Protecting Islamic Diversity [VIDEO]

Protecting Islamic Diversity [VIDEO]

I had the pleasure of delivering a talk on “Islamic diversity & communities of the Qur’an” at the Jalsa Salana: The 70th Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, 2018. You can watch the VIDEO here.

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The Communities of the Qur’an project teaches us—indeed it has taught me!—much about the nuances of local Muslim and non-Muslim receptions of this important scripture, which is a noble cause in and of itself. However, it also teaches that the Muslims are caught between the push of diversity and the pull of consensus. Its different and vibrant communities do not even agree about the very nature of the Qur’an—a text shared and loved by all parties. If you are wondering what exactly I am talking about, then you will have to read the book!







The Christian Lord’s Prayer as the Introduction to the Qur’an

Christmas 2016 for the western churches is upon us. Nobody will dispute that 2016 was itself a trying year. A host of global problems have polarized human beings based on race, religion, ethnicity and other traits. The rise in right wing, fundamentalist, even racist rhetoric and identity politics have made this year especially divisive. To the Christians of America and Europe I say, you will find the culture and language of Christ in your Muslim brothers and sisters. So stop listening to the media and politicians and visit your local mosque. I assure you they will welcome you.To the Muslims globally I say, the Qur’an was originally written for a Christian and Jewish audience. So stop listening to clerics and try reading the text critically by yourself.

Christians and Muslims share a great deal–beyond their own humanity–not least because Aramaic and Arabic are sister languages that share a single cultural and religious sphere in the Middle East have been. To really understand the depth and complexity of this relationship requires one to learn difficult (but beautiful!) languages, read ancient manuscripts as well as tons of literature, history, social studies in other foreign languages. This is why, as we welcome the challenges of 2017, education matters; knowledge, research and digitization matters; humanities and social sciences matter; reading bokks matters; learning languages matters– facts matter. The “truth” (small “t”) is always complex. So don’t buy “us versus them” just because it’s simple!

To sample this complexity, consider the most commonly read Christian prayer (the Lord’s Prayer) and the most commonly read Muslim prayer (the Fatihah / Qur’an’s introduction) from my book The Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions. Footnotes have been removes, and you have my apologies if some of the type or transliteration do not come through. Put on your thinking caps and enjoy!

Hope after grief — as Qur’an recitation takes place at a Christian funeral for one of the victims of the ISIS church bombing, Egypt

* Excerpts Begins (footnotes removed) *

The impact that the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer had on the language, form and content of liturgical prayers in the Arabic Qur’ān was profound. The text of the Lord’s Prayer reads,

  1. Our Father who is in Heaven (abūn d-ba-šmayā),

  2. Sanctified is Your name (nētqdaš šmāk).

  3. Your kingdom come (tītē malkūtāk)

  4. Your will be done (nēhwē s.ēbyānāk)

  5. As in Heaven so [too] on earth(aykanā d-ba-šmayā āp b-ar‘ā).

  6. Give us the bread that we need this day (hab lan lah. mā d-sūnqānan yawmānā).

  7. And forgive us our debts (wa šbūq lan hawbayn)

  8. Just as we have forgiven our debters (aykānā d-āp h. nan šbaqn l-hayābayn).

  9. And do not enter us into temptation (w lā ta‘aln l-nēsyūnā)

  10. But deliver us from the evil one (ēlā fas.ān mēn bīšā);

Because to you belong the kingdom, the power and glory (met.ūl d-dīlāk hī malkūtā w haylā w tēšbūh. tā) forever and ever (l-‘ālam ‘ālmīn).

(Matthew 6:9–13: cf. Luke 11:2–4; Diatessaron 9:31–36; Didache 8)

Beginning with the most important qur’ānic example that was inspired by or re- articulated certain dimensions of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer, let us consider “the Opening” (al-fātihah; seventh century CE). The liturgical prayer that begins the Qur’ān serves as the first Surah and is, furthermore, unparalleled in literary and religious importance within all Islamic literature. As Sperl demonstrates, it is a prayer that comes from a long tradition of ancient and late antique Near Eastern liturgical style prayers, going back through the Gloria of the Roman mass (fourth century CE), the Lord’s Prayer (first century), the Shemoneh ‘Esreh of Rabbinic liturgy (first century CE?), and related to the Babylonian prayer to the moon god, Sin (first millennium BCE). It should be added that the Zoroastrian liturgies— especially the Avestan Gahs—and the supplications of Gēnzā Rbā R1:1:1–27 are too a foundational contribution to this prayer tradition. At any rate, the text of the fātihah, including the basmalah, follows:

  1. In the name of God, the Merciful, the Benevolent (b-ism allāh al-rah. mān al-rah. īm)

  2. Glory belongs to God, Lord of the worlds (al-hamd li al-allāh rabb al-‘ālamīn)

  3. The Merciful, the Benevolent (al-rah. mān al-rah. īm)

  4. King of the Day of Judgment (malik yawm al-dīn)122

  5. You do we serve (iyyāk na‘bud)

  6. And you do we ask for help (wa iyyāk nasta‘īn)

  7. Guide us to the straight path (ihdinā al-sirāt. al-mustaqīm)

  8. The path of those whom You have favored (sirāt. al-ladhīn an‘amt alayhim)

  9. Not those who incur anger (ghayr al-maghd. ūb ‘alayhim)

  10. Nor the lost (wa lā al-dāllīn)

(Q 1:1–7)123

Sperl convincingly relates the syntactic, rhetorical and symmetrical parallel- ism found in the Arabic fātihah to the Greek text of the Lord’s Prayer. He notes that the underlying structure of the Lord’s Prayer, like the fātihah—including the basmalah—is divided symmetrically into two halves “juxtaposing the human and divine sphere.” Thus, according to Sperl’s distribution of the lines (see earlier), the first five lines of both the Lord’s Prayer and the fātihah concern God (glory and exaltation) and the latter five concern humankind (asking God for help). Without sharing Sperl’s belief that the original language of the Lord’s Prayer, which is “lost,” is of secondary importance, and without repeating the details of his otherwise valuable literary analysis, new insights follow making use of the Aramaic text of the Lord’s Prayer, focusing on the Arabic fātihah’s dogmatic re- articulation thereof.

A report going back to ‘Alī b. Abī T. ālib alleges that Waraqah—whose knowledge of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer may be assumed—gave Muhamamad the courage to receive the revelation of the first four lines of the fātihah. Concerning the text of the fātihah more specifically, the initial part of the basmalah, which states “in the name of God” (b-ism allāh; see also Q 27:30), begins the fātihah while invoking the phrase “sanctified is Your name” (nētqdaš šmāk) in the Lord’s Prayer, where Arabic ism corresponds to Aramaic šm. So too is the verse “King of the Day of Judgment” (malik yawm al-dīn) a re-articulation of “Your kingdom come” (tītē malkūtāk)—possibly mediated through Syriac homilies like that of Narsai—where the components of kingdom (see Chapter 5) and apocalypse (see Chapter 6) are juxtaposed. Thus, “King” (malik) invokes “kingdom” (malkūtā), and the phrase “the Day of Judgment” (yawm al-dīn) corresponds to the Aramaic feminine singular imperative verb “Come” (tītē). Other pairs that function as conceptual parallels include: the verbal clauses “guide us” (ihdinā) and “deliver us” (fas.ān); the construct “those who incur anger” (al-maghd. ūb ‘alayhim) and the noun with the first person plural suffix “our debters” (hayābayn); and finally, the nouns “the lost” (al-dāllīn) and “temptation” (nēsyūnā).

The rhyme at the end of the fātih. ah’s verses (not lines) is the one most commonly found in the Qur’ān, īn/īm. According to Sperl’s 10 line schema, the rhyme at the end of the fātihah’s lines is īn/īm (A), except for line 5 which ends in “we worship” (na‘bud; B) and lines 8 and 9 which end in the phrase “upon them” (‘alayhim; C), producing a rhyme scheme of A-A-A-A-B-A-A-C-C-A. Similarly, according to Sperl’s schema, the rhyme scheme of the Aramaic text is stronger than that of the Greek. The rhyme of the former consists of: the emphatic nominal singular article ā (A); the masculine singular possessive suffix ak (B); and the masculaine plural emphatic case plus first person plural possessive suffix ayn (C). This produces a rhyme scheme of A-B-B-B-A-A-A-C-C-A-A. Although the fātihah and Lord’s Prayer share neither rhyme morpheme nor rhyme scheme the occurrence of the stanzas C-C before a return to stanza A at the end may demonstrate the remnants of a shared liturgical substrate. Although Sperl never suggests it, rhyme is an integral phonetic component of the style employed in both the fātihah and Lord’s Prayer. Finally, like their Christian counterparts who chant the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer to this day, faithful Muslim worshippers chant the fātihah as an Arabic hymn and conclude it with the standard Judeo-Christian statement, āmīn (Aramaic āmēn).

The Lord’s Prayer not only affected the form and content of the fātihah but likely informed—along with Hebrew Scripture and Rabbinic commentary—a number of other liturgical prayers in the Qur’ān known for their profound literary and rhythmic qualities. As an invocation, “Our Father who is in Heaven (abūn d-ba-šmayā)” is used very much like the basmalah (Q 1:1; 27:30). As an exalta- tion of God’s name in the Spirit of Hebrew Scripture (1 Chronicles 16:35; 29:13; Psalms 44:8; Joel 2:26; and so on), “Sanctified is Your name (nētqdaš šmāk),” likely had some influence on the qur’ānic phrase, “so glorify in the name of your Lord, the Great One (fa sabbih. b-ism rabbik al-‘az.īm)” (Q 56:74, 96; 69:52).

The verbal clause in line 3 of the Lord’s Prayer stating, “Your kingdom come (tītē malkūtāk)” is adapted in the qur’ānic formula used in prayers, “Our Lord, bring us . . .!” (rabbanā [wa] ātinā . . .) demanding of God’s promise (Q 3:194) and mercy (Q 18:10; cf. Q 11:63; see further Q 9:75; 27:16). In this case the Aramaic verb tītēis the D stem of the third person feminine imperfect of the root āty, meaning “to come;” and the Arabic verb ātinā is the G stem of the masculine singular imperative of “to bring” (that is, causative, “to make come”) of the same root preserved in Arabic, tā.

The use of the command in line 6 of the Lord’s Prayer, “give us” (hab lan) matches the following qur’ānic prayers, “Our Lord, do not shake our hearts after having guided us; and give us (hab lanā), from Your mercy! Indeed, you are the Giver (al-wahhāb);” (Q 3:8); as well as, “And those who say give us (hab lanā) from our spouses and offspring a soothness [for our] eyes, and make us for the virtuous a guide” (Q 25:74).

The Arabic formula hab lanāis philologically and syntactically identical to its Aramaic counterpart hab lan: masculine singular imperative of the root whb/yhb meaning “to give,” and the preposition li/la meaning “to” attached to the first person plural possessive suffix n/nā respectively. It follows, therefore, that the qur’ānic use of whb is most likely derived from Aramaic.

Lines 7–8 of the Lord’s Prayer state, “and forgive us our debts (wa šbūq lan

  1. hawbayn), just as we have forgiven our debters (aykānā d-āp h. nan šbaqn l-
  2. hayābayn).” That the Qur’ān inherited the idea of “sin as debt” (Aramaic h. ūbā, Arabic h. ūb) made famous by the Aramaic Gospel Traditions is clear (Q 4:2). More significantly, these lines—which encapsulate the spirit of Judeo-Christian

brotherhood and forgiveness taught in the Gospels—are fitted to the circumstances of Muhammad’s community as they pray, Lord, forgive us (rabb ighfir lanā) and our brethren who preceded us in faith (wa li ikhwāninā al-dhīnā sabaqūnā bi al-īmān); and do not create in our hearts animosity (ghill) towards those who believe. Our Lord, you are the Compassionate, the Benevolent. (Q 59:10)

The syntax of formulae asking forgiveness for oneself in Arabic and Aramaic is the same: imperative plus preposition li/la plus pronominal suffix [plus ours sins/debts].

So the syntax of “forgive [for] us our debts” (wa šbūq lan hawbayn) is pre- served in “forgive us our sins” (ighfir lanā dhunūbanā) found in the Qur’ān (Q 3:16; 3:147; 3:193; cf. Q 12:97), where the imperative “forgive” (ighfir) parallels “forgive” (šbūq) and “our sins” (dhunūbunā) parallels “our debts” (hawbayn). In relation to this, as line 8 of the Lord’s Prayer—“just as we have forgiven our debters (aykānā d-āp h. nan šbaqn l-hayābayn)”—attempts to bridge the gap between Jesus’s socially disparate community by asking for mutual forgiveness among a community of “debters,” so too does Q 59:10 ask—as a compliment to the Gospels—that there not be mutual “animosity” (ghill) among the community of “brethren” and “believers.” Moreover, Muhammad saw the spirit of brother- hood and forgiveness demonstrated in the Hebrew Scriptures and Gospel Traditions as an example for his community to follow (Q 48:29).

The translation for the word nēsyūnāin line 9 of the Lord’s Prayer “And do not enter us into temptation (w lā ta‘aln l-nēsyūnā),” is rendered alternately by the NRSV as “trial.” The faithful pray in the Qur’ān for protection against both “temptation” (from n-s-ā) and “trial” (fitnah), which are further expounded upon in Chapter 4. Thus, it states,

Our Lord, do not hold us accountable if we are tempted or mistaken (lā tu’ākhidhnā in nasīnā aw akht.a’nā)

Our Lord, nor place upon us a burden as you placed on those before us

Our Lord, nor burden us with what we cannot withstand And pardon us, forgive us, and have mercy on us.

You are our Lord, so give us victory over the rebellious folk (al-qawm al-kāfirīn).

(Q 2:286)

As well as, “Our Lord, do not make us a trial for those who rebelled ( taj‘alnā fitnah li al-ladhīnā kafarū), and forgive us Lord. Indeed, you are the Mighty, the Wise” (Q 60:5; Cf. 10:85).

As suggested earlier, the conditional clause “if we are tempted” (in nasīnā; Q 2:286) and the noun for “trial” (fitnah; Q 60:5) are an Arabic verbal re-wording and calque—respectively—of the Aramaic word for “temptation, trial” (nēsyūnā). What firmly establishes the connection between these qur’ānic prayers and line 9 of the Lord’s Prayer are the identical syntax of the negative imperatives directed towards God, “do not hold us accountable” ( tu’ākhidhnā) and “do not make us” (lā taj‘alnā), which mirror “do not enter us” ( ta‘aln).

As for “the rebellious folk” (al-qawm al-kāfirūn) or “those who rebelled” (al- ladhīnā kafarū) from whom the faithful flock seek refuge in the Qur’ān, they represent one manifestation of “the evil one” (bīšā) found in line 10 of the Lord’s Prayer. In fact, line 10 which reads “but deliver us from the evil one (ēlā fas.ān mēn bīšā),” is dogmatically re-articulated in a number of qur’ānic prayers. For example, Moses’ people pray,

Upon God have we placed our trust. Our Lord, do not make us a trial for the evil folk (lā taj‘alnā fitnah li al-qawm al-z.ālimīn); and deliver us—by your mercy—from the rebellious folk (wa najjinā bi rah. matik min al-qawm al-kāfirīn).

(Q 10:85–86: cf. 66:11)

Similarly, after Moses has killed an Egyptian he flees the city “fearfully looking about” and praying, “Our Lord, deliver me from the evil folk” (najjinī min al- qawm al-z.ālimīn; Q 28:21; cf. Q 23:28; see also 7:89; 26:169). The liturgical prayer formula found in the Qur’ān, “deliver us/me from the rebellious/evil folk” (najjinā/īmin al-qawm al-kāfirīn/al-z.ālimīn) reflects the syntax and meaning of “deliver us from the evil one (ēlā fas.ān mēn bīšā)” found in line 10 of the Lord’s Prayer. The verb najjinā/ī is a calque for fas.ān. Furthermore, the evil or oppressive folk (al-qawm al-kāfirīn/al-z.ālimīn) play the role of the perennial adversary/ adversaries faced by the prophets and their righteous entourage throughout the Qur’ān—the same role played by “the evil one” (bīšā) in the Aramaic Gospels (Matthew 5:37; John 17:15; and so on).

* Excerpts Ends *

Where are the Liberals in Syria & Egypt?

Conflict and reconciliation: “Arab liberalism” in Syria and Egypt 

By Emran El-Badawi

Burhan Ghalioun, former Chair, Syrian National Council

“How did renewed autocracy in Egypt and civil war in Syria impact liberals differently? What lessons can be learned about the nature of liberalism in the greater Arab context from this comparative survey? This chapter seeks to answer these questions, first by following the reaction of liberals to the so-called Arab Spring, comparing a handful of intellectuals and academics in Egypt as well as Syria. The chapter goes on to focus on two of the most prominent liberals in each context, namely Gaber Asfour and Burhan Ghalioun. In each case, the role played by the armed forces vis-à-vis the public was critical to their rapid accession to power, and equally rapid fall….”


Gaber Asfour, former Minister, Culture, Egypt

* Full article citation: Emran El-Badawi, “Conflict and Reconciliation: ‘Arab liberalism’ in Syria and Egypt,” Egypt and the Contradictions of Liberalism Illiberal Intelligentsia and the Future of Egyptian Democracy. Eds. Dalia Fahmy and Daanish Faruqi. London: OneWorld, 2017.

Islam & the Performing Arts (UPDATED)

I had the pleasure of being part of the INTERSECTIONS team, 2013-2015. As two year program funded by the Building Bridges program at the Dorris Duke Charitable Foundation and hosted by the University of Houston’ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts it hosted renowned artists from the Islamic world. Thanks to Maya Zbib, Slavs and Tatars, eL Seed, and Ibrahim Quraishi for teaching us all about modern Islam and the performing arts at a time when our world desperately needs their knowledge, compassion and beauty. The program continues well into 2017 and has brought in more extraordinary artists from Ghana Think Tank and Dichtaphone Group!

You can sample INTERSECTIONS by watching this video.

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Das Glaubensbekenntnis des Gesandten (The Messenger’s Creed Q 2:285)

The following text/audio is a German translation on Q 2:285 to a longer English article on Church canon law and qur’anic law to be published in the near future. Enjoy!


Sure 2 Vers 285Das Glaubensbekenntnis des Gesandten

Woran glauben Muslime? Ähnlich wie im Christentum drücken sie das in kurzen, prägnanten Glaubensbekenntnissen aus. Das bekannteste ist die Schahada. Sie lautet: “Es gibt keinen Gott außer Gott und Mohammed ist der Gesandte Gottes.” Es gibt aber noch mehr Glaubensbekenntnisse im Islam.

Von Dr. Emran El-Badawi, Universität Houston, Texas, USA

“Der Gesandte glaubt an das, was ihm von seinem Herrn herabgesandt, und auch die Gläubigen: Ein jeder glaubt an Gott und seine Engel, seine Bücher und seine Gesandten – wir unterscheiden zwischen keinem seiner Gesandten! Sie sprechen: ‚Wir hören und gehorchen! Vergib uns, unser Herr!‘ Und: ‚Zu dir hin ist das Ziel.‘”

Auf diesen Koranabschnitt bezieht sich das, was hier das Glaubensbekenntnis des Gesandten genannt wird.

Teaserbox zur Sendereihe "Koran erklärt" im Deutschlandfunk

Die Sendereihe Koran erklärt als Multimediapräsentation

In der späteren islamischen Tradition erklärt das Hadith-Schrifttum, also die Bücher zu den Überlieferungen Mohammeds, die doktrinären Elemente dieses Verses zu den Grundsätzen des Glaubens – arabisch: arkân al-îmân.

Das sind Gott, die Engel, die Heiligen Schriften, die Gesandten und die Vorherbestimmung. Offenkundig gibt es eine Entwicklung vom “urmuslimischen” Glauben auf Basis des Korans hin zu einem feststehenden Gebilde des “muslimischen” Glaubens auf Basis des Hadith.

Jahrhunderte nach der Offenbarung entstand die Auslegungsliteratur zum Koran. Sie liefert wertvolle kleine Hinweise auf den intertextuellen und historischen Hintergrund von Sure 2 Vers 285. Aber sie erläutert wenig zu den rechtlichen, philologischen und hagiographischen Details.

Dieser Vers ist einer von mehreren Glaubensbekenntnissen im Koran. Um die Doktrin zu bekräftigen, benutzt er die klar umrissene Terminologie der christlichen Glaubensbekenntnisse – und zwar so, wie sie am Vorabend des Islams vorgetragen wurden; oder allgemeiner gesprochen, wie sie in der Spätantike etwa vom 2. bis 7. Jahrhundert kursierten. Hören wir Auszüge aus dem Nicäanischen Glaubensbekenntnis:

“Wir glauben an den einen Gott,
den Vater, den Allmächtigen,
der alles geschaffen hat, Himmel und Erde,
die sichtbare und die unsichtbare Welt.
Und an den einen Herrn Jesus Christus,
Gottes eingeborenen Sohn,
aus dem Vater geboren vor aller Zeit:
Wir glauben an den Heiligen Geist,
der Herr ist und lebendig macht,
Wir bekennen die eine Taufe zur Vergebung der Sünden.
Wir erwarten die Auferstehung der Toten
und das Leben der kommenden Welt.

Ähnlich klingt das heute verbreitetere apostolische Glaubensbekenntnis. So wie das Glaubensbekenntnis des Gesandten bezeugen das nicäanische und apostolische Glaubensbekenntnis erstens den Glauben an Gott, zweitens den Glauben an die Vergebung der Sünden und drittens den Glauben an die Auferstehung und das Leben nach dem Tod.

Wenig überraschend widerspricht das Bekenntnis des Gesandten in Bezug auf Jesus Christus und den Heiligen Geist. Die Menschwerdung Gottes und die Trinitätslehre werden zurückgewiesen. Ganz eindeutig heißt es: “Wir unterscheiden zwischen keinem seiner Gesandten!”

Ferner werden das nicäanische wie das apostolische Bekenntnis als Akt einer gemeinschaftlichen Rede verkündet. Es heißt: “WIR glauben an….” Darin spiegeln sich die Ursprünge in den Konzilen und Synoden der Ostkirchen wider.

Dieser Brauch wird im Bekenntnis des Gesandten und dessen Abwandlungen bewahrt. Hier heißt es: “WIR” beziehungsweise “ALLE glauben an….” Gelehrte argumentierten, bestimmte Koran-Passagen seien in Form theologischer Glaubensbekenntnisse ausgedrückt worden, um die christlichen Bekenntnisse, wo sie Trinität und Menschwerdung umfassen, zu widerlegen. Es kann gut sein, dass die vier Verse aus Sure 112 mit Namen “Das reine Gottesbekenntnis” eine solche “Widerlegung” darstellen.

Wohingegen einige längere und diskursivere Koran-Passagen ebenfalls in Form theologischer Bekenntnisse in den Suren 2, 3 und 4 gut als Bestätigung der Doktrin dienen können. Wie in dieser Sendung gezeigt, ist der erläuterte Vers eine dieser Bestätigungen.

Porträt von Emran El-Badawi vor schwarzem Hintergrund. (prov.)

Emran El-Badawi ist Programmdirektor der Middle Eastern Studies und lehrt als Associate Professor. (prov.)

Die Audio-Version musste aus Gründen der Sendezeit leicht gekürzt werden.

Religious Violence in the Middle East: Military Intervention, Salafi-Jihadism and the Dream of a Caliphate

In Spring of 2015 I delivered a talk in Colorado Springs to an audience of military service men and women, civilians and students at the University of Colorado. One year article the talk turned into this article. “Religious Violence in the Middle East: Military Intervention, Salafi-Jihadism and the Dream of a Caliphate,” Journal of Cultural and Religious Studies 4.6 (2016): 396-409 traces the root causes of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other Jihadist groups, offering some brief insight along the way.


The Old Souk in 2007 (top) and 2013 (bottom) in Aleppo, Syria. (

Religious Violence in the Middle East: Military Intervention, Salafi-Jihadism and the Dream of a Caliphate

By Emran El-Badawi, University of Houston, Houston, USA


The so-called “Islamic State” (IS, ISIS, ISIL), by virtue of its name, forcibly imposed upon the world a religious as well as political agenda. Notorious for its gruesome execution videos, and sophisticated use of media propaganda IS killed over 9 thousand civilians in 2014 alone, the majority of which were Muslims. Yet IS asserts itself as the sole authentic carrier of Islam—an otherwise diverse religious body of 1.6 billion people, boasting fourteen hundred years of history. Its political agenda is realized with every city, province and territory it conquers from the all but collapsed governments of Iraq and Syria. Its signature claim and most salient undertaking has been the return of the Islamic Caliphate, fusing classical Islamic tradition with modern political warfare. However, as a state it is unrecognized by all its neighbors in the Middle East; and as an embodiment of Islam, it has been completely rejected by Islamic clergy and the public faithful.

One should, therefore, ask the question, from where does IS obtain its legitimacy for its approximately 30 thousand plus fighters? How Islamic is the so-called “Islamic State?” Why does IS justify barbaric violence against Sunnis, Shi‘ites, Christians and Yazidis is in the name of Islam? The fact that such minorities and still other more ancient as well as obscure groups have called greater Iraq and Syria home for two millennia is a living testament to the inherent tolerance and pluralism of traditional forms of Islam. So what are the “root causes” for the sprouting of IS’s poisonous ideology and how can we eliminate them? The answers to such questions are complex and hotly debated, among academics and policymakers alike. In order for us to get a complete understanding of IS we first need to examine the social, political and economic struggles that lead to the rise and menacing grip of violent religious fundamentalism in the name of Islam. This examination will take us through the Wahabi ideology of oil rich Arab gulf states, to the Salafi school which rose in the political and socio-economic turmoil of Egypt and greater Syria, and the spread of Salafi-Jihadism as a direct result of US military intervention.

Continue reading HERE!