Monday, 1 March 2010

How Martyrdom Wipes Out Sinning

In this article today at PJ Media, Raymond Ibrahim, who always publishes insightful, thought-provoking pieces on Islam, gets to the bottom of an important question: "Is it inconsistent for Muslim “holy warriors” to engage in voyeuristic acts of lasciviousness?"

As Ibrahim explains: "Because would-be jihadists and martyrs have been known to frequent strip bars — such as the 9/11 hijackers and Major Nidal Hasan, whose “late-night jiggle-joint carousing stands at odds with the picture of a devout Muslim” — many Americans have concluded that such men cannot be “true” Muslims, leading to the ubiquitous conviction that they are “hijacking Islam.”

But that's not so. Ibrahim goes on to provide a characteristically concise explanation of why, culminating in these observations:

In this context, the problem is not Muslims frequenting strip clubs, but misplaced Western projections that assume religious piety is always synonymous with personal morality — a notion especially alien to legalistic Islamists whose entire epistemology begins and ends with the literal words of seventh-century Muhammad and his Koran.

And it is this slavishness that best explains Islamist behavior. For the same blind devotion to the literal mandates of Islam which encourages Islamists to lead lives of deceit also explains why Islamists are callous to human suffering, why they are desensitized to notions of human dignity and the cries of their raped victims, and, yes, why they cheerily forfeit their lives in exchange for a fleshy paradise. In all cases, Muhammad and his Allah said so — and that’s all that matters.
The article does a fantastic job of essentially summarising Islamic ethics: anything goes, as long as it ultimately benefits Islam.

The example of Muhammad - whose example Muslims are obliged to emulate in all things, as per Qur'an 33:21 - practically illustrates this. After the Hijra (Muhammad’s move from Mecca to Medina), the Muslim forces under Muhammad began raiding caravans of the pagan Quryash – Muhammad’s own tribe, which had rejected him. Muhammad himself led many of these raids. At one point Muhammad sent one of his most trusted lieutenants, along with eight other Muslims, out with orders to watch for a Quraysh caravan at Nakhla, a settlement not far from Mecca, and “find out what they are doing.”

The Muslim scouting party took this as an order to raid the Quraysh caravan, which soon came along, carrying leather and raisins. But it was the last day of the sacred month of Rajab, during which, by longstanding Arab custom, fighting was forbidden. This presented them with a dilemma: if they waited until the sacred month was over, the caravan would get away, but if they attacked, they would sin by killing people during the sacred month. They finally decided, according to Ibn Ishaq, the earliest known biographer of Muhammad, to “kill as many as they could of them and take what they had.”

When they returned to the Muslim camp, Muhammad refused to share in the loot or to have anything to do with them, saying only: “I did not order you to fight in the sacred month.” But then Allah revealed a new verse of the Qur'an: “They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel His people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing.” (2:217) The raid was therefore justified, “for persecution is worse than killing.” Whatever sin the Nakhla raiders had committed in violating the sacred month was nothing compared to the Quraysh’s sins. Ibn Ishaq explained this verse: “they have kept you back from the way of God with their unbelief in Him, and from the sacred mosque, and have driven you from it when you were with its people. This is a more serious matter with God than the killing of those whom you have slain.” The famous Islamic scholar Tabari concurs: “[S]edition in faith [or temptation away from the true faith]...is far graver than the killing of associators [polytheists] during the sacred month, even though this is not lawful”.

So in other words, while it may have been wrong to slaughter their enemies in this way, worse still were the crimes of the unbelieving Quraysh. Therefore, to fight back against this, even by otherwise undesirable means, was justified.

This attitude – the idea that one can set aside all moral principles if one feels that growing unbelief threatens the Muslim community – remains with some Muslims to this day, and may be used to justify terror attacks against innocent civilians. Sayyid Qutb, a twentieth-century Muslim writer of enormous influence, explains that “Islam is a practical and realistic way of life which is not based on rigid idealistic dogma.” Islam “maintains its own high moral principles,” but only when “justice is established and wrongdoing is contained” – i.e. only when Islamic law rules a society – can “sanctities be protected and preserved.” So evidently they need not be before that point.

That's your spiritually uplifting, morally upright "religion" right there.

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