ISIS has shown once again the depth of their depravity through the horrific means they invent to execute those convicted in their Shari’a courts of capital offenses. One of the latest travesties occurred in Mosul where six men were convicted of spying for the enemy, and thus condemned to death. The means of their execution? They were lowered into vats of boiling tar.
It’s hard to believe that human beings would sit around thinking up such reprehensible means of torture ending in death. Certainly practices like this are what lead many Muslims and non-Muslims to conclude that such barbarity has nothing to do with Islam. But radical Muslim groups like ISIS believe Allah calls them to dramatic and gruesome punishments of lawbreakers as a means of striking fear into the hearts of Muslims and non-Muslims alike so as to ensure their obedience to Allah. So in the Qur’an (8:60), Allah commands them:
Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know.
Even more stunning, ISIS can argue (correctly) that this particular form of punishment came not from their own ingenuity but from the Qur’an itself. In Sura Abraham (14:48-52) we read:
The day will come when this earth will be substituted with a new earth, and also the heavens, and everyone will be brought before Allah, the One, the Supreme. And you will see the guilty on that day chained in shackles. Their garments will be made of tar, and fire will overwhelm their faces. For Allah will pay each soul for whatever it earned; Allah is the most efficient reckoner. This is a proclamation for the people, to be warned herewith, and to let them know that He is only one god, and for those who possess intelligence to take heed.
If the god of Islam is pleased to use such torture in hell for those who have committed evil by rejecting him and his law, then why should his most-committed agents on earth not find pleasure in using the same means of torture against those who have been convicted in Shari’a law court of treachery against Allah and his caliphate?
It may be objected that according to one Hadith tradition (Bukhari:Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57), the Arabian prophet forbade the use of fire as a means of execution, since that method belongs to Allah alone (i.e., Hell is the abode of fire), and so ISIS is guilty of wrongdoing, from the perspective of orthodox Islam. That may be true. Here’s the tradition in question:
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to ‘Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'” Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to ‘`Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'”
My point in all this has nothing to do with whether ISIS can justify its means of punishment on Islamic legal grounds. Rather, I want readers to understand that in this and many other cases, the barbarity of ISIS lies not in their own native depravity but in their imitation of the example of their god as found in their “revealed, inerrant scripture.” If this is the kind of punishment Allah promises he will mete out toward such sinners in eternity, then why not utilize a human version of it now? ISIS is not trying to outdo Allah in striking terror into the hearts of sinners, merely to keep up with him.