Against Terrorism and Religious Extremism

Islamic Horizons, September/October 2006 | Go to article overview

Against Terrorism and Religious Extremism


IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST BENEFICENT, THE MOST MERCIFUL

ISNA / BALANCEDISLAM.ORG

MUSLIM POSITION AND RESPONSIBILITIES

I. OUR POSITION ON TERRORISM

Humanity lives today in an interdependent and interconnected world where peaceful and fair interaction, including interfaith and intra-faith dialogue, is imperative. A grave threat to all of us nowadays is the scourge of religious and political extremism that manifests itself in various forms of violence, including terrorism. In the absence of a universally agreed upon definition of terrorism, it may be defined as any act of indiscriminate violence that targets innocent people, whether committed by individuals, groups or states.

As Muslims, we must face up to our responsibility to clarify and advocate a faith-based, righteous and moral position with regard to this problem, especially when terrorist acts are perpetrated in the name of Islam. The purpose of this brochure is to clarify a few key issues relating to this topic, not because of external pressures or for the sake of "political correctness", but out of our sincere conviction of what Islam stands for. To this end, the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), an Islamic juristic body, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) on July 28th, 2005 which affirmed its long standing position on this issue, and was unequivocal in its condemnation of terrorism by stating: "Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism." Stating that it was issued "following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur'an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad-peace be upon him", the religious ruling confirmed the following salient principles: (1) All acts of terrorism, including those targeting the life and property of civilians, whether perpetrated by suicidal or any other form of attacks, are haram (forbidden) in Islam. (2) It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or prohibited violence. (3) It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to undertake full measures to protect the lives of all civilians, and ensure the security and well-being of fellow citizens. Recently, similar declarations against terrorism have been issued by religious scholars and leaders in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Irrespective of the legitimacy of grievances relating to aggression or oppression, terrorism is the epitome of injustice because it targets innocent people. Ends do not justify means, and innocent civilians should never pay the price for the misdeeds of others or be used as pawns in settling political or military conflicts. Muslims are bound by the Qur'anic prohibitions of taking an innocent life (Qur'an: 5:32; 17:33), considered as one of the gravest sins in Islam. Furthermore, the Qur'an clearly demands that Muslims act justly and impartially, even when dealing with an enemy (4:135,5:8).

II. CLARIFYING RELATED ISSUES

i. Jihad is not to be equated with terrorism. Contrary to common misperceptions and mistranslations, the word jihad does not mean"Holy War"or war that is justified by differences in religious convictions. The Arabic equivalent of "Holy War" is never mentioned in the Qur'an. There is nothing "holy" about war, and it is described in the Qur'an as a hated act (2:216). The Qur'anic Arabic term jihad and its derivatives mean, literally, to strive or exert effort. These terms are used in the Qur'an and Hadith (Prophetic sayings) in three specific contexts: first, in addressing inward jihad or the struggle against evil inclinations within oneself (22:77-78; 29:4-7); second in the context of social jihad, or striving for truth, justice, goodness and charity (25:52; 49:15); and third, in the context of the battlefield, which is often referred to in the Qur'an as Qital (fighting). Combative jihad is allowed in the Qur'an for legitimate self-defense in the face of unprovoked aggression or in resisting severe oppression, on religious or other grounds (2:190-194; 22:39-41).

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