What is the Islamic stance regarding the recent attacks on the London underground tube network? Can it be justified in any way? I hear many non-Muslims accusing Islam of terrorism. What can I say?
The recent tragic events in London and elsewhere have unfortunately prompted many non-Muslims to associate Islam with violence and terrorism. Muslims worldwide are experiencing a very difficult stage of their existence, and facing many trials and tribulations. We are being accused of terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism. The idea that Islam is a violent religion is becoming more and more widespread to the point that even some ignorant Muslims are being affected with this propaganda.
The truth is that Islam is a religion of peace and mercy. One of the meanings of “Islam” is peace. There is no place for extremism in Islam. Our Creator the Almighty says in the Qur’an:
“O People of the Book! Commit no extremism in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth.” (Surah al-Nisa, V: 171)
Even though the above verse was in relation to the People of the book being extreme in their religion to the point that they considered Jesus (peace be upon him) to be the son of God, it has a general application to it, as is the case with all the verses of the Qur’an. Hence, Islam was sent down by God to preserve and protect the life, wealth and honour of human beings. Islam teaches its followers to be gentle, kind and tolerant towards other people including non-Muslims.
The beloved Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace), who was sent as a mercy for the whole of mankind, demonstrated such kindness, compassion, generosity and politeness towards non-Muslims that it is difficult to find similar examples in history.
When Makka was in the grip of famine, he personally went out to help his enemies who had made him leave his home town. At the conquest of Makka, all his enemies came under his power and control, yet he set them all free saying that not only are you being given amnesty today but rather you are also forgiven for what you have done in the past. When non-Muslim prisoners of war were presented before him, he treated them with such kindness and tenderness as one would treat one’s own children. His enemies inflicted upon him all sorts of injuries and pain but he never raised his hand in revenge neither did he wish ill for them, rather he would pray for their guidance. A delegation from the tribe of Banu Thaqifa (who had yet not embraced Islam) came to visit him, and was given the honour of staying in the Mosque of the Prophet, a place regarded by Muslims to be the most sacred of places. (See: Ma’arif al-Qur’an, 2/51)
There are many more such examples in the life of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). The episode of Ta’if, the treaty of al-Hudaybiyya and many other such events quite categorically demonstrate the viewpoint of Islam with regards to the treatment of non-Muslims.
Islam totally rejects and condemns violence, terrorism and the taking of innocent lives. There can be no justification whatsoever in Islam for crimes against humanity, such as the recent London bombings. The act of bombing trains and buses, killing and injuring innocent people is without doubt prohibited and unlawful in Islam. There are many evidences found in the Qur’an and sayings of the Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) in support of this view. A few are presented below:
1) Islam does not allow the killing of innocent civilians and non-combatants under any circumstance. It is unlawful to kill a human being, Muslim or non-Muslim, without an Islamically justified reason (such as someone guilty of murder, and this too is only permitted for those who have political authority). The killing of innocents is against basic humanity, and has absolutely no place in Islam. The Shariah of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) was sent to protect five fundamental interests or universals (maqasid/kuliyyat): preservation of religion (hifz al-din), preservation of life (hifz al-nafs), preservation of intellect (hifz al-aql), preservation of lineage (hifz al-nasl), and preservation of wealth (hifz al-mal). Things that harm any of these five universals are contrary to the very foundations of Divine Law.
Allah Most High states clearly in the Qur’an:
“For that cause, We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever kills a human for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all humanity; and whoso saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” (Surah al-Ma’ida, V: 32)
And He Most High states:
“Allah forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.” (Surah al-Mumtahina, V: 8)
“Take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus dose He command you, that you may learn wisdom.” (Surah al-An’am, V: 151)
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” (Surah al-Ma’idah, V: 8)
In the above verses, Allah Most High commands us to treat non-Muslims justly and honourably. The dislike of their beliefs should not prompt a Muslim to treat them unfairly, neither is it allowed to harm those who do not fight Muslims for their faith or drive them out of their homes; rather, a Muslim must deal with them in a just and kind manner.
It is related in Imam Muslim’s Sahih, that the Companion Hakim ibn Hizam (may Allah be pleased with him) passed by a group of people in Sham who had been made to stand in the sun after oil had been poured over their heads. He asked, “What is this?” He was told that they were being punished for failing to pay their land tax. Hakim ibn Hizam (may Allah be pleased with him) responded: “Truly, I have heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) say: “God shall torment those who torment others in this life.” (Sahih Muslim, no: 2613)
In the Sunan of Imam Abu Dawud, it is related from the Companion Ribah ibn al-Rabi’ (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: “We were with the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) in warfare when he saw a group of people gathered around something. Hence, he sent a man to inquire what people had gathered over. The man returned saying they had gathered around a dead woman The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “This woman did not come here to fight (hence to kill her was not permitted)”. (Sunan Abu Dawud, no: 2669)
Based on this, classical and contemporary Muslim jurists (fuqaha) have quite clearly reiterated that the killing of innocent people, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, is not allowed under any circumstance in Shariah.
In the recent attacks on London, almost all of the people were innocent civilians; hence, in light of the abovementioned evidences, the prohibition of this act is quite clear. The attacks killed many men, women, children, non-Muslims as well as Muslims. The BBC website recently published the list of the bomb blast victims and amongst the many killed, there were also Muslims. The majority of the victims killed in the recent Egypt bomb blasts were Egyptians and Muslims. Hence, the perpetrators of these acts are killing innocent non-Muslims as well as Muslims.
Some people argue that innocent Muslims are being killed by non-Muslims; hence Muslims should be allowed to kill innocent people in retaliation. This argument is completely wrong, dangerous and not in line with Islamic teachings. Two wrongs do not make a right. Islam does not allow Muslims to respond to “a mistake” by another mistake.
Allah Most High says in the Qur’an:
“Revile not you those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance.” (Surah al-An’am, V: 108)
It is not allowed for a Muslim to follow up an evil with another evil. If Muslims feel that the UK and US governments are killing innocent civilians in Iraq and elsewhere, it does not give them the right to kill innocent citizens in London or New York.
2) The second reason for the prohibition of these barbaric acts is that under no circumstances are Muslims allowed to attack women, children, the old and the meek, the sick, and those that are worshipping. Even in the midst of a war, the Muslim army is ordered to avoid killing women and children.
The two most authentic books of Prophetic traditions according to the Muslims, Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, relate from the Companion Abd Allah ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: “A woman was found to have been killed in one of the battles, hence the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) forbade the killing of women and children.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 3014)
The Companion Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace), when sending off an army, would say: “Leave in the name of Allah, but do not kill an old man, nor a young child and neither a woman…” (Sunan Abu Dawud, no: 2614)
The Companion Abd Allah ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) would say when sending off his armies: “Do not kill those who are worshipping in their places of worship.” (Musannaf ibn Abi Shayba, no: 14078)
The Companion Jabir ibn Abd Allah (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that they (Muslims) would not kill traders of the polytheists (enemies).” (Musannaf ibn Abi Shayba, no: 14076)
Accordingly, Muslim jurists are quite clear that even in the midst of a war, it is prohibited to kill and attack old people, women, children, worshippers, those who are merely there for trading purposes, disabled people, sick and weak people, etc. Hence, bombing trains and buses where many such people may be present can never be justified in light of the guidance given by the Messenger of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him).
3) Thirdly, Islam places a great deal of emphasis on preserving and protecting the wealth of human beings to the point that the Messenger of Islam (may Allah bless him & give him peace) safeguarded the wealth of non-Muslims even in the midst of a war.
Allah Most High says:
O you who believe! Consume not your wealth among yourselves in vanities: But let there be amongst you Traffic and trade by mutual good-will: Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah has been to you Most Merciful. If any do that in rancour and injustice, soon shall We cast them into the Fire: And easy it is for Allah.” (Surah al-Nisa, V: 29-30)
Thus, the Shariah preserves and safeguards the wealth of individuals, Muslims and non-Muslims. To damage or destroy the wealth of others is clearly prohibited and sinful in the eyes of Islam.
4) Fourthly, Muslims (and also non-Muslims) are obliged to obey the law of the land they are residing in. When one lives in a particular country, one agrees verbally, in writing or effectively to adhere to the rules and regulations of that country. This, according to Shariah, is considered to be a covenant, agreement and trust. One is obliged to fulfil the trust regardless of whether it is contracted with a friend, enemy, Muslim, non-Muslim or a government. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) always stood by their word and did not breach any trust or agreement, as it is clear from the books of Prophetic traditions and history. To break a promise or breach a trust of even a non-Muslim is absolutely unlawful and considered a sign of being a hypocrite.
Allah Most High states:
“And fulfil (every) engagement (ahd), for (every) engagement will be enquired into (on the day of reckoning).” (Surah al-Isra, v. 34)
And regarding the one who breaks an agreement and is guilty of treachery, Allah Almighty says:
“Allah loves not the treacherous.” (Surah al-Anfal, v. 58)
The Companion Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three: When he speaks he leis, when he makes a promise he breaks it, and when he is given a trust he breaches it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 33)
The practice of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) also clearly illustrates the importance of fulfilling a covenant, and the unlawfulness of treachery.
During the battle of Khaybar which took place between the Muslims and Jews, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) besieged the fort of Khaybar wherein the Jews were residing. A poor Shepard who was working for his Jewish master had already heard about the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), and upon seeing the Muslim army, he thought it was a good opportunity to inquire about Islam. He came out of the fort with the goats and sheep he was looking after and asked the whereabouts of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). Upon being directed towards the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), he inquired about the basic teachings of Islam, and then said: “What will my status be if I accept Islam?” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) replied: “I will embrace you, you will become my brother and enjoy the same rights as other Muslims.” He said: “I am very poor, in a bad state and have bad odour coming from my body and cloths. How will you embrace me if I am in such a condition?” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) replied: “I shall embrace you, for all of Allah’s servants are equal in His sight.” He said: “If I embrace Islam, what will my fate be?” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “I bear witness that if you accept Islam, Allah will change the darkness of your body to light, and the bad odour to good fragrance.” These words of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) had their effect on his heart, thus he embraced Islam.
After entering into the fold of Islam, he asked the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) what he was obliged to do? The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him & give him peace) said that the Muslims were presently in the midst of a war, thus the obligation at this moment and time was to participate in Jihad. However, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said to him: “The first and foremost thing you need to do is return these animals to its Jewish owner and then engage in Jihad.”
As mentioned earlier, these animals belonged to a Jew who was in the opposing army, but the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) ordered him to go back and return them to its owner. The reason being is that he had taken these goats and sheep on a trust, and it is necessary by Shariah to return the belongings taken on trust back to its owner.
Thereafter, he participated in the holy battle (jihad) and was amongst the martyrs. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) recognised his body and addressed his Companions saying that he saw this Shepard being given a bath in the sacred water of paradise, and Allah had changed his darkness to shining light and his bad foul smell to refreshing fragrance.
The above is an amazing example of fulfilling a trust of even an enemy. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was in the midst of a war with the Jews of al-Khaybar, yet he ordered the herdsman to go back and return the animals. This Shepard had taken these animals under a contract before the war, hence he was ordered to fulfil the contract and return them to its rightful owner sound and safe.
Therefore, from an Islamic perspective, it is obligatory for a Muslim to honour a commitment or a pledge. One must obey the law of the land unless the law commands one to forgo one’s basic religious rights. If one disagrees with the foreign policy of a country one lives in, one should use lawful means in getting one’s concerns heard. If an individual is angry with Britain’s role in Iraq, then one should use legal and lawful means to prevent that. It will not be permitted to retaliate against the British government by killing innocent civilians living in the UK.
To conclude, the above are just four of the many reasons found in the Qur’an and Prophetic Traditions (sunna) prohibiting clearly what took place recently in London. The perpetrators of this act need to realise that their actions are not only unfruitful rather they are doing more damage and harm to the Muslim community than benefit. Islam teaches us to be kind and loving towards other people. Islam teaches us to be merciful and not transgress on the life, wealth and honour of innocent people.
At the same time, we sincerely advise the British government to rethink its foreign policy. Terrorism is rejected whether it comes in the form of young people blasting bombs in London or F-16 fighter planes dropping bombs over Baghdad. Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of force against a civilian population as a way to intimidate that population into submitting to some political agenda or some other objective. Hence, the killing of civilians is unacceptable according to everyone by the Geneva Convention, yet the US in world war two killed hundreds of thousands of civilians with intent in Japan by bombing them. It was understood that these civilians would die. Thus, violence, terrorism and the killing of civilians is rejected by Islam and Muslims wherever this takes place.
Also, we sincerely urge the British government to take measures in protecting innocent Muslims who fear reprisal over the London bombings. Abuse (physical and verbal) and hate crimes must be dealt with in a rigorous manner. Any kind of assault on innocent people and damage caused to places of worship must not be tolerated.
Similarly, Muslims should not be singled out and targeted by the police in stop-and-search operations. There is a genuine fear and concern within the Muslim community that they are being targeted by the police. Many are frustrated by the increased use of stop-and-search and the new “shoot-to-kill to protect” policy for suicide bombers. Muslims should not be discriminated against by police trying to prevent potential terror attacks. Stop and searches should be based on good intelligence, not just skin colour.
Finally, we pray for peace, tranquillity and harmony in this world. We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism in the world, whether individual terror or state terror, whether in London, the US, Iraq or elsewhere. We ask Allah, our God and creator, to make matters easy for us and that the shedding of innocent blood stops forever, Ameen.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK