“The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) constitutes the most serious threat Islam has ever faced,” declares the synopsis of the new and hugely important book, Refuting ISIS: Destroying Its Religious and Ideological Foundations.
Written by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi, Refuting ISIS is not singular in its subject matter. Nearly every modern scholar and Islamic organization across the globe has roundly condemned ISIS and disassociated its Islamic claims from Islamic reality.[i] Most of these condemnations take the form of brief press releases and sound bites.
One well-known rebuttal of ISIS that has more substance is “An Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi.” [ii] This text was signed by over 120 Islamic scholars from around the world and published in 2014. The letter uses “heavy classical religious texts and classical religious scholars that ISIS has used to mobilize young people to join its forces,” says Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Awad also concludes that “mainstream Muslims […] may find it difficult to understand.” [iii]
Significantly, Refuting ISIS is singular in that it addresses a serious need for a condemnation and refutation that the lay Muslim and even non-Muslim can read and understand. Al-Yaqoubi writes, “This book is meant to be brief, easy to read, and mainly provide ordinary Muslims with strong arguments against ISIS.” And at under a hundred pages of clear text and proofs, the author makes good on this claim.
About the Author
When considering a refutation of such importance to today’s political landscape and global stability, it is paramount to take the author’s knowledge on the subject matter into consideration. Refuting ISIS’s author, Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, is an internationally renowned Syrian Muslim scholar. He has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslim figures in the world.[iv]
In addition to his influence, Al-Yaqoubi is also a heavyweight in academics. He completed a degree in Arabic Literature at the University of Damascus within the Faculty of Islamic Law. And he has also studied philosophy at the Beirut Arab University and linguistics in the Oriental Studies Department of the University of Gothenburg.
An authority on Islamic law and ethics, Al-Yaqoubi was trained under many prominent Islamic Scholars in traditional Islamic Sciences, and has full authority to narrate and teach hadith and to issue fatâwa (legal rulings).
Many scholars who refute ISIS use an approach that falls on deaf ears. They use source texts of which extremists are dismissive. Al-Yaqoubi takes a different and more effective approach by using ISIS’ own words and actions as proof against them.
Since ISIS picks and chooses Quran âyât (verses) and Prophetic aḥâdîth (traditions) to legitimize their claims, using these same sources and ISIS actions to disprove the group is essential to gaining the attention of those who have, or may in the future, fall prey to ISIS rhetoric.
One example of using ISIS’s own words against them is the absurd claim that the Prophet ﷺ “was sent with the sword and ordered with war until Allah is worshipped alone […].” To this claim, Al-Yaqoubi reminds the audience that in the 23 year period of prophethood only 200 days were spent fighting, and that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was in fact sent as a mercy to mankind, as is stated in the Quran [Sûrat Al-Anbiyâ’, 21:107].
A significant example of using ISIS’s own actions to delegitimize them is that of horrendous act of burning people alive. Al-Yaqoubi makes it clear that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ expressly forbade torture and especially torture with fire.
These are just a couple of the many examples in Refuting ISIS where Al-Yaqoubi lets ISIS do the leg work of exposing themselves as ignorant, hypocritical, and blasphemous.
Who is ISIS
Quoting aḥadith and Quran, Al-Yaqoubi rightly does not shy away from telling the audience exactly what ISIS is in the strongest terms possible. As he claims, ISIS is today’s iteration of a nominally Muslim sect called the Khawârij, who in the early days of Islam, adopted extreme views and called any Muslim who did not adopt these views, non-Muslim.
As Al-Yaqoubi draws a parallel between ISIS and the Khawârij, he recounts the Prophet ﷺ saying, There shall emerge a people in the end of time, adolescent, dim-witted, recounting the best words of creation, reading Quran, but their faith does not pass their throats […].”
And it is notable, as Refuting ISIS states, that within the ISIS organization, “There is no scholar amongst these criminals who is an authority for Muslims, whether in belief, jurisprudence, or legal judgments. There isn’t even a student of knowledge amongst them who has taken from trustworthy experts […].”
Furthermore, Al-Yaqoubi thoroughly exposes the leader of ISIS, Al-Baghdadi. Using Al-Baghdadi’s own teacher’s description of him as “villainous, ignorant, and deviant,” Al-Yaqoubi explains that the self-proclaimed Caliph, “did not master one single book in theology or jurisprudence.”
A Call to Action
Refuting ISIS goes one step further in denouncing and exposing ISIS. It states that it is in fact a communal obligation to fight this iteration of the Khawârij just as the Khawârij were fought against by the early generations of Muslims. However, Al-Yaqoubi makes it very clear that there are steps that must be taken before this is done. And then the only way to go about fighting ISIS is under the leadership of legitimate Muslim rulers.
Nonetheless, fighting is only one approach to defeating ISIS. As Shaykh Al-Yaqoubi says in a lecture at Zaytuna College, Fighting ISIS does not only mean defeating them with security forces, but we need religious experts refuting them and preventing them from brainwashing the next generation.[v]
To the youth of the Ummah and those who feel compelled to answer ISIS’s nefarious call, Al-Yaqoubi says, “Don’t let despair or revenge lead you to being deceived by ISIS and joining it. ISIS only wishes to subjugate, enslave, and humiliate you by using the name of religion instead of dictatorship and socialism.”
Refuting ISIS is available on Amazon[vi] in both electronic and paperback version and in both Arabic and English. For under ten dollars, Al-Yaqoubi’s refutation fills a huge gap in the anti-ISIS literature. It grants the lay Muslim the agency to reclaim their faith from these criminals. And it gives non-Muslims a better understanding of what the spirit and purpose of Islamic law is and how ISIS goes against centuries of human rights advocacy in Islamic scholarship.
For anyone who wishes to have an informed opinion or conversation about ISIS, this book is a necessity.