Why Suicide Bombings Violate Islam
The evil of suicide bombings must be defeated by Muslims, as it violates every tenet of Islam. In the past week, at least 150 people were killed in Iraq in a wave of suicide bombings which have torn apart any illusion of security in that tragic country.
As a Muslim, as a human begin, I am filled with horror at images of men, women and children torn to shreds by the madness of people who turn themselves into incendiary devices. And I am filled with outrage and fury at the diabolic forces that seek to present this monstrous, murderous, terrorist activity as somehow sanctioned by my faith.
Let me put this in as simple terms as possible. Suicide bombings, indeed all forms of terrorism, are rejected by mainstream Islam, and always have been.
The Holy Qur’an says it in very clear, without any ambiguity:
“Do not kill yourselves, for truly God is merciful. And if any do that in rancor and injustice, soon shall We cast them in the Fire. ” (Surah 4:29-30)
The Qur’an makes it clear that there are rules to human conflict and limits that must be followed:
“And fight in the way of God against those who fight you. But do not transgress the limits. Truly God does not love transgressors.” (Surah 2:190)
As I discuss in my new novel Mother of the Believers, traditional Islamic law established very clear rules of war based on the practice of Prophet Muhammad and his early followers: Do not kill civilians. Do not kill women and children. Do not harm priests of of other religions. Do not destroy the environment.
Abu Bakr, the first leader of Islam after Prophet Muhammad, gave these commandments when Muslims were fighting the forces of the Byzantine Empire, which had sought to destroy the new religion and killed the Prophet’s ambassador:
“Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules to keep by heart: Do not commit treachery, nor depart from the right path. You must not mutilate, neither kill a child or aged man or woman. Do not destroy a palm tree, nor burn it with fire and do not cut any fruitful tree. You must not slay any of the flock or herds or the camels, save for your subsistence. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them to that to which they have devoted their lives. You are likely, likewise, to find people who will present to you meals of many kinds. You may eat; but do no forget to mention the name of God.”
Muslims always took great pride in the fact that they acted honorably, even in war. They looked with contempt upon the warriors of Europe, who slaughtered civilians mercilessly during the Crusades. When Saladin defeated the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem and took the holy city, he spared its Christian populace and pointedly said: “We will not do to you what you did to us.”
His comment was in reference to the First Crusade, where Christian “holy warriors” massacred tens of thousands of civilians upon taking Jerusalem in 1099. Muslims were slaughtered en masse, the Jews of Jerusalem were locked into its main synagogue and set on fire. And Arab Christians were murdered by their co-religionists for the sin of having dark skin and looking like the enemy. The Gesta Francorum, a Crusader chronicle of their activities, proudly notes that the “the slaughter was so great that our men waded in blood up to their ankles.”
In the town of Ma’arra in Syria, the Crusaders committed the ultimate atrocity — cannibalism. As Crusader chronicler Radulph of Caen wrote: “In Ma’arra, our troops boiled pagan adults in cooking-pots; they impaled children on spits and devoured them grilled.”
To this day, the Crusaders are referred to in the Muslim world as “the cannibals of Ma’arra.”
The Muslims looked at this kind of atrocity committed in the name of God as unworthy of any great religion, and held themselves above such monstrous behavior.
So how is it possible that its modern equivalent, the mass murder of civilians through suicide bombings, should now be done in the name of Islam?
In Dying to Win, Robert Pape, a scholar at the University of Chicago, analyzes the history and motivation of suicide bombers. Many people who read the book will be surprised to learn that suicide bombing was a tactic that was first used regularly by Hindu terrorists known as the Tamil Tigers. One of the most prominent victims of this tactic, Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India, was killed on May 21, 1999 by a female suicide bomber from the Tamil Tigers. According to Pape, Gandhi’s murder marks the first use of the “suicide vest” which has become the tool of suicide bombers throughout the world today.
A full chronology of the history of suicide bombing among Tamil extremists can be found at:
(A warning that the link contains graphic photos of the carnage caused by suicide bombers.)
One of the greatest tragedies of modern Islam is that Muslim extremists began to adopt this horrific tactic of suicide bombing over the past two decades. Palestinian militants, arguing that they had no other effective way to combat Israeli oppression, began to adopt these tactics, and the image of the “Muslim suicide bomber” began to take hold in the media .
I remember at the time most Muslims I spoke with expressed disgust at these horrific acts, but some added the caveat — “What else can these poor people do? They have no tanks or jets to take on Israeli tanks and jets. This is their only way to fight.”
My response then and now is that Islam is a religion that has established rules of war for a reason. Human conflict is perhaps inevitable, but unless there is a sense of morality among warriors, even among the warriors of the oppressed, human beings will descend into monstrosity. The nobility of a cause is forever tainted when dipped in the blood of innocents. The argument that Israeli military activities kill countless Palestinian civilians, so Muslims are free to target their civilians in response, is not an argument that is supported by the noble spirit of Islam. As Saladin pointed out, the Muslims would not inflict on the Christians the atrocities that the Crusaders had inflicted on their victims, simple because we as Muslims were better than that.
And I warned those who would excuse the suicide bombers as long as they targeted “the enemy,” that in Islam all human beings are brothers and sisters and have rights before God and man. I predicted that once some Muslims turned their back on Islam’s strict rules of war and went beneath themselves in order “to win,” the wrath of Allah would be unleashed upon us. If we allowed suicide bombings against non-Muslims, then soon would God punish our sins by unleashing the same horror on Muslims.
Tragically, my prediction came true. Suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan now kill thousands of Muslims a year, innocent people going to pray or shop in the marketplace. Their only crime being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This kind of monstrous behavior is not Islam. It never has been Islam. And it will never be Islam, no matter what kind of self-serving justifications the terrorists use.
For those who wish to learn more about mainstream Muslim positions about war, terrorism and suicide bombing, I refer you here:
It is time for Muslims and people of all faiths to stand together in love and justice and end this horrific scourge of terrorism and suicide bombing on humanity.
I look forward to the day that the world will no longer associate such monstrosity with my beloved faith. And that one day, mankind will believe that Islam represents what its name stands for: “Peace.”