I agree with almost everything you’ve found, but I think saying that Daesh is just a bastardization…
Robert Stone

Thanks for these very thoughtful points. Well, of course, it also depends where you come from in terms of your perspective of what ‘Islam’ is. While it’s not difficult to situate Daesh anthropologically within a certain set of categories of Islamic thought, this is because all Islamist ideology makes a concerted effort to do so.

I accept that simply saying ISIS ideology is a bastardisation of Islam is oversimplifying — but actually quite coherent arguments can and have been made to the effect that ISIS is in many ways quite heretical from the perspective of classical Islamic scholarship.

I’d recommend the following for a detailed, scholarly approach to this matter in book form, one which addresses ISIS practices specifically from the viewpoint of the classical tradition:

In that sense, my counterpoint would be that it is really a deep oversimplification to categorise ISIS in the way you have, because it can be shown for instance that the Hanbal madhab would never allow many of ISIS’ practices. All the main jurisprudential schools had consensus, for instance, on the precepts of the ‘minor’ jihad, involving fighting — which prohibited killing of men, women and children.

The above book does a very good job of showing that ISIS is a fundamental departure from mainstream Sunni Islam.

On the other hand, ISIS, and other Islamists, draw selectively on interpretations by a minority of classical scholars who argued otherwise, and tried to invent new conditions that would justify targeting civilians, for instance. They often did so in the context of the political expansion of Muslim dynasties at the time. In the modern era, these arguments were taken further and further, moving from people like Sayyid Qutb to Abdullah Azzam, and beyond.

So Aanother approach to all this, a far more radical one than the approach taken by the book above, is to adopt a critical approach also to the classical tradition, based on modern historical methods — combining a combination of Islamic scholarship with critical historiography, which we’ve tried to do here:


Here we seek to engage directly with textual sources, but to do so in a way that is trans-sectarian — inherently open-minded about how we situate ourselves ‘dogmatically’, which is why our collective consists of people from multiple jurisprudential perspectives and philosophical positions. The point is to be able to navigate different madhabs/creeds by recognising them for what they are — historically and sociologically contingent frameworks of interpretation which do not necessarily represent, from the perspective of a believing Muslim trying to get at authentic Prophetic Islam, what Islam was as conceptualised and practiced by Muhammad himself.

Our approach is not to reject them — but to allow ourselves to not be constrained by them in engaging with the texts, a crucial distinction.

And on that basis, we’ve put forward solid, detailed, textual arguments — based on the Qur’an, hadith, and based on open engagement with the classical tradition — which delegitimise everything ISIS stands for and does. In the process, we have also deconstructed longstanding tropes that we see as having become part of the classical tradition for historical, cultural and political reasons, but which cannot be sustained on the basis of the textual evidence (such as in relation to domestic violence, or concubinage).

In that sense, some might see what we’re doing as revisionist. We don’t see it that way. We see it as reclaiming Islam from centuries of acculturation, politicisation, and geopoliticisation.

What we hope to achieve by that is to have contributed in some small way to the beginning of a dialogue about we can enrich our understanding of the Islamic faith from within our multiple schools of thought, by being able to keep the door of ijtihad (interpretation) open rather than shut, for which there’s no real justification.

I hope this clarifies my position a bit.

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