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Saturday, November 14th 2015


Militant Islam, part 2

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: just as tired

Continued from the previous post.

The Kharijites

Taking Aïsha out of the picture did not uncomplicate matters very much. The big question between the followers of Ali and Muawiyah was, "Should the caliphate belong 1) to someone who was highly regarded in a particular tribe or b) to a descendant of the prophet?" A third group, called the Kharijites (“Dissenters") emerged with the message that neither criterion was true to Islam. They observed that it had hardly been a bare thirty years after Muhammad’s death, and already the people had lost their way, treating the caliphate as though it were a kind of monarchy. They insisted that the truest and purest of all Muslims should be the one chosen to be caliph, even if he had been nothing more than a slave boy. Descent or social standing should have nothing to do with the selection. The fact that such inappropriate criteria were being used to designate the caliph, led the Kharijites to conclude that many supposed Muslims had become apostate. They had already fallen back into the ignorance and darkness of the time before Muhammad (the jahiliyyah). If so, these lapsed Muslims were considered to be worse than unbelievers and potentially subject to execution. K

The Kharijites acted on their beliefs. When Ali started to negotiate with Muawiya rather than fight him, a group of Kharijites assassinated him. They did not think of themselves as either Sunni or Shi’ite (which were still in their embryonic states).

While we are touching on the Shi’ites, it is important to realize for what follows that Shi’ite Islam has constituted the majority population of both Iran and Iraq once they became Islamic. However, the area that we now call Iraq has been governed by Sunnis for almost all of that time: the Umayyad dynasty followed by the Abbasids, the Selkuk Turks, the Ottoman Turks, the Hashemite monarchy (imposed by Great Britain), and the B’ath party of Saddam Hussein.­­­

As a distinct group the Kharijites did not last very long, but similar movements, which we can call “neo-Kharijite” have popped up again and again during the history of Islam. Please read my website, Groups of Islam, or Neighboring Faiths for more of what transpired as I will try to limit myself to only the most relevant parts here. The point is that these neo-Kharijite groups would not have arisen if Islam had been practiced in the pure, unadulterated form that they expected. Some developments within Islam went into the direction of mysticism (i.e. Sufism), as well as adaptations to folk religion and superstitions. 


One response to these alleged deviations came from Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (1703-1792), who initiated a significant reform movement in what is now known as Saudi Arabia. When most of the Arabian Peninsula came under Saudi rule in the early twentieth century, “Wahhabism" became mandatory, and anyone who did not comply with its teachings was liable to be executed. It is a rather rigid form of Islam, forbidding anything that could be interpreted as idolatry (shirk), such as the veneration of Muslim saints or their gravesites, not even making an exception for the burial site of Muhammad in Medina. A central concept in Wahhabism is tawhid, which basically means “oneness” and refers to the one God (Allah) alone as being worthy of worship.

The Wahhabi movement came about in order to purify Islam. Countries that adopted it have not been hospitable to other religions or versions of Islam, but on the whole, their initiatives have been internal. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the two other countries in which it has made its home are the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan, where the Taliban forced Wahhabi interpretations of the Qur’an on the people for a time (and would like to do so again). But there is no caliphate in Wahhabism. The kings of Saudi Arabia claim to have a divine mandate to rule, but they do not refer to themselves as caliphs.

One of the crucial tenets of Wahhabism is that no Muslim should follow human teachers in their beliefs and practices. Consequently, Wahhabis do not care for that label and prefer to be called Salafis, which means that they follow the pattern set by Islam under the first three caliphs.  We will meet the term Salafi again. Whether they like labels or not, Wahhabism is clearly a part of Sunni Islam, and, if I may give you some terms without explaining them here, they are Ash’arite in outlook and Hanbalite in their shari’a. 

Qutbism and al-Qaeda

Even though Osama bin Laden (1957-2011), the eventual leader of al-Qaeda, grew up in Saudi Arabia under Wahhabi teaching, he eventually turned into a different, far more radical direction, inspired by the writings of Seyyid Qutb (1906-1966). Qutbism and its philosophical allies deny the legitimacy of any human government (including a caliphate) and look for a totally Islamic world, which will be governed by Shari’a alone. According to them, not only non-Islamic countries, but also all Muslim countries that are governed by human beings (and they all are, without exception) are in the state of jahiliyyah (darkness and ignorance). The Saudi government is not only included in that judgment, but was singled out by Osama over and over again as a case in point of such apostasy.

I’m sorry for playing the same record so many times over the last few years, but I must continue to urge you to read Milestones by Seyyid Qutb. I’m certainly happy if you just take my word for the summary, but if there is any doubt in your mind concerning the utter destructiveness of some Islamic ideologies, this book should resolve it for you.

The Qur’an teaches that Islam should not be propagated by the sword (Sura 2:256). People should be able to come to a free decision of the truth. Consequently, many Muslim apologists today go to extraordinary lengths to explain away the various aggressive wars fought by Muslims ever since its birth. For our purposes right now, this issue is irrelevant because al-Qaeda and other followers of Seyyid Qutb not only acknowledge that there have been Muslim wars of aggression, but advocate that they must be resumed.

Qutbites agree that one should only become a Muslim by free choice when one recognizes the truth, but declare that people today do not have true freedom to make such a choice since they are “enslaved" to human governments. Thus, the primary item of their present agenda is to abolish governments, both those of non-Muslims and of the multitude of pseudo-Muslims who live within the recrudescence of jahiliyyah. In order to make a truly free choice concerning Islam, people need to live in a truly Islamic environment, and that is one in which only Shari’a is needed without people to enforce it. In short, it takes global violence in order to arrive at a state where only one ideology (Islam) rules, and then, finally, people will be free to choose whether they want to be Muslims or not.

Let me repeat a point that I’ve made several times in various places in order to illustrate this idea. It has been stated multiple times that al-Qaeda’s attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11/2000 was irrational because it not only killed non-Muslims, but Muslims as well. This particular inconsistency vanishes under the Qutbite paradigm because any supposed Muslim working in the Twin Towers would surely be in the state of jahiliyyah, and, thus, be subject to destruction just as much as any other infidel. Anyone who is not a Muslim in accord with the principles of Qutb and al-Qaeda is a hypocrite, and the Qur’an destines hypocrites to a worse fate than unbelievers. Sura 4:145: “The Hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire: no helper will you find for them; -“

Next installment: ISIS

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