By Mohamad Abdalla
23 Nov 2015
There has been relentless media criticism of Islam and Muslims since the terrorist attacks in Paris last week.
Since then, we have heard of an increased level of physical and verbal abuse hurled at Australian Muslims. We have been overwhelmed by calls from parents complaining that their children had been harassed at schools since the Paris bombings.
We are constantly asked to justify terrorist acts committed by groups such as ISIS.
Murder is a crime; terrorism is a crime - as Muslim leaders, we condemn both. And in a previous article I said that we will not apologise for the crimes of ISIS or any other criminal killing in the name of Islam.
ISIS has killed more Muslims than non-Muslims, and I along with thousands of other scholars, including the Grand Mufti of Australia, have condemned its acts as criminal and not Islamic.
But for some reason, this is never enough.
We condemn, have condemned and always will condemn murder and terrorism - not for media attention or the sake of political opportunism, but because our faith, Islam, demands us to do so. We must never justify murder and terrorism, but must find reasons for their occurrence and genuine solutions.
We condemn terrorism, murder, injustice, oppression and terrorism because the Qur'an, Hadith and the consensus of the Muslim world condemn it. There are ample textual proofs to support such condemnation; but here are some examples. The Qur'an tells us clearly:
"... do not take the life God has made sacred, except by right. This is what He commands you to do: perhaps you will use your reason." (6:151)
"We decreed to the Children of Israel that if anyone kills a person - unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land - it is as if he kills all mankind, while if any saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind." (5:32)
The Hadith also tells us that the prophet stated:
"The worst of sins are associating partners with God and murder ..."
"A faithful believer remains at liberty regarding his religion unless he kills somebody unlawfully."
"One of the evil deeds with bad consequence from which there is no escape for the one who is involved in it is to kill someone unlawfully."
"The first cases to be decided among the people (on the Day of Resurrection) will be those of blood-shed."
These are but a few textual proofs of the prohibition of murder and indiscriminate killing, whatever form that may take.
Based on such proofs, Muslim scholars have arrived at legal consensus (ijma) against murder, indiscriminate killing and terrorism. There is no difference among Muslim jurists of today and other specialists in the Sacred Law across the Islamic world about the prohibition of killing of innocent people, non-combatants and bystanders. They consider it not only an anomaly but also morally wrong and a misguided innovation.
The proposition that it is acceptable to attack the "non-Muslims" in the West - where "non-Muslims" can be taken to mean non-combatants, civilians, or in the terminology of Islamic law, those who are not engaged in direct combat - violates a well-known principal rule from Islamic Law:
"It is not permissible to kill their (opponents') women and children if they are not in direct combat."
This juristic principle is based on the Prophetic prohibition on soldiers from killing women and children, from the Hadith:
"Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone ..."
Commenting on this, the thirteenth-century scholar, jurist and Hadith master Imam al-Subki made it unequivocally clear what scholars have understood from this prohibition, in which the standard rule of engagement is that:
"A Muslim soldier may not kill any women or any child-soldiers unless they are in combat directly, and they can only be killed in self-defence."
Accordingly, men and innocent bystanders who are non-direct combatants - such as the victims of the Paris, Lebanon and Turkey attacks - are also included in this prohibition. The Oxford-based Muslim scholar Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti summarised this prohibition by stating:
"the nature of this prohibition is so specific and well-defined that there can be no legal justification, nor can there be a legitimate excuse, from an Islamic legal perspective for circumventing this convention of war by targeting non-combatants or civilians whatsoever, and that the sharia ruling of killing them is not only prohibited but also a Major Sin and contravenes one of the principal commandments of our way of life."
The other proposition that is put forward by groups such as ISIS is that it is acceptable to attack the non-Muslims in the West in retaliation for constant bombing and murder taking place all over the Muslim world at the hands of the non-Muslims. The implication is that a state of war exists with this particular non-Muslim state on account of its being perceived as the aggressor.
Again, this opinion violates the most basic rule of engagement from the perspective of Islamic Law:
"The question of declaring war (or not) is entrusted to the executive authority and to its decision: compliance with that decision is the subject's duty with respect to what the authority has deemed appropriate in that matter."
"The executive or its subordinate authority has the option of whether or not to declare war."
As Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti explains:
"Decisions of this kind for each Muslim state, such as those questions dealing with ceasefire, peace settlement and the judgment on prisoners of war can only be dealt with by the executive or political authority or by a subordinate authority appointed by the former authority. This is something Muslims take for granted from the authority of our naql [scriptures] such that none will reject it except those who betray their 'aql [intellect]."
The most basic legal reason for this juristic principle is "that this matter is one that involves the public interest, and thus consideration of it belongs solely to the authority" - based on the Islamic legal principle:
"The decisions of the authority on behalf of the subjects are dependent upon the public good" and "So the authority must act for the greatest advantage of (all of) the Muslims in making its judgment."
Clearly, groups such as ISIS are not a legitimate Islamic authority, religiously or politically, to declare war on anyone and their actions contravene the principle of the "public good."
In our minds and hearts, therefore, ISIS not only contravenes the most basic rules of engagement and Shariah principles, but has also committed heinous crimes prohibited by both the text and the intellect.
If we are genuine about finding solutions to violent extremism, then we must move beyond vulgar criticism of Islam and Muslims and work instead with the Australian Muslim community as a key partner in this fight. Constantly blaming Muslims for the crimes of others is counterproductive. And ISIS thrives on this.
Associate Professor Mohamad Abdalla is the Director of the Griffith University National Centre for Islamic Studies, an Australian Muslim community leader, public intellectual and winner of the Ambassador of Peace Award.