It has become an article of faith among liberals and self-styled “progressives” that “Islamic State” is a perversion of Islam, that the “real” Islam is a “religion of peace”. When I call it an “article of faith” I mean that quite literally. They believe it, or purport to believe it, not merely in the absence of evidence but in the teeth of the evidence.

A perfect example of this self-righteous foolishness is the actor, Ben Afleck’s, attack on Sam Harris, the atheist author.

So what is the reality?

Muslims believe their so-called “prophet” is the perfect role model. To quote one scholar

The verse [Al-Ahzab verse 21] demands that Muslims should take the Holy Prophet’s life as a model for themselves in every affair of life and should mould their character and personality according to it. This, therefore, means that those who claim to be the believers and Muslims and followers of the Messenger, should see how the Messenger conducted himself on the occasion.

Got that?

When in doubt ask “What would Muhammad do?”

So what would Muhammad do? One of the most respected of the contemporary Islamic scholars is Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Here are some answers he gives to the question “What would Muhammad do?” Example:

The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) asked people to be just and kind. As the supreme judge and arbiter, as the leader of Muslims, as generalissimo of a rising power, as a reformer and apostle, he  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) had always to deal with people and their affairs. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) had often to deal with mutually inimical and warring tribes when showing justice to one carried the danger of antagonizing the other, and yet he  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) never deviated from the path of justice. In administering justice, he  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) made no distinction between believers and nonbelievers, friends and foes, high and low. From numerous instances reported in the traditions, a few are given below.

So he was kind, fair, just, made no distinction between believers and non-believers. If he were around today he would be a shoo-in for Antonin Scalia’s place on the Supreme Court.

Except, well, could this be the sanitised version, the one that’s shown to the infidels?

Let’s look at that tale of horrors called the Sirat Rasul Allah – literally “Life of the Messenger of Allah”. This is the appellation given to the traditional biographies of Muhammad.  If we want to know what Muhammad would do what better place to look than his biography?

Now we want to know whether Islamic State fighters are following the example of Muhammad in dealing with prisoners. How did Muhammad treat prisoners of war? Did he, for example, behead them?

He did on at least one occasion, the massacre of the Jewish tribe known as the Banu Qurayza.  I’ll quote from Sirat Rasul Allah:

Then they surrendered, and the apostle [ie Muhammad] confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina…and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them [the post-pubescent men of Banu Qurayza] and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. …There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle they asked Ka`b what he thought would be done with them. He replied, ‘Will you never understand? Don’t you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!’ This went on until the apostle made an end of them.

In other words, according to his traditional biography, he dug a trench and beheaded the lot.

So who are the real followers of Muhammad? Is it those who practice a “religion of peace” or those who behead prisoners?

Well, it’s not that simple. Muhammad didn’t always massacre his prisoners. If you follow his biography you detect a certain capriciousness in his decision making.

So the correct answer to whether a true follower of Muhammad would behead prisoners is that it depends on your whim on the day. You may massacre or you may not.

But what became of the rest of the Banu Qurayza, the ones that weren’t massacred, the women and children? I’ll quote again from Sirat Rasul Allah.

Then the apostle [ie Muhammad] divided the property, wives and children of B. Qurayza among the Muslims, and he made known on that day the shares of horse and men, and took out the fifth.

Then the apostle sent Sa`d b. Zayd al-Ansari brother of b. `Abdu’l-Ashhal with some of the captive women of B. Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons.

So the women and children were divided up among “the Muslims” with Muhammad keeping a fifth for himself. He sold some of the captive women for horses and weapons.

All this sounds very much like “Islamic State” except that I don’t imagine Browning, Colt or Heckler & Koch would be willing to trade guns for women.

By the way one of his wives, the then twelve-year-old Aisha, was at his side while he was beheading.

It is only fair to say that Muslim “scholars” do attempt to explain this all away. But really, how can you?

Let’s try a little though experiment. Try to imagine Jesus digging a trench and then beheading a few hundred Jews after which he divides up the women and children among “the Christians” , keeping a fifth for himself and selling some of the women for weapons and horses. I don’t know about you but my imagination boggles at this point.

You can’t explain this sort of behaviour away. If Muhammad is the role model then Islamic State fighters are following it.

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