One of the difficulties in discussing Islam’s more troubling doctrines is that they have an anachronistic, even otherworldly, feel to them; that is, unless actively and openly upheld by Muslims, non-Muslims, particularly of the Western variety, tend to see them as abstract theory, not standard practice for today. In fact, some Westerners have difficulties acknowledging even those problematic doctrines that are openly upheld by Muslims — such as jihad. How much more when the doctrines in question are subtle, or stealthy, in nature?

Enter Nidal Malik Hasan, the psychiatrist, U.S. Army major, and “observant Muslim who prayed daily,” who recently went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, killing thirteen Americans (including a pregnant woman). While the media wonders in exasperation why he did it, offering the same old tired and trite reasons — he was “picked on,” he was “mentally unbalanced” — the fact is his behavior comports well with certain Islamic doctrines. As such, it behooves Americans to take a moment and familiarize themselves with the esotericisms of Islam.

Note: Any number of ulema (Muslim scholars) have expounded the following doctrines. However, since jihadi icon and theoretician Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two, has also addressed many of these doctrines in his treatises, including by quoting several authoritative ulema, I will primarily rely on excerpts from The Al Qaeda Reader (AQR), for those readers who wish to source, and read in context, the following quotes in one volume.

Wala’ wa Bara’

Perhaps best translated as “loyalty and enmity,” this doctrine requires Muslims to maintain absolute loyalty to Islam and one another, while disavowing, even hating (e.g., Koran 60:4), all things un-Islamic — including persons (a.k.a. “infidels”). This theme has ample support in the Koran, hadith, and rulings of the ulema, that is, usul al-fiqh (roots of Muslim jurisprudence). In fact, Zawahiri has written a fifty-page treatise entitled “Loyalty and Enmity” (AQR, p. 63-115).

One of the many Koranic verses on which he relies warns Muslims against “taking the Jews and Christians as friends and allies … whoever among you takes them for friends and allies, he is surely one of them” (Koran 5:51), i.e., he becomes an infidel. The plain meaning of this verse alone — other verses, such as 3:28, 4:144, and 6:40 follow this theme — and its implications for today can hardly be clearer. According to one of the most authoritative Muslim exegetes, al-Tabari (838-923), Koran 5:51 means that the Muslim who “allies with them [non-Muslims] and enables them against the believers, that same one is a member of their faith and community” (AQR, p. 71).

Sheikh al-Islam, Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), takes the concept of loyalty one step further when he tells Muslims that they are “obligated to befriend a believer — even if he is oppressive and violent towards you and must be hostile to the infidel, even if he is liberal and kind to you” (AQR, p. 84).

In ways, Hasan’s life was a testimony to loyalty and enmity. According to his colleague, Dr. Finnell, Hasan “was very vocal about the war, very upfront about being a Muslim first and an American second.” If his being “vocal about the war” is not enough to demonstrate unwavering loyalty to Islam, his insistence that he is first and foremost a Muslim is. Other evidence indicates that the primary factor that threw him “over the edge” was that he was being deployed to a Muslim country (Afghanistan) — his “worst nightmare.”

According to a fellow Muslim convenience store owner who often spoke with Hasan, the thought that he might injure or kill Muslims “weighed heavily on him.” Hasan also counseled a fellow Muslim not to join the U.S. Army, since “Muslims shouldn’t kill Muslims,” again, showing where his loyalty lies. Tabari’s exegesis comes to mind: the Muslim who “allies with them [non-Muslims] and enables them against the believers, that same one is a member of their faith and community,” i.e., he too becomes an infidel (AQR, p. 71).

Another source who spoke with Hasan notes that “in the Koran, you’re not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christian or others, and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell.”

At any rate, surely none of this should come as a surprise. In April 2005, another Muslim serving in the U.S. Army, Hasan Akbar, was convicted of murder for killing two American soldiers and wounding fourteen in a grenade attack in Kuwait. According to the AP, “he launched the attack because he was concerned U.S. troops would kill fellow Muslims in Iraq.”