Some excerpts from an article by a UCLA professor at Austin Bay Blog caught my attention. Here is my response:
Can one have Islam without the Qur'an? No. Can one have Islam without Mohammed? Of course, not.
As long as one person believes the Qur'an is the word of Allah (and therefore must be obeyed), there will be someone who believes it is his duty to "...kill the unbelievers wherever you find them" (Qur'an 9:5).
Regardless of the various tangents taken by Muslim schools of thought throughout its history, Qur'anic Islam requires war against unbelievers, "until all religion is for Allah."
Obedience to the Qur'an will eventually result in its adherents doing that which its god commands: converting, subjugating, or killing non-Muslims. (Indeed, it is a blessing that more Muslims don't actually do what its scriptures teach and what its founder practiced.)
That Khaled Abou el Fadl has to argue that various movements have rejected, strayed from, or re-interpreted "extremist" Islam is quite revealing in itself.
His comments never repudiate the fact that according to the Qur'an, violence for Allah against unbelievers who reject his message is the duty of every able-bodied Muslim.
In stating, "Muslim jurists reacted sharply to these [terrorist] groups, considering them enemies of humankind....Regardless of the desired goals or ideological justifications, the terrorizing of the defenseless was recognized as a moral wrong and an offense against society and God...," el Fadl appears to be implying that what we see from modern Islamists is against traditional, Qur'anic Islam.
While it may be true that some jurists reject terrorism as a tactic, it does not deny that Allah commands his people to subdue or kill the unbeliever who will not convert.
el Fadl appears to try to discredit militant Islam by using such loaded language (no pun intended) as: "...puritanical zeal...Wahhabism resisted the indeterminacy of the modern age by escaping...to a strict literalism...Wahhabism exhibited extreme hostility to intellectualism, mysticism and any sectarian divisions...any form of moral thought...as a form of self-idolatry, and treated humanistic fields of knowledge, especially philosophy, as 'the sciences of the devil.'"
Whether Wahhabism does any of these things is irrelevant; what matters is whether or not the violence done in the name of Allah is justified by the Qur'an or is in violation of it. If it is against the Qur'an, then there is hope that Islam can be reformed.
The disturbing fact is that such murderous behavior is not only justified, it is commanded.
el Fadl continues: "According to the Wahhabi creed, it was imperative to return to a presumed pristine, simple and straightforward Islam, which could be entirely reclaimed by literal implementation of the commands of the Prophet....Wahhabism rejected any attempt to interpret the divine law from a historical, contextual perspective...."
If any of the multitude of Qur'anic verses commanding violence against non-Muslims is not enough evidence that those verses should be taken literally, look at the "prophet" himself. Did his life give the impression that he was predisposed to hyperbole, or did he mean what he said? Obviously, Mohammed obeyed Allah's revelations.
In writing of the rise of Saudi Arabia, el Fadl writes, "The Wahhabi rebellions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were very bloody because the Wahhabis indiscriminately slaughtered and terrorized Muslims and non-Muslims alike." This is the manner in which Mohammed unified Arabia under Islam 1300 years ago.
Finally, we read, "In this sense, it is accurate to describe this widespread modern trend as supremacist, for it sees the world from the perspective of stations of merit and extreme polarization."
It is not a modern trend. This is how the Qur'an has taught its readers to see the world for the last thirteen centuries.
The problem with Islam is not defeatism, anti-intellectualism, or a misapplied literalism. The problem with Islam, if you are an unbeliever, is the Qur'an.