The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
04th of April, 2015

Is Islamic State Islamic, or Just Mohameddan?

One of the better commentators on what is happening on the groung in Iraq-Syria is Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi. He may even be the best in his specialty, in the World. Certainly for anglophones.
In particular, he is posessed of a genuinely astute capacity for interpreting modern jihadism as a socio-political phenomenon of our time, rather than as a hold-over from the past or a worrisome trend for the future. He does, for instance, translations of prevailing anasheed, analyses their effect as propaganda, and so on, and then writes about it clearly and quite dispassionately on his blog and in other places. Perhaps the only (but also the most-serious) thing I can charge him with is that, in keeping with absurd Western traditions, he has failed or refused to interpret modern jihadism first and foremost as a global spiritual, religious phenomenon, and then a socio-political one. It can’t be too much to ask that the jihadis be taken on their own terms.

If anything, this is what he almost does in his latest, but then he stumbles. Quoting a convinced jihadi:

"Do they think we are Jewish now? lol," responded one ISIS fighter in Syria when asked for his thoughts on the current public debate about whether the Islamic State is actually Islamic. He went on to make an argument, as many of these fighters often do when interviewed, that not only is the Islamic State Islamic but it is the purest and most pristine form of Islam, the kind most in line with what God and His Prophet had intended all along. Another ISIS fighter from South Africa, when asked how he knew that the Islamic State was legitimate, remarked that "I just used my brain."

"The truth is never endorsed by the masses," he said. "It's always the smallest groups that are firm in truth. Migration becomes compulsory when a caliphate is established on the foundations of Sharia Law, and Muslims around the world have no valid excuse to remain amongst the infidels in enemy lands."
Right. That’s the quote of the jihadi. Now, to see where Al-Tamimi, and all his kith, have gone wrong in response, look at this:
This line of argument by members of the Islamic State and, to be sure, numerous other Salafi-Jihadi movements creates a major dilemma for Muslim communities around the world. How are they supposed to deal with violent movements within their faith, tiny in number but claiming greater religious authenticity, and greater claim to the truth?
No wonder none of them have a consistent, workable response to the jihadi! Wasn’t Muhammad just one heretic, and doesn’t he have authority over the entire Muslim World? How can the few obvious heretics who claim correctness be easily brushed aside, when the one to whom they are being the faithful remnant, the obvious heretic who started it all, remains “correct”?

Fine; Islamic State may not be Islamic—who knows the authority on “Islamicness”?—but certainly they are Mohameddan. They behead Christians in droves, rape women, kill children, enslave tribes, and generally live out their sinful desires under the cover of a heretical piety. This may or may not be Islamic, but it is certainly Mohameddan.
Al-Tamimi goes on to say:

To argue that ISIS isn't "Islamic" in a normative sense is to argue, to some degree, that Salafism isn't a branch of Islam and that jihad isn't a noble concept in the religion, arguments that are false and misleading, and severely hinder attempts to understand these movements properly.
This is very true. The movements are thoroughly Islamic. The only reason anyone seeks to distance them from “Islamic” is because these thoroughly Islamic movements have been judged and found to be wanting, so something is clearly the cancer here: either the movement alone, or the “Islamicness” in the movement. But there is no solution to the wickedness in these thoroughly Islamic movements, because when they are at their pristine best, they are Mohameddan. Muhammad himself, being a perverse and murderous man, has been judged and found to be wanting.
Moreover, as the article goes on to note, even if you advance centuries beyond Muhammad, for as long as it is still Mohameddan at its core—for as long as it is still “Islamic”—you find these cases of the proud unrighteousness that has its issue from the accursed Qur’an of Muhammad.

Al-Tamimi continues:

One could go on, but it is in the realm of IS fatwas in particular – issued by its Diwan al-Eftaa wa al-Buhuth – where the impressive ability to find opinions from medieval jurists and theologians is laid bare. Many of them are unknown to most of the outside world, including contemporary Muslims. The best example is the fatwa ISIS issued to justify burning alive the Jordanian pilot, deemed an 'apostate'. Many were quick to say this practice is absolutely condemned in Islam, but ISIS cited Hanafi and Shafi'i jurist opinion to claim it is permissible, including specific citation of a 15th century Egyptian Shafi'i jurist.
They could have just stopped at citing Muhammad’s precedent, since he is what these scholars are citing, themselves. (And, indeed, I also came across an Islamist justification of punishment by fire, basing on Muhammad himself alone. He blinded a whole tribe by jabbing a red-hot iron into their eye sockets, for instance.)

For this reason, nobody who continues to affirm Mohameddanism may remain within our realm. Enough already.