Re: "A Call to the Muslims of the World"

From: Greg Burch (
Date: Wed Oct 24 2001 - 07:42:08 MDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Zero Powers" <>
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 10:27 PM

> This is the crux of the matter. In my (admittedly superficial) study of
> Islam of late I was specifically looking for evidence that Muhammad
> Muslims to spread their faith militarily. I could find none. If you
> refer me to what you have read which leads you to believe that Muhammad
> advocated military conversion of non-believers, I would greatly appreciate
> it.

Zero, it seems there are three approaches to this question, the first of
which can be treated briefly, the second unfortunately requiring more time
than I have to devote to the subject at present and the third perhaps
addressable over a period of a few days. The first approach is to simply
look at the text itself and the undisputed facts of Muhhamed's life and draw
one's own conclusions. The second approach leads through the dense network
of the hadith and the even more dense jungle of hadith scholarship, a path
that none of us on the list is likely qualified to follow at this point and
about which I have doubts I could be qualified to opine even if I spent 20
years on the subject. The third approach is to look at the actual
expression of the over-all cultural milieu influenced by the ulamma and
immamate as it exists now in the world, i.e. "the state of the ummah", as it
were, and draw some conclusions about what Islam means based on how people
who call themselves Muslims actually behave.

On the first path, I find the following surrah particularly instructive:

9:3: "And an announcement from Allah and His Apostle to the people on the
day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah and His Apostle are free from
liability to the idolaters; therefore if you repent, it will be better for
you, and if you turn back, then know that you will not weaken Allah; and
announce painful punishment to those who disbelieve."
9:5 "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters
wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in
wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and
pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving,
9:29 "Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do
they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the
religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay
the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of

8:12: "When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make
firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who
disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip
of them."
8:39-42: "Say to the Infidels: if they desist from their unbelief, what is
now past shall be forgiven; but if they return to it, they have already
before them the doom of the ancients! Fight then against them till strife be
at an end, and the religion be all of it God's."

I read these passages from the Q'ran in the context of the period in which
Muhhamed is said to have uttered these words on behalf of Allah: After the
heijira, when Islam was experiencing its first period as a state religion
backed by an army of believers. The policy developed by Muhhamed at that
time was one in which jihad was to be the order of the day until kuffirs
submitted to the dominance of Islam, paid the jizaat and refrained from any
act contrary to the dicatates of the Q'ran in public life. As I wrote in my
initial post, this is fundamentally a policy of pursuit and enforcement of a
state religion, an aim that is utterly irreconcilable with the basic
constitution of modern society shaped by Enlightenment values.

Although I've abjured the "middle path" of trying to navigate the landscape
of the sunnah as it is universally acknowledged within the Islamic world
(i.e. as being guided by the hadith, whichever hadith are accepted as
authoratative and whatever interpretive doctrine are followed in the
particular sect or territory in question), I will say that there is a
SIGNIFICANT body of scholarship out there that supports a violently militant
and expansionist model of Islam. One need only spend a few hours navigating
the many links one can find on the web to the dauntingly large universe of
sunnah scholarship to see this. I acknowledge that there are less militant
schools of thought. However, it is my strong sense that the "center" of the
diffuse world of sunnah scholarship and doctrine lies far toward what anyone
accepting basic Enlightenment values would call "totalitarian" -- i.e. the
consensus view among the ulamma or immammate is one of a sharia derived from
the Q'ran and the sunnah that establishes commands governing essentially
every aspect of individual, social, economic and political life. Yes, there
is disagreement about what those dictates are in detail, but there is almost
universal agreement that there is no support in Islamic texts or doctrine
for a separation of church and state or the existence of zones of life not
governed by sharia, however sharia may be interpreted by the specific school
in question.

Finally, one can look at the expression of Islam in social and political
life. I think it is an indisputable fact that there has been a resurgance of
militant fundamentalist Islam over the last 300 years and that that trend
has been steadily accelerating. One cannot find a single country from
Morroco to the Phillipines where there have not been outbreaks of violence
carried out by fundamentalist Muslim groups. While it is certainly possible
to rationalize each individual expression of this violence in terms of
secular causes, as is the constant theme of the "post-colonialist" writers,
these groups are ALL united in espousing an ideology that is 1) founded in a
totalitarian view of the sharia and 2) expresses profound opposition to the
basic Enlightenment values of tolerance.

The most troubling thing to me is the lack of an "ideological firebreak"
between the most extreme forms of Islamist miltancy and any kind of moderate
or liberal ideology. In other words, there is a smooth spectrum between the
most extreme forms of Islamist totalitarianism and those who claim to be
more moderate.

Here's a nice example of a "moderate" Egyptian Islamist group's position
with regard to basic Enlightenment values:
 "Q: What do Ikhwan think about Democracy and presonal freedome?

This depends on you definetion of democracy, if democacy means that people
decide who leads them than Ikhwan accept it, if it means that people can
change the laws of Allah and follow what they wish to follow then it is not
acceptable. Ikhwan only accept to participate in such systems because more
benefit will be achived if they do, and more evil will be avoided. A little
help is better than no help at all.

About personal freedome, Ikhwan accept personal freedome withen the limits
of Islam, However, if personal freedome to you means that muslim women can
wear shorts or muslim men can do Haram stuff then Ikhwan do not approve of
that. "

from I commend this web site
that I picked more or less at random from a review of the pronouncements of
groups that are trying to actually participate in the open political process
in their native countries. It shows how the "center" of Islamist thinking
is constantly radicalized by the inability to draw a line between a moderate
position and the most radical ones because any failure to express
totalitarian views is condemned as apostasy.

... I've run out of time this morning, but I leave to further discussion the
question of how prevalant the more militant and totalitarian forms of
Islamism may be. My "gut guess" is that there is something like 10-20% of
the Islamic world that have become utterly radicalized, a population of some
100-200 million people.

Greg Burch
Vice-President, Extropy Institute

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