Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Challenges ISIS
On September 12, 2014, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, a prominent American Muslim scholar, gave a Friday sermon on ISIS. People are clearly interested in what Shaykh Hamza has to say regarding ISIS; the sermon has been viewed on YouTube more than 190,000 times, with more than 1,100 positive and negative comments, in the past month.
Shaykh Hamza made several interesting points in his sermon.
1. Shaykh Hamza said that ISIS is satanic.
ISIS has taken the position that it is an Islamic group seeking to establish an Islamic state governed by Islamic law.
Shaykh Hamza said, “These people have nothing to do with Islam;” “They’re khawarij;” “These are Ahlul Iblis;” and “These people are shayateen.”
Shaykh Hamza said that the Prophet (pbuh) warned his companions that groups like ISIS would arise in the future. Shaykh Hamza said that the Prophet (pbuh) warned his companions about people who would quote the Qur’an and the Hadith but lead people to hell; one sign of such people would be that they would adopt names relating to places (i.e. Al-Baghdadi) rather than names relating to tribes; another sign of such people would be that they would have long hair.
Regarding the black flags flown by ISIS, Shaykh Hamza said the Prophet (pbuh) warned, “If you see the black flags … it begins with a fitna … and the midst of it is delusion, misguidance, error … and it ends with atheism.”
2. Shaykh Hamza said it is wrong for American Muslims to join ISIS.
The media have reported that about 100 American Muslims have joined ISIS. A few other American Muslims have been arrested by the U.S. government on their way to join ISIS.
Shaykh Hamza said, “Now we are in a time of great confusion. There’s confusion. We have people in this country going overseas. It’s hard to believe, but there’s people going to join up, to join the khilafa. We have people in England going to join the khilafa. People from Muslim countries now going. … This is madness. Complete insanity.”
Shaykh Hamza said that some young American Muslims had joined ISIS in response to the suffering of Muslims in various places, and in response to a lack of concern in the West about Muslim suffering. “We have some young people that think somehow this has anything to do with Islam. You need to educate these young people. Young people filled with zeal. They want to do something. And they’re fed up with seeing Palestinians massacred, Muslims massacred. Nobody cares. They don’t care here. They talk about the Christians in Iraq. What about all the Muslims? Far more Muslims have suffered at the hands of these people than Christians. They don’t talk about the Muslims. We don’t mean anything. And that’s the other half of the equation. They see that there’s no mercy in the hearts of these people, so they feel compelled to show no mercy, but that’s not our religion. … Our Prophet (saw) did not … repel a wrong with another wrong.”
3. Shaykh Hamza said Muslims should not desire to fight.
ISIS has taken the position that Muslims from around the world should join ISIS to help fight for the establishment of an Islamic state governed by Islamic law.
Shaykh Hamza said that God gave Muslims permission to fight to oppose religious persecution. But, Shaykh Hamza said, “Fighting is not something desirable. The Prophet (saw) said… ‘Don’t desire to meet the enemy.’ Don’t desire that. This is a sickness in the heart. People that desire to go, it’s a sickness in the heart.” Shaykh Hamza said, “What do you do during fitna? You do what the Prophet (saw) said. When the fitna comes, you stay in your house. … You don’t go out.”
Question: Shaykh Hamza makes a broad point regarding fighting. Putting aside the issue of fighting for ISIS, and addressing the issue of fighting generally, didn’t God and the Prophet (pbuh) criticize Muslims who were reluctant to go out and fight in God’s cause (however that may be defined)?
4. Shaykh Hamza said that a caliphate is unnecessary.
ISIS has declared the establishment of a caliphate, an Islamic state governed by Islamic law. The leader of ISIS has adopted the name “Abu Bakr,” which was the name of the first khalifa after the death of the Prophet (pbuh).
Shaykh Hamza said that the Prophet (pbuh) “didn’t say you have to establish the khilafa.”
Shaykh Hamza said that God gave Muslims permission to fight in order to oppose religious persecution, but not to gain power. He said that someone once asked Abdullah ibn Umar, son of Khalifah Umar ibn Khattab, to explain the command in the Qur’an to “Fight them until there is no fitna.” Abdullah ibn Omar explained that this was a command to fight until there was no religious persecution; Abdullah ibn Omar said that this command was not a reference to fighting for political power or dominion.
Question: Putting aside the issue of ISIS, didn’t the Prophet (pbuh) establish an “Islamic state”? And didn’t the Prophet’s companions establish a khilafa after the Prophet’s death? Isn’t that supposed to be a model for Muslims?
5. Shaykh Hamza criticized ISIS’ killing of Shias.
ISIS has taken the position that Shias must be killed because they are apostates from Islam.
Shaykh Hamza said, “The Shia are Muslims. They’re not kuffar. They’re Muslims. Just because he’s a Shia doesn’t give anybody a right to kill him or do anything.”
6. Shaykh Hamza criticized ISIS’ mistreatment of Christians.
ISIS has taken the position that Christians are second-class citizens under Islamic law.
Shaykh Hamza said, “The muwahid [monotheists] have rights. People have rights. These people have rights. These Syrian Christians … all these people have rights. They are muwahidun. They’re supposed to be protected.”
Shaykh Hamza said, “The Christians, this is a testimony to the beauty of our religion that the Christian church of Syria and Iraq for centuries lived with their churches inviolable. They could worship God in their churches, and they weren’t afraid of the Muslims. And now they’re running, they’re fleeing.”
Question: What rights do Christians have under Islamic law? And, on a related note, what rights do the Yazidis have under Islamic law? ISIS has taken the position that Yazidis are idol-worshippers, whose men may be killed, and whose women may be enslaved.
7. Shaykh Hamza criticized ISIS’ use of crucifixion.
ISIS has taken the position that crucifixion is a legitimate punishment, under Islamic law, for those who wage war against God.
Shaykh Hamza said, “We’ve got crucifixion, because these idiots read the Qur’an, and they say ‘well there it is right there in the Qur’an. Crucify people.’” He said ISIS members have not studied Islam enough to understand the Qur’an’s references to crucifixion.
Question: What is the proper Qur’anic understanding of the use of crucifixion?
8. Shaykh Hamza criticized ISIS’ beheadings of journalists.
ISIS has said that it beheaded two American journalists in retaliation for American airstrikes against ISIS. ISIS has taken the position that retaliation is permissible under Islamic law.
Shaykh Hamza said, “Now chopping off heads of people that go there to actually inform people about the atrocities that are taking place, this is how you treat prisoners?” In contrast, he said, “The Prophet (saw) took care of his prisoners.” Shaykh Hamza said the Prophet criticized Khalid ibn Waleed for killing prisoners of war.
Question: The Prophet (pbuh) permitted the execution of certain prisoners. When is killing prisoners acceptable under Islamic law, and when is it forbidden?
9. Shaykh Hamza said the U.S. government’s actions had led to the current situation in Iraq, but that ISIS had to be condemned for its actions.
ISIS has filled a power vacuum created by the 2003 American invasion of Iraq and the 2011 American withdrawal from Iraq.
Shaykh Hamza said, “I’m not exonerating these neo-conservatives that opened this door. Alright. I’m not exonerating what this country did to the Iraqi people. Alright. Who opened the door of fitna? I’m not exonerating them. … But I’m dealing with what we’ve got right now.”
10. Shaykh Hamza warned that American Muslims are at risk because of increased anti-Muslim hostility resulting from the actions of ISIS, and resulting from the war between America and ISIS.
Shaykh Hamza said, “We’re going to have to deal with this here, because it’s all started up again. … Do not think that you can be comfortable in your home, because we’re in a very precarious situation … Thank God we’ve got some social order here. If social order breaks down, people get fed up.” He encouraged Muslims to support Muslim advocacy groups.
Kamran Memon is the founder of Muslims For A Safe America, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Chicago. Muslims For A Safe America(www.muslimsforasafeamerica.org) encourages honest and informed discussion about how to make Muslims and America safer. Kamran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.