Monotheism: The Heart of the Conflict Between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb
by Bo Perrin
A Research Paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in the School of National Security Studies
“We will strike terror into the hearts of the kafirs because they worship others besides Allah, which He gave them no permission to do. Their home will be the Fire, a terrible resting place for the evildoers.” (3:151)
President Obama in his June 2009 speech at Cairo University called for a new beginning between the United States and the Muslim world or the Ummah. He promised that the U.S. would dedicate itself to building new schools, hospitals, roads and businesses across the Middle East. He stated, “. . . that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.”
In addition to his Cairo speech President Obama has also taken steps to scrub all government documents, especially National Security documents, of any term which might inflame the feelings of the Ummah. Jihad, Islamic extremism and militant radical Islam are a few of the terms which cannot be found in any National Security document today. March 14, 2008 the Counter Communications Center put out a memo which describes which words can and cannot be used to describe our fight with terror. The memo tells its readers to avoid invoking Islam when speaking of terror and to not harp on Muslim identity. It also states to refrain from using Islamo-fascism, totalitarian, jihadist, mujahideen or terms from Islamic theology. It argues the only term that ought to be used to describe actions like 9/11 is terrorism. Supposedly, scrubbing National Security documents from these so-called offensive words is a show of good faith toward the Ummah that the U.S. does not believe the two are in competition.
But Islam does not see itself in competition with the West specifically the United States. The Obama administration, as well as every U.S. administration, fails to understand that Islam is not in competition with the United States but at war. This war is not about the economy but about religion.
There are numerous reasons why terrorism is used as a weapon. This purpose of this paper is to show that the heart of the Islamic use of terror is about monotheism. We will look at Islamic monotheism, the Qur’ an and polytheism and the definition and use of jihad on behalf of monotheism.
History of Islamic Monotheism
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the only three world-religions which teach that God is monotheistic although the Judeo-Christian monotheism is very different from Islamic monotheism. This is the heart of the conflict between Islam, Dar al-Islam, and the rest of the world, Dar al-harb. Mohammad was born in 570 AD in Mecca in Arabia. He was born into the Quraysh tribe. The Quraysh were the keepers of the Ka’ ba a black stone building roughly shaped like a cube. It was one of about five or six such structures in the area. It housed approximately 360 different idols including pictures of Jesus and Mary. When Mohammed was 40 years old, he began to receive visions from Jibril or the angel Gabriel. (2:097) Jibril revealed to Mohammad that there was no other god than Allah. This new doctrine becomes the heart of the conflict between Mohammad, the Quraysh, Jews and Christians. Mohammad had numerous confrontations with the Quraysh because he cursed their gods and revealed that to worship any god other than Allah would mean hell. (Ishaq: 183) The conflict in Mecca never turned deadly nevertheless it lead to two important events. First, when the Meccans refused to convert Mohammed said, “Hear me, O Quraysh. By Him who holds Muhammad’s life in his hand, I will bring you slaughter.’” (Ishaq: 131). Second, the Quraysh forced Mohammad out of the community. Mohammed also attacked Christians because he believed that Christians are polytheistic. He condemned Christians because they exceeded the limits of Allah (3:112), believed Allah has a son (2:116) and he derogatorily declared them polytheists (3:67). When Islam became strong enough Mohammed decreed Muslims are to fight the polytheists into submission (9:29) until Islam prevails over all religions (9:33). Eventually, ten years after he was banished, Mohammad returns to Mecca militarily, enters the Ka’ ba and destroys every idol housed there. Allah is now the only God, the Ka’ ba is his house and no other god exists. Monotheism is the heart of Mohammad’s war against those in Mecca and Medina and it is still the heart of war between Islam and the West.
Polytheism and the Limits.
Monotheism is the heart of Islam and needs to be defined. Mono means one and theism means God. Islamic monotheism is a simple monotheism. Allah is the only God and there is no one like him, equal to him nor do any other gods existentially exist (2:255). In Christianity, monotheism is embedded in the phrase trinity. Biblical monotheism refers to three separate personalities who are one God in two senses. God is said to be “one” in the sense of united (Deut. 6:4, New King’s James Version) and “one” (1) (Is. 44:6, 8, NKJV) in the sense that there are not two, three or more gods. In the first sense the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, while separate personalities, have the same essence which is what makes you, you. Biblically, God’s essence can be defined by the term “infinite.” (Ps. 147:5, NKJV) Infinite means there are no boundaries and is the only word a person needs in order to describe every aspect of God. Because each essence is infinite there is no distinction between them and therefore, they are one (united) as Deity. But the three individuals are also “one” in the sense that there are no other gods who are equal to them essentially. Therefore, there is only “one” God not two or three or more. In fact, such gods or idols do not existentially exist, existing only in the worshiper’s mind.
The two definitions of monotheism clash. Mohammad did not seem to comprehend the Biblical view of God. He accused Christians of elevating Jesus, a mere human and prophet chosen by Allah, to Deity and worshiping two or more Gods by claiming that Jesus is God’s son (4:171; 5:116). This led to Mohammad’s charge that Christians are polytheists (2:105). The word poly means many and theist means God. A polytheist, therefore, at the very least believes in two or more Gods. The term polytheist or an equivalent term or phrase is used quite often in the Qur’ an. It is usually associated with the phrase “people of the book.” The phrase refers to Jews and Christians who believed in the Biblical Scriptures. Often Mohammad warns the “people of the book” to not “go beyond the limits.” They respect neither ties of relationship nor covenant, in the case of a believer. And these are they who go beyond the limits. (9:010) The contrast is between a believer, Muslim, and those who go beyond the limit. In this case, the limit exceeded is the number of Gods. Muslims believe Allah is the only God while Christians accept Jesus as the Son of God the Father therefore, making him Deity as well. Polytheism can refer to others than Christians. Nevertheless, the term is used primarily to refer to Christians only in the Qur’ an.
According to Mohammad Jews and Christians are “people of the Book” because they were given the Scriptures. Christians are also polytheists because they believe Jesus is Deity and in so doing they go beyond the limits of the number of Gods that exist. Because Christianity believes in Jesus’ Deity, they are also idolaters and unbelievers. An idolater is one who worships a deity who is not real. If Allah is the only Deity then to elevate Jesus to Deity is idolatrous. Idolatry is making “Allah the third of three.” (5:073). Christianity is the only religion to which this statement applies. Because, in Mohammad’s eyes, Christianity made Allah a third of three he labeled Christians as “disbelievers.” (5:072). The term “disbeliever” is used often in contrast with the believer. A believer is one who believes in “Allah and the Last day” (2:008). According to Maulana Muhammad Ali this phrase sums up the five Pillars of Islamic faith of which the first is belief that only Allah is God. This is Islamic monotheism. Therefore, an unbeliever is a person who does not accept Islamic monotheism.
The heart of the conflict between Islam and Christianity is monotheism. Islam believes Allah is the only Deity. Christianity accepts the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as Deity equally. For this reason, Mohammad labeled Christians as unbelievers, idolatrous and polytheists who exceed the limit of how many Gods exist. This is why there is eternal hostility between Islam and Christianity (60:4)
“’The War Foretold By the Prophet Muhammad . . . Is Drawing Near. . . This Is a War Of Religion, Not Just a War Between Arabs and Israelis’ . . . ” Sometimes truth comes from the most unlikely sources. This statement was made by the Kuwaiti MP Jama’an Al-Harbash in a rally of the Kuwaiti Students’ Union on Al-Jazeera TV. The statement cuts to the heart of jihad. Jihad is a religious war.
There is a lot of misinformation about jihad. Muslim sources usually define jihad as an inner struggle to get close to Allah. The term jihad is “a verbal noun with the literal meaning of ‘striving’ or ‘determined effort.’” In Sahih al-Bukhari’s hadith collections jihad is mentioned 199 times and each use assumes the word means warfare including physical warfare.
Jihad is defensive. The Qur’ an does not allow for Muslims to take the offense against another religion. In part, Sura 2:256 states, “There is no compulsion in religion . . . “ Even if a person accepts this verse to mean Muslims are not to force Islam on others, to which there is much dispute, Islam can defend itself if it feels as if it is being attacked by unbelievers. Sura 2:190 in the Al-Baqarah translation states:
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not do aggression, . . . Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities . . . and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution (fitnah, BIP) is worse than slaughter.
Islam is permitted to engage in defensive jihad and defensive jihad includes physical warfare meant to rid Islam of fitnah or persecution. The Ummah’s claim of Islamophobia is a prelude to jihad. These supposed phobic responses to Islam are merely the documentation of fitnah against Islam providing the justification for jihad.
The Qur’ an is very specific as to who is the Ummah’s enemy and the enemy is other religions. Allah has promised that Islam will be supreme. From a Muslim’s perspective the reason why Dar al-harb is fighting against Islam is because the House of War is trying to force their religion on the Ummah (2:217). Because of this fitnah the Qur’ an promises “the Religion of Truth that He may make it prevail over all religions.” (48:28) Islamic supremacy is about humiliating Allah’s enemies and becoming predominate. (61:014) The question is, how will Allah make Islam predominate over other religions?
Clearly, the Qur’ an does permit the Ummahh to use nonviolent methods to spread Islam. What many people reject is the concept that the Qur’ an permits violent methods against their enemies as well. The Qur’ an contains approximately 164 jihadi verses and the vast majority refer to physical violence. This issue of application is the context in which a statement is located. The Qur’ anic Suras are listed by size not chronologically. Every Sura is either from the Medina or Mecca period. The Mecca period is a period when Islam is weak in relation to its enemies and Medina, when strong. Every Qur’ anic verse was penned within a historical context and proper hermeneutics demands that any interpretation must begin with that historical context. The issue is whether a verse penned within one historical period can apply equally in another. The answer is yes, if two conditions are met. The first condition is that the passage contains words, phrases or applications which exceed the limited present historical context. The second condition is that there is no statement which clearly limits the statement to its present historical context.
The Qur’ an calls upon Muslims to “struggle hard (Jihad) in the way of Allah” (22:078). Muslims are not allowed to jihad against other Muslims or dihimmis. Struggling in Allah’s way can lead to death (3:169; 4:074-077) which happens only in physical warfare. This command is found both the Medinan (2:218) and Meccian (22:078) phases of the Qur’ an. Since there is no passage which limits this struggle to a particular historical period then it must apply universally to all Muslims. This struggle is against “those who fight against you” (2:190). Allah commands Muslims to “kill them wherever you find them.” (2:191). The term them refers to those who fight against Islam. This passage was penned during the Medina period but must be accepted as universally applicable. It is universal as long as there are those who fight against Islam. This means Sura 2:191 is universally applicable as well. So, as long as there are those who fight against the Ummah, Muslims have a duty to kill those who fight against them wherever, no limits, they might be found. The Qur’ an also reveals the environment in which this universal jihad is to take place. The environment is called fitnah. Muhammad Ali uses persecution in Sura 2:191 to translate fitnah and argues it means to persecute Muslims. The Al-Baqarah translation (2:193) interprets fitnah as disbelief and worshiping others than Allah. The Aal-e-Imran translation (3:7) states fitnah refers to polytheism and trials. The Ummah are embroiled in fitnah when disbelief, trials and polytheism exist. Clearly, these three existed in both Medinian and Meccan periods but they have existed ever since. Therefore, the environment which originally gave rise to the need for jihad during Mohammed’s time still exists today and implying not only that jihad continues today but will not end until all those who are the objects of jihad are eliminated or have submitted.
The purpose of jihad is to remove fitnah so that the Ummahh can live in peace as Muslims. Jihad is a “fight in the way of Allah.” (2:244). This fight is enjoined on all Muslims (2:216) and viewed as a way of life. The Muslim Brotherhood’s pledge is “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’ an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Every Muslim must decide which tool to use to further jihad against Dar al-harb. A Muslim can be a jihadist (4:074). A jihadist uses the sword to strike terror into the hearts of the House of War and through this terror one of three things will happen. Those of the House of War will either convert to Islam, become a dihimmi or die. A Muslim can also choose to support the jihadists by supplying the physical needs of the jihadists (4:095). Nevertheless, the Muslim who uses his property and person to actually fight kaffirs is greater in the eyes of Allah than those who only use their property (4:095). It is the actual foot soldier who gets the best spoils both in this world and the next. The point is that every Muslim has a religious duty to jihad.
The Qur’ an is very specific as to whom jihad is to be waged against. Muslims are commanded to fight against the friends of Satan (4:076). The friends of Satan are the disbelievers who according to the Qur’ an are those who do not believe in Allah and the last day. It was shown earlier in this paper that to believe in Allah is to believe that he is the only God, he does not have a son and there are no associates-gods (6:149) comparable to him. In other words, to believe in Allah is to believe in monotheism. Allah promises his jihadists he will strike terror into the hearts of the unbelievers and they are to strike off their heads and fingertips (8:012). The reason unbelievers deserve this fate is because they oppose Allah and Mohammad (8:013).
Jihad is also to be waged against idolaters (9:005). An idolater is one who worships a god who is not the true god. An idolater is a person who worships Jesus as God or a Hindu who worships Bhagwan. Allah is clear that Muslims are to kill idolaters wherever they find them. Since there are idolaters today this command must still stand.
Jihad is to be waged against polytheists as well (9:036). Polytheism is a favorite subject of the Qur’ an and the Qur’ an constantly claims that many important Biblical figures like Abraham, David, Jesus and others are not polytheists (6:079). The purpose is to attempt to show that the true leaders of the faith, especially Abraham, do not have anything in common with today’s form of Christianity. A polytheist is any person who at least believes in more than one god. Nevertheless, the Qur’ an specifically refers to a polytheist as a person who believes in the Trinity of God. Clearly, there were polytheists in Mecca and Medina and Mohammad eventually allowed Muslims to kill those polytheists if they continued to refuse to believe in Allah. This situation still exists today therefore, these commands to kill polytheists must still stand today.
Fitnah is over and jihad becomes unnecessary only when the one true religion prevails. Allah sent his messenger, Mohammad, for one purpose and that is to make the Religion of truth prevail over all religions (9:033). The word “make” can imply noncoercive tactics but Sura nine makes it very clear that it includes force. Islam is to prevail even if polytheists are adverse to its supremacy. To accomplish this Allah commands his followers to fight those who do not believe in Allah (monotheism), the Last day, forbid what Allah has forbidden nor follow the religion of truth (9:029). This fight is to continue until the unbelievers pay the poll tax (jiyza). The poll tax shows the superiority of Islam and inferiority of their beliefs. But Islam prevails if the polytheist is dead as well. Mohammad sums up what the West must hear:
“I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify to the fact that there is no god but Allah, and believe in me (that) I am the Messenger and in all that I have brought.” (Muslim C9 B1N032) The West, especially America, is now the people against whom Allah fights until Americans submit to him and his prophet, Mohammad by either converting, paying the poll tax or death.
The Qur’ an is a manual of jihad against polytheists who are persecuting Dar al-Islam. Mohammad elevated Allah from among many gods to the supreme deity and in the process made monotheism the heart of Islam. The Qur’ an calls on the Ummahh to jihad against polytheists everywhere in order to make Islam the religion above all religions. Islam has five pillars upon which its religion and politics are built. The first pillar is to believe in Allah alone which means belief in monotheism. While the Qur’ an surely approves nonviolent means to achieve this goal, it also sanctifies violence. Muslims who decide to use the tool of violence are seeking to push Islam on unbelievers not because of cultural, scientific or economic grievances. This is the reason why building roads, hospitals and other facilities in Islamic nations will not stop Islamic terrorism. The sole goal of Islamic terrorism is force monotheism upon polytheism making Allah, Mohammad and Islam supreme. The so-called war on terror is a war about monotheism. The West must recognize this fact or we may lose this conflict.
Ali, Maulana Muhammad. (translation). The Holy Quran. (Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’ at Islam Lahore Inc., USA, 2002)
Counter Communication Center. Words that Work and Words that Don’t: A Guide for Counterterrorism Communication. [online] (Counter Communication Center March 14, 2009, Vol. 2, Issue 10 accessed 22 March 2010) ; available at http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/127.pdf
Guillaume, A. The Life of Muhammad. (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2004)
Islam Can. What does Jihad Mean?. [online] (Islam Can, Date Unknow accessed 25 April 2010) ; available at http://www.islamcan.com/cgi-bin/increaseiman/htmlfiles/static/100492601254412.shtml
Mission Islam. Revelation Order of the Qur’ an. [online] (Mission Islam date unknown accessed 26 April 2010) ; available at http://www.missionislam.com/quran/revealationorder.htm
Muslim, Sahih. KITAB AL-IMAN. [online] (International Islamic University of Malaysia, A Translation of Muslim’s Hadith, C9 Book 1 Number 31 Date unknown accessed 27 April 2010) ; available at http://www.iiu.edu.my/deed/hadith/muslim/001_smt.html
Radio Free Europe. Obama Reaches Out To Islamic World With Cairo Speech. [online] (Radio Free Europe, June 4, 2009, accessed 15 April 2010) ; available at http://www.rferl.org/content/Obama_Reaches_Out_To_Islamic_World_With_Cairo_Speech/1746875.html
Spears, Julie. Muslims Brothers. [online] (Federation of American Scientists, January 8 2002 accessed 27 April 2010) ; available at http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/mb.htm
Streusand, Douglas E. What Does Jihad Mean?. (The Middle East Quarterly September 1997 accessed February 2010) ; available at http://www.meforum.org/357/what-does-jihad-mean
The Middle East Research Institute. “Kuwaiti MP: ‘This Is a War Of Religion, Not Just a War Between Arabs and Israelis’”. [online] (Independent Media Review Analysis, April 25, 2010 accessed 25 April 2010) ; available at http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=47792
The Noble Quran. 2. Al-Baqarah. [online] (The Ummahh.net date unknown accessed 26 April 2010) available at http://www.Ummahh.net/what-is-islam/quran/noble/nobe002.htm
Warner, Bill A Self-Study Course on Political Islam. (Nashville: CSPIPublishing, 2008)