The following speech was given by Professor Tilman Nagel at the annual convention of Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa (BPE) in Germany last week. JLH, who has kindly translated it into English for Gates of Vienna, includes this introductory note:
There are two things about this speech that are important.
First, Salafism is the purist intellectualism behind the contemporary jihad movement. As Nagel notes, the name itself is based on the name for “ancestors.” And because the Salafists have made themselves such a visible and aggressively proselytizing force in Germany, the Germans are more aware of them than any other Western nation. Nagel meticulously — with almost painful care — builds a picture of their thought, step-by-step, moving inward to the core of it.
Second, our Founders, and those who immediately followed them, were Christian or deist, raised in a Judaeo-Christian society, and religious men, yet they had a unique vision which transcended the boundaries of their own beliefs to imagine a government unshackled by any one religion, and many religions unshackled by government.
The juxtaposition of the purist Islamic No-Think Ideology to the basic No Ideology Thinking of the early US explains why this contest between the West and Islam is our battle more than anyone else’s. The outer defenses have been breached. Britain — the birthplace of so much of our thinking — is prostrate on a rack of political correctness. France — our other mentor through the ages — is at war with itself. Germany — the original model for much of our educational system — is stubborn but bowed under Islamist-Leftist pressure. After blurring our image and befuddling even the allies who love to hate us, we are busily tearing up the last evidence of American Exceptionalism.
When, and if, we can recover enough of our character in the next years, we will be every bit as much the arsenal of democracy that we were in WWII. If not, we will become one more outpost of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the only contest remaining will be between Marxist tyranny and ideological absolutism.
The translated speech, as posted at the BPE blog:
What Is Salafism?
June 9, 2013
We publish below, with his kind permission, the manuscript of the lecture given by Professor Tilman Nagel at the annual convention of Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa on June 8, 2013 in Fulda.
A. Preliminary Remarks
Our judgments about the present-day Islamic world almost always suffer from two deficiencies. First, they arise from the foundation of our own past and history of ideas, whose results are definitive for us today, and are seen as universally valid. Within this universally recognized history, outcomes are sought which could be solutions to the phenomena which now need evaluation. A familiar example is the civilizational backwardness of many Islamic countries. The very concept of backwardness conceals within itself the pre-condition that our own, European conditions are the valid standard. And the cause of the backwardness? From this perspective, it cannot lie in those countries themselves — in their dominant culture. It must trace back to obstacles which made it impossible for them to develop concurrently with us. These obstacles must have come from the outside, since they can by definition not be endogenous in nature. The development of power in the West, tagged with the shibboleths “imperialism” and “colonialism,” is offered as the possible model for an “explanation.”
A comparable model of evaluation is used for Salafism. This is the case even in serious studies, such as Laurent Murawiec’s The Mind of Jihad. The author knows very well that a so-called classic jihad does exist, but it is not an object of basic consideration for him. The Islamic world, he says, rejected the challenge of modern civilization and instead opened itself to the darker side of that civilization — bolshevism and fascism. And these totalitarian currents awakened the Muslim memory to movements deep in the past, which desired the realization of Allah’s empire by an end-of-days battle. Murawiec is thinking of the subversive Shi’ite groups which from time to time brought new dynasties to power, who saw themselves as the fulfillers of end-of-days expectations, for example, the Abbasids, the Fatimids, the Safavids. Both the British and the Germans , he says, made use of such memories in their Near Eastern policies during WWI. At any rate, the idea that legitimate political goals could only come through force was self-evident to the early fighters for a resurgence of the Islamic world. They championed the idea that a return to the mindset of their forefathers — Arabic, as-salaf — was unavoidable for the purposes of this resurgence. In the course of the 20th century, according to Murawiec, the disinclination of the “salafi movements” to have anything to do with the ideas of the West grew ever stronger. They began to reject and vilify everything that had to do with the “West.”
Murawiec, however, writes his study on the basis of English-language secondary literature, which is naturally plentiful for the events of the 20th century. Insufficient command of the language and a fondness for the statements of present-day political science make him nearly blind to the autochthonic, Islamic roots of both contemporary jihad and Salafism, which is a marginal subject in his estimation. Such ignorance makes it easy for Muslims to deny to Western interlocutors that the use of force to convert infidels is inherently Islamic behavior. The true Islamic jihad, they say, is a personal struggle and only assumed a bellicose character as a reply to the Crusades. At any rate, Murawiec suspects that violence against those who believe or think differently has its own Islamic history which remains potent. There is, he says, no firewall between the Muslims who endorse the Final Battle and the broad mass of Islam. The Koran and the Hadith contain passages which can be interpreted that way.
My concern in this lecture is this Islam of the masses and the embedding in their belief system of so-called Salafism. I hope to point the way to a sober and factually based judgment of the political-religious questions we face — whether we admit it or not — because of the mass immigration of Muslims into our freedom-based, secular society. The Salafist intensification of such problems absolutely does not stem from a kind of sectarianism. Above all, it argues that there can be no question of Islam finding a home in Europe.
B. The Way of Allah, not the Way of Idolatry
To begin my analysis, I have chosen three well-known Koran verses, viz. sura 2, verse 255 — the so-called throne verse — as well as the two following verses., The throne verse is not about the throne of Allah, but about the kursi — the footstool in front of it, on which Allah, seated on the throne, rests his feet. The picture derives from early Byzantine art, in which the motif of Christ the All-Ruling was widespread. He is sitting on a throne, and at his feet is a footstool or a sphere — the world he rules. The use of this motif as well as other pictures of similar origin in the Koran attest the groundlessness of the assumption that a pre-Trinitarian Ur-Christianity, interpreting Jesus as simply a servant of God, lived on in Islam. What do we learn in sura 2, verse 255? “Allah — there is no other God, the living God, existing in and of himself. Neither slumber nor sleep overcome him. What is in the heavens and on the earth belongs to him. Who would dare ask for his intercession without first receiving permission? He knows what lies before (people) and behind them, and of his knowledge they conceive only what he allows them. His stool encompasses heaven and earth. Both of them are no burden for him. He is the Exalted, the Powerful!”
In order to make the meaning of this picture comprehensible, I now take a step of 250 years, from Mohammed to al-Bukhari (d. 870), author of the most respected collection of Hadith. He inserts in it a segment with the heading, “Beginning of the Divine Act of Creation.” He is not referring to the six-day-work of creation as Christians know it from the Old Testament. “Beginning” means “first phase,” which will occur directly before Judgment Day — the repetition of the creation of all creatures for the purpose of final judgment (sura 30, 27). The achievement of Allah’s uninterrupted act of creation is not only to maintain the cosmos encompassed by the footstool, but to guide it in every moment and in every detail in accordance with his sovereign decision. The world in the process of being created, since it is essentially Allah’s, is in a state of salvation for every moment of its existence. Al-Bukhari verifies this core lesson of the Koran by adducing Hadith which depict the ascending and descending of the angels through the seven superimposed heavens. Further, the reader learns that Allah has shaped history so that human beings are best instructed about the tireless activity of the One. The seemly response of the human being to this instruction is Islam, that is, to turn his face toward Allah alone and thus acknowledge that there is no effective power but this One (cf., e.g., sura 4, 125; sura 6, 79). Since Mohammed proclaimed this message for the final time — according to Muslim conviction — it has not faded away. It lives on in the Hadith of the Prophet, as al-Bukhari tries to prove, not only with the segment about the “Beginning of the Act of Creation,” but also with his extensive collection of names of persons who appear in the chain of the transmitters of tradition in the Hadith he has put together.
In the Koran and Hadith, Muslims have not only information about Mohammed’s consistently just actions as guided by Allah. The Koran and the Hadith — in a sense that is not easy to put into words — are carriers of the power through which Allah reveals his guidance in the earthly reality he directs. “Both when we regard the heavens and the earth and when we weigh paradise and hell, Allah has created nothing more powerful than this Word: ‘Allah — there is no God other than Him, the living God, consisting in and of Himself.’” This statement, written by an early Sunni theologian and cited by al-Bukhari, explains the significance the throne verse has for Muslims. It is the most succinct summary of the Koranic message of assured salvation of all that which Allah is continually creating — a message which is far removed from Judaic or Christian thought. The God of the six-day-creation rests on the seventh day and allows his creations the opportunity on their own responsibility to make themselves subject to the creation. What Allah expects from Muslims, by contrast, we will now consider.
We come now to verse 256, which is mostly presented to the Western public — with intentional duplicity — as a freedom of religion allowed by Allah: “In the hierarchy of existence (Arabic ad-din) there is no compulsion, for the right path is clearly distinguished from fallacy. Therefore, he who does not believe in idolatry (Arabic at-tagut) but in Allah has a firm handhold that cannot be lost. Allah is all-hearing, all-knowing.” I directly append verse 257: “Allah is the protector of those who find their way to the faith. He leads them from darkness into light. Those who remain unbelieving — the idols are their patrons. They lead them from light into darkness. They will end in hellfire, forever.” Whoever is fully sympathetic to the din — the hierarchy of existence congruent with Allah’s act of creation — for him there is no compulsion resulting from digression from this order. Mohammed is thinking here of the troublesome Jewish dietary laws and of monasticism. Both are a burden which he promises in sura 7, verse 157 to lift from human beings. Here he announces the true order of existence, which is identical with Islam, as he declares briefly and succinctly in sura 3, verse 19.
This Islam — the unconditional personal alignment with the creator who is unremittingly constructing the world — has its total fulfillment in the completion of the obligatory rituals, which comprise the greatest part of the hierarchy of existence — the din. Completion of the rituals fends off evil, it says in sura 29, verse 45. But the hierarchy of existence also extends to the profane everyday. It too, according to the principle of Islam, should be shaped to direct the person toward Allah. Having Allah always in mind, again according to sura 29, verse 45, is of the greatest importance. With recourse to Koran and Hadith, Muslims attempt to follow this mandate in the sharia that has been expanding since ca. 800. In short, no longer to follow idolatry, but to welcome solely the standard of “Allah and his messengers” into their thinking, speaking and acting, as Mohammed demands in sura 4, verse 59 f. with reference to sura 2, verse 256 f.
As has been shown, the Koran juxtaposes the divinely ordained hierarchy of existence — the din — to idolatry, the tagut. Where does this idolatry come from, in the cosmos which is ruled and guided at all times and in all places by Allah? It is Satan, aided by numerous helpers, who tries to convince the human being that he could take his fate in his own hands, shape his own order of existence. Satan — the first recipient of the gift of intelligence, which had been given him so that he could make known that everything comes from Allah — was the one who misused it to reach his own analogical conclusion. Allah orders him to prostrate himself before the still lifeless clay form of Adam, like all the other angels. Satan refuses this command with the argument that he himself was created from fire and is therefore of a nobler nature than Adam.
Enraged, Allah exiles him from Paradise, but allows him — until the Day of Judgment — to tempt human beings to rely on their own strength (sura 15, 26-47) and thus make them forget the assurance of salvation, luring them away from Islam, the order of existence. The doctrine of salvation as it is proclaimed and elaborated in the Koran and, for example, by al-Bukhari, with reference to pertinent Koranic verses and a plethora of Hadith referring to it, does not require compliance with specific commandments — the Koran has no text comparable to the Decalogue — but rather recognition of Allah as the all-powerful founder and shaper of this world. For this mortal world — precisely because it is immediate to Allah — is in a state of salvation. It is the best of all possible worlds, as al-Ghazali (d. 1111) will say. The state of salvation of this world could not be influenced by an action of the human being, which would always be governed by basic ethical norms. It is independent of human action. What matters is the enthusiastic fulfillment of ritual duties. It helps the human being — steadfastly regarding Allah — to remain conscious of his own assurance of salvation and that of the cosmos. Sura 29, verse 45 says that ritual prayer shall bar all that is despicable and reprehensible. It is more important to always think of Allah. In these words are the brief Koranic summary of the intentions of the sharia that arose in the three centuries after Mohammed. That is, to secure the Muslim in the hierarchy of existence. That is why the major portion of sharia is concerned with the rituals. Then come the areas of relationships of human beings with one another, as well as the punishments and reparations, which are intended to punish/rectify offenses against Allah’s order of existence.
C. Basic Principles of Salafism
In regard to these basic principles of Islam, it is clear why the identification of the Koranic concept din with religion is misleading, at least assuming the present European meaning of the word. Din signifies the order prescribed by Allah for the world he is creating — an order in which everything from the nature of the cosmos defined by the footstool to the most trivial detail of everyday life is determined. This realization gives us the essential insight into the nature of Salafism. From the Salafist perspective, the history of Islam is the resistance to thoughts and actions which could shake the faith in the assured salvation of the cosmos. Intelligence properly employed recognizes the dangers and constrains itself to persevere in unconditional obedience to Allah. Even the forefathers — the Muslims of the original Medina community — are said to have been the target of varied temptations. They had not allowed them to close in, but had rejected them spontaneously and without inner debate. Later Muslims do not have such a firm faith, and therefore need arguments which do not work so dependably as that spontaneity. We cannot pursue here the historical path of such ideas. However, I will briefly delve into Ibn Taimya (d. 1328), whose writings play a leading role in present-day Salafism.
Ibn Taimya saw Islam — for him that was Sunni Islam — menaced from two directions. First, there were the popular Sufi ideas to which he himself had inclined: Allah is guiding and creating the universe every moment according to his sovereign decision. Even that which is evil, lawlessness, is his doing. That was good Sunni theology. But it had been given an irritating twist, by trying to answer the question of why Allah creates evil. The answer was that he does this so that he can become acquainted with himself as the Just, the Lawgiver. If he created only law-abiding actions, he would foreclose this possibility. In this interpretation, the person who transgresses against sharia renders an invaluable service — even though unintentionally, because he is not even acting on his own. Ibn Taimya recognizes that this interpretation makes the prospect of punishment contained in sharia as well as the horrors of Judgment Day described in the Hadith empty threats.
Second, Islam was threatened from outside. The Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad had collapsed in 1258. It was dubiously extended in Cairo, to legitimize the regime of military slaves, who had only been superficially Islamized, and had not abandoned the lifestyle which they had brought along from the steppes of Central Asia and present-day southern Russia. There was the fear that what would be valid was the Yasa*, which traced back to Genghis Khan, and not sharia. In many of his writings, Ibn Taimya held, to the contrary, that Muslims could withstand such challenges, so long as they were mindful of the strength of their forefathers’ faith. That assumed each Muslim had the will “to recommend what is approved and reject what is reprehensible” so that Muslims would again become that best-ever community as discussed in sura 3, verse 110.
The declaration of faith in Allah contains a call to action. This thought, whose explosive nature the Mameluke regime recognized, and proceeded against Ibn Taimja because of it, has since then found enthusiastic affirmation in various historical connections. How should this thought be rejected or even refuted in view of the delineated core statements of the Koran? It was, for example, refined by Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1787) — founder of Wahhabism — in a treatise which is counted among the basic texts of today’s Salafism. In it, the three principles of declaration of faith in the oneness of Allah (Arabic: attawhid) are detailed as follows.
Sura 103: “Human beings experience loss, except for those who believe, do pious works and counsel each other in truth and patience.” This sura teaches three life maxims for a Muslim which are the direct result of belief in the One God. First, whoever believes this will end in Paradise; whoever does not will end in Hell. Second, Allah does not tolerate anyone being placed on a level with him. Third, whoever obeys the Messenger and knows the oneness of Allah may be friend to no one who is hostile to Allah and his Messenger, even though he may the closest relative.
If a Muslim is asked, “What are the three principles which every person must know?” then he should answer, “Every servant of God must know his Lord, His order of existence and His Prophet, Mohammed.”
The Lord is the one whose servant is the human being and the one who is worshipped by humanity. Elements of that worship commanded by Allah are Islam, faith and good conduct. The last consists of appealing to Allah out of fear, out of hope, out of complete faith in God, out of the desire (to be near to Allah), out of panic (before Him), out of humility, out of fear and inclination toward Him; in order to implore protection against Satan and the demons, to beg for support with animal sacrifices, oath-taking, etc. Evidence of this is taken from the Koran.
The order of existence consists of Allah alone being acknowledged and being obeyed and of renunciation of people who make anything else equal to Allah (Arabic ash-shirk). The hierarchy of existence comprises three stages: Islam, faith and good conduct. Islam bases on five pillars: declaration of faith, ritual prayer, gift of purification, Ramadan fast, pilgrimage.
Faith (belief) encompasses more than seventy branches. The most significant is the declaration “There is no God but Allah,” and its least significant is clearing filth from the path. Shame is one of these branches. It consists of six elements: belief in Allah, his angels, his holy books, his messengers, Judgment Day and Allah’s sole power to determine what is good and evil. Good conduct demonstrates only one element, that is, that you revere Allah as though he was seeing you, for even if you do not see him, he sees you. Knowing the Prophet Mohammed includes knowing his tribe back to Abraham as well as basic events from his life. In sura 74, verse 5, he received the command to avoid the filth of paganism, to renounce it. For ten years, he called the members of the tribe to the worship of one God. Then he was brought up to heaven, where he received the five ritually required prayers. With the Hegira, he left the territory of polytheism and moved to the place of Islam. His community will endure until Judgment Day.
The Muslims who did not leave Mecca — that is, did not follow the Hegira — are sharply rebuked in sura 74, verse 97. These weaklings will land in Hell. After the Hegira, Allah’s earth is great enough on which to build a community obedient to His law (sura 29, 56). The opportunity of Hegira will not end until Judgment Day. In Medina, Mohammed proclaimed all the ritual provisions of Islam as well as the principle of commanding what is approved and rejecting what is reprehensible. “This is His order of existence. There is nothing good He has not pointed out to His community and nothing bad He has not warned them against. What is good is the declaration of monotheistic faith, as well as everything which Allah loves and approves. The evil he warned of is making anything equal to Allah, as well as everything else that Allah abhors and rejects.” Mohammed was sent to all people. Anyone who denies this is an infidel. Before Mohammed, Allah called upon a messenger in each community, who summoned them to worship of Allah and forbade them worship of the tagut (sura 16, 36). Ibn Qayim al-Jauziya (d. 1350) — the most efficacious student of Ibn Taimya — determined that there are numerous taguts. The five principle ones are: 1) Satan; 2) everyone who agrees that he should be worshipped; 3) anyone who exhorts people to do this; 4) anyone who claims to have knowledge of hidden things; 5) anyone who does not judge according to what Allah has handed down. Proof of this is sura 2, verse 256: “In the hierarchy of existence, there is no compulsion. The correct path is clearly distinguished from error. Whoever does not believe in the tagut, but in Allah, has a firm grasp.” In a Hadith, it says: “The head of all things is Islam. The pillar of all things is ritual prayer. The summit of all things is jihad on Allah’s path.”
Mohammed b. Abd al-Wahhab highlights the so-called Hegira — the leaving of the territory dominated by idolatry — and emphasizes the censure Mohammed directed in sura 4, verse 97 at persons who, despite recognizing the truth of monotheism, were not consistent enough to act accordingly. As a Muslim, you cannot live in a “tagutic” environment — you must leave it. In present-day Salafist writing, this principle is not understood in a territorial sense. You must wall yourself off from the community dominated by man-made principles.
The so-called reform Islam of the late 19th and early 20th century was representative of Salafist thinking, to the extent that it insisted on finding your way back to the faith of the forefathers. Above all, this meant thinking back to the sources of Islamic “knowledge” — the Koran and the Hadith. The scholarly interpretations that had increased over more than a millennium should be cut back, since, it was believed, they hampered a view of what was essential. At first, hardly noticed at all, Ibn Taimya experienced a kind of renaissance among Arabic scholars. In present-day Salafist texts, men often appear whose source of inspiration is a certain Abd ar-Rahman b. Nasir as-Sa’di (1889-1956 ). It is said of him that he had committed himself completely to the Hanbali school of religious jurisprudence at the beginning of his scholarly development. Then, however, he had devoted himself intensively to the writings of Ibn Taimya and Ibn Qaiyim al-Jauziya. He profited greatly from his study of these two scholars. They had not hewed slavishly to Hanbali tradition, but had themselves examined the authoritative texts and, where necessary, found those that did not correspond to Hanbali tradition to be decisive. Among his students noted in the Salafist texts is Ibn Baz (1912-1999) who was Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia for a long time and achieved notoriety through a detailed fatwa asserting that the sun revolves around the earth — which is correct according to the authoritative texts. Also in the same tradition is Muhammad b. Salih al Utaimin (1929-2001), known throughout the Arab world through countless fatwas on everyday questions.
Finally, I would like to present a number of things from a Salafist tract as they are circulating in the internet. They are mostly school texts which apparently apply to Muslims, not to “infidels.” At the center, we suspect, is the action which must follow from the declaration, “There is no God but Allah.” “The minimum that a person must do to be a Muslim” is the typical title of an anonymous text written in the Bosnian language, which has numerous Arabic insertions.
First, the author emphasizes that Islam consists of an order of existence — din — which can be succinctly defined as unconditional obedience to Allah. The reader is referred to an Arabic text which can be downloaded from the internet. Doing this, you encounter an argument that the present-day European concept of religion can by no means be confused with the Islam din. That is, there are many religions, but only one din that is in complete agreement with the Koran. Muslim believers must be inculcated with the fact that Allah’s din is in every respect finished and compete. They must not allow themselves to be seduced into panting after secularism, democracy and modernity and thus forgetting their concern for the afterlife. Winning the approval of democrats means throwing away the approval of Allah. According to this, din is everything that concerns reality and truth. Din shapes the entire, actual being of the whole created universe. It includes the manifest area of the universe and, beyond that the hidden area, inaccessible to the intellect — both the here-and-now, and the hereafter which will be shaped according to Allah’s sovereign decision. If this is assumed, then din becomes the central content of the message of all prophets and divine messengers. Its conclusion is formed by Mohammed’s legacy — the Koran and the Sunna, the complete and finished standard of the existence of the human being. The two keys to understanding this legacy are a good knowledge of Arabic and a pure, sincere faith. “We (i.e. Allah) are sending (revelations) in the Koran which will act as healing and compassion for believers. As a consequence, the loss for perpetrators of heinous deeds will increase continuously. (sura 17, 82) If We had sent the Koran as a non-Arabic (text), they would have said: ‘Why were the verses not arranged like beads in a necklace. A non-Arabic text and an Arabic herald!’ That is, the Koran is for those who have become believers — it is guidance and salvation, (not diversion). Those who have not become believers have blocked ears and are struck with blindness. They are being called from a faraway place. (sura 41, 44)”
The author whose pseudonym is “The Grammarian” writes in this section of his observations that it is incomprehensible someone can be fooled into believing that liturgical acts, which are quite separate from the fulfillment of existence, should be comparable with the din. This separation leads to people exalting their own intelligence, their inclinations and manifold, incompatible interests and finally all the idols whose worship is whispered into their ears by devils and demons.
Din is the rule that actions in this world relate to the next and this action is changed for that reason into a sincere worship of God. This is true of any action — eating, drinking, all kinds of physical exertion — so long as they occur in the honest intention to serve Allah and correspond precisely with sharia. Many do not have the proper conceptualization of din. They think of din as a mere cultic order; in fact, some call for the separation of din from politics and government. This error came about in the West when Christianity clashed with paganism, and later the Church clashed with scholars, with the state and with the governing powers. This error then spread to the Islamic world, after knowledge of the Koran and the Sunna, as well as the Arabic language, had disappeared, and Western attacks, conducted both in the realm of ideas and militarily, had become more intense. Now the task is to reverse these fateful events. Thus it is of the greatest importance in each person’s existence to understand the full significance of the din and model his life on it.
In Salafist texts, the human being’s order of existence is often understood as worship of God, based on sura 51, verse 56, which asserts that Allah created human beings for the sole purpose of worshipping Him, the One. It is now asserted that the erroneous view which has arisen in the West — that religion is only the cult — has driven divine worship out of profane, everyday life. This led to approval of democracy, obedience to the laws of non-Muslim states (tagut), as well as to other forms of unbelief that follow from such false understanding. If we returned to the proper definition of the concept of din, we would see that our entire life must count as worship of God. First, the din consists of ways of doing things that may be regarded exclusively as divine worship and second, of such actions that could be but do not have to be. And so the heart has a key role. The concept of faith, which spreads out to all other parts of the body, is based here. Necessary for this is an uninterrupted brainwashing by society and also carried out by the Muslim himself, which must be expressed in appropriate conduct. As noted, the forefathers had no need of such a thing. They comprehended spontaneously what it means when Allah says: “I (Allah) have created human beings and jinns for the sole purpose of worshipping me.” (sura 51, 56) That is why the forefathers (salaf) taught that even our sleep is part of the worship of God, so long as it occurs with the intent of recuperating and gathering strength for the sake of divine worship.
That is the extent of this training text. In others, there is a broad definition of what is meant by idolatry. Any cooperation with a non-Islamic community must be avoided, since Allah forbade, in sura 4, verse 60, soliciting opinions from anyone other than Allah or Mohammed. A Russian-language teaching tract on tagut mentions the difficulties implicit in such a life choice, if you are an asylum-seeker in a non-Islamic state. In situations not regulated by sharia, the Muslim may seek help from the idolaters, but must always be aware that he is dealing with the enemy of God. Furthermore, in the eyes of the anonymous author of this text, the Saudi state and its officials, indeed even scholars like the above-mentioned Muhammad Al Uthaimin have become a part of the tagut because the Saudi royal house cooperates with the West, and those scholars in turn with the royal house. According to this text, only Muslim Brother as-Sayyid Qutb — executed under Gamal Abd an-Nasir — was a true Muslim. To this day, it is a contentious question among Salafists and subject of fierce polemics, whether cooperation with the Saudi regime is permissible.
Al-Bukhari (d. 870), the author of the most highly valued collection of Hadith, made clear in a theological treatise that the conduct of life based on the Koran and the Hadith must be followed to the letter and without even the least blurring. The slightest arbitrary act brings with it the loss of belonging to Islam. For instance, there was once a question of whether it was allowed to ritually clean clothes with vinegar if water was not available. The claim was that vinegar achieved the same result. The true Muslim must reply, No, because even if this were true, Allah has decreed that in the absence of water dry sand should be used as a cleansing agent (cf., sura 5, 6).
The history of Islam is in large part the history of defending the content of the authoritative texts — of the Koran and the Hadith — against a reality that will not bend to it. This defense can be conducted with arguments which by their nature slip quickly into intellectual dishonesty. If none of that works, it is always possible to use force as an argument. There is — to use Murawiec’s word again — no firewall against that. And how should Muslims who have made their peace with the tagut argue against their co-religionists who take the key texts of the Koran seriously? How may the less assiduous ones answer the remonstrance stemming from a constantly repeated Hadith: Even if you do not join us and wish to carry out a Hegira, that is, if you do not have the strong faith of the ancestors, then at least fight against idolatry with words! At least remember your religious duty to advance the acceptance of Islam (da’wa) and to this end always communicate and demonstrate to infidels the beautiful sides of this consummation of being! If you do not have the joyful faith of the ancestors, at least keep the worship of the one God firmly in your heart. To be sure, this is the weakest expression of the battle for the victory of Islam, but at least it is something!
Salafism, it becomes clear, arises from the depths of Islamic belief. It is by no means a sectarian branch whose outsider position could be decided from an Islamic standpoint and then separated from orthodoxy. Furthermore, it has in no way been brought about by some culpable attitudes or actions of the West. It is much more like a characteristic feature based on the gospel of the Koran. This characteristic feature has been developing since Islam had to assert itself against foreign, advanced civilizations beyond Medina. A message that bases itself upon texts that have been certified as valid forever, which makes the claim of explaining the cosmos and regulating human existence in a totalitarian manner, must wall itself off from the impertinent demands of reality. Salafism does not shy away from expressing this necessity clearly and raising it to the status of a proverb.
Fulda, June 8, 2013
* Yasa is Mongolian for a code of honor and was basically the laws and regulations put in place by Genghis Khan.