Friday, November 27, 2015

Memri on Open Letter of 126 Muslim Scholars to al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State

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In its Inquiry and Analysis Series, Report No. 1205 (November 24, 2015), Memri presents an article by Professor Ella Landau-Tasseron titled "Delegitimizing ISIS On Islamic Grounds: Criticism Of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi By Muslim Scholars." Landau-Tasseron begins with his description of an open letter from 126 Muslim scholars criticizing the Islamic State's leader:
On September 19, 2014, a group of 126 Muslim scholars addressed an open letter to the ruler of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In it they severely criticize ISIS' policies and actions, claiming that they are deviations from Islam, which is a merciful religion. In justifying their position, the critics sometimes cite the same texts used by ISIS, giving their own interpretation. It should be mentioned that the letter did not spark public debate in the Muslim world.

[Landau-Tasseron first] present[s] the points of the clerics' criticism, [then follows] with a short analysis of each point (marked by an asterisk).
Let's cut to the chase and see what these scholars say in point number 13 about compulsion in religion:
13. It is forbidden to coerce anyone to convert to Islam. Many verses in the Koran express toleration of non-Muslims. It is also forbidden to enforce the Shari'a in the public sphere, because, as the Koran says (13:31, 26:4), Allah wants there to be infidels and sinners on earth.
Even I could debunk this one, and I'm no Baghdadi. Let's see what Landau-Tasseron says on the lack of compulsion in Islam:
* Pre-modern Muslim scholars had to determine the attitude of Islamic law towards non-Muslims, given the contradictory Koranic verses such as: "No compulsion is there in religion . . ." (2:256) versus the recurrent injunction to fight non-Muslims "until all religion belongs to Allah" (Koran 2:193, 8:39, 48:16). Pre-modern Muslim scholars considered as abrogated, or otherwise explained away, the tolerance verses; the injunction to wage jihad was considered binding, superseding all the verses expressing tolerance. Differences in detail notwithstanding, the scholars established that some groups must be coerced to convert to Islam or die, such as Arab idolaters, apostates and Manicheans. Others must not be coerced, but they must surrender to the Muslims. The critics in fact refute the pre-modern consensus by reestablishing the validity of the tolerance verses.
So . . . the 126 Muslim scholars ignore abrogation. I will here insert Landau-Tasseron's rejoinder in point number 8 to these scholars' liberal views on Jihad as purely defensive:
* The critics do not take into account all the Koranic verses and reports relevant to the issue of jihad (thus contravening their own advice to al-Baghdadi). In particular, they omit to mention the traditional interpretations of the so-called "sword verses," and many other verses and hadiths, which enjoin the Muslims to fight infidels "in the way of Allah" regardless of the need for defense.
What about Shari'a? Let's see what Landau-Tasseron says:
* Enforcing the Shari'a in the public sphere is by no means an ISIS innovation. In pre-modern Shari'a books it is considered one of the major tasks of the Muslim ruler. Religious police (hisba) in some modern Muslim countries and in ISIS territories continues this tradition.
And these 126 clerics are the innovators - not a positive thing in Islam! I suspect this "open letter" was not so much meant for al-Baghdadi - who has the expertise to easily respond to the critique and demonstrate its inadequacy - as it was meant for the non-Muslims, who generally know little of Islam and thus lack the knowledge to recognize the critique's weakness.



At 10:53 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Ah, that rare animal—Muslim hermeneutics.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, it's usually 'him-meneutics.'

Jeffery Hodges

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