Islam Expert Answers Challenges
By Dr. Mark A. Gabriel, author of Islam and Terrorism
Dr. Mark A. Gabriel’s introduction
As a former Muslim who is writing books about Islamic practices and beliefs, I am accustomed to controversy. Although many people respond to my books with excitement because I am being honest about what Islam teaches, other people are very angry about what I write and suspicious about who I am.
In January 2006, the largest Christian daily newspaper in Norway (Vaart Land) published an article against me and my first U.S. book, Islam and Terrorism, and it is stated that “Mark Gabriel is false. He does not exist." I would like to go on record that I do exist and that every word of my story in Islam and Terrorism is true and it happened to me.
However, I do thank the Christian newspaper or any different type of media in Norway who are giving the opportunity to Muslims to say their word and to express their feeling. I have no problem at all with this. But also I hope that they will grant me the same opportunity so that I can respond to them with more facts and information.
Before I respond to the critique printed in Vaart Land, I believe it will help the reader to know some background information about me and about the author of the article that challenges me and my book.
I was born in Egypt and raised as a Muslim. I finished memorizing the Quran at the age of 12 and went through Al-Azhar schools. At Al-Azhar University, I earned bachelor and master’s degrees and ended with a doctorate degree in Islamic History and Culture. At the age of 34, while serving as an imam and lecturing for the university, I began to openly question the validity of Islam. I was fired from the university, kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, and released. I became a Christian after reading the Bible and ultimately came to the United States for religious asylum. Since coming to the United States, I have written four books: Islam and Terrorism, Islam and the Jews, Jesus and Muhammad, and Journey into the Mind of an Islamic Terrorist.
The article in Vaart Land was written by Basim Ghoslan from Jordan, a former imam for the Islamic Association of Oslo (Det islamske forbundet i Oslo) and now editor of the website islam.no. I was amazed to learn that he has a relationship to Yussuf al-Qaradawi (now 79 years old) who was the spiritual leader for Al-Gema’a al-Islamiyyah, the notorious Egyptian radical group that assassinated Anwar Sadat. I know Yusuf al-Qaradawi from my time in Egypt because he was one of the professors who taught me on the old campus of Al-Azhar. When Qaradawi lead the Muslim prayer of Eid (Day of Celebration after the end of Ramadan) in Adin Square in the center of Cairo (late 70s/ early 80s), I was one of the tens of thousands standing in the prayer lines behind him.
Today Qaradawi is known for his television program on Al-Jazeera and his website called IslamOnline. He supports Palestinian use of suicide bombing against Israel as an act of self-defence, but he condemns the bombings in London, Madrid, and Sharm El-Sheik (an Egyptian resort) as well as the acts of 9/11. He is considered by some to be a moderate, but in 1989 he was one of the key speakers at a conference in Kansas City (United States) that featured the leaders of the top terrorist organizations of the world such as Hizb at-Tahrir, Jebhatul al-Inkaz (Algeria), Hizb al-Nahada (Tunisia), and HAMAS (Palestine). (Source: Destroying Terrorism from the Roots, by Beni Amin Netanyahu, Arabic version, published by Dar-al-Neda, Beiruit, Lebanon, p. 100.)
With these influences, Mr. Basim Ghoslan would have a good understanding of the principles of jihad. Many of you in Norway know that he made a controversial statement on the internet in September 2004 in which he supported suicide operations of Palestinian terror organizations against Jews, including civilians, just as Qaradawi does.. He said this because he has studied Islam deeply and he has seen what the Quran and the prophet of Islam allowed in methods of jihad.
In Mr. Ghoslan’s critique of my book in Vaart Land, he exaggerates my statements or complains that I do not explain a point in detail, but he never denies the reality of jihad.
My heart is weeping and crying for the way that many in Europe generally and Norway in particular are still sleeping, not recognizing the danger that is living in the midst of them. This naiveté creates an environment where terrorism can thrive.
I believe my response to Basim Ghoslan’s article will help readers see a clearer picture of the teachings of Islam.—MG
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] In the last years I have several times met people who use arguments from the book Islam and Terrorism by Mark Gabriel. That is why I decided to go through that book thoroughly.
The author states that he has worked as imam in a mosque in Giza in Egypt, and that he was a professor at Al-Azhar University. Mark Gabriel was invited to Sweden in 2003, and the invitation created much debate among Christians and Muslims. Quite a number of Muslims started to dig in his past, and by
traveling to and talking with Al-Azhar University found that there had been no student or professor with that name which he has said was his former name. No one with that name has ever been at the university. His picture was not
recognized at the place where he claims to have been imam. That would have been simple with a picture of a former professor and a well-known imam. That is why we with a great certainty can say that his statement of being a professor at Al-Azhar University in Cairo is false, and not only that, but also that his saying he was an imam at a mosque in Giza is also false. When these things are uncovered it makes the book not reliable, because it is built upon an authority that does not exist.
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: First of all, I would be surprised if anyone took the time and energy to travel to Egypt and search about my past. Second, if some people did go to Egypt, they would have a difficult time of research because I highly doubt that these people know my original Muslim name. For sure, if someone gave the name Mark A. Gabriel to Al-Azhar, there will be no record of a student or professor there with that name.
As I said in the introduction to my book, Mark A. Gabriel is the name I chose after leaving my Muslim life behind. I have kept my Muslim name private because I refuse to give anyone a weapon they can use to destroy the family I left behind in Egypt—mother, father, brothers, and sister.
If my picture were shown at Al-Azhar or the mosque, I am not surprised that the people would fail or refuse to recognize me. It has been almost 13 years since I departed from Al-Azhar, so a few people may have forgotten me or may not recognize me now. But the main reason the people would refuse to identify my picture is because they are ashamed to discuss anything about me. Because I left Islam, I am considered to be a dead person—not just to them in the university or in the mosque, but even for my father and my brothers, who disowned me and have nothing to do with me.
Nevertheless, proving my story is not the main issue here. When he faced accusations, Jesus told the people: “If you don’t believe who I am, at least believe what I do" (John 10:38, 14:11). In the same way, I would like to say, “If you don’t believe who I am, at least listen to what I know." It’s not the position at the university or the position at the mosque that gives authority to my book. What gives my book authority is the knowledge, experience and courage to speak out. My book has authority because of the evidence presented from the Quran and the hadith. The meaning of the Quran has been translated into many languages around the world. People can take the book and go to the Quran, reading both, and draw their own conclusions.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] Then the author became a Christian. He was handed a Bible and asked to read in it. His eyes first fell on Matthew 5:38:"Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."
Now he got saved! He had never heard anything that was so beautiful. What is strange is that he says that he knows the Koran by heart – why did he not know this verse: K41:34 “One good and an evil deed is not equal. Reject the evil with what is better, and see, the one who is your enemy, become like a warm friend!"?
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: I knew Surah 41:34, but I never even thought about this verse at that time when I was reading in Matthew because I knew the man behind the verse didn’t practice it in his own life. The one who delivered that verse to me through his book called the Quran led more than 27 or 28 battles by himself. This man wiped the entire community of Jewish people out of Arabia after they rejected Islam. I saw the history of Islam is nothing but a river of blood as a result of the deeds and the teachings of the founder of this religion.
Surah 41:34 is a good verse by itself. But when you know the rest of the Quran, this verse is seen in a different light. There are two major differences between the Quran’s call to forgive and Jesus’ call to forgive.
First, when the Jesus taught, Love one another, or, Be kind to others, he did not say that this standard applied only to other Christians. The biblical teaching is absolutely general commanding Christians to treat other Christians and unbelievers of any part of the world with the same respect. Christ’s teaching in Matthew 5 says, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39). It doesn’t say, When a Christian hits your cheek, give him the other cheek. Christ told his disciples and his followers, “You are the light of the world. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?" (Matthew 5:13, 14, 46). But if you do good to someone who does bad to you, this is the great action.
Even though Surah 41:34 does not say that forgiveness is for Muslims only, Islamic teaching about kindness, love and respect is generally in the context of how Muslims should treat other Muslims. The Quran says:
The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islamic religion). So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy (Surah 49:10, Muhsin Khan translation).
I would like to remind you that Muhammad said in his final sermon:
Today your religion is completed, and the grace of God is fulfilled in your life. And I bear witness that Islam is your religion. O Muslim people, you are prohibited to shed blood among yourselves or to steal from each other or take advantage of each other or to steal the women or wives of other Muslims. (Ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, 3rd ed., pt. 6, vol. 3 (Beirut, Lebanon: Dar-al-Jil, 1998), p. 8, author's translation)
Notice that all these instruction were about how Muslims treat other Muslims. However, when you come to Muslim treatment of non-Muslims, there is another set of standards. In the same sermon, Muhammad went on to warn those who were not Muslim:
After today there will no longer be two religions existing in Arabia. I descended by Allah with the sword in my hand, and my wealth will come from the shadow of my sword. And the one who will disagree with me will be humiliated and persecuted. (Ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, 3rd ed., pt. 6, vol. 3 (Beirut, Lebanon: Dar-al-Jil, 1998), p. 8, author's translation)
So Muhammad’s last message to the Muslims was to be good to each other and to drive all other religions out of Arabia.
I would also like to remind you of the treaty of Omar ibn al-Khattib, the second caliph of Islam, called the Treaty of Humiliation. This treaty shows how the Quran and the hadith taught Muslims to treat non-Muslims, especially people of the book (Jews and Christians). This teaching is practiced today in Muslim countries where Christians live as second-class citizens. (I give a list of these guidelines in my book Islam and the Jews, chapter 18. The sources were Dr. Kasim Abdo, People of the Book in Egypt During the Middle Ages (Cairo, Egypt: Dar-al-Maerif, 1977), 26–27; Al-Tabori, The History of the Kings and the Prophets (Cairo, Egypt: Dar-al-Maerif); Ibn-Kathir, The Beginning and the End (Cairo, Egypt: Al-Maktaba As-Salafiya).)
Second, Islamic law is based on al-Ka’saas, which means “eye for eye and tooth for tooth."
So let’s look to how the Quran defines the relationship between al-Ka’saas and forgiveness. Surah 42:40 says,
The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): But if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God: For God loves not those who do wrong.
However, the verse preceding it (v 39) instructs the Muslim to practice Al-Ka’saas, “When an oppressive wrong is done to them, take revenge." And the verse following says, “And indeed whosoever takes revenge after he has suffered wrong, for such there is no way (of blame) against them" (v. 41).
In other words, here the Quran says forgiveness is best, but eye-for-eye is still good enough.
How can you compare that kind of teaching with the words of Jesus who cancelled out the law of an “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." In Jesus’ teaching, forgiveness is the only option.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] The main message of the book is that the message of Islam is holy war, and that only the terrorists that have understood Islam correctly.
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: Whether we like it or not, the backbone of Islam is jihad. The terrorists see this clearly and act on it. Others, like me, see it and are disturbed.
When I was studying Islamic history and culture for my bachelor degree at Al-Azhar University, I was always asking one of my favorite professors, Dr. Abdul Aziz Abdul Shaffee, “Dear Professor, why is our history nothing but a river of blood? Why were the children of Ali, the prophet’s cousin, killed by Muslims? Why was the caliph Uthman killed by Muslims? Why was the house of the prophet destroyed in the time of the Umawiyya state through Muawiyya and his son Yazid? Why were Muslims killing and destroying other Muslims, especially when the house of el-Abbas led the Abbasid revolution against the Umawiyya state, and the result was the destruction and the end of that Islamic empire? Dear imam, why do the Muslims historians call the first caliph in the Abbasid state, Abu Abbas the murderer?"
I can go on and on and on. It has been for more than 1400 years a history of conflict and troubles and bloodshed, if not between Muslims and non-Muslims, then between Muslims themselves. My favourite professor always asked me to be calm, not to be so emotional about what has been done in the past but for the sake of my mind, my soul, and my faith, he always asked me to read a book by Ibn al-Arabi called El al-Wasim Min el-Ka-wa-sin, The Thing that Rescues You From Destruction.
Neither you nor I can change Islamic history. Neither you nor I can change the example that the prophet of Islam set for the Muslim people. And the people known by the world as terrorists are the heroes of those who are embracing the full teachings of Islam. They are guided by Islamic philosophers and thinkers from ibn Taymiyyah to ibn el-Kayim to Ibn Kathir to Hasan al-Banna to Sayyid Qutb to bin Laden himself. These young men are praised for not compromising their faith and their religion under any circumstance, and for giving up possessions, wealth, and prestige to fight for the cause of Allah and to help Islam prevail in the battle against its enemies. Radicals quote this verse with pride:
We narrate unto you (O Muhammad) their story with truth: Truly! They were young men who believed in their Lord (Allâh), and We increased them in guidance (Surah 18:13)
These young men—yes, they understood Islam correctly because they are crying and mourning for the early glory of Islam to be restored in the present day. They mourn for the fall of the calipha and the disappearance of the calipha and they are sick and tired of the Muslims who bought life’s pleasures and ignored living with Islam as a value and system of belief and politics.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] He says: “The only way to know for sure that you will get into Paradise is to die in jihad. Jihad simply means that Muslims must fight the enemy of Allah until the enemies die or the Muslims die." (page 52 in the Norwegian edition – 28 in English edition). How can he say this, since there are no specific persons that have a guarantee to get to paradise – not even those who die in Jihad (except the prophets and a few chosen people).
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: Any Muslim who studied his faith in the Middle East knows that the traditional understanding of martyrdom is that the martyr is guaranteed entrance into Paradise. This understanding is not established on a single, perfect verse of proof. Rather it is built on the teachings of the Quran and Muhammad as a whole.
If you were able to meet a suicide bomber on his way to blow up himself or herself, you might say, “Why are you going to kill yourself and many innocent people. What are you looking for?" He will start his answer with a quote from the Quran:
O you who believe! Shall I guide you to a trade that will save you from a painful torment? That you believe in Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), and that you strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives, that will be better for you, if you but know! (If you do so) He will forgive you your sins, and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow, and pleasant dwellings in ’Adn ¬(Eden) Paradise; that is indeed the great success. And also (He will give you) another (blessing) which you love,—help from Allah (against your enemies) and a near victory. And give glad tidings (O Muhammad) to the believers (Surah 61:10–13).
These verses describe a contract between Allah and Muslims. Why is this contract so important? Because of Islamic teaching about Paradise.
Through the prophet Muhammad, Allah told mankind to believe in him and follow his law in order to enter Paradise. But no matter how hard he tries, every Muslim makes mistakes and commits sin. No direct assurance comes from Allah that his sins will be forgiven. In fact, Islam closes almost every door for a Muslim to have that assurance. It doesn’t matter how many times he prays or how many good things he does; there is no assurance of forgiveness of sins.
In the midst of that teaching, Islam left a little window open for Muslims to experience assurance of forgiveness, and that is the promise from Allah made in this passage, telling them about the perfect trade. The Muslim must believe in Allah, keep his law, defend Islam, and fight jihad. In response, Allah grants forgiveness of sin and entrance to Paradise. The Muslims meet Allah’s requirements and Allah rewards them.
You may point out that Surah 61:10-13 only speaks of fighting, not of being martyred. However, Surah 4 clearly speaks of dying in jihad:
Let those (believers) who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the Cause of Allah, and whoso fights in the Cause of Allah, and is killed or gets victory, We shall bestow on him a great reward (Surah 4:74).
This verse says that the one who fights and “is killed or gets the victory" shall receive a great reward. What is this reward? We learn it from the words of the prophet Muhammad. The hadith says:
While facing the enemy, the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Surely, the gates of Paradise are under the shadows of the swords. A man in a shabby condition got up and said; Abu Musa, did you hear the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say this? He said: Yes. (The narrator said): He returned to his friends and said: I greet you (a farewell greeting). Then he broke the sheath of his sword, threw it away, advanced with his (naked) sword towards the enemy and fought (them) with it until he was slain. (From the Correct Hadith of Muslim, English translation, Book 020, Number 4681, narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah b. Qais, who heard it from his father. It is #1902 in the Arabic version of the hadith of Muslim.)
In this story, the man went into battle knowing that he would not come out alive. He said goodbye to his friends and broke the sheath of his sword to show that. The obvious implication is that he was rewarded by entrance into Paradise. Ayman Zawahiri, second in command of Al-Qaeda, used this story to say that a suicide bomber will earn Paradise because like the man in this story, the suicide bomber goes into the fight knowing that he will not come out alive. But because he is doing it for the good of Islam, he will earn Paradise.
There is another issue I need to address regarding Mr. Ghoslan’s comments. He said the prophet and a few chosen people were guaranteed entrance into Paradise. He is referring to the Islamic tradition that says Muhammad told ten of the people around him that they were chosen for Paradise. But the prophet himself said that he did not know whether he would be admitted to Paradise or not.
Muhammad said, “No one of us can do a work that will be able to put him in paradise or to rescue him from the fire." They said to him, “Even you, O Messenger of Allah?" And he said, “Even me. [and he tapped himself on the head] until Allah include me in his mercy." (The Correct Hadith by Sheikh Muhammad El Elbani, vol. 6, part 1, hadith #2602, published in Riyyad, Saudi Arabia).
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] But if we can take a look at deeds that lead to the paradise and where shahid (martyr) is one, you can find many other deeds. The Koran says in 46:13 “They who say ‘God is our lord," and then have a steady direction, upon those there shall rest no fear, nor sorrow."
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: This verse is establishing two requirements: 1) to say “God is our lord," and 2) to have a steady direction (or to stand firm). So we need to understand, What does it mean to stand firm? The commentaries will tell you that it means for a person to fulfil all the requirements of the faith declared by Allah in the Quran and the prophet in the hadith and to abstain from that which is forbidden. What are the requirements of the faith? Jihad is one of the most important duties in the Islamic teaching. Jihad is fard, as is fasting, prayer, and zakat. The faith of a Muslim will never be complete, straight, and standing firm, if he is not going to take all the requirements in
fulfillment. If a Muslim believes and does all the requirements of his faith and denies the fard of jihad, according to the Islamic law, he will be out of the faith. The Quran says:
Surely those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and (those who) desire to make a distinction between Allah and His messenger and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and desire to take a course between (this and) that. These are truly the unbelievers, and we have prepared for the unbelievers a disgraceful chastisement (Surah 4:150-151).
The other question is: Who can meet the requirements of standing firm? It is nearly an impossible task. That is why martyrdom is really the only way to be sure of Paradise.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] According to the author, as much as 60 percent of the verses in Koran are about war (page 56 in Norwegian edition). Is this true? When the word jihad is mentioned it is not for sure it is talking about war with weapon (see example Koran 25:52 that was revealed in Mecca).
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: Actually, the exact quote from my book in English says “sixty percent of the Quranic verses talk about jihad," not war. You are correct when you say that jihad in the Quran is not always a reference to war.
When I say the word jihad, many things come under this word. Jihad in Islam has two types—jihad against the external enemies (which can be done with battle weapons or the weapon of words), and the jihad against the enemies within the Muslim person, meaning desires for any un-Islamic action.
Jihad by words is very important. Osama bin Laden can fight jihad with his hand in Afghanistan or wherever he is now. But do you think if Bin Laden is living in Norway he would be able to do jihad with his own hand? Of course not, but the prophet Muhammad gives him the solution. Bin Laden can do jihad with his tongue instead. The jihad of words is considered to be one of the important parts of jihad, as the prophet said himself.
The great scholar of hadith, Sheikh Al-Elbani presents three hadith under the title, Jihad by Tongue.
1. Muhammad said that the believer does jihad with his sword and his tongue. (The Correct Hadith by Sheikh Muhammad El Elbani, published in Riyyad, Saudi Arabia, vol. 4, page 172, hadith #1631)
2. Muhammad said jihad can be fought with the tongue and money. “He said in the Battle of Qurayza the prophet said to Hasan bin Thabit [the poet who defended Muhammad and Islam]: Speak against the idol worshippers, and the angel Gabriel is with you."(The Correct Hadith by Sheikh Muhammad El Elbani, published in Riyyad, Saudi Arabia vol. 2, p. 435, hadith #801).
3. Muhammad said “Speak against them by poetry that the believer can do jihad with his soul and his money." (The Correct Hadith by Sheikh Muhammad El Elbani, published in Riyyad, Saudi Arabia vol. 2, hadith# 802, p. 436).
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] He also says that the Koran that came in Medina is about war and that this is the rule now. Then we can ask him what is the meaning of verse K 2:256: “There is no force in the religion. The correct path is very clearly divided from delusion. The one who reject false gods and believe in god he has taken hold of a reliable handle that never fails. God hears and knows". This verse also came in Medina. Is not this verse valid?
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: Yes, Surah 2:256 came during Medina, but it came during the first year and a half of Muhammad’s time in Medina when he was still conciliatory with the Jews of the city. In addition, it’s important to note that this revelation was given before the Battle of Badr.
In the Battle of Badr (A.H. 2), the Muslims won a surprising first victory against the army of Mecca. The revelations that came to Muhammad in the aftermath of this battle have an entirely different tone than Surah 2:256, which came before. For example:
Fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism, i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]. (Surah 8:39)
O Prophet (Muhammad)! Urge the believers to fight. If there are twenty steadfast persons amongst you, they will overcome two hundred, and if there be a hundred steadfast persons they will overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are people who do not understand. (Surah 8:65)
So which revelation was to be followed—the tolerance of Surah 2:256 or the jihad of Surah 8:39,65? In Muhammad's day the answer was clear: The new cancelled out the old. Muslims understood that when Muhammad said it was time for jihad, this meant that the time of tolerance was over. This principle is expressed in the Quran in Surah 2:106:
Whatever a Verse (revelation) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things?
Muslim scholars refer to this as the principle of nasikh. The idea is that Muhammad's revelations were progressive. A new revelation cancelled out an older revelation.
Regarding Surah 2:256, the greatest and most famous scholar of Islam, Ibn Kathir, wrote:
The Muslim scholars say this verse speaks to the people of the book, Jews and Christians, and anyone who believed in their religion. This would be done for them [meaning tolerance] if they pay the tax and submit to Islam. But a different group of scholars says that this verse is nasikh, or it has been abrograted by the verse of the sword. And he said, And all the nations must preach the message of Islam and ask to become a Muslim." (Ibn Kathir in his Quranic Commentary, vol. 1, p. 390)
The “verse of the sword" that Ibn Kathir references is Surah 9:5, which says:
So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush. (Surah 9:5, Shakir Translation)
This is considered by radical Muslims to be the final revelation regarding the treatment of non-believers.
In summary, the radical Muslim would say that Surah 2:256 is no longer valid because it has been abrogated by later revelations.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] Mark Gabriel uses partial quotes from the Koran to paint the picture he wants to. There are several examples, but here I will only include this one: He refers to verse 4:89 “If they turn away, take hold of them and kill them where you find them, and take none of them as friend or helper." He means that this encourages Muslims to kill all non-Muslims. He does not mention, and that is sure willingly, to mention the verse right after: 4:90: “But if they stay away from you and do not fight against you, and offer peace, then god has not given you any way to treat them": And then in verse 4:91: “If they do not stay away from you, offer peace, and they tie up themselves. take them and kill them where you find them." There is no doubt that this is warriors that attacks and that one has the right to defend oneself against – and not that one has the right to attack those that have a different belief (page 59).
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: The philosophy of jihad is not built on one verse. Nor do all references to jihad say that Muslims are obligated to fight all non-Muslims. You are correct to say that this verse refers to jihad against hypocrites who chose to fight Muhammad. I included it in my list of verses about jihad because it is part of what creates the complete philosophy of Islam.
I wanted to keep my book short and easy to read for someone who did not know much about Islam, so I did not explain the verse in detail. This was a mistake on my part, and it has opened me up to criticism.
I would like to take the opportunity now to discuss the meaning of this verse in particular. The verse clearly speaks of hypocrites, meaning those who said they believed in Islam and then turned away. But let’s consider the full picture of how the Quran and the hadith discuss hypocrites.
First the Quran says hypocrites will go to hell: “Whosoever of you turns back from his religion and dies as a disbeliever…they will be the dwellers of the Fire" (Surah 2:217).
Second, the prophet Muhammad said hypocrites must be killed, as recorded in the following hadith:
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him. (Narrated 'Ikrima)'"
This saying of Muhammad is recorded in Bukhari’s collection of hadith, the English translation, volume 9, book 84, number 57, which you can read in English on the University of Southern California website.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] The author groups the Muslims, and he says that they can be divided in three categories: 1) Secular Muslims: who believe only in the good verses, but they reject all that has to do with jihad. 2) The traditional Muslims: they learn Islam and know that jihad is a part of it, but they are reluctant to act on it because they are afraid. 3) Islamists: They who do the violence and terrorism. It is these people that practise the real Islam as it is revealed to the prophet.
The majority reject 60 percent of Koran, according to Gabriel. All know that the one who rejects one word of Koran can not be recognized as a Muslim. The Islamists/the fundamentalists—all of them—do terrorism and violence, and it is those who practise the true Islam, according to the author.
Who has the right to define what the true Islam is?
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: It is the one who memorizes the Quran, the one who studies the commentaries from the different great Muslim scholars, the one who studies Islamic history deeply, the one who has earned the right to make a fatwa (Muslim legal opinion). This type of person can define what true Islam is.]]
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] Can it really be logical to say that all the other hundreds of millions of Muslims "do not know what they believe in" or are seduced all of them?
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: The question is not whether Muslims know what they believe or they are deceived. The problem here is the commitment to the call of Allah and the call of his prophet. Look here what the Quran tells us and you by yourself judge these hundreds of millions.
O you who believe! Answer Allâh (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life, and know that Allâh comes in between a person and his heart (i.e. He prevents an evil person to decide anything). And verily to Him you shall (all) be gathered. (Surah 8:24, Muhsin Khan translation)
O you who believe! Obey Allâh and His Messenger, and turn not away from him (i.e. Messenger Muhammad) while you are hearing. And be not like those who say: "We have heard," but they hear not. (Surah 8:20-21, Muhsin Khan translation)
These three verses speak very clearly that Muslims sometimes hear the word and the teaching but they do not answer the call. And look at Surah 9:24, how Allah exposes that position amongst his followers and his people who choose to take care of themselves or their money, children, parents, brothers, wives, tribe, businesses, or nice beautiful homes.
Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight ... are dearer to you than Allâh and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause , then wait until Allâh brings about His Decision (torment). And Allâh guides not the people who are Al-Fâsiqűn (the rebellious, disobedient to Allâh). (Surah 9:24, Muhsin Khan translation).
These verses come from the main chapters of the Quran that discuss jihad. When I was living in Egypt, these verses were always used in the Friday sermons as the imams challenged the people to follow the call of Allah and his messenger.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] The author states when spokesmen talk nice about Islam it is only because of two reasons: Either they themselves do not know, or they lie. As an example of this he says that Muslims lie to present an Islam that is easy to tolerate for the West. "According to the Koran this is also jihad", he says (page 73). But luckily he finds no texts in Koran he can refer to.
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: I would like to quote from the book Islam and Terrorism in response to this comment:
Remember, Muslims declared jihad worldwide, but every Muslim is playing by different rules. One is using guns and bombs, and another is using words and lies to increase the numbers of Muslims worldwide. The method makes no difference; they are both sincere Muslims and it is one jihad according to the Quran—jihad against the enemies of Allah who resist the spread of Islam worldwide.
I am saying that the Quran defines jihad as a fight against the enemies of Allah. Muhammad taught that one of the methods of defending Islam is to use words. The hadith records:
I heard the Messenger of Allah as saying: He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue, and if he has not strength enough to do it, (even) then he should (abhor it) from his heart, and that is the least of faith. (The Correct Books of Muslim, English translation, bk. 1, no. 79. Narrated on the authority of Tariq b. Shihab.)
Again, the principles of jihad are not neatly packaged into single verses that can be quoted as proof. The principles of jihad are established by looking at Islamic teaching as a whole.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] Then he goes on without showing where the Koran legitimises lies.
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: First, of all, if you continue reading in my book Islam and Terrorism, you will come to chapter 12, which is titled “When Lies Are Justified." This chapter contains teachings from Islamic scholars and hadith that radicals have used to develop their philosophy of deceit.
For example, this chapter described how Muhammad authorized Muslims to lie and deny their faith in order to protect themselves. The hadith tells about a slave named Ammar Bin Yasser who had become a Muslim and was being tortured by the tribe of Quraysh. They demanded that he forfeit his faith in order for them to stop the torture, so he denied his faith. After they let him go, he hurried to Muhammad and told him what had happened.
Muhammad asked him, “Was anything of that from the heart?" (Meaning, “Was there any change in your faith?)
He answered no.
Muhammad replied, “If they come again, do it again (meaning if they catch you and torture you again, go ahead and lie to them again)." (Ibn Kathir, The Beginning and the End (Beruit, Lebanon: The Revival of the Arabic Tradition Publishing House, 2001)
I have written an entire book in Arabic about the way deceit is legitimized in Islam, but I did not have access to that book when I wrote Islam and Terrorism, so I could not include all of that information in the book. However, some of this information is included in my newest book, Journey Inside the Mind of an Islamic Terrorist (released January 2006).
For example, I document Muhammad famous statement (frequently quoted by radicals) that “war is deceit." (The Correct Hadith of Bukhari, English translation, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 268, Narrated Abu Huraira; also Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 269, Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah)
I also provide the resource information that Ayman Zawahiri used in the booklet he wrote about how Muslim fighters should use deceit. (I read Zawahiri’s booklet in Arabic at Abu Musab Zarqawi’s website.) Zawahiri recounted the following hadith, which I also remember studying in Egypt:
Lying was a widespread practice among Muslims until Muhammad realized that it was turning into a grave danger threatening the growth of his message in Arabia. This caused him to rebuke his followers one day, declaring, “Why do I see you flocking into lying, as butterflies flock into the fire? All lying will be written against the sons of Adam except if he lies in war, or when two men are quarreling and he mediates between them, or fabricates (lies) to his wife to please her (agreed upon). (From the hadith narrated by Um-Koulthoum, as quoted in Mussallam, Revival of Religious Sciences, pp. 3-137. See also the hadith narrated by Al-Noas bin Semaan.)
Zawahiri also reminded his readers that Abraham set an example of using deceit under two circumstances: 1) to protect his wife and 2) in tricking his father so that he would have an opportunity to go and destroy idols (Surah 37, also see the Correct Hadith of Muslim, book 30, No. 5848 in English; Surah 26:104).
Terrorist leaders study hadith deeply to see how deceit is used to help Islam. For example, the leaders of Egyptian Al-Jihad who assassinated Anwar Sadat, looked to the assassination of ibn al-Ashraf, whom we mentioned earlier, as an example of how to use deceit in war. The assassins pretended to be negotiating a loan with al-Ashraf. As they were walking together and talking, the assassins grabbed him and cut off his head. (The Correct Books of Muslim, Book 019, Number 4436, English translation,
In short, radical scholars and leaders look broadly and deeply at the teachings and history of Islam to develop their philosophy of deceit. They have a variety of material to use for support.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] What is known is that Koran condemns making a false impression of god’s word and religion. (Read K 5:67. K. 3:187)
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: Let’s look at what these verses actually say and the argument that Mr. Ghoslan is making. Surah 5:67 gives Allah’s command to Muhammad to preach the message he had been given. Surah 3:187 says that Allah also commanded Jews and Christians to preach the message, but they changed the message for personal gain and Allah condemned them (v. 188). So Mr. Ghoslan is using these verses to say that the Quran forbids Muslims to lie in presenting the faith. As a general principle, this is true, but the verses and hadith I quoted above show that Islam makes exceptions to this rule and that deceit can be used in order to help Islam.]]
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] (The expression “according to the Koran" is used by the author several places in the book but he does not give documentation of any verses in the Koran that say what he claims.)
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: I welcome the opportunity to supply any source information that you request. The documentation in Islam and Terrorism is very good, but my later books include even more detail because I had access to more of the source material that I had studied in Egypt. So if you find something specifically missing, such as documentation about deceit, I would like to supply it for you.]]
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] The book gives a misleading description of Islam’s goal to conquer the world. He refers to texts by Abu Ala'la Almawoloudiv[[Abul ala Mawdudi]], plays with the words and presents them as if the Muslims are ready with the sword to attack the world: Either Islam or death. This is a very false or serious accusation that we must take a closer look at. First, it is the wish of all ideologies and philosophies, or whatever it might be, to win the hearts of the world. Both Christians and Muslims, political and religious do their best to win more supporters. It ought not to be any wrong in that. What we have to fight against is that violence and oppression is used in this process.
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: I recently visited the website of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that Mr. Ghoslan is familiar with. Under the heading “Who We Are," their bylaws state: “If prayer is the head of the camel, then jihad is the hump of the camel" (meaning that prayer is important, but jihad is more important because the hump of the camel rises higher than the head.) The Muslim Brotherhood website stated that Allah encourages Muslims to use both power and force to accomplish jihad. Regarding power, the Quran says:
Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly. (Surat al-anfal, spoils of war, 8:60)
And regarding force, the Quran says:
Let those (believers) who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the Cause of Allâh, and whoso fights in the Cause of Allâh, and is killed or gets victory, We shall bestow on him a great reward. (Surah.4:74).
The Muslim Brotherhood website stated that Allah wants Muslims to gain power and use force in order to defend the Muslim homeland from the invader and to establish an Islamic government in the Muslim land. This will allow the Muslims to look forward and start working to establish the worldwide Islamic government. (http://www.ikhwanonline.com meaning brotherhoodonline.com)
The Muslim Brotherhood is not inventing this philosophy out of thin air. They have studied Islam deeply.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] We already know that Koran forbids using force in connection with faith (K. 2:256)
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: Dear imam, I wish that what you wrote about Islam were true. I wish you could go back 1400 years and change the facts about Muhammad’s life and his successors and to tell me that Islam went out of Arabia and conquered all the nations and the countries, including my own country, Egypt, by peace and not by force. However, if you read the history of Islam, you will see that this is not true. You will see in fact all of Arabia was won for Islam by force. Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and North Africa, Turkey, most of Eastern Europe, Spain, and Portugal—all these nations went to Islam by force, not by peace.
Did you know that more than 2 million Egyptian Christians in the first two centuries of Islam in Egypt had their tongues cut off because they refused to speak the language of the Arabic Muslim invaders? Have you heard in these past weeks about the trial of the Turkish writer who was accusing the Uthman calipha in Turkey of killing almost 2 million Armenians?
I wish Islam were a message of peace from the beginning to our present time. But how we can say that the Quran is a peaceful book with a whole chapter called Spoils of War (chapter 8) or with a chapter like at-Taubah (chapter 9, Repentance)? The contents of the Quran are working against peace, but the fact is that it will be almost impossible to touch one letter in the Quran to change it or to reinterpret it.
Many of the hadith are also used to justify violence. How can hadith be reformed? I know there are many people in the Islamic world right now taking a hard line against hadith. A former professor at Al-Azhar University named Dr. Ahmed Sob-hay Monsour left the university and established a new Muslim group called Al-Qurani Yun, meaning Quran Only. They reject the hadith and believe the Quran only. But they are rejected by the Muslim world.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] The author states that all who are in conflict with, or disagree with, or refuse to support Islam ought to be killed.
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: This is an overstatement of my thesis. Jihad is a practical system of philosophy. You can’t go and kill everyone. That will not achieve the goal of furthering Islam. I have written books that go into more detail, including the most recent, Journey into the Mind of an Islamic Terrorist.]]
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] He draws this conclusion from a situation where the prophet gave the Muslims permission to execute a person named Ka'b Ibn Al-Ashraf. This man attacked Islam with his writings. The author does not tell that this was in a time of war, and that this man played a significant role to mobilise people against Islam and the Muslims with his poems. The author does not tell anything about why the Muslims did not kill thousands of other people that still disagreed with them. Why did they not execute Abu Sofian [Sufyan], another leader who still disagreed with Islam?
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: You asked why Muhammad didn’t kill Abu Sufyan, who was one of the top leaders of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca. Abu Sufyan was a much more important, powerful person than al-Ashraf. For Muhammad to kill Abu Sufyan, he would need to invade Mecca. Muhammad was not in a position at all to be able to kill Abu Sufyan or even to handle the result of assassinating him. But later when Muhammad had established his military and went out to invade Mecca, Abu Sufyan went out to spy on Muhammad’s military outside of the city. He was captured by Muhammad’s soldiers and taken to the prophet. Muhammad said, “Oh, Abu Sufyan, isn’t it the time for you to convert to Islam and to believe in me?" Abu Sufyan wasn’t ready to give an answer, and Muhammad decided to give him one night to make up his mind. When Abu Sufyan left Muhammad’s tent, the soldiers said to him, “You have no choice to believe in Muhammad or you will be killed." Finally Abu Sufyan surrendered to Muhammad and Islam and he became a Muslim. (Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, translated by A. Guillaume, 16th printing (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 548.)
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] In our time we have seen that many in Norway applauded the Israeli murder of Shaykh Ahmad Yasin, the spiritual leader of Hamas. It is known that Yasin did not carry a weapon, but Israel legitimated this by saying he was mobilising to war with his words. It is a bit strange that it is those who applauded the Israeli action will criticize the prophet Muhammad for what he did.
[[MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: You present a poor analysis by comparing the assassination of Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf with Ahmad Yasin for the following reasons:
Al-Ashraf never established a militant group that claimed only one goal: to destroy Muhammad and his state in Medina. Al-Ashraf was one of many people in his time who had trouble believing in Muhammad and in Islam, and he just used his words to express his feeling toward this new religion and this new prophet. He didn’t have a terrorist organization. But look at Sheikh Ahmad Yasin. Yes, when Israel assassinated him, he didn’t have a weapon, but he was the mastermind and the founder of one of the most vicious Islamic fundamentalist groups in the Middle East with the main goal of destroying Israel.
[[BASIM GHOSLAN ARTICLE]] Such easy conclusions dominate the whole book – sorry to say – and it makes a debate around it completely impossible. After reading the book thoroughly, I must warn against using such a book as a source in relation to other people. It is other similar books that goes in the opposite direction. If religious groups evaluate each other by throwing suspicion on each other in this way, we can only expect one thing: War.
MARK GABRIEL RESPONSE: My desire is not to cast suspicion on Muslims. I believe that people must separate their feelings about Muslims as human beings from their feelings about the teachings of Islam. I believe Muslims are wonderful, sincere people. They love to serve God and to be obedient to him, but the problem is that they do not have the right direction to do so.