Violence and Mainstream Islam

Andrew G. Bostom
Against the backdrop of 20,651 jihadist attacks since 9/11/2001, and the hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Dhaka, Bengladesh (hat tip Jihad Watch) on the march this past week, demanding the execution of "atheist bloggers" for "blaspheming" Islam, I was re-reading V.S. Naipaul's second brilliant travelogue account of Asian Islamdom, circa 1995, Beyond Belief.

Naipaul's five month 1995 journey included sojourns in Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, supposedly more "moderate," overall, than Arab Islamdom. Beyond Belief contains this simple, elegant description by a secular Pakistani journalist, i.e., a private apostate, who found mainstream Islamic violence unacceptable. Identified only as "Salman," he proffered this explanation about the roots of traditionalist, mainstream Islamic violence -- which must be considered when applying the term "moderate" to mainstream votaries of Islam:

...[T]he idea of jihad, holy war...was a special Muslim idea. He [Salman] explained it like this: "In Christianity, Christ died for all Christians. He can ensure heaven for them. In Islam, Mohammed can only make a submission in your favor for being a follower of his. It is only Allah who makes the final decision on the merit won by your good deeds. Nothing is greater, so far as goodness goes, than jihad in the name of Allah." [Naipaul interjects] Jihad was not meant metaphorically. "The word of the Koran is taken very literally. It is blasphemous even to think of it as allegory. The Koran lays great store in jihad. It is one of the sayings of Mohammed -- not in the Koran, it's one of the traditions -- 'If you see an un-Islamic practice you stop it by force. If you do not possess the power to stop it, you condemn it verbally. If not that also, then you condemn it in your heart.' As far back as I can remember I have known this. I think this tradition gives the Muslim license to act violently." [Naipaul adds] ...he [Salman] understood both their [Muslims] need to win merit as followers of Mohammed, and also their fear of hell. [Salman again] "Endless whipping with fiery flames, and fire beyond imagination. Having to drink pus. It's very graphic in the traditions. In the Koran there's just mention of the fires and the endlessness of punishment."

The canonical hadith alluded to by Naipaul's "Salman," are cited below, including the delightful spectacle of drinking pus in Hell:

I heard the Messenger of Allah say: "Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand (by action); if he cannot, then with his tongue (by speaking out); and if he cannot, then with his heart (by hating it and feeling it is wrong), and that is the weakest of faith." [Sahih Muslim, The Book of Faith, Chapter 20, Clarifying That Forbidding Evil is Part of Faith; Faith Increases and Decreases; Enjoining What is Good and Forbidding What is Evil Are Obligatory; [177] 78- (49), pp.143-44, from: Vol. 1 English translation of Sahih Muslim From Hadith no. 01-1160, translated by Nasirrudin al-Khattab, Darussalam Books, Riyadh, 2007.]

Amr ibn Shu'ayb reported from his father on the authority of his grandfather that the Prophet said, "The arrogant will be (raised and) gathered on the Day of Resurrection as ants in the garb of mankind. They will be covered with disgrace from all sides and they will be driven to a cell in Hell named Bulas. They will boil in the fire of Fires and will be given to drink the pus of the people of the Fire, extremely bad in odor." [From Jami Tirmidhi (2500)] 

Against the backdrop of 20,651 jihadist attacks since 9/11/2001, and the hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Dhaka, Bengladesh (hat tip Jihad Watch) on the march this past week, demanding the execution of "atheist bloggers" for "blaspheming" Islam, I was re-reading V.S. Naipaul's second brilliant travelogue account of Asian Islamdom, circa 1995, Beyond Belief.

Naipaul's five month 1995 journey included sojourns in Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, supposedly more "moderate," overall, than Arab Islamdom. Beyond Belief contains this simple, elegant description by a secular Pakistani journalist, i.e., a private apostate, who found mainstream Islamic violence unacceptable. Identified only as "Salman," he proffered this explanation about the roots of traditionalist, mainstream Islamic violence -- which must be considered when applying the term "moderate" to mainstream votaries of Islam:

...[T]he idea of jihad, holy war...was a special Muslim idea. He [Salman] explained it like this: "In Christianity, Christ died for all Christians. He can ensure heaven for them. In Islam, Mohammed can only make a submission in your favor for being a follower of his. It is only Allah who makes the final decision on the merit won by your good deeds. Nothing is greater, so far as goodness goes, than jihad in the name of Allah." [Naipaul interjects] Jihad was not meant metaphorically. "The word of the Koran is taken very literally. It is blasphemous even to think of it as allegory. The Koran lays great store in jihad. It is one of the sayings of Mohammed -- not in the Koran, it's one of the traditions -- 'If you see an un-Islamic practice you stop it by force. If you do not possess the power to stop it, you condemn it verbally. If not that also, then you condemn it in your heart.' As far back as I can remember I have known this. I think this tradition gives the Muslim license to act violently." [Naipaul adds] ...he [Salman] understood both their [Muslims] need to win merit as followers of Mohammed, and also their fear of hell. [Salman again] "Endless whipping with fiery flames, and fire beyond imagination. Having to drink pus. It's very graphic in the traditions. In the Koran there's just mention of the fires and the endlessness of punishment."

The canonical hadith alluded to by Naipaul's "Salman," are cited below, including the delightful spectacle of drinking pus in Hell:

I heard the Messenger of Allah say: "Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand (by action); if he cannot, then with his tongue (by speaking out); and if he cannot, then with his heart (by hating it and feeling it is wrong), and that is the weakest of faith." [Sahih Muslim, The Book of Faith, Chapter 20, Clarifying That Forbidding Evil is Part of Faith; Faith Increases and Decreases; Enjoining What is Good and Forbidding What is Evil Are Obligatory; [177] 78- (49), pp.143-44, from: Vol. 1 English translation of Sahih Muslim From Hadith no. 01-1160, translated by Nasirrudin al-Khattab, Darussalam Books, Riyadh, 2007.]

Amr ibn Shu'ayb reported from his father on the authority of his grandfather that the Prophet said, "The arrogant will be (raised and) gathered on the Day of Resurrection as ants in the garb of mankind. They will be covered with disgrace from all sides and they will be driven to a cell in Hell named Bulas. They will boil in the fire of Fires and will be given to drink the pus of the people of the Fire, extremely bad in odor." [From Jami Tirmidhi (2500)]