By The Sultans Jester
A non-Muslim academic, well versed in the Islamic sources, recently asked me a difficult and telling question: ‘To what extent do you think Muslim leaders and speakers in the UK are limited, when they speak about subjects such as violence, terrorism, ISIS etc, by the law or anti-terror legislation as opposed to what they actually believe?
Hoping he wasn’t getting at what I thought he was, I answered the way they do in the movies when faced with these types of questions: ‘How do you mean?’.
In typically blunt fashion he replied: ‘Don’t most of your scholars and speakers accept the exact same narrations and even fatwas as ISIS but simply don’t act on them?’
A few of our colleagues were also around since we had retired to the staff room. I didn’t press him any further – mainly because I was afraid he would bring up something like this:
‘A Muslim will not be killed in retribution for the murder of a Non-Muslim’ (Bukhari and Tirmidhi)
Now of course, most Muslims, while understandably concerned at the inclusion (sans explanation or comment) of such a narration in the canonical collections, will be telling themselves ‘well, I’m sure the scholars sorted this out and there is no way they would tell anyone to act on this. File under ”strange”’. This in and of itself is rather self-deluding, but then there is the problem that the majority of Muslim scholars did not ‘sort it out’, including Imam Ahmad and Imam Ash-Shafi` who actually maintain the view that indeed, a Muslim cannot be killed for a non-Muslim.
They themselves justify this with another Hadith:
“A Muslim is not to be killed for a Kafir (unbeliever).” (Reported by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari and An-Nasa’i)
They also go even further and quote this:
“A believer is not to be killed for a disbeliever or for a person enjoying protection under a covenant [a dhimmi].” (Reported by Ahmad, An-Nasa’i and Abu Dawood)
Of course, many scholars of the past (such as Abu Hanifa and Imam Nakhai) and the contemporary period (including those from Salafist groups such as Yusuf Al Qaradawi), openly rejected these hadith and fatwas, since the main source of Islam, the Quran, makes no differentiation either in the act of killing (which is between ‘people’ and not ‘Muslims’) nor in its insistence in a ‘Life for a life’ (as opposed to a life for a Muslims’ life – assuming God has command of the Arabic language and if he meant to say ‘a life for a life unless the murderer is Muslim’, he was capable of doing that)
All this though, my erstwhile questioner already knew. But his point was in fact more profound: how is it that personalities who would be regarded as unimpeachable Imams of Sunni Muslims such as Bukhari, Ahmad and Shafi, can narrate such things? More pertinent to his own speciality, Political Islamism, I knew he would no doubt lead on (as he did) to the crux of his question: these and other similar narrations (such as those in Bukhari calling for the killing of certain people by burning) are precisely the ones used by ISIS and earlier terrorist groups to justify the actions which Muslim leaders in the UK and elsewhere have condemned.
But don’t the same Muslim ‘leaders’, such as Haitham Al Haddad and Akram Nadwi, who have gained generous publicity for condemning ISIS and restraining UK Muslims from joining them , accept and venerate exactly the same narratives and personalities that ISIS use to justify the Islamicity of their actions?
In short, aren’t the icons of the religion of Islam as held up by violent Salafists in fact common to all Muslims and hence, isn’t the difference between them and ‘mainstream’ UK Muslims simply a matter of their leaving the constraints of British law behind and giving wind to the wings of Imam Ahmad and Bukharis’ fatwas and narrations?
Or to put it another way, don’t ISIS simply practice what the same Muslims who condemn terrorism preach? If Haddad and others who claim that their views are simply ‘mainstream Islam’ are right, then isn’t then the difference one not of belief but rather of expression?
The answer is not as simple as either Muslims or Islamophobes or even genuine seekers would like: people like ISIS and indeed Haddad neither represent mainstream Islam nor are completely antithetical to it. Rather, they represent a particular tradition within Islam, which has held, with certain variations, views similar to what is now being practised by ISIS. Despite their assertions though, this is not ‘mainstream’, but Haddad and others are and have been for much of the post-colonial period of Muslim history, making it mainstream. Whereas this violent orientation, irrespective of its endorsement by senior scholars such as Ahmad and Bukhari, was unambiguously rejected by traditional Islam, today however, the respect and deference afforded to those scholars held in great respect by Salafist movements (and many other speakers and institutes, often in the hopes of receiving generous funding and petro-dollars as Salafi oriented organisations do), which includes the aforementioned as well as other purveyors of extreme fatwas such as Ibn Taymiyyah, means that while on the one hand attacking anyone who opposes the legitimacy of Ahmad Ibn Hanbals’ or Imam Barbahari (who asserted that a person could become an apostate simply by taking a walk with a Hanafi) opinions and formulation of Islam as a ‘modernist’ or a ‘Mutazzilite’ (and this holds not only for the purveyors of Wahhabi Islam but most of the orientations in Islam a young Muslim is likely to encounter in the UK) as well as anyone deigning to reject a hadith from Bukhari’s collection as a ‘hadith rejecter’, or ‘Quranist’, they yet condemn anyone who actually follows these fatwas or hadith as well. For, how exactly am I to condemn ISIS without rejecting the opinions of Imam Shafi and the hadith of Imam Bukhari?
The result is clear – by applying the same principles as the Salafi-Wahhabis such as Haddad, Muslims from other orientations are in fact tacitly admitting that theirs is the mainstream Islam.
As my non-Muslim colleague could see, Salafists are insisting on acting on such Hadith and the de-legitimacy of those schools such as Sufism and Hanafism that opposed them by labelling them pejoratively as rationalists or grave worshippers. Or worse, in the case of speakers such as Akram Nadwi, reformulating traditional Islam to make it appear as if the opposing traditions are in fact part of the Salafist whole. Therefore, it becomes no problem for a Sufi or a Hanafi to venerate the leaders of the resolutely anti-rationalist and anti-Sufi ‘Ahl Al Hadith’ movement such as Ibn Taymiyya or Ibn Qayyam. The result is simple: the main-streaming of this orientation, supported with the relative diplomatic immunity afforded to Saudi and Qatari institutions and channels of funding. (A corollary to this is that these are the only countries that in fact have any money to spare for such ‘Islamic’ activities from amongst the Muslim world anyway, as a cursory glance at the per capita GDP of Muslim majority countries will reveal). The result is that many European youth depart from the Sufi/traditionalist approach that has been delegitimised in this way and in fact harangue the practitioners of these for not following the literal narrations relied on by the Wahhabi-Salafis. When some of these youth chose to disabuse themselves of the constraints on applying these narrations placed upon them by British law, they take advantage of the global village we now inhabit to join ISIS and other such groups, of which there are many less well known examples around the world. Those very scholars and institutions who laid the groundwork for this to occur then score brownie points by lamenting the departure of these youth and by reminding their flocks of the importance following the rule of local laws etc.
It is enough to know that Haddad himself is unapologetically a product of Medina University (where he studied under its founder, the Wahhabi cleric Abdul Aziz Bin Baz, whose other illustrious students were responsible for the siege at Mecca in 1984) an educational institute that teaches and distributes the works of thinkers such as Abd Al Wahhab, who calls for the burning to death of Muslims on trivial grounds (let alone Yazidis or anyone else). Yet it is precisely Haddads’ affiliation with both Medina University and Bin Baz that makes him a popular speaker in the UK and affords him legitimacy with much of the Muslim laity.
Whereas a practitioner of traditional Islam could easily say when confronted with the narrations of Bukhari or even Imam Ahmad: ‘We respect these imams’ scholarship, but indeed, this is a gross error. We can never allow impunity for the killing of any person. This is the law of both Reason and The Quran’, scholars from the Salafi-Wahhhabi orientation on the other hand would be forced to brand such a person a ‘hadith rejecter’, ‘modernist’ or worst of a ‘Mu’tazilite’ (the Ahl Al Hadith and puritanical Hanbalis hated and persecuted enemies). Having set up both punishments and ‘obligations’ such as female circumcision, in opposition to traditional Islam by using isolated hadiths from Bukhari and other canons, on what basis do they now oppose the moratorium on punishment for killing non-Muslims? Especially when it is backed up with the opinion of, say, Imam Ahmad and Ibn Taymiyya and others venerated and lionised by this movement (and ISIS co-option of fatwas of the latter)? It is in fact a contradiction and whereas to some this will be an indication that this movement is defunct, others will be easily seduced by the siren calls of internet preachers and radicalisers:
‘How can you say that a person who kills a non-Muslim for no reason is not liable to any punishment apart from a monetary fine. And even the fine is much less than if he had killed a Muslim’?
‘Are you denying the hadith of Bukhari and the words of our Prophet Brother? The dirty kufaar kill us and our children without any qualms. But you are worried about their lives! This is why the Ummah is weak.’
[According to Salafis, Imam Ahmad, Ibn Taymiyya and even Imam Shafi amongst others, the blood money paid for a non-Muslim is not equal to that of a Muslim. As usual, the Sufis and Maturidis and hated Mu’tazzila disagree and say that it is equivalent]
Or take the following, which we are assured from sources that the Salafis will insist are sacrosanct, is the practice of Muslims ’till the end of time’:
In the chapter terrifyingly named “The Punishment of Qadaris, Killing, Torturing and Hanging them”
‘Abu Qasim Tabari said; Amirul Mu’mineen Qadir Billah may Allah preserve him, extend his life and support him in his deeds and words, forced Mu’tazalite Hanafis to repent in the year 408. They then repented from their Mu’tazalite beliefs. He also forbade them from learning and dialogue, Rawafidhi beliefs and any ideas that go against Islam and the Sunnah. He also made them sign an oath to that effect. He warned them that if they do not keep this promise he will punish them…
Ameer Dawla followed his predecessor Khalifa Qadir Billah on this issue by killing Mu’tazalites, Rawafidh Qaramita, Jahmees, Mushabbihs in Khurasan, he hung them or jailed them or banished them from their city. He ordered the Imams to curse them on the pulpits and expelled them from their home town…
This became the Sunnah of Islam until the Day of Judgement’ 
[Fortunately, it did not]
If this is the treatment to be meted out to competing sects within Islam (and in fact the ones persecuted above went on to become the mainstream ones today, to the continuing anger of puritanical Hanbalism/Wahhabism) then what hope for the poor non-Muslims?
The question of course arises whether this violent extremism was a result of some divine Quranic verse? In fact quite the opposite:
“Verily, those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you [O Muhammad] have nothing to with them. Behold, their case rests with God” 
As my colleague went on to point, if we took the hadith of Bukhari and the opinion of Imam Ahmad and scholars such as the above (and examples can be multiplied almost indefinitely – take the case of Imam Barabahri or Ayub Sukhtiyani, another Ahl Al Hadith icon, who is a proponent of killing apostates, but is so inclusive of what causes ‘apostasy’ that he stated a person became an apostate because he took a short walk in the park with a rival, Imam Abu Hanifa) and presented them to scholars such as Haddad and Nadwi or organisations such as IERA or ‘Al Maghrib’ or ‘Al Kuathar’ and countless others like them at home and abroad, who also feign to ‘tackle’ extremism, they would indeed be in a quandary: If they were to say ‘Even though this hadith is in Bukhari and many other canonical tomes, I reject it’, which would put them in the same position as the ‘hadith rejecters’ that they often decry, they would lose legitimacy and income from their Wahhabi/Salafi fan and funding base, which essentially insists on uncritically accepting all of the single chain (‘ahad’) narrations from Bukhari. Likewise, if they reject the fatwa of Imam Ahmad or Shafi, they have become just like the grave worshipping Sufis, rationalists, kalaam practitioners and ‘Mu’tazzilites’ that their movement abhors (and movements like IERA assiduously avoid giving a platform to despite being ‘inclusive’ and ‘mainstream’).
The solution? Play both sides and condemn ISIS while not actually tackling any of the Islamic sources of the fatwas they use to justify their actions, since you in fact accept most of these narrations and they are rejected only by your ideological enemies (say, Brelwis or Hanafis or Sufis). And hope nobody notices. Except as my colleague so adroitly demonstrated, they have noticed. As an added benefit, by condemning their ideological bedfellows, these people gain kudos from the Muslim and general public.
It is much akin to a doctor who through his bad advice and neglect causes his patients to become ill and then benefits from their gratitude by deploying his continued quackery while ‘curing’ them.
The actual fact is that the brand of Islam promoted by individuals such as Haddad, not by his severely limited personal charisma but through well-funded organisations such as IERA, is a natural way-station on the road to ISIS: insisting on hadith and fatwas rejected years ago, profoundly anti-rational and textualist, intolerant of diversity (in particular Sufism, rationalism and Shi’ism) and even in most cases, labelling scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya, Abd Al Wahhab and many others who anathematised traditional the mainstream Islam that marginalises or even outright rejects these narrations as ‘righteous imams’ and ‘genuine scholars’ has no other effect than to remove the obstacles traditionally present to prevent people taking non-Muslim women as ‘war booty’, burning those they disagree with and killing with impunity both civilians and combatants.
The recent crisis in Syria has exposed the degree of confusion amongst Muslims and the main-streaming of Wahhabi Islam: even sane and measured voices such as Hamza Yusuf, Muhammad Al Yaqoubi and others usually seen as voices of balance against the influence of Wahhabism, have fallen into line with the Salafist narrative of the Syrian war being a Sunni/Shia or Sunni/heretic conflict, and this when it is entirely clear that what is in fact occurring is a speeded up version of the Soviet/Afghan war, where in order to damage it’s enemy the Soviet Union, the US in conjunction with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, supported and encouraged what is now called ‘militant’ Islam as well as Jihad tourism from around the globe. Muslims have entirely failed to grasp what watchers like Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and others in the West saw all too clearly: Saudi, the US and Israel were co-opting militant jihadism for the purpose of damaging their enemy Iran, whose only regional ally was Syria. To this end they funnelled, in conjunction with Turkey, hundreds of millions in ‘aid’ and weapons to a largely fictitious ‘Free Syrian Army’ and self-radicalised their domestic Muslims in the West by portraying Assad as a genocidal killer of Sunnis (and trying to bomb him themselves before suffering reversals in Parliament). When, in much quicker order than the Mujahideen – Taliban case in the 1990’s, the jihadis proved impossible to control , Islam quickly became the fall guy and the Western and Muslim media again fell into line, asking how such barbarity could exist today and what Islam had to do with it. But in essence this was merely Frankenstein criticising his own monster to prevent anyone investigating his charnel house of a laboratory.
My point here though is that the speed and ease with which Muslims in the UK and West in general uncritically adopted the Salafist line on Syria, accepted it as a sectarian Shia/Sunni issue (despite Assad’s previous relative tolerance of Sunnism and even support of Hamas, the withdrawal of which due to Hamas’ support of the rebels being one of the proximal causes of the recent Gaza war – a fact in neither Israel or Hamas’ interests to admit) and as we are still seeing, involved themselves in supplying fighters and funding for the cause. This indicates nothing more, despite the attempt to blame Western foreign policy, despicable though it is, as a ‘Deus Ex Machina’ for all actions of Muslims, than the degree of penetration of the Wahhabi/Salafi narrative into the hearts, minds, charities and Universities of British Muslims.
But this should be unsurprising: IERA and others from the Saudi Hydra are the most prominent Islamic organisations in the media and on campus. They are quite open and proud of their association with people such as Haddad and Nadwi, the former who has argued that Bin Laden is a ‘martyr’ and the latter who seems to think that promoting the views of the same Salafi icons that led to the emergence of ISIS is a good way of preventing them (see below), a sort of bizarre ideological homoeopathy perhaps. With leaders such as these, Muslims protesting either that UK youth joining ISIS is a ‘fluke’ occurrence or squarely to be blamed on British foreign policy, are deluded to a frightening degree. If educated students at British universities are willing to take instruction from people as openly vile as AR Green or Haddad then any and every outcome is unsurprising. The case of those less privileged and educated Muslims can only be imagined.
The case of Akram Nadwi is rather more insidious. He too is a ‘guide’ behind IERA and like Haddad and seeks to ‘tackle’ extremism and has even become something of a women’s rights activist. He represents the school of Salafism that seeks to gain credit for rectifying the problems that in fact it creates. For example, while decrying the plight of women under traditional Islam and asserting that they were much better off under the ‘Ahl Al Hadith’, he neglects to mention that the partisans of this group, including their senior Imams, were known for beating their daughters for minor infractions as well as demanding that women be segregated from monkeys (since they may develop sexual feelings for each other). Similarly, he recently sought to combat ISIS’s use of Salafi icon Ibn Taymiyya in their propaganda and fatwas (while never stopping to ask why it is always this scholar and others of his orientation that are wheeled out for this purpose and never, say Ibn Arabi or Abu Hanifa) by running a course to teach Ibn Taymiyya’s Quranic hermeneutics (at your expense of course). This served manifold purposes. Firstly, it actually uses the fact of Ibn Taymiyya’s works inspiring ISIS and many other violent extremists as a starting off point for absolving him and actually promoting his teachings. This is the ultimate ‘win-win’ for Salafism – taking credit for cleaning up their own mess. The problem with this approach is that ISIS and other Jihadi groups as well as the puritanical and revivalist groups from Hizb-Ut-Tahir to The Muslim Brotherhood, have been using the controversial 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyya with good reason. Apart from wishing to segregate women not only from men but even male monkeys, he’s also very laissez faire on the issue of excommunicating and killing Muslims:
‘Making an intention [eg for prayer] loudly is not permissible according to any of the Muslim Scholars.
And Prophet PBUH didn’t do it. And nor any of his Khalifs, Companions and nor any of the Salaf of the Ummah and its Imams [none of this is true as it happens]. And if anyone claims that it is the religion of God, and that it is wajib, then its compulsory to let him know the correct way and to ask him to repent from this claim.
If he insists, then he should be killed’.
Majmu’ Fatawa Volume 22, Page 143
‘Anyone who does ”ta’assub” to Malik or Shafi, or Ahmad or Abu Hanifa, and believes the opinion of this one imam is the true one that should be followed, and not the opinion of some other imam…
anyone who believes that is ignorant and misguided, and could be ”Kafir” [an apostate or non-believer]…this person has to be asked to repent.
If he repents that is it, otherwise he will be killed.’
Majmu’ Fatawa, volume 22, page 150
Apart from giving two reasons to kill Muslims who commit the heinous crime of disagreeing with his jurisprudential decisions in a mere five pages of his fatwas (I have omitted others for brevity), we are justified in thinking that ISIS is congruent in their use of this individual. I’m sure there is nuance and apologists such as Nadwi might have specific issues with how his work is used, but the fact remains that promoting such views under the guise of ‘tackling’ ISIS is a bit like smacking your children to teach them that violence isn’t the answer.
It is also interesting to consider why an anti-rationalist puritanical Hanbali such as Ibn Taymiyya is being rehabilitated for public consumption by both Islamophobes, legitimate orientalists and of course Salafi Muslims and their affiliates in the first place, having been largely ignored for several centuries. What modern day concern of Muslims can be solved by referring to this controversial scholar is never made clear, but personalities from Hamza Yusuf through to gifted apologist Shabir Ally through to Western academics are fond of quoting from him and using him as an authority. Presumably they think that Muslims need more literalism and intolerance and that Islamophobes (who also adore him for different reasons) are lacking in ammunition and should perhaps be given a helping hand by frequently quoting a scholar who popularised both female circumcision and the Satanic Verses incident.
In a more general and subjective vein, it is questionable whether it is constructive for Muslim students to be exposed to teachings of Nadwi such as the following:
‘Imam Ahmad refused to debate the head of the Mu’tazzila of the time. He said ‘I will not debate him, I do not see him in any of the classes of the Muhaditheen’
Imam Ahmad refused to debate someone because the person taught himself, and so it was not even worth the time to debate. Now people teach themselves and make the silliest mistakes and call themselves Muhaddith’ 
At first pass this seems like the kind of gentle warning against the dangers of learning without a teacher often found in Muslim circles, for example by scholars such as GF Haddad or Tim Winter (as if a teacher cannot misguide just as badly if not worse than a text or book – but that’s another story). In fact it is once again an occult legitimisation of an essentialist and sectarian stance. First of all, is Nadwi saying (using Imam Ahmad as a mouthpiece) that we should only debate with people who are from our own sect and even went to the same classes as us? In essence this means ‘We should only debate with people who already agree with us’. One wonders if he has proffered this advice to his friends in IERA, who are keen to debate not only self-taught people but non-Muslim ones at that.
The naked veneration of Imams, no matter how strange or unacceptable the things they say, is in full effect here, as is the unthinking condemnation of the enemies of puritanical Hanbalism. It is absurd to think that the head of the Mu’tazzalite theologians was ‘self-taught’. Rather, he was taught but by people that Imam Ahmad did not like, which is an entirely different matter. Again, Muslims are free to believe and teach naked argument from authority and anti-rationalism, as long as their audience is suitably informed that this is not the only orientation within Islam and its proponents are likewise honest to their non-Muslim friends: One wonders if Nadwi would similarly lionise a Christian or an atheist who told (say, his students in IERA) that he does not wish to dialogue or debate with them as they did not ‘study from his teachers’ and in any case, he has a ‘no platform’ policy to people who are not atheist.
Indeed, UK Muslims have very easily fallen into a strange narrative: on the one hand apparently eschewing sectarianism under the banner of a ‘mainstream Islam’ that is on the other so militantly sectarian that it ‘solves’ the problem of sectarianism with a ‘no platform’ approach (practically and ideologically) to anyone other than Salafis, thereby strangling all dissent and diversity while paradoxically decrying those who highlight this as ‘sectarians’. It is somewhat akin to killing all the Catholics in Holland and then being credited with being ‘inclusive’ or having solved the problem of Christian sectarianism.
Likewise, the contradictory and partisan foreign policy of the US and UK is used to adopt a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ approach towards Saudi Arabia and other donor nations. It is abundantly clear, especially according to organisations such as Human Rights Watch, which Muslims often hypocritically use to highlight their own very real plight, while conveniently ignoring the same charities’ and others criticism of countries such as Saudi, Qatar and (in the case of Sh’ii extremists) Iran. The fact that funding and scholarship for Muslim organisations or ‘leaders’ such as IERA and Haddad comes from countries such as Saudi is thought of as being of no consequence. Indeed, many organisations such as ‘Al Maghrib’ proudly display that their instructors and teachers have trained in the state sanctioned (the words they use on their website are ‘illustrious Islamic University of Madinah’) and funded University of Medina, set up by the aforementioned rather unhinged Abdul Aziz Bin Baz and whose current rector is appointed by the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs. This presumably leads to greater demand for their courses (despite the fact that it’s ‘degrees’ are not recognised in most British universities), which is somewhat akin to Western educated people being persuaded to study democratic values because the instructor had trained in North Korea.
Further to this, the Muslim response to Saudi crimes and human rights violations from domestic affairs to international interventions such as in Bahrain or Yemen  is merely to reflexly point out Western interventions. Which is interpreted by most non-Muslims for what it is: tacit consent and a ‘morality’ which only applied to the ‘other’.
But my point is more fundamental: none of this should surprise us. If Muslim scholars, leaders and laity have adopted an unthinking and uncritical attitude to narrations such as the above and even more gratuitously, are willing to anathematise anyone who dares to think otherwise, it is little wonder that they will be willing to tolerate grievous transgressions on and in the name of their religion. Even some of the vanguards of traditional Islam are tripping over themselves to show how ‘authentic’ they are by criticising people who show the slightest hint of ‘rationalism’, for example the stalwart critic of Wahhabism, GF Haddad had the harshest words for Khaled Abou El Fadl for the slightest infraction but narrations such as the above are allowed to pass unchecked.
Similarly, the erudite and courageous critic of ‘false Salafism’ Tim Winter, had to quickly assert his Islamic credentials as ‘the kind of conservative who values the hadith, so quintessentially Muslim, that insists that ‘every umma has a particular quality, and the quality of my umma is modesty…’ when he was lambasted recently for appearing in the ‘Happy Muslims’ music video. I have no doubt that he is sincere when he says that he was not aware of the nature of the video, but the fact that a scholar of his standing and following was unable to confidently assert what he knows only too well, that music is a contested issue and that the evidence in favour of its permissibility is very strong, shows how poorly he is doing in his own fight against Salafism: he can only engage them on certain narrowly defined issues in defence of traditional Islam and Sufism. Whereas Imam Al Ghazzali and his brother, despite being under constant threat of a murderous Hanbali mob, were able to write three whole books on the intricacies of music and its permissibility, and Muhammad Al Ghazzali was able to assert the same in heavily Salafi Egypt a few years ago, Tim Winter was unable to state a single word in post ‘Prevent’ UK lest he be banished from the mainstream of Muslim thought forever.
As my inquisitive colleague knew very well, the veneration of Imams extends well beyond Twelver (or other) Shi’ism: Sunnis have not just twelve but hundreds of untouchable Imams, coupled with wildly inaccurate ideas of ‘taqleed’ or blind following. One of my students proudly asserted to me, in front of a classroom of largely non-Muslim onlookers, that ‘Islam is a religion of imitation not intellect’. I believe that he actually thought that the horrified audience considered him a heroic rebel. Before I could respond, one of the other students asked him, quite pertinently; ‘what if you were a Nazi then? Should you just imitate and not think for yourself?’ Needless to say, the young pseudo-radical promptly accused the questioner of ‘Islamophobia’ for comparing Islam to Nazism. It was entirely lost on him that it was in fact he who had made Islam tantamount to Fascism with his incredibly misguided ‘explanation’ and that the poor student had merely pointed this out. But a victim complex serves to alleviate the most embarrassing of missteps, at least in one’s own mind.
Blind imitation of certain authorities, and even then only in certain matters, may well have served a useful function in strong Muslim states where scholars, their endowments and training were regulated (not necessarily by the governments, see for example the history of ‘Wakf’ in Islam), but in today’s far more literate society (most Muslims completely ignore that in the time of many of their favourite Imams, hardly anyone could read), where every person has access to more information at the tips of their fingers than Imam Razi (himself assassinated by puritanical Hanbalis known as the ‘Hashawiyyah’) had in his lifetime, as well as far more disposable time, it is a dangerous anachronism. This does not mean we stray from or disregard traditional Islam, but it does mean that when Salafists and others on one hand try to exclude certain authorities (usually the ones who are more rational and inclusive) and insist on the other on an ever expanding list of ‘untouchable’ idols from their own cadres, Muslims have to be sceptical and empowered.
When encountering Bukhari or Ahmad, Barbaharis’ (or even Al Ghazzali’s depending on the orientation of their idolisation) problematic narrations, Muslims are frozen: having been suitably groomed to think that rejecting Bukhari’s narration is ‘heresy’, they have a binary choice: make a ridiculous explanation for it, thereby leaving the dangerous seed of doubt forever in their own and others’ minds, or accept it, thereby putting themselves on the road to what is colloquially known as ‘radicalisation’ or extremism.
However, there is a third option which protects both the faith and morality of the listener as well as the image and relevance of Islam: namely that Imam Bukhari has erred by transmitting this narration. Those who accepted it, despite their hallowed status, have also erred. The reason is all too clear – the convoluted justifications made for it are reminiscent of the dreadful moral vacuum one encounters in the apologia of Neo-Cons for the dead in their misguided expeditions. Scholars today, such as Al Qaradawi, have rejected the narrations mentioned and refused to act on them, quoted other hadith which contradict them, but the fact remains that none of this explains why these narrations were narrated in the first place and worse still why some scholars took them into law. The real answer is the obvious one: they erred. Badly. If non-Muslims take this narration of no retaliation for killing non-Muslims at face value and act in kind, we face anarchy beyond the wildest dreams of the most fevered political thinkers. We must be ready not just to give sophistic answers but to state the obvious and tell the truth.
Efforts to redress the balance have been about as effective as the A’shari synthesis – despite the major difficulties involved, it is insisted by many Islamic groups extant today that the ideas of Ahl al Hadith and other related orientations are of continued importance. Shi’a rightly point to the near absence of serious criticism by Sunni authorities such as Al-Azhar and Deoband of Wahhabi orientations. In the case of Deoband, their half-hearted attempt to defend the traditional practices of Islam, in publications such as ‘Towards Understanding Taqleed’, actually claim that Saudi Islam is congruent with Sunnism while contradictorily criticising Ahl Al Hadith (this is unsurprising as until recently, Deoband was a major recipient of Saudi funding). In fact, it is somewhat fair to say, as the Brelwi critics of Deoband do, that a consistent follower of this effort to synthesise the Ashari/Maturidi creeds with what is known as the Athari or literalistic, anthropomorphic and anti-rationalist strand of Islam should by rights be a Wahhabi in any case. And indeed, Deoband is now losing many of its graduates to Wahhabi movements, for whom they become valuable recruiters and apologists (for example the case of IERA co-opting Nadwi and Zahir Mahmood from the Deobandi movement in the UK, in preference to their Brelwi rivals).
The continued attempt to ‘reduce sectarianism’ by bending over backwards to include the Ahl Al Hadith or puritanical Hanbali orientation is even more myopic given the current social and intellectual trajectory of Western civilization, which Muslims have yet to fully understand is only negligibly affected by their output (which tragically is too minuscule to even be significant in and of itself – a UN Development Project report laments that all Arabic speaking countries combined produced less literary and intellectual activity than the bottom ranked European nation, Spain. Although 5% of the world’s population, Arabs accounted for around 1% of the world’s book production).
Religion in general has suffered a serious reverse which its adherents are only now beginning to appreciate. It has almost entirely given over its space in the mass media and education as well as cultural life in the West. Into this aggressively irreligious and even misotheistic climate, Muslims are seeking to import a literalist and anti-rational Hanbalism that even in the pre-modern Islamic world was in danger of extinction due to the harshness and impracticality of its jurisprudence and theology – until it was suitably resuscitated by Saudi money and British arms, much to the chagrin of TE Lawrence
Individuals such as Haddad know very well that they are reaping the fruits of this effort to normalise the Hanbali orientation amongst Muslims – no wonder they claim that when they are attacked in the media for insisting on female circumcision etc, that they are being harangued for holding mainstream Islamic views. Strangely, no one is attacked in the admittedly biased Western media for holding Sufi or rationalist views or for saying that the headscarf but not the face veil is needed, but this too plays into the hands of the Haddads’ of the world, who argue that it is a sign of their authenticity that the hard to maintain and unappealing ideas are only given a reality in their own practice. Groups such as Brelwis, Deobandis and many others, including many of the puritanical Sufis and Shi’ia, have in fact done the groundwork by accepting the ‘Ahl Al Hadith’ and their narrations and fatwas wholesale, while grafting some Maturidi and Ashari theology onto their crass anti-rational and anthropomorphist views to mitigate the worst affronts that could lead to theological collapse. It is no coincidence that most of the post-Maturidi Imams reserve their worst bile and accusations of heresy for the Mu’tazzalites, the erstwhile enemies of the Ahl Al Hadith. A decision was made to ‘include’ the Ahl al Hadith despite their frequent incongruence with the rest of the Islamic Creeds (for example the A’shari and Maturidi) and to take those parts from the rationalist Mu’tazzalites and Hanafis that were needed to stand Islams’ theological ground against the Philosophers and Christians but to anathematize the movement in general. The modern reincarnation of this effort is to try and make it look like the wholly inconsistent theology, conception of God, Jurisprudence and approach to hadith exhibited by the Wahhabi movement is in fact compatible with traditional Islam. Having brought back a number of dangerous and extreme fatwas and puritanical creeds from the dustbin of religious history, these Muslim groups are now surprised when the youth follow through on these fatwas and narrations.
It is of little comfort that the telling of Islamic intellectual history by the ‘Orientalists’, despite their well-documented and oft lamented prejudices, is in fact far more rooted in reality than the completely ‘Disneyfied’ version presented to most Muslims by their own groups, including those undergoing education at seminaries in the UK and around the Muslim world. That many of these seminaries are either funded by or cannot risk openly criticising Saudi, Qatar and other Wahhabi states is a contributing factor. Even a born Muslim will receive a better grounding by reading the work of someone like W. Montgomery Watt or Thomas W. Arnold than from nearly any of the Muslim accounts.
This brings us back to the issue of venerated Imams: such blind veneration is very dangerous in this day and age (if it was ever wholesome) but the issue is deeper still: many Muslims on hearing this will resort to their favourite excuse, namely using the behaviour of non-Muslims to explain their own. So what if there are bizarre or even genocidal statements in the books of Imam X? What of it if he was writing under pressure from the Hanbali mobs or Ismaili assassins or government censure? Is it not true that religious thinkers such as Augustine, Calvin, Martin Luther and even Secular ones such as Rousseau and Mill, along with many others expressed scandalous, intolerant and even violent ideas? Why are we picking on Muslims? At the outset this case is fallacious: Muslims treat their ‘imams’ differently to Christians and it is hard to find a Christian today who would be offended at aspersions cast on either Augustine or Aquinas in the Catholic case or Luther and Calvin in the Protestant one. Ditto with humanists and Rousseau or Socialists and Communists and Marx or Trotsky. At the risk of offending my Christian brothers, I would go further and say that those who do find the coercive ideas expressed by some of their theologians acceptable are just as dangerous as Muslims who accept the hadiths and ideas mentioned above. Likewise, I would argue that in the case of the Christian and even secular thinkers, they could cite textual or philosophic evidence for their ideas, including the violent ones, whereas the Quran has nothing of the violence we find in the Old Testament, Revelations or the statements and actions of the Jacobins.
The veneration of certain schools of thought and certain scholars in spite of their disturbing ideas also raises another serious problems in apologetics; the intellectual gymnastics involved in sparing the reputation of these individuals or hadith while trying to make it look like Islam is a religion that can be followed by every culture and society (i.e it does not have a completely idiosyncratic definition of concepts like ‘justice’, ‘mercy’, ‘compassion’ and ‘equality’ which in fact allows it to spare Muslim murderers punishment). This is no small ask, as any debate between the intellectually aggressive (but incompetent) Salafi movements in the UK such as IERA and their opponents shows. I would hazard that the failure to square the intellectual circle contributes in no small part to doubts and apostasies amongst Muslims. Frankly, instead of just saying what everyone including the Muslims are thinking, namely that ‘Imam X is wrong’ or that ‘hadith X is a fake even though Muhaditheen graded it as Sahih’, we witness the most outlandish verbal and apologetic flourishes. Muslim onlookers are frequently left emotionally satisfied but intellectually crippled. Secularists and atheists meanwhile see this charade and smell blood in the water.
In fact, having been suitably conditioned by Wahhabi Islam and those influenced by it as well as the Salafi movements which are largely themselves a reaction to modernity and post or neo colonialism as opposed to genuine expressions of Islamicity, most Western Muslims baulk at what they see as a compromise by giving an inch to the criticisms of non-Muslims. They have completely failed to notice that many of the issues critiqued by both Islamophobes and the genuinely confused are idiosyncratic positions of Wahhabis and before them Ahl Al Hadith and the puritanical strand of Hanbalism. These include most of the well-known loci of apologetics from the young age of the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, Aisha, at marriage to the stoning of adulterers through to salvific exclusivity, as any glance at the numerous Islamophobic websites will reveal.
I recall the American scholar Jonathan AC Brown (who one might have expected to know better despite his Salafi leanings) insisting at a public talk in England that no-one ‘ever’ questioned or disagreed as to the age of Aisha at marriage until recently, implying or saying that this was due to Western ideological pressure rather than a genuine scholarly disagreement about her age. Had he a sufficiently diverse exposure to the Islamic tradition as opposed to an over exposure to one particular orientation within it, he would have appreciated that what he was saying was in fact tantamount to ‘no one has ever disagreed with Ahl Al Hadith and their partisans on this topic’. This however is total nonsense – apart from the glaring fact that the narrations found in most of the canonical collections stating Aisha was nine at the time of her marriage to the Prophet Muhammad do not even mention that any intercourse took place, there is the issue of the opinions of scholars such as Abu Hanifa and many others over a century before these narrations were even canonised insisting that marriage must take place at maturity and that maturity was at the age of nineteen for women (or older). If people such as Brown, who is blissfully unaware of the diversity of opinions on this topic, do come across such narratives, they immediately re-frame them in Ahl al Hadith terms – Abu Hanifa was an incompetent scholar who did not know the narration and that is why he held this opinion contrary to the party of hadith.
That is, of course one way of looking at it. There are others (such as that the narration was unknown during the earlier period of the development of Islamic jurisprudence and creed) but the first has become entirely normalised.
I recall advising one perverse apologist who was making a terrible show of defending the marriage of nine year olds, telling him that there is no reason to take a single chain narration from Bukhari into belief and it may well be that she was just not nine. He then displayed his ignorance of the sciences of hadith, in addition to those of rhetoric, by insisting that the narration was in ‘all of the collections’. ‘Yes’, I explained (though it isn’t), but it has the same chain, yet the text varies, so this is rather a weakness as opposed to an endorsement. He would not, of course, budge and made his argument (if it could be called that) that nine year old girls can indeed give consent for marriage and mature faster in warm climates (neither of which is true). As can be imagined, some of the Muslim audience felt he did a good job. Everyone else was appalled. He later confessed that he in fact thought at The Prophet would not marry a nine year old. I asked why then did he defend that position. ‘Because we don’t give and inch to the kufaar’. Or miss a penny from Saudi, he could have added.
It is a mark of how entrenched and sectarian the thinking of Muslims, even educated ones such as Brown, has become towards puritanical Salafism. It is surprising that an American academic would state the historic lack of questioning of child marriage as a proof of its authenticity in the first place. It could just as well be that since in the past such things were common for a variety of reasons, people accepted the opinion of the Muhaditheen and Puritans on this issue uncritically as it accorded with the norm, rather than that of the Hanafis. Likewise, todays’ ‘new normal’ does not favour the Salafi approach. The job of the academic is not to find proofs for what he already believes or wants to be true (for that, enter politics) but rather to look at textual and historical/anthropological evidence to establish a ‘best guess’ at what that truth should be. But Brown, like most Muslims, is preaching to the converted. Nor is the non-Muslim audiences’ being troubled by the young age of Aisha or the penalty for adultery in Islam being worse than that for child murder a proof of how right we are and how wrong they are. Rather, it is proof of the normalisation of an idiosyncratic version of Islam that cares not for how it is perceived by the ‘other’. Yet absurdly, these same people continue to claim that Islam is a ‘universal religion’. However, when non-Muslims challenge Islamic morality, instead of seeing if the challenge might not be exposing flaws in Muslims’ own understanding of our religion, we take pride in arguing positions that are bizarre to outsiders and even us if we are not suitably groomed to turn off our moral and intellectual faculties, in contradistinction to the demands of the Quran.
Another clear example is that of the stoning of adulterers. This was denied by many senior Islamic scholars and many Islamic sects in both Sunni and Shi’ite Islam (none of whom certain Hanbalis, Deobandis, Wahhabis or Iranian Ayatollahs like of course), but due to the normalisation and ascendency of puritanical Hanbalism, of which both Wahhabism and ISIS are merely offshoots (and quite natural ones at that), merely denying that stoning is a legitimate punishment for adultery brings instant accusations of heresy, modernism and even disbelief. The issue is not in fact even whether adultery mandates stoning or not but rather that curiously, all the ‘case closed’ issues in modern apologetics – stoning, the age of Aisha, the killing of apostates, gender segregation etc correspond precicely to the fault lines between Ahl Al Hadith and their enemies (in particular the Hanafites, Malikis and Mu’tazzila). Combined with the lack of even academic criticism by Sunni authorities of Wahhabism (and the harsh conditions endured buy those such as Muhammad Al Ghazzali and Khaled Abou El Fadl who did), it is very hard to see this as a coincidence.
Rather, I would posit that the necessity to be inclusive of Salafist orientations and the desire for funding as well as the fact that most Muslims are ‘pre-treated’ to accept puritanism and literalism regardless of its congruity or homology with traditional Islam by groups such as Deobandis, mandates that a whole set of issues that in the past had a diverse juristic exposition (such as ‘Rajm’, the stoning of adulterers), are today reduced to stereotyped responses to keep Muslims and Wahhabis happy. The effect on Islam’s public image is ignored or bandaged over by reports of how Islam is spreading and is the fastest growing religion (except it isn’t).
And what of the effect on the inquisitive mind when he or she asks why the punishment for deliberately killing, say, a random child is beheading, with the possibility of reprieve if the relatives were to choose to forgive (and this is recommended) but for the obviously less serious crime of adultery it is stoning, (with small stones to maximise pain and there is no option of reprieve, from the cuckolded husband for instance). Harping on about how it is only once the evidentiary standards are fulfilled, four witnesses are needed and the punishment was rarely applied (which in the Wahhabi case is not true – in both the instances of Abd Al Wahhabs’ original movement and it’s modern ISIS offshoot, one of their first acts was to stone a woman, as appalled Meccan onlookers noted contemporaneously) is of absolutely no use. The fact remains that whether we look at punitive or preventative models of correction, according to these people at least, Islam mandates a harsher punishment for illicit sex than for murder. On top of this, the Q’uran neglects to mention such important things.
The inquisitive mind is left with two options: shut off said intelligence, critical thinking and follow along blindly (in which case why follow a different religion to the one, or none, that you are born into?) or two, leave the mainstream of Islam or apostate. Option three, which is that it is entirely possible to be a ‘proper’ Muslim while not accepting this punishment nor the narrations or fatwas that it is based on, as the earliest Muslims indeed did not, is never made available to him. Because ‘mainstream Islam’ is available in any colour. As long as it’s Salafi.
My point of course is not that Salafi Islam should in some way be banned or restricted. Indeed, as the example of the earlier puritanical and literalist Hanbali orientations shows, it has proved impossible to do so and Sunni Imams such as the Hanafis, Asharis, Imam Maturidi, Razi etc all had to compromise with it, albeit under the threat of violence. Rather, it is that Salafi Islam is a particular puritanical and minority methodology within puritanical Hanbalism itself and this should be made abundantly clear so that people can choose for themselves between it and say, Sufism or A’sharism rather than simply mainstreaming it. It is also the case that Salafi Islam by and large would like to ban and restrict all the other forms – as the case of Saudi, Qatar and their institutionalisation of Wahhabism at home (at both the primary school, madrassa, mosque and Hajj pilgrimage level) shows. Wahhabism is explicitly the state religion of these countries with Wahhabi scholars and cadres having a monopoly (and even running religious police forces and deciding capital punishments for adultery etc according to Wahhabi fatwas to the exclusion of all other juristic inclinations) and when in turn they promote it abroad, Muslims see any attempt to point this out as ‘Islamophobic’ and against ‘mainstream Islam’. Wahhabis like Haddad look on with glee as the treatment they meat out to other ‘deviant sects’ in systems under their control is generously spared them by a gullible and ignorant Muslim laity. Of course, this is not helped by Islam bashers who indeed often do just mean ‘Islam’ when they say ‘Wahhabi Islam’, thereby doing significant damage and again allowing Salafis and Saudi to play the misrepresented victim. However, the fact remains that Saudi is domestically and in terms of its global reach explicitly intolerant of Sufism, Brelwism and other mainstream Islamic ideas. Those who seek to defend it and accuse others of demonising it must explain Saudi and Wahhabis Islam’s own hostility and sectarianism. Yet this does not happen: Wahhabism and puritanical Hanbalism is well tolerated abroad while its competitors are censored or even killed at home.
The situation is made all the worse by talented and articulate British Muslim journalists and interlocutors such as Yvonne Ridley, Asghar Bukhari and Lauren Booth. Blinded by Western Foreign policy missteps (and IERA speaking engagements), they are completely unable to see the trees for the woods so to speak: frequently getting into bed with Salafists such as Haddad and even ‘reformed’ Talibanists such as Moazzam Begg. These individuals are obviously inspiringly well versed in current affairs but almost completely ignorant in theology (and indeed history).
They also are simply too theologically naïve to appreciate that even if Western Foreign policy was completely remedied in favour of Muslims, Britain apologised for the Iraq and other wars and even wholesale converted to Islam, it still wouldn’t do anything about the narration of Bukhari we encountered above:
“A Muslim is not to be killed for a Kafir (unbeliever).” (Reported by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari and An-Nasa’i)
For this and others like it, that even in the most benign foreign policies will continue to provide fuel for extremism when combined with Salafi approaches to the hadith and sharia, Ridley, Bukhari and Co. have no answer. The irony – that they actually resemble those Western apologists who can only blame Islam and Muslims while never accepting the role of economic inequality (usually engendered by their own systems) and their own foreign policies in fostering violence – is completely lost on them.
Fortunately, my colleagues’ work with the Islamic sources had led him to the correct conclusion: that he needs to divorce the ideas of Islam and most (but not all) Muslims from the mis-steps of Salafism and fallible Imams.
Now my colleague instead asked another telling question, namely, ‘Fine they are human and they made mistakes. But then how is it that people who make such big, life and death mistakes, can become the ‘Imams’ of the Muslims?’. But that is a story for another time.
 Quran 5:45
 ‘Sahih Al Bukhari’ Hadith 3017, Saudi Edition
 ‘UK Imams Call on ‘Immediate and Unconditional’ Release of Alan Henning From Hands of Isis’ Natasha Culzac ‘The Independent’ 20th September 2014
 See his own book ‘Sharh As Sunnah’ or in English Joel L. Kraemer, ‘Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: The Cultural Revival During the Buyid Age’, pg. 60 onwards
 See for example Nadwis constant referencing of Ahl Hadith authorities such as the above mentioned in his compendium of ‘Hanafi’ fiqh ‘Al Fiqh Al Islami’
 See for example: ‘Extremism Fear Over Islamic Studies Donations’, The Telegraph, Ben Leach, 13th April 2008. Interestingly, the 20 million pounds that the Oxford Centre For Islamic Studies received presumably went in part towards hiring Akram Nadwi, not doing wonders for his impartiality. Also:
 Who inspires the Syrian foreign fighters? Joseph A. Carter, Shiraz Maher and Peter R. Neumann Kings College International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence
22nd April 2014. See also http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/ICSR-Report-Greenbirds-Measuring-Importance-and-Infleunce-in-Syrian-Foreign-Fighter-Networks.pdf. All of the named scholars have links to the Wahhabi school of Saudi Arabia.
 ‘Foreign fighter total in Syria/Iraq now exceeds 20,000; surpasses Afghanistan conflict in the 1980s’, Peter R. Neumann, Kings College Report ICSR report, 26th January 2015
 The Tayyibun Institute has taken down this biography of Haddad: ‘Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad was born in Saudi Arabia and studied under Shaykh Ibn Baz and Shaykh Ibn Jibreen. He attained a BSc in Law & Islamic Law…’which is still available in the Google search of their site however. Numerous other wildly popular institutes in the UK such as ‘Al Maghrib’ and ‘Al Kawthar’ boast of their instructors qualifications from Medina University.
 See generally ‘The Meccan Rebellion: The Story of Juhayman Al-Utaybi Revisited’ by Thomas Hegghammer and Stephane Lecroix or ‘The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest Shrine’ by Yaroslav Trofimov or Timothy J. Winter ‘Commentary on the Eleventh Contentions’, Catechism to Cataclysm. From Winters’ elegant account: ‘The new Ikhwan, comprising many former students of Bin Baz, burst onto the world stage in 1979 when three hundred of them forcibly took over al-Masjid al-Haram, the ‘Inviolable Mosque’, taking thousands of worshippers hostage. Under their leader Juhayman al-‘Utaybi, they proclaimed his disciple, the Salafi student Muhammad al-Qahtani, to be the long awaited Mahdi. Days later the Saudi army stormed the mosque, and the leaders were tried and execute’
 For Abd al-Wahhabs’ opinion on burning Muslims he disagrees with (which is most of them), as per a distortion of a report attributed to Abu Bakr (RA), see: Abd al-Wahhab, “al-Risalah al-Ula,” in Majmu‘at al-Tawhid, 36, 70– 72; ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “Kashf al-Shubuhat: al-Risalah al-Thalitha,” in Majmu‘at al-Tawhid, 117–18; ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “Bayan al-Najah wa al-Fakak: al-Risalah al-Thaniya ‘Ashra”, in Majmu‘at al-Tawhid, 403–9.
For an (extensive) list of acts which could mean that you will be in receipt of this punishment see:
Abd al-Wahhab, “Bayan al-Najah wa al-Fakakmin Muwalat al-Murtaddin wa Ahl al-Shirk: al-Risalah al-Thaniya ‘Ashra” (collected by Hamad b. ‘Atiq al-Najdi), in Majmu‘at al-Tawhid, 413–16. One can also consult his son’s account:‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “Bayan al-Mahajja: al-Risalah al-Thalitha ‘Ashra,”
The interested reader can investigate these for him/herself and also the defences of the man found online and in Natana de Long Bas’ book on Wahhabi Islam, which portrays him sympathetically (but does not explain his fatwas, equivocations or the massacres by his adherents).
Historian David Commins writes:
‘Is it any wonder that Muslims detested Sheikh Muhammad [Abd al-Wahhab] and his followers when they justified executing Muslim prisoners of war? At one time a Muslim had written to him asking for an explanation of his attacks.In his reply, Sheikh Muhammad declared that it was proper to fight any idolater, which in this instance apparently referred to someone who did not accept his definition of monotheism, for he wrote that if someone received correct instruction but rejected it, then he was to be fought. Since early Islamic history, Muslims have differed on the essential point of what constitutes correct belief, but at most times, such differences did not result in military conflict or the adoption of coercive measures as in an inquisition. The Muslim consensus had been weakest along the divide between Sunnis and Shiites, but among Sunnis themselves, violent conflict over doctrinal matters was a rarity and it was unquestionably the Sheikh’s castigation of Sunnis as idolaters that fostered a legacy of hostility that would endure…’
The same point is made in a strangely different way by the Wahhabi scholar Muhammad Ibn Al Uthaymeen in his book ‘The Attributes of Allah’ where he gives the justification for not making takfir on non-Wahhabis (in terms of creed) as that they are like those who deny the omnipotence of Allah, but inconsistently yet still they are not disbelievers
 For example, Haddad provides the scholarship for IERA, extremely well known on UK campuses and even heads up as a ‘judge’ for the UK (and Ireland it seems) ‘Sharia Council’.
 See A J Wensinck ‘Muslim Creed’ page 83 onwards or better a Muslim account by Mustafa Ceric in ‘The Roots of Synthetic Theology’ (under ‘Mu’tazilites) or more generally (and especially page 58) ‘Islamic Philosophy and Theology; An Extended Survey’ by W. Montgomery Watt, Edinburgh University Press. Also Joel L. Kraemer, ‘Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: The Cultural Revival During the Buyid Age’, pg. 60 onwards and most shockingly, ref 18 below.
 “A believer is not to be killed for a disbeliever or for a person enjoying protection under a covenant [a dhimmi].” (Reported by Ahmad, An-Nasa’i and Abu Dawood). Ibn Taymiyya endorses this opinion, amongst other places in his exceedingly lengthy ‘Majmoo Fatawa’ (Vol. 20, p. 282): “Nothing in the law of Muhammad states that the blood of the disbeliever is equal to the blood of Muslims because faith is necessary for equality. The people of the Covenant (Jews or Christians) do not believe in Muhammad and Islam, thus their blood and the Muslim’s blood cannot be equal. These are distinctive texts which indicate that a Muslim is not to be put to death for one of the people of the covenant or an unbeliever, but a free Muslim must be killed for a free Muslim, regardless of the race” (Vol. 14, p. 85).
 For an examination that spares Ibn Taymiyya the rod but is erudite and provides useful references, see Professor Jon Hoovers’ article here: http://theconversation.com/how-to-read-the-medieval-scholar-the-islamic-state-used-to-justify-al-kasasbeh-murder-37293
 “Ahkam al-Qur’an” page 284, “If a believer murders an unbeliever, he has to pay blood money which is one-third of that of the believer…’ Imam Malik says it must be half. Ibn Tamiyya agrees with Malik’s opinion (‘Fatawa’ Vol. 20, p. 385)
 Imam al-Lalika’i in Sharh Usul I’tiqad of Ahl Sunnah states this in the chapter of “Believing in the attributes of God”.
 The same persecution is confirmed by orientalists such as Joel L. Kraemer, ‘Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: The Cultural Revival During the Buyid Age’, pg. 60 onwards or Franz Rosenthals’ wonderful introduction to ‘The History of Al Tabari’ Volume 1, SUNY press, page 76 onwards. Jonathan AC Brown in his recent ‘Misquoting Muhammad’, like most partisan authors, was at pains to stress the persecution of the Hanbalis in the much better known period of ‘the Minha’ but failed to mention the generalised massacre and state sponsored persecution of Mu’tazilites that followed it. It seems that the imprisonment of his preferred party (Imam Ahmad) was of more importance than a generalised massacre of his opponents. For an objective view on Imam Ahmad’s imprisonment, consider ‘Islamic Philosophy and Theology; An Extended Survey’, W.M Watt
Page 58; ‘Hanbal says that the utterance of the Quran is uncreated’. If Watt is to be believed, then it was Brown (and Imam Ahmad) who were in the wrong as Sunni Muslims today believe that the Quran as the speech of God is uncreated buy the Quran as written or read out load is obviously created (see also the anathematisation of Imam Bukhari on this issue by the Hanbalis)
 Quran, Surah Al-An’am (6:159)
 Ira M. Lapidus, Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History, pg. 192. Cambridge University Press
 Abd al-Wahhab, ‘al-Risalah al-Ula,’ Majmu‘at al-Tawhid, 36, 70– 72; ‘Abd al-Wahhab, ‘Kashf al-Shubuhat: al-Risalah al-Thalitha,’ in Majmu‘at al-Tawhid, 117–18; ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “Bayan al-Najah wa al-Fakak: al-Risalah al-Thaniya ‘Ashra”, in Majmu‘at al-Tawhid, 403–9.
Ibn Taymiyya, ‘Majmoo Fatwa’, Volume 22. Page 143 onwards
 See in general Patrick Cockburns’ masterful ‘The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution’
 ‘Iraq crisis: Sunni caliphate has been bankrolled by Saudi Arabia; Bush and Blair said Iraq was a war on Islamic fascism. They lost’ Robert Fisk ‘The Independent’ 12 June 2014
 ‘War with Isis: If Saudi Arabia isn’t fuelling the militant inferno, who is’? Robert Fisk, Belfast Telegraph, 4th February 2015
 ‘Rise of the Islamic State’ – ‘Saudi Arabia tries to pull back’
See also John Pilgers’ insightful comments on the web for example here: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37306.htm
 ‘From Pol Pot To ISIS: Anything that flies on everything that moves’ John Pilger 9th October 2014 https://newmatilda.com/2014/10/09/pol-pot-isis-anything-flies-everything-moves#sthash.3LEefV6J.dpuf
 ‘Another of the region’s supreme ironies is that Hamas, supposedly the ‘super-terrorists’ of Gaza, have abandoned Damascus and now support the Gulf Arabs’ desire to crush Assad.’ ‘’Iran to send 4,000 troops to aid President Assad forces in Syria’’, Robert Fisk, 16th June 2013
 ‘In any case, he died as a Muslim and it is an established part of our Islamic creed that every Muslim, unlike the disbelievers, will eventually enter paradise. According to a number of scholars, the Muslim killed by the enemies of Islam is considered a martyr, regardless of whether he died during combat or simply in a state of non-combative military engagement such as being killed whilst sleeping. Other scholars limit the title of martyr only to those Muslims who are killed during active combat. Whatever the case may be, all scholars have agreed that mistakes made by a Muslim fighter in combat do not deprive him of his rights, whether it be the right of regarding him a martyr or any other Islamic right’. http://www.islam21c.com/politics/2644-advice-to-muslims-on-the-death-of-osama-bin-ladin/
 Sample quotes he admits to: ‘The purpose of the jizya is to make the Jew and the Christian know that they are inferior and subjugated to Islam, OK?
Even by some statement that you can make. For example, slandering and attacking the Muslims unjustly, such as you find many Muslims have done this about the Taliban. Slandering them and attacking them and reviling them based upon news that has come from the disbelieving media, helping the kuffar against the Muslims.
You know guys, I’ll tell you something right? I’ll probably, someone at least is probably going to want to assassinate me after what I’m going to say here but you know, I don’t really get very sad when, you know, a non-believer dies
…if you find the Jew or a Christian walking down the street, push them to the side. It is well-known from what Umar ibn al-Khattab and the khulafa ar rashidin used to implement, that the Jew and Christian was not allowed to ride on a horse when the Muslim is riding on a horse. They would have to walk”
More NSFW comments here: https://asharisassemble.com/2014/04/18/10-problems-with-dawahmen/
 ‘Munaqib’ 307/ 414
 Ibn Taymiyya ‘Al Fatwa Kubra’ under ‘women’. Unsurprisingly, this is not found in all the prints available, presumably due to how embarrassing it is for Salafis.
 Cf 16
 See for example the senior Brotherhood scholar Qaradawi’s praise of Ibn Taymiyya as a ‘sea without a shore’ as well as Taqiuddin An Nabbhani, the founder of ‘Hizb Ut Tahrir’ and many other Salafi founders from Rashid Rida to Abduh’s approval of him, as well as that of the founders of the subcontinental Ahl Al Hadith inspired movements such as Deobandism under Shah Wali Allah, who wrote a full hagiography of him and his grand student Sayyid Ahmed Khan’s adulation of him too.
 ‘Ibn Taymiyya and his Times (Studies in Islamic Philosophy)’ Yossef Rapoport (Editor), Shahab Ahmed (Editor), in particular the ‘Introduction’. For an account of some of Ibn Taymiyya’s beliefs which are toxic to mainstream Islam, such as his uncritical acceptance of the ‘Satanic Verses’ incident, see Shahabs’ ‘Ibn Taymiyya and the Satanic Verses’.
 See this rather gynaecological article: https://asharisassemble.com/2014/01/24/the-truth-about-islam-and-female-circumcisionfgm/
 Cf 39
 This was posted on ‘Facebook’, screen captured and attributed to Nadwi causing widespread embarrassment to Muslims on the Net. It must be emphasized that the referencing of Facebook is a minefield, one that Nadwi has seemingly not in fact successfully navigated, for example by removing the remark.
 For yet another account of the fundamental and often violent differences between the Hanbalis and the Mu’tazzila, see ‘Defenders of Reason In Islam’ Richard C. Martin, Mark Woodward, Dwi S. Atmaja as well as the aforementioned ‘Roots of Synthetic Theology’ by Ceric and other refs from main text.
 ‘Human Rights Watch, World Report’, under Saudi Arabia. Or Qatar. Or basically any other Middle Eastern Nation, obviously including Israel.
 ‘Why Islam Doesn’t Need a Reformation’ Mehdi Hasan, ‘The Guardian’, 17th May 2015
 Despite the medias’ strange aversion to covering uprisings in allied nations such as Saudi, and Saudi and other intervention in Bahrain, journalistic articles abound in the ‘alternative’ media: http://rt.com/in-motion/246785-yemen-airstrike-bahrain-protest/ A good op-ed piece by Noam Chomsky can be found here: http://artvoice.com/issues/v10n18/news_feature
 ‘Yemen crisis: What will Saudi Arabia do when – not if – things go wrong in their war with the Shia Houthi rebels?’ Robert Fisk, ‘The Independent’ 2nd April 2015
 ‘Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf’s fire World View: Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis’ Patrick Cockburn, ‘The Independent’ 29th March 2015
 http://www.livingislam.org/o/ftnw_e.html. GF Haddad embarrasses himself by displaying the same brand of militant anti-rationalism as his purported Wahhabi enemies (as is somewhat inherent in Shafi A’sharism – see Ceric’s ‘Roots of Synthetic Theology’ generally on this for a Maturidi view of the reciprocal compromises between Puritanical Hanbalism and its As’hari equivalent). Having to accept some of the noxious narrations we encountered above, this is unsurprising). Telling of the extent to which essentialist anathematisation has penetrated the Muslim community, following this issue on the Net, we see El Fadl is on many young Muslim students list of ‘scholars to avoid’, since the best way to expand one’s mind and refute ones opponents is to apparently simply avoid them. One assumes they would welcome Nadwis’ previous quote. The problem with this approach will soon be seen when Muslims try to find a list of non-Muslim ideas and media to ‘avoid’ as opposed to engage and deconstruct or reconcile.
 ‘The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in A World Civilization’, Hodgson, Marshall GS (Volume 1 Page 386-9). Interestingly, neither of the Ghazzali brothers’ books on music have yet been translated into English, showing how much of an economically dependent and ideologically biased process even academic publishing can be.
 ‘The Sunnah of The Prophet’ By Muhammad Al Ghazzali, Dar Al Taqwa edition Page 54 onwards
 Ibid, in general but especially page 135 onwards. For Al Qaradawis apologetics on Bukharis’ narration, see here:http://www.onislam.net/english/ask-the-scholar/crimes-and-penalties/retaliation-qisas/175024-killing-a-muslim-for-a-non-muslim.html, which is an example of exactly the kind of intellectual gymnastics Ghazzali is decrying. Interestingly, Qaradawi neglected to support his friend and fellow Ikwaani Ghazzali during his lifetime against puritanical Salafis in Egypt (See Khaled Abou El Fadl ‘Reasoning With God’ under his discussion of Muhammad Al Ghazzalis’ persecution and death).
 ‘Towards Understanding Taqleed’ Part 1 By Shaykh Mufti Afzal Hoosen Elias, Zam Zam Publishers, in particular page 30 onwards where there is a ‘dialogue’ with the Ahl Al Hadith.
 ‘The Jihad Factory: Pakistan’s Islamic Revolution in the Making, Sushant Sareen, pg. 282. New Delhi: Har Anand Publications, 2005. For accounts of the links between Deoband and the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, see generally the sympathetic account ‘My Life With The Taliban’ by the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan at the time of 9/11 Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef. For a shocking account of Osama Bin Laden addressing a crowd of up to 500,000 at Deoband, see ‘Messages to the World, The Statements of Osama Bin Laden’ Edited By Bruce Lawrence, page 95 (chapter 8).
 ‘The Arab Human Development Report: Building a Knowledge Society’ New York, United Nations Publications, Pages 3-6, 55 & 67, For example, Muslims countries and especially Arab countries ranked in the bottom of the Third World in scientific and intellectual accomplishments. Although 5% of the world’s population, Arabs accounted for about 1% of the world’s book production.
 ‘Arabia of the Wahhabis’ by H. St John Philby. Philby was instrumental in gaining at first British and then American (after the discovery of oil) support for the House of Saud. The essential account is ‘Kingmakers’ by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac, which also contains a marvellous rendering of TE Lawrence’s frustrations at the British support of Wahhabi Islam. A brief account is found here also: http://www.mei.edu/content/saudi-wahhabi-islam-service-uncle-sam
 Ibn Abi Ya’la, Tabaqat, 2:45 f; Ibn ‘Adi, ai-Kamil, 2:677, an example of Puritanical Hanbalis insisting that God has ‘the form of a beardless young man with curly hair’.
 See again Ceric’s ‘Roots of Synthetic Theology’ or Watt’s ‘Islamic Theology and Philosophy’. It must be understood that at the times of publication of both of these works, especially the latter, The Maturidis more conciliatory approach to Mu’tazzalism had not been adequately studied due to the dearth of manuscript evidence (and the now discarded assumption that the Maturidis were merely the ‘As’haris of the East’).
 Cf note 7
 IERA’S withdrawal of its ‘research’ paper on ‘Embryology in the Quran’ (signed off by Haddad and according to some, Nadwi as well), under atheist internet bloggers’ fire is an illustrative example. Despite the assurance several years ago that it would be ‘improved’ and re-issued, this has failed to happen, much to then continued delight of militant atheists. Of note is that the paper is still being widely distributed amongst Muslim groups and its author, Hamza Tzortzis is still receiving great credit as an internet search will reveal, despite his own admission of gross failures. An embarrassing account can be seen here: https://asharisassemble.com/2013/10/20/muslim-scientists-and-scholars-not-impressed-with-ieras-new-approach-to-quran-science/
 Of course, Brown and others will immediately go running to the practitioners of Hanafisms’ own Ahl Al Hadith tradition (such as Ibn Abideen) to ‘counter’ this but the strand of traditional of Hanfism that asserts this is unmistakable and of great providence. See Abu Bakr al-Razi al-Jassas, “Al-Fuŝūl fi Al-Uŝūl”, Volume 2. The problem may well be that Brown does not like Imam Jassas, but perhaps it is better to let people decide for themselves whose case they favour.
 Ibid. Also, see Hanafi scholars such as Abu Yusufs’ concession, under considerable duress to the position Brown states was uncontested. See also Tabaris’ tacit refusal to acknowledge the age of nine for Aisha.
 Also stated by Abu Hanifa – namely that the age of maturity and hence consent is socially and environmentally determined and at the time and place of A’isha was eighteen or nineteen years (as explained by Abu Bakr Al Jassas above).
 For example, see the clear denials and proofs presented in the works of Imam Samarkandi, Khuduri Beg, Abu Zahra (once again Hanafite authorities and frequently anathematized by puritanical Salafis and Hanbalis). The usual response to this from puritanical and Salafist orientations (when they have discharged the necessary ad hominems) is to bombard the laity with narrations and hadith supporting the stoning of adulterers, usually making it appear as if these are in fact the verbatim accounts of the Companions and The Prophet. It does not occur to them that the very reason that the aforementioned do not concede the legitimacy of stoning is that they do not accept these narrations as reliable, despite being aware of them. The similarities with the case of the age of A’isha controversy are telling.
 Cf 14 & 18
 Shiites decry this, for example ‘Wahhabism: A Critical Essay’ Hamid Alghar
 It is reported that the Wahhabis had the unusual distinction of being the first to stone a woman to death for over a thousand years in Arabia: see for example ‘Tarikh Najd wa Mulhaqatih’, Amin al Raihani page 39 or ‘Tajdid Kashf al-Irtiyab’ p58-60 and 90-111 by Muhsin al Amin.
 ‘Isis throws ‘gay’ men off tower, stones woman accused of adultery and crucifies 17 young men in ‘retaliatory’ wave of executions’ Adam Withnall, ‘The Guardian’, 18th January 2015. Of course, there is video and social media evidence of the perpetrators taking ‘kudos’.
 ‘Freedom and Modernity In Islam’ Richard A Khudri, page 247 onwards, ‘Al Ghazzali and the Asharis’, Richard M Frank, Duke University Press, pages 5,41 (and generally).
Cf 14 & 18