Besides the large scale loss of human life, violation of human rights and destruction of irreplaceable artefacts and properties, one of the most unfortunate outcomes of the recent military advancement of the so-called ‘Islamic’ State (ISIS) is the exponential proliferation of the idea of Islam as a backward religion of violence and the successful recruitment of western youth. It is undeniable that ISIS is exceptionally brutal and invokes the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa consistently in its various recruitment strategies and that it has proven exceptionally effective at ensnaring vulnerable youth. The natural question that arises is, does the religion of Islam deserve the blame for the genesis and success of ISIS? Does the Holy Qur’an sanction rape, torture and plunder as actions that will be rewarded in the Hereafter? Are these actions practically exemplified in the life of the Prophet Muhammadsa? Certainly hate mongers from both sides, whether terrorists or Islamophobes, would have you believe so, however, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is only a real understanding of the true teachings of Islam as taught by the Holy Qur’an, practised by the Holy Prophetsa, and exemplified in this day and age by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, that provides the real solution to combat the growing problem of radicalisation.
The opponents of Islam and ISIS recruiters have a similar tendency to excise verses of the Holy Qur’an without any attention to content or context. This strategy is used as a tool to indoctrinate vulnerable youth, who often lack the support of a strong and truly Islamic social network. This vulnerability also exposes a severe deficiency in these youths, of a basic knowledge of their religion. For example, one of the most oft-cited verses is Chapter 9, Verse 5 which reads “And when the forbidden months have passed, kill the idolaters wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, then leave their way free. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.” At a superficial glance, this verse appears to take a violent and unforgiving stance but it does not take much research to realise that the true intention of the Holy Qur’an is to end war at every opportunity. The verse preceding this verse explicitly provides protection to all idolaters who are under a treaty with the Muslims and the subsequent verse allows protection to all idolaters who simply ask for it. Read along with its surrounding verses, and interpreted with a true knowledge of Islamic history and the unrelenting aggression of the Meccan tribes during the time of the Prophet Muhammadsa, there remains little doubt that this verse only expounds the practical rules of a defensive war and promotes peace at every opportunity. Arming their youth with this basic Islamic knowledge has allowed the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to not only make their youth less vulnerable but to also declare a ‘Jihad of the pen’ against extremists from both sides.
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This armamentarium of knowledge is further augmented by learning about the life of the Prophet Muhammadsa. In contradiction to the deplorable torture and rape of prisoners by ISIS, even the opponents of Islam have admitted that Prophet Muhammad’ssa treatment of prisoners of war was immensely compassionate. Sir William Muir’s well known Life of Mahomet reads as follows:
“In pursuance of Mahomet’s[sa] commands, the citizens of Medina, and such of the Refugees as possessed houses, received the prisoners, and treated them with much consideration. ‘Blessings be on the men of Medina!’ said one of these prisoners in later days; ‘they made us ride, while they themselves walked: they gave us wheaten bread to eat when there was little of it, contenting themselves with dates.’”
In addition, the Prophetsa further stated explicit and well known rules prohibiting harm to women, children and the elderly and undue destruction of property. These along with countless other instances, paint a truer picture of the Prophet Muhammadsa than any decontextualised and abbreviated narration used by extremists and Islamophobes.
Even a brief and unbiased look at the life of the Prophetsa, leaves one incredulous at how groups can create propaganda in this man’s name which are so diametrically opposed to his most fundamental teachings. One begins to wonder if religion has anything to do with it at all. In 2008, an article published in The Guardian illuminating an internal research document from MI5 (Great Britain’s well known and respected intelligence agency) declared:
“Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.”
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To find a “well-established religious identity” protecting against radicalisation, look no further than the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which in its history of over 125 years, does not record a single incident of violence in the name of religion, despite having members from a broad socioeconomic and cultural spectrum. The secret of this success is twofold. Firstly, it begins with the clear declaration by the Promised Messiahas and founder of this Movement stating:
“I have come to you with an order: Jihad with the sword has ended from this time forward, but the Jihad of purifying your soul must continue…I command all those who have joined my ranks to refrain from all such thoughts, to purify their hearts, to foster sympathy, and to become compassionate towards the suffering. They should spread peace on earth…”
Secondly, this message is epitomised in the personage of the true Khalifah of our time, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, who unites the followers of this Community in a firm stance against violence in the name of religion by declaring, “Islam does not permit you to respond to cruelty with further cruelty. All cruelty is wrong and to be condemned.”
This is a beautiful ethos that both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, need to embrace in the face of the intolerance that groups like ISIS promote. This alternative perspective shows that the hate-filled rhetoric of Islamophobes, who condemn a large swathe of the human population, is unfounded and simply won’t do anymore.
- William Muir, The Life of Mahomet, Volume 3 (London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1861), 122.
- Yousuf H. Aboul-Enein and Sherifa Zuhur,Islamic Rulings on Warfare, p. 22, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, (Diane Publishing Co., Darby PA), 22.
- “MI5 Report Challenges Views on Terrorism in Britain | UK News | The Guardian,” accessed September 24, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/aug/20/uksecurity.terrorism1.
- Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, British Government and Jihad (Tilford, UK: Islam International Publications Ltd, 2006), 17.
- “Islamic Caliph Condemns ISIS’ Act of ‘Un-Islamic Terror’ – The London Economic,” accessed September 24, 2015, https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/2014/07/10/islamic-caliph-condemns-isis-act-of-un-islamic-terror/.