A Critique of the Use of Suicide Bombings in Islamic Jihad

1.1. What is jihad?

The Arabic word “jihad” literally means “utmost exertion”. Islamically, the word or concept of jihad refers to exertion towards the cause of Allah. It implies striving towards the cause of Allah or striving towards advancing the cause of Islam[^2] . A number of verses of the Quran and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad SAW prescribe jihad as a principle of faith[^3] . The Prophet calls upon Muslims to perform jihad by their hearts. These are acts of worship which would make a Muslim stronger in his faith and is referred to by the prophet as the “greater jihad”[^4] . Jihad may also be done using words. That is calling unbelievers towards the religion of truth by extolling its virtues and persuading them of the falsity of their path. This was the method preferred and mostly used by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself. Where a Muslim perceives a wrong being done, either by unbelievers or even amongst the believers against Islam, a Muslim may perform jihad by using physical means to correct those wrongs. This would, however, not entail using violence to effect the corrections.

In all these forms of jihad, violence is not an element nor is it advocated. The Prophet was ordered by Allah SWT, and he so ordered his companions and followers to call the unbelievers towards the religion of Allah through righteous acts and words[^5] . Where, however, Muslims are faced with oppression or aggression which challenges their faith, Allah SWT says“...permission (for warfare) is given to those who are attacked and definitely wronged”[^6]

The Quran also says

“fight those who have not faith in God and in the hereafter

and who forbid not what God and his Prophet have forbidden

and who are not committed to the religion of truth...”[^7]

These verses and more in the Quran legalize outright war as form of jihad. It must be noted, that war as prescribed by these verses, is to be fought as a defense and not to be used as a form of aggression. Where the need for war arises, however, Islam is not a religion of cowards. The Prophet Muhammad SAW said “whenever you are called for jihad, go immediately”[^8] . Allah has prepared great reward for the Muslim who upon being called comes out unconditionally without thought for worldly gain or advancement. Those who give all their properties and even their lives towards the cause of Islam enjoy an elevated position before Allah[^9] . At the same time, whosoever backs away from jihad for fear of losing his life or worldly possessions, the Qur’an says “such are men whom Allah has cursed for he has made them deaf and blinded their sight”[^10]

Jihad, manifested as war, is fought for either one of, or the sum of, three reasons. Jihad may be fought to defend and protect the Muslimumma [^11] and the religion against persecution and oppression as was fought by the Prophet in the first days of the establishment of Islam in Makka and Madina. It may also be fought to ensure the liberation of mankind on earth so that they may serve Allah SWT alone. This does not imply that Muslims must fight to compel non-Muslims to accept the religion of Islam as one of the main principles of Islam is “there shall be no compulsion in religion”[^12] . Finally jihad is fought to remove obstacles which prevent the call of Islam from being spread. All three reasons may point to the same conclusion; Muslims have been ordered to fight jihad to free mankind from regimes which impede them from recognizing that all submission is owed to Allah alone[^13] .

In all situations however, peace, when offered, must be accepted. Allah SWT says;

“If they incline towards peace, incline also to it and trust in

Allah. He is the Hearer and the Knower” [^14]

“If they hold alooffrom you and wage no war against you

and offer peace, Allah allows you no way against them”[^15]

“O you who believe! When you go forth to fight in the way

of Allah say not unto those who offer you peace ‘thou are

not a believer’ seeking the chance to profit of  his life so that

you may despoil him” [^16]

Where war is to be waged, Islam has laid down set rules and guidelines for conducting the war. Neither  women, children nor the infirm, the weak or the old may be attacked or killed. The war is taken to and fought with only those combatant men who come out to fight[^17] . Prisoners of war, if taken, may either be enslaved or released on ransom[^18] . The killing of prisoners is only allowed where it is established, without a doubt, that leaving  them alive will be dangerous to the Muslimumma.