ISIS is Islamic; very Islamic. Absolutely NOT; it has nothing to do with Islam!
Hasn’t the declaration and denial of ISIS as ‘Islamic’ become a conundrum? I think so. And as conundrums go, I would’ve laughed at this funny situation and be on my way; except that it’s not at all funny. In fact, such a simple statement can result (and is resulting, some would argue) in the most lethal consequences. So a decision has to be made regarding which claim is correct.
So which one is it? Neither! And maybe both!
You ask why?
Because it is one of those claims that has been very poorly phrased. And thus, it is not what the phrase itself is saying, rather what each side is meaning by it. And believe you me, it seems true from both perspectives. Such poor phraseology does a great job acting as a punch line; but not much anything else.
Consider the ‘We were on a break’ conundrum in Friends. The statement was true and not true considering what either one of Ross and Rachel meant by it.
So if somebody wants to keep using it as a punch line, please feel free to do so. But for those, who wish to correctly identify the disease objectively, not to serve each side’s self-serving or self-absolving narratives, so that it can be isolated and treated, we need a better, more comprehensive phraseology.
And look no further. Here it is:
“ISIS is an instance of a sporadic anomaly of Islam, for the precipitation of which political turmoil acts as a trigger & catalyst.”
Let me explain the predicates of this claim:
Instance: It means ISIS is only the current embodiment of an entity that may have many occurrences/instances.
Sporadic Anomaly: It means an aberration, an unintended consequence of any productive process, that manifests itself repeatedly at irregular intervals. It’s not a consistent byproduct. ISIS is just the current instance of this recursive aberration.
Precipitate: It means that it is part of a phenomenon that manifests itself suddenly and unexpectedly.
Political Turmoil: Self-explanatory. It can be a turmoil created by Muslims themselves, or Non-Muslims. In the current iteration, it incidentally has been created by Western Interventions.
Trigger & Catalyst: It means it acts as an agent without which this unintended product would be very hard, if not impossible, to produce. Thus like in chemical parlance, the stuff from which it comes into being is already present, but this agent reacts with it to give off this product and/or accelerate its production.
What this all means is that ISIS is an anomaly of Islam that has been recursively occurring in the Muslim world, throughout generations. The first of its iterations was produced only a few decades after the passing away of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); and has been occurring sporadically ever since, after irregular intervals and at different places within Islamic history. Yet, it is as much related to Islam, as is a sporadic anomaly to an otherwise beneficial process. It is not a consistent byproduct that is produced no matter what. It is produced only in certain circumstances, when subjected to certain agents. The present iteration has been triggered by Western Interventions that could not result in a stable political environment. All it says about Islam and its scripture is that its text is not impervious to idiocy or ignorance, and that’s about it. All it says about Western Interventions is that if they go wrong, they run the risk of producing this anomaly from Islamic text.
But I’m sure, critics at both end of the spectrum, those calling it very Islamic, and those denying it has anything to do with Islam, might challenge these assertions. So let me reply to each one briefly.
Those who tell us “whatever ISIS is doing is actually intended by the source texts of Islam” are actually asking us Muslims, “Your Quran instructs you to make slaves; why aren’t you? Your Quran asks you to rape women; why aren’t you? It permits, nay compels, you to kill non-Muslims indiscriminately; why aren’t you?” To them I say:
Really? You casual readers of Quran and Hadith, for whom every injunction must have appeared to be a recent epiphany, are telling ‘us’ – who don’t just read but believe in each and every injunction, have been living and breathing in them since childhood, many of whom endeavor day and night to fulfill God’s injunctions to His fullest pleasure and with greatest fidelity to the text – we should surrender our intellects to your word? Well, give us an opportunity to explain these very verses that are troubling you, and I assure you, just like Tom (of Tom & Jerry fame) you’ll surely find an ass in the mirror for quite some time afterwards.
And those who tell us “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam” actually blame their genesis totally or heavily on Western escapades into Syria and Iraq. To them I say:
Really? Are you in denial, or just plain dumb? They have reinstated slavery because of some political grievances? They’re raping women and throwing gays off roofs for getting even with the West? Slaughtering Yazidis and Shias, and all those ‘other’ Muslims who didn’t join them, for kicks? All the while growing their beards, baring their ankles, forcing women behind burkas, strictly organizing congregational prayers to please their Lord. Don’t tell me you don’t believe that they think they are making preparations for Jesus’s second coming who will land on a particular corner of a particular mosque in Syria? Holy Prophet (pbuh) didn’t prophesize them and call them extremists, that will keep emerging till the end of this world? Yes, Western interventions did play a significant role. But unlike Taliban or even Al Qaeda, who spawned from nothing but foreign fiascos, you really do not observe unprecedented extreme interpretations of the scripture, and have never considered their issued communiques justifying attacks that communicate the eschatological stories of end of times from Islamic theology word for word? I am not saying they are correct in their interpretations. But I am saying they are sincere in them. If we make fun of American authorities who did not recently trust the issued statements of a white supremacist for the reasons of his own attacks, we must challenge this claim of yours as well when you are downplaying ISIS’s statements, don’t you think!
Having elaborated all this, let me reiterate that claiming ISIS to be Islamic or not, is a spurious endeavor, biased at both ends of the spectrum, and an exercise in futility. This classification is inaccurate, and misleads conversation into a direction that can end up being counter productive, to say the least. (Because if it is Islamic, you have over a billion Muslims to deal with. Are you ready for that?)
ISIS is an anomaly of Islam; brought about by immature minds. Most of their brutality comes from their infantile comprehension of Islamic texts, that have been bluntly repudiated by all schools of thought of Islam. For these interpretations no reformation will be required, or effective. They just have to be forcefully stopped, or annihilated.
They have certain other hazardous interpretations that are shared by many traditional schools of thoughts of Islam. For these, reformation will work for the masses in the longer run. But not the kind of reformation many disgruntled Muslims are advocating. A reformation of religious thought in Islam; not a reformation of Islam itself. But that will be my topic for another article.
And there are yet many other seminal interpretations rampant within the Islamic communities that will also need discussion and analysis. But these cannot be flagged as short term objectives. These must be separated and earmarked as long term objectives. Otherwise this present threat of ISIS would not be timely neutralized.