Dominating media and the talk of governments around the globe is the “Islamic State” (aka ISIS, IS, ISIL and in Arabic “Daesh”) but many miss the irony of calling the terror group an “Islamic State”. Less than a month ago, Muslim scholars from across the Middle East region and the globe wrote a letter to this supposed caliphate calling out the illegitimate usage of the Qu’ran and deeming the group on whole as un-Islamic. Many Muslims are infuriated by ISIS as it contextualizes/misrepresents holy Islamic script, the massacres in the name of ‘Allah’ and prophet Mohamed, and the human rights atrocities that the terror group has committed against Muslim and even non-Muslim people. ISIS clings to this religious legitimacy as around the world they are called “the Islamic State” or the “Caliphate” even though in the eyes of most Muslims the group is quite the opposite.
An article produced in Time magazine entitled “ISIS is Not Just Un-Islamic, It is Anti-Islamic” by Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), tells the personal frustration he has with ISIS as a misrepresentative group. He claims that “ISIS is little more than a criminal gang that attaches itself like a leech to revered symbols of Islam.” Mr. Awad is extremely upset with not only the “anti-Islamic” actions but also the image that the group has given to non extreme Muslims. Even the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (or the equivalent of a Muslim United Nations) says that ISIS “has nothing to do with Islam” and has committed atrocities that “cannot be tolerated.” Awad believes that the only way to stop ISIS is to “deny it any claim to represent Islam and starve it of the fuel of injustice”. By depriving the terror group of their believed Islamic legitimacy, many believe that the Islamic group would shrink if not die off by natural ideological causes.
It is believed that IS misinterprets the Qu’ran or completely ignores it in some cases For example at time Islam does call for self defense but in no case does the Qu’ran defend aggressive action against anyone. A verse from the Qu’ran states “And fight in the cause of God those who fight against you, and do not commit aggression. Indeed God does not love those who are aggressors,” (The Quran, 2:190). In another instance, IS uses half a verse of the Qu’ran and completely out of context to justify beheadings. The first part of the verse used is as follows “Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks.” however the often ignored continued part of the verse goes like this “At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind the captives firmly. Therefore is the time for either generosity or ransom.” Islam is essentially a religion of peace, compassion, and upholding high moral character sanctioned by Holy text. The Qu’ran has throughout history been misinterpreted or marred by extremists, a phenomena that happens across the board in regards to religions (i.e. Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, as well). Some Islamic scholars argue that there is a either a lack in reading skills or simply a forced bad interpretation of the Holy books, while others believe that the group, specifically Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (the supposed Caliph), that the group is using Islam to exploit a power vacuum in the region. In either instance, majority of Muslims believe that the usage of the Qu’ran and Islam by the “Islamic State” does not sanction the un-Islamic atrocities the group commits.
However,it is important to note that I am not specifically calling members of the Islamic State not Muslims by title or by preceding information. The idea I pose is that the actions of this group are un-Islamic or anti-Islamic, not the people themselves. After talking to my devout Sunni Muslim colleague, I learned that many Muslims believe it is not their place to call someone non-Muslim when they claim to be so. It is said that after a person says the Shahada(entrance prayer into the faith) then it is the place of God to judge a person. This does not mean that Muslims agree with IS, it means they reserve the right of God to decide whether a person is Muslim. AND, as a Muslim you can look at the action and say this is immoral, this is not Islam. From a general consensus, is misinterpreting, misrepresenting, and dishonoring Islam but other members of Islam cannot rightly deem a person “non-Muslim”.
There is an obvious and large discrepancy between the theological foundation of the “Islamic State”, or more appropriately “Daesh”, and the ‘fatwas’ (rulings/decisions) of Islamic scholars across the globe. It is not just Islamic scholars who claim IS to be an embarrassment to the faith. It is also just followers who feel that they are being misrepresented. Just here in Athens, Ohio Professor Ahmed says that DAESH is an “embarassment” and is distressed by the group’s incorrect usage of the Islamic faith.What does this mean for a group that calls itself “the Islamic State” and intent on setting up a Caliphate where most scholars and Muslims reject all or most of the core beliefs? What does this mean for the role of Muslims in the fight against ISIS? Can we strip ISIS of it’s ties to Islam? Can we strip the group of their identity as a Muslim group? The future in regards to the non-Islamic “Islamic State” is uncertain as the world waits for an action or reaction to the mass atrocities and misuse of Islam, a religion of non-aggression and peace.
Food for thought: The word Islam comes from the root word “salaam” meaning peace.