ISIS is scared of a medieval strain of Islamic thought. One Muslim proposes exploiting that.

In this painting from around 1250, a Christian crusader is shot by a Muslim warrior
(Image credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Islamic State's "religious ideology needs to be taken seriously," says Mustafa Akyol at The New York Times. ISIS's thinking doesn't represent mainstream Islam, as Islamophobes often claim, nor does ISIS have "'nothing to do with Islam,' as many Islamophobia-wary Muslims like to say," Akyol writes. But if Islam is a recruitment and ideological tool for ISIS, why not use Islamic theology to battle it? He pointed to an 18-page article in the March issue of ISIS's English-language magazine, Dabiq, titled "'Irja': The Most Dangerous Bid'ah," or heresy. Akyol provides some background:

Unless you have some knowledge of medieval Islamic theology you probably have no idea what irja means. The word translates literally as "postponing." It was a theological principle put forward by some Muslim scholars during the very first century of Islam. At the time, the Muslim world was going through a major civil war.... In the face of this bloody chaos, the proponents of irja said that the burning question of who is a true Muslim should be "postponed" until the afterlife. Even a Muslim who abandoned all religious practice and committed many sins, they reasoned, could not be denounced as an "apostate." Faith was a matter of the heart, something only God — not other human beings — could evaluate. [Akyol, The New York Times]

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.