It is nearly twenty years since 9/11, and yet the media coverage of the events of a few weeks ago in Christchurch, and now in Sri Lanka, suggests journalists and politicians still have little to no understanding of Islam and what it is all about. Politicians, I can understand, but it would appear that journalism courses no longer extend to basic research. On that basis I have felt compelled to write a brief introduction to Islam which I present here. My apologies to long term Quadrant readers, who probably would have picked all all this up in around 2001.
To really understand Islam it is only necessary to understand three things.
Muslims openly — go Google it, it’s no secret — divide the world into the Dar al Islam and the Dar al Harb. “Dar al Islam” translates as “The region under Islamic control”, or more literally since “Islam” translates as “submission”, “the region that has submitted (to Islam).” “Dar al Harb” translates literally as “The region of war”, that is, the region that has yet to submit to Islam. It is the duty of every Muslim to advance the cause of Islam, that is, advance the cause of submission in the Dar al Harb. Australia is part of the Dar al Har, and so, to those who take their creed as seriously as the sacred texts urge, Islam is quite openly, and quite literally, “at war” with Australia and will remain so until it too “submits” and becomes part of the Dar al Islam. Verse (ayat) 29 from the Sura 9 (Repentance) of the Qur’an pretty much spells that out:
9:29 “Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe in neither God nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what God or His apostle have forbidden, and do not embrace the Faith, until they pay a tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.” (author;s emphasis)
Please note, though, that Harb, that is “war” or “fight”, does not necessarily mean only guns and shooting. It can be more subtle than that. The late Libyan President Gaddafi who, let’s face it, knew a thing or two about Islam said:
We don’t need terrorists, we don’t need homicide bombers. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe – without swords, without guns, without conquests. The 50 Million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.
Yes, Europe is also part of the Dar al Harb. As early as 1974 former Algerian President Hourari Boumedienne, had warned the UN General Assembly:
One day millions of men will leave the southern hemisphere of this planet to burst into the northern one. But not as friends. Because they will burst in to conquer, and they will conquer by populating it with their children. Victory will come to us from the wombs of our women.
Or, as French journalist and writer Annie Laurent puts it, “Childbirth is the jihad of (Islamic) women.”
To put this into an Australian context, ponder this “inexplicable demographic development” from The Australian (14/7/2016) and published under the headline “Middle East, Asian-born mums give nation big baby bump”:
The highest birthrate in Australia by nationality belongs to Lebanese mothers, who have an average 4.03 children – an anomaly experts have trouble explaining because the birthrate in Lebanon is only 1.74.
You don’t need ASIO or conspiracy theorists to tell you Islam’s plans. The cry “Dar al Harb” echoes from the pulpits, the rooftops and maternity wards.
The Doctrine of Taqiyya (literally “the doctrine of prudence”) arises from a verse from Sura 3 (The Imrans) which says:
3:28 Let not the believers make friends with infidel in preference to the faithful – he that does this has nothing to hope from Allah – except in self-defence.
This is interpreted under Sharia Law to mean that while it is considered a sin for a Muslim to deceive or lie to a Muslim, it is not a sin to lie to or deceive a non-Muslim if such deceptions advance the cause of Islam at a time of war (ie “in self-defence”). That is, it is alright to deceive a non-Muslim as long as it advances the cause of “submission”. However, of course, all of the Dar al Harb is considered to be “at war” until submission is completed, so effectively the Doctrine of Taqiyya is always in play. But further, under Sharia Law, we are told that it is considered, not just permissible, but “obligatory” for a Muslim to lie to a non-Muslim if it will advance the cause of Islam. The text reads:
When it is possible to achieve an aim by lying but not telling truth, it is permissible (for a Muslim) to lie to a non-Muslim if the goal is permissible, and lying is obligatory if the goal is obligatory … It is a religiously precautionary in all cases to employ words that give a misleading impression. (my emphasis)
The Doctrine of Taqiyya is highly developed within Islamic theology, and several variants have been isolated and separately defined.
Taqiyya – Saying something that isn’t true as it relates to the Muslim identity. This is a Shiite term: the Sunni counterpart is Muda’rat.
Kitman – Lying by omission. An example would be when Muslim apologists quote only a fragment of verse 5:32 (that if anyone kills “it shall be as if he had killed all mankind”) while neglecting to mention that the rest of the verse (and the next) mandate murder in undefined cases of “corruption” and “mischief.”
Tawriya – Intentionally creating a false impression.
Muruna – ‘Blending in’ by setting aside some practices of Islam or Sharia in order to advance others.
Of course that does not mean that every Muslim lies to non-Muslims and cannot be trusted, but it does mean that on the really big issues affecting Islam and the broader community one should always keep the possibility of Taqiyya in mind. Every time an Islamic spokesperson stands up to speak, one would do well to remind oneself that, “It is a religiously precautionary in all cases to employ words that give a misleading impression.” For a start, one might consider the more than somewhat contradictory messaging about privately considering countries not under Islamic control as being part of a “Region of War” while publicly maintaining that “Islam is the religion of peace”.
Don’t believe any of this? Don’t take my word for it. Just Google “taqiyya” and do your own research.
The Doctrine of Abrogation arises from a number of verses in the Koran which inform us that Allah has chosen to replace some early revelations – (mansukh verses) – with new and “better” ones (naskh verses). In effect, as admonitions to the faithful the naskh verses replace/abrogate the earlier mansukh verses. For example, verse 106 from the second Sura (The Cow):
2:106 “If We abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten, We will replace it by a better one or one similar.”
The abrogated verses are not removed from the Qur’an and then forgotten, they are left in the Qur’an as a trap for the unwary.
It is important to understand the implications of the Doctrine of Abrogation because of the nature of the difference between the abrogating and abrogated verses. In the early days of Islam, when Muhammad was politically weak and isolated in Mecca, the revelations from Allah tended to be conciliatory towards the local Christian and Jewish populations and these revelations, of course, appear in the Qur’an. In 622 AD, however, Muhammad fled from Mecca to Medina, the so-called Hijrah or “flight”, where he rapidly gained political dominance. From this point on the revelations became more strident and aggressive. In particular, the so-called “Sword Verses” are taken to come from this Medinan period. Therefore, under the Doctrine of Abrogation, the contradiction between the early conciliatory verses from the Meccan period, and the later Sword Verses from the Medinan period, has been resolved by the early ones being abrogated by the later ones. In Islam, therefore, the “Sword Verses” are considered to hold sway over many conciliatory passages. Ibn Warraq in “Why I am not a Muslim” pointed out:
For example, the famous verse at Sura 9.5 “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them”, is said to have cancelled 124 verses that dictate toleration and patience.
But this Meccan/Medinan divide, when combined with the Doctrine of Taqiyya, can be used as an important tool for the advancement of Islam. In places, such as in the Dar al-Islam, the later, strident Medinan verses are generally taken, as the Doctrine of Abrogation demands, to represent the correct, “true” and orthodox, form of Islam. However, in the Dar al-Harb, where Muslims are generally in the minority and politically weaker, they are able to follow the more conciliatory abrogated Meccan verses in order to appease local non-Muslim sensibilities. “Islam is a religion of peace” they say, pointing to the Meccan verses. Muslims are generally aware that these are abrogated verses of little theological value but, by application of the principle of Muruna (the setting aside some practices for expediency’s sake) the Meccan verses provide a pragmatic solution for Muslims living under the political circumstances imposed on them in the Dar al-Harb. Thus, by the Doctrine of Taqiyya they are able to represent this as the “true” form of Islam.
Halim Rane in “Muslims in Australia: The Dynamics of Exclusion and Inclusion”, edited by Samina Yasmeen (Random House, 2010), attempted to explain the political implications of how the Doctrine of Abrogation, and the Meccan/Medinan divide can be used by Muslims in real world situations:
In the context of Muslim Foreign policy, Israr Ahmad Khan writes :
‘According to the supporters of naskh all those ayat (verses) which exhort believers to be just, fair, kind and soft in their dealings with non-believers are abrogated by two Quranic rulings 9:5 … and 9:29 … If a society or nation is under the influence of scholars believing in the sanctity of naskh its policy of international relationship will have two different provisions, one applicable to Muslim communities and nations and the other to non-Muslim people and states.
This policy concerning non-Muslims will be based on hatred, contempt, intolerance and violence, as deemed to have been suggested by ayat 9:5 and 9:29. But the state siding with those who reject the theory of naskh as invalid will found its foreign policy on the principles of justice, cooperation, kindness and softness as exhorted by those ayat which are considered abrogated. It will apply the ruling of ayat 9:5 only in a situation of war and to some formidable enemies who avowedly try to harm its national peace, harmony, safety and security.’
We have, of course, encountered verse 9:5 above, and 9:29 even earlier with its link to the doctrine of the Dar al Harb. The Doctrine of Abrogation bestows both verses with the status of naskh verses with the full authority of the Qur’an and cannot simply be ignored.
What does that all mean in practice?
The way I see it, with Christianity, when it goes through a reform period, it naturally goes back to its foundations, back to the New Testament, and back to the living example and teachings of its founder, Jesus: peace, forgiveness, humility, poverty, etc. When Islam goes through a reform process, it too goes back to its roots, back to its founder, and back to the teachings of the Koran. This inevitably means a renewed emphasis on the authorised Medinan verses, while the abrogated Meccan verses are explicitly to be ignored. Remember also that Muhammad is described as the “rightly-guided Prophet” and the “perfect Muslim man”. His seventh century behaviour is therefore regarded as the model for correct Islamic behaviour then, now and forever. It is difficult to see how reform can deliver a “moderate” form of Islam.
As the global influence of the West declines, it is not surprising to see a new trend in the Dar al Islam, with a return to more strident forms of Islam. Recent developments in Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia make the case, with Brunei “set to enact stoning of gays to death” being but one example.
Brunei will become the first Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation next week to enforce draconian sharia law penalties such as death by stoning for adultery and gay sex, and hand and foot amputations for theft. …
Brunei is understood to have modelled its new penal code on one already enforced in the Indonesian province of Aceh, which regularly stages public whippings of those found guilty of homosexuality, adultery, gambling and alcohol consumption. …
But while Aceh, and the Malaysian states of Kelantan and Terengganu, have sought to impose amputations and stoning punishments in their legal systems, political opposition has blocked their implementation.
Meanwhile, in the Dar al-Harb, as Muslims become more numerous and politically stronger, one might expect the emphasis to inevitably move more towards the Medinan verses and the “true form of Islam”, as the expediency of the Meccan verses can be safely put aside.
For sure, it is a fact that many Muslims in the West are actually quite happy to stick with the Meccan verses and the easier, more relaxed and benign version of Islam. They don’t like the hard-line orthodox version that the Medina verses require any more than non-Muslims do. Indeed many moved to the West specifically to escape the old ways. Here one might to point to the assimilated, upright parents of Britain’s 7/7 bombers; their children, however, subscribed to worldview of the Medina scriptures. Muslims inclined to the Meccan persuasion would be well aware that there is limited doctrinal support for their moderate version of Islam within the Qur’an, and even for Muslims open criticism of hard line Islam is an extremely dangerous exercise. A recent example of this, reported in The Australian (8/12/2015), relates the court appearance of “London tube attacker Muhaydin Mire” and explains exactly how it works. The story relates to the attempted murder of a non-Muslim, selected entirely at random, in a London underground station in which a Muslim man came to the aid of the victim:
The 56-year-old victim of the Leytonstone tube station attack who was punched and kicked to the ground and then knifed in the neck “in a sawing motion’’ needed five hours of emergency surgery to a 12cms neck wound. Police were eventually able to subdue and arrest the attacker.
But the immediate response to the vicious attack made by a passer by, who yelled “you ain’t no Muslim bruv’’ has resulted in very different reactions. British Prime Minister David Cameron publicly thanked the person for his “brilliant’’ comment but Islamic scholars said the comment was a sin so severe it was punishable by death.
Even Muslims who have been tweeting their horror of Saturday night’s vicious attack carried out by the 29-year-old East Londoner Muhaydin Mire using the hashtag #youaintnoMuslimbruv are breaking Sharia Law, Islamic experts have claimed to The Mirror.
The UK newspaper reported that Islamic commentators have warned using the hashtag is declaring a Muslim to be a non-Muslim, which is “takfir’’, a sin so severe it is punishable by death. ” (my emphasis)
So here the criticism of the attacker by a fellow Muslim is noted as having the potential to incur the death penalty. Takfir is the unauthorised accusation of one Muslim that another is an unbeliever. And this in Britain! Is it any wonder that “moderates” feel disinclined to speak out and are notable in their absence when the condemnation of terrorist attacks might be expected? To repeat, “moderate” Islam, based on the Meccan verses, has little to no doctrinal support from the Koran. What we would regard as the more “extreme” form of Islam based on the Medinan verses is the orthodox form of Islam.
Knowing the existence of the Doctrine of Taqiyya the assumption that Australian Muslims are fundamentally “moderate” is now also open to question. I discovered this report in the Indian newspaper, the Deccan Herald of the 15/12/2014, “Sydney siege: Gunman seeks IS flag, talks with PM,” which quotes the Sydney Morning Herald. No doubt people will remember the event referenced:
The Lindt Chocolat Cafe hostage taker has requested for an IS flag, Sydney Morning Herald reported citing a Muslim community leader as saying:
‘The man inside the cafe said that if police could get him an IS flag, then he would release some hostages’, said the leader.
Possession of the IS flag is illegal in Australia.
‘A contact I know from Counter Terrorism phoned me four or five times Monday asking if I could find them an IS flag, in a hurry. At one stage I had a team of people trying to find one,’ the leader said.
After receiving the calls, the community leader rang everyone she knew.
‘I must have called 50 people trying to find an IS flag. I found plenty of people who had one, but they didn’t want to give them up. They also believed that the police were trying set them up,’ the leader said.” (my emphasis)
So here, a Muslim community leader, who one assumes would describe herself as a “moderate”, was able, in a very short period of time, to find “plenty of people” within her community (whom one assumes, or hopes, would also describe themselves as “moderates”) but who own the symbol of Islamic terrorism, the illegal IS flag. This implies that IS has actually far more support within the “moderate” Muslin community than we have been led to believe. While it would be hard to estimate the levels of support, perhaps the ratio of “plenty” out of 50 might give us some rough idea.
So here is the problem in a nutshell. When a non-Muslim marches into a mosque and starts shooting, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike are rightly appalled. However, when a Muslim marches into a church and blows up Christians in the name of Allah, non-Muslims may well be appalled, but “plenty” of Muslims perhaps not so much.
Frank Pledge lives in Melbourne and wrote formerly of Man Monis’ rampage