August 5, 2006
A Dialogue with a Saudi Muslim (7)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. Months later in that same year, 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 part in our 2005 dialogue. I too receive help from colleagues.
Open Letter to Congress (continued):
Misconceptions on Jihad
The scholars of the
Jihad does not equate with terrorism or the spreading of civil strife; rather, jihad is a concept with which most of your citizens would agree if correctly understood. In Islamic belief, the greatest jihad is the struggle that each soul must wage against itself to live a pure and good life. At the same time, Islam empowers its adherents to defend their lives, property, and honor from attack. When injustice is present, Islam not only tolerates fighting, it is required. When, however, a Muslim is required to fight, his behavior is constrained by a detailed code of conduct that prohibits attacks on innocent civilians, the harming of the environment, the destruction of places of worship, and the harassment of priests and non—combatants. That said, Muslims do not seek war with our enemies. However we recognize, as does the West, that sometimes war is unavoidable. The rules of engagement in Islam are well defined and Islam views the peaceful resolution of disagreement and conflict as being preferable to war.
JA (2005): It is true that some scholars hold these views on jihad, such as the seeming moderates at this Saudi website. But it is also true that other Saudi scholars see jihad as offensive, not defensive. The views of peaceful Saudis do not potentially harm the non—Islamic world, but the views of the radicals lash out and harm people.
SaB (2005): First, we know of no scholar who has interpreted 'jihad' to be preemptive in the sense of waging war against innocent people simply just because they are not Muslims. Such an interpretation would be a clear violation of God's equally clear command:
Qur'an 002:190—193 'Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loves not, aggressors. And slay them wherever you find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the
Those who said that jihad is not only defensive meant that one need not wait until a promised attack occurs, and then only to fight back. Thus Muslims are allowed only seek out and attack those whom they discover to be preparing to attack them. This is why they termed this kind of jihad, jihad at—talab (i.e., 'seeking out or going after').
Second, Isn't it the fact that the West (and especially the United States) that is lashing out and harming people all over the world, both Muslims and non—Muslims, by employing President Bush's concept of 'preemptive war'?
JA (2006): We have invited a colleague and friend, formerly of
Please see what Osama bin Laden had said in an interview regarding fighting and his fatwa against Americans, Christians & Jews — and see the kind of verses he is using to support that, here.
Furthermore, this statement of yours disagrees with the historical facts: 'we know of no scholar who has interpreted 'jihad' to be preemptive in the sense of waging war against innocent people simply just because they are not Muslims.' The truth? Within a hundred years after Muhammad's death in AD 632, the Muslim armies conquered a huge part of the world from
Next, you state that Muslims are not allowed to wage war 'against innocent people simply just because they are not Muslims.' If I understand these words, they imply that President Bush wages war just because a nation is made up of Muslims. The reply to this follows, after I quote some other of your words in this section. You state that 'Muslims are allowed only [to] seek out and attack those whom they discover to be preparing to attack them' . . . .
In reply, this somewhat describes the
As for harming and lashing out, Hussein killed hundreds of thousands of his own people during his reign of terror. Now people can live in peace, except when Sunnis and other factions, some of whom are called to jihad in
Finally, the world is now threatened by
SaB (2005): Third, Westerners and particularly many Americans seem to be utterly unrealistic in their thinking that they can do what they want with people around the world in defense of what their politicians deem to be
JA (2006): Here is my view on worldwide love and trust. I don't seek these things. I first care about doing the right thing. If this wins me love and trust, then great. If not, then so be it.
What about the American contribution to the world (or doing what it wants with people around the world, to paraphrase your words)? The timeframe is after the First World War (1914—1918), when
Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin (Khrushchev, Brezhnev and other dictators up to Gorbachev), Benito Mussolini, General Hideki Tojo, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, his son Kim Jong Il, Fidel Castro, and an assortment of Eastern European dictators.
These persons have at least three characteristics in common: (1) Hyper—control (authoritarianism or totalitarianism) over their citizens; (2) the cause of deaths and misery on a wide scale (e.g. by economic mismanagement, starvation, wars, direct murders en masse); Stalin was responsible for 24 million deaths and Mao for 50 to 75 million; (3) opposition by America and its allies, in one way or another or to one degree or another.
To cite a few specific examples, it is true that we had to be allies with Stalin to fight Hitler, and President Roosevelt looked the other way as Stalin took over Eastern Europe, but we eventually fought his puppet regime in
Based on this list of dictators and American (and allied) opposition to them, I believe that
So how does all of this relate to Islamic nations?
First, Saddam Hussein should be added to the Horrible Hall of Fame, and we and our allies fought and overthrew him. President Bush wants to spread freedom around that part of the globe, as the Iraqis carve out their own version of democracy.
Second, these regimes listed above have some other features in common. They killed dissenters and critics, and they refused to permit their citizens to leave the official ideology, on pain of death or imprisonment.
Third, is there a religious—political ideology that began with an authoritarian leader who passed on his rulership to authoritarian successors? Did these men lash out and harm and wage aggressive wars on peaceful peoples who did not attack them in the slightest? Is there a religious—political ideology that kills critics and apostates, today? Is there a religious—political ideology that exercises absolute control over and imposes harsh and brutal laws on its citizens?
It seems, therefore, that imperfect
Our Saudi friend and colleague adds:
Why do many of the Muslim leaders remain in power for decades? Why are their people longing for freedom? Why do their people leave and immigrate to other countries, especially to Europe,
SaB (2005): Fourth, I am one of those who believe that both our and Western interests can be served by, among other things, peaceful dialogue. That is why I wrote to you. The sense I have, however, is that you believe that all the blame is on our side, and that no good can be achieved unless we reject our religion and toe the Western line.
Fifth, there is no such thing as Wahhabism; this is a name which the enemies of Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abd al—Wahab gave to his teachings to claim that he was advocating something other than Islam. And this is precisely what the Western — and particularly American — propaganda machines are spewing forth.
JA (2006): I am glad you wrote me and we are dialoguing. As for the blame being on the Muslim side unless Muslims reject their religion, they are 'free' to keep their religion, until they leave it. Then they may be tortured, imprisoned, or executed. Moreover, in Part Three I asked:
Since Islam is the continuation of religions, is it the will of Allah that Islam must spread around the world?
And you answered:
a. Islam sees itself, as does contemporary Christianity, as the only means by which mankind can be saved. As such, all Muslims are inspired by concern for their brothers in humanity to spread this soul—saving message.
You added below that short excerpt (a):
b. The requirement that Muslims spread their faith through argumentation and reason is what God asserts in Qur'an 061:009 . . . .
You and 'all Muslims' want Islam to spread around the world, hopefully converting as many as possible, especially adherents to polytheistic religions. In Part 8, you will say that Christians are polytheists. Islam must win out.
Toe the Western line? Islamic countries are too often breeding grounds for terrorism today, and this lashes out and harms people all over the globe, in small, secret ways. Granted, Wahhabism—or whatever label you choose—may not cause all of the terrorism, but it certainly cannot be exempt from any questions in this regard.
JA (2005) 1. You say that the purpose of jihad is to establish justice where injustice prevails. Do you believe that Arab Muslims (or any Muslims) are establishing justice in the
SaB (2005): First, we have never claimed that everything that everything [sic] a Muslim or group of Muslims does reflects Islamic values and teachings. By the same token, I doubt that Christians would believe it fair for them to be held to such a standard.
Second, and to the immediate point, the war in
JA (2006): It is true that one group of Muslims does not reflect all Islamic values and teachings. But in your second paragraph of your Open Letter, above, you speak of 'Islam' and 'a Muslim' and 'Muslims' generally. Further, I never said anything about Darfur, a region in western
Jihadist government [in
� 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.
So it is a fact that war is being waged by northerners (Arab Muslims) on southerners (black non—Muslims). And
JA (2005) 2. Sayyid Abdul A'La Maulana [sic, Maududi] in his commentary on the Qur'an (e.g. Sura 8, vol. 2, p. 156, note 50) frequently argues for the distinction between Dar—al—Islam (Abode of Islam) and Dar—al—Kufr (Abode of Unbelief). Do you believe that the non—Muslim world, for example,
SaB (2006): The abode of war, as the name indicates, is the abode of people with whom Muslims are in a state of war. It does not seem to make any sense to describe a country as an abode of war when there are diplomatic, business, and cultural relations with that country.
JA (2006): This sounds reasonable in theory, even though Maududi says that non—Islamic lands are in the Abode of unbelief and therefore are vulnerable to war, whether in an actual state of war or not. However, if you say that your version of Islam has improved on or rejects this religious—political philosophy, then so much the better. But I omit a discussion of the reality or practice.
Our Saudi friend and colleague adds:
I suggest that Mr. alButhi start reading the commentaries of his own people regarding this issue. The Quran clearly states in Sura 21:105 that the land shall be inherited by the righteous. This in fact was a direct quote from Psalm 37:29, yet the Quran manipulated the true meaning of this verse in the Psalms. When we read the Quran Commentary regarding this verse, we find that these commentators state that the land is the one under the rule of the unbelievers, and that Allah promised the Muslims to gain it by any mean. Does not this mean war against the unbelievers in order to gain the land? Please see these links to the Arabic commentaries on this verse:
JA (2005) 3. Please explain Sura 9:29, which reads as follows:
Fight [q—t—l] against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of Scripture (Jews and Christians) until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Hilali and Khan, parenthetical notes are original)
The verb jihad is not used, but the other verb for fighting, qatala (q—t—l), is used. What is the difference between jihad and qital?
SaB (2005): Jihad is a general term; it does include war. There general meaning, however, is much broader, and jihad may be carried out without war ('strive against them (by preaching) with the utmost endeavor, with it (the Qur'an))', Sura Al—Isra [Sura 17]. This verse well illustrates the Westerners' misinterpretation of jihad as 'holy war.'
JA (2006): Sura 17 was revealed in
SaB (2005): And here is our interpretation of 'jihad';
First, If this verse is taken in isolation from other verses and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, and if it is taken out its historical context with no regard to Muslims' practice, then it might be understood to mean that Muslims are ordered to fight all people of scripture.
Second, we know that, according to Qur'an, Muslims can have all kinds of relationships with non—Muslims. They can make peace treaties with them; they can take some of them as allies; they can intermarry; they can allow them to live as individuals among them, and so on.
Third, since the main message of all true Prophets is to guide people to the right path to God, prophets generally have started by inviting the people in a peaceful and nice way to the truth, after which they have expended great effort to explain the right path to them and use different means of persuasion in order to secure acceptance of the message. Our Prophet tells us that one gets the best of rewards by being given by God the honor of guiding even a single person to the truth. The reward that one gets in this case, the Prophet tells us, is greater than that of fighting enemies and killing them or being killed by them.
JA (2006): My numbered reply corresponds to your three points.
(1) The historical context of Sura 9:29? Muhammad launched his Tabuk 'Crusade' in late AD 630 against the Byzantine Christians. He had heard a rumor that a huge army was mobilizing to invade
Also, I believe that we may get distracted by the term 'jihad' when we should instead focus on 'qital.' This word has no ambiguity, and Muhammad commanded it on peaceful people.
(2) You say that Muslims may make peace treaties with non—Muslims. It is true that Muhammad signed the Treaty of Hudaibiyah (AD 628) when he was weak (due to his failed pilgrimage to the Kabah without Meccan permission), but the treaty did not last long. In addition, it must be stated that the Quran warns against alliances and treaties with non—Muslims. These famous verses in Sura 9 free Muhammad from all treaty obligations with polytheists unless they become Muslims. If polytheists have been faithful to their treaty, then he must wait until its terms have expired. Then they may be attacked, after sacred months have passed by.
9:1 Freedom from (all) obligations (is declared) from All�h and His Messenger (SAW) to those of the Mushrik�n (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of All�h), with whom you made a treaty . . . 3 And a declaration from All�h and His Messenger to mankind on the greatest day (the 10th of Dhul—Hijjah — the 12th month of Isl�mic calendar) that All�h is free from (all) obligations to the Mushrik�n (see 2:105) and so is His Messenger. So if you (Mushrik�n) repent, it is better for you, but if you turn away, then know that you cannot escape (from the Punishment of) All�h. And give tidings (O Muhammad SAW) of a painful torment to those who disbelieve. 4 Except those of the Mushrik�n with whom you have a treaty, and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor have supported anyone against you. So fulfill their treaty to them to the end of their term. Surely All�h loves Al— Mattaq�n (the pious — see 2:2). 5 Then when the Sacred Months (the 1st, 7th, 11th, and 12th months of the Isl�mic calendar) have passed, then kill the Mushrik�n (see 2:105) wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform As—Sal�t (Iq�mat—as—Sal�t), and give Zak�t, then leave their way free. Verily, All�h is Oft—Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Hilali and Khan)
It is on verses like these that Islamic law is built, and the treaties may be temporary, as Islam defines it.
Our Saudi friend and colleague adds:
Look at what Muhammad did after he signed a treaty how he soon negated it. For more information on this, please read this article (see the section on Entering Mecca).
You say that Muslims may marry Christians and Jews, but this needs to be clarified. Christian or Jewish men are not permitted by sharia (Islamic law) to marry Muslim women. So the marriages go in only one direction, which puts Muslim men in control, according to traditional Islam, especially the Islam of Saudi Arabia. Please see my article on Muslim—Christian marriages, here.
Further, Islam allows non—Muslims as 'individuals' (not as authorities?) to live among Muslims. In reply, they are known as dhimmis. They are second—class citizens who have to pay a special tax. I have heard the explanation that this tax gives them various exemptions, such as not fighting in wars, but the dhimmis are still treated as subservient. Too often Islam is excessively controlling and imposes violent laws that oppress people, so why would dhimmis want to live under it, if these conquered peoples were not deprived of a choice?
(3) It may be true that Allah grants rewards to his Muslims if they bring people to the truth by peaceful means, but this is not the whole story. The prophet of Islam grants military jihadists or qitalists extra earthly and heavenly status and rewards for fighting in military jihad or qital. Three passages provide the evidence.
First, Sura 4 was revealed over a three—year period in the middle of Muhammad's career (AD 625—627). He is not quite as secure as he will be when he conquers
4:74 Let those (believers) who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the Cause of All�h, and whoso fights in the Cause of All�h, and is killed or gets victory, We shall bestow on him a great reward. (Hilali and Khan)
Second, this verse in Sura 4 teaches that Allah has created at least a two—tier system in his Muslim ummah or community: (A) Those who "strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives" and (B) those who sit at home. The disabled are in a separate category.
4:95. Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of All�h with their wealth and their lives. All�h has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, All�h has promised good (
At the end of Muhammad's life, he reinforces this two—caste system: see Sura 9:38—39, 41, 44, 86, 87.
Finally, as seen in 4:74, an economic bargain is offered to jihadists or qitalists in the next verse. Allah purchases their lives in exchange for Islamic paradise. Sura 9 is the last sura to be revealed in its entirety.
9:111 Verily, All�h has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the
This 'revelation' is completely wrong about the Bible's command to fight in bloody wars in order to bring heavenly rewards. Moses ordered wars that were time—specific (more than 3,000 years ago), location—specific (only the holy land), and purpose—specific. But Moses or Joshua or the judges did not promise heaven, automatically, for the express act of dying in wars. Certainly Jesus did not order bloody jihads or qitals.
All of these passages use win—win—win logic from Islam's point of view. If a jihadist or qitalist dies fighting, then he gets Islamic paradise. If he wins and lives, then he gets material spoils. If he is defeated but escapes with his life, then he gets to fight another day.
This part of our dialogue on jihad will continue in Part Eight.