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Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery: Part One

Shaykh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

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As ISIS continues its murder and violence across the provinces it controls and seeks to control, and as it continues to plague the conscience of the great majority of Muslims around the world, what’s worth recalling is that we’ve seen this before in history with the sect called the Khawarij (anglicized to Kharijites). So before tackling ISIS, let’s look at their forerunners; the Kharajites, to whom their pedigree can be traced.

I

The hadith canons relate that shortly after the battle of Hunayn while the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was distributing charity to a few people whose hearts needed to be reconciled, there came a man with a thick beard, prominent cheek bones, deep sunken eyes, protruding forehead and shaven head. He exclaimed: Fear Allah, O Muhammad! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) responded: ‘Who will obey Allah if I were to disobey him? Am I not [sent as the] most trustworthy person on earth; and yet you trust me not?’ The man then turned back, whereupon one of those present asked for permission to kill him. But the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Verily, from the progeny (di’di) of this [man] shall come a people who will recite the Qur’an but it won’t pass beyond their throats. They will slay the followers of Islam and would spare the people of idolatry. They will pierce through the religion just like an arrow which goes clean through a prey.[1]

isis1

Another hadith records that this man’s name was Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah, from the tribe of Tamim, about whom the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) alerted: ‘Leave him; he has comrades whose prayer and fasting will make your prayer and fasting seem insignificant. They recite the Qur’an but it doesn’t go beyond their throats. They shall pass through the religion as an arrow that pierces clean through its prey such that, on inspecting the head; then the shaft; then the fletching; then the nock, would see no traces of blood or viscera on it whatsoever.’[2] Ibn al-Jawzi said: ‘The first of the Khawarij, and the most wretched of them, was Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah … His problem was that he was too puffed up with his own opinion. Had he been granted grace, he would have realized that no opinion was above that of Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The followers of this man were those who fought against ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, may Allah ennoble his face.’[3]

A few decades after this post-Hunayn happening, and as had been prophesied, Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah’s ideological comrades and offspring took on the shape of the very first sect (firqah) to deviate from the main body of the Muslims: the Khawarij (culled from the Arabic word kharaja – “to go out” or “to leave” the main body of Muslims). Indeed, their very name was mentioned by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself, who said: al-khawarij hum kilab al-nar – “The Khawarij are the dogs of Hellfire!’[4] The emergence of the Khawarij as a sect occurred during the caliphate (khilafah) of ‘Ali, in the immediate aftermath of a civil war and its arbitration at Siffin.

Ibn al-Jawzi tells us: ‘‘Ali returned from Siffin and entered Kufah: the Khawarij did not follow. Instead, they settled in Harura. There were 12,000 of them, and they were declaring: la hukma illa li’Llah – “There is no judgement, except Allah’s.” This is how they initially started.’[5]

Imam Muslim narrates from ‘Ubayd Allah b. Abi Rafi‘, a freed salve of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), that the Khawarij came out against ‘Ali, and declared: ‘There is no judgement, except Allah’s.’ So ‘Ali replied: ‘A word of truth, intended for something false (kalimatu haqq urida biha batil).’[6]

Imam al-Nawawi explains: ‘Meaning, the basis of their statement was true. Allah says: The judgement is for none but Allah. [12:40] What they intended by it, however, was to reject ‘Ali’s [acceptance of] arbitration, may Allah be pleased with him.’[7]

As with Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah who, blinded by his warped piety and self-righteousness, thought he had a keener sense of justice than the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the Khawarij were also possessed of holier-than-thou pretensions and smug convictions. It is this puritanical, embittered self-righteousness – devoid of any true glimmer of knowledge or spiritual wisdom – that is the hallmark of the Khawarij and their ideological cousins who drink from the same murky theological waters today. Of course, along with such fanatical zeal, their other great infamy was takfir – declaring other Muslims to be disbelievers, and spilling their blood because of it.

II

The historians al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir chronicle alarmingly precise accounts of their intimidation, violence and terror. Under the events of 37H/657CE they detail how the Khawarij began terrorizing the countryside around Nahrawan, Iraq, subjecting those whom they caught to an imtihan or “inquisition”. If the answers failed to satisfy their zeal for purity, or agree with their understanding of things, then the punishment was death. Things came to a head when they chose ‘Abd Allah, son of an early companion, Khabbab b al-Aratt, as their victim.

A number of the Khawarij rode into his village for supplies and thought to make an example of him. They fired their loaded questions at him. They first asked him about the caliphates of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. ‘Abd Allah extolled them all and praised their successive caliphates. So far, so good. They then asked him about ‘Ali, and his state before and after the arbitration or tahkim. ‘He has far greater knowledge about Allah than you do,’ replied ‘Abd Allah, ‘and has much more piety in terms of his religion and possesses greater insight.’ With that, his fate was sealed. They bound and dragged him and his pregnant wife to an orchard laden with date palms, next to a river.

As they were proceeding to kill him, a date fell to the ground, so one of the Khawarij picked it up and put it in his mouth. ‘Do you do that without the owner’s permission and without paying for it?’ said one of his Kharajite comrades. He spat it out instantly. Another Khariji, wielding his sword in threatening circles, accidentally killed a cow that had been wandering behind him. His comrades insisted he should go and find the owner and pay him the full price of the animal. They waited whilst he did so. Thus, having acted most righteously in the matter of the date and the cow, they slit ‘Abd Allah’s throat and then disemboweled his wife. Date spat out, cow paid for, husband, wife and unborn child butchered; and with the clearest of consciences, they purchased their supplies and went on their way.[8]

Theologians have differed as to the precise meaning of the Prophet’s words ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): ‘They will pierce through the religion (yamruquna min al-din) as an arrow which goes clean through a prey.’ The idea of maraqa – an an arrow ‘piercing’ or going ‘clean through’ its prey with such force and velocity that it exits its prey without any trace of blood or flesh sticking to its tip or shaft, describes emphatically how the Khawarij immerse themselves in religion, but exit straight through it. The question, however, is do they exit the fold of orthodoxy (and become heterodox, deviant Muslims), or do they leave the actual fold of Islam? A minority of scholars went with the latter view; most went with the former.[9] The majority view takes its cue from ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, who was asked: Are the Khawarij mushrikun? He said: ‘They flee from shirk.’ Are they munafiqun? He said: ‘The hypocrites remember Allah only a little.’ Then what are they? He said: ‘They are our brothers who transgressed against us (ikhwanuna baghaw ‘alayna), so we fought them for their transgression.’[10]

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Abu Aaliyah is the founder of The Jawziyyah Institute, a leading institute for Islamic moderation and contemporary thought in the United Kingdom. Sidi Abu Aaliyah has been in involved in Dawah and Islamic teachings since 1986. He has translated a number of books from the Arabic language into English such as "The Exquisite Pearls". Abu Aaliyah's written works and audio lectures can be found online.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Amatullah

    August 25, 2015 at 12:37 AM

    One of the MOST informative article around! JazakhAllah khayr for the immense information about the Kharijites. May Allah protect our deen.

    • Avatar

      hadjer

      August 26, 2015 at 2:37 PM

      sister can u tell me how can i have account here to publish a topics about islam

  2. Avatar

    Ibn Islam

    August 25, 2015 at 10:44 PM

    This article highlights some of the traits of the khawarij and links them to isis. However; it does oversimplify this matter. I strongly encourage the author and other scholars to thoroughly elucidate some of the actions of isis, rather than completely dismiss them as. Oversimplifying this matter by describing the actions of this group as “non-islamic”, is not doing justice.
    It is important to put things into correct perspective which it deserves in order not to loose the wide majority audience. Clarification is needed today more than ever because those who know the seerah of the prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wa salam in depth cannot consolidate with generalization of this matter. In no way or form do I support actions of isis, however we need proper guidance in this matter. Making the claim that Islam and the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wa salam are all about mercy and denying all other actions causes alienation of the young and mature Muslims at large, as well mistrust deviation. Using the “young” card and “lack of wisdom” is the wrong approach. The hadith pertaining to the “foolish” and “young” has its validity without a doubt. Needles to say that the youth has always been at the forefront bringing positive change while the majority of scholars have been remaining passive in the matters of the global Muslim community throughout history.

    In order to consolidate the matter things need to be addressed by those with adequate knowledge:

    1. What constitutes kufr (disbelieve) ie. the 10 nullifers of Islam
    2. How to work towards establishing Islam as a state
    3. What kind of allegiance is permitted to Muslims and to whom
    4. Denouncing the men made systems and upholding the Islamic identity while being part of the society.

    May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala give us the understanding of the right path and make us follow it.

    • Abu Aaliyah

      Abu Aaliyah

      August 26, 2015 at 3:06 AM

      As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.

      I’m surprised at the comment and also rather baffled. I’ve not even got to the part about ISIS yet. I’ve made that abundantly clear at the beginning and end of part one. I’ve also not used the word “unIslamic” about them, since I don’t find that very helpful. Hence your commrbts seem somewhat untimely or misplaced. Surely the reasonable thing to do would have been to wait until the next part, till I actually wrote something about ISIS, before launching your criticisms and allegations.

      One reasons I decided to write something about this (after consulting some of my teachers) is because I wasn’t quite satisfied with much of what was currently out there. A lot of it was just telling us how harsh and unIslamic they are which, as I’ve said, isn’t very helpful. I was hoping to do a little more than that, bi’idhnillah. (Wether I succeed or not remains to be seen).

      A few of those on Muslim Matters know of my work for the last twenty years or so. I hope you believe me when I tell you I’m really not in the habit of tackling issues which I’m not qualified for, nor do I write for popularity. I write with the depth I believe does some justice to the topic, and only after things have been well thought out (even if, sometimes, that takes a year or two before putting pen to paper, as in this case). The end product can still be littered with errors, unhelpful and besides the point; though it’s unlikely to be shallow, or written in ignorance and haste.

      My brother, be patient, pray that Allah guides me to write something of substance, give me the benefit of the doubt, and – if I may ask – try not to be so assuming or judgemental about me.

      You may even be pleasantly surprised at part two; then again, you may not. It’s unlikely that any one single article could ever hit all the proverbial nails on the head in this matter.

      Let’s just wait; like many other sons and daughters of Islam, my heart bleeds for the situation too.

      Here’s hoping.

      Your brother, at your service.

      And Allah alone gives success.

      • Avatar

        Amatullah

        August 27, 2015 at 12:06 AM

        Agree with every word said by bro Abu Aaliyah. The comment by Ibn Islam is misplaced and doesn’t make sense. It was as if the article was read with a prejudiced mind of finding whatever the reader wanted to read and NOT what the article was for!

  3. Avatar

    Kamal Ahmed

    August 27, 2015 at 12:44 PM

    The article clearly has not yet directly touched any aspect of ISIS yet so I dont understand the fuss that brother Ibn Islam is trying to create. The article has only mentioned ISIS two times and that too in the opening paragraph. So my advice to Brother Ibn Islam is to either clarify his position or retract his comment. Jazakallah Brother Abu Aaliyah for the insightful article. Looking forward to the part 2.

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      August 30, 2015 at 6:38 AM

      I am not a Muslim scholar, but the atrocities committed by Da’esh are well documented and space is wasted here by going in to them here in detail. There is no justification for the slaughter going on in Syria by Assad or Da’esh. Innocent Muslims are being slaughtered and starved to death. One group does it under a false pretense of bringing the world pure true Islam. The analogy is pretty obvious, I thought. I fail to understand what details you seek. It’s as if you need convincing that Da’esh is killing innocent Muslims. Are you one of those who think Da’esh is a creation of America?

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      August 30, 2015 at 2:15 PM

      Sorry Brother Ahmed. I did not look carefully at what you wrote and shot off my mouth before having complete understanding. May Allah forgive me. I guess I am of the group that is prejudging Da’esh. Millions of Muslims are suffering. Yassir Qadhi is one who was off the deep end of Salfism, but al hamdullilah, he has pulled back and is a pleasure to listen to these days. For me, I see Muslims doing stupid things in the name of purity and I am very tired of it. I just listened to a lecture where the Imam said that a person has to invite you into their heart. Only Allah has unlimited access. Only Allah has final judgement. One of our primary commands is kindness. Da’esh, I don’t think anyone is debating how kind they are. I lose track of Muslim Matters sometimes. Al hamdulillah for this site and this article. I know, for me, I am pretty familiar with Da’esh, at least from a media perspective, but I am weak on Islamic history and this is what impresses me about this article. I learned the linguistics of why the Khawarij have a second name and the exact start of these “deviant Muslims.” This is valuable knowledge. May Allah reward the author. Those who criticize, may not see, but some of us see their criticism as a defense for Da’esh. Sorry being long and will soon shut up. Our job, after we find guidance, is to assist others in finding Allah’s guidance. The matter of being guided is strictly a matter of the heart and we pray that Allah allows us to be a way for others to escape the fire. We have to win hearts fee sabeelillah. What has that got to do with shooting people, torture and rape? May Allah make us successful as we continue the mission of our Prophet.

  4. Avatar

    tortal

    August 27, 2015 at 5:02 PM

    Sufaha’ al-ahlam would work much better translated as, “of foolish ambitions” or “having foolish notions” or something of that sort.

    When I read the Arabic, it just doesn’t strike me as meaning “weak of intellect”.

    • Abu Aaliyah

      Abu Aaliyah

      August 28, 2015 at 8:29 AM

      Thank you for an alternative translation. However, when one consult the books of commentary on this hadith, one finds that the phrase is understood as a kinayah; a metaphor. It is a metaphor for those who lack depth of knowledge and understand; those who only understand things at a surface level.

      We also learn a valuable lesson, which is that to understand such important socio-political and theologically orientated hadiths, we must beware not to explain them merely by taking their lexical meanings. Rather, we need to rely upon the shariah meanings, as given by the qualified jurists, theologians and commentators.

    • Abu Aaliyah

      Abu Aaliyah

      August 28, 2015 at 8:31 AM

      That said, one can see that these Khawarij, because they were “weak in intellect”, ended up with “foolish ambitions.”

  5. Avatar

    M.Mahmud

    August 27, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    I felt like Muslims were over emphasizing the “foolish youth” aspect of it which might almost be seen as an excuse. The core aspect of it highlighted in this article rightfully is their selfrightiousness and arrogance. It is one thing to be foolish and yet another to combine it with the self pride and contempt these crimins have. I have argued with many of them and they are exceptionally arrogant and often of despicable character.

  6. Avatar

    M.Mahmud

    August 27, 2015 at 5:50 PM

    What is also clear is their lack of respect and proper exaltation of Rasulullah sallahualayhiwasalam. It gets in the way of their stubborn arrogance. They ought to be annihilated like Ad was annihilated. May Allah destroy them very soon.

  7. Avatar

    Joe

    August 28, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    As salaam alykum
    One of the best articles I have read so far on the khawarij!!!
    Reminds me of the series by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks many years ago ”The Kharijites and their impact on Contemporary Islam” – I do not know if Shaykh Surkheel has read the series?
    The conversation between Hadrat Ali RA and Hurqus always gives me pause for thought. Hurqus words can be easily translated to the young angry men we find at our mosques and their facebook comments’, they think (and believe) their actions are for Allah:
    [[“‘The intractable Hurqus confronted Sayyidna Ali and said, “O son of Abi Talib, I fight you not except for the sake of Allah, and for my reward in the afterlife.”
    Sayyidna Ali retorted, “Your kind, Hurqus, is the kind that Allahu Ta’ala refers to in the Quran where He states, ‘Say: Shall We tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they imagined that they were acquiring good by their works‘ (18: 103). Amongst these – and I swear by this in the name of the Lord of the Ka’ba – are you Hurqus!”]]

    To the people of Allah this is the scariest verse in the Quran 18:103 – we ask Allah’s Pleasure through His Mercy and not through our actions.
    A scholar once told me that the spiritual reason for the khawarij and their deviance is that in the first interaction between Hurqus and the beloved Prophet SAW – Hurqus showed disrespect to the beloved. They have no love for our Prophet SAW inwardly.
    Looking forward to part 2.
    Was salaam

  8. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    August 30, 2015 at 6:30 AM

    subhanallah! Great Article…..I learned something today…al hamdullilah!

  9. Pingback: Comment on Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery: Part One by GregAbdul | Souqhub | Blog

  10. Avatar

    Yusuf Smith

    August 30, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Are ISIS really the modern Khawarij, though? The Khawarij were known, as you say in your article, for exaggerated displays of righteousness and kindness towards non-Muslims and towards animals while they massacred the Believers over petty or ridiculous disagreements. ISIS, like Al-Qa’ida before them, although they do oppress Muslims in the lands they occupy, are not merciful to non-Muslims either in the lands they occupy or in the non-Muslim lands in which they operate (many of which allow Muslims to live unmolested and with greater freedom than in most Muslim countries) where they massacre innocent people, destroy property, menace travellers (notably by hijacking aeroplanes) and behave treacherously and break trusts with both Muslims and others. While they may have been intended to provoke non-Muslims into war against Muslims, and a few Muslims were killed, the immediate targets were non-Muslims. How then are modern extremists Khawarij?

  11. Avatar

    Munawar

    September 4, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    The article by brother Abu Aaliyah is very good & informative. You have drawn good parallels between the Khawarij & ISIS which is very true.
    I think the deeper picture is more disturbing which is as follows:- ( I may be wrong so Allah pardon me)
    The strength of a person is not in his body but in his spirit. The more a person is spiritual the more he is near to Allah the more strong he is. History has proved this in the battle of Badr & even after that when a handful of true spiritual muslims controlled half of the world.
    They fought not for hatred of the enemy but for the love of Allah. Thus they derived their strength from love not hatred.
    Today their descendants depend on a foreign power for their protection. Why?
    The reason is that some vested interests including the descendants themselves attacked our spiritual ethos under the garb of a puritinical Islam & the result is for everyone to see. Country after country which allowed the spiritual Islam to flourish came under attack under one pretext or the other. The first was Afghanistan followed by Iraq , Iran ( this country was saved by the grace of Allah), Egypt & now Syria. It is any bodys guess as to who is funding & supporting these activities. The west is only in the front & its business is to make hay while the sun shines. We cannot blame the west.
    Now their target is India & Pakistan ( although Pakistan today is in deep trouble — again because of the  followers of this puritinical Islam). 

    About a fortnight ago we had an article in The Times Of India which spoke of the Salafi & Sufi divide in India & how a rich middle eastern country is pumping money into India to support Salafism.

    In his 2nd part I request brother Abu Aliyah to throw some light on this aspect especially with regard to 2 renowned muslim scholars one of the12th century the 2nd belonging to the 17th century. Both had a puritinical attitude & were obsessed with Jihad. Most of the puritans follow them.

    It is for every one to see the spiritual divide between the Muslim countries.
    But the most disturbing part is the numbers of these puritans is increasing day by day because even if a false sermon  ( under pressure from vested interests ) is delivered from the pulpit of Haram Sheriff it will be considered as true by the lay Muslim.

  12. Avatar

    JAVAD

    September 28, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    Sorry has the part 2 been published yet? i couldnt find it!!

  13. Pingback: » Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery: Part II

  14. Pingback: » 8 Signs of Extremists According to the Prophet ﷺ | Yahya Ibrahim

  15. Pingback: ISIS and Its Faulty Logic « Muslimyouthstoday's Blog

    • Avatar

      AshShifaa

      November 14, 2016 at 8:24 PM

      Indeed

      ..until you will fight them in the armies of the dajjal , goes the hadeeth, if I am not wrong. isis and Israel are buddies btw.. something to think about , Zionists are the armies of the dajjal, their false messiah being the dajjal himself .
      We have to read and study end time prophecy to underhand this ..

  16. Avatar

    Fahad

    November 21, 2015 at 9:37 PM

    Excellent article. Insha’Allah ISIS will be eradicated like their forefathers or Come back to mainstream Islam soon.

  17. Avatar

    Abu ahmed

    December 28, 2015 at 6:05 PM

    Brilliantly put together.
    Very informative.

    JazakaAllah

  18. Avatar

    Jav

    January 31, 2016 at 1:38 PM

    These khawarij separated themselves from the body politic of muslims ie the caliphate.
    The secular nationalist elites are the ones who did this in the 20th century.
    How are you applying it to others and not this group and their descendants whose islam does not go beyond their necks?

    • Avatar

      jule

      April 28, 2016 at 4:39 PM

      i totally agree
      the khawarij did it when the khilafah was florishing, from wat exactly did our brothers from dawlah islamyah seperate them selves from?
      from corrupt kings? or from people whom do not wish to apply sharia? so tell me exactly whom are the khawarij ?
      brings me to the next equation, we try to make parallels between khawarij between present muslim mujahideen whom are harsh with establishing a muslim country run by the laws God gave us.
      would we apply the parallels if abubakr saddiq was amongst us today?
      he was willing to fight every man neglecting the laws of allah he even did fight muslims that abandoned the pay of zakat, while the muslim army was busy fighting in the front lines he himself went to fight these so called muslims.
      i pray every sible day to bring the muslims together and abandon their differences so we can stand as one for one goal.
      that goal is to establish the word of god to be the highest. every one with a different goal must be put in paralel and questioned about whether he is mukhrij.

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#Current Affairs

Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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#Society

Ya Qawmi: Strengthen Civic Roots In Society To Be A Force For Good

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari

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For believers the traditions and teachings of the Prophets (blessings on them), particularly Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), are paramount. Each Prophet of God belonged to a community which is termed as their Qawm in the Qur’an. Prophet Lut (Lot) was born in Iraq, but settled in Trans-Jordan and then became part of the people, Qawm of Lut, in his new-found home. All the Prophets addressed those around them as ‘Ya Qawmi’ (O, my people) while inviting them to the religion of submission, Islam. Those who accepted the Prophets’ message became part of their Ummah. So, individuals from any ethnicity or community could become part of the Ummah – such as the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad.

Believers thus have dual obligations: a) towards their own Qawm (country), and b) towards their Ummah (religious companions). As God’s grateful servants, Muslims should strive to give their best to both their Qawm and Ummah with their ability, time and skillset. It is imperative for practising and active Muslims to carry out Islah (improvement of character, etc) of people in their Ummah and be a witness of Islam to non-Muslims in their Qawm and beyond. This in effect is their service to humanity and to please their Creator. With this basic understanding of the concept, every Muslim should prioritise his or her activities and try their utmost to serve human beings with honesty, integrity and competence. Finding excuses or adopting escapism can bring harm in this world and a penalty in the Hereafter.

Like many other parts of the world, Britain is going through a phase lacking in ethical and competent leadership. People are confused, frustrated and worried; some are angry. Nativist (White) nationalism in many western countries, with a dislike or even hatred of minority immigrant people (particularly Muslims and Jews), is on the rise. This is exacerbated through lowering religious literacy, widespread mistrust and an increase in hateful rhetoric being spread on social media. As people’s patience and tolerance levels continue to erode, this can bring unknown adverse consequences.

The positive side is that civil society groups with a sense of justice are still robust in most developed countries. While there seem to be many Muslims who love to remain in the comfort zone of their bubbles, a growing number of Muslims, particularly the youth, are also effectively contributing towards the common good of all.

As social divisions are widening, a battle for common sense and sanity continues. The choice of Muslims (particularly those that are socially active), as to whether they would proactively engage in grass-roots civic works or social justice issues along with others, has never been more acute. Genuine steps should be taken to understand the dynamics of mainstream society and improve their social engagement skills.

From history, we learn that during better times, Muslims proactively endeavoured to be a force for good wherever they went. Their urge for interaction with their neighbours and exemplary personal characters sowed the seeds of bridge building between people of all backgrounds. No material barrier could divert their urge for service to their Qawm and their Ummah. This must be replicated and amplified.

Although Muslims are some way away from these ideals, focusing on two key areas can and should strengthen their activities in the towns and cities they have chosen as their home. This is vital to promote a tolerant society and establish civic roots. Indifference and frustration are not a solution.

Muslim individuals and families

  1. Muslims must develop a reading and thinking habit in order to prioritise their tasks in life, including the focus of their activism. They should, according to their ability and available opportunities, endeavour to contribute to the Qawm and Ummah. This should start in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on one’s obligations to their neighbour; one that stands out – Gabriel kept advising me to be good to my neighbour so much that I thought he would ask that he (neighbour) should inherit me) – Sahih Al-Bukhari.
  2. They must invest in their new generation and build a future leadership based on ethics and professionalism to confidently interact and engage with the mainstream society, whilst holding firm to Islamic roots and core practices.
  3. Their Islah and dawah should be professionalised, effective and amplified; their outreach should be beyond their tribal/ethnic/sectarian boundaries.
  4. They should jettison any doubts, avoid escapism and focus where and how they can contribute. If they think they can best serve the Ummah’s cause abroad, they should do this by all means. But if they focus on contributing to Britain:
    • They must develop their mindset and learn how to work with the mainstream society to normalise the Muslim presence in an often hostile environment.
    • They should work with indigenous/European Muslims or those who have already gained valuable experience here.
    • They should be better equipped with knowledge and skills, especially in political and media literacy, to address the mainstream media where needed.

Muslim bodies and institutions

  • Muslim bodies and institutions such as mosques have unique responsibilities to bring communities together, provide a positive environment for young Muslims to flourish and help the community to link, liaise and interact with the wider society.
  • By trying to replicate the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah, they should try to make mosques real hubs of social and spiritual life and not just beautiful buildings. They should invest more in young people, particularly those with professional backgrounds. They should not forget what happened to many places where the Muslim presence was thought to be deep-rooted such as Spain.
  • It is appreciated that the first generation Muslims had to establish organisations with people of their own ethnic/geographical backgrounds. While there may still be a need for this for some sections of the community, in a post-7/7 Britain Muslim institutions must open up for others qualitatively and their workers should be able to work with all. History tells that living in your own comfort zone will lead to isolation.
  • Muslim bodies, in their current situation, must have a practical 5-10 year plan, This will bring new blood and change organisational dynamics. Younger, talented, dedicated and confident leadership with deep-rooted Islamic ideals is now desperately needed.
  • Muslim bodies must also have a 5-10 year plan to encourage young Muslims within their spheres to choose careers that can take the community to the next level. Our community needs nationally recognised leaders from practising Muslims in areas such as university academia, policy making, politics, print and electronic journalism, etc.

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#Current Affairs

Seyran Ates, A Sixty-Eighter In Islamic Camouflage

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seyran ates

By Dr Mohammad Usman Rana

In their orientalist enthusiasm to reform Islam, in the sense of reconciling Islam with the always changing ideas and goals of liberal values, Western European liberals and neo-atheists are searching high and low for persons who may serve as Muslim alibies for their project. For many years Ayaan Hirsi Ali was given this role but now the relay baton has been handed over to the German-Turkish activist Seyran Ates.

Does not believe in religion

Ates is of current interest in Norway because her book by the Norwegian title Islam trenger en seksuell revolusjon (Islam needs a sexual revolution, originally published in German in 2011)* was just released in Norwegian translation. Ates is well-known primarily because Western media have hailed her as a freedom fighter among Muslims since she opened a so-called liberal mosque in Berlin in 2017 and titled herself a female imam.

Obviously, Ates is part and parcel of an essential debate about the future of Muslims in Europe as it is a fact that a lot of traditional mosques in Western Europe have a big job to do in order to become more relevant to young Muslims, that is, more inclusive and adapted to a European context. Not least the issue of women’s rights is rightfully important to many people in the Muslim world, whether they are liberals or conservatives. In the midst of all the praise, Ates receives in Western media one essential question is however forgotten: What Islamic credibility does Ates have? In line with postmodern nihilism where concepts, ideas, and identities are emptied of meaning and content, the fact is ignored that Ates in her book points out that she believes in God but not in religions. She has no Islamic theological education and explains that she has recently started taking courses in Islamic studies and Arabic in order to be more credible among Muslims.

This is not only the case with Ates. It is a general weakness of so-called progressive and liberal Islam (reformers) that the movement lacks a foundation of religious and theological structure; it is rather founded on personalities with a political mission.

More journalists than worshippers

In her book about Islam needing a sexual revolution, Ates applauds European Christians’ dissociation from the church after 1968. Paradoxically, she later opened a mosque for Muslims. Further, she praises secularly thinking individuals as the most honourable people.

This is why the question should be raised whether the mosque, the imam title, and other religious references are just an Islamic camouflage for what can be understood as a political secularisation, assimilation and liberalisation project by Ates and her supporters. Due to the missing religious credibility and seriousness of this commitment, it should come as no surprise that it has little appeal to European and German Muslims.

When the New York Times visited the mosque, its journalists reported that there were more journalists than worshippers present. She has, on the other hand, a strong appeal among extreme right-wing anti-Muslim thinkers and movements in Europe. It is noteworthy that Ates received a solidarity claim from the extreme anti-Islam German AfD party, and has been praised by the infamous anti-Muslim blog of “Human Rights Service” in Norway.

The positive development aspect is missing

Why should German and European Muslims listen to an activist who attacks the fundamental principles of Islam and in her book paints a stereotypical image of the world’s Muslims?

There is no denying that Ates addresses a number of important challenges for Muslim women. Still, her arguments become oversimplified when she confuses female-hostile habits in the East with Islam and completely forgets the positive development today’s Muslim women in Europe experience where they, as opposed to their mothers’ generation, receive a university education, have a career, and choose whom they want to marry.

Seyran Ates’ project is not about a necessary contextualisation of Islam’s holy texts in a European reality, maintaining the characterisations of the region. The project is rather about a total change of Islam. In her book, Ates justifies such a change by creating strawmen with sweeping generalisations about Muslims. She, for instance, writes that ‘it is a fact that Muslim men have a considerable problem with our free world’, and that ‘Islamic politicians do not distinguish between religion and politics’ – without mentioning the widespread authoritarian secular tradition in Muslim countries in modern times such as in Turkey and Baathism in Syria and Iraq.

Less sexual restraint

Ates’ main argument in Islam needs a sexual revolution is that Muslim men and women are sexually oppressed because sexuality is defined as a blessing and source of love only within – and not outside of – the frames of marriage. The rule of intimate relationships being reserved for marriage meets with unison agreement from Muslims from different schools of thought; Ates, however, absurdly calls it an expression of “fundamentalist” Islam. In this view, Seyran Ates disagrees with the well-known American feminist Naomi Wolf who, after having travelled in Muslim countries, believes that this marital channelling of intimacy, in fact, strengthens sexuality and family ties at the same time.

The German-Turkish author wants less sexual restraint, more promiscuity and a liberal attitude to nakedness, in line with the ideals of the sixty-eighters. Seyran Ates praises the sixty-eighters’ revolution as an ideal for Muslims. Although the #metoo campaign, which can be said to have brought to light the negative consequences of the sexual revolution, was released after Ates’ book was published, it makes her attitudes to this revolution seem somewhat doubtful. The heritage of the sixty-eighters is not only freedom and equality but also the breaking up of the family as well as selfishness and decadence. It is also ironical that someone like Ates, who claims religious credibility, calls attention to Alfred Kinsey, the atheist sexologist who believed in open relationships, as a model for Muslims.

Public pillory

Ates’ book is mainly about freedom, a personal freedom in the name of value liberalism and sixtyeighters. A well-known American intellectual, Patrick Deenen from the University of Notre Dame, however, criticises such a perception of the concept of freedom believing we should ask ourselves if freedom can really be defined as human beings pursuing their instincts more or less uncritically. Deenen maintains that human beings are then in effect unfree and slaves of their instincts, while real freedom is achieved if we manage to free ourselves from being governed by human appetites.

Seyran Ates and her non-Muslim supporters seem to have no understanding at all of such a definition of the concept of freedom. Even more problematic is that they want to make their sixty-eighters’ liberal values absolute, believing Muslims must adhere to them if they wish to belong to modern society. Harvard professor Adrian Vermeule calls this form of liberalism aggressive because it only tolerates itself and no differences of opinion. It maintains its rituals in the form of checkpoints of ‘correct’ opinions in particular about sexuality, gender, and identity. Disagreeing with this can result in reprisals in the form of public pillory or even legal steps.

Obsessed with removing the hijab

When Muslims are met with such absolute-making of liberal values it is like an extension of colonial cultural imperialism when French and British colonial masters wanted to westernise Muslim populations, believing it was the only way of making them civilised. Some of them were obsessed with removing Muslim women’s hijabs, just as Seyran Ates is. The British consul general in Egypt, Lord Cromer, was a representative of this view. He wanted to free Muslim women from the hijab while at home in the UK he was ardently against feminism and women’s suffrage (source: Ahmed, Leila (1992). Women and Gender in Islam. New Haven: Yale University Press).

Worth noting is also that extensive surveys by Gallup Coexist Index among West-European Muslims show that they are far more religious than the majority population. Similar findings in relation to Norwegian Muslims were made by Bushra Ishaq in her book Hvem snakker for oss? (Who speaks for us?) from 2017. Considering these figures, it would be utopian as well as illiberal to expect Muslims to opt for a liberal values morality. On the contrary, it should be expected that religious European Muslims understand their religious practice as belonging to a Western context, that they value equality and that they support the liberal state governed by rule of law that actually allows people to live according to liberal as well as conservative norms of value.

*The original German-language version of the book, Der Islam braucht eine sexuelle Revolution: Eine Streitschrift, was published in 2011

Dr Mohammad Usman Rana is a Norwegian columnist, author and a commentator on Islam

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