The following are excerpts from an interview with Saudi professor Sheik Saleh Al-Sidlan, which aired on MBC TV on September 2, 2005.
Kholoud, caller from Saudi Arabia: I am a Sunni, Allah be praised. About the (bridge) incident in Iraq - people posted on Internet forums messages like: "Oh Allah, bring more such blessings. The number of dead Shiites has 500, 600, 700, 1,000 so far." Another message read: "Allah be praised, the number has reached such and such." Then came Hurricane Katrina. Are we permitted to gloat at our Shiite brothers, even though we all know they are monotheists who proclaim that there is not god but Allah? Are we permitted to gloat at the infidels - children, women, and the elderly - who were killed in natural disasters?
Sheik Sidlan: I remember when I was little, whenever a disaster befell the infidels, the common people would say: "Allah be praised", "excellent", "Oh Allah, bring more such blessings," like she said in her question. That was in the past, but it still happens today. As she said, even on the internet there were many messages like: "Oh Allah, bring many such blessings", "Oh Allah, kill them." The truth is that this...
Host:...needs to be considered?
Sidlan: It needs none whatsoever. I say unequivocally that this is forbidden. We are forbidden to rejoice and pray to Allah to cause more such tragedies and disasters, for two reasons: First, we have no religion evidence that this is permitted. Those who claim it is permitted should provide evidences. General evidence, such as saying they are infidels and oppressive, and that we should therefore gloat at them - this is wrong and does not count as sufficient evidence.
Second, these disasters afflict anyone in the vicinity. Most of these people have no interest in the issue of Muslims and infidels. They don't support either. They are just people who want to lives. Third, Allah did not forbid us to act with kindness towards the infidels who do us no harm.
As for being happy at these disasters... people are unaware of some sensitive issues. Let's assume there was a disaster or a war in a certain country - doesn't this cause economic instability? The economy, the dollar, the riyal - they all go down following disasters anywhere in the world. For example... What was it called - tsunami?
Host: Yes, tsunami.
Sidlan: It affected the currencies, trade, and so on. Should we be happy? It hurts us too - if we want to be egotistic and think only about our own interests.
Host: We must distinguish between what happened to the Shiites and what happened to the polytheist infidels, because Shiites are Muslims unless they do something that removes them from Islam, as decreed by the scholars.
But if we look at what happened in America - Allah said (in the Koran): "Calamity shall not cease to strike the disbelievers because of that which they have wrought, or to strike near their homes" - clearly we are saddened by the sight of children, the elderly, and others who were affected by this disaster - from a humane perspective, as encouraged by the Shari'a. But these children in America who were hurt by the disaster... the American army has harmed such children in Iraq. Even the soldiers security forces, who were supposed to maintain security in the states and prevent looting... The Americans themselves said to their president, George Bush: "You sent the soldiers who should have maintained security here to Iraq. What is the use of this?" If we view this as some sort of divine warning to these nations - that Allah does not approve of injustice, and that He has punishments for those who act unjustly... We are not happy when any innocent person is hurt, but if someone is being unjust to others, can't we say that Allah punishing him?
Sidlan: Yes. Everything you've said is true, but two wrongs don't make a right.
If we say it is forbidden to rejoice at what happened in America, and say "Oh Allah, bring more such blessings" - it is all the more clearly forbidden to gloat at the Shiites.