Let’s be real, “extremist” Muslims are growing and popular, so are they really “extremist”?

I use to always tell many Muslims and non-Muslims alike when they would bring up the discussion of Islam and terrorism that “these extremist Muslims are only a few and that you can’t blame an entire religion for a small minute group’s actions” and so on.  You know it and I know it.  We always hear it and probably say it.  These Muslim extremists make up a small percentage of the ummah, but do they really?

I mean seriously.  Let’s be real and think about this.  Who defines them “extremist” Muslims?  What does “extremist” entail?

What made me think about this was Shaykh Tawfique Chowdhury’s article on how Muslim scholars can be used to fight terrorism.  The general idea seems worthy of pursuing and browsing through the comments Sh. Suhaib Webb and Sh. Yasir Qadhi have responded with positive questions in which they were answered by Sh. Tawfique in the comments section.

For the first time though, I have to disagree strongly with a post on MuslimMatters.  Looking at my post on the “religiosity” of the entire world it is clear that many of the major countries fighting the “war on terrorism” are becoming more and more atheist or agnostic.  If you look at the younger generations of America or Canada you’ll see tons of unbelievers who quite frankly just don’t give a damn about religion.  The religious generation is dying in the West.  What makes us think that they will be willing to be supportive of Islam. All religions, including the ones that are fastly growing are not even close to catching up to the ideologies of Atheism and Materialism.  These two simply have the most followers in the entire world.

Now going back to the main topic and title of the post, where do these so called “extremist” Muslims come in to play?  What exactly is an extremist Muslim?  Well basically it’s Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, Hezbullah, Al-Shabab (in Somalia), and all the other jamaats I fail to mention or remember.  What do they all have in common?  They are fighting occupying forces with violent methods that include terror.  The reality is, they use suicide bombing and kill Muslims and innocent people when fighting this war.

Are these Muslims really extreme? Are there supporters such as Imam Anwar al Awlaki really extreme?  In fact, Imam Anwar is a perfect example of an American born Scholar who’s first language is English and who is probably the most popular and loved “extremist” Muslim.  I myself I’m a huge fan of Imam Anwar al-Awlaki.  Who wouldn’t after his lectures on the seerah of the Prophet (saas), the Hereafter lectures and other ones (you can listen to many here)?  He is good at giving talks and motivating oneself to become closer to Allah and his beloved messenger Muhammad (saas).

Recently Imam Anwar’s blog has sparked some very sensitive topics.  He tends to hit topics on Jihad, Muslims, Islam and terrorism head on.  No “beating around the bush” if you know what I mean.  I respect his staunch support of defending Islam and Muslims against oppression and invasion, but I humbly disagree with his articles.  If you talk to many observant Muslims in North America (and generally in the West), Imam Anwar is probably the most popular and widely listened to across all ideologies.  Let me paint you an easier picture, I know people that participated in Sufi Hadras or that attended 10+ AlMaghrib seminars or been clubbin’ that have listened to almost all of his famous CD sets and been personally effected by them and has been a major factor in drawing them closer to Islam.  I myself become more aware of this deen due to Imam Anwar’s lecture.

So how can Imam Anwar be an “extermist” Muslim?  Well if you listen to his lecture series on Jihad or just read some of his articles on his blog, you will easily see why, but then again, why?

I can honestly say that at least 10% to 15% of the Muslim popluation in the World are (or would be) in agreement with Imam Anwar Awlaki.  That is a good percentage of “extremist” Muslims.  This is why I don’t think we should use this word anymore.  We have to accept the fact that there is a strong growing population in the Muslim world that is taking an alternative position on the role of Jihad in the ummah.  They have their sources which are the same sources for the rest of the entire ummah: the Qur’an and Sunnah.

So who really are the “extremist” Muslims?  Should we even call them that anymore?  Maybe we should work with them and have dialogue with our brothers and sisters before we have dialogue with the non-Muslims and the West?  I’m talking about having people like Sh. Hamza Yusuf or Sh. Suhaib Webb or Sh. Yasir Qadhi having discussions with Imam Anwar Awlaki or other scholars of similar thought.

Allah knows best.

32 Replies to “Let’s be real, “extremist” Muslims are growing and popular, so are they really “extremist”?”

  1. @Akhi – I am not against Jihad and no one who studies this deen is. Muslims are just generally against the “extremists” alternative understanding of Jihad.

  2. jihad = struggle.
    akhi, if you stuggle to wake up for fajr for example, that falls under the category of jihad.
    i advise you read more about the word itself.
    i know you meant to say ‘people against terrorism’, but please don’t use the term jihad in this context as it confuses people.

    nice article 🙂

  3. You are talking about something that is debatable just like Fiqh. If we cannot agree upon fiqh (which is not a BAD thing..I am just stating facts), I do not see how having a dialogue or debate or whatever be beneficial (since it has already been done through scholars’ statements/writings/etc.

    Plus, we aren’t talking about something easy that won’t affect anybody but oneself (like where to place your hands, the Arkan of wudu, etc.), we talking about something that can affect people affecting other people feel me? Sounds like a good idea, but impractical according the world today. Allah hu alam

  4. @struggle within – I know Jihad means struggle, but it is pretty clear which Jihad I am talking about in my post. If you don’t know, I’m talking about the Jihad in times of war in the battle field.

    @Yus from the Nati – Let’s be real and face the issue, instead of running from it. Writing statements and articles are a good step but what I’m saying is actually having meetings and discussions back and forth in live real time instead of keeping writing letters to each other. Obama is giving a chance to sit down with Iran and talk. Maybe Muslims should sit down and give a chance to some of these “extremist” Muslims.

  5. “I can honestly say that at least 10% to 15% of the Muslim popluation in the World are (or would be) in agreement with Imam Anwar Awlaki.”

    Based on what?
    What percentage of Muslims even know of Imam Anwar across the world?

    We need to stop letting rumors and heresay dictate our discussions and dialogue. Before bringing up issues we should seek our those who are already working to understand the Muslim world and address the issues you have brought up.

    For example. you should purchase Dalia Mogahed & John Esposito’s “Who SPeaks for Islam ” What a Billion Muslims Really Think” . This book talks about what defines “Extremism” and how many Muslims are actually “Extremists” based on empirical data across most of the Muslim world (over six years).

  6. Amad said
    “NOTE that I am not saying that the Imam actually supports killing of innocent civilians, but he hasn’t yet written a post against this terrorism either, i.e. he has shown no balance on this issue. I would sure like to know where he stands on this.”

    Yes I agree a scholar should not be silent on this issue, he should clarify his position against it or for it, so he can be then argued accordingly.

    So I hope scholars at muslimmatters also show balance on this issue, as they are rightly condemning terrorism, they should not shy away from talking about jihad, where is it taking place, what is the duties of muslims in that land, and around, and what are our roles.

  7. Good post. Not sure about the stats you quoted, but I agree there definitely needs to be a broad discussion on this in Muslim circles. Right now – as Br Hassan said, and as Br Amad’s comment exemplifies – there is a lack of balance on both sides. Alhamdulillah it helps that we at least hear both sides – even if they are on different platforms – so that ordinary people like us can moderate one with the other.

    Yes, Br Amad there are chickenhawks in their parent’s basements who get a high from these jihadi posts, but it is also the lack of balance on sites like muslimmatters that drives them there.

  8. @HAhmed, @midatlantic – I based my stats on the number of Muslims i encountered and through the online Muslim forums. It’s not scientific at all, but just an estimate, but I can back up my findings in another post.

  9. Asslamo Allaikum Brothers & Sisters,

    I get more disillusioned with my fellow American Muslims & “New American Islam” with every passing day.

    Some suggest to cooperate with Non-Muslims against Muslims engaged in Jihad. Others call for a dialogue…Both groups seem to think that engagement in Jihad is some sort of a disease or a sickness or a misunderstanding in (Aqeedah or Fiqh).

    Does anyone refer back to Qur’aan and Sunnah? And take the ruling from Allah (SWT) and His Rasool (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam).

    Subuhanullah! Has it occurred to anyone that “Islam” is under threat and your Brothers/Sisters are merely trying to protect it to the best of their ability? No doubt mistakes are being made as everyone is on a learning curve.

    Addressing fellow believers as “…Muslim chickenhawks without jobs or qualifications…” is just Pathetic and frankly idiotic!

    Fear Allah and the day of judgement where you will all to answer for your deeds.





    Angry Muadh Khan at the “New American Islam and its Supporters”

  10. Lastly, before some do-gooder tells me to take a deep breath!

    Getting angry when things are said & done contrary to the Noble Sunnah is in itself a Sunnah.


    I’m tired of hearing “Hijrah, Hijrah, Hijrah”. The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, as recorded in Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, and the 3rd hadith of Riyadhus Saliheen, “There is no Hijrah after the conquest of Makkah – only Jihad and Niyyah. So if you are summoned, go forth.”

    The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa salaam) was also once passing by a town and it was his custom to attack a town in the morning. However, he heard the Adhan and said not to attack the town because the town either has a Masjid in it or Muslims. If the Prophet allowed that minority to live in a town that had numerous Non-Muslims, what is wrong with America?

  12. As salaamu alaykum:

    I believe that the Muslim ulema and students of knowledge really, truly to HAVE to have debates (using good Islamic adab and ahklaq of course!) in regards to what is legitimate in terms of fighting fisibilillah. Why? Because many, many Muslims ARE confused. For instance, many believe that in regards to al-qisas (equal retaliation), that it is 100%, TOTALLY Islamically legitimate for innocent people (ie, people NOT involved in the original crime) to be killed and not just the perpetrator. An example of their thinking is something like this: If a man from “country A” kills a young girl in “country B,” then the people (or the girls family) from “country B” have the right to kill ANY girls from “country A” including not just the original “country A” murderer’s daughter, cousin, etc. (which is totally wrong in itself) but ANY single young girl from “country A.” Do you understand? In other words, the ONLY person, PERIOD, in this hypothetical scenario that Islamically is to have his blood considered as “halaal” is the one who is the actual killer – the one from “country A” who killed the young girl from “country B,” but I believe possibly a majority, allahu ‘alam, of Muslims may not know this.

    Regarding Imam Anwar Awlaki. Yes, I have very much benefited from many of his lectures. And while I don’t necessarily agree with him on everything he says (especially his opinions on targeting non-combatants), I do agree with him on many things that he says regarding various “current affairs” topics, including his latest essays written in response to Shaykh Tawfique’s recent statement.

    This being said, it is obvious that Imam Anwar does have a certain opinion about the various Sharia rules regarding fighting fisibilillah. Of course I’m only a simple layperson, and he’s mashaAllah a very smart student of knowledge, if not more, but I don’t agree at all. But how can anyone not know what his opinions are, although yes they have changed as he stated since 9-11. He and (many shuyookh and students of knowledge like him; open your eyes!) believe that it is 100% permissible and Islamically correct to intentionally kill noncombatants; to intentionally kill
    noncombatant women and children – one supposed proof being “al qisas,” and if you read his blog or have listened to his lectures, he believes all the operations such as the London bombings, the Madrid bombings, the
    Bali bombings, etc., were all 100% legitimate Islamically, under Sharia law, and that it is WRONG for
    Muslims in general, and the shuyookh in particular to disagree with this ideology (or the “main proponents” of this ideology) which he says are the true Tayfa al-Mansura and the REAL, TRUE Awliya of Allah (swt).

    So my question is this, when will Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, Shaykh Basyouni, Shaykh Birjas, Imam Suheib Webb, or any other shuyookh, whether “Salafi,”
    “Ikhwani,” or non-defined, etc. in the West come out and discuss these sensitive issues? And going back to my original comments, will these shuyookh and students of knowledge at least try to have debates and dialogues with brothers like Imam Anwar (and other shuyookh/talib al-ilm who hold “extremist” views when it comes to various aspects of jihad), who obviously disagree 100% with their stances?
    If they haven’t already, BESIDES labeling all of the extremists as “khawarij.”

    So is it legitimate to intentionally target noncombatant non-Muslims or not? (including women, children, and babies) The brothers need to debate each other and discuss this issue, because many, many Muslims think that it is TOTALLY legitimate Islamically to do so. That being said, will they at least say that it is Islamically legitimate to kill combatants in the Muslim lands, the crusaders and their allies, that are fighting and killing the Muslimeen? Sorry for the long post 🙂 but I believe there is a lot to say regarding these issues…

  13. There definitely needs to be a discussion going on the Muslim world.

    I like a lot of Imam Anwar’s stuff, but some of the things he says I feel, are a little extreme. And then with people like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, I feel he is a little too happy-go-lucky and other Shaykhs like him want to cooperate with non-muslim leaders who are really the ones responsible for many of the oppressive regimes in the world.

    The point is, it doesn’t matter what I think, or what you think, we are people who really have an incredibly small amount of Islamic Knowledge, and the people of knowledge, like Imams and Shaykhs need to have proper dialogues and debates, or else our youth are going to be left confused, and I can tell you now, I am extremely confused, and need guidance in the political aspect of Islam.

  14. We need to take the time to comprehensively and thoroughly define which Muslims in the world are doing things against Islam, and which ones aren’t.

    I honestly still don’t know whether or not the taliban are the good guys or the bad guys, and I’ve read an insane amount of explanations from muslims who themselves disagree on the matter.

  15. Salaam:

    It’s been a while since I made my comments, but when are the various ulema going to debate these issues? Why has al-Maghrib (not to my knowledge anyway – please correct me if I’m wrong) not had a course on jihad (all the meanings of the word) and/or qital? Or how Muslims are supposed to fight, with all of the various ahadeeth, the Qur’anic tafsirs, the great, classical ulema and fuqaha, etc. (they could talk of course in hypotheticals, and try not to so-call “incite” anyone, what ever this means, but go through all the precautions that they would have to go through, etc.) I mean, what I am seeing and reading about is an Islam very, very different then the one that I thought was the true Islam. Here is what they are basically saying:

    ***The highest form of worship in Islam is killing a kaafir while being killed, regardless if this kaafir is a “combatant” or not

    The highest form of worship in Islam is killing a kaafir while being killed (jihad for the sake of Allah), but this kaafir does not have to be in the act of killing or trying to kill the Muslim, or even aware that the Muslim intends to kill him (meaning, the kaafir can be a random “noncombatant”). The Muslim can use explosives to detonate himself. There is no difference if the Muslim kills a heavily armed Crusader combat soldier on the streets of Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, etc., or if the Muslim kills a random noncombatant kaafir on the streets of one of the western countries. Both of these acts are seen as totally equal, and Muslims are seen as likely “hypocrites” if they don’t agree.

    ***By default, it is permissible for Muslims to kill all of the kuffar

    By default, it is permissible for Muslims to kill all of the kuffar, including women and children. Also, additionally, Muslims are allowed to intentionally kill kaafir women and children, per equal retaliation (al-Qisas). However, a covenant or treaty with the Muslims is what makes it unlawful for Muslims to kill various kuffar. That said, there exists today, no real “legitimate” covenants between Muslims and the kuffar, but only false, illegitimate “covenants” between apostate “Muslim” governments and the kuffar. That’s why it is halaal for Muslims to slaughter all the kuffar, anywhere, including women, children, and babies. They are all considered “combatants.” But even if some are noncombatants they can all intentionally be killed because of “qisas.”

    ***By default, all the wealth of the kuffar is for the Muslims

    By default, all the wealth of the kuffar is for the Muslims. By default, it is permissible for the Muslims to take this wealth. However, a covenant or treaty with the Muslims is what makes it unlawful for Muslims to seize the wealth of various kuffar. That said, again, to repeat what was said above, there exists today, no real “legitimate” covenants between Muslims and the Kuffar, but only false, illegitimate “covenants” between apostate “Muslim” governments and the kuffar. This is why all of the wealth of the kuffar, anywhere in the world, is halaal for the Muslims to “steal” or to take, period.

    Has anyone not heard stuff like this?!


  16. @ muslim bro

    haven’t you read the words of allah subhanah wa ta3ala

    Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity. (60:8)

    ((Verily, you will find the strongest among men in enmity to the believers (Muslims) the Jews and those who are Al-Mushrikun (see V.2:105), and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: “We are Christians.” That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.

    And when they (who call themselves Christians) listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger (Muhammad ), you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognised. They say: “Our Lord! We believe; so write us down among the witnesses.)) (5:82-83)

  17. @Talib

    As salaamu alaykum bro:

    Yes, I’ve read these words of Allah (swt), but if you bring up this ayah (60.08) these brothers will say (and I’ve seen them say this verbatim to me as I’ve made the exact argument you have made using this ayah), that because Allah (swt) doesn’t forbid you from dealing justly and kindly with the kuffar not fighting you, etc., then this Ayah is ALSO saying that Allah (swt) is not saying it’s fard or wajib to deal justly and kindly with the kuffar, ie, Allah (swt) is saying that while you can be just or kind to the kuffar in various situations, it is also perfectly halaal, and Islamically correct, etc., to slaughter these same kuffar, including women and children, and if Muslims deny this then they are denying what Allah (swt) has made halaal and haraam for the Muslims, including the blood and wealth of the kuffar. Maybe you are not too familiar with these “SJ” type brothers/sisters and the arguments they use 🙂

    They also say, although I may have touched on this in an earlier post, that basically ALL of the kuffar today that live on this earth, are halaal to slaughter, including women, children and babies, PERIOD. ALL of them. (**as a reminder, these brothers are saying this NOT me**) They say that they are all “combatants” either because their governments supported in some way the kaafir/Crusader invasions and occupations of Afghanistan, or Iraq, either directly or indirectly, or if not, then they are allies of the crusading kaafir countries that did. (ie, if they themselves did NOT send actual troops to these countries, then they are allies or friends with countries that did) Also, they say that because of the fact that basically all of the Western kaafir countries have “democracies,” then that means that ALL of the kaafir citizens of these countries are then deemed as “combatants” (because the Western/kaafir governments supposedly “represent” all of it’s citizens) just as much as the Crusader combatant soldier armed with an M-16 on the streets of occupied Iraq, Afghanistan or Chechnya, etc is a combatant.

    They see NO difference in the intentional killing of a noncombatant kaafir child on the streets of London, and the intentional killing of a fully armed, kaafir Crusader soldier on the Streets of Fallujah.

    What don’t you understand brother in terms of what these brothers think and are saying?

  18. Salaam Aleikum,

    Your article totally glosses over the well-documented crimes of extremist groups, in particular Al-Qaeda.

    Anwar Awlaki is a shame to our Ummah. I dare you to listen to his private tele-links where he says what he really believes, things he wouldn’t dare say in a published lecture.

    Know that Awlaki is a takfeeri khariji because he has made takfeer on ALL Muslim governments including Saudi Arabia. It is these poisonous ideas which lead ignorant fools in Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to use children as suicide bombers and kill innocent civlians in the markets.

    Furthermore, Awlaki is a liar who distorts the Quran and Sunnah and HIDES EVIDENCE in the Sunnah which contradicts his positions. THe problem is our youth are so ignorant of Islam they are allured by Awlaki’s apparent knowledge, when in fact, Awlaki is a FRAUD.


  19. I cannot believe the horrible discussion on this blog. Al-Qaeda and its pundits are murderous animals who selectively quote and twist verses of the Quran to fight their dirty war which they were going to fight anyway!

    Al-Qaeda and Awlaki are destroying and defaming our religion every day, why aren’t Muslims outraged?

    Imam Ghazali said, “Islam will be harmed when the ignorant stand to defend it.” This statement completely characterizes Al-Qaeda and the Khawaarij in general.

    Any Muslim who thinks it is his divine right to kill non-Muslims and take their wealth “by default” is an arrogant, satanic fool who follows the ideas of pre-Islamic tribalism.

  20. Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen (rahimahullah) said:

    Do not be fooled by those sayings of the foolish people, those who say “Those people are Non-Muslims, so their wealth is lawful for us (to misappropriate or take by way of murder and killing).” For by Allaah – this is a lie. A lie about Allaah’s Religion, and a lie about Islamic societies.

    So we may not say that it is lawful to be treacherous towards people whom we have an agreement with.

    O my brothers. O youth. O Muslims. Be truthful in your buying and selling, and renting, and leasing, and in all mutual transactions. Because truthfulness is from the characteristics of the Believers, and Allaah – the Most High – has commanded truthfulness – in the saying of Allaah – the Most High –

  21. Yusuf u wrote “Imam Ghazali said, “Islam will be harmed when the ignorant stand to defend it.”

    My question is “where the learned ones? “

  22. The extremism that “moderate” muslims condemn is often a more accurate version of Islam. Moderates don’t want to be associated with the extremists because they are deemed backwards in western society.

  23. @al-suyuufi (and others):

    I agree 100% with you regarding the Madkhaliyoon, and that the extremist, pro-Taghoot, pro-palace “scholar,” anti-“J” Madkhaliyoon are indeed a very big fitnah to the ummah right now. But isn’t there a balance somewhere?

    I mean at the same time, do you believe that it is halaal to intentionally target and slaughter ALL noncombatant kuffar everywhere in Western countries including intentionally killing women and children (as many of these AQ shuyookh preach and condone)???

    For instance, Shaykh Yusuf al-‘Uyayri (ra) said that Muslims should intentionally kill millions of “civilian” (his word not mine) Americans including women, children and senior citizens, etc.

    And do you believe that intentionally killing random noncombatant kuffar on the streets of London (including women and children), is just as great, rewarding, and just as very, very MashaAllah “excellent” and EQUAL as killing a fully armed dirty kaafir Crusader soldier on the streets of Afghanistan, Sheeshan, Iraq, or in the Arabian Peninsula, etc.???????? This is what I don’t “get” or understand about these brothers and their ideology.

    Do you see these two acts as the “same” with no “difference”? Do you say that brothers who are against the first act (the intentional killing of noncombat kuffar) are “munafiqoon” or somehow “pro-taghoot,” etc.?

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