Moderate vs. Radical Islam Debate

Moderate Muslims NOT in my name

There is always debate on what defines Moderate Islam and what defines Radical Islam. This exchange highlights the common misunderstandings Muslims themselves may have. Confronting and correcting these wrong ideas are the key to ending extremism. My responses are indented and in color.

1. Sharia as human governance

Moderate Islam says that democracy is acceptable even though it is Shirk.
Radical Islam states that Allah is the only Lawmaker just like the Qu’ran says.

1. Jazak Allahu Khair for sharing your thoughts in this email and your previous email. However, I must respectfully point out that you have misrepresented Islam. What you have called “moderate” Islam is more appropriately called “permissive” or “apologetic” Islam.

Your issue with democracy is erroneous, my brother. Radical Islam says democracy in any form is shirk. Permissive Islam says democracy in any form is OK. Moderate Islam says democracy is acceptable so long as the laws generated do not go against the handful of ordinances outlined in the Quran and Sunnah. Moderate Islam says that democracy in and of itself is simply the Quranic concept of mutual consultation; therefore, there is no problem with democratic practices so long as these decisions are restricted to issues that the Quran and Sunnah have not already delimited.

2. Hudud punishments
Moderate Islam states that these punishments are brutal and outdated.
Radical Islam states that the drinker of alcohol, the fornicator should be flogged, the thief should get the hand cut off, the adulterer stoned, the apostate executed just like the Qu’ran and Sunnah states.

2. It is permissive Islam that says hudood punishments are brutal and outdated. Both Moderate and Radical Islam believe these punishments are divinely ordained and that there is divine wisdom behind them. The only difference is that Moderate Islam stipulates that rulers must follow the Sunnah of the Prophet and his Rightly Guided Khalifah’s in the implementation of hudood.

The Prophet and his Khalifah’s would only implement punishments if there was no shadow of a doubt of guilt. This is what mainstream Moderate Islam says: punishments must be tempered by mercy; if there is ANY doubt, no sentence can be passed. Radical Islam does not follow this Sunnah; instead they insist on executing these punishments even if the only proof of guilt is circumstantial evidence. . . this is a perversion of the authentic teachings of the Prophet.

3. Jihad (Fighting in the way of Allah)
Moderate Islam either denies Jihad by saying it’s outdated or they put it off to a later date.
Radical Islam states that Jihad will continue to the Day of Judgment and that the time for defensive Jihad is now since Chechnya, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Palestine are all under attack.

3. Again, this is a misrepresentation. It is permissive Islam that says Jihad is outdated. This interpretation is obviously wrong because it belies the statements of the Prophet (pbuh). Moderate Islam states that jihad is a duty and noble endeavor. However, it stipulates that armed struggle (waging war) is only justified and encouraged for the following legitimate reasons: a) defending life and homeland, b) stopping aggression and tyranny, or c) removing persecution. Moderate Islam also stipulates that the basis of conflict is injustice, not disbelief. Therefore, as mentioned in 4:90-91, it is not permissible to wage war against non-Muslims who do not attack Muslims or drive them from their homes or prevent them from practicing their faith.

Furthermore, even if waging war is justified, the Prophet laid down clear rules of engagement that prohibit the harming of non-combatants and the destroying of infrastructure. Radical Islam on the other hand claims the motivation for waging war is the existence of disbelief, so any and all disbelievers, even those who are peacefully inclined to Muslim nation and express no outward or implied belligerence are legal targets of attack. Radical Islam also claims that there are no restrictions on the tactics and targets. This is not what the Prophet taught nor what his Companions practiced.

4. Dawah
Moderate Islam states that one can not give dawah because it might insult the mushrikeen by telling them that their gods are false. They instead choose interfaith over dawah.
Radical Islam states to give dawah. Tell the mushrikeen la ilaha illallah.

4. Once again, what you called moderate is more appropriately called permissive or apologetic, which is passive. Moderate Islam requires its followers to call people to bear witness that there is only One God, which is assertive. I don’t see how you can call this radical, unless assertive is mistaken for aggressive. All religions advocate their beliefs and way of life; why should Islam be singled out? Also, all religions teach that you cannot force others into the fold. This is explicitly spelled out in the Qur’an:

There is no compulsion in faith… (2:256)

If your Lord had so wished, all would have believed; will you then force people to believe? (10:99)

Say, “This is Truth from your Lord”: Let he who wishes believe, and let he who wishes reject… (18:29)

5. Al wala wal bara
Moderate Islam states that allegiance to should be with the kuffar against the Muslims.
Radical Islam states that our allegiance is to Allah, His Messenger (saw) and the believers just like Allah says.

5. I don’t know where you got this idea from. It is not moderate Islam to help others attack and exploit Muslims; that is called weakness. Moderate Islam states that affiliating with Allah is greater than all other affiliations. It also says that a Muslim should stand for justice even if it is against his brother so he can come back to justice.

6. One can clearly see that Radical Islam is True Islam. Moderate Islam is a whole different religion.

6. No, my brother, I think you need to study more. . . Radical Islam is not a reflection of what the Prophet taught or the Companions practiced, and this is clear when you study the rich literary heritage of Muslim scholars and thinkers. There is an ideological battle going on now within the Muslim world for the “Soul of Islam.”

On the one hand there are the extremists who see everything in polarizing black and white, and then there are the moderates who consider the context and nuances of the scriptures. For that reason, we are committed to speaking out against the extreme interpretations in our faith tradition and setting the record straight to the best of our abilities. 

Comments and further discussions welcome below.


2 thoughts on “Moderate vs. Radical Islam Debate

  1. New and very interesting book by Omar Saif Ghobash – Letters to a Young Muslim. It was published in January this year.

    “Ghobash encourages the reader to accept a modern, enlightened path that embraces diversity, not just within Islam but among all religions…It is this sort of wisdom that creates hope for a world in which people are smart enough to work together toward a common good rather than claw at one another while slowly sinking in quicksand.” ―Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, The New York Times Book Review

    Ghobash is the Ambassador of the UAE to Russia. His “Letters to a Young Muslim” is a bold and intimate exploration of what it means to be a Muslim in the twenty-first century. His mother is Russian and descended from Orthodox clergymen. Book is very unusual, probably, because he has an experience in two religions. Ghobash implores Muslims to do their own research and consider different points of view. Especially this will be very important for young generations. So many teachers and they show sometimes directly opposite teaching. Good example is what happens right now in Syria.

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