The Muslim Response to ISIS: Setting the Record Straight

The Muslim Response to ISIS: Setting the Record Straight


SHAFAQNA – (Delivered at The House of Islamic Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, USA, on Sunday, May 1st, 2016)A‘udhu billahi min al-Shaytan al-rajim. Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim. Alhamdulillahi rabb al-‘alamin. Wa salatu wa salam ‘ala  ashraf al-mursalin, Muhammad al-Amin, sayyidina wa habibina wa nabiyyina, wa ‘ala alihi, al-ṭayyibin wa al-ṭahirin, ila yawm al-din.

I take refuge in Allah from Satan, the Rejected. In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. May peace and blessings be upon the best of the messengers of Allah, Muhammad, the Truthful and Trustworthy, our beloved lord and prophet, and upon his family, the good, the pure, until the Day of Judgment.  

I send you greetings of peace: al-salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh. May the peace and blessings of God be upon you.

Morrow Islamic House of Wisdom 6 (1)President Obama asserts that, in the war on ISIS, “Our most important partners are American Muslims.” But with no proof provided, his opponents can easily dismiss his claims. Rather than rectify misconceptions about U.S. Muslims, his lack of data reinforces it. In the absence of evidence, the President merely appears to be making excuses for Muslims, leading some to suspect his motives.

A search of mainstream media sources in the USA indicates an appalling apathy among Muslims as regards terrorism. But is this the reality? While it may be news to most Americans, Muslims have been at the forefront of an intellectual and spiritual war against ISIS, extremism, and terrorism, domestically and on a global scale.

How many people have heard of ISNA’s Muslim Code of Honor? Signed in September, 2007, it denounces extremism and violence, calls for Islamic unity between all believers, and prohibits takfir or excommunication.

How many people have heard of A Common Word Between Us and You. This open letter, which was jointly composed by Muslim and Christian leaders, was released in October of 2007. It calls for peace between both major world religions and encourages them to work for common ground. A Common Word has been critical in fostering interfaith dialogue.

How many people have heard of Shoulder to Shoulder? Since 2010, the Islamic Society of North America has joined with 27 national faith-based interfaith organizations to address anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.

How many people have heard of the Fatwa against Terrorism and Suicide Bombing? It was issued by Dr. Muhammad Tahir al-Qadri in 2010. It states that “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it.”

How many people have heard of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World? This book, which I published in 2013, consists of a study of the treaties that the Messenger of Allah made with the People of the Book. It features long-forgotten documents, some of which I rediscovered in ancient monasteries and archives and which I translated from Arabic into English

The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad prove that he was committed to creating an inclusive, pluralistic, community of believers. The Prophet explicitly stated that Muslims are required to protect religious sites and institutions. As the Messenger of Allah commands in his covenants: “A bishop shall not be removed from his bishopric, nor a monk from his monastery, nor a hermit from his tower, nor shall a pilgrim be hindered from his pilgrimage.”

The covenants date from the second year of the establishment of the Muslim Community in Medina to the final years of his life, demonstrating that they represented permanent policy. The documents state that they are binding upon Muslims until the End of Times and some include a stern warning. “If anyone oppresses the People of the Book, I will testify against him on the Day of Judgment.”

How many people have heard of the Covenants Initiative? Inspired by The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, Charles Upton, known also as Sidi Akram, created the Covenants Initiative, an international movement committed to protecting persecuted Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

The Covenants Initiative, which calls upon Muslims to renew their oath to the Prophet Muhammad and abide by the treaties that he concluded with the People of the Book, has been signed by several hundred leading Sunni, Shii, and Sufi scholars, academics, and activists.

How many people have heard of Bin Bayyah’s fatwa? In September of 2014, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, one of the most influential scholars in Sunni Islam, passed a lengthy fatwa condemning ISIS.

How many people have heard of the Letter to Baghdadi? The Letter to Baghdadi, released in September of 2014, is a meticulously detailed refutation of ISIS. It was signed by over one hundred of Islam’s leading scholars and personally directed to the leader of the pseudo-Islamic State.

How many people have heard of the Amman Message, a statement calling for tolerance and unity in the Muslim world? Issued in November 2014, and signed by 200 Islamic scholars from over 50 countries, it provides an inclusive definition of what it means to be Muslim and denounces the practice of takfir or excommunication.

How many people have heard the statement from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation? Released in 2014, it declares that the Islamic State has “nothing to do with Islam” and has committed crimes “that cannot be tolerated.”

How many people have heard of the fatwa from al-Azhar? Issued in 2014, it states that ISIS is “a danger to Islam.”

How many people have heard of the Statement from the Arab League? Released in 2014, it denounces the “crimes against humanity” carried out by ISIS.

How many people have heard of the fatwa that was passed by Turkey’s top cleric, Mufti Mehmet Gormez? Issued in 2014, it states that ISIS is “hugely damaging” to Islam and Muslims.

How many people have heard of the condemnations made against ISIS by CAIR? Since 2014, they have repeatedly condemned ISIS as “Un-Islamic and morally repugnant.”

How many people have heard of the declaration made by the Muslim Council of Great Britain? Released in 2014, it affirms that “violence has no place in religion.”

How many people have heard of the fatwa published by the Fiqh Council of the Islamic Society of North America? Issued in 2014, and signed by 126 leading Muslim scholars, it asserts that the actions of ISIS are in no way representative of what Islam actually teaches.

How many people have heard of the Joint Sunni-Shiite Fatwa issued by 100 U.K. Imams? Released in 2014, it describes ISIS as an “illegitimate” and “vicious group.”

How many people have heard of the statement issued by the Muslim Public Affairs Council? Published in 2014, it condemns ISIS and calls upon Muslim to “stand against extremism.”

How many people have heard of Nahdlatul Ulama? It is the largest Islamic organization in the world, representing 50 million Indonesian Muslims. In 2014, the NU launched a global campaign against extremism and Wahhabism.

How many people have heard of Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqubi thoughts on ISIS? In an interview conducted in 2014, he asserted that “ISIS has no nationality. Its nationality is terror, savagery, and hatred.” Furthermore, he asserted that “Baghdadi is going to hell.”

In 2015, Shaykh al-Yaqubi published a lecture titled Refuting ISIS: A Rebuttal of its Religious and Ideological Foundations? In his booklet, he states that ISIS constitutes the most serious threat that Islam has ever faced. Consequently, he has provided a counter-narrative that elucidates the reality of Islam and its commitment to tolerance. In short, he demonstrates that the actions of ISIS are not representative of Islam.

How many people have heard of the jihad that was declared by the Muslim Youth Group in the UK? In 2015, a group of young Muslims declared an ideological holy war against extremists and terrorists who hijack Islam, asserting, in no uncertain terms, that groups like ISIS have “no link with Islam or the Muslim community.”

How many people have heard of the condemnation of ISIS that I released in November of 2015 and which was disseminated to over one million Muslims?

How many people have heard of the mass fatwa against ISIS? In December of 2015, 70,000 Muslim clerics from India signed a joint fatwa against ISIS that was subsequently endorsed by 1.5 million Muslims.

How many people have heard what Dr. Muhammad Tahir al-Qadri has to say about ISIS? In a statement he made in 2016, he stated that: “The ISIS ideology is Kufr (disbelief in Islam). It is anti-Islam; against the teachings of the prophet of Islam.”

How many people have heard of the Marrakesh Declaration? The Marrakesh Declaration was the product of a global conference that brought together hundreds of major Muslim leaders, both religious and political.

Muslims leaders from around the world, Sunnis, Shiis, and Sufis, gathered in Morocco to express their collective commitment to the cause of human, civil, religious, and minority rights in Muslim countries.

The Marrakesh Declaration reasserts the rights of non-Muslim minorities. The manifesto is rooted on the Constitution of Medina, the first political charter in the history of humanity, produced by the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, which recognized all the members of the Muslim Ummah and Monotheistic Movement of Believers as citizens, regardless of their religion.

“They are one community” said the Prophet Muhammad. “To the Jew…belongs help and equality. He shall not be wronged nor shall his enemies be aided.” As the Prophet said, “The Jews…are one community with the believers.” This suggests that the Prophet was not a proponent of syncretism.

Acutely aware of differences between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, yet understanding that unity does not require uniformity, he encouraged all parties to focus on the elements of truth shared by each tradition and to concentrate on commonality.

As he stated in the Treaty of Maqnah, a covenant he concluded with the Jews of northwestern Arabia shortly before his death: “Peace be with you… You shall be safe and you have the assurance of security from God and His Messenger. Verily, the Messenger of God has forgiven you… There shall be no oppression on you or hostility against you. The Prophet of God will protect you against whatever he protects himself.”

According to Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the National Director for the Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America, the Marrakesh Declaration was inspired by the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad and the Covenants Initiative. In fact, ISNA has officially endorsed the Covenants Initiative and adopted the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad.

While many Americans are aware that the Government of the United States has recognized ISIS as culpable of genocide, few know that Muslim activists were intimately involved at every single step that led to this decision.

As a result of the success of the Covenants Initiative, the Genocide Initiative was created in August of 2015. While the Covenants Initiative focused on interfaith community building, the Genocide Initiative had a concrete political aim, namely to accuse ISIS of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The Genocide Initiative, along with many similar efforts spearheaded by our Jewish and Christian partners, led to the passage of the Fortenberry Resolution in the House of Representatives in March of 2016. The resolution defined the actions of ISIS as genocide, a declaration that was immediately echoed by Secretary of State John Kerry.

While certain political sectors wish to present the war in Syria and Iraq as a Sunni/Shia conflict, the scholarly centers of both Sunnism and Shiism, are united in their condemnation of ISIS. Whether it is the University of al-Azhar in Egypt or the Hawzah ‘Ilmiyyah in Najaf and Qum, Sunni and Shii scholars have all repudiated ISIS.

At international, national, local, and community level, Muslims have vociferously denounced ISIS and disassociated themselves from their evil ideology and deeds. From Shaykh al-Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri’s efforts emanating from the United Arab Emirates to the creation of an anti-ISIS community guide by Daisy Khan of WISE Muslim Women, Muslims are actively involved in counter-radicalization.

Since most Americans rely on the media to obtain information to understand developments in the world, they expect, and are entitled to, comprehensive coverage and impartial analysis. Rather than provide the facts, and allow Americans to come to their own informed conclusions, they are fed a steady diet of one-sided, pre-digested, neatly packaged sound bites. This is not to infer that all the news in this country is propaganda; however, the imposition of strict editorial lines by certain news outlets has stifled freedom of expression and complete coverage of critical issues.

Enough! Americans want an independent news media with real content as opposed to gossip and sensationalism. They want the whole story as opposed to an oversimplified segment. They want coverage of important matters as opposed to celebrity “news.” They demand objectivity instead of subjectivity.

The media blackout of Muslim news and views does enormous damage, giving the false image that Muslims are silent supporters of so-called “Radical Islamists” who are, in reality, nothing but Wahhabi terrorists whose connection to Islam is as tenuous as the connection of the KKK to Christianity.

This media silence does not stem from Islam and Muslims. It stems from corporate and political interests, the direct result of profit-seeking having supplanted information-seeking and sharing.

Islam may or may not be our cup of tea. However, we have the right to hear Muslim voices and concerns without an endless parade of ideologically-motivated spin.

There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today, only 100,000 pseudo-Islamic terrorists. Islam is not at war with the West. On the contrary, ISIS is at war with Islam. Suppressing reports of Muslim opposition to ISIS aids the recruitment efforts of ISIS, playing into the hands of sworn enemies of the United States. It is nothing less than unpatriotic malingering in time of war. If we are to reclaim this great nation, we must reclaim our national media, and an important step in doing so is by reporting Muslim opposition to ISIS.

Imam Elahi and I recently returned from a trip to Washington, DC. Imam Elahi is one of the most active Muslim scholars in the field of interfaith work. We participated in a press conference at the National Press Building on the 14th of April. Every single major Sunni, Shiite, Christian, and Jewish leader was present. I spoke of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World and the Covenants Initiative. The ISNA Fiqh Council reissued their fatwa against ISIS. This edict was endorsed, not only by Muslim scholars, but also by Christian and Jewish leaders. Catholic cardinals, Jewish rabbis, and Greek orthodox priests all stood united, as believers and brothers, against ISIS. The room was jam-packed with interfaith leaders.

Who showed up? Only two media outlets. C-SPAN. Who on earth watches C-SPAN? And some US-funded Arabic-language Iraqi television station. Where was CNN? Where was Fox? Where was MSNBC? Where was the BBC? Where was Russia Today? Where was al-Jazeera? Where was al-Arabiyya? And where was Press TV? Nowhere to be found. Why? Because it is in the interest of the corporate elite; it is in the interest of the globalists; it is in the interest of the one-percenters to convey the image that Muslims are passive supporters of extremists and terrorists. It is a conspiracy of silence: a media blackout of Muslim opposition to ISIS.

God gave you a voice. Use it in the path of God. This is the real meaning of ‘amr bi al-ma‘ruf wa nahy an al-munkar namely, promoting good and forbidding evil. If God gave you money, use it in the path of God. Have you heard Ted Cruz? Have you heard Donald Trump? Muslims are paying a terrible price for their inability to influence culture, media, political discourse and policies.

Read The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World and spread the word. Sign the Covenants Initiative and the Genocide Initiative. If you are a scholar of Islam, sign A Common Word, The Amman Declaration, The Letter to Baghdadi, and the various edicts against ISIS. Engage in interfaith work and intrafaith work. Build bonds between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Build bonds between Sunnis, Shiites, and Sufis. Build bonds as human beings first and foremost.

I have some very bad news for you. I am going to die. Yes, my doctor says I am going to die. According to him, I have thirty or forty years at most. Apparently, all human beings die. We have a 100% mortality rate. Whether it is today or seventy years from now, you will pass away, be buried, be resurrected, and be judged. So, work to improve this world as if you would live forever and work for the Hereafter as if you are going to die tomorrow. Salawat ‘ala Muhammad wa ali Muhammad.

By Dr John Andrew Morrow

Published by


Dr. John Andrew Morrow is a senior scholar specializing in Islamic, Indigenous, and Hispanic Studies.