A couple of days ago Matthew Hartley contacted me to talk about the lack of open discussion on Islamism.
From Craig Laundy MP who says criticism of Islamism comes from the ignorant and ill-informed to the PM Mr Turnbull who says we should all support Islam, the Australian zeitgeist radiates a rose-coloured tint on the followers of Muhammad.
Matthew studied history at the University of Sydney and he's written a book about the leader of the Muslims -
Mr Muhammad: Islam’s Prophet, as described in the Qur’an, Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, and as emulated by Islamic State
You can find Matthew's book here. I recommend it to you.
We should have more, not less discussions about Islam. It is costing us billions of dollars and thousands of lives. And that discussion should be informed by the facts.
Here's a short article Matthew's written for us. I hope it helps you in talks with your friends - and our political leaders.
Why the Islamic State kills children - and why nothing on earth can stop them
Copyright Matthew Hartley
If you haven’t seen footage of Islamic State troops machine gunning children, you probably don’t want to. When we hear of Islamic State, and their now-affiliates the Taliban, Al Shabab and Boko Haram, specifically targeting children and teens, we are naturally appalled. At that point, there are a couple of common reactions. One is to accept the declarations that “This has nothing to do with Islam”. Another is to decide that Islam must, somehow, be the source of this. To get to the meat of the matter, we must look into the texts used by the killers themselves.
Here is an example from the highly regarded hadith collection, Sahih Muslim:
“…The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) used not to kill the children, so thou shouldst not kill them unless you could know what Khadir had known about the child he killed, or you could distinguish between a child who would grow up to he a believer (and a child who would grow up to be a non-believer), so that you killed the (prospective) non-believer and left the (prospective) believer aside.” (Sahih Muslim, 019, 4457)
As it turns out, the militants are quite confident of their ability on that score. There is also evidence for the killing of dancing girls from Muhammad’s early hagiographer, Ibn Ishaq.
“…two singing-girls Fartana and her friend who used to sing satirical songs about the apostle, so he ordered that they should be killed…”
(Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 819)
For the killing of university students, we have this from the most highly trusted hadith collection, that of Sahih al-Bukhari, after whom Sydney’s “Bukhari House” bookstore is named:
I heard the Prophet saying, “In the last days (of the world) there will appear young people with foolish thoughts and ideas. They will give good talks, but they will go out of Islam as an arrow goes out of its game, their faith will not exceed their throats. So, wherever you find them, kill them, for there will be a reward for their killers on the Day of Resurrection."’
(Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 577)
The militants are quite optimistic about these being the Last Days of the world, the “young people” being the students, and quite keen to do Muhammad’s bidding with the killing.
Many Muslims will say: “These verses do not authorise the killing of children, they cannot be understood without a detailed knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence.” The problem, however, is that the critics of the Islamic State will rely on precisely the same texts to mount many of their own arguments. The authority of the texts themselves will not be questioned. “Sahih” can be translated as “authentic”, Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim being considered the most authentic of all the collections of hadith, and Ibn Ishaq’s biography of the Prophet among the most trusted. In reality, the texts themselves are not subject to dispute, only variations of interpretation, and that, right now, leaves the field wide open.
What we have left are schools of interpretation, not clear certainties, and in this space the militants are prospering. When a group of Islamic scholars wrote to Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, to protest his actions, they relied on centuries of jurisprudence, developed within scholarly, meticulous, extensive, and very specific traditions. And those who go with the radicals think those old traditionalists are talking nonsense.
The radicals see the old schools as the provinces of old men, weak men, narrow men, the equivalent of hoary old Catholic cardinals. They themselves rely on the view that the ancient works describing Muhammad can be accessed by anyone who can read classical Arabic (ie the Qur’an), that Muhammad’s example is to be emulated, and that the facts more or less speak for themselves. As the Qur’an itself tells us:
“And We have indeed made the Quran easy to understand and remember, then is there any that will remember (or receive admonition)?” (54:17, trans Mohsin Khan)
As for the “Last Days”, google “Black flags from Khorasan.” These guys are relying on actual prophecies that an army with black banners will march from Syria, (or maybe Afghanistan, they don’t much care,) and not stop until it reaches Jerusalem. They aren’t making this stuff up. It may be nonsense, but its Islamic authenticity is not in question. And the traditional schools of jurisprudence? They don’t dispute the prophecies, they just haggle about the date. (Shi’ite extremists, by the way, are pretty certain Khorasan is Persia, ie Iran, and they’re just as keen to march on Jerusalem.)
The truth is, as Waleedd Aly has written, there is no canonical Islam. There are many competing voices, and the Islamic State has raised its own, not on fantasy or lies, but on widely revered authorities, the directives of which it acts upon in clear, and clearly devoted, emulation of the actual conduct of Muhammad himself.
Tony Abbott, among others, has called for a Reformation in Islam. What he does not seem to understand is that the Reformation has begun, and like the European Reformation, it involves the tearing down of established authority. Rather than being a product of ignorance, it arises from people actually reading the old books, and seeing the supposed scholars as fools, liars, or worse. We will see many more children killed, many more schools and universities attacked, many more people enslaved, young girls raped, massacres perpetrated, and we will be told it is not Islam. It is certainly not the Islam of the jurists, but it is undeniably an honest attempt to live out the directives, instructions, and example of the Prophet Muhammad, as recorded in the Sunnah.
(About the author: Matthew Hartley studied history at the University of Sydney, and is the author of “Mr Muhammad: Islam’s Prophet, as described in the Qur’an, Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, and as emulated by ISIL”)