THE LEVANT NEWS — By Dr. Haytham Mouzahem — A Canadian journalist interviewed me recently about ISIS(The Islamic State) and its thought origins. She asked me if I see any parallels between ISIS today and the practices or approach of the first Ummayad Caliph Muawiyah Bin Abi Sufyan (602–680), who ruled between (661–680), or any other early figure from the Ummayad dynasty, and how does he differ from ISIS practices today.
My answer was that ISIS has more similarities with the Khawarij, or Kharijite, the earliest Islāmic sect, which traces its beginning to a religio-political controversy over the Caliphate. This sect was very religious but it considered Kaffir every Muslim who commits sins like adultery or stealing, and they considered Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib( 601 – 661) as Kaffir because he was forced to agree to arbitration by umpires after the Battle of Ṣiffīn (July 657) against Muʿāwiyah’s forces, they protested that “judgment belongs to God alone” (Qurʾān 6:57) and believed that arbitration would be a repudiation of the Qurʾānic dictum “If one party rebels against the other, fight against that which rebels” (49:9).
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib was the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, and had ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661. He was also the first male who accepted Islam, the Sunnis consider Ali the fourth and final of the Rashidun (rightly guided Caliphs), while Shia regard Ali as the first Imam after Muḥammad, and consider him and his descendants the rightful successors to Muhammad, all of whom are members of the Ahl al-Bayt, the household of Muhammad. This disagreement split the Ummah (Muslim community) into the Sunni and Shi`i branches.
Imam Ali described this interpretation of Khawarij regarding the arbitration as “a word of truth but they are seeking by it the falsehood”. Then, a small number of these pietists withdrew (kharajū) to the village of Ḥarūrāʾ under the leadership of Ibn Wahb and, when arbitration proved disastrous to ʿAlī, were joined near Nahrawān by a larger group.
These Khārijites were opposed equally to ʿAlī’s claims and to those of Muʿāwiyah and, the Khārijites engaged in campaigns of harassment and terror against all Muslims who did not accept their views. Later, one of those Kharijites has assassinated Imam Ali while he was praying.
Thus, the Kharijites were the first Muslims who accuse another Muslim of apostasy, what is called in Arabic “takfir”, which derived from the word kafir (infidel). So we can call them the first takfiris, as it is used today by Muslims, especially Shias, against the Salafis who consider Shias as infidels, or Kufars, the plural of Kafir in Arabic.
Back to Mu’awiyah, I believe there are parallels between ISIS today and the practices or approach Muawiyah took and other figures from the Ummayad dynasty, those parallels can be identified by the means of violence against their adversaries, such as beheading, burning, cutting human organs, torturing, and creating art of torturing from Mu’awiyah to his son Yazid (683), and the massacre of Karbala against the family of the Prophet, Imam Hussein and his family, they killed the men and beheaded their heads and captured the women and took them from Karbala in Iraq to Damascus in Syria, to Yazid’s palace to satisfy him.
Another inspiration ISIS might took from Mu’awiyah and the Ummayad dynasty is the expansion of their state towards new countries. But the Islamic invasion or Fatih, is something that most Sunni Muslim are proud of it, while some Shia scholars criticized it as it became a way of forming an empire and getting the invaded countries taxes and they didn’t care about spreading Islam. Sometimes, they did not want the Christians to become Muslims because then they won’t pay taxes that they are seeking.
Actually, not only the Ummayad rulers were responsible on this way of thinking, but also the Abbassi dynasty who claimed their revolution for the sake of Al al-bayt, the Prophet family, has followed the Orthodox Sunni school and later they supported the Hanbali school of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal who was calling for oppressing the Mu’tazila. From Hanbali schools, all Salafi and extremist schools derive, including Ibn Taymia and later Muhammad Ibn Abdelwahab, and the Wahhabism that inspires Al-Qaeda, ISIS, al-Nusra Front, and other Salafi Jihadists.
The Canadian journalist asked also if there is any indication that ISIS looks to Muawiyah or the period during which he ruled as an inspiration to drive their goals in creating an Islamic Caliphate. My answer was that most Sunnis look at Muawiyah as an Islamic Caliphate and they consider him a companion of the prophet while Shias believe he was not Muslim at the life of prophet who called for following him and executing him.