A common claim by western Muslim apologists is that Islam has been hijacked by a handful of extremists who do not represent the true (orthodox) teachings of Islam and the prophet Muhammad. I have written extensively on the topic of jihad and developed an historical analysis on the topic. That article can be downloaded here. For the present, we need to examine whether groups like Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS), Hezbollah, and any other similar groups are really hijacking Islam.
Jihad: What the Sources Say
Sura 33:21 - Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern of conduct for any one whose hope is in Allah and the final day, and who engages much in the praise of Allah.
Interpretation: Muhammad set the pattern of conduct for all Muslims, for all time.
With that said, I will examine the biography of Muhammad from his earliest chronicler, Ibn Ishaq. This is the most authoritative biography written about Muhammad and is the one used by all scholars of Islam.
Then they surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy b. Akhtab and Ka'b b. Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle they asked Ka'b what he thought would be done with them. He replied, 'Will you never understand ? Don't you see that the summoner never stops and those, who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!' This went on until the apostle made an end of them.
The above is a reference to a Jewish tribe in Medina which had rejected Muhammad as a prophet. Muhammad gave them the option to convert to Islam, and they refused. A few paragraphs earlier, the Jewish leaders told Muhammad, "We will never abandon the laws of the Torah and never change it for another."
Since they rejected Islam, they were to be beheaded, and Muhammad himself did the deed. Muhammad set the example. So is ISIS really "extremist" or is it simply following the example of Muhammad?
Moreover, since the Quran and Muhammad both authorised the killing of anyone who does not accept Islam and worship the Allah of the Quran, and this exactly what ISIS and other similar groups are engaged in, the normal Muslims must agree with the actions of ISIS.
Also, Islamist leader Anjem Choudary, who has been the mentor to several Muslims including the one who beheaded Lee Rigby on the streets of London, defines for us who are "innocent." Choudary says that in Islam, only Muslims are considered innocent. All others, non-Muslims, have not believed in God (Allah) and thus have committed a crime against God punishable according to the Quran.
Anjem Choudary also endorsed the actions of ISIS as being fully in line with sharia in this interview with the Clarion Project.
Given the expose on jihad I linked above, the quotes from the Quran which are endorsed not only by radical Islamists but also by normal, every day Muslims, it is hard to label the actions of ISIS, Hamas, Al Qaeda, Al Shabbab, and other similar groups as "extremists" who act in contradiction to what Islam teaches.
Now, in all fairness, I cannot fault these groups from doing the things they do. Why? Because if I were a Muslim, I would be with them, joining in with their actions. They are simply doing what they believe the Quran says is necessary to achieve paradise after death. Indeed, the Quran says that participation in jihad (holy war) is how Allah separates his sheep from his goats. Allah's true followers are those who participate in jihad, which suggests that those who do not participate in jihad are not true Muslims.
The Quran is also very clear that if one hopes to achieve salvation, participation in jihad is not optional.
Sura 9:20 - "Those who believe, and suffer exile and strive with might and main, in Allah's cause, with their goods and their persons, have the highest rank in the sight of Allah: they are the people who will achieve (salvation)."
To be clear:
If I were a Muslim, I would be ISIS, because I would follow my holy scripture.
This is the fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam. Muslims simply are following the wrong message, a message inspired by the father of lies, and are on a path of destruction leading to an eternity in hell. They are deceived, plain and simple. We are not to hate them but rather feel pity for them because of their blindness to the deception. And we must be willing to share the true message of salvation with each and every one.