The following are excerpts from a panel discussion at the counter-terrorism conference of religious scholars at Sharm Al-Sheikh, Egypt . The discussion aired on Iqra TV on August 22, 2005. (To view this clip, visit: http://memritv.org/clip/en/822.htm.)
Dr. Muhammad Rafat 'Othman, Egyptian professor of Islamic law: "According to another opinion, a person who blows himself up is committing suicide. This opinion is based on sources that categorically forbid self-killing. The Koran says: 'Do not kill yourself, surely Allah is ever merciful to you.' There are also such sources in the Sunna and in the general consensus of scholars. No text in Islamic religious law permits a person to kill himself. Even in the case of Jihad, which is the pinnacle of religious duties, Islam does not permit a person to kill himself.
"What Islamic religious law does permit is for a person to wage Jihad, facing one of two options – victory or martyrdom. He may risk being killed by someone else, but may not kill himself."
Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: "Dr. Said Ramadhan [Al-Bouti] stressed the legitimacy of defense, saying it is a legitimate right in Palestine and Iraq. I think that saying it is a legitimate right is not enough, because a right is something that can be relinquished. It is a duty. All scholars say that defending an occupied homeland is an individual duty applying to every Muslim. Reducing this duty to a 'right,' which can be relinquished, is a kind of depreciation.
"We must stress this point, and emphasize that it is the rights of those defending their homeland. It is not only a right, but also their duty. I am amazed by what Dr. Muhammad Rafat 'Othman said.
"This has nothing to do with suicide. This man does not want to commit suicide, but rather to cause great damage to the enemy, and this is the only method he can use to cause such damage. Since this method did not exist in the past, we cannot find rulings about it in the ancient jurisprudence. We may find rulings about plunging into the [ranks of the] enemy and risking one's life, even in cases of certain death – so be it. The truth is that we should refrain from raising this issue, because doubting it is like joining the Zionists and Americans in condemning our brothers in Hamas, the Jihad, the Islamic factions, and the resistance factions in Iraq. It is as if we are joining them.
"We all condemn violence or terrorism, although, to tell the truth, I personally don't like the word 'terrorism.' I always say 'violence.' I have written a book called Islam and Violence . But since this word is so widespread, I use it. We all condemn the [terrorist] operations. We condemned them before we came to this conference. We condemned the bombings in London, Madrid, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Egypt. We condemned them as individuals and as institutions. This is something everyone agrees on. We cannot say we pat these misguided boys on the back, but we do want to listen to them. They have gone astray, so we want to treat them in a way that will set them straight, and bring them closer to us. We don't want to be like prosecutors, demanding their execution. We want to treat them the way clerics treat their students, the way fathers treat their sons."
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Professor 'Abla Kahlawi, Al-Azhar University, Egypt: "We must be united in condemning this behavior, this terrorism or violence – call it what you will. We must declare loud and clear that resisting the aggression, and resisting the enemy is a legitimate right, and that a fighter who risks his life has that right. When he perishes along with his enemy, this is a resounding cry of truth, through which the martyr declares: 'This was mine and it has been plundered – let the whole world see.' This is how a Muslim should act when he defends what is his, and I don't accept anything else."
Iraqi Cleric Ahmad Al-Qubeisi: "Does any Islamic government have the right to prevent individuals from resisting the occupiers? This is what happens. There are young people who thought it was bad that the Americans were occupying the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on. So they started the resistance, which might have been exaggerated, but this was an operational error. In principle, these are people who are trying to drive out the occupier, which is deemed legitimate by all earthly and divine laws. People are in dispute over the methods. Listen to what happens worldwide – things you may have forgotten: The officer who killed 400 children in the Bahr Al-Baqr elementary school in Egypt many years ago – they said he was depressed, and pardoned him.
"The arch-killer who murdered, at the Al-Aqsa Mosque many years ago in the days of [Israeli prime minister] Yitzhak Rabin, 38 people in the middle of prayer – they said he was depressed, and was pardoned.
"The pilot who dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and killed 700,000 got a medal. Rustum and the Americans killed 700 prisoners in an Afghan prison – no one demanded they be held accountable. My question is: Why can’t you show some mercy and say that these mujahideen are depressed, and pardon them? Thank you."
Sudanese Minister of Religious Endowments 'Issam Ahmad Al-Bashir: "The mujahideen are not depressed. Their faces shine."
Al-Qubeisi: " But you are accusing them of heresy, here. If you had to choose between depression and heresy, which would you choose?"
Saudi scholar Abd Al-Muhsen Al-'Abikan: "The suicide operations that are called 'martyrdom operations' are forbidden by Islamic law. Those who carry them out, committing suicide, cannot be called martyrs, and their actions cannot be called martyrdom. It was forbidden even in cases of Jihad by a number of prominent Muslim scholars."
Al-Bashir: "We have agreed that resisting the occupier is a sacred right and an obligatory duty, approved by Islamic religious law and by [international] conventions. It has nothing to do with forbidden terrorism. Moreover, it is legitimate. As proposed by Sheikh Al-Bouti, we emphasize this point in this concluding statement."
Participant: "And one cannot call their deaths suicide."
Participant: "It is an obligatory duty."
Al-Bashir: "Yes. I've already said that. It is an obligatory duty and a legitimate right. Someone who carries out this duty cannot be said to have committed suicide."