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ATTEMPTING TO UNDERSTAND ISLAMIC TERRORISM
The following burning question, I would think, should rationally enter the minds of the greater majority of civilized people in this country and world. Why would educated young Muslims take the lives of innocent victims along with their own in the conduct of suicidal missions in support of a cause? It would appear contrary to any religious belief, including that of Islam. In fact the Koran provides for fighting against and stopping aggression but not going beyond that1. However, the very nature of the Koran allowed for human formulation of religious laws and interpretations that resulted in the evolvement of a number of sects and sub-sects.
The largest of these sects is the Sunnites under which four schools of Islamic law were established. The graduates of these schools are deemed the “learned” who provide the interpretation of the faith. In adding to the Koran the term “ijma”, meaning the universal consent that is held to justify practices or beliefs although not warranted by the Koran or tradition, the Sunnite provided their graduates a useful tool. The acceptance of “ijma” by the largest number of Muslims thus allowed the rationalization of acts that could possibly contradict the original authority, the Koran. Further, the fact that Islamic countries do not have a separation of church and state strongly influences the practices of the mostly non democratic governments. The results have been “Jihads”2, holy wars wherein religion becomes an influence that overrides other issues.
The “ijma” has thus allowed a religious group, headed by a “learned” leader, the latitude to make a “fatwa”3, a religious ruling, that conveniently can be used to rationalize a position or view. Osama bin Laden founded the “International Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders” and in 1998 the organization published a “fatwa”4 proclaiming the “Jihad against the heretics who conquer Muslim lands” a duty incumbent upon all believing Muslims. Of great importance is the following phrase Almighty God also says "O ye who believe, what is the matter with you, that when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of God, ye cling so heavily to the earth! Do ye prefer the life of this world to the hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the hereafter. Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place; but Him ye would not harm in the least. For God hath power over all things." By following this provision of the “fatwa”, adherents to the “Jihad” devoutly can pursue suicide in the pursuit of their mission with the belief that the act will assure them comfort in their life hereafter.
With our question answered, it is hoped that in the pursuit of justice our leaders understand that to defeat this type of terrorism requires not only physical but psychological force. The leaders of Islamic countries, sects, sub-sects and clerical bodies must openly and well advertise complete repudiation of all “fatwas” that include interpretations of the Koran as supporting the dogma of suicidal terrorism. It would also help if democratization of Islamic countries would occur including the separation of church and state. However, that would be much to ask for in the foreseeable future.
1 From www.beliefnet.com - Chapter 2, Verse 190: Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors. This portion of the Koran was written in about A.D. 606, when the Prophet Muhammad and his followers were under attack in the city of Medina, says Imam Yahya Hendi, a Koran scholar who is the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. There, they had established their own state. But various coalitions of non-Muslim tribes — including Christians, Jews, atheists and animists — continued to go to war with them. This portion of the Koran explains their reasoning behind striking back. The passage actually refers to a defensive war, says Hendi: "You fight back. You go as far as it takes to stop the aggression but you do not go beyond that. So if you have to, you go as far as fighting verbally to get someone out of your home — but you don't shoot him after he is out. You don't keep going on with it — only if you are attacked, if there is an oppression applied to you. The idea is that justice prevails. You don't fight because you enjoy fighting, but because there is an oppression. "It could be military force or [in today's world] it could be media force, writing against you. But when the hostilities are over and the enemy offers a peace treaty, you should submit. Muslims are obliged to submit to a peace treaty offered by the enemy. You don't keep fighting."
2 “Jihad” is a rich word whose generic meaning is "struggle" -- usually the struggle of the soul to avert evil. Strictly applied to religious war, it is used only in reference to battles where the faith is under assault, or battles against a government that denies the practice of Islam (definition from Benjamin R. Barber Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University and author of Jihad Versus McWorld -Times Books, 1995, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/foreign/barberf.htm#Barber). Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid, imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in New York, says the word "jihad" has its origin in the verb jahada, which means to struggle, to fight. The word has a few different connotations, since struggle can occur on several levels.
3 Fatwa (p. Fataawa) - legal ruling based upon the final revelation from Allaah to his final Messenger Muhammad in a manner that correctly refers to the words, actions and tacit approvals of the Prophet Muhammad that in turn serves as an explanation of the meaning of the revelation
4 see text at http://www.ict.org.il/articles/fatwah.htm
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