Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunni Scholars Have Called for More than Condemnation of ISIS

By Qays Arthur (Translation)

Note by Qays Arthur: The following is an independent, unofficial rush translation of a fatwa issued in June of this year by the umbrella group, Al-Majlis al-Islami al-Suri (The Syrian Islamic Council - founded in April this year by exiles in Turkey), which comprises many individual 'ulama and over 40 civilian and militant groupings that are involved and aware of the state of affairs in Syria and Iraq. The statement was also endorsed by the Rabita 'Ulama al-Sham, another similar grouping of Syrian scholars.

I undertook this translation because such declarations have been largely absent from the Western media which insists on characterizing ISIS as Sunni. That absence of reporting such things has led some observers to believe that Sunnis have been "silent" regarding ISIS's atrocities. The reality is that Sunni scholars have declared that ISIS's methodology represents a straying, depraved, crass inversion of Religion, they have accused them of treachery and subversion, and have called for them to be opposed by every lawful means and brought to justice in accordance with the Shari'a. This is thus presented as an example of what Sunni authorities in the effected regions have pronounced to that effect. It should be noted that the Majlis is a regional body set up to give scholarly guidance to fighters and those affected by the hostilities in Syria. Their call to arms is directed at the theater of battle, Syria in particular, and is not global.

I am not acting on behalf of, representing, or promoting the Majlis al-Islami al-Suri or any other group mentioned, though I do obviously agree with the substance of the fatwa. After the translation the Arabic from the group's Facebook page is reproduced.

End of note.

Fatwa concerning the “State of Iraq and Syria” - Da'esh

By the Majlis al-Islami al-Suri endorsed by Rabita 'Ulama al-Sham and others (June 15, 2014)

Question: You are aware of what has been happening in Syria since the announcement of the “State of Iraq and Syria”, known as DA'ESH (ISIS) and what they have been doing to the people of Syria by way of excommunication (takfir), killing, and bombing. People are divided concerning them: there are there who say that they are Khawarij who must be eradicated, there are those who say they are rebels, those who say this is sedition (fitna) which all are duty bound to avoid even as they make ready to fight the criminal regime. There are those who say that this is a true state which all are duty bound to pledge allegiance to and to fight under their standard. So how would they be designated in the Sacred Law and what is our duty regarding them? Give us counsel and may you be rewarded.

Answer: Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the universe and let there be no aggression save against the perverse. And may benediction and peace be upon the one sent as a mercy to the worlds, and likewise upon his folk, and companions all, and upon those who follow them with integrity till the last day. To proceed: Indeed Allah, Most High, has privileged the people of Syria with jihad in His way against the tyrannical and criminal regime. Notwithstanding what that entails of pain and sacrifice, the rabidness of the enemy, and betrayal by those close and afar, yet Allah has kept them firm - supporting them with His assistance, and decreeing in all of it attainments for his slaves that they never anticipated.

The greatest distinction with which the Syrian jihad was characterized in its early days was its genuineness and sincerity for Allah, Most High without divergence in its objectives or means despite its humble military prowess and financial resources. Yet sedition (fitna) would soon raise its head with the appearance of the group, “The State of Iraq and Syria” which has introduced to Syrian society subversion, vices, and infractions of the Sacred Law (Sharia). It has thus become necessary to make plain its reality and characteristics, and what is incumbent on Syrians regarding it. This group has committed unambiguous and obvious infractions of the Sacred Law and criminal acts the most brazen of which follow:

1. Victimizing the people of Syria by the declaring of a state with no legitimate Sharia procedure, nor clearly outlined vision, nor consultation, and without any legal or actual elements of a state.

2. The claim that they are on the side of the truth and that everyone besides them is either a disbeliever or an innovator then drawing from that dangerous legal rulings.

3.Exceeding all bounds in excommunication and testing people concerning it. Until it has reached a stage where statements of excommunication and vilification along with intimidation and death threats have become widespread and without censure among those associated with them. Rather some of them have gone to the extent of making disbelief and apostasy the default assumption regarding the Muslims of Syria. Indeed there are those who regard the regime and it's followers with greater respect than the mujahidun and revolutionaries.

4. Accusing whoever opposes them of treachery and betraying the jihad with the term “al-sahwat” - even those who are upright or are of the people of jihad against the Assad regime and its allies.

5. Their refusal to be subject to any of the Sharia agencies that specifically deal with dispute and disagreement except those that are under the control of, and subservient to the “State of Iraq and the Syria”.

6. Utilizing the troops of the jihad that are opposing the tyrannical Asad regime in the pursuit of secondary objectives aimed at expanding the territory of their “state” and getting the pledge of allegiance, as well as being diverted from struggling against the common enemy while rushing to gain control of economic and military assets in liberated areas after seizing them from the mujahidun.

7. Deliberate confrontation and engagement with various jihad military divisions in Syria along with involvement in shedding innocent blood and trivializing doing so.

8. Capturing activists, broadcasters, fighters, and religious figures and the obstruction of aid work and religious work due to supposed doubts concerning the methodology or due to allegations of treachery or deception.

9. Perfidy after having promised security to emissaries, and mujahidun in general. Thereafter there was betrayal, with many of them being captured, tortured, and killed. Indeed news of the victims of their perfidy has become pervasive, acknowledged far and wide by Syrians and non-Syrians.

Indeed all evidence and indicators establish that this group has become the basis for the thwarting of the struggle against Asad and his regime in Syria as well as the proliferation of division, killing and subversion, and plundering the good of the country. With regard to this group, what is obligatory in the Shari'a is to confront it in order to eradicate it and thwart its designs in Syria, and to take every lawful means to that end due to the following:

Firstly: Refusing to comply with the rule of law then fighting based on that. When they are summoned to have the matter arbitrated according to the Shari'a they reject and refuse it while there is consensus of the scholars concerning the obligation to fight any party that refuses to either discharge obligations or refrain from prohibitions to say nothing of when that occurs in a context like Syria.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiya has said in Majma' al-Fatawawa, “There is consensus of the scholars of the Muslims concerning the party that refuses, if they refuse any clear obligation of Islam that is mass-transmitted then it becomes obligatory to fight them once they having declared the two testifications, then refuse to pray; or pay Zakat; or fast in the month of Ramadan; or undertake the Pilgrimage to the Primordial House; or any ruling concerning them with the Quran and Sunna; or concerning the prohibition of indecency... and other such things as are legislated in Islam. They are to be fought over such until the Religion is entirely for Allah.”

Secondly: Aggression against those whose blood and wealth are protected. Allah has legislated repelling aggression. He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) has said, “Whoever is slain without his wealth (defending it) is a martyr. Whoever is slain without his blood is a martyr. Whoever is slain without his religion is a martyr. Whoever is slain without his family is a martyr." (Tirmizi who said it is "well authenticated".)

Thirdly: Rebellion. If there is a rebel party then it is legislated to fight it once it rebels. It follows then more-so that a party that has combined rebellion, extremism, and excommunication without right, is more deserving of such and the obligation is greater. The Most High has said, “And if two parties of believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them. And if one party of them doeth wrong to the other, fight ye that which doeth wrong till it return unto the ordinance of Allah; then, if it return, make peace between them justly, and act equitably. Lo! Allah loveth the equitable.” Quran 49:9 Al-Qurtubi has said by way of explaining it, “In this verse is proof for the obligation to fight the rebel group that is known to have rebelled with force against the leader or one of the Muslims.”

Fourthly: Their resemblance to the Khawarij who the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) commanded be fought. All the characteristics of the Khawarij are present in them such that they are considered the same. From those characteristics are: excommunication of those who differ with them, fighting the people of Islam with obstinacy, rejecting the truth with affectation and disdain towards the pronouncements of the people of knowledge, utter contempt for humanity while being ignorant of the teachings of the Religion, harshness and boorishness towards the believers and impertinence towards them, in addition to the perfidy, treachery, breach of covenant, and betrayal of trusts.

Now the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) called for those who are thus characterized to be fought having said, “Slay them wherever you find them. Indeed there is merit, on the Day of Judgment, in slaying them for whoever does so.” (Agreed upon).

And he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Were I to encounter them I would slay them as was done to 'Ad.”

Indeed the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) considered those of them who are killed to be the worst of those killed, while those of the Muslims who are killed at their hands to be the best of those killed saying, “Great tidings for whoever slays them or is slain by them. They call to the Book of Allah, yet they have nothing of it whatsoever. So whoever fights them is more deserving of Allah than they.” (Abu Dawud) Futher he said, “They are the worst of those killed under the sky, while the best of those slain are those slain by them.” (Ahmad)

Conscientious restraint is not permitted regarding fighting them neither is refusal to do so. Rather it is an obligation to continue doing so until they desist from their rebelliousness, subject themselves to independent Shari'a legal processes, and refrain from their repugnant doings actually and effectively, not rhetorically as the Most High says, “...fight ye that which doeth wrong till it return unto the ordinance of Allah...” Quran 49:9 Al-Tabari has said by way of explaining it, “So if one party of the two refuses to comply with the judgment of the Book of Allah for it or against it, contravening that which Allah has made just among His creatures, while the other party complies then ' fight ye that which doeth wrong'. He says: then fight the one that contravenes, and refuses to comply with the judgment of Allah 'till it return unto the ordinance of Allah' until it returns to the judgment of Allah which was ordained in His Book for His creatures.”

As regards those of them who are captured, those whom we determine were overcome by the situation and in whom we find indicators of repentance we shall set free on condition that he is not able to revert to that which he was upon or to his group.

As for refusal to fight them on the basis that it is sedition (fitna), that is invalid since the seditious fighting which it is prohibited to participate in is fighting that ensues between two groups of Muslims who are both upon falsehood or they are both fighting for worldly gains or the matter is ambiguous regarding them such that it cannot be determined the right from the wrong party.

Involvement in such fighting is prohibited, it being that we are commanded to withdraw and not participate in it under any circumstance. That is what is intended by the statement of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), “When two Muslims engage each other with their swords then both the killer and the slain are in the Fire.” (Agreed upon) And he also said concerning these trials, “So let whoever finds a haven or refuge from it take refuge in it.” (Agreed upon) So it is in such trials that the Muslim refrains and distances himself from to stay safe from its evil. His motto regarding it is, “Be the slave of Allah who is killed and don't be the slave of Allah who has killed.”

As regards the group, “The State of Iraq and Syria” in Syria, their oppression and rebelliousness, and their aggression and assault against person and property are obvious, as well as their association with intelligence apparatus and agencies opposed to the rights of Syrians, seeking to foil their revolution and jihad. Fighting them is thus something prescribed by law, indeed an obligation in order to stop their evil and repel their harm.

Al-Tabari has said, “Were it the case that the obligation in all instances of dispute between two groups of the Muslims was avoiding it and standing one's ground then no right would be upheld and no wrong would be stopped.” He related that from al-Qurtubi in his exegesis. Ibn Battal, in his commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari, has said, “It is necessary for whoever the matter of their dispute proves problematic to withdraw from both parties and stand his ground until the truth becomes clear to him and it becomes apparent which if them is in the right with the ambiguity having been lifted. It will then be binding on him to come to the aid of those in the right with whatever those of insight deem appropriate.”

To conclude, the group, “The State of Iraq and Syria” in Syria is a gang of rebellion, extremism, and excommunication. They are the highest degree of transgressors, having combined between splitting the ranks of the mujahidun and revolutionaries by spreading the ideas of the Khawarij, and being infiltrated by the Asad regime and its allies as well as other intelligence apparatus. From this we can make sense of why the places where they are located and based are not targeted and why they do not engage with the Asad regime and its allies in battle. Rather they devote all their strength to warring with the mujahidun who are engaging Asad and his regime, and to consolidating their power. With that it becomes binding in the Shari'a to fight them and to quash their enterprise until their influence among Syrians and in their land is terminated. Praise is for Allah, Lord of the universe.

17 Sha'ban 1435H / 15 June 2014

============== End of Translation ==============

The following points might be of interest:
The Council refuses to even refer to ISIS with the term "Islamic" - even the name is given consistently only as "the State of Iraq and Syria".
The Council has given a judgement that ISIS takes the ruling of the Khawarij, calling them a "gang of rebellion, extremism, and excommunication".
The Council has therefore declared it is an obligation to fight ISIS militarily as the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered the Khawarij be fought.

That is far more than rhetorical condemnation yet most in the West have probably never head such voices. It is therefore clear to me that a group thus characterized and dealt with by Sunni 'Ulama cannot, with integrity, even be considered Islamic much less Sunni. 

A version of this article was also published by As Allah, Most High, would have it on the same day that this was published a much better translation was also published at (as well as another similar website - see the comments below) based on which I corrected some errors and omissions in my attempt. May Allah reward them and all the righteous people struggling for truth and for the development of societies, in Syria and elsewhere, that are pleasing to Allah, Most High.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Meeting Reality

By Qays Arthur


Time has passed, its winds bringing debris and sand, its rains having eroded the edifices of what was established before and we the later people must struggle to cling to what remains of a glorious legacy, now barely discernible. The legacy of the days of Men. I write as a humbled slave, bewildered by his own insignificance and utter inability, in face of the mammoth task of simply being a slave in these times.

After one year in "The Islamic University of Madina" in al Madina al Munawara, Arabia, it became overwhelmingly obvious to my distress, that "The Methodology of the Pious Fore-bearers" as I had previously conceived it, was sadly void of the slightest iota of spiritual realization. Confused, frustrated and lost I often found myself quite literally wandering the streets of Madina often in the late hours of the night, in some attempt to fill a void within me. A void which had manifest itself with sudden terror, such that it threw me into a rather curious state. Several internal crises emerged relating to my Islam. It became starkly obvious that my knowledge was severely deficient and that the people I thought possessed it, in fact did not. I was caught between my identity as a Muslim and a westerner due to some strange Fiqh positions with which I had come into contact. Facts revealed themselves, the nature of which forced me to question many of the notions I held concerning Scholarship in Islam and my view of the little I knew of Islamic history. I began to rebel and question absolutely everything I read, investigating all that I could in a desperate attempt to find the proper orientation, but for all my effort, I was still on my own and quite lost.

"You can't subscribe to a tenet of the Ash'aris they are at the very limits of Kufr!" Yet Imam An Nawawi's well documented adherence to this school was dismissed as "a mistake" on his part. I supposed that if it were acceptable to tread the limits of kufr, on the premise that it is a mistake then why should the same not be said for an issue like isbal. Unfortunately, very few at the mentioned university agreed with my premise and would have preferred to excuse the Imam for what in their view amounted to kufri persuasions on his part (and Imam An Nawawi is above them and what they accuse him of...may Allah's mercy be upon him) than accommodate the thousands or millions who simply fancy trousers or jeans at normal length. There were much graver and more disturbing conflicts and disclosures which characterized my encounters in the Hijaz. Many are not fit to mention here, or anywhere else for that matter. With these experiences I returned to my country and entered introvert mode. I did as little as possible by way of Islamic work, for fear of unwittingly perpetuating atrocities or heresies the likes of which I had, previously. This inactivity was also due to my being more keenly aware of my unstable state: the rage and bitterness it entailed, than any of my associates.Al hamdu lillah, who concealed that which was best left concealed.

The summer break ended with my acceptance into the Arabic Language Program at the University of Jordan in Amman, where I would continue my quest to learn Islam. In the light of my previous year, The University of Jordan with its multitudes of Jeans and Tee shirts busy at work and play was more of what I was accustomed to where universities are concerned so was the civil and mature method of instruction. I quickly settled in and began looking for shuyukh from whom I could take knowledge. It was not long before I heard of Nuh Keller, the shaikh from Amrika. Of course, it goes without saying that prior to my departure from Guyana to Jordan, I was warned to stay clear of this figure and his "deviance". Many warned me of him including one very prominent author and Islamic worker who happened to be visiting my country at that time, and who as Allah, Most High willed I had occasion to meet. Nevertheless, I was being referred to this shaikh by Arabs with whom I had made acquaintance, and I was rather taken aback by the fact that they referred to him as an alim. I thought it difficult enough for a westerner to become an alim, but to be of the caliber that Arabs would have to acknowledge and accept it was a stunning and rare achievement the like of which could not be claimed even by the prominent Islamic worker who had warned me about him. Faced with this reality and the conviction that I could not simply make taqlid of that individual I agreed to attend one of his classes. That was the beginning of my journey to tasawuf.


This is not a story of an encounter filled with proofs, debates and high level scholarship, as the narrator is far from a scholar. If this is what intrigues you then this article will not. What follows is an account of an experience, the realms of which are the heart and soul not the tongue and mind. And all good is from Allah.

I had agreed with a friend of mine to attend a class of shaikhNuh Keller, in his Amman home and was at the time reading some recommended works on the Schools of Jurisprudence ormadhahib, their validity and the need to adhere to one. Prominent in my thoughts at the time was the irony of the whole scenario, that a firm anti-madhabist such as myself could actually be found contemplating adherence to the Hanafi school by way of emulation or taqlid. Still even more difficult to encompass was that I was on my way to visit the house of one of the most notoriously reputed of the "people of innovation" as some had labeled him.

We arrived in the area called Kharabsha, a once simple outskirt village, now being transformed into a residential suburb, having been assimilated into the expanding city of Amman. I was rather surprised to see the modest building in which we were to find the Shaikh's apartment. Simple and in many regards tucked away it seemed to be jealously, inconspicuously guarding some great treasure. So it seemed and so was indeed the case. We entered through the narrow opening of the neatly proportioned outer metal door, took off our footwear and placed it besides the scores of other sandals and shoes that lay before the meshed door of the Shaikh. In session was a Fiqh class, being delivered by a student of his. The room was adequate though not large with soft cream colored walls which on that late fall afternoon made for a rather serene and sober setting. The student of the Shaikh, himself now on the verge of shaikh-hood was Arab, Shafi'i and from his confidence and ease of delivery, competent. I sat there enjoying what I could make out of his effortless elucidation of various points relating to Purity in his madhab. However, it having been the tail end of his class which I had caught, it was soon concluded. There was a brisk knock on the door directly to my back, upon which all in the room immediately stood up. A brother to my immeditate left pulled me towards himself and out of the way as the door opened behind me. The Sheikh entered. His pace was as brisk as the knock on the door. "As salaam alaikum" he greeted in a controlled, subdued tone as he took his seat on the ground. He gestured and we returned to our seats. My observation began.

Long since accustomed to a certain standard of "learned persons" and "students of knowledge", I began my appraisal, it however became readily apparent that what I was accustomed to, was in fact of no particular standard at all. There he was, a red-bearded, white Sheikh, in eastern robes with an immaculate layer-wrapped white turban giving a class in Arabic to a group of attentive students (most of whom were Arab), seated on the ground. His entire comportment seemed deliberate and harnessed. Everything from his voice level to his gestures appeared be confirming to some pervading standard or will. The picture was one totally alien to me. I knew as I observed his students leaning forward to catch his every word that this was no run of the mill "sheikh", such as we in the west are accustomed to. A penetrating oceanic gaze, complete certainty and serenity in his words, and seamless erudite commentary with meticulous references characterized his dars on Ihya' 'Ilum ad Din. I was impressed. Most captivating however, was the feel of his presence, felt in his gaze, Allah Exalted is my witness, the feel of his presence was absence. There was no choice in the matter, before me stood, not an "Islamic Worker", nor "A Respected Da'ee" nor any of the other sadly deficient titles with which we have for too long been content in accepting from our community leaders.

No, rather the truth was manifest. This initial encounter was a powerful indication of what was to become more apparent in subsequent months. This man's mannerism, students and reputation all pointed to one undeniable fact; far from the ugliness of which his opposition accused him, he was indeed accomplished in his field as a a a Muslim. He was a living example of the teachings of our Beloved (Allah's peace and blessings be upon him). Embodying Knowledge, Action, and Spiritual Realization he immediately impressed and inspired me, as was the case of many before me and will continue to be the case with many more to come, Allah willing. My meeting Nuh Ha Mim Keller was my meeting Tasawuf, my entry into the reality of this Din, my first taste of the vast expanse of selfless reality...he had my pledge!

Wal hamdu lillahi Rabil alamin!

Amman, 1998