Muslim Victims of Jihad

Muslim Victims of Jihad

In the earliest period of the history of Islam, in the years before 660, a novel Muslim religious movement appeared that claimed the monopoly on representing 'real Islam', and that regarded all other Muslims as apostates if they refused to join their movement. Christians and Jews may have been relatively safe from the aggression of this sect-like movement, but born Muslims are reported to have been ruthlessly killed if they rejected the absolute claims this novel group made. If they refused to join, they were accused of having committed the sin of apostasy, and killed.

The Caliphs in Damascus and later in Baghdad, who represented mainstream Islam, fought these movements desperately. Eventually, the armies that the Caliphs sent out crushed them in the last decades of the 9th century AD. It is, of course, not easy to find out whether the historical reports that were written about these movements were accurate. Their enemies wrote most of these reports, ands they may have been intended to misrepresent what they regarded as an extremely dangerous group of sects.

These sects had soon diversified into a group of loosely related movements, all with roughly similar ideologies. These novel movements came to be called khawaarig, which is Arabic for 'people going out', perhaps to be understood as 'activists', who did not sit quietly at home but who 'went out' to do God's work. The thinkers of these novel movements are probably the ones responsible for creating the important Islamic technical term takfiir. This ancient term has become of crucial importance for understanding the ideology of a number of modern novel Islamic movements.

Takfiir is a verbal noun of the Arabic verb kaffara, which means 'to accuse someone of unbelief'. When a Muslim is accused of being an unbeliever, this accusation implies that he has committed apostasy from Islam, an act that is seen as a capital crime by Islamic sharia-law. When only self-confessed apostates would be threatened with the death penalty as a punishment for their apostasy, this would be bad enough, but the situation is actually more serious than that.


It has not been uncommon in the long history of Islam that Islamic activists pronounced takfiir upon their political enemies, or upon independent thinkers, or even upon religious reformers. Often such people were not guilty of much more than slightly disagreeing with their accusers. Nevertheless they had to suffer the full consequences of takfiir pronounced upon them, and from then on, had to fear for their lives. All sort of politicians, thinkers and reformers have in this way been accused of apostasy on grounds that an outsider may have some difficulty in understanding. [...]


Abu Daoud says: Takfiir is how folks in groups like Al Qaeda can indiscriminately kill Muslims. For example, any Muslim who cooperates with the Coalition forces in Iraq is ipso facto an apostate and not only can be killed, but should be killed.

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