Fatwa examines views on Muslim radicals
As an increasing number of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks have been claimed under the banner of Islam, a Muslim scholar publicly condemned those acts by issuing a 600-page fatwa in March he hopes will sway extremists away from acts, he said, that would damn them to hell rather than grant them paradise.
The fatwa, or Islamic ruling, by Pakistani scholar Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri not only stated that terrorism and suicide bombings were forbidden by the religion, but that those who engaged in it would be considered “kafirs,” or disbelievers.
UH professor Ibrahim Sumer, who is a Muslim, said he was relieved that someone in the Muslim hierarchy had finally spoken out about terrorism in such a public manner.
Sumer, who has a doctorate in comparative religions, said that “jihad” is a word often misunderstood by both Muslims and non-Muslims.
“The term ‘jihad’ has a much broader meaning than just war,” Sumer said. “The Prophet Muhammad — peace be upon him — said the biggest Jihad is fighting against our carnal desires.”
Jihad actually means “struggle,” Sumer said. One can struggle in understanding the Quran, dealing with one’s own desires and on the battlefield, he said.
“There are more than 30 verses in the Quran about Jihad, but only four verses are directly related to fighting,” he said.
War is permitted in Islam, Sumer said, but many extremists take that out of context while remaining ignorant of the very precise and restricting rules of Islamic warfare.
Sumer said that the Prophet Muhammad was not only a spiritual leader but also a head of state. With that position, he was responsible for the safety of his people, including defending them if an enemy attacked. This legitimate war, he said, was similar to the Christianity principle of “Just War.”
“The wars that the Prophet Muhammad were involved in were defensive wars,” he said. “Either the Muslims were being attacked already, or there was word that the opposing army was coming.”
The most important thing that the terrorists and suicide bombers are missing, he said, are the Islamic rules of warfare. Among them is the prohibition of harming children, women, the elderly and non-combatants. The rules also specify that an individual or group cannot declare war, only a state or government.
Sumer said that the rules even limit the intentions of warfare.
“Islam does not permit war for motives such as conquest or plunder or revenge or for the sake of material advantage,” he said. “Also, a Muslim country cannot declare war in order to preach Islam. War is only permitted for defensive purposes.”
Besides the fact that many terrorists disobey the Islamic rules of warfare, Sumer said, there is one huge issue that takes away their legitimacy altogether: suicide.
“If you kill yourself by suicide, it is a very sinful act in Islam,” he said. “According to some prophetic sayings, whosoever kills (himself) will never enter paradise.”
Suicide is also condemned in the Quran, Sumer said. The fourth chapter reads, “O you who believe! Do not kill yourselves, for truly God has been to you Most Merciful. And whoever commits that in rancor and injustice, soon shall We cast him into the Fire.”
Suicide, killing innocent people and declaring war without a government are among the many rules that terrorists break while insisting that they are fighting for the sake of God, Sumer said.
If they were really devout Muslims, they would have known this, he said.
Like ul-Qadri and other Muslims who have studied the religion, Sumer said he hopes that this new fatwa will shed light on the true ideologies of Islam, putting those who defame it with illegitimate acts to rest.