Islam, Jihad, and our Ignorance

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“Ignorance kills. In war, ignorance brings defeat, especially for those who are sworn to support and defend us,” writes Stephen Coughlin in his latest book Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad. Coughlin continues, “While ignorance is not a crime for the average person, it is for professionals concerning subject matter that is the object of their professions. Why shouldn’t this hold true for national security professionals? For them, one requirement is that they know the enemy by undertaking real threat identification of entities that constitute actual threats to the Constitution and people of the United States.”

The refusal to account for the doctrinal elements of Islam in our national security analyses constitutes the professional malpractice that Coughlin was alluding to as our threat doctrine has been reduced to strategic incomprehension and incoherence. In wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that took the lives of 130 and injured 350 others, Coughlin ominously warned back in April that the strategic incoherence in the War on Terror “will increasingly be measured by news stories that reveal senior leaders’ inability to answer basic questions about the nature of the enemy and his environment. It will also manifest itself in official responses to terrorist attacks that become progressively less reality-based.” Yet, as Americans, Parisians, and virtually every citizen living within Western society grows more outraged by yet another failure of intelligence in stopping the latest jihadist attack, “those professionally and constitutionally tasked with keeping them safe continue to lack awareness, understanding, and even professional curiosity about the doctrines that drive the enemy to action,” notes Coughlin.

For our enemies, the implementation of Islamic law known as sharia is both the objective and the basis in which they routinely state their justification for attack. Our enemy openly declares that they are engaged in a global jihad as Islamic law serves as their doctrinal driver to commit murder in order to establish an “Islamic state”, or Caliphate, governed by Islamic law.  Osama bin Laden stated the following in 2002:

Muslims, and especially the learned among them, should spread Shari’a law to the world — that and nothing else. Not laws under the “umbrella of justice, morality, and rights” as understood by the masses. No, the Shari’a of Islam is the foundation. … In fact, Muslims are obligated to raid the lands of the infidels, occupy them, and exchange their system of governance for an Islamic system, barring any practice that contradicts Shari’a from being publicly voiced among the people, as was the case in the dawn of Islam…

 

They say that our Shari’a does not impose our particular beliefs upon others; this is a false assertion. For it is, in fact, part of our religion to impose our particular beliefs upon others. … Thus whoever refuses the principle of terror[ism] against the enemy also refuses the commandment of Allah the Exalted, the Most High, and His Shari’a.

“Jihad in the cause of Allah” is what the enemy claims it is doing, whether it be the now deceased leader of al-Qaeda or the current leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. To the exclusion of all other reasons, including “underlying causes” such as economic deprivation, “climate change”, or poverty, the root cause always traces back to Islam itself and the enemy doesn’t just make this claim. What the jihadis say they will do tracks exactly with what they do. 

The concepts of jihad given expression by so called “extremists” can be found in the body of Islamic law as defined by recognized authorities and authoritative sources as the legal description has remained consistent across the 1400 year span that incorporates today’s recognized authorities. Defined as “warfare against non-muslims to establish the religion,” the rules of Islamic law pertaining to jihad have remained consistent regardless of whether it was defined by an eighth century Arab, a ninth century Uzebki, a 12th century Spaniard, a 14th century North African, or even a 20th century Arab, Pakistani, Indian, Malaysian or American. “All conformed to the idea that jihad does not end until the world has been made the dar al-Islam,” notes Coughlin, adding “because there is agreement among the scholars on the status of jihad, it belongs to the fixed inner sphere of Islamic law that can never be changed.

“Yet, the requirement of jihad neither begins nor ends with the kinetic aspects of warfare. Coughlin notes that Islamic law divides the world into two states, dar al-Islam (the house of Islam and peace) and dar al-harb (the house of War, which is the world of the infidel and the region of perpetual warfare) with jihad being an unabrogable obligation for Muslims until the dar al-harb is eliminated and the people of the book ‘pay the jizya (tax) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (Qur’an 9: 29).” Anyone who comes from the dar al-harb has the status under Islamic law of harbi (enemy). As a country not governed by Islamic law, the United States resides in the dar al-harb, therefore we Americans are harbi.

To elaborate on this concept, Coughlin cites Majid Khadduri, a professor at John Hopkins University who wrote War and Peace in the Law of Islam (1955) and published his translation of the classic 8th-century treatise Shaybani’s Siyar (1966). The Siyar is among the oldest testaments on international relations and the law of war in Islamic law. Khadduri in War and Peace in the Law of Islam writes:

It follows that the existence of a dar al-Harb is ultimately outlawed under the Islamic jural order; that the dar al-Islam is permanently under jihad obligation until the dar al-Harb is reduced to non-existence; and that any community accepting certain disabilities must submit to Islamic rule and reside in the dar al-Islam or be bound as clients to the Muslim community.

 

The universality of Islam, in its all-embracing creed, is imposed on the believers as a continuous process of warfare, psychological and political if not strictly military.

It’s imperative to understand this concept for even when a fighting jihad is not underway, a “continuous process of warfare” is waged at the psychological and political levels. Khadduri states this as a matter of doctrine— because the “dar al-harb is ultimately outlawed under the Islamic jural order; … the dar al-Islam is permanently under jihad obligation until the dar al-harb is reduced to non-existence.” It is from this context that those who believe, as our current adminstration repeatedly reminds us, that we are “not at war with Islam” can be refuted as Islam has and will continue to remain at war with us as a continuous process of psychological, political, and kinetic warfare.

Through this concept of Islamic warfare, a substantial effort is placed on the “preparation stage”, the object of which is to induce a collapse of faith in the cultural, political, and religious institutions underpinning the target. A very clear example of this doctrine is Pakistani Brigadier General S.K. Malik’s The Quranic Concept of War. As Coughlin explains, “In the Quranic Concept of War, Malik emphasized the importance of laying the groundwork for successful military operations. He explained this preparatory stage as a ‘dislocation of faith’ in the target nation’s sense of security and in the capability of its leaders to defend its territory. The inability of the target population’s leadership to protect its citizens in the face of a terror campaign signals the beginning of kinetic operations in earnest. At some point, dawah (issuing of summons) transitions to jihad.” Elaborating on the concept of dawah, Coughlin highlights that it is “often defined as the ‘invitation’ or ‘call to Islam,” the meaning and purpose of which is more extensive and closely associated with jihad. In fact, much of what is popularly called “stealth jihad” are actions taken in preparation for jihad in the dawah phase of operations as explained by Malik when he states the following:

The Quranic strategy comes into to play from the preparation stage, and aims at imposing a direct decision upon the enemy. Other things remaining the same, our preparation for war is the true index of our performance during war. We must aim at creating a wholesome respect for our Cause and our will and determination to attain it, in the minds of the enemies, well before facing them on the field of battle. So spirited, zealous, complete and thorough should be our preparation for war that we should enter upon the ‘war of muscles’ having already won the ‘war of will’.

 

Only a strategy that aims at striking terror into the hearts of the enemies from the preparation stage can produce direct results and turn Liddell Hart’s dream into a reality. To instill terror into the hearts of the enemy is essential in the ultimate analysis to dislocate his faith. An invincible faith is immune to terror. A weak faith offers inroads to terror.

In the early phases of dawah, one should expect to see an emphasis on penetration and subversion campaigns directed at cultural, political, media, and religious institutions. Actions taken in the early dawah phase are aimed at compromising a community’s core beliefs which substantially contributes to the sense of hopelessness that is exponentially magnified when a jihadist finally commits an act of terrorism. From this perspective and contrary to Western notions of “separation of church and state,” Islam in general defines itself in unitary terms as a complete way of life governed by a single body of law that comes from Allah who retains sole sovereignty. Thus, Islamic law is the legal system “extremists” emulate and seek to impose when fighting jihad both kinetically and non-kinetically.

The refusal to understand the enemy’s doctrine, which tells him not to strike until he has assessed that we are already defeated in our own minds, lends credence to the notion of why we are so routinely caught of guard when a jihadist strikes. Judging by the fact that the FBI currently has nearly 1,000 ongoing ISIS probes in the United States with 82 individuals affiliated with ISIS having been interdicted by law enforcement since March of 2014, the enemy has assessed that the time has come to unleash kinetic attacks as we have already been defeated within our own minds.

“Most importantly,” notes Dr. Sebastian Gorka in his latest ThreatKnowldgeGroup special report on ISIS: The Threat to the United States, “nearly one third of the domestic ISIS cases in the past 18 months involved people who planned to carry out attacks against Americans on U.S. soil. In other words, one third of those interdicted calculated that the best way to serve the new Islamic State and its Caliph, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, is to wage jihad here on the soil of the infidel.” The primary reason that we have seen a 300 percent increase in terrorist arrests in the United States beginning in 2014 compared to the average monthly arrests of al Qaeda suspects since the 9/11 attacks of 2001 is because of the proclaimed caliphate established on June 29, 2014.

Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch explains that “the Islamic State’s June 29, 2014, proclamation of itself as the caliphate, which in Islamic theology is the Islamic nation, embodying the supranational unity of the Muslim community worldwide under a single leader, the caliph, is the key to [understanding] its appeal to so many Muslims worldwide.” Spencer elaborates, “the caliph is the symbol of the unity of Muslims worldwide, in traditional Islamic theology, Muslims worldwide constitute a single community [known as an umma] and are rightfully citizens of the Islamic Caliphate.” Moreover, if we look to the book Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law that has the imprimatur of Al-Azhar University in Cairo which is the intellectual heartbeat of Islam, we find that it certifies as conforming “to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community” in which only the caliph is authorized to declare “offensive jihad” in order to “make war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians.” The caliphate, this Sharia manual says, is “both obligatory in itself and the necessary precondition for hundreds of rulings established by Allah Most High to govern and guide Islamic community life.” It quotes the Islamic scholar Abul Hasan Mawardi explaining that the caliph’s role is “preserving the religion and managing this-worldly affairs.”

As Spencer notes, “since the caliph is obligated to wage offensive jihad, we can expect that with the coming of the Islamic State caliphate there will be even more jihad in the wold than here has been recently.” This is because of the appeal that the Caliphate has upon Muslims who are devoutly religious and since the Islamic States’ theology is straightforward with the Qur’anic justifications for their actions being based on the plain words of the text, the appeal will continue as the tens of thousands of Muslims who have already joined ISIS from all over the world testifies to the resonance of their literal reading of Islam’s holy book.

In closing, since adherents to sharia and a strict interpretation of Islam have sworn to destroy us, it is their doctrine that we are required to know. Whether that doctrine is judged by us or this adminstration to be accurate with “genuine” Islam is wholly irrelevant. If it can be demonstrated, which it has been, that the enemy that attacks and kills Americans and seeks to subvert our Constitution refers to and relies on the implementation of sharia to guide and justify his actions, then that is all that matters in terms of the enemy threat doctrine U.S. civilian and military leaders must thoroughly understand and orient upon for the purpose of defeating such foes. As Coughlin concludes, “failing to orient on an enemy’s self-identified doctrines not only violates our own doctrine on threat analysis but renders us unable to defeat the enemy because we have failed properly to identify him.” Such a catastrophic failure of intelligence defies the rules of warfare reaching back to Sun Tzu on the requirement to “know the enemy.” It also completely defies common sense and the canons of professional conduct of our leadership.

We are at war and it’s time we as a nation orient our strategy to reflect it.

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