Alnaemi’s answers here are slick and often quite dishonest by omission, but still at times revealing. He says jihad is “mostly for defense,” thereby leaving the door open to offensive jihad. In the main, with his finger-pointing he provides yet another example of how colleges are today dreary centers of anti-American indoctrination, not centers of genuine intellectual exploration. Much more below.
“Deciphering Jihad: A chat with NYU Prof. Ali Adeeb Alnaemi,” by Gary Levine, Naples Herald, September 10, 2015:
…For purposes of clarification, I visited the Islamic Supreme Council web site to find a definitive explanation of “Jihad.”
According to the site, “The Arabic word “jihad” is often translated as “holy war,” but in a purely linguistic sense, the word “jihad” means struggling or striving.”
“In a religious sense, as described by the Quran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (s), “jihad” has many meanings. It can refer to internal as well as external efforts to be a good Muslims or believer, as well as working to inform people about the faith of Islam. If military jihad is required to protect the faith against others, it can be performed using anything from legal, diplomatic and economic to political means. If there is no peaceful alternative, Islam also allows the use of force, but there are strict rules of engagement. Innocents – such as women, children, or invalids – must never be harmed, and any peaceful overtures from the enemy must be accepted.”
The Council additionally indicates that “Jihad is not a violent concept. Jihad is not a declaration of war against other religions. It is worth noting that the Quran specifically refers to Jews and Christians as ‘people of the book’ who should be protected and respected. All three faiths worship the same God. Allah is just the Arabic word for God, and is used by Christian Arabs as well as Muslims.”
Whoa! Clearly, the acts and behaviours demonstrated by Islamic extremists do not adhere to these teachings.
“It is worth noting that the Quran specifically refers to Jews and Christians as ‘people of the book’ who should be protected and respected,” says the Islamic Supreme Council. But this is what the Qur’an also says: ““Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Qur’an 9:29)
I sought to learn more and perhaps obtain an understanding of that which is unfolding in Syria, Iraq and other Middle-Eastern regions. To do so, I reached out to NYU Professor Ali Adeeb Alnaemi, a wealth of knowledge in the areas of Middle Eastern politics. Having worked as the News Editor for the New York Times Baghdad Bureau, as an Arabic language instructor and writer for a number of publications, I was confident that he could offer clarity to a poorly understood crisis.
Gary Levine: Professor Alnaemi…most Westerners have a finite understanding…perhaps a misunderstanding…of the Quran. We try to contemplate the violence performed in the name of the Quran…and wonder how messages from God could be so skewed by violent Islamic jihadists. The Quran states “do not cause corruption on the earth.” Can you shed any light on the mentality behind all of this aggression?
Professor Ali Adeeb Alnaemi: “Skewing the meaning of the verses of the Quran is a result of a preconceived intention to manipulate religion for political purposes. For example, there are verses in the Quran that talk about war against infidels and encourages the Prophet and the Muslims to fight them to spread the word of God. But these verses talking about “Jehad” were restricted by the circumstances and the time period. The interpreters of the Quran and most of the scholars say that these verses of Jehad have to be under the control of government nowadays. It is similar to saying that we have to fight terrorism, but should the defense department do it or should Americans simply carry weapons and kill whoever they think is a terrorist without any rules or restrictions?
“The interpreters of the Quran and most of the scholars say that these verses of Jehad have to be under the control of government nowadays.” That actually refers only to offensive jihad, which according to Islamic law is up to the caliph to call. But in the absence of a caliph, defensive jihad must be waged by every Muslim if a Muslim land is attacked.
Bulghah al-Salik li-Aqrab al-Masalik fi madhhab al-Imam Malik (“The Sufficiency of the Traveller on the Best Path in the School of Imam Malik,”) says this: “Jihad in the Path of Allah, to raise the word of Allah, is fard kifayah [obligatory on the community] once a year, so that if some perform it, the obligation falls from the rest. It becomes fard `ayn [obligatory on every Muslim individually], like salah and fasting, if the legitimate Muslim Imam declares it so, or if there is an attack by the enemy on an area of people.”
The Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi’i schools of Sunni jurisprudence further declare that jihad, once it is fard ‘ayn, is no different from prayer and fasting — in other words, to engage in warfare with non-Muslims in that case is a religious devotion that cannot lawfully be evaded. Hashiyah Ibn `Abidin, an authoritative text of the Hanafi school, says that jihad is “fard ‘ayn if the enemy has attacked part of the Islamic homeland. It thus becomes an obligation like salah [prayer] and fasting which cannot be abandoned.”
In sum, then, Islamic law does indeed provide justification for individual Muslims committing acts of jihad, without permission from a government.
The way ISIS has interpreted the Quran ignores the rules that Islamic scholars have put in place for the past 14 centuries of their work. Jehad should be mostly for defense not as an aggression. People of the book, which is a description of the Jews and Christians, should be treated with respect and can keep their faith without exerting any pressure on them. Waging any war has to be the responsibility of the ruler and not just a random call by anyone. Of course they consider Baghdadi as their ruler but this is an issue for debate. The scholars who provide the ideological basis for ISIS have ignored these rules and took only the literal interpretation of the verses and made it even legitimate to kill Muslims who disagree with them, let alone people of other religions.”
“Jehad should be mostly for defense not as an aggression.” Note how carefully the professor is speaking: if jihad is “mostly” for defense,” then apparently there are circumstances under which aggression is permitted. But he doesn’t explain that. And he doesn’t mention that the “respect” supposedly owed to the People of the Book does not preclude their paying the jizya and accepting second-class dhimmi status, as per Qur’an 9:29.
Gary Levine: ISIS/ISIL has chosen to destroy artifacts in the Mosul Museum…the Temple of Bel…wall carvings…to name a few. Can you help us understand the reasoning behind the destruction of these treasures…some of which are UNESCO Heritage Sites?
Professor Ali Adeeb Alnaemi: “The destruction of these artifacts is part of the Wahhabi sect which follows a very strict interpretation of polytheism. The founder of this sect, Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab (1703-1791) destroyed all the shrines in the Arab peninsula in the eighteenth century that were built on the graves of the companions of the prophet claiming that people were worshipping them instead of God. Therefore, all other statues of old Roman Gods, Buddha statues and any other artifacts belonging to older religions are consider symbols of polytheism.
We only can wonder why early Muslims who accompanied the prophet and took the teaching directly from him allowed these artifacts to remain intact in the countries thy conquered in the early years of the Islamic state. ISIS militants are definitely not more religious than early Muslims. This is simply an evidence of how skewed their understanding of Islam is.”
“We only can wonder why early Muslims who accompanied the prophet and took the teaching directly from him allowed these artifacts to remain intact in the countries thy conquered in the early years of the Islamic state.” Maybe they lacked the means to do otherwise. But the destroyers have justification within Islamic texts. A hadith has Muhammad saying: “Do not leave any image without defacing it or any built-up grave without leveling it” (Sahih Muslim 969).
Gary Levine: There are quite a few Islamic terrorist groups functioning around the world…ISIS/ISIL, the Haqqani Network, Kataib Hezbollah, to name a few. They possess a discernible hatred for the United States and the West. Can you clarify the basis for this hatred?
Professor Ali Adeeb Alnaemi: “The hatred started earlier in the Arab world because of the unconditional American support to Israel. The war on Afghanistan and Iraq and its poor planning and catastrophic results made things worse and showed that the US is targeting Muslims around the world. Moreover, the US is accused of supporting corrupt dictatorships in the Middle East that oppress people and deprive them of their basic political and human rights. Therefore, the only way to fight all of that is to rebel against the US and its agents in the region using extreme religious interpretations hoping to go back in time and build a superpower for Muslims like the Ummayad or the Abbasid states.”…
You see, it’s all the fault of U.S. foreign policy, not the jihad imperative. The subtext is that if the U.S. would change its policies to suit Muslims, the jihad would disappear. But it wouldn’t, because even as Alnaemi has acknowledged, it is “mostly” (which is in itself debatable) but not entirely defensive. And what about all the jihad warfare that conquered lands all over the world long before there was a State of Israel, or a United States of America? What about the jihadis who are fighting against unbelievers thousands of miles from Israel?
EDITORS NOTE: New York University has a branch in Abu Dhabi.