This is making the rounds on social media this weekend, and is worth a read. Among other things, it clarifies the notion of jihad in Islam—and states that groups such as ISIS are, in the view of Islamic teaching, heretics.
It comes from First Things by John A. Azumah, and was published last January—but it seems even more timely now:
When it comes to the conduct of jihad, Islamic terrorist groups are… at odds with all the main traditions of Islam. All four orthodox schools of law, including the conservative Hanbali school, declare that women, children, the elderly, the disabled, priests, traders, farmers, and all noncombatant civilians should not be targeted and killed in a jihad. Places of economic value, such as farms, markets, and places of worship—mosques, of course, but also churches, monasteries, and convents—are not to be targeted for attack. Islamic law allows that places of worship may be taken as war booty, but they are not to be destroyed. The Hagia Sophia, for example, was a church that was converted to use as a mosque (it is now a museum) after Constantinople, now Istanbul, fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Deliberate assaults on civilians, the murder of religious figures, indiscriminate bombings in markets and buildings, hijacking and ramming planes full of civilians into buildings occupied by civilians, attacks on and destruction of churches and mosques—all carried out by al-Qaeda, IS, and Boko Haram—violate the clear limits set in Islamic law for the conduct of a jihad. Another key feature of the jihadists’ ideology is their rejection of and often rebellion against established governments of Islamic countries. Al-Qaeda, IS, and Boko Haram have declared Muslim governments around the world un-Islamic and illegitimate, vowing to replace them with an Islamic caliphate. To achieve their aim, the groups target and kill Muslim opponents, justifying their actions by invoking takfir, a doctrine, dating back to the seventh century, that specifies conditions under which fellow Muslims can be declared unbelievers who can be killed. A splinter group known as the Kharijites taught that it was acceptable to excommunicate and legitimize jihad against other Muslims, including Muslim rulers, if they were judged guilty of the commission of certain sins. This idea was repudiated by the rest of the Muslim community at the time, and all four orthodox schools of law, including the Hanbali school, continue to reject it. Islam’s own tradition, therefore, bears witness against Islamic terrorism today. The four schools of law have clear rulings that on no account should an individual or group of Muslims attempt to change the government of an Islamic state through the use of arms and violence, because to allow such a possibility invites civil strife, private wars, and the abuse of Islam by factions who use theology to justify their self-interested rebellions and usurpations. The schools are also unanimous in denouncing the killing of fellow Muslims in the name of jihad.
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