The Deen show is a popular Muslim Dawah TV program, hosted by Eddie Redzovic. They frequently interview ex-Christian converts to Islam, who unfortunately often butcher their alleged former faith, showing little to no understanding of Christian theology. I and others have offered to come on the show and do a debate with Eddie or anyone of his choice, but unfortunately Eddie doesn’t do debates, because he knows full well that his arguments (and the arguments of his interviewees) would not stand up to cross-examination.
From time to time, I visit the Deen show’s YouTube Channel. I wondered whether the Deen show had put out any commentary on the recent tragic events that unfolded in Paris. Sure enough, last week a video was posted, featuring Eddie Redzovic condemning the Paris attacks that left 130 civilians dead. Of course, Eddie is to be commended for putting out this condemnation. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that there was a conspicuous lack of any meaningful exegesis of the Quranic texts that I and others find troubling.
I, for one, would sincerely like to be persuaded that the Islamic State’s reading of the Qur’an is demonstrably invalid, and that it can be refuted by sound exegesis of the relevant texts. I would very much like to believe that Eddie is right. A simplistic claim that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam and that Islam teaches nothing but peace, however, will simply not cut it. The Islamic State clearly justifies its actions by appealing to the authority of the Qur’an and various Sahih Hadith narrations. It seems to me that what peace-loving Muslims (which comprise the vast majority of Muslims in the west) need to be doing is producing detailed refutations of the Islamic State’s exegesis of the Qur’an, and/or their set of hermeneutical principles for interpreting the Qur’an and Hadith literature.
The video claims that “Only eight of the 746 terrorist attacks in Europe between 2011 and 2014 were religiously-motivated.” That may very well be true, but it does not detract from the fact that religion — and specifically the interpretation of the Islamic religion that ISIS and other groups promulgate — can and does fuel and motivate such attacks. Just because there are other motivations for such atrocities does not mean that we should not be concerned about this motivation. Eddie is also correct in saying that we do not blame all Christians for the atrocities carried out by people who claim to be Christians. But I do not know any reasonable person who blames all Muslims for the actions carried out by the Islamic State either. The concern is that there are various texts in both the Qur’an and the Hadith literature that can legitimately be used to support what the Islamic state and similar groups are doing.
The one text that the video does cite in defence of its contention that Islam is fundamentally peaceful is Surah 5:32 which is quoted as saying that “Whoever kills an innocent person it is as if he has killed all of humanity…” . Unfortunately though, as is so often the case, the previous verse, the start of the verse and the next verse are not quoted. Here is Surah 5:31-33:
“Then, Allah sent a crow that scratched the earth to show him how he [Cain] could conceal the corpse of his brother [Abel]. He said, “Alas! Was I not even able to be like this crow so that I could conceal the corpse of my brother?” So he stood regretful.
For this reason, We decreed for the children of Isra’il that whoever kills a person not in retaliation for a person killed, nor for spreading disorder on the earth, is as if he he killed the whole of humankind, and whoever saves the life of a person is as if he has saved the life of the whole of humankind. Certainly, Our messengers have come to them with clear signs. Then, after all that, many of them are there to commit excesses on the earth.
Those who fight against Allah and His Messenger and run about trying to spread disorder on the earth, their punishment is no other than that they should be killed, or be crucified, or their hands and legs be cut off from different sides, or they be kept away from the land. That is a humiliation for them in this world, and for them there is a great punishment in the Hereafter.”
Verse 31 concerns Cain’s murder of Abel, and verse 32 says that as a result of that incident, it was decreed for the Jews that taking the life of an innocent is like taking the life of all of mankind. In fact, it is a quotation from the Jewish Talmud. Verse 33 tells us what the instruction is for Muslims. For the vague crime of spreading disorder (some translations say “mischief”), they are to be killed or crucified or have their limbs amputated. The fact that Eddie does not quote the context of Surah 5:32 suggests that he is more concerned about showing ISIS to be a perversion of Islam rather than attempting to provide a consistent and sound exegesis of the text.
Eddie goes on to claim that Muhammad actually predicted the Islamic State and warned Muslims about them. The citation given in support of this contention is a Hadith from Sahih Muslim, which is quoted as saying:
“The Prophet said about the Khawarij “They are the worst of people, the worst of the creation.”
Here is the context:
Verily there would arise from my Ummah after me or soon after me a group (of people) who would recite the Qur’an, but it would not go beyond their throats, and they would pass clean through their religion just as the arrow passes through the prey, and they would never come back to it. They would be the worst among the creation and the creatures. Ibn Samit (one of the narrators) said: I met Rafi’ b. ‘Amr Ghifari, the brother of Al-Hakam Ghifari and I said: What is this hadith that I heard from Abu Dharr, i. e. so and so? and then I narrated that hadith to him and said: I heard it from the Messenger of Allah.
This can hardly refer to ISIS, because the text says that the group were to arise soon after Muhammad. Moreover, the Khawarij were a specific faction of Muslims that revolted against the Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib over the manner of caliph succession (see this Wikipedia article for more background). This text has nothing whatsoever to do with ISIS.
Eddie also noted that ISIS have killed many Muslims. But ISIS consider those Muslims to fall into the category of “hypocrites”. We read in Surah 3:166-167:
“Whatever you suffered on the day when the two troops faced each other was by the will of Allah, and in order to know the believers,
And in order to know those who are hypocrites. It was said to them, “Come on, fight in the way of Allah, or defend.” They said, “Had we known it to be a fight we would have certainly followed you.” That day, they were nearer to disbelief than they were to Belief. They utter from their mouths what is not in their hearts. Allah knows well what they conceal.”
The Sahih Ahadith also provide some basis for this. For example, there is a Hadith in Sahih Muslim which says:
“The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: ‘One who died but did not fight in the way of Allah nor did he express any desire (or determination) for Jihad died the death of a hypocrite.'”
So, according to Muhammad, refusing to “fight in the way of Allah” and not expressing “desire for Jihad” renders one a hypocrite. And what does the Qur’an say to do with hypocrites? Surah 9:73 says:
“O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.”
According to Surah 33:60-62, hypocrites are to be “seized wherever found and slain with a (fierce) slaughter.” So, it is not at all unexpected that many of ISIS’s victims would be Muslims.
I’ll say it again: I would very much like to be persuaded that Eddie Redzovic is right, and that ISIS represent a perversion of true Islam. But I am not going to be convinced by bare assertions that Islam is fundamentally a religion of peace, without a careful presentation of the correct exegesis of the troubling texts.