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The Iran Threat

Leading Iran Ayatollah: Nonviolent Islam is “American Islam”

This is not a new position for the Iranian leadership, but a reaffirmation of Grand Ayatollah Khomeini.

BY Immanuel Al-Manteeqi · @Al_Manteeqi | May 24, 2016

On May 9th, 2016, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative in the Isfahan province of Iran, Ayatollah Sayyed Yousef  Tabatabaeinejad stated that any conception of Islam that does not include violence as an essential tenet is not true Islam, but a bastardized “American” version of Islam (the Daily Caller).

According to Iran’s state-controlled Ahlul Bayt News Agency, Ayatollah Sayyed Yousef  Tabatabaeinejad further noted that revolutionary Islam is the same as pure Muhammadan Islam, whereas  “non-revolutionary Islam is American Islam.” Alluding to Q 48:9, the Ayatollah said that “Islam commands us to be firm against the enemies and be kind and compassionate towards each other.” In Tabatabaeinejad’s opinion, Islam is by its very essence revolutionary, and the 1979 Iranian revolution followed the legacy of Husayn, who revolted against the Ummayyid Caliph Yazid.[1]

Ayatollah Tabatabaeinejad’s words echo the words of Khameni’s predecessor, Iimam Khomeini, the grand ayatollah Iranian leader who successfully co-opted a popular revolution and transformed it into an Islamic one. Khomeini notoriously said the following:

Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. . . . But those who study Islamic Holy War [i.e., Jihad] will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the unbelievers], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [the unbelievers] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors![2] There are hundreds of other [Qur’anic] psalms[3] and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.

Imam Khomeini, as is well known, is one of the most influential Muslim clerics in the twentieth century, with followers not only in Iran but among Shiite communities everywhere. That he would say the above is significant, to say the least.

Furthermore, an Iraqi ayatollah, Ahmed al-Husayni al-Baghdadi, is recorded in an interview as saying that “revolutionary Islam” includes violently subjugating infidels. He and the interviewer entertain the hypothetical idea of what Islam would mandate in case America were to fall under the control of Muslims. If this were to happen, he says that Islam would mandate that the American people be given limited choices, depending on whether they are categorized as “People of the Book” (اهل الكتاب), i.e., Jews  and Christians, or polytheists (مشركون). If the subjugated Americans are People of the Book, then their choice is either to pay the jizya, a poll tax mandated in Q 9:29, convert to Islam, or be fought. If, however, they are polytheists, which in this context means people who are neither People of the Book nor Muslims, then they must either convert to Islam or be fought.[4]  The Ayatollah assures the interviewer that these are not just his views, but the views of the consensus of Muslim scholars in the main five schools of Islam (the Sunni Hanbali, Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi’i schools, and the Twelver Shi’i Ja’fari school). The interviewer appeared to be perturbed by these comments, but the ayatollah assured him that this is true Islam, and that he is the Muslim jurisprudent here, not the interviewer.”Do you want to impose on me [your views]?” says the ayatollah, “this is God’s word.”

Still more vilely, the ayatollah said that if the aforementioned groups refuse to either convert to Islam or pay the jizya, then their women should be taken as booty,[5] and their churches should be destroyed. Bizarrely, he takes all of this to fall under “defensive jihad.” The horrors of offensive jihad can only be imagined. Offensive jihad he holds is generally only permitted if there is an infallible (Shi’i) imam. However, he seems to suggest that under certain circumstances, one does not need the presence of an infallible imam (a distinctly Shi’i belief) in order to wage offensive Jihad. The ayatollah implies that if Muslims were to have ballistic missiles and a great military capacity, then they would be permitted to wage offensive jihad (this echoes a doctrine held by many Muslim scholars, according to which the extent to which Muslims seek to impose Islam on others should be commensurate with the power they have in their given societies). So it seems that the ayatollah believes that if the Muslims are in a position of power, then offensive jihad would be permitted; otherwise, it would only be permitted in the presence of an infallible Shi’i imam.

So it seems that quite a few Ayatollahs would laugh at the suggestion that Islam is a religion of peace. This is significant, since in Shi’i Islam, one can only become an “Ayatollah” (a sign of God) if one has read a considerable amount of Islamic books, numbering in the thousands, passed exams, and produced significant research.

Assertions by Muslim clergy, Shitie and Sunni alike, that Islam condones and advocates war and violence to spread the religion can be multiplied.

It is commonplace to hear Westernized Muslims say that true Islam is a religion of peace, and to claim, falsely, that the word “Islam” in Arabic means peace (“Islam” means submission, not peace). In contradistinction, many Ayatollahs,  people who have devoted a lifetime to the study of the Islamic religion, assert that true Islam is not a religion of peace, but a “revolutionary” religion that fights its way by the sword or that spreads by the sword. It must be pointed out that this belief is not exclusive to prominent Shi’i clerics. Indeed, many Sunni clerics share and advocate this belief. As the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief theologian Yousif Al-Qaradwhi has said, “If it weren’t for the killing of apostates, Islam would not have spread.”

What these influential mainstream clerics are expressing freely back in their homes should give pause to those in the West who cherish liberal democratic values. It is time for the West to take an ideological and not just military stance: no religious understanding, no matter how mainstream, can be allowed to impose itself on a populace at the point of a blade.  

[1] Husayn was the son of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of Muhammad and the fourth “rightly-guided” caliph. He rose against the Ummayyad Caliph Yazid and met his death fighting