A Study in Muslim Doctrine
by Raymond Ibrahim
One of the difficulties in discussing Islam's more troubling doctrines is that they have an anachronistic, even otherworldly, feel to them; that is, unless actively and openly upheld by Muslims, non-Muslims, particularly of the Western variety, tend to see them as abstract theory, not standard practice for today. In fact, some Westerners have difficulties acknowledging even those problematic doctrines that are openly upheld by Muslims — such as jihad. How much more when the doctrines in question are subtle, or stealthy, in nature?
Enter Nidal Malik Hasan, the psychiatrist, U.S. Army major, and "observant Muslim who prayed daily," who recently went on a shooting rampage at
Note: Any number of ulema (Muslim scholars) have expounded the following doctrines. However, since jihadi icon and theoretician Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two, has also addressed many of these doctrines in his treatises, including by quoting several authoritative ulema, I will primarily rely on excerpts from The Al Qaeda Reader (AQR), for those readers who wish to source, and read in context, the following quotes in one volume.
Wala' wa Bara'
Perhaps best translated as "loyalty and enmity," this doctrine requires Muslims to maintain absolute loyalty to Islam and one another, while disavowing, even hating (e.g., Koran 60:4), all things un-Islamic — including persons (a.k.a. "infidels"). This theme has ample support in the Koran, hadith, and rulings of the ulema, that is, usul al-fiqh (roots of Muslim jurisprudence). In fact, Zawahiri has written a fifty-page treatise entitled "Loyalty and Enmity" (AQR, p. 63-115).
One of the many Koranic verses on which he relies warns Muslims against "taking the Jews and Christians as friends and allies … whoever among you takes them for friends and allies, he is surely one of them" (Koran 5:51), i.e., he becomes an infidel. The plain meaning of this verse alone — other verses, such as 3:28, 4:144, and 6:40 follow this theme — and its implications for today can hardly be clearer. According to one of the most authoritative Muslim exegetes, al-Tabari (838-923), Koran 5:51 means that the Muslim who "allies with them [non-Muslims] and enables them against the believers, that same one is a member of their faith and community" (AQR, p. 71).
Sheikh al-Islam, Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), takes the concept of loyalty one step further when he tells Muslims that they are "obligated to befriend a believer — even if he is oppressive and violent towards you and must be hostile to the infidel, even if he is liberal and kind to you" (AQR, p. 84).
In ways, Hasan's life was a testimony to loyalty and enmity. According to his colleague, Dr. Finnell, Hasan "was very vocal about the war, very upfront about being a Muslim first and an American second." If his being "vocal about the war" is not enough to demonstrate unwavering loyalty to Islam, his insistence that he is first and foremost a Muslim is. Other evidence indicates that the primary factor that threw him "over the edge" was that he was being deployed to a Muslim country (
According to a fellow Muslim convenience store owner who often spoke with Hasan, the thought that he might injure or kill Muslims "weighed heavily on him." Hasan also counseled a fellow Muslim not to join the U.S. Army, since "Muslims shouldn't kill Muslims," again, showing where his loyalty lies. Tabari's exegesis comes to mind: the Muslim who "allies with them [non-Muslims] and enables them against the believers, that same one is a member of their faith and community," i.e., he too becomes an infidel (AQR, p. 71).
Another source who spoke with Hasan notes that "in the Koran, you're not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christian or others, and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell."
At any rate, surely none of this should come as a surprise. In April 2005, another Muslim serving in the U.S. Army, Hasan Akbar, was convicted of murder for killing two American soldiers and wounding fourteen in a grenade attack in
This doctrine, which revolves around deceiving the infidel, is pivotal to upholding loyalty and enmity wherever and whenever Muslim minorities live among non-Muslim majorities. In fact, the Koran's primary justification for deception is in the context of loyalty: "Let believers [Muslims] not take for friends and allies infidels [non-Muslims] instead of believers. Whoever does this shall have no relationship left with God — unless you but guard yourselves against them, taking precautions" (Koran 3:28). In other words, when necessary, Muslims are permitted to feign friendship and loyalty to non-Muslims, or, in the words of Abu Darda, a pious companion of Muhammad, "We grin to the faces of some peoples, while our hearts curse them" (AQR, p. 73). Taqiyya's importance for upholding loyalty and enmity is evidenced by the fact that, just three pages into his treatise, Zawahiri has an entire section called "The Difference Between Befriending and Dissembling." There he shows that, while sincere friendship with non-Muslims is forbidden, insincere friendship — whenever beneficial to Muslims — is not.
Again, Zawahiri quotes that standard reference, Tabari, who explains Koran 3:28 as follows: "Only when you are in their [non-Muslims'] power, fearing for yourselves, are you to demonstrate friendship for them with your tongues, while harboring hostility toward them. But do not join them in the particulars of their infidelities, and do not aid them through any action against a Muslim" (AQR, p. 74).
And therein lies the limit of taqiyya: when the deceit, the charade begins to endanger the lives of fellow Muslims — whom, as we have seen, deserve first loyalty — it is forbidden. As Zawahiri concludes, the Muslim may pretend, so long as he does "not undertake any initiative to support them [non-Muslims], commit sin, or enable [them] through any deed or killing or fighting against Muslims" (AQR, p. 75).
Again, we are reminded that the "moment of truth" for Hasan, who seems to have led something of a double life — American major and psychiatrist by day, financial supporter of jihadi groups and associate of terrorists by night — is the fact that he was being deployed to Afghanistan, i.e., he would have been aiding non-Muslim Americans against fellow Muslims (remember, he was "a Muslim first and an American second"). He tried to prevent this, getting a lawyer, to no avail. Thus, since he had taken deceit to its doctrinal limit and was now being placed in a position where he would have to actually demonstrate his loyalty to Americans against Muslims, it appears he decided to take it to the next level (see doctrine below).
Incidentally, we also find that "he [Hasan] was going to be kind of the caretaker for [American] Muslim soldiers. Sometimes Muslim soldiers have a rift between what they're doing and their faith," according to Major Khalid Shabazz, an Army Muslim chaplain. "That person who is a leader needs to quell some of those fears and help them through that process."
This all sounds well and good, but what, precisely, does it mean? If, as we have seen, Islam clearly forbids Muslims from aiding infidels against fellow Muslims, and if being in the U.S. Army requires American Muslims to fight non-American Muslims now and again, how was Hasan — or any other observant Muslim — going to "quell some of those fears and help through that process"? How, if not by merely instructing them in the centuries-old arts of taqiyya?
Amongst learned infidels, jihad is the most recognized and notorious of all Muslim doctrines. Literally meaning to "struggle" or "strive," jihad can take on any form, though its most native and praiseworthy expression revolves around fighting, and killing, the infidel enemy — even if it costs the Muslim fighter (the mujahid) his life: "Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the path of Allah; whoever fights in the path of Allah — whether he dies or triumphs — we shall richly reward him" (Koran 4:74). And "Allah has purchased from the faithful their lives and possessions, and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight in the path of Allah, killing and being killed" (Koran 9:111).
The hadith also has its fair share of anecdotes advocating the "one-man jihad." Zawahiri's treatise, "Jihad, Martyrdom, and the Killing of Innocents," (AQR p. 137-171), spends much time justifying the desperate solo jihad — otherwise known as the "martyrdom operation" — including by offering the following hadith: "A Muslim asked Muhammad, O Messenger of Allah! If I plunge myself into the ranks of the idolaters and fight till I am killed — what then, to heaven? He [Muhammad] said yes. So the man plunged himself into the ranks of the idolaters, fighting till he was slain" (AQR, p. 153).
The learned ulema agree. According to al-Qurtubi (d. 1273), "There is no wrong for a man to singlehandedly attack a mighty army — if he seeks martyrdom — provided he has the fortitude." Others indicate that one of the reasons making the one-man jihad permissible is that it serves to "terrify the foe" (AQR, p. 155).
And there it is: When all else failed, when Hasan's forthcoming deployment into Muslim land forced him to expose where his true loyalty (wala') lies, pretense (taqiyya) gave way to full-blown struggle (jihad). Hasan, who sacrificed many years to become a psychiatrist and a U.S. Army major, in the clear words of the Koran "exchange[d] the life of this world for the Hereafter." Evidence also indicates that he believed "martyrdom operations" were not only valid but laudable acts of courage, writing "YOUR INTENTION IS THE MAIN ISSUE" (capitals in original). Zawahiri puts it more articulately: "The deciding factor is … the intention." Is the mujahid killing himself "to service Islam [laudable martyrdom], or is it out of depression and despair [forbidden suicide]?" (AQR, p. 157).
(Unfortunately and, no doubt, much to Hasan's chagrin, infidel medics ensured his failure to achieve martyrdom.)
The greatest proof that, at least in his own mind, Hasan was waging a jihad is the fact that he utilized that immemorial jihadi war cry — Allahu Akbar! — which has served to terrify the infidel denizens of the world for centuries. Here's an example from Muslim history (circa the early 8th century): "The [non-Muslim] inhabitants of eastern
Indeed, while the takbir (the formal term for "Allahu Akbar") can be used in various contexts, it is by far primarily used in a jihadi context, past and present. Nearly 1,400 years ago, Muhammad and the early Muslims cried "Allahu Akbar" immediately before attacking their infidel neighbors; eight years before the
Yet confusion abides. An AP report writes: "As if going off to war, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan cleaned out his apartment, gave leftover frozen broccoli to one neighbor, and called another to thank him for his friendship — common courtesies and routines of the departing soldier. Instead, authorities say, he went on the killing spree that left thirteen people at
Wala' wa bara,' taqiyya, and jihad all help explain Hasan's actions. Even so, other lesser-known aspects of Islam lend their support to the view that he was acting from an Islamist framework.
Several people who encountered Hasan before, and even during, the time he went a-jihading note that he evinced an almost unnatural amount of calmness — certainly for one getting ready to go on a killing spree. No doubt, many will point to this as a sign that he was suffering from some sort of schizophrenic episode.
Yet the fact remains: according to jihadi lore, a feeling of tranquility and calmness is supposed to descend on the mujahid, especially during the most stressful moments of combat (see Koran 9:26 for confirmation). This is known as sakina (calmness, tranquility). Osama bin Laden himself often describes his experience of sakina during the Afghan-Soviet war: "Once I was only thirty meters away from the Russians and they were trying to capture me. I was under bombardment, but I was so peaceful in my heart that I fell asleep. Before a battle, Allah sends us sequina [sakina] — tranquility." Of course, whether Hasan experienced "true" sakina, or whether he was merely affecting to himself, is irrelevant. Rather, the point here is that, once again, that which appears inexplicable or indicative of "mental instability" can be explained through an Islamic paradigm.
According to Sharia law, Muslims are not permitted to voluntarily reside in non-Muslim nations, such as
Accordingly, we find that the observant Hasan, prior to his jihadi spree, was engaged in da'wa for years. In fact, he aggressively pursued it to the point that he was reprimanded by the authorities. Nor did he cease trying to proselytize — that is, trying to validate his living with infidels — until the day before he went on his rampage, when he gave his neighbor a copy of the Koran. Of course, many Westerners will project their notions of proselytism onto Hasan and see only a God-fearing man "altruistically" concerned for the souls of others. Unfortunately, even the business card he included with his Koran gifts is indicative of violence, as it stealthily introduces him as a "soldier of Allah." Moreover, the "altruistic" interpretation fails to take into account the sort of legalism observant Muslims such as Hasan often adhere to: if he literally believed he was "exchanging this life for the Hereafter," he most likely also believed that he had to justify his voluntary dwelling with infidels, hence the da'wa.
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Soon following the
For example, "U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat who is one of two Muslims serving in Congress, cautioned against focusing on the alleged shooter's religion [and thus its doctrines] and instead said the discussion should be about mental health issues."
Flagrant obfuscations aside, the facts remain: loyalty to Muslims and enmity for infidels (wala' wa bara'), a secretive double life (taqiyya), violence in the name of Allah (jihad) — all these can easily explain Hasan's violent rampage in Fort Hood.
The ultimate lesson? So long as Muslim doctrines are downplayed in the West, so long will warning signs, even concrete intelligence, be ignored, so long will such seemingly inexplicable incidents occur, so long will the media continue grasping for straws and Americans be "completely blindsided," so long will "Muslim grievance" be the default answer, so long will appeasement and concessions (domestically and internationally) be the only solution, so long will jihadis and Islamists grow emboldened and contemptuous, expecting more. Ad infinitum.
Conversely, if the
Raymond Ibrahim is the associate director of the Middle East Forum and the author of The Al Qaeda Reader, translations of religious texts and propaganda
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.