Because of the escalating use of suicide bombing in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I felt compelled to revisit this topic by reposting the article below, bearing in mind that it does not really tackle many of the key issues such as what a legitimate jihad really is, and whether it is even possible or legal in terms of the shari’ah to fight against absolutely overwhelming odds, particularly when women and children are exposed to danger, the illegitimacy of declaring a jihad if there is no Dar al-Islam, i.e. a social order living by the behaviour pattern of Islam and caring for the poor and the disadvantaged, the illegality of a jihad that does not hoist high the banner of Islam and call the non-Muslims to Islam, etc. Rather I have limited myself to dealing with the anonymous author’s attempt to prove the legality of killing oneself in this manner.
Examination of an article claiming to legitimise suicide bombings “The Islamic Ruling on The Permissibility of Martyrdom Operations”
by Abdassamad Clarke
In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful. May Allah bless our Master Muhammad and his family and companions and grant them peace.
In considering the following issue of so-called martyrdom operations or suicide bombings our intention is simply to consider whether it is permissible for those still living to deliberately kill themselves in such a manner, for example strapping dynamite to their bodies, as will cause maximum damage to the greatest number of their enemies.
In doing this the first element to consider is the author of the piece which we will examine. In one sense, we might go no further than that, as according to the scholars of shari’ah it is not permitted to take knowledge and legal judgements from anonymous people. This is stated by Imam al-Mayyarah in his commentary on the Murshid al-Mu’in of Shaykh Abd al-Wahid ibn ‘Ashir. I have so far failed to find the name of the author of the piece which I examine below, and might legitimately dismiss considering it for no other reason. But, since it is the best reasoned of the documents in this zone, it has proved worth examining if only to dismiss its arguments one by one.
Nor do we consider this document of ours a fatwa, but rather an examination of a fatwa that claims to prove that suicide bombing is legal according to shari’ah and also that the person who kills himself in this manner is a shaheed (a martyr).
The text on which this is a commentary and to which it is a rebuttal circulates widely as a legitimisation of this act and so we reproduce it in its entirety addressing each point the author makes in turn so that it can be clear that we have neglected nothing of the arguments of the people who propound such acts.
The texts which the author considers comprise two sorts: first, stories of an instructional sort told by the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, about previous nations and martyrs among them, and, second, stories of some among the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, rushing into battle to almost certain death.
The author of the piece is content with narrating texts with superficial resemblances to the situation of the modern suicide bomber but always neglecting to examine in any depth the intention of the fighter or the actual mode of his fighting. In other words, he is content with quoting a large body of texts with some passing resemblance to the case he is trying to establish.
If we examine the second type of case for which he presents textual evidence, i.e. actual reports of some among the Companions diving into the thick of the enemy in such a manner that it was almost certain that they would die, in reality this is simply an intensification of the ordinary condition of the mujahid who goes to war intending to fight and kill the enemy but risking his own death in his process. There is no intrinsic difference between the intention of the ordinary mujahid and that of the man who dives into the thick of the enemy with the almost certain result of his death, for the latter is simply an intensification of the former.
However, the author tries to show that the latter is intrinsically different from the case of the ordinary mujahid, which is not the case. The mujahid has exposed himself to destruction by simply taking up his weapons against the enemy and is essentially no different from the man who plunges alone into the ranks of the enemy. Both have laid themselves open to being killed, but the latter more so. There is no difference of intention between the two, but an exaltation of state in the latter. The latter case cannot be used as the basis for justifying the man or woman who straps dynamite to themselves and explodes it in the midst of the enemy and especially not if they explode it among civilians.
We cannot find a single example of such behaviour among the salaf or in any of the generations of Islam. But in reality we only find such behaviour among nineteenth century, nihilistic anarchists in Russia, people who strapped dynamite to their bodies and exploded it in public places or in the vicinity of important personages. Some authorities say that in our time it was until recently the exclusive domain of the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka and that they are still the leading exponents of it. Therefore we say that the suicide bomber has abandoned the sunnah of the Muslims and of the Companions and their Followers and the Followers of the Followers and taken on the sunnah of atheistical, nineteenth century, European anarchists and revolutionaries and of Hindu separatists.
All praise is due to Allah, Sustainer of the Universe, Who informs us that:
“Were it not for Allah’s repelling some people by means of others, the earth would surely have become corrupt.” [Quran]
The choicest peace and blessings be on the Chief of the Prophets, who has said, “By [Allah] in Whose Hand is my soul! I have surely wished to be killed in the path of Allah, then brought to life, then killed [again], then brought to life, then killed!” [Bukhari, Muslim and others]
We simply note here that the word “killed” denotes what happens when someone else is the cause of one’s death, and is not the right sense when one causes one’s own death oneself.
And who has also said, “Act, and each will be eased to that for which he was created.” [Bukhari, Muslim and others]
Allah legislated Jihad for the dignity of this Ummah, knowing that it is abhorrent to us. People today have neglected this great duty, and pursued what they love, thinking good lies in what they love, and failing to realize that good lies in that which Allah has legislated.
Before we embark on a detailed exposition concerning the Islamic verdict on martyrdom operations, it is appropriate for us to first present a brief, to-the-point response:
Firstly: If you did not know, could you not ask? It is not appropriate for someone who is unaware of a verdict to make sweeping statements accusing others of wrongdoing. If those who criticized us had only investigated the issue first, they would have found that the issue is, at worst, a disagreed issue among scholars, such that we cannot be criticized for following legitimate scholarship.
But we will see that the author will later quote the scholars of themadhhabs explicitly declaring that in the exceptional case in which someone who accidentally kills himself with his own weapon in battle may still be shaheed, thus showing that someone who kills himself deliberatelyis NOT a shaheed. He quotes no dissenting voice, thus, in effect, proving that it is a consensus of the ‘ulama.
Secondly: We request our respected brothers, who seek the truth, not to criticize us for anything without backing the criticism with verdicts of scholars, and [especially] the understanding of the Pious Predecessors.
And we have tried to do that thoroughly in this, or at the least to examine every quoted text scrupulously.
Thirdly: Dear brothers and sisters! Not every martyrdom operation is legitimate, nor is every martyrdom operation prohibited. Rather, the verdict differs based on factors such as the enemy’s condition, the situation of the war, the potential martyr’s personal circumstances, and the elements of the operation itself. Thus, one may not give a verdict on such operations without having an understanding of the actual situation, and this is obtained from the Mujahideen, and not the unbelievers. How, then, can you accuse us of ignorance when you are unaware of our situation, let alone the specific details of the operation in question?
Martyrdom or self-sacrifice operations are those performed by one or more people, against enemies far outstripping them in numbers and equipment, with prior knowledge that the operations will almost inevitably lead to death.
The form this usually takes nowadays is to wire up one’s body, or a vehicle or suitcase with explosives, and then to enter amongst a conglomeration of the enemy, or in their vital facilities, and to detonate in an appropriate place there in order to cause the maximum losses in the enemy ranks, taking advantage of the element of surprise and penetration. Naturally, the enacter of the operation will usually be the first to die.
Thus, he kills himself, and is not killed by the enemy. It is this clear fact that the author tries to obscure again and again.
Another technique is for an armed Mujahid to break into the enemy barracks, or area of conglomeration, and fire at them at close-range, without having prepared any plan of escape, nor having considered escape a possibility. The objective is to kill as many of the enemy as possible, and he will almost certainly die.
Here the perpetrator is indeed killed by the enemy and not by himself. It only remains to establish that he is in a genuine jihad under the leadership of a declared amir who is establishing Islam in its fulness, rather than simply involved in a guerilla movement or, worse, is simply a terrorist.
The name ‘suicide-operations’ used by some is inaccurate, and in fact this name was chosen by the Jews to discourage people from such endeavours. How great is the difference between one who commits suicide – because of his unhappiness, lack of patience and weakness or absence of iman and has been threatened with Hell-Fire – and between the self-sacrificer who embarks on the operation out of strength of faith and conviction, and to bring victory to Islam, by sacrificing his life for the upliftment of Allah’s word!
In English ‘suicide’ simply means ‘to kill oneself’ without any assessment of motive.
As for the effects of these operations on the enemy, we have found, through the course of our experience that there is no other technique which strikes as much terror into their hearts, and which shatters their spirit as much. On account of this they refrain from mixing with the population, and from oppressing, harassing and looting them. They have also become occupied with trying to expose such operations before they occur, which has distracted them from other things. Praise is to Allah. Many of their imminent plans were foiled, and furthermore, Putin issued a severe condemnation of the Home Affairs and Defense Ministers, placing the responsibility on them, and threatening high-level reshufflings in the two ministries. Those troops who are not busy trying to foil martyrdom operations are occupied with removal of Russian corpses, healing the wounded, and drawing out plans and policies from beneath the debris. This is all on the moral (sic) level.
On the material level, these operations inflict the heaviest losses on the enemy, and are lowest in cost to us. The cost of equipment is negligible in comparison to the assault; in fact the explosives and vehicles were captured as war-booty, such that we returned them to the Russians in our special way! The human casualty is a single life, who is in fact a martyr and hero gone ahead to Gardens of Eternity, inshaa-Allah.
It is this mathematical approach to the affair that is entirely wrong. The author somehow sees one Muslim warrior as a single warrior and the large numbers of the enemy slain as an abstract mathematical relation. However, the Muslim will always be much more than a single warrior. Each single Muslim will be, apart from a son, husband and father, a crucial figure in a Muslim community, and cannot simply be reduced to a statistic.
As for the enemy, their losses are high; after the last operation, they had over 1,600 dead and wounded, and the most crucial concentration of Russian forces in Chechnya was completely destroyed.
All of this was achieved by the efforts of only four heroes. We feel sure that the Russians will not remain long in our land with such operations continuing. Either they will fear aggregation, in which case they will become easy targets for attack, or they will gather together to combat the assaults, in which case the martyrdom operations will be sufficient – Allah willing – to disperse them. If they wish to keep matters under control, they would need more than 300,000 troops in every city, and this is no exaggeration.
One can see how much fear the operations in Palestine caused, and that they were a major factor in convincing the Jews to grant self-rule to the Palestinians, hoping that they could be more easily controlled in that way.
History has moved on a great deal since the author wrote this, and it is clear to most people that the Intifada is certainly not a great success, and that the situation for the Muslims in Chechnya is utterly disastrous, the so-called ‘mujahidun’ of najdi persuasion having simply given the Russian state an excuse for the worst of its excesses and licensed their genocidal campaign. (We use najdi here for the adherents of the false doctrine that has come from Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and the people of the Najd in Arabia.) Their work is in stark contrast to the noble warriors who fought an honourable war in the earlier Chechen campaign, who were, as is well known, Sufis and people of the Sunnah.
In Chechnya, the damage is much greater than in similar operations in Palestine, on account of Russian fortification being much less than that possessed by the Jews.
Before going into the verdict concerning the operations, citing the pronouncements of scholars about them, and resolving some unclear issues, it is appropriate for us to first present some of the Shar`i (Islamic law) evidences, and then follow them up with discussion and application thereof.
We will not analyze the chains of transmission of each narration separately; we will regard it as sufficient that the basis of the evidence is in the collections of Bukhari and Muslim, and hence any reports outside of these two books is strengthened by them.
1 – “Verily, Allah has purchased from the believers their selves and their wealth, in return for Heaven being theirs. They fight in the path of Allah and they kill and are killed ” [Qur'an, 9:111]
i.e. Allah says that “they kill their enemies the kuffar, and their enemies kill them” but He never says that they should kill themselves.
Hence, any scenario in which the Mujahid offers the purchase price in order to attain the merchandise is permissible unless an evidence exists to specifically prohibit it.
Here of course the text of the Qur’an is made clear by the actual practice of the Sunnah, and saying ‘any scenario’ is an unjustified extension, and as we have seen the ayah only mentions their killing the kuffar in battle or being killed by them in battle, and thus cannot be extended to cover their killing themselves in battle.
2 – “How many a small force has overcome a numerous force, by the permission of Allah. And Allah is with the steadfast ones.” [Qur'an, 2:249]
This verse indicates that the measure of power in the Shari`ah is not primarily linked to material, worldly measures.
3 – “Among mankind is he who sells himself seeking the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is Pitying towards the servants.” [Qur'an, 2:207]
According to the explanation of this verse by the Sahabah, as we cite below, one who sells himself for the sake of Allah is not considered to have committed suicide, even if he immerses himself into 1,000 of the enemy forces without armour.
Yet, here we will encounter the crucial distinction between the combat of the Companions and of the early right-acting first generations and between modern operations in which a Muslim deliberately kills himself in order to inflict damage on the enemy. The Companions only fought to the death and never deliberately killed themselves. They even feared that someone who fought to the death might have contravened the ayah prohibiting killing oneself. They feared that the man who accidentally killed himself in pursuit of the kuffar might have thus been a suicide. In all these cases, the clear judgement was that the people had not contravened the ayat on killing oneself. Nevertheless, there is no single instance that we know of in which one of the Companions or early right-acting first generations deliberately killed themselves in order to inflict damage on the enemy. All of the cases that I have seen reported were of them fighting to the death against impossible odds with the almost inevitable result of their own deaths. This is not the same as a person strapping dynamite to himself with the inevitable result of his own death at his own hands and the secondary result of the death of the enemies.
4 – In the hadith in Sahih Muslim, containing the account of the boy and the king in the story of the Trenches referred to by Surah al-Buruj, we find that the unbelieving king tried various means to kill the believing boy, failing each time. Eventually, the boy told him, “You will not be able to kill me until … you gather people on one plateau, hang me on a palm-trunk, take an arrow from my quiver, place it in the bow, say, “In the name of Allah, the Lord of the boy,” and shoot me.” The king did this, and thereby managed to kill the boy as predicted, but the people who had gathered began saying, “We believe in Allah, the Lord of the boy!” Thereupon, the king ordered trenches to be dug, and fires lit in them, and then for the people to be made to jump into them if they refused to give up their faith. This was done, and eventually a woman was brought with her infant, and she hesitated to jump on account of him, but he said, “O mother! Remain steadfast for you are upon the truth.” The boy, in this hadith, ordered the king to kill him in the interest of the religion, and this indicates that such a deed is legitimate, and not considered suicide.
It is not the same case, since the agent of the boy’s death was the king and not the boy himself. There is no connection between this story and that of the warrior who deliberately kills himself. The boy did not kill himself with dynamite in order to inflict damage on a substantial body of the enemy. Although he gave the king the means with which to kill him, it was the king who killed him. Nothing was inevitable about his death. The king might have reflected on the fact of his having to kill the boy “In the name of Allah, the Lord of the boy,” and that this was an obvious trap, and he might have walked away from it. However, he walked right into the trap laid by the boy with the predictable result that everyone witnessed that he was only able to kill the boy if it was done ‘in the name of’ the boy’s Lord.
5 – Imam Ahmad has narrated in his Musnad (1/310) [and a similar narration is in Ibn Majah (4030)] that Ibn `Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah said, “On the night in which I was taken by night, a pleasant fragrance came my way, and so I said, “O Gabriel! What is this pleasant fragrance?” He said, “This is the fragrance of the hairdresser of Pharaoh’s daughter, and [of the hairdresser]‘s children.” I said, “What is her situation?” He said, “While she was combing Pharaoh’s daughter’s hair one day, the comb fell from her hand, so she said, “In the name of Allah.” Pharaoh’s daughter asked, “[You mean] my father?” She said, “No, rather my Lord, and the Lord of your father, is Allah.” She said, “Can I tell him that?” She said, “Yes.”" The hadith goes on to describe that a huge brass pot was heated, and it was ordered for her and her children to be cast therein. She requested from Pharaoh – and he acceded to her request – that her bones and her children’s bones be gathered in a single cloth and buried. Her children were then thrown into the cauldron one by one before her eyes, until they got to a suckling infant, and it seemed she wavered on account of him, but he said, “O mother! Jump in, for the torture of this world is lighter than the punishment of the Hereafter.” So she jumped in.
The narrators of the chain [of Imam Ahmad's version] are reliable, apart from Abu `Umar al-Dareer, whom al-Dhahabi and Abu Hatim al-Razi considered truthful, and Ibn Hibban considered reliable.
According to this hadith, the child was made to speak, as was the child in the preceding story of the trenches, telling the mother to jump into the fire, which indicates the virtue of this deed.
It is a fallacious piece of reasoning to equate this noble woman’s martyrdom at the hands of the tyrant Fir’awn with the act of a free muslim warrior killing himself with his own hands. This woman had the choice of death in the boiling cauldron or renunciation of her deen and chose the former. This has never ever been considered a suicide and does not impinge on the motives of an adult Muslim man strapping dynamite to his body and blowing himself up.
6 – Abu Dawud (3/27) and Tirmidhi (4/280) have narrated (and Tirmidhi graded it as sahih) that Aslam ibn `Imran narrated that when they were fighting a mighty army of the Romans, a man in the Muslim army attacked the Roman ranks until he penetrated them. People shouted, saying, “SubhanAllah! He has contributed to his own destruction.” Thereupon, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari stood up, and said, “O people! You give this interpretation to this verse, whereas it was revealed concerning us, the Ansar, when Allah had given honour to Islam and its supporters had become many, whereupon some of us secretly said to one another … “Our wealth has been depleted, and Allah has given honour to Islam and its supporters have become many, so let us stay amidst our wealth and make up what has been depleted of it.” Thereupon, Allah revealed to His Prophet [meaning] ‘And spend in the Path of Allah, and do not contribute to your own destruction’ [Qur'an, 2:195] refuting what we had said. So, the destruction lay in staying with our wealth and repleting it, and abandoning combat.” Abu Ayyub remained fixed until he [was killed and] was buried in Rome.
Al-Hakim authenticated it, saying it conforms to the criteria of Bukhari and Muslim, and Dhahabi corroborated him. Nasa’i and Ibn Hibban also narrated it. Bayhaqi included it, and other narrations in his Sunan in a chapter entitled, “Permissibility of a man or men fighting alone in the enemy land,” thereby citing it as evidence for the permissibility of advancing against a group, even if the more likely result is that they will kill him.
In this hadith, Abu Ayyub explained that the verse (Qur’an, 2:195) does not apply to one who plunges into the enemy ranks alone, even though it may seem to people that he is destroying himself. The Sahabah tacitly confirmed this explanation of his [by not objecting].
This story is clear, but it is a clear example of fighting to the death and not of deliberately killing oneself in such a manner as to kill as many of the enemy as possible. The author has not shown that there is an inner connection between the intention and the act of the man fighting to the death and the intention and the act of the man deliberately killing himself.
7 – Ibn Abi Shaybah has narrated in his Musannaf (5/338) that Mu`adh ibn `Afra’ asked the Messenger of Allah, “What makes Allah laugh upon His slave?” The reply: “[The servant] immersing himself into the enemy without armour.” Mu`adh then took off his armour and fought until he was killed.
This hadith is a clear evidence for the virtue of Jihad operations in which it is most likely that one will die, and it indicates that Jihad has some special rules which permit what may normally be prohibited.
Yet, this is again an extreme example of a man fighting to the death. Many if not all of the great Companions such as Sayyiduna ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, fought in that same spirit of seeking their deaths in battle but Allah had not chosen that moment for their deaths and they emerged from almost impossible situations alive in spite of their having gone into the battle prepared to fight to the death. There are many such situations in the battles of the Companions which are well known. Therefore fighting to the death is not the same as tying dynamite to oneself and deliberately killing oneself in order to harm the enemy since here the warrior deliberately intends to kill himself by his own hands, whereas the Muslim warrior risks almost certain death at the hands of the enemy, and yet may emerge alive if that is Allah’s will.
8 – Ibn Abi Shaybah has extracted (5/289) [and similarly Tirmidhi (2491 and 2492, the latter narration he classified as sahih) and Nasa'i (1597 and 2523), and Ahmad (20,393), as well as Tabarani (in al-Kabir, with a hasan chain) and Ibn al-Mubarak (in Kitab al-Jihad, 1/84)], “Three [categories of people] Allah loves,…” and among them is “a man who was in a dispatchment and met the enemy, and they were defeated, but he faced them with his chest until he was killed or victorious.” Al-Hakim also narrated it, and said it is sahih.
‘Killed or victorious’ are still the two options before any Muslim warrior even the one who has chosen to fight without armour against impossible odds. The man who deliberately kills himself has not this option. He will only die, unless the dynamite fails to explode.
9 – Ahmad narrated in his Musnad (6/22) from Ibn Mas`ud that the Prophet said, “Our Sustainer marvels at two men: a man who stirs from his bed … to salah … and a man who fights in the path of Allah, and his companions are defeated, and he realizes what awaits him in defeat and what awaits him in returning [to combat], but he returns [to combat] until his blood is spilled. Allah says, “Look at My servant who went back [to combat] hopeful and anxious for what is with Me, until his blood was spilled.” Ahmad Shakir said,: its chain is sahih. Haythami said in Majma` al-Zawa’id: Ahmad ad Abu Ya`la narrated it, as did Tabarani in al-Kabir, and its isnad is hasan. Abu Dawud and Al-Hakim narrated it in abbreviated form, and Al-Hakim authenticated it. Ibn al-Nahhas said: even if there were only this single authentic hadith, it would suffice us as evidence for the virtue of plunging [into the enemy ranks].
My comment is still the same: this only applies to the case of the man who fights against impossible odds, yet not knowing if Allah will bring him out of the conflict alive and victorious or take him as a shaheed. There are many accounts of warriors and armies in almost equally impossible situations who did emerge alive and victorious from the conflict although they had abandoned all hope of such an outcome.
10 – Muslim has narrated from Abu Hurayrah, “Among the best of lives for people is a man who clasps the reins of his horse in the path of Allah, rushing on its back; whenever he hears a cry [of battle] or advancement towards the enemy, he hurries to it, seeking death and being slain with eagerness.” This indicates that seeking to be killed and pursuing martyrdom are legitimate and praiseworthy acts
Of course, and it is narrated that many of the Companions pursued martyrdom throughout their lives but were denied it until the time Allah chose it for them.
11 – Bayhaqi has narrated in Al-Sunan al-Kubra (9/100) with a sahih chain from Mujahid that the Prophet sent out `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud and Khabbab as one dispatchment, and Dihyah as a dispatchment on his own.
This indicates that regardless of the level of risk in a Jihad operation, it remains permissible by default, and the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
‘Risk’ is not the same as absolute certainty that one will die.
12 – Bukhari and Muslim have narrated that Talhah shielded the Prophet from arrows in the Battle of Uhud, and his hand was crippled thereby.
This is still not an evidence for that which the author wishes it to be.
13 – Bukhari and Muslim have reported that Salamah ibn al-Akwa` was asked, “For what did you pledge allegiance to the Prophet on the Day of Hudaybiyyah?” He said, “For death.”
They were ready to die, fighting to the death and killed by the enemy, but Allah did not require it of them.
14- Many have reported from Muhammad ibn Thabit ibn Qays Ibn Shimas, when the Muslims were disclosed on the Day of Yamamah, Salim, the freed-slave of Abu Hudhayfah, said, “This is not how we used to act with the Messenger of Allah.” Then, he dug a trench for himself, and stood in it carrying the flag, and fought until he was killed as a martyr on the Day of Yamamah.
This and the next report indicate that steadfastness is desirable, even if it leads to death, and Salim attributed this type of action to the [days of] the Messenger of Allah.
Fighting until killed by the enemy, and yet if the battle had gone another way he could have emerged victorious. Victory is not a possibility for the man who straps dynamite to himself.
15 – Ibn Jareer Tabari has narrated in his Tarikh (2/151) that in the Battle of Mu’tah, Ja`far ibn Abi Talib took the flag and fought until he became immersed in the fighting, whereupon he turned to a light-colored horse he had and wounded it [so he could not escape], then he fought until he was killed. Hence, Ja`far was the first Muslim to wound his horse [in this manner].
This case is as the above, Ja’far, may Allah be pleased with him, fought to the death. He hamstrung the horse but he did not kill himself. It is not the same as the man who deliberately kills himself.
16 – Muslim has narrated that a man heard a Sahabi saying, when the enemy was near, “The Messenger of Allah said : The doors of Heaven are under the shade of the swords.” The man, upon hearing this, got up and asked for verification of the hadith. When it was confirmed, he turned to his companions, gave them the greeting of salam, broke and discarded the scabbard of his sword and then advanced to the enemy with his sword, striking them until he was killed.
[The original study in Arabic contains 40 narrations, but for brevity we have omitted the remainder].
It is clear from the above that some are heroic stories of martyrdoms which are irrelevant to the author’s thesis and the rest are in the main stories of Muslim warriors fighting to the death. What are omitted are the numerous occasions on which Muslim warriors set themselves to fight to the death, and yet were spared alive to fight many other days. These cases are far more numerous than the exceptional cases of warriors fighting alone to the death. In other words, the warrior’s death is not inevitable even though it often appears to be so. There is not a single case, that has been brought by any of the scholars defending these suicide bombings, in any of the books of the Sunnah, of any one of the Companions or any of the right-acting first generations deliberately killing themselves in such a way as to inflict the most damage on the enemy. They feared for anyone whose death even remotely looked like a suicide, because they knew that the person who deliberately kills himself has contravened the ayat in which Allah prohibits that and the clear hadith to the same effect.
Having established the permissibility of plunging into the enemy and attacking alone even when death is certain, we proceed and say that the martyrdom operations are derived from this principle, realizing that the prohibition of suicide relates to deficiency or absence of faith. However, the former generations did not have knowledge of martyrdom operations in their current-day form, for these evolved with the changes in techniques of warfare, and hence they did not specifically address them. However, they did address similar issues, such as that of attacking the enemy single-handed and frightening them with one’s own death being certain. They also deduced general principles under which the martyrdom operations fall, and in doing so they relied on evidences such as those we have mentioned in the previous section.
There is one difference between the martyrdom operations and their classical precedent, namely that in our case the person is killed by his own hand, whereas in the other he was killed by the enemy. We also explain that this difference does not affect the verdict.
A. Scholars of the Sahabah and Tabi`in
1 – Ibn al-Mubarak and Ibn Abi Shaybah (5/303) have reported, through a sahih chain, that Mudrik ibn `Awf al-Ahmasi said, “I was in the presence of `Umar when the messenger of Nu`man ibn Muqrin cam to him and `Umar asked him about the people, whereupon he replied, “So-and-so and so-and-so were hit, and others and others whom I do not know.” `Umar said, “But Allah knows them.” [The messenger] said, “O chief of the believers! [There was] a man who sold his life.” At this Mudrik said, “That is my maternal uncle, by Allah, O chief of the believers! People claimed he has contributed to his own destruction.” `Umar said, “They have lied (or: are mistaken). Rather, he is among those who have bought the Hereafter with this world.” Bayhaqi mentioned that that was on the day of Nahawand.
The connection is not clear. Did he kill himself? No, he fought until killed.
2 – Ibn Abi Shaybah has extracted (5/322) that a battalion of unbelievers advanced, and a man of the Ansar faced them and attacked them, and broke through the ranks, then returned, repeating this twice or thrice. Sa`d ibn Hisham mentioned this to Abu Hurayrah, who recited the verse (meaning), “Among mankind is he who sells himself seeking the pleasure of Allah.”
Not a proof. The man was brave and fought recklessly and indeed in this account would appear to have survived and emerged alive. There is no mention of his death.
3 – Al-Hakim has extracted in the Book of Tafseer (2/275) and Ibn Abi Hatim (1/128), with a similar narration recorded by Ibn `Asakir, that Bara’ was asked about the verse (meaning), “And spend in the Path of Allah, and do not contribute to your own destruction…”; does it refer to a man who encounters the enemy and fights until he is killed? He said, “No, rather it is a man who commits a sin, and then says Allah will not forgive him.” Al-Hakim said this is authentic according to Bukhari’s and Muslim’s criteria. This explanation of the verse was narrated by Tabari in his exegesis (3/584) from Hudhayfah, Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Hasan Basri, `Ata’, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, Dahhak, Suddi, Muqatil and others.
Still only relates to fighting until one is killed by the enemy.
B. Verdicts of Renowned Exegetes
1 – Ibn al-`Arabi says in Ahkam al-Qur’an (1/116, and see also Qurtubi’s tafseer 2/364), commenting on the verse, (meaning), “And spend in the Path of Allah, and do not contribute to your own destruction…,” “There are five views about [the meaning of] destruction [here]:
Do not give up spending [in the path of Allah]
Do not go out without provision
Do not abandon Jihad
Do not take on an enemy you are not capable of withstanding
Do not despair of forgiveness
Tabari said: “It is general [in scope], and there is no contradiction between them.” He is right, except regarding plunging into the enemy, for scholars have disagreed concerning this. Qasim ibn Mukhaymirah, Qasim ibn Muhammad and `Abdul-Malik from among our [Maliki] scholars said there is no objection to a man single-handedly taking on a large army, if he is strong and [the action] is sincerely for Allah. If he has no power, then that is self-destruction. It has been said [by some] that if he is seeking martyrdom and his intention is sincere, he can attack, for his goal is to kill one of the enemy forces, and that is clear in the verse (meaning), “Among mankind is he who sells himself seeking the pleasure of Allah.” The correct view by me is that of permissibility of rushing into an army one cannot withstand, for it contains four [possible] aspects:
Inflicting losses [on the enemy]
Encouraging the Muslims to attack
Demoralizing the enemy, showing them that if one man can do this, what will the totality be capable of!”
Still only relates to a Muslim warrior fighting until one of the kuffar brings his life to an end.
2 – Qurtubi says in his Tafseer (2/364), “Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, the student of Abu Hanifah, said: If a man single-handedly attacks 1,000 pagans, there is no objection to itif there is hope of success, or inflicting loss on the enemy, otherwise it is disliked, for then he would expose himself to death without benefit to the Muslims. As for someone whose aim is to embolden the Muslims to emulate his feat, it’s permissibility is not far-fetched, for it entails benefit to the Muslims in some ways. if his intent is to frighten the enemy, and demonstrate the Muslims’ strength of faith, its permissibility is not far-fetched. If there is benefit in it for the Muslims, then giving one’s life for the strengthening of the religion and weakening of the unbelievers, then it is the noble rank praised in the verse, (meaning), “Among mankind is he who sells himself seeking the pleasure of Allah.” and other verses.”
As above. Also al-Qurtubi plainly says, “…there is no objection if there is hope of success…” i.e. if the fighter has the chance of surviving and emerging victorious “or inflicting loss on the enemy”. The suicide bomber has no hope of success.
3 – Shawkani says in Fath al-Qadeer (1/297) about the verse of self-destruction, “The reality is that the words have general implication, and are not specific to the circumstances of revelation, and so everything which may be described as worldly or religious self-destruction is covered by it, as stated by Ibn Jareer al-Tabari. Among that which comes under this verse is a man attacking an enemy army which he can neither overcome, nor have any effect beneficial to the Mujahideen.” This implies that if there is a benefit it is permissible.
1 – Hanafi Ibn `Abideen says in his Hashiyah (4/303), “There is no objection to a man fighting alone, even if he thinks he will be killed, provided he achieves something such as killing, wounding or defeating [the enemy], for this has been reported from a number of the Sahabah in the presence of the Messenger of Allah on the Day of Uhud, and he praised them for it. If, however, he knows he will not inflict any loss on them, it is not permissible for him to attack, for it would not contribute to the strengthening of the religion.”
We still await proof that it is permissible for a man to kill himself.
2 – Maliki Ibn Khuwayz-Mandad said, as cited by Qurtubi in his Tafseer (2/364), “As for a man single-handedly attacking 100 or more enemy troops … this has two scenarios: If he is certain, or reasonably so, that he will kill the subject of his attack, and emerge safe, then it is good, and similarly if he is reasonably certain that he will be killed, but will inflict loss or cause damage, or have a beneficial effect for the Muslims, then it is permissible also.” Statements from Qurtubi and Ibn al-`Arabi have already preceded.
We still await proof that it is permissible for a man to kill himself.
3 – Shafi`i In the completion of Al-Majmu` (19/291) by al-Muti`i, we find, “If the number of the unbelievers are twice the numbers of the Muslims, and they do not fear perdition, it is obligatory to stand firm … If they are more convinced than not of destruction, then there are two possibilities:
1. That they may turn back, based on the verse (meaning), “do not contribute to your own destruction…”
2. That they may not turn back, and this is the correct view, based on the verse, (meaning), “When you encounter a force, remain steadfast…”, and because the Mujahid only fights in order to kill or be killed. If the number of the unbelievers exceed twice the numbers of the Muslims, then they may turn back. If they are more convinced than not that they will not be destroyed, then it is better for them to remain steadfast so that the Muslims are not routed. If they are more convinced than not that they will be destroyed, then there are two possibilities:
That they are obliged to turn back, based on the words of Allah (meaning), “do not contribute to your own destruction…” That it is recommended for them to turn back, but not binding, for if they are killed they will attain martyrdom.”
4 – Hanbali Ibn Qudamah says in Al-Mughni (9/309), “If the enemy is more than twice the Muslims’ number, and the Muslims are reasonably certain of victory, then it is preferable to remain steadfast on account of the benefit [involved], but if they turn back it is permissible, for they are not immune to destruction … it is conceivable that they are obliged to stand fast if they are reasonably certain of victory, on account of the benefit, but if they are reasonably certain or being defeated by remaining and being unscathed by turning back, then it is preferable for them to turn back, but if they remain put, it is permissible, for they have a goal of martyrdom, and it is also possible that they will be victorious. If they are reasonably certain of being routed whether they remain put or turn back, then it is preferable for them to remain steadfast to attain the rank or martyrdom, … and also because it is possible they might be victorious.”
In the passage above Ibn Qudamah says, “…for they have a goal of martyrdom, and it is also possible that they will be victorious. If they are reasonably certain of being routed whether they remain put or turn back, then it is preferable for them to remain steadfast to attain the rank of martyrdom, … and also because it is possible they might be victorious.” This is precisely my argument for he says, “And also because it is possible they might be victorious.”
Ibn Taymiyyah says, in Majmu` al-Fatawa (28/540), “Muslim has narrated in his Sahih the story of the people of the trenches, in which the boy ordered his own killing for the benefit of the religion, and hence the four imams have allowed a Muslim to immerse himself in the enemy ranks, even if he is reasonably certain that they will kill him, provided there is benefit in that for the Muslims. “
‘…even if he is reasonably certain that they will kill him…’ is never the same as killing oneself, because in the latter case one is absolutely certain that one will kill oneself, and it is not the same as the above case.
5 – Zahiri Ibn Hazm says in Al-Muhalla (7/294), “Neither Abu Ayyub al-Ansari nor Abu Musa al-Ash`ari criticized a man plunging alone into a raging army and remaining steadfast until he was killed… It has been authentically reported that a man from among the Sahabah asked the Messenger of Allah about what makes Allah laugh upon a servant, and he said, “His immersing himself into the enemy without armour,” whereupon the man removed his armour and entered the enemy [ranks, fighting] until he was killed.”
D. Some Analysis
The hadith of the boy is the strongest of evidences for this issue.
If this is the strongest evidence then there is no case.
The hadith explains that when the boy saw that his being killed in a specific way would be a means for spreading the religion, and hence he advised the king – from whom Allah had protected him hitherto – how to kill him, for spread of the religion and people’s entering into it was more weighty in his eyes than his remaining alive, and he thereby contributed to taking his own life.
This story has other dimenions to it totally lacking in the behaviour of the people who deliberately kill themselves: for example, his calling people to Islam.
However, that the boy did apparently contribute to his own death has a number of possibilities that render it entirely different from the man who straps dynamite upon his own body with the express intention of killing himself:
First, the boy knew that there were two distinct possibilities for the king; i.e. that he refrain from taking the boy’s life since he would have to do it ‘In the name of Allah, the boy’s Lord’ and thus admit to the Lordship of the Lord.
Second, that the king would actually take the boy’s life but in so doing would admit the Lordship of the Lord and thus demonstrate to the people looking on with an absolute proof the power of the Lord in a quite miraculous manner, since the king had miraculously failed to kill the boy in spite of repeated attempts to do so.
Neither of these elements are present in the case of the man who deliberately kills himself in order to kill as many of the enemy as possible. There is no element of da’wah or any possiblity of the miraculous such as would convince onlookers of the reality of the Lord.
Indeed, much as some few are moved by the bravery of suicide bombers, others pity the apparent desperation of such men and regard the act as a sign of their sickness and nihilism and of their utter lack of hope, and another group are horrified and regard it as completely barbaric and murderous behaviour. Few are moved to accept Islam, and none regard it as a proof of the Lord.
Yes, he did not take it by his own hand, but his opinion was the sole factor leading to his killing. This is just as if a man, suffering from painful wounds, asked someone else to kill him; he would be as guilty of suicide as if he had taken his own life, regardless of who did the killing, for he requested it.
However, the boy did not ask for his own death, but he merely informed the king of the means whereby he could kill him, without wishing his own death or deliberately bringing it on. There were always two options before him: life and death, until the moment the king pronounced the name of Allah and fired the arrow.
There are also elements in the story which indicate that one could class it with the story of Khidr, peace be upon him, in Surat al-Kahf, because Khidr did actually do acts which were against the shari’ah, i.e. he punctured the ferry boat and murdered a boy for no apparent reason, because of his position of being one who was taught knowledge directly from Allah. Yet no one is allowed to claim such a position, and it is impossible to derive a shari’ah ruling from such behaviour. In other words, in spite of the killing of the boy for absolutely no reason and the story existing clearly in the Qur’an, it is impossible to derive a ruling that one can kill boys for no good reason in the shari’ah. These stories are outside the domain of shari’ah for very obvious reasons because of the presence of clearly miraculous elements within them that do not lead to the laying of Sunnah or Shari’ah.
Similarly, Allah praised those who believed in the boy’s Lord; those who were being forced to jump into the pits of fire for refusing to renounce their faith. Nay, even the infant spoke, encouraging its mother to advance when she hesitated about entering the fire. They were praised in Surah al-Buruj, which described their fate as being gardens beneath which flow rivers, and they are called successful. The story of Pharaoh’s daughter’s hairdresser is similar.
Yet, these people were forced by brutal tyrants to either jump to their deaths or renounce their deen, and so their deaths are in no way similar to that of the person who deliberately straps dynamite to himself.
We have cited evidences from our Shari`ah which fortify these two hadiths, and nothing has appeared to contradict sacrificing one’s life for raising Allah’s word. Hence, the content of these two hadiths is part of our Shari`ah, according to the majority of scholars.
I think I have clearly refuted the argumentation so far.
In fact, we see that this sort of operation was carried out in the presence of the Prophet, and after him by the Sahabah, not once but many times. Furthermore, protection of the religion is the greatest service a Mujahid performs, and the evidences do not leave us with any doubt that a Mujahid may sacrifice his life for the religion. Talhah shielded the Prophet with his hand, and this supports the permissibility of a person sacrificing himself for others in the interests of the religion.
It has transpired that scholars gave, to the issue of plunging single-handed into the enemy with reasonable certainty of being killed, the same verdict as in cases of death being certain, such that whoever permits the latter permits the former.
Further, the majority of scholars gave conditions for the permissibility:
2. Infliction of losses on the enemy
3. Frightening them
4. Strengthening the hearts of the Muslims
Qurtubi and Ibn Qudamah allowed plunging into the enemy with only a sincere intention, even if no other conditions are fulfilled, for seeking martyrdom is legitimate. Since there is no explicit stipulation of the majority’s conditions in narrations, this view appears preferable. The majority deduced their conditions from general standards of the Shari`ah, but the general need not restrict the specific. Yes, we do say that if there is no benefit to the Muslims or the Mujahideen, an action should not be carried out, and is not the most optimal practice, but this is apart from the original permissibility of the act, for to condemn one seeking martyrdom without a firm basis is an injustice.
The Issue of using Prisoners as a Human Shield
The issue of killing Muslim prisoners whom the enemy has used as a human shield resembles the issue at hand, although there is also a difference between them. The similarity is that both involve ending a Muslim life in the interests of the religion. The difference between the issues is that killing those used as a shield was permitted by scholars out of necessity, for there does not exist any text permitting the taking of someone else’s life, rather it derives from the public interest overshadowing the individual interest.
We need to see the evidence that this is permitted and by whom it is permitted and under what circumstances. So far the author has cited exact citations for his argument and here he resorts simply to saying the ‘ulama. We must insist on knowing which ‘ulama and the exact nature of their judgements.
Hence, killing prisoners used as a shield is based on the rule of necessity permitting the unlawful, and of choosing the lesser of two evils when one is inevitable. As for martyrdom operations, no such rules need be applied, for we have clear texts encouraging plunging into the enemy ranks in spite of the certainty of being killed, and it is not a case of necessity.
And yet we have refuted that there is a connection between the case of the man fighting to the death and the man deliberately killing himself and effectively refuted that there is any connection between those cases involving the Companions fighting to the death and the case of the suicide operation.
Killing another person is an even greater sin than killing oneself; Qurtubi cites in his Tafseer (10/183) consensus of scholars that anyone who is coerced to kill someone else may not comply. Hence whoever allows killing another Muslim, where no textual evidence exists, but for an overwhelming religious benefit, should similarly allow killing oneself for an overwhelming benefit, for the taking of one’s own life is less serious than taking someone else’s life. This would be even if we did not have any texts to support martyrdom operations, although we actually do have specific evidences, as mentioned earlier.
The reality is that the case has definitely not been proved by textual sources, since there exist no textual sources that have stood up to examination, and we are left with this piece of reasoning, the evidence for which from the madhhabs and the ‘ulama we have not been presented.
The Muslim army is ordinarily prohibited from killing not only Muslims, but also dhimmis (unbelievers living as protected subjects of the Muslim state), as well as old men, women and children from among the unbelievers. If Muslim prisoners of war are used by the unbelievers then it is not permissible to fire on them except in cases of dire necessity. In the case of women and children of the unbelievers, however, they could be fired upon for an expediency of war even if it is not dire necessity, for war may need such action, but the intention should not be specifically to kill the non-combatants.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his Household) was asked about the pagans being hit by night, and some women and children being killed in the process, and he replied, “They are from among them.” [Bukhari and Muslim] In the case of Muslims, however, firing is permissible only if abstaining will lead to a wholesale harm, such as a greater number of Muslims being killed than those being used as a shield, or the Muslims being defeated and their land overrun. In such a case, any Muslims killed as a result will be raised up according to their intentions.
The majority consider it obligatory to attack the enemy in cases of necessity, even if it leads to the members of a human shield being killed. [See: Shawkani's Fath al-Qadeer (5/447), Mughni al-Muhtaj (4/244), Hashiyat al-Dusuqi (2/178), and Ibn Qudamah's al-Mughni (10/505)] The author of Mughni al-Muhtaj gives two conditions which should be satisfied:
1. That the Mujahideen try their best to avoid hitting the shield deliberately.
2. That they do not intend to kill the people in the shield.
Ibn Taymiyyah said, “If the unbelievers use Muslims as a human shield, and the unbelievers cannot be repelled without killing [the Muslims], then [the Muslim army may fire], for inflictions and afflictions may smite one in this world who does not deserve it in the Hereafter, and it counts as a misfortune for him [for which he may be rewarded]. Some expressed this by saying, “The killer is a Mujahid and the killed one is a martyr.”" The majority of Hanafis and Malikis, as well as Imam Sufyan al-Thawri, have permitted attacking when the enemy have used a shield of Muslims, whether or not abstaining would be detrimental or lead to defeat, reasoning that otherwise Jihad would never take place. [See: Fath al-Qadeer (5/448), Jassas' Ahkam al-Qur'an (5/273) and Minah al-Jaleel (3/151)] The weakness of this position is clear, in that the sanctity of a Muslim life is greater than to allow its taking without a clear proof, and moreover such shields are not universally used, and so Jihad would not necessarily come to a halt.
In the case of women, children and old men from among the unbelievers being used as shield, the majority of Hanafis, Shafi`is and Hanbalis have allowed attacking even if it is not a dire necessity. [See: Al-Siyar al-Kabeer (4/1554) Mughni al-Muhtaj (4/224) and Al-Mughni (10/504)] The Malikis differed, but for brevity we will not mention their reasoning. [See: Dardeer's Al-Sharh al-Kabeer (2/178) and Minah al-Jaleel (3/150).]
The View of the Majority Concerning one who assists in Killing
Plunging into the enemy ranks without hope of escape is the greatest means by which a Mujahid contributes to his death, and contributing to one’s own death is just like killing oneself, just as one who deliberately causes the death of someone is like one who actually killed him.
Here the author has proved our point, because he shows that deliberately causing death by assisting a murderer is itself murder, and so we can say that deliberately causing one’s own death is suicide, no less.
However, we have analysed quite clearly the cases where Muslim warriors and the boy in the famous hadith contributed to their own deaths to show that they are not the same as deliberately causing their own deaths which is not permitted.
The majority of scholars, from among the Malikis, Shafi`is and Hanbalis, have subjected one who kills someone by consequence to being killed in retaliation just as in the case of direct murder.
This is someone who deliberately caused the death or conspired in or assisted in the murder of someone else even if he did not actually kill them, and from this we understand that someone who deliberately causes their own death is in fact a suicide.
Among the textual bases for this is that which Bukhari has reported, that a boy was assassinated, whereupon `Umar said, “Even if all the inhabitants of San`a took part in it, I would kill them all.” From a rational angle, if killing in retaliation were to be halted in such a case, murder would increase, for murderers would merely use one or more accomplices without fear of being executed for the crime. The monetary compensation of blood-money would not deter all murderers, especially the well-off. Hence it is fitting for all the participants to be executed, and in a similar light the Qur’an describes one who kills one person to be like one who has killed all mankind. [See: Al-Sayl al-Jarrar (4/397), Tafseer al-Qurtubi (2/251), Majmu` Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah (20/382), Al-Bahr al-Ra'iq (8/354), Sam`ani's Qawati` al-Adillah (2/243)] So, if one who kills himself by plunging into the enemy is praised, then this praise applies independent of the weapon and manner in which he gives up his life.
Fallacious reasoning, since he does not kill himself but rather is busy killing the enemy in the course of which he himself is killed by the enemy.
We have already mentioned in evidence 14 the Sahabi’s action, and no criticism or stipulation has been recorded from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) of such a practice. Hence, if allowing oneself to be killed by the enemy is allowed when it is in the interests of the Muslims, then clearly killing oneself for the same purpose should be allowed, and in such a case a Mujahid is exempted from the general texts which prohibit taking one’s own life.
This is specious reasoning which is not endorsed by the shari’ah. From what source is the reasoning, other than that it seems reasonable to the author? He overrides a clear Qur’anic prohibition using what he thinks should or should not be reasonable.
Definition of a Shaheed (martyr)
Nawawi has enumerated [in Sharh Sahih Muslim (1/515) and Al-Majmu` (1/277)] seven explanations for why the martyr is called Shaheed:
(1) Because Allah and the Prophet have testified concerning his entry into Heaven
(2) Because he is alive before his Lord
(3) Because the angels of mercy witness the taking of his soul
(4) Because he will be among those who testify over nations on the Day of Resurrection
(5) Because his faith and good ending have outwardly been witnessed
(6) Because he has a witness to his death, namely his blood
(7) Because his soul immediately witnesses Heaven.
Ibn Hajar has mentioned fourteen means by which a person can acquire the title, some of them specifically related to being killed in the path of Allah and others not. [See: Fath al-Bari (6/43)] Jurists have given the technical definition of a martyr as follows:
According to the Hanafis:
“One who is killed by the pagans, or is found killed in the battle bearing a mark of any wound, whether external or internal – such as blood emerging from an eye or the like.” [Al-`Inayah published on the margins of Fath al-Qadeer (2/142) and Hashiyat Ibn `Abideen (2/268)] “Anyone who is killed while fighting pagans, or rebels, or brigands, by a means attributed to the enemy – whether directly or by consequence – is a shaheed, anyone who is killed by a means not specifically attributed to [an action of] the enemy is not considered a shaheed.” [Zayla`i's Tabyeen al-Haqa'iq, (1/247). See also Al-Bahr al-Ra'iq (2/211)]
Ibn ‘Abdideen says, ‘…ANYONE WHO IS KILLED BY A MEANS NOT SPECIFICALLY ATTRIBUTED TO [AN ACTION OF] THE ENEMY IS NOT CONSIDERED A SHAHEED…‘ This text is too clear. If someone kills himself and is not killed by the enemy he is not a shaheed.
According to the Malikis:
“One who is killed while fighting warring unbelievers only, even if killed on Islamic land such as if the enemy attacked the Muslims, [even if he] did not fight on account of being unaware or asleep, [and even if] killed by a Muslim who mistook him for an unbeliever, or trampled by a horse, or mistakenly smitten by his own sword or arrow, or by having fallen into a well or from a cliff during the fighting.” [Dardeer's Al-Sharh al-Kabeer, (1/425)]
Dardeer says, ‘…or MISTAKENLY smitten by his own sword or arrow…’ He is quite clear that the person who killed himself is a shaheed if he did so by mistake. Therefore someone who does it deliberately is not a shaheed.
According to the Shafi`is:
“One who is killed in fighting unbelievers, facing and not running away, for the raising of Allah’s word…and not for any worldly motive.” [Mughni al-Muhtaj (1/350) and see Fath al-Bari (6/129)]
He says “IS KILLED” i.e. he is killed by someone else, and he did not say “he kills himself”.
According to the Hanbalis:
“One who dies in a battle with the unbelievers, whether male or female, adult or not, whether killed by the unbelievers, or by his own weapon in error, or by having fallen off his mount, or having been found dead with no mark, provided he was sincere.” [Kash-shaf al-Qina`, 2/113.
The author of Kashshaf al-Qina says, '…OR BY HIS OWN WEAPON IN ERROR, …' The author is now disproving everything that he has set out to prove. The fuqaha have clearly said that if the warrior kills himself by accident or mistake then he can be a shaheed. They do this trying to cover all the possibilities that may occur in battle The opposite is clearly established that if they deliberately kill themselves with their own weapon they are not shaheed.
See also Al-Mughni (2/206)] From the above, it transpires that the majority – apart from the Hanafis – do not consider the identity of the killing party to be a factor in determining whether the victim is a shaheed. The majority view emerges preferable, based on:
i. A hadith narrated by Bukhari (4196) in which `Aamir while trying to kill an enemy man during the battle of Khaybar, mistakenly killed himself instead. Someone said he had invalidated his good deeds, but the Prophet said, “Whoever says that is lying (or mistaken). Verily, he is has two rewards,” and he coupled two of his fingers, “He is a striver and a Mujahid.”
The text has ‘…MISTAKENLY KILLED HIMSELF INSTEAD‘. Again this text shows that no Muslim warrior among the Companions would have considered him a shaheed if he had deliberately used his weapon against himself, even if it had been in order to inflict damage on the enemy.
ii. A hadith narrated by Abu Dawud (2539) about a Sahabi who mistakenly hit himself with his own sword, and people asked, “Is he a shaheed?”, whereupon it is reported that the Prophet said, “Yes, and I am a witness for him.”
The text has ‘… A SAHABI WHO MISTAKENLY HIT HIMSELF WITH HIS OWN SWORD‘ and again, we come up against the same distinction. The Companions were in doubt as to his standing, but it was because his act was mistaken that he was counted as a shaheed. Why is there not a single text of one of the Companions killing himself in such a way as to cause damage to the enemy?
Some people may waver about the permissibility of martyrdom operations because the Mujahid is killing himself. In order to dispel this confusion, we may remind ourselves that the Shari`ah often gives a differing verdict about two actions which externally appear the same, but differ in the intentions behind them. E.g.
Marrying a divorced woman is permissible, but doing so with the sole intention of making her permissible to the first husband is prohibited.
Paying back a loan with more than was borrowed is allowed, but if the excess is stipulated in the contract, it is prohibited, being riba.
One who performs Jihad in order to raise aloft the word of Allah is a Mujahid, but one who fights for the sake of showing off bravery is among the first who will be taken to Hell.
Mistakenly striking oneself with one’s own weapon makes one shaheed (according to the majority) but deliberately killing oneself to escape the pain of wounds makes one deserving of Hell.
Deliberately killing oneself for any reason whatsoever has so far been shown to have no basis in the shari’ah. Clearly the Companions feared and avoided it and worried for the Companions who accidentally killed themselves, until the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, made clear that they were shuhada. However, not one single Companion or member of the right-acting first generations ever used his weapon to kill himself even in such a manner as to cause damage to the enemy.
These examples, all based on the hadith, “Verily, actions are only according to intentions…”, clearly support the notion that the verdict concerning the shaheed does not differ based on who the killing party is, provided the intention is pure.
We think that our arguments have convincingly disproved that.
So, one who has a bad intention and is killed by the enemy is deserving of the Fire, as would be the case if he kills himself out of pain. And, one who has a sincere intention will be in Heaven, whether he is killed by the enemy, or kills himself in error. And, one who helps in killing himself for the good of the religion will be in Heaven, like the boy, inshaa-Allah.
But not one who deliberately kills himself, since there has been no convincing proof offered of that.
Definition of Suicide
Suicide here refers to killing oneself on account of anger, pain or some other worldly motive, and scholars are unanimous that it is prohibited and moreover a major sin, making the offender deserving of Hell – either eternally if he legitimizes the act, or for a finite duration [if he did not legitimize it and died as a Muslim]. “Do not kill yourselves. Verily, Allah is merciful to you. And, whoever does that, out of animosity and , We shall burn him in a Fire. And that is easy for Allah.” [Qur'an, 4:29-30; See Tafseer al-Qurtubi, (5/156)] “Among those before you, there was a man with a wound, and he was in anguish, so he took a knife and cut his hands, and the blood did not stop until he died. Allah said, “My servant has hastened the ending of his life, so I have prohibited Heaven to him.” [Bukhari and Muslim] “Whoever strangles himself will be strangling himself in the Fire, and whoever stabs himself will be stabbing himself in the Fire.” [Bukhari and Muslim] The authentic ahadith on this subject are many. In fact, we have been ordered not to even wish for death.
“Let not any of you wish for death on account of harm which has befallen him. But, if he must, he should pray, ‘O Allah! Keep me alive as long as life is better for me, and take my life when death is better for me.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
All of these texts prohibiting suicide related to killing oneself for worldly motives such as pain or anguish or lack of patience, and not for raising aloft the Word of Allah. We have already cited the evidences for permitting a Mujahid to plunge into the enemy ranks without armour, and these exempt the Mujahid from the generality of the suicide texts.
Still not proven.
Can one then say that one who kills himself in order to lift the Word of Allah – to inflict losses on the enemy, to frighten them, and with a sincere intention – can we describe him as one committing suicide? That is a grave slander.
The use of the intention in this argument is utterly false, since it can lead us to commit any haram act if we claim that the intention is good, for example, can we commit adultery with a non-Muslim woman hoping that she will then enter Islam. It is utterly spurious to use this type of reasoning. Intention cannot reverse the nature of an act which is considered haram and indeed one of the major wrong actions which are destructive.
The word suicide in English is emotive, whereas the Arabic simply refers to ‘killing oneself’ and that is prohibited. It is not passing a judgement on those who have done this act seeking the pleasure of Allah, but rather determining the nature of the act for the sake of other Muslim fighters as to whether they may legitimately consider it, and we are clear that they may not consider this as a legitimate option since it is textually prohibited and since none of the Companions or the right-acting first generations considered doing it and so there is no basis in the Sunnah or in the practice of the right-acting first generations for doing it. Clearly if it had been meant as a viable option for this Muslim Ummah someone in the first generations would have done it so that it would have been counted among the Sunnah of Islam. None of them did it, and they clearly disapproved of it and feared that someone who did it would not be in the Garden, so much so that the borderline cases of someone who accidentally killed himself and someone who recklessly rushed against the ranks of the enemy until he himself was killed, both these cases caused them concern until the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, explained their true status. Nevertheless, not one of them took a weapon and killed himself in the presence of the enemy in such a way as to cause the enemy damage, but on the contrary all of them were killed by the weapons of the enemy while themselves killing the enemy.
We say that the prohibition of suicide is on account of its resulting from weakness or lack of faith, whereas the Mujahid in a martyrdom operation is killing himself on account of the strength of his faith. The boy in the account of the Trenches referred to in Surah al-Buruj effectively killed himself for such a reason, and his deed was praiseworthy.
Repetition of this argument which we have disproved does not make it true, even if the reasoning is appealing to the author. He has simply not proved his point.
Similarly, the Prophet wished for death in the Path of Allah not once but thrice [the hadith was cited at the start of the article], and it was permissible because it was not on account of harm which had befallen him, but rather it emanated from strong faith. So, when the rationale of the prohibition of suicide becomes clear, one arrives at the conclusion that martyrdom operations are permissible and praiseworthy when undertaken for some religious benefit.
Case singularly unproven.
We have arrived at the conclusion that martyrdom operations are permissible, and in fact the Mujahid who is killed in them is better than one who is killed fighting in the ranks, for there are gradations even among martyrs, corresponding to their role, action effort and risk undertaken. Then, we explained how martyrdom operations are the least costly to the Mujahideen and most detrimental to the enemy. We have heard, as you must have, that most scholars today permit such operations; at least 30 Fatawa have been issued to this effect. We explained how this issue is derived from the issue of plunging single-handedly into the enemy ranks; something which is praiseworthy by the agreement of jurists. We then further stated that we preferred the view that such an action is permissible even if martyrdom is the only goal, although it is certainly not the optimal practice. Martyrdom operations should not be carried out unless certain conditions are met:
1. One’s intention is sincere and pure – to raise the Word of Allah.
2. One is reasonably sure that the desired effect cannot be achieved by any other means which would guarantee preservation of his life.
3. One is reasonably sure that loss will be inflicted on the enemy, or they will be frightened, or the Muslims will be emboldened.
4. One should consult with war strategy experts, and especially with the amber of war, for otherwise he may upset plan and alert the enemy to their presence.
If the first condition is absent, the deed is worthless, but if it is satisfied while some others are lacking, then it is not the best thing, but this does not necessarily mean the Mujahid is not shaheed.
We also explained how causing a death carries the same verdict as actual killing. Hence one who plunges without armour into the enemy ranks, being certain of death, just like one who engages in a martyrdom operation, is effectively causing his own death, but they are praiseworthy because of the circumstances and intention, and hence are not considered to have committed suicide. We also clarified that [according to the majority] the identity of the killer does not have an effect on whether the Mujahid will be considered shaheed. This dispels the wavering arising from the fact that the Mujahid is taking his own life. Thus, such operations could take on any of the five Shar`i verdicts depending on intention and circumstances. Finally, we clarified that taking one’s own life is not always blameworthy; rather it is contingent on the motives behind it. So, we conclude that one who kills himself because of his strong faith and out of love for Allah and the Prophet, and in the interests of the religion, is praiseworthy.
Finally, we should point out that this topic needs a much more expansive study. However, we are thankful to Allah for having allowed us to complete this. If we are correct, it is due to Allah, and if we have erred, then all humans are prone to error. Finally, let the scholars and students of knowledge approach us with their feedback and advice, for we are in need of such help. Let them fear Allah in discharging their responsibility to us.
And peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, who rightly strove in the Path of Allah until he left this world, and also upon his Household and Companions and those who follow them in goodness until the Day of Judgment.
And our final words are praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.
Synopsis of reply to the above
The argument is based on taking analogical deductions from unusual cases in which the analogy does not hold:
First, the story told by the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, of the boy who contributed to his own death, in which there are clearly miraculous elements which cause one to doubt whether it can be considered analogous to the case of a muslim warrior killing himself deliberately;
Second, the case of a man fighting to the death in almost impossible circumstances in which his death is almost absolutely certain. However in this latter case, the Muslim fighter never turns his weapon upon himself but is killed by the enemy while engaged in killing the enemy. What is astounding is that the author proceeds to quote the judgements of the fuqaha of the madhhabs in which they specifically qualify someone as a shaheed who uses his own weapon against himself if he does so mistakenly or accidentally, but in no case do they mention the possibility that a Muslim warrior could ever use his weapon against himself for the sake of jihad.
Given that Allah, exalted is He, revealed:
Today I have perfected your deen for you
and completed My blessing upon you
and I am pleased with Islam as a deen for you.
(Surat al-Ma’idah: 3)
then it is astonishing that within the first community there should not have arisen circumstances in which a Muslim warrior deliberately killed himself in order to defeat the enemies of Islam or to protect the Muslims. The fact there is not a single case that can be thus interpreted, but rather many cases in which Muslim warriors fought to the death – just as there even more numerous cases in which Muslims fought intending it to be to the death but were saved from that by Allah – or in which Muslims willingly offered up their lives to their enemies for the sake of Allah and to protect other Muslims. There is not a single case of a Muslim man or woman knowingly killing himself or herself for the sake of others or for the purpose of inflicting through his or her death great harm on the enemy.
The author boasts of the great effectiveness of this method, but we have only seen defeat inflicted on the people who use it, both in Chechnya and in Palestine, and have yet to see the slightest hint of Muslim victory in either case. However, in the first Chechen war when the fighting of the Muslim Chechens was very much in line with the struggle of the earliest of the right-acting first generations and the Companions, we did indeed see great and stirring victory for the Muslims, but we recall none of the fighters killing themselves deliberately in the manner to which the author alludes.
In none of the above have we even touched on the matter of directing such attacks against civilians as is done in Palestine. Nor, more importantly have we considered the most significant matter as to whether a legitimate jihad has been declared by competent muslim amirs or a khalifah. These matters ought to be addressed, but fall outside the purpose of this reply.
Allah knows best the truth.
Posted in Articles.
– January 4, 2009