Salafism: An Egoistic Alternative for Muslims

Dr. Yassir al-Burhami, vice president of Egypt’s Salafi party – the nation’s premiere Islamist party since the Muslim Brotherhood was banned – recently issued a controversial fatwa, or Islamic decree.

Burhami’s earlier fatwas include banning Muslim cab drivers and bus drivers from transporting Coptic Christian priests to their churches, which he depicted as “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar”; banning Mother’s Day as a Western innovation; and insisting that Muslims cannot apostatize from Islam – a phenomenon often in the news.   Indeed, Burhami was author to some of Egypt’s most controversial fatwas in 2012.

Now, according to Dr. Burhami, a pediatrician by training, if a Muslim husband ever finds it expedient to abandon his wife to rapists in order to save his own life, he is permitted to do so.  

This should not be surprising, considering that Burhami earlier insisted that, although a Muslim man may marry non-Muslim women, specifically Christians and Jews, he must hate them – and show them that he hates them – because they are “infidels,” even while he may enjoy them sexually.

In this most recent fatwa – that husbands are permitted to be cowards and forsake their sexually assaulted wives in self-interest – the Salafi cleric relied on qiyas, or analogy, based on the rulings of a prominent twelfth-century jurist.  According to Imam ‘Az bin Abdul Salaam, a Muslim should abandon his possessions (for example, to robbers) if so doing would safeguard his life.

Based on this logic, Burhami analogizes that the Muslim husband should abandon his wife if guarding her jeopardizes his life – as she is just another possession that can easily be replaced.

In the words of a critical Arabic op-ed titled “Manhood according to Burhami!” and written by one Amani Majed, a Muslim woman:  

So that which applies to abandoning one’s possessions to thieves and fleeing in fear of one’s life, applies – in Burhami’s view, sorry to say – to one’s wife and daughter.  So if the wife is ever exposed to rape, she is seen as a possession.  The husband is to abandon her to the rapists and escape with his life.  And why not?  For if he loses his possessions, he will replace them; and if his wife is raped, he will marry another, even if she remains alive!

The op-ed goes on to consider the ramifications of Burhami’s logic should every Muslim man follow it: if a policeman patrolling the streets sees a woman – not even a wife or daughter – being gang-raped, should he intervene, as his job entails, and risk his own person, or should he think only of himself and flee?  Should the Egyptian soldier stand his ground against invaders, or should he always flee to preserve his own life?

Three observations:

First: Salafis, who try to pattern their lives as literally as possible after the lives of Islam’s prophet Muhammad and his original companions – hence the ubiquitous beards and white robes – are a treasure trove of information on literal Islam.  It’s always the Salafi-minded Muslims who evoke and uphold any number of things deemed absurd or evil in a Western context – from trying to enforce a canonical hadith that compels women to breastfeed adult men (ironically, to protect their “chastity”) to drinking camel urine for good health to calling for the destruction of all churches

Of course, even this honesty is contingent on Muslim capability and advantage.  Thus, Dr. Burhami himself once said that peace treaties with Israel and other infidels should be respected – that is, until Muslims are capable of reneging and going on a successful offensive.

Still, Salafis are much more frank and honest than other, less overt Islamists – namely, the two-faced Muslim Brotherhood, which, now that it has been overthrown in Egypt, has only one face – one causing it to be banned as a terrorist organization.

Second: To be sure, many Muslims – perhaps the majority in Egypt – reject Burhami’s latest “coward husband” fatwa in agreement with the aforementioned op-ed.  The problem, however, and as usual, is that while they agree that such behavior is unbecoming for a husband, in the realm of Islamic jurisprudence, it is difficult to argue with Burhami’s logic.  He used qiyas, a legitimate tool of jurisprudence, and the imam whose logic he analogized is widely recognized as an authority. 

Moreover, and despite the sneering tone of the op-ed, according to several Islamic teachings and passages, women are often depicted as little more than chattel for men. 

This is the fundamental problem facing all moderate Muslims: despite what they like to believe, they possess an epistemology that is heavily influenced by Western thinking – protecting women and the weak in general, or chivalry, is a Christian “innovation” – so whenever they come up against Islamic teachings they cannot fathom, they collectively pretend that these teachings don’t really mean what they mean.

Yet the Salafis know exactly what they mean.

Third: This latest fatwa exhibits the lure of Salafism.  It’s not that it offers anything profound or spiritually satisfying, but rather that its justifies egoism – in this case, forsaking one’s wife to rape in self-interest – and giving it a divine veneer and sanction.

The fact is, when one looks to those Muslims, past and present, who dedicated their lives to empowering Islam – especially the jihadis – one sees the exercise of some of man’s most selfish and rapacious vices.  Renowned hero Khalid bin al-Walid – the “Sword of Allah” – celebrated in the Muslim world for empowering Islam through the sword, was, from a less hagiographic perspective, little more than a mass murdering, sadistic rapist. 

More generally, Salafi-minded Muslims believe that all non-Muslims can be deceived, cheated, robbed, exploited, enslaved, and/or killed – all in the self-interest of the Muslim, seen as synonymous with the self-interest of Islam.

After all, from a Salafi point of view, all “free” non-Muslim “infidels” who refuse to submit to Islamic law, or sharia – Americans and Europeans, for example – are natural-born enemies, or harbis, and thus free game.

Dr. Yassir al-Burhami, vice president of Egypt’s Salafi party – the nation’s premiere Islamist party since the Muslim Brotherhood was banned – recently issued a controversial fatwa, or Islamic decree.

Burhami’s earlier fatwas include banning Muslim cab drivers and bus drivers from transporting Coptic Christian priests to their churches, which he depicted as “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar”; banning Mother’s Day as a Western innovation; and insisting that Muslims cannot apostatize from Islam – a phenomenon often in the news.   Indeed, Burhami was author to some of Egypt’s most controversial fatwas in 2012.

Now, according to Dr. Burhami, a pediatrician by training, if a Muslim husband ever finds it expedient to abandon his wife to rapists in order to save his own life, he is permitted to do so.  

This should not be surprising, considering that Burhami earlier insisted that, although a Muslim man may marry non-Muslim women, specifically Christians and Jews, he must hate them – and show them that he hates them – because they are “infidels,” even while he may enjoy them sexually.

In this most recent fatwa – that husbands are permitted to be cowards and forsake their sexually assaulted wives in self-interest – the Salafi cleric relied on qiyas, or analogy, based on the rulings of a prominent twelfth-century jurist.  According to Imam ‘Az bin Abdul Salaam, a Muslim should abandon his possessions (for example, to robbers) if so doing would safeguard his life.

Based on this logic, Burhami analogizes that the Muslim husband should abandon his wife if guarding her jeopardizes his life – as she is just another possession that can easily be replaced.

In the words of a critical Arabic op-ed titled “Manhood according to Burhami!” and written by one Amani Majed, a Muslim woman:  

So that which applies to abandoning one’s possessions to thieves and fleeing in fear of one’s life, applies – in Burhami’s view, sorry to say – to one’s wife and daughter.  So if the wife is ever exposed to rape, she is seen as a possession.  The husband is to abandon her to the rapists and escape with his life.  And why not?  For if he loses his possessions, he will replace them; and if his wife is raped, he will marry another, even if she remains alive!

The op-ed goes on to consider the ramifications of Burhami’s logic should every Muslim man follow it: if a policeman patrolling the streets sees a woman – not even a wife or daughter – being gang-raped, should he intervene, as his job entails, and risk his own person, or should he think only of himself and flee?  Should the Egyptian soldier stand his ground against invaders, or should he always flee to preserve his own life?

Three observations:

First: Salafis, who try to pattern their lives as literally as possible after the lives of Islam’s prophet Muhammad and his original companions – hence the ubiquitous beards and white robes – are a treasure trove of information on literal Islam.  It’s always the Salafi-minded Muslims who evoke and uphold any number of things deemed absurd or evil in a Western context – from trying to enforce a canonical hadith that compels women to breastfeed adult men (ironically, to protect their “chastity”) to drinking camel urine for good health to calling for the destruction of all churches

Of course, even this honesty is contingent on Muslim capability and advantage.  Thus, Dr. Burhami himself once said that peace treaties with Israel and other infidels should be respected – that is, until Muslims are capable of reneging and going on a successful offensive.

Still, Salafis are much more frank and honest than other, less overt Islamists – namely, the two-faced Muslim Brotherhood, which, now that it has been overthrown in Egypt, has only one face – one causing it to be banned as a terrorist organization.

Second: To be sure, many Muslims – perhaps the majority in Egypt – reject Burhami’s latest “coward husband” fatwa in agreement with the aforementioned op-ed.  The problem, however, and as usual, is that while they agree that such behavior is unbecoming for a husband, in the realm of Islamic jurisprudence, it is difficult to argue with Burhami’s logic.  He used qiyas, a legitimate tool of jurisprudence, and the imam whose logic he analogized is widely recognized as an authority. 

Moreover, and despite the sneering tone of the op-ed, according to several Islamic teachings and passages, women are often depicted as little more than chattel for men. 

This is the fundamental problem facing all moderate Muslims: despite what they like to believe, they possess an epistemology that is heavily influenced by Western thinking – protecting women and the weak in general, or chivalry, is a Christian “innovation” – so whenever they come up against Islamic teachings they cannot fathom, they collectively pretend that these teachings don’t really mean what they mean.

Yet the Salafis know exactly what they mean.

Third: This latest fatwa exhibits the lure of Salafism.  It’s not that it offers anything profound or spiritually satisfying, but rather that its justifies egoism – in this case, forsaking one’s wife to rape in self-interest – and giving it a divine veneer and sanction.

The fact is, when one looks to those Muslims, past and present, who dedicated their lives to empowering Islam – especially the jihadis – one sees the exercise of some of man’s most selfish and rapacious vices.  Renowned hero Khalid bin al-Walid – the “Sword of Allah” – celebrated in the Muslim world for empowering Islam through the sword, was, from a less hagiographic perspective, little more than a mass murdering, sadistic rapist. 

More generally, Salafi-minded Muslims believe that all non-Muslims can be deceived, cheated, robbed, exploited, enslaved, and/or killed – all in the self-interest of the Muslim, seen as synonymous with the self-interest of Islam.

After all, from a Salafi point of view, all “free” non-Muslim “infidels” who refuse to submit to Islamic law, or sharia – Americans and Europeans, for example – are natural-born enemies, or harbis, and thus free game.

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