Any terrorism has two main driving forces: material and spiritual. The material purpose is a forcible appropriation of the other people’s property. The spiritual driving force is more dangerous. It determines the behavior of individuals and the whole society. It turns terrorism into a steady pursuit of the violent repression of other people’s will, the freedom of religion followed by the imposition of a certain way of life turning the crowd into servants. It is interesting to note that religious terrorism exists mainly on the basis of theistic religions, or the so-called Abrahamic religions. That is, on the basis of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Common to all these religions is the fact that their faith needs a constant manifestation on the side of believers. This is such a strong psychological complex that under some certain conditions it can push people to extreme actions. This paper deals with the Islamic terrorism as the most widespread type of religious terrorism in the 20th century and today.
Islamic extremism, with the terrorism under some Muslim slogans as its marginal expression, gains more and more influence on the whole world. Different views are expressed trying to explain the forces behind this phenomenon and its ultimate goals. However, the conclusion of focus on some Islamic ideological postulates is difficult to refute. Indeed, the influence coming from leaders and masterminds of Muslim radicals is largely determined by the fact that they claim to be the followers of true Islam. They advocate for the realization of their ideas into life. Therefore, one cannot unconditionally accept the assertion that terrorism has no religion. In few words, separating Islam from terrorism is not difficult, but the reality is much more complicated. Claiming that Islam has nothing to do with the modern international terrorism is a wishful thinking.
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Often terrorists using the Islamic rhetoric can convince the public that they are being the flesh and blood of Islam. In this case, terrorists justify their actions by the type of the “collective guilt” of their victims. In this perspective, the murder of children during a terrorist act serves as a “punishment and preventive measure” against the “crusaders.” The actual and potential victims of international terrorism may develop a wrong notion of the “collective guilt” of Muslims. If it happens, international terrorists will achieve their goals.
There is a fundamental question: if it is possible to find a justification for terrorism in Islam. The answer depends on the interpretation of the faith tenets. As a matter of fact, during the past centuries, the Islamic political and legal thought have accumulated a huge set of contradictory ideas and concepts having a direct relevance to the modern terrorism. These concepts concern the foundation of power and law, the relationship of the state of any individual, the status of adherents of different faiths, and the permissible methods of the political struggle, etc.
An ambiguous approach to the problems of Islam illustrates its remarkable feature – the plurality of views being particularly characteristic for the political sphere. The basic instructions, designed to regulate this, were based on Ijtihad (an independent decision). Ijtihad in the Islamic thought is understood as a rational search for the solutions to issues, which are not regulated in the Quran and teachings of Prophet Muhammad. It should be added that few available sources of the rules of war or relationships to other religions have developed in the initial period of the formation of Islam, during its intense rivalry with its political and ideological opponents. Some of them considered out as a historical context are often used to justify the political extremism.
However, a significant place in the ideological heritage of Islam is taken by the ideas opposite to the specified rules. Therefore, the thesis about the radicalism of Islam should be supplemented by the indication inherently in the Islamic religious moderation, tolerance and capacity for the positive interaction with other cultures. Therefore, the thesis that “Islam is against terrorism” is quite possible to be rephrased as “Islam is against Islam”. This is not a play of words, but a creative expression of the problem’s essence.
Among some Islamic concepts that can be used to support terrorist activities one can mention an idea of jihad, the concept of Al-Shahada (with the martyrdom as one of its meanings), the right and the duty of Muslims to rise up against anti-Muslim power, the idea of caliphate as a political ideal for Muslims, etc. No need to say, that these ideas are all used to support the terrorist activities. But all of these concepts have various interpretations, including those being far from the justification of violence.
Justifying terrorism against non-Muslims, Islamic extremists cite the Quran that contains the following phrases, “And slay them wherever ye find them… O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them” (The Quran 2:191; 9:73). The supporters of uncompromising struggle for the glory of Islam also quote the saying of Prophet Muhammad allegedly paving the way for violence against infidels, “I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform as that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah (Bukhari 8:387).
The modern Muslim thinkers, by comparing these provisions with other provisions of the Quran and the teachings of Prophet, in order to avoid some conflicts among them, accept these words in a different way. They suppose these words to be the admission of the armed violence against infidels in case of aggression from their part. The Quran also explicitly refers to the preference of peace as, “If they are inclined to peace, make peace with them” (8:61).
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Muslim jurists also cite the saying of Muhammad as, “The whole of the Muslim is sacred, his blood, his property and his honor” (Hussein). They also state the words that, “None of you must point a weapon at his brother for he does not know whether the devil may draw it out while it is in his hand as a result of which he will fall into a pit of Hell” (Bukhari). Additionally, the fanatics and terrorists forget the words from the Quran that state, “And those who harm believing men and believing women for [something] other than what they have earned have certainly born upon themselves a slander and manifest sin (33:58).
From the first sight, the above-mentioned provisions of Sharia protect only the life of Muslims. What about infidels? Answering this question, Muslim jurists refer to the saying of Prophet and his followers clearly displaying the rights for the non-Muslims to live. Thus, Caliph Ali Bin Talib said that, “They pay the capitation tax so that their properties and lives may be as ours” (Al-Mughni 445). Adhering to these guidelines, the modern Muslim theorists have come to the unequivocal condemnation of terrorism by Sharia. Naturally, the terrorists insist that they are no way opposed to Muslims, but rather they fight for the approval of their ideals. That’s why they call their actions as “jihad”.
The concept of “jihad” is interpreted from Arabian in different ways. In general, it means the efforts aimed at implementing the commandments of Allah while defending Islam by armed forces. A traditional Islamic custom is considered jihad to be as the code of rules for the preparation and conduction of war operations. Also, it was supposed that the war had been permissible only against non-Muslims. Therefore, a widely accepted definition of jihad is “a holy war against infidels” is not surprising.
However, the leading contemporary Muslim jurists understand this term much wider. They emphasize that, first of all, it is the call to take the path of Allah and consistently to implement Sharia into life. Moreover, such preaching of jihad excludes any violence against non-Muslims as it is clearly stated in the Quran that, “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best” (16:125). As for the war, being one of the ways of jihad, it is, in most Muslim scholars’ opinion, permitted only as the necessary means of defense and not the way to fight against other religions.
Jihad can exist only in the form of actions aimed at understanding the will of Allah, strengthening the Islamic norms in the life of other individuals and the society, in the whole, and protecting these values from the attacks coming outside. There is no doubt that all the committed terrorist acts do not meet this criterion. They almost always choose civilians as their targets, not being a threat to Islam. Thus, such requirements set by terrorists have nothing to do with religion.
Let’s say that terrorists are sincerely fighting for Islam. But even with this assumption it appears that they are the first violators of Sharia even during the lawful war. Such war, as a rule, prohibits killing women and children, and especially elderly people, priests and generally all the people not acting in this war as soldiers, etc. The Islamic extremists believe in their right to use violence against anyone who does not submit the will of Allah, including Muslims not sharing their viewpoints. To justify such right, they use, in particular, the well-known concept of the punishment implementation. This principle is enshrined into a number of verses from the Quran. For example, “and let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful” (3:104). The order of this duty execution is seen in the following words of Muhammad, “When any one of you sees anything that is disapproved (of by Allah), let him change it with his hand. If he is not able to do so, then let him change it with his tongue. And if he is not able to do so, then let him change it with his heart, though that is the weakest (kind of) faith” (Hadith 34).
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To justify their actions, terrorists choose the first part of the above-mentioned statement that the prevention by hand means by force. And it is not just due to the violence against non-Muslims or the government violating Sharia, but also against the fellow Muslims allegedly leaving Islam. It should be noted that apostasy is one of the serious crimes punished by death. The policy of accusing of infidelity adopted by Islamic extremists is dangerous due to the fact that it proves the possibility and even the necessity of massacre for those being classified as apostates. Therefore, terrorists kill some people for their disbelief and others for leaving Islam. They also attack governments because they ignore their extremists’ Sharia interpretation.
Having committed many crimes, terrorists hope for the mercy of Allah. Those going to sacrifice their lives hope to become martyrs. They have succeeded in this world because they have been called as martyrs already. However, there are no reasons to call them in that way. But their hopes for heaven cannot come true. Even Sharia prohibits suicide following the Quran that, “And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful” (4:29). But perhaps the most important thing is that due to their own sins, Islam, under any circumstances, does not consider them as martyrs. The killers of women and children are not prepared for heaven. On the contrary, Muslims killed by terrorists can become martyrs because Muhammad said that, “He who is killed while protecting his property is a martyr and he who is killed while defending his family, or his blood, or his religion is a martyr” (Ansar Al-‘Adl).
Among the Islamic tenets used to justify terrorism there is a special place taken by the submission to the will of Allah in everything. However, in reality, Islamic extremists, vice versa, go away from monotheism arbitrarily manipulating with Sharia on it as a means and not a goal. That is what was meant by the famous Muslim scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (1292-1350) in his saying that, “As for the fanatics, they can place any problem upside down. When they turn to the sun they borrow only what corresponds to their pronouncements and contrive tricks to push away evidence that does not suit them. If they come across similarly convincing or even less convincing evidence that supports their positions, they immediately accept it and use it as an argument against their opponents” (qtd. in Bar 10).
The extremists do not understand the main point of these rules behind the deliberately chosen postulates. They miss the purpose that these rules have been formulated for. First of all, it concerns the fact that the implementation of Sharia for the people’s affairs requires not only a strict and blind adherence to the established standards, but also the understanding and resolving of problems from Muslims with a fair and reasonable satisfaction of their interests. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah emphasized the rational nature of Sharia having seen no contradiction between the truth of God and the reason. In particular, he wrote that, “The foundation of Shariah is wisdom and the safeguarding of people’s interests in this world and the next one. In its entirety is justice, mercy and wisdom. Every rule which transcends justice to tyranny, mercy to its opposite, the good to the evil, and the wisdom to triviality does not belong to the Shariah”.
Islam does not predispose people to terrorism, but terrorists do by appealing to Islam to justify their activities and recruit supporters. According to the most well-known Muslim thinkers, Islam prohibits any type of unmotivated violence and the violence against innocent people. It is clear that terrorists hiding behind Islam are not jihad fighters which struggle for the purity of faith, but the killers of women and children. They are not the defenders of Islamic values, but the sinners that violate the main objectives of Sharia. Therefore, due to their crimes and sins they have to be punished not only by the international law, but also by Sharia. In other words, Sharia should not protect terrorists, but should be turned against them.