Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Islamic or Islamist?

By Silas

Recently Newsweek ran an article by Hayri Abaza and Soner Cagaptay entitled “Is it Islamic or Islamist.”(1)

The article’s purpose was to exhort Westerners to distinguish between the religion of Islam and an “extremist” version of Islam which the authors call “Islamist.”

Here is their assertion and warning:

The left is wrongly defending Islamism—an extremist and at times violent ideology—which it confuses with the common person’s Islam, while the right is often wrongly attacking the Muslim faith, which it confuses with Islamism.  Western thinkers must begin to recognize the difference between Islamism and Islam, or we are headed toward an ideologically defined battle with one quarter of humanity.

They tell us that there is a significant difference between Islam and Islamism and it is imperative that the West differentiate between the two.

In support of his argument Abaza highlights several failings of the Islamists the first one being their “refusal to recognize gender equality.”  He argues that Islam, (his definition of real Islam), recognizes gender equality, i.e. that men and women are equal and should be accorded the same rights and respects.

People who are ignorant of Islam’s writings and teachings will accept Abaza’s rhetoric.  In that vein, many liberal media pundits and academicians sing the mantra:  “Islam good, Islamism bad”.

However, those that know Islam’s teachings know that gender equality is NOT part of Islam’s principles or essence.  In Islam the male is superior to the female, men manage and rule women, and male desires are given preference over the female’s.  In fact Allah commands men to beat their disobedient wives. Here are some references that illustrate Islam’s established gender inequality:

1)  Women are deficient in intelligence when compared to men:

Two women’s testimony is equal to one man’s testimony:

(if) he is not able to dictate himself, let his guardian dictate with fairness; and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other; … Quran 2:282

Some Muslims argue that the above does not really mean that one man’s testimony is equal to two women’s testimony, but Muhammad, the creator and founder of the religion of Islam, taught this explicitly:

Quoting from the authentic (sahih) tradition (hadith) collection of Bukhari, volume 1, number 301:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)."  They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion."(2)

Muhammad taught that women are deficient in intelligence and this is documented in both the Quran and sahih hadith.

2)  Women are inferior to men:

The Quran teaches that men are superior to women.  Because of women’s inferiority, God established men as managers of women.  Consequently, when wives disobey their husbands Allah commands the men to beat their disobedient wives.

Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient.  They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them.  As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.  Then if they obey you, take no further action against them.  Surely God is high, supreme.  Quran 4:34

This verse emphasizes the husband’s dominance over the wife.  Men are “superior,” other translations say that men have “authority”, men are “in charge”, men are the “managers”, etc.  Muhammad, and Allah, placed the husband over the wife; he is her custodian and she must obey him.  This positional structure, this status, parallels the parent-child structure; just as the child is inferior to his parents, so too the wife is inferior to her husband.  In Islam a women is capable of doing many things successfully but because she is inferior to her husband she is still subjected to him and his authority.

Near the end of his life, Muhammad reinforced the lower status of women in his “farewell address.”  Not long before Muhammad died, as a result of poisoning by a Jewish woman, he addressed a crowd of Muslims in Mecca.  He commented on several issues including the treatment of women.  Below is a quote from Guillaume’s translation of Ibn Ishaq's "Sirat Rasulallah" (The Life of the Prophet of God).

“You have rights over your wives, and they have rights over you.  You have the right that they should not defile your bed and that they should not behave with open unseemliness.  If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and to beat them, but not with severity.  If they refrain from these things and obey you, they have right to their food and clothing with kindness.  Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are your wards having no control of their persons.”(3)

The Islamic definition of "ward" means a person who has been legally placed under the care of a guardian or court, or a person who is under the protection and control of another.  Women are “wards” under men’s control because they cannot control themselves.  Women’s emotions and silly notions rule over their intellect.  Consequently, like immature children, they need to be controlled and managed.

For the record, Muslim men did beat their wives.  In fact, Muhammad’s wife Aisha commented that the Muslim women were treated worse than the non-Muslim women!  From the Hadith collection of Bukhari, volume 7, number 715:

… Aisha said that the lady came wearing a green veil and complained to her (Aisha) and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating.  It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah's messenger came, Aisha said, “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women.  Look!  Her skin is greener than her clothes!”

As you study Islam, you’ll realize that it is Muhammad and Islam, not “Islamism” that established women as inferior and subject to men.  There was no gender equality in Muhammad’s Islam.  Don’t blame the Islamists, they’re only doing what Muhammad did.  Blame Muhammad, blame Muhammad’s Islam.

(You can read an in-depth examination of Islamic wife beating here.)

The authors then highlight another significant error of the Islamists:

The crimes of Al Qaeda, Hizbullah, and other groups are rooted in jihadist Islamism, which advocates violence to impose extremist dogma on Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

They claim that those terrible Islamists are perverting Islam because they want to fight and force non-Muslims to bend the knee to Islam’s rule!  Yes, I agree with them, it is wrong to force the Islamic faith upon non-Muslims.  Unfortunately, a very important Muslim disagrees with me:  Muhammad.

Muhammad’s own words, quoted from Muslim’s hadith collection, volume 1, number 33, show that he intended to use force to spread Islam’s domination of others: 

"I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer, and pay the religious tax, and if they do it, their blood and property are guaranteed protection on my behalf except when justified by law, and their affairs rest with Allah."(4)

Note that the use of violence is not an option for Muhammad (or for the Muslims).  Islam’s god ordered Muhammad to fight and kill those that reject the Islamic faith.  The command to violence is incumbent upon Muhammad’s followers.  Further, there are many verses and hadith that buttress the command to use violence against non-Muslims that reject Islam.  Here are some examples:

1)  Quran 9:5 - The “verse of the sword” that applies to Pagans:

When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.

Muslims have argued that this verse only applies to non-Muslims in the vicinity of Mecca, but an actual examination of the context and application of this verse shows that it is meant to be applied to pagan non-Muslims and extended geographically.  You can read about this verse in depth here.

2)  Quran 9:29, 30 - This passage is equivalent to the “verse of the sword” being applied to Christians and Jews:

29"Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden – who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book – until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled.   30The Jews say Ezra is the son of God, while the Christians say the Messiah is the son of God.  Such are their assertions, by which they imitate the infidels of old.  God confound them!  How perverse they are!"

Muhammad is saying in 9:29 that Christians and Jews, unlike Pagans, are allowed to remain true to their faith, (while obeying Islamic restrictions), instead of being forced to become Muslims, IF they pay the “jizya” (poll tax) extortion.  If the Christians and Jews refuse to pay the extortion and refuse to convert to Islam they are to fought and killed.

And note that in verse 30 that Muhammad asks God to “confound” the Christians and Jews.  More accurate translations of this word are to “fight”, “curse”, or “destroy” the Christians and the Jews.  Muhammad wants those Jews and Christians destroyed.  Then he goes on to call them “perverse”.  Fairly hateful words aren’t they?

An example of Muhammad putting the use of violence theme in action is what occurred at the small Christian fishing village of Aylah.  (This village was near the modern day Jordanian city of Aqaba on the Red Sea).  Muhammad had an army of some 30,000 men near Aylah and the townsfolk were frightened.  Muhammad sent his emissaries to the leaders of the city with a message and this is what Muhammad wrote:

"To John ibn Rabah and the Chiefs of Aylah. Peace be on you! I praise God for you, beside whom there is no Lord. I will not fight against you until I have written thus unto you. Believe, or else pay tribute. And be obedient unto the Lord and his Prophet, and the messengers of his Prophet. Honor them and clothe them with excellent vestments, not with inferior raiment. Specially clothe Zeid with excellent garments. As long as my messengers are pleased, so likewise am I. Ye know the tribute. If ye desire to have security by sea and by land, obey the Lord and his Apostle, and he will defend you from every claim, whether by Arab or foreigner, saving the claim of the Lord and his Apostle. But if ye oppose and displease them, I will not accept from you a single thing, until I have fought against you and taken captive your little ones and slain the elder.(5)

Muhammad required Aylah’s citizens to “Believe” i.e., convert to Islam, or to pay tribute (the jizyah extortion), and provide clothes to his emissaries.  If they refused, or displeased the emissaries, Muhammad would attack them, kill the males, and enslave the women and children.

And make no mistake about it, Muhammad did kill those that rejected him.  Consider the case of Abu Afak.  He was a 120 year old Jewish man, hardly a threat to Muhammad, who rejected Muhammad’s claim to prophethood.  Abu Afak encouraged his fellow citizens to reject Muhammad as well.  Muhammad never tolerated those that rejected him.  Consequently he had Abu Afak murdered.  Here is the account from the Sirat Rasulallah, page 675:

The apostle said, "Who will deal with this rascal for me?"  Whereupon Salim b. Umayr, brother of B. Amr b. Auf, one of the "weepers", went forth and killed him. 

An account of this murder is also found in Ibn Sa’d’s “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, (Book of the Major Classes), volume 2, page 31:

Then occurred the "sariyyah" [raid] of Salim Ibn Umayr al-Amri against Abu Afak, the Jew, in [the month of] Shawwal in the beginning of the twentieth month from the hijrah [immigration from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD], of the Apostle of Allah.  Abu Afak, was from Banu Amr Ibn Awf, and was an old man who had attained the age of one hundred and twenty years.  He was a Jew, and used to instigate the people against the Apostle of Allah, and composed (satirical) verses [about Muhammad].

Salim Ibn Umayr who was one of the great weepers and who had participated in Badr, said, "I take a vow that I shall either kill Abu Afak or die before him." He waited for an opportunity until a hot night came, and Abu Afak slept in an open place.  Salim Ibn Umayr knew it, so he placed the sword on his liver and pressed it till it reached his bed.  The enemy of Allah screamed and the people who were his followers, rushed to him, took him to his house and interred him.(6)

In view of what the Quran and Islam teach, isn’t it understandable that Geert Wilders calls for a ban on a book that advocates, even commands, violence upon non-Muslims?  The Quran teaches hate.  This is not a question of confusion on Wilders’ part, rather it is Abaza and Cagaptay who are confused, or they are confusing their readers deliberately.

Their conclusion:

If Western intellectuals do not get rid of this confusion now, we are headed down a dangerous path.

Yes, I agree completely.  Those that fail to recognize and address a threat will have to deal with its consequences later.  Islam is already at war with all that is non-Islamic; there’s no sense in pretending that we have the option to “pick a battle.”  World wide there has been a steady stream of national Muslims committing acts of terror, or conspiring with terror groups to betray their fellow citizens to Islamic violence.

This battle has been picked long ago, with or without your consent.  Whether you like it, or don’t like it, you’re dealing with it already.  The article notes that Europe, almost across the board, is recognizing the threat, this battle, and is beginning to defend itself.  It is time for all of America, including American Muslims, to recognize and deal with the poison within Islam, not “Islamist”, but Islam.  Shouldn’t Muslims who believe in gender equality and non-violence leave the faith of Islam which has established subjection of women and the use of aggressive violence to spread its domain?  Or, at the very least, be honest about what their faith actually teaches?


For a video review of the status of women in Islam, see the 3 Nov, 2010 entry on the Answering Muslims blog: ABC's Islam Deception: Are Men and Women Equal in Islam?

Wife Beating in Islam

For a comprehensive examination of women in Islam see Of Myths and Women.

The Verse of the Sword: Sura 9:5 and Jihad



2)  “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan

3)  Ibn Ishaq, (d. 782), "Sirat Rasulallah", compiled by A. Guillaume as "The Life of Muhammad", Oxford, London, 1955

4)  “Sahih Muslim”, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1971, translated by A. Siddiqi

5)  Muir, Sir William, “The Life of Muhammad”, Chapter XXVIII, citing the early Islamic sources.

6)  "Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir", (Book of the Major Classes), by Ibn Sa'd (d. 852 A. D.)


[First published: 20 November 2010]
[Last updated: 30 November 2010]