There have always been extremist Muslims around, since the time of the Kharijites.
Muslims who hold to the teachings of the Quran have mercy upon the entire creation, including unbelievers and idolaters, but the Kharaijites have no mercy for those outside their group.
They declare other Muslims to be unbelievers by misinterpreting or misapplying the verses of the Quran. A modern manifestation of this movement can be seen in the batch of extremists now fighting in Iraq and Syria.
In September 2014 over 120 international Islamic scholars wrote an “Open Letter to Dr Ibrahim Awwad al-Badri, alias Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi”, the self-proclaimed “Caliph” of Islam and the fighters and followers of the ‘self-declared Islamic State.’ [www.lettertobaghdadi.com/]
They based all of their analysis upon what has been conveyed by the media and by eye-witness accounts of the activities of the ‘Islamic state’. “.. everything said here consists of synopses written in a simple style that reflect the opinions of the overwhelming majority of Sunni scholars over the course of Islamic history.”
After about 28 pages of text, just prior to the listing of signatories, they included a Saying of the Fourth Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib (r).
“Nu’aym ibn Hammad narrates in Al-Fitan, that the Fourth Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib said:
When you see the black flags, remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet. Thereafter there shall appear a feeble insignificant folk. Their hearts will be like fragments of iron. They will have the state. They will fulfil neither covenant nor agreement. They will call to the truth, but they will not be people of the truth. Their names will be parental attributions, and their aliases will be derived from towns. Their hair will be free-flowing like that of women. This situation will remain until they differ among themselves.
Thereafter, God will bring forth the Truth through whomever He wills.”
This saying from Al Fitan, written 1200 years ago, is understood by many to refer to the Daesh/ISIS phenomenon. One of their characteristics will be a very public proclamation of Islam or ‘call to the truth, ‘but they will not be people of the truth.’ Their falsity will be exposed to the whole world.
The scholars suggest that this group will function ‘Until they differ among themselves’: the differences between the ‘Islamic State’ and its parent, the al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in Syria) has led to around ten thousand deaths in a single year. This internal conflict will lead to their demise.
The conclusion ‘Thereafter, God will bring forth the truth through whomever He wills’:
Though a clear and correct Islamic proclamation (like this open letter) suggests that the furor which these ‘feeble insignificant folk’ will create, will result in the bringing out of the true meaning of Islam, clearly distinguished from the evil these muharibs have created.
ISIS intends to create an anti-Muslim pogrom in the West, believing that it will benefit from the persecution of the whole Muslim community. Given the general increasing level of public awareness about terrorism and ISIS, the upsurge of anti-Muslim bigotry will hopefully be short-lived and will not penetrate into society as deeply as the anti-Jewish movements of 80 years ago.
It is imperative that Muslims make sure that the image of Islam is not distorted by false and ignorant portrayals. We must be as active as possible in ensuring that the true image of Islam is projected to the whole community, believers and non-believers.