ISLAM’S WRINKLED FACEby Silas
The authors had two goals in mind: 1) present Osama bin Laden’s (OBL) Islam as erroneous, and 2), suggest that a significant, scholarly, reinterpretation, or "re-thinking" of the Hadith, (a significant part of the Islamic source materials) is underway that will enable a theological undergirding for the re-making of Islam into a more kinder, gentler, religion.
First point: the authors present OBL’s Islam as aberrant, as a recent invention, and as a distortion of real Islam:
Back in the mid-1990s, Osama bin Laden had a problem, and it was Islam. He wanted to say the Qur'an gave his followers license to kill innocents—and themselves—in the cause of "jihad." That was how he could justify his global campaign of terror. But that's not what the Muslim holy book says, and that's not the way it was interpreted by any of the great scholars and preachers of the faith.Obviously the Newsweek authors were spoon fed some propaganda. If the Newsweek journalists spent 3 minutes searching the web they would have found plenty of material documenting the violence in the Quran and Islam. The shallow and shoddy work of many Newsweek journalists never ceases to amaze me.
To begin with, Islam does allow the murder of civilians. Perhaps in Islam’s view they are not "innocents"? Here are some examples of the civilians that Muhammad and the early Muslims had murdered:
1) The murder of Asma bint MarwanThe Quran does command the killing of pagans not willing to embrace Islam:
2) The murder of a slave woman who criticized Muhammad
3) The order to murder an apostate – Ibn Sarh
4) The order to murder slave girls who mocked Muhammad years earlier
5) The murder of a 120 year old Jewish man Abu Afak
The Islamic teachings that allow these murders are theological, and are to be applied in a social, and political, context. Islam is after all both a spiritual and political religion; there is no separation of church and state in Islam. Islam allows the murder of civilians who oppose Islam be it by voice only.
However, OBL does NOT have the historical and textual support to teach that Islam commands the indiscriminate killing of any non-Muslim civilians or of Muslims who disagree with him. That is where he has failed and transgressed the Islamic limitations. In that light many Muslims have been repulsed by OBL’s excesses and are now turning against him. (Since there is a dark and violent, element inherent in Islam, it is to be expected that once the bloodletting gets started it will transgress Muhammad’s rules: the spirit of murder knows few man-made bounds).
Islamic teaching prohibits the deliberate targeting of women and children but allows their deaths as collateral damage. What the Muslims did in Beslan would not be accepted by Muhammad, but he would bless and sanction the 9/11 attack. Muhammad destroyed his enemies financial strength during his conquests. He killed or massacred males from puberty on up, but he enslaved women and children.
The point is that there are many Muslims who understand the differences, and while they reject OBL’s excesses, they do not reject Islam’s command to kill civilians, or to conquer for Islam via jihad – holy war. Robert Spencer documents this thoroughly.
What’s laughable is that Newsweek authors did not offer one source material quote or reference in support, or against, their argument. How could professional journalists fail to offer a single reference about the critical issue at hand? It is good that Newsweek and similar major news print organizations are losing readers and going out of business. They provide a poor quality product to the public.
The author’s second point deals with a re-interpretation of Hadith, (thus affecting Islamic doctrine), done by a set of scholars in Turkey.
At the same time, and potentially much more important over the long run, a new vision of Islam, neither bin Laden's nor that of the traditionalists who preceded him, is taking shape. Momentum is building within the Muslim world to re-examine what had seemed immutable tenets of the faith, to challenge what had been taken as literal truths and to open wide the doors of interpretation (ijtihad) that some schools of Islam tried to close centuries ago.This effort is covered elsewhere on the net in greater detail than Newsweek’s.
Intellectually and theologically, a lot of the most ambitious work is being done by a group of scholars based in Ankara, Turkey, who expect to publish new editions of the Hadith before the end of the year. They have collected all 170,000 known narrations of the Prophet's sayings. These are supposed to record Muhammad's words and deeds as a guide to daily life and a key to some of the mysteries of the Qur'an. But many of those anecdotes came out of a specific historical context, and those who told the stories or, much later, recorded them, were not always reliable.
At the same time, and potentially much more important over the long run, a new vision of Islam, neither bin Laden's nor that of the traditionalists who preceded him, is taking shape. Momentum is building within the Muslim world to re-examine what had seemed immutable tenets of the faith, to challenge what had been taken as literal truths and to open wide the doors of interpretation (ijtihad) that some schools of Islam tried to close centuries ago.
The Newsweek authors are misrepresenting the Turk’s efforts. You can read about it in more detail here. The Turks are not attempting to revise or modernize Islam.
Aside from Newsweek’s error, the attempts to re-interpret and modernize Islam have existed, and failed, for hundreds of years. It is not surprising to find Muslims wishing to soften Islam’s harsh and brutal edicts. However, the four major schools of Islam, Hanifi, al-Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali, have closed the doors of ijtihad and they are not re-opening them. Read about it in more detail here.
What schools did the Newsweek authors say were interested in re-opening the doors of interpretation? Anyone?
The real enemy, the real threat, the dark force that threatens us is not al-Qaeda, it is Islam. OBL and al-Qaeda are just branches off the tree. I challenge anyone to read the Islamic source materials for themselves, the Quran, the Hadith, the Sira – biographical writings, the books of Islamic law, the writings of the great Islamic scholars, and come up with a different conclusion.