More than 120 Muslim leaders and scholars have co-signed an open letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, arguing the Islamic State caliphate’s establishment and practices are not legitimate in Islam. The letter includes a technical point-by-point criticism of ISIS’ actions and ideology based on the Quran and classical religious texts. From Religion News Service:
Even translated into English, the letter will still sound alien to most Americans, said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, who released it in Washington with 10 other American Muslim religious and civil rights leaders.
“The letter is written in Arabic. It is using heavy classical religious texts and classical religious scholars that ISIS has used to mobilize young people to join its forces,” said Awad, using one of the acronyms for the group. “This letter is not meant for a liberal audience.”
The 18-page letter’s thorough catalogue of the transgressions of ISIS “relies completely upon the statements and actions of followers of the ‘Islamic State’ as they themselves have promulgated in social media—or upon Muslim eyewitness accounts—and not upon other media,” it says, a move meant to forestall criticism that ISIS has been misrepresented by Westerners. From the English translation of the letter:
The word ‘jihad’ is an Islamic term that cannot be applied to armed conflict against any other Muslim; this much is a firmly established principle…Moreover, there are two kinds of jihad in Islam: the greater jihad, which is the jihad (struggle) against one’s ego; and the lesser jihad, the jihad (struggle) against the enemy.
In truth, it is clear that you and your fighters are fearless and are ready to sacrifice in your intent for jihad. No truthful person following events—friend or foe—can deny this. However, jihad without legitimate cause, legitimate goals, legitimate purpose, legitimate methodology and legitimate intention is not jihad at all, but rather, warmongering and criminality.
The letter is not the first instance of ISIS being denounced by Islamic scholars. The 21 senior clerics of Saudi Arabia labeled terrorism a “heinous crime” in a recent fatwa, or legal ruling, and the country has been increasingly vocal in its opposition to ISIS. The influential Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, a native of Mauritania who teaches in Saudi Arabia, issued a fatwa of his own condemning the establishment of a caliphate by force. Bin Bayyah’s words—“We must declare war on war so the outcome will be peace upon peace”—were cited by President Obama in his speech on Wednesday to the United Nations General Assembly.