Top Ways 9/11 Broke Islamic Law

On the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it is clear that al-Qaeda was a tiny fringe terrorist movement, not a globe-straddling threat to Western societies. The organization has been decisively disrupted and now lacks command and control. Its leader, Usama Bin Laden, has not been seen in a video since 2004, and is either dead or horribly disfigured. Its number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is dangerous only in the way that any other terrorist crank is, firing off crackpot messages to his dwindling band of followers from time to time. With the startling rise of anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States, fanned in large part by Republican Party fear mongering, it is worthwhile underlining the ways in which September 11 contravened Islamic values and Islamic law. (For a modernist, liberal interpretation, see this pdf file, “Jihad and the Islamic Law of War.”

1. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people. The Qur’an says, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error.” (-The Cow, 2:256). Note that this verse was revealed in Medina and was never abrogated by any other verse of the Quran. Islam’s holy book forbids coercing people into adopting any religion. They have to willingly choose it.

2. Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare. The Quran says, “But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God! For He is the one who hears and knows all things.” (8:61) The Quran chapter “The Cow,” 2:190, says, “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors.”

3. In Islamic war, not just any civil engineer can declare or launch a war. It is the prerogative of the duly constituted leader of the Muslim community that engages in the war. Nowadays that would be the president or prime minister of the state.

4. The killing of innocent non-combatants is forbidden. According to Sunni tradition, ‘Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first Caliph, gave these instructions to his armies: “I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town . . . ” (Malik’s Muwatta’, “Kitab al-Jihad.”)

5. Muslim commanders must give the enemy fair warning that war is imminent. The Prophet Muhammad at one point gave 4 months notice. Sneak attacks are forbidden.

The World Trade Center had a mosque in it, which Bin Laden destroyed, and he killed dozens of innocent Muslims in the attack along with thousands of others. All of this is an abomination in Islamic law.

By the laws of classical Islam and the instructions of the Quran, then, the September 11 act of terrorism was illegal. It is not an affirmation of Islam but a departure from its laws of war. That is why, contrary to popular belief, Muslim authorities have roundly condemned al-Qaeda’s actions in no uncertain terms. See also the Amman statement, to which large numbers of prominent Sunni and Shiite leaders subscribed.

Al-Qaeda can legitimately be seen as not a Muslim group at all. Usama Bin Laden openly said of the hijackers that ‘those young men had no fiqh [Islamic law]‘– i.e. they were lawless secret operatives rather than proper Muslims. Khalid Shaikh Muhammad when in the Philippines lived like James Bond, going to nightclubs with a pure silver cigarette lighter. Several of the hijackers frequented strip clubs. Ziad Jarrah was from a secular family and had a Turkish live-in girlfriend. Many of these operatives simply were not fundamentalists but rather an odd sort of Muslim nationalist. Bin Laden did not target the US because of its way of life, but because he said it imposed a boycott on Iraq in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, because it encouraged the Saudi regime to pump more oil than it should so as to keep the price low, because it stationed troops in the kingdom. Even if Bin Laden hadn’t been a crackpot with conspiracy theories, these points are not civilizational or religious issues. They are just politics.

Bin Laden wanted a big fight between the Muslim world and the United States. He wanted the US mired in Afghanistan. He is a nobody, leading a tiny group of cells now mostly disrupted. But the US has sunk itself into a quagmire of wars in a vast over-reaction to a terrorist attack. Without the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, al-Qaeda might well have just disappeared even further into insignificance than it did. And now, instigated by the Republican Party, US society is moving toward an Islamophobia that could well set it at odds with 1.5 billion Muslims.

Bin Laden is not a proper Muslim, and his actions contravened Islamic law. He is a Jim Jones-type cultist with a fringe, violent People’s Temple. Americans need to stop blaming Islam, and to recognize that most Muslims in the world are their friends, and that American Muslims are patriots and contributors to our well-being.

Every time Americans tear down Islam, Bin Laden gets a little bit of what he wanted.

47 Responses

  1. You cannot kill the elderly, or women, or children. You cannot destroy buildings or vegitation.

    Only the body of Islamic scholars (Mufti Desai, Deoband, Hanafi madhhab, Sunni Islam) or Imam Mahdi (Shia Islam) can declare jihad. The body of Islami scholars has not declared jihad (Mufti Desai); and Imam Mahdi is in occultation (Shia Islam).

    Thank you for the proof-text on defensive jihad only.

  2. Btw, The Haqqanis aren’t modernist or liberal. At least, their methods for explaining jihad aren’t. Modernist and liberal, to my mind is “We don’t have to apply the Qur’an and Sunnah because this is the modern age. We can shift the application of Islamic law according to the modern way of life.” These guys appears to be using the same method of applying the Qur’an, Sunnah, and other bases of ijtihad to the explanation of jihad.

  3. From the AP this morning re the proposed community center. “Muslim prayer services are normally held at the site, but it was padlocked Friday and would be closed Saturday, the official end of the holy month of Ramadan. Police planned 24-hour patrols of the site until next week. Worshippers on Friday were redirected to a different prayer room 10 blocks away.” Depressing.

  4. Not only did “Bin Laden wanted a big fight between the Muslim world and the United States. He wanted the US mired in Afghanistan…. And now, instigated by the Republican Party, US society is moving toward an Islamophobia that could well set it at odds with 1.5 billion Muslims.” but the US is mired in debt to people in countries like China and Japan.

    Perhaps this could be a good thing if only all the (so called) Muslims and (so called) Christians could be placed on the field of battle and have at it, while the rest of us learn how to get along while believing what we believe without requiring others to believe what we believe.

  5. Thank you for this post, Juan. Although my interpretation of abrogation has always been a bit different, namely that the Quranic commandments and law superseded previous divine revelations like the Torah instead of the Quran superseding itself. Nevertheless, an important post. Thank you.

    • Arsalan,
      Good point, from what I know there is external abrogation, as in the finality of Islamic texts over other Abrahamic texts; but within Islamic texts, I think Qur’an and Hadith have some interchangeable capacities in which they overwrite one another in some cases.

  6. Hello Juan

    My question is this: you write “Many of these operatives simply were not fundamentalists but rather an odd sort of Muslim nationalist.” It seems to me they (the operatives) were _Arab_ nationalists. BinLaden may be a Muslim nationalist, wanting to re-establish the Caliphate, but that just doesn’t sound right to me for the real activists, the ones who hijacked the planes. Most were Saudis, most were well educated (well, more or less well educated). They seemed to me to be more like the Brotherhood, wanting a decent government in Egypt. These guys remind me of the anti-government types with long beards, beat up pickups, and lots of guns out in Idaho. Whatever they are up to, it sure isn’t religious.


  7. Professor Cole:

    ONE bad thing about hydropower dams is that they suck in, grind up and spit out huge numbers of living things, despite the pretext of weirs and screens that are the “civil engineer’s” seeming fixes for that problem.

    Too bad, of course, that critters that go with the flow pay no attention to that wise old carp, swimming upstream in search of a peaceful rill to rest in, telling them again and again they are most definitely going the wrong way to a bad end. And giving them chapter and verse explaining WHY.

    What, AQ is NOT an Ubernational Franchise like Ghalib-urton, threatening to bring about The End Of Life As We Know It? (As opposed to the Global Militarization Project?)

    I wish you all the best, with your larger voice, in turning back upstream some of the critters bent on or indifferent to or excitedly going along with being sucked into the turbine blades as part of the American Imperialization And Power Generation And Projection Authority’s Destructive Destruction Project. It’s a harder direction to go, but hey, our species doesn’t do too well if it’s chopped and crushed and blasted out the discharge from the damn Narrative Dam, now does it?

    Did I pick up the right phrase here?

    ﻚﻴﻓ ﷲا كﺭﺎﺑ

  8. I have long suspected that in fact Bin Laden is not particularly devout or even sincerely religious. I understand scholarly Muslim clerics view his religious pronouncements as amateurish at best. Looking at his history, while he seems to have had a strong interest in religion since college, it looks much more on the whole secular and politcally ambitious. If I am right, the whole Islamic aspect of his propaganda (and this is equally true of Zawahiri) is simply a way of recruiting for his cause.
    At the outset, I think his main aim was to overthrow the house of Saud, probably intending to replace it with the house of Bin Laden. I think Zawahri talked him into an attack on the ‘far enemy’ (The US) as a means of separating the House of Saud from it’s American Backers. Lousy guess.

  9. In my experience, religious texts do not instruct the end-user to kill.

    They each address different positions and paths towards the truth, but each requires the adherent to try. While the circumstances of one’s birth and life may be challenging, it behooves all people not to lie to themselves. This prime requirement is the kernel from which any religion can arise.

    Being honest with oneself about the circumstances one faces is but the first step.

    Some people see pitting one person or group against another as a way to gain power, influence and wealth over the rest of us. They may see truth, but do not share it.

    “We the People” is the best defense we have. Come together. Know in your heart that Peace is the true way. All of us make this country successful and safe when we stick together to overcome these charlatans.

    Patience is a virtue because sooner or later a charlatan will reveal himself. He has less gas in the tank than those of us who do not lie to ourselves. Know Thyself.

  10. Thank you Juan Cole for your post on 9/11 broke Islamic Law
    I think the brouhaha of the past few days or weeks regarding the Islamic Center and the burning of the Quran, will awaken a sense of curiosity among many Americans regarding Islam.

  11. Michael Scheuer’s book “Imperial Hubris” seemed to me to be saying that bin Laden primarily intended his movement to inspire Moslems to defend their own countries, that he expected it would take many decades to turn back the tide of Western domination, and that bin Laden himself did not expect to live to see that victory or obtain a position of power. It’s easy to ascribe every evil or insult to the guy, but he seems to have read the nature of the American empire pretty well and has set the wheels turning on its demise at the hands of others. And he has reason to think that his rinky-dink activities in the past finished off the USSR – at least as much as people who credit it to Ronald Reagan.

    So that leaves us with two questions:
    1. what right does the West, and America, really have to dominate the world when we run it so badly?

    2. why can’t the Moslems get a better deal from a Chinese-dominated future than the global mess that has resulted from 60 years of the US trying to impose the contradictions of the Saud dynasty and Israel on the Middle East? The Chinese would not have been so stupid, because they’re too cynical to let sentiment (Israel) or ignorance (the Sauds) dictate their interventions.

    Like John Brown, bin Laden might get the last laugh on all of us.

  12. If you are going to promote an authentic view of authentic Islam, by claiming the passages in the Koran are the truth, and ignore how Moslems have acted since their inception; including from Mohammed onward, to modern times; then you have to do the same in regard to what is authentic Christianity; disregarding all the actions of false Christians throughout the years; including the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusaders, European imperialism, and the foreign policy of the US for the past couple of centuries.

    But that is not rational assessing. What is Islam, in practical terms, just as what is Christianity in practical terms, is how do the majority of professing Moslems and professing Christians behave throughout history.

    And from a purely rational perspective, Islamic governments throughout history and today; Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, etc., etc., etc.; create forced conversions and quite oppressive conditions for their citizens. The US, and other countries that are Christian in their culture bases, may do horrible things outside their borders. But inside their borders, for citizens and visitors alike, cultural Christian nations provide vastly superior environments compared to their Moslem equivalents, or the other countries that have a different religion: China, Russia (the Orthodox churches are miles away from Western churches), Japan, Vietnam, India, etc..

    • forced conversions? where do you find evidence of such things occuring? can you give evidence or does simply stating that it occurred make it so? the old saying that islam was spread by the sword has left the world to take such teachings for granted. it is sad that the best examples of islamic beliefs that you can refer to are dictatorial regimes, supported by america for decades, and which many muslims would never refer to as islamic. read the article again, it represents muslim beliefs better than so called experts have informed the american public.

    • The reason the negatives of Christianity are highlighted in this way is bacause those Christians that have been sucked in or deceived by misinformation provided by Islamophobes fail to acknowledge this very point. They fail to see that just because you are a Muslim, it does not meant you cannot be a criminal or a bad person and commit crimes. On the contrary, whenever a Muslim gang or deranged psycho commits a crime, it is labelled as something enforced by Islam. Well, that leaves the way open for blaming Christians for every bad thing done under their watch too. And unfortunately, Christian history has so many negatives in that way the negatives of historically Islamic societies pale in comparison. And when that is pointed out, you get posts like yours. I suggest you go post this on any Islamophobic sites or blogs or forums like JihadWatch and Gellers House of Fapping over Death before you ask us.

      Just to be clear, as a Muslim I dont blame Christianity and real Christians for the Inquistion, the Crusades or the Holocaust. I understand that bad people are everywhere and sometimes they even get in power.

      As for your point about forced conversions etc. I highly doubt that forced conversions and death for conversion are carried otu routinely in Islamic countries. I dont have the statistics for Saudiland, even though it is a country whose rulers I am not a big fan of, but let’s look at some other things. How many Christians and Jews are there in the Iranian parliament? Compare that to the Muslims in US government or elsewhere in the Western World. Even a lie fabricated by Islamophobes has people up in arms over Muslims in government. Can we learn from Iran? Maybe.

    • “And from a purely rational perspective, Islamic governments throughout history and today; Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, etc., etc., etc.; create forced conversions and quite oppressive conditions for their citizens.”
      Warren, you must be listening too much to either Glen Beck or Rush.
      Have you ever lived in any Muslim country that you are accusing off forced conversion?
      I have met quite a few Americans, after completing their Ph D in Islamic studies, theology, Fiqh and Hadis, converted to Islam. Who forced them to study Islam for years? No one. Who forced them to convert? No one. It is all by their own FREE WILL. If you like, you can verify by calling University of Arizona, Islamic Department.
      Despite all this negative publicity by Islamophobes, still so many times you read, “Islam is the fastest growing religion in the USA.”
      It is not by forced conversion, but by studying & understanding Islam & Quran.
      Who forced Muhammad Ali, Karim Abdul Jabbar, Malcolm X & many, many more to convert to Islam?
      About 2 years ago, one Swiss legislature fought tooth & nails against Mosque minarets. After referendum was passed against mosque minarets, he converts to Islam. Now he has vowed to build the biggest mosque in Switzerland. Who forced him to convert?

    • Sorry Warren but you don’t have the slightest idea what you are talking about. There are no government-backed forced conversions in Egypt and Indonesia! Where do you get your bizarre ideas about the Middle East?

    • Mr. Warren,

      I would just like to point out that your last paragraph is filled with inaccurate and exaggerated statements. Most of the arab states mentioned above have no such thing as forced conversions whatsoever, even today. Are there some minor extremists groups in those countries that cause issues, yes, but overall there is no such thing as forced conversions except for somalia and maybe Yemen, which generally are extremely unstable states for other obvious reasons not related to islam, but islam used as a tool incorrectly for political/social dominance.
      There is no doubt that the US and other European states at this point in history, have achieved a highly cultured society and superior environments and a great deal of that is attributed to a healthy christian society, but it is also attributed to the political systems established, namely democracy and scientific, economical and educational advancements. In the case of the US, it is important to note that it is not particularly christian but jewish, muslim, hindu, buddhist as well as many other cultures and faiths that contribute to the continuation of that development today.
      If you were too look at history at the highest points of islamic states, it was the equivalent or at the very least similar of what I have mentioned above in the eras from 800-1500 A.D. It had the same achievements and did not have a forced conversions either. In most of the arab countries, like Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, etc… there are churches and synagogues that were built dating back before, during and after Islam was established that are still there today. Also in these countries, are millions of christians and jews of various sects. As an example, there are just over 10 million christians in Egypt, 2 million palestian christians, 8 million in syria, and so on.
      If throughout history, the muslims at their peak of power in the period of 800-1500 A.D. (keep in mind, there was no UN, no human rights, no security council back then) (N.B. Europe at that time saw the Islamic empire as the US and Europe of today, and where most were illiterate, poverty stricken, and full of feudal warfare and so on.) were so intent on converting all non-muslims, you don’t think they would have been able to do it? They would have done it very easily back in those days, plus none of those churches and synagogues would be standing there today, they would have been destroyed or turned in to a mosque. If it happened in spain when the moors were invaded by northern europe where all muslims living there were forced to convert, then the muslims could have done it to the entire region, yet there remains a heavily strong population of all three monotheistic religions existing through out history until today.
      If you don’t believe this, read the right facts or visit these places and you will see for yourself.

  13. “The US, and other countries that are Christian in their culture bases, may do horrible things outside their borders. But inside their borders, for citizens and visitors alike, cultural Christian nations provide vastly superior environments compared to their Moslem equivalents, or the other countries that have a different religion: China, Russia (the Orthodox churches are miles away from Western churches), Japan, Vietnam, India, etc”
    I guess history is not your main interest Warren. It is true that, on the whole the metropolitan centres of Empire are more prosperous than the peripheries, if only because the periphery is where the looting is currently taking place. As to the behaviour of ‘Christian countries’ within their own, expanding borders, consider the history of the United States, from the point of view of a Cherokee, or an African American, or a Chinese labourer, or a Mexican, or a Wobblie….

    • Or a Catholic, or a Mormon, or a Jew, or an agnostic, or even a Universal Unitarian. Or anybody nominally Christian (not Paulist, but a person who concentrates on trying to follow the tenets of Jesus of Nazareth as reported in the Gospels) who gets crosswise with Jerry Falwell or John Hagee or all the other Christian Talibanners, those people whose Bible stops at Malachi 4:6 and picks up again at Romans 1:1, and circles around Revelation like it has no history behind its happenstance inclusion in the stuff which they select out in choice bits and then always say “And the Word of God says…”

  14. Language Matters-
    Headlines ( and stories) like “Top Ways 9/11 Broke Islamic Law”are not all that helpful in separating peoples perceptions of the Twin Towers attack from being a Muslim/Islamic attack, in fact every time you link the two things ( positively or negatively) it reinforces this connection.
    ( if we had 9 years of ‘Christian Extremist’ stories people would be avoiding churches )

    It would be more helpful if you were to have an article “Top ways 9/11 Broke International Law” and then continue the story referring to the perpetrators as what they are – criminals, attackers,murderers.

    • Did you read the article? From what I recieved from the article thats what he wanted…to distingush that they were not doing it for the name of their religion and how it goes against their beliefs, ie the discussions on how Islam do not force religion.

  15. If Islam can’t be spread at the point of a sword, what were the armies of Islam doing in southern France mere decades after The Prophet died? And why did the Sikhs feel the need to revolt against Aurangzeb?
    If forced conversion is antithetical to the spirit of Islam, why can’t the spirit of Islam prevent its followers carrying it out? And how does that passage “slay all polytheists” in the later part of the Koran fit with the soft and fuzzy sections?
    Such contradictions are found in all faiths; and no, atheists don’t have all the answers – its just that atheists are the only ones honest enough to say we can only find the answers on Earth. Proclaiming that certain strains of religion are rational in contrast to others simply serves to legitimate the insane ones by association. Why do that, when its already hard enough to get people agreeing on rational responses to the world’s problems?

    • If that is your argument, why not take keep going with those questions: If not for the spread of Christianity, why was the US fighting in Vietnam? If not for the spread of Christianity, why did Hitler attack and conquer half of Europe and try to complete wipe out the Jews? If not for the spread of Christianity, why is the US in Iraq and Afghanistan? That question is a stupid question which is usually asked by people who have fallen for the false reasons attributed to ancient Muslim wars. Will we hear you acknowledge that as soon as the Muslim Empire was created, it was attacked by the Persians on 1 side and the Roman Empire on the other? No. Will we hear you acknowledge that the Roman Empire never actually did propose a ceasefire after trying to attack the Muslims, then losing, then being driven back to Europe from all over Africa, with the help of Jews and Christians? No. Will we hear you acknowledge that the conquest of India came about because an Indian king attacked and tried to wipe out the Muslim empires in the Turkish region while they werent looking? No. Will we hear you acknowledge that Muslims were being attacked and that they were then commanded that if you are attacked, it is perfectly alright for you to defend yourself? No, we wont. Your mind is set. You arent looking for answers, because if you were you wouldnt open your mouth before studying that area of Muslim history intensely.

    • Sigil says, “If Islam can’t be spread at the point of a sword, what were the armies of Islam doing in southern France mere decades after The Prophet died?”

      Yes, armies fought wars, but Muslim armies were not allowed to slaughter innocent men, women & children. There were set Islamic laws of engagement. No sneak attacks as pointed out by Professor Cole few days back.

      Muslim armies fought the battles but did not spread Islam by the sword unlike Christianity as in all over Latin America by Jesuit priests, Bible in one hand & gun in the other. Spain was conquered on the invitation of Spanish governor of King Roderick to take revenge because king has seduced the governor’s daughter.

      After the conquest of Spain, it happened for the first time in the history of mankind that the Muslim armies did not slaughtered the general public of the Iberian Peninsula; instead, Jazzia tax was levied on them according to Islamic Law. This tax gave them the liberty to practice their religion, keep their property, customs & their way of life. This Jazzia tax exempted them to join the Muslim armies to fight the enemies of Islam.

      It was this practice that within next two hundred years the whole Andalusia had majority of Muslims. It was this treatment of non-Muslims that brought them in droves to convert to Islam. Islamic culture and Arabic language became the lingua franca of the time. (Replacing Latin Language of Visigoths) Just one library of Qurtaba (Cordoba) has around 800,000 books, while all the libraries of Europe combined could not produce more than few hundred books. This is the time in European history known as The Dark Ages of Europe, while Andalusia was the ‘Ornament of the world” under Muslims & Islamic laws.

      Professor Maria Rosa Menocal explains in her book “The Ornament of the world,” how Muslims, Jews & Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain.

      Modern day Freedom of Religion, Liberty & Tolerance of different religions is not the creation of modern day Europe or America, It was practiced by Muslims for nearly 800 years in Al Andalus starting from A.D. 711.

    • They were not there to convert but to conquer. Christians were not forced to convert in the Middle East as the Caliphate collected an additional tax from “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews). The majority of Christians converted only about 150 years later. (A History of Civilizations – Grammaire des civilisations – by / par F. Braudel)

  16. Well put!

    I should also add that whole books have been written on Islamic laws of war, and they predated the Geneva conventions by centuries. When Muslims took prisoners of war, they freed them if they could teach at least 10 (or was it 20) people to read first. They were better fed than the Muslim citizens.

    Another way the attacks violated Islamic law, in addition to the non-harming of civilians, according to Hamza Yusuf is that people burned to death in the attack, which is a completely forbidden act in islam.

  17. “If Islam can’t be spread at the point of a sword, what were the armies of Islam doing in southern France mere decades after The Prophet died?”

    Violating Islamic law. At least, as far as I am concerned. (I tend to be a minority opinion on this, but do I care?)

  18. ….see what I mean- now you have a whole lot of talkback about about this religion vrs that religion + terror , big in there being discussion of ‘Islamic Terror’ . It doesn’t help.

  19. Can you explain what “jihad” actually means, and where the idea came from that “martyrs” are greeted in heaven by 72 virgins? Was this the invention of the Western press, or of an ill-informed Muslim cleric (or non-cleric)?

    • Michael Bonner’s is the best book on the subject

      Atta’s doomsday document does not say anything at all about virgins and that any serious terrorist would be thus motivated is a silly idea

    • I have yet to meet a Muslim who actually believes there will be 72 virgins in heaven waiting for them. It’s a useless and usually discared Hadith but because it plays on the repressed sexual attitudes in the West, it keeps getting trotted out by idiots when they cant find any real reason for terrorist actions.

    • I tend to think of the Arabic language in terms of third person masculine preterit verbs. This is because those kidns of words neatly contain all of the important letters for nearly every single Arabic word out there. The word “jahada” means “to struggle” or “to strive” (literaly, “he struggled”). Its noun is “jihad.”

      In the context of Islamic theology, jihad has two different forms: one’s personal struggle to do what is considered proper, and a military struggle in obedience to God or His divine appointee. In Shia Islam, that would be Imam Mahdi, the Messianic figure. Imam Mahdi also exists in Sunni Islam, but with certain differences. This is one of them. In Sunni Islam, only the unified body of qualified religious scholars (not dudes with university degress, but people who have studied all of the Islamic sciences for decades) can declare jihad.

      Neither of these ideas is very far from the other, as it turns out. Both Shia and Sunni Islam have developed systems of scholarship in response to the generational distance between the modern Islamic community and those early Muslims who had contact with Prophet Muhammad. Each sect, though, has its own rules which shape and define the scholarly system.

      Shia Islam, believing that Islamic leadership was passed through a series of pre-set divine leaders after the death of Prophet Muhammad, didn’t need to rely so much on scholars to guide the Islamic community as soon as Sunni Islam did. We also believe that Imam Mahdi “handed off” a certain authority to a certain set of individuals after his death, and, after them, to scholars whose qualifications he described. That and the Shia Islamic belief in Occultation (Arabis “ghayba”) are related to the way that we handle the authority required for declaring jihad.

      After the deaths of the companions of Prophet Muhammad, Sunni Islam developed leading scholars. Four of them established schools of thought within Sunni Islam that still survive to this day due to the popularity of their jurisprudential teachings. The handoff between one and the other was less direct and did not involve such an authority figure as did the handoff in Shia Islam. Furthermore, Sunni Islam teaches that Imam Mahdi hasn’t been born (or announcced) yet. So even though both Shia and Sunni Islam have tremendous emphasis on scholarly tradition, Shia Islam holds that the Messianic figure, Imam Mahdi, is vested with the authority to declare hjihad, while Sunni Islam grants that authority to a unanimous body of religious scholars.

      There are many conditions qualifying the legitimacy of jihad, both in general and in terms of individual participation. Jihad is not offensive or pre-emptive. It is to be used defensively, after a Muslim community has been attacked on account of its religion. This is why I consider the invasion of Spain to be a violation of Islamic law. The Spanish people did nothing to the Muslims to merit any kind of attack. That was purely expansionist. One cannot participate in a jihad for revenge or anger. One who does so and dies under such sentiment doesn’t get the Heavenly reward of a martyr – the immediate transport to heaven in a silk cloth held by an angel, acclaim and status in Heaven, etc. Virgins? Dunno. Don’t care. One cannot attack women, children, the elderly, or the unarmed. One cannot destroy vegetation or buildings, or kill animals. And there are others in the list.

      • “Less direct” isn’t exactly the phrase that I wanted to use, but I cannot think of a more descriptive way to explain what I was thinking. Sorry for those typos.

    • well sir we can say that jihad means struggle in english and as it so clear that when some one is struggling that doesnt mean he is fighting at first, i.e. he is repeling the force that is invading him or forcing him to do something he can’t or it is wrong to do
      in islam jihad is only to be set when the islamic land is being invaded by others and jihad does never and at all mean at any meaning to start a fight againstany one
      then here all non muslims should understand that the muslims shlould never start a fight or a war unless they are being attacked and the war is only directed towards the military forces of the attacker.
      that is what have been wrote in Quran 1400 thousands years ago
      and the one who does not obey it from muslims is considered not a muslim or “kafir” i.e. non-believer
      i hope i did well but sorry for my english coz iam not a native english and had never talk with an english speaking person before

  20. And very different from the “Old Testament” commands from the Sky God to slaughter men, women and children and leave no thing alive.

  21. More Americans need to understand this. Thank you for writing this.

  22. Arsalan, I could have kept going in regards to christianity – instead I said “the same thing applies to all religions” (at least, all the ones which have had control of a state). I am aware that the muslim conquerors were far ahead of their time in their laws of war and treatment of conquered peoples, but while I do not know the particular circumstances which prompted each campaign, I can’t help thinking that a continental expansion in a lifetime suggests a concerted effort to expand the religion through conquest. If that was not the primary motive, it must have been pretty damn prominent.
    And I’m not saying that people were forced to convert at swordpoint, but they were suddenly subjects of a new muslim ruling class and that naked political fact, brought about at swordpoint, would have made a pretty convincing reason to convert.
    Its not that Islam is the religion of war or peace; it is the religion of whatever people want to use it for. Like all creeds, it gets far too much blame and credit for the activities of its adherents.

  23. You forgot the rule against using “weapons of fire” against living creatures.

  24. Why is it that I never see anywhere the real “reason” why Al-Qaeda destroyed the WTC ? US and UK support of Saudi Arabia, a disgusting, brutal dicatatorship which happens to be sitting on more oil than the rest of the world put together, is at the heart of it. This is Bin Laden’s real justification, albeit misguided and unforgiveable.

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