Middle East Quarterly Summer 2013, pp. 11-20 (view PDF)
It is accepted as a truism by many liberals and multiculturalists and touted by much of the Western media that the “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Islamic world is a clash of values between a secular, tolerant, post-Christian world and a minority (albeit a large one) of Muslims, fundamentalists, and literalists who pervert the meaning of their faith-traditions. The Qur’anic verse, “There is no compulsion in religion,” is frequently invoked to prove that Islam is not the intolerant, subjugating religion that Islamist clerics like Yusuf Qaradawi or terrorists like Osama bin Laden make it out to be. The belief is that “Islam,” as former president George W. Bush said not long after the 9-11 attacks, “is peace.”
But what if Bush’s statement, along with the mainstream view, ignores the reality of Islam’s central tenets? Are the Islamists’ beliefs really only a warped minority position or are they a truer reflection of the inherent nature of the Muslim faith-system? Can the West ever reach a modus vivendi with an Islam that by its very nature considers Western civilization an unclean “other” that must be brought into the orbit of Islam through subjugation at best or destruction at worst?
Despite attempts to reframe the meaning of jihad for Western audiences, as in this ad on a Chicago bus, classic Muslim commentators are clear: Jihad reflects the normal relations existing between the believers and the infidel. Islam sees jihad as the means of creating peace by subjugating all others and enforcing Islamic order. A pax Islamica covering the globe is the aim of jihad, which is thus a just war.
A closer examination of Islam’s central tenets is called for, one that gets past the feel-good nostrums of multiculturalism and that engages the Muslim belief-system on its own terms, beginning with one of the most fundamental of those tenets, the doctrine of al-Wala wal-Bara (love and hate for the sake of God).
Love and Hate for the Sake of Allah
In the introduction to the 2005 exposition of al-Wala wal-Bara by Muhammad Qahtani, Sheikh Abdar Razaq Afifi, deputy president of the Department of Guidance and a member of the Board of Great Ulema of Saudi Arabia, declares:
The subject matter is of paramount importance and utmost interest: Firstly, it is concerned with one of Islam’s main foundations, which has two major prerequisites of true faith: al-Walais a manifestation of sincere love for Allah, his prophet and the believers; al-Bara is an expression of enmity and hatred toward falsehood and its adherents. Both are evidence of true faith. Secondly, it has been written at a very crucial time where Muslims are no longer aware of those qualities which distinguish the believers from the nonbelievers; their faith has become so weak; and they have taken the disbelievers as their friends while displaying enmity toward the believers.
Qahtani’s English publisher adds the following:
It is impossible to provide a literal translation in English of the al-Wala wal-Bara, but the meaning of this Arabic term indicated, on the one hand, drawing near to what is pleasing to Allah and His Messenger and, on the other hand, withdrawing from what is displeasing to Allah and His Messenger.
Al-Wala wal-Bara means then total loyalty to Islam and total disavowal of anything else. It is one of Islam’s main foundations and is of paramount importance, second only to Tawhid, acknowledgement of the oneness of God. Total allegiance and love are only to be given within the Islamic community, and rejection, hate, and enmity against the other is commanded, based upon Qur’anic foundations:
Say: “If you love Allah then follow me that Allah may love you and forgive your faults… Allah does not love the infidels. … They are the residents of Hell, and will there forever abide.”
Al-Wala wal-Bara doctrine originated in the pre-Islamic Arab tribal system from which it was passed on to the umma (Islamic community). The constructs of love and loyalty were extended to the family and thehamula (clan) while suspicion and hatred was directed toward those outside the clan, the “other” who did not embrace Muhammad’s teachings. The Islamic umma has evolved into a super-tribe by way of religious linkage.
The medieval exegete Ibn Taymiya (1263-1328 C.E.), one of the authorities cited most by Wahhabis and Salafists, expressed al-Wala wal-Bara this way:
Whoever loves for the sake of Allah, and hates for the sake of Allah, and whoever seals a friendship for His sake, or declares an enmity for His sake, will receive the protection of Allah. No one may taste true faith except by this even if his prayers and fasts are many.
A real-world application of this conceptual framework was provided by Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baz, formerly chief mufti of Saudi Arabia, who issued a fatwa (religious ruling) before the 2003 Iraq war prohibiting seeking help from the infidels (kuffar) in jihad and urging Muslims to hate non-Muslims and show animosity toward them.
Since it is the deepest Islamic obligation to have all recognize the truth of Muhammad’s message, it is a Muslim duty to impose Shari’a on humanity. The infidels who resist Islam are thus responsible for the persistence of violence and the absence of world peace. It is they who force Muslims to take defensive measures to protect the truth of Islam through jihad, if necessary. Submission is the only solution to world peace, and it is in the best interest of humanity for the other to lose his otherness. This self-image helps explain why multitudes of Muslims react violently at almost every situation in which the honor of their prophet or their faith seems to be belittled while simultaneously complaining of being victims of oppression, aggression, racism, and the new and custom-made bête noir, “Islamophobia.”
Islam and Infidels
The issue of the Muslim’s relationship with the infidel is one of the most important in Islam. The amount of attention devoted to the infidel is huge: 64 percent of the total Qur’an addresses that relationship while 81 percent of the Sira (chronological biographies of Muhammad) and 37 percent of the Hadith (sayings attributed to Muhammad) focus on this as well. In sum, nearly two thirds of Shari’a (Islamic law) is devoted to the infidel.
What comes through clearly by examining this subject is that Islam is not about universal brotherhood, as is often claimed, but about the brotherhood of believers, members of the umma. The flip-side of this is a total denunciation of the “other.” There are more than four hundred verses in the Qur’an alone that describe the torment in hell that Allah has prepared for the infidel. The Qur’an dehumanizes infidels: They are vile animals and beasts, the worst of creatures and demons; perverted transgressors and partners of Satan to be fought until religion is Allah’s alone. They are to be beheaded; terrorized, annihilated, crucified, punished, and expelled, and plotted against by deceit. Believers must be in a constant state of war with the infidel.
According to Ibn Taymiya:
Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is entirely for Allah [2:189, 8:39] and the word of Allah is uppermost [9:40], therefore, according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought. Whosoever contends with Muhammad deserves death.
The Qur’anic pedigree for this view is unambiguous. In the spirit of al-Wala wal-Bara, Muslims are to be compassionate with one another but ruthless to the infidel. The infidels must not be taken as friends. “Hostility and hate” exist between them forever until the infidel “believe in Allah alone.” They are a hated and cursed people; vile and evil-doers; disgraced and misguided. Even one’s relatives should not be taken as friends if they are not Muslim. As Bernard Lewis has put it:
Islam is still the ultimate criterion of group identity and loyalty. It is Islam that distinguishes between self and other, between insider and outsider, between brother and stranger … the ultimate definition of the other, the alien outsider and presumptive enemy, has been the kafir [infidel].