International Coalition of Muslim Scholars Refute ISIS' Religious Arguments in Open Letter to al-Baghdadi

(Photo: Reuters/Social Media Website via Reuters TV)A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the center of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken from video. There had previously been reports on social media that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would make his first public appearance since his Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant changed its name to the Islamic State and declared him caliph. The Iraqi government denied that the video, which carried Friday's date, was credible. It was also not possible to immediately confirm the authenticity of the recording or the date when it was made.

A coalition of leading Sunni Muslim scholars from across the world took a stand against the jihad waged by Islamic State militants by issuing a letter denouncing the terrorist group's claim that their war is in the name of God.

In a highly-detailed 17-page letter addressed to ISIS, also known as ISIL, leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his followers, 126 international Muslim educators and imams signed an agreement to refute ISIS' jihad. The letter is littered with quotes from the Quran debunking the militants' justification of their brutality under Sharia law.

"You have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture and murder," the letter states. "This is a great wrong and an offense to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world."

Nihad Awad from the Council on American Islamic Relations, the group that presented the letter in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, said that the hope for this letter is to discourage potential radicals from joining the ISIS ranks.

"They have a twisted theology," he said in a video explaining the letter. "They have relied many times, to mobilize and recruit young people, on classic religious texts that have been misinterpreted and misunderstood."

The letter opens by quoting al-Baghdadi from a July 4 sermon: "If you find what I say and do to be true, then assist me, and if you find what I say and do to be false, then advise me and set me straight."

In an attempt to set things straight with al-Baghdadi, the letter debunks a notion that is held true by many ISIS militants that "God bless[ed] Prophet Muhammad who was sent with the sword as a mercy to all worlds." The letter states that ISIS members have become too fixated on the "sword" and have neglected the fact the Quran says that God sent Prophet Muhammad to solely be "a mercy to all the worlds."

"Accordingly, it is forbidden to equate 'the sword'—and thus wrath and severity—with 'mercy,'" the letter states. "Furthermore, it is forbidden to make the idea 'mercy to all worlds' subordinate to the phrase 'sent with the sword,' because this would mean that mercy is dependent upon the sword, which is simply not true."

The letter also criticizes ISIS' belief that they have created a caliphate. The letter says a caliphate has not been established because it takes a complete agreement from the entire Muslim community to establish a caliphate.

"There is agreement among scholars that a caliphate is an obligation upon the Ummah (Muslim nation). The Ummah has lacked a caliphate since 1924 CE. However, a new caliphate requires consensus from Muslims and not just from those in some small corner of the world."

The letter heavily chastises the broadcast mutilation of ISIS prisoners and states that these acts left the rest of the Islamic world to take the blame for their brutality. The beheadings of American journalists have grabbed the world's attention but the letter specifically highlights ISIS' use of social media during the FIFA World Cup. The terrorist group had posted videos and pictures of militants kicking around severed heads and used World Cup-related hashtags.

"You have provided ample ammunition for all those who want to call Islam barbaric with your broadcasting of barbaric acts which you pretend are for the sake of Islam," the letter says. "You have given the world a stick with which to beat Islam whereas in reality Islam is completely innocent of these acts and prohibits them."

Additionally, the letter also lists the numerous rules of jihad that ISIS has broken. Firstly, jihad should only be waged once a Muslim nation has been oppressed and wronged and they are no longer able to say freely "our Lord is our God."

Also jihad does not allow for the killing of women, children, elderly or the disabled, the destruction of buildings and the harming of livestock, which are rules ISIS has broken. The letter also says that beheadings with a knife and mass killings are specifically forbidden under Sharia law.

The Muslim scholars also note in their letter that the Prophet Muhammad specifically said, "Those retreating are not to be killed, nor are the injured to be harmed, and whoever shuts his door is safe."