After the Paris attacks, here’s how to think about the relationship between ISIS and Islam


Source: The Washington Post

The horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night have sparked yet another debate about the Islamic State and Islam. The question boils down to this:Does Islamic scripture justify the violent actions of ISIS?

It’s worth noting at the outset that Islamic scripture is vast. It’s not just the Koran; it includes many statements later attributed to Muhammad, the founder of Islam, by his followers. Muslim scholars debate the authenticity of these scriptures like Christian scholars debate the authenticity of various passages in the Gospels.

Because the body of scripture is so large, it’s full of contradictions. Christians, for example, are both praised as brethren and scorned as infidels. Different schools of thought proliferated in early Islam to make sense of the contradictions. The Islamic State belongs to one of the more austere of those schools, so it’s already predisposed to intolerant readings of Islamic scripture.

Just as there are many passages in Islamic scripture that one could cite to justify religious intolerance, there are plenty more that justify violence. After all, Muhammad waged a war to establish a religious state. He fought infidels, assassinated rivals and executed prisoners. His career has a lot in common with the leaders of the ancient Hebrews, who established their own religious state.

Still, Muhammad was not Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He could be lenient with his adversaries, make truces with his enemies and collaborate with the infidels for the common good.

The Islamic State elides these parts of Muhammad’s career or argues that they don’t apply today; its enemies are simply too powerful or too ruthless. The best example of this is the burning of the Jordanian pilot. Muhammad expressly forbade the burning of apostates, which is what the Islamic State labeled him.

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Categories: Arab World, Asia, Uncategorized

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