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“Learn Islam From Its Source”
by Hugh Fitzgerald
Suddenly our country is full of all kinds of Interfaith Outreach Events, carefully staged by Muslims for unwary Infidels. There is Ask-A-Muslim!, there is Meet-Your-Muslim-Neighbors, there are Coffee, Cake, and Qur’an meetings. Whatever the name, they amount to essentially the same thing: a deeply sincere offer of friendship to any non-Muslims willing to take them up on the offer, and a just as sincere offer of candor on the subject of Islam, which the Muslims running these events are prepared to discuss from top to bottom, for those non-Muslims who want to understand what all the fuss and, alas, suspicion is all about. Usually these events come with a meal, provided by Muslim hosts for non-Muslim guests, designed to leave a feeling of contentment, physical as well as mental, from the evening, when Muslims open up fully — no holds barred — about Islam, and after their exposition, welcome any and all questions. These events can take place at a mosque, or at an Islamic Center, or sometimes even at the private home of a Muslim who has done well, living the American dream and therefore, it might be presumed from his financial success, fully integrated into American life. Never mind that Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri were both from the top socioeconomic strata of their respective societies, but did not feel at home in either Egypt or Saudi Arabia, respectively. Nor should we forget that among the first would-be terrorists arrested in this country was “Mike” Hawash, who as an Intel engineer earned $360,000 a year, had married an American with whom he had several children, and appeared to be completely assimilated.
The first movement of the evening is the Meet-and-Greet. You are introduced by the presiding Muslim dignitary (it could be an imam, or a doctor, or a professor) to all those “Muslim neighbors” with whom you will find you have so much in common. They are, especially the women, full of bustling friendliness. The men are sober and deeply sincere of mien, but also very welcoming to their non-Muslim visitors. “And how nice that at long last we can all meet, just as people,” says the head host, “and you don’t have to think of us as that strange, sometimes forbidding group the media often refers to as ‘the Muslims.’”
As the head host will say, as everyone has settled back in their seats, “the more of these evenings I conduct, the more I realize that we are all basically the same. Here’s my day, which I suspect is a lot like yours: I wake up, help my wife get the kids ready for school, have breakfast, leave for work, endure the commute, listen to National Public Radio while driving, grab a lunch at my desk at noon, put in a solid day, endure the same commute home as you do, try to be home in time to have supper with the kids and hear about their school day, then another half-hour of work-related emails have to be answered, and then I help do the dishes, help put the kids to bed, and usually watch a little soothing television, the Turner Movie Channel, or BBC Mysteries. And then to bed. Isn’t that a lot like your lives? The only real difference for me, as a Muslim, is that Friday, not Sunday, is our holy day, but other than that, aside from the hijab our women like to wear as a sign of modesty, there really are very few differences. Like you, we are monotheists, and like you we revere Jesus. That deserves to be more widely known. Of course I don’t want to minimize the big problem we all have: there is no denying that the criminal element — yes, some people who call themselves Muslims have criminal mentalities, just the way some Jews and Christians do — in Islam has wreaked havoc all over the world, killing non-Muslims and Muslims alike. I think the number of Muslim victims of Islamic terrorists is considerably greater than the non-Muslims, not that it matters, because terrorism is terrorism, but it would perhaps bring a little needed perspective to the issue if we recognized how much we Muslims suffer too from these madmen. And along with our own victims, we suffer in another way — the damage to the image of Islam, which means ‘peace’ and has nothing to do with this terrorism, and damage, too, to our image as law-abiding Muslims — that’s what we find so sad, so lamentable. And we wanted to invite you here to undo some of that damage, to allow you to see us just as we are. And to ask questions, on any aspect of Islam, and to hear what Islam means to us. Why shouldn’t Muslims, instead of your being told half-truths by FOX or CNN, tell you what Islam is all about? You would expect us to ask Christians, not Muslims, to find out about Christianity. Why should Islam be any different?”
The second essential component to the evening is the shared meal, prepared by the Muslim hosts for their non-Muslim guests. This ordinarily comes at the end of the evening, after the discussion about Islam, and is usually offered as a buffet. It’s a kind of reward for the guests who have sat through the presentations. To show the full reach of Islamic civilization and cuisine (“Islam is not monolithic”), there will usually be a variety of foods from Arab lands, Iran, Pakistan-India, Turkey, even Indonesia. Curried chicken, lamb kabobs, hummus and baba ghannoush, stuffed grape leaves, pita and naan, even possibly a rudimentary rijstaafl if East Indians are among those in attendance. The smells have wafted from the kitchen to the room where the ask-a-muslim main event is taking place. These are a powerful sensory reminder of the pleasure to come, and that puts the visitors in a good and expectant mood as they offer their earnest questions, and uncritically accept whatever answers they receive.
And as they share that buffet, sitting at tables with at least one Muslim assigned to each table, to continue the Interfaith conversation, not just to explain the dishes to them, but to encourage their guests, in the friendliest possible fashion, to continue over dinner to ask them any questions they may have about their own lives as Muslims, or anything else about Islam that might be on their minds. But it’s seldom about anything worrisome. The food, the friendliness, the warm sense of fellow feeling, will overcome even the most suspicious of souls. And when the Infidels leave that evening, it will inevitably be with a sense that they have learned a great deal about Muslims, who are just people like themselves, and about Islam, too, which apparently is more or less like Christianity — with the same rituals of prayer, and pilgrimage, and fasting, and charitable giving — only with a different day of worship and a few incidental differences, as the hijab, the fruit juices instead of alcohol, the ban on pork.
The evening comes to an end, and the well-fed guests promise their Muslim hosts that they will spread the word about what they have learned. Indeed, they are true to their promise, calling in to talk shows, or writing letters to the editor, or merely putting in their two-bits if the subject of Islam comes up at work, or at a social gathering, whenever they feel that Islam, or Muslims, have been unfairly maligned, always prefacing their self-assured remarks with “I’ve visited mosques, I’ve taken part in question-and-answer sessions about Islam, I’ve broken bread with my Muslim neighbors, and I’ve learned that the real Muslims, not the crazies who simply use Islam as an excuse, are just like us.”
In Chicago, still another variant on these meet-your-muslim-neighbor events has just been announced. It’s called “Learn Islam From Its Source,” and it’s a program by which Muslims, using only the Qur’an, try to explain Islam.
The Muslims behind this program claim that because the Qur’an is the most important source for Islam, only it needs to be consulted. This is disingenuous. The Sunnah, that is the customs and mores of 7th-century Muslims, which is derived from both the Hadith (the records of what Muhammad said and did) and the Sira (the biography of Muhammad), has always been regarded as an essential source of Muslim practice that acts as a kind of gloss on the Qur’an itself. The hadith that are regarded as most reliable are identified as “Sahih” and of the six collections so designated, two of them, by Bukhari and Muslim, are regarded as the most authentic.
The standard view of Muslims is that the Qur’an cannot be properly understood in a vacuum, without the Sunnah, that is, the practice of Muhammad, his words and deeds. One Muslim website offers this:
In our day, too, some people reject the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas). “We read the Quran,” they say, “and interpret it for ourselves without the need for any clarification by the Prophet (saas).” They turn their backs on the Sunnah, the practical application and implementation of the Quran.
The fact is that these people who have abandoned the Sunnah in fact ignore the Quran`s commandments. That is because the Sunnah is an explanation of the Quran and more importantly, the Quran orders Muslims to follow it. Allah (swt) has not only made obeying the Quran obligatory, but also obeying the Prophet (saas).
For this reason, Islam can only be practiced together with the Sunnah and Muslims can only apply the Quran into real life with its help. The Sunnah, on the other hand, is the belief of the Ahl al-Sunnah [“the people of the Sunnah”], which is the totality of our Prophet`s (saas) authentic hadiths and their subsequent interpretations by the great Islamic scholars.
Similar comments can be found all over the most important Muslim sites on the Internet. Apparently a great many Muslims do not agree that you can “Learn Islam From Its Source” (that is, the Qur’an alone). The Sunnah of the Prophet is essential for the practice of Islam.
But in jettisoning the Hadith and Sira, and sticking only to the Qur’an, the Muslims behind this “Learn It From the Source” campaign have achieved something important in their campaign to protect Islam. For it is in the Hadith, not the Qur’an, where we find so many of the most disturbing stories about Muhammad. His marriage to Aisha when she was six, and with whom he had sexual intercourse when she was nine, and he fifty-four, is found in the most authentic Hadith, such as Sahih Bukhari 5:58:234, and not the Qur’an. That is surely a story that non-Muslims might wish to learn about. And it is naturally one which Muslims prefer they never find out about. And they won’t, if they “learn Islam from its source,” meaning the Qur’an alone.
Then there are the many stories about Muhammad having those who criticized or mocked him murdered by his followers, who in some cases needed only a hint from Muhammad without an explicit command. There was the murder of Asma bint Marwan (following Muhammad’s exclamation “Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?”), a poetess who mocked Muhammad, and criticized him, too, for killing a 120-year-old poet, Abu ‘Afak, and for her pains was murdered. Abu ‘Afak, too, was murdered by a follower of Muhammad who was fulfilling not a command but an express wish by Muhammad. And murdered too, was the Jewish poet Ka’b ibn Al-Ashraf, this time on the direct command of Muhammad. And there are another dozen accounts of similar assassinations of the perceived critics of Muhammad. But these stories are all to be found either in the hadith collections, especially those of Bukhari and Muslim, deemed the most trustworthy, or in the Sira of Ibn Ishaq, or both. But none of them are to be found in the Qur’an, to which these Chicago Muslims wish to limit the “education” of Infidels.
Those who will be taught only about the Qur’an will, similarly, learn nothing about the mass killing in Medina of the bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, a Jewish tribe who had surrendered to Muhammad. Muhammad is described as looking on as some 600-900 men were put to death in one long day of executions, but that information is to be found in the Sira (biography) of Muhammad, and not in the Qur’an.
As for the raid on the Khaybar Oasis, and the seizing by Muhammad of the beautiful Jewish girl Saafiya, whom he took as his sex slave on the very day he had had killed her husband, father, and brother, a story that non-Muslims might profit from learning, that story, too, is not to be found in the Qur’an, and so those who are going to learn about Islam, as they are told, only “from its source,” the Qur’an, will again be left bereft of any real understanding of the nature of Muhammad. And it’s not just his female sex slaves that will be kept from Infidel view if only the Qur’an is relied on, but also Muhammad’s dealing with male slaves, whom he bought, sold, and traded — as we know only from the Hadith and Sira.
That Muslim Group’s “‘Learn Islam From its Source” Campaign, is not, as it claims to be, in order “to Educate about True Islam.” It will do nothing of the sort. You cannot learn about Islam without studying the life of Muhammad. And much of that life, even most of it, can only be found in the Hadith and Sira, which will not be offered as part of the required reading.
The Muslims who claim that non-Muslims should learn from the Qur’an alone and “not from unreliable sources, social media, or fake news” are themselves an “unreliable source.” For only an “unreliable source” would claim that the Hadith, by which we mean those of the most reliable hadith-collectors, and the Sira are “unreliable sources.” The Hadith of Bukhari and Muslim, the biography by ibn Ishaq — from which all the information about Muhammad given above has been taken — are not considered by Muslims to be “unreliable sources,” but deemed nearly equal in reliability to the Qur’an. These Hadith, then, are not just reliable, but indispensable sources if we wish to have a comprehensive view of Muhammad.
The Muslims who thought up this “Learn Islam from its Source” campaign have stated that their desire is to “ease the fear of Islam, suspicion of Muslims and to clear up many misunderstandings of Islam.” They will certainly “ease that fear” by leaving out the Hadith and Sira, which means leaving out much of what makes Muhammad most terrifying. He will be the Muhammad of the Qur’an, the Messenger of God. He will not be the Muhammad who captures women and makes them his sex slaves, or buys and sells and trades male slaves; he will not be the Muhammad who has his followers kill those who have angered him; he will not be the Muhammad who watches with satisfaction as 600-900 bound prisoners of a defeated tribe are decapitated. What better way to “ease that fear” than simply make sure non-Muslims don’t find out about any of this. And what makes the gruesome details of Muhammad’s life still more disturbing is that despite them, Muhammad continues to be regarded by Believers as the Model of Conduct and the Perfect Man, and whatever he did was right. That’s the morality of Islam. Non-Muslims take quite a different view.
The main purpose of “Learn Islam From Its Source” is to keep information about Muhammad himself to a minimum. Hence no Hadith, no Sira.
But another aim is to present a skewed view of the Qur’an. It’s not hard to figure out what Muslims will choose to teach from that “source.” Undoubtedly they will focus first on the Five Pillars of Islam. These are duties that are comfortably familiar to Christians. The Five Pillars are: the shehada (the profession of faith), salat (the five canonical daily prayers), zakat (the giving of charity), sawm (the observance of the Ramadan fasting), and the Hajj. By focusing on these, reading out the Qur’anic verses where these rituals are commanded, the Muslims purporting to teach non-Muslims about Islam will be able to use up time and attention on rituals that are mostly inoffensive, and that appear to be similar to Christian duties (prayer, fasting, pilgrimages, giving of charity are also part of Christianity). What won’t be mentioned is this: that zakat, or charitable giving, is intended only for fellow Muslims or for those who, while not yet fully Muslim, are on the path of conversion and for whom the receipt of zakat might encourage them on this path. Zakat is thus given to further Islam and Muslims; it is quite different from the omnidirectional charity practiced by Christians. Nor will the non-Muslim “students” be told that the five daily prayers (salat) contain, within the Fatihah (the first verse of the Qur’an), a denunciation of Christians and Jews that is repeated, in the saying of those five prayers, seventeen times a day. (This is a point repeatedly made by Robert Spencer.) Neither the limitations on zakat, nor the kuffar-cursing in the five canonical prayers, are things of which any Infidel would normally have an inkling. So no questions about these matters will be asked, and no elucidation need be offered by the Muslims giving their “learn-Islam-from-its-source” lessons. Meanwhile, time is passing, and the more time that is devoted to the Five Pillars, and to a few seemingly innocuous Qur’anic verses (5:32, 2:256), the less time will be left to the last topic, those 109 Jihad verses, full of violence, that will somehow have to be explained away.
There are a handful of Qur’anic verses that apologists for Islam never fail to quote. Pride of place is given to Quran 5:32, which appears to condemn killing (in a verse lifted from the Jewish Mishnah) and, as a consequence, has been a favorite of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Taken by itself, 5:32 means one thing, but if you read 5:32 in context, that is as followed and modified by 5:33, quite a different meaning emerges:
5:32: “We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.”
This seems to be a denunciation of killing, save in the case of punishing someone for murder or “for spreading mischief in the land” — but we still need to understand that last phrase, which is defined only in the next verse, 5:33, which reads:
“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.”
Who are those who “wage war against Allah and His messenger” if not the non-Muslims, of every kind? And what is to happen to them? They are deserving of execution, or crucifixion, or having their hands and feet cut off. 5:33 is the gloss that gives 5:32 its real meaning, which is not peace but a sword, and quite different from what both Barack Obama and George Bush apparently think it means.
But still more egregious is the attempt to make non-Muslims believe that Qur’an 2:256 (“There is no compulsion in religion”) is to be taken literally. And that requires us, in the next article, to examine what freedom of religious choice, in a Sharia state, non-Muslims and, for that matter, Muslims themselves have.
First published in Jihad Watch.