Refuting Isis

A summary of Refuting Isis by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi

January 2016: I’ve just finished reading this powerful piece by Shaykh Al-Yaqoubi, in which he issues a fatwa concerning the entity calling itself Islamic State. This is a summary of what he argues.


Detailed analysis of ISIS’s claims about the Caliphate, Islam and apostasy, and then a total debunking of them. Primarily, and explicitly, aimed at young Muslims in danger of being radicalised, at Western journalists (who often seem not to know much about the subject, and at politicians. Short and persuasive.


Shaykh Al-Yaqoubi is Syrian and from a long and distinguished line of jurists and imams. Having spoken out repeatedly against the Assad regime, he now lives in exile in Rabat, Morocco.

Ch. 1: In the words of ISIS

  • Declaration of Caliphate 29 June 2014 shows power struggle between IS and AQ-JN. Zawahiri supported AQ-JN so IS declared C to gain ‘legitimacy’ and become No. 1 Islamist force.
  • Refuting al-Baghdadi claims: he says he follows “Prophetic Methodology” but PM prohibits the killing of civilians. Also, he says that ISIS’s spiritual leader is OBL, yet ISIS and AQ-JN have been fighting each other for about 9 years, so his ‘leadership’ hardly makes sense.
  • al-B also polarises the world into the camp of Islam and the camp of Disbelief (kufr). Islam stresses right v wrong, not binary us v them. al-B is more like US neocons. Mohammed’s first Islamic State (in Medina) included non-Muslims, and even Jews.
  • Also al-B claims that Allah sent Mohammed with the sword, for eternal war. Not true. In 23 years, Mohammed only spent 200 days warring.
  • al-B claims that ISIS created chaos in Iraq so that it could step in. Correct, but totally impermissible in Islam. ISIS nothing more than secular movement, aiming to mobilize forces for a purely material and secular end, i.e. gaining power and wealth and exacting revenge on enemies.
  • Finally, ISIS say that it is permissible to kill Muslims who do not follow them, esp Shiites, police, Saudis, Houthis, even people who speak up for others (against punishment by ISIS).

Ch. 2: Proving that ISIS are Khawarij

ISIS members are not Muslims. They have left Sunni Islam, as can be seen from their actions and declaraions, esp:

  • revolt against Muslim community
  • anathematizing the majority of Sunnis
  • killing and destroying, thus spreading injustice and corruption.

Note that the Khawarij were very early heretics. ISIS are effectively modern-day Khawarijites. Permissible to kill them.

Ch. 3: ISIS’s atrocities

  • Killing & brutality the innocent, foreigners under treaty (e.g. aid workers), exacting revenge on civilians in conquered areas, killing prisoners, burning people, killing scholars and imams, torture and mutilation.
  • Belittling sacred law Setting up stupid, inexperienced and immature people to act as pseudo judges.
  • Destruction of sites Muslims have never believed that building shrines to holy people deifies them; more, a way of honouring and remembering them. No need to destroy them, or holy places of other religions or historical sites.
  • Anathematization Anyone who supports democracy is kufr, say ISIS, but this is incorrect. Calls for democracy are still compatible with Shariah law.
  • Enslavement Enslaving non-Muslims goes against Mohammed’s own actions, such as when he entered the League of the Virtuous before Islam was revealed. Raping women and kidnapping children pervert religion. No justification in Islam.
  • Harming Islam ISIS’s actions and declarations tend to turn people around the world against Islam and against true Muslims.

“All of thse transgressions bring forth the obligation to fight this group in order to shatter its forces, stop its crimes, and rid mankind of its evil”.

Ch. 4: ISIS’s anathematizing of Muslims

ISIS deem anyone who opposes them a disbeliever, even Salafis and Mujahidun. They select phrases from the Qu’ran out of context and use those to “prove” that their victims and enemies are evil. Their actions are “the furthest possible actions from Sharia rulings, Prophetic morals and the tolerance of Islam”. They use the claim of apostasy to adjudge their Muslim enemies permissible to kill. This is wrong.

Ch. 5: Are the Khawarij Muslims?

Here, there are discussion of arguments on both sides. The shaykh comes to no firm conclusion, though his final word is a quote from Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Ibn Baz that “they are disbelievers”.

Ch. 6: The obligation to advise them before fighting

One cannot fight ISIS without telling them where they have erred and giving them a chance to change. The Shaykh and other Muslim scholars have written to them doing so, but in vain. Thus “fighting them has become an obligation for Muslims.

Ch. 7: Fighting ISIS is obligatory [FATWA]

Here, the Shaykh issues a fatwa:

fighting the group known as ISIS is a communal obligation (fard kiffaya) upon Muslims.

He declares that it is not permissible to neglect fighting ISIS, since that would be a sin. He makes a final call to members of ISIS to repent.

Ch. 8: Invalidity of oath to al-Baghdadi

[I find some difficulty with the arguments here, esp in the first part]

The Caliphate is a public affair linked to the entire Muslim Nation. “Dignitaries who exert authority within the Muslim Nation are the ones who have the sole right to it.” [That latter sounds dangerously close to taking all the power for a nation ONLY into the hands of ‘acceptable’ authorities, but who decides who those are and what is acceptable? Why, those auths themselves. What about calls for democracy throughout Islamic world? Or does this pertain to the Caliphate alone and not to more normal government?]

Al-Baghdadi’s own mentor (al-Mansur, a top man in the Salafi-Jihadi movement) condemned him as villainous, ignorant and deviant, and incapable of mastering a single book on theology or jurisprudence. Hence, ISIS cannot be based on understood Islamic principles. The Shaykh calls on followers of ISIS to defect, as a religious obligation. One cannot obey a religious leader if his commands go contrary to the law of Allah.

Ch. 9: Seeking assistance from non-Muslims

It is permissible to seek such assistance, both in war and in peace (more so), so this nullifies a basic argument that IS have used as grounds for killing Muslims.

IS rely on hadith of Aisha when Mohammed refused assistance from polytheists. But the circumstances here were that Mohammed either didn’t seek help from anyone at that time or he told the man to return in the hope that he would convert to Islam. In fact, Mohammed sought help from Safwan ibn Ummaya before he (bin Ummaya) converted. Seeking assistance from N-Ms can actually benefit Islam so it is a good thing.

Islam is a religion of mercy, wisdom, justice, tolerance and peace. It has always respected covenants and this was one reason why it spread so far and so fast. Seeking assistance is not the same as accepting their religion, but rather an exchange of mutual benefit. In fact, the benefits to Muslims are greater than for non-Muslims, at least in current situation. This is affirmed by Shaykh Abd al-Aziz Ibn Baz, former grand mufti of Saudi and a leading figure in the Salafi movement.

Ch. 10: Legal rulings in the West re Muslims

Muslims entered these countries under contract and covenant, and agreed to be peaceful and law-abiding. Treachery is not permitted, and they cannot go against their contract. There is no war between Muslims and Western Countries today.

War cannot be waged by individuals but only by a legitimate ruler.

Millions of Muslims live in peace and security in Western Countries, often with a degree of religious and political freedom they may not find in Islamic countries. Violence and terrorism are impermissible, even in the face of oppression. They can only use legal and peaceful means to gain their ends and if they cannot change the government’s policies then they should leave that country.

Ch. 11: Legal rulings in Islamic countries re non-Muslims

Any non-Muslim who enters an Islamic country under contract and covenant cannot be harmed.

“Whoever kills a non-Muslim under contract will never smell the scent of paradise” (Al Bukhari, quoting the Prophet).

Even if it is only one Muslim who has made the contract with the non-Muslim, all Muslims must abide by it. ISIS utterly violates Islamic laws by kidnapping and murdering foreigners and broadcasting these acts.

Some jurists argue that even to say to a Jew, Christian or Zoroastrian, “You are an infidel”, is a sin, since it hurts him.

Islam aspires to a life of co-existence based upon respecting others in their faith, feelings and rights.

Ch. 12: Changing the conditions which help extremism grow

  1. The Iraqi government must stop oppressing Sunnis, as extremists use that to provoke more terror.
  2. Assad must cede authority to the Syrian people. Lack of assistance by international community has allowed IS to expand.
  3. The international community must respect the rights of Muslim minorities around the world, esp in countries like Myanmar and the CAR.
  4. Western Countries must respect Muslim values and sacred figures and reconsider the boundaries of free speech. Offending Mohammed is counter-productive and angers decent Muslims.

Islam disavows IS. The Messenger of Allah disavows IS. The scholars disavow IS.

Author: Jolyon Patten

Created: 2016-01-15 Fri 19:04

Emacs 24.4.1 (Org mode 8.2.10)


  1. You wrote,
    “Western Countries must respect Muslim values and sacred figures and reconsider the boundaries of free speech. Offending Mohammed is counter-productive and angers decent Muslims.”
    That’s just plane silly.
    Islam and the Quran offend Christianity outright.
    I can site many verses from the Quran that do this.
    Islam must be open to critical thinking and inquiry or it is nothing but tyranny.
    If Islam claims Christianity is false, the Bible is corrupt, Jesus Christ is not divine, then Muslims should be open to criticism, unless they already fear their religion cannot withstand open dialogue.
    I already know it cannot.


    1. Thank you for visiting and for your comment.

      Shaykh al-Yaqoubi plainly draws a distinction between “offending” (i.e. gratuitously or wantonly) and “critical thinking”. He does not say anywhere—and I don’t believe my short summary can be taken to the contrary—that Islam should not face critical enquiry.

      In my reading of the Islamic scriptures, I can see little offensive to Christianity, though it is interesting and challenging to any reader of the Qu’ran that it is so open to different, sometimes diametrically opposed yet syntactically and grammatically correct interpretations. His very point in much of this book is that IS have taken words from the Qu’ran at random and out of context to justify the most barbarous and cruel acts; he says that such actions cannot be justified by Islam.

      Oddly, for someone who asserts that they follow “Christ-centered teaching”, you display in your comment a notable lack of Christian spirit, acceptance or tolerance. The impression you give is that you would rather demonstrate that Islam itself is false and evil, rather than seeking the underlying goodness in all religions.

      I imagine that you have not read Reza Aslan’s book, “How to Win a Cosmic War: Confronting Radical Religion”. You might find it interesting, though I fear the absolute nature of your final words rather echoes the door shutting on an already closed mind.

      Incidentally, in your comment, “plane” should be “plain”, and “site” should be “cite”.


  2. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams asked the Ambassador of Tripoli why they were attacking U.S. merchant ships and enslaving the sailors without provocation from the U.S.

    Thomas Jefferson then wrote a letter to John Jay that read:

    “The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

    This is loosely based upon the Qur’an’s teaching from Surah 47:4


    1. Thank you again for your comment.

      What you appear to contend for here is that Jefferson’s report (if accurate) of what the Ambassador of Tripoli told him was written in the Qu’ran (if accurate) in 1786 stands as an article of faith by all Muslims in present times. You say that this is “loosely based on Surah 47:4” though you provide no evidence that that is what the Ambassador had in mind.

      Surah 47:4 says, in the interpretation I have to hand, by Laleh Bakhtiar, a Canadian woman of Iranian origin, is this:

      So when you have met those who were ungrateful, then strike their thick necks until you have given them a sound thrashing. Then tie them fast with restraints and afterwards either have good will towards them or take ransom for them until the war ends, laying down its heavy load. Thus it is so! But had God willed, He Himself would have certainly avenged you, but it is to try some of you with some others. As for those who were to be slain in the way of God, He will never cause their actions to go astray.”

      Even if one looks at a possibly more traditional rendering, from the site, the sense is (a) that this concerns a war situation and (b) that the ‘disbelievers’ are not to be killed.

      So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command]. And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah – never will He waste their deeds.

      It seems to me that the then Ambassador of Tripoli had rather more in common with today’s apostate IS than with true Islam! If it is the case (and there appears to be no evidence of this) that his comments were drawn from Surah 47:4 then he has stretched the words therein beyond any reasonable sense.

      What is of most value is to look beyond the differences in organised religion to find the higher truth that unites and helps all mankind. To get bogged down in who is said to have insulted or offended whom is, with the greatest respect to you, of doubtful value.


      1. The Americans are being held by Islamic Iran have just been released and you know we had to pay Zakat taxes for their release this is what happened to the 300 sailors during the Barbary Wars well Thomas Jefferson was president zakat is Islam


      2. You’re really not taking on board anything I say, are you? I refer you to my earlier reply to your comment about the Ambassador of Tripoli. Read it, then read it again, and possibly again.

        If you are unwilling or unable to engage in rational debate, may I gently suggest that you stick with what looks like your own community of creationist devotees and don’t visit here again.


  3. Jol,
    You and I both know that for you to prevail with your opinion, you would need to convince millions of Muslims to ignore and cherry pick scriptures in the Quran. Heat comes a lot of you here then love. And despite what you think of me love is primary. But its line is what it is and it’s the most barbaric religion on the planet. You only need to read about the rates going on in Germany and all over Europe to know this. You only need to study history to see that Muhammad set the example like a Jekyll and Hyde he was both very good and very very bad. And that is the way Islam has always been and still is even today.


    1. I do not understand your English in certain parts (“Heat comes a lot of you here then love”) and I disagree with what I do understand. Consider Christian barbarity through the ages. Perhaps we can just agree to differ. You may also like to read “Zealot”, another book by the same Reza Aslan to whom I referred you earlier. It certainly makes for interesting reading.


    1. That comment, ungrammatical as it is, is simply wrong. If you took the trouble to read the book reviewed here, you might understand that.


  4. Then I’ll leave where I came in.
    Your suggestions to deny free speech are absurd and would only embolden Islamic aggressive behavior and tyrrany.
    You wrote:
    “Western Countries must respect Muslim values and sacred figures and reconsider the boundaries of free speech. Offending Mohammed is counter-productive and angers decent Muslims.”


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