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Review of "Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings" by

Summary

27 August 2011

In early 2010 there was a significant amount of press coverage regarding a "600 page fatwa" against suicide bombings. The BBC website covered the story on 2 March 2010. At that time I found it frustrating that the fatwa was not available in full in English.

A little while ago I was privately emailed the full English translation. Subsequently my friend Joel Hayward was kind enough to send me the hardcopy publication.

The book is 475 pages long including the index and there are another 33 pages comprising the foreword by Prof John L. Esposito of Georgetown University, Washington DC and the introduction by Dr Joel S. Hayward, Dean of the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell and Head of Air Power Studies, King's College London.

Most Muslims, including myself, do not need a fatwa of this length, or indeed of any length, to know that terrorism and suicide bombings violate Islamic teachings. Sadly that appreciation is not universal. For example if you watch the suicide video of Mohammad Sidique Khan, leader of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, or read the transcript, you see a man who is convinced that he is acting according to Islam and on his way to heaven, not hell. Even if Mohammad Sidique Khan is dismissed as young and impressionable, there is no doubt that the current head of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri regards himself as both learned in Islam and as a good Muslim, despite heading an organisation that engages in mass murder.

Accordingly there is a clear need for a fatwa which analyses the issue comprehensively in accordance with the Islamic sources. Having read the full text, I applaud Dr Qadri for the exhaustive approach that he has taken. As well as covering the subject in great depth, Dr Qadri has put in significant effort to ensure that every hadith cited is fully referenced back to the hadith collections so that readers can check the citation; in addition the text of each hadith is given both in Arabic and in English. Similarly of course all Quran citations are given in both Arabic and English.

Overview of the fatwa

The comprehensive nature of Dr Qadri's work is shown by the fact that the table of contents which has first and second level headings takes up 10 pages. To give an overall impression of the coverage, I have listed below the chapter titles:

  1. The Meaning of Islam
  2. The Unlawfulness of Indiscriminately Killing Muslims
  3. The Unlawfulness of Indiscriminately Killing Non-Muslims and Torturing Them
  4. The Unlawfulness of Terrorism against Non-Muslims – Even during Times of War
  5. On the Protection of the Non-Muslims’ Lives, Properties and Places of Worship
  6. The Unlawfulness of Forcing One's Belief upon Others and Destroying Places of Worship
  7. Legal Maxims concerning the Basic Rights of the Non-Muslim Citizenry of an Islamic State
  8. The Unlawfulness of Rebelling against the Muslim State, Administration and Authority
  9. Rebellion: Its Gravity and Punishment
  10. The Legal Status of Fighting against a Corrupt Government
  11. Legal Verdicts and Statements from the Four Imams and Eminent Authorities of the Umma against Terrorism and Rebellion
  12. Statements from Contemporary Salafi Scholars against Terrorists
  13. The Tribulation of the Kharijites and Modern-Day Terrorists
  14. The Prophetic Sayings regarding the Kharijite Terrorists
  15. The Prophetic Decree that the Turmoil of the Kharijites Must be Eliminated
  16. Mention of the Imams Who Charged the Kharijites with Disbelief and Ordered Their Elimination
  17. Today's Terrorists Are Kharijites
  18. The Peaceful Method of Social and Political Struggle

In this short review it is not feasible to summarise the fatwa. Instead I recommend reading the freely available 90 page summary if you do not want to read the full fatwa immediately. However there are some topics I would like to mention below.

Can good intentions change vices into virtues?

Dr Qadri covers this subject in his preface. The topic is so important that I have quoted him at length:

“If a good intention gives rise to bloodshed and massacre, the question arises whether such tyranny and barbarism can be declared lawful on its basis. Some people think that, although suicide bombings are evil and the destruction of educational, training, industrial, commercial and welfare centres is a heinous crime, still the suicide bombers are doing these acts with good intentions and pious motives, and are therefore justified. They are justified—so the logic goes—as retaliation for foreign aggression against Muslims. They are carrying out a jihad, it is argued, and so they cannot be given any blame.

This brief discussion analyses this thought in the light of the Qur'an and Sunna. The Qur'an rejected the idol worship that was carried out with the intention of attaining nearness to God and called it disbelief. The Qur’an says,

`Listen, sincere devotion is only God's due. But those who take others as protectors besides God [say], "We only worship them in order that they may bring us nearer to God". Truly God will judge between them in that wherein they differ. But God guides not such as are liars and ingrates'. [Qur’an 39:3]

When the idolaters of Mecca were asked why they worshipped idols, they said the idols would bring them closer to God. Their intention to attain closeness to God was good, but their idol-worship was blasphemy and disbelief. Idolatry, therefore, cannot be justified because of good intentions.

Furthermore, the terrorists' claim that they are fighting injustice is rejected because they are shedding blood and spreading fear, and are not engaging in constructive work or reformation. God says,

`And amongst people there is he whose conversation seems pleasing to you in the life of the world, and he calls God to bear witness to that which is in his heart, but in truth he is the most quarrelsome of opponents. And when he turns away, he runs about in the land to cause corruption and destroy crops and life, and God does not like corruption. And when it is said to him, "Fear God", his arrogance leads him to more sins. Hell is, therefore, sufficient for him. And that is indeed an evil abode'.' [Qur’an 2:204-206]

These verses explain that many people will speak with seemingly pleasant words and employ superficial arguments. They will swear on their good intentions, and declare God witness to their noble objectives and pious aims. Despite their assertions and claims, however, God declared them miscreants and wrongdoers who will face the torment of Hell. Their swearing on their intentions has been refuted because they are committing wanton acts of violence, strife and terrorism. Their crimes, therefore, cannot be forgiven due to their 'good' intentions and noble designs that they declare on oath. This is a basic principle drawn from the Qur'an and the Shariah. Another Qur'anic verse explains the same point:

`And when it is said to them, "Do not spread corruption in the land", they say, "We are only reformers!" Truly, it is they who spread corruption but they perceive it not'. [Qur’an 2:11-12]

Here again, the corrupt and criminal mentality of terrorists is described. This verse explains that the offenders never regard their activity as disruption, violence and strife; rather, they may call it jihad and reconstruction and reformation. They presume that the criminal activities they engage in are for the greater good of society. Today's tragedy is that terrorists, murderers and rioters try to prove—claiming to uphold the banner of Islam and national interests—that their criminal, rebellious, brutal and blasphemous activities are justified reactions to foreign aggression.

They should know that, just as a good intention can never justify an unlawful act, and just as pious motives can never transform blasphemy into righteousness, similarly, the intention to perform jihad can never justify unlawful violence or make terrorism lawful. The intention to protect Islam, defend it against foreign aggression and avenge the wrongs and excesses inflicted upon the Muslim Umma is one thing, but the brutal mass murder of peaceful citizens, the destruction of property and the ruthless target killings are altogether different. The former can never prove the latter lawful; the two have no relation to one another. Terrorism, carnage and mass destruction can neither be justified in the name of enforcing Islamic commands, nor can they be exceptions to the rule or pardonable.

An in-depth study of the Qur'an and hadith literature clearly establishes that Islam makes the realisation of lawful objectives conditional upon lawful means only, and decrees that the attainment of noble aims can only be through noble methods. A sacred goal can never be achieved by following an evil and criminal path. Constructing a mosque, for example, is a pious act, but it cannot be funded by robbing a bank or through ill-gotten means. The objectives of mercy cannot be achieved through cruelty and oppression, and the designs of a religious person cannot be materialised by adopting shameful methods. Fair is fair and foul is foul; it is Satan who says, 'Fair is foul and foul is fair'. This illustrates the majesty and purity of Islam, which has purified and reformed both the destination and its path and has made both objective and method pure and upright.

Those who base their argument on the famous hadith, 'Actions are judged according to intentions', in order to justify their brutal ways and cursed means, make false and heretic claims. They cannot set a wrong thing right. This hadith speaks only about those actions that are proven pious, permissible and lawful. Their acceptability has been based on the soundness of intention; if the intention is pure, they will be accepted, and if not, they will be rejected. If the intention is corrupt, or if it does not exist, the actions will not be considered acts of worship, despite their apparent righteous value. But the actions that are from the start forbidden, unjust, unlawful and blasphemous cannot be made permissible or lawful by good intentions.

This is such a crucial Islamic principle that not one of the Companions, pious predecessors, Imams and authorities of hadith and Qur'anic exegesis has opposed it to date. Some scholars have also interpreted the hadith, 'Actions are judged according to intentions', saying that actions take shape according to their intentions. So a terrorist's actions speak of his intentions: his killings and destructive activities prove his foul intentions and condemnable ideas and beliefs. His heinous actions cannot stem from pious intentions and beliefs. The bloodshed he causes only proves his internal cruelty and lack of mercy. It is, therefore, evident that whatever false implications and foul justifications these rebels, criminals and brutes may put forth to prove their atrocities as acts of jihad, they have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam whatsoever.

The Qur’an has vividly described them as:

‘Those whose entire struggle is wasted in the life of this world, but they presume they are doing good.’ [Qur’an 18:104]"

The rights of non-Muslims in an Islamic state

Joel Hayward regularly points out that numerically the overwhelming proportion of people killed and injured by Islamically motivated terrorists are themselves Muslims. One only has to look at the death toll in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq or in smaller scale bombings in other Muslim majority countries.

However the terrorists in their statements show great hatred of non-Muslims and regularly attack non-Muslims living in Muslim majority countries as well as attacking non-Muslims in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Accordingly, Dr Qadri has pulled together a list of the rights of non-Muslims:

"In the light of the revealed texts and precedents of the Rightly Guided Caliphs which we have mentioned in the previous chapters, many legal maxims can be derived concerning the fundamental rights of the non-Muslim citizens in an Islamic state. Of them:

  1. It is the responsibility of the Islamic state to protect the life, honour and property of its non-Muslim citizens from internal aggression.
  2. It is the responsibility of the Islamic state to protect its non-Muslim citizens from external aggression.
  3. In the Islamic state, Muslims and non-Muslims are equal with respect to blood money and retribution.
  4. The sanctity of the blood of a Muslim and a non-Muslim is the same.
  5. In the Islamic state, Muslim and non-Muslim citizens enjoy the same general rights and responsibilities.
  6. In the Islamic state, its non-Muslim citizens enjoy complete freedom to adhere to their faith.
  7. In the Islamic state, its non-Muslim citizens enjoy complete religious freedom to perform their rituals of worship.
  8. It is the Islamic state's responsibility to provide security to non-Muslim diplomats.
  9. It is the Islamic state's responsibility to arrange for the security of the religious leaders and places of worship of non-Muslims.
  10. It is the Islamic state's responsibility to care for the disabled, elderly and poor non-Muslim citizens.
  11. It is the Islamic state's responsibility to ensure that the sanctity of all religions in its territory is respected."

The Kharijites

In chapter 13 Dr Qadri introduces us to the Kharijites, a historical group that will be unfamiliar to those who have not studied the history of the early Muslims. After reminding us that Islam is a religion of balance and moderation, Dr Qadri writes:

“Those who eschew moderation have drifted away from the true spirit of Islam. Throughout the ages there emerged amongst the Muslims various groups that have embraced extremism, and were shunned as a consequence even though they manifested Islam, performed acts of religious devotion and adopted the outward trappings of Islam. At the forefront of these extremist groups are the Kharijites.

The Kharijites first appeared in the days of the Prophet and their ideas gained momentum during the caliphate of Uthman, until it emerged as a full-fledged and organized group during the caliphate of our master Ali. God Most High alluded to the Kharijites in the Qur'an and there are many prophetic hadith reports that explain their signs, beliefs, doctrines and practices.

In general, the Kharijites committed acts of terrorism and carried out atrocities in the name of Islam. Due to their extreme and specious religious arguments, they would declare it permissible to shed the blood of Muslims.”

Dr Qadri goes on to discuss what the Quran and the hadith have to say about the Kharijites, and then covers the views of leading religious scholars of the past such as Imam al-Nawawi and Ibn Taymiyya. He explains how the views of modern terrorists are almost a complete replica of the views of the original historical Kharijites, showing extreme religiosity, rigidity of views and eagerness to condemn other Muslims as having put themselves beyond Islam due to sinful practices or beliefs and therefore eligible to be killed. This process of declaring someone as an apostate and eligible to be killed is known as takfir.

One theologically controversial question which Dr Qadri discusses is whether the actions of the terrorists have put them outside Islam. There are two logically possible positions:

  1. The terrorists continue to be Muslims albeit highly sinful Muslims whose actions are liable to lead them to being condemned to hell.
  2. The actions of the terrorists are such as to cause them to cease to be Muslims.

Dr Qadri discusses both points of view. Historically scholars have differed on this question and it my view it makes little difference; either way the conduct of the terrorists is so reprehensible that unless God decides to be extraordinarily merciful with them (and we must remember that God's mercy is infinite) their most likely destination is hell.

Concluding comments

Dr Qadri's fatwa is meticulous in its legal analysis. It deals with each possible excuse or apology that could be made for the terrorists and proceeds to demolish it.

Sadly it is unlikely to convince many terrorists to repent and surrender themselves to the authorities. However it should ensure that other readers who are not already criminals do not go down the path of terrorism and also, vitally, did not give any material or moral support to the terrorists. I encourage all Muslims to read the fatwa so that they are fully informed on the theological issues.

Non-Muslims will also benefit from reading the fatwa as they will find it highly educational. It will also help them to fully appreciate how wrong the terrorists are when they claim that their actions are in accordance with Islam.

Obtaining a copy

Minhaj-ul-Quran makes the full text of the fatwa in English available as a PDF for free download. When I started downloading it, I got an error message which I ignored and the full text proceeded to download. It takes a little while as it is over 2.5 Mb.

Minhaj-ul-Quran also supplies a 90 page introduction to the fatwa in English as a free PDF download. Their fatwa website links through to Scribd.com.

 

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