Wednesday, April 8, 2009

O world! Islam is not a religion of terrorism

Written by Dr. Mohd. Asri Zainul Abidin

Translation by Ummu Hajar (

It is almost every week that I receive visits from various groups of impressive ‘labels’ from all corners and most of them are not Muslims. A huge number of them are avid readers of my writings. They ask for my opinions concerning a variety of issues. Among those that become the focuses of the non-Muslims is the issue of violence or terrorism.

As a result of the education generously provided by the international media, they seemingly perceive that there’s a close relation between Islam and terrorism. They asked; why does Islam allocate a learning chapter called Jihad (holy war) that in the end brings about a violent situation in this world?

I replied by asking them back a question; since when did you start to feel that the issue of terrorism is related to Islam? They answered; since a few years back, specifically since the September 11 incident. I asked again; the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w was appointed 1,400 years ago and his teachings had been spread to almost all over the world and had once contributed to the erection of a great civilization. Why is it that only today you hear about terrorism and Islam?

And then, what is your definition of terrorism since the media brands the Palestinians as terrorists while at the same time the Israelites are killing women and children everyday but are not labeled as terrorists?

What method do you use in concluding that the Iraqis who are killing the American soldiers are terrorists while at the same time the Americans are bombing and intruding their country, raping and killing their family members and yet they are not enlisted into the circle of terrorists?

Under what definition is the action of capturing hostages done by a few groups of Muslims considered as inhumane criminality while the action of the Americans in detaining so many Muslims without any proof is not being propagated as a cruel act of terrorism?

If we count the number of Westerners perished due to sectarian violence created by those who claim themselves as Muslims and compare it with the number of Muslims killed by the sophisticated American weapons and their allies, which number is higher?

What basis do you use in assigning Islam the image of terrorism just because of the actions of a few groups that are being correlated to Islam, but you don’t see the image of terrorism in Christianity and Judaism while their acts of terrorism are being performed by their respective followers who attribute themselves to a government and by an authority sanctioned by them?

Finally I said; in actual no one agrees to terrorism, it is only the western media that has been one sided in defining terrorism and who the terrorists are.

Since a long time ago Islam has been spreading justice and fairness among humans. Just observe that there are so many groups of non-Muslim minorities who are able to live in the middle of Muslim communities all over the world. Just take a look at our country, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia and other countries. Though there are a few shortcomings but they are not being tortured or their blood is not being spilled brutally.

On the other hand, the same condition does not happen to the Muslim minorities in most countries. Look at the fate of Muslims in Bosnia, Burma, Russia and a few other countries. Moreover, in the Malay community, the non-Muslims are able to do business and prosper in the middle of a Muslim Malay community but it is hard to find the opposite condition.

My point is terrorism or spilling the blood of people from different religions is not the demeanor of a Muslim and it is definitely not the teaching of Islam. How it is then possible to equate terrorism with the teachings of Islam whereas if carefully observed, it is clear that the rulings on war in Islam is very strict.

Even before the Geneva Convention exists, Islam since 1,400 years ago had put forth various disciplines and rulings concerning warfare. Even if the Geneva Convention does not exist, the Muslims are compelled to abide by the rules Islam stipulated in tackling war. In Islam, discipline in warfare is not only to preserve the reputation of a government but it is more for adhering to the commands of the religion.

War is not for spilling blood but instead it is for upholding the truth and justice. Allah says in surah al-Baqarah verse 190 (translated as): “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.”

In a hadith reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet s.a.w mentioned: “O ye men! Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy. Pray to Allah to grant you security; (but) when you (have to) encounter them exercise patience (be firm and do not move back).”

Because of that, Islam specifies that killing is only for the battlefield. Only combat those who are involved in war. The enemies who do not participate in war are neither combated nor killed.

To ensure that the emphasis on discipline during a war is being fulfilled, the Muslim scholars elaborate it in detailed and make it as the main focus so that the blood of the following groups is not spilled:

First: Women who do not join the force in war and children. In a hadith from Ibn ‘Umar, he said: “During some of the crusades of the Prophet, a woman was found killed. Allah’s Apostle then disapproved the killing of women and children.” (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Second: The elderly and sick people. They are not killed unless it is suspected that they are involved in the actions and planning of the war. This particular ruling is inferred from the case of women not assisting in the war.

Third: Those who are worshipping in houses of worship. Its evidence can be derived from the narration of Ibn ‘Abbas, who said: “When the Messenger of Allah sent out an army, he would say to them: Go out (into the battlefield of Jihad) in the name of Allah, fight in the way of Allah whoever denies Allah. Do not breach any agreements, do not steal from the possessions gained in war, do not mutilate the deads, do not kill children and the members of houses of worships. (Narrated by Ahmad, Ahmad Muhammad Syakir said that this hadith is hasan (good))

Al-Syaukani said (deceased in 1250 H): “This hadith provides the evidence that it is not allowed to kill anyone among the non-Muslims who only performs acts of worship such as the priests because they do not pose any threat to the Muslims.” (Al-Syaukani, Nail al-Autar, vol. 8, pg. 74, Beirut: Dar al-Jil)

Fourth: The workers and peasants. The majority of Ulama state that they are not to be killed. Its evidence is in the hadith of Hanzalah al-Katib who said: “We were with the Messenger of Allah on an expedition, and we passed by a woman who had been killed. At that time, people were gathering around her body and they let him through (to see it). He said: She did not join the war. Then he sent a man and said: Go to Khalid Ibn al-Walid and tell him: “The Messenger of Allah has sent a command by saying: Do not kill children (in another narration: women) and ‘asif (hired servant).”” (Narrated by Abu Daud, Ibn Majah and Ahmad. Al-Albani verified is as sahih (sound). Refer to Al-Albani, Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahihah, vol. 2, pg. 314, Riyadh: Maktabah al-Ma‘arf li al-Nasyr).

Hired servants are those whose only duty is to prepare food, or clean the camps of the army or the likes of it. As long as they are not involved directly in the war, they are not to be killed.

Fifth: The envoys and diplomats. ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud said: “It pertains to the Sunnah (practices and teachings of the Prophet) that envoys are not killed”. (Reported by Abu Daud, Ahmad, al-Bazzar, Abu Ya’la. Their chain of reporters is considered as hasan (al-Hathaimiy, Majma’ al-Zawaid, vol 5, pg. 314, Beirut: Dar al-Rayyan))

After you witness all these strict rules, is it still likely that you would accuse Islam of promoting bombing in public places? If that action is purportedly performed in the name of Islam, that is instead a betrayal to Islam. After Islam had prohibited all these actions, is it reasonable for the western media to still correlate violence with Islam while at the same time they do not equate the cruel acts of the Americans with Christianity or the Indians with Hinduism or the Israelites with Judaism? This is even though the authoritative text in prohibiting violence is not as clear in other religions as compared to Islam.

After acquiring a full understanding of the fact that Islam opposes zealous violence, the West should start asking; if indeed it is true that there are Muslims who are doing it then it only means that they are not able to restrain themselves to adhere to the disciplines of Islam, why is it happening then? I’d like to reiterate that Islam is not responsible for any mass murder.

What has been happening is actually an action that is out of control. This happens when emotion overrules the mind and misconstruction dictates the actions. It can’t be denied that this excessive and irrepressible emotion kicks in due to the evil and violent attitude displayed by some western power towards the Islamic world specifically in Iraq and Palestine nowadays.

When someone who is normally behaving well suddenly becomes violent, we should be asking for the reasons. Islam is unlike those western movies that endorse the violent acts performed by the heroes in the name of revenge but if the world desires a solution for eliminating a disease, we must cure the cause of the disease.

Then they asked me again; why is there a need to have a chapter on Jihad in Islam? This can cause tension between other religions. I said; if you look at Islam as a religion that only manages mosques, surely then it is weird to discuss the topic of Jihad. However, Islam is a complete religion that covers all systems of life.

Being a comprehensive religion that deals with various issues such as the economy, education, administration, education and many more, it is not possible for Islam not to discuss the issue of warfare. If that is so, it demonstrates how inadequate the system of Islam is. In other words, it would mean that Islam purposely lets the splendor of the system it builds to be infringed or destroyed.

We should be aware of the fact that wars have been occurring in the whole of human history. This is because when there is a group who tends to act violently and oppress others, or likes to use violence as a solution for everything then war will definitely set off. Subsequently, the oppressed side will be dragged along into the arena of war that is imposed on them.

For the sake of defending themselves they are forced to endure it as is happening in Iraq and Palestine. Therefore, we can see that every country will form its own military force because it is a basic necessity. Even if it is not for waging war to others, it is for protecting its border and sovereignty.

This is because a congenial attitude and being favorable to all parties are not able to guarantee that a particular country would not get attacked. The sentiment of greed and voracity that exists in other countries will threaten certain countries even though there is a diplomatic fortress being built. For that, each country is establishing its own military training and systems.

Clearly, discussing the issue of war and weaponry does not necessarily depict violent characteristic or terrorism. On the other hand, it is a necessity in living as a community. Furthermore, war that is waged for upholding the truth conforms to human nature.

This is the reason why films on war that depict victory on the side that is considered as truthful are favored by the world community. Therefore, Islam is a comprehensive religion. It comes to resolve the quandary of humans’ life at all levels. Because of that, it is impossible for Islam not to discuss the topic of war or as it is called – in terms of definition – Jihad qitali or Jihad warfare.

Why is it that just because there’s a chapter of Jihad in Islam this religion is convicted as terrorist but the military system established by every country especially the West is not considered as terrorist? Or, why is it that the Hollywood film producers are not convicted as terrorists? I would like to remind that because this chapter of Jihad is clearly stated in al-Quran and al-Sunnah, Muslims are not allowed to deny it. To deny the battlefield of Jihad means denying the authoritative texts of Islam. However, Muslims must clarify to the world in the correct manner the meaning of Jihad in Islam. Is it possible for Islam to discuss the issues of state affairs but suddenly not mention the topic of military?

What have been happening today are merely a few groups of Muslims who are exploiting this chapter of Jihad warfare or are traversing the disciplines stipulated by the religion. The Islam that is authentic objects their actions altogether.

However, to the Muslim countries that are being attacked by the imperial power, will the world then tell the Muslims; you are supposed to just be quiet about it and not to defend yourselves since that is Jihad and Jihad is an act of terrorism? Is this what you call a universal justice?

As the Arabs are saying it, “He hits me but he is the one crying. He insults me but he is the one complaining.”

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