As a lifetime student of classical mainline Islamic jurisprudential school of thought called “Sunni fiqh”, I feel saddened to note how the Western mainstream media succumbed to the Islamophobic propaganda of affixing the epithet “Sunni” to the militia of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
I can confidently say that ISIS is not Sunni because all that ISIS has done is to contravene the ethical teachings of Sunni Islam.
I consider Sunni Islam as the normative Islam practiced by the disciples of the Prophet Muhammad, who are called Sahabah (model companions) and the righteous caliphs “Al Khalifah Rashidun” (The Rightly Guided Caliphs) who were democratically elected by the whole Islamic Ummah (community). When the Islamophobic Western media equates ISIS barbarity and inhumanity to the normative Islamic term “Sunni” (which literally means followers of orthodox Islam), the Western media is simply serving US Hegemonic interests: by ensuring that neo-colonial and hegemonic forces will continue unabated the rising Islamophobia against Muslims and by effectively maligning Sunni Islam which is the prevalent school of Islamic jurisprudence in the Middle East and the rest of the Muslim world.
I can honestly attest that as per my readings of Shariah principles of the Four Imams of Sunni Islam (Imams Abu Hanifa, Shafi’i, Malik and Ibn Hanbal) who were the eminent jurisprudents of classical Sunni Islam, I have never encountered any of their treatise justifying barbarism and inhumanity that are now being perpetrated by ISIS.
In fact, these Four Imams of classical Sunni Islam through their treatises strongly detest the barbarity of the ISIS militia. Here are six (6) reasons why the entire ISIS war outfit cannot not be considered a ‘Sunni movement” and should never be called “Sunni” militia, and therefore Western mainstream media should not and must not commit Islamophobic name-calling, and must therefore stop referring to ISIS as “Sunni” militia:
1.) ISIS destroyed many holy shrines of Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria, including the shrine and mosque of the Prophet Yunus (Jonah) of Ninawa (Nineveh), Iraq and the shrine of Prophet Ayyub (Job) in Oz, Mosul, Iraq; to mention a few. They destroyed holy graves of Sufi-Sunni Muslim saints in and around Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq and in Damascus, Aleppo and Kobane in Syria.
2.) The Holy Quran declares that Muslims are forbidden to destroy places of worship of all religions; and particularly, the shrines of the Ahl-ul-Kitab (literally, “People with Sacred Scriptures”) i.e., Jews and Christians must be held inviolable and must even be secured by Muslims (Al-Qur-an 22:40-41), and yet ISIS barbarically destroyed Christian churches. Also, Islam in the Holy Quran solemnly declares that there should be no compulsion in religion (Al-Qur’an 2:256), and yet this ISIS militia are forcing Yezidis and Christians to convert or else face death. This is very strange: there is no news that records that Jews were forcibly converted by ISIS and synagogues around Mosul, Aleppo, Kirkuk and in cities of North Iraq were never destroyed by ISIS, even though there are resident Jews and there are a number of synagogues in these areas. This is a strange thing indeed! (See, The Majlis: Council of Ulama in South Africa; p. 8.)
3.) The Shariah Islamiyyah (Divine Law) of classical Sunni Islam are found in the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Qur’an clearly says that civilians and non-combatants’ lives are inviolable: (Al-Qur’an2:256, 5:69). As of this juncture, to quote from the Holy Qur’an is in order: “Allah forbids you to fight those who did not oppress you, nor threw you out of your homes, you ought to show compassion on them and manifest justice upon them. Verily Allah loves those who are just” (60:8). The killing of innocent non-combatants is forbidden in all Sunni rulings concerning defensive warfare. Sayyidina Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first Caliph of Sunni Islam penned this ruling to the armies of the Caliphate: “I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town and do not touch those who do not bear arms, do not kill those who surrender and take refuge in the designated places of refuge, all who surrender to you must be safe in your care.” (See Imam Malik’s Muwatta’, “Kitab al-Fatawah-ul-Jihad-e-Abu Bakr Siddiq” [The Book of Abu Bakr Siddiq on the Proper Conduct of Warfare], pp. 37-39.).
4.) As far as my research goes, there are no Sunni scholars (ulama) and legitimate Sunni muftis and fuqaha (Islamic jurists and doctors of Islamic law) among the so-called ISIS Caliphate to clearly establish legitimate fatwas (Shariah rulings) on the legitimacy of their jihad from the Sunni Islamic perspective. There is not even an ustadh (Islamic scholar) of eminence among their ranks! The truth is that eminent Sunni scholars of Iraq and Syria have denounced ISIS for killing over 300 Sunni imams: which effectively belied the ISIS claim that it represents itself as the protector of Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. Many Sunni clerics in Iraq and the Levant declare ISIS combatants as “outside the bounds of Islam and are therefore excommunicated from the Islamic faith” because of their brutality inflicted on non-Muslims and on Sunni Muslims
5.) Using the classical rulings of Sunni Islam on governance as basis of legitimacy, the so-called ISIS Caliphate is illegitimate. Genuine and bonafide Sunni Caliphate is established by the expressed consensus and consent (al-mushshuw’ara al jamaah) of the whole Islamic community by explicit public allegiance (bay-ah) of the whole body of Muslims. ISIS has unilaterally declared their so-called caliph, Al-Baghdadi as Khalifah-ul-Muslimin” (Caliph of all Muslims) clandestinely and covertly, in which the whole Muslim Ummah did not participate in his election, nor choose him to be its caliph, nor give him pledge of allegiance!
6.) ISIS was only able to successfully recruit combatants from Europe to wage war in Iraq and the Levant, but it failed to enlist the grassroot support of Iraqi and Levantine Sunnis. Furthermore, it failed to enlist allegiance of the Sunni Arab and Kurdish clergies who strongly denounced ISIS as outside the pale of the Islamic faith
In fact most of these ISIS militia are Australians, British, Americans, Belgian, French, German, Chechens, who mostly came from Europe, so that most Iraqis and Syrians regard ISIS as an alien power forcing and imposing themselves and their barbarity upon Arab lands with their sophisticated weaponries and ammunition that are mostly sourced from US, Britain and the rest of Europe.
If ISIS is not a Sunni militia, then who are they working for?
Who employed them to wreck havoc in the Middle East?
Why is it that the US government and its NATO allies cannot seriously fight ISIS in Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Levant? ISIS is US-made monster! ISIS Caliphate is never an Islamic Caliphate.
It is a “U.S.-made Caliphate” that does not have any binding authority whatsoever over worldwide Muslims.
It is known truth that CIA constantly backs-up and supports all known so-called jihadist groups from the Taliban of Afghanistan and Pakistan, to even Jemaa Islamiyya and Al-Qaeda in the Middle East, and the Boko Haram of Nigeria.
That is why US will never seriously fight these monsters it created.
US is the invisible director of all international terrorism groups so that these monsters can commit crimes mercilessly and with impunity against humanity. These monsters are made alive and sustained by American dollars and ably, yet subtly directed by the master of the puppetry: US invisible hegemonic hand!
NATO is in unholy partnership with the CIA operators who are currently training, arming, funding and equipping thousands of ISIS combatants from Europe to overthrow secular and socialist Syria as part of the CIA ploy called “Arab Spring”—which is nothing but a covert ideological operation to to conquer the Middle East and Central Asia, its oil reserves, its pipeline corridors as part of an imperial agenda. (On The Trans-Afghan pipeline see Michel Chossudovsky, “America’s War on Terrorism”, chapter 5, pp. 65-91).
Therefore, who is supporting this ISIS militia, who is equipping them, who is funding them so heftily?
For what purpose are they doing these despicable acts? If they are truly Islamic fighters bent on fighting for the rights of Islam and the Muslims, then why do they bomb Sunni Muslim mosques, Sufi Muslim shrines and Shi’ite Muslim prayer halls of their co-religionists?
Is this about establishing a war scenario in the Middle East so that the global weaponry business of the US military industrial complex is at its best and profitable business as usual?
These are relevant questions for our sober reflection.
Professor Henry Francis B. Espiritu is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines, Cebu City. His research interests also include Islamic Studies; particularly Sunni (Hanafi) jurisprudence, the writings of Al-Ghazali and Turkish Sufism. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.