If Islam is peaceful, why are so many of its leaders brutal and brutalized?
I was reading along in an al Arabiya story about the Grand Mufti of Kyrgyzstan’s sex tape – what? You haven’t heard that the Grand Mufti of Kyrgyzstan is embroiled in a sex tape scandal? Indeed he is, and now Rakhmatulla-Hajji Egemberdiev has resigned, even though he maintains his innocence – because, you see, his youthful enamorata on the tape was no lady, she was his wife.
Egemberdiev’s puritanical detractors, however, pointed out that however lawfully married he may have been to the fetching starlet, he was already married to someone else – and no matter how legal and even encouraged polygamy may be in Islam, it is still illegal in Kyrgyzstan. And so, despite maintaining that his “dignity has been hurt” by the leak of the video, Egemberdiev is laying down his crescent-topped staff and becoming, says al Arabiya, “the sixth Kygryz [sic] mufti to be replaced in four years.”
That’s quite a turnover, and al Arabiya helpfully explains that it is because “recent grand muftis, who are elected to five-year terms, have resigned early amid corruption scandals and been kidnapped and beaten.”
Now wait a minute. As everyone knows, Islam is a Religion of Peace – only venomous, bigoted, racist, hate-filled purveyors of “Islamophobia” dare even entertain the possibility that it could be anything else. So one would expect Grand Muftis, the highest religious authorities in Sunni Muslim countries, to be, as a rule, sober, upright, godly, and peaceful. Of course, human weakness being what it is, there will always be the occasional corruption scandal, and the Muftis couldn’t necessarily help being kidnapped and beaten: that is the sort of thing that has happened to many holy people over the ages.
Still, six muftis in four years, embroiled in corruption scandals, kidnappings, and beatings, suggests a climate of violence beyond the ordinary, particularly when it comes to leaders of a notable Religion of Peace. It is striking also how reminiscent this climate of violence is to that of the times of the first four leaders of the Islamic community after the death of Muhammad. Although these four are (like their prophet himself) shrouded in legend, they are revered among Sunnis as the four Rightly Guided (Rashidun) Caliphs, whose domains were a kind of earthly utopia, a time when Islam was practiced properly, Sharia was fully implemented, and justice therefore reigned supreme.
Islamic tradition has it that Abu Bakr was the first of these. During his two brief years as Muhammad’s successor, he brutally subdued a large-scale uprising from Arab tribes that saw their chance with Muhammad’s death to throw off Islam: the Wars of Apostasy. Soon afterward, Abu Bakr, despite being one of Muhammad’s closest and most trusted companions, was poisoned and died. (To be sure, some Islamic traditions hold that Abu Bakr wasn’t really poisoned, but succumbed to a chill brought on by cold weather. However, as it was August in Arabia when he died, this is unlikely in the extreme.)
His successor was another one of Muhammad’s close confidantes, Umar ibn al-Khattab, who reigned for ten years before he was murdered by a Persian soldier, Pirouz Nahavandi, after the Muslims had conquered Persia. Umar's successor, Uthman ibn Affan, was also assassinated, as was the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, Ali ibn Abi Talib – both by Muslims who opposed their rule.
Thus we have the extraordinary prospect (straight out of Islamic tradition, since the historicity of all this is dubious at best) that the four (or three out of the four) earliest and most revered rulers of the Religion of Peace, all of whom are supposed to have known their prophet personally and drunk in his wisdom, met violent ends. One might be forgiven for suspecting that something within Islam might be creating a culture of violence that led to the violent deaths of some of its most iconic figures – just as nowadays in Kyrgyzstan, there just might be something about Islam that has led to the kidnappings and beatings, to say nothing of the corruption scandals, surrounding so many of the recent Grand Muftis.
What could be responsible for this culture of violence? Could it be a holy book containing passages like these?
2:191-193: “And slay them wherever you come upon them…”
4:34: “Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for Allah’s guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them.”
4:89: “They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of Allah; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.”
5:33: “This is the recompense of those who fight against Allah and His Messenger, and hasten about the earth, to do corruption there: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off…”
5:38: “And the thief, male and female: cut off the hands of both, as a recompense for what they have earned, and a punishment exemplary from Allah; Allah is All-mighty, All-wise.”
8:12: “When thy Lord was revealing to the angels, I am with you; so confirm the believers. I shall cast into the unbelievers hearts terror; so smite above the necks, and smite every finger of them!”
8:60: “Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to terrify thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them that you know not; Allah knows them. And whatsoever you expend in the way of Allah shall be repaid you in full; you will not be wronged.”
9:5: “Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way; Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.”
9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden -- such men as practice not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book -- until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled.”
9:111: “Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of Allah; they kill, and are killed; that is a promise binding upon Allah in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Koran; and who fulfills his covenant truer than Allah? So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him; that is the mighty triumph.”
9:123: “O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you; and let them find in you a harshness; and know that Allah is with the godfearing.”
47:4: “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then, when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds; then set them free, either by grace or ransom, till the war lays down its loads.”
“Tie fast their bonds” and then set them free or ransom them – could that be where the Grand Muftis and/or their opponents got the idea that a kidnapping might be in order?
Naaah. Passages like those couldn’t have anything to do with any violence among Muslims. Why are so many Muslim leaders, past and present, brutal and brutalized, from the Wars of Apostasy to the torture meted out to Gaddafi by an enraged Libyan mob? It remains a mystery. Just remember: it’s a Religion of Peace, no matter the evidence of your senses, you bigoted Islamophobe.
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