Shamima Begum and ISIS: What are we Missing?

Shamima Begum ‘Jihadi Bride’

Much ink is currently being spilled about the case of Shamima Begum, who travelled from London to Syria in 2015 to join ISIS. Now that the fortunes of ISIS have sunk to a low ebb she desperately wants to return to the United Kingdom. Not that she is particularly repentant mind you. Based on her statements you could be forgiven for thinking that she would just appreciate a chance to regroup before recommencing the struggle against the infidel. The purpose of this article is not to discuss the merits of her case. Although, for the record, I believe that the UK government did the right thing in revoking her citizenship, thus preventing her return.

The bigger question I would like to address is the way in which her decision to join ISIS is being portrayed in the media. It seems that the guiding narrative is that she (and the other ‘ISIS Brides’) were blindly following the dictates of some strange cult that has nothing to do with the pure teachings of orthodox Islam.

The BBC is at the forefront of this effort to disassociate ISIS from the teachings of mainstream Islam. In the process the corporation has taken it upon itself to deny the claims of some of the most devout Muslims on the planet that they are acting for Islam by routinely referring to ISIS as the “so-called Islamic State”. It would be rather comforting if ISIS was, indeed, simply some strange aberration with no link whatsoever to classical Islamic teaching.

In fact, ISIS prides itself on its orthodoxy and on the way in which it adheres to the Qur’an and Sunnah (example of the prophet) in all that it does. In doing so, they do not merely latch onto a fringe tradition within Islam but can quote from centuries of interpretation and commentary on the Qur’an to justify their actions.

The following are some of the actions ISIS engaged in (and that the media cited as examples of just how un-Islamic they are). I will now show how each of these practices can be justified from the Qur’an, and hadiths. It should be clear from this that to dismiss ISIS as having “nothing to do with Islam” is highly problematic. It also raises the basic question of how we can even begin to hope that our enemies will be defeated if we are in complete denial about the nature of their guiding ideology:


Declaring a religious war against those who do not accept Islam: “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah,” [in other words, if they become Muslim – PT] “let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful” (Qur’an 9:5).

Giving defeated civilians the choice of conversion, exile or paying a tax on non-Muslims: “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled” (Qur’an 9:29).

Calling for the conquest and total subjugation of non-Muslim societies through a religious war: “It has been narrated on the authority of Abdullah b. ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah said: ‘I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer, and pay Zakat and if they do it, their blood and property are guaranteed protection on my behalf except when justified by law, and their affairs rest with Allah’” (Sahih Muslim Book 1 Number 33).

Keeping sex slaves: There are several verses in the Qur’an that make it clear that Muslim men are permitted to have sex with those whom “their right hand possesses”. For example: “O Prophet, indeed We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have given their due compensation and those your right hand possesses from what Allah has returned to you [of captives]” (Qur’an 33:50). This extends, according to a very troubling hadith, to the rape of captive women. “We went out with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi’l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffer- ing from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing ‘azl’ (withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception). But we said: ‘We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him?’ So we asked Allah’s Messenger [Muhammad] (may peace be upon him), and he said: ‘It does not matter if you do not do it (withdraw before climaxing), for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born’” (Sahih Muslim Book 8 Hadith 3371).

Executing apostates from Islam: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” Statement by Muhammad according to Sahih Bukhari Volume 9 Book 84 Number 57.

Beheading those whom they regard as enemy combatants: There are several instances where beheading is held up as the desired response to opposition from unbelievers. In Qur’an 4:74, it is directly com- manded: “So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until you have inflicted slaughter upon them”. In Qur’an 8:12, the link between terror and beheading is used to “inspire” Allah’s angels and, by extension, his followers: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip”.

Crucifying Opponents: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land” (Qur’an 5:33).

Executing Homosexual People: “Narrated By Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did (i.e., practice homosexuality), kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done” (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 38, Number 4447).

Destroying graves and non-Muslim places of worship: “Do not leave an image without obliterating it, or a high grave without leveling it” (Sahih Muslim Book 11 Hadith 120).

Corporal punishment of “disobedient” women: “Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], for- sake them in bed; and [finally], strike them” (Qur’an 4:34).

I realize that many readers have, perhaps, gone through the list above with a chill going down their spines. If the actions of ISIS, as arguably the most violent Islamic group out there, are, indeed, based on a legitimate reading of the key texts of Islam, what does that say about the possible impact of these very same texts on other Muslims? Would it not be fair say that it would incline at least some of those other Muslims to violence in the name of Allah? This has to be the inescapable conclusion to the material presented above. Even if only a tiny percentage of Muslims decide to be obedient to verses such as these, we are still left with millions who are seeking to do the rest of us harm for the sake of their religion.

This is exactly the conclusion that so many people in our society desperately want to get away from with their continued insistence that there is no link between the teachings of Islam and violence. This material is even ignored in news stories where it is directly relevant, as is the case with the story of Shamima Begum. The fact is, we need to honestly face up to the reality that the so-called ‘radicals’ of the Muslim world base their teachings on impeccable Qur’anic sources.

For more about the link between Islamic teaching and violence, please see by book ‘Nothing to do with Islam – Investigating the West’s Most Dangerous Blind Spot

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