On Wednesday, September 24th, 126 Islamic scholars published an open letter to the leader, fighters and followers of ISIS – the so-called Islamic State – in which they clinically dismantle the terror group’s aims and ideology. In the letter, which has been published on the internet, the scholars have collaborated to use passages from the Qur’an – along with Islamic teachings and history – to completely refute all justification for the Islamic State’s methods and claims.
The signatories to this letter are based in numerous countries, including the United States, Egypt, Yemen, France and Nigeria.The 23-page letter is addressed to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and to “the fighters and followers of the self-declared ‘Islamic State’.” and begins with a traditional Muslim greeting: “Peace and the mercy of God be upon you.”
Using academic language and entirely devoid of emotion, the letter reads almost like a thesis; succinctly laying out Islamic teaching and quotes from the Qur’anic suras – or verses – to comprehensively refute the validity of ISIS ideology and their claim to be acting in accordance with Muslim teachings. In an “executive summary” at the top of the letter, the scholars list 24 ways in which the actions of the Islamic State are, in fact, un-Islamic. Those numbered points – mostly derived directly from the Muslim holy book – include: “It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent. It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers. It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert. It is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without consensus from all Muslims. Jihad in Islam is defensive war. It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose and without the right rules of conduct.”
Following this summary, the letter goes on to layout scholastic arguments against practically every action and statement of the leaders and followers of ISIS. The authors break their argument down by section, such as legal theory, language, practical jurisprudence, the intention behind Jihad and other headings.
The letter also includes an eerily prophetic quote from Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was a cousin of the Prophet Mohammed and was raised almost as his brother. Ali was Muhammed’s closest ally and a fierce warrior for the struggling new faith. Following the death of the Prophet in the year 632, One part of the Muslim community considered Ali to be the rightful heir to leadership, but Abu Bakr, Muhammed’s father-in-law, was pronounced the first Muslim Caliph. The dispute over succession led to the split between the Sunni, who supported Abu Bakr, and the Shi’a, who followed Ali.
Ali ibn Abi Talib is credited with numerous wise and prophetic sayings, one of which – many would argue – has accurately predicted the fate of Islam:
“A time will come upon people in which the only remaining thing from Qur’an is its writing, and the only remaining thing from Islam is its name. Their mosques are well established but are empty of spirituality.”
The quote from Ali which the scholars chose to include in their open letter says:
“When you see the black flags, remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet. Thereafter there shall appear a feeble insignificant folk. Their hearts will be like fragments of iron. They will have the state. They will fulfill neither covenant nor agreement. They will call to the truth, but they will not be people of the truth. Their names will be parental attributions, and their aliases will be derived from towns. Their hair will be free-flowing like that of women. This situation will remain until they differ among themselves. Thereafter, God will bring forth the Truth through whomever He wills.”
The letter goes on to list, point by point, the uncanny accuracy of this prediction, in relation to the rise of al Qaeda and it’s offspring – the Islamic State. Line by line, the scholars lay out the similarities: The black flags; the names derived from towns (al-Baghdadi, al-Zarkawi etc); the differing among themselves – the letter’s authors point out the fighting that has raged between ISIS and the Syrian opposition fighters of the al-Nusra Front.
In the conclusion of the letter, the authors make an impassioned plea: “Reconsider all your actions; desist from them; repent from them; cease harming others and return to the religion of mercy.”
This open letter – the full text of which can be seen by following the link under “sources” – seeks to dismantle the entire ideology of ISIS by using against it the teachings of the very faith it pretends to be fighting for.
By Graham J Noble