More than a hundred Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world released an open letter addressed to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Wednesday, telling the self-proclaimed caliph, in no uncertain terms, that the group’s use of Islamic scripture is illegitimate and perverse.
The document, which was issued in Arabic and English on the website Letter to Baghdadi and is embedded below, begins with a list of practices employed by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) that its authors say are explicitly forbidden by Islam. They include torture, slavery, forced conversions, the denial of rights for women and children, and the killing of innocents.
The letter emphasizes that Baghdadi’s claims to a caliphate spanning eastern Syria and western Iraq are void.
“Who gave you authority over the ummah [Muslim people]?” the letter asks. “Was it your group? If this is the case, then a group of no more than several thousand has appointed itself the ruler of over a billion and a half Muslims. This attitude is based upon a corrupt circular logic that says: ‘Only we are Muslims, and we decide who the caliph is, we have chosen one and so whoever does not accept our caliph is not a Muslim.’ “
That circular logic has one historical root, the Kharijites. That’s where the concept of takfir (the idea that a “pious” Muslim is allowed to declare other Muslims to be non-Muslim on account of their supposed impiety) was first conceived, and Daesh is simply the most recent incarnation of that particular ideology. While I would not presume to say that the Kharijites were not “Muslim,” it is worth pointing out that takfiri Kharijism has never been accepted as mainstream Islamic dogma. Never. So when these scholars say that Daesh’s brand of Islam is illegitimate, they’re not just making it up as they go along to try to protect Islam’s image.
The full letter, in English, is here. The great and/or terrible thing about religious texts is that just about anybody can bend them to mean just about anything, but these scholars make an impressive Qurʾanic case against Daesh, and their argument at the very least deserves consideration from the “Nuh-uh, Mr. President, ISIS is TOO Islamic” crowd.