Summary of The House of Islam by Ed Husain

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  • Post last modified:April 9, 2024

Summary: 35 min

Book reading time: 6h40

Score: 6/10

Book published in: 2015

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  • Based on demographic projections, Islam will become the first religion in 2050.
  • Islam is marked by an internal battle for its nature (peaceful VS violent) and an advancing Arabisation, despite that Arabs only make up 20% of Muslims.
  • Islam remains Arab-centric. Everyone prays in Arabic.
  • Islam was born when the angel Gabriel revealed to Mohamed that he was the last prophet chosen by God. For 23 years, Mohamed and Gabriel talked. The result of their dialogue is the Quran.
  • Early scholars warned that the Quran should not be understood literally; Mohamed himself warned against extremis. But the Salafists in Saudi Arabia have invested more than $200 billion to spread an extremist vision of Islam.
  • Salafists believe that the real Islam was the one practiced by the first three generations of Muslims. Wahhabits practice a rigorous type of Islam based on the exegesis of the Saudi Mohamed ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792).
  • Modern Saudi Arabia was built on the alliance of the military know-how of the tribe of the al-Saud and the religious know-how of the al-Wahhab.
  • Islam, unlike the Church, does not have any centralized authority once assumed by the different caliphates. There is no more Muslim caliphate today.
  • When Mohamed died, the Shi’a supported his son-in-law Ali as his successor and the Sunni supported Abu Bakr, who won over Ali. The Sunni killed Mohamed’s grandson Husain during the battle of Karbala which remains an important event for all Muslims today. Islam, as a result of this battle, is deeply divided.
  • Sufism is a type of mystic Islam; worshippers seeks discretion and beauty in their daily life.
  • Unlike Christianity which relativised after the Enlightenment, Islam remained particularly inflexible because it rejected the Enlightenment altogether. Muslims have kept their conservative values, believing in God, building traditional families, having kids, and living according to the rules of Islam without challenging them.
  • Muslim education no longer focuses on questioning and thinking but on remembering and repeating, which leads to a lack of intellectualism in Islam, echoed by the poor number of patents and innovations in Muslim countries.
  • The current issues of Islam are:
    • The Muslim malaise exploited by Islamists and Salafi-jihadis.
    • The feeling of low dignity.
    • The loss of confidence.
    • The rise of terrorism.
    • Poor educational system.
    • Intolerance of Jews.
    • Repression of women and sexuality.
  • These issues will be fixed if:
    • The Middle East creates a union like the EU.
    • The West implements a Marshall Plan for Muslim countries.
    • Muslims expel the extremists from within Islam.

Table of Contents

What The House of Islam Talks About

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Summary of The House of Islam Written by Ed Husain

Introduction: Inside the House

Globally, the Muslim population is 1.7 billion strong.

There are 59 Muslim-majority countries. While the global population is projected to grow by 35% by 2050, the Muslim population is expected to increase by 73% to nearly 3 billion, according to the Pew Research Center.

After 2050, Islam will be the biggest religion on the planet.

Muslim women give birth to an average of 2.9 children while non-Muslims are at 2.2.

There are five reasons explaining the high birth rate.

  1. Many Muslims are old enough to have children.
  2. Most Muslims live in the Middle East and Africa where the largest demographic growth is expected.
  3. Most Muslim countries keep a traditional conception of women as wives and mothers.
  4. Muslims believe God will provide food, clothing, and shelter for their children.
  5. Muslims place a higher emphasis on boys than girls and Muslim families will keep on having children until a boy is born.

Because the Muslim population goes to non-Muslim places, what happens in Islam will have an impact on the entire planet.

Extreme forms of politicised Islam will act to disrupt the peace in our societies through increased tendencies of social separatism, confrontation, attempts at domination, and political violence inflicted through terrorism.

The author is a British Indian immigrant born in London. He studied Islam in Syria and in Mecca where his students rejoiced when the 2012 terrorist attack in London happened.

Shocked, he went back to Britain and created a study center of Islam and realized that two versions of the faith are battling for its soul: one, peaceful, the other, violent.

As a result of his work, the author received numerous death threats and had to leave Britain for a while.

I have the rare privilege of being an insider both in the West and in the Muslim world. This book draws from that source: the conversations, reflections and experiences of the last decade enabled me to better understand the House of Islam from the inside.

When the Arab Spring began, the West saw it through an 1789 lens thinking that it was a secular revolution. It wasn’t. The protests were held on Friday afternoon after the prayer at the Mosque.

A 2007 Gallup poll of more than thirty-five Muslim nations found that for 90 per cent of Muslims, Islam is an important part of daily life. From spirituality to food, dress code to bathroom etiquette, daily prayers to conduct with elders, a common civilisation and collective history bind Muslims together.

There are three dominant trends in the Muslim world today:

  1. Arabization: only 20% of Muslims are Arabs. but the conflicts and ideologies shaping global Muslim communities stem from Arab countries.
  2. Westernization and the loss of Muslim confidence: the Muslim world is called to embrace Western democracy but the West does not tolerate any other system. Just as Arabization has disoriented traditional Muslim equilibrium, so has Westernization. Those that are not Arabized are often Westernized.
  3. Confusion between Westernization and Arabization

Most modern Western minds, for instance, find it difficult to believe in miracles, angels, the divine, or an afterlife. But for the fastest-growing group of human beings on the planet, these are vital beliefs.

Part One: A Millennium of Power

Chapter 1: What Is Islam?

Islam began as a stranger. One day, it will again return to being a stranger.


Islam isn’t a religion in the way we define religion; God, as defined by Islam, isn’t a superhuman but an infinite entity incomprehensible to the human mind.

Islam is a lifestyle based on three principles:

  • The conviction in the existence of one God (tawhid, oneness of God).
  • The belief in the message of the Prophet Mohamed (risalah).
  • The path to salvation in the coming life (akhirah).

Islam impacts the entirety of Muslim life.

Throughout the day, she emulates the Prophet Mohamed. She puts on her slippers with her right foot first, as he did. In the bathroom, she enters first with her left foot and brushes her teeth from right to left. She leads with her right foot after her ritual ablution and stands facing Mecca to pray.

Islam comes from two words:

Everything, from food to clothing, is influenced by Islam and explained in the Quran. The adoration of the God of Islam is incomprehensible for an “Enlightenment”, rational mind.

Islam comes from:

  • Istislam, which means surrender.
  • Salam, which means peace.

-> Through the surrender to God, you’ll know peace.

Muslims all pray in Arabic no matter where they’re from.

Allah isn’t a different God than God from the Jews or Christians. When Mohamed preached, he talked to pagans and encouraged them to abandon their multiple deities for one same God, the God of Adam, Noah, David, etc.

Muslims have incorporated the Judaic and Christian traditions (they believe in Jesus too). Why then, does Islam even exist?

Mohammed was born in 570 in Mecca, a “miraculous” child who did not cry. His father died 6 months before his birth. The child was sent into the desert for a purer upbringing by Halima, a foster mother from the respected Banu Sa’d tribe.

Mohamed grew up until so many strange things were happening to him (two white men came, took his heart, and washed it with holy water) that Halima brought him back to Mecca.

His mother died when he wasn’t even 10 so he joined his uncle on business trips to Syria. He married a 40-year-old business widow (Khadija) when he was 20.

When he was 40 years old with three children, Mohamed, often retreated in a cave where one day, he was visited by an angel (Gabriel) who told him he was the last prophet chosen by God.

Chapter 2: Origins of the Quran

Mohamed was in shock when he returned home after being visited by Gabriel. While he wasn’t sure of what he had seen, Khadija believed him right away – and became the first convert to Islam.

For the next 23 years, God spoke to Mohamed through the intermediary of Gabriel in perfect rhyming poetic Arabic which later, became the Quran.

When Mohamed had questions, Gabriel appeared with answers. The Quran is a dialogue, a conversation between the Prophet and God.

The Quran differs in many ways from the New and Old Testaments. It is not always coherent or thematic, jumping from theme to theme in a style that can seem inaccessible to a reader unaccustomed to the text. There are no neat paragraphs, no demarcated new beginnings with logical end points.

The Quran’s 6,236 verses are broadly divided into two parts: chapters revealed to the Prophet in Mecca about the afterlife, and then, after the year 622, those that were revealed to him in Medina about…living in Medina.

The Quran isn’t easy to understand and contains multiple interpretations.

Among its greatest and earliest commentators were Imam Ali (d. 661) and Ja’far al-Sadiq (d. 675). Both emphasized the Quran’s multiple meanings; they warned that the text was not to be read, nor its injunctions implemented, literally.

Normally, Muslims refer to a scholar when looking for meaning from the Quran. In the age of the Internet though, Muslims are abandoning this tradition.

Chapter 3: Who is a Muslim Today?

Whoever believes in the one God and his messenger, Mohamed, is a Muslim. This is the shahadah.

Islam spread into the world through Arab merchants, Arab conquerors, some missionary activity, and through the mystical Sufis.

Islam is built on five pillars:

  1. Shahadah.
  2. The five daily prayers. They remind Muslims that they are on earth to worship God, be upright with others, and prepare for their return to Allah when they die.
  3. Giving money to the poor.
  4. Ramadan, the fast Muslims must observe for one month.
  5. The Hajj: the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Muslims don’t like to discuss accountability regarding the five pillars.

Muslims do not require religious leadership; Islam is not like Catholicism and has no equivalent of clergy or a pope.

But in reality, Muslims crave centralization in the form of a caliphate.

When the Prophet died, his companions selected a caliph or leader in Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s closest confidant and father of his favourite wife, Ayesha. The title caliph meant representative; Abu Bakr was seen as the Prophet’s agent after his death.

The Rashindu Caliphate ended in 662 when his last caliph, Imam Ali, was assassinated.

The governor of Damascus, Mu‘awiya, assumed the caliphate for himself, thereby inaugurating the Umayyad Caliphate which lasted from 661 to 750 before being replaced by the Abbasid until it was destroyed by the Mongols in 1258.

Many more empires and caliphates followed.

Rivalry, competition and even warfare between caliphate claimants was the norm.

Muslim conquests weren’t as violent as traditionally thought.

Damascus, for instance, the most important city in northern Syria, surrendered quickly after terms were agreed between the local bishop and the attacking Arab commander (…) in exchange for allowing churches to remain open and untouched and for the Christian population to remain unmolested, the inhabitants agreed to recognise the overlordship of new masters.

The Silk Roads

Arab rule ended in 1258 and the Turks, Indians, and Persians came to dominate Muslim history.

Even though Arabs remain a minority, they set the religious agenda for all Muslims.

Chapter 4: The Sunni–Shi‘a Schism

One of the most important events in Islam was the Battle of Karbala.

When Mohammed died (632), the Muslims wondered who was going to replace him.

The Shi’a (coming from Shi‘at Ali, meaning supporter of Ali) supported Ali, Mohammed’s 28-year-old son-in-law.

Meanwhile, the Sunni supported Abu Bakr, Mohammed’s father-in-law. Abu Bakr won over Ali and became the first caliph of Rashidun (from 632 to 634).

The second caliph was Omar, who ruled from 634 to 644 before being assassinated by a Persian servant angry for the conquest of Persia.

Then Othman ruled from 644 to 656 until rebels killed him.

Then Imam Ali ruled from 656 to 661 when he was killed by the Kharijites.

After that, the governor of Damascus Mu‘awiya from the Ummayad took control of the caliphate and promised to give it to Husain (grandson of Mohammed, Shi’a) after his death.

But he did not, and gave it to his son Yazid instead, a drunk and alleged p*d0ph!le.

The people in Saudi Arabia and Iraq were outraged and voiced support for Husain who decided to march with his 72 companions to Damascus, where Yazid lived. So Yazid sent an army and killed them all in Karbala.

There were protests in the whole caliphate which Yazid repressed by force, thereby destroying the Kab’ah in Mecca.

And for Shi‘a and Sunni alike, Karbala was not 1,200 years ago. It feels as if the massacre happened in our lifetimes, that we failed to come to Imam Husain’s aid. This guilt still tugs at the Muslim conscience. The Iranian government has sent soldiers to Syria to protect these graves from demolition at the hands of violent Salafis such as ISIS.

Shi’a life is particularly organized around the Karbala. They wear black clothes in remembering of Imam Husain.

They believe that the last imam, Mahdi, will one day appear. When he was president of Iran, Mahmud Ahmedinajad kept an empty chair in cabinet meetings for the Mahdi.

Shi’a give 1/5th of their income to their religious guides, too. The stone they pray on comes from the soil in Karbala

If Shi‘a customs and prayers seem strange to Sunnis, then to Shi‘a their Sunni brethren seem tyrannical, unthinking, disloyal, and worse, supporters of murderers

The emotions of Karbala live on. The potential for conflagration and conflict is still worse than anything the world has witnessed in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Pakistan.

Chapter 5: What Is the Sharia?

The Sharia is the Islamic law. The word sharia means “path to water”. If something isn’t found in the Sharia, then Muslims must exercise their judgment and common sense to find the answer to their question.

In 2011, just after the revolution in Egypt, the largest Arab Muslim nation, a survey found that 87 per cent of the population wanted sharia to hold official legal authority. In Egypt, 88 per cent of people and in Jordan 83 per cent supported the death penalty for apostasy.

Eighty per cent of Egyptians said they favoured stoning adulterers, while 70 per cent supported cutting hands off thieves. In 2012, when the new parliament drafted a constitution, the second article confirmed that the primary source of legislation would be “principles of the Islamic sharia”.

Why a Sharia?

The first generation of Muslims could ask questions to Mohammed or his companions. As the Muslim empires grew, intellectuals sought to devise a code of conduct that would take into account local tribal customs and the Quran. The result was the Sharia.

In case the answer isn’t in the Sharia, the jurists developed five types of responses to the questions.

  • Wajib: good deeds rewarded in the next life.
  • Mandub: good deeds but not obligatory. Eg: keeping streets clean.
  • Makruh: non-sinful acts that one should avoid. Eg: smoking.
  • Haram: prohibited acts, such as murder or theft.
  • Halal: permissible acts.

Originally, Muslims considered that everything was permitted unless prohibited. Today, it’s the opposite: everything is prohibited unless permitted.

When the Salafi puritanism of forbidding everything unless it is expressly sanctioned by scripture is combined with Islamist legalism, the result is totalitarianism and fascism.

Muslims have four sources of knowledge

  1. The Quran
  2. The hadiths (the deeds and words of Mohammed)
  3. Qiyas: analogies created by Abu Hanifa. Since the Quran forbids wine drinking, it necessarily forbids drug taking.
  4. Ijma: whatever the community decides.

Not everyone agrees on this and there are hundreds of schools of thought, but four prevailed.

  • Imam Abu Hanifa (767)
  • Imam Anas Malik (795)
  • Imam Idris al-Shafi’i (820)
  • Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal (855)

These schools of thought yield different results. For example, the Quran didn’t prohibit alcohol; it prohibited wine.

Present-day Muslims have lost the sophistication of the principles and variables of the four madhabs.

One typical argument centres on the way that Muslims pray, and particularly where Muslim men place their hands when standing before God.

Today, once again, there is a global attempt, led by Saudi Arabia, to impose only one approach to Muslim belief, worship, and even dress.

Chapter 6: Who is a Sufi?

An aspiring Sufi seeks only to please God, and does so in secret as often as possible. A Sufi shuns the temporal world and its banalities.

The Sufis have given real life and spiritual depth to Islam and the religious experience of generations of Muslims.

The Sufis are only concerned with the intention of the follower, not with any material or rule (where to place hands, etc).

There are an estimated 300 million Sufis in the world today, mainly in Indonesia and Turkey.

Part Two: The Rise of Anger

Chapter 7: A Hundred Years of Humiliation

Initially, Islam successfully spread across the Arab world through trade and conquest. In the eighth and ninth centuries, Muslims were the dominant power in the Middle East.

To be Muslim was to be powerful and expansionist, as the empire kept on conquering new territories.

They took Jerusalem in 1187 and Constantinople in 1453. They looked undefeated until the French Revolution and Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt introduced the ideas of the Enlightenment.

For the first time, Muslims doubted their faith.

The deficits in their own knowledge, and the enthusiasm for secular enlightenment among the French, shocked the Muslims into tacitly accepting that a new, superior civilisation had emerged in the West…Thus began a hundred years of humiliation.

The two Muslim empires of the time (Ottoman and Mughal) began to crumble. The Ottomans attempted to reform by bringing in French schools and military instructors, but the Muslims did not want to turn away from their customs and religion as much as the French had in 1789.

In 1808, Mahmut II created a “Charter of Alliance”, some sort of constitution/social contract.

In 1839, former French and British ambassador Mustafa Reshid Pasha introduced a series of reforms aiming at secularizing the Ottoman empire after what he had witnessed in Western Europe.

This displeased the people.

When, in the 1450s, the printing press was first introduced into Ottoman territories, the hard-line ulama successfully lobbied the Sultan and had it banned as a tool of the devil.

Because Muslims refused the printing press, their intellectual thought stopped developing which led them to accumulate a delay of two hundred years of innovation, violently confronted with the arrival of Napoleon.

Muslims were in awe of the new and apparently superior Europeans and the Ottomans continued reforming as many aspects of government as possible in a bid to catch up.

The people hated the reforms. By 1859, they felt humiliated and hated the West so much that they tried to assassinate the sultan.

The Indians felt equally humiliated in India and the Egyptians, in Cairo, where European powers were redesigning their countries and cultures based on the Westphalian model (states, borders, and balance of power) of 1648.

The Ottomans, Russians, Chinese and, arguably, the Indians had for millennia operated on religious, political and cultural principles radically different from the Westphalia experiment.

The state became the link between the people and replaced ethnicity, religion, or language.

The Ottoman Empire was eventually disbanded after it lost WWII and produced Islamism, along with the Russian (which produced communism), the German (which produced nazism), and the Austro-Hungarian (which joined nazism).

Chapter 8: Who Is an Islamist?

Islamists come in many varieties, but making their version of Islam a powerful political force in the modern world drives them all.

Islamists are political activists who seek to impose their reading of the Sharia as the law. To do so, they seek to create an Islamic state that would enforce such rules, not finding enough satisfaction in merely being Muslim.

Islamism is fairly recent compared to Islam’s history.

In traditional Muslim societies, the family, the mosque, and the leader were all that mattered – that is, just Islam.

The 20th century saw the politicisation of Islam widely inspired by communism. In the 1930s Maududi presented a politicized version of Islam in his Let Us Be Muslims.

Meanwhile, Hasan al-Banna launched the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928 with the slogan Islam is the solution:

Allah is our objective
The Qur’an is our constitution, The Prophet is our leader, Jihad is our path
And death, in the name of Allah, is our goal.

He built Islam into a political ideology using the same methods the communists had used before him, Sufism, and the anger of the humiliation. He was the first to make Muslims believe that their fate was the jihad against the war that Europeans had come to wage.

Within 10 years, his organization had millions of adherents and a secret paramilitary group that shot dead the Egyptian prime minister Nukrashi Pasha.

The Brotherhood is present today in most Muslim countries.

Al-Banna’s teachings inspired the Muslim Brotherhood to militancy during his lifetime, and to all-out terrorism immediately after his passing.

Many from the Brotherhood joined Al-Qaeda later on.

Suicide bombing though, was invented by the Hezbollah, inspired by examples in Sri Lanka.

They struck in Lebanon in 1983 against American and French marines. Three hundred marines lost their lives, and Iran erected a memorial honouring the killers as ‘martyrs’.

Despite that suicide is forbidden in the Quran, the Arab media promoted suicide bombing as martyrdom operations and it became a part of the culture.

Chapter 9: Who is a Salafi? Or a Wahhabi?

The Salafis and Wahhabis are the puritans of Islam.

The Salafis claim to follow the example of the Salaf, the first three generations of Muslims which they claim lived a “pure” Islam.

Salafism was brought forth by Mohamed ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703 – 1792), a preacher from Saudi Arabia. Wahhabis live according to the interpretation of the texts of al-Wahhab.

Wahhabism became mainstream because Saudi Arabia spent more than $200 billion to advertise it.

Saudi Arabia forbids building churches; the women must cover up their faces with a black veil, and separate highways have been built for Muslims and non-Muslims.

Beheadings are carried out by the state in public squares outside mosques on Fridays in the name of applying a literalist, Wahhabi, understanding of sharia as state law.

The Saudi clergy, through a man named Al-Fawzan, also declared that slavery “is part of Islam.”

He wrote a book called The Book of Oneness whose principles are taught at the universities of Mecca, Medina, Riyadh, and Jeddah where thousands of students come to learn about it and go home to propagate the message.

Here’s what it says:

  1. The vast majority of Muslims have deviated from the creed of the Salaf.
  2. Their errancy must be physically purged.
  3. The Quran should be literally understood, not metaphorically.

Salafi–Wahhabis see a need to cleanse Islam of the stain of these ordinary Muslims.

Salafis represent fewer than 5% of the world’s Muslims.

They consider that supporting saints, shrines, Sufis, or Shi‘a is idolatry and must be forbidden.

In the 1790s, the Wahhabists were considered too extreme by the Hashemites, the ruling house of Mecca and Medina, and they banned them from entering.

When the Saud unified the peninsula in the first half of the 20th century, the Hashemites fled and became the Jordanian Dynasty.

The Saudis have since then imposed their Salafist vision of Islam in Saudi Arabia, and exported it everywhere else.

Chapter 10: Who Is a Jihadi?

Just as Islamism is not Islam, so too jihadism is not jihad.

While not every Salafi is a jihadi, every jihadi is a Salafi.

The Quran calls Muslims to jihad, translated as struggle, reminds of Mohamed’s struggle against the pagans in Mecca.

Muslims are not pacifists and, like the Japanese samurai or the ancient warrior cultures of Greece and Rome, Muslims believe in taking up the sword to disarm barbarians and madmen.

Centuries of Muslim thought agreed that jihad, though, has some preconditions:

  1. It must be declared by a head of state.
  2. Fighters must seek the permission of their parents.
  3. Only the enemy can be killed – not the innocents.
  4. Women and children cannot be assaulted.
  5. Wells cannot be poisoned.
  6. Nature (cattles, etc) cannot be attacked.

The violation of these rules is jihadism, not jihad. There are many jihadists everywhere today and they will keep spreading as it is the logical conclusion of Salafism. They believe in five key principles.

  1. Ghuraba: Minority of outsiders to modern society who see themselves as right and truthful.
  2. Al-wala wa al-bara: Loyalty to Muslims and disavowal to infidels, the enemies of Islam. Birthdays, etc are forbidden because it leads Muslims to “disbelieve”.
  3. Takfir: license to kill, especially to kill Muslims that do not fit the practice of Islam according to Salafis.
  4. Hakimiyyah: this is the caliphate. The Muslims who do not serve the caliphate are sinful.
  5. As long as the caliphate isn’t created, Muslims are living in sins.

We cannot reverse the rising tide of jihadism unless we uproot its theology and ideology.

Chapter 11: Who is a Kharijite, or Takfiri?

A people who would be young in age and immature in thought, but would talk as if their words were the best among men. They would recite the Quran, but it would not reach their souls, the recitation would not go deeper than their throats; and they would pass through the religion. Kill them to cleanse your faith of them.

Mohamed, according to Ali.

Mohamed warned early on that some people would claim to be Muslim not act like Muslims, and that it would destroy the faith. These people were the Kharijites, murderers of Ali and whose modern heirs were ISIS.

The Kharijites were a group of soldiers fighting for Imam Ali from Mecca against Mu‘awiya from Syria. They refused to stop fighting the soldiers of Mu‘awiya when Ali asked them to and left the army as a result (their name comes from the word leaving).

They were met later by Ibn Abbas, a companion of Mohamed who was tasked to bring them back to the faith.

Ibn Abbas noticed that they had developed an extremist view of Islam: excessive piety, separatism from other Muslims, literalism in reading the scriptures, and Takfir, the practice of declaring another Muslim an infidel.

Ibn Abbas realized he could hardly talk to them.

Before long, Imam Ali also realised that those who could not be dissuaded had to be destroyed.

2000 of them repented, the rest were destroyed by the armies of Ali (658).

So the Prophet’s warning about extremists and secessionists came to pass in the lifetime of Imam Ali, within the first half-century of Islam.

It’s unclear why so many Muslims today refuse to call out the extremists of our time, especially given that the greatest Muslim thinkers have done so in their time.

Part Three: The Rise of the West and the Loss of Muslim Confidence

Chapter 12: Dignity

Arab notions of pride, masculinity and honour run deep and can be difficult for non-Arabs to appreciate.

While the quote If the Arabs are dishonored, Islam itself is dishonored is popular, it is also fake (Mohamed never said it).

Shame, humiliation, and loss have immense psychological power in the Arab world. The 1948 loss against the Israelis, the toppling and humiliation of leaders such as Gaddafi or Mubarak etc, have made Muslims feel dishonored.

It’s not pleasant being Arab these days. Feelings of persecution for some, self-hatred for others; a deep disquiet pervades the Arab world. Even those groups that for a long time have considered themselves invulnerable, the Saudi ruling class and Kuwaiti rich, have ceased to be immune to the enveloping sense of malaise since a certain September 11.

The Arab Spring people wanted dignity, social justice, and freedom. But there were three other observations made:

  1. After years and billions of dollars of promoting democracy, the Arabs expected the West to help them topple their dictators. When the dictators shot the protesters, the blame was on the West.
  2. There was a battle of ideas inside the countries but the terms used (left, right, etc) weren’t universally understood.
  3. The young Muslims identified with Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian merchant who immolated himself in December 2010. They were hopeless.

Western onslaught led by Napoleon in 1798 destroyed the dignity of Muslims in a process sustained for two centuries. Across the Muslim world, blame is placed firmly on the West.

The Muslims are persuaded that the West is actively seeking to undermine them.

This pursuit of self-worth, the preparedness to die for dignity, also motivated the self-declared caliph of ISIS-held territory.

The West helped create the modern Middle Eastern nations, laws, borders, and armed forces. Where is our Marshall Plan for the Arab world?

Chapter 13: The Jews

In 2011, 95% of Egyptians and Lebanese expressed a very unfavourable view of Jews.

Yet it wasn’t the case in the past. Many Jews lived freely in Muslim countries, be it Morocco, Tunisia, or Algeria. When Ferdinand and Isabelle of Spain finished the reconquest of the Iberian peninsula, the last Muslim ruler asked for the protection of Muslims and Jews.

But the Jews were expelled, and many went to Muslim Istanbul.

In dress, appearance, customs, habits and even beliefs and rituals, Muslims resemble Jews more closely than any other faith community. Yet the rivalry, hatred even, that exists between the descendants of Abraham risks unleashing nuclear warfare in the Middle East.

While the West was the most antisemitic actor in the 20th century, the Muslim world is today, worsened by two factors.

  1. Muslim immigration to the West.
  2. Antisemitic sympathy from the universities and academic world.

This combination of normalising anti-Semitism, mass migration, and the fragility of Arab–Israeli politics should make us worry about what lies ahead. Europe is no stranger to this hatred.

Mohammed married a Jewish woman, and nothing in the Quran prevents Muslims from marrying Jews.

In 1941, King Mohamed V of Morocco confidently protected 250,000 Jews from the occupying Vichy French forces who wished to pass legislation to discriminate against Jews.

But the Quran is contradictory.

  • “O slave of God, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him”
  • “I will expel the Jews and the Christians from the peninsula of the Arabs so that I leave only Muslims.”

On the other hand:

  • “And [remember] when Moses said to his people: ‘O my people, call in remembrance the favour of God unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave to you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has assigned unto you, and do not turn back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.”
  • “We said to the Children of Israel: ‘Dwell securely in the Promised Land. And when the last warning will come to pass, we will gather you together in a mingled crowd.”

There’s also the battle of Kaibar, during which Mohamed assaulted a Jewish fortress in 628 and won.

There is no greater touchstone of civilisation than the way it treats its minorities. And in our case, the Muslim world’s treatment of Israel and the Jews, that beleaguered minority of only 20 million people, is among the greatest of tests for Muslim civilisational coexistence.

Chapter 14: Education

Knowledge and wisdom are the lost properties of the believer.

Imam Ali

Muslims used to absorb any type of knowledge, motivated by truth-seeking.

But the situation reversed today. Muslim education emphasizes memory over comprehension and challenge.

Yet Mohamed taught his followers otherwise.

The first five hundred years of early Islam welcomed this culture of questioning.

This is no longer applied in the Muslim world. In Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, etc, students pass exams by memorizing rather than thinking.

The Quran reprimands those who acquire learning without comprehension for being like ‘donkeys who carry the burden of books.

Yet today, nobody reads in Muslim countries.

An Arab individual reads on average a quarter of a page a year, compared with the eleven books read by an American or seven by a British person.

The average Arab child reads for six minutes a year, as against the 200 hours of reading by his or her Western counterpart.

In European countries, 21 out of 100 people read books regularly, while in Turkey the figure is one in 10,000.

The desertion of critical thinking has resulted in contemporary Muslims being willing to accept any doubtful hadith as long as it is backed by a reliable sanad. Critical examination of the content has been lost.

In the first five centuries, Muslim intellectual thought was alive. After that, the scholars considered that all questions had been answered, and intellectual work ended.

The argument for the extinction of ijtihad (the scope for applying the intellect) came to be widely accepted.

Muslims began to memorize what had been said, rather than think it through.

Salafism further reinforced the idea that true Islam was in the past, not the present (or future).

Creating independent minds and a pluralist outlook is seen by authoritarian governments as a threat to social and political stability.

Today most workers in Muslim countries follow English courses hoping they can move to the West.

This causes three problems:

  1. Modern Arabic is only used for prayer, poetry, news, and cartoons. The rest is in English.
  2. The Western world does not carry the ancient values, but individualism, relativism, and atheism. Young Muslims moving to the West are completely lost because of it. They neither fit at home, nor in the West as a result.
  3. Class segregation teaches Muslim men that women aren’t as capable.

The impossibility to think and challenge is also a political problem: debates and freedom of speech aren’t allowed in Muslim countries, so Muslims don’t risk themselves to it in the classroom.

As a result, most people study science, engineering, medicine, and Islam.

Chapter 15: Women

Should women have the same rights as men?

Percentage of people who said “yes” and corresponding countries.

  • Indonesia: 90%.
  • Turkey: 90%.
  • Pakistan 77%
  • Saudi Arabia: 61%
  • Egypt: 57%

On a hot 2002 day in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a girl’s school burned and the girls escaped outside. But since they weren’t wearing their hijab, the police forced them back into the burning building. 15 died.

There are no verses in the Quran telling women to cover. But the Salafists think otherwise, so women must entirely cover when they go to Mecca.

Saudi Arabia has set back the entire Arab world, the most distressing proofs of which are the invisible faces of women which it has re-exported virtually everywhere.

Samir Kassir

The Saudi Salafists consider that women’s voices and names are also part of their “private parts”, so millions of people no longer say the name of their wives in public.

The history and importance of Muslim women does not fit at all with women’s contemporary treatment in Islam.

The loss of confidence of Muslims worldwide likely led them to increase control of their women.

As for the rise of conservatism in Islam, it was likely a reaction to the sexual liberation that the West went through in the 60s.

As Western women dressed down, Muslim women dressed up.

Chapter 16: Sex

In 2013 in Saudi Arabia, a man divorced his wife because she raised her legs as he penetrated her. How dare she display such sexual confidence?

In 2015, a husband threw his newly wed wife off a balcony in Cairo because he concluded she was not a virgin. She did not survive the fall.

A deeply harmful attitude to sexuality has emerged in today’s Arab world, and what festers in the Middle East slowly spreads to other parts of the Muslim world.

In 2007, the Mufti Izzat Atiya offered that women breastfeed their male colleagues to end any sexual tensions and enable them to work together. He said: A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breast-fed.

While Muslims claim they want to protect their morals from the decadent West, pornography consumption is the highest per capita in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The negation of sexual desires subsequently expresses itself in other, violent ways.

For example, many female journalists were (gang)r*ped in Egypt after the people overthrew their dictator.

In the 18th and 19th, Muslim rulers had harams and seemed to be rather sexually liberated.

As the West began its own liberation in the 20th, the Muslim world took the opposite direction.

At the time of Mohamed, women were walking around topless in Medina; but very few Muslim scholars are willing to discuss that topic.

As a result of the impossibility of gaining experience outside of marriage, open marriages and swapping have become common in Muslim Arab countries.

In Israel and Saudi Arabia, the absence of sex often leads young men to become radicalized. Both countries ensure that the radicalized males are married when getting out of prison.

Whether in the West or in the Muslim world, with or without any rules, the search for sex abroad because it is forbidden at home lies at the crux of this widespread malaise.

The inability to articulate a desire for love and sex is a consequence of the fear of being judged and punished for it.

Part Four: Islam’s Global Staying Power

Chapter 17: God Is Alive

The word mosque comes from masjid meaning “place of prostration”.

Houses are like mosques in many ways. The inhabitants must take off their shoes, enter with their right foot, and cannot sleep with their feet pointing to Mecca, or have a toilet facing it.

A Quran is placed in the house, but also in the shops and other public spaces. Shop owners start their day broadcasting it. In some cities, it’s broadcast everywhere.

Chapter 18: Rights of the Sacred

Nowhere is the contrast sharper and more violent than on rights to blaspheme and insult God, the prophets and the scriptures.

Muslims have better consideration for the divine than for the human.

At the time of Mohamed, there was tolerance for those who insulted Islam. Today, this is no longer the case.

Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, Jyllands-Posten, Charlie Hebdo, all paid the price for criticizing Islam. The Muslims of the past had more confidence in their faith than the Muslims of today.

They fear that unless they punish blasphemy, they too, will become less religious like the Christians.

88% of Muslims in Egypt and 76% in Pakistan favour the death penalty for those who leave Islam.

Currently, Islam seems strong and muscular in public life because of the real fear of death and destruction awaiting Muslim dissenters, but for how much longer can this be sustained?

There is no need for Muslims to respond by violence to the insults of Islam, for six reasons.

  1. In his time, Mohamed was often hated and ridiculed, but he ignored it.
  2. Many companions of Mohamed left Islam and went back to paganism in Mecca. There is no Quranic punishment for apostasy, but there is in the subsequent four schools of thought.
  3. Muslim urge to kill non-Muslims often comes as a result of protecting the umma, but the umma was everyone, not just Muslims, according to Mohamed.
  4. Tolerance is now applicable in the West, and Muslims should uphold this value.
  5. Since Muslims are free to do as they please in the West, they should let others do as they please too.
  6. Coercion leads many Muslims to leave Islam.

Chapter 19: The Family Table

The family is important to Muslims, which explains why they have not allowed gay marriage.

The mother–father–child family structure remains firmly at the core of Muslim communities globally.

Civil marriage does not exist in Islam – it’s necessarily religious.

The young venerate the old and the old love the young.

Abortion is permitted up until 120 days.

Chapter 20: The Next Life

The Greeks and Egyptians believed in a next life, but the Arab pagans did not; Mohamed had to convince them.

Muslims believe their soul goes to another world upon their death and prepare for that during their lives.

They are reminded of it during the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The dead and the living, this life and the next, are all still connected in the Muslim world.

Unlike Christianity, martyrdom is still honored in Islam.

The centrality of God, the vibrancy of the Quran, the preservation of the rights of the sacred, the institutions of the family and the firm public belief in the afterlife all provide an unshakeable bedrock for the Muslim believer from generation to generation.

Conclusion: The Way Forward

Islam has problems.

  • The Muslim malaise exploited by Islamists and Salafi-jihadis
  • The feeling of low dignity.
  • The loss of confidence.
  • The rise of terrorism.
  • Poor educational system.
  • Intolerance of Jews.
  • Repression of women and sexuality.

These problems have been tried to be solved with Arab nationalism, European socialism, French laïcité, Islamism and jihadism; but all failed in the Middle East.

The Arab Spring is not over. The media caravan has moved on, but there is an undercurrent still alive and simmering.

Unless we understand what young people want, there will be another revolution that will propagate to the West as well.

The instability in the Middle East and around maintains a victimhood status among Muslims, amplified by Salafis which creates a vacuum to recruit extremists.

Suicide bombings is inherent to Islam. Everyone lost land, but only Muslims practice suicide bombings. If the direction that Islam takes does not change, the West and Islam will inevitably clash.

Largely unreformed and mostly failing Arab governments cannot keep the West and its populations secure from future threats.

The ordinary Arab’s feeling of powerlessness needs to end.

So, how to solve these problems?

  1. Create a Middle-East Union so that the people can live their lives in the Middle East and must not move to Europe.
  2. Implement a Muslim Marshall Plan: the region isn’t growing economically and many people live in poverty or are unemployed.
  3. Expel violent extremists from within Islam: Muslims must not only condemn extremists; they must actively work at expelling them. As long as Islam keeps on welcoming the Salafi-jihadis, it won’t fit well with the rest of the world.

Islam and ordinary Muslims are not responsible for terrorism, but have something to do with Salafi violence.

For as long as Salafi-jihadis or Kharijites are allowed to wear the mantle of Islam, they will continue to win more and more of the Muslim masses over to their side.

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