Is ISIS Islamic? This is a question that has been fiercely debated within the internet and outside. There is no doubt that the vast majority of Muslims hate ISIS, which they should keep doing. However to know if the ISIS actions are justified according to Islamic scriptures, we have to analyse the content. The popular notion among public who have barely read the Islamic scriptures is that ISIS acts contrary to Islamic teachings. Here are the main arguments people raise to tell that ISIS is un-Islamic followed by my refutation for these arguments.
ARGUMENT #1: ISIS kills innocent people, which is forbidden by Islam.
REALITY: Innocent is a very relative term in religion. This begs the question, who are considered innocent people according to Islam? Let's look at a verse from the Quran:
5:32 - Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.
As per the Quran, the Children of Israel were Muslims who were taught Islam by Allah's prophets. This verse commands Muslims not to kill each other except in retaliation for murder or for "mischief in the land". We have to see the other teachings of Islam to see what qualifies as mischief in Islam for which people can be killed. Here is exactly how Muhammad interpreted it:
Sahih Bukhari 9:83:17 - Narrated 'Abdullah: Allah's Apostle said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims."
A point to note is that a Muslim who leaves Islamic religion (through words or actions) can be killed. Such a person is totally innocent according to the definition of a liberal society. This quickly shows us that Islam does NOT forbid killing people who are innocent by a liberal definition. If we go on to analyse the Islamic doctrine, we can see that people were killed for blasphemy, homosexuality and so on.
One of the most well-documented events in Islam's own sources is the massacre of every male who had a trace of pubic hair - of a Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza - which surrendered to Muhammad. There was a massacre of around 700-800 surrendred Jews for the violation of a treaty by their leaders. The women and children were taken captives and distributed among Muslims as possessions.
ARGUMENT #2: ISIS kills mostly Muslims, so it is un-Islamic.
REALITY: There are some simple reasons for this. ISIS wants to establish an Islamic State of their own, which follows Islamic Law to the minute detail. The other Muslim nations and tribes which surround the territory don't recognize that and this obviously leads to a bloody warfare.
However that is not the only reason. Islam teaches people to be harsh against not only disbelievers but also "hypocrites" who are people who claim to be Muslims but don't follow many of the Islamic rules well.
9:73 - O Prophet (Muhammad SAW)! Strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be harsh against them, their abode is Hell, - and worst indeed is that destination.
To give you a context for this verse, chapter 9 of the Quran are the orders to Muslims after Muhammad captured Mecca and Islam became the dominant force in the region. Muslims are asked to be harsh against both disbelievers and hypocrites. Let's look at the hadiths.
Sahih Bukhari 9:84:64 - Narrated 'Ali: Whenever I tell you a narration from Allah's Apostle, by Allah, I would rather fall down from the sky than ascribe a false statement to him, but if I tell you something between me and you (not a Hadith) then it was indeed a trick (i.e., I may say things just to cheat my enemy). No doubt I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "During the last days there will appear some young foolish people who will say the best words but their faith will not go beyond their throats (i.e. they will have no faith) and will go out from (leave) their religion as an arrow goes out of the game. So, where-ever you find them, kill them, for who-ever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection."
In other words, if Muslims claim to have faith through words and prayers that is not enough. If they leave the religion through practice, they are lawful to be killed. What is worse, the orders are to "kill them wherever you find them", promising those who kill such hypocrites a reward in judgement day.
There are many Muslims who argue that these hadiths actually refer to the terrorist groups like ISIS and calls on Muslims to kill them. But the problem is the criterion here - clearly any Muslims who act un-Islamic can be killed according to the hadith. ISIS and other Muslims can argue all day over who is more Islamic. But the fact remains that these violent calls to be harsh with and kill hypocrites for not being Islamic enough is the very reason the Islamic world is FULL of groups fighting each other, branding each others as un-Islamic.
ARGUMENT #3: Islam forbids the killing of women and children in warfare.
REALITY: Let's check the hadiths again.
Sahih Bukhari 4:52:256 - The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)."
Sahih Muslim 19:4322 - It is narrated by Sa'b b. Jaththama that he said (to the Holy Prophet)" Messenger of Allah, we kill the children of the polytheists during the night raids". He said: "They are from them".
As you can see, killing non-Muslim women and children as collateral damage was fine for Muhammad.
ARGUMENT #4: Suicide is prohibited in Islam and hence suicide attacks are un-Islamic.
REALITY: Suicide or simply ending your life is prohibited in Islam. But martyrdom is not prohibited. On the contrary, martyrdom is highly encouraged with a guarantee of paradise and preferential treatment in paradise.
9:111 - Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise. They fight in Allah's Cause, so they kill (others) and are killed. It is a promise in truth which is binding on Him in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) and the Quran. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the supreme success.
4:95 - Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, Allah has promised good (Paradise), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward.
2:216 - Jihad (holy fighting in Allah's Cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.
Suicide bombers and attackers see themselves as martyrs who kill others for Allah's cause and get killed with the firm belief in paradise. Islamic paradise entices people with rewards such as virgins to have sex with, extreme sexual potency and lavish lifestyle and food. The promise of paradise upon dying in the battlefield can be very appealing. Here is a great example from the hadiths:
Sahih al-Bukhari 5:59:377 - Narrated Jabir bin `Abdullah: On the day of the battle of Uhud, a man came to the Prophet and said, "Can you tell me where I will be if I should get martyred?" The Prophet replied, "In Paradise." The man threw away some dates he was carrying in his hand, and fought till he was martyred.
ARGUMENT #5: Sexual and general slavery was abolished stage by stage by Muhammad.
REALITY: Muhammad did free many slaves in his life, mainly for being good Muslims. However he also captured unbeliever slaves during battles and even allowed his followers to have sex with slave girls who were considered possessions.
Sunan Abu Dawud 11:2150 (Sahih) - Abu Said al-Khudri said: "The apostle of Allah sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the apostle of Allah were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Quranic verse, "And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess". That is to say, they are lawful for them when they complete their waiting period." [The Quran verse is 4:24]
Sahih al-Bukhari 5:59:459 - Narrated Ibn Muhairiz: "I entered the mosque and saw Abu Khudri and sat beside him and asked him about coitus interruptus. Abu said, "We went out with Allah's messenger for the Ghazwa (attack upon) Banu Mustaliq and we received captives from among the Arab captives and we desired women and celibacy became hard on us and we loved to do coitus interruptus. So when we intended to do coitus interruptus we said "How can we do coitus interruptus without asking Allah's messenger while he is present among us?" We asked (him) about it and he said "It is better for you not to do so, for if any soul (till the Day of Resurrection) is predestined to exist, it will exist."
Sahih al-Bukhari 5:59:637 - Narrated Buraida: The prophet sent Ali to Khalid to bring the Khumus ([one fifth] of the booty) and I hated Ali, and Ali had taken a bath (after a sexual act with a slave girl from the Khumus). I said to Khalid, "Don't you see this (i.e. Ali)?" When we reached the prophet I mentioned that to him. He said, "O Buraida! Do you hate Ali?" I said, "Yes" He said, "Do you hate him, for he deserves more than that from the Khumus."
Muhammad even stopped people from freeing slaves and engaged in slave trade himself:
Sunan Abu-Dawud 30:3944 (Sahih) - 'Imran b. Hussain said: A man who had no other property emancipated six slaves of his at the time of the death. When the Prophet was informed about it, he spoke severely of him. He then called them, divided them into three sections, cast lots among them, and emancipated two and kept four in slavery.
Sunan Abu-Dawud 30:3947 (Sahih) - Jabir b. 'Abd Allah said: A man declared that his slave would be free after his death, but he had no other property. So the Prophet ordered (to sell him). He was then sold for seven hundred or nine hundred (dirhams).
ISIS is clearly Islamic - not because they shout Allah-u-Akbar - but because their actions can be mostly justified by the Quran and the life example of Muhammad. ISIS is a good possibility when you literally interpret the Islamic doctrine and consider Islam to be a total way of life. That is NOT to say that ISIS is the only literal interpretation of Islam. There are a number of ways to interpret Islam in a more peaceful manner than ISIS. Muslims should reject ISIS not because they are un-Islamic, but because they are cruel. Muslims have no need to feel bad because ISIS is Islamic. They have a choice to practice a moderate or reformed version of Islam which is peaceful. They can also leave Islam if they feel so which is what I recommend. There is no need for anyone to keep following what they are taught since childhood. What is most important though is for the world to stop pretending that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. ISIS has a lot to do with Islam and we have to identify the problem. Islam clearly needs to be reformed and that is not only because actions of ISIS can be justified with its doctrine.