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Featured ISIS as Salafī, or why this label is accurate

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by Komori, May 18, 2019.

  1. Komori

    Komori Member

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    While ISIS has generally been classified by outside observers as belonging to the tradition of “Salafī-Jihādism,” a term first coined in 2002, some, mainly Sunni (and often Salafī) Muslims themselves, have disputed such a label, and have instead advocated for the classification of ISIS as a “Khawārij” movement. Now, as a Shīʿī Muslim, I am going to offer my perspective on why it is incorrect to classify ISIS as Khawārij and why the term Salafī is indeed accurate when applied to them.

    The main reason I take issue with calling ISIS a Khawārij movement is the nature of the term khawārij itself. But what does it mean? Literally, it means ‘those who exit,’ first referring to those who deserted from the army of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib after his arbitration with Muʿāwiyah. Later, however, the term became much more general and much more polemical in its usage, and heresiographers began to use it to refer to any group of Muslims who rebelled against a Muslim ruler. This is similar compared to the evolution of the word jihād. Originally, it had a very specific meaning, but now it is used generally to refer to any military action which is perceived as unjust or any act of terrorism perpetrated by self-declared Muslims. When we as Muslims are so careful with the word jihād, and so quickly rush to condemn the usage of it to refer to senseless murder (the Arabic word for that is istiʿrāḍ), then we should also be careful with our usage of the term khawārij as well.

    The Khawārij were not engaged in the senseless murder (istiʿrāḍ) of which early Muslim heresiographers (namely Ibn Ḥazm) accused them, and frankly, neither is ISIS today. These groups acted and are acting according to a complex ideology and theology, which is obvious to anyone who has read al-Najī’s Management of Savagery (Idārat al-tawaḥḥush), but since this fact has already been explained by researchers much more knowledgeable and articulate than myself, I will not go into much detail about that. The simple reality is that these groups cannot truly be understood unless they are understood as rational actors, and it is in fact incorrect to portray them as irrational actors, as Michael Scheuer has pointed out in his book Imperial Hubris (p. 114):
    The term khawārij, which, in the Muslim conscience, principally denotes a group on the path of istiʿrāḍ, only contributes to furthering such a misunderstanding of the terrorist as a “madman, bloodthirsty, and irrational” (Ibid., p. 110), ignoring not only the political context and motivations behind the terrorist act as well as the possible religious beliefs of the terrorist, which is especially applicable in this case. Moreover, we should be careful not to kid ourselves in saying, “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam,” (or in a more general sense, that religious violence has nothing to do with religion) since ISIS very much has a lot to do with Islam (and religious violence a lot to do with religion), and saying otherwise merely blinds us to the reality of the negative elements within this ummah. For such elements cannot be purged and prevented from further arising unless identified as they are, unless we are willing to call a spade, a spade.

    Now, of course, if you are defining Islam from a religious point of view as submission to God, then there is of course a sharp distinction between “true Islam” and heresy and innovation (bidʿah), but from a critical, sociological perspective, such a definition does not work, since the researcher must be objective. ISIS certainly considers themselves as Muslims — in fact, as the only true Muslims (one reason for their classification as Khawārij) — but even from a religious standpoint, this definition is problematic within religious dialogue. To declare ISIS as Khawārij and therefore non-Muslim brings us to the problem of “Who is a Muslim?” which is yet to be truly resolved despite all efforts, and it also represents a tendency which is generally ascribed to the Khawārij. They, and ISIS, are infamous for their takfīr, and it is said that since they engage in such a practice they are linked to the Khawārij. However, if you declare ISIS as non-Muslim, you are thereby engaging in an act of takfīr yourself, even if they are engaged in clear-cut kufr. Almost every sect of Islam holds themselves to be the only true Muslims, hence the prevalence of the famous ‘Hadith of the Seventy-three Sects,’ which predicts that the ummah will divide into seventy-three principal sects of which only one will be saved. This is thus not an element unique to the Khawārij and the presence of such a characteristic within the theology of ISIS lends no credence to the Khawārij label. The very act of defining ‘Muslim’ according to any kind of definition stricter than “one who claims to be Muslim” is itself an act on the verge of takfīr, which is the declaration of a self-professed Muslim to be a non-Muslim.

    Thus, if ISIS does not represent the Khawārij anymore than they represent Muslims as a whole, as we should agree, then who do they represent? The simple answer is that they represent none other than who they claim to be — Salafī-Jihādīs, since their doctrines are by no means no innovation in a purely historical sense. They have extracted these ideas directly from the writings of scholars so eminent among the Salafīs as Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb and in fact criticise the Saudi government and modern self-proclaimed Salafīs in their publications for not taking these ideas to their logical end.

    One cannot label ISIS as Khawārij unless one also labels Salafīs as Khawārij, since the main three elements of the Khawārij as noted by scholars such as al-Yaʿqūbī in his book Refuting ISIS, namely: (1) khurūj (insurrection), (2) takfīr (excommunication), and (3) istiʿrāḍ (indiscriminate murder) are not unique at all to classified terrorist groups but prevalent among Salafīs of all stripes, particularly among the so-called ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels and their armchair supporters in the West and elsewhere.

    From their perspective, their rebellion against Assad is not an unlawful khurūj against a Muslim ruler, since they do not believe Assad to be a Muslim ruler at all but rather an apostate (murtadd), unbeliever (kāfir), and polytheist (mushrik), since Assad is from an Alawite family. Of course, by all indications, the Assad family does not hold any Alawite religious beliefs and are standard Sunnīs, and neither do many Syrian Alawites do to the ‘Sunnification’ project enacted by Hafez al-Assad. There are two problems, however: (1) Assad’s government is secular, and (2) he is nevertheless from an Alawite family and enjoys support from the majority of the Alawites in Syria. The Salafī rebels (including ISIS and al-Qaeda) have therefore declared him an apostate for his failure to implement the sharīʿah as the law of the land and have declared him guilty of shirk by reason of this and his association with the Alawite minority. Certain sects of the Khawārij had no different of a methodology. If a Muslim ruler was sinful, it was permissible to engage in khurūj against him, and the simple proof of this is their own actions in supporting the murder of ʿUthmān and in rebelling against ʿAlī. Likewise, the Salafīs engage in takfīr in claiming themselves to be the “saved sect” to the exclusion of all others, and their merciless violence and enmity towards the non-Sunnīs of Syria is well-known.

    If, therefore, you desire to apply the label of Khawārij to ISIS, then you should also be comfortable in applying it to these Salafī-Takfīrīs, whose behaviour in Syria, where they actually back up their words with action unlike these armchair Salafīs in the West, is near-identical to that of the Khawārij as depicted by Muslim heresiographers.
     
    #1 Komori, May 18, 2019
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
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  2. Amanaki

    Amanaki Well-Known Member

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    Why put a label on anyone? What any person do that is of evil action does not need a label, it is seen as evil deeds. No matter if it is IS or any other group.
     
    #2 Amanaki, May 18, 2019
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
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  3. osgart

    osgart Nothing my eye, Something for sure

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    I would probably assign them a case number instead of an official religious label.

    Identify them according to their individual names and criminal behaviour.

    Get a history on them is useful.
     
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  4. sooda

    sooda Veteran Member

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    Certainly is incredibly complicated.............
     
  5. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    It is not complicated to note that child molesters,
    bank robbers, atomic spies, drug lords and divers
    other plagues upon the earth are not irrational.
     
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  6. Niblo

    Niblo Active Member

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    Salah Al-Ansari and Usama Hasan write:

    ‘It is as disingenuous to argue that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, as it is to argue that “they are Islam per se”. Any intra-Muslim argument responding to jihadism will inevitably revolve around Islamic texts. Just as the Inquisition had something to do with Catholicism – and as will be abundantly clear in this work – ISIS has something to do with Islam. Not nothing, not everything, but clearly something.

    'Refusing to name the islamist ideology only furthers blurring the lines between Islamism and the religion of Islam. Depriving people of a word to address an ideological phenomenon that is intuitively connected to Muslims, not only cedes linguistic clarity to those who insist that Islamism is Islam, it also deprives anti-islamist Muslims of a lexicon with which to distinguish themselves within and beyond their communities.

    ‘Some have asked: Why not use the word Wahhabism – Saudi Arabia's austere version of Islam – to describe this phenomenon? Though fundamentalists in their own right and in dire need of reform, not all Wahhabis are islamists. Just as not all islamists are Wahhabis. Hezbollah is a jihadist Shia — non-Wahhabi — organisation.

    ‘Similar in ways to the Amish in the US, in Saudi Arabia there are many Wahhabis who are ultrareligious conservatives, while remaining staunchly apolitical. This is in accordance to the teachings of one of their late religious leaders, the hadith scholar Shaikh Muhammad Nasir-ud-Din al-Albani. On the other hand, extremism is too general a word, and includes all forms of extremism. Being too broad, it precludes a specific response to the phenomenon being addressed. Islamism and Muslim fundamentalism therefore are the only accurate words that capture two concurrent problems within modern Muslim contexts: first, the desire to impose any version of Islam over society; and second, a rigid, intolerant adherence to medieval views on scripture. Till now, there have been no other alternative words presented that work.’ (‘Tackling Terror: A Response to Takfiri Terrorist Theology). My emphasis.
     
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  7. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
    Premium Member It's My Birthday!

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    Question: Shahada is not enough to be recognized as a True Muslim? Or is it a matter of behaving like a True Muslim?
     
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  8. sooda

    sooda Veteran Member

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    What religion are you referring to?
     
  9. james dixon

    james dixon Well-Known Member
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    I hear all this talk about ISIS; while no one talks about where they are getting their funding or what country they came from or who is supplying their arms?

    If they were representing a “country” we would know it; but they are not, so who are they, where is the money coming from; what is their goal?

    In my search for these answers this is what I found. Please post your comments while proving the evidence I found to be false.

    ISIS, Israel, Iraq, And Syria: It’s All Part Of The Plan--?
    Putin Aide Says Israel is Training ISIS
    Putin Aide Says Israel is Training ISIS

    Updated: Israeli General Captured in Iraq Confesses to Israel-Isis Coalition\“There is a strong cooperation between MOSSAD and ISIS top military commanders...Israeli advisors helping the Organization on laying out strategic and military plans, and guiding them in the battlefield”
    https://tinyurl.com/ycwr8oaa

    UN Report Reveals How Israel is Coordinating with ISIS Militants Inside Syria
    https://tinyurl.com/y8nv6tqw

    ISIS is a Creation of the Mossad
    http://tinyurl.com/zw7z58l

    If you find this unbelievable, just saying so isn’t enough.

    Please prove it here and now!
    :)-
     
  10. sooda

    sooda Veteran Member

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    ISIS got their money from smuggling, drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and oil sales.

    Mossad isn't training ISIS. ISIS came out of Camp Bucca prison in Iraq... They were Baathist soldiers in Saddam's army.
     
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  11. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    None in particular, possibly all in general.

    The op was kind of overstating the obvious in refuting
    the "irrational, madmen".

    As in my brief list, to which we could add many more
    atrocities, none are the acts of "madmen".

    Noted that being sane and rational does only makes the,
    say, rape of Nanjing, the inquisition, the behaviour of ISIS
    that much worse.
     
  12. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    Ah, it is America's fault.
     
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  13. sooda

    sooda Veteran Member

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    Whatever.
     
  14. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Apparently it depends a whole lot on context and expectations.
     
  15. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I am glad to see some Muslims finally admit that maybe ISIS are Muslims after all.

    I was truly tired to see people state that they "must" be non-Muslims, "clearly".
     
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  16. Komori

    Komori Member

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  17. Gandalf

    Gandalf He Who Toots His Horn

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    One thing that baffles me about this is the prevailing notion that ISIS is somehow not a Muslim organization. It doesn't mean its an ideal Islamic group yet alone a true Kilafah, plenty of very legitimate religious sects are heavily shunned inwardly by the own outer group. Look at the divide Protestants have had with Catholics.

    I recall growing up and hearing all sorts of nonsense about Catholics from my Protestant family and hearing them profess how Catholics aren't Christian in the slightest bit. Despite the fact they built the very backbone of Christianity to this day.

    ISIS is Muslim, nobody said anything about them being knowledgeable Muslims yet alone righteous Muslims
     
  18. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Welcome to RF!


    Yeah, that one was a puzzler for me for quite a while. Learning about the likely explanations was quite enlightening, and did not help my regard for Islaam any. It is a fascinating, if depressing, lesson to learn.

    Very true, but you are failing to consider some taboos that are very specific to Islaam. To this day Muslims live under the shadow of very conflicting self-imposed directives, and it does not help that they have learned to, in effect, accept idolatry of monotheism itself as the "proper" attitude for a supposedly religious person.

    For many Muslims a lot of emotional investiment hinges on having a clear picture of who they support and who they hate, and deciding who counts as "true" Muslims is a very sensitive yet much necessary part of that.

    I sincerely hope that more Muslims understand and accept that, but I am not optimistic.
     
  19. james dixon

    james dixon Well-Known Member
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    I provided links to support my post,.,.Now it's your turn
     
  20. sun rise

    sun rise "Let there be peace and love among all"
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    I appreciate the detailed and informative comments in this thread. I noted a couple of things.
    I went on a "merry chase" on the internet to find out more about this and found Is the 73-sects hadith authentic? which indicates that there are basically two versions of that hadith with a lot of discussion about what it means. I found a lot of discussion claiming that the author's "sect" was the one saved one, if you accept that version of the Hadith.

    This, to me, is similar to Christian end times rapture writings claiming that one group will be saved.

    That is a great statement of the fundamental problem. While it's most evident in Islam, that problem is also evident in Christianity with the groups advocating "dominion theology" of course without the terrorist activity, at least currently.
     
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