Last week, a representative of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) gave a prayer before the Arizona State Senate.
No news media picked it up. No one reported on it. It was a commonplace thing. CAIR, after all, is a “civil rights” organization; why should anyone be concerned if a CAIR leader prays in a U.S. government body? CAIR has been linked by the Justice Department to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, but no one seems to mind. What could go wrong?
And so this is the situation: in America today, representatives of a group linked to an international organization dedicated to “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within” (the Muslim Brotherhood’s stated goal in the U.S., according to a captured internal document) are consulted daily by law enforcement officials and the mainstream media, and one is invited into the august chambers of government to give his blessings on the proceedings. While there, he leads the lawmakers in a prayer that obliquely condemns their own religious traditions.
Meanwhile, those who are trying to defend the nation against their subversive influence, are demonized, defamed, marginalized and shunned. Again, what could go wrong?
The website of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Arizona chapter announced proudly that “on Thursday, February 7th, 2013 – the Arizona State Senate’s prayer invocation was led by Anas Hlayhel – the Chairman of the Arizona Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ.)
Hlayhel, who also serves as the part time imam of the Islamic Center of the Northeast Valley led the lawmakers and all those in attendance through the reading of al-Fatiha (the opening chapter of the Holy Quran) in addition to an additional prayer thereafter.”
He “led the lawmakers and all those in attendance through the reading of al-Fatiha.” So what did they read? The Fatiha, the first sura of the Qur’an, contains this: “Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful, nor of those who are astray.” (1:6-7)
It sounds straightforward enough: guide us to the truth, guide us onto the path to God, don’t let us get on the wrong paths, that lead us away from You. A simple expression of piety, that any religious person could endorse, no? No. The traditional Islamic understanding of this is that the “straight path” is Islam – cf. Islamic apologist John Esposito’s book Islam: The Straight Path. It is also traditionally understood in Islamic explanations of this passage that the path of those who have earned Allah’s anger are the Jews, and those who have gone astray are the Christians.
The classic Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that “the two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.”
Ibn Kathir’s understanding of this passage is not a lone “extremist” interpretation. In fact, most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray. This is the view of Tabari, Zamakhshari, the Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the Tanwir al-Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Arabi, as well as Ibn Kathir. One contrasting, but not majority view, is that of Nisaburi, who says that “those who have incurred Allah’s wrath are the people of negligence, and those who have gone astray are the people of immoderation.”
Saudi Wahhabis drew criticism a few years back for adding “such as the Jews” and “such as the Christians” into parenthetical glosses on this passage in Qur’ans printed in Saudi Arabia. Some Western commentators imagined that the Saudis originated this interpretation, and indeed the whole idea of Qur’anic hostility toward Jews and Christians. They found it inconceivable that Muslims all over the world would learn as a matter of course that the central prayer of their faith anathematizes Jews and Christians.
But unfortunately, this interpretation is venerable and mainstream in Islamic theology. The printing of the interpretation in parenthetical glosses into a translation would be unlikely to affect Muslim attitudes, since the Arabic text is always and everywhere normative in any case, and since so many mainstream commentaries contain the idea that the Jews and Christians are being criticized here. Seventeen times a day, by the pious.
And in the Arizona State Senate, with the willing participation of the foolish kuffar who had no idea that they were asking God to be led away from the Judeo-Christian foundations upon which American society was based. However, given the fact that they invited an official of Hamas-linked CAIR to address them in the first place, they are not likely to be too concerned about that.
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