Getting the Facts Right on Islam and Beheading

Recently, a terrifying triple murder in my home state evoked memories of a moment of human depravity so vile that it is difficult to think about, much less write about six years later.  First, the more recent murder scene.

On April 7, 2020, three women were brutally stabbed to death by Idris Abdus-Salaam at a Pilot Travel Center in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, outside Knoxville.  A fourth woman survived the attack.

Arriving on the scene, deputies from the Knox County Sheriffs Office spotted Abdus-Salaam in the parking holding a knife.  Refusing to drop his weapon, the attacker was shot and killed by a deputy.  The three murder victims were Pilot employees and the survivor a customer.

Abdus-Salaam was a 33-year-old truck-driver from Durham, North Carolina.  The attacker's mother, Walidah Abdus-Salaam, contended that behavior like this was completely out of character for her son.  Speaking to the Knox News, she said, "He's not a violent person. The picture they painted is ugly.  That is not my son."

His mother also indicated that her son was a practicing Muslim and there had been no signs of him becoming radicalized.  Across the state, police in the Memphis area are trying to discover if Abdus-Salaam is tied to the brutal stabbing of a nurse. 

The savage murders of these three working women brought back memories of the beheading of Colleen Hufford, a 54-year-old grandmother, on September 24, 2014, in Moore, Oklahoma.

The shocking murder occurred at Vaughan Foods processing plant, where Alton Nolen, AKA Jah'Keem Yisrael, worked with Colleen Hufford.  Another female employee, Traci Johnson, was stabbed and critically injured.

Hearing of the beheading of Mrs. Hufford sent my mind into a "this can't be happening in the heartland of America" zone.  I did not want to comprehend the depths of this human depravity.  What would cause a man to brutality decapitate a female coworker?

The Oklahoman paper reported on Sept. 20, 2017 that Nolen admitted that he watched beheadings on YouTube all the time.  Nolen went on to say, "I read the Quran.  Like I say, the Quran is easy to understand.  No one guides me but Allah."

Twenty fourteen was a bloody year in the Middle East, as ISIS beheaded many people, including 75 Syrian soldiers on July 25 and American photojournalist James Foley on August 19.

After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, I began reading books (old and new) on the history of Islam.  I tried to channel my anger toward education and knowledge.  I realized that I knew little about the Quran and its prophet.

Mecca and Medina: Two Different Men

When you study the life of Muhammad, you come to see that two different men appear on the stage of human history.  You discover that the prophet preached his religion in Mecca for 13 years, resulting in only 150 Arabs (many family members) converting to his new Abrahamic religion.  He realized that winning just 10–12 people a year was not going to be extraordinarily successful compared to the grandeur of his vision and the graying of his beard.

His Meccan years presented Islam as a religion of peace, with Quranic verses to undergird this new monotheism.  However, the religion of the prophet was unsuccessful in the eyes of its founder.

A new Muhammad arose as he migrated to Medina.  He became a politician, warlord, and wealthy preacher.  History would record over 10,000 converts a year to Islam in the final chapter of his life and multiplied more after his death.  His new military practice of jihad (holy war), the new legal codes of sharia governing the Kafir (non-Muslims), and caravans of new monies coming into his Medina war chest finally brought earthly success. 

With the Meccan Muhammad and the Medinan Muhammad, history soon had two Qurans.  This gives Islam a dualistic nature, since the later parts of the Quran are more political and violent.

The Quranic Code

The code to understanding the contradiction between the earlier and later Quranic verses is that the later verses are always superior and abrogate (nullify) the earlier verses.  With this understanding, we can find Muslims today with a history of peace because their tradition finds its roots in the earlier Meccan verses.  Conversely, we find Muslims with gradations of views justifying violence, especially those who have religious and political convictions that the object of jihad is to bring the entire world under submission to Allah.  Both traditions may see themselves as orthodox.  Consequently, you may have two Islamic leaders speaking on a television talk show, and listeners are confused by competing conversations on the same religion.

Sadly, this is the reason why many Muslims die violent deaths at the hands of other Muslims armed with more extreme interpretations of the Quran, the Sira, and the Hadith (the Trilogy in Islam).

This lack of understanding prevents our mainstream American media from thoroughly investigating and reporting the kinds of murders mentioned in this article.  They have two predictable responses: the young Muslim man had mental issues, or beheadings are foreign to the religion.  MSNBC ran this news article two days after the beheading, entitled: "No evidence Oklahoma beheading linked to terrorism, police say."

Dr. Timothy R. Furnish, writing for the Middle East Forum, has an insightful article on the history of this barbaric practice entitled "Beheading in the Name of Islam."  In his article, he shows where influential Islamic leaders, like Imam Muhammad Adam al-Sheikh, head of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, has incorrectly said, "Beheadings are not mentioned in the Quran at all."   

Imam al-Sheikh is disingenuous for several reasons.  The Quran or Koran mentions the practice without using the word "beheading."  Quran 8:12 says, "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore, strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them."

The imam also knows there are over four hundred verses in the Quran that deal with warfare and violence.  Additionally, there are nine verses in the Hadith that speak of beheading and 41 verses in the Sira mentioning beheading.  The Hadith and Sira represent the perfect example of Muhammad and represent 86% of the doctrine of Islam.

Idris Abdus-Salaam received his death sentence by a Tennessee sheriff's deputy's bullet on April 7 of this year.  According to the Department of Corrections website of Oklahoma, Alton Nolen, AKA Jah'Keem Yisrael, is still sitting on death row.

The cases of these two men must not be forgotten.  The execution of Mr. Nolen should not go without media coverage.  Our nation must learn from these acts of terror.  Most of all, the victims are to be remembered along with their families.

Ron F. Hale is a freelance writer and retired Baptist pastor living in Jackson, Tenn.

If you experience technical problems, please write to