In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful
International just-war theory crystalized after the Second World War with the signing of the United Nations Charter in 1945 and the subsequent Geneva Conventions of 1949. Article 2 of the Charter states:
All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.1
This article enshrines a concept of jus ad bellum (“justice to war”), or the principle of war as a last resort, that all non-violent means of conflict resolution must be exhausted before states enter into war with each other. Nevertheless, the Charter does not negate the right of states to defend themselves from attack, as stated in Article 51:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.2
The Charter was originally ratified in 1945 by a number of Muslim-majority states including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.3 Other Muslim states would follow until a total of 57 Muslim-majority member states would come together to form the UN affiliated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference) in 1969. The OIC member states pledge to “commit themselves to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter,” part of which is adherence to just-war theory in international conflicts.4
The ratification of the Charter was a milestone in the history of humanity as it established rules of war based upon humanitarian values common to nearly all religions and philosophies. At the time, Muslim-majority states and their populations did not see any conflict between the principles of the Charter and traditional conceptions of jihād, the Islamic equivalent of just-war theory.
The view of Islam in some parts of West, however, failed to make this important connection between traditional Islam and modern values. Building upon centuries of bias, some Orientalist scholars in the West portrayed Islam as an inherently expansionist and aggressive ideological religion that rejects the principles of war as a last resort and religious freedom. This misperception is exacerbated by today’s jihādist extremists who repeat the exact same scriptural and legal arguments as the Orientalists. The result is that common Muslims living in Western societies are considered foreign and dangerous members of a transnational, subversive political movement. These negative stereotypes have led to hate crimes, government-sanctioned discrimination, and militarism.
Some scholars portrayed Islam as an aggressive religion that rejects the idea of war as a last… CLICK TO TWEET
On the contrary, the basic source texts of Islam, the Quran and Sunnah, express the principles of jus ad bellum in a number of ways. Our analysis will demonstrate, God willing, that these key principles had been established by the Prophet ﷺ himself and have continued to be the majority opinion of jurists throughout Islamic history until the present.
Just-war in the Quran and Sunnah
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ received his first divine revelations in Mecca and he peacefully preached the message of Islam to the Meccans for thirteen years until an intolerable level of persecution forced him and his followers to flee to the nearby town of Yathrib (later known as Medina). Despite emigrating outside of Mecca, the Meccans headed by the Quraish aristocracy vowed to exterminate the newly formed religious community.
Within this context, the first verses to mention warfare were revealed:
Those who have been attacked are permitted to take up arms because they have been wronged—God has the power to help them—those who have been driven unjustly from their homes only for saying, ‘Our Lord is God.’ If God did not repel some people by means of others, many monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, where God’s name is much invoked, would have been destroyed. God is sure to help those who help His cause—God is strong and mighty.5
According to classical exegete al-Qurṭubī (d. 1273), this was the first verse to be revealed about war.6 This verse establishes the inherent right of individuals and nations to defend themselves. Moreover, the mention of “monasteries, churches, synagogues,” indicates that the right to self-defense is universal and extends to religions and philosophies besides Islam. The purpose of legal warfare is to repel aggression and protect human rights, not to exterminate other religions.
Legal warfare is to protect human rights, not to exterminate religion CLICK TO TWEET
Another verse revealed early in the Medinan phase reinforces this principle:
Fight in God’s cause against those who fight you, but do not overstep the limits: God does not love those who overstep the limits.7
God does not love those who overstep the limits. CLICK TO TWEET
Some of the early authorities considered this the first verse to be revealed about war.8 In both verses, war is limited to defense of the community. The phrase “do not overstep the limits” or “do not transgress” (wa lā ta’tadū) encompasses jus ad bellum as well as jus in bello (“justice in war”), the law of war that protects civilians and non-combatants.
Abdullah ibn Abbās (d. 687), the cousin of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and one of the earliest authorities in Quranic exegesis, interpreted this verse as prohibiting aggression against all categories of peaceful people:
Do not kill women, children, old men, or whoever comes to you with peace and he restrains his hand [from fighting], for if you did so you would have certainly transgressed.9
Do not kill women, children, old men, or whoever comes to you with peace CLICK TO TWEET
Umar Abdul Azīz (d. 720), the Umayyad Caliph, interpreted the protected classes of people in a manner consistent with what we call “civilians” today:
[Do not transgress] regarding women, children, and whoever is not waging war against you among them.10
The classical exegete al-Bayḍāwī (d. 1286) listed the initiation of hostilities, among other misdeeds, as a form of prohibited transgression:
[Do not transgress] means by initiating the fighting, or by fighting those protected by a peace treaty, or by fighting those who never received the call to Islam, or to commit mutilation or to kill whomever it has been forbidden to kill.11
The Prophet ﷺ, in multiple narrations, stated that among the worst sinners are those who initiate hostilities:
Verily, the most tyrannical of people to God the Exalted is he who kills those who did not fight him.12
The most tyrannical people to God is he who kills those who don’t fight him CLICK TO TWEET
Moreover, the Prophet ﷺ forbade Muslims from desiring to fight the enemy:
Do not wish to meet the enemy [in battle], but if you meet them then be patient.13
Unlike other texts that prohibit aggression, this tradition goes deeper to the level of the heart; a Muslim is not allowed to even hope for violent retaliation upon the enemy.
In this vein, the Prophet ﷺ described the leader of the Muslim army as a “shield” and not as a sword:
Verily, the leader is only a shield behind whom they fight and he protects them. If he commands the fear of God the Exalted and justice, then he will have a reward. If he commands something else, then it will be against him.14
This defensive imagery is a symbolic way of conveying to Muslims the proper role of an organized army in Islam. Jihād is primarily a means of defense, not conquest.
Jihād is primarily a means of defense, not conquest. CLICK TO TWEET
A key question in just-war theory is the issue of casus belli: what provocations determine if warfare is an appropriate response?
According to classical jurist Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), jihād is a response to military aggression and not merely religious difference. There is no evidence in the source texts of Islam that permit Muslims to attack or kill civilians or invade non-hostile nations. He asserts that this was the view of the majority of Muslim scholars:
‘Jihād is a response to military aggression, not religious hositility’ – Ibn Taymiyyah CLICK TO TWEET
As for the oppressor who does not fight, then there are no texts in which God commands him to be fought. Rather, the unbelievers are only fought on the condition that they wage war, as is practiced by the majority of scholars and as is evident in the Book and Sunnah.15
Indeed, a following verse after 2:190 makes clear that warfare in Islam is only a reaction to violent provocation. If the aggressors give up their fight, then there is no just cause for war:
Fight them until there is no more persecution, and worship is devoted to God. If they cease hostilities, there can be no [further] hostility, except towards aggressors.16
According to Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī (d. 1566), scholars such as al-Zamakhsharī (d. 1144) considered the obligation of jihād as a means to this end and not an end in itself. If Islam and Muslims can be protected without resort to warfare, then way of non-violence is given preference.17
In practice, the early Muslims did not attack their peaceful neighbors. An example of this is the amicable relations the Muslims had with Abyssinia (in present-day Ethiopia). Before the migration to Medina, some Muslims were granted asylum in Abyssinia. Their generosity did not go unappreciated. As a result, the Prophet ﷺ encouraged Muslims to maintain peaceful relations with them and this practice persisted:
In practice, the early Muslims did not attack their peaceful neighbors. CLICK TO TWEET
Leave the Abyssinians alone as long as they leave you alone, and leave the Turks alone as long as they leave you alone.18
The classical jurist Ibn Rushd (d. 1198), known in the West as Averroës, reported that the inhabitants of Medina never attacked the Abyssinians or the Turks:
Mālik was asked about the authenticity of this tradition. He did not acknowledge it, but said: People continue to avoid attacking them.19
Several verses express peace as a fundamental value in Islam. In one verse, the word “peace” is used as a synonym for Islam:
You who believe, enter wholeheartedly into submission to God [silm] and do not follow in Satan’s footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy.20
Many of the early authorities interpreted silm in this verse to mean Islam itself.21 Translator Abdel Haleem notes that silm also means peace. Islam, in other words, literally means a state of peace.
Islam, in other words, literally means a state of peace. CLICK TO TWEET
Peace itself is one of the attributes of God. The Prophet ﷺ instructed Muslims to pray for peace after every prayer:
The Prophet ﷺ instructed Muslims to pray for peace after every prayer. CLICK TO TWEET
O God, you are peace and from you is peace. Blessed are you, the Majestic and Generous.22
In fact, the first sermon of the Prophet ﷺ upon arrival in Medina exhorted Muslims to spread peace, as recounted by Abdullah ibn Salām (d. 630):
I came along with the people to see him and when I looked at the face of the Messenger of God, I realized that his face was not the face of a liar. The first thing the Prophet said was this: O people, spread peace, feed the hungry, and pray at night when people are sleeping and you will enter Paradise in peace.23
Other verses instruct the Muslims to accept peace offerings from their enemies. If the enemy offers terms of peace, then there is no legal justification for hostilities:
But as for those who seek refuge with people with whom you have a treaty, or who come over to you because their hearts shrink from fighting against you or against their own people, God could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they withdraw and do not fight you, and offer you peace, then God gives you no way against them.24
And in another verse:
But if they incline towards peace, you [Prophet] must also incline towards it, and put your trust in God: He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing.25
The Prophet ﷺ instructed Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 661), who would later become the fourth of the righteous Caliphs, to seek peaceful resolutions to conflict whenever possible:
Verily, after me there will be conflicts or affairs, so if you are able to end them in peace then do so.26
Ammār ibn Yāsir (d. 657), one of the Prophet’s companions, considered the message of world peace to be integral to Islamic faith:
Whoever has three qualities will have completed the faith: fairness from yourself to others, offering peace to the world, and spending in charity even while poor.27
Put differently, the faith of Islam is based upon justice, peace, and charity.
Put differently, the faith of Islam is based upon justice, peace, and charity. CLICK TO TWEET
Those who imagine an aggressive, expansionist Islam are unable to convincingly explain away these texts. The standard response is to resort to the doctrine of abrogation (naskh) in which it is claimed the “sword verses” cancel everything we have cited to this point. Many classical jurists rejected this view, including Abū Jaʿfar al-Naḥḥās (d. 949), Ibn al-Jawzī (d. 1201), and al-Suyūtī (d. 1505).28
According to Ibn Rushd, only a minority of classical jurists appealed to abrogation to justify their opinion that peace with non-Muslims was forbidden unless Muslims were too weak to fight. In contrast, the majority held that peaceful verses restricted verses of war:
Those who upheld the permission of making a truce [ṣulḥ] when the imām saw an interest (of the Muslims) in this are Mālik, al-Shāfi’ī, and Abū Ḥanīfa… Those who maintained that the verse implying peace has restricted [mukhaṣṣaṣah] the other said that truce is permitted if the imām considers it proper. They supported this interpretation with the act of the Prophet, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, in this case because his truce in the year of al-Ḥudaybiya was not based upon necessity.29
The advocates of abrogation refer to isolated verses in Surat al-Tawbah, one of the last complete chapters to be revealed, as setting the tone for Muslim and non-Muslim relations. Critical and contextual analysis of this chapter, however, demonstrates that just-war principles in previous verses continued to remain operative
The most commonly cited “sword verse” commands Muslims to fight, in self-defense, against enemies who habitually broke their peace treaties:
When the [four] forbidden months are over, wherever you encounter the idolaters, kill them, seize them, besiege them, wait for them at every lookout post; but if they turn [to God], maintain the prayer, and pay the prescribed alms, let them go on their way, for God is most forgiving and merciful.30
The phrase “kill them, seize them,” is often cited alone without reference to surrounding verses
kill them seize them” is often cited without reference to surrounding verse CLICK TO TWEET
or even the second part of the verse that emphasizes God’s mercy. Yet, conversion to Islam is not the reason this command was given. The following verse offers asylum and safe passage to any enemy who requested it, regardless of whether they accepted Islam or not:
If any one of the idolaters should seek your protection [Prophet], grant it to him so that he may hear the word of God, then take him to a place safe for him, for they are people with no knowledge [of it].31
Furthermore, the passage immediately following lays out the context in which the command to fight is justified:
How could there be a treaty with God and His Messenger for such idolaters? But as for those with whom you made a treaty at the Sacred Mosque, so long as they remain true to you, be true to them; God loves those who are mindful of Him. [How,] when, if they were to get the upper hand over you, they would not respect any tie with you, of kinship or of treaty? They please you with their tongues, but their hearts are against you and most of them are lawbreakers. They have sold God’s message for a trifling gain, and barred others from His path. How evil their actions are! Where believers are concerned, they respect no tie of kinship or treaty. They are the ones who are committing aggression. If they turn to God, keep up the prayer, and pay the prescribed alms, then they are your brothers in faith: We make the messages clear for people who are willing to learn. But if they break their oath after having made an agreement with you, if they revile your religion, then fight the leaders of disbelief—oaths mean nothing to them—so that they may stop. How could you not fight a people who have broken their oaths, who tried to drive the Messenger out, who attacked you first? Do you fear them? It is God you should fear if you are true believers.32
God loves those who are mindful of Him. CLICK TO TWEET
It is noted that the offending party honored neither their peace treaties, nor the traditional Arab sense of honor. Only by ignoring this greater context can advocates of abrogation uphold their opinion. M.A.S. Abdul Haleem points out the flaws in this interpretation:
The main clause of the sentence, ‘kill the polytheists,’ is singled out by some non-Muslims as representing the Islamic attitude to war. Even some Muslims takes this view and allege that this verse abrogated many other verses including, ‘There is no compulsion in religion,’ (2:256) and even according to one solitary extremist, ‘God is forgiving and merciful.’
The main clause of the sentence, ‘kill the polytheists,’ is singled out CLICK TO TWEET
This far-fetched interpretation isolates and decontextualizes a small part of a sentence and of a passage which gives many reasons for the order to fight such polytheists: they continually broke their agreements and aided others against the Muslims, they started hostilities against the Muslims, barred others from becoming Muslims, expelled them from the Holy Mosque and even from their own homes. At least eight times the passage mentions the misdeeds of these people against the Muslims.
Moreover, consistent with the restriction of war elsewhere in the Quran, the immediate context of this ‘sword verse’ exempts such polytheists who do not break their agreements and who keep peace with Muslims. It orders that those enemies seeking safe conduct should be protected and delivered to the place of safety they seek. The whole of this context to verse 9:5, with all its restrictions, is ignored by those who simply isolate one part of a sentence to build on it their theory of violence in Islam.33
Many jurists and scholars did not accept the argument that sword verses abrogated peaceful verses. Even those who claimed peaceful verses were “abrogated” did not necessarily mean, in their technical terminology, that they were cancelled or negated altogether.
According to classical jurist Ibn Rajab (d. 1393), the use of the word “abrogation” (naskh) by early authorities usually did not mean cancellation. Rather, it was that that later verses clarified, explained, and sometimes provided exceptions to general rules laid down in previous verses:
Their intended meaning of the word ‘abrogation’ is explanation [al-bayān] and clarification [al-īḍāḥ]. Indeed, the righteous predecessors [al-salaf] would often use the word abrogation in this way.34
In the case of Surat al-Tawbah, several previous verses encouraged Muslims to forgive and patiently endure their persecution. Only after the persecution became intolerable were these sword verses revealed as exceptions to the general rule of forgiveness, not for war to be the general rule itself.
Verses encouraged Muslims to forgive and patiently endure their persecution. CLICK TO TWEET
Answering the proof-texts
As we have seen, a large amount of evidence in Islamic texts can be marshalled in support of the principles of jus ad bellum. More could have been presented here were it not for limitations of space.
The typical rebuttal of this material by anti-Muslim activists and Muslim extremists, we noted, was an appeal to the doctrine of abrogation, by which they incorrectly mean cancellation. Verses, traditions, and statements of jurists are often quoted in isolation, without context, to support their unwarranted claims. A few “proof-texts” used in this manner need to be examined.
Statements of jurists are often quoted in isolation, without context. CLICK TO TWEET
One verse, on the surface, appears to encourage warfare against Jews and Christians due to their lack of faith in Islam:
Fight those of the People of the Book who do not [truly] believe in God and the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, who do not obey the rule of justice, until they pay the tax and agree to submit.35
An important principle of Quranic exegesis is to consider the “causes of revelation” (asbāb al-nuzūl) when deriving meaning from the text. In other words, we need to examine the historical context.
We need to examine the historical context. CLICK TO TWEET
According to al-Ṭabarī (d. 923), this verse was revealed prior to the battle of Tabūk.36 The reason for the Tabūk expedition was due to the assassination of one of the Prophet’s ﷺ ambassadors at the hands of a Roman ally, leading to the battle of Mu’tah.
According to classical jurist Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 1350), the Romans committed the first acts of war that led to the confrontations at Mu’tah and Tabūk:
The cause of the battle was that the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, sent Ḥārith ibn Umair al-Azdī of the tribe of Lihb with his letter to Syria for the Roman king or Buṣrā. He presented it to Sharḥabīl ibn ‘Amr al-Ghassaāni and he bound him and struck his neck. Never had an ambassador of the Messenger of God been killed besides him. [The Prophet] was upset by that when news reached him and he dispatched an expedition.37
This incident made clear that peaceful relations with the Romans were not possible at the time. Hence, the verse 9:29 was revealed in response, consistent with the rules in previous verses.
Most scholars did not consider unbelief in Islam itself as a casus belli or justification for war. Ibn al-Qayyim reports the view of these jurists:
Fighting is only necessary to confront war and not to confront unbelief. For this reason, women and children are not killed, neither are the elderly, the blind, or monks who do not participate in fighting. Rather, we only fight those who wage war against us. This was the way of the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, with the people of the earth. He would fight those who declared war on him until they accepted his religion, or they proposed a peace treaty, or they came under his control by paying tribute.38
Fighting is only necessary to confront war and not to confront unbelief. CLICK TO TWEET
In light of this, the verse 9:29 cannot be reasonably be used as a proof of a violent Islam.
Another tradition cited to make Islam appear violent is the following:
I have been commanded to fight the people until they say there is no God but Allāh.39
Again, a surface reading without context will cause an unsettling misinterpretation. Other versions of this tradition include qualifying aspects that restrict “the people” who should be fought. Who exactly are these people? Why did the Prophet ﷺ say this?
In the narration of Anas ibn Mālik (d. 709), the Prophet ﷺ said he was commanded to fight “the idolaters,” which would exclude Jews, Christians, and people of the Book.40 According to classical exegete Ibn Kathīr (d. 1373), this statement refers to the idolaters mentioned in verse 9:5, whom we noted were habitually violating the peace.41 The phrase “the people,” then, does not mean people in general.
He was commanded to fight “the idolaters” which excludes people of the Book CLICK TO TWEET
In fact, the scholar al-Nasā’ī (d. 915) uses this tradition as evidence for the prohibition of bloodshed (taḥrīm al-damm), as an injunction to end bloodshed and not to initiate it. The “people” to be fought, in this reading, are specifically those who commit aggression and forcibly obstruct others from freely accepting Islam.
This understanding was expressed by Ibn Taymiyyah in his comments on the tradition:
The meaning of this tradition is to fight those who are waging war whom God has called us to fight, and it does not mean to fight those who have made peace with whom God has commanded us to fulfill their peace.42
What is more, the narration of Jābir (d. 697) adds that the Prophet ﷺ recited immediately after this statement the following verses:
Your only task is to give warning, you are not there to control them.4344
Early Muslim authorities, such as the companion Sa’īd bin Zayd (d. 671), understood this verse to prohibit compulsion in religion:
You are not an authority over them to coerce them into faith.45
You are not an authority over them to coerce them into faith CLICK TO TWEET
The verses mitigate the initial statement and negate the claim that the purpose of fighting is to force conversions to Islam. Ibn Al-Qayyim rejected any claim that the Prophet ﷺ ever coerced someone to accept Islam:
[The Prophet] never forced the religion upon anyone, but rather he only fought those who waged war against him and fought him first. As for those who made peace with him or conducted a truce, then he never fought them and he never compelled them to enter his religion, as his Lord the Almighty had commanded him: There is no compulsion in religion, for right guidance is distinct from error (2:256).46
Therefore, the command to fight “the people” refers to specific people in specific circumstances; it does not permit conversion by force. To fight them until they declare the testimony of faith implies the rule that the enemy’s acceptance of Islam would immediately end the battle, among other possible means to cease hostilities.
Finally, we need to understand something about the structure of classical Islamic legal theories and the context in which they operated. In the ancient world, war was the general rule and the norm; peace was the exception. English political theorist Thomas Hobbes (d. 1679) asserted that, without a legal authority to enforce peace, people “are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man.”47 In other words, every nation was assumed to be at war with every other nation by default.
As a matter of fact, nation-states today would still be in a default state of war were it not for the United Nations Charter. People born after World War 2 take for granted that it is because of the Charter that nation-states are relatively at peace with each other; in its absence, conflict would become the international norm again.
The founding jurist al-Shāfi’ī (d. 820) constructed his theory of war within this social context. The default state was, it was assumed, that other nations must be considered hostile to Muslims unless an explicit peace treaty has been ratified. According to Ibn Rushd:
The principle of al-Shāfi’ī is the command to fight until they believe or pay jizya [tribute], and this, in his view, was restricted by the act of the Prophet, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, in the year of al-Ḥudaybiya.48
In al-Shāfi’ī’s theory, other nations were considered hostile as a rule but this was mitigated by the fact that the Muslim leadership had broad permission to negotiate peace agreements. Nations had to necessarily enter into peace treaties with each other as a means of avoiding war.
Dr. Sherman Jackson explains the context of this early legal thinking:
While the imperial quest for empire invariably informed the policies of every Muslim state, Muslim juristic writings continued to reflect the logic of the ‘state of war’ and the assumption that only Muslims would permit Muslims to remain Muslims. They continued to see jihād not only as a means of guaranteeing the security and freedom of the Muslims but as virtually the only means of doing so. For even peace treaties were usually the result of one’s surrender to demands that had been imposed by a real or anticipated defeat by the sword… The purpose of jihād, in other words, is to provide for the security and freedom of the Muslims in a world that kept them under constant threat.49
This is not to say that al-Shāfi’ī and the jurists who followed him encouraged hostility and discouraged peace. On the contrary, many of al-Shāfi’ī’s personal sayings eschew violence:
The most beneficial of provisions is the fear of God, and the most harmful of provisions is aggression (‘udwān).50
Rather, the realities of the ancient world forced Muslim jurists to construct a legal framework that accurately depicted the default state of war in which they lived. Even so, the chapters on jihād always incorporated chapters of jurisprudence pertaining to peace treaties. Although some jurists set time limits for peace treaties, others such as Mālik ibn Anas (d. 795) allowed treaties without any limit.51 The state of war was never viewed as permanent, or even desirable.
The state of war was never viewed as permanent, or even desirable. CLICK TO TWEET
To put it another way, the works of early jurists on jihād were describing the constant state of war in which they lived, rather than prescribing it as the preferred state of affairs. The problem with anti-Muslim extremists and jihādists alike is that they mine for quotes in classical legal literature to be cited without appreciation for this social and historical context.
The mainstream view of jihād in Islam is consistent with modern international norms of non-violence.
The mainstream view of jihād in Islam is consistent with modern international norms of… CLICK TO TWEET
The Quran and Sunnah permit Muslims to defend themselves from aggression, while also limiting warfare to the purpose of preserving security, freedom, and human rights. Clarity on this issue should help remove the misperception that Islam is, by nature, an aggressive political ideology that threatens the West, as well as reduce the discrimination, suspicion, and hostility experienced by Muslim citizens in Western countries.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best. CLICK TO TWEET
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Justin Parrott also known as Abu Amina Elias holds BA in Physics, English from Otterbein University. MRes in Islamic Studies in progress from University of Wales. Current Researcher at NYU in Abu Dhabi.
Justin converted to Islam in 2004 and studied Islam with his mentor Sheikh Dr. Houcine Chouat. He served as a teacher in the local Islamic school and as a volunteer Imam for Masjid Omar, Masjid Al-Noor, and the Islamic Society of Greater Columbus.