammed begins to place war in a distinctly religious light. More importantly, he begins to give war Divine meaning and value.
Islamic commentators suggest that an earlier verse in this sura is the first time Mohammed declares that God has authorized killing infidels - albeit in self-defense - for the sake of Islam. [FYI: A sura is the Quranic equivalent of a chapter in the Christian Bible.] The text says: “And fight for the cause of God against those who fight against you: but commit not the injustice of attacking them first: God loveth not such injustice: and kill them wherever you shall find them, and eject them from whatever place they have ejected you; for civil discord is worse than carnage: yet attack them not at the sacred Mosque, unless they attack you therein; but if they attack you, slay them. Such the reward of the infidels. But if they desist, then verily God is gracious, merciful. Fight therefore against them until there be no more civil discord, and the only worship be that of God..." (Sura 2:190-193.)
Before going further, let us establish some key points. First, Islamic historian Ibn Kathir records that the murdered man "…was the first person killed by the Muslims. And this was the first booty taken by the Muslims and [the other two men] were the first prisoners taken by Muslims." (Ibn Kathir, 244) In Muslim history and theology, this was a critical "first thing;" a beginning, a Genesis. Muslim historians and theologians acknowledge that this was a turning point for the Islamic faith. (In many theologies, histories, and myths, “first things” are critical, for they are foundational – they are “fundamentals” of the faith.)
Another key point: the suras of the Quran are not in chronological order. Hence, to read the Quran can be very confusing at points. A rough outline of the Quran is as follows: sura 1 is very short - a short hymn of praise culminating with a petition to be guided "on the straight path." After that, the suras roughly go from longest to shortest. They are completely out of chronological order.
Scholars have done the best they can to reconstruct the order of the Quran using historical data from within various texts of the Quran and then synchronizing it with known facts and dates in the life of Mohammed. Scholars in the West break the suras into four chronological time periods. (Three periods from Mecca, and one from Medina.) The suras that espouse violence are those from the last period (Medinan) of Mohammed's life, beginning with sura 2. (Introduction, the Quran, Alan Jones Ed., Oxford) This sura deals with the killing of the laborer in the caravan, and is the precursor to the battle of Badr.
And so, after a decade of preaching and teaching various aspects of a monotheistic faith with very meager results, Mohammed took a sudden turn towards the use of force.
This development took many of his followers by surprise. After the killing of the above-mentioned man and the capture of the caravan, Mohammed decided to launch a very aggressive raid against another large caravan bound for Mecca: "...when the messenger of God [Mohammed] heard that Abu Sufyan was arriving from Syria, he sent the Muslims out against them, saying, 'This caravan belongs to Quraysh, and will carry much wealth. Attack it; God may present it to you.' The men got ready, some pleased, others apprehensive because they had not thought the messenger of God would make war." (Kathir, 253)
Please note that this historian marks the surprise of Mohamed’s followers at his command. Many Muslims did not go into battle with him; perhaps they thought that Islam was a religion of peace. Some of those who joined the attack were polytheists who wanted the booty of war. Also note that the attack of a caravan was not seen merely as an old time “train robbery,” but an act of war. Mohammed, the prophet, the preacher, the teacher, was about to trigger a war with a very powerful and respected city; he was attempting the theft of wealth of a very powerful aristocracy. He was greatly outnumbered -- he had 313 armed men. When the Meccans heard that Mohammed was intending to raid their caravan, they marshaled an army of 1000 men, comprising as many as 200 cavalry. The Mohammedan force had only two horses, and about one camel for every three soldiers. When Mohammed learned of the size and the intention of the Meccan force he spoke with his men to see if they were still willing to raid the caravan and fight this overwhelming force.
They were. Once Mohammed saw that they were ready to fight in spite of the odds, he began to frame the entire oncoming battle in theocentric terms. "He then said, 'Go Forward in good spirits! God has promised me I shall take one of the two parties. I swear by God I feel I can already see their destruction!' “(Ibn Kathir, 260) Mohammed began to pray intensely and prophesy of their oncoming victory: "...the messenger of God said, 'This is the place where so and so shall fall.’ He then placed his hands on the ground here and here." (Ibn Kathir, 262) On the night before the battle, Ibn Kathir recounts two witnesses of Mohammed's behavior: "From what I saw, all slept except the messenger of God who remained beneath a tree praying and weeping until morning came...'" and "The messenger of God spent the night near the stump of a tree there, praying. He kept prostrating himself and repeating, ‘O Everlasting One! O Self-Reliant One!’"
It was here that Mohammed spoke of killing and dying in battle as an act of religious devotion that would please God and earn the participants eternal life. For example, Ibn Ishaq, perhaps the most respected of all Islamic historians concerning the life of Mohammed recounts the following: "Then the apostle went forth to the people and incited them saying, 'By God in whose hand is the soul of Mohammed, no man will be slain this day fighting against them with steadfast courage advancing not retreating but God will cause him to enter Paradise.' “
The effect of this message was immediate and profound. A man named Umayr “…was eating some dates which he had in his hand. ‘Fine, fine!' said he, 'is there nothing between me and my entering paradise save to be killed by these men?' He flung the dates from his hand, seized his sword, and fought against them till he was slain..." (Ibn Ishaq, 300) He believed his death in battle under Mohammed’s guidance would usher him into paradise.
Another devoted believer in Mohammed's words asked this question: “‘O apostle of God, what makes the Lord laugh with joy at his servant?' He [Mohammed] answered, 'When he plunges into the midst of the enemy without mail.'“ [Mail was small woven links of chain worn as body armor.] After hearing Mohammed's response, he "…drew off the mail-coat that was on him and threw it away: then he seized his sword and fought the enemy till he was slain." (Ibn Ishaq, 300)
The battle was about to begin. Here are Mohammed's words: "When the Messenger of God saw them coming forward into the valley from their position behind the sand hill at al-Aqanqal, he said, 'O God, these men advancing are Quraysh in all their vanity and pride; they are antagonistic to You and they are calling Your Prophet a liar. Oh God, give us your victory you promised us! Oh God, destroy them this morning." (Ibn Kathir, 268)
And so the "miracle" unfolded: "Then the apostle took a handful of small pebbles and said, turning towards Quraysh, 'Foul be those faces!' Then he threw the pebbles at them and ordered his companions to charge. The foe was routed. God slew many of their chiefs and made captive many of their nobles." (Ibn Ishaq, 301)
This turn of events was inconceivable to the minds of the residents of the area. As far as Mohammed and his men were concerned, this was a miracle that confirmed to all parties the central confession of the Muslim faith: "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger." 300 foot soldiers had miraculously routed 1000 soldiers, and killed and captured many of their chiefs. Only Allah could have wrought such a victory. Sura 8 deals with the actual battle of Badr. Here is a sample of the Quranic revelation that followed their victory:
"I will strike terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every finger the tip of them. This is because they acted adversely to Allah and his apostle; and whoever acts adversely to Allah and his apostle-then surely Allah is severe in requiting evil. This--taste it, and know that for the unbelievers it is the chastisement of fire" (Versus 12 -14)
"So you did not slay them, but it was Allah who slew them, and you did not smite when you smote the enemy, but it was Allah who smote, and that he might confer upon the believers a good gift from himself; surely Allah is hearing, knowing." (Verse 17)
Soon after this, Mohammed referred to the battle of Badr while he was urging a local community of Jews to accept his spiritual leadership. "The apostle assembled them in their market and addressed them as follows: 'O Jews, beware lest God bring upon you the vengeance that he brought upon Quraysh and become Muslims. You know that I am a prophet who has been sent -you will find that in your scriptures and God's covenant with you.' “The Jews courageously defied him. They retorted, "O Mohammed, you seem to think that we are your people. Do not deceive yourself because you encountered a people with no knowledge of war and got the better of them; for by God if we fight you, you will find that we are real men!" (Ibn Ishaq, 363)
Their refusal to accept him brought the following Quranic revelation, which Ibn Ishaq comments on: "Say to those who disbelieve: you will be vanquished and gathered to hell, an evil resting place. You have already had a sign in the two forces which met" (i.e., the apostle's companions at Badr and the Quraysh.) "One force fought in the way of God; the other, disbelievers, thought they saw double their own force with their very eyes. God strengthens with his help whom he will. Verily in that is an example for the discerning." (Sura 3:10, quoted and commented on by Ibn Ishaq, 363)
I have belabored this battle, and quoted this passage to confirm what was stated earlier: the miracle of the battle of Badr marked a very distinct turning point in Mohammed's mind, words, and his subsequent behavior and leadership. Mohammed was now threatening the Jews with death if they did not become Muslims. The "vengeance" that Allah brought upon the Quraysh was that they died in battle at the hands of the Muslims. While the Jews responded that they were ready to face him in war, as we shall later see, ultimately all Jews were either killed or exiled from the Arabian Peninsula at the command of Mohammed.
It is also critical to note another new development: not only are unbelievers dispatched by the sword into hell for disobeying Mohammed, but Muslims are also threatened with hell if they turn back from battle. The Quran states: "O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve marching for war, then turn not your backs to them. And whoever shall turn his back to them on that day - unless he turn aside for the sake of fighting or withdraws to a company--then he, indeed, becomes deserving of Allah's wrath, and his abode is hell; and an evil news destination shall it be." (Sura 8:15, 16)
These passages, and many like them that came afterwards, reveal a theocentric duty to go forward and if need be die in battle without retreating; obedience which results in death will secure an eternity in paradise; failure to obey may result in an eternity of fire. If one believed that Mohammed was indeed the messenger of God, this would provide an incredible incentive to fight and slash for the glory of Allah--with reckless abandon.
Yet another key result of the battle of Badr is that those killed in battle are now referred to and honored as martyrs. It is from this point that the theme of obtaining eternal life from martyrdom in battle takes center stage in the words and history of Mohammed. Space does not permit me to delineate this progression, but the insatiable desire for martyrdom in battle becomes a virtually unstoppable engine of war within the Muslim community and its theology. When unbelievers were encouraged to convert or threatened with war, they were told: "We have men who love death more than you love life." This phrase was quoted by Osama bin Laden in his declaration of war against the United States of America (9/11 Report, US federal government.)
Moreover, as we shall shortly see, fighting for Islam is no longer seen as a measure of self-defense, but a means of eliminating opposition and spreading the faith.
Allow me to quickly point out one other miracle associated with Mohammed. Mohammed was trying to take one of the forts of the Jews (at Khaybar) who he counted as his enemies. He sent who became the first two caliphs--Abu Bakr and Umar--to capture the fort, but they were unable. (The word “Caliph” means successor, one who followed Mohamed as the spiritual, political, and military leader/dictator of the Islamic community after Mohamed’s death.) "The apostle said, 'Tomorrow I will give the flag to a man who loves Allah and his apostle. Allah will conquer it by his means; he is no runaway.' So he called Ali [the fourth caliph] who was suffering from ophthalmia at that time and spat in his eye, saying, 'Take this flag and go with it until God gives a victory through you.' So Ali went off with it, gasping as he hurried... he did not return until God had conquered by his hands." (Ibn Ishaq,)
After the Jewish fort of Khaybar had been taken by Ali, Mohammed summoned Kinana son of al-Rabi, who was a treasurer of Khaybar. The apostle asked him where the treasure was kept, but Kinana denied any knowledge of its whereabouts.
Ibn Ishaq reports: "A Jew came to the apostle and said that he had seen Kinana going round a certain ruin every morning early. When the apostle said to Kinana, 'Do you know that if we find you have it I shall kill you?' He said yes. The apostle gave orders that the ruling was to be excavated and some of the treasure was found. When he asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr son of al-Awwam, 'Torture him until you extract what he has,' so he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Mohammed son of Maslama and he struck off his head..." (Ibn Ishaq, 515)
Mohammed then proceeded to take his beautiful young wife, Safiya, and he "married" her within one or two days of her husband's murder. (Ibn Ishaq, 515 Commentator say she was about 19 years old, and stunningly beautiful.) Imagine the horror of this young wife who had seen her husband, her father and her people slain in cold blood being taken into the tent of the 52 year old Mohammed, and becoming his "wife."
As Mohammed wanted, the fate of the Jews of Khaybar had an "evangelistic effect" on a nearby city. "When the apostle had finished with Khaybar, God struck terror to the hearts of the men of Fadak when they heard what the apostle had done to the men of Khaybar. They sent to him an offer of peace on condition that they should keep half of their produce. Their messengers came to him in Khaybar or on the road after he came to Medina, and he accepted their terms. Thus Fadak became his private property, because it had not been attacked by horse or camel." (Ibn Ishaq, 523) Mohammed was becoming wealthy as a result of his conquests, besides the sexual pleasure he enjoyed from his practice of "marrying" some of the choicest of his captives. (When he died, he was survived by a harem of 9 wives, and at least 2 concubines.)
We saw above that the battle of Badr and the battle for the Jewish fort of Khaybar resulted in death and destruction for many. It is also true that as Mohammed's military victories began to gather momentum; his message was more readily and speedily accepted.
After the battle of Badr, Mohammed enjoyed an almost unbroken string of military successes. Those military successes resulted in death for his unbelieving enemies, booty for his followers, and served as dreadful warnings to those tribes and cities over which Mohammed had cast his gaze. The message that emerged was this: Come in peace to Islam, declare your allegiance to Mohammed, surrender to his religion, or run the risk of being swept away.
After the battle of Badr, Mohammed began a new practice of dealing with his detractors: assassination. Mohammed would send out individuals or small bands (two or three or four men) with specific instructions to assassinate a certain man or woman. The intent of private assassinations was the same as open war: the punishment of certain unbelievers that had offended Mohammed, and the conversion of others to Islam who would see or hear of someone’s gruesome death, and then confess their faith in Mohammed.
Ibn Ishaq recounts the killing of "the enemy of God" named Ka'b son of al-Ashraf. (See page 365 ff) After Badr, Ka'b "began to inveigh against the apostle…" He wrote and declared verses of poetry that were insulting to Mohammed and Islamic women. Mohammed said, "Who will rid me of the son of Ashraf?" Muhammad son of Maslama said, 'I will deal with them for you, O apostle of God, I will kill him.' He said, 'Do so if you can.'" Mohammed then gave the assassin permission to lie and deceive the target of his wrath. Amazingly, the killer recruited the victim's foster brother, who had become a Muslim. Together, with the foster brother having the victim's confidence, they led him on a midnight stroll pretending to visit and conduct business with him. On signal, they lunged on him. The assassin reported: "I thrust [my dagger] into the lower part of his body, then I bore down upon it until I reached his genitals, and the enemy of God fell to the ground... Our attack upon God's enemy cast terror among the Jews, and there was no Jew in Medina who did not fear for his life" (Page 368, Ibn Ishaq)
It appears that in addition to Mohammed’s violence against the polytheists of Mecca, a sudden anti-Semitic rage emerged from his heart. For example, Ibn Ishaq records the following: "The apostle said, 'Kill any Jew that falls into your power.' Thereupon Muhayyisa son of Mas'ud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom he had social and business relations, and killed him."
The assassin's older brother's name was Huwayyisa; he was outraged that his younger brother had murdered his business and social associate. Ishaq says, "When Muhayyisa killed him Huwayyisa [the older brother] began to beat him, saying, 'You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?'" His brother answered, ‘Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off...’” The older brother replied, "'By God, if Mohammed had ordered you to kill me what you have killed me?' He said, 'Yes, by God, had he ordered me to cut off your head I would have done so.' He exclaimed, 'By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvelous!' and he became a Muslim."
This chilling account shows a direct connection between the assassination of an innocent man and the "conversion" of an unbeliever. It was not the content of Mohammed's message that convinced this man, but it was the passionate obedience of his younger brother that shocked him into the Islamic faith. He knew that if this faith could cause his younger brother to murder him, then Islam was something to be dreaded and obeyed. We see the direct connection between the emissary, his sword, someone’s death, and someone else’s conversion.
This pattern is again displayed in the following two assassinations. A man named Abu 'Afak was upset when Mohammed killed a man ‘Afak respected, so he (Abu 'Afak) spoke out against Mohammed with verses of poetry. Mohammed said the oft repeated words, "Who will deal with this rascal for me?" whereupon one of his associates went and murdered the man. (Ibn Ishaq, 675)
Tragically, we shall now see that women are not exempt from this type treatment. When Abu 'Afak was assassinated for publicly speaking against Mohammed's killing of another man, Asma daughter of Marwan spoke out against Abu 'Afak's murder. Ishaq records: "When the apostle heard what she had said he said, 'who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?' Umayr... who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he said, 'You have helped God and his apostle, O Umayr!' When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, 'Two goats won't but their heads about her...'" (Ibn Ishaq, 675)
Her murder caused a great commotion amongst her friends and family and the people of her Tribe, the Khatma. As is the pattern and intent, Ibn Ishaq says that her murder led to the conversion of many unbelievers. He states, "She had five sons, and when Umayr went to them from the apostle he said, 'I have killed the daughter of Marwan, O sons of Khatma. Withstand me if you can; don't keep me waiting.' That was the first day that Islam became powerful among the tribe of Khatma... the day after the daughter of Marwan was killed the men of Khatma became Muslims because they saw the power of Islam." (Ibn Ishaq, 676)
Please note that once again their conversion was affected because of someone’s murder; another key element seems to be the unbounded courage and boldness of the assassin in the face of her sons and extended family members. A devout theologian and historian--Ibn Ishaq--who lived within one century of the apostle's death was proudly recording and declaring a long succession of unprovoked battles and assassinations that had the avowed intent of terrorizing and then converting unbelievers on the Arabian Peninsula.
And lest anyone think that Mohammed did not sully his own hands with the blood of his enemies, Ibn Ishaq lets us know that Mohammed possessed prisoners after the battle of Uhud that he "killed with his own hand." (Ibn Ishaq, 403) The histories I have read give little detail about the event, but they record it, as well as Mohammed’s pride in that his sword “served him well” that day. This is a key incident (as is the one that follows) because it shows Mohammed himself, not merely killing in battle, but then killing prisoners and hostages.
The last illustration I will relay is the tragic story of the Jewish tribe of the Qurayza. These Jewish families lived in the Medina area, and had coexisted with Mohammed for a few short years in relative peace. Their leader secretly joined a Confederacy against Mohammed which ended up amounting to nothing. None of the Jews in question bore arms against Mohammed in battle.
Islamic history states that the angel Gabriel road up on horseback to Mohammed and ordered him to make war on the Qurayza tribe. A fairly long account ended with the following horrors.
The Jews surrendered, and agreed to allow Mohammed to appointment of a referee to negotiate a settlement between them and the Muslims. (Mohammed had offered them the chance to them to become Muslims and thereby avoid all ramifications, but they refused the offer.) The Jews anticipated that they would lose their property, and be allowed to emigrate from Medina into Syria or perhaps another neighboring country. This was the fate that other Jews had suffered--they lost their lands, but kept their lives.
The Muslim referee had had some positive interaction with this Jewish clan in the past, but had recently become embittered against them; moreover, he wanted his new Islamic faith to shine forth before Allah. He secured the commitment of the Muslims that were present that his judgment would be followed; he then specifically obtained a promise from Mohammed that Mohammed himself would honor his decision concerning the Jews of Qurayza. Once Mohammed agreed, the referee pronounced his verdict: "Then I give judgment that the men should be killed, the property divided, and the women and children taken as captives." Ibn Ishaq, 464)
Mohammed's response was again pivotal in the theology, history, and the spread of Islam for centuries to come. He stated in the presence of all who had gathered: "You have given the judgment of all a above the seven heavens." (Ibn Ishaq, 464)
The narration continues: “Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought up to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy son of Akhtab and Ka'b son of Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle they asked Ka'b what he thought would be done with them. He replied, 'Will you never understand? Don't you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!' This went on until the apostle made an end of them." (Ibn Ishaq, 464)
Such an event must either be heralded or hidden, respected or rejected. But it cannot be ignored or glossed over. Every ancient Islamic historian embraces this atrocity as a great victory for Islam. The Quran itself-- the book which Mohammed declared and Muslims believe possesses the very words of God--heralds this massacre as a glorious testament to the expansion of Islam. The Quran states: "And he caused those people of the book (the Jews), who aided the Confederates, to come down out of their fortresses, and cast dismay into their hearts: some ye slew, others ye took prisoners. And he gave you their land, and their dwellings, and their wealth, for an heritage--even a land on which ye had never set foot: for the might of God is equal to all things." (Sura 33: 26,27)
One must put Mohammed squarely at the center of the event. The passage quoted from Ibn Ishaq says the apostle dug the ditch and struck off their heads; the apostle made an end of them. Mohammed was not a bystander, helplessly watching an angry mob gone out of control; he was an active participant in this massacre—for the glory of Allah.
The children became orphans and they were sold as slaves. Women became widows, and were robbed of their husbands, their children, and their homes in a single moment of time. They too became slaves and chattel property. Mohammed took one of the widows as his sex slave. Her name was Raihana. (A History of the Islamic World, Page 24)
Whereas the respected Islamic historians and theologians of centuries past (al-Tabiri, Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Kathir) warmly embrace and extol this event as a great victory for Islam, their current comrades barely mention it, or they ignore it altogether. One Islamic historian called it an “unfortunate event;” (A History of the Islamic World) another said Mohammed “…taught them a lesson.” (A Short History of Islam)
It is doubtful this is because they believe that this slaughter was an atrocious act worthy of condemnation—otherwise they would forsake or denounce Islam, or at least they would say that Mohammed committed a horrific act of brutality, and that his life is not to be mimicked in this fashion; more likely it is because they know that the average human mind in today's world--whether Islamic or not--simply cannot accept that this was a righteous act, “The Judgment of Allah from the seventh heaven…” as Mohammed called it as he proceeded to carry out the executions.
This event is central to Muslim doctrine, and hence the theocentric—Mohammed textured—Muslim mind. This “unfortunate event;” this “lesson” that Mohammed “taught the Jews” could have been ignored by the Quran. Indeed, not every slaughter and battle and assassination in which Mohammed took part or authorized has a Quranic revelation associated with it. But the fact is clear; the Holy Book of Islam—the word of Allah—flawless in its’ revelation according to the Islamic faith, glorifies this event as the fruit of the might of Allah. And the slaughter of Jewish men, the spoiling of their goods, the enslaving of their children and wives by the Muslims was a righteous act before God.
The implications of this for us and our security, and the security of non-Muslim nations are nearly endless.
If one wants to truly believe in Islam, one must accept this slaughter as a part of the very fiber of Islam. This is a building block, part of the Quranic and historic foundation of how the faith was established; how it conquered the other faiths on the Arabian Peninsula in the lifetime of Mohammed. (There were sizable number of Christians and Jews there at the time; in Mohammed's lifetime, and shortly after his death, they were effectively obliterated. Now there are no churches and no synagogues, nor will there be: “[T]he Defense Minister [of Saudi Arabia], Prince Sultan, told reporters in March 2003 that Christians are free to worship privately, but reiterated that no church buildings will be allowed. He said, ‘We are not against religions at all ... but there are no churches - not in the past, the present or future.’” (Persecution.com)
This slaughter of the Jews serves as a lesson and a warning. We see an offer to believe in and accept Mohammed as the messenger of God, (which the Jews rejected), followed by the slaughter of innocent non-combatants (which we have recently seen is completely acceptable to the devout theocentric Muslim mind), the theft of their property and the enslavement of their families (which is happening today in Sudan and on the Pacific rim where Christians are being attacked by Muslims.) (See Persecution.com)
It is critical at this point to ponder how many Muslims know of this behavior of Mohammed. It is perhaps more critical to hope that the overwhelming majority of Muslims would reject this type of behavior, and would not participate in it. Many of them are decent human beings who are truly trying to serve God as he has been explained to them for as long as they can remember.
That being said, there are others in the Islamic world-- perhaps a minority, but a very powerful and influential minority--who are immersed in Islamic history, Quranic law, and the life and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed. They know of the assassinations he authorized; they know he ordered hostages to be taken and killed; they know he killed some of them with his own hand; and they believe all of these deeds and words are a righteous display of service to Allah.
In that light, and with their Allah based theocentric mind, they are prepared to wage war and commit assassinations like the founder of their religion. They are well equipped with Quranic passages and detailed stories from the life of Mohammed to invite and incite other young men to follow his teachings and his example to the path of martyrdom.
We need to remember that just before the young American Nicholas Berg was decapitated by his Islamic captor, his murderer stated: "Allah has left us an example in the blessed Prophet with the slow cutting of the prisoners’ necks, and the cutting off of their heads." He was a man who knew his Islamic heritage as he answered the question: “What would Mohammed do?”
Only as we study the Quran, the Sunnah, and the Shari’a do today's headlines make sense; only as we grapple with the life and message of Mohammed can we understand the life and message of a “fundamentalist Muslim” today. Only then does the behavior of those in power in Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Pakistan make sense.
Let us look briefly at Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, using data provided by Amnesty International and The Voice of the Martyrs. Both of these organizations have been in existence for decades, and are widely respected for the accuracy of their material.
Let us remember – we have seen that the constitutions of Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, as well as their legal structures, are self-consciously built upon the Quran and the traditions of the prophet -- traditions that include the ones we read about above.
Let us begin with Egypt.
The following section of quotes comes directly from the Amnesty International web site regarding Egypt:
Freedom of religion
People continued to be at risk of human rights violations solely for exercising their right to freedom of religion.
• In March an (Emergency) State Security Court for Misdemeanours, which allows no right of appeal, sentenced Amin Youssef and ‘Ali Mamduh to three years’ imprisonment for "contempt of religion"; six others, including Amin Youssef’s wife, received one-year suspended prison terms. Amin Youssef and ‘Ali Mamduh, both prisoners of conscience, were convicted for holding private religious gatherings and advocating modifications to basic Islamic rules.
• In September an (Emergency) State Security Court for Misdemeanours convicted 21 men and women charged with "contempt of religion". The alleged leader, Sayid Tolba, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment while one of his co-defendants received a one-year prison term; 19 others were given suspended sentences. The charges related to their variant interpretation of mainstream Islamic belief.
• Several Egyptians who converted from Islam to Christianity reported human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and torture or ill-treatment.
Torture continued to be systematic and widespread in detention centres throughout the country. (Amnesty International)
The following overview is submitted by Voice of the Martyrs, an international organization that charts the abuse or denial of religious freedoms and persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. Their web site is entitled www.persecution.com.
The country’s constitution gives preference to Muslims, and Christians are treated as second-class citizens, denied political representation, and discriminated against in employment. An 1856 Ottoman Empire law kept any church from being built, repaired or even repainted without the permission of Egypt’s president. The law was revised in 2003, and the decision-making is now left up to local governments. In January 2003, President Mubarak declared Christmas (January 7th on the Eastern Church calendar) a public holiday. That was a first for Egypt, but Christians are still susceptible to attacks by Muslim extremists, which often go unpunished. Some Christian girls have been raped and then forced to marry Muslim men. Others have been abducted and forced to convert to Islam. Financial incentives have even been offered to convince some Christian girls to convert to Islam. …Conversion from Islam to Christianity is not illegal, but some are imprisoned for “despising Islam” or “inciting intercommunal strife.” (Persecution.com)
Let us now look at Pakistan, again using Amnesty International and The Voice of the Martyrs. We begin with Amnesty International.
Human rights abuses committed in the context of the government’s continued support for the US-led “war on terrorism” included the arbitrary detention of hundreds of people suspected of having links with “terrorist” organizations and their transfer to the custody of US officials. In addition, systemic human rights violations – including torture, deaths in custody and extrajudicial killings – continued. Abuses committed against women, children and religious minorities, including Christians and Shi’a Muslims, continued to be ignored. At least 140 people were sentenced to death and eight were executed.
Lack of protection for minority communities
The state continued to ignore abuses inflicted by private individuals or groups against members of minority communities. At least 40 members of the minority Shi’a community, mainly doctors and other professionals, and some 65 Westerners and Christians died in targeted killings. Preventive and protective measures were non-existent or inadequate, and action was taken to investigate such killings only following domestic and international pressure.
• In October, two men entered the office of the Christian organization Commission for Justice and Peace in Karachi. They bound and gagged all members of staff and shot them dead. No one had been arrested in connection with the attack by the end of the year.
Abuses of the blasphemy laws
Several men were sentenced to death for blasphemy. Others accused of blasphemy were killed, some in circumstances suggesting official complicity or acquiescence in the killings.
• Anwar Kenneth, a Roman Catholic who had claimed to be a prophet, was sentenced to death in July. His mental health had not been taken into consideration during the trial.
Women and girls continued to be subjected to abuses in the home, the community and in the custody of the state. Impunity for such abuses persisted. Hundreds of women were killed in so-called “honour” killings.
We will finish with Saudi Arabia, the land of Mohammed's birth, life, and death, and the nation that contains the two holiest sites of Islam -- Mecca and Medina. We begin with Amnesty International:
Gross human rights violations continued and were exacerbated by the government policy of “combating terrorism” in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA. The violations were perpetuated by the strictly secretive criminal justice system and the prohibition of political parties, trade unions and independent human rights organizations. Hundreds of suspected religious activists and critics of the state were arrested, and the legal status of most of those held from previous years remained shrouded in secrecy. Women continued to suffer severe discrimination. Torture and ill-treatment remained rife.
Flogging of children
Regional authorities continued to urge extrajudicial floggings by police of teenage boys suspected of “immoral” behaviour; scores of teenage boys were flogged during the year.
• Fifteen boys suspected of “flirting and bothering” families in a park in Taif in August were flogged. According to one press report, “the youths were given 15 lashes each inside the park” by police immediately after they caught them.
Flogging remained a routine corporal punishment handed down by courts as a main or additional sentence.
• A woman was sentenced to 65 lashes in addition to six months’ imprisonment in February. She was convicted of having committed adultery with her sister’s husband, despite having reportedly claimed before the court that he had raped her. The man was sentenced to 4,700 lashes and six years’ imprisonment.
At least seven people, all foreign nationals, had their right hand amputated, and one man had two of his teeth extracted under qisas (retribution) punishment.
• Abdulrahman Isma’il, an Egyptian national, and Shir Muhammad ‘Ali Ahmad, an Afghan national, had their right hands amputated in Mecca in July. Both had been convicted of theft.
• In May Awda al-Zahrani, a Saudi Arabian national, reportedly had two of his teeth extracted as a judicial punishment for having caused similar injury to someone during a fight. One press report suggested that the teeth were extracted by a dentist.
The Voice of the Martyrs reports the following about Saudi Arabia:
Persecution: Saudi Arabia once had a large Christian population until 1,300 years ago when Islam gained control, and all Christians were expelled. It’s been reported that public relations firms in the U.S. have been hired by the country to help cover up its poor human rights record. Any person who does mission work or converts a Muslim faces jail, expulsion or execution. Even foreign Christians visiting Saudi Arabia are not allowed to meet together and worship.
Any person involved in evangelism or who converts a Muslim faces jail, expulsion or execution.
The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom has called Saudi Arabia with world's worst violator of religious liberties. (Persecution.com)
I have focused on these three nations in part because they are all "allies" on America's war on terrorism. It worries me as an American that we have made an alliance with people who treat their citizens in a way that most of us would find dreadful. Furthermore, any American would end up in jail or on the executioners block for practicing the freedoms we have enjoyed from birth.
Before making my closing comments, I want to focus on one key area of liberty -- the freedom to practice or to change one's religion. This is of peculiar importance in the American psyche, because so many of the original settlers came to America to find religious freedom, and to escape government mandated or sanctioned religion.
The United Nations Universal declaration of human rights, article 18 states this: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
This is a laudable goal, with which most of us can agree. What concerns me is that the nations who function under Islamic law seem unable or unwilling to grant true religious freedom to their citizens. This intolerance of a Muslim converting to another religion comes directly from the Shari’a.
There are four main judicial schools of thought revolving around the Shari’a: The Hanafites, the Malikites, the Hanbalites, and the Shafi´ites. All four schools are hundreds of years old, and all four schools embrace historic Orthodox Islam. Part of Islamic philosophy is that Allah I would not allow his people and their leaders to reach a consensus in which there was unanimity unless it was true. Or said conversely, if all four schools of Shari’a scholars agree on something, then it is considered Islamic dogma. This was point 3 above on what are the sources of the Shari’a: “The ijma' (consensus) of Islamic scholars.” (Al-Islami)
All four schools of Islamic scholars believe that if a Muslim converts to another religion, he has committed an act of apostasy; this is tantamount to treason, and is punishable by death. Here are quotes from the theologians and legal jurists of all four schools concerning apostasy:
The Hanafites: If he needs time to reconsider, it is desirable that the judge allow him a three-day extension, during which he is to remain in custody. If he accepts Islam thereafter, it is good; if not, he is to be killed, for Allah says to "kill those who believe in many gods" (Sura al-Tawba 9:5), without fixing a deadline. The Prophet also said, "Kill him who changes his religion," without mentioning a delay, because the apostate is surely a hostile unbeliever.
The Malikites:If he repents after three days, he is to be released; but if he does not, he is to be killed on the third day, at sunset. His corpse is to be neither washed nor embalmed. He is to be buried neither in the cemeteries of the Muslims nor of the unbelievers (kuffar), for he is not one of them, having once been a Muslim. In fact, his body is to be thrown upon the ground as a public example.
The Hanbalites: There are two opinions on this issue. Some believe that the apostate should be given a period for repentance consisting of three days, while others are of the opinion that he is to be granted no time for reconsideration but should only be offered Islam. If he accepts the offer, he is to be set free; if not, he is to be put to death immediately.
The Shafi´ites: If a Muslim becomes apostate -- Allah forbid! -- the imam should grant him three days' grace; he is not to be killed before this period expires, for the apostasy of a Muslim from his faith often results from his confusion…But if he does not repent, he is to be killed by the sword immediately. This punishment cannot be evaded, because apostasy is the most atrocious and severe form of blasphemy, and it deserves the cruellest judgement, which invalidates all of a Muslim's previous deeds. Allah says: "And for those among you who allow themselves to be led astray from their religion, and who die as unbelievers, their works are invalid now and in eternity" (Sura al-Baqara 2:217). (From 'Abdurrahmani'l-Djaziri's Kitabul'l-fiqh 'ala'l-madhahibi'l-'arba'a Vol. 5, pp. 422-440, found at http://www.light-of-life.com/eng/ilaw/ )
We have seen that Mohammed authorized the assassinations of his enemies. We have seen many current Islamic religious leaders call for the assassination of those who have spoken ill of Mohammed. And under the laws of Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, it is against the law to publicly criticize Mohammed. It is against the law and Saudi Arabia and in many other Islamic countries to convert away from Islam. Even in nations such as Egypt were it is “legal” to convert, other laws concerning the disruption of the community or sedition are used to persecute and prosecute those who leave the faith of Mohammed. Currently, Saudi Arabia holds the number 2 position and Pakistan holds the number 12 position for the most oppressive nations in the world concerning religious and personal liberty. (See Crosswalk News at http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/1247848.html)
The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, published in 1898, gives the following definitions of liberty:
Civil Liberty. The liberty of a subject to conduct his own affairs as he thinks proper, provided he neither infringes on the equal liberty of others, nor offends against the good morals or laws under which he is living.
Personal Liberty. Liberty to go out of one’s house or nation, and to return again without restraint, except deprived thereof by way of punishment.
Political Liberty. The right to participate in political elections and civil offices; and to have a voice in the administration of the laws under which you live as a citizen and subject.
Religious Liberty. Freedom in religious opinions, and in both private and public worship, provided such freedom in no wise interferes with the equal liberty of others. (Found at http://www.bartleby.com/81/10204.html)
Every single one of these definitions of liberty was run over roughshod to one degree or another during the lifetime of Mohammed in order to establish Islam. Furthermore, Islam extended its borders from France to India within 100 years of Mohammed's death predominantly by war, bloodshed, and threats of military conquest. (See A Short History on Islam) The freedoms listed above died on the installment plan.
Judging from the traditions of Mohammed and the application of Shari’a in contemporary Islamic nations, I am convinced that Islam -- the theological/cultural/political construct that seeks to rule the minds, bodies, and souls of all mankind is an inherent threat to liberty as Western civilization has come to define it. It is certainly clear from the Quran, the life of Mohammed, the Shari’a, and the overview we have given the three Islamic nations of Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that the freedoms we cherish in America would be destroyed if Islamic philosophy and political theory prevail in America.
I'm speaking specifically of the threat to the following: our right to vote; our right to criticize our government; our right to practice our religion in its totality -- including proselytizing; our right to free speech -- including the right to criticize a political leader of a religion that we do not like or believe in, or the right to criticize or satirize a historical figure, or a contemporary religious or political figure; our right to a trial by jury of our peers; our right to self-defense by means of a personal firearm [the right to keep and bear arms]; the right of freedom of association; and the freedom of press to cover any and all news items, political and religious figures, and to editorialize on those subjects without fear of government reprisals (or reprisals from ideological vigilantes while the government looks the other way).
As is clearly shown, Islam demands establishmentarianism. In other words, Islam must be the official religion of the state. That by definition would destroy the United States Constitution, and the experiment and self-government that we have enjoyed for nearly 250 years.
In that light, the philosophy and goals of Islam certainly appear as dangerous as the philosophy and goals of communism ever were. For decades our nation justly viewed communist ideology as a gateway to physical, intellectual, economic, and religious slavery. The communist nations of the last century (as well as the remaining communist nations today) proved that those fears were justified with histories written with the blood of millions of the victims of their tyranny.
In like manner, Islamic ideology has proven over 1400 years to be a gateway to physical, intellectual, economic and religious bondage to individuals and nations. The treatment of religious minorities, the treatment of women, and the treatment of Muslims who convert to another faith has proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the ideological, societal, and political goals of Islam are an inherent threat to the freedoms our forefathers fought and died for.
The plaguing question that must be answered in another paper is this:
What should we then do?
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The Challenge of Fundamentalism. Bassam Tibi, University of California press, Los Angeles, copyright 1998, 2002
A History of the Islamic World; Fred James Hill and Nicholas Awde; Hippocrene Books, New York, copyright, 2003
A Concise History of the Middle East. Arthur Goldschmidt Jr., Westviewe Press, Cambridge Mass, copyright 2002
The Life of the Prophet Muhammad. Ibn Kathir. Volume II, Translated by Professor Trevor LeGassick. Garnet publishing, Reading, UK, 2000
The Koran. Translated from the Aribic by J.M. Rodwell
The Life of Muhammad. A translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasol Allah. Oxford University Press, New York, 1955
Al-Tabari, Volume VIII, State University of New York Press, Albany NY, 1990
A Short History of Islam, S.F. Mahmud, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 1988
Amnesty International: http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/pak-summary-eng
Voice of the Martyrs http://www.persecution.com/
'Abdurrahmani'l-Djaziri's Kitabul'l-fiqh 'ala'l-madhahibi'l-'arba'a Vol. 5, pp. 422-440, found at http://www.light-of-life.com/eng/ilaw/
Crosswalk News at http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/1247848.html