In the name of Islam?


Wherever jihadists strike, the Pavlovian response of intellectuals all over the world is that the outrage was carried out ‘in the name of Islam.’ As if the incessant Islamist violence had nothing to do with Islam, as if jihadists—who are willing to kill and die for their faith—are not Muslims, as if only jihadists are not aware of the essence of Islam.

To begin with, Islamic scriptures do sanction violence. The Koran is the most authentic text of Islam in the eyes of Muslims; they believe it to be the Word of Allah. And does the holy book say about kafirs or unbelievers? “And slay them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out…” (2:191-193).

“They are the worst of creatures” (98.6). Sura 8 goes even farther, denouncing unbelievers of misguiding and killing the faithful: “Remember how the Unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, to get thee out (of thy homes). They plot and plan, and Allah too plans; but the best of planners is Allah.” (8:30)

Again, “The Unbelievers spend their wealth to hinder (men) from the path of Allah, and so will they continue to spend; but in the end they will have (only) regrets and sighs; at length they will be overcome; and the Unbelievers will be gathered together to Hell.” (8:36)

And again, “Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). (8:38)

The Koran reminds and exhorts: “Remember the Lord inspired the angels (with the message): ‘I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers; smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them.” (8:12)

There are also references of violence in the Hadith, the reports said to be the quotes of Prophet Mohammad. “Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say: ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him’.” Bukhari (52:177).

It needs to be mentioned here that the scriptures of other religions also prescribe violence, but over the centuries their adherents—most of them, at any rate—have stopped taking the bigoted instructions seriously. In the case of Islam, unfortunately, the Koran is regarded as unalterable; radical or modern exegesis is rare and unsuccessful. This is the reason that literalist interpretation of the religion—as followed by the extremists like Salafists and Wahhabists—finds ready acceptability among the faithful.

To say that what jihadists are un-Islamic is untrue. Yet, prominent intellectuals keep chanting this mantra incessantly, and uneducated celebrities like Aamir Khan keep parroting the lie all the time. This is weird; we are talking about the guys whose existence revolves around their faith, who live Islam, who are committed to spread Islam all over the world by eliminating other religions, and who are willing to blow themselves up for their faith. One has to be extraordinarily credulous to believe that such people are anything else but Islamic. And it is indeed curious that such people are described as un-Islamic by the folks who are nominally religious, Islamic or otherwise.

What jihadists are doing is not in the name of Islam; what they are doing is Islam as it is practiced and not what it is as lectured by marginalized Muslim scholars and facetious liberals. Islam is what Islam does.

Picture: Courtesy Reuters



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