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Islamic Ideology ( 31 May 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Hijacking and Hostage-Taking: Heinous Crimes in Islam



By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Hijacking is, without doubt, something that is haram or forbidden in Islam. No matter from which angle it is looked at, it is definitely forbidden according to the Shariah, and a major crime. It is a crime that simultaneously involves many criminal activities, including ‘highway robbery’, hostage-taking, killing innocents, looting or damaging other people’s property, and so on.

‘Highway robbery’ entails attacking a person who is in a vulnerable position and inflicting harm on him. In earlier times, ‘highway robbery’ was a common occurrence. Related to this was piracy on the seas. And in modern times we have hijacking in the air. All these forms of ‘highway robbery’ are equally forbidden or haram in Islam. An individual group that, directly or indirectly, engages in this sort of action is, in the eyes of Islam, a major criminal. And so, he could be deserving of Divine punishment, unless he repents and openly seeks forgiveness for his crime from the people he has harmed and compensates for the damage he has caused.

Hostage-taking entails capturing innocent people and using them to bargain to have one’s demands met. This practice was common in the ancient past, but today it has become almost an art in itself. There is no doubt that it is a terrible sin, as well as utter cowardice. It is completely forbidden in Islam. If you have a grouse against someone, you should settle the matter with him. You cannot use other, innocent, people to settle your scores with someone else. Islam does not allow for this, no matter under what pretext.

It is clear from the Hudaibiyah Treaty which the Prophet entered into that if an opposing party takes one of our men as a hostage; still it is impermissible for Muslims to take their men as hostages. This is because this is tantamount to taking revenge on an innocent person, which is not permissible in the Shariah.

Often, hijackers kill innocent passengers in pursuing their goals. This is undoubtedly a terrible crime. In the Quran (5:32), God says:

The hearts of those who, despite this Divine declaration, slaughter innocent passengers or trouble them are completely bereft of the fear of God. And people who are bereft of the fear of God are, undoubtedly, also bereft of faith.

Obviously, passengers travelling on an airplane are innocents. They have no prior dispute or conflict with hijackers. And so to hijack a plane, torment and even kill innocent passengers—these are all completely un-Islamic, wholly forbidden or haram.

It is completely forbidden in Islam to deceive anyone, no matter for what purpose. Hijacking is a form of deception. Hijackers deceive other people at every single stage of their operation. For instance, they procure false passports and may use fake currency; they deceive airport staff and smuggle on board dangerous weapons; they cheat the security staff. All these actions entail lying and deception, which are very serious crimes in Islam.

Islam does not permit deception, and so it is completely un-Islamic to pursue one’s aims by deceiving others, so much so that if a Muslim country has to go to war with another country, it is incumbent on it to make an open declaration of its decision. Proxy war is not at all permissible in Islam. To pursue one’s aims by resorting to lies and deception—which is what hijacking entails—is thus wholly anti-Islamic.

Hijacking entails loss, or the threat of loss, of life and property. Taking control of an airplane involves grabbing someone else’s property. It also involves killing, or threatening to kill, scores of innocent people. For the hijackers, hijacking is equal to suicide, which is itself a major crime in Islam. According to the Islamic shariah, a person who deliberately kills himself dies a haram death. And there can be no worse death that a haram death.

There have been cases in recent years of hijackers claiming that their action is part of what they call an Islamic jihad. Their claim is criminally false. Islamic jihad in the path of God is done in defence, while the wars that the so-called jihads that hijackers are engaged in are for the sake of power and pelf. A war that is fought for power and pelf is definitely not a jihad in the path of God.

Another point to keep in mind is that jihad, in the sense of qital or war, is the prerogative of an established Government, and not of non-state actors, including members of the general public. But it is precisely such individuals who are behind cases of hijacking and other forms of violence unleashed in the name of jihad today. According to Islam, these people simply do not have the right to do so. For such individuals to launch wars is absolutely forbidden in Islam.

An established Government may resort to war in the event of becoming a victim of aggression, but a defensive war of this sort would be considered Islamically-legitimate when it is fought with open declaration. Without such a declaration, to unleash any sort of proxy war is not at all legitimate in Islam.

Islam divides rights into two: Huquq Allah (‘Rights of God’), and Huquq ul-Ibad (‘Rights of God’s Creatures’). The former refers to the responsibilities that a person has to fulfill in relation to God. If a person errs with regard to the ‘Rights of God’, to atone for it it is enough for him to ask for forgiveness.

 But the issue of Huquq ul-Ibad is very serious. If a person errs in a matter related to the ‘Rights of God’s Creatures’—say, by committing an offence against another human being—then he cannot atone for it only by asking forgiveness from God. Along with asking God for forgiveness, it is incumbent on him to ask forgiveness from the concerned person and to compensate for the damage he has inflicted on him.

Hijacking undoubtedly involves a violation of the ‘Rights of God’s Creatures’. It is a form of oppression against fellow humans. Those who engage in it in the name of Islam and jihad must know that it has absolutely no Islamic sanction. It is actually a very serious crime according to Islam.