ISIS and Islam How a Terrorist’s Ideology Twists Religion

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Jay Willoughby



On May 3, 2016, at the International Institute of Islamic Thought’s headquarters
in Herndon, VA, Asaad Al-Saleh (Indiana University; scholar-in-residence,
IIIT) spoke on “ISIS and Islam: How a Terrorist's Ideology Twists
Religion.” He began by asking a question – Is ISIS Islamic or not? – and then
proceeded to give a “simple point of view.” He first drew a distinction between
“Islam” and “Muslim,” which he said is a very problematic thing to do.
“Islam” is the text (i.e., the Qur’an and the Hadith literature). He contended
that the battle with ISIS is mainly textual, for the Qur’an is a “textual container.”
Thus, anything beyond the Qur’an and Hadith texts cannot be considered
purely Islamic, but only a human interpretation of the text. For
example, if we take history, then “Islamic history” is a highly misrepresented
label, for it is only “Muslims” who are participating in “history.” This historical
error dates from the third Islamic century, with the rise of the “Islamic
As ISIS is not textually Islamic, not a revealed entity from the heaven
of Islam, it cannot be labeled “Islamic” without violating the boundaries of
the Qur’an and Hadith. On the second level, if ISIS claims to be a Muslim
body interpreting Islam, then its members are not following the agreed-upon
rules of interpretation. For example, their selective interoperations not only
work against the majority of Muslims, including the scholars of Islam, but
they are also being labeled as “deviant” even by other terrorist groups, such
as al-Qaeda ...

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