بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم
وصلى الله على نبينا محمد وعلى آله واهل بيته اجمعين
Does Islam Promote Terrorism?
Terrorism is defined as: “The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” The accusation of the adversaries of Islâm that our beautiful Religion promotes terrorism has only gained traction in recent years due to the rise of extremist and militant groups among the Muslims who invoke religion to attain otherwise political goals. Yet the adversaries claim that Islâm, in its very essence, is a violent religion that condones the use of violence against civilians. In this entry I shall present the proofs from the Islamic scripture, the Holy Qur’ân, and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to demolish this malicious libel. Let the reader bear in mind that many groups guilty of terrorism have and continue to invoke the name of religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and even Buddhism to justify their unlawful violence. The activities of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) in Sri Lanka, and the ongoing genocide and religious persecution of Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhist radicals and communal forces has laid waste to the claim that Buddhists are absolutely peaceful and non-violent people. How ironic is it that these violent, terrorist, anti-Muslim campaigns in countries like Sri Lanka and Myanmar are actually spearheaded by Buddhist monks and religious leaders. Likewise, there are many Jewish terrorists who invoke Judaism as a religious justification to murder non-Jews, particularly Palestinians. Radical Zionists engaged in acts of terrorism against the British government and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the lead up to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Countless Hindu ultra-nationalist groups exist in India which have a history of inflicting violence and terror against Muslims and other minorities in that country. All of these, like al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIL), Hamas, etc., are examples of violent, terrorist groups which invoke religion as justification for their violence in advancing an otherwise political objective. Then of course there is the scourge of ‘State terrorism’ meaning acts of terrorism conducted by the State itself usually against its own people. This is even worse than the terrorism of non-state actors as it represents naked oppression of the weak by the powerful. The victims have no one but God Himself to turn to when they are being terrorised by the very entity (the State) that is entrusted with their protection, and to whose authority they are subject to.
Addressing the issue of unlawful and unjustified violence and bloodshed, the Holy Qur’ân lays down an emphatic principle:
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَٰلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption done in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely
(Sûra 5: 32)
Of course, Islâm does not enjoin pacifism or ‘turning the other cheek’ upon its followers, but rather authorises them to defend themselves if attacked:
وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ
Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.
(Sûra 2: 190)
أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ
Permission (to fight) has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.
(Sûra 22: 39)
In fact, the Holy Qur’ân encourages peace not conflict, and lays down another important principle in this regard which is the antithesis of terrorism:
وَإِن جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
And if they incline to peace, then incline to it also and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.
(Sûra 8: 61)
Another lofty principle of Islâm is the protection of religious freedom, especially the freedom to worship and the preservation of places of worship:
الَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا مِن دِيَارِهِم بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ إِلَّا أَن يَقُولُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّـهُ ۗ وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّـهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُم بِبَعْضٍ لَّهُدِّمَتْ صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَاتٌ وَمَسَاجِدُ يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا اسْمُ اللَّـهِ كَثِيرًا
Those who have been evicted from their homes without right - only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah.” And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned.
(Sûra 22: 40)
An integral part of the definition of terrorism is violence against civilians. Islâm absolutely and unequivocally prohibits violence against the innocent and the idea of ‘collective punishment’:
فَنَهَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ قَتْلِ النِّسَاءِ وَالصِّبْيَانِ
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) forbade the killing of women and children
لاَ تَقْتُلُوا وَلِيدًا
“Do not kill children”
The Prophet’s ﷺ first successor, Abu Bakr (May Allâh be pleased with him) gave the following instructions to a general he intended to send on an armed expedition:
وَإِنِّي مُوصِيكَ بِعَشْرٍ لاَ تَقْتُلَنَّ امْرَأَةً وَلاَ صَبِيًّا وَلاَ كَبِيرًا هَرِمًا وَلاَ تَقْطَعَنَّ شَجَرًا مُثْمِرًا وَلاَ تُخَرِّبَنَّ عَامِرًا وَلاَ تَعْقِرَنَّ شَاةً وَلاَ بَعِيرًا إِلاَّ لِمَأْكُلَةٍ وَلاَ تَحْرِقَنَّ نَحْلاً وَلاَ تُفَرِّقَنَّهُ وَلاَ تَغْلُلْ وَلاَ تَجْبُنْ
“I advise you with ten things: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.”
(Muwattâ Imâm Mâlik)
The Prophet ﷺ severely condemned terrorism and indiscriminate killing:
مَنْ قَاتَلَ تَحْتَ رَايَةٍ عُمِّيَّةٍ يَغْضَبُ لِعَصَبَةٍ أَوْ يَدْعُو إِلَى عَصَبَةٍ أَوْ يَنْصُرُ عَصَبَةً فَقُتِلَ فَقِتْلَةٌ جَاهِلِيَّةٌ وَمَنْ خَرَجَ عَلَى أُمَّتِي يَضْرِبُ بَرَّهَا وَفَاجِرَهَا وَلاَ يَتَحَاشَ مِنْ مُؤْمِنِهَا وَلاَ يَفِي لِذِي عَهْدٍ عَهْدَهُ فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي وَلَسْتُ مِنْهُ
One who fights under the banner of a people who are blind (to the cause for which they are fighting, i.e. do not know whether their cause is just or otherwise), who gets flared up with family pride, calls people to fight for their family honour, and supports his kith and kin (i.e. fights not for the cause of Allah but for the sake of this family or tribe) - if he is killed (in this fight), he dies as one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya. Whoso attacks my Ummah indiscriminately killing the righteous and the wicked of them, sparing not even those staunch in faith and fulfilling not his promise made with those who have been given a pledge of security - he has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him.
And there is vastly more material from the Islamic sources which make it explicitly clear that terrorism is unconditionally forbidden. But the adversaries of Islâm claim that there are certain Verses in the Qur’ân which condones terrorism, such as “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike them upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.” (Sûra 8: 12)
Regrettably, they usually quote this Verse partially thus depriving the reader from knowing the full context and giving them a false impression that the Holy Qur’ân advocates terrorism. So I will reproduce the Verse in full for the reader to judge for themself:
إِذْ يُوحِي رَبُّكَ إِلَى الْمَلَائِكَةِ أَنِّي مَعَكُمْ فَثَبِّتُوا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ۚ سَأُلْقِي فِي قُلُوبِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا الرُّعْبَ فَاضْرِبُوا فَوْقَ الْأَعْنَاقِ وَاضْرِبُوا مِنْهُمْ كُلَّ بَنَانٍ
When your Lord inspired to the Angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike them upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”
Now let the readers see for themselves that in this Verse Allâh is addressing only the Angels. This is not a general command to the Muslim Umma to indiscriminately kill every disbeliever and strike terror into their hearts. Furthermore, this Verse is recounting the historical event of the Battle of Badr, in which two opposing armies met in combat and the Muslims emerged victorious by the Help of Allâh through the agency of His Angels. Rabî’ b. Anas narrates:
كَانَ النَّاسُ يَوْمَ بَدْرٍ يَعْرِفُونَ قَتْلَى الْمَلائِكَةِ مِمَّنْ قَتَلُوهُمْ , بِضَرْبٍ فَوْقَ الأَعْنَاقِ وَعَلَى الْبَنَانِ مِثْلِ سِمَةِ النَّارِ قَدْ أُحْرِقَ بِهِ
In the aftermath of Badr, the people used to recognize whomever the Angels killed from those whom they killed, by the wounds over their necks, fingers and toes, because those parts had a mark as if they were branded by fire.
(Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr & Dalâ’il al-Nubuwwa lil-Bayhaqi)
In other words, this command of Allâh to His Angels to strike the necks and fingers of the disbelievers was literally fulfilled during the Battle of Badr. In the aftermath of the battle, the slain corpses of some of the polytheist warriors were examined to have burn marks on their necks and fingers indicating that they were killed by the Angels and not human beings.
What then is the reality of the various terrorist and militant groups among the Muslims who undoubtedly engage in acts of terrorism and indiscriminate killing while invoking Islâm as their justification? Indeed, this is not a new phenomenon in the history of Islâm. The ancient Khawârij, Azâriqa, Qarâmita, and Hashâshîn (‘Assassins’) all engaged in acts of violence and terrorism, virtually always directed against other Muslims, just like in modern times the majority of the victims of so called ‘Islamic’ terrorism are ironically Muslims themselves. Mainstream Muslims have consistently, throughout history, disassociated themselves from the Kharijites and other extremist groups and in fact consider them as heretics and deviants from true Islâm. We find that similar tendencies have existed in other religious traditions. For example, the ancient Zealots among the Jews of antiquity and the terrorist group called the Sicarii because they used to carry concealed daggers, assassinate a political opponent through stealth, and then blend back into the crowd to escape detection. These militant Jews invoked religion as their justification for terrorising their fellow co-religionists and assassinating Jewish leaders during the armed insurrections against the Romans. Likewise, in the Christian tradition one cannot ignore the bloody history of the Crusaders and the Spanish Inquisition, and in more recent times, the Ku Klux Klan which invoked Christianity as justification for its terrorising of Black people in the United States. The Nazis too appealed to Christianity as a justification for their ethnic cleansing of European Jews. If it is argued that these are isolated and extreme examples, but otherwise Christianity is an entirely peaceful religions in its essence, one only need examine the Bible:
Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. (Numbers 31: 17 – 18)
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. (1 Samuel 15: 3)
Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. (Psalm 137: 9)
“Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” (Ezekiel 9: 4 – 6)
And there are countless other similar violent passages in the Bible which not only justify terrorism but outright genocide and slaughter of innocent children. Compare this to the peaceful teachings of the Holy Qur’ân and Ahadîth of the Prophet ﷺ strictly forbidding indiscriminate violence, terrorism, particularly killing of unarmed civilians, women, children, elderly and even animals.