Islam 101 (Part 1)

Posted: March 26, 2010 in Islam 101 (Part 1), Understanding Islam

by Gregory M. Davis
author, Religion of Peace? Islam’s War Against the World
producer/director, Islam: What the West Needs to Know — An Examination of Islam, Violence, and the Fate of the Non-Muslim World

Islam 101 is meant as an educational tool for people to become better educated about the fundamentals of Islam and to help the more knowledgeable better convey the facts to others.

Similarly, my book and documentary are meant to serve as concise explanations of the major moving parts of Islam and their implications for Western society. Islam 101 is a condensation of the book and documentary with the aim of lending clarity to the public understanding of Islam and of exposing the inadequacy of prevailing views.

All should feel free to distribute and/or reproduce it.
Table of Contents

1) The Basics

a) The Five Pillars of Islam
b) The Quran — the Book of Allah
c) The Sunnah — the “Way” of the Prophet Muhammad
d) Sharia Law

2) Jihad and Dhimmitude

a) What does “jihad” mean?
b) Muslim Scholar Hasan Al-Banna on jihad
c) Dar al-Islam and dar al-harb: the House of Islam and the House of War

i) Taqiyya — Religious Deception

d) Jihad Through History

i) The First Major Wave of Jihad: the Arabs, 622-750 AD
ii) The Second Major Wave of Jihad: the Turks, 1071-1683 AD

e) The Dhimma
f) Jihad in the Modern Era

3) Conclusion

4) Frequently Asked Questions

a) What about the Crusades?
b) If Islam is violent, why are so many Muslims peaceful?
c) What about the violent passages in the Bible?
d) Could an Islamic “Reformation” pacify Islam?
e) What about the history of Western colonialism in the Islamic world?
f) How can a violent political ideology be the second-largest and fastest-growing religion on earth?
g) Is it fair to paint all Islamic schools of thought as violent?
h) What about the great achievements of Islamic civilization?

5) Glossary of Terms

6) Further Resources
1. The Basics

a. The Five Pillars of Islam

The five pillars of Islam constitute the most basic tenets of the religion. They are:

1. Faith (iman) in the oneness of Allah and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (indicated by the declaration [the Shahadah] that, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”).2. Keeping of the five scheduled daily prayers (salah).

3. Almsgiving (zakat).

4. Fasting (sawm).

5. Pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca for those who are able.

The five pillars in and of themselves do not tell us a lot about the faith or what a Muslim is supposed to believe or how he should act. The second through fifth pillars — prayer, almsgiving, fasting, pilgrimage — are aspects shared by many religions. The finality of the prophethood of Muhammad, however, is unique to Islam. To understand Islam and what it means to be a Muslim, we must come to understand Muhammad as well as the revelations given through him by Allah, which make up the Quran.

b. The Quran — the Book of Allah

According to Islamic teaching, the Quran came down as a series of revelations from Allah through the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad, who then dictated it to his followers. Muhammad’s companions memorized fragments of the Quran and wrote them down on whatever was at hand, which were later compiled into book form under the rule of the third Caliph, Uthman, some years after Muhammad’s death.

The Quran is about as long as the Christian New Testament. It comprises 114 suras (not to be confused with the Sira, which refers to the life of the Prophet) of varying lengths, which may be considered chapters. According to Islamic doctrine, it was around 610 AD in a cave near the city of Mecca (now in southwest Saudi Arabia) that Muhammad received the first revelation from Allah by way of the Archangel Gabriel. The revelation merely commanded Muhammad to “recite” or “read” (Sura 96); the words he was instructed to utter were not his own but Allah’s. Over the next twelve or so years in Mecca, other revelations came to Muhammad that constituted a message to the inhabitants of the city to forsake their pagan ways and turn in worship to the one Allah.

While in Mecca, though he condemned paganism (for the most part), Muhammad showed great respect for the monotheism of the Christian and Jewish inhabitants. Indeed, the Allah of the Quran claimed to be the same God worshipped by Jews and Christians, who now revealed himself to the Arab people through his chosen messenger, Muhammad. It is the Quranic revelations that came later in Muhammad’s career, after he and the first Muslims left Mecca for the city of Medina, that transformed Islam from a relatively benign form of monotheism into an expansionary, military-political ideology that persists to this day.

Orthodox Islam does not accept that a rendering of the Quran into another language is a “translation” in the way that, say, the King James Bible is a translation of the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. A point often made by Islamic apologists to defang criticism is that only Arabic readers may understand the Quran. But Arabic is a language like any other and fully capable of translation. Indeed, most Muslims are not Arabic readers. In the below analysis, we use a translation of the Quran by two Muslim scholars, which may be found here. All parenthetical explanations in the text are those of the translators save for my interjections in braces, { }.

Those Westerners who manage to pick up a translation of the Quran are often left bewildered as to its meaning thanks to ignorance of a critically important principle of Quranic interpretation known as “abrogation.” The principle of abrogation — al-naskh wa al-mansukh (the abrogating and the abrogated) — directs that verses revealed later in Muhammad’s career “abrogate” — i.e., cancel and replace — earlier ones whose instructions they may contradict. Thus, passages revealed later in Muhammad’s career, in Medina, overrule passages revealed earlier, in Mecca. The Quran itself lays out the principle of abrogation:

2:106. Whatever a Verse (revelation) do We {Allah} abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things?

It seems that 2:106 was revealed in response to skepticism directed at Muhammad that Allah’s revelations were not entirely consistent over time. Muhammad’s rebuttal was that “Allah is able to do all things” — even change his mind. To confuse matters further, though the Quran was revealed to Muhammad sequentially over some twenty years’ time, it was not compiled in chronological order. When the Quran was finally collated into book form under Caliph Uthman, the suras were ordered from longest to shortest with no connection whatever to the order in which they were revealed or to their thematic content. In order to find out what the Quran says on a given topic, it is necessary to examine the other Islamic sources that give clues as to when in Muhammad’s lifetime the revelations occurred. Upon such examination, one discovers that the Meccan suras, revealed at a time when the Muslims were vulnerable, are generally benign; the later Medinan suras, revealed after Muhammad had made himself the head of an army, are bellicose.

Let us take, for example, 50:45 and Sura 109, both revealed in Mecca:

50:45. We know of best what they say; and you (O Muhammad) are not a tyrant over them (to force them to Belief). But warn by the Qur’an, him who fears My Threat.109:1. Say (O Muhammad to these Mushrikun and Kafirun): “O Al-Kafirun (disbelievers in Allah, in His Oneness, in His Angels, in His Books, in His Messengers, in the Day of Resurrection, and in Al-Qadar {divine foreordainment and sustaining of all things}, etc.)!
109:2. “I worship not that which you worship,
109:3. “Nor will you worship that which I worship.
109:4. “And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping.
109:5. “Nor will you worship that which I worship.
109:6. “To you be your religion, and to me my religion (Islamic Monotheism).”

Then there is this passage revealed just after the Muslims reached Medina and were still vulnerable:

2:256. There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut {idolatry} and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.

In contrast, take 9:5, commonly referred to as the “Verse of the Sword”, revealed toward the end of Muhammad’s life:

9:5. Then when the Sacred Months (the 1st, 7th, 11th, and 12th months of the Islamic calendar) have passed, then kill the Mushrikun {unbelievers} 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-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat {the Islamic ritual prayers}), and give Zakat {alms}, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Having been revealed later in Muhammad’s life than 50:45, 109, and 2:256, the Verse of the Sword abrogates their peaceful injunctions in accordance with 2:106. Sura 8, revealed shortly before Sura 9, reveals a similar theme:

8:39. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.8:67. It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war (and free them with ransom) until he had made a great slaughter (among his enemies) in the land. You desire the good of this world (i.e. the money of ransom for freeing the captives), but Allah desires (for you) the Hereafter. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.

9:29. Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

9:33. It is He {Allah} Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it).

The Quran’s commandments to Muslims to wage war in the name of Allah against non-Muslims are unmistakable. They are, furthermore, absolutely authoritative as they were revealed late in the Prophet’s career and so cancel and replace earlier instructions to act peaceably. Without knowledge of the principle of abrogation, Westerners will continue to misread the Quran and misdiagnose Islam as a “religion of peace.”
c. The Sunnah — the “Way” of the Prophet Muhammad

In Islam, Muhammad is considered al-insan al-kamil (the “ideal man”). Muhammad is in no way considered divine, nor is he worshipped (no image of Muhammad is permitted lest it encourage idolatry), but he is the model par excellence for all Muslims in how they should conduct themselves. It is through Muhammad’s personal teachings and actions — which make up the “way of the Prophet,” the Sunnah — that Muslims discern what is a good and holy life. Details about the Prophet — how he lived, what he did, his non-Quranic utterances, his personal habits — are indispensable knowledge for any faithful Muslim.

Knowledge of the Sunnah comes primarily from the hadiths (“reports”) about Muhammad’s life, which were passed down orally until codified in the eighth century AD, some hundred years after Muhammad’s death. The hadiths comprise the most important body of Islamic texts after the Quran; they are basically a collection of anecdotes about Muhammad’s life believed to have originated with those who knew him personally. There are thousands upon thousands of hadiths, some running to multiple pages, some barely a few lines in length. When the hadiths were first compiled in the eighth century AD, it became obvious that many were inauthentic. The early Muslim scholars of hadith spent tremendous labor trying to determine which hadiths were authoritative and which were suspect.

The hadiths here come exclusively from the most reliable and authoritative collection, Sahih Al-Bukhari, recognized as sound by all schools of Islamic scholarship, translated by a Muslim scholar and which may be found here. Different translations of hadiths can vary in their breakdown of volume, book, and number, but the content is the same. For each hadith, the classifying information is listed first, then the name of the originator of the hadith (generally someone who knew Muhammad personally), and then the content itself. While the absolute authenticity of even a sound hadith is hardly assured, they are nonetheless accepted as authoritative within an Islamic context.

Because Muhammad is himself the measuring stick of morality, his actions are not judged according to an independent moral standard but rather establish what the standard for Muslims properly is.

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 88; Narrated Ursa: The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).Volume 8, Book 82, Number 795; Narrated Anas: The Prophet cut off the hands and feet of the men belonging to the tribe of Uraina and did not cauterise (their bleeding limbs) till they died.

Volume 2, Book 23, Number 413; Narrated Abdullah bin Umar: The Jews {of Medina} brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from amongst them who have committed (adultery) illegal sexual intercourse. He ordered both of them to be stoned (to death), near the place of offering the funeral prayers beside the mosque.

Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57; Narrated Ikrima: Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to Ali {the fourth Caliph} and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, “Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).” I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, then kill him.”

Volume 1, Book 2, Number 25; Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle was asked, “What is the best deed?” He replied, “To believe in Allah and His Apostle (Muhammad). The questioner then asked, “What is the next (in goodness)? He replied, “To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah’s Cause.”

In Islam, there is no “natural” sense of morality or justice that transcends the specific examples and injunctions outlined in the Quran and the Sunnah. Because Muhammad is considered Allah’s final prophet and the Quran the eternal, unalterable words of Allah himself, there is also no evolving morality that permits the modification or integration of Islamic morality with that from other sources. The entire Islamic moral universe devolves solely from the life and teachings of Muhammad.

Along with the reliable hadiths, a further source of accepted knowledge about Muhammad comes from the Sira (life) of the Prophet, composed by one of Islam’s great scholars, Muhammad bin Ishaq, in the eighth century AD.

Muhammad’s prophetic career is meaningfully divided into two segments: the first in Mecca, where he labored for fourteen years to make converts to Islam; and later in the city of Medina (The City of the Apostle of God), where he became a powerful political and military leader. In Mecca, we see a quasi-Biblical figure, preaching repentance and charity, harassed and rejected by those around him; later, in Medina, we see an able commander and strategist who systematically conquered and killed those who opposed him. It is the later years of Muhammad’s life, from 622 AD to his death in 632, that are rarely broached in polite company. In 622, when the Prophet was better than fifty years old, he and his followers made the Hijra (emigration or flight), from Mecca to the oasis of Yathrib — later renamed Medina — some 200 miles to the north. Muhammad’s new monotheism had angered the pagan leaders of Mecca, and the flight to Medina was precipitated by a probable attempt on Muhammad’s life. Muhammad had sent emissaries to Medina to ensure his welcome. He was accepted by the Medinan tribes as the leader of the Muslims and as arbiter of inter-tribal disputes.

Shortly before Muhammad fled the hostility of Mecca, a new batch of Muslim converts pledged their loyalty to him on a hill outside Mecca called Aqaba. Ishaq here conveys in the Sira the significance of this event:

Sira, p208: When God gave permission to his Apostle to fight, the second {oath of allegiance at} Aqaba contained conditions involving war which were not in the first act of fealty. Now they {Muhammad’s followers} bound themselves to war against all and sundry for God and his Apostle, while he promised them for faithful service thus the reward of paradise.

That Muhammad’s nascent religion underwent a significant change at this point is plain. The scholarly Ishaq clearly intends to impress on his (Muslim) readers that, while in its early years, Islam was a relatively tolerant creed that would “endure insult and forgive the ignorant,” Allah soon required Muslims “to war against all and sundry for God and his Apostle.” The Islamic calendar testifies to the paramouncy of the Hijra by setting year one from the date of its occurrence. The year of the Hijra, 622 AD, is considered more significant than the year of Muhammad’s birth or death or that of the first Quranic revelation because Islam is first and foremost a political-military enterprise. It was only when Muhammad left Mecca with his paramilitary band that Islam achieved its proper political-military articulation. The years of the Islamic calendar (which employs lunar months) are designated in English “AH” or “After Hijra.”

The Battle of Badr was the first significant engagement fought by the Prophet. Upon establishing himself in Medina following the Hijra, Muhammad began a series of razzias (raids) on caravans of the Meccan Quraish tribe on the route to Syria.

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 287; Narrated Kab bin Malik: The Apostle had gone out to meet the caravans of Quraish, but Allah caused them (i.e. Muslims) to meet their enemy unexpectedly (with no previous intention).Volume 5, Book 59, Number 289; Narrated Ibn Abbas: On the day of the battle of Badr, the Prophet said, “O Allah! I appeal to You (to fulfill) Your Covenant and Promise. O Allah! If Your Will is that none should worship You (then give victory to the pagans).” Then Abu Bakr took hold of him by the hand and said, “This is sufficient for you.” The Prophet came out saying, “Their multitude will be put to flight and they will show their backs.” (54:45)

Having returned to Medina after the battle, Muhammad admonished the resident Jewish tribe of Qaynuqa to accept Islam or face a similar fate as the Quraish (3:12-13). The Qaynuqa agreed to leave Medina if they could retain their property, which Muhammad granted. Following the exile of the Bani Qaynuqa, Muhammad turned to individuals in Medina he considered to have acted treacherously. The Prophet particularly seems to have disliked the many poets who ridiculed his new religion and his claim to prophethood — a theme evident today in the violent reactions of Muslims to any perceived mockery of Islam. In taking action against his opponents, “the ideal man” set precedents for all time as to how Muslims should deal with detractors of their religion.

Sira, p367: Then he {Kab bin al-Ashraf} composed amatory verses of an insulting nature about the Muslim women. The Apostle said … “Who will rid me of Ibnul-Ashraf?” Muhammad bin Maslama, brother of the Bani Abdu’l-Ashhal, said, “I will deal with him for you, O Apostle of God, I will kill him.” He said, “Do so if you can.” … “All that is incumbent upon you is that you should try” {said the Prophet to Muhammad bin Maslama}. He said, “O Apostle of God, we shall have to tell lies.” He {the Prophet} answered, “Say what you like, for you are free in the matter.”Volume 4, Book 52, Number 270; Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: The Prophet said, “Who is ready to kill Kab bin Al-Ashraf who has really hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Do you like me to kill him?” He replied in the affirmative. So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to him (i.e. Kab) and said, “This person (i.e. the Prophet) has put us to task and asked us for charity.” Kab replied, “By Allah, you will get tired of him.” Muhammad said to him, “We have followed him, so we dislike to leave him till we see the end of his affair.” Muhammad bin Maslama went on talking to him in this way till he got the chance to kill him.

A significant portion of the Sira is devoted to poetry composed by Muhammad’s followers and his enemies in rhetorical duels that mirrored those in the field. There seems to have been an informal competition in aggrandizing oneself, one’s tribe, and one’s God while ridiculing one’s adversary in eloquent and memorable ways. Kab bin Malik, one of the assassins of his brother, Kab bin al-Ashraf, composed the following:

Sira, p368: Kab bin Malik said: Of them Kab was left prostrate there (After his fall {the Jewish tribe of} al-Nadir were brought low). Sword in hand we cut him down By Muhammad’s order when he sent secretly by night Kab’s brother to go to Kab. He beguiled him and brought him down with guile Mahmud was trustworthy, bold.

The Meccan Quraish regrouped for an attack on the Muslims at Medina. Muhammad got wind of the Meccan force coming to attack him and encamped his forces on a small hillock north of Medina named Uhud, where the ensuing battle took place.

Volume 5, Book 59, Number 377; Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah: On the day of the battle of Uhud, a man came to the Prophet and said, “Can you tell me where I will be if I should get martyred?” The Prophet replied, “In Paradise.” The man threw away some dates he was carrying in his hand, and fought till he was martyred.Volume 5, Book 59, Number 375; Narrated Al-Bara: … when we faced the enemy, they took to their heel till I saw their women running towards the mountain, lifting up their clothes from their legs, revealing their leg-bangles. The Muslims started saying, “The booty, the booty!” Abdullah bin Jubair said, “The Prophet had taken a firm promise from me not to leave this place.” But his companions refused (to stay). So when they refused (to stay there), (Allah) confused them so that they could not know where to go, and they suffered seventy casualties.

Though deprived of victory at Uhud, Muhammad was by no means vanquished. He continued making raids that made being a Muslim not only virtuous in the eyes of Allah but lucrative as well. In an Islamic worldview, there is no incompatibility between wealth, power, and holiness. Indeed, as a member of the true faith, it is only logical that one should also enjoy the material bounty of Allah — even if that means plundering it from infidels.

As Muhammad had neutralized the Jewish tribe of Bani Qaynuqa after Badr, he now turned to the Bani Nadir after Uhud. According to the Sira, Allah warned Muhammad of an attempt to assassinate him, and the Prophet ordered the Muslims to prepare for war against the Bani Nadir. The Bani Nadir agreed to go into exile if Muhammad permitted them to retain their movable property. Muhammad agreed to these terms save that they leave behind their armor.

In 627 AD, Muhammad faced the greatest challenge to his new community. In that year, the Quraish of Mecca made their most determined attack on the Muslims at Medina itself. Muhammad thought it advisable not to engage them in a pitched battle as at Uhud but took shelter in Medina, protected as it was by lava flows on three sides. The Meccans would have to attack from the northwest in a valley between the flows, and it was there that Muhammad ordered a trench dug for the city’s defense.

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 208; Narrated Anas: On the day (of the battle) of the Trench, the Ansar {new converts to Islam} were saying, “We are those who have sworn allegiance to Muhammad for Jihad (for ever) as long as we live.” The Prophet replied to them, “O Allah! There is no life except the life of the Hereafter. So honor the Ansar and emigrants {from Mecca} with Your Generosity.”And Narrated Mujashi: My brother and I came to the Prophet and I requested him to take the pledge of allegiance from us for migration. He said, “Migration has passed away with its people.” I asked, “For what will you take the pledge of allegiance from us then?” He said, “I will take (the pledge) for Islam and Jihad.”

The Meccans were foiled by the trench and only able to send small raiding parties across it. After several days, they turned back for Mecca. Following his victory, Muhammad turned to the third Jewish tribe at Medina, the Bani Quraiza. While the Bani Qaynuqa and Bani Nadir had suffered exile, the fate of the Bani Quraiza would be considerably more dire.

Sira, p463-4: Then they {the tribe of Quraiza} surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of Bani al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy bin Akhtab and Kab bin Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the Apostle they asked Kab what he thought would be done with them. He replied, “Will you never understand? Don’t you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!” This went on until the Apostle made an end of them.

Thus do we find the clear precedent that explains the peculiar penchant of Islamic terrorists to behead their victims: it is merely another precedent bestowed by their Prophet.

Following yet another of the Muslims’ raids, this time on a place called Khaibar, “The women of Khaibar were distributed among the Muslims” as was usual practice. (Sira, p511) The raid at Khaibar had been against the Bani Nadir, whom Muhammad had earlier exiled from Medina.

Sira, p515: Kinana bin al-Rabi, who had the custody of the treasure of Bani al-Nadir, was brought to the Apostle who asked him about it. He denied that he knew where it was. A Jew came to the Apostle and said that he had seen Kinana going round a certain ruin every morning early. When the Apostle said to Kinana, “Do you know that if we find you have it I shall kill you?” he said, Yes. The Apostle gave orders that the ruin was to be excavated and some of the treasure was found. When he asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the Apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr bin al-Awwam, “Torture him until you extract what he has,” so he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the Apostle delivered him to Muhammad bin Maslama and he struck off his head, in revenge for his brother Mahmud.

Muhammad’s greatest victory came in 632 AD, ten years after he and his followers had been forced to flee to Medina. In that year, he assembled a force of some ten thousand Muslims and allied tribes and descended on Mecca. “The Apostle had instructed his commanders when they entered Mecca only to fight those who resisted them, except a small number who were to be killed even if they were found beneath the curtains of the Kaba.” (Sira, p550)

Volume 3, Book 29, Number 72; Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle entered Mecca in the year of its Conquest wearing an Arabian helmet on his head and when the Prophet took it off, a person came and said, “Ibn Khatal is holding the covering of the Kaba (taking refuge in the Kaba).” The Prophet said, “Kill him.”

Following the conquest of Mecca, Muhammad outlined the future of his religion.

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177; Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour {of the Last Judgment} will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.”Volume 1, Book 2, Number 24; Narrated Ibn Umar: Allah’s Apostle said: “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah.”

It is from such warlike pronouncements as these that Islamic scholarship divides the world into dar al-Islam (the House of Islam, i.e., those nations who have submitted to Allah) and dar al-harb (the House of War, i.e., those who have not). It is this dispensation that the world lived under in Muhammad’s time and that it lives under today. Then as now, Islam’s message to the unbelieving world is the same: submit or be conquered.
d. Sharia Law

Unlike many religions, Islam includes a mandatory and highly specific legal and political plan for society called Sharia (pronounced “sha-rée-uh”), which translates approximately as “way” or “path.” The precepts of Sharia are derived from the commandments of the Quran and the Sunnah (the teachings and precedents of Muhammad as found in the reliable hadiths and the Sira). Together, the Quran and the Sunnah establish the dictates of Sharia, which is the blueprint for the good Islamic society. Because Sharia originates with the Quran and the Sunnah, it is not optional. Sharia is the legal code ordained by Allah for all mankind. To violate Sharia or not to accept its authority is to commit rebellion against Allah, which Allah’s faithful are required to combat.

There is no separation between the religious and the political in Islam; rather Islam and Sharia constitute a comprehensive means of ordering society at every level. While it is in theory possible for an Islamic society to have different outward forms — an elective system of government, a hereditary monarchy, etc. — whatever the outward structure of the government, Sharia is the prescribed content. It is this fact that puts Sharia into conflict with forms of government based on anything other than the Quran and the Sunnah.

The precepts of Sharia may be divided into two parts:

1. Acts of worship (al-ibadat), which includes:Ritual Purification (Wudu)
Prayers (Salah)
Fasts (Sawm and Ramadan)
Charity (Zakat)
Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

2. Human interaction (al-muamalat), which includes:

Financial transactions
Laws of inheritance
Marriage, divorce, and child care
Food and drink (including ritual slaughtering and hunting)
Penal punishments
War and peace
Judicial matters (including witnesses and forms of evidence)

As one may see, there are few aspects of life that Sharia does not specifically govern. Everything from washing one’s hands to child-rearing to taxation to military policy fall under its dictates. Because Sharia is derivate of the Quran and the Sunnah, it affords some room for interpretation. But upon examination of the Islamic sources (see above), it is apparent that any meaningful application of Sharia is going to look very different from anything resembling a free or open society in the Western sense. The stoning of adulterers, execution of apostates and blasphemers, repression of other religions, and a mandatory hostility toward non-Islamic nations punctuated by regular warfare will be the norm. It seems fair then to classify Islam and its Sharia code as a form of totalitarianism.
2. Jihad and Dhimmitude

a. What does “jihad” mean?

Jihad literally translates as “struggle.” Strictly speaking, jihad does not mean “holy war” as Muslim apologists often point out. However, the question remains as to what sort of “struggle” is meant: an inner, spiritual struggle against the passions, or an outward, physical struggle?

As in any case of trying to determine Islamic teaching on a particular matter, one must look to the Quran and the Sunnah. From those sources (see above) it is evident that a Muslim is required to struggle against a variety of things: laziness in prayer, neglecting to give zakat (alms), etc. But is it also plain that a Muslim is commanded to struggle in physical combat against the infidel as well. Muhammad’s impressive military career attests to the central role that military action plays in Islam.
b. Hasan Al-Banna on jihad

Below are excerpts from Hasan Al-Banna’s treatise, Jihad. In 1928, Al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, which today is the most powerful organization in Egypt after the government itself. In this treatise, Al-Banna cogently argues that Muslims must take up arms against unbelievers. As he says, “The verses of the Qur’an and the Sunnah … summon people in general (with the most eloquent expression and the clearest exposition) to jihad, to warfare, to the armed forces, and all means of land and sea fighting.”

All Muslims Must Make JihadJihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim and cannot be ignored nor evaded. Allah has ascribed great importance to jihad and has made the reward of the martyrs and the fighters in His way a splendid one. Only those who have acted similarly and who have modeled themselves upon the martyrs in their performance of jihad can join them in this reward. Furthermore, Allah has specifically honoured the Mujahideen {those who wage jihad} with certain exceptional qualities, both spiritual and practical, to benefit them in this world and the next. Their pure blood is a symbol of victory in this world and the mark of success and felicity in the world to come.

Those who can only find excuses, however, have been warned of extremely dreadful punishments and Allah has described them with the most unfortunate of names. He has reprimanded them for their cowardice and lack of spirit, and castigated them for their weakness and truancy. In this world, they will be surrounded by dishonour and in the next they will be surrounded by the fire from which they shall not escape though they may possess much wealth. The weaknesses of abstention and evasion of jihad are regarded by Allah as one of the major sins, and one of the seven sins that guarantee failure.

Islam is concerned with the question of jihad and the drafting and the mobilisation of the entire Umma {the global Muslim community} into one body to defend the right cause with all its strength than any other ancient or modern system of living, whether religious or civil. The verses of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Muhammad (PBUH {Peace Be Unto Him}) are overflowing with all these noble ideals and they summon people in general (with the most eloquent expression and the clearest exposition) to jihad, to warfare, to the armed forces, and all means of land and sea fighting.

Here Al-Banna offers citations from the Quran and the reliable hadiths that demonstrate the necessity of combat for Muslims. The citations are comparable to those included in Islam 101 section 2b and are here omitted.

The Scholars on JihadI have just presented to you some verses from the Qur’an and the Noble Ahadith concerning the importance of jihad. Now I would like to present to you some of the opinions from jurisprudence of the Islamic Schools of Thought including some latter day authorities regarding the rules of jihad and the necessity for preparedness. From this we will come to realise how far the ummah has deviated in its practice of Islam as can be seen from the consensus of its scholars on the question of jihad.

The author of the ‘Majma’ al-Anhar fi Sharh Multaqal-Abhar’, in describing the rules of jihad according to the Hanafi School, said: ‘Jihad linguistically means to exert one’s utmost effort in word and action; in the Sharee’ah {Sharia — Islamic law} it is the fighting of the unbelievers, and involves all possible efforts that are necessary to dismantle the power of the enemies of Islam including beating them, plundering their wealth, destroying their places of worship and smashing their idols. This means that jihad is to strive to the utmost to ensure the strength of Islam by such means as fighting those who fight you and the dhimmies {non-Muslims living under Islamic rule} (if they violate any of the terms of the treaty) and the apostates (who are the worst of unbelievers, for they disbelieved after they have affirmed their belief).

It is fard (obligatory) on us to fight with the enemies. The Imam must send a military expedition to the Dar-al-Harb {House of War — the non-Muslim world} every year at least once or twice, and the people must support him in this. If some of the people fulfill the obligation, the remainder are released from the obligation. If this fard kifayah (communal obligation) cannot be fulfilled by that group, then the responsibility lies with the closest adjacent group, and then the closest after that etc., and if the fard kifayah cannot be fulfilled except by all the people, it then becomes a fard ‘ayn (individual obligation), like prayer on everyone of the people. …

The scholarly people are of one opinion on this matter as should be evident and this is irrespective of whether these scholars were Mujtahideen or Muqalideen and it is irrespective of whether these scholars were salaf (early) or khalaf (late). They all agreed unanimously that jihad is a fard kifayah imposed upon the Islamic ummah in order to spread the Da’wah of Islam, and that jihad is a fard ‘ayn if an enemy attacks Muslim lands. Today, my brother, the Muslims as you know are forced to be subservient before others and are ruled by disbelievers. Our lands have been besieged, and our hurruma’at (personal possessions, respect, honour, dignity and privacy) violated. Our enemies are overlooking our affairs, and the rites of our din are under their jurisdiction. Yet still the Muslims fail to fulfill the responsibility of Da’wah that is on their shoulders. Hence in this situation it becomes the duty of each and every Muslim to make jihad. He should prepare himself mentally and physically such that when comes the decision of Allah, he will be ready.

I should not finish this discussion without mentioning to you that the Muslims, throughout every period of their history (before the present period of oppression in which their dignity has been lost) have never abandoned jihad nor did they ever become negligent in its performance, not even their religious authorities, mystics, craftsmen, etc. They were all always ready and prepared. For example, Abdullah ibn al Mubarak, a very learned and pious man, was a volunteer in jihad for most of his life, and ‘Abdulwahid bin Zayd, a sufi and a devout man, was the same. And in his time, Shaqiq al Balkhi, the shaykh of the sufis encouraged his pupils towards jihad. …

Associated Matters Concerning Jihad

Many Muslims today mistakenly believe that fighting the enemy is jihad asghar (a lesser jihad) and that fighting one’s ego is jihad akbar (a greater jihad). The following narration [athar] is quoted as proof: “We have returned from the lesser jihad to embark on the greater jihad.” They said: “What is the greater jihad?” He said: “The jihad of the heart, or the jihad against one’s ego.”

This narration is used by some to lessen the importance of fighting, to discourage any preparation for combat, and to deter any offering of jihad in Allah’s way. This narration is not a saheeh (sound) tradition: The prominent muhaddith Al Hafiz ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said in the Tasdid al-Qaws:

‘It is well known and often repeated, and was a saying of Ibrahim ibn ‘Abla.’

Al Hafiz Al Iraqi said in the Takhrij Ahadith al-Ahya’:

’Al Bayhaqi transmitted it with a weak chain of narrators on the authority of Jabir, and Al Khatib transmitted it in his history on the authority of Jabir.’

Nevertheless, even if it were a sound tradition, it would never warrant abandoning jihad or preparing for it in order to rescue the territories of the Muslims and repel the attacks of the disbelievers. Let it be known that this narration simply emphasises the importance of struggling against one’s ego so that Allah will be the sole purpose of everyone of our actions.

Other associated matters concerning jihad include commanding the good and forbidding the evil. It is said in the Hadeeth: “One of the greatest forms of jihad is to utter a word of truth in the presence of a tyrannical ruler.” But nothing compares to the honour of shahadah kubra (the supreme martyrdom) or the reward that is waiting for the Mujahideen.


My brothers! The ummah that knows how to die a noble and honourable death is granted an exalted life in this world and eternal felicity in the next. Degradation and dishonour are the results of the love of this world and the fear of death. Therefore prepare for jihad and be the lovers of death. Life itself shall come searching after you.

My brothers, you should know that one day you will face death and this ominous event can only occur once. If you suffer on this occasion in the way of Allah, it will be to your benefit in this world and your reward in the next. And remember brother that nothing can happen without the Will of Allah: ponder well what Allah, the Blessed, the Almighty, has said:

‘Then after the distress, He sent down security for you. Slumber overtook a party of you, while another party was thinking about themselves (as to how to save themselves, ignoring the others and the Prophet) and thought wrongly of Allah – the thought of ignorance. They said, “Have we any part in the affair?” Say you (O Muhammad): “Indeed the affair belongs wholly to Allah.” They hide within themselves what they dare not reveal to you, saying: “If we had anything to do with the affair, none of us would have been killed here.” Say: “Even if you had remained in your homes, those for whom death was decreed would certainly have gone forth to the place of their death: but that Allah might test what is in your hearts; and to purify that which was in your hearts (sins), and Allah is All-Knower of what is in (your) hearts.”‘ {Sura 3:154}

c. Dar al-Islam and dar al-harb: the House of Islam and the House of War

The violent injunctions of the Quran and the violent precedents set by Muhammad set the tone for the Islamic view of politics and of world history. Islamic scholarship divides the world into two spheres of influence, the House of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the House of War (dar al-harb). Islam means submission, and so the House of Islam includes those nations that have submitted to Islamic rule, which is to say those nations ruled by Sharia law. The rest of the world, which has not accepted Sharia law and so is not in a state of submission, exists in a state of rebellion or war with the will of Allah. It is incumbent on dar al-Islam to make war upon dar al-harb until such time that all nations submit to the will of Allah and accept Sharia law. Islam’s message to the non-Muslim world is the same now as it was in the time of Muhammad and throughout history: submit or be conquered. The only times since Muhammad when dar al-Islam was not actively at war with dar al-harb were when the Muslim world was too weak or divided to make war effectively.

But the lulls in the ongoing war that the House of Islam has declared against the House of War do not indicate a forsaking of jihad as a principle but reflect a change in strategic factors. It is acceptable for Muslim nations to declare hudna, or truce, at times when the infidel nations are too powerful for open warfare to make sense. Jihad is not a collective suicide pact even while “killing and being killed” (Sura 9:111) is encouraged on an individual level. For the past few hundred years, the Muslim world has been too politically fragmented and technologically inferior to pose a major threat to the West. But that is changing.
i. Taqiyya — Religious Deception

Due to the state of war between dar al-Islam and dar al-harb, reuses de guerre, i.e., systematic lying to the infidel, must be considered part and parcel of Islamic tactics. The parroting by Muslim organizations throughout dar al-harb that “Islam is a religion of peace,” or that the origins of Muslim violence lie in the unbalanced psyches of particular individual “fanatics,” must be considered as disinformation intended to induce the infidel world to let down its guard. Of course, individual Muslims may genuinely regard their religion as “peaceful” — but only insofar as they are ignorant of its true teachings, or in the sense of the Egyptian theorist Sayyid Qutb, who posited in his Islam and Universal Peace that true peace would prevail in the world just as soon as Islam had conquered it.

A telling point is that, while Muslims who present their religion as peaceful abound throughout dar al-harb, they are nearly non-existent in dar al-Islam. A Muslim apostate once suggested to me a litmus test for Westerners who believe that Islam is a religion of “peace” and “tolerance”: try making that point on a street corner in Ramallah, or Riyadh, or Islamabad, or anywhere in the Muslim world. He assured me you wouldn’t live five minutes.

In his book, Some to Mecca Turn to Pray, Mervyn Hiskett discusses taqiyya:

{A} problem concerning law and order {with respect to Muslims in dar al-harb} arises from an ancient Islamic legal principle — that of taqiyya, a word the root meaning of which is “to remain faithful” but which in effect means “dissimulation.” It has full Quranic authority (92:17 and 49:13) and allows the Muslim to conform outwardly to the requirements of unislamic or non-Islamic government, while inwardly “remaining faithful” to whatever he conceives to be proper Islam, while waiting for the tide to turn.Volume 4, Book 52, Number 269; Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: The Prophet said, “War is deceit.”

Historically, examples of taqiyya include permission to renounce Islam itself in order to save one’s neck or ingratiate oneself with an enemy. It is not hard to see that the implications of taqiyya are insidious in the extreme: they essentially render negotiated settlement — and, indeed, all veracious communication between dar al-Islam and dar al-harb — impossible. It should not, however, be surprising that a party to a war should seek to mislead the other about its means and intentions. Jihad Watch’s own Hugh Fitzgerald sums up taqiyya and kitman, a related form of deception.

“Taqiyya” is the religiously-sanctioned doctrine, with its origins in Shi’a Islam but now practiced by non-Shi’a as well, of deliberate dissimulation about religious matters that may be undertaken to protect Islam, and the Believers. A related term, of broader application, is “kitman,” which is defined as “mental reservation.” An example of “Taqiyya” would be the insistence of a Muslim apologist that “of course” there is freedom of conscience in Islam, and then quoting that Qur’anic verse — “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” {2:256} But the impression given will be false, for there has been no mention of the Muslim doctrine of abrogation, or naskh, whereby such an early verse as that about “no compulsion in religion” has been cancelled out by later, far more intolerant and malevolent verses. In any case, history shows that within Islam there is, and always has been, “compulsion in religion” for Muslims, and for non-Muslims. …“Kitman” is close to “taqiyya,” but rather than outright dissimulation, it consists in telling only a part of the truth, with “mental reservation” justifying the omission of the rest. One example may suffice. When a Muslim maintains that “jihad” really means “a spiritual struggle,” and fails to add that this definition is a recent one in Islam (little more than a century old), he misleads by holding back, and is practicing “kitman.” When he adduces, in support of this doubtful proposition, the hadith in which Muhammad, returning home from one of his many battles, is reported to have said (as known from a chain of transmitters, or isnad), that he had returned from “the Lesser Jihad to the Greater Jihad” and does not add what he also knows to be true, that this is a “weak” hadith, regarded by the most-respected muhaddithin as of doubtful authenticity, he is further practicing “kitman.”

In times when the greater strength of dar al-harb necessitates that the jihad take an indirect approach, the natural attitude of a Muslim to the infidel world must be one of deception and omission. Revealing frankly the ultimate goal of dar al-Islam to conquer and plunder dar al-harb when the latter holds the military trump cards would be strategic idiocy. Fortunately for the jihadists, most infidels do not understand how one is to read the Quran, nor do they trouble themselves to find out what Muhammad actually did and taught, which makes it easy to give the impression through selective quotations and omissions that “Islam is a religion of peace.” Any infidel who wants to believe such fiction will happily persist in his mistake having been cited a handful of Meccan verses and told that Muhammad was a man of great piety and charity. Digging only slightly deeper is sufficient to dispel the falsehood.

Continues in Part 2 …

Posted by Greg on March 13, 2007 5:15 PM | 25 Comments
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This is terrific! I haven’t finished reading it all yet, but it is truly an excellent idea. Thanks so much for sharing your years of study and condensing the most pertinent points for interested laymen. Kudos JihadWatch.

When Al Capone engineered the St. Valintines day massacre in Chicago, no one said it was the work of extremists, and that other Mafioso were “moderates” because they weren’t all in the same garage at the same time.

The Mafia code for those present and those absent was the same for both. They were all criminals because their allegence was to the same code, and all had the potential for committing the same horrendous crimes.

Not all Mafia members will massacre people in a garage in Chicago, Just as not all Muslims will fly planes into buildings in New York city, but each group shares with its members a code that promotes and justifies those kinds of activities.

Neither group promotes peace or moderation.

History and common sense dictates that the F.B.I, and other law enforcement agencies, should view Islamic organizations in the same light as the Mafia.

Islam is not a religion by any normal understaing of what constitutes a “religion.”

This is really first rate. Great idea that adds much to the site. Keep it focused on the actual history and the actual verses and you are on still on the original mark, and not side-tracked with red herrings and those here who would like to dove tail all of this with other ideological agendas.

Thank you very much…I have book marked it and will continue to reference this site for my use and others.

special_guest | March 13, 2007 7:17 PM

Excellent piece, Greg. An FAQ for new readers will be very helpful. And there is plenty of information there for, uhh, old readers too. Great job!


I have been looking for a while now for a relatively short read describing islam (a book is too long for newbies) so I could educate my brother. He is part of the ignorant masses who believe the force-fed drivel of the MSM that ‘islam is a religion of peace,’ and he fully believes that ‘islam is no more violent than Christianity.’

I plan to print 101 & 102 and mail them off to him so he can begin his education and his enlightenment!!

THANK YOU for a job spectacularly done!!

Great idea and very readable. I’m still confounded as to why anyone would be interested in adhering to Islam. I can come up with
brainwashing from birth, ostracism from family or worse death so muslims are fearful of rejecting it, sense of belonging and having a prescription for all aspects of your life. Can someone fill me in on the rest?

If I might, the historical is telling but also it is vital to always not to just educate the non Muslim who reads this, but the web crawler Muslims who visit this site and for you to challenge them.

For example, it is always vital to relate the Truth that the Koran is based upon something which could not occur. While archangels such as Gabriel are messengers as that is what “angel” means, Gabriel only brought from the Scripture of Truth, the recording book in heaven, to Daniel who was in Babylonian and then Persian captivity, prophecies of future events.
It is vital to understand the purpose of Angels as messengers and ministering agents to assist people in our lives here as we grow in God’s Word toward the redemption He give via Himself in His living Thought manifesting as Jesus.

God’s Word is the key as the Bible is thee inspired Word of God spoken by His Spirit through certain people called Prophets.
The Holy Spirit reveals God’s plan, God’s law, God’s redemption, God’s Word as His Son and is always a personal interaction with people. The plan of redemption and salvation which includes the Law is GIVEN ONLY BY GOD and not by spokesangels.
That is not part of the angelic work as directed by God and is proof positive that either the Koran is a lie or Muhammed was being deceived by a fallen angel which is a demon like the Book of Enoch is a divination by a demon like Edward Cayce’s work.
This was not the archangel Gabriel speaking with Muhammed according to God’s duty for angels. At best it is a bastardized Word Muhammed heard and repeated and at worst in his “trances” it was demonic instruction.

This is why Islam is full of human frailty in murder, theft, rape, slavery and selling the rights to worship other gods. None of that is of the God of Abraham.

To leave this out is to not bring a full picture of Islam as the entire basis is proven wrong by God Himself. It is impossible for Gabriel to dictate law, redemption and salvation as while Angels are intrigued and long to look into this mystery it is not of their office.
I sincerely hope this adds to your fine work and challenges Muslims to seek God to move away from an existence which is dictated by the Koran and leads to misery and find God Who will complete them.

Greg: Can I redistribute/reproduce this via my own web page?

I’m still struck by how slowly all this is sinking in. Many people who choose not to educate themselves are the most important actors in forming some kind of defense. It’s not hard to imagine a combination of leftists and D’Souzites on the Right making it impossible to save modernity. Europe is frozen in the headlights of oncoming sharia. But at some point the Left’s pet issues, e.g. gay rights 24-7, are going to impact the belief system which tosses gay people off the nearest tall building, topples a wall on their heads, or hangs them from cranes.

Then, I would presume, a general calling sodomy immoral would seem to be the lesser of evils. Or I can hope.


I’ve been trying to get people I work with to notice the threat for about a year now.

At first they viewed me as not even being sincere.. that I was doing some elaborate satire on them , as if I was testing them to see how crazy they would let me get.

Then they figured out I was serious… so I was just dissmissed as a crackpot.

My personality is such that I can make a lot of outlandish comments and somehow get away with it, so while I was dismissed, I wasn’t shunned.

Gradually over the year as I have been pointing things out to them, I think I have managed to convince them.

I established myself as an expert on islam.. and what would happen is something would occur on the news , and no one would be able to figure something out and so they would come to me to explain it.

Every time I had that chance I did my best to objectively explain how things relate to the core Islam and then I also made sure to relate to them anything from history past that was related so that they can see that the actions going on today are nothing more than a contination of the things from 100s years ago. Islam has not changed adn neither have Muslims.

No one thinks i’m crazy anymore.

It took a lot of work though and a lessor person wouldn’t have gotten through to them or been so persistant.

It would be helpful if these succinct expositions of Islam like this were accompanied by a statement that the reader is free to reproduce and distribute (with due acknowledgement of their authorship, of course). This one would make a good information booklet.

I did make a PDF of parts I and II

I spent no effort trying to make it look pretty

Dr. Davis,
could you possibly add some phonetic pronunciations of some of these obscure Islamic terms and proper names?

In oral conversation with other people, I have sometimes embarrassed myself in the past by mispronouncing foreign terms and names. How do you pronounce “wa al-mansukh,” for example? Is the accent on the first or second syllable?

Is “taquiyya” pronounced “tah-KEE-yah” or “tah-KIE-uh” or “TAH-kee-uh”?

How do you pronounce “Bani Qaynuqa”?

WallyUK and Vince:
Don’t know if you noticed this at the beginning of the article:

All should feel free to distribute [Islam 101] and/or reproduce it.

Traeh: By golly there it is…. totally overlooked it.


Thanks, Greg! I bought your book a couple months ago at Barnes and Noble. Then last week, I got another copy charged to me by the conservative book club. I gave that copy to a cousin of mine who is no dhimmi, but still not knowledgeable on the subject.

Your book was pretty short but chock full of great anti-jihad ammo.

2:106. Whatever a Verse (revelation) do We {Allah} abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things?

I am glad to see this. I call it the “Islamic Cop-Out.” It covers the fact that Mohammed’s “new” revelation was due to nothing more than his increased confidence. I think that if Mohammed were the perfect man and Allah were the true and perfect deity, they would have gotten the message correct the first time, and abrogation would not be an issue. Mohammedans believe that Islam is a correction of the faulty or corrupt version that we call Judaism and Christianity. They still did not get it right. A perfect book does not have discrepancies.

We are discussing this topic in in response to the post

The Humancafe is open always. Kindly visit it from time to time. Thanks.

Say, Greg. Why do you write Prophet Muhammad with a capital P and no quotation marks. It looks like you’re conceding that he really was what he claimed to be.

Hi Greg. Lots of reading ahead for me, I see. Glad to see you’re making headway on this project. I also hope that it is subject to revision. I don’t question the scholarship in your piece — so far it looks well done. In particular I think the outline you present covers the necessary topics very well. But I feel there is a serious format error that detracts from the work: you lead with your conclusions (in Section 2).

I find this practise offputting regardless of whether I agree with an author’s conclusions; in any case it colours the reader’s perception of everything else that follows. I realise that the subsequent body of the work is intended to establish your statements, but the effect of front-loading of the document with as-yet unsubstantiated claims: you will be preaching only to the choir.

Nobody who does not already accept your stated conclusions will read past the introduction, and this is a shame, because as far as I can tell you are bringing out some very important information. If you must state up front where the long analysis is to end up perhaps this should be done as a series of points, with statements of intent: “We shall establish that…” as opposed to authoritative declarations in advance of supporting information.

Even better, contrast what is to be shown to common misunderstandings and “myths” about Islam, along the lines of the sermon on the mount: “in the past it was said…but I say unto you…”.

Frame your (future) conclusions as questions for the reader to ponder, to mull over as you present data. Give the reader some credit insofar as ability to come to their own conclusions. I have in mind paragraphs like the following (but better written, of course. This is just tossed off):

“Today’s mainstream media and muslims in the West assure us that Islam is inherently peaceful, a ‘religion of peace’, and that islamic terrorists are a tiny minority that have twisted the religion to their own, nonislamic purposes. But is this an accurate picture? Can it be substantiated? In this course we will examine evidence that strongly indicates, first, that there are fundamentally violent and intolerant aspects to this religion and that, rightly perceived, the terrorists of today and their support network are, in the main, neither a tiny minority, nor distorters, of Islam. We shall see that the threat of terrorism is only the tip of an even more menacing, if somewhat less newsworthy, iceberg commonly referred to as Islamism, a creed rooted in the core teachings of Islam, and which can only be understood in light of a thorough understanding of Islamic doctrine and history. We shall hear from these men themselves, the Islamists, the jihadists (terrorists) and the progenitors whose actions and writings have inspired them, going back to Mohammed himself. Our textbooks are not written by westerners, racists or antiislamic bigots — they are the source documents of islam itself, as it is practised today, and the writings of the greatest luminaries of this creed. Through this course, Islam and the islamists will speak. Will you listen? Will the glossy, prepackaged image of a religion of peace prevail? And you, dear reader, will be equipped to decide: which is the true Islam?”

Sorry, got a bit carried away in the last bit there…Anyway, that’s the idea — more of a teaser: “you may be here (x) right now, and it is our objective to give you reason to go here (y).” Avoid force-feeding. Assume your reader is intelligent.

Why am I being so fussy? I am looking at the site visitor counter, which is nearing 9 million in the last year. It’s worth making a product that a substantial portion of these people will read past the first few lines, if Islam 101 is to make a dent in the need to educate the west. And the audience needs to broaden much further. Writing in authoritative, pejorative or iconoclastic style will not accomplish this, though you will get nice feedback from the choir.


I agree with Archimedes2. When possible, let the reader do the math with you and bring them to the conclusion.


Expanding a bit on the point that rational made: in the US Army, less than 10% of the Army have the job of firing weapons in the direction of the enemy. The other 90% have jobs relating to keeping the trigger-pullers fed, housed, supplied, paid, clothed, trained, etc. By this, shall we consider the US Army a peaceful organization because only a small fraction of its members directly engage in violence?

Re: comments by Archimedes2 and XRDC;
Seems much ado about nothing. A matter of personal preference – mine is to know what I may get into for such type material.
The pudding proof will tell — watch the turnstile.

This looks like a great initiative. However, it would be great with clickable links in the table of contents, because that would make it possible to link to particular paragraphs (e.g. for posting references in online discussions).

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