Murder, Manslaughter & Terrorism:
All in the Name of Allah

22 October 2001

I. Introduction

Often, criminals are of two kinds: there are those who know that the wrong they do is wrong -- and there are those who think -- who actually believe -- that their deeds are virtuous. When those of the latter category have a religious basis for their activities, they can rarely be dissuaded by legal and penal measures alone, for bearing chastisement is in itself sublime to them -- something that gives them a cause to rejoice in being 'persecuted for righteousness' sake' -- something that only adds to their commitment. The best defence against these people is an attack on the religious foundation their leaders use to convince them. A fortiori, legal and penal measures must be accompanied by propagation of counter arguments. For this purpose, arguments developed on the basis of superficial study won't do. No one is easily convinced into becoming a murderer on religious grounds and no one is easily dissuaded once so convinced. Only arguments truly emanating from the Qur'an and the Sunnah and cogent enough can be effective. Unfortunately, very little work has been done in this regard by government as well as private institutions.

It is important to know what arguments the militants use to justify their deeds and to see whether these arguments have any basis in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. This dissertation discusses some pertinent issues in this regard, including incendiary questions as the following:

Does Islam give an individual or a group the right to use violence to end wrong? What arguments do the militant Islamists have to justify their acts of terrorism and violence? Is the government of Pakistan un-Islamic? When is an individual or a group allowed by Islam to rebel against the State? What are the punishments in Islam for those who rebel against the State or cause disruption in society? What exactly is the meaning of Jihad and who has the right to wage it? Is 'turning the other cheek' a Christian belief only? What are the rules for a preacher in Islam? What is the actual responsibility of religious leaders? Does an individual or a group have the right to declare a Muslim a Kafir? What are the rights of the non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic State? Who has the authority to punish a person or a group for blasphemy? What steps does the government need to take to end violence and terrorism now rampant in our society in the name of religion?

This dissertation, a major part of which is based on Javed Ahmad Ghamidi's research work (a meritorious religious scholar and founder of Al-Mawrid, an institute of Islamic education), has three main sections: the first gives a summary of the main conclusions drawn in the article, the second recommends certain strategies to the government for dealing with sectarian violence and terrorism, and the last section contains the main article. An appendix at the end responds to some criticisms on the views expressed in the dissertation.

II. Summary of the main conclusions

A. Taking the law into one's own hands amounts to either Fasad fi'l-Ard (creating disorder) or Muharabah (rebellion) -- both of which are punishable by death in Islam.

B. The Prophet's saying (sws) usually cited to give credence to the idea that Islam allows an individual or a group the use of force to end wrong is actually related to the use of power within the confines of the social and legal authority.

C. In Islam, there is no concept of Jihad (Qital to be more precise -- that is militant struggle in the way of Allah) or the implementation of punishments without the authority of the State.

D. The argument that the government in Pakistan is not Islamic is baseless. In an independent State, any government formed on the basis of amruhum shura baynahum (their affairs are by consultation among them) -- in modern times through the vote of the Muslim citizens in an election -- is an Islamic government so long as the rulers do not unequivocally deny Islam or their faith in it.

E. Rebellion against the State (Khuruj) is allowed -- that is it is permissible not obligatory -- only when all of the following three conditions exist:

      1. the rulers unequivocally deny Islam.

      2. the government is a dictatorship and does not have the support of the Muslims and cannot be changed by their vote.

      3. the leader of Khuruj is one who, without any doubt, has the support of the majority of the nation.

Moreover, in case of an armed rebellion, there is an additional condition: the leader of the Khuruj must migrate with his followers to another land and form an independent State.

In the absence of even one of these conditions, those leading the Khuruj can be sentenced to death by the State under Islamic law.

F. Allegiance to the Islamic State and obedience to its government are obligatory on a Muslim even if the rulers are morally corrupt. According to a reported saying of the Prophet (sws), he who detaches himself from the collectivity of the Muslims and dies in that condition dies the death of ignorance.

G. No individual or group has the right to declare a person a Kafir (one who deliberately denies Islam even after its truth has been made clear to him/her by the Prophet (sws); plural: Kuffar). Takfir -- declaring someone a Kafir is the prerogative of the Prophet (sws) -- who does that through Divine revelation. Declaring someone a non-Muslim is the prerogative of the collectivity of the Muslim community represented by their State.

H. The argument of the militant Islamists that their aggression is in self-defence is baseless. The difference between self-defence and aggression is manifest. Also, the law of Qisas in Islam is to be implemented by the State not by any individual or group. The aggrieved person has the right to demand Qisas, and it is the responsibility of the State to provide him with justice. The aggrieved or his heir also has the authority to forgive the offender and demand penalty. But there is no room in Islam for personal vendettas, in which people take the law into their own hands.

I. Religious scholars and leaders of religious movements can best serve Islam by staying out of politics and confining themselves to academic work and Da'wah (propagation of religion). They must remember that their primary responsibility is Indhar (admonition) and Da'wah. Their goal should be conquering the hearts of people rather than killing them. For the conquest of hearts one has to be slain rather than slaying others. One has to forgive rather than avenge. And one has to repel evil with goodness.

Some other points of relevance to which this article alluded are:

A. Death punishment for apostasy was confined only to the people the Prophet (sws) was directly sent to -- the Banu Isma'il. No one can now be punished to death on that basis as no one after the Prophet (sws) can claim to have done Itmamu'l-Hujjah (manifesting the truth to such an extent that no excuse whatsoever is left for a person to deny it) in his individual capacity. (Of his direct addresses, the People of the Book were not given death punishment as they did not profess polytheism as their religion. However, they were given certain other punishments).

B. There are only two valid reasons for Qital: i) injustice and oppression and ii) Itmamu'l-Hujjah. After the Prophet (sws), his authorized companion were Divinely appointed witnesses to the truth of Muhammad's religion - Shuhada 'ala'l-Nas (2:143). They had the authority to extend his mission to other specified non-Muslim states. In other words, they had the authority to invite these states to accept Islam on the basis of Itmamu'l-Hujjah done by the Prophet (sws) or face war. After the Prophet (sws) and his authorized Companion, no individual or group or state has the right to wage war against any non-Muslim country for the propagation of Islam. Now Jihad, or Qital to be more precise, can be done by an Islamic state only for purpose of ending oppression (4:75).

C. Lynching non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic State for blasphemy is absolutely against Islam even if the criminal is caught red-handed. Punishing a person or a group for any crime against anybody is the prerogative of the Islamic State -- which does that through its organ, the judiciary, after determining for sure that the crime had actually been committed and deciding on the appropriate punishment.1 No individual has the right to take the law into his own hands on any account. Even the closest of the Prophet's companions (sws) never killed a single of his opponents even when invectives were hurled at him day and night in the first thirteen years of his Da'wah at Makkah. Nor did they kill anyone in retaliation when he was pelted with stones at Ta'if.

III. Recommendations

In relation to the points discussed above, the following measures are suggested to the government of Pakistan:

  1. The government should use its propaganda machinery -- including the mass media -- to dissuade youngsters from falling into the trap of those religious leaders who equate terrorism and sectarian violence with Islam. The government should take help from genuine scholars of Islam for this purpose and present its views on the solid basis of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. It should become obvious to every man and woman -- even to the militant Islamists themselves -- that the violence and terrorism of the militant Islamists is absolutely against Islam.

  2. Known and self-proclaimed offenders should immediately be arrested or shot on sight for Muharabah, and Fasad fi'l-Ard. The arrested criminals should be punished on these bases in an exemplary manner. The government should publicise the reasoning behind these punishments so that everyone is aware of the correct stance in this regard and potential offenders are deterred from the path of violence.

  3. Those religious organisations which believe in rebellion against the State should be given a stern warning. The correct picture of Islam regarding Khuruj should be publicised a great deal so that sufficient ground work is done to make the masses mentally accept the idea of the government crushing the very first insurrection to nip the evil in the bud. And that the government should do: completely crush the first insurrection to emerge so that no one is encouraged by the rebels to follow suit.

  4. The government should take steps to eliminate the duality in our education system. Religious schools breed sectarianism and modern schools breed scepticism. To deal with this problem, our education system needs to be changed. Unless the modern, educated people -- especially those belonging to the elite and affluent classes -- are instructed at least in the basics of religion, the monopoly and influence of sectarian schools is bound to remain.2

  5. The mosque has a very important role to play in an Islamic society. Few people today realise the extent to which this institution influences the minds of the masses. Unfortunately, mosques in our society have become citadels of sectarianism. There is great need to overhaul this institution. The key point here is that the Mosque is a State institution and the elected representatives of the people running their State affairs ought to be their leaders in prayer rather than the mullahs. The Sunnah in this regard is that the Head of the State and his representatives in the administration should lead the Friday prayer. On the basis of the Sunnah, one can suggest that the government should supervise the mosques and not let any particular sect control them. A number of steps should be taken in this regard: 3

  1. The centre of every administrative unit of the State should be a Jami' Masjid, and the division of these units should be such that one Jami' Masjid should suffice for one unit.

  2. Within each unit, all the administrative offices and courts should be instituted adjacent to this Jami' Masjid.

  3. The State capital, together with the provincial capitals, should have a central Jami' Masjid.

  4. The address of the Friday prayer should be delivered only by the Head of State and only he should lead this prayer in the central Jami' Masjid of the capital. The provincial governors should be entrusted with this job in the central Jami' Mosques of the provinces, while the representatives of the government should perform this duty in the Jami' Mosques of the various administrative units.

  5. The Friday prayer should be prohibited in all mosques except the above ones.

  6. Mosques should be supervised by the government itself.

  7. Any religious scholar should be allowed to teach, educate and instruct his students according to his own views in any of these mosques.

  1. The government should make it clear to all Muslims that there is no room for lynching in Islam. No one can be punished for blasphemy unless his crime is proved in a court of law and only the State has the right to execute the sentence. It should also be made clear that violation of the rights of non-Muslims in an Islamic State is a serious offence.

Whether a Mu'ahid or a Dhimmi4 , the rights guaranteed to a non-Muslim must not be violated by any Muslim. The Qur'an says:

And fulfil the covenant. Verily the covenant shall be questioned about. (17:34)

In Abu Da'ud's Kitabu'l-Jihad, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said5:

Beware! He who oppresses a Mu'ahid or does him injustice or burdens him more than his strength or takes anything from him without his consent, I myself shall plead against him on the Day of Judgement.

These words of the Prophet (sws) should be enough for any Muslim to realise the gravity of the sin of oppressing a Mu'ahid. Even in case of enmity, the Qur'an does not allow the Muslim to do anything against the principles of equity and justice. 6

Therefore, unless a Mu'ahid is found guilty of some crime by a court of law -- in which case it is up to the court to decide what punishment is to be meted out --, he has the right as a citizen of an Islamic State to demand the protection of his life, honour and property and to demand all his fundamental rights including the right to practice and preach his religion in a manner which does not cause disruption in society.

IV. Text of the dissertation

Murder, Manslaughter and Terrorism

-- All in the Name of Allah


This rest of this article can be found at:

Search for books about related topics at the world's largest bookstore... logo
Enter keywords...

To review and/or buy a copy of the Holy Qur'an, click here: (hardcover) (paperback).

This site also has a complete copy of the Qur'an online.

Go to the Islam Home page.

[Islam home icon] Off-site resources:

Go to "Understanding Islam."

Go to "Understanding Islamic Religion."

[Ministry of Religions icon]