Five Ways in Which Islam Opposed Slavery And Why ISIS is Wrong About it

A chilling New York Times article, titled “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape”, explains how “claiming the Quran’s support, the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool.” The article is more than a year old, but it seems that the illicit slave markets are not yet dead, and will likely continue to operate until the group is completely eliminated. The stories of the victims portray a depressing picture of how ISIS fighters rape their so-called “slaves,” justifying their actions using the scripture. Regardless of slavery, no words of the scripture can be twisted to justify rape.

Slaves in chains, relief found at Smyrna (present day İzmir, Turkey), 200 AD

Slaves in chains, relief found at Smyrna (present day İzmir, Turkey), 200 AD (CC BY-SA 2.0).

More than a hundred Muslim scholars wrote a letter in 2014 to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in which they refuted ISIS’ theology. “No scholar of Islam disputes that one of Islam’s aims is to abolish slavery,” the letter states, adding, “You have resuscitated something that the Shari’ah has worked tirelessly to undo.”

ISIS quotes the verses of the Quran to point out its apparent support for slavery. On the other hand, the Quran contains directives both at the individual level and at the state level that set the stage for the eradication of slavery. In the initial days of Mecca, these directives included the freeing of slaves as acts of piety, and expiation of sins. During the later Medinan period, the directives required a slave’s owner to sign a contract to free the slave if the slave had requested so. In the state that was setup, a central fund was allocated for the emancipation of slaves. Directives were also issued that war captives, who would ordinarily be enslaved, instead be let go whether for ransom or for free. Continue reading →

Parallelism and Chiasmus in the Quran

The composition of texts in Classical Semitic languages, of which Classical Arabic is a member, exhibits certain patterns which are not commonly seen in modern English compositions. Two such patterns are parallelism and chiasmus.

Using either the prosaic or poetic rules of the English language to deconstruct Quranic verses can sometimes lead to a confused reading. In some cases, one could even misinterpret the verses. Therefore, in this article, I explain these patterns as they can aid in understanding the structure of the verses.


Parallelism occurs when two sets of literary elements are arranged such that the first element of the first set corresponds to the first element of the second set and similarly the second element of the first set corresponds to the second element of the second set.

Continue reading →

Tami Urbanek Interviewed Me on Being a Muslim in the US

Many thanks to Tami Urbanek for interviewing me for her program Journey for Truth. You can also view the video in YouTube, or listen to the iHeartRADIO podcast. Here are some of the issues covered in the interview:

  • What is the impact on Muslims when a programs similar National Security Entry-Exit Registration System is introduced. Note that “not a single person was found to have any links to terrorist or violent activities”.
  • I explain the core concepts of Islam and whether it promotes violence. Muslim scholars established these concepts over the centuries and now they are even taught in schools. I missed one key aspect though, that Islam’s holy book, the Quran, claims it to be religion sent by God of Moses and Jesus, that is why it shares most beliefs with those religions.
  • The last section of the interview focuses on how we can improve the relations between various communities in the US. I think there is a lot of work needed there, and I do not claim to have all the ideas or solutions.

What Muslim Kids Are Taught About Jihad in Schools Pakistan Diary

Growing up in a Muslim majority country, we were formally taught Islamic history, beliefs and practices in a subject called Islamiyat. Schools offer this subject from primary school to at least the equivalent of American high school – either the government managed Matriculation or the Cambridge University-designed General Certificate of Education: Ordinary Level (O-Level). Schools usually determine whether they will offer both options, and students then decide which examination they would like to appear in.

Islam: Beliefs and Practices by Yasmin Malik

One of the books used for GCE O‑Level Islamiyat.

The O-Level Islamiyat syllabus is publicly available and intended for teachers, so they can plan their “teaching program”. It was one such syllabus published in the mid-90s that my teachers used for educating us about Islam’s core concepts, and how we ought to manage our relationships with non-Muslims. In the current US environment – where a number of media outlets, politicians and some “experts” “educate” the public about the violent nature of the jihad, or the link between Islam and extremism – the content of such syllabi and associated textbooks is particularly potent. Continue reading →

Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction Book Review

The author of this book, Dr. Jonathan Brown, has published research on pre-Islamic Arabic literature, Islamic law, and hadith collections. It was, in fact, his expertise in these areas that interested me in his perspective on the Prophet’s life. Given the plethora of research on the subject and the fact that it runs a wide gamut, Dr. Brown has done amazingly well to keep the introduction short, yet the reader will come out no less educated about the breadth of issues described in most other books on the subject. And that is why I feel this work is a class by itself and has the potential to become an introductory text for courses on the Prophet.

The book is organized in three chapters. Chapter 1 takes the reader into the Arabian milieu in which the Prophet lived, and acquaints the reader to the traditional account of his biography. Dr. Brown plays no games and walks through it with the caveat that we must study the “legend” (the word is repeated thrice in the first five pages). This is important because if you have Muslim neighbors, you might be reading such a book to get a handle on what they might believe in. Chapter 1 accomplishes this goal. Continue reading →

Does Islam Preach That Infidels Be Killed?

It does not. A reader asked me this question in 2004 on my old, now defunct, blog, and despite my dislike for how it was phrased, I kept it as-is because it is in the minds of many. My conclusion today is the same as it was then. Actually, as I continued to study Islam in-depth, I became ever more convinced that Islam not only forbids such forms of violence; rather, it preaches quite the opposite.

An imam and Muslims participate in the fourth World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, on Oct 27, 2011. Derivative of a photograph of Stephan Kölliker under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

An imam and Muslims participate in the fourth World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, on Oct 27, 2011. Derivative of the original photograph of Stephan Kölliker under CC BY-SA 3.0.

I am aware that some articles on the Internet argue otherwise. They say that Islam’s primary sources, the Quran and the Sunnah, prohibit Muslims from living in harmony with people of other faiths.

Islam’s primary source, the Quran, contains verses that command the believers to “not kill a soul that God has forbidden, except in the course of justice.”1The Quran 17:33 It applies to everyone, regardless of their religion, race, sex, etc. And the phrase “except in the course of justice” keeps the door open for a state to administer capital punishment for major crimes. Continue reading →

Notes   [ + ]

1. The Quran 17:33