Kareem Abdul Jabbar – Islam’s Most Valuable “Useful Idiot”
In response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre Kareem Abdul Jabbar wrote an article published in Time that defends Islam and castigates the Muslim murderers. His major point is that his Islam does not encourage or condone such brutality, i.e. that the Muslim murderers have Islam all wrong: “to angrily condemn, disavow, and explain—again—how these barbaric acts are in no way related to Islam.” You can find his article on the Time website under the title: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: These Terrorist Attacks Are Not About Religion
The term, “useful idiot” refers to people who work for a cause “whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.”1 I am saying that Jabbar does not know Islam, real Islam, Muhammad’s Islam. Just as some foolish Americans defended Hitler and Stalin, not knowing the darkness, bigotry, and poison within those men, so too Jabbar defends Islam naively, not knowing its bigoted, wicked, and evil tenets.
Mr. Jabbar is not an idiot. He is an intelligent man, a decent American, and his article was written with heart-felt sincerity. Further, he has used his influence and wealth to support many beneficial charities and causes. He has my respect and appreciation for trying to push back against the evil forces within Islam.
Criticizing an American celebrity like Kareem Abdul Jabbar is usually an unpopular thing to do and perhaps some Laker fans will blast me for doing so. Americans tend to idolize celebrities and Madison Avenue has ever taken advantage of that weak trait. Sports stars and famous actors are forever on television selling things like shoes, perfume, cars, etc. Beyond that, celebrities who know little about politics are often peddling their opinions about politicians and political issues. They think that their opinions are better than yours and they know what’s good for you. They tell us what to think, who to vote for, what’s right and wrong, etc. “I’m an actress so you should listen to me because I’m famous!” Alec Baldwin has acted like a big jerk but that hasn’t stopped him from telling people what credit cards to use and how to vote. I don’t deny anyone freedom of speech, I just don’t think that a celebrity’s opinion should necessarily be regarded as superior to other opinions.
So I have to disagree with Kareem and say that he’s wrong about real Islam. My point of contention: Kareem’s Islam is not real Islam. The Muslims who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre are real, dedicated Muslims, who were willing to die, and kill, for Muhammad and Islam.
How can we determine who is right, how can we determine and define “real Islam”? Is it Kareem’s kinder, gentler Islam, or is the brutal and cruel Islam of the terrorists? The answer is that we determine real Islam by studying its foundational texts, Islam’s source materials, the Quran, hadith, and sira, and by examining Muhammad’s life-actions and teachings. If anyone represents real Islam it would be Muhammad, correct? What greater Muslim has ever lived?
What does Muhammad’s life and the Islamic source materials teach us about violence? What did Muhammad do with respect to the use of force and violence? Was it justifiable for someone to kill someone else for slandering him? Yes or no? What do you think?
I’ll address four of Kareem’s points.
1) Kareem states that the Islam he learned and practices “creates a harmonious community and promotes tolerance and friendship with those outside the religious community.”
I believe him when he says his Islam taught him to be tolerant and friendly. But the actual teachings of Islam point in a different direction. Below are three examples, taken directly from the Islamic source materials that depict Muhammad’s intolerance. Let’s examine them and see if real Islam corresponds to Kareem’s assertion. (All quotations are from M. Pickthall’s translation of the Quran).2
1. The Quran in 9:29, 30 commands Muslims to make war on Christians and Jews, extort and humiliate them, or kill them, and denigrates their faiths.
29 Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low. 30 And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!
This passage commands the Muslims to make war upon and kill the Christians and the Jews unless they convert to Islam or pay an extortion tax (jizyah). When they pay the tax they’re required to pay it in a public and humiliated state. (Read about how Islam treats the dhimmies). Verse 30 condemns Christians for believing that Jesus is the Son of God.
This does not sound tolerant, kind, or gentle does it? There are some 2 billion Christians in the world and the Quran asks that Allah to curse, fight, and destroy them, for believing Jesus is the Son of God. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God is a requirement for Christians. Yet Muhammad condemns them for that faith! Aren’t those hate-words in the Quran?
Also, take a look at the subjection and humiliation of the Jews and Christians, the “dhimmies.” Would Kareem or the Muslims like it if they were treated, defined as dhimmies, in the West? Would they like to be treated the way Muhammad treated non-Muslims? No, I don’t think so either. In the West Muslims understandably want equal rights but in Muslim countries they deny equal rights to non-Muslims. Under Islamic rule non-Muslims are theologically and often legally defined as 2nd class citizens. What’s good for the goose should be good enough, and fair enough, for the gander shouldn’t it?
Christians and Jews had the option to pay extortion (jizyah) to remain true to their faith. There were other oppressive rules laid upon them as well. If they refused to pay and send Muhammad the money they would be killed and their women and children enslaved.
Pagans and atheists had it rougher. The Quran’s command against non-Christian or Jewish unbelievers is to either kill them or convert them:
Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 9:5
2. This second example relates to Muhammad’s order to the Muslims to “kill any Jew” they could. This occurred at a time when there was some disagreement between Muhammad and the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadhir. These Jews were not killing Muslims but Muhammad wanted to inflict casualties upon them.
"The apostle said, "Kill any Jew that falls into your power." Thereupon Muhayyisa b. Masud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him. Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time though he was the elder brother. When Muhayyisa killed him Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, 'You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?' Muhayyisa answered, 'Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.'"4
This old Jewish merchant was not a combatant. He had treated the Muslims kindly and had good relations with them. He had been friends with the Muslim who murdered him. His crime? He was Jewish and Muhammad ordered that they be killed. In deception his former friend came into his shop and murdered him. This is similar to what the Muslims in Paris have done. They grew up and lived in France but their heart’s desire was Islam and, just like the 9/11 killers, just like the Beslan murderers, just like the Spanish train bombers, England’s 7/7 bus bombers, etc., these Muslims in France carried out another massacre.
What the Muslims have done in the West during the last 21 years mirrors exactly what Muhammad did some 1400 years ago. Like prophet, like followers.
3. The third example is another quote from the Quran that contradicts what Kareem asserted:
O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. 5:51
Muslims have argued among themselves trying to define the limit of relationship they can have with Christians and Jews, (notice nothing is said about Pagans and atheists?), but at best Muslims can have nominal relations with non-Muslims. For an in-depth review of this verse’s meaning according to the great Islamic scholars see this article: The Myth of Islamic Tolerance
The bottom line is that dedicated Muslims are commanded by Allah to not develop in-depth friendships with non-Muslims. Fortunately today, I have had a few true friendships with Muslims. But they were not so dedicated Muslims overall. I have been blessed by those genuine friendships. But in early Islam those type of friendships never happened.
These three examples define Muhammad as a cruel, intolerant, bigoted, warlord. Isn’t that quite different than the Muhammad and Islam Jabbar portrays? Remember, I am quoting straight from the Islamic source materials and I am quoting them in context.
2) Jabbar argues that the real meaning of the Quran is non-violence:
They pervert the Qur’an through omission and false interpretation.
I’ll present two examples of Muhammad and the early Muslims and writings of the great Islamic scholar’s writings to show Kareem is wrong here as well.
1. Muhammad was often at war with non-Muslim tribes near Medina. In the aftermath of one battle the Muslims captured an old woman, Umm Qirfa. Ibn Ishaq records what they did with her:
"... and Umm Qirfa Fatima was taken prisoner. She was a very old woman, wife of Malik. Her daughter and Abdullah Masada were also taken. Zayd ordered Qays to kill Umm Qirfa and he killed her cruelly (Tabari, by putting a rope to her two legs and to two camels and driving them until they rent her in two.)5
Other articles I’ve read about this said that the Muslims then cut off her head and paraded it around. Does torturing and ripping apart an old woman sound like non-violence?
2. The great, historical Muslim scholars also taught about violence and jihad. The “Reliance of the Traveller,”6 which is a compendium of Islamic law establishes a definite doctrine on jihad and violence. Here are quotes:
[Section o9.0, page 599]
"Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word "mujahada", signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad. As for the greater jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self, (nafs), which is why the Prophet said as he was returning from jihad, "We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad."
The scriptural basis for jihad, prior to scholarly consensus is such Koranic verses as:
1) Fighting is prescribed for you (2:216)
2) Slay them wherever you find them (4:89)
3) Fight the idolaters utterly (9:36)
and such Hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said:
"I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah.
There is a great deal more from this quote on jihad. You can find it discussed more thoroughly in "The Verse of the Sword: Sura 9:5 and Jihad" linked above.
In contradiction to Jabbar’s claim, Muhammad’s actions were very violent. This is supported by real Islamic scholarship on the use of violence to spread Islam’s rule.
3) Kareem argues that the Muslim terror attacks are done for financial gain:
Violence committed in the name of religion is never about religion—it’s ultimately about money.
Again we look to the Islamic source materials to find out if murdering Islam’s critics is justifiable if not required. Here are two examples.
1. This is the account of a slave women who was murdered by her master for simply making fun of Muhammad:
Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas:
A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet was informed about it.
He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up.
He sat before the Prophet and said: Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her.
Thereupon the Prophet said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood.7
Note 3799 says:
It is unanimously agreed that if a Muslim abuses or insults the Prophet (may peace be upon him) he should be killed. There is a difference of opinion about the killing of a non-Muslim. According to al-Shafi’i, he should be killed. Abu Hanifah is of opinion that he should not be killed. The sin of being a polytheist is far greater than it. Malik maintains that he should be killed except that he embraces Islam. (‘Awn al-Ma’bud, IV, 226).
Note #3800 states:
"This shows that even if a Jew or any non-Muslim abuses the Prophet he will be killed. This is held by al-Laith, al-Shafi'i, Ahmad, and Ishaq.
2. When Muhammad conquered Mecca he ordered that 10 civilians be killed. This included three slave girls. These slaves come from the lowest rank of life and were probably forced to work as prostitutes. Why did Muhammad want to take revenge against them and have them killed? What terrible sin did they commit to deserve execution?
Their horrible sin: they made fun of Muhammad many years earlier when he lived in Mecca. Their names were Sarah, Fartana, and Qaribah.
He had two singing-girls Fartana and her friend who used to sing satirical songs about the apostle, so he ordered that they should be killed with him."8
"And Sara, freed slave of one of the Abdul-Muttalib [a tribe], and Ikrima Abu Jahl. Sara had insulted him in Mecca.9
You can read about the 10 people in detail here: Muhammad and the Meccan 10
These murders had absolutely nothing to do with killing for financial gain. These killings were done in the name of religion. Actually, the man who murdered his slave suffered financial loss! If Muhammad’s actions prove, and if Islamic scholarship teaches, that it is permissible to kill Muhammad’s critics, (they are defending Muhammad’s honor) then it proves that Islam’s violence is indeed done in its name, and not for financial gain. Kareem is wrong again. The Paris attacks were about defending Muhammad’s honor, and the Muslim killers themselves said, “We have avenged our prophet.”
4) Kareem wants to disassociate Islam from the violent actions committed by Muslims:
Knowing that these terrorist attacks are not about religion, we have to reach a point where we stop bringing Islam into these discussions. I know we aren’t there yet because much of the Western population doesn’t understand the Islamic religion. All they see are brutal beheadings, kidnappings of young girls, bloody massacres of children at schools, and these random shootings.
I say that now is the time, more than ever before, to bring Islam deeper into the discussion. Islam must be critiqued, and repudiated, more strongly. Actions speak louder than words. A man is defined by his words and deeds. Muslim’s actions and scholarship, since Muhammad’s time until now, prove that violence and brutality are a justifiable means to an end.
Unfortunately the Western press continues to let it off the hook. While Muslims are murdering people by the thousands now journalism’s dimwits continue to shield it from any criticism. Western journalists continue to apply the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” tack of ignorance towards Islam.
Fortunately that tide is turning. And it will continue to turn as more eyes of understanding are opened. Here is a recent article by Andrew McCarthy making an argument similar to mine: Don't Blame the Charlie Hebdo Murder on 'Extremism'
But I have to say, wouldn’t it be refreshing to see Time or the New York Times run just one article critical of Islam? They feature an endless pabulum-articles parade exculpating Islam from responsibility. The good news is that actions speak louder than words and people all over the world, (despite what our naïve celebrities and invertebrate journalists tell us), are hearing, and seeing, and understanding the evil of real Islam.
If you want to understand the role violence plays in Islam then you’ll have to know and understand Muhammad’s motivations. What motivated Muhammad to do what he did? Below is a hadith that was quoted by the "Reliance of the Traveller" above. It comes from the hadith collection of Sahih Muslim. It is one of Islam’s most “authentic traditions,” and it details a critical command from Allah to Muhammad. I believe this is one of the essential hadith, one of the starting points, that need to be examined and understood in order for anyone to know why Muhammad was such a violent man:
It has been narrated on the authority of Abdullah b. 'Umar that the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and they establish prayer, and pay Zakat and if they do it, their blood and property are guaranteed protection on my behalf except when justified by law, and their affairs rest with Allah.10
Muhammad used violence to spread Islam’s rule because Allah commanded him to. It’s not complicated or difficult to figure this out.
The Muhammad that Jabbar presents is like a Teletubby; the real Muhammad was more like Genghis Khan and Al Capone. Jabbar can give us great instruction on how to play basketball, but when it comes to Islam, real Islam, Muhammad’s Islam, Jabbar is shooting air balls. He should stick to what he knows best.
Don’t let anyone do your thinking for you, celebrity, journalist, or me. Study Muhammad’s life, study his actions and teachings, that are all well-documented in the “Traditions” (hadith) and biographical material (sira). Study the context of the Quran to know which of Muhammad’s commands were abrogated and which are still in effect to this day. All over the world more and more Muslims are committing violence against others in Islam’s name. You don’t need to be a PhD to figure out the root cause.
I’m aware that criticizing an American icon like Kareem may bring a heap of scorn upon my head. In response I’ll say, “how many more of your sons and daughters need to be blown apart by Muslim terrorists before you take this subject seriously?”
I’ve presented a very short argument, based entirely upon the foundational Islamic source materials, as to why Kareem Abdul Jabbar is wrong. I have been writing about Islam for many years and most of what I’ve said about the evil that Islam would bring has come to pass. Get this through your head, this clash of cultures is still warming up and it is going to continue to be more brutal, more cruel, and bring more death. The longer the West sticks its head in the sand and ignores it, the greater the price in blood we will pay.
I end with a call, a challenge to Kareem, to re-evaluate Islam, Muhammad’s Islam, real Islam. Instead of listening to a patronizing cleric, study the Islamic source materials for yourself. Study the life of Muhammad. Compare him to Jesus. The life that Kareem wants, the society that he wishes to dwell in, is one based on Jesus’s teachings, not Muhammad’s.
Jesus is the Son of God. He came to bring life; that life is the beloved light of men.