San Francisco, CA — At this writing, the motives of those who have spread terror and death among Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere are unknown, as the perpetrators have not yet been identified.
However, the current investigation unfortunately points to individuals mistakenly termed “Muslim.”
This essay hopes to clarify the position of Islam concerning acts of terror against non combatants as well as the strict limits placed on war by the revelation to the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him.
It also wishes to clarify the meaning of “martyrdom” in Islam, proving that suicidal acts are as forbidden by Islam as revenge, greed and other motives tragically at the root of the current aggression against Americans as well as many others in the United States and around the world.
In the Glorious Quran, Surah II: verse 190 states that Muslims may “Fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress limits. Lo! Allah loves not aggressors…”
What are those limits?
Surah VIII: Verse 67 states, “It is not fitting for an Apostle (believer in Islam) that he should have Prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land… Ye look for the temporal goods of this world, but God looketh to the Hereafter: and God is Exalted in Might, Wise.”
The clear implication here is that war is permitted only for self defense and not for “territory or trade, revenge or military glory.” (Comment on the above Surah and verse by Brother Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran: text, Translation and Commentary, Published by the Islamic Center, Washington, DC, 1st edition 1934 and the source for all other Quranic citations in this essay).
Civilian slaughter is clearly forbidden, or Haram: “Let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.” (Surah II, Verse 193.)
Suicide is also clearly forbidden: “Make not your hands contribute to (your) destruction; but do good; for God loveth those who do good.” (Surah II, Verse 194).
Certain recent television broadcasts and even admissions by persons alleging themselves to be Muslim have rationalized or justified what is clearly forbidden by Godâs revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him). These individuals have stated they were taught that if they commit several forbidden acts at once — slaughter of non combatants, suicide –they will be given a special place at the side of Allah once they ascend to heaven. Perhaps they were shown this verse: “Think not of those who are slain in Godâs way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord.” (Surah III, verse 169).
Yet, this passage does not contradict the strict conditions on those who would use force: “Let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.” (Surah II, Verse 193.) And it is clearly implied in Surah III, verse 179 that it is Allah and Allah only who chooses martyrs: “He chooses of his apostles for the purpose whom he pleases. So believe in God and His apostles: and if ye believe and do right, you have a reward without measure.”
The particular meaning of Islam is submission. The frail human will is yoked in a positive and rational, not slavish and degrading, sense to a Higher, More Benevolent and Compassionate Will and deeply, lovingly connected to creation. Examples formally recognized in Islam include Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
In modern times, certain Native North American holy men and individuals such as Gandhi and modern saints like Edith Stein could also be regarded as examples of this very unusual and blessed mental and moral state. Indeed, limitation of truth to one culture is not recognized in the Quran: “To Allah belong the East and the West. Withersoever you turn, there is the Face of Allah.” (Surah Baqarah, 115). In the words of Sister Rabia Harris, Muslim Peace Fellowship of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, “Truth is not limited, but is to be discovered and honored everywhere. Both traditional and modern cultures have something important to contribute to the service and contemplation of Allah.”
And God is above all merciful and benevolent as He adjures humans to be . The prayers spoken by one and a half billion Muslims five times a day begin with the words, “In the name of God (Allah), the beneficent, the merciful…”
Clearly, if mercy is the primary quality of Allah, it is the quality Muslims are first called upon to imitate and practice. All Muslims are instructed to pursue this path of spiritual evolution toward this quality, and this struggle toward the good is called jihad, and no word in modern times has been more misunderstood or more misinterpreted by Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
For in that rare state of spiritual grace, concern for others and humanity at large displaces vicious egotism and violent greed, resulting in those astonishing human beings we call “men (and women) for others”. Such persons could no more turn themselves into flying bombs than they themselves could sprout wings and fly… not if they believe in the submission to God which is the core of Islam.
It is time for all who share this planet to contemplate the words of St. Paul: “The spirit of the word gives life but the letter kills”. Individual passages in both the Quran and the Old and New Testaments can be angry, even vilifying, but the spirit of religion and its behavioral disciplines are loving and above all merciful, demanding humility and a renunciation of hate both in the soul and society.
I implore those who call themselves Muslims, Christians, Jews or anything else while committing irreligious acts to have mercy on the hope religion offers… particularly Islam, which is providing help to many young men and women in the West seeking a disciplined life of sobriety, education, sexual and moral responsibility leading to that victory one may call oneness with Allah and others merely call responsibility, or grace.
“In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful…”