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Book Blog Review. Refuting ISIS - Rebutting ISIS and Its ideological Foundations by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoub


By peter on 14th June 2017

At a time of shocking violence and confusion the likes of which is unprecedented in the West, this timely book is essential reading for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.   Written by one of the world’s most influential and respected Muslim academics, Refuting ISIS is the first book to defy ISIS intellectually and offers a frank and unequivocal rebuttal of the so-called ‘Islamic State’.   It is also a formal fatwā - an Islamic legal pronouncement made by an expert in Islamic law – that calls on Muslims to unite against the evils being perpetrated by extremists in the name of their religion.   Among other things, the fatwā forbids Muslims to join ISIS and to consider the terrorist group’s declarations null and void; declares that their self-declared caliphate is illegal, and entreats those within its ranks to defect.   It also states that it is the duty of every Muslim to fight ISIS, though it is important to clarify here that the author means doing so by supporting national anti-terrorism policy, not by literally taking up arms, as Islamic texts say in no uncertain terms that it is the duty of governments, not the individual, to wage wars.   Shaykh Muhammad, a descendent of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and ranked among the 500 most influential Muslims by Georgetown University, is a spiritual leader to many thousands of Muslims across the world.   He is, therefore, in a strong position to tackle the spread of religious extremism and is deeply concerned with the rise of ISIS, which he describes as “the most serious threat Islam has ever known”.   He is also worried about a growing “takfīr mentality” among young Muslims — declaring other, more moderate Muslims as non-believers — and what he sees as an increasing ignorance among Muslims regards the tenets and values of their faith.   This, he says, is not being helped by what he identifies as a scarcity of scholars who defend Islam “with wisdom and moderation” and the replacement of scholars with internet propaganda as the primary source of knowledge.   His book is a scholarly yet eminently easy-to-understand deconstruction of ISIS’s ideology, with the central argument that followers of ISIS cannot be considered Muslim.   Instead, according to the author, they are a gang of bloodthirsty thugs deliberately spreading fallacies and twisting religious scripture for their own sick ends. He labels them as ‘Khawārij’, or deviators, and outside the fold of Islam.   As the author explains in his preface, the majority of readers will not have the deep understanding of classical Islamic scripture required to categorically demonstrate why this should be the case, nor see how ISIS distorts the Holy Quran and Sharia Law to support their agenda.   His aim, then, is three-fold. Firstly, to stem the tide of Islamophobia by setting out the stance of Islam as a religion of peace, mercy and kindness. Secondly, to help inform Muslims who may be unsure of the true teachings of Sunni Islam with regard to the ideology of ISIS and its crimes. Thirdly, to help contribute to the downfall of ISIS by exposing it for what it is and reducing its membership.   Refuting ISIS proceeds through a series of carefully constructed arguments, proving step by step that “Islamic State” is neither Islamic nor a state, but rather a deviant group driven by “anger, hatred, and a thirst for power”.   Among the many things it clarifies, the book lays out why it is strictly forbidden to kill any non-Muslim within a Muslim country; why Muslims living in any non-Muslim country must abide by its laws and regulations; and why Islam’s teaching are in complete contradiction to the killing or torturing of women, children and civilians.   Originally published in 2015 to wide acclaim, this fully expanded second edition includes further elaboration on many important topics, such as the prohibition of burning human beings, the abolition of slavery, and Islam’s position towards minorities.   It also tackles new subjects such as the invalidity of excommunicating Muslim rulers for not applying certain aspects of Sharia Law, Islam’s position towards democracy, and the prohibition of destroying pre-Islamic monuments and sacred sites.   The author also outlines ways in which Western countries can play their part in the fight against extremism - for example, by entreating people to fully consider the repercussions of insulting Muslim belief under the banner of ‘freedom of speech’.   For Muslims, Refuting ISIS will provide the arguments they need to challenge extremist propaganda when encountered. It will also be of interest to Muslim parents whose children, Shaykh Muhammad believes, are especially vulnerable to extremist grooming.   For non-Muslims, this book will help educate them about Islamic law, highlight the common enemy, and reconnect the gulf between communities.   In light of recent horrific attacks, and the anti-Islamic backlash that spreads in the wake of such deplorable acts, it is impossible to overstate the importance of this book, which serves as the definitive word against ISIS and all it stands for.   Refuting ISIS by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoub (Sacred Texts) is out now in paperback (£10.45) and Kindle (£7.21) editions.

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