[by Charles Cameron — whereof scholars are in disagreement, how shall generals, presidents, you, or for that matter i, be expected to get things right? ]
Is Westboro Baptist Church a Baptist Church?
Is Westboro Baptist even Christian? Is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Islamic? Islamist? Heresy? Specoifically, Khawarij?
Surely there are senses in which the answers, both with regards to WBC and ISIS, are Yes, and senses in which the answers are No. To my way of thinking, the question of ISIS and Islam has a great deal to do with what audience a given speaker wishes to reach — and what second order consequences that speaker wishes to avoid.
But Khawarij, specifically?
The site Millat Salaf [“Path of the Predecessors”] asks, ISIS are Khawarij or not?
So who are the Khawarij? What are their beliefs? Are they Kuffar? Should they be killed? When should they be fought? We must compare the methodology and beliefs of the ISIS before slapping the title “Khawarij” to their backs and going all Shariah on ’em.
Millat Salaf goes on to note some of the beliefs of the Khawarij of the time of the Prophet — jhere are three of a dozen examples:
They Permit the Greater Khilaafah to be a man from other than Quraish, free man or a slave, arab or a non-arab, and other groups from within them do not see having a Khilaafah as important at all, rather the people should sort out their affairs for themselves, and if they feel the need for an Imaam they may choose one.
They Abolish the ruling of stoning of the adulterer.
Some of them deny Surat Yusuf saying that it is not befitting to have a love story in the Quran.
On the basis of these and other significant details, and comparing them with ISIS doctrine and practice, Millat Salaf declares that the members of ISIS are not Khawarij.
On a more general level, however, Millat Salaf described the Khawarij as both a contemporary and an end-times group:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Leave him, for he has companions, and if you compare your prayers with their prayers and your fasting with theirs, you will look down upon your prayers and fasting, in comparison to theirs. A people will come at the end of time; as if he is one of them, reciting the Qur’an without it passing beyond their throats. They will go through Islam just as the arrow goes through the target. Their distinction will be shaving. They will not cease to appear until the last of them comes with Al-Maseeh Ad-Dajjaal.” Bukhari (and An-Nisaa’i with different wording)
In these terms, the Khawarij are more ostensiveloy (ostentatiously) pious than other Muslims, but their practice is hollow.
So.. I mean..
It is perfectly possible, from within the Salafi stream of Islam, to suggest as Millat Salaf does:
we cannot agree with the claims of the FSA and their allies that the ISIS are Khawaarij
It is also perfectly possible within that same Salafi stream to hold, as Sheikh Abu Basir al-Tartusi does, that ISIS is Khawarij and worse. From a page titled Conclusive scholarly opinions on ISIS:
The group known as ISIS are from the fanatical Khaw?rij, rather they have surpassed the Khaw?rij in many of their characteristics and actions, combining between fanaticism, aggression, hostility and shedding inviolable blood.” He further said: “We call upon all sincere individuals who have been fooled by them while still with this misguided group to severe their ties with it and to declare their freedom from it and its actions.”
And what of Westboro Baptist from a Christian perspective? Christianity Today carried a piece titled The Westboro Baptist in All of Us, observing:
It’s easy to distance ourselves from Westboro Baptist Church. They’re extremists with monstrous practices that flow from a twisted theology of a deceived people. We’re not extremists. We’d never dream of protesting the funerals of American soldiers or even conceive of picketing the funerals of Sandy Hook Elementary victims in the name of God while smugly declaring via Twitter that “God sent the shooter.” We’d never indoctrinate our children as they have and call it nurture. Between most of us and those at Westboro Baptist Church, there’s a great gulf fixed.
Most of us wouldn’t go to the same lengths as those at Westboro, but collectively, we have our own prejudices, rigid rules, regulations, and zealotries. These drive us to marginalize, cast aspersions upon and exclude others within our own churches, Christian organizations and institutions who so much as dare to differ, even slightly, from our own political or theological stances.
If Christianity is understood as the religion of love, then from a Christian perspective, WBC’s excessive and hate-fueled zeal distances them from the very Christianity they claim, and which in historical perspective gave rise to them. Mutatis mutandis, If Islam is understood as the religion of Peace, then from an Islamic perspective, ISIS’ excessive and hate-fueled zeal distances them from the very Islamic faith they claim, and which in historical perspective gave rise to them.
Unfortunate McMaster — caught in the crossfire between the theological snipers of Is and Isn’t.