Islamic Networks Group (ING.ORG)
In the course of our presentations and educational programs, we are frequently
asked questions about Islam and its view on terrorism. Here are some of the most
common questions and their answers:
1) What is the Islamic stand on terrorist attacks, such as those that took
place in Madrid on March 11, 2004, NY on September 11, 2001, and repeated
"suicide bombings" in Israel?
Terrorism is highly condemned in Islam. Terrorism, defined as the use of
violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes
directly contradicts Islamic rules which prohibit targeting civilians, even in
war. In Islamic law, fighting is to be between armies (combatants), not
involving non-combatants, or even infrastructure that affects the lives of
non-combatants, such as food sources, water, hospitals, roads, bridges, and
other necessities of a civilian population. In fact, "haraba", a Qur'anic term
defined as "sowing corruption and chaos on earth", is considered one of the most
grievous crimes, subject to severe punishment.
2) Is there anything in the Quran, which encourages the terrorists?
Absolutely nothing in the Quran encourages terrorism. On the contrary, the Quran
(Islamic Scripture which Muslims believe is the unchanged word of God) and
hadith (Prophet Muhammad's sayings and traditions as recorded by his
companions), which are the two primary sources of Islamic law places supremacy
on the sacredness of life, security, and peace. Terrorists who base their
actions on Islamic law misappropriate Islam, as terrorist anti-abortionists,
white supremacists, and certain militia groups misappropriate Christianity.
3) Is there anything in Islam that leads to suicide bombings or terrorism?
Nothing in Islam leads to terrorism or suicide bombings, nor has it ever part of
the ethos of Islam's 1400 years of history and traditions. This is a modern day
aberration among a few extremists who have taken terrorism as a means for
fighting personal wars. Suicide is strongly prohibited in Islam because no one
has the right to take away the life that God has given, except God Himself.
Committing terrorist acts, which kill innocent civilians, is also prohibited,
even during war, especially against women, children, old people, and religious
people such as monks and nuns. Even the cutting down of trees, killing animals,
and destroying infrastructure are forbidden. In Islam, one can only fight a
"just war", which is fought in self-defense, not as an act of aggression and is
to be between two groups of military personnel, not with civilians.
4) Where do Muslim extremists get their textual justifications?
Some of the Qur'anic verses which lay out the purpose and nature of war include
To stop oppression: "To those against whom war is made, permission is
given to fight, because they are oppressed. Verily, God is Capable of aiding
them. They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of what
is just, for no other reason than that they say, "Our Lord is God." Had God not
restrained one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches,
synagogues, temples and mosques wherein God's name if oft-mentioned would have
been destroyed. God will certainly aid those who aid His cause. (Qur'an, Chapter
22:39-40). Notice the mention of all houses of worship.
In self-defense: "Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you,
but do not transgress limits by aggressing; surely God does not love
transgressors." (Qur'an, Chapter 2:190.) Notice that permission is given to
fight in self-defense, but not to transgress.
Peace is a desired state: "If they incline toward peace, then seek you
peace also. And place your trust in God, for God hears and knows all things." (Qur'an,
Muslim extremists get their textual interpretations by taking verses in the
Qur'an out of their social-historical context, not considering the time, place,
and specific circumstances in which these verses were revealed. The commonly
quoted verse that follows must be understood in its proper context, namely
during the struggle of the early Muslims against the specific group of Makkans
who fought, persecuted and killed them first in Makkah, and then after they
established a state in Medina, where early Muslims fought back for the first
time. These verses can neither be used to justify killing non-Muslims, nor
targeting innocent civilians.
"Fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, and seize them and beleaguer
them and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. But if they repent, and
establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, then open the way for
them, for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. If any among them asks for
asylum, grant it to him so that he may hear the word of God. Then escort him to
his place of security. This is because they are without knowledge."
*Note that even in this social-historical context, not only were the
perpetrators given a chance to repent, but that if they sought asylum, it must
5) What is Jihad?
"Jihad" is often mistranslated as "holy war", a word that does not exist in
Arabic. "Jihad" literally means "striving". The greater jihad is described as
the internal struggle to avoid negative actions and cultivate good character.
The lesser jihad is described as the external striving for justice, in self
defense or against oppression, which is a basic human right shared by all
people. One can do this in one's heart, with one's tongue or pen, and if these
are ineffective, by physically trying to change an oppressive situation, either
in self-defense or to defend others against aggression (like the Revolutionary
War by the founding fathers against the oppressive policies of the British; or
World War II against the aggression of Hitler.)
It is this last type of jihad that Muslim extremists believe they are fighting,
which the media mis-translates as "holy war".
6) Who can declare "Jihad"? Can Osama bin Laden declare "Jihad"?
Islam places a great emphasis on order in its political philosophy. Anarchy and
arbitrary acts are greatly condemned. Basic principles relating to war are
buttressed by these twin considerations. Islam teaches in the Quran: "O You who
believe, Obey God, and obey the Messenger, and those in authority amongst you,"
(4:59). Quranic commentators mention that those in authority amongst you means
legitimate political authorities and scholars. These are the people who can
rightfully declare war. Firstly, legitimate political authorities can make such
a call. Secondly, in their absence, those scholars who are universally
recognized by the Muslims for their scholarship and piety. As Osama bin Laden is
neither a scholar nor a government leader, he lacks the authority to call for
7) Do Muslims, particularly those in America, support Osama bin Laden?
The vast majority of Muslims do not support Osama bin Laden and in fact Muslims
here and around the world do not know any more about Osama bin Laden than
Americans of other faiths. A few Muslim groups overseas support him because they
see him as standing up to America, which they regard as a superpower that is
biased against Palestinians, and is harming Muslims in Iraq and other countries.
8) What does Al-Qaeda specifically want in these terrorist attacks?
No one knows for sure what motivates terrorists to do such evil acts. In dealing
with the motivations of the perpetrators, we must remember that in the case of
the attack on September 11th, they left no statement at all of their aims or
purposes nor has any group taken responsibility. There may be unknown contexts.
The motivation may have nothing at all to do with supposed religious
commitments. Obviously, their intent was to kill many people and disrupt life
and human society. According to media reports, in the Madrid bombings, their aim
was to punish Spain for its alliance with America in the war in Iraq.
9) Does Islam teach hatred for non-Muslims?
Since Islam considers the diversity of people and nature as God's creation,
respect for diversity is commanded. Especially noted in the Quran are "People of
the Book", namely Jews and Christians, who were always given a special place in
Muslim society. Muslims are commanded to safeguard their right to worship and
their places of worship, a command that has been historically followed, as is
evidenced by the existence of old churches and synagogues throughout the Muslim
world in places like Turkey, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Bosnia. Contrary to
the common stereotype, Islam was not "spread by the sword", nor people forced to
convert, a fact again born out by the existence of non-Muslim populations
throughout the Muslim world. This same respect and tolerance was extended to
people of other faiths.
As Bernard Lewis states in his book, What Went Wrong, "Surely, the Ottomans did
not offer equal rights to their subjects, a meaningless anachronism in the
context of that time and place. They did however offer a degree of tolerance
without precedent or parallel in Christian Europe. Each religious community -
the Ottoman term was millet - was allowed the free practice of its religion.
More remarkably, they had their own communal organizations, subject to the
authority of their own religious chiefs, controlling their own education and
social life, and enforcing their own laws, to the extent that they did not
conflict with the basic laws of the Empire. While ultimate power - political and
military - remained in Muslim hands, non-Muslims controlled much of the economy,
and were even able to play a part of some importance in the political process."
10) Does the Quran order the subjugation of all non-Muslims?
According to Islamic teachings, the Quran is a revelation from God, which served
as the basis for the formation of a sophisticated civilization. Like all other
civilizations, Islamic civilization has rules, which govern the interaction of
the Islamic polity with other nations and identity groups. Within the Muslim
state, non-Muslims are free to continue the practice of their religion. Their
forceful conversion is strictly forbidden. Islam teaches in the Quran: "Let
there be no compulsion in [accepting] religion!" (2:256). Similarly, the Quran
presents a set of teachings, which serve as the basis for a developed system of
international relations. For example, Islam teaches in the Quran: "if your enemy
inclines towards peace, then reciprocate, and trust in God," (8:61). Hence, we
find in the Quran the basis for peaceful relations with non-Muslim nations,
including truces, trade, educational exchanges, and other facets of normal life.
11) Are Martyrs guaranteed 70 virgins in Heaven?
This is not an authenticate Prophetic Tradition (Hadith). However, in Islam
martyrs are promised a great reward from God, just as war heroes are honored in
many societies. However, a Muslim who dies commandeering a plane-load of
civilians into a building full of civilians, or blowing up innocent people on
trains or buses, jeopardizing the safety and security of Muslims throughout the
world, and opening the way for antagonistic forces to slander, denigrate, and
vilify Islam cannot be considered a martyr. Terrorists are mass murderers, not
12) Should I be afraid of anyone who is Muslim or from the Middle East?
Just as you should not stereotype, or make assumptions about an entire group of
people based on their background, race, or religion, it is wrong to think of all
people from the Middle East and those who are Muslim as being terrorists just
because a few of them commit terrorism. One-fifth to one-fourth of the world's
population is Muslim, but only a handful of criminals commit these deeds. This
could be compared to asking if we should be afraid of all white young males
because Timothy McVeigh was white, or afraid of all Christians because extremist
anti-abortionists are Christian, or Irish people because of terror in Ireland.
It is important to remember that there are good and bad people in all countries,
races and religions.
Islamic Networks Group (ING.ORG)
2004. All rights reserved.