Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Are Muslims going crazy? An attempt to make sense of recent events

The last two weeks, despite it being the month of Ramadan, a time of prayer, fasting, introspection and charity, it seems that the Muslims worldwide  has been set afire! The car and knife attacks in London last week are well known, as well as an incident in which a young man attacked a police officer in Paris, but also we have had the same sort of incidents in places within the Muslim world, such as Kabul, and today we are witnessing the aftermath of attacks on the Iranian Parliament and the shrine of Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini.

The London attack brought to my mind nothing from Muslim history, or even civilization memories of long ago, but rather, a television show produced by FOX. Called simply THE FOLLOWING, it depicts a serial killer named Joe Carrol, a former university professor who focuses on classical literature [in particular the writings of Edgar Allen Poe] who manages, even after his initial capture, to gather, via the internet, numerous followers, hailing from diverse racial and economic backrounds. Throughout the series, any and all excuse was given to fulfill the bloodlust of this figure, and, of course, the series had also exposed in their story line different sets of villains, motivations, organizations, plots and twists.Copy cat killers and desperate personalities seeking fame and glory, as well as political intrigue, also played their parts. ISIS and its likes are precisely the same way, and it would not come as a surprise to this writer that ISIS members are found to have viewed this program and programs like it on a regular basis.

Is it really Islam which motivates killing sprees?

It's important to understand that anyone can make just about any claim as to their own motivations. The French writer Gabriel Meurier aptly observes: " He who excuses himself, accuses himself."

The human mind has great abilities to both see the truth and to hide it, to explain away and to justify, to rationalize bad decisions.  Moreover, as individuals we are extremely complex, full of  paradoxes which we are not always able to understand ourselves or to be adequately understood by others.

As a person who has been studying these subjects for many years, it is my view that it is wrong to simply say "Islam is the cause". The cause[s] vary from place to place and person to person. I think such actions, when taking place in clearly defined war contexts or on the battlefield, is universally understood, even if disliked by some and approved of by others.

However, how does that work in London, Paris, Orlando, and let us not forget, Charleston, South Carolina [where Dylann Roof shot to death nine people in an African American Church in  the hopes of starting a race war]?

In those cases, one cannot simply look at the religion, race or even class of the perpetrator. One can and should look at his stated motivations, but also at what is hidden, what is behind the image. That is mainly the job of sociologists, psychologists and those in similar fields.

What does Islam say about violence?

The first source is, of course, The Qur'an, the Islamic scripture. It is seen as God's word and no other source is seen as superior to it. In it, we read a very long list of basic principles, similar to what Christians call the Ten Commandments (ft.1), and among the directives, we have "And do not kill the soul, which God has eternally forbidden [Harrama], except in justice. And whoso is killed unjustly, God has given his heirs authority, [yet even then], so do not be excessive in the retribution, as he [the heir] is assisted [legally]" [Q 17: 33]

In other words, killing is seen as forbidden, and if and when it does happen, from the perspective of Islamic laws, the family of the victim has the right to demand capital punishment, to have financial compensation. Moreover, when capital punishment is applied or sought after, it is not to become a  free for all. This is particularly important in feudalistic societies, where cycles of revenge taking can last generations.

The above Quranic command is also alluded to in 2:178. There, it clearly states that regardless of the status of the victim or the killer, capital punishment remains an option if that is what the victim's family demands. It is worthy of emphasis that the victim's  family has more say on the matter than the state in normative Islamic jurisprudence.

In another place within the scripture the principle has been given that is well known to the Judeo-Christian tradition, "...Whosoever kills a is like he has killed all of mankind, and if he saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of mankind." [Q 5:32].

In the same verse, as well as in 5:33, we have rather severe options given to deal with murder, as well as creating social chaos in general.

What about Jihad?

The term Jihad simply refers to struggle, and can be used in war and non war contexts. While we don't dispute that it has been used in war contexts, it is worth noting that Jihad as a war cannot be simply launched by anyone. Killing random people on the streets, innocents who have nothing to do with anything, cannot be justified in the name of Islam. Indeed, it seems to us that such actions fall under what is mentioned as "chaos" in 5:33, bringing forth a potential severe punishment from the authorities.

It is clear that the brains behind the acts in Paris, London, Kabul, Egypt, Syria, and other places have in mind spreading chaos. They want people to be afraid. They also seem to want Muslim minorities in Western nations to be in a state of fear, to be viewed with suspicion by the wider society.

It does not matter the religious or ethnic identity of the masterminds, I have no qualms in calling them out as evil, as people who are far away from religion, as folks who are master manipulators with desires for greatness, who serve their own egos rather than serving Allah, the Lord of creation.

Suicide bombings/attacks

This has been almost universally condemned in the Muslim world by Muslim scholars. Countless books, pamphlets, articles, position papers and speeches have been composed by scholars within every sect and orientation within Islam on this subject. In the modern age it is said that the ones who started this particular tactic was not Muslims, but rather Tamil Tiger rebels on the Indian subcontinent. Later, it was picked up by Muslim groups of various places and persuasions, in places such as Lebanon and Palestine.

In legitimate war contexts, all kinds of things can and do happen. Indeed, in the USA and other places we have what are called war movies, either fictionalized or depictions of real historical battles, in which soldiers sacrifice their lives.

Whatever one thinks of this, this is still not the same as what we are continually witnessing. Suicide bombings on Christian Church services in Egypt, or suicide attacks on Shiite worshipers offering prayers in Pakistani mosques, or at nightclubs and the like.

The Qur'an says "and do not take your own hands as to bring forth [your own]  destruction.." (Q 2:195].

An even more clear sentence in the scripture says "And do not kill yourselves." [Q 4:29].

So if both murder and suicide have been condemned in the Qur'an, how about killing one's own self along with innocent others? The answer should be obvious, it is not allowed!

Looking at all of this from the perspective of belief in the texts of Islam

The hadeeth literature, texts which tell of of reports emanating from the Prophet Muhammad, relate to us that the Prophet, upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings, gave several signs as indicators of the coming day of Judgement. It is a day that, the Qur'an says, none should have any doubt about its eventual arrival [ Q 3: 9]. We have discussed many of them in the past (ft.2), but one of them is the emergence of what is called Maseeh id Dajjal, or simply"Dajjal".

Al Maseeh Ad Dajjal is translated usually as "The False Christ" or simply "Anti-Christ". The issues surrounding eschatology are complicated and highly debated, and while others focus on a particular personality to fit the description, this writer looks at it from the term Dajjal. In everyday Arabic, it is used for deceiver, and is often associated with a tyrannical ruler.

In other words, one of the signs of the age close to the Day of Judgement is that great deceptions will take place. Guidance will be lost, not just in religious affairs, but in the social and political arena. People, often damaged by the vices and soul crushing aspects of the modern world, will look for peace and meaning in all the wrong places. Another hadeeth words the situation as "Knowledge will be of low account, ignorance will be abundant" [Yaqillul 'ilmu, wa yaktharul Jahl]. Indeed, we even have a hadeeth which reports the Prophet as saying that killing would be so abundant that neither the killer nor the victim will understand why it is happening!

Dajjalic influences are not simply felt on Non Muslims! It is universally felt. The deceivers fool everyone in different ways and at different areas. The hadeeth literature speaks on social upheavals as well as violent confrontation between groups of powerful entities. The evil influences are widespread, so that today people can kill in the name of religion and in the name of race/ nation alike, as we saw recently with Jeremy Joseph Christian, in Portland, Oregon, expressed pride in killing two men who had come to the defense of Muslim women.(ft.3)

So what can do, if this is the age of great deception

A comprehensive answer cannot be given in this brief composition. The suggestions we have largely come from Islamic teachings themselves, but also from my own views, hopefully shaped in a correct way by Islam itself. These tips are also useful for Non Muslim readers.

[1] Be consistent in prayer: Strive to connect to God in a regular way and on a regular basis.

[2] Be studious: In this age, it is needed to stay informed and educated. Dedicate a part of your budget to the purchase of books [and not simply websites and news channels] on important social, economic and political subjects. If possible, learn another language in addition to your own native tongue. Don't be afraid to stand corrected on a topic you were previously misinformed on.

[3] Have good company and family ties: Spend time outside with your family, seek out mates and company of decent people.

[4] Avoid intoxicants and obsessions with vices: Weaknesses can be easily exploited and themselves be the foundation of becoming a victim.

[5] Be willing to travel: for your own health and sanity, it may become necessary to not only travel, but to move to another place.

This is by no means comprehensive, but nonetheless a good place to start.(ft.4)


[1] Robert Alter, in his Bible commentary and translation The Five Books of Moses ( 2004, New York, W.W. Norton & Company] gives a brief summary of the ten commandments not actually, in the original text, adding up to that number. Nonetheless, it has become a great part of Western thinking and legal foundations.

[2] Among the places we have addressed Judgement day, see "Considering the day of Judgement" at [url][/url] , "Judgement day: lessons from the Qur'an and Sunnah" [url][/url] and "Signs of Judgement day" at [url][/url].

[3] On a Portland train, Christian was yelling at two women, one of whom was a Muslim. Three men came to the defense of the young ladies, and Christian reacted by repeatedly stabbing all three, two of whom died. Unfortunately, this event, which happened in May, has yet to get the wide attention that it deserves. In court, Christian yelled out, in part, "This is America, get out if you don't like free speech.". A little more information can be found at [url][/url]

[4] I am compelled here to mention that we must be careful in accepting claims at first glance. That is not only common sense, but it is a Quranic command [Q 49:6]. Many writers associate great deceptions with everything from terms such as the Illuminati to victims brainwashed to do certain actions in a Manchurian Candidate style event. We simply don't know which, if any, of those particular scenarios apply to the overall issues under discussion. We should simply exercise caution in accepting as truth anything that is presented to us, regardless of the source.


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Non Believer said...

Hi Waheed. I'm responding to your comment on whyislam that "one site I saw mentioned 88% of British Muslims were dead set against terrorism. " As I've said, I would rather respond to you on whyislam, but the administrator seems to be afraid of my honest and analytical approach to the life of Muhammad and his followers.

88% is a very, very low number when it comes to a statistic like this. Kinda like if I said you have an 88% chance that you won't be murdered today, you wouldn't feel very secure.

If 12% of my neighbours are not dead set against terrorism then that is a huge problem. If that number is typical worldwide and there are nearly 2 billion Muslims, that works out to over 200,000,000 Muslims who are not dead set against terrorism.

In this posting you talk about the prohibition on "suicide". However, you are guilty of ignoring the "nuances" of suicide. Every major society has a prohibition on suicide; yet there are times when we accept that suicide might possibly be the proper course. We need to consider the circumstances and motivations of the person.

I would rather use the word "martyr" than "suicide attacker" when describing these attacks by Muslims which are directed specifically against non-Muslims. And, ask you if you consider "martyrdom" something that is prohibited in Islam.

An example that I have been studying it that of Zayd ibn Haritha, Jafar ibn Abi Talib, and Abdullah ibn Rawahah at the Battle of Mu'tah. These men had the opportunity to withdraw and to avoid the conflict, but they chose a battle at which they would almost certainly die. Quite simply, they chose to die, suicidally, for Islam; in no way were they defending themselves and their homes. They say that Muhammad wept upon hearing the news, and I believe that. Surely he regretted that he was responsible for their death.

Please try to read this article from a non-Muslim perspective and you will understand why non-Muslim disagree with you about terrorism being prohibited:

"O! My soul, you look as if you were afraid to cross the way that leads to Paradise. O! My soul, I took an oath to fight. O My soul, death is inevitable, so you had better be martyred. Now I will experience the inevitability of death. What you have cared for so long is finally yours. So go ahead, for if you follow these two heroes, you will be guided to the way of Paradise."

"0 my people, by Allah, we do not fight our enemies with numbers, strength or equipment, but rather with this religion which Allah has honored us with. So go right ahead: it is either one of two equally good options, victory or martyrdom."

This is uniquely Islamic, and I have heard that words like these are on the lips of Islamic terrorists. It is a terrible thing to exult these men who "died for Islam" and use their exploits to inspire modern day violence.

And don't try telling me that non-combatants are protected. I've already pointed out to you times when they were not protected and when defenceless civilians were murdered.

As I've said before, I don't think that these events were atypical for the times and I won't judge these men using our modern Western standards. I only ask that Muslims rethink what it is that they are praising as an example for today. Emulating these examples can inspire much evil in the world.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

Hello N.B.

It seems that there is a serious tilt against towards Islam and Muslims, being reflected in your posts. Do try to consider the following.

{1} Stats, such as the figure shared in my WI post ( I'm actually a bit surprised you are following that discussion, I have a hard enough time trying to follow it) in which questions are asked and answered, can be a bit deceiving. Perhaps that 12% wanted to say something else, expressed sympathies towards this or that, and that ends up being read as "supporting terrorism" or the like.

(2) In terms of "Martyr", such concepts are found all over the world, not just in the Islamic tradition. There is a difference between war and terrorism, between combat and murder, between suicide and being willing to give one's life in a just cause.

(3) Muslims can be villains, just as any other group. However, Islam is not for that at all. The Prophet Muhammad himself prohibited the targeting of non-combatants. The Qur'an itself says to make peace with those who make peace with you. It says that God does not approve of aggression. The book I referred to before [by MMA] has detailed these rules with the appropriate references.

Non Believer said...

"There is a difference between war and terrorism, between combat and murder, between suicide and being willing to give one's life in a just cause."

You've just agreed with me... being willing to give one's life in a just cause is different from suicide. A suicide bomber is giving his life for a just cause, or so he believes. Your "whataboutism" about "Martyr" doesn't change what I've already said about Martyrdom in Islamic tradition. A suicide bomber believing that he will be rewarded by Allah is happy to martyr himself by attacking what he believes to be Evil... it's what Abdullah ibn Rawahah said he should do.

Since I don't believe in a Hereafter, I would have to find a better reason to sacrifice myself.

Like it or not, these concepts are deeply ingrained in Islam. Don't blame me for my "serious tilt" when I've supported my position with clear evidence. Islam must change itself from within, by reconsidering its stories and rejecting those which don't work in the present day.

For example, the Battle of Mu'tah should be seen for what it was... a futile attempt at vengeance, ill conceived and an embarrassment for Muhammad. It also proves that there was no "army of angels" travelling with the Muslim army wherever it went, though I don't think you actually believe that Muhammad was literally aided by angels, do you?