Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim
In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Merciful:
The following is taken from an letter to the leader, fighters, and followers of the group calling itself the Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIL, or ISIS) and to its fighters and followers by more than 170 major scholars, muftis, and senior Imams from throughout the Muslim world. It is not the opinion of one Muslim nor a statement from a liberal or quietist Muslim group. It consists of authoritative sharia pronouncements and supporting arguments by a large sample of prominent scholars from across the major Sunni schools of Islamic sharia law. ISIS is a Salafi Sunni group.
I hope it can be of benefit for those trying to add substance to the claim that the beliefs and actions of ISIS are opposed by the mainstream majority of the Muslims throughout the world. In addition, I hope that any Muslim who sympathizes with ISIS sincerely and thoughtfully considers these points: these scholars, or `ulama, are unanimous in declaring much of ISIS’s conduct haram, or categorically forbidden. The inhuman conduct that has so appalled Western audiences in recent months is appalling to mainstream Muslim authorities around the world and across the various schools of thought.
For the 15-page letter in its entirety, as well its translation into Arabic and several European languages, please visit lettertobaghdadi.com. In the following excerpts, section headings, punctuation edits, and emphatic styling have been added to the original for readability and emphasis.
Don’t Oversimplify Islam
It is not permissible to constantly speak of “simplifying matters” or to cherry-pick an extract from the Qur’an without understanding it within its full context. It is also not permissible to say, “Islam is simple, and the Prophet, may peace be upon him, and his noble Companions were simple: why complicate Islam?” . . . And the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, said, “Whoever speaks about the Qur’an without knowledge should await his seat in the Fire.”
Respect the lives of Ambassadors and Emissaries
It is known that all religions forbid the killing of emissaries. What is meant by emissaries here are people who are sent from one group of people to another to perform a noble task such as reconciliation or the delivery of a message. Emissaries have a special inviolability.
Ibn Masoud [among the most learned of the Prophet’s companions] said, “The Sunnah [or exemplary conduct of the Prophet] [carries on with the customary rule] that emissaries are never killed.” . . . Aid workers are also emissaries of mercy and kindness, yet you killed the aid worker David Haines [along with others]. What you have done is unquestionably forbidden (haram).
War Crimes: Islam forbids the Killing of Prisoners
When Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq [i.e. the Prophet Muhammad’s immediate successor], may God be pleased with him, prepared an army and sent it to the Levant, he said:
You will find people who have devoted themselves to monasteries, leave them to their devotions . . . Do not kill the old and decrepit, women, or children; do not destroy buildings; do not cut down trees or harm livestock without good cause; do not burn or drown palms; do not be treacherous; do not mutilate; do not be cowardly; and do not loot . . .
As for killing prisoners, it is forbidden in Islamic Law. Yet you have killed many prisoners including the 1700 captives at Camp Speicher in Tikrit in June 2014, the 200 captives at the Sha’er gas field in July 2014, the 700 captives of the Sha’etat tribe in Deir el-Zor of whom 600 were unarmed civilians, the 250 captives at the Tabqah air base in Al-Raqqah in August 2014, Kurdish and Lebanese soldiers, and many untold others whom God knows. These are heinous war crimes.
Don’t Declare People Non-Muslims
Quintessentially in Islam, anyone who says “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God” is a Muslim and cannot be declared a non-Muslim. God Most High says:
O you who believe, when you are going forth in the way of God, be discriminating, and do not say to him who offers you peace, ‘You are not a believer,” desiring the transient goods of the life of this world. With God are plenteous spoils. So were you formerly, but God has been gracious to you. So be discriminating. Surely God is ever Aware of what you do. (Al-Nisa’, 4: 94)
The meaning of “be discriminating” in the above verse is to ask them, “Are you Muslims?” The answer is to be taken at face-value without questioning or testing their faith.
Respect People of Other Faiths
Regarding Arab Christians, you gave them three choices: jizyah [or poll tax], the sword, or conversion to Islam. You painted their homes red, destroyed their churches, and, in some cases, looted their homes and property. You killed some of them and caused many others to flee their homes with nothing but their lives and the clothes on their backs.
These Christians are not combatants against Islam or transgressors against it; indeed they are friends, neighbours, and co-citizens. From the legal perspective of Shari’ah, they all fall under ancient agreements that are around 1400 years old, and the rulings of jihad do not apply to them. . . . [T]hey are not enemies but friends. For the past 1400 years, they have defended their countries against the Crusaders, colonialists, Israel, and in other wars. How, then, can you treat them as enemies?
Don’t Destroy the Resting Places of Prophets and Prophetic Companions
You have blown up and destroyed the graves of Prophets and Companions. Scholars disagree on the subject of graves. Nevertheless, it is not permissible to blow up the graves of Prophets and Companions and disinter their remains; just as it is not permissible to burn grapes under the pretext that some people use them to make wine.
The Rule Regarding Rebelling against the Leader of a Muslim Country
It is impermissible to rebel against the leader who is not guilty of declared and candid disbelief (al-kufr al-bawwah), [that is], disbelief that he himself admits to openly [such that] all Muslims are in consensus regarding such a person being a non-Muslim—or by his prohibiting the establishment of prayers. The evidence of this is in God Most High’s words: “O you who believe, obey God, and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you . . . ” (Al-Nisa’, 4:59)
Your pseudo-Caliphate is Illegitimate
In your speech, you quoted the Companion Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (may God be pleased with him): “I have been given authority over you, and I am not the best of you.” This begs the question: who gave you authority over the [global Muslim community]? Was it your group? If this is the case, then a group of no more than several thousand has appointed itself the ruler of over a billion and a half Muslims.
This attitude is based upon a corrupt circular logic that says: “Only we are Muslims, and we decide who the caliph is. We have chosen one, so whoever does not accept our caliph is not a Muslim.” In this case, a caliph is nothing more than the leader of a certain group that declares more than 99% of Muslims non-Muslim.
On the other hand, if you recognize [as Muslim] the billion and a half people who consider themselves Muslims, how can you not consult (shura) them regarding your so-called caliphate?
Thus, you face one of two conclusions. Either you concur that they are Muslims and that they did not appoint you caliph over them—in which case, you are not the caliph. Or . . . [assuming the majority are not Muslim, as you say], [the only real] Muslims are a small group not in need of a caliph, so why use the word “caliph” at all? In truth, the caliphate must emerge from a consensus of Muslim countries, organizations of Islamic scholars, and Muslims across the globe . . .
- It is forbidden in Islam to issue fatwas without all the necessary learning requirements. Even then fatwas must follow Islamic legal theory as defined in the Classical texts. It is also forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur’an and Hadith teach related to that matter. In other words, there are strict subjective and objective prerequisites for fatwas, and one cannot “cherry-pick” Qur’anic verses for legal arguments without considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.
- It is forbidden in Islam to issue legal rulings about anything without mastery of the Arabic language.
- It is forbidden in Islam to oversimplify Shari’ah matters and ignore established Islamic sciences.
- It is permissible in Islam for scholars to differ on any matter, except those fundamentals of religion that all Muslims must know.
- It is forbidden in Islam to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings.
- It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent.
- It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.
- Jihad in Islam is defensive war. It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose and without the right rules of conduct.
- It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief.
- It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any “People of the Scripture”.
- It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.
- The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.
- It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.
- It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.
- It is forbidden in Islam to deny children their rights.
- It is forbidden in Islam to enact legal punishments (hudud) without following the correct procedures that ensure justice and mercy.
- It is forbidden in Islam to torture people.
- It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.
- It is forbidden in Islam to attribute evil acts to God Almighty.
- It is forbidden in Islam to destroy the graves and shrines of Prophets and Companions.
- Armed insurrection is forbidden in Islam for any reason other than clear disbelief by the ruler and not allowing people to pray.
- It is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without consensus from all Muslims.
- Loyalty to one’s nation is permissible in Islam. After the death of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, Islam does not require anyone to emigrate anywhere.
For the 15-page letter in its entirety, the full list of its signatories, and its translation into Arabic and several European languages, please visit lettertobaghdadi.com. In the about excerpts, section headings, punctuation edits, and emphatic styling have been added to the original for readability and emphasis.