I opened my newspaper’s USA Today section yesterday to see another horrifying cover story of Muslim suicide bombers devastating innocent people. What makes this attack different than some is that it is Muslims attacking other Muslims, this time in Turkey. Many people want an answer to the question, “What do Muslims believe as it relates to all of these killings?” They want to know: are Muslims dangerous? Is Islam dangerous or is it a “Religion of Peace?” Many are also rightfully concerned about Islamophobia, which is when all Muslims (and people from the Middle East in general) are racially and/or religiously stereotyped as potential terrorists.
When you see Muslims blowing up other Muslims, it shows you that two-dimensional Encyclopedia answers simply will not suffice to accurately answer these questions. If Muslims all believed the same things, they wouldn’t be tragically blowing each other up.
There are two types of Muslims: Cultural Muslims (have also been called Secular Muslims or Moderate* Muslims) & Radical Muslims (have also been called Fundamentalist Muslims or even Orthodox Muslims). The fact that Radical Muslims are blowing up Cultural Muslims tells you they greatly disagree on what they believe, so to say “This is what Muslims believe” would be both impossible and inaccurate. The beliefs must be compared to each other as they represent two entirely different worldviews with two entirely different sources of authority.
I will use the “Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi” as my source for what Cultural Muslims believe. The Open Letter was written by the top Cultural/Moderate Muslims scholars in the world and was written to the leaders of ISIS/ISIL. I will use the arguments in the Open Letter as well as passages from the the Qur’an to show what Radical Muslims believe.
Al-Ma’idah 5:33-34 says, “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption (mischief) is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment…
(Al-Baqarah, 2:190-191, 193) says, “And fight in the way of God with those who fight against you, but aggress not; God loves not the aggressors. And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing…And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and (all and every kind of) worship is for Allah (Alone).”
Al-Anfal 8:12-13 “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.” That is because they opposed Allah and His Messenger. And whoever opposes Allah and His Messenger – indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.”
Al-Tawbah, 9:5 “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (9:14), “Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands and will disgrace them and give you victory over them and satisfy the breasts of a believing people.”
- Argue that the killing commands in the Qur’an are only to be applied in self defense.
- In the Al-Baqarah 2:190-191, 193 text, they only apply verse 190 about “but aggress not” but they do not apply the verses that follow.
- All of Al-Baqarah 2:190-191, 193 is applied, including the belief that fitnah (disbelief in Allah and worshiping of other gods along with Allah) is a worse offense than if someone physically attacks you or physically kills you. If fitnah happens, then this is seen as the attack and in self-defense they follow the Qur’an’s command to kill, overtake, expel etc.
- Cultural Muslims are apostates that the Qur’an commands to kill.
- Anyone who doesn’t worship Allah alone is seen as a polytheist that the Qur’an commands to kill.
Muhammad 47:4-6 “So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah’s Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives). Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e. free them without ransom), or ransom (according to what benefits Islam), until the war lays down its burden. Thus [you are ordered by Allah to continue in carrying out Jihad against the disbelievers till they embrace Islam (i.e. are saved from the punishment in the Hell-fire) or at least come under your protection], but if it had been Allah’s Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you). But (He lets you fight), in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost, to top He will guide them and set right their state. And admit them to Paradise which He has made known to them (i.e. they will know their places in Paradise more than they used to know their houses in the world).”
- Jihad is a means to an end, the end being peace, safety and security. Quoting Al-Baqarah, 2: 193 “Fight them till there is no sedition, and the religion is for God; then if they desist, there shall be no enmity, save against evildoers.”
- They agree with this verse and is what propels them to jihad: to kill all non-Muslims until there are none left. Then there will be peace, safety and security.
Al-Ma’idah 5:38, “[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah . And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.”
- All of the Qur’an is to be applied.
- Believe that some texts outweigh others. From the Open Letter, Page 3, Point 1: “to judge–if one is qualified–…the ‘general’ has to be distinguished from the allegorical ones…there be a clear reason why one text should outweigh another.”
- Later Muslim authorities can authoritatively revise the meaning of the Qur’an: (Page 5, Point #5) Around 500 years after Muhammad, a Muslim theologian named Al-Ghazali wrote: “Independent reasoning may lead to them [practicalities], even if there is no specific origin for them.” (practicalities” is referring to how the Qur’an is applied)
- The Qur’an is the only authority and cannot be revised or changed.
- Believe that Muhammad’s taking up of the sword was conditional for one point in time, for a particular reason in a particular context (Top of the Open Letter, Page 3) “The Prophet Muhammad’s being a mercy to all the worlds cannot possibly be conditional upon his having taken up the sword (at one point in time, for a particular reason and in a particular context).”
- Muhammad nor the Qur’an ever says Muhammad’s actions or commands for the sword were conditional. If they are never stated as conditional, they are timeless and meant to be continued, just like the other teachings of the Qur’an.
- Emphasize those who converted to Islam through non-violent means and de-emphasize those who were forced to convert through violence or threat of violence: (Middle of Page 5, in Point #4: “most of the people who became Muslims throughout history, did so through gentle invitation…And while Islam spread politically from Central Asia (Khurasan) to North Africa due to Islamic conquests…”
Radical and Cultural Muslims agree: (Quoted from the Open Letter) Hudud punishments are fixed in the Qur’an and Hadith and are unquestionably obligatory in Islamic Law.
These punishments include: (Note: zina refers to people having sex outside of marriage…**Capital punishments by sword/crucifixion (for highway robbery with homicide), **by stoning (for zina by a married offender), **Amputation of hands or feet (for theft and highway robbery without homicide), **Flogging with a varying number of strokes (zina (this refers un-married offenders), false accusations of zina and spreading rumours of zina’).
- The Open Letter says these punishments must be applied with clarification, warning, exhortation and meeting the burden of proof; and not in a cruel manner.
Al-Isra’, 17:82 “And we reveal of the Qur’an that which is a cure, and a mercy for believers and it increases the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers) nothing but loss.”
- Apply the first part of the verse, “And we reveal of the Qur’an that which is a cure, and a mercy“
- Apply the entire verse.
Politically Correct Champions:
- Don’t talk about any of this. Put your head in the sand. Islam is a religion of peace. Don’t be threatened at all by it.
- You are a hater, bigot and racist if you talk about any of this.
- All religions are the same. Islam is the same as Christianity.
- All Muslims are terrorists.
- All people with brownish skin from the Middle East are terrorists.
- Muslims are terrible people and terrorists.
None of the last three responses are reasonable. All show our tendency to only see in two simplistic black and white dimensions and our inability to slow down, think, be mature, and dissect complex matters. Complexity is real and doesn’t go away if we use all caps or lots of exclamation points.
At the end of the day, there are two very different types of Muslims, both choosing to continue to use the label “Muslim” and identify with the label, “Islam” though they represent two extremely different religions. They need to be seen as two different religions and responded to accordingly.