Eradicate Terror in the Name of Religion

Student reading the Koran in an Islamic school, New Delhi, India
Student reading the Koran in an Islamic school, New Delhi, India

Once again, terror falls upon the world, back to back blasts, first Lebanon then France. Large-scale casualties in two cities were caused by ISIS. Beirut, a city of resilience in the Arab world has been trying to maintain its multi-religious population keeping their country modernized in a region marred by war since 1975.

Paris, the city which Americans have had a love-affair with since I can only remember has too become the target of ISIS. Violence has spilled out of the Middle East and into Europe. ISIS is spearheading these heinous crimes, not discriminating against any religion, culture, age, gender or national boundaries. In condemning the terrorist acts of 11/12 and 11/13, I ask how we can eradicate this horrific phenomenon?

Do we eliminate ISIS by peeling away our Islamic identity as American Muslims? Do we stop teaching our children the Quran? Do we rename our sons whose names are Ahmed or Muhammad as Adam or Mike? Some may say that if ISIS is Muslim, then we protest Islam. We protest the mosques and keep out the Muslims. However, we should take note that ISIS does not represent Islam; it does not build mosques or produce Muslims.

Then in what sense is ISIS Muslim? They are the fringe and extreme minority yet the most radical and furthest away from Islam and Muslims. They have named themselves Islamic, robbed the language of the Quran, and donned on 7th century dress and symbols. They try to "fit in" with the Muslims as if they represent the Prophet Muhammad. Yet, what they represent in the sense of power, aggression, terrorism, and hate can never exemplify the Prophet of Islam.

In their twisted and perverted ideology, ISIS produced a slave market thinking it would get them closer to God; whereas, Prophet Muhammad encouraged the freeing of slaves to gain the pleasure of God. The message with which Muhammad delivered contained numerous references to the freeing of people held in bondage. During Muhammad's time slavery was already an established enterprise in Mecca and Madinah; everyone of wealth had slaves.

However, if one wanted to do an act of righteousness in the sight of God or atone for sins committed, one would be encouraged to release a slave, rakaba. True piety is described in the Quran as one who spends his substance "for the freeing of human beings from bondage" (Quran, 2:177). Indirectly, one of Islam's long-term social goals was an abolition of slavery. ISIS twists Islamic history and works to undo rather than continue the work established by Muhammad to abolish human bondage.

ISIS has terrorized the cities which it captures; while Prophet Muhammad upon entering Mecca declared that all people living in Mecca shall be safe and no one shall fear for their life or possessions, including the non-Muslims. The earliest known biography of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq captures Muhammad at the peak of his power during the conquest of Mecca and the mercy and pardon he showed to the non-Muslim Quraysh, the staunch enemies of the Muslims during Muhammad's prophethood. "Oh Quraysh," asked Muhammad, "what do you think that I am about to do with you?" They replied, "Good. You are a noble brother. Son of a noble brother." He said, "Go your way for you are the freed ones" (Ibn Ishaq, 553). After Muhammad's pardon, the Quraysh would be known as the "the freed ones," those who were granted safety and freedom.

One can cite many more examples to illustrate the deep and broad line of difference between ISIS and the Prophet of Islam. ISIS terrorizes and Prophet Muhammad sent peace. ISIS wants to establish a caliphate; Muhammad wanted to establish order and egalitarianism. Muhammad raised the level of women in 7th century Arabia by giving them rights to vote, to be educated, to speak up, to own property and to receive inheritance. ISIS has stripped women of these rights. ISIS has declared people of other faiths as enemies of Islam; Muhammad is known to have said, "Whoever hurts a Christian or a Jew will be my adversary on the day of judgement." ISIS destroys; whereas, Muhammad protected.

Yes, some staunch critics of Islam can point deep into Islamic literature, sifting through tens of thousands of Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and Quranic verses, and pull out a text that if taken out of context could be spun to support ISIS's claim to power and authority, but virtually this could be done to any authoritative or semi-authoritative text. One need not look further than the constitution or biblical narratives that have been used to justify slavery and colonization. However, the lens or hermeneutic, which Muslims used to read these texts and develop theology and Islamic Law, Shariah, is neglected by those who have political and hidden agendas whichever side of the political spectrum they reside.

The hate that ISIS spews is in total opposition of the love that the Prophet Muhammad spread to his companions. The Quran exemplifies his love, "And it was by God's grace that thou (O Prophet) did deal gently with thy followers: for if thou had been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee" (Quran, 3:159). Only those who are heartless, those who do not share the characteristics of compassion and love with the Prophet Muhammad, could have done what ISIS has done in France and Lebanon as well as in Syria, Libya, Iraq, to name a few.

How do we eradicate terror and a twisted ideology in the name of religion?