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Suicide Bombing

Al-Nisa (The Women) Sura 4: Verse 29 (Partial)

“… And kill yourselves not, for God is truly Merciful to you.”

People who are driven to despair are thus reminded to have faith in God’s mercy in the hope that they may be relieved of their suffering. Since suicide is prohibited, anyone who tries to facilitate it, or acts as an accomplice, is also liable to a deterrent punishment that may be quantified by the court while taking into consideration the material circumstances of the case. Commentators have, moreover, drawn a five-point conclusion from this verse as follows:

1. the obvious meaning is that suicide is forbidden;

2. the text also stipulates that ‘you may not kill one another’ nor facilitate suicide;

3. one may not undertake a task which is likely to cause his own death, even if it be in lieu of a religious obligation;

4. no one should deprive himself of the necessities of life to the point of self-destruction; and

5. the text covers cases of self-destruction regardless of the manner in which it is done.

The manuals of Islamic law are silent on the issue of suicide bombing, a disturbing phenomenon of our time that became frequent in connection with Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially when Israel unleashed a new wave of aggression on the street processions of unarmed Palestinian youth in 2000-1. The aftermath of 11 September 2001 and more recently the horrendous violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, added new dimensions to the incidence of suicide bombing among Muslims.

Suicide bombing in the name of Islam is a ‘sociopolitical phenomenon, not a theological one’. And any long-term solution to the problem must also address the causes that have brought so much pain and hopelessness to many Muslim societies.

It would be simplistic to lump the Palestinian suicide bombing with Al-Qaedah terrorist activities. One can hardly deny the genuine suffering of the Palestinian people and legitimacy of their struggle against sustained Israeli brutalities. It would appear equally simplistic, however, to equate suicide bombing with martyrdom and jihad. This is because suicide bombing contravenes two fundamental principles of Islam: prohibition against suicide, and deliberate killing of non-combatants. The argument that proceeds over reciprocity and retaliation is also flawed by the involvement of innocent non-combatants in suicide bombing.

Those who have raised the issue of ‘collateral damage’ in this context have also exaggerated their case, simply because non-combatants are chosen as the direct target of suicide bombing. They are, as such, neither collateral nor incidental.

The Muslim fighter who is motivated by the spirit of jihad enters the battle, not with the intention of dying, but with the conviction that if he should die, it would be for reasons beyond his control. Martyrdom in Islam does not begin with suicidal intention, let alone the linkage of that intention with the killing of non-combatants.

To justify suicide bombing under the banner of retaliation, or as a form of jihad, is therefore questionable, simply because it begins on an erroneous note, which goes against the essence both of just retaliation and justified jihad.

Compiled From:
“Shariah Law – An Introduction” – Mohammad Hashim Kamali, pp. 283-288

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