Introduction to Islam: Failed states like Afghanistan, Gaza, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Philippine Mindanao and Libya are states whose governments lack the faculty to administer to the basic security of the people and provide safe havens to terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Hamas, ISIS, AQAP, Boko Haram, Janjaweed, Al-Shabab, Abu Sayf and Ansar Al-Shari’a, respectively. Because of their status as failed states, these countries are incapable of containing these terrorist threats and they often externalize through immigration and export their conflicts to countries who don’t share their ideology. It is for this reason, that failed states are of chief concern to the United States security posture. With exception to North Korea, most failed states have one thing in common – Islam.
Sun Tzu said. in Chapter 3 of his thesis of holistic warfare, “Art of War”, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles…”. In understanding Islam, it is essential to consider sources – rather than read opinions of apologists like Karen Armstrong or critics like Bill Warner. Because one offers a narrative of coexistence (that hasn’t worked for the last 1,400 years) and the latter offers a stark (but real) look at the ideology of jihadists, respectively.
Being a hillbilly, I was always taught to get my information “straight from the horse’s mouth“ as a figure of speech. After all, who could claim to be an expert on Christianity by reading the books by Christopher Hitchens – without ever reading the Gospels? Strangely enough, this is how many of our so-called “experts” teach our children in our public schools and Universities – without ever mentioning the Qur’an or teaching their students how to read the Qur’an.
Upon picking up the Qur’an (Arabic: Recital) one turns to Chapter One, Al-Fatihah (Arabic: The Heraldry) and it reads the first Ayat (Verse):
Transliteration*: “Bismi’ullah Ar-RaHman, Ar-RaHeem…”
(“In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the most Beneficent…”) Translation mine
~ Qur’an, Chapter 1, Verse 1, Al-Fatihah (The Heraldry)
* The capital (H) is a hard H that sounds like a hiss from the back of the throat. The apostrophe (‘) indicates a glottal stop. Where found, the (kh) is a rasping sound formed from the back of the tongue and the back of the soft palate – similar to the sound made while “hawking a loogie”. A capital (AA) is an ‘ayen’ and is a very hard “aye” formed in the diaphragm as the throat bursts from a choked to open position.
You may also notice that the Qur’an is written in first person and active tense: eg., the literal word of the Archangel, Jibreel, (Gabri’el) being spoken to Islam’s prophet, Muhammad Ibn Abdullah. The fact that the Qur’an is the literal word of Allah renders the Qur’an to be more monolithic than the Gospels and relegates it’s interpretation to an exact science called Tafsir (exegetical science) rather than an art like Christian exegesis. This is a fundamentally important concept that explains the inflexibility of Islam.
Chronology: One should know that the early Muslims committed the Qur’an and recited it from memory. Those Muslims who can recite the Qur’an from memory are given the title Hafiz (Learned). It is for this purpose, with exception to Chapter One, that the Surat (Chapters) are arranged from the longest (eg. Chapter 2) to the shortest (eg. Chapter 114). Therefore, the 114 Chapters of the Qur’an are not in chronological order. Chapter 96, Al-Alaq (The Clot) Is the first Chapter revealed to Muhammad in the year 610 AD, and Chapter 2, Al-Baqarah (The Heiffer) is the first Chapter revealed in Medina in 622 AD. Also, 622 AD is equivalent to 1 AH (Anno Hegerae: Latin, The Year of the Hijra – or immigration to Medina) the beginning of the Islamic lunar calendar. We know of the chronological order through the Hadith (singular: Testimony) or Haditha (plural: Testimonies) of Muhammad’s SaHaba (Companions) who were given the title Hadrat, and the Sirah (Life/Biography) of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.
- The Qur’an is in first person and cannot be altered in any way. Muslim scholars argue (rightfully so) that a Qur’an that that is not Arabic is not the Qur’an – due to nuances in the Arabic language.
- The Qur’an is not in chronological order and lacks context.
- Many verses in the Qur’an have been abrogated by Muhammad.
- A good online source for the Qur’an can be found at Islamawakened.com here. (note the variance in translations)
- The chronology of chapters, from Al-Azhar University, can be found here.
The Hadiths are “Testimonies” of Muhammad’s SaHabah (Companions) and their experiences with Muhammad. Not all Hadiths are rated the same: the Hadiths with an early authorship and clear Isnad (Chain of Transmission) are considered to be SaHeeh (Authoratative). Generally, Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are accepted by Islamic Orthodoxy to fit this criterion – while others, “ahadith”, are considered Sunan (Taditional) or Hasan (Good): Sunan Abu Dawud, for example.
If we explore the volumes of Sahih Hadiths, we would find in Sahih Bukhari (Volume I, Book 1, Hadith #3) and in Sahih Muslim (Hadith #301) the testimony of Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, relating Muhammad’s first revelation, in the cave of Hira (a pre-Islamic moon phase) on Gebel an-Nour (Mountain of the Light Bearer) in the year 610 AD. Then, Hadrat Aisha goes on to narrate the first revelation verbatim: “Recite! Recite in the name of your lord creator – created man[kind] from a Clot…” this relates to the beginning of Qur’anic Chapter 96 of the same name, Al-Alaq (The Clot). In Sahih Muslim, Hadrat Abu Hurairah continues Aisha’s narrative that Muhammad’s next revelation was Chapter 68.
In any extent, this is an example of why the Sahih Hadiths are necessary – because they supply the Islamic Scholar with not only chronological order – but context to reading and understanding the Qur’an. The Islamic ShaHadda (Witness) or basic credo (profession of faith) is not found, together, in the Qur’an – but in the Hadiths:
“[Ena Ash-SaHaddu] La ilah illaha Allah, wa Muhammad Rasoolullah”
“[I am the Witness that] No god of gods but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger”
- Sahih Hadiths provide context – but are collated to subjects (eg. revelation, jihad)
- Sahih Hadiths provide chronology as a reference – but require a prior knowledge of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s biography to make the connections between verse context and timeframe, respectively.
- A good Sunah Reference can be found at Sunah.com here.
- A good search engine for subjects and phrases can be found at Searchtruth.com here.
The earliest Sirat Rasoolullah (Chapters of Allah’s Messenger) was written by Ibn Ishaq. While Ibn Ishaq is the earliest biography writer, and arguably the most accurate writer, Ibn Ishaq didn’t always paint a flattering portrait of Muhammad. Two examples would be the disposition toward beheading captured prisoners of the Banu Quraiza Tribe following the Ghazwah Al Azab (Battle of the Confederates) in 627 AD and the “Satanic Verses” recited by Muhammad about his companions praying to “Allat, Manat and Al-Uzza, this that and the other, whose intercession of exalted ghanaraq (cranes) are prayed for?”.
Mainstream Islamic Orthodoxy generally studies the Sirah of Ibn Hisham (Ibn Ishaq’s student) who reconciled criticisms of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirah by providing clear Isnad, cross referencing to hadiths and painting the prophet in a more flattering light. Other Islamic writers, such as Tabari and Ibn Kaldoun present an early history of Islam – to include the Riddah Wars (Wars of Apostacy) Fitnah (Division) and Wars of Conquest after Muhammad’s death in 632 AD.
- From Muhammad’s birth “in the Year of the Elephant” (570 AD) to his marriage (595) to his prophethood (610) to his migration to Medina (622) and his military career (622-632) to his death (632) Muhammad had been in no less than 100 caravan raids and battles that he personally participated (ghazwah) or ordered (sariyah) in his last ten years of life. Ultimately conquering the Nabatean Spice Trade Route of the Western Arabian Peninsula called the Hijaz.
- In the 100 years to follow Muhammad’s death, the Muslim armies, of the Salafi (the first three generations of Muslims: a term coined by 12th Century Islamic scholar, Taymiyya’s, reference to Muhammad’s general, Al-Qasim, that Qasim was “salah fee al madhab” or “pious in the school of thought). The Salaf conquered a swath from Northern France (Battle of Tours, 732) to the Indus Valley (Seige of Samarkand, 731). Taymiyya had a profound effect on the 18th Century Sharif (Custodian of Islam’s Holy Places: Mecca and Medina) Muhammad ibn Abdul WaHab (ref. Wahabite: Saudi and Egypt brands of Islam). All Wahabite are not Salafi – but all puritanical Salafi are Wahabite as a subset of Wahhabism.
- For a more comprehensive study of historicity, Ibn Ishaq’s Sirah is here.
- For a more mainstream Islamic orthodox treatment, Ibn Hisham’s Sirah is here.
- Pakistani Lt. General, I.A. Akram, exclusively cites Tabari in his book “Kalid ibn al-Walid: The Sword of Islam” here.
- If you’re lazy, like me, and just want to watch a movie “The Message”, endorsed by Al-Azhar and Al Ul-Bayt, is here.
From Hadith, we know of only five companions who were endorsed by Muhammad, himself, to be a Mutaseer (Interpreter) of the Qur’an (eg. Ibn Ka’ab and Abdullah Ibn Abbas are two) but chief among those was Abdullah Ibn Abbas – who was also a prolific Hadith narrator.
Today, none of those original tafsir are still extant and Talib (scholars) generally piece the tafsirs together from early scholars, from a time when the originals still existed. Today, “Tanwir Al Miqbas: Tafsir Min Abdullah Ibn Abbas” is highly respected for historicity purposes (along with Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasoolullah) – but then considering mainstream Sunni Orthodoxy – Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir is more widely studied by Arab scholors and Tabari is more studied by Pakistani scholors (chiefly due to language difference between Arabic and Urdu). Ibn Abbas’ tafsir is generally criticized because of nine separate chains of transmission (two including Ibn Ishaq) – though one could scarcely find a difference between the three Mutaseera in opinions.
Historicity: at a date between 619-620, that Muhammad called “the Year of Sorrows”, Muhammad’s first, Ebonite Christian, wife, Khadijah bint Khuwalid (with whom Muhammad was monogamous until her death), and Muhammad’s paternal Uncle, Abu Talib, died in Mecca – leaving Muhammad without a bread-winner (Khadijah) and without protection (Abu Talib) from the polytheists in Mecca (whom Muhammad often ridiculed) respectively. The majority of Muhammad’s followers had already been driven to exile in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) under the protection of the Ebonite Christian Negus (King) Najashi.
With the writing on the wall, Muhammad took the remaining Muslims of Mecca and Abyssinia, excepting those secretly converted to Islam at Darul Arqam (Dominion of the Archer) to Yathr’ib (Medina) in the fall of 621 AD. With only about 150 followers, to show for ten years of preaching, and his resources to support them dwindling, Muhammad made his way to Medina by 622 AD. Muhammad was welcomed to Yathr’ib citing religious persecution. Following the Battle of the Trench, in 627 AD, Muhammad would rename Yathr’ib to Medina.
Upon Arrival to Medina, Muhammad’s message changed, literally, 180 degrees:
- The Qibla (Direction of Prayer) changed from facing Jerusalem to the facing the Ka’aba in Mecca.
- Muhammad (50) became polygamist marrying Sowda (55) and Aisha (6).
- Muhammad became violent toward the Meccans – raiding caravans for war booty.
This bizarre change of events required a Qur’anic justification: because Muhammad’s behavior was beginning to contradict what he had preached earlier and some of the early Muslims had their doubts. Then, Muhammad had a revelation (Q 2:106) a famous ayat (verse), al-Ayatul Nansikh w’al-Mansukh (the verse of the abrogated and the copied) that lends Qur’anic authority to the Islamic doctrine of abrogation.
“Whatever we abrogate of a verse, or cause to be forgotten. we bring better than or it’s equivalent. Do you not know that Allah, over all things, is capable?”
Herein, lays the main importance of Tafsir – to discern, by Islamic orthodoxy, which, early verses, had been nullified (but still remains in print) and which, later verse, replaced it. For example, regarding treatment of al-Kafaroun (The Disbelievers) in the early Meccan Qur’anic Verse 109:6, the verse has been nullified and replaced by a later Medina Qur’anic Verse 8:12.
“For you is your religion (disbelief) and for me is my religion (Islam)”
TAFSIR: “Seven Scholars (Mutaseer) agree that this verse has been abrogated to nullify.
Replace with “the Verse of Fighting” (Q 8:12) and the Prophet (pbuh) did fight them.”
“When inspired by the Angels, the lord is with you. So take heart and strike terror into the hearts of the disbelievers: chop above their necks and chop from them every extremity.”
- Of 128 earlier, peaceful verses, 118 have been nullified, regarding Mushrikeena (Christians and Jews Q 9:30) and replaced by Ayatul-Sayf (Verse of the Sword Q 9:5): “Then, when the sacred months have passed kill the Mushrikeena wherever you find them, capture them, besiege them and lie in wait at every place of ambush…”
- Christians and Jews are no longer considered Kita’abuna (Keepers of the Book) but Mushrikeena (polytheists Q 9:30) because we associate Jesus and Ezra with God respectively. Mushrikeena are those whose deen (ideology: suffix +een (+ism)) is shirk (polytheism) or associating another as worshipful with God. Shirk defies Tawhid (Monotheism) the first tenet of the Shahadda (Islamic credo) “There is no god but Allah” and shirk is the one, big, unforgivable sin in Islam.
- Tafsir can be found at altafsir.com here.
- Tafsir sources can be found here, here and here.
From these sources: commandments of the Qur’an and examples of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, are derived a multidimensional societal system where, as a matter of Fardh, all human activity is rated on a scale of one-to-five:
- Wajib (Required) shahadda (profession of faith or Islamic credo); salat (prayer 5 times daily); sawm (fasting during Ramadan); zakat (tithing or almsgiving); hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca); jihad (holy fighting in the cause of Allah)
- MustaHab (Recommended) rejecting awliyah (guidance) from Christians and Jews; seeking pretext to break hudna (treaties) with non-Muslims for the purpose of gaining concessions
- Halal (Permissible) foods to be eaten; clothing to wear; hygiene; conduct of daily business and personal affairs
- Makroo (Discouraged) not wearing the hijab (Western and Asian woman’s head adornment allowing the face to show), niqab (Arab Peninsula and North African usu. black allowing only eyes to show), chargul (Farsi: woman’s headscarf of Iran, Syria and Lebanon) or burqa (Afghanistan, usu. light-blue to cover the entire woman’s body and a sheer veil over the eyes); accepting counsel or treaties from non-Muslims
- Haram*** (Forbidden) alcohol; pork; apostasy; interpreting Islam in an unprescribed way; fasad corruption against Islam; blasphemy; women marrying non-Muslims (except for jihad); adultery, prostitution, witchcraft, impersonating a Muslim, homosexuality
*** Haram punishments in boldface can warrant the death penalty.
Islamic Shari’a (Path, Guidance) in this sense, is much more than just a legal system:
- Shari’a – a legal system of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) who issue Fatwahs (Religious Opinions of the Court),
- Ribah – an economic system that forbids usury – but allows deductions for banking services and Zakat (Almsgiving),
- Jihad – a martial war doctrine, holistic that includes terrorism, war, deceit, conspiracy theory and psychological manipulation, eugenics, moral and economic warfare, “lawfare” or using non-Muslim society’s legal mechanisms against the non-Muslim society to tie the hands of kafara (disbelievers) in legal boondoggle.
- Fasad – a propaganda doctrine of taqiyyah (cover), hudna (seeking pretext to break treaties after concessions are gained) and fasad fee al ardh (corruption in the land) when living in non-Muslim lands as a Muhajiroun (immigrant),
- Darul Islam (Dominion of Islam) – a geography as opposed to Darul Harb (Dominion of War) or non-Muslim lands,
- Caliphate – a political system, and
- Ummah – the global Islamic community.
…to name just a few.
…but please don’t take this Author’s word for it (or any so-called “expert’s”) read, learn, and make your own informed judgement. Leave a comment (below) for questions and answers.