ISIS, or to use its real moniker – DA’ISH – claims to have established an “Islamic State” in parts of war-torn Iraq and Syria to await the final days. However, genuine Islamic sovereignty can only be established if the state ascribes to the true spirit of the Shari’ah, which is governed by mercy.
For ISIS, it seems Sacred Law has meant the misappropriation of hudud, or legal chastisement, to enforce martial rule signified by brutal application.
We should realise that mass killings justified by declaring unbelief on those opposing you, and the YouTube performances of Jihadi John, are not the true face of Islam. An authentic reading of history will reveal that Islam has traditionally been hallmarked by diversity and tolerance.
From the plains of Mongolia to the skyscrapers of New York, and from the Sahara to Anatolia, Islam has never been a homogenous whole marching to one drummer. The classical scholars of Islam have never called for mass migrations to the Middle East as the neo-Wahhabi ISIS has done.
Ironically, it was Ibn Taimiyya – an iconic figure of ISIS – who ruled in his famous 12th century Mardin fatwa that Muslims could live peacefully under non-Muslim rulers who were not hostile to them.
Diversity has been the footprint of the Muslim community for over 1,400 years. Sustained by differing interpretations of Shari’ah by four imams of legal thought, Islam has been driven by ijtihād – the inductive reasoning – of qualified men and women who’ve applied their minds to questions of the day.
Shari’ah, the human interpretation of Qur’an and Sunnah, has been subjected to rigorous research. Fiqh, the juridicial application of Shari’ah, has been evolving for centuries. Had it not, Islam would have been fixed in a time warp of mud houses, palm fibre beds and sandals.
To understand Shari’ah we have to look at its definition. “Shari’ah”, we learn, is the pathway to a watering hole. The pathway is the following of God. The water is the Sacred Law’s intellectual nourishment and its life-giving qualities.
Shari’ah is governed by principles or goals, which are called maqasid. The first scholar to identify the maqasid as a separate discipline was Imam al-Juwaini, who wrote about it in the fourth century after the Prophet’s (SAW) demise. Some of the prominent scholars who built on his writings, and further codified the maqasid, were Al-Shatibi, Al-Razi, Imam Ghazali and Al-Qarafi.
According to the final consensus, Shari’ah had to be grounded in six principles: the protection of Religion, Life, Mind, Family, Wealth and Character. Some jurists felt that Life took priority over Religion, but essentially, all agreed to the categories.
Basically, the above six classifications (Hifdh ul-Deen, Nafs, ‘Aql, Nasab, Mal and Ird in Arabic) are the yardstick to measure the Shari’ah-centric direction of a society – where, ironically, non- Muslim countries such as New Zealand score higher than so-called “Islamic” ones.
So, the big ask: how does ISIS – the Islamic state of all Islamic states according to its massive propaganda machine – measure up to the above?
Protection of Religion: ISIS has killed anyone not taking an oath of allegiance to its leader, Al-Baghdadi and persistently insults Judaism and Christianity. Shi’ah and Sufis (who are Muslim) enjoy no protection from ISIS, let alone Yazidis, Christians or ‘Alawites, who have all been killed for their views. ISIS scores zero in this category, as the Qur’an classifies Jews, Christians and Sabians as “people of the book”.
Protection of Life: Dabiq, ISIS’s magazine says: “Every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader (a Christian or Jew), and kill him. It is important that the killing becomes attributed to patrons of the Islamic State who have obeyed its leadership...” Given ISIS’s roadside executions, YouTube shenanigans and massacres, this proves that ISIS does not preserve or protect life.
Protection of the Mind: this classification has been interpreted as academic endeavour and civic freedom. ISIS’s misinterpretations of Islam and its highly selective use of a few errant scholars, is not reassuring. It readiness to declare takfir (unbelief and death) on anyone disagreeing with it, gives ISIS a zero here. It’s the Caliph’s word, or off with your head.
Protection of Family: ISIS’s mediaeval worldview with regards to slavery and the capturing of non-Muslim women (after having killed their husbands) for sexual exploitation thoroughly degrades family life. ISIS gets a zero for protecting family life for its murderous chauvinism and for the marginalisation of the mother.
Protection of Wealth: ISIS has plundered Iraq’s banks. ISIS has destroyed the homes of civilians, a violation of this principle tied to the respect of property. ISIS has smashed religious shrines, priceless archaeological artefacts and ancient churches. ISIS has extinguished the cultural, social and fiscal wealth of Syria and Iraq. A fat zero here.
Protection of Character: the character or honour of any person not seen to be embracing the ISIS brand has been besmirched, being called an unbeliever, a hypocrite, a Crusader or a polytheist. Al-Baghdadi’s concept of ird is reflected in his statement (in Dabiq) that anyone insulting a Muslim should have his arm chopped off. Another profound zero.
Of course, many of us will recognise that the above maqasid – designed for the benefit of humanity in the mercy of the Shari’ah – have as equally been violated by other leaders and major powers of the day, who professing an undying sympathy for human rights, have killed millions in wars on abstract nouns.
However, the point here is that ISIS claims to aspire to something nobler than the hegemonic powers it says it is fighting in the name of Allah. It begs the question – the ancient cliché naturally– of whether the means can ever justify the ends, or whether two wrongs ever will coalesce into being a right.
This is because the maqasid are all about the means, first and foremost. In this case, if there are no positive means there can be no fruitful end. This is something that ISIS has spectacularly failed to understand, and because of this, the so-called “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria is already a failed state.