Is The So-called Islamic State Really Islamic? – A (Hopefully) Balanced Analysis

True to form, after any terrorist attack, the question on whether the Daesh (or for that matter Al-Qaeda or Boko Haram or Al-Shabab) are really acting on behalf of Islam will rise to a crescendo. On one hand, we have the defenders of Islam (some call them ‘apologists’) quoting verses of the Quran and Hadith to show that these terrorists are not Islamic. On the other hand, we have Islamophobes and critics of Islam (they are not the same by any means) also quoting verses of the Quran and Hadith but to prove the opposite – that these terrorists and indeed Islamofascism itself (the strain of within the Islamic tradition centred around systematic oppression) are indeed Islamic in essence. So we have two opposing voices both using the same tradition to prove their point. What gives here?

First off, we need to realise one thing. We are not dealing with a single voice but rather many (polyphony). The Islamic tradition has literally hundreds if not thousands of texts. These texts do not always agree. In fact they seldom agree except maybe on the fact that there is one God. Even that fact would have differences on how the actual unity of God is expressed! When we go on to Islamic law, the differences are vast, even extending to the very roots of the law themselves (usool al-fiqh). This being the case, the question we are posing above can only be answered thus – it depends on whose view one adopts.

What the so-called Islamic State have done is to accept the hadith which promotes an imperialist outlook on Islam and further to colour their Quranic interpretation which such a lens. There are definitely such hadith in my opinion. However, to be fair, some Traditionalist scholars have also placed limits on such hadiths so they are no longer universal. Other Traditionalists so have rejected them outright. The so-called Islamic State represents one approach to this vast tradition.

And what of the Quran itself? As a Quranist (a Muslim who only accepts his own understanding of the Quran as authoritative on himself and no hadith or scholar as authoritative whatsoever) I completely reject their understanding of the Quran. Why? Because I feel they have rejected the underpinning outlook of the text and chosen to apply tribalist definitions in order to feed their imperialist agenda.

For example, the Quran says ‘indeed the religion in the sight of Allah is al-islaam’ (3/19). Islamofascists therefore say that all other religions is rejected by God. However, the Quran also accepts other religions (2/62, 5/69) and has no problems with plurality of truths and pathways (13/17, 29/69). Given that, I would read ‘al-islaam’ as the universal principle of peace instead of a tribal entity that Muslims usually call the ‘Ummah’. That would be a consistent reading for me. Islamofascists resort to abrogation (cancelling out some Quranic verses with others) when this cohesive view challenges their tribalism. Therefore I cannot accept their interpretation.

The above represents why I do not accept the view of the Islamofascists and their enfant terrible, the so-called Islamic State. However, I cannot deny them the right to interpret. That would make me a fascist myself! I do not own the Quran nor the Islamic Tradition. At best, I can offer my own reading for those who wish to consider all points of view and to refute their interpretation as I have hopefully done so above.

This raises the question, what is the point of the Islamic Tradition if it indeed so ambiguous? Well it is only ambiguous if you have more than one person as readers or spokespeople. If you approach it personally, then it can be perfectly clear and acts as a spiritual resource for you. As is the case for me. The Quran for me is unambiguously and unequivocally for universal peace. All it’s so-called ‘war verses’ are for the liberation of humanity. I believe the Daesh have got it wrong but I would not silence them for doing so. The most I can do is to refute them.

So for those who quote the Quran intending to impute upon its integrity, please ask yourself if you have really done the necessary research to obtain a balanced understanding of all points of view. You are dealing with something which 1.5 billion people consider sacred. And remember, texts do not speak for themselves. People speak through texts. If you are out simply to instigate hate against people, then congratulations, you are adopting the right strategy.

And for the would be apologists, I support your efforts to defend Islam from the haters. However, I must ask you to do more to revisit our Islamic tradition and to recognise the negative elements within it. This can only be done with honesty.

About Farouk A. Peru
I am a human being in the world, blogging my existence. My thought systems may be found in my website: www.farouk.name

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