Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sharia by a Sleight of Hand

Writing in Forbes, Claudia Rossett takes a look at the good fortune Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque, has enjoyed since he came to America. In an article entitled “Cashing In On Ground Zero”, Ms. Rossett outlines the salaries, remunerations, stipends, honoraria, emoluments, perquisites, and gratuities — some of them due to the largesse of the federal government — conferred upon Imam Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan since he arrived on these shores:

Burglar ImamFor the State Department to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars sending someone with those views on a “public diplomacy” trip to the Middle East is a curious exercise. Rauf’s trip is costing $16,000. Khan’s will cost $12,000. If Khan will be collecting the same $496 per diem that Rauf will be getting in Abu Dhabi, this will include a joint $982 per day for creature comforts, as Khan spreads her opinions about Muslim life in America—and builds people-to-people ties in an Islamic state loaded with billions in oil wealth.


America has delivered to both Rauf and Khan a life in which they have freely practiced their religion and been free to convert others—including a sister-in-law of their real-estate partner, Sharif El-Gamal. Both arrived in this country as immigrants, and had conferred upon them the full panoply of American rights and freedoms.


Rauf sits on the board of trustees of the Islamic Center of New York, a large facility established on Manhattan’s Upper East Side by his father, who also ran a big Islamic center in Washington. Rauf serves as an advisor to the Interfaith Center of New York, and, like Khan, has been welcomed to spread his messages by a long list of foundations and institutions, including Jewish centers, churches and schools. Under both the Bush and Obama administrations, Rauf has been tapped for three previous taxpayer-funded “outreach” jaunts to the Middle East, two in 2007 and a third earlier this year.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, far from being shunned as Muslims, Rauf and Khan have enjoyed a boom business in “outreach.” Their lifestyle includes at least two homes in the U.S. and one in Malaysia, fancy cars and pricey clothes. Last October, in an article headlined “High Five With Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf,” Forbes chronicled the imam’s pleasure in driving a Lexus GS400. Rauf also detailed how he enjoys Armani and Brioni suits, his wife likes her cashmere scarves, and he mentioned his fondness for handcrafted Persian rugs, especially those woven of silk. He added that he owns about 15 carpets dispersed between his homes in New Jersey and New York, and another 15 carpets “at my home in Malaysia.”

Well, well, well… America has been good to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, hasn’t it? Surely he is filled with gratitude towards his adopted country, which has lavished so much bounty on him — right?

Not at all! Imam Rauf considers his plight in the United States to be analogous to that of the early Christians in Rome who were fed to the lions. The imam voiced that opinion as part of a little-noticed interview with PBS back in 2002, in which he answered a number of questions about Islam and its place in American society. Here’s what he said:

Another aspect about living in the United States is that one experiences a lot of negative media attention to one’s Islamicity. And that has resulted, and can result in a reaction one way or the other by many people. Many Muslims feel in this country like the Christians did in Rome when they were fed to the lions. And here the lions are the media. We hope that perhaps things will change in the United States, as they did in Rome, as well.

Ah, yes — I’ve noticed how hard the American media are on Muslims. Haven’t you?

Muslims on TV are constantly being assaulted with antagonistic questions from Islamophobic reporters and commentators. Feature articles about Islam are almost always negative, cherry-picking the bad news and never looking at the positive aspects of Islam.

Feisal Abdul RaufUh-huh. Right. Sure.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has battened off the fat of our land for decades, yet he sees himself as being thrown to the lions by the American media. He leaves me — as Muslim public figures often do — groping for the Arabic equivalent of “chutzpah”.

He says he hopes that “perhaps things will change in the United States, as they did in Rome”. What sort of analogous change is he anticipating?

Mass conversion to Christianity? Surely not!

An invasion of barbarians? And who would get to play the role of the barbarians?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The bulk of the interview with Imam Rauf is a masterpiece of classical Islamic deception. Mr. Rauf is far more dangerous than a clown like Anjem Choudary or a snake like Yusuf al-Qaradawi. His glibness and smooth talk make Tariq Ramadan look like a tongue-tied amateur by comparison.

Fisking the entire interview is beyond the scope of a single blog post — it would require an extended detour through the canons of sharia law to explain all the nuances of what Mr. Rauf had to say.

The important thing to remember is that every public utterance of Feisal Abdul Rauf is packed with coded words and phrases — “terms of art” from the sharia lexicon that allow him to mislead non-Muslims and obscure the full implications of various parts of Islamic law.

To point out the existence of “code” within sharia is not simply the ravings of a paranoid Islamophobe, but highlights an acknowledged feature of Islamic law. Consider, for example the introduction to Al-Hidayah, the classical 12th-century legal treatise from the Hanafi school of Islamic law, written by Qazi Halb Burhan-ud-din al-Marghinani. The modern translator of this work, Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee — who has a law degree from the University of Michigan — explains the coding of Islamic legal texts (pp. xix-xxiv):
- - - - - - - - -
When we use the word code with reference to Islamic legal texts, we obviously do not mean a statute enforced with the authority of the state. Codification with reference to Islamic schools means the attempt to bring uniformity into the law out of a mass of available rulings.


This book contains a huge amount of “coded” information. We use the term coded here to mean what people in the computer world would mean. Within this information are “macros” — short statements that pack within them pages of information. The macro needs to be preprocessed before the code can reveal its entire meaning.

A Muslim who explains Islam to the infidel often uses these “coded” phrases in his descriptions, but without providing any decoding instructions. This allows him to tell the truth while deceiving the kuffar, which earns him the high approval of Allah. At the same time, any educated Muslim who hears his words knows how to decode them, and understands exactly what he means.

Many words and phrases used in Islamic legal parlance have obvious everyday meanings to a Western audience, yet mean something quite different in sharia. It can take years to acquire a basic working knowledge of sharia codes — I’m just a raw beginner — but we can still parse the Imam Rauf’s words with an eye to decoding the terms of art.

The interview begins with this (all bolding is mine):

Q: What are the fundamentals of Islam? What does it teach to be a Muslim?

The fundamental idea which defines a human being as a Muslim is the declaration of faith: that there is a creator, whom we call God — or Allah, in Arabic — and that the creator is one and single. And we declare this faith by the declaration of faith, where we … bear witness that there is no God but God. And that we are accountable to God for our actions.

The declaration of faith, or shahada, is “La illaha ila Allah, wa Muhammadun rasul Allah”, which means “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.” Reciting the shahada is all it takes to convert to Islam, and once having recited the shahada, the new believer is a Muslim forever. He cannot revert to being an unbeliever — unbelief or kufr is the most serious crime under Islamic law, and is punishable by death.

Q: And that’s the bottom line?

That is the universal Quranic definition of a person who is a Muslim. Because God says in the Quran that there is only one true religion, God’s religion. It’s the same theme that God revealed to all of the prophets, even before Muhammad. They all came to express the truth about ultimate reality…

The Koran not only says that Islam is the one true religion, but also that it has abrogated or superseded the other two “Abrahamic faiths”. Any of the People of the Book — Jews and Christians — who do not forsake their outdated and abrogated beliefs and take up the true faith are guilty of a grave sin. If they live under Islamic rule, they may be subject to severe punishments, including death. The best they can hope for is to pay the poll tax and live as dhimmis — second-class citizens.

All previous prophets — including Moses and Jesus — were Islamic prophets to whom Allah revealed the truth. Their prophecy was superseded and fulfilled by Mohammed, the final prophet of Islam. The failure to recognize this truth is what causes obstinate Jews and Christians to fall into such grievous sin.

Q: It doesn’t sound so different from Christianity or Judaism.

The Quran does not speak about Christianity or Judaism. You will not find that word once mentioned in the Quran. But you’ll find many, many instances of Christians and Jews, because the definitions the Quran uses are human-based definitions. Not conceptual definitions; very much it speaks about the realities…

Mr. Rauf may be correct that the Koran fails to use the words “Christianity” or “Judaism”. But it certainly refers to them, as it does to other varieties of unbelief.

Sharia is explicitly based in the Koran (the uncreated word of Allah, as dictated to Mohammed) and the hadith (the authenticated sayings of the prophet). All codified Islamic law refers back to these sources to validate its rules.

Christians and Jews are very much in evidence in the body of Islamic law. For example, in Book M, “Marriage”, of Reliance of the Traveller (the most authoritative legal treatise from the Shafi’ite School of Islamic law), al-Misri tells us (m6.7, p. 529):

It is unlawful for a Muslim man to marry:

(1) a Zoroastrian woman;
(2) an idol worshipper;
(3) an apostate from Islam (murtadd, def: o8);
(4) or a woman with one parent who is Jewish or Christian, while the other is Zoroastrian.
(5) (N: It is not lawful or valid for a Muslim man to be married to any woman who is not either a Muslim, Christian, or Jew; nor is it lawful or valid for a Muslim woman to be married to anyone besides a Muslim.)

For its core ruling on Christians and Jews, Reliance of the Traveller refers explicitly to the Koran. From Book O, “Justice” (o9.8, p. 602):

The caliph (o25) makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: o11.4) — which is the significance of their paying it, not the money itself — while remaining in their ancestral religions) (O: and the war continues) until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (O: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High,

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden — who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book — until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled” (Koran 9.29),

the time and place for which is before the final descent of Jesus (upon whom be peace).

Koran 9.29 — the “Verse of the Sword” — is the final word on Christians and Jews, since it abrogates all the earlier verses on the topic. Islamic law most assuredly understands 9:29 to be about Christians and Jews, and it understands Islam’s responsibility towards them — namely, to make war against them in perpetuity, until they convert, are killed, or submit to the authority of Islam and become dhimmis.

Imam Rauf has not spoken a single syllable of untruth. But he has failed to tell the whole truth concerning Islam’s understanding of its relationship with Christians and Jews.

He continues with a long stretch of ecumenical boilerplate which the reader is invited to discover for himself. Then the interviewer poses this complicated question for the imam to answer:

Q: We’re finding that it’s very hard to define who Muslims are. Every time we figure, oh, that’s what it is, or that’s who they are, there’s an exception to the rule. There’s a very traditional housewife-looking lady in Malaysia who’s also an OB/Gyn who ministers to unwed mothers. We have girls in Turkey who are saying, “Look, we want to express ourselves as Muslims. We want to cover our hair.” And we have a secular government that’s discriminating against them — women who want to cover, women who don’t. Men who want to keep women in the house; men who agree that women have absolute opportunity to do what they need to do in society. How does this all fit?

The definition of the faith of Islam that I gave you before is the Quranic universal definition of the human being vis-a-vis the creator. There is a narrower definition of Islam which is used, which is those who follow the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. Now, according to that definition, their Islam is defined by what was commonly called the five pillars of faith. This is what theologians call the orthopraxy, or the orthopraxis. It means the practices which define you as a Muslim.


The orthopraxy of Islam is a declaration of faith: the statement that there is no God but God; that Muhammad is the messenger of God; the five-time daily prayer; the giving of alms, typically 2.5 percent of one’s income or assets; the fasting of the month of Ramadan; and the going to pilgrimage, or hajj, once in one’s lifetime, if one can afford it, financially and physically. Anybody who does these things is within the box of Islam.

“There is a narrower definition of Islam which is used, which is those who follow the teachings of the prophet Muhammad.” This is one of the finer examples of kitman, or obfuscation for the sake of Islam. There is no “narrower definition of Islam” than the knowledge that was revealed by Allah to Mohammed and explained by Mohammed to his followers. However, Mr. Rauf is plainly referring here to the hadith, the sayings (“teachings”) of Mohammed, which are secondary scripture when compared with the Koran, the uncreated word of Allah.

The hadith are “narrower” when considered separately from the Koran. But for the purposes of Islamic law and worship, the two are never separated. Hence the distinction is meaningless.

The word zakat is commonly translated as “the giving of alms”, but it means much more (and less) than that. All schools of Islamic law agree that no zakat payments may be given to non-Muslims. And all schools of Islamic law also mandate that one-eighth of zakat must be paid to “those fighting in the cause of Allah”, that is, those who are waging jihad.

So every time a Muslim refers to “giving alms”, he means that one-eighth of such gifts must go to fund jihad. This is mandatory. It is required of all Muslims. There is no disagreement about this. The consensus of the scholars tells us it is required. All faithful, practicing Muslims who refer to “alms” are actually talking about zakat.

They just don’t give you the decoded version.

Q: [Who decides the rules of Islamic jurisprudence?]

The thing about the Islamic situation is we don’t have a church. We don’t have an ordained priesthood, which makes it a little complicated. But we do have a tradition of scholarship, and rules of scholarship. It’s very much like any field of knowledge.


Analogously, there is, in Islam, a tradition of theological interpretation, of [juridical] understanding and knowledge. And as long as you abide by these, the consensus of understanding on how you arrive at a decision, certain differences of opinion are considered equally valid.

Once again, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been entirely truthful. He has, however, left out a few refinements or nuances of Islamic practice.

Theological interpretation or exegesis of Islamic scripture is known as ijtihad. According all schools of Islamic jurisprudence, the “door to ijtihad” closed more than a thousand years ago; that is, no further interpretations or refinement of legal meaning may be derived from the body of scripture.

So Mr. Rauf conveniently left out the fact that the “tradition” of interpretation is more than a millennium old, and may not be updated.

“The consensus of understanding” is a term of art. It is a gloss on the “consensus of the scholars” or “that on which all scholars agree”, and refers to matters of Islamic law which have been completely settled, and about which all established legal authorities are in agreement. These issues became settled law with the end of ijtihad, so, once again, the “consensus of understanding” is a thousand years old, and cannot be altered.

As a result, the only “differences of opinion” which are allowed are those which in no way violate scholarly consensus.

An example of such differences could be seen in the recent documentary about cousin marriage in Britain. In it you can hear a London imam held forth on the necessity for couples to undergo genetic testing before marriage. This imam is plainly a conscientious and devoted Muslim. He consulted sharia, looked through all the jurisprudence related to marriage, and discerned that Islamic law neither requires nor forbids genetic testing prior to marriage. Hence he instructs his congregants to practice it, but other imams could lawfully disagree with him on the matter, since sharia offers no opinion on it.

Unfortunately for observant Muslims, there are very few matters on which there may be “differences of opinion”. The range of human behavior which is neither required nor prohibited by sharia is very narrow in its scope.

Q: What about interpretations regarding women, in particular? We find, in many parts of the world that tend to be populated by Muslims, it seems that women are getting the short end of the stick.

Well … the prophet, for his times, was a feminist. And there are certainly voices within the Muslim world who believe and argue very strongly for the rights of women. But gender relationships really deal with the cultural norms of a particular group and the times in which they live. If one were to say, for instance, that American women are behind Muslim women — and I pick the fact that there have been five Muslim women heads of state, and that the United States is behind the Muslim world in this regard — that would not be considered to be an accurate assessment of how women are regarded in a particular society. One has to look at the sum total … of the norms and the relationships and the understandings that exist in a given society in a given time. …

This is an artful dodge. By throwing in “gender relationships” and “cultural norms of a particular group”, Imam Rauf has adopted the lexicon of postmodernism. This makes it seem that Islam shares the same premises as postmodernism — that there are no truths, that everything is relative, that all differences are due to the unequal distribution of political power, etc. — and allows him to elide an entire corpus of sharia law as it pertains to “gender”. Then he slides into some of the standard examples “proving” that Islam treats women better than the West, and he’s home free.

He thus manages to avoid discussing a number of inconvenient provisions of sharia law, including:

  • A woman’s testimony in court is worth half that of a man;
  • Husbands can and should beat their wives under appropriate conditions; and
  • Female genital mutilation is, at a minimum, recommended by all four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and is considered obligatory under two of them.

There is no argument within Islam concerning these issues. The scholarly consensus holds that these rulings are the law.

Some of what we see may be considered to be inequities…


Whereas in some societies, which tended to be nomadic, it was very much more male-oriented, and the patriarchal and very strong male orientation became predominant. So as you go across much of the Muslim world, you will see this diversity, which really entered into Muslim life through custom, and not through the Quran and the hadith itself.

In this the imam is once again correct: these matters did enter Islamic practice through custom, and not through scripture. However, they have since been incorporated in Islamic law, which is fixed and unquestionable — forever.

And here comes what may be the most artful kitman of all:

Q: Can you explain Sharia?

The word “Sharia” is the term given to define the collectivity of laws that Muslims govern themselves by. And there is a presumption that these laws recognize all of the specific laws mentioned in the Quran and in the practice of the prophet, and do not conflict with that. So any law, anything studied in the Quran or the hadith, is definitely [Sharia]. The idea is that it is divinely legislated, that the creator also has legislated certain things for us.

But in the community of Muslims, it was recognized very early on that the Quran and the hadith do not speak to all issues. And there are many issues which are not necessarily addressed in the Quran and the hadith, that the Quran is silent on. … There is a recognition in the [science] of Islamic jurisprudence that there are issues which have to be obtained by analogy, by consensus, and other [subsidiary] sources of jurisprudence. But as long as they don’t conflict with the Quran and hadith of the prophet, it’s considered to be, quote, unquote, “Sharia.”

This is entirely correct. However, Mr. Rauf is relying on the likelihood that neither the interviewer nor the PBS audience have ever studied sharia to any significant extent. If they had, they would know that sharia’s scope is so massive that very little is left unregulated by it, and most of the leeway allowed by it today refers to technological matters that could not possibly be included in the Koran or the Hadith. That permits imams and individual Muslims to debate and differ about the legality of women driving cars, or whether a polio vaccine is haram or halal, but it gives them no wiggle room on basic matters of law, including what we commonly refer to as “human rights”.

You and I know this, but the vast majority of Westerners who hear Feisal Abdul Rauf speak or read what he writes have no information whatsoever about these facts. That’s what makes them putty in his well-manicured hands.

Q: My understanding of [the Sharia] rules about punishment for matrimonial infidelity [is that] you have to have four eyewitnesses, or several eyewitnesses to the [act] in order to demand the death penalty. It’s almost inconceivable to me that you could ever produce that kind of eyewitness or evidence. But we hear that these kinds of punishments are meted out fairly regularly. Is the law being followed the way it’s set [out]?

You cannot judge a whole body of law by one instance of criminal law. When people think about Sharia law, they often think about the penalties for certain crimes. They don’t think about the sum total of Islamic law and its jurisprudence, which means the underlying structure and philosophy and understanding of how you arrive at what we call the Islamically correct decision. You do not define Sharia law by just a couple of penalties. …

Islamic law has a few penalties for certain crimes. But the rules of evidence, as you mentioned in the case of adultery, require either the free confession by the individual and/or the existence of four witnesses who are of sound mind and who fit the description of qualified witnesses, which is very rare to obtain.

Message: “I don’t want you to look at certain penalties that are mandatory under all versions of sharia law.”

Would that include stoning for adultery? The amputation of limbs for theft? Death for apostasy? Death for homosexual behavior? Death for insulting the prophet? Death for numerous other infractions that would earn very light penalties, if any, in a civilized country?

Mr. Rauf waves the magic wand of the “sum total of Islamic law and its jurisprudence” while deftly slipping the major truth of sharia through the curtain behind him and safely backstage. “Nothing in my hands, ladies and gentlemen, and nothing up my sleeve. No barbarity to be found here!”

If we are wise to the sleight and point it out — why, that’s only our inherent Islamophobia showing.

There is also a collective subliminal ambition that Muslims have, that at a collective level, they also embody the ideals of the community that the prophet developed in Medina. So when Muslims today speak of the attempt to establish an Islamic state, what they are really saying is that they would like to have a community that lives in accordance with the ideals, the relationships, the social contract, which the prophet had developed in Medina with his companions and how they had this amongst each other.

In other words, what they are saying is that they would like to live as a uniform body governed by sharia law. That is, they desire to be part of a unitary Ummah ruled by the Caliphate.

To anyone who has learned the code, the sharia message is clear and uncomplicated. To everyone else, he seems to be uttering the same bromides as any other Western political and cultural leader.

He knows our vocabulary, but we don’t know his.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There is much, much more to this interview. I recommend reading the entire text at the PBS site. It’s an object lesson in the time-honored Islamic practices of dawah, taqiyyah, and kitman. Layer upon layer of deftly-woven evasions, half-truths, obscurantism, subject-changing, misdirection, and here and there an outright lie.

The imam made one little slip, however. He accidentally said something that a shrewder taqiyyist would have left unspoken:

So the urge therefore to develop an Islamic nation-state — a concept which some people may regard as being an oxymoron, because the nation-state is not something which developed out of the Islamic tradition … that the Islamic philosophical tradition was based upon identification of grouping of peoples, who had governed themselves according to living in certain ways and structured in a slightly different way. …

Feisal Abdul Rauf has accidentally told us the truth: A society that is governed by pure Islamic principles and abides by Islamic law has neither knowledge of nor need for the nation-state.

The nation-state is an atavism, and may be discarded. It is un-Islamic, and will be abolished when the Caliphate is instituted and the world is governed by the perfect crystalline rules of sharia.

This is where the Left and Islam are in complete agreement. It’s why they work so well together: they share the same immediate goal. Both want to take a chainsaw to the forest of Western culture and then scrape away all the stumps and topsoil.

They have differing ideas about what will come next, about the nature of the edifice that will be built atop that big muddy hole. But there will be plenty of time later to sort all that out, after Western Civilization has been safely bulldozed into the landfill of history.

Many thanks to our Flemish correspondent VH for unearthing the gold mine of material used in this post.


Papa Whiskey said...

Excellent post. It must be noted, however, that the Qur'an's "Verse of the Sword" is not 9:29, but rather 9:5:

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

The venerated Muslim scholar Ibn Kathir wrote that

This honorable Ayah (9:5) was called the Ayah of the Sword, about which Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, "It abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolator, every treaty, and every term.'' Al-`Awfi said that Ibn `Abbas commented: "No idolator had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara'ah was revealed. ...

Pretty open-ended, that.

Baron Bodissey said...

Papa --

Yes, you're right. Strictly speaking, 9:5 is the verse of the sword.

But Sura 9 in its entirety is known as the "Sura of the Sword", and I like 9:29 best, so I call it the verse of the sword sometimes. Just one of my little idiosyncrasies.

trencherbone said...



Black materia, black energy, Allah & Santa Claus.

If there in the UNIVERSE exists anything that in human terms could be defined GOD, the one and only, how the heck can sane and intelligent humans (IQ>115!) at all seriously believe that they have the mental capacity to imagine or still worse describe or understand this presumed entity or even worse, imagine themself having a bilateral dialog with it, when today in the beginning of the third millenium, after an evolution of billions of years since humans had grown a rudimentary self-knowledge (that most often still is of paleolitic quality), only a small number of the very best brains on this planet do understand only a tiny ripple of what the UNIVERS is, its principles, how it is built, what it consists of etc. Muslims, Christians, Jews and other religiously flatulent individuals are all suffering from delusions of grandeur. Poor megalomanic hypocrites they are, believing that a few billions of them, or a single individual among the billions, on this insignificant planet in a tiny solar system in the outskirts of a galaxie "christened" the Milky Way, among a zillion other galaxies in an unimaginary big universe, should be of any interest to any GOD, assumed, invented or even real. No high esteem but contempt or pity these believers are worthy.
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe.” said Albert Einstein.

1389 said...

Now that's just great. Rauf lives like a sultan, while I, who have over thirty years of IT experience, am working as a retail clerk and am being taxed to pay for their junkets so that they can spread an enemy ideology.