Category Archives: Terrorism

– Why ISIS is not “Sunni”: The Failure to Understand Sunni Islam is a Victory for ISIS.


( © Zubair Qamar, November 2014 )

The Failure to Understand Sunni Islam is a Victory for ISIS. ISIS has made quite a dramatic ascension in ranks and power over the months. Some see ISIS’s success as a triumph of “Sunni” Islam.

Such messengers of “truth” who furnish instant corrections and harangues at those who distance a minority of criminal zealots from the peaceful majority of Muslims, are, ironically the first to collude with ISIS.

While not understanding what Sunni Islam is – what ISIS purports to follow and uphold – the drivers of “truth” rush in defense of exactly what ISIS claims to be. Becoming unknowingly hand-in-glove with ISIS, and their loyal propagandists, they describe ISIS as “Islamic” and “Sunni,” and a group that wages a proper combative “jihad.”

This empowerment of ISIS by its supposed detractors is the result of the colossal failure of many to fully understand the identity of Sunni Islam as understood by the Sunni majority. Until this Sunni identity is well defined and understood, it is impossible to know which group represents Sunni Islam, and just as impossible to use Sunni Islam to effectively counter pseudo-Sunni groups like ISIS that deceptively claim the Sunni mantle.

This is not just a failure of many non-Muslims. Many – perhaps most – Muslims who follow Sunni Islam do so by tradition, and are unable to explain how Sunni identity differs from pseudo-Sunni identity when asked.

Militants like ISIS thrive on this ignorance and confusion. An absence of proper knowledge of Sunni Islam hinders one’s ability to use it as a weapon against militants, and emboldens them. What has Sunni identity meant to the world’s Sunni Muslims, now and in the past?

What is Orthodox Sunni Islam/Tradition?

In general, the unique characteristic that distinguishes Sunni identity from other groups is that it is represented by the religious understandings of the majority of Muslim scholars.

The majority of Muslim scholars represent Sunni tradition through the generations from the time of Prophet Muhammad to contemporary times.

Tradition is important to a Sunni because, says Sunni author Aftab Ahmad Malik,

“[T]radition is invoked in the context of an inherited scholastic methodology and set of paradigms.”

Included in them, he explains, are:

“debates, the dissenting opinions, the scholarly exegesis, interpretation and understanding of the ethical, moral legal, spiritual and philosophical traditions of Islam.”

Most importantly, says Malik,

“This scholarship is bound together by a tapestry of interconnecting chains of transmissions of other scholars, mystics, philosophers, jurists, theologians and sages that reach back generations, leading ultimately to the Prophet Muhammad himself, God bless him and grant him peace, wherein its authority is confirmed.”

Therefore, the understanding of the majority of classical Sunni scholars who together possess the most knowledge of the Islamic sources is the “backbone” of orthodox Sunni Islam and is what forms Sunni identity. Whatever they understood to be true is what Sunni Islam represents. These scholars and the Muslim masses who followed them are collectively described as the ‘People of the Sunnah and Community,’ or Ahl as-Sunnah wa’al Jama’ah.

Using this understanding, one can identify the positions the scholarly collective took on the three main foundations of Islam. Once these positions are understood, they can be used as a barometer to judge whether a group like ISIS (or any other group) is following orthodox Sunni tradition or not.


The Identity of Orthodox Sunni Islam: The Three Foundations

The majority of Sunni scholars use the “Hadith of Gabriel” to explain the three central foundations of Sunni Islam. Imam Zaid Shakir, a popular contemporary American Sunni scholar at Zaytuna University, says,

“The Hadith of Gabriel (Jibril) is considered by most Muslim scholars to be one of the fundamental texts of our religion. It presents, in a comprehensive way, the foundations of Islam.”

The three foundations of Sunni Islam, as derived from the Hadith of Gabriel, are:


(1) Islamic belief/creed/theology (Iman)

(2) Islamic practice or jurisprudence (Islam)

(3) Achievement of states of inner purity, or spiritual excellence (Ihsan)


Explaining the three foundations of Islam, author Joseph Lumbard says they are seen as “three partially overlapping circles,” and “the place where all three circles overlap is the ideal that all Muslims strive to attain.”


“One who embodies all three in their fullest depth and breadth is closer to living as a true human being in what the Qur’an refers to as the true nature (fitrah).”

Knowing from earlier discussion that the majority of religious scholars represent the genuine Sunni position, it is imperative to know what they understood and taught about the three foundations of the religion.


The First Foundation: Iman (Belief/Creed/Theology)

The first test of any true Sunni Muslim is correct creed, or belief in God, which is a prerequisite to having all jurisprudential practices, like prayer and jihad, accepted. Sunni creed is synonymous with Sunni tenets of faith, belief, doctrine, and theology. Indeed, the first of five pillars in Islam is Testification of Faith: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is the Messenger of Allah.”

The Ash’ari and Maturidi Schools of Sunni Creed. Most Muslims today and in Islam’s history follow/followed the Ash’ari and Maturidi explanation of creed. Orthodox Sunni creed which is represented by the Ash’ari, Maturidi, and Athari schools of creed is rejected by ISIS and other Wahhabi-Salafi groups.

“Ash’ari” refers to an early Muslim theologian born in Basra named Abul Hassan al-Ash’ari (874-936), while “Maturidi” refers to another early Muslim theologian born in present-day Uzbekistan named Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (853-944). They were contemporary Muslim scholars who taught Sunni creed, and whose explanations of creed have been embraced by most of the world’s Sunnis. Even Ayman al-Zawahiri was aware of this when he said:

“[M]ost of the Umma’s ulema are Ashari or Matridi[sic.].”

The Ash’ari and Maturidi schools of creed became standards for Sunnis and used to judge other beliefs. Contemporary Sunni scholar, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, says,

“[religious] scholars considered the prevalent way of the Ash’aris and Maturidids to be the ‘standard’ by which anyone’s beliefs would be judged.”

Unlike the Ash’ari and Maturidi schools of creed, the Athari school – the third school of Sunni creed followed mainly by Hanbalis – did not delve into extensive doctrinal dialectics.

The disagreements notwithstanding among scholars of all three schools of creed, the Athari school should be differentiated from the neo-Athari school that demonstrated and still demonstrates, the “tendency…towards excessive literalism in beliefs and even towards anthropomorphism (affirmation of human attributes to Allah).”

ISIS and al-Qa’eda, as well as non-violent Wahhabis and other Salafis, oppose Ash’aris and Maturidis and their understandings of God, and, instead follow a manifestation of the neo-Athari (anthropomorphic) creed which contradicts the three schools of Sunni creed as understood by classical Sunni scholars.

In opposition to Sunni creed, the Salafi understanding of creed was invented by Ibn Taymiyah, supported later by Muhammad ibn Abdal-Wahhab (founder of the Wahhabi movement), and propagated by Salafis of all colors. When Wahhabis-Salafis accuse the Ash’ari and Maturidi explanations of creed of being out of the bounds of Islam, they essentially excommunicate almost all Muslims who have ever existed since the time of Prophet Muhammad.


The Second Foundation: Islam (Muslim Practice)

The foundation of Muslim practice refers to Islamic jurisprudence, which describes how to perform acts of worship, or external compliance with what God asks Muslims to do. For example, how a Muslim prays, purifies him- or herself, gives alms, goes for the Hajj pilgrimage, and all other acts of worship.

The Four Schools of Sunni Jurisprudence. From the early days of Islam to contemporary times, Sunni jurisprudence has been taught by Sunni scholars in the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence: the Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools (madhahib). Most Muslims today and in Islam’s history follow and have followed one or more of these Sunni schools of jurisprudence.

While many schools existed earlier in Islam, Sunni orthodoxy over time came to be represented by these four schools through most of Islam’s history. To a Sunni Muslim layperson, all four of these schools are correct. Any of them can be followed.

This diversity is a result of the Islamic sources’ Arabic, which allows differing interpretations by those qualified to make them. Islam’s inherent nature, then, encourages followers to discuss, debate, and exert effort (ijtihad) to understand God’s Word. Sunnis believe that these differences are a mercy from God that testify to Sunni Islam’s spirit of diversity, collaboration, and brotherhood.

Wahhabis and Salafis, violent and non-violent, reject the following of Sunni schools of jurisprudence in the name of following the “Qur’an and Sunnah,” even while they cherry pick from them, to create a pseudo-Sunni Wahhabi-Salafist jurisprudence alien to the majority of Sunni scholars and laypeople.

Instead of promoting jurisprudential diversity based on sound scholarship, ISIS and other such groups attempt to promote only one interpretation of Islam – and that which is neither Sunni nor representative of its tradition. As in creed and belief, Wahhabis and Salafis also fail the test of Sunni jurisprudence.

In the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence, “most of the followers of the Sunni Hanafi school of jurisprudence have historically been followers of the Maturidi school of theology. However, one third of them, along with three-quarters of the Shafi’is, all of the Malikis, and some Hanbalis, adhere to the Ash’ari school.”

Why Wahhabis-Salafis Destroy Graves and Tombs. Because jurisprudence is the domain of Muslim action, it is important to examine one of the anti-Sunni destructive practices of ISIS and other extremists. The destruction of tombs and graves by ISIS and other such groups is an attack on both Sunni and Shi’ah traditions because extremist groups believe that venerating the pious after their death is synonymous with worshipping them and committing the unforgivable sin of polytheism (shirk).

However, what Wahhabis-Salafis view as polytheism is the valid and encouraged orthodox Sunni (and Shi’ah) practice of tawassul. Contemporary Sunni scholar, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, defines tawassul as:

“supplicating Allah by means of an intermediary, whether it be a living person, dead person, a good deed, or a name or attribute of Allah Most High.”

This is critical to know because this is the primary reason why ISIS is destroying tombs in Iraq and Syria. Salafis of all stripes worldwide have destroyed graves and tombs of saints and prophets for the same reasons, including in Pakistan, Syria, and Afghanistan.

The destruction of tombs and graves by Wahhabi armies in the 1800s and 1900s is due to the same erroneous, non-Sunni understanding of the genuine Sunni practice of tawassul.

Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged accomplice of the 9/11 hijackers, declared his brother and sister heathens for doing the orthodox Sunni practice of tawassul. Abd Samad, brother of Zacarias, was told a secret by Jamila, his sister:

“The previous year Zacarias had been to see her and had said, ‘Abd Samad and Fouzia [Abd Samad’s wife] are doing tawassul, they’re heathens. Be on your guard with them, but whatever happens, don’t say anything to them.”


The Third Foundation: Ihsan (Spiritual Excellence)

This fundamental, Ihsan, means “making beautiful,” “doing beautifully,” or spiritual excellence, and refers to inner-purification to ensure that Muslims are able to attain certain noble states of being to ensure purity of intention in every act of worship. The Prophet Muhammad said,

“It is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you.”

While the fundamental of Muslim practice addresses what to “do” and “not do” (actions of worship), or external actions, this fundamental addresses how to “be” and “not be” (states of being), or internal actions.

Some examples of legal obligations of Sacred Law that pertain to the heart that every Muslim should follow are “sincerity, pleasure (with Allah), truthfulness, humility, and reliance.”

The prohibitions of the heart include “disbelief, conceitedness, ostentation, delusion, blind hatred, envy, etc.”

The Islamic science of Sufism (`ilm ul-tasawwuf) specializes in ihsan and is represented by the various paths (turooq) of Sufism. Examples of Sufi paths are the Naqshbandi, Qadiri, Shadhili, Chisti, and Suhrawardi paths.

The views of Wahhabis and other Salafis in this matter are not Sunni. Including ISIS, they reject Sufis and the traditional science of Sufism, and destroy the noble tombs of Sufi saints venerated by Muslims for centuries.


Now that the definition of Sunni Islam/tradition is clear, journalists, authors, analysts, and others should not describe any Muslim who claims to follow the Sunni tradition as a Sunni unless they fulfill the criteria of following the understanding of the majority of Muslim scholars, as explained above.

This understanding of Sunni Islam is manifested through the majority scholarly positions on the Three Foundations of the Religion based on the Hadith of Gabriel:

(1) Iman (Sunni creed – Ash’ari, Matrudi, Athari);

(2) Islam (Islamic jurisprudence – Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni jurisprudence); 

(3) Ihsan (Spiritual Excellence – represented by the many paths of Sufism, including the Qadiri and Shadhili paths)

– A Letter to Ayman al-Zawahiri from a Sunni Muslim.


To: Ayman al-Zawahiri

I will not say salaam because I do not wish you peace. How could I wish you peace when you wish Muslims and humanity destruction?

You are not a man of religion but a manipulator of religion to satisfy your own ego and quest for power. You are not my brother in Islam, but a Shaytan (devil) who terrorizes humanity, causes mischief, spreads bloodshed, and spews hatred for all of Allah’s creation. You are the prime instigator of tribulation (fitna).

I have good reasons to have this negative perspective of you. Read on…


Poor Leadership

After Osama bin Laden (OBL) finally died, it took about two weeks for you to be proclaimed the new leader of al-Qa’eda. The reasons, some speculate, is because of a possible power struggle that delayed the proclamation for so long.

This is not a far-fetched assumption. It could have been any reason, and you know what it is, but this may have been a reflection of doubt al-Qa’eda had on your capabilities as a leader. This reflection is supported by evidence of your odd behavior.

Truth is, I don’t think many people would’ve ever heard of you, or at least would’ve heard much less of you – once in a blue moon, if even that, had you not associated with OBL.

OBL’s “excellent” reputation among terrorists propelled you up the ladder pretty quickly. But that’s about where it ends for you, al-Zawahiri.

To many terrorists, while you are a medical doctor, you never demonstrated the qualities of a true leader or great inspirer of terrorists as OBL did. Even al-Qamari, a tank commander who was part of your terrorist cell in Egypt, doubted your leadership skills when he said:

“If you are a member of any group, you cannot be the leader”[1]

Your “intellectual” influence on other so-called jihadis is also questionable.  A detailed study by the Combating Terrorism Center on extremists had this to say of you:

“…Zawahiri, often portrayed by Western media as the main brain in the Jihadi Movement, is totally insignificant in the Jihadi intellectual universe.”[2]

Totally insignificant? Strong words coming from a strong study. Brushing this study aside because it was done by non-Muslims means nothing as it agrees with the perspective of diehard extremists themselves who question and doubt your qualities.

Michael Scheuer is even more critical. He basically says that your failure led you to depend on Osama bin Laden.

“Al-Zawahiri was inept at running the [Egyptian Islamic Jihad’s] international cells, and his mistakes allowed U.S. and Egyptian intelligence to wreck the network – forcing al-Zawahiri to seek out bin Laden’s aid and accept his direction”.

He also says,

“Al-Zawahiri and his lieutenants completely failed to damage the Egyptian government – and so accepted bin Laden’s plan to knock the U.S. props from under Mubarak’s regime.”

He also says you were an

“…arrogant Egyptian nationalist who believed Egyptians superior to other Arabs”

until you met bin Laden. You were also financially inept as you weren’t able to raise sufficient funds for al-Jihad. You were “…unable to raise any significant amount of money” and you were “all but broke” until you started working with bin Laden.[3]

Again: whatever stature you’ve attained is not much of your own doing, but mainly because of your association with OBL. OBL led you. You never led OBL. You were a follower. Not a leader.

You only became a leader in name when OBL died. Truth be told, few people believe al-Qa’eda will ever be the same without OBL, and especially with your poor leadership skills. Your leadership of al-Qa’eda is a weakness of al-Qa’eda. This is good news to Muslims and humanity as a whole, but still no reason to celebrate. Your poor leadership skills brings a new, psychotic twist to al-Qa’eda’s terrorism – if they can even genuinely claim you as their leader.

These are just your shortcomings as a leader. There are many more. For instance, how did you agree to become leader of al-Qa’eda without any credentials of Islamic scholarship? This brings us to the basics of Islamic jurisprudence.


Islamic Jurisprudence

Do you not know that Islam, in its entire history, never gave the liberty to a layperson (non-scholar) to deduce judgements (ijtihad) – in your case, cherry-picking foolishly – from Qur’anic verses and ahadeeth? This is only the prerogative of grounded religious scholars. If you know this, why do you violate the Sunni tradition? If you do not know this, why do you proudly take the mantle of “leader” when you do not posses the qualities of being one?

Do you not know that you are contradicting the early Muslims who you so stubbornly claim to emulate? Do you know that your methodology of following Islam contradicts that of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them), the scholars of the Salaf, and the noble adherents of the Khalaf? You do not follow a Sunni school of jurisprudence (fiqh), turn your back on the glorious scholars (`ulema) from the Sunni tradition, yet claim to follow them?

Against Sunni Creed

Al-Zawahiri, you ridicule the Sunni Ash’ari and Maturidi creeds that most Sunni Muslims follow today, and have followed throughout Islam’s history.

In your letter to Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, you said Ash’aris and Maturidis have “mistakes” that would require “generations of the call to Islam and modifying the educational curricula” to correct them. Your opposition to Ash’aris and Maturidis, and adoption of a neo-Athari (Salafi) creed, is in violation of the three schools of Sunni creed that Sunni tradition represents (Ash’ari, Maturidi, Athari).

Yet, you and some of your idiotic followers in Al-Qa’eda have the gall to cite several Ash’ari scholars in their writings in a deceitful attempt to portray their support for your nefarious acts. How dare you and your followers twist the words of our early beloved scholars!


Your Troubled Childhood

Do you not think that your childhood may have something to do with your current predicament?

Have you considered the possible side effects of going to a secondary school “for kids from the wrong side of Road 9” where “the schoolyard was run by bullies and the classrooms by tyrants”?[4]

Your painful childhood is acknowledged by all who have studied your life. But behaving the way you are now, and in the name of “Islam,” as you terrorize the world and its inhabitants is the antithesis to the behavior and teachings of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Is it possible that your extreme behavior may support what Lawrence Wright stated when he said:

“A physically vulnerable young boy such as Ayman had to create strategies to survive” (Looming Tower; p.42).

You are surely not to blame for what happened in childhood. After all, you were under the influence of your Uncle Mahfouz Azzam who adored Syed Qutb – another confused extremist. So close was he, he was Syed Qutb’s Arabic teacher (Looming Tower; p.43). You were bound to traverse a path of destruction.


Your Time in Prison

Your experience later in prison exacerbated the negativity within you. But you knew what the price was of being arrested by the Egyptian authorities, did you not?

But you went ahead and took the risk anyway. And that’s why you were tortured. Your negativity led you to prison, and your experience in prison made you an even bigger monster.

Your time in prison converted you from being irrational to becoming psychotic and twisted. Why don’t you admit that you are consumed with a passion for revenge for the wrong you see yourself having gone through since childhood?

You wish to get even with those who ‘wronged’ you by your diehard vengeance and giving them payback. Have you entertained the possibility, even if remote in your mind, that you are shedding blood, targeting Governments, and justifying the deaths of Muslim and non-Muslims as “collateral damage” simply to satisfy your feelings of revenge and to “get even”? Have you considered the possibility that your actions are manifestations of setting your distorted mental balance “straight”?

Remember what you said in rage when you were in court with fellow prisoners? You said:

“…dirty Egyptian jails…where we suffered the severest inhuman treatment. There they kicked us, they beat us, they whipped us with electric cables, they shocked us with electricity! They shocked us with electricity! And they used the wild dogs! And they used the wild dogs! And they hung us over the edges of the doors with our hands tied at the back! They arrested the wives, the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, and the sons” (Looming Tower; p.64).

Al-Zawahiri, be careful and fear Allah! All the efforts you are exerting will be for naught if your intentions are to satisfy yourself and not Allah! Is it possible that your ego is more important to you than Islam? Is it possible that you are prioritizing your actions and then seeking Religion as a justification by hook or crook to make yourself feel at peace? You are angry at those who you plotted against and one can only expect a severe response in return. Introspect and reflect!

Ask yourself: Am I interested in serving myself or am I interested in serving Allah Almighty? Indeed the line between the two can be very delicate to someone who is so driven by rage and revenge.

Do not turn your face away from the truth as your salvation depends on it! Face the truth, accept it, and embrace the path of the Muslim majority if you claim to be a Sunni Muslim!


Killing Innocent School Girls

Remember when Al-Jihad tried to kill Egypt’s Prime Minister at the time, Atef Sidqi, in 1993? The attack was a failure – even more so because the explosion killed a “twelve-year-old schoolgirl” .

I repeat, a twelve-year-old school girl. Do you realize the gravity of this “mistake”? This young girl who could have been a fully grown adult at this moment and enjoyed the pleasure of God-Given Life is now in her grave because of your group’s evil actions against her.

Did it ever tug on your conscience? Did you console the family of the dead girl that was going through deep and agonizing pain? Or do you see her simply as “collateral damage,” an issue of unimportance that can be brushed aside like some mosquito?

What compensation did you or members of Al-Jihad give to her family for this “collateral damage”? Muslims would like to know! Jurisprudence demands it!


Your Dishonesty with Fellow Extremists

Al-Zawahiri, your dishonesty has no bounds and contradicts the Qur’an and Sunnah! Remember when Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (“Dr. Fadl”) wanted to meet the learned shuyukh or scholars of Islamic knowledge in your terrorist cell?

Scholar and author Lawrence Wright said,

“In 1977, Zawahiri asked Imam to join his group, presenting himself as a mere delegate of the organization. Imam told Al Hayat that his agreement was conditional upon meeting the Islamic scholars who Zawahiri insisted were in the group; clerical authority was essential to validate the drastic deeds these men were contemplating. The meeting never happened.”

Wright then quotes Syed Imam:

“Ayman was a charlatan who used secrecy as a pretext.” “I discovered that Ayman himself was the emir of this group, and that it didn’t have any sheikhs.”

You were so desperate for others to join the terrorist cell that you lied to your own friend and colleague. Where in the Qur’an and Sunnah does it say it is okay to lie as you did? Don’t get me wrong. I would be happy to exploit this difference between two extremists who bring shame to my religion.

But Imam’s question was a legitimate one. He wanted to know the people of knowledge since he knows laypeople can twist any Qur’anic verse or hadeeth to suit their own whims. Imam still had misunderstandings of orthodox Sunni Islam and supported a terrorist group though he was much more cool headed than you. He has also repented of much of what he used to say.

Your deception continued even after you left prison in Egypt and joined Imam in Peshawar. You still didn’t learn. You became even more hardened and unIslamic.

Your travel to Peshawar is itself unIslamic. You went to Peshawar through deception by claiming to be qualified for a job you were not adequately qualified for. Imam said of you,

“He asked me to stand with him and teach him how to perform operations,”

and then said,

“I taught him until he could perform them on his own. Were it not for that, he would have been exposed, as he had contracted for a job for which he was unqualified.”

So you were not even a competent doctor, yet you portrayed to be one. You will not find any support for this deception in the Qur’an and Sunnah, I assure you. Stop using the Islamic mantle to promote your ignorance and unIslamic behavior.

You know well that had Imam not been there to teach you, you would’ve jeopardized the lives of innocents through your poor skills as a surgeon. It is unfortunate that you were ready to terrorize civilians while being a doctor – a position of trust. Human life really mean very little to you, doesn’t it? Do you not feel guilty for taking advantage of your profession to harm others?

Not only that, you also took Imam’s book, originally titled “The Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge,” changed the title to “Guide to the Path of Righteousness for Jihad and Belief,” made drastic alterations to its contents, and removed what you didn’t agree with.

These Shaytanic actions against Imam’s book, and by extension against Imam himself, were done only to suit your violent views in direct contradiction to some of Imam’s perspectives.

Yet you left Imam’s name as the author as if he espoused and agreed with all that you had altered. You failed to inform Imam about this and hid it from him until someone else told him about this treachery.

All the while you were feeding false information to Muslims as you used and abused his name for your own nefarious pseudo-jihadi agenda. You portrayed Imam as a supporter of your views when this was completely untrue.

Granted, you asked Imam for forgiveness once you found out that he found out. But would you have just stayed quiet as you had all along if someone else had not informed Imam about your treachery?

The intensity of pain that you caused from your nefarious deeds of deception, manipulation, and hiding behind Imam’s name caused so much pain to him that he refused to speak with you. If Imam was your Shaykh – your Islamic guide – you treated him with utter disrespect. Where in the Qur’an, Sunnah, and our tradition does it say to disrespect your spiritual guides?

And you have earned this negative reputation yourself. Imam, in his own words, said,

“I do not know anyone in the history of Islam prior to Ayman al-Zawahiri who engaged in such lying, cheating, forgery, and betrayal of trust by transgressing against someone else’s book.”

Imam also said of you:

“He was a burden to me on the educational, professional, jurisprudential, and sometimes personal levels.”

Imam went on to say,

“He was ungrateful for the kindness I had shown him and bit the hand that I had extended to him. What I got for my efforts was deception, betrayal, lies, and thuggery.”

Al-Zawahiri, you can’t even treat your fellow extremists in a nice way. It completely escapes me how you expect to persuade the moderate Muslim masses to follow your example.

Your example completely contradicts the example of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him). Do you really expect to be successful in the approach you have opted to take?

Take heed of what Almighty Allah says!:

“O you who believe! Have fear of God, and be among the truthful.” (Quran 9:119)

Al-Zawahiri, take heed of what Prophet Muhamamd, peace and blessings upon him, said:

“Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. And a man keeps on telling the truth until he becomes a truthful person. Falsehood leads to Al-Fajur (i.e. wickedness, evil-doing), and Al-Fajur (wickedness) leads to the (Hell) Fire, and a man may keep on telling lies till he is written before Allah, a liar” (Bukhari Volume 8, Book 73, Number 116).

You were also initially in a group without a spiritual guide. How then could you and your group have been following proper religious guidance when a religious guide is a prerequisite to learning Islamic jurisprudence? How can you be part of an Islamic group without a Shaykh, and why do you promote this reprehensible innovation (bid’ah dalala) in our religion? Sheikh Shuayb Arnaut, a Sunni scholar, said,

“Whoever doesn’t have a sheikh, the Devil is his sheikh, in any Islamic discipline.”[1]

You dragged Imam into a group led by Shaytan only to disclose his name to authorities later on to get him in trouble. Imam’s son, Ismail al-Sharif, says you put Imam in danger after you gave his name to interrogators when you were arrested in a round-up after Anwar al-Sadat’s assassination in 1981 for weapons smuggling.

While Imam and other like him rot in jail because of your treachery, how does that make you feel while you’re free?


Omar bin Laden’s view of you

Now, back to human life meaning very little to you. If you think you’ve been misinterpreted, then listen to what Omar bin Laden had to say in the book Growing Up Bin Laden. In case you’ve forgotten, Omar is one of Osama bin Laden’s biological sons who witnessed your unIslamic behavior first hand.

Omar is, however, “glad” that he

“…was was not often in Dr. Zawahiri’s presence” (p.129).

Omar continues to say,

“From the first moment I met the man, he left me feeling unsettled, despite the fact that my father respected him” (p.129).

Omar didn’t like you because he thought you were a plotting quack. Before commenting on Omar’s story of human life meaning very little to you, he told readers about your plot against his own father when you met Osama bin Laden through Abdallah Azzam in Peshawar – yes, your plotting against Osama bin Laden, the man you claim to love and purport to have followed. Omar said,

“I believe that it was during this time that Zawahiri began plotting to tap into my father’s wealth” (p.130).

You were broke and wanted Osama’s wealth very badly, didn’t you? You probably even lied to people when you went fundraising for so-called jihadi organizations, as Omar said,

“Some said that Zawahiri falsely claimed that the money raised would go to wounded Afghan children” (p.130).

Did you lie again? You know it as well as Allah Almighty. Omar regretted that you followed Osama bin Laden to Sudan:

“I was sorry that Zawahiri tracked my father to the Sudan, and once again linked himself and his organization to my father and to al-Qaeda. I felt that nothing good could come from the association” (p.130).


The Child You Murdered and Your Followers who Raped


Al-Zawahiri, have you forgotten about the little kid you killed? He was the son of a leading al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya member whose name was Mohammed Sharaf.

Do you still not realize that an innocent child who trusted the company of adults from your al-Jihad group was taken advantage of? He was gang raped and then accused by the criminals of having sex.

Fake photographs were manufactured by the rapists to blame the boy and protect themselves.

You didn’t even listen to the boy’s father who knew the truth of his son’s innocence. What did you do? You believed your liar al-Jihad members and shot the kid in the head!

He was Omar bin Laden’s close friend. Omar said,

“Certainly, the men who had raped him were too cowardly to admit a truth that might have saved his life. Those men would have met the same fate as my friend had they confessed their role in the crime, or been exposed in the pictures. But they were clever criminals, careful not to show their faces in any of the damning photographs. And so Zawahiri ordered that my doomed friend be delivered to his offices. My friend was dragged into a room with Zawahiri, who shot him in the head” (italics mine) (p.132).

You should’ve castrated your al-Jihad pedophiles who couldn’t control their sexual urges and keep their little willies to themselves. And you – how can you live in peace while knowing that you shot a child in the head for a wrong that he did not do? You didn’t even think about the negative impact this would have on Omar bin Laden and other youngsters.

The trauma was reflected in Omar’s words:

“For days I was frozen with shock and grief that an innocent person might be murdered at the hands of those who he had believed offered protection. I fretted over the terrors my friend had endured in the last days of his young life – first to be brutally gang-raped, then to be falsely accused of having illicit sex, then to have his last image be that of a gun placed to his head before his world turned dark and his life on earth ended” (pg.132).

Omar was afraid that he and his brothers could be targets too:

“Creeping memories reminded me that I, too, could have suffered the same fate” (p.132)….“For the first time I also realized that some of the men surrounding my father might be dangerous even to the sons of Osama bin Laden. Such men had danced with brutality since they were young, and now malice was mixed in their blood. I had always recognized this, yet felt immune to their cruel impulses. But Mohammed Sharaf was one of the most prominent leaders. If his son could be raped and murdered, my brothers and I could be targeted as well” (pp.132-133).

Omar was shocked, fearful, and in grief. Is this what our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, taught us? Absolutely not.


The “Trial”

You will surely shoot back and tell me that a proper trial was conducted with evidence that led to the child’s guilt and execution.

But how do you expect any sane person, Muslim or non-Muslim, to believe that a trial carried out by extremist, militant murderers of civilians who had no Islamic jurisprudential training, possessed zero caliber and qualifications of being  Islamic Judges, and who mocked and heaped accusations of kufr and bid’ah against the majority of Muslims, to believe you?

What specific details of the “trial” can you give to us that proves it was a genuine, Islamic trial and not some sham, kangaroo court manufactured by fighters who had little to no knowledge of Islamic trials?  And the execution of a child, and by shooting in his head — this is Islamically legitimate?

Where do you derive support from the Qur’an and Sunnah of shooting a child in the head, and through a “trial” such as the one you held? Let’s see the evidence, Mr. A-Zawahiri, if you claim to be truthful!

I am curious, Al-Zawahiri. When the Egyptian authorities caused you physical pain and torture, did you later think of the pain that was caused by you, your terrorist group, and later by al-Qa’eda on others? All the pain and suffering that you passed on to others – and especially our brothers and sisters in Islam who bear the brunt of most terrorist attacks?

What kind of Islam are you following? Certainly not the Islam practiced by the pious salaf-us-salih (forefathers)! Have you not read the many ahadeeth and ayat of the Qur’an that stress the unlawfulness of taking life unjustly? Have you not read that taking just one life unjustly is like taking the life of all of humanity?

You liked Syed Qutb so much that you made an underground cell with the sole purpose of overthrowing the Egyptian government not long after Syed Qutb died. Did you think you did the right thing? You even despised the Muslim Brotherhood simply for being compromising. Is being uncompromising the only avenue that you have chosen to take?

Al-Zawahiri, remember the time when you let al-Qamari store smuggled weapons and ammunition in your medical clinic? To the reader, this is the same medical clinic “which was in a downstairs apartment in the duplex where his parents lived” (Looming Tower; p.58).

Where his parents lived? Did you not realize the shamefulness of your deeds? You used your medical clinic which is supposed to heal/cure people from sickness for weapons used to maim and kill.

And weren’t you afraid of putting your parents at risk? Your behavior is selfish and extreme.

You have shown no patience or perseverance as a Muslim should. You always try to get even with others. When you were in prison in Egypt, you “immediately became known among the other prisoners as the man who struck back” (p.60).

I have said enough. And while I do not wish to use another second of my life writing to you, I hope my letter becomes an example to many on the sidelines. I hope they reject you and your gang and champion the cause of love and peace. I also hope that I become a good example of a Sunni Muslim who speaks out against militants who hijack the mantle of Sunni tradition to promote their pseudo-Sunni, barbaric acts.

May Allah Curse you and your kind and save all Muslims and non-Muslims from the evil you have brought on all of us!!



A Sunni Muslim,

Zubair Qamar


Websites accessed:

[1] The Looming Tower, p.58.

[2] Atlas of Militant Ideology – Executive Report. Nov 2006. Executive Report, Editor & Project Director: William McCants, PhD; Project Coordinator: Jarret Brachman, PhD, CTC Director: LTC Joseph Felter, PhD). Copyright by Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy. Page-9.

[3] Osama bin Laden, by Michael Scheuer; pg.14.

[4] Looming Tower, p.41

– Overhyping the Threat of “Islamic” Terrorism in the US.


(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Islamophobes are obsessed with exaggerating the “Islamic” threat.

In an April 2013 article in MotherJones, David Gilson says,

“While America has been fixated on the threat of Islamic terrorism for more than a decade, all but a few domestic terror plots have failed. Between September 11, 2001, and the end of 2012, there were no successful bomb plots by jihadist terrorists in the United States. Jihadists killed 17 people in the United States in four separate incidents during this time, according to data collected by journalist Peter Bergen and the New America Foundation. All four of these incidents involved guns, including Nidal Hassan’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood, which killed 13 people. In contrast, right-wing extremists killed 29 people during those 11 years.”[[i]]

Of the Boston Marathon attackers, Gilson says they are

“not evidence of the power of Islamist terrorism in post-9/11 America so much as a painful exception to its ineffectiveness.”[[ii]]

Islamophobes overhype the threat of terrorism by “Muslims” and represent the “painful exception” as the norm.

In another report published in 2010, Brian Michael Jenkins of the RAND Institute, said,

“There are more than 3 million Muslims in the United States, and few more than 100 have joined jihad – about one out of every 30,000 – suggesting an American Muslim population that remains hostile to jihadist ideology and its exhortations to violence. A mistrust of American Muslims by other Americans seems misplaced.”[[iii]]

Explaining the conclusions of a January 2010 study by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CNN states,
“The terrorist threat posed by radicalized Muslim- Americans has been exaggerated…”
A TIME article illustrated highlights of the 2010 study:

• Of the 139 individuals linked to terrorist acts, only 40 successfully executed their plots, and most of those were overseas. In 70% of instances, law enforcement agencies were able to foil the plots before they even matured to a dangerous stage.

• Last year accounted for a high 41 cases, but the researchers note that it’s too early to say if the spike represents a trend.

• Seventy-eight of the American Muslims arrested were members of small groups that either traveled abroad for training or planned attacks in the U.S. This confirms the view of some terrorism experts that the radicalization process relies on a group dynamic.

• Sixty-three of the 139 were U.S.-born, 22 were naturalized citizens and 25 legal residents.

•There is no single hotbed of radicalization: 43 “offenders” were from the South, 38 from the Northeast, 30 from the Midwest, 23 from the West and three from the Southwest.

• Although the 139 were predominantly young men, with 90 being under the age of 30, they hailed from diverse ethnicities: 32 were Arabs, 24 African-Americans, 24 South Asians, 20 Somalis and 20 whites. The authors say there is no “single profile or a common warning sign that signifies a homegrown terrorist.”

Exaggerating claims of “Muslim” home-grown terrorism has negative implications at the policy level and in counter-terrorism efforts. In a June 2012 article in Cato Unbound, Risa Brooks explains some of these negative implications:

…overstating this threat could lead to the misallocation of increasingly scarce federal, state, and local law enforcement resources. As the United States enters an era of fiscal austerity, officials must evaluate the opportunity costs of investing in domestic counterterrorism versus other priorities.

…overstating the threat of Muslim homegrown terrorism could lead to the adoption of counterproductive counterterrorism methods. Methods commonly employed by law enforcement in Muslim communities, such as extensive surveillance and cultivation of informants, are inherently challenging for any segment of society to endure, even when agents treat them with care. And a careful approach is rarely encouraged by an atmosphere of suspicion.

Brooks then says,

“Controversies of this kind undermine the relationships of trust that form the basis for cooperation between Muslim communities and public officials. Yet these communities have demonstrated a willingness and a capacity to report signs of terrorist activity in their midst, and their help is both the most efficient and least invasive method of exposing aspiring militants. Alienating those who would provide such information will carry a heavy cost.”

She ends by saying,

“Finally, exaggerating the threat posed by homegrown Muslim terrorists leads to a distorted image of the nature of domestic terrorism in the United States that is harmful to the social fabric of the country. While small in number, acts of domestic terrorism in the United States involve individuals of diverse ideological extremes. Domestic terrorism may encompass violent splinters from the Occupy Movement, anti-government militants like the “Sovereign Citizens,” or Islamist jihadis—among others. Exaggerating threats from Islamist militancy at the expense of a more comprehensive discussion of domestic terrorism not only contributes to mistrust between Muslim Americans and other Americans, it is counter to the country’s long heritage of respecting people of diverse religions and backgrounds.”

Since 9/11, and especially since Obama became President, homegrown US right-wing terrorism has exceeded “Islamic” terrorism incidents. Yet, many national security experts are blind to the growing threat, and see the “Islamic threat” through tunnel lens vision as the only threat. It is best that they become realistic about terrorism trends, acknowledge that members among non-Muslims can also commit terrorism, and face this growing threat with the seriousness and importance it deserves.

[[i]] David, Gilson, “Charts: How Much Danger Do We Face From Homegrown Jihadist Terrorists?” MotherJones, April 24, 2013, accessed May 12, 2013,

[[ii]] David, Gilson, “Charts: How Much Danger Do We Face From Homegrown Jihadist Terrorists?” MotherJones, April 24, 2013, accessed May 12, 2013,

[[iii]] Brian, Jenkins, “Would-Be Warriors: Incidents of Jihadist Terrorist Radicalization in the United States Since September 11, 2001,” 2010, accessed June 1, 2013,

– Jihad and Terrorism: What is the Difference?

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Jihad in Classical Sunni Islam – an Overview

Muslims define jihad in Arabic as “holy struggle/effort.” An often neglected matter is the plurality of meanings of jihad in early Islam, which includes both combative and non-combative jihadJihad takes many forms, including controlling one’s anger, studying at school, supporting one’s family financially, and any other efforts in a Muslim’s life that contributes to good. Almost all manifestations of jihad are non-combative and far more numerous than the combative form, which consists of defensive and offensive jihad.

The first jihad in Islam was non-combative for the first 13 to 14 years, in spite of the oppression endured by Prophet Muhammad and his followers by the Meccans. The Grand Imam Mahmoud Shaltut said,

“The early Muslims spent many years in Mecca suffering the worst kinds of punishment, they were not free to worship, were persecuted for believing in a creed that brought them reassurance and were terrorised with regard to property and personal safety. All this continued until they were forced to emigrate.”

(Source: HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, Professor Ibrahim Kalim, Mohammad Hashim Kamali. War and Peace in Islam: The Uses and Abuses of Jihad. Chapter: “The Qur’an and Combat.”The Islamic Texts Society, p.9)

Muslims believe that permission to fight was granted after continued oppression by the Meccans after Prophet Muhammad and his followers emigrated to Medina from Mecca.

The Sunni View of Combative Jihad: Defensive and Offensive

Scholars from the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanbali) differ in their views of combative jihad. According to contemporary author and Al-Azhari professor, Ahmad al-Dawoody, the majority of religious scholars in the four Sunni schools view jihad as a defense against aggression:

“Qur’anic casus belli are restricted to aggression against Muslims and fitnah, that is, persecution of Muslims because of their religious belief (Qur’an 2:190; 2:193; 4:75; 22:39-40). War and coercion are not means by which religion may be propagated because belief in a religion is only a matter of the conviction of the heart (Qur’an 2:256; 10:99; 16:93; 18:29). Fighting non-Muslims solely because they do not believe in Islam contradicts the Qur’anic injunction (Qur’an 2:256).”[[1]]

The above position on combative jihad by classical Sunni scholars should not be taken lightly, especially in view of the distorted understanding that all Sunni scholars embraced the position of offensive jihad. This position illustrates that combat was only to be waged defensively in response to aggression.

To give a specific example of an early Muslim scholar in the time of the Salaf who supported defensive (and not offensive) jihad, author Mairaj Syed of Bard College in the book, Just War in Religion and Politics: Studies in Religion and the Social Order, in the chapter, “Jihad in Classical Islamic Legal and Moral Thought,” said that the eighth century Muslim scholar and ascetic, Sufyan al-Thawri,

“held that the duty of jihad becomes incumbent only in the case of enemy attack. For this reason fighting is a duty only for defensive purposes” (p. 147).

Syed then says,

“The implication of this view is that fighting for offensive purposes is not a religiously legitimate jihad” (p. 148).

While defensive jihad was a personal obligation, offensive jihad was a communal/collective obligation proclaimed by the ruler. The latter did not always mean perpetual warfare, but also meant, in certain situations, to be in a prepared state of battle. Other Sunni scholars like the Spanish Maliki scholar, Ibn `Abd al-Barr (978-1070), says Syed,

“held that the collective duty of jihad becomes incumbent only in the presence of fear (khawf). In conditions of security (amn), it is only a praiseworthy action (nafila), and not a duty. As such, in Ibn `And al-Barr’s conception, the omission of jihad in conditions of peace and security is not sinful” (p. 148).

According to contemporary author and scholar, Asma Afsaruddin, the plurality of meanings of jihad in Islam’s earlier years gradually narrowed in meaning to the combative form due to geo-political exigencies of the time:

“By the early Abassid period – roughly the mid-to-late eighth-century CE, second century of Islam – the military aspect of jihad began to receive greater emphasis in certain official and juridical circles.”[[2]]

In other words, the pacifist school of combative jihad seems to have been gradually overshadowed by the offensive jihad school when military matters mattered more. This is not to say that defensive jihad was non-existent at a later time. Syed mentions the sixteenth century Hanafi scholar, Ibn Nujaym, who

“seems to articulate an interpretation of jihad, as motivated solely by defensive considerations, that comes close to the view propounded by al-Thawri” (p.148).

Religious jurists who focused on military matters more used the Islamic sources and resorted to abrogation, believing that Qur’anic verses calling for combat abrogated the verses calling for peace. This view, however, was not shared by all scholars, and, contrary to Islamophobes, does not represent the view of the Muslim majority today.

War as Part of the Norm

Were only Muslims prone to war? Combative jihad was adopted through Islam’s history for various reasons, including spreading what Muslims believed was God’s word. War, however, was not unique to Islam and Muslims. The Muslim expansion in early Islam, as well as later wars, is to be understood in the context of the geo-political environment in those times. Professor David Dakake says,

“When Islam spread out of Arabia in the seventh century…warfare and conflict were the normal state of affairs between nations and peoples. The state of nearly constant warfare was simply the ‘way of the world’ and peace was the extraordinary and occasional exception to the rule.”[[3]]

Similarly, Georgetown University Professor, John Esposito, in his book Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam, says,

“The world in which Islam emerged in the seventh century was a rough neighborhood where war was the natural state. Arabia and the city of Mecca, in which Muhammad lived and received God’s revelation, were beset by tribal raids and cycles of vengeance and vendetta. The broader Near East, in which Arabia was located, was itself divided between two warring superpowers of the day, the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) and the Persian (Sasanin) Empires. Each had competed against the other for world dominion” (p.29).

Justification for war found religious justification as jihad in Islam, just as “Just War” was formulated to justify war in Christianity. Muslims were not unique in their times when it came to war.

Non-Muslims Under Muslim Rule

The promotion of combative jihad notwithstanding, this did not mean forced conversion. Contemporary scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, said,

“As for forced conversion, no reliable evidence exists that Muslims ever intended or attempted to impose the specific rites and beliefs of Islam. The histories of Central Asia, Spain, India, the Balkans and all of Southeast Asia are concrete proof of this” (p.61).

The norm, therefore, was to let conquered people practice their own religions. There were, however, aberrations from the norm that should not be described as the norm as Islamophobes frequently do. Mustafa Akyol says,

“with the exception of a few cases – such as the fanatic Almohavids in North Africa – forced conversion remained anathema to Islamdom.”[[4]]

Similarly, Youssef Courbage and Philippe Fargues in their book, Christians and Jews Under Islam, say,

“It is known that coercion, although it was occasionally used, was rare in the history of Arab Islam” (p.21).

Courbage and Fargues also say,

“There were some violent episodes, some spectacular explosions of popular fanaticism, but the state was almost never a persecutor” (p.24).

Other authors and historians have similar understandings. For example, historian Ira Lapidus says,

“…the Arab-Muslims did not, contrary to reputation, attempt to convert people to Islam. Muhammad had set the precedent of permitting Jews and Christians in Arabia to keep their religions, if they paid tribute; the Caliphate extended the same privileges to Middle Eastern Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, whom they considered ‘People of the Book,’ the adherents of earlier written revelations […].”[[5]]

Author Thomas Arnold says,

“These stupendous conquests which laid the foundations of the Arab empire, were certainly not the outcome of a holy war […].”[[6]]

Similarly, historian Marshall Hodgson says,

“There was no attempt at converting the peoples of the imperial territories, who practically adhered to some form of confessional religion already.”[[7]]

This, however, did not mean that non-Muslims under Muslim rule were living in bliss, but neither did it mean they were living under untold oppression – two extreme views that do not line with historical facts. They were not annihilated but tolerated. Christians and Jews, deemed “People of the Book” by Muslims, were permitted to practice their religion in their places of worship while paying a tax to receive exemption from joining the army and to receive full protection by the Muslim government in the event of an attack. In practice, protection by the Muslim state was not only offered to Christians and Jews, but also to followers of other religions, including Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and Hindus.

“The poll-tax or jizya,” professor David Dakake says, “was required to be paid by the People of the Book to the Islamic state” and “unlike feudal taxation in Europe, did not constitute an economic hardship for non-Muslims living under Muslim rule.” He continues, “The tax was seen as the legitimate right of the Islamic state, given that all peoples – Muslim and non-Muslim – benefited from the military protection of the state, the freedom of the roads, and trade, etc.” Muslims also had to contribute. “Although the jizya was paid by non-Muslims, Muslims were also taxed through the zakat, a required religious tax not levied on other communities.”[[8]]

This, however, does not mean that all non-Muslims had to pay jizya under Muslim rule, as many people incorrectly understand. Mohammad Hashim Kamali in the book War and Peace in Islam: The Uses and Abuses of Jihad, in the chapter “Dhimmi and Musta’min: A Juristic and Historical Perspective,” says, “The contract of dhimmah that Muslim jurists later formalised was neither uniform nor well defined” (p.309). Kamali says on page-310:

“Early Muslim rulers have at times entered dhimmah agreements which eliminated the jizyah altogether — as in the agreement entered during the time of the second caliph `Umar with the Turkish tribe of Jarajimah which welcomed the Muslim forces and declared its dislike of the Romans, but stipulated that its members be allowed to remain Christian; this was agreed”

Kamali continues,

“The tribe also agreed to help the Muslims in the event of any military engagement with the Romans. The Muslim party agreed in return to protect the tribe and also relieved its members from payment of jizyah.”

Kamali then describes a similar situation when Muslims took over Cyprus:

“A similar example of a variant dhimmah arrangement was the peace agreement that the Muslims signed with the people of Cyprus, who did not offer resistance. In return the Muslim party agreed not to levy the jizyah on them.”

The Copts of Egypt were also exempt, according to Kamali:

“Another example of this was the agreement that `Amr b. al-As, Caliph `Umar’s governor, signed with the Copts of Egypt when his forces besieged and eventually conquered Egypt. There was no mention of jizyah in the treaty that was subsequently signed.”

Such nuances are important to understand to avoid simplistic generalizations of how Muslim rulers treated non-Muslims in history.

The Petering Out of Offensive Jihad

Offensive jihad or perpetual warfare was also not the preferred choice for rulers after a certain period. Author and scholar Khalid Blankenship says that wars became unsustainable over time, which  was partially responsible for the demise of the Umayyad state during the reign of Hisham ibn `Abd al-Malik. This led to a “permanent restructuring of Muslim political praxis away from a scheme of permanent warfare against non-Muslims, to one which came, over time, to include protracted truces, formal diplomatic relations, and, in the modern world, membership in the international community of nation-states.”[[9]]. Kamali in the previous section’s source says,

“There is … no dhimmah in the Muslim state of today, as it has to all intents and purposes been replaced by muwatanah (citizenship)…” (p. 311).

Non-Muslims Helped Muslims in Jihad

Islamophobes and “Muslim” terrorists portray a bipolar Muslim versus non-Muslim affair. However, Ian Almond, author of Two Faiths One Banner: When Muslims Marched with Christians Across Europe’s Battlegrounds, discusses the “under-reported phenomenon of Muslim-Christian military alliances,” including

“the thousands of Arabs who fought for medieval Christian emperors outside the walls of Milan and Bologna, the Castilians and Catalans who regularly allied themselves with Muslims to fight their Christian neighbors, the extraordinary level of Turkish co-operation in the last century of the Byzantine empire, the equally extraordinary number of Christian soldiers in the Ottoman armies which occupied the Balkans, and the tens of thousands of Hungarian Protestants, not to mention disaffected Hungarian peasants, who marched with the armies of the Turk on Vienna.”[[10]]

Similarly, Akyol says,

“local Christians…actively helped the Muslim conquests. When Byzantine-ruled Damascus was besieged by the Arab army in 634, the city’s Monophysite bishop secretly informed the Muslim commander, Khalid, that the east gate of the city was weakly defended, and he supplied the Muslim troops with ladders for scaling the walls.”[[11]]

Moreover, “Christian Arabs from tribes such as the Banu Tayyi of Najd, the Banu al-Namir ibn Qasit of the upper Euphrates river valley, and the Banu Lakhm participated in the jihad with the Muslim armies.”[[12]] It is important to note that many wars did not necessarily count as jihad, while many wars waged by Muslims were against other Muslims.

Caliphs Were Tolerated More Than Supported

While reasons for offensive jihad are debated by both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, it has been established earlier that most of the caliphs who undertook combative jihad were not necessarily supported by the masses, and more than a few were not in line with Islamic teachings.

The collective actions of caliphs, therefore, should not be understood as the genuine expression of Islam. Moreover, the delicate relationship between the caliphs and religious scholars demonstrates more tension than collaboration. The religious scholars had the unenviable role of keeping the ruler in check and risking life and limb in the process. Religious scholars generally did not agree with the power-hungry goals of certain caliphs, but made decisions based on what they believed to be in the collective interests of the wider Muslim community.

Now that an overview of classical Sunni jihad has been provided, this section will compare the understanding and actions of militants today with combative jihad as understood and undertaken by classical Sunni Muslims of the past.

Jihad versus Terrorism

Advocacy of Peace Over War Today as the Norm

The geo-political context in the past hundreds of years has evolved. It is not the same as the time of Prophet Muhammad, or the time of the Crusades. Unlike most of the past 1,000-plus years, peace, not war, is generally the normal state of affairs today.

Even if offensive jihad occurred in Islam’s history, this does not mean most Muslims wish to promote combat today. Contrary to Islamophobes and “Muslim” terrorists, the Muslim majority is not interested in waging combat on others, but living peacefully like most of the world’s people.

“Gallup’s polling of Muslims worldwide determined that the vast majority of respondents (93 percent) belong to the mainstream who believe the 9/11 attacks were not justified.”

(Source: John L. Esposito. The Future of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. p.155)

This is not just the opinion of the Muslim masses, but also of prominent contemporary Sunni scholars. Several such scholars in a Peace Conference in Turkey in 2010 discussed how Ibn Taymiyah’s Fatwa of Mardin was misunderstood and misused by militants to wage violence. Among the conclusions of the New Mardin Declaration was a declaration of peace:

“The classification of abodes in Islamic jurisprudence was a classification based on ijtihad (juristic reasoning) that was necessitated by the circumstances of the Muslim world, then and the nature of the international relations prevalent at that time. However, circumstances have changed now: The existence of recognized international treaties, which consider as crimes wars that do not involve repelling aggression or resisting occupation; the emergence of civil states which guarantee, on the whole, religious, ethnic and national rights, have necessitated declaring, instead, the entire world as a place of tolerance and peaceful co-existence between all religions, groups and factions in the context of establishing common good and justice amongst people, and wherein they enjoy safety and security with respect to their wealth, habitations and integrity. This is what the Shari‘ah has been affirming and acknowledging, and to which it has been inviting humanity, ever since the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) migrated to Madina and concluded the first treaty/peace agreement that guaranteed mutual and harmonious co-existence between the factions and various ethnic/race groups in a framework of justice and common/shared interest. Shortcomings and breaches perpetrated by certain states that happen to scar and mar this process cannot and should not be used as a means for denying its validity and creating conflict between it and the Islamic Shari‘ah.”

These scholars did not advocate perpetual warfare against non-Muslims, but peace, in the current world of nation-states. Dakake reaffirms:

Today, in the modern world, the situation is somewhat reversed: we might say that ‘peace’ is generally the norm and warfare, although not exactly extraordinary, is somewhat less of a constant that it was in ancient times. This fact has led the vast majority of Muslim scholars today to declare that continual, offensive jihad is no longer applicable to the contemporary situation and that jihad today is primarily difa’i or defensive, because the world is itself in a different state from what it was in the seventh century.”

(Source: Joseph E. B. Lumbard. (ed.) Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars. Bloomington, Ind.: World Wisdom, 2009. pg.34)

Therefore, most “Muslim” countries today live peacefully with non-Muslim countries, and most casualties by Muslim attacks today – including al-Qa’eda attacks if they are even considered Muslim – are other Muslims.

This is contrary to the views of Islamophobes who allege that classical Sunni Muslims today support violent “jihad” in some form against non-Muslims, which they strangely consider a continuation of centuries of jihad of the past. To do so is to mix geo-political contexts, to fail to distinguish the nuances of both, and is analogous to judging Christians today by the geo-political context of Christians in the times of the Crusades.

Jihad today is not proclaimed by rulers, but by “Muslim” vigilantes

The minority of violent Islamists (“jihadists”) do not follow the rules of combative jihad in classical Islam. A ruler is not necessary for them to declare jihad, and they are not members of armies. There is no leader of a nation-state in the world today calling for an offensive jihad against any government or follower of other religions. 

Contemporary Pakistani scholar, Shaykh Tahir ul-Qadri, author of the most comprehensive Fatwa Against Terrorism and Suicide Bombings, said:

“Power to declare Jihad has been vested in the state and no non-state actor is allowed to do so in Islam. If it does … it would be nothing but massacre of humanity and revolt against the state”.

Shaykh Muhammad al-Afifi al-Akiti, another contemporary Sunni scholar, says the following in rebuttal to al-Muhajiroun, headed by the extremist, Omar Bakri Mohammed, who praised the 9/11 attacks:

“The upshot is, whether one likes it or not, the decision and discretion and right to declare war or jihad for Muslims lie solely with the various authorities as represented today by the respective Muslim states – and not with any individual even if he is a scholar or a soldier (and not just anyone is a soldier or a scholar) – in the same way that an authority (such as the qadi in a court of law: mahkama) is the only one with the right to excommunicate or declare someone an apostate [murtadd]. Otherwise, the killing would be extra-judicial and unauthorized.”
(Source: Aftab Malik (Editor). (2006). The State We Are In. Shaykh Muhammad al-Afifi al-Akiti. Defending the Transgressed by Censuring the Reckless Against the Killing of Civilians. Amal Press. Pg.108)

Egypt’s Mufti, Ali Gomaa, said,

“The principle in war is that it should be launched with the authorization of the Muslim ruler; it is imperative that the decision to declare war be based on his own reasoning and his subjects must obey him. A ruler is authorized to declare war due to his knowledge of evident and hidden matters, the consequences of actions and the interest of his people. For this reason, a ruler is authorized to declare wars and hold domestic or international treaties as soon as he assumes office. In turn, he does not issue decisions based on [personal] whims. He declares a war only after consulting specialists in every relevant field such as techni­cal specialists, military personnel, and political consultants who are indispensable in the military strategy.”

Contemporary Sunni American scholar, Imam Hamza Yusuf, in a 60 Minutes interview by CBS on September 30, 2001, which also included other religious figures, responded to the interviewer’s question on Osama bin Laden’s declaration of jihad in the name of Allah:

“I would say that he has no legitimate authority, that in Islam, Jihad can only be declared by legitimate state authority. And this is accepted by consensus. There is no vigilantism in Islam. Muslims believe in state authority.”

Similarly, contemporary Sunni scholar, Abdal Hakim Murad (Tim Winter), head of the Cambridge Muslim College in England, said:

“A jihad can be proclaimed only by a properly constituted state; anything else is pure vigilantism.”

The fact that militant violence does not fall into the realms of a valid jihad, as they are not in a position to proclaim it, automatically renders all other “justifications” of so-called jihad by them irrelevant and misplaced.

Militants today do not protect places of worship

Militants today do not spare but target places of worship, including churches, Buddha statues, mosques, and even graves and tombs (especially of Muslim saints) that they see as places of “worship” by millions of Muslims worldwide. The Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Afghan Taliban, and radicals in Pakistan’s tribal areas are current examples. Early examples include attacks on shrines by Wahhabi armies.

Barring a few aberrations from the norm, this is in contrast to how Muslims preserved and protected the places of worship of non-Muslims throughout Islam’s history. In this respect, militants are very unlike early Muslims and follow the historical aberration instead of the norm.

For example, when an Umayyad ruler, Walid Abd al-Malik, claimed property that belonged to a church in Damascus and turned it into a mosque, Umar bin Abd al-Aziz instructed that the portion of the mosque be destroyed and returned to Christians.[[13]]

Commenting on the following Qur’anic verse, “And had God not repelled one group of people from another, the cloisters, synagogues, churches, and mosques in which God’s name is mentioned in abundance would have been ruined” (Qur’an 22:40), Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas quotes the famous Imam al-Hassan al-Basri:

“God uses the believers as a means of preventing the destruction of the places of worship belonging to the non-Muslim citizens.”[[14]]

Regarding non-Muslim places of worship, even Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyah, the loyal student of Ibn Taymiyah, says,

“God uses the believers to defend their places of worship….Moreover, it is obligatory for him [the believer] to defend their objects of worship, even though he detests them.”[[15]]

Militants today not only clash with classical Sunni tradition in this respect, but also oppose the words of controversial scholars whom they deceitfully claim to emulate.

Militants today kill innocent civilians

Militants today target armies and civilians, have described all of their violence as “defensive,” have invented their own rules  – for example, only combatants can speak on rules of combat  – and discard or selectively and deceptively use Sunni tradition to achieve their aims. Al-Dawoody says,

“Several hadiths attributed to the Prophet [Muhammad] prohibit targeting five specific categories of enemy noncombatants, namely, women, children, the aged, the clergy, and al`Asif (any hired man)” (p.111).

The above prohibitions on targeting noncombatants are in a legitimate state of war. The deduction is that human life is even more precious in the absence of war. Prophet Muhammad in his last sermon said,

“O people, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust.”

Conflicts today involving “Muslims” are usually against other Muslims – not non-Muslims. The majority of al-Qa’eda’s victims have been Muslim, in spite of their rhetoric of attacking the “infidel.” A 2009 study, Deadly Vanguards: A Study of al-Qa’ida’s Violence Against Muslims, by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, states:

“The results show that non‐Westerners are much more likely to be killed in an al‐Qa’ida attack. From 2004 to 2008, only 15% percent of the 3,010 victims were Western. During the most recent period studied the numbers skew even further. From 2006 to 2008, only 2% (12 of 661 victims) are from the West, and the remaining 98% are inhabitants of countries with Muslim majorities. During this period, a person of non‐Western origin was 54 times more likely to die in an al‐Qa’ida attack than an individual from the West. The overwhelming majority of al‐Qa’ida victims are Muslims living in Muslim countries, and many are citizens of Iraq, which suffered more al‐Qa’ida attacks than any other country courtesy of the al‐Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) affiliate.”

In another post, Sunni and other scholars explain how al-Tatarrus, the “law on using human shields,” has been manipulated by al-Qa’eda and their likes to justify their massacres of civilians.

Militants demean and target religious scholars and knowledge

Scholar and author, Joas Wagemakers, says,

“There seems to be a growing trend among jihadis to view fighters as being the most credible Muslims to comment on jihad, in spite of their lack of scholarly credentials.”[[16]]

The lack of respect to religious scholars by militants has been seen by their utmost marginalization by even peaceful Islamists.

The opposition by militants to Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, well-known for his religious knowledge among extremist circles, illustrates the point. Scoffing at religious scholars, a central part of the militant outlook, elevates combat over belief, and ridicules Prophet Muhammad’s sayings, including:

“Scholars [of religious knowledge] are the inheritors of the Prophets.”[[17]]

He did not say that those who combat are the heirs of the prophets. Prophet Muhammad was also asked,

“`What is the best deed?’ He responded, ‘Belief in Allah and His Messenger […].’”[[18]]

Likewise, Islamists turn their backs on Sunni tradition by prioritizing politics over religion.

Many militants understand combat experience as a prerequisite to speaking about creed and other religious knowledge – a complete reversal of Sunni Islam that requires correct creed as a first priority and prerequisite to other Islamic practices. Prophet Muhammad also forbade targeting religious figures in a legitimate jihad. Abd Allah ibn Abbas said, “When the Messenger of Allah…would dispatch his troops he would say [to them], “Do not act treacherously, do not steal the spoils of war, do not disfigure the dead bodies, and do not kill children and priests.”[[19]]  This partially explains why Pakistani scholars today find it difficult to speak against terrorism waged by the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qa’eda. Their fate would be the same as Barelwi scholar, Sarfraz Na’eemi, and Deobandi scholar, Hassan Jan, who were killed by militants for speaking against terrorism, including suicide bombings.

Militants make combat a pillar of Islam

The first pillar of Islam, the Testification of Faith (“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”) is replaced with so-called combative jihad as the first pillar, or is portrayed by militants as being a pillar of Islam. `Abd-al-Salam al-Faraj, for example, in “The Neglected Duty” appeared to see combative jihad as the sixth pillar of Islam.

However, jihad is not a pillar of Sunni Islam and never has been. Asma Afsaruddin says that “the Medinan scholar `Abdallah ibn `Umar, son of the second caliph `Umar ibn al-Khattab, is on record as having challenged those who had wished to elevate combative jihad to the level of a religious obligation. An Iraqi man came to Ibn `Umar and reproached him thus: “What is the matter with you that you perform the hajj and `umra but have abandoned fighting in the path of God (al-ghazu fi sabil allah)?’ To which Ibn `Umar responded, ‘Fie on you! Faith is founded on five pillars: that you worship God, perform the prayer, give zakat, perform the pilgrimage, and fast during Ramadan[…].”[[20]]

Militants kill ambassadors

Militants regularly target diplomatic institutions. This was seen in the recent 2012 attack at the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed, along with several other diplomatic staff. Similarly, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked by militants in 1998. Countless examples abound.

Whereas militants target embassies, consulates, and foreign dignitaries, Abdallah bin Mas’ud, one of the closest Companions of Prophet Muhammad, and one of the first converts to Islam, said:

“It is an established Sunna that ambassadors are not to be killed.”[[21]]

It is also recorded in classical Sunni sources that when representatives of Musaylima, who claimed prophethood, visited the Prophet Muhammad as diplomats, Prophet Muhammad did not kill them or instruct others to kill them.[[22]] Author and scholar, M. Cherif Bassiouni, in his book, The Shari’ah and Islamic Criminal Justice System in Time of War and Peace, gave several other examples of diplomatic immunity granted by early communities of Muslims (p.187). For example, “…so great was the Prophet’s belief in the immunity of envoys that when Abu-Ra’fi, the emissary of Quraish, wanted to convert to Islam, the Prophet admonished him:

“I do not go back on my word and I do not detain envoys [your are an ambassador]. You must, therefore, go back, and if you still feel in your heart as strongly about Islam as you do now, come back [as a Muslim].”

Diplomatic immunity is seen in Prophet Muhammad’s exemplary treatment of a delegation from Ta’if in 9 AH/631 CE, in spite of their disrespect towards him:

“Earlier on, when the Prophet had gone to Taif to propagate Islam, the city’s residents treated him poorly. Despite their previously disrespectful conduct, the Prophet treated the Taif delegation with respect, further affirming that envoys were to be received in accordance with their privileged status, irrespective of their sending country or the nature of past relations with its people.”

Militants today do the opposite of what Prophet Muhammad and his companions did.

As illustrated above, to conflate the jihad of classical Sunni Islam with the violent actions of terrorists today, is to have an erroneous understanding.

Militants have inadequate capacity to fight

The Qur’an states,

“Now Allah has lightened your [task] for He knows that there is weakness among you. So if there are of you a hundred steadfast persons, they shall overcome two hundred, if there are a thousand of you, they shall overcome two thousand with the leave of Allah and Allah is with the patient” (8:66).

Terrorists, while violating many other conditions of a legitimate combative jihad, also ignore the condition of numbers in battle. Contemporary Sunni scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, says in his book, Jihad: Principles of Leadership in War and Peace (p.82):

“Thus Allah declared that if the ratio of Muslim warriors to their opponents is half (1:2) they may fight and they will be given Divine Support in an open fight facing the enemy directly, warrior-to-warrior. This was a reduction from the original ratio, in which the believers were obligated to fight even if the ratio of Muslims to their opponents was one to ten.”

Shaykh Kabbani then says, “The above verse [referring to verse 8:66] also means if…the enemy is twice the Muslim force, then there is no possibility of success and therefore at that time you must not set forth. To do so will create nothing but fitnah — a state of hostility and turmoil” (p.83).

Terrorists violate the Qur’anic verse above by challenging entire armies who not only outnumber them, but who also possess more advanced weapons and technology to win battles. To challenge armies in this manner is foolish and jeopardizes the lives of countless Muslims, directly and indirectly. While the minority of terrorists wage their terrorism, millions of innocent people, Muslim and non-Muslim, suffer death, discrimination, and hatred.

Militants Violate Agreements 

Militants violate sacred agreements as the 9/11 hijackers violated their visas which are seen as agreements from a Sunni perspective.  Contemporary Sunni scholar,  Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, says,

When one lives in a particular country, one agrees verbally, in writing or effectively to adhere to the rules and regulations of that country. This, according to the Shariah, is considered to be a promise, agreement and trust. One is obliged to fulfil the trust regardless of whether it is contracted with a friend, enemy, Muslim, non-Muslim or a government. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) always stood by their word and did not breach any trust or agreement, as it is clear from the books of Sunnah and history. Thus, to break a promise or breach a trust of even a non-Muslim is absolutely unlawful and considered a sign of being a hypocrite (munafiq).

Shaykh al-Kawthari then supports his views using specific verses from the Qur’an:

“And fulfil (every) engagement (ahd), for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the day of reckoning)” (Surah al-Isra, v. 34).

“Allah does command you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due, and when you judge between people that you judge with justice” (Surah al-Nisa, v. 58).

Shaykh al-Kawthari then says, “And regarding the one who breaks an agreement and is guilty of treachery, Allah Almighty says”:

 “Allah loves not the treacherous” (Surah al-Anfal, v. 58).

He then quotes several sayings of Prophet Muhammad, including the following:

Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three: When he speaks he lies, when he makes a promise he breaks it, and when he is given a trust he breaches it” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 33).

Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Amr (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Four traits, if found in an individual, then he will be a complete hypocrite (munafiq), and if an individual possesses one of these four, he will have one portion of nifaq: When he is given a trust he breaches it, when he speaks he lies, when he makes an agreement (ahd) he is guilty of treachery and disloyalty (gadar), and when he disputes he is fouled mouth” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 34).

The acts of militants are in direct contradiction to what the Qur’an states and what Prophet Muhammad said.

How Militants Manipulate the Islamic Sources to “Justify” the Killing of non-Muslims

Militants misinterpret and abuse the genuine meaning of evidence from the Islamic sources to justify their violence. Sunni scholar, Shaykh Faraz Khan, explains the context and correct meaning of the following hadith:

“I was ordered to fight people until they bear witness that there is no deity except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; establish the ritual prayer; and pay almsgiving. So if they do that, their lives and wealth are safe from me, except for a right recognized in Islam. Their accounting, however, will be with Allah.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Shaykh Faraz says:

“Unfortunately, this text is often grossly misinterpreted as calling for continuous “holy war” against all non-Muslims until and unless they become Muslim. But examination of context and scholarly interpretation reveals that the hadith by no means refers to all people and is not calling for any sort of war, holy or unholy. The key to understanding the hadith, then, is to understand who exactly is meant by the word ‘people’ in the statement, ‘I was ordered to fight people.’

“This same hadith has various narrations as recorded by different hadith scholars. Imam Nasa’i’s narration reads: ‘I was ordered to fight the polytheists’ rather than the word ‘people,’ and it is an established principle in hadith methodology that various narrations of the same hadith serve to clarify its actual meaning. Hence, the narration of Imam Nasa’i indicates that the word ‘people’ in the first narration does not refer to all people, but rather a specific group of people, namely, certain polytheists. This understanding is confirmed by both the Qur’an and the Sunna, as many incidents in the life of the Prophet [peace and blessings be upon him] clearly show that all of humanity was not intended in the hadith.

“This understanding is also confirmed by our codified legal tradition, which is a reflection of the Qur’an and Sunna. Imam Abu Hanifa and his legal school limited this hadith to only the polytheists among the Arabs. And Imam Malik and his legal school limited it to only the Quraysh tribe among them. [Ibn Battal, Sharh al-Bukhari] (bolded by blog’s author)

“That is to say, according to both schools of law, all non-Arabs are excluded from the hadith – whether polytheists, atheists, Jews, Christians, or otherwise. Among the Arabs, any group that does not worship idols are also excluded, whether Jews, Christians, Magians, or otherwise. Only Arab polytheists – or perhaps just the tribe of Quraysh among them – were being addressed by the Messenger [peace and blessings be upon him]. Incidentally, the Hanafi and Maliki schools historically and up to today have constituted the vast majority of the Muslim world.

“Imam Kasani, the eminent 6th-century Hanafi jurist, explains that the reasoning of this position is based on the difference between Arab polytheists and all other peoples, including People of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians, Arab or non-Arab] and non-Arab polytheists. With respect to peoples other than Arab polytheists, it is hoped that by mutual coexistence between them and Muslims, they will be drawn to Islam after reflecting over the beauty of the religion and its Sacred Law [shari’a]. [f: And that hope is sufficient; whether they become Muslim or not is irrelevant to the Hanafi and Maliki perspective that they are not addressed by the hadith.]

The nature of Arab polytheists, however, was to reject anything that conflicted with their customs and traditions, deeming all else to be madness and worthy of scornful ridicule. They were a people – as repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an – that refused to reflect over anything but ‘the ways of their forefathers.’ Therefore, because the Messenger of Allah [peace and blessings be upon him] was from their same tribe and knew them intimately, he gave them no option but acceptance of Islam or fighting [f: And this statement, of course, was after years of being oppressed by those Arab polytheists]. [Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i].”

Similarly, Shaykh Muhammad al-Akiti says in his Fatwa (p.31),

“As for the meaning of ‘people’ [al-nās] in the above well-related Ḥadīth, it is confirmed by Ijmāʿ that it refers to the same ‘mushrikīn’ as in the Verse of Sūra al-Tawba above, and therefore what is meant there is only the Jāhilī Arabs [mushrikū l-ʿarab] during the closing days of the Final Messenger and the early years of the Righteous Caliphs and not even to any other non-Muslims” (bolded by blogger). 

The “Verse of Sūra al-Tawba” is described by some as the “Verse of the Sword” — 9:5 — discussed in the next section below.

The “Verse of the Sword” (9:5)

Verse 9:5 in the Qur’an states:

“And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

Some militants use verse 9:5 to ‘justify’ killing non-Muslims and Islamophobes believe them. Shaykh Faraz Khan refutes this understanding from scholars of Sunni tradition and says,

“…the Verse of the Sword deals specifically with the situation of Meccan polytheists breaking peace treaties and openly declaring war on the Muslim polity. The verse, then, commands the Muslim state to take up arms and defend itself against those that breached their covenants and attacked out of treachery.

“This explanation is confirmed by the most reliable Imams of Qur’anic exegesis [tafsir], including Imam Razi, Imam Jamal, Imam Zamakhshari, Imam Baydawi, Imam Nasafi, Imam Biqa`i, and others.

[Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb; Jamal, Hashiyat al-Jalalayn; Zamakhshari, Kashshaf; Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil; Nasafi, Madeira al-Tanzil; Biqa`i, Nadhm al-Durar]

“The verse, therefore, can by no means be generalized to refer to all disbelievers. Such an interpretation is not confirmed by scholars of Qur’anic interpretation. It would be both contrary to the intent of the verses as well as disastrous for the security of both Muslim and non-Muslim citizens and nation-states.”

The defense above must be taken in context. While militants sometimes use verse 9:5 to “justify” their terrorism, a July 2012 study by Jeffry R. Halverson and other authors — “How Extremists Quote the Quran” — by the  Center for Strategic Communication (Arizona State University), states that militants often do not use verse 9:5. This is in spite of frequent Islamophobic assertions against Muslims that this verse is to blame for the actions of terrorists. The study examined the most frequently cited or quoted verses in the Qur’an from over 2,000 extremist texts from 1998 to 2011 in the Center for Strategic Communication’s database, and concluded:

“…verses extremists cite from the Qur’an do not suggest an aggressive offensive foe seeking domination and conquest of unbelievers, as is commonly assumed. Instead they deal with themes of victimization, dishonor, and retribution. This shows close integration with the rhetorical vision of Islamist extremists.”

The study, commenting on the “near absence” of verse 9:5 in the texts of extremists, states:

“Other findings in the report raise questions about the veracity of claims often made by analysts. The most surprising is the near absence of the well-known “Verse of the Sword” (9:5) from the extremist texts. Widely regarded as the most militant or violent passage of the Qur’an, it is treated as a divine call for offensive warfare on a global scale. It is also regarded as a verse which supersedes over one hundred other verses of the Qur’an that counsel patience, tolerance, and forgiveness.”

Based on the analysis, the authors conclude:

“…that verses extremists cite from the Qur’an do not suggest an aggressive offensive foe seeking domination and conquest of unbelievers, as is commonly assumed. Instead they deal with themes of victimization, dishonor, and retribution. This shows close integration with the rhetorical vision of Islamist extremists.

Based on this analysis we recommend that the West abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination, focus on counteracting or addressing claims of victimage, emphasize alternative means of deliverance, and work to undermine the “champion” image sought by extremists”  (bolded by blog’s author)

Militants do not follow Sunni tradition in their understanding of verse 9:5, even if some of them, and many more Islamophobes, claim otherwise.

The Varieties of “Jihad” Today

It is interesting to note how the neo-conservatives and other Islamophobes supported an offensive – pre-emptive – war against Iraq under flawed pretexts, which killed more people than all of the offensive jihads in Islam’s history. Like the militants they condemn, they also bipolarize the world into good and evil. Related to this matter, the issue of the division of the world divided into Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Kufr is important to understand.

The Bipolar View of “Jihadists” and Neo-conservatives

“Muslim” terrorists today do not have a sophisticated understanding of the Sunni categorization of the world and the political and related factors associated with it. Ironically and contrary to Sunni tradition, terrorists dichotomize the world simplistically just as neoconservatives do.

Indeed, the division of the world is not allegedly unique to Islam, or religion, in general.  Price says,

“…the division of the world into an in-group and an out-group…is not unique to religion, as it is also a characteristic of groups involved in ethnic conflict and secular conflicts.”[[23]]

“Religion’s dichotomizing tendency,”he continues, “was certainly present in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, competing economic systems, capitalism, and communism, not faiths, were the ideological forces that stoked a 45-year global conflict that led to the brink of nuclear war with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the division of Europe into competing blocs, and wars by proxy throughout the developing world.”[[24]]  The analogy of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Kufrcan be applied to both opposing sides in the Cold War.

Similarly, scholar, author, and ex-CIA officer Graham Fuller says,

“Jihad in its more modern usage has been applied to many quite secular tasks, just as the term ‘crusade’ in English is casually applied to fighting crime or a campaign against drugs”[[25]]

Neo-conservative Islamophobes paradoxically counter Islamist ideology from an ideological perspective of their own that, some would argue, is just as extreme, and which has outlived its perceived usefulness. Their view of themselves as “good” and the Soviet Empire as “evil” (and now all Islamists as “evil”) illustrates the division of the world as two opposite extremes, similar to the views of the “jihadis” they claim to oppose.

Summary Overview

As discussed in this section, the Islamophobes and their partners — the “Muslim” terrorists — are oblivious to the differences between classical jihad and today’s terrorism, which is incorrectly described as “jihad.”They fail to note the differences between the geo-political environments in classical Islam’s time and contemporary times, omit the details of jihad and the differences with today’s so-called “jihad” by radicals, and conflate both.

Sunni tradition is not upheld by radicals, but ridiculed, marginalized, and selectively used to deceptively portray loyalty to the tradition. Islamophobes and “Muslim” terrorists are unable to distinguish between the peaceful majority of Muslims and the violent minority that claims to act in Islam’s name. Their understanding also reflects a Muslim-versus-non-Muslim conflict, whereas Muslims have battled each other and allied with non-Muslims in past and present conflicts.

[[1]] Ahmed Al-Dawoody. The Islamic Law of War: Justifications and Regulations. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. pg.78.

[[2]] Qamar-ul Huda. Crescent and Dove: Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2010..p.48

[[3]] Joseph E. B. Lumbard. (ed.) Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars. Bloomington, Ind.: World Wisdom, 2009. pg.34.

[[4]] Mustafa Akyol. Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2011. p.65.

[[5]] Ira M. Lapidus. A History of Islamic Societies. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 43.

[[6]] Thomas Arnold. The Spread of Islam in the World A History of Peaceful Preaching. S.l.: Goodword Books, 2001. pg.46.

[[7]] Marshall G.S. Hodgson. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization The Classical Age of Islam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974. pg.199

[[8]] J. Lumbard.  op. cit., p. 33

[[9]] Zaid Shakir, “Jihad is not Perpetual Warfare,” New Islamic Directions, 2008, accessed May 27, 2013,

The original article can be read in  Shakir, Zaid. Scattered Pictures: Reflections of an American Muslim: An Anthology of Essays. Hayward, Calif.: Zaytuna Institute, 2005. pp.121-141.

[[10]] Ian, Almond. Two Faiths, One Banner: When Muslims Marched with Christians Across Europe’s Battlegrounds. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009. pp.1-2.

[[11]] M. Akyol, op. cit., p. 67.

[[12]] J. Lumbard.  op. cit., p. 22.

[[13]] Muḥammad Tahir ul-Qadri. Fatwa on Suicide Bombings and Terrorism. London: Minhaj-ul-Quran International, 2010. p. 154.

[[14]] Ibid., p.163.

[[15]] Ibid., p.164.

[[16]] Joas Wagemakers, “Reclaiming Scholarly Authority: Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s Critique of Jihadi Practices,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 34(7) (2011): 523-539.

[[17]] This is an authentic hadith related by Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Ibn Maja, Ahmad, Ibn Habban, and others. For an explanation of the hadith, see Faraz, Rabbani, “Is the hadith: ‘The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets’ authentic? If so, what does it mean?” Seeker’s Guidance, March 15, 2011, accessed May 22, 2013,

[[18]] Sahih Bukhari: Vol.2, Book 26, No. 594.

[[19]] M. ul-Qadri, op. cit., pp. 101-102.

[[20]] Q. Huda, op. cit.,p. 47.

[[21]] M. ul-Qadri, op. cit., p.101.

[[22]] Ibid., p.100.

[[23]] Daniel E. Price. Sacred Terror: How Faith Becomes Lethal. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger, 2012. p.29.

[[24]] Ibid., p.28.

[[25]] G. Fuller, op. cit.,p.275.

– Does Classical Sunni Islam Support Terrorism?

(© Zubair Qamar 2013)

Does Islam Teach Terrorism?

There is no specific verse in the Qur’an that supports the basic and commonly understood definition of terrorism, i.e. the threatening or killing of civilians to make a political point. There is no command in the Qur’an to threaten or kill civilians for any reason. Rather, the Qur’an’s verses of “violence” have been historically understood by mainstream Sunni jurists to refer to combative jihad, which is a war of armies against armies with its many conditions and limitations. Combative jihad is very similar to Christian “Just War” and has parallels with today’s laws of war.

Finding “violent” verses in the Qur’an and any scripture is insufficient to support the claim that the specific scriptures support terrorism because all violence is not synonymous with terrorism. For purposes of comparison, while the Old Testament has verses commanding the destruction of entire villages, including civilians, it is still insufficient to conclude from such verses that the Old Testament teaches or supports terrorism. The causes of terrorism go beyond linear relationships of scripture and terrorist acts, and include a combination of political, social, and psychological factors. Any “experts” who simplify the more complex subject of terrorism by solely or mainly attributing terrorism’s cause to any religion, or any single factor, are guilty of ignorance or intentional promotion of personal agendas against honest and sound understanding.

Muslim Jurists Oppose Terrorism

In addition to the fact that the Qur’an does not support terrorism, the views of Muslim jurists against terrorism further substantiate this understanding. Classical religious jurists would not have labeled terrorist actions as violations of Islamic Law, would not have prescribed severe punishments for those crimes, and would have commanded rather than opposed the killing of innocent civilians had they supported terrorism. The following sections discuss the equivalents of modern day terrorism to terms and acts describing such actions in classical and contemporary Sunni tradition. It is imperative to note that those most critical of Islam refuse to discuss Islam’s view of terrorism. For the minority of jurists that support, for example, suicide bombings, they are from modernist-salafi groups that do not represent classical Sunni Islam.

Hirabah, Muharib, and Muharibun/Hirabiyyun  – Terrorism, Terrorist, and Terrorists

Hirabah in classical Sunni tradition is broadly defined as the spreading of corruption and terror in the Islamic community, though the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanbali) have specific differences in its nuances. Professor and author, Abdul Hakim Jackson, quotes some classical Sunni scholars to provide a more detailed understanding of hirabah:

“The Spanish Maliki jurist Ibn `Abd al-Barr (d.463/1070) defines the agent of hirabah as ‘Anyone who disturbs free passage in the streets and renders them unsafe to travel, striving to spread corruption in the land by taking money, killing people or violating what God has made it unlawful to violate is guilty of hirabah…be he a Muslim or non-Muslim, free or slave, and whether he actually realizes his goal of taking money or killing or not.’”

“The Hanafi jurist, al-Kasani (d.587/1191) defines hirabah (or qat al-tariq) as ‘attacks upon pedestrians for the purpose of taking money by force and in such a way that people are rendered unable to pass freely through the streets…’”

Imam Nawawi (d.676/1277) states that, ‘Whoever brandishes a weapon and terrorizes the streets (akhafa al-sabil) inside or outside a city must be pursued by the authorities (al-Imam), because if they are left unmolested their power will increase and through their killing and taking money and corruption will spread.’”

Ibn Qudamah (d.620/1223) defines hirabah as ‘the act of openly holding people up in the desert with weapons in order to take their money.’ He notes, however, that many of his fellow Hanbalites held that such wanton brigandage constituted hirabah whenever it occurred, ‘because it is even more frightening and detrimental inside cities”[[1]] (names bolded by writer).

Ahmed Al-Dawoody in The Islamic Law of War (p.171) says that Sunni “jurists commonly agree on the following main characteristics of the perpetrators of this crime” as:

“a group of Muslims who under the threat, or use, of arms attack or merely intimidate or terrorize their victims in order to overtly and forcefully rob, kill or merely terrorize their victims.”

Al-Dawoody then explains the differences among the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence in their understanding of hirabah. The Hanafis

“focused on on the taking of money by force as the usual objective of this crime and the fact that it causes people to feel intimidated about using roads where highway men are active. This focus may be the result of Abu Hanifah’s restricting the application of the law of hirabah to certain crimes committed in the desert or in unpopulated areas…”

Regarding jurists from the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools, they

“emphasize the element of the criminals’ use of arms — Hanbalis add even a stick or a stone — mujaharah (overtly, openly, unlike thieves and other criminals). This shows a sort of mukabarah, a determination on the part of the criminals to challenge the state authorities” (pp. 171-172).

The Maliki jurists

“explicitly emphasize the importance of the element of spreading terror among the victims as a principal intention behind this crime, even, these Maliki jurists add, if the criminals do not intend to rob their victims…. Interestingly, the Maliki jurists include under the law of hirabah the crimes of killing by stealth, poisoning, and armed burglary, because the victims are helpless” (p.172).

The Sunni punishment for people who commit the crime of hirabah – who spread disorder and corruption in the land – is severe, as stated in the Qur’an:

“The punishments of those who wage war (yuharibun) against Allah and His Prophet and strive to spread disorder (fasad) in the land are to execute them in an exemplary way or to crucify them or to amputate their hands and feet from opposite sides or to banish them from the land. Such is their disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom save those who repent before you overpower them; you should know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Ever Merciful.” (5:33-34)

The discussion of terrorism in Sunni Islam is not only confined to hirabah. Rather, Sunni jurists differ on the more precise understanding of terrorism according to Sunni Islam, as explained below.

Irhab, Irhabi, and Irahabiyyun – Terrorism, Terrorist, and Terrorists

While some scholars find hirabah to be the closest in meaning to how terrorism is generally understood today, other scholars recommend other possible terms. For example, analyst Douglas Streusand says, “[A] potentially useful word is irhab, the Arabic word for terrorism,” rendering irhabi “the literal translation of ‘terrorist.’” He says this in the context of rejecting the words jihad, jihadi, and mujahidun to describe terrorism and terrorists:

“[D]escribing [our enemies]…as jihadis or mujahidun not only validates their claim to legitimacy, but also implies that we consider Islam itself our enemy.”[[2]]

Irjaf, Irjafi, and Irajafiyyn/MurjifunA Better Translation of Terrorism, Terrorist, and Terrorists

However, according to Shaykh Ali Goma’a, the Mufti of Egypt, describing terrorism and terrorists as irhab and irhabi are “mistaken translations and a strategic error.”[[3]] The reason why, author Waleed El-Ansary explains, is because

“The classical usages and meanings of the root from which irhabi derives, rahiba, are overwhelmingly positive, for the Qur’an employs this root to refer to the fear of God (‘the beginning of wisdom’ in the Abrahamic traditions) or holding God in awe.”

Osama bin Laden had used the word irhab himself, thus

“exploiting the difference between classical and modern usages to argue for the possibility of commendable rather than reprehensible terrorism.”[[4]]

To separate Bin Laden’s distorted usage of a term rooted in the Qur’an to justify his unIslamic actions, Mufti Goma’a suggests the term irjaf, “which denotes subversion and scaremongering to bring quaking and commotion to society” and “is derived from the root rajafa, which means to quake, tremble, be in violent motion, convulse, or shake.”[[5]]

Mufti Goma’a’s recommendation of using irjaf as a more appropriate translation of the word terrorism is, El-Ansary explains, because

“From a linguistic perspective, he points out that the term unambiguously connotes the cowardice, deceit, and betrayal associated with terrorism in striking from the back, unlike hirabah. The grand mufti’s discussion of the usage of murjifun not only deflates bin Laden’s pompous and grandiose ideology, but reduces him from monk to criminal. Moreover, irjaf is clearly distinguished from conventional warfare, harb, since the murjifun (or irjafiyyun) do not constitute a legal entity, whereas their target does.”[[6]]

El-Ansary continues,

“The legal sanction for irjaf is also much clearer than hirabah, for the punishment – execution – is unambiguous. Finally, from a practical point of view, it is far more difficult for bin Laden and al-Qaeda members to argue that they do not cause commotion within cities, and that their critics attempting to prevent such violence do. The term irjaf thereby effectively eliminates the possibility of extremists turning the tables on their critics.”[[7]]

The Khawarij as Murjifun/Irjafiyyun and Today’s al-Qa’eda

It is interesting to note that Mufti Goma’a describes the early Khawarij in Islam who rebelled against the Companions of Prophet Muhammad as murjifun/irjafiyyun.[[8]]

Pakistani scholar Shaykh Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, who authored the well-known Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings, also described the Khawarij as the first terrorists in Islam, saying that al-Qaeda and other militants[9] carry the Khawarij banner today. According to Shaykh ul-Qadri in his comprehensive Fatwa, classical Sunni scholars are divided into two groups in their verdict of the Khawarij. The first group of scholars impugns them with disbelief. The second group impugns them with sin, though not with disbelief. Both groups, however, are in general agreement that the Khawarij should be fought for their extreme actions. Of greater interest is the first group to illustrate that the Khawarij, like al-Qa’eda and other militants today, were seen as disbelievers by prominent classical Sunni scholars.

Classical Sunni Scholars Who Accused the Khawarij of Disbelief

Some classical Sunni scholars who accused the Khawarij of disbelief are Imam al-Bukhari,[[10]] Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali,[[11]] Imam Ibn Jarir al-Tabari,[[12]]Al-Qadi `Iyad,[[13]] Imam al-Qurtubi,[[14]] Imam Taqi al-Din al-Subki,[[15]] Imam Ibn Ishaq al-Shatibi,[[16]] Imam Badr al-Din al-`Ayni,[[17]] and Mulla `Ali al-Qari.[[18]] Below are examples of the positions of Imam al-Bukhari and Imam al-Ghazali.

Imam Bukhari

Of the famous scholar of hadith, Imam al-Bukhari, well known Imam Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani said,

“A large body of scholars said that the Kharijites are to be charged with disbelief, such as al-Bukhari, who compared them to apostates and heretics, and only singled out individuals [amongst them] who were subject to faulty interpretations, mentioning them in a separate chapter: ‘On the One Who Refrains from Fighting the Kharijites for the Sake of Drawing Hearts Near and so People Will Not Flee.”[[19]]

Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

Of the famous Sunni scholar and Sufi, al-Ghazali, Ibn Hajar said:

“In al-Wasit, al-Ghazal said (following others): There are two opinions regarding the judgment on Kharijites: ‘They take the ruling of apostates or the ruling of rebels,’ and al-Rafi’i declared the first view preponderant.”[[20]]

Had those classical Muslim scholars been alive today, they would certainly have opposed al-Qa’eda and similar militant groups and accused them of disbelief due to the similarity of their actions with past actions of the Khawarij. This contradicts the claims of both Islamophobes and “Muslim” militants who claim that militants represent the continuation of the classical Sunni tradition. Rather, classical Sunni scholars repudiate terrorists in the strongest terms possible, with many accusing them of disbelief. As discussed, execution is the punishment of terrorists according to Islamic Law.

Unfortunately extremists of all colors seem unaware of hirabah, irhab, and irjaf, and how they differ with classical Sunni jihad. They erroneously conflate all words as if they mean the same and compromise an accurate understanding of today’s actions by militants and of the understanding of classical Sunni jurists of the past.

Muslims Condemn Terrorism

The above also opposes the erroneous understanding that Muslims do not speak out against terrorism. Muslims have been speaking out against terrorism for the past 1,000-plus years, and their condemnations of terrorism continue. More contemporary views against terrorism by Muslims can be found in A Common Word Between Us and You [[21]], The Amman Message [[22]], the Fatwa Against al-Qa’eda by the Islamic Commission of Spain [[23]], the Fatwa against terrorism by Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti [[24]], the Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings by Shaykh Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri (as discussed earlier),[[25]] and many other denunciations of terrorism by influential Muslims (click A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H. [[26]]).

[[1]] Sherman Jackson, “Domestic Terrorism in the Islamic Legal Tradition,” The Muslim World 91 (Fall 2001): 293-310, accessed May 19, 2013,

[[2]] Qamar-ul Huda. Crescent and Dove: Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2010. p. 64.

[[3]] Ibid., p. 65.

[[4]] Ibid., p. 65.

[[5]] Ibid., p. 67.

[[6]] Ibid., p. 68.

[[7]] Ibid., p. 68.

[[8]] Ibid., p. 68.

[[10]] Muḥammad Tahir ul-Qadri. Fatwa on Suicide Bombings and Terrorism. London: Minhaj-ul-Quran International, 2010. p. 358.

[[11]] Ibid., p. 360.

[[12]] Ibid., p. 358.

[[13]] Ibid., p. 361.

[[14]] Ibid., p. 363.

[[15]] Ibid., p. 366.

[[16]] Ibid., p. 367.

[[17]] Ibid., p. 370.

[[18]] Ibid., p. 371.

[[19]] Ibid., p. 358.

[[20]] Ibid., p. 360.

[[21]] A Common World Between You and Us, October 13, 2007, accessed May 29, 2013,

[[22]] The Amman Message, July 2005, accessed May 19, 2013,

[[23]] “Fatua Contra el Terrorismo,” Comision Islamica de Espana, October 3, 2005, accessed May 29, 2013, (English translation available,

[[24]] Shaykh Muhammad Afifi Al-Akiti, Defending the Transgressed by Censuring the Reckless Against the Killing of Civilians (Germany: Warda Publications), accessed May 23, 2013,

[[25]] Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings (London: Minhaj-ul-Quran International), accessed May 22, 2013,

[[26]] See, for example, the list of denunciations of terrorism by influential Muslims and organizations at Charles, Kurzman, “Islamic Statements Against Terrorism,” accessed June 2, 2013,, Sheila, Musaji, “Muslim Voices – Part I – Fatwas & Statements by Muslim Scholars & Organisations – updated,” The American Muslim, updated January 28, 2012, accessed May 17, 2013,, Sheila, Musaji, “Power Point Presentations on Islam and Muslims,” The American Muslim, updated July 1, 2007, accessed May 17, 2013,,Sheila, Musaji, “Muslim Voices Promoting Islamic Non Violent Solutions,” The American Muslim, updated June 6, 2011, accessed May 17, 2013,, Sheila, Musaji, “Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism – Part IV A few Quotes A-K,” The American Muslim, December 13, 2006, accessed May 17, 2013,, Sheila, Musaji, “Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism – A few Quotes L-Z,” The American Muslim, December 7, 2006, accessed May 17, 2013,, Sheila, Musaji, “Muslims & Arabs in the U.S. Military – article collection,” The American Muslim, updated March 22, 2008, accessed May 17, 2013,, Sheila, Musaji, “Selective Hearing of Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism,” The American Muslim, December 9, 2006, accessed May 17, 2013,