Terrorism is generally defined as killing of civilians for political reasons. Dr. Azzam Tamimi, President of the Fiqh Council of North America, writes: “A straightforward definition of terrorism has been: ‘the use of force (or violence) to advocate a political cause’.”
It is to be emphasized that terrorism against the innocent civilians, whether through aggression or suicidal means, is under no circumstances permissible in Islam. Islam encourages the oppressed people to struggle for their liberation and it commands other Muslims to help those who are oppressed and suffering, but Islam does not allow, under any circumstance, terrorism against non-combatants and innocent people.
Islam has not only forbidden terror and violence, but also abhors even the slightest imposition of any idea on another human being. Allah Almighty says:
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things. (Al-Baqarah 2:256)
So remind, you need only to remind. You cannot compel them to believe. (Al-Ghashiyah 88:22)
Some people who say they are acting in the name of religion may misunderstand their religion or practice it wrongly. For this reason, it is a mistake to form any idea of that religion from the activities of these people.
The best way to understand Islam is through its main source, the Quran; and the model of morality in the Quran is completely different from the image of it formed in the minds of some Westerners or some bigot Muslims.
The Quran is based on the concepts of morality, love, compassion, mercy, modesty, self-sacrifice, tolerance and peace, and a Muslim who truly lives according to these moral precepts is highly refined, thoughtful, tolerant, trustworthy and accommodating. To those around him he gives love, respect, peace of mind and a sense of the joy of life.
Islam: A Religion of Peace & Well-Being
The word Islam has the same meaning as ‘peace’ in Arabic. Islam is a religion that came down to offer humanity a life filled with the peace and well-being in which Allah’s eternal mercy and compassion is manifested in the world.
Allah invites all people to accept the moral teachings of the Qur’an as a model whereby mercy, compassion, tolerance and peace may be experienced in the world. In Surat Al-Baqarah, this command is given: “You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you.” (Al-Baqarah 2:208)
As we see in this verse, people will experience well-being and happiness by living according to the moral teaching of the Qur’an.
Allah Condemns Mischief
Allah has commanded humanity to avoid evil; He has forbidden immorality, rebellion, cruelty, aggressiveness, murder and bloodshed. Those who do not obey this command of Allah are walking in the steps of Satan, as the Quran says in the verse above, and have adopted an attitude that Allah has clearly declared unlawful.
Of the many verses that bear on this subject, here are only two:
But as for those who break Allah’s contract after it has been agreed and sever what Allah has commanded to be joined, and cause corruption in the earth, the curse will be upon them. They will have the Evil Abode. (Ar-Ra`d 13:25)
Seek the abode of the hereafter with what Allah has given you, without forgetting your portion of the world. And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause mischief on earth. Allah does not love mischief makers. (Al-Qasas 28:77)
As we can see, Allah has forbidden every kind of mischievous acts in Islam including terrorism and violence, and condemned those who commit such deeds. A Muslim lends beauty to the world and improves it.
Islam, Tolerance and Freedom of Speech
Islam is a religion, which fosters freedom of life, ideas and thought. It has forbidden tension and conflict among people, calumny, suspicion and even having negative thoughts about another individual. To force anyone to believe in a religion or to practice it is against the spirit and essence of Islam. Because it is necessary that faith be accepted with free will and conscience.
Of course, Muslims may urge one another to keep the moral precepts taught in the Qur’an, but they never use compulsion. In any case, an individual cannot be induced to the practice of religion by either threat or offering him a worldly privilege.
Allah has commanded tolerance and forgiveness:
Take to forgiveness and enjoin good and turn aside from the ignorant. (Al-A`raf 7:199)
The phrase “practice forgiveness” here expresses the concept of forgiveness and tolerance which is one of the basic principles of Islam.
When we look at Islamic history, we can see clearly how Muslims established this important precept of the moral teaching of the Quran in their social life. At every point in their advance, Muslims destroyed unlawful practices and created a free and tolerant environment.
In the areas of religion, language and culture, they made it possible for people totally opposite to each other to live under the same roof in freedom and peace, thereby giving to those subject to them the advantages of knowledge, wealth and position.
Likewise, one of the most important reasons that the large and widespread Ottoman Empire was able to sustain its existence for so many centuries was that its way of life was directed by the tolerance and understanding brought by Islam.
For centuries, their tolerance and compassion have characterized Muslims. In every period of time they have been the most just and merciful of people. All ethnic groups within this multi-national community freely practiced the religions they have followed for years and enjoyed every opportunity to live in their own cultures and worship in their own way. Indeed, the particular tolerance of Muslims, when practiced as commanded in the Qur’an, can alone bring peace and well-being to the whole world.
The Quran refers to this particular kind of tolerance: “The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.” (Fussilat 41:34)
All this shows that the moral teaching offered to humanity by Islam is one that will bring peace, happiness and justice to the world. The barbarism that is happening in the world today under the name of “Islamic Terrorism” is completely removed from the moral teachings of the Qur’an; it is the work of ignorant, bigoted people, criminals who have nothing to do with religion. The solution which will be applied against these individuals and groups who are trying to commit their deeds of savagery under the guise of Islam, will be the instruction of people in the true moral teaching of Islam.
Islam’s Counter-terrorism Principles
The following are three relevant Islamic principles based on the Quran and Sunnah:
1- Islam Forbids Aggression against Innocent People
Islam does not permit aggression against innocent people, whether the aggression is against life, property, or honor, and this ruling applies to everyone, regardless of post, status and prestige. In Islam, as the state’s subject is addressed with Islamic teachings, so is the ruler or caliph; he is not allowed to violate people’s rights, lives, honor, property, etc.
In the Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet (peace be upon him) declared the principle that people’s lives, property, and honor are inviolable until the Day of Judgment. This ruling is not restricted to Muslims; rather, it includes non-Muslims who are not fighting Muslims. Even in case of war, Islam does not permit killing those who are not involved in fighting, such as women, children, the aged, and the monks who confine themselves to worship only.
This shouldn’t raise any wonder, for Islam is a religion that prohibits aggression even against animals. Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) quote the Prophet as saying: “A woman (was made to) enter (Hell) Fire because of a cat which she tied, neither giving it food nor setting it free to eat from the vermin of the earth.” (Al-Bukhari)
If such is Islamic ruling concerning aggressive acts against animals, then, with greater reason, the punishment is bound to be severe when human being happens to be the victim of aggression, torture and terrorism.
2- Individual Responsibility
In Islam, everyone is held accountable for his own acts, not others’. No one bears the consequences of others’ faults, even his close relatives. This is the ultimate form of justice, clarified in the Qur’an:
Or has he not had news of what is in the books of Moses and Abraham who fulfilled (the commandments): That no laden one shall bear another’s load. (An-Najm 53:36-38)
Therefore, it’s very painful to see some people ‘who are Muslims by name’ launching aggression against innocent people and taking them as scapegoats for any disagreement they have with the state’s authority!! What is the crime of the common people then?!
Murder is one of heinous crimes completely abhorred in Islam, to the extent that some Muslim scholars hold the opinion that the repentance of the murderer will not be accepted by Allah, Most High. In this context, we recall the Qur’anic verse that reads, “…if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)
3- Ends Do Not Justify Means
In Islam, the notion “End justifies the means” has no place at all. It is not allowed to attain good aims through evil means, and, therefore, alms collected from unlawful avenues are not halal (lawful). In this context, the Messenger of Allah said, “Surely, Allah is Good and never accepts but what is good.”
Thus, in Shari`ah, with all its sources: “the Qur’an, the Sunnah, consensus of Muslim jurists”, aggression and violation of human rights are completely forbidden. On this issue, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi adds:
“The Islamic position as regards non-Muslims is that they should recognize Allah’s Oneness and Prophet Muhammad as Allah’s Final Prophet. They should accept Islam to live happily and successfully in this world and to be saved in the Hereafter. It is Muslims’ duty to give them this message clearly, but without any coercion or intolerance. If others accept this message it is good for them, but if they do not accept, Muslims should still treat them with kindness and gentleness and leave the final judgment to Allah.”
In our enthusiasm for dawah, we should not be intolerant and aggressive towards others. However, in our politeness and civility we should also not give up our mission and message. We should not be intimidated to become quiet and we should not feel shy to tell the truth.