July 1, 2006
Dialogue with a Saudi Muslim (5)By James Arlandson and Soliman albuthe
Soliman al—Buthe (or al—Buthi) wrote an Open Letter to Congress in 2005. Then he initiated a dialogue with me, so we decided on this sequence.
1. In 2005, I commented and asked questions about the Open Letter (in blue).
2. In that same year, months later, Mr. al—Buthe answered my questions and challenged me on various issues (in green). He sought the advice of Saudi scholars, as well.
3. Finally, in 2006, I reply to his challenges and questions (in black). Sometimes I embed this in our 2005 dialogue. I too receive help from colleagues.
2005 Open Letter to Congress (continued):
Religious fundamentalism is not unique to
Today, millions of non—Muslims reside in the Kingdom where they live unmolested and are rewarded handsomely for the many services they provide. In stark contrast to the frequent claim that 'Wahhabis' deny 'non—Wahhabis' equality and justice, the government of
JA (2005): I have seven questions or concerns:
1. One of the hallmarks of modernity is religious freedom. Does the Saudi government permit the Shi'ite minority in your country to publicly and openly commemorate Ashura, by which they honor the martyrdom of Hussein, Muhammad's grandson?
2. Mosques flourish openly and publicly here in
First, There is no, and there can be no absolute freedom of anything anywhere in the world. We all set limits to human freedom; the only difference is about the extent and nature of the limits. This depends on the nature of the political system. A secular political system does not allow religion to encroach upon what it deems to be the prerogative of secularism. Here are a few examples:
a. 'From military psychological—operations teams and CIA covert operatives to openly funded media and think tanks,
b. '[Former Alabama Chief Justice]
d. A day after a special meeting between Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Muslim leaders, Muslims who do not respect secularism and law were told Wednesday, August 24, to leave the country. (please see Anti—Secularism Muslims Told to Leave
You write in your Open Letter that 'in stark contrast to the frequent claim that 'Wahhabis' deny 'non—Wahhabis' equality and justice, the government of
To begin my comment on your four examples measured against 'absolute freedom,' one reporter, John R. Bradbury, describes the repression of the Shi'ites from 1916—1928. Twenty—six anti—Saud tribes rebelled. Each 'was brutally suppressed by the Wahhabi forces backing Ibn Saud. It was an orgy of mass killing of mostly innocent victims, women and children. A staggering 7,000 people in Najran alone may have been put to the sword.' Then in April 2000 'government—backed religious police stormed a major Ismaeli [a sect of Shia Islam] mosque, seized many of its religious texts, and arrested three clerics.' Bradbury goes on to describe a secret meeting in the
In light of these examples of violent repression of Shia Muslims who may not agree with your hyper—strict interpretation of Islam (whether you label it Wahhabi or fill—in—the—blank), we are now ready to contrast the examples with freedom in the West, even if it does not attain an 'absolute freedom' (whatever that means).
In your first example (a), you cite a report that says the CIA tries 'to influence not only Muslim societies, but Islam itself.' These reports about the gargantuan CIA circulate around the domestic and world media. Millions in the Arab world believe that the CIA and Mossad (
Further, Islamic lobbying organizations try to influence policy in the
In fact, your very letter to Congress is an attempt to influence the American perception of Wahhabism (or you choose the label).
All of this is, however, a completely different issue from suppressing and oppressing people from celebrating their religious festivals, as
Your second example (b) is about Judge Moore who wanted to place the Ten Commandments on government property. His opponents argued (right or wrong) that this placement favored one religion over all the others, so this denied the equality of all religions.
Any religious ritual that someone does in this nation is legally protected, provided the ritual does not harm anyone else physically or materially. Even Satanists may march down the street peaceably or open a 'church' or shop peddling their beliefs and practices. Christians may pray and preach the gospel, but these concerned Christians should not harass or threaten them with violence, nor, especially, should the government do this.
In your example c, you cite
In your fourth example (d), you link to a news article that reports that the Administration of Australia's Prime Minister John Howard says that there will not be two sets of law, a free one and shariah. The article shows that the context of these remarks came shortly after the
You bring up 'absolute freedom' and the limits on it. Then you cite four examples of western limits. But the differences between these limitations do not rise (or sink) to the level of the violent suppression of a Shi'ite ritual. The West starts any discussion about freedom from a long history of tolerance, learned from earlier centuries of bitter intolerance. Does
SaB (2005): Second, When the West allows mosques and other places of worship to be built and give Muslims and adherents of other religions some freedom, Westerners do not do this as a favor to Saudi Arabia or any other Islamic country; rather, they do it because it is something that the Western political system demands. Westerners believe that this is good for the country.
Fourth, This question is as valid as asking why the Vatican does not open its city to allow the propagation of Satanism, Atheism, or any other idea that is anathema to the ideas of the people of that community.
Fifth, remember that our society and culture is not secular, it is religious. It therefore takes religious matters very seriously.
JA (2006): In your second major point in this section, you assert that western political systems 'demand' that mosques be built. I do not speak for all western political systems, but this word does not fit an American context (and I am confident that it does not fit in other western nations). The First Amendment to the American Constitution reads in its entirety, as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Source)
Thus, nothing in this Amendment comes close to a 'demand.' Modernity must allow freedom of religion, including the right of 'the people peaceably to assemble,' even if they are Shi'ites celebrating Ashura.
In your third major point you seem to say that
In reply, the sacred exceptionalism of
It has been narrated by 'Umar b. al—Khattib that he heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the
However, Jews and Christians lived in the
Now what about
Jihadist government is waging [genocide] against non—Muslim blacks.
� In 1983, the growing radical Islamic movement successfully pressured the government to impose Islamic law on the whole country, prompting a rebellion by the non—Muslim South;
� In 1989, the jihadists took power through a military coup led by General Omar el—Bashir;
� The national Islamic government has declared jihad against the people of the South, to be totally eradicated or brought under the banner of Arabism and Islamism.
Next, in your fourth point you say that the
Finally, in your fifth point, it is legitimate to take a religion seriously, and
JA (2005) 3. You compare Islamic fundamentalists with Christian ones, both of whom want to return to the origins of their religions, to their respective founders and sacred texts. What are the differences between the life of Jesus and of Muhammad and between the New Testament and the Qur'an, in terms of the violence or absence of violence inhering in their lives and sacred books?
SaB (2005): First, we believe that all true Prophets of God from Adam to Jesus and Muhammad were exemplary human beings. God sent them to teach people by word of mouth and example how to live a life that He loves. None of them therefore advocated any kind of violence or aggression against innocent people. Muhammad in particular was very clear on this point; he instructed that God sent him as a mercy to humanity and he warned us against expressing ourselves violently.
Second, as to sacred books, although Islam advocates peace it is not a pacifist religion
Here follows a list of rules taken from the Quran and the sound hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim. The article linked at the end of the list provides the historical contexts for each one. Except for the first point, I select a translation (Hilali and Khan) that is supported by the Saudi royal family. All of the parenthetical comments are theirs.
(1) Women captives may be forced to have sex with the enslaved, married or not, in most cases. The Quran in Sura 4:24 says:
And forbidden to you are wedded wives of other people except those who have fallen in your hands (as prisoners of war) . . . (Sayyid Abul A'La Maududi, The Meaning of the Quran, vol. 1, p. 319).
Maududi (d. 1979), a highly respected Sunni commentator, says in his comment on the verse that it is lawful for Muslims to marry women prisoners of war even when the prisoners' husbands are still alive. But what happens if the husbands are captured with their wives? Maududi cites a school of law that says Muslims may not marry the women, but two other schools say that the marriage between the captive husbands and wives is broken (note 44). But why is any of this a debate in the first place?
The next hadith casually talks about disrobing a captured woman, but Muhammad takes her for himself. 'Give me that girl!' he shouts at a Muslim raider returning from a raid. Why does he want her?
. . . When on the next day, the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) again met me in the street, he said: O Salama, give me that girl, may God bless your father. I said: She is for you, Messenger of Allah! By Allah, I have not yet disrobed her. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent her to the people of
(2) Muhammad gets twenty percent from his raids, and his jihadists get eighty. Does this explain, to a large degree, why he went out on or sent out so many raids? The Quran in Sura 8:41 says:
8:41 And know that whatever of war—booty that you may gain, verily one—fifth (1/5th) of it is assigned to All�h, and to the Messenger, and to the near relatives [of the Messenger (Muhammad SAW)], (and also) the orphans, Al—Mas�kin (the poor) and the wayfarer, if you have believed in All�h and in that which We sent down to Our slave (Muhammad SAW) on the Day of criterion (between right and wrong), the Day when the two forces met (the battle of Badr)
The following hadith, though specifically talking about the conquest of the Jewish tribe of Nadir, explains what the prophet of Islam does with the spoils, part of which was plowed back into preparations for jihad:
It has been narrated on the authority of Umar, who said: The properties abandoned by Banu [tribe] Nadir were the ones which Allah bestowed upon His Apostle for which no expedition was undertaken either with cavalry or camelry. These properties were particularly meant for the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him). He would meet the annual expenditure of his family from the income thereof, and would spend what remained for purchasing horses and weapons as preparation for Jihad. (Muslim 4347)
(3) Fruit trees may be destroyed. The Quran in Sura 59:5 says:
59:5 What you (O Muslims) cut down of the palm—trees (of the enemy), or you left them standing on their stems, it was by Leave of All�h, and in order that He might disgrace the F�siq�n (rebellious, disobedient to All�h).
This hadith supports the revelation's 'legality':
Narrated Ibn Umar:
Allah's Apostle had the date—palm trees of Bani Al—Nadir burnt and cut down at a place called Al—Buwaira. Allah then revealed: "What you cut down of the date—palm trees (of the enemy) or you left them standing on their stems. It was by Allah's Permission." (59.5) (Bukhari; see a parallel hadith in Bukhari here)
This revelation contradicts your assertion that Islam says not to cut down trees or harm the environment. However, if you are implying that the Islam of today improves on the Islam of the Quran and the Sunnah, then I welcome the change. I hope it is broadcast throughout the world.
(4) Three options are forced on the People of the Book: (1) Fight and die; (2) convert; (3) keep their religion, but pay a tax, the jizyah. Muslims argue that it was no more than a "protection" for the "privilege" of living under Islam (read: not be attacked again). The Quran in Sura 9:29 says:
9:29 Fight against those who (1) believe not in All�h, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by All�h and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Isl�m) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
(5) Some hadiths say that Muhammad disapproved of killing women and children. But in several sound traditions, pagan women and children may be killed at night in war.
Narrated As—Sab bin Jaththama:
The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al—Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." I also heard the Prophet saying, "The institution of Hima is invalid except for Allah and His Apostle." (Bukhari; Hima)
Sahih Muslim agrees:
It is reported on the authority of Sa'b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them. (Muslim 4321, and read the one below)
This short list of rules of jihad has been taken from this two—part article (here and here), which provide more rules and the historical context of each one. It also has a section on jihad in Islamic law. One law says that old men and Christian monks may be killed (click on the second link, and scroll down to rule no. six).
SaB (2005): Third, Many Westerners often quote, out of context, some Qur'anic verses relating to Jihad and fighting
Numbers 31: 1—18 'The LORD said to Moses,
Luke 19:27 (Jesus said) "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me."
Compare this with the following Qur'anic verses and sayings of Prophet Muhammad:
The Prophet teaches Muslim soldiers the ethics of war: to avoid killing non—combatants, women, children, and the elderly
JA (2006): My comment on this section comes in two parts.
First, you cite Numbers 31:1—18. This is a common strategy of Muslim missionaries. They refer to severe verses in the Old Testament and assume that they should be carried out today. This is a misinterpretation of the older sacred text.
Further, early Islam (and throughout its history) in fact commands and initiates wars against peaceful people. Because of the revolt of Arab tribes in Abu Bakr's caliphate, and during Umar's conquests of peaceful peoples outside of the
These wars in the Old Testament and in the Quran are academic for Christians, because they believe that the first coming of Jesus Christ (600 years before Muhammad) ushered in a new era of salvation, a way to God that excels the one offered in the Old Testament, and much better than the one offered in the Quran.
We Christians honor the Old Testament, regard it as inspired, and receive great benefit from it. But at the same time we acknowledge that it was written for its own times. We also believe that Christ fulfilled it, and hence we must rise above such commands as animal sacrifices and wars over geopolitical holy sites like
For more information on how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, click on this article. This article explains the differences between the wars in the Old Testament and in early Islam. In the longer version of Part Five I have edited and condensed the previously linked article.
Second, you say that Westerners quote the Quran out of context, but you have done this to Luke 19:27. Jesus was telling a parable. It is true that he said the words, "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me." But you omit the fact that he actually put those words in the mouth of an anonymous king. I explain all of this in the article "Torture in the Quran and Early Islam." I wrote:
In . . . [this] parable, Jesus says that a nobleman went off to become king of another land (Luke —27). But his future subjects hated him and did not want him to be king, so they sent a delegation to inform him of this. But the nobleman went anyway, and he returned as the new king of that land. After he settled his investments done by his servants while he was away, he called his enemies to stand before him and commanded his servants to kill them in front of him. This parable is discussing the end times and judgment.