Sunday, 19 March 2017

Fitna - the radioactive core of Islam

The first section below consists of notes from Mark Durie’s exposition of the fitna worldview in The Third Choice pp.96-99. Following that is a discussion of how the fitna worldview plays out in the world today.

Fitna – meanings range from temptation to persecution

Derived from fatana which means to turn away from, to tempt, to seduce or subject to trials.

Fitna can include temptation or trial, including positive and negative inducements, up to and including torture. It emerged as a key concept in the context of the early Muslim community’s experiences with non-believers.

Muhammad accused the Quraysh of subjecting him and the rest of the Muslims to fitna, in order to get them to leave Islam or dilute its claims.

The eminent medieval theologian, Ibn Kathir, argued that the first verses revealed concerning fighting after the migration to Medina made clear that the whole purpose of fighting and killing was to eliminate fitna, because it could cause Muslims to turn away from Islam.

“persecution is more grievous than slaying…
…fight them, ‘til there is no more persecution [fitna].” Q2: 190-193

The idea that fitna of Muslims was “more grievous than slaying” proved to be highly significant. It would be used again in Q2: 217 after an attack on a Meccan caravan during the sacred month (a period during which Arab tribal traditions forbade raiding.)

It implied that shedding the blood of infidels is less serious than a Muslim turning away from Islam.

The other significant phrase in the lines from Q2 is “fight them until there is no fitna”. This was also used more than once. The second being the Battle of Badr, during the second year in Medina. (Q8: 39)

These fitna phrases established the principle that jihad was justified by the existence of an obstacle to people entering Islam, or of inducements to Muslims to turn away from Islam.

Put another way: fighting and killing people may be grievous but undermining or obstructing Islam is worse.

Most Muslim jurists extend the concept of fitna to include the mere existence of unbelief (kufr), so that the phrase is interpreted as ‘unbelief is worse than killing.’

Ibn Kathir equates fitna with ‘committing disbelief’:

“Since jihad involves killing and shedding blood of men, Allah indicated that these men [i.e. polytheists] are committing disbelief in Allah, associating with Him (in the worship) and hindering from His path, and this is a much greater evil and more disastrous than killing.”

Ibn Kathir Tafsir vol 1 p.528

It is on this understanding that the concept of jihad warfare to extend the dominance of Islam was based.

Ibn Kathir, commenting on Q2 and Q8 said that the command to fight means to go to war ‘so that there is no more kufr (disbelief).’

A quote from Muhammad Usmani (a contemporary eminent cleric) shows the Islamic consensus on this point:

“…the purpose of jihad…aims at breaking the grandeur of unbelievers and establishing that of Muslims. As a result no one will dare to show any evil designs against Muslim [sic] on one side and on the other side, people subdued from the grandeur of Islam will have an open mind to think over the blessings of Islam…I think that all ulema (religious scholars) have established the same concept about the purpose of Jihad.”

Muhammad Usmani Islam and Modernism pp.133-34

It is highly significant that the beginning of the Islamic calendar is defined by the end of tolerance to opposition.

This was a defining moment in the establishment of Islam, after which forbearance of fitna would no longer be an option: jihad had been declared.


Fitna is not some archaic concept but a living principle that informs Muslim doctrine today just as throughout its history. Egyptian cleric Ahmed al-Naqib, speaking on television in response to yet another Muslim mob attack on a Christian church explained:

‘… the open display of shirk—the greatest sin in Islam, associating someone else with God, which the Koran accuses Christians of doing via the Trinity—“is the worst form of fitna, worse than murder and bloodshed.”’

http://raymondibrahim.com/2016/12/17/christian-worship-worse-murder-bloodshed/

How clearly this illustrates the aggressive response to innocuous behavior that the fitna worldview inspires.

One consequence of the fitna worldview is that all non-Islamic phenomena become a source of adversity to Muslims. Every non-Islamic art-form, custom, or achievement emerges as a standing temptation; an obstacle to conversion; or a tacit rebuttal of Islamic claims.

What is the solution? Why, to destroy all non-Islamic phenomena through dawa and jihad. Unless the whole world is Islamized until no trace remains of non-Islamic phenomena then fitna remains, Muslims are suffering "persecution".

Another consequence of the fitna worldview is that it feeds our natural tendency to blame our problems on the behavior or even the existence of other people - the victim mentality. Some religious teachings try to counter this tendency as in the sayings of Jesus:

 “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” Matthew 7:5
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Matthew 5:44
In dramatic contrast, the fitna worldview broadens the definition of “persecution” to include such things as mockery but it also goes far beyond this and within the same category includes the mere existence of difference (committing disbelief in Ibn Kathir’s terms).

Why are the current champions of “diversity” not concerned about this? As things stand, many of them are only too happy to shout down, vilify and compile hit lists of the contemporary critics of Islam and thereby enforce the fitna worldview.

The current diversity agenda in the Western democracies is playing right into the hands of the fitna worldview as their citizens are legally bound to “respect” difference which leads to cultural capitulation in a thousand forms like halal meat, prayer rooms, washing facilities for wudu, prosecution for pranks such as bacon on mosque doors, the institutionalized denial that Islam has a violent core, etc.

There is also a widespread belief that if Muslims are upset it must be due to some real injustice and that that injustice is our responsibility.*  This reinforces the fitna worldview on their part and the surrender to it on ours. This dynamic is playing out in millions of micro-social situations every day.

* There is of course an ironic truth in this since we are responsible for our unbelief and this is the most grievous fault in the fitna worldview. We are guilty of our rejection of the call to Islam.

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