By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
(Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
August 8, 2013
Part-1 The Fatwa begins with the redefinition of 'innocence' in a relative manner to suggest that the civilians killed in 9/11 attacks shared ‘the guilt’, and deserved to be killed. This notion negates the principle of universal justice as enjoined by the Qur'an (VI Terms of Reference, Part-1). It then argues that "If the infidels kill Muslim women, children and the elderly, meting out the same treatment to the infidels is justified” and moves on to a very gory and totally unrelated topic: mutilation of the corpse of the Prophet Muhammad’s uncle Hamza in the battlefield of Uhad, giving revolting details. It repeatedly references unrelated Qur'anic verses/passages 2:194, 16:126-128, and 42:39-42 exhorting restraint and patience in warfare, apparently to lend authority to its statements.
This incongruous referencing is conceivably tailored to give an association of the barbaric act of mutilation with the Qur’an to its ignorant and unsuspecting readers, unaware that mutilation of corpses was purely a pre-Islamic tradition and is neither mentioned in the Qur’an, nor ever practiced by any Muslim army. Some of the arguments tabled contradict the Qur'an on many counts, are self-contradictory, bizarre and untenable, and others, suicidal for Islam and the broader Muslim community and a grave threat to human civilization. The discourse, however, concludes by citing authentic Hadith (Imam Bukhari and Muslim) on the forbiddance of this sadistic practice.
The discourse is laid out in a scholastic style that the present-day reader may find complex, discordant and challenging and succumb to it rather than questioning its logic and rationale.
Part-2 continues to dwell on the gory theme of mutilation of corpses, repeats the unrelated verses 2:194 and 16:126 and adds another unrelated verse, 17:15 and a tradition on the Prophet’s forbiddance of this pre-Islamic custom. However, as in Part-1, it adopts a complex discourse structure, that, with tautological impact, creates an association rather than disconnection between the barbaric custom of mutilation and Islamic message. Thus, a casual, fanatic or not too critical reader may appropriate sadism in his religious thoughts and thus get spiritually indoctrinated to committing acts of wanton terror.
Part-3 cites following three already repeatedly quoted unrelated Qur’anic verses:
· 2:194 quoted once each in Part-1, and 2 respectively
· 16:126, quoted four times in Part-1, and once in Part-2, and
· 42:30, quoted once in Part-1 as part of the passage 42:39-42.
It also refers to the themes of two other verses, 2:178 and 59:6 (without mentioning their Sura/ serial) in a superfluous manner to force fit them with the ongoing theme of the Fatwa – inflicting barbaric punishments, like forcing to drown or chopping off body parts or mutilating corpses, stoning to death, pushing from a height, battering to death with wood or confining without food and water until death in like for like retaliation.
The Fatwa, cumulatively, continues to draw on the past Fatwas. But as mentioned under the terms of reference, point II (Part-1), the validity a fatwa as 'religious edict' remains contingent to its compatibility with the Qur'anic message. Since the Fatwa’s theme is incompatible with the Qur’anic message, citing past Fatwas to justify the theme carries no religious/ Qur’anic legitimacy.
Hence, this third part, and cumulatively, the first three parts of the Fatwa fail to draw any legitimacy from the Qur’an and stand refuted.
Part-4 abruptly changes its theme, fast forwarding to this era and merits elaboration.
It singularly blames America for all the sufferings and devastations of the Muslims and charges it of “overt and covert interference in the Muslim countries in order to cause bloodshed and kill innocent people.” It also blames America for whatever is happening in Philippines, Indonesia, Kashmir, Macedonia and Bosnia and thus holds it responsible for all the trials and tribulations the Muslims are going through. It charges US of attacking and laying siege from remote bases, adopting a policy of “punishing the people for the crimes of individuals”, refers to Israel’s military actions and gross human rights violations of Palestinians as acts of terror even by the definition of US policy (on protection of human rights) and thus describes the Jews as terrorists and the US, a supporter of Zionist terrorism in Palestine, and accordingly claims the right to pursue a corresponding course of action as part of like for like retaliation it falsely argued in the preceding part (Part-3) of the Fatwa. It invokes two previously cited verses (2:194, 16:126) and introduces a Maslah (principle) that purports to conflate America’s foreign policy with common American people and concludes: “The killing of American women, children and the elderly people and other non-combatants is permissible (by Shariah), rather it is one of the categories of jihad God and his prophet (PBUH) have ordered.”
The Fatwa is refuted on five key grounds – one political (i), two recent histories (ii-iii), one religious (iv) and one (v) Islam’s early history:
i) Political: America’s foreign policy that plunges it into war and dictates sanctions is drawn by its political-cum-military bureaucrats and legislative bodies (Congress and Senate) based on their joint assessment of the political realities and global strategic issues and threats of the times. If anyone in America is to be held accountable for the terrible consequences of sanctions and wars, it must be those persons who were directly involved in policy making at the given historical points that saw sanctions and wars. Common Americans at those or later historical points (such as today) cannot and must not be held responsible. If the principle of like for like retaliation were accepted as a ground-rule for humanity regardless of changing politico-historical realities, Bangladesh will have to take military action against Pakistan for its killing of allegedly three million civilians in the liberation war, Israel will nuke Germany to avenge Hitler’s barbaric and en-masse liquidation of Jews, China will annihilate Japan for its atrocities against Chinese citizens during the world war and all the nations of the world will be caught in a frenzy of retaliatory wars, massacres and genocides as the case may be against their past tormentors.
Ii) Its Disregard Of Historical Relativism: Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been killed and many times more put to grievous suffering by their own Islamic regimes or neighbouring Muslim invaders such as Bangladesh war of liberation, Iran-Iraq war, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and oppression of Muslims outside of America or American sphere of influence - notably China, Russia, Albanian peninsula, the central Asian states in the erstwhile Soviet Russia. So, America cannot be singled out as the archenemy of the Muslims.
iii) Its disregard of America’s historic military role in defending and preserving the Albanian Muslims and thus ensuring the presence and growth of Islam in Europe and by extension, the Western hemisphere. This is besides its food aid, emergency relief, technological/ infrastructural development role in all Muslim countries, and being home to some five million Muslims – who enjoy greater political and religious freedom and civil rights than in any other Muslim country of the world.
Iv) Religious Considerations: The following Qur’anic verses exhort the Muslims / broader humanity to de-escalate violence through collective forgiveness of past enemies (5:2), personalized justice (5:8) unlawful killing of any innocent person (5:32) and returning evil with good (13:22, 23:96, 41:34):
“...And let not the hatred of a people who (once) obstructed you from (entering the) Sacred House, lead you to be hostile. Therefore, help each other to virtue (birr) and piety (Taqwa), and do not collaborate with each other in sin and enmity. Heed God, and (remember,) God is severe in punishment” (5:2).
“You who believe, be upright before God as witnesses to justice (Qist), and let not the hatred of any people prompt you to detract from justice (‘Adl). Deal justly: this is nearest to heedfulness (Taqwa); and heed God. Surely God is Informed of what you do” (5:8).
“For that reason We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills any person - unless it be (in punishment for) murder or causing corruption on earth - it shall be, as if he had killed all humanity, and whoso saves a life, it shall be, as if he had saved the life of all humanity…” (5:32).
“Those who patiently seek the Countenance of their Lord, keep up prayer and spend out of what We have provided them, secretly or publicly and repel evil with good – such will attain the eternal life” (13:22).
“Repel evil with that which is good. Indeed, We are aware of what they are working (in their minds)” (23:96).
“Goodness and evil are not equal. Therefore, repel the latter with that which is good, and then the one between whom and you is hatred, will indeed become your friend (41:34).
V) Islam’s Early History: There are irrefutable historical records that demonstrate the application of the above noble principle even at times of war. Thus the eminent historian Thomas Arnold quotes a contemporaneous Church record on the compassionate treatment of the survivors of the 2nd crusade who were deceived by their Greek allies (who refused to ship them back home to Europe) and lay at the mercy of the Muslim warriors: “The situation of the survivors would have been utterly hopeless, had not the sight of their misery melted the hearts of the Muhammadans to pity. They tended the sick and relieved the poor and starving with open-handed liberality... So great was the contrast between the kind treatment the pilgrims received from the unbelievers and the cruelty of their fellow-Christians, the Greeks, who imposed forced labour upon them, beat them and robbed them of what little they had left, that many of them voluntarily embraced the faith of their deliverers.”
Conceivably, a subconscious or conscious awareness of the Qur’an’s emphasis on mitigating violence, the fatwa concludes with an abrupt about turn in its arguments by declaring that “under no circumstances it is permissible and appropriate for them to kill more than 4 million non-combatant Americans and render more than ten million Americans homeless. If they do so they will be among those who transgress in the act of Maslah.” However, recurrent quoting of unsupportive Qur’anic verses 2:94, 16:129 reflects an indoctrinating strategy: bombard the simple and innocent Muslims with what is most awe-inspiring and obscure to them – the verses of the Qur’an and capitalizes on their reverential obscurity to the meaning of the Qur’anic verses to sell them their own fatwa, however un-Qur’anic it may really be – as God knows best.
Part–5 is built entirely around a Hadith that contains a cryptic response of the Prophet regarding the permissibility of attacking enemy citadels at night when children, women and the elderly could be killed. It lays down several tiers of arguments, all drawn on mostly apocryphal traditions (none from Bukhari or Muslim) and ‘unanimous opinion’ of scholars to establish a Maslah (core principle) allowing for the killing of children, women and the elderly among the pagans only when they are in a place or situation when a distinction between a combatant and non-combatant cannot be made. In its scholastic style of argument, the Fatwa parallels the enemy’s ‘citadels’ with strategic centres and thus justifies sudden attack on the strategic centres of the enemy killing its warriors. It then conveniently concludes that “he (the Prophet) who permitted the killing of innocent people because of their inability to be distinguished from the warriors will also permit the killing of those killed as a result of the 9/11 attacks because they also could not be identified and singled out in the strategic centres who were comparatively more important than the combatants.” The Fatwa was refuted on the following grounds:
1. It contradicts the Qur’anic ordinance to protecting the non-combatants and reaching them to safe havens (9:6) and not to transgressing limits (2:190).
2. It contradicts the Prophet Muhammad’s Qur’anic title of ‘mercy to all humanity’ – Rahmat al ‘Alamin (21:107) and militates against the Qur’anic evidence made in full light of history (Terms of Reference IX) that the Prophet was mild to his men even after their lapses in Uhad expedition (3:159) and readily excused others from taking part in Tabuk expedition (9:43).
3. Being essentially built around a very cryptic response of the Prophet translated as ‘they are from among them’- it can be interpreted as an instruction to protecting the non-combatants.
4. In an absurd analogy, it treats the civilian casualties of 9/11 attacks as more important than combatants.
Part-6. Like its preceding part (Part-5), this part also draws entirely on Ahadith and ‘unanimous opinion’ of scholars. It begins with pronouncing Islam’s prohibition of the killing of women and children, elderly, clergy and non-combatants caught in war,” which is consistent with the Qur’anic message (9:6, not referenced), but in the same breadth justifies their killing when “they put up arms against the Muslims or render such service that comes under co-operation or support in the fight against the Muslims, be it through espionage, providing aid or taking part in similar activities.” The discourse refers to the prohibition of killing civilians/ non-combatants four times and quotes the justification for killing them with slight textual variation eleven times. The monotonous reference to the theme of ‘killing of children, women and the elderly’ either in prohibition or justification argument conceivably aims at registering this crude and sadistic notion as religious edict in the mind of its target audience – the traumatized and disoriented witnesses to the horrifying human tragedies of high-tech and politically justified wars. Thus, by the time the target reader reaches the end part of the Fatwa, he/she is mentally conditioned to accept as a religious dictate its concluding statement: “the killing of women, children and the old will be permissible when they co-operate with the enemy in any form.” Regardless of its political justification or otherwise, the principle expressly violates the Qur’anic commands to ensuring safety of the civilians from the enemy camp caught in armed encounter (9:6), and prohibition of killing any innocent person except by due process of law (5:32) as noted in Parts 5 and 4 of refutation. As such the Fatwa stands refuted as a religious edict.
Part-7 begins with “unanimous opinion of scholars” that giving indirect support to jihad is synonymous with directly taking part in jihad,” connects this proposition with a ruling from Imam Ibn-e-Taimiya and infers “whatever applies to the fighters will also apply to the rich and resourceful civilians of a nation at war against the Muslims.” It stretches the argument further to appropriate the “innocent and weak (women, children and the old) - whom we call civilians in modern times” in this category. It then tables politically matured arguments to implicate the American civilians in the second term election of President Bush despite his invasion of Muslim lands, thereby speciously appropriating them in the fighter category and as accomplice of the enemy and justifying their killing.
As in the last two parts (5 and 6) it draws entirely on the opinion of scholars and a few very sparsely worded self-contradictory Ahadith and does not cite a single Qur’anic verse in its support. It refers to an alleged burning of date palms of the Jewish tribe Banu Nadir based on Hadith sources (Imam al-Bukhari, Vol. 5, Acc. 365, 366, not expressly mentioned in the Fatwa), thus distorting the Qur’anic testimony regarding the cutting down (not burning) of some date palms (59:5). In a macabre twist of argument, it parallels arson with gruesome acts like “leaving snakes, scorpions and other dangerous insects among the defence establishments (domain) of the enemy and, notably the abode of common Americans reflecting the Kharijite ideology that justified “the killing of the children of the infidels, their own parents, and all the non-Muslims of the world.” . This calls for a brief introduction to the Kharijites:
The term Kharijite means “those who are expelled from the realm of Islam.” The sect was born within decades after the Prophet’s death when an extremist band of the followers of Caliph Ali broke away from the community in protest against his holding negotiation with his rebellious governor of a province (Syria), Mu‘awiyah. Philip K. Hitti refers to the Kharijites as a brutally fanatic puritanical sect who abhorred the veneration of saints, readily killed their opponents and “caused rivers of blood to flow in the first three centuries of Islam” .
Part-8. This concluding part singularly focuses on brutal and mass killing of the enemy. It begins with the lawfulness of burning the enemy as it established earlier, and symbiotically appropriates “opening the dams of rivers and lakes” to drown the inmates of a fort or besieged town, launching mortar attack and “releasing snakes and scorpions on the enemy even if the women and children are also mixed with the men”. It then lays down a few tiers of argument on the strength of several jurists on the lawfulness of these measures to which It adds ‘demolishing their buildings, spreading poison and smoke” if it is not possible to capture or dominate them without resorting to these practices”. Having thus imperceptibly established the justification of a terror attack through a succession of arguments the Fatwa leapfrogs from medieval battlefield to the American cities and questions the sanity of any Muslim who declares “killing the Americans even in New York and Washington is unlawful.”
The concluding claim of the Fatwa of being authenticated by the Qur’an and the Hadith is a blatant lie, as each of its proposition is refuted on the strength of the Qur’an and this concluding part of the Fatwa and the eight parts cumulatively do not table a single Qur’anic verse or authenticated (Sahih) Hadith narration (such as from Imam Bukhari or Muslim) to support its theme - though any Hadith narration would not have lent it any credence as the Qur’an refutes each part of the Fatwa and all the eight parts cumulatively.
Concluding remarks of the author of this detailed refutation
1. The Taliban ideologue's Fatwa is targeted at the oppressed, dispossessed, bereaved and marginalized segment of the global Muslim community. These are the people who never hit the media and are largely forgotten by the world or blamed for their misfortunes and seldom if ever compensated for their losses. They do not belong to al-Qaida or the Taliban. They are the unfortunate civilians – the underdogs of the global society who have borne the brunt of the recent allegedly just invasions of Muslim lands (Afghanistan, Iraq), the war on terror by any country - non-Muslim (America, France, Britain) or Muslim (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria), Israel’s occupation of Muslim lands and allegedly defensive military operations, India’s counter-terror activities in Kashmir, repressive actions and marginalization in any Muslim minority country from China in the East to Spain in the West.
2. Violence is contagious and breeds violence. Despite the escalating human and material cost of violence - whether of terror or counter-terror nature including just wars, the sceptre of terror continues to haunt the world and threaten its peace and stability. Hence, a peaceful path must be explored to tackle the growing menace of Kharijite brand of Islam as appropriated in the preservationist, puritanical Salafi/Jihadist ideology.
3. From a purely political and secular perspective, if those in power in the democratic and self proclaimed just and civilized world can redefine civilians caught in some military operations as terrorist and remain mute witnesses to the colossal loss of civilian life in modern high tech wars, the terror ideologues, groomed in the atavistic theology of early terror outfits of Islam (the Kharijies) can do likewise by drawing on their theological archives, and this refutation on religious ground may fall on deaf ears, and this entire exercise beguiles like mirage on the compassionless terrain of 21st century civilization – an era when greed, glory, power, bigotry and overt or covert hatred occupy human mind and justice, compassion and neutrality are mere rhetoric for public consumption.
4. This Refutation can have no, or at best a marginal impact in stemming the rising trend of militant jihad unless:
· General Muslim public as well as target readers of the Fatwa are counter-indoctrinated against jihadist-Kharijite ideology through exposure to Qur’anic message on the “universal brotherhood of humanity that allows people of diverse faith, culture, colour and language to live together, to know each other and to assist each other to make life easy and peaceful for all human beings.” 
· The profoundly humanitarian crisis of the Palestinians is resolved and Injustice and excessive use of violence against Muslim civilians such as in wars and counter-terror measures is mitigated.
· All kind of violence - riots, ethnic cleansing against the Muslims in Muslim minority countries is curbed.
· The mainstream Muslim people are exempted from any blame for the terror-crime of a lone or a handful of ideological terrorists, for they may be as unconnected with a terror attack as any non-Muslim citizen.
· The Muslim majority countries treat the non-Muslim minority as their co-equal, effectively ban any form of mob violence against them and extend them all the rights and privileges they expect for themselves in Muslim minority countries.
· The Muslims in Muslim minority countries take active part in pursuit of universal knowledge and all forms of sports and cultural activities to gain equitable representation in professions, academy, corporate business and all lawful sectors of society and appropriate the cultural paradigms of the mainstream societies within the inclusive framework of the Qur’an.
1. Thomas W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, (First publication 1896, 2nd extended edition 1913). Delhi 1990, p. 88.
2. Ghunit al-talebin, Urdu translation by Shahir Shams Barelwi, Arshad Brothers, New Delhi p.178-180.
3. History of the Arabs, 1937, 10th edition; London 1993, p. 247.]
4. Muhammad Yunus and Ashfaque Syed, Amana Publications, Maryland, US-2009, Chap. 9.7]
Refutation Of Sheikh Yousuf Al-Abeeri's Fatwa Appearing In English Translation In New Age Islam Website Supporting Wanton Killing Of Innocent Civilians Under Special Circumstances And Thus Justifying The 9/11 Attacks - Part-4.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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