Soldiers of Allah (Published 2008) (2022)


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By Irshad Manji

Before the Iraq invasion, a young imam offered some chilling advice to Muslims at the University of Toronto: if they could not fight the jihad against America with their souls or their sons, they should fight with their money. The Muslim Students Association told campus authorities that the imam did not represent the true spirit of Islam. With that, the case was closed.

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“Arguing the Just War in Islam” re-opens such debates. John Kelsay, a professor of religion at Florida State University, shows that today’s freelance fatwa-hurlers rarely capture the best of Islamic thought, but are not wholly divorced from it either. Their pronouncements attempt to pass for “Shariah reasoning,” a tradition of reconciling the Koran’s passages and the Prophet Muhammad’s examples to changing times.

For Muslim militants, however, the times do not change. Because Islam is humanity’s “natural religion,” evolution ended in the seventh century. That means the Islam of 1,400 years ago must be true everywhere and forever. “The militant vision,” Kelsay observes, “is one in which premodern precedents are not so much interpreted as applied.” No wonder a 20-something imam in the cosmopolitan West can feel utterly entitled to champion values straight out of tribal Arabia.

To his credit, Kelsay refuses to whitewash the role of religion in fostering the violence he discusses. “Those who wish to argue that Islam has nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11 or with the tactics of Iraqi ‘insurgents’ will find no comfort here,” he warns early on.

Yet his analysis also respects the nuances of Shariah reasoning. Kelsay appreciates Islamic history and delves into detail — though it is often tedious — about how theologians, jurists and dissidents decided what constitutes a just war. Like their Christian counterparts, Muslims have asked and asked again: When may battle be waged? Can noncombatants ever be targets? How much force is proportional? Does negotiation take precedence over a quick and easy victory?

Kelsay could have brought these questions to life had he given us something — anything — about the personalities of the questioners and not merely the process they followed. Stick with him, though. By forensically dissecting the development of Shariah reasoning he illuminates the situation we now face, in which classical Islamic scholars are trumped by bloodthirsty bandits who pose as thinkers.

Osama bin Laden is hardly the first of them. Consider the assassins of Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president who made peace with Israel in 1979. His murderers’ manifesto tried to justify Sadat’s killing with Shariah reasoning. Their case was weak — and they knew it. So they turned themselves into tabloid terrorists, exploiting emotion, inflating language and sensationalizing their target’s crime.

In short, Kelsay points out, the thugs resorted to “emergency reasoning.” According to their fevered testimonial about Sadat, “the enemy now ‘lives right in the middle’ of Islamic territory.” Emergency reasoning jettisons the basics of justice along with logic. The charter of Hamas tells slaves they may fight Zionists without their masters’ permission — thereby accepting bondage in Islam even while preaching liberation from oppressors.

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By contrast, traditional Shariah reasoning is sober enough to cut both ways. Take the just-war criterion of protecting innocents. One mainstream Muslim scholar has acknowledged that, in Kelsay’s words, a child’s death may be “foreseeable but unavoidable, as when an enemy’s military resources are deployed in the midst of a civilian population. ... Soldiers whose actions take place under such conditions are excused from the guilt associated with unjust killing.” That ruling would let Israeli defense forces off the hook for collateral damage in their 2006 war in Lebanon, since Hezbollah deliberately operated in residential Beirut.

To get out of embarrassing pickles like this, the most populist interpreters of just war in Islam go for broke. The televangelist Yusuf al-Qaradhawi is one example. Skirting both tradition and reason, he intones that “necessity makes the forbidden things permitted.” The “forbidden” includes suicide, conveniently redefined as martyrdom. Deep Shariah reasoning takes another tabloid turn.

Kelsay proves that we can understand the shifting rationales behind Islamist violence without excusing that violence. But his generosity also leads him, prematurely, to proclaim Shariah reasoning an “open practice.” Were this true, we Muslims would have already had our liberal reformation. As Kelsay himself notes, unconventional thinkers in Islam pay heavy tolls, from aborted careers to prolonged prison terms to outright execution. An open practice? From the author’s lips to the Almighty’s ears.

Kelsay would retort that mass movements like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami were founded by ordinary folk, a schoolteacher and a journalist respectively. Each of them seemingly supported the democratizing of interpretation. After all, they benefited from it.

But their campaigns did not democratize Shariah reasoning at all. As puritan movements, they further restricted who could participate in shaping Islam. Early on, the Muslim Brotherhood closed down bookstores and other dens of free thought. The Jamaat-i-Islami declared a minority Muslim sect inauthentic. The Islamic world’s only Nobel laureate in science, a member of the banned sect, had the word "Muslim" erased from his headstone by authorities in his home country, Pakistan.

Nor can moderate Muslims be counted on to rescue Shariah reasoning from militants. The sheik of Al Azhar University in Cairo, widely regarded as the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam, never directly challenged the manifesto of Sadat’s assassins. Kelsay rightly wonders, “Why not insist that militants like bin Laden or al-Zawahiri cease their advocacy of military operations, or that they confine themselves to making the case for reform through normal political channels?”

He provides a fascinating answer: moderates can share key premises with militants. The moderates whom Kelsay has studied “do not in fact dissent from the militant judgment that current political arrangements are illegitimate.” Which is not to say they have sought real democracy. Some moderates agree with militants that “democracy implies a kind of moral equivalence between Islam and other perspectives. And such a situation is dangerous, not only for the standing of the Muslim community, but for the moral life of humankind.”

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The hope rests with “Muslim democrats” who will pluck the Koran and the Prophet out of a tribal time warp. Kelsay focuses on Muslims in America, recognizing three male scholars whose work ranges from online consultations about the future of Shariah to arguments for harmonizing Islam with women’s equality and freedom of conscience. He then urges the West to prosecute its war on terror by demonstrating rather than defying democracy. Doing so will help Muslim democrats get heard within their communities — a necessity for all of us, Kelsay suggests, because these Muslims might be the only people who can rehabilitate democracy’s appeal after the serial hypocrisies practiced under its banner by Washington, among others.

It is a provocative conclusion, but an incomplete one. Muslim democrats will also have to confront Koranic passages that give militants an escape hatch. The most famous verse tells believers that slaying an innocent is like slaying all of mankind unless it is done to punish villainy. Radical Muslims seize on this loophole. Moderate Muslims sanitize it. Reform-minded Muslims must reinterpret it.

How this happens could well be the next chapter in reclaiming Shariah reasoning and the richness of Islam itself.


How many Muslims are there in the world in 2022? ›

Islam is the world's second-largest religion

Earth is home to more than 1.9 billion Muslims. Islam is also the world's fastest-growing religion. The Islamic population is mainly split between 1.5 billion Sunni Muslims and 240-340 million Shia Muslims, with the remainder scattered among a few smaller denominations.

Who are the soldiers of Islam? ›

Soldiers of Islam, also known as Sons of Islam, is believed to be an offshoot of outlaw bikie gang the Bandidos, which has a clubhouse at Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast. Sources say the gang, comprising young Muslim men who sport "SOI'' tattoos, has sprung up on the Glitter Strip relatively recently.

Does Islam have a military? ›

Muslim jurists agree that Muslim armed forces must consist of debt-free adults who possess a sound mind and body. In addition, the combatants must not be conscripted, but rather enlist of their free will, and with the permission of their family.

How many countries convert Islam? ›

In how many countries is Islam the main religion? There are about 50 countries where the majority of the population is Muslim. Worldwide there are about 30 countries with a Muslim population, in which more than 90% of the inhabitants belong to Islam (see list below).

How long will Islam last? ›

In more than 15 ahadith found in the Sahih of Imam Bukhari, Sunnan of Imam Abu Dawwud, Jamii of Imam Tirmidhi and others, the prophet (saws) said Islam has a specific lifespan on earth, these Ahadith state Allah gave Islam 1500 years then relatively soon after this He would establish the Hour, we are now in the year ...

Who is the lion of Islam? ›

Hazrat Hamza, the lion of Allah.

Who is the soldiers of Allah? ›

“Allah has the soldiers of the heavens and the earth” (48:4). The soldiers of Allah consist of the believers, the angels who fill the heavens and the earth, and what we perceive to be good calamities and what we perceive to be bad including, natural disasters, floods, winds and the earthquakes.

Who is the strongest warrior in Islam? ›

Ali is traditionally considered to be one of the greatest and one of the most valiant Muslim warriors. He took part in almost all the battles fought by the nascent Muslim community. His contributions in the Battle of Khyber and the Battle of Badr are very well known.

What is the biggest jihad in Islam? ›

Ibn Nuhaas also cited a hadith from Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, where Muhammad states that the highest kind of jihad is "The person who is killed whilst spilling the last of his blood" (Ahmed 4/144). According to another hadith, supporting one's parents is also an example of jihad.

What are the 3 types of jihad? ›

Yusuf Qardhawi divided jihad into three levels. First, jihad against the visible enemies. Second, jihad against Satan's temptation and third, jihad against worldly lust. (Qaradawi, 2010: 3).

What does jihad mean in Arabic? ›

The Arabic term jihad literally means a “struggle” or “striving.” This term appears in the Quran in different contexts and can include various forms of nonviolent struggles: for instance, the struggle to become a better person.

Is fighting allowed in Islam? ›

The Qur'an (22:39) allows the use of force in self-defence: 'Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom fighting is launched, because they have been wronged.

Does the US Army have Muslims? ›

In December 2015, 5,896 of the 1.3 million active members of the US military self-identified as Muslim, or roughly 0.45%. Practicing Muslims, in accordance with US military policy, are required shave their beards and are often unable to obtain food which meets their dietary requirements.

Can you pray in the US Army? ›

"Members of the military have a right to pray or not pray as they personally see fit, and that right is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is one of the fundamental rights they put their lives on the line to defend in service to their country," said Jeon.

Which religion is most educated? ›

A Pew Center study about religion and education around the world in 2016, found that Jews are most educated religious group around in the world with an average of 13.4 years of schooling; Jews also have the highest number of post-secondary degrees per capita (61%).

Who accepted Islam first? ›

The first converts to Islam at the time of Muhammad were: Khadija bint Khuwaylid - First person to convert and first free female convert. Ali ibn Abi Talib - First free male child in Muhammad's family to convert. Zayd ibn Harithah - First freed slave male convert.

Which is the non Islamic country? ›

Non-denominational Muslims are found primarily in Central Asia. Kazakhstan has the largest number of non-denominational Muslims, who constitute about 74% of the population. Southeastern Europe also has a large number of non-denominational Muslims.
Non-denominational Muslim.
Total population
12 more rows

Which religion is decreasing in world? ›

The Presbyterian Church has had the sharpest decline in church membership: between 2000 and 2015 they lost over 40% of their congregation and 15.4% of their churches. Infant baptism has also decreased; nationwide, Catholic baptisms are down by nearly 34%, and ELCA baptisms by over 40%.

Which religion will rule the world in 2050? ›

Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 … The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.

What religion spread the fastest? ›

Studies in the 21st century suggest that, in terms of percentage and worldwide spread, Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.
  • 1.6 Hinduism.
  • 1.7 Islam. 1.7.1 Modern growth. ...
  • 1.8 Judaism.
  • 1.9 Baháʼí Faith.
  • 1.10 Nonreligious.
  • 1.11 Sikhism.
  • 1.12 Wicca.
  • 1.13 Zoroastrianism.

Who is the tiger of Allah? ›

Asadullāh (Arabic: أَسَدُ ٱلله), also written Asadollah, Assadullah or Asad Ullah, is a male Muslim given name meaning Lion of Allah.

Who is called the Sword of Allah? ›

On his return to Madinah, Muhammad appointed Khalid as a commander of the Muslim army based on his military prowess and gave him the title of Sayf Allah (Sword of God). Up until Muhammad's passing in 632 AD, Khalid helped the Muslims capture Mecca, Yalamlam, and Tabuk thus, solidifying the Islamic state under Muhammad.

Which Sahabi talked to a tiger? ›

Muṣʿab ibn ʿUmayr (Arabic: مصعب بن عمير) also known as Muṣʿab al-Khayr ("the Good") was a sahabi (companion) of Muhammad. From the Banū ʿAbd al-Dār branch of the Quraysh, he embraced Islam in 614 CE and was the first ambassador of Islam.
Mus'ab ibn Umayr.
Muṣʿab ibn ʿUmayr مصعب بن عمير
Battles/warsBattle of Badr Battle of Uhud †
13 more rows

Which religion is best in world? ›

Largest religious groups
ReligionFollowers (billions)Cultural tradition
Christianity2.4Abrahamic religions
Islam1.9Abrahamic religions
Hinduism1.2Indian religions
Buddhism0.5Indian religions
1 more row

Who is undefeated warrior in Islam? ›

Khalid Ibn Al- Walid (RA): The Undefeated Islamic Warrior. WIDELY regarded as one of the most consequential Muslim military leaders of all time, Khalid ibn al-Walid was an Arab Muslim commander in the service of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the caliphs Abu Bakr (RA) (r. 632–634) and Umar (RA) (r. 634–644).

Who is the leader of Islam now? ›

Mirza Masroor Ahmad (Urdu: مرزا مسرور احمد; born 15 September 1950) is the current and fifth leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. His official title within the movement is Fifth Caliph of the Messiah (Arabic: خليفة المسيح الخامس, khalīfatul masīh al-khāmis).
Mirza Masroor Ahmad
ReligionAhmadiyya Islam
9 more rows

What does Allah say about war? ›

The Qur'an emphasises that war should be fought only for noble motives without seeking any earthly reward: Those who readily fight in the cause of God are those who forsake this world in favor of the Hereafter.

What are the 4 types of jihad? ›

Anas there are four types of jihad: jihad with one's heart (bil-qalb), with one's tongue (bil-lisan), with one's hand (bil-yad), and with a sword (bil-sayf). 272 He explains that a jihad with the heart means to defeat the shaytan (devil) and oppress one's lust and bestial desires.

How many wars did Prophet fight? ›

Muhammad: The Warrior Prophet. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, was also a truly great general. In the space of a single decade he fought eight major battles, led eighteen raids, and planned another thirty-eight military operations. The long shadow of Muhammad stretches across centuries of strife to the present.

What is a Hijab woman? ›

In modern usage, hijab (Arabic: حجاب, romanized: ḥijāb, pronounced [ħɪˈdʒaːb]) refers to headcoverings worn by some Muslim women. While such headcoverings can come in many forms, hijab often specifically refers to a cloth wrapped around the head, neck and chest, covering the hair & neck but leaving the face visible.

What is jihad Bil Lisan? ›

- Jihad by the tongue – Jihad bil lisan-‐ (speech) – being truthful and waging a struggle through writing and speech (such as the Dawa – call to Islam).

What Allah says about jihad? ›

The defensive nature of jihad is clearly emphasized in 2:190, “And fight in the way of God with those who fight you, but aggress not: God loves not the aggressors.” At critical points throughout the years, Muhammad received revelations from God that provided guidelines for the jihad.

What are the 5 pillars of faith in Islam? ›

The five pillars – the declaration of faith (shahada), prayer (salah), alms-giving (zakat), fasting (sawm) and pilgrimage (hajj) – constitute the basic norms of Islamic practice.

What is Qital in Islam? ›

In the majority of the Revelation's verses the term adopted is Qital, which means struggle, but also killing, the meaning of Jihad, which can be spiritual and military at the same time, has been hermeneutically analyzed in the text itself.

What are the three denominations of Islam? ›

Historically, Islam was divided into three major sects well known as Sunni, Khawarij and Shī'ah. Nowadays, Sunnis constitute about 90% of the overall Muslim population while the Shi'as are around 10%. Today, many of the Shia sects are extinct.

What sports are haram? ›

"Especially boxing and fighting [sports] without rules are considered, from the religious point of view, haram, as they can damage health, disable someone," said Abdulkodirzoda, who is appointed to his post by the government. He added: "All kinds of games and duels [done] for money are haram.

Is karate haram in Islam? ›

Egypt's al-Azhar Mosque released a statement slamming Salafi Sheikh Yasser al-Borhamy after he decreed that martial arts is not permissible in Islam because humans "prostrate to each other" after their match is over.

Is chess haram in Islam? ›

Saudi Arabia's grand mufti has ruled that chess is forbidden in Islam, saying it encourages gambling and is a waste of time.

Can you wear a hijab in the military? ›

The simple answer is yes.

How many people convert to Islam in America every year? ›

25,000 Americans convert to Islam per year. The conversion rate of Americans has become 4 times more since September 11. In more recent years, there has been significant conversion to Islam in the state, federal, and local prisons of the United States.

Do Muslims get drafted? ›

Some 606 Muslim Arabs drafted to the IDF in 2020, compared to 489 in 2019 and 436 in 2018. More than half of those who have drafted went to combat roles. The number of those drafted to the Bedouin reconnaissance unit has almost doubled in two years, from 84 in 2018 to 171 in 2020.

What religions can go on dog tags? ›

Service members can generally put whatever religious preference they want on their tags, including "Atheist" or "Agnostic." Some even ask for "Jedi" or "Druid." There is no list of official or approved religions--after all, that would constitute government endorsement of a particular religion.

What religions are recognized by the military? ›

Chaplains are currently endorsed to represent Jews, Catholics, members of American Orthodox Church, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans and Presbyterians. Each has a religious affairs specialist to help them with administrative, logistical and support tasks, she said in an email.

Can the Army stop you from going to church? ›

Pursuant to the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Service members have the right to observe the tenets of their religion or to observe no religion at all, as provided in this issuance.

Which religion is most in the world 2022? ›

Christianity. The world's largest religion is Christianity, which is practiced by almost 2.4 billion people. Christianity is divided into Eastern and Western theology, and within those divisions, many branches, including Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.

How many Muslims are in the world? ›

Adherents of Islam constitute the world's second largest religious group. According to a estimation in 2020, Islam has 1.9 billion adherents, making up about 24.7% of the world population.

What is the world population for 2022? ›

The global population is projected to reach 8 billion on 15 November 2022, and India is projected to surpass China as the world's most populous country in 2023, according to World Population Prospects 2022, released today on World Population Day.

Which country has most Muslims? ›

The country with the largest number (about 209 million) is Indonesia, where 87.2% of the population identifies as Muslim. India has the world's second-largest Muslim population in raw numbers (roughly 176 million), though Muslims make up just 14.4% of India's total population.

Who is the No 1 beautiful religion in the world? ›

According to Pew Research Center, Hindus are the second wealthiest and the most educated religious group in the United States. This is one of the reasons why scholars consider Hinduism the most beautiful religion in the world.

Who is the No 1 religion in the world? ›

Christians remain world's largest religious group, but they are declining in Europe. Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth's 7.3 billion people, according to a new Pew Research Center demographic analysis.

What is China doing to Muslims? ›

China has been witnessing a humanitarian crisis. More than one million Uighur and other Muslim minorities are forcibly held in mass detention camps in the Xinjian province where they face countless human rights abuses from forced labour, coerced sterilisation, and destruction of their culture and religious identity.

Which is the non Islamic country? ›

Non-denominational Muslims are found primarily in Central Asia. Kazakhstan has the largest number of non-denominational Muslims, who constitute about 74% of the population. Southeastern Europe also has a large number of non-denominational Muslims.
Non-denominational Muslim.
Total population
12 more rows

Why green is the color of Islam? ›

The color green (Arabic: أخضر, romanized: 'akhḍar) has a number of traditional associations in Islam. In the Quran, it is associated with paradise. In the 12th century, green was chosen as dynastic color by the (Shiite) Fatimids, in contrast to the black used by the (Sunnite) Abbasids.

When did Earth Hit 7 Billion? ›

Our planet has reached a staggering milestone: On October 31, 2011, the world population reached 7 billion people eking out a living.

How many females are in the world? ›

Gender ratio in the World

The population of females in the world is estimated at 3,904,727,342 or 3,905 million or 3.905 billion, representing 49.58% of the world population.

How Many people Can Earth Support? ›

Earth's capacity

Many scientists think Earth has a maximum carrying capacity of 9 billion to 10 billion people.

What is the most religious country? ›

Ranking the Faithful

Saudi Arabia has edged out Israel as the country perceived as the most religious, according to data from the 2022 Best Countries rankings from U.S. News, a characterization of 85 countries based on a survey of more than 17,000 global citizens.

Which is fastest growing religion in world? ›

In the next half century or so, Christianity's long reign as the world's largest religion may come to an end, according to a just-released report that builds on Pew Research Center's original population growth projections for religious groups.

How many Muslims are in UK? ›

The vast majority of Muslims in the United Kingdom live in England: 2,660,116 (4.3% of the population). 76,737 Muslims live in Scotland (1.45%), 45,950 in Wales (1.50%).
Islam in Europe.
Total population
Greater London1,012,823
West Midlands376,152
North West England356,458
Yorkshire and the Humber326,050
8 more rows


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