Sharia’s Incompatibility with Western Values, Explained

Everything you need to know.

BY Immanuel Al-Manteeqi · @Al_Manteeqi | July 25, 2016

The idea that the West is in a clash of civilizations with the Islamic world is one that has been propounded by well established scholars. Indeed, a scholar no less than Bernard Lewis, the widely regarded doyen of Islamic studies, is the progenitor of the idea that Western civilization is in a clash with Islamic civilization (he seems to have first used the phrase in an article published in 1990 by the Atlantic, entitled, “The Roots of Muslim Rage.”

The late Samuel Huntington, a professor of Political Science at Colombia University, acknowledging his indebtedness to Lewis, later popularized the idea in his famous book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Making of the New World Order.[2] The clash thesis has had sophisticated defenders; it cannot simply be dismissed as a byproduct of Islamophobic bigotry perpetuated by ignorance—at least not without argument.

In what follows, I will argue that there is indeed a clash between Islamic and Western civilization, between plausibly Islamic principles (and not just ‘radical’ Islamic principles) and Western principles.[3]

Evaluating whether or not mainstream Islam, as represented by the earliest Islamic source texts, is incompatible with Western values, almost invariably elicits passionate responses—especially if the evaluator(s) conclude(s) that the two value systems are indeed incompatible. Words like “Islamophobic” and “xenophobe,” “bigot,” and “racist” are subsequently thrown around; emotions fly high. However, this topic, of vital importance for national security, requires a dispassionate analysis of the evidence. As the well-known conservative pundit Ben Shapiro is fond of saying: facts don’t care about your feelings.

We must set aside our passions and look at the historical evidence as objectively as we can– of course, all the while bearing in mind that no historical researcher can attain complete objectivity.

The ancient books of antiquity say what they say. No modern scholar, no matter what his/her agenda or desires, can go back in time and change what is contained in the early Islamic sources. As the saying goes, the past is history. So let us look at the past, specifically the medieval past, to discern whether Sharia really is incompatible with the liberal democratic principles of the West.

What is Sharia?

Because of the flurry of recent Islamist terror attacks, the term “sharia” is frequently bandied about in the media today. It is therefore necessary to get clear on what is meant by the term. Contrary to what Islamic law professor Quraishi-Landes has stated, the Arabic word “sharia” (شريعة) does mean Islamic law; it comes from the triliteral root, sh-r-a (شرع), which means “to legislate.” This can be readily gleaned from a quick consultation of the most renowned Modern and Classical Arabic-English dictionaries and lexicons.[4]

Sharia has incontrovertibly been understood to mean Islamic law by Muslim ulema (religious scholars) for centuries. So what exactly is sharia or Islamic law?

Well, although definitions vary and we cannot hope for precision here, it is basically the Muslim jurisprudents’ reasoned and regimented codification of what is found in the Qur’an and the Sunna (the way of Muhammad). The sources for the latter include ahadeeth (purported sayings of Muhammed), the earliest tafaseer (Qur’anic exegetical works), and siyar (biographies of Muhammad). The sharia more or less represents what Muslim fuqaha (jurisprudents) have achieved a consensus on vis-a-vis the mandates that are found in the Qur’an and the Sunna.[5] In other words, sharia or Islamic law is merely the regimentation of the voluminous material that is found in the Qur’an and the relatively early ahadeeth, tafaseer, and siyar.

Second, sharia is different from many laws in so far as it legislates a comprehensive way of life. It is not to be compared with something like Catholic canon law, a comparison Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, makes. Catholic canon is not meant to govern all the occurrences of daily life; it is largely relegated to what we Westerners would normally think of as the religious sphere.

Sharia, on the other hand, is meant to encompass all aspects of life, that is, the religious as well as the secular spheres. Umdat as-Salik, or The Reliance of the Traveller, an authoritative manual of Shafi’i jurisprudence written in the 14th century by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, is unequivocal here,[6] pointing out that “the source of legal rulings for all acts of those who are morally responsible is Allah [emphasis added].”[7]

Sharia is supposed to be an architectonic system comprising all ways of life. That this is so is evident from a cursory perusal of the canonical ahadeeth, which cover everything from usury, to how you are supposed to greet someone, to what you should say before copulation, to which foot one is supposed to enter the restroom with first. As Sharia: The Threat to America concludes, “the sharia system is totalitarian. It imposes itself on all aspects of civil society and human life, both public and private.[8]” The late Abu A’la Maududi, an influential 20th century Pakistani and Islamist thinker, concurs, stating that sharia’s rulings encompass

family relationships, social and economic affairs, administration, rights and duties of citizens, judicial system, laws of war and peace and international relations. In short, it embraces all the various departments of human life … The Sharia is a complete scheme of life and an all-embracing social order where nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking.[9]

Third, Sharia is not infinitely malleable. Of course, there  is a wide variety of different regimentations of what is found in the early Islamic source texts,  hence different interpretations of what constitutes authentic sharia. However, the plausibility of interpretations are naturally bound by the contents of the early Islamic sources, which function as the basis of sharia. So contrary to what some apologists of Islam say, sharia is not so fluid and multifaceted that it defies categorization.

Fourth, what is represented in the early Islamic source texts is Islam as it is traditionally understood. Henceforth, by “Islam” I mean those sets of doctrines that are expressed in the early Islamic sources mentioned earlier. Furthermore, when one is talking about what Islam teaches, one is a-fortiori talking about what Sharia teaches (since the latter is rooted in the former).

There are many doctrines and teachings in Sharia that are incompatible with the cherished values of Western egalitarian society. Constructing anything near a comprehensive list of incompatibilities would be outside the scope of this article. However, the following are some notable incompatibilities.

Under the Sharia system, there is no separation between mosque and state

When ordinary westerners think of religious houses of worship, they generally think of places ringing with sermons filled with religious piety—they do not think of centers where political positions are strongly voiced. But mosques have historically been places where political issues are discussed. Under Sharia, the political sphere is totally subsumed under the religious sphere. There is nothing that is allowed to exist outside the hegemony of God’s law, the Sharia.

Muhammad was both a prophet and a statesman. His successors, the caliphs, though not inheriting from him the charism of prophethood, were nevertheless supposed to be the guardians of Islam. Only caliphs, for example, were granted with the power to declare offensive jihad.[11] As Bernard Lewis notes, there was not even a word to separate the secular from the religious in classical Arabic.

In Christianity, you have a solid basis for the separation of Church and state in the life of Jesus of Nazareth—Jesus was not, contrary to scholars as early as Heinrich Reimarus (1729 – 1814), a political or revolutionary figure. Politics was not the forte of the historical Jesus. Indeed, he is famous for calling upon people to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”[12] No such solid basis exists for separating the secular sphere from the religious in Islam.

As was mentioned above, Muhammad, who the Qur’an describes as a good example for mankind (Q 33:21), and who later Islamic tradition praises as al-insaan al-kamal (the perfect man), was a political statesman as well as a military leader.

The fact of the matter is that Sharia is simply incompatible with a law like the clause of the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Under Sharia, the state should pass laws respecting an establishment of religion to the chagrin of others—viz., the Islamic religion.

There is no freedom of religion under Sharia

Under Sharia, if one is a dhimmi or a member of the ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book, i.e., Christians and Jews),[13] then one is allowed to retain one’s religion, provided that one accepts subjugation by Muslims and pays the jizya (a poll tax) “by their hand in humiliation” (Q 9:29).

So, in effect, although Islam technically allows dhimma to retain their religion, it puts great pressure on them to convert to Islam. Indeed, a significant amount of Christians and Jews at the time of the early Arab-Islamic conquests converted to Islam in order to avoid paying the poll tax, avoid discriminatory treatment, and enjoy the luxuries that came along with being Muslim.

So the freedom of dhimma to practice their religion without repercussions is indeed limited, as it has been under Islam historically. The persecution of dhimma under Islamic rule has been well documented by Bat Ye’or’s many books on the issue.[14]

Whereas Christians and Jews have some freedom to exercise their religion, albeit in a limited manner, non-Muslim non-dhimma do not have such freedom of religion in Islam. They are to be fought until they recite the shahada (the testimony in the uniqueness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad).

Their options are limited: either death by the sword or conversion to Islam. It is important to note that even the freedom of religion of Muslims is limited. Muslims are not allowed to leave Islam. Indeed, apostasy is considered a capital offense in Islam. There is a hadith (saying attributed to Muhammad) in Sahih al-Bukhari, the most trusted collection of Sunni ahadeeth, where Muhammad explicitly states that whoever changes his [Islamic] religion should be killed.

In fact, all the five main schools of Islamic thought, the Sunni Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi’i, and Maliki schools of jurisprudence, and the Shi’i Ja’fari school of Sharia jurisprudence, teach that apostates should be killed—the only debate is whether imprisonment or flogging would suffice for female apostates.[15] Ahmad at-Tayyeb, the current Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni learning, affirms that the view that an apostate should be killed for merely abandoning Islam is the opinion of the vast majority of medieval Islamic scholars.[16] Samir Khalil Samir, a native Arabic speaker with two doctorates, and a former adviser to Pope Benedict XVI on Islam and the Middle East, concisely summarizes the above:

The individual is considered fully endowed with rights and duties insofar as he belongs to the Islamic religious community. For this reason, those who abandon the community by converting to another religion or becoming atheists are considered traitors and therefore lose their rights [emphasis added].[17]

Under Sharia, women are not equal to men

Many disparaging remarks are said of women in the earliest Islamic source texts. For example, according to Q 4:34, husbands are allowed to beat their wives if they “fear disobedience.” According to Q 2:282, the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man’s. According to Q 4:11 and Q 4:176, a woman inherits only half as much as a male relative does. According to Q 65:4, sexual relations with females who have not yet had their menstrual cycle (i.e., prepubescent girls) are permissible.[18]

According to a hadith from Sahih Al-Bukhari, the most authoritative Sunni collection, Muhammad states that the majority of the dwellers of hellfire are women, that women curse frequently and are ungrateful to their husbands, and, famously, that women are “deficient in intelligence and religion.”

Under Sharia, men can divorce women simply by stating “you are divorced” three times in the presence of two adult mentally sound males, without even having to justify his  decision (and he will retain custody of any children). By contrast, no such power is given to the woman.

Former adviser to Pope Benedict XVI Samir Khalil Samir comments here that “the most absurd thing is that if the husband later repents of his decision [of divorce] and wants to “recover” his wife [for the third time], she must first marry another man who in his turn will repudiate her (Q 2:229-30).”[19] Indeed, according to Q 4:24, having female sex slaves, “those whom your right hand possess” (ما ملكت ايمانكم), is permissible. When one reads the relatively early Islamic sources, one discovers that Muhammad himself had sex with a captured woman, Safiyyah bint Huyyay, whose brother and father Muhammad had killed, the same night that he killed her husband at Khaybar (a Jewish-settled oasis about ninety-five miles north of Medina).[20]

At-Tabari, one of our best sources for early Islam, relates on the authority of al-Waqidi (another very important source for early Islam) that there was someone standing guard over Muhammad when he was having sexual intercourse with Safiyyah for fear that Saffiyah may attack Muhammad, citing the fact that she had just been married, and that Muhammad had killed her father, her brother, and her husband.

Taking female captives in warfare is something that is sanctioned in the earliest Islamic sources; it is not just an innovation of ISIS. Indeed, Dr. Su’ad Salah, former dean of the Women’s College of Islamic and Arabic Studies at al-Azhar University, very explicitly and nonchalantly states that taking female sex slaves (milk al-yameen) is Islamically permissible in a war against Muslim enemies. She gives an example involving Israelis, stating that were Israel to fall, it would be permissible to take Israeli women as sex slaves in order to humiliate them.[21]

Under Sharia, Muslims are superior to non-Muslims

In Islam, Jews and Christians are treated as second-class citizens, but polytheists and other non-Muslims are to be fought until they submit to Islam. All four schools of Sunni thought teach that the bloodwit (diya) of a Muslim is worth more than the bloodwit of a non-Muslim (one-third or one-half times the worth).

There is also an enormous amount of animus directed against Jews and Christians in the Islamic source texts, lending credence to the idea of the fundamental inequality between Muslims and dhimma in Islam. Q 9:29, for example, orders Muslims to fight Christians and Jews until they pay the jizya (poll tax) “by their hand in humiliation.” The immediately subsequent verse (Q 9:30) makes it clear that this is because of their beliefs, and the verse ends with a call for God to destroy them (qatalahum Allah).

According to the Qur’an, Muslims “are the best of peoples (Q 3:110),” whereas Christians and Jews “are the worst of creatures (Q 98:6).” The former verse goes on to state that most of the “People of the Book,” which includes Christians, Jews, and Sabians, are “sowers of corruption” (فاسقون).[22] The ahadeeth command Muslims to not initiate greeting with Christians and Jews, and to force them to the narrow side when they meet them on the road.

The Qur’an states that Muslims are not to take Jews and Christians as awliya (friends or guardians) because “they [the Jews and Christians] are awliya of one another” (Q 5:51). It also states that whoever does so has nothing to do with Allah (Q 3:28), unless they do so out of taqiyya (lying for the furtherance of Islam).

Furthermore, whereas Muslim men are allowed to marry Christians and Jews, Muslim women are not allowed to marry Jews and Christians, ostensibly because Muslims are not allowed to take Jews and Christians as awliya, and Islam must always be in the ascendancy.[23] Sahih Muslim, the second-most trusted collection of the alleged sayings of Muhammad, contains multiple ahadeeth where Muhammad states that Jews and Christians are to be scapegoats for the sins of Muslims.

In one such hadith, Muhammad states, “when it will be the Day of Resurrection Allah would deliver to every Muslim a Jew or a Christian and say: That is your rescue from Hell-Fire.” In another hadith in the same collection, Muhammd gives more details, stating that “there would come people amongst the Muslims on the Day of Resurrection with sins as heavy as a mountain, and Allah would forgive them and He would place in their stead the Jews and the Christians. In an anti-Christian hadith found in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Muhammad says that at the end of days when Jesus returns to rule on Earth, he will “break the cross.”[24] In anti-Jewish hadith from Sahih Muslim, the second most trusted collection of ahadeeth, Muhammad allegedly states that the end of the world will not come about until the Muslims will kill the Jews:

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger [Muhammad] as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews, and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and the stone or  tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

In Sahih Muslim, Muhammad allegedly states that he will expel Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and leave none but Muslims there. Indeed, Umar ibn al-Khattab (c. 583 – 644 A.D.), the second “rightly guided caliph,” decreed that Jews and Christians be removed from all but the southern and eastern fringes of Arabia, in fulfillment of such an injunction by Muhammad at his deathbed.[25] It is no wonder then that there are no native Christians or Jews in the Nejd and Hijaz regions today.

All of the above demonstrates that Islam does not value Jews and Christians as much as it values Muslims. Samir Khalil Samir nicely summarizes points (2)-(4):

Al-Sharia is founded on a threefold inequality: the inequality between man and woman, the inequality between Muslim and non-Muslim, and the inequality between freeman and slave…. As regards the inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims, Islam considers the former superior to the latter from the ontological and juridical point of view, even with regard to those that it defines as dhimmi (protected people), a term that refers to Jews and Christians. Tolerance granted to Jews and Christians does not imply equality with Muslims. Polytheists and atheists, on the other hand, enjoy no protection.[26]

Under Sharia, insulting the religion is a punishable offense

According to our earliest sources, the founder of Islam, Muhammad, did not take too kindly to insults hurled at him (insults to Muhammad are implicitly insults to Islam, and Sharia views them as such).

According to Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasool Allah, our earliest biographical source on Muhammad’s life,[27] Muhammad killed people for insulting him or for insulting Islam. For example, Ibn Ishaq relates that Muhammad ordered ‘Abdullah b. Sa’d to be killed for the reason that “he used to write down [Qur’anic] revelation but then apostasized and returned to Mecca.[28]

Ibn Ishaq further relates that in entering Mecca Muhammad had ordered two singing-girls, one Fartana and her friend, killed because they used to sing satirical songs about him (one of them was eventually granted immunity by Muhammad, the other, however, was not so lucky).[29] Ibn Ishaq also tells us that Muhammad killed a freed slave named Sara of the tribe of Banu Abdul Mu’tallib because she “insulted him in Mecca.”[30]

So serious is blasphemy against Islam taken by Muslim ulema (religious scholars) that Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328 A.D.), the teacher of Ibn Kathir (one of the most prominent Islamic exegetes), and a darling of Islamists the world over, wrote a whole book entitled “The Unsheathed Sword Against Whoever Insults the Messenger (الصارم المسلول على شاتم الرسول).”[31]

Recently, some 100,000 Pakistanis came out en masse to honor the executed criminal who murdered the governor of the Punjab province in 2011; the governor was targeted because he defended a Christian woman who had allegedly violated Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The son of the victim, Aatish Taseer, wrote a melancholic reflection in the New York Times on the widespread Pakistani support for the killer. This widespread backward mentality does not just take root in any society—it is made possible by what is found in the early Islamic source texts and the Islamic books of jurisprudence.

Under Sharia, Jihad against the infidel is mandated

The Qur’an is very clear in Q 2:216 that combat is an obligation on Muslims (cf. the words kutiba ‘alaykum al-qital wa huwa kurhun lakum—i.e,. “fighting was ordained for you though you may hate it”); medieval jurisprudents just disagreed as to whether this was a communal or an individual obligation (fardh kifaya or fardh ‘ayn/fardh wajib).[32] Perpetual war against non-Muslim nations is plausibly something that is commanded by Islam, as it finds support in the early Islamic source texts. One of the notorious “sword verses,” Q 9:5, seems to command blanket warfare against polytheists:

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the polytheists wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and give zakat [alms], then leave them to their way: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

The last part of the verse seems to imply that only if the polytheists become Muslim, and pray and give zakat (Muslim charity tax), should the Muslims leave them to their separate way. Indeed, many medieval Islamic scholars took this verse to be legitimating offensive warfare against “infidels,” and as abrogating peaceful verses that were revealed earlier (e.g., Q 2:256, which famously states that there is no compulsion in religion). Furthermore, in a sahih hadith, Muhammad seems to condone a blanket war on non-Muslims until they submit to Islam—and only then will their lives and property be spared:

I have been ordered to fight the people till [حتى] they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.’ And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah.[33]

Another sahih hadith lays out a three-step process for combating infidels:

When you meet your enemies who are infidels, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of the Muhajireen and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajireen. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muslims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai’ except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.

Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani (d. 805), one of the very first Muslims to write on Jihad, affirms this three-step process:

Fight in the name of Allah and in the “path of Allah.” Combat those who disbelieve in Allah. Do not cheat or commit treachery, nor should you mutilate anyone or kill children. Whenever you meet your polytheist enemies, invite them [first] to adopt Islam. If they do so, accept it, and let them alone. . . .If they refuse, then call upon them to pay the jizya [poll tax imposed on dhimma]; if they do, accept it and leave them alone. . . .If the army [of Islam] attacks Dar al-Harb [the House of War] and it is a territory that has received an invitation to accept Islam, it is commendable if the army renews the invitation, but if it fails to do so it is not wrong. The army may launch the attack by night or by day and it is permissible to burn [the enemy] fortifications with fire or to inundate them with water.[34]

So it seems that the early sources of Islam do provide substantial support for aggressive jihad.

Indeed, from our earliest sources, we can infer that Muhammad himself participated in or deputized more than sixty battles, some of which were certainly offensive in nature.[35] According to the early sources (Muslim and non-Muslim), when Muhammad was in Medina, he initiated raids against Meccan caravans in order to obtain booty—booty that he ostensibly deemed requisite to sustain the muhajireen (emigrants) who had emigrated from Mecca to Medina (formerly Yathrib).[36] Moreover, the earliest sources tell us that towards the end of his life, he had his sight on aggressively expanding his realm, even sending military expeditions to Tabuk, a Byzantine frontier fortress.[37]

Jihad is certainly not something that was invented by modern radical Muslim groups like Al-Qa’ida or ISIS; it is rooted in the seventh century, the century that saw the beginnings of Islam. The simple fact of the matter is that the early Arab-Islamic conquests shortly after Muhammad’s death were unjustified acts of aggression against the rival Byzantine and Sassanian empires. But Muslims the world over have virtually unanimously viewed these conquests with a sense of pride.

Medieval Islamic scholars generally divided the world into dar al-Islam (the house of Islam), where Muslims rule by sharia, and dar al-harb (the house of war), where non-Muslims rule. The idea is to continue the conquests begun in the seventh century until all religion is for Allah (Q 8:39). In keeping with their forebears, they seek to fight against the dar al-Harb until it no longer exists and all the world’s population is subsumed under dar al-Islam.

It is therefore clear that contemporary jihadi groups, though they may sometimes twist certain texts for their own nefarious purposes, are acting within the interpretive parameters set forth in the earliest Islamic sources. It is no coincidence that, as Samuel Huntington remarked, “Islam has bloody borders.” The basis for aggressive jihad in the early Islamic source texts is so strong that the Islamicist David Cook minces no words here:

No Muslim—to the best of my knowledge—working from the classical materials on the subject of jihad and using the traditional Muslim definitions of jihad, has ever succeeded in seriously refuting the claim to be legitimate heirs to the legacy of jihad.[38]

From the above six points, it should be relatively clear that Sharia—i.e., the religion as expressed by the earliest Islamic sources—is not compatible with Western Civilization.

There is a clash of civilizations between the Western and Islamic world. The proper response must be a holistic and tempered one—a response that neither sacrifices our national security at the altar of political correctness, nor infringes on either the constitutional or natural rights of our fellow Muslims.

The proper Western response should involve: calling a spade a spade, i.e., Islamists as Islamists; a relentless military campaign against these Islamists; a robust, intellectual criticism of Islam and Sharia; the uncompromising defense of the freedom to criticize Islam, Sharia and Muhammad; significantly cutting down the influx of unvettable Muslim refugees into Europe and the United States; and, finally, designating organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Ahrar as-Sham, and Jaysh al-Islam, as terrorist organizations.[39]

As Daniel Pipes sanguinely implies in his most recent video entitled, “Jihad Awakens Europe,” if the non-Muslim populations in Europe and America say no to Sharia, and yes to the values that have undergirded Western civilization for centuries, then no it will be. If the West seriously acquires the will to defeat radical Islam, then it will most assuredly do so. When there is a will, there is a way. But is there a will?


[1] ‘CAIR’, short for ‘The Council of American and Islamic Relations,” has been named as an indicted co-conspirator in what has come to be known as “The Holy Land Foundation Trial,” the largest terrorist-financing trial in American history.

[2] Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Making of the New World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011).

[3] While there is a distinction between the teachings of radical Islam/Islamism and Islam simplicter, the gap between the two is not as great as is commonly believed.  As we shall see, many doctrines taught by traditional mainstream Islam are incompatible with Western values.

[4] Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, ed. J. Milton Cowan (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrasowitz, 1979), 541; Edward W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, ed. Stanley Lane Poole (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1984), 1534. See Quraishi-Landes’ article in the Washington Post and my response to it here.

[5] Pace Harvard Law Professor and Islamic law researcher Noah Feldman’s definition, Fiqh or Jurisprudence, seems to be the study of sharia—and not sharia as practiced by certain people.

[6] There are five major schools of thought in Islam, four major Sunni schools, and one major Shi’i school. The Shafi’i school is founded by its namesake, imam As-Shafi’i.

[7] Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Umdat As-Salik (The Reliance of the Traveler), trans., ed. Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Maryland: Amani Publications,1997), Book A (Sacred Knowledge), sec. 1.1.

[8] William G. Boykin, Harry E. Soyster, et. al., Shariah, The Threat to America: An Exercise in Competitive Analysis, Report of Team B II (Washington D.C. : The Center for Security Policy, 2010), 5.

[9] Abu A’la Maududi, Islamic Law, trans., ed. Khurshid Ahmad, (Lahore: Islamic Publications Ltd), 51.

[10] Western scholars have a history of skepticism vis-à-vis the extra-Qurʼānic traditional Islamic sources, as they are relatively late. None of these sources pre-date circa 750 A.D.; they are at least about 120 years removed from the traditional date of Muhammad’s death (632 A.D.). Many ahadeeth, whether classified as sahih (correct) or otherwise, were probably never uttered by Muhammad. Western scholars of Islam generally agree that the earliest that some of the alleged sayings of Muhammad may be traced back to is the late 7th century.  For a critical examination of the hadith literature, see Igńac Goldziher’s pioneering Muslim Studies, trans. S.M. Stern and C.R. Barber (Chicago: Aldine Atherton, 1971); also see Joseph Schacht’s seminal work, the Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (Oxford; Clarendon: Oxford University Press, 1950). The early Islamic sources are filled with embellishments. Some leading scholars of early Islam, albeit a minority, like Gabriel Sa’id Reynolds, hold that the traditional categorization of Qur’anic chapters into “Meccan” and “Medinan” is little more than conjecture, since the categorization itself relies on the (often) mutually contradictory stories found in later Islamic sources. Reynolds contends that the early analysts of the Qur’an made up stories to explain various verses, especially the enigmatic ones, and for the critical historian to use their stories to attempt to establish a chronology of the Qur’an would be to get things backwards. See, e.g., Gabriel Reynolds, “Le problème de la chronologie du Coran,” Arabica 58 (2011).

[11] David Cook, Understanding Jihad (Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005), 6.

[12] From a critical-historical perspective, these words were very likely uttered by Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, even the Jesus Seminar, a group of very liberal scholars, highlight this verse in red in their translation of the Gospels—meaning that they “would include this item unequivocally in the database for determining who Jesus was.” See Robert Funk, Roy Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (New York: Harper One, 1993) 36, 236.

[13] The terms “dhimma” (plural of dhimmi) and “People of the Book,” refer to the same people.

[14] See, for example, Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, trans. David M., Paul F, and David L. (London; Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1985).

[15] Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror (New York: The Modern Library, 2003), 41.

[16] “برنامج “الإمام الطيب” ـــ الحلقة 11,” YouTube video, at 4:50, posted by “Al-Azhar Al-Shareef,” June 16th, 2016.

[17] Samir Khalil Samir, 111 Questions on Islam: Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. on Islam and the West: A Series of Interviews Conducted by Giorgio Paolucci and Camille Eid, ed. Wafik Nasry, trans. Wafik Nasry and Camille Eid (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), 96.

[18] Sahih ahadeeth also state that Muhammad married A’isha, the daughter of “the first rightly guided caliph” Abu Bakr, when she was just six years old, and consummated the marriage with her when she was just nine years old. See, e.g., Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 5, Book 58, Hadith 236.

[19] Samir Khalil Samir, 111 Questions on Islam, 111-12. Also see Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Umdat As-Salik (The Reliance of the Traveler), Book N (Divorce), sec. 7.7.

[20]Sahih Al-Bukhari,  Vol. 1, Book 8, Hadith 367; Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 5, Book 59, Hadith 522; At-Tabari, The History al-Tabari: Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors, vol. 9, trans. Ismail K. Poonawala (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), 134-35. At-Tabari, The History al-Tabari, vol. 39, trans. Ella Landau-Tasseron (Albany: SUNY Press, 1998), 185. We say “relatively early” because absolutely speaking the extra-Qur’anic sources of Islam are quite late. For example, the oldest biography of Muhammad, Sirat Rasool Allah by Ibn Ishaq, was written at least around 120 years after Muhammad’s death, and only comes down to us in rescinded versions (e.g., in the versions of at-Tabari and Ibn Hisham). Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad gives us further details about how Suffiyah’s husband, Kinana ibn ar-Rabi ibn Abi al-Huqayq, was killed. Ibn Ishaq relates that Muhammad tortured Kinana by kindling fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was near dead, prior to ordering Muhammad ibn Maslama to behead him. Ibn Ishaq relates that Muhammad did this because Kinana would not disclose to Muhammad where the treasure of the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir was hidden. See ʻAbd al-Malik Ibn Hishām, Muḥammad Ibn Isḥāq, and Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (Karachi; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 515.

[21] “برنامج فقه المرأة – د.سعاد صالح -المقصود بملك اليمين – Fiqh Al-maraa,” YouTube video, 3:37, posted by “AlHayah TV Network,” Sept. 12, 2014.

[22] Although Q 98:6 technically only condemns the “infidels” from the People of the Book (الذين كفروا من اهل الكتاب), it is clear that that traditional Jews and Christians who deny the prophethood of Muhammad are being condemned here.

[23] Furthermore, contrary to Muslim apologists, it is not even clear if the Arabic word awliya (اولياء) should be translated as “guardians” and not “friends.” Many medieval Muslim exegetes took awliya to be or to include friends.

[24] Mainstream Islamic tradition interprets Q 4:157 to imply that Jesus was not crucified. So, Islamists abhor crosses, and from the earliest times of Islam up to the present, they call Christians “worshipers of the cross (عباد الصليب).”

[25] Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam, xxix.

[26] Samir Khalil Samir, 111 Questions on Islam, 91.

[27] Arthur Jeffery, “THE QUEST OF THE HISTORICAL MOHAMMED*,” The Muslim World 16, no. 4 (October 1, 1926): 328.

[28] ʻAbd al-Malik Ibn Hishām, Muḥammad Ibn Isḥāq, and Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (Karachi; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 550-1. ‘Abdullah b. Sa’d’s death could also be attributed to the fact that he apostatized—it seems that both his insults of Islam (having chosen to stop writing the Qur’an, he ostensibly thought the Qur’an was a product of human handiwork) and his apostasy played a role in his death.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., 551.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Reuven Firestone, Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 60.

[33] Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 8, Hadith 387.

[34] Mohammed ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani. The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani’s Siyar (Kitab al-siyar al-kabir),  Trans. Majid Khadduri. (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966). As cited in William G. Boykin, Harry E. Soyster, et. al., Shariah, The Threat to America, 82.

[35] David Cook, Understanding Jihad, 6; Samir Khalil Samir, Violence et non-violence dans le Coran et l’Islam (Beiruit: CEDRAC), 42.

[36] Ibid., 18.

[37] At-Tabari, The Commentary of At-Tabari: Jami’ al-Bayan ‘an Ta’wil ay al-Qur’an, vol. 14, 2nd ed., eds., Mahmood Shakr and Ahmad Shakr (Cairo: Maktabat Ibn Taymiyyah), 200.

[38] David Cook, Understanding Jihad, (Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005), 164.

[39] None of these three groups has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States. It seems that the Obama administration is reluctant to declare rebel groups in Syria like Ahrar as-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam as terrorist organizations because the administration has (at least) previously armed such groups, and so the declaration would, in effect, implicate the Obama administration in the groups’ terrorism activities.



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