Before you go and join ISIS…

A short letter to potential recruits


Salam alaikum,

Peace be with you, whoever you are. You may be a young Muslim, anywhere between 18 to 30, most likely male. Perhaps you’re a convert, swept up in the religious zeal of your newfound faith. You’re angry at the injustice going on in the world. You’re distraught by the discrimination you face as a Muslim.

Regardless, you have been drawn into the ISIS war machine by their promise of adventure and the romance of restoring the glory of Islam. Maybe your bags are already packed and you’re ready to go.

But before you board your flight to Syria or Iraq or wherever, ask yourself this simple question:

Are they merciful?

The Stamp of Creation

In his essay, Mercy: The Stamp of Creation, Dr. Umar Faruq Abdullah states that “classical commentators explain that mercy springs from a healthy heart, one that is spiritually alive and suitable for sincere faith.”

Here is some of the “mercy” that ISIS has displayed:

  • Their guidebook is called “The Management of Savagery”
  • They target civilians—both Muslim and non-Muslim—despite clear orders from Prophet Muhammad (p) to not target civilians
  • They torture their inmates, despite torture being forbidden
  • They ISIL Burns Jordanian Pilot Alive, despite the Prophet (p) saying none can punish with fire except God
  • They knowingly disregard or subvert clear religious evidence that condemn what they do
  • Muslim scholars around the world, including the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, condemn them

Do these actions have the mark of a people of mercy? Do these actions sound like what God meant when He said “You are the best community ever raised for mankind” (3:110)? Do these actions sound like the actions of people who follow the example of a man who was described as “a mercy to the whole world” (21:107)?

If anything, they share more in common with the Khawarij extremists than with their self-aggrandized belief that they’re the saviours of Islam.

In his paper, Dr. Abdullah states that, “Acts of ruthless barbarity must be rejected and never given the aura of religious sanctity.”

To think that systematic slaughter, rape, destruction and bloodshed is the natural course that Islam must take is a perversion of the very values that Islam seeks to uphold. These zealots seek to nourish the seeds they sow with blood.

Know that by joining their ranks you are only adding to the corruption they are causing. Muslims around the world are being judged by the actions of ISIS. And the people nearest to you—your parents and friends and community—will similarly be scrutinized.

You want to do something for Islam? You want to help the Muslims?

Start by asking yourself this simple question:

Am I merciful?


Mercy starts with you

Islamic tradition defined mercy as “the intent to bring good to others and cause them benefit”. Look around your own life; your family, friends and even the strangers you meet. Are you an example of mercy to them? Are you one of the people Prophet Muhammed (p) was referring to when he said “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind”?

Yes, you may be distraught by the injustices in the world. Yes, you may have faced discrimination. Yes, you may be passionate about your faith. But don’t let that blind you to the good that is in the world, nor to the evil that groups like ISIS have committed, because those who are blind are easily led astray. More frightful is the hadith where the Prophet (p) said, “God will show no mercy to those who show no mercy to humankind.”

Mercy begins with the individual. Our physical, emotional and spiritual development. Whatever good we do for ourselves influences the good we do to others. And from there, a single action can ripple through your circle of friends, family and community. Don’t belittle even the smallest amount of good you can do. Don’t be coaxed into corruption.

Be merciful to yourself. Be merciful to others.

Don’t believe that the only way to confront difficulties is with a rifle in your hands. Start with yourself, and let it spread from there. Be like a candle lighting up a dark room, for a candle burns brighter and longer than a bomb.

And keep in mind the saying of Prophet Muhammad (p): “Verily, God will only show mercy to those of His servants who do good to others.”


5 thoughts on “Before you go and join ISIS…

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