September 1, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6593

Saudi Writer: Islamic Law Prohibits Suicide Attacks - But Clerics Fear To Speak Out Against Them

September 1, 2016
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 6593

On August 2, 2016, in his column in the Saudi daily Al-Watan, Sattam Al-Muqrin criticized clerics who fear to speak out against suicide attacks, which he states are prohibited by Islamic law. According to Al-Muqrin, terrorist organizations use Islamic texts to brainwash youngsters and recruit them to carry out suicide attacks with the promise of reward in the afterlife. At the same time, clerics issue weak admonitions but otherwise do nothing to combat the phenomenon and do not ideologically confront these groups.

The following are excerpts from his column:[1]

Sattam Al-Muqrin (Image: Twitter.con/smegren)

"Suicide is prohibited in Islamic law and is considered one of the worst transgressions after polytheism, based on the Koranic verse 'and do not kill yourselves. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful [4:29].' Some Islamic clerics believe that one who kills himself commits a greater sin than one who kills another, and that he is a sinner and an aggressor against himself [and therefore] his body should not be washed or prayed over. Moreover, some clerics demand punishment for anyone attempting suicide...

"On this basis, the idea of suicide has become synonymous, in the consciousness of Muslim societies, with heresy and eternal hellfire. This begs the question: How do the theocratic leaders of terrorist groups manage to persuade innocent youngsters to blow themselves up and commit suicide, despite the opposition to this notion in Islamic societies?

"Terrorist organizations use two main methods to persuade terrorists to blow themselves up: First, they convince [the potential terrorist] that he will enter Paradise upon death - the Paradise of the black-eyed virgins -  because he is a martyr for the sake of Allah, and it is known that a martyr does not die, but lives on and is rewarded by Allah, [as stated in Koran 9:111:] 'Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties; [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah...' Second, [they] convince the terrorist that he is killing himself to prove the righteousness of the cause [he serves] - victory for Islam and the Muslims and defense of the oppressed and weak, and making Allah's word supreme.

"After that, the brainwashing begins, with tales and traditions from Muslim history praising self-sacrifice for the sake of Allah, as well as with reiteration of a number of ancient and contemporary fatwas issued by certain clerics. They say, for example, that some clerics tend 'to allow a Muslim to be daring and stand against infidels who outnumber him if he intends to make Allah's word supreme and has the strength and the belief that he can have an impact. [In this case,] even if he knows he will die, this will not be seen as suicide.' They also say: 'If he seeks a martyr's death and his intentions are pure, let him bear this, since his goal is to harm one of the enemies [of Islam]!'[2]

"One of the famous historical tales used by terrorist groups to justify and extol the idea of suicide is that of Al-Baraa' ibn Malik, a Companion of the Prophet, according to which 'the Muslims reached a wall whose gate was shut by the polytheists on the day of the battle against Musaylimah the Liar.[3] Al-Baraa' ibn Malik sat on a shield and said [to his men:] Lift me up with your lances and throw me over the wall. And so they did, and he charged them and fought them until the gates were opened.' According to another version, this Companion of the Prophet was launched by trebuchet through the enemy's fortifications. This [story] is used as evidence [to justify suicide attacks], since launching [a man] from a trebuchet will certainly kill him - but this Companion of the Prophet still did it, with strength and courage, and out of a desire to die a martyr's death.

"Another tradition used as evidence is: 'The Messenger of God, Peace be upon Him, mentioned Paradise. A man said to him: If I die for the sake of Allah, where will I go [after death]? [The Prophet] said: Paradise. He [the Prophet] gave the man some dates [to eat], and he fought until he was killed...'[4]

"After relating these stories, they begin reciting ancient fatwas, such as those permitting suicide for four reasons: a man's desire to die a martyr's death; in order to subdue the enemy; in order to encourage the Muslims in the face of the infidels; and in order to weaken the enemy's spirit, so that they will think, If one of [the Muslims] can do this, what about the rest of them? Regarding contemporary fatwas - in response to a question about suicide bombings, one cleric said that 'this isn't considered suicide, since suicide is when a Muslim kills himself to be rid of a hard life, [whereas] these [actions] are jihad for the sake of Allah... But it should be noted that such an action must not be undertaken by an individual of his own accord, but rather in carrying out the order of a military commander. And if the military commander can afford to lose this seeker of self-sacrifice, and if he believes that his loss would be a gain, for example by leading to the deaths of a large number of polytheists and infidels, then his decision is final and it is a duty to obey it, even if the person [ordered to sacrifice himself] is displeased...'

"Obviously these examples are meant to justify and praise suicide for the sake of Allah. As for the civilian victims of suicide attacks, if they are infidels, [then] such was their fate - to be punished by Allah at the hands of the mujahideen; if they are Muslims, [the justifiers claim] that they too are considered martyrs and are guaranteed kindness from Allah, or [argue] that their deaths were necessary in the jihad. Thus, any potential human emotion in the terrorist is extinguished, eliminating any hesitation in committing his heinous crime.

"Some may say that Muslim clerics have already responded to these justifications used by terrorist groups when brainwashing their supporters to commit suicide bombings. But I don't think that they have done so sufficiently, because their responses are general and have not criticized, or even attempted to criticize, the historic traditions [cited by those promoting suicide attacks], and have not even revisited obsolete terminology that is lacking all concept of humaneness.

"Sadly, some clerics are still unable to criticize, or even to deeply examine, the issue of suicide attacks, for fear of criticizing [our] historic heritage, and out of opposition to innovation. When will they wake up - [will it be] before the religion is hijacked by terrorist groups, if it hasn't been already?"




[1] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), August 2, 2016.

[2] Taken from the Encyclopedia of Fiqh published by the Kuwaiti ministry of religious endowments, entry on "suicide" (p 285).

[3] Musaylimah bin Habib claimed prophethood during and after the time of Muhammad, and is therefore known by Muslims as Musaylimah the Liar.

[4] Hadith that appears in Sahih Muslim.

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