On Sunday in Toronto, anti-Israel demonstrators screamed “Allahu akbar” in exultation when they heard about a rocket attack against the Jewish state. Raheel Raza, a prominent moderate Muslim in Canada, took to the National Post Tuesday to denounce the demonstration in a passionately written article entitled “As a practising Muslim, I find Al-Quds Day abhorrent.” It’s just great that Raheel Raza, as a practicing Muslim, finds Al-Quds Day abhorrent. I wish that more practicing Muslims did so as well. Unfortunately, her article contains a number of inaccuracies and misleading statements, not what we need to counter the jihadis’ appeal.
Raza noted that at the rally, “participants could be heard shouting ‘God is great‘ after it was announced that Israel had been hit by two rockets.” But actually, the participants in the anti-Israel rally in downtown Toronto were not shouting “God is great.” They were shouting “Allahu akbar,” which does not mean “God is great.” It means “Allah is greater,” that is, greater than your god or anything else that one may regard as an authority or power. It is, in other words, a declaration of Islamic supremacy that the translation “God is great” entirely glosses over. If we are going to understand the jihadi mindset and motives, this is not an insignificant point of accuracy in translation.
For it was the same Islamic beliefs upon which jihadis make their appeal to peaceful Muslims on which Raza based her case. She argues that “conflict is prohibited during the month of Ramadan, as it is a time when hate, revenge, anger and rage are to be subdued. Thus, orchestrating an event that is nothing but a hate fest is totally against the essence of Ramadan.”
Unfortunately, however, “conflict” is not actually “prohibited” during Ramadan. On the contrary. During Ramadan, an observant Muslim strives to conform his or her life to the will of Allah. And what is the will of Allah? A hadith has a Muslim asking Muhammad: “Instruct me as to such a deed as equals Jihad (in reward).” Muhammad replied, “I do not find such a deed.” (Bukhari 4.52.44). If jihad is the deed that brings the greatest reward, it is a perfect deed for Ramadan, in which Muslims strive to please Allah and do things that will bring them his rewards.
That is why so many Muslims say that Ramadan is the month of jihad. Palestinian Authority Supreme Sharia Judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash stated just two weeks ago: “Ramadan is not a month of laziness but rather a month of activity, of effort, and of hard work, and as it also was in the life of the Prophet, a month of jihad, conquest, and victory.” A jihad group in Bulgaria that called itself Qaedat al-Jihad and may have been affiliated with international al-Qaeda declared in 2012: “Ramadan is a month of holy war and death for Allah. It is a month for fighting the enemies of Allah and God’s messenger, the Jews and their American facilitators.” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in 2017: “Our fight is Jihad and an obligatory worship. And every obligatory act of worship has 70 times more reward in Ramadan.” And a Pakistani Muslim cleric, Maulana Bashir Ahmad Khaki, stated in 2018: “Ramadan is the pious month of ‘Jihad-o-Qital’ (Jihad and killing). Those who attain martyrdom while waging Jihad, doors of heaven remain open.”
Raheel Raza might dismiss all these as jihadis who are twisting and hijacking her peaceful Islam, and that’s fine by me. The more Muslims she manages to convince of that, if she convinces any at all, the better. But the reason why she likely has trouble convincing Muslims that “conflict” is forbidden during Ramadan is because these four sources are not ignorant of Islam and what it teaches. Habbash is a Sharia judge. Khaki is a maulana, a scholar of Islam. They didn’t draw their views about Ramadan out of thin air. They drew them from Islamic sources such as the hadith I quoted. And other Muslims do as well, which is one reason why there has been not just the abhorrent Al-Quds Day rally this Ramadan, but also 138 jihad attacks with 782 people killed.
Raza goes on in her article to reject the authority of “the ayatollahs and mullahs” and claims that “there is no official clergy in Islam” but then clouds the point she is trying to make by adding: “Muslims believe in a direct connection with the Almighty, without the need for an intercessor.” That’s true, but it really doesn’t establish whether or not there are religious authorities in Islam, even if they aren’t considered intercessors between Allah and human beings (neither are Christian priests, which she apparently doesn’t know, but that’s beside the point). Generally in Sunni Islam, the ulama of various countries are recognized and respected authorities whose understandings of various issues take precedence over the understanding of the individual believer. In Shi’ite Islam, the ayatollahs, to whom Raza refers directly here, have even greater authority. The word “ayatollah” itself means “sign of Allah,” which is the same designation given to verses of the Qur’an, and the ayatollahs are considered to be superior in Islamic learning; their opinions are not to be taken lightly or idly dismissed.
And finally, it must be noted that jihadis do not consider their acts of jihad to be manifestations of “hate” or “revenge” or “anger.” They are, rather, acts of piety and devotion to Allah, performed in the hope of reward from Allah. So when Raza says that there is to be no hate or revenger or anger during Ramadan, that may be true, but to a jihadi, or a participant in Al-Quds Day, that wouldn’t negate screaming “Allahu akbar” to the announcement of an attack on the Jews, whom the Qur’an designates as the worst enemies of the Muslims (5:82).
In light of all this, while Raheel Raza’s piece no doubt reassures those who are not well-versed in these issues, her arguments would do nothing to deter a jihadi or change the mind of a participant in Al-Quds Day. And that’s what is really needed.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 23 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.