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An Open Response to the Authors of the Mannan Family ISIS Statement

10/07/2015 11:53 BST | Updated 07/07/2016 10:59 BST

To the authors of the statement,

On 3 July, 2015, you released a statement confirming that you had joined the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) which you described as "A land that is free from the corruption and oppression of man made law and is governed by the shariah, the perfect and just laws of Allah." This was after growing concern for your well being from Luton's diverse communities, and speculation that you may have been forced to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

In the statement, you effectively accuse British Muslims of being a people of weak faith who would rather lose their religion than risk losing "the life you built for yourselves" in "darul kufr" ("the land of unbelief") by making hijra (migration) to Syria to join ISIS. You try to argue that such a hijra (act of emigration) is a religious duty upon every Muslim, and you cite Qur'an 4:97 as scriptural evidence for that:

"When angels take the souls of those who die while participating in their own oppression they [angels] will say: 'In what [condition] were you?' They will reply: 'We were weak and oppressed on earth.' They [angels] will then say: 'Was not God's earth spacious enough for you to emigrate therein?' Such people will find their abode in hell, and it is an evil destination." (Qur'an 4:97)

In the following paragraphs, I will address the key point made in your statement and explain why a majority of British Muslims are strongly opposed to ISIS.

The meaning of hijra (act of emigration)

The Qur'an instructs Muslims living under brutal regimes or have been subjected to torture, genocide, ethnic cleansing and religious persecution to emigrate from such lands and seek humanitarian protection in safe countries where their lives and religious rights will be protected. Such an act of migration is known in Islamic terminology as hijra. The modern day equivalent of this concept is Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that:

"Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution."

The above mentioned verse (Qur'an 4:97) which is often cited as the scriptural basis for hijra makes no reference to so-called "dar al-kufr"("the land of unbelief") or "dar al-Islam" ("the land of Islam"). Such concepts developed around the eighth century, over a century after Muhammad's death. Nowhere does the Qur'an or hadith (Muhammad's teachings) establish the binary oppositions of dar al-Islam and dar al-kufr or indeed dar al-harb ("land of war").

Qur'an 4:97 simply states that "God's earth is spacious enough for you to emigrate therein" without specifying that Muslims should leave so-called "lands of unbelief" to go and settle in Islamic territories. Indeed the first act of hijra in the history of Islam was when Muhammad instructed his early followers (among whom were some members of his family) who were being subjected to torture and religious persecution by the then Arab leadership of Mecca to go and seek asylum in Africa, in the Christian Kingdom of Aksum in the year 615. According to a report attributed to an early eminent historian and biographer called Ibn Ishaq (d. 768), Muhammad said to them:

"If you go to Aksum you will find a king who rules with justice, under whom no one is persecuted. It is a land of justice where God will grant you relief from what you are suffering."

Similarly, when Muhammad himself took part in the famous hijra (migration) from Mecca to Media in the year 622 with a large number of Muslim refugees escaping religious persecution, Medina was not an Islamic territory.

Thus, according to the Qur'an and Muhammad's teachings, hijra simply means the act of escaping persecution, war, torture, and genocide by moving to another country where one's rights will be protected, regardless of whether that country is considered "Islamic" or not. When a Muslim chooses to emigrate from a safe country to a part of the world plagued by violence and human rights violations he or she is not doing hijra but is going against the explicit instructions of the Qur'an which prohibits Muslims from putting their lives in danger:

"Spend your wealth [in charity] for the sake of God, and do not throw yourselves into the midst of danger and destruction. Be good to others, God loves those who do good." (Qur'an 2: 195)

It was for this reason that when Mecca was liberated by Muhammad and his followers upon their return from years of exile in Medina, he declared:

"There shall be no need for hijra (act of emigration) after the liberation of Mecca." (Bukhari, Hadith No. 2783; Muslim, Hadith No. 1353)

It can therefore be argued that ISIS, with its well-documented brutality and barbarity against both Muslims and non-Muslims, is the kind of regime that Qur'an 4:97 instructs Muslims to emigrate from. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS and self-proclaimed "caliph", seeks to establish an Orwellian state in which parents have to live in constant fear that their children may be referred to ISIS authorities by their teachers for mentioning terms like "democracy", "pluralism", "feminism" or "human rights" in school, or for looking up such terms online!

Unlike under the ISIS version of Shariah, in the UK the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is enshrined in law. It is against the law to discriminate against anyone on the basis of religion or belief. This right includes the freedom to build places of worship, faith schools, and to practice and observe one's religious teachings as long as such teachings do not infringe on the rights of others or violate the law of the land.

Similarly, the kinds of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment that ISIS has perfected are illegal under UK laws.

Thus, for a majority of Muslims living in Britain, UK laws are closer to their understanding of the Qur'an and Muhammad's teachings than anything that ISIS is doing in its territories. The Qur'an states:

"Let there be no compulsion in religion." (Qur'an 2:256)

ISIS violates this Qur'anic principle while UK laws uphold it. Similarly, Muhammad prohibited the torture and mutilation of animals and human beings, and indiscriminate killing even in a theatre of war. Muhammad famously said:

"God's commandment [on matters relating to war] is that prisoners or captives, the wounded or anyone who is retreating should not be killed."

"Do not practice torture or mutilation"

"Do not kill priests or monks in monasteries, and do not kill anyone praying or taking sanctuary in places of worship."

"Don't be desirous of death."

ISIS practices and ideology contravene all of the above teachings of Muhammad as recorded in various Islamic sources. It is therefore fitting that ISIS is referred to as a cult obsessed with death.