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Refuting Islamophobic Claim That Jihadists Represent Traditional and Mainstream Interpretations of Islam - Part 4 on the Jihadist Narrative Justifying Suicide Bombings or Martyrdom Operations

New Age Islam Special Correspondent

22 January 2021

The contemporary Jihadists justify suicide bombings, self-sacrifice, or ‘martyrdom operations’ as a means of warfare and indiscriminate violence. This narrative is based on the misappropriating of the Quranic verses, Ahadith and of the classical corpus of Islam. To support the Jihadist narrative, Islamophobes propagate that Jihadism is based on traditional and classical interpretations of Islam. This compelled us to examine the relevant Jihadist narrative in the light of the foundational texts of Islam and to rebut both Islamophobes and Jihadists and thereby seeking to de-radicalize the laymen who have fallen prey to the repeated display of the Jihadist narratives.


Also Read:   Refuting Islamophobic Claims That Jihadists Represent Traditional and Mainstream Interpretations of Islam: Part 1- On the Hakimiyyah


The 9/11 attack was not the first time a terror outfit used suicide terrorism to achieve It's nefarious objective. Throughout history, there are numerous examples of suicide tactics. As early as 400 B.C.E., the Greek sailors set ships on fire and steered them into the enemy forces. This tactic gained popularity so much that it inspired the coining of the term ‘fireship’. Other examples include suicide attacks perpetrated by the Jewish Sicarii sect against Hellenized Jews in the 1st century AD, suicidal attack by Arnold von Winkelried in the Swiss struggle for independence at the Battle of Sempach in 1386, the suicide attack by the Islamic Order of Assassins during the early Christian Crusades, the deliberate suicidal crashes by the Japanese Kamikaze pilots of World War II into enemy targets, usually ships. We can find out a long history of suicidal attacks but the Islamic Dawa Party’s car bombing of the Iraqi embassy in Beirut in 1981 and Hezbollah’s bombing of the US embassy in 1983 and attack on the US Marine and French barracks in 1983 drew international attention towards suicide bombing.

The radical militant organizations including Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades, Fatah, Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram gained popularity in committing suicidal operations throughout the world. However, these organizations call a suicide attack Istishhad translated as ‘martyrdom operation’. They dislike using the term ‘suicide’ because Islam strongly prohibits taking one’s own life. Rejecting the term “suicide operations (Amaliyyat Intihariyya)” and insisting on the euphemistic label “martyrdom operations” (Amaliyyat Istishadiyya), “sacrifice operations” (Amaliyyat Fidaiyya) or “Jihadi operations” (Amaliyyat Jihadiyya), they struggled to justify their self-sacrificial or so-called “martyrdom” operations so as to achieve their nefarious objectives.


Also Read:   Refuting Islamophobic Claim That Jihadists Represent Traditional and Mainstream Interpretations of Islam: Part 2 on Imperativeness of Reclaiming ‘Muslim Land’


Yusuf al-Uyayri, an influential former leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia (1973-2003) issued a pamphlet titled “The Islamic Ruling on the Permissibility of Martyrdom Operations”. Uyayri asserts that “martyrdom operations” through suicide attacks are legitimate not only because they are a necessary response to superior military forces, but also because of the perceived benefit they bring to Muslims and Islam. He says,

“As for the effects of these (martyrdom) operations on the enemy, we have found through the course of our experience that there is no other technique which strikes as much terror into their hearts and which shatters their spirit as much”.

Speaking of the cost-effectiveness, Uyayri says,

“On the material level, these operations inflict the heaviest losses on the enemy and are lowest in cost to us. The cost of equipment is negligible in comparison to the assault... The human casualty is a single life, who is in fact a martyr and hero gone ahead to the Gardens of Eternity, Insha Allah. As for the enemy, their losses are high.” (The Islamic Ruling on the Permissibility of Martyrdom Operations, pp.2-3)  

Uyayri speaks of the permissibility of such attacks under the subjective nature of necessity and benefit. The contemporary clerics, however, have debated over which circumstances permit such attacks. For instance, while Yusuf al-Qardawi, an influential theologian, strongly condemned the targeting of American civilians in the 9/11 attacks, he had previously issued a fatwa in 1997 justifying suicide bombings in Israel due to military necessity. He said,

“The Israeli society is militaristic in nature. Both men and women serve in the army and can be drafted at any moment. On the other hand, if a child or an elderly person is killed in such a (suicide) operation, he is not killed on purpose, but by mistake, and as a result of military necessity. Necessity justifies the forbidden” (Al-Qaradawi, Shariyia Al-Amaliyat Al-Istishhadiya Fi Filastin Al-Muhtalla (The Legality of Martyrdom operations in Occupied Palestine), cited in Muhammad Munir, Suicide Attacks and Islamic Law, March 2008, vol. 90, p.4)

Suicide attacks or the so-called “martyrdom operations” contravene the traditional consensus (ijma) that forbids the killing of women, children, old, non-combatants, and the sanctity of life that runs throughout the primary sources of Sharia. There is no explicit discussion in the traditional and classical literature on suicide operations during warfare. Therefore the exhortation of suicide or such “martyrdom” operations perpetrated by the jihadists cannot be endorsed by the classical and traditional jurists and scholars.  

Mr. Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, a regular columnist of New Age Islam writes,

“Such labelling, however, has not been sufficient to suppress the divine command which prohibits self-immolation under all circumstances.  They (the jihadists) needed to bring a stronger argument to parry the criticisms of the Muslim scholars and clerics who had timely convinced the mainstream Muslim world that the suicide attack is forbidden under all circumstances.

“So under the narrative of “martyrdom operation”, they point out that the Quran recognizes and venerates the martyr, citing the following Quranic verses;

“Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur'an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment”. (9:111)

“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, "They are dead." Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.” (2:154)

“In addition to these Quranic verses, the Jihadists quote numerous Ahadith to glorify the martyrs, giving the references to the popular books of Ahadith, such as, Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Moreover, they feel pride in the fighting “for the cause of God or Allah Almighty”.

“When a person, secretly involved in looking for the means of real peace and real recognition of the True God, ponders over the Jihadist narratives vs. Islamic narratives, he finds out the alarming fact in the Quranic verse (5:32) that the True God cannot allow taking the life of innocent civilians in brutal ways. This fact becomes enough for him to maintain the idea that the Jihadists are serving to destroy the creatures of Allah Almighty, including Muslims and non-Muslims and the Jihadist path is not the path of God or the cause of God. So they are not killing and getting killed in the cause of God but in the cause of going against the command of Allah Almighty (see the Quranic verse 5:32) which forbids the unjust killing of human beings.

“The point to note is that how could the unjust killing of innocent civilians, which is strictly forbidden under the use of the term “suicide attacks”, be permissible under the euphemistic label “martyrdom operations”? A misdeed cannot be called a good deed simply because its name has been changed. Whether the Jihadists call their attack “suicide attacks”, “suicide operations” or    “martyrdom operations”, their attack is a strict violation of Islam. The causes that declare suicide attacks forbidden are also found in the Jihadist “martyrdom operation” to make it forbidden. In simple words, a forbidden act cannot be deemed lawful by way of replacing the term ‘suicide attack’ with ‘martyrdom operation’.”  ( The Jihadists' Suicide Attacks or Martyrdom Operations Strictly Forbidden in Islam )

The Jihadists' Suicide Attacks or Martyrdom Operations Strictly Forbidden in Islam

In his other article, Mr. Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi quotes a number of Quranic verses and Ahadith to declare Suicidal attacks under all circumstances, even during Jihad and as a war tactic. This also refutes the Jihadist ideology which claims that “the suicide attack or so-called ‘martyrdom operation’ can be justified as a war tactic”. The following are excerpts from his article;

Suicide Attack Is Forbidden (Haram) Under All Circumstances: Proof From The Holy Qur’an

Suicidal attack for killing others or for any reason is one of the most forbidden acts, according to the holy Qur’an. Allah Almighty says:

“Do not kill yourself” (4:29).

This command of Allah Almighty is for the believers. The point that the obedient believers will consider it important is very clear. Only the disobedient will kill themselves. Forbiddance of suicide attacks in this verse has general application. Without any specific reason, suicide attack is neither allowed in person nor in public.

Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi interpreted this verse (4:29) and wrote:

“This verse, “And do not kill yourselves”, prove that it is unlawful for one to kill someone else or oneself unjustly” (Al-Tafsir al-Kabir of Imam al-Razi, 57:10)

Suicide attack is forbidden in the Quranic verse 4:29. In just the next verse (4:30), Allah Almighty legislates the law of punishment for the suicide attackers.

Allah Almighty says:

“But whoever will do that through transgression and injustice, We shall soon throw him into the Fire (of Hell) and that is very easy for Allah” (4:30).

There is a general agreement among Islamic jurists and scholars that If Allah Almighty legislates something in a general application, the restriction is not valid in any way without the existence of evidence. Therefore, it is unlawful for ISIS or any other terror outfits to justify suicide attacks for the so-called ‘Jihad’. This general application of the verse refutes all those Wahhabi-inspired scholars who support suicide bombing in certain circumstances as a war tactic.

It must be noticed that the so-called ‘Jihad’ of terror outfits is to kill innocent civilians including Muslims and non-Muslims. The terror outfits are bereft of the simple Islamic message that Islamic Jihad in the sense of fighting has some conditions and that it cannot be waged when two parties mutually agree to a constitution of peace-treaty. They do not understand the messages derived from the Quran and Sunnah that breaking the promise of peace-treaty is a great sin in Islam. Therefore, the terror outfits ought to correct themselves with the faith that their so-called ‘Jihad’ has no justification. Another point is that Allah Almighty has prohibited suicide attacks in a general application. The punishment of suicide attackers is of the hell-fire. Hence, the terror outfits and the brainwashed youth should never restrict it for any specific reason.

In another verse, Allah Almighty also says:

“And do not cast yourselves into destruction with your own hands, and adopt righteousness. Verily, Allah loves the righteous” (2:195)

Islamic jurists (Fuqaha) and exegetes (Mufassirin) unanimously agree that this verse (2:195) was revealed in the context of spending in the cause of Allah Almighty. However, they have also quoted this verse as evidence to prove that it is forbidden to kill oneself or perpetrate suicide attacks by any means. They based their assertions on the general meaning of the word (Tahluka, تهلكة) mentioned in this verse, in addition to quoting other verses like 4:29 and 4:30 and numerous Ahadith(plural of Hadith) of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him for the forbiddance of suicide attacks.

Imam al-Baghawi quoted the verse 2:195 while interpreting the verse 4:30 and said, “It is said that He mentioned the Muslim who kills himself”. (Tafsir al-Baghawi also known as Ma'alim at-Tanzeel: 1:418)

Hafiz ibn Hajar‘Asqalani said:

“As for restricting it (the verse 2:195) to the context of not spending in the cause of Allah, it needs further discussion because the ruling is based on the general meaning” (Fath al-Baari: 8/115)

Imam Al-Shawkaani said:

“The earlier scholars had a number of opinions about the meaning of the verse (2:195). The truth is that what matters is the general meaning of the word and not the specific reason.  Everything that may be called (تهلكة Tahluka) destruction in the religious and worldly terms is included in this word (i.e. the word تهلكة Tahluka mentioned in the verse 2:195). Ibn Jareer al-Tabari has this view.” (Fath al-Qadeer: 1/193)

Based on the famous principle of Islamic jurisprudence “the ruling is based on the general meaning and not on the specific reason”, I would follow here in the footsteps of Islamic jurists and scholars to say that the Quranic verse 2:195 prohibits all kinds of destruction including suicide attacks in person or in public.


Also Read:  Refuting Islamophobic Claims That Jihadists Represent Traditional and Mainstream Interpretations of Islam: Part 3 on the Jihadist Narrative Inciting Treachery towards One’s Country


Since the best way of understanding and explaining the Quranic verses is “Tafseer al-Quran bil Quran” (explaining the Quran by the Quran), I would also say that the verse 2:195 with its general meaning of the word Tahluka (تهلكة) can be better interpreted by the verse 4:29 which proves that a suicide attack is forbidden and Allah Almighty has decreed a permanent torment for the suicide attackers in Hell.

Having understood the general meaning of the word “Tahluka (تهلكة)” and interpreted the verse 2:195 by the verse 4:29, it is as clear as a crystal for the believers that suicide attack is the much forbidden act. After all, if some being so rigidly brainwashed by the radical ideologies fail to reach out to the true interpretation of both the Qur’anic verses, or fall prey here to any doubt or confusion, I would like them to cleanse their minds also with the numerous beautiful Hadith of the prophet peace be upon him, which strongly forbid suicide attacks, whether in person or in public.

Suicide Attacks Bombings Or Attacks Are Haram: Proofs From Numerous Hadiths

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

“The one who commits suicide will go to Hell, and will keep falling into it and will abide there forever” (Sahih Bukhari, The book of Medicine, Chapter: Taking poison and using it for medical treatment or using what may be dangerous or Impure)

Narrated Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Allah is pleased with him) that the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

“Whoever stabs himself to death will continue to stab himself in Hell. And whoever throws himself off a cliff will continue to throw himself off a cliff in Hell. And whoever hangs himself will continue to hang himself in Hell”. (Sahih Bukhari, The book of Funeral Rites, Chapter: What has come to us about someone who kills himself’?)

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said,

“Whoever swears by a religion other than Islam (i.e. if he swears by saying that he is a non-Muslim in case he is telling a lie), then he is as he says if his oath is false and whoever commits suicide with something will be punished with the same thing in the (Hell) fire, and cursing a believer is like murdering him, and whoever accuses a believer of disbelief, then it is as if he had killed him.”  (Sahih Bukhari, The Book of Good Manners, Chapter: If Someone calls his brother a disbeliever without any legitimate grounds, then he himself is what he said’, Sahih Muslim)

Hadhrat Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah Almighty (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the (Hell) Fire falling down into it and abiding therein perpetually forever. And whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever; and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon (stabbing himself), will be carrying that weapon in his hand and stabbing his abdomen with it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever.” (Sahih Bukhari, The book of Medicine, Chapter: Taking poison and using it for medical treatment or using what may be dangerous or Impure)

Obedience to Leaders Calling for Suicide Attacks is Forbidden: Proof from Hadith

Hadhrat Ali (Allah is pleased with him) narrated:

“The Prophet peace be upon him, dispatched an army, and appointed a man their commander. Then the man made a fire and said (to the soldiers), "Enter it." Some of them intended to enter it while some others said, 'We have run away from it (i.e., we have embraced Islam to save ourselves from the 'fire')." They mentioned that to the Prophet, and he said about people who had intended to enter the fire. ''If they had entered it, they would have remained in it till the Day of Resurrection.'' Then he said to others, "No obedience for evil deeds, obedience is required only in what is good." (Sahih Bukhari, [The Book of Accepting Information Given by a Truthful Person, Chapter, Acceptance of the information given by one truthful person in about all matters, and Sahih Muslim, [The book of leadership]

The similar Hadith has also been recorded in various books of Hadith with a slight change of wording; Sahih Muslim [The book of Leadership, Chapter: the obligation of obeying leaders in matters that do not involve sin, but it is forbidden to obey them in sinful matters], Sunan an-Nasa'i [The Book of al-Bay'ah, Chapter: The Punishment Of One Who Is Commanded To Commit Sin And Obeys The Command] and Sunan Abi Dawud  [Book of Jihad (Kitab Al-Jihad) Chapter: Regarding Obedience].

According to this Hadith, obedience to the leaders is only in what is good and not in what is evil like suicide attacks in personal or in public. 

Paradise for the Suicide-Attackers is forbidden

On the authority of Jundub ibn Abdullah (Allah is pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“There was amongst those before you a man who had a wound. He was in [such] anguish that he took a knife and made with it a cut in his hand, and the blood did not cease to flow till he died. Allah the Almighty said: My servant has himself forestalled Me; I have forbidden him Paradise”. This Hadith has been narrated in Sahih Bukhari [The book of the prophets, chapter: What has been mentioned about the children of Israel], Sahih Muslim [the book of faith, chapter ‘the severe prohibition of killing oneself and if someone commits suicide with something, he will be tormented with the same in the Hellfire] and Ibn Hibban in al-Sahih)

Paradise For The Suicide Attackers Even During Jihad Is Forbidden

In accordance with the Qur’an and Hadith, Suicide attack is forbidden in a general application. However, ISIS militants and other terror outfits brainwash the young people by justifying it somehow on the basis of the so-called ‘Jihad’ and ‘martyrdom’. By Allah Almighty, they are distorting and ignoring the following Hadith which has exclusively forbidden suicide even during the real Jihad (i.e. Jihad for defence); let alone the so-called ‘Jihad’ that is being fought today.

Narrated Sahl:

“During one of his Ghazawat, the Prophet peace be upon him encountered the pagans and the two armies fought, and then each of them returned to their army camps. Amongst the (army of the) Muslims there was a man who would follow every pagan separating from the army and strike him with his sword. It was said, "O Allah's Messenger peace be upon him! None has fought so satisfactorily as so-and-so (namely, that brave Muslim). "The Prophet said, "He is from the dwellers of the Hell-Fire." The people said, "Who amongst us will be of the dwellers of Paradise? if this (man) is from the dwellers of the Hell-Fire?" Then a man from amongst the people said, "I will follow him and accompany him in his fast and slow movements." The (brave) man got wounded and wanting to die at once, he put the handle of his sword on the ground and its tip in between his breasts, and then threw himself over it, committing suicide. Then the man (who had watched the deceased) returned to the Prophet peace be upon him and said, "I testify that you are Apostle of Allah". The Prophet peace be upon him said, "What is this?" The man told him the whole story. The Prophet peace be upon him said, "A man may do what may seem to the people as the deeds of the dwellers of Paradise, but he is of the dwellers of the Hell-Fire and a man may do what may seem to the people as the deeds of the dwellers of the Hell-Fire, but he is from the dwellers of Paradise."  (Sahih al-Bukhari [The Book of Military Expeditions led by the Prophet (pbuh) (Al-Maghaazi) Chapter: Ghazwa of Khaibar], Sahih Muslim [The Book of Faith » Chapter: Clarifying the emphatic prohibition against killing oneself; the one who kills himself with something will be punished with it in the fire]

Suicide Bombing Is Forbidden Under All Circumstances, Even As A War Tactic?

Some Wahhabi-inspired scholars have appeared to support the view that suicide bombing is permissible under certain circumstances as a war tactic. This is extremely antithetical to the spirit of Islam. The general application of the Quranic verse (2:195) and the Hadith narrated by Hadhrat Sahl, as mentioned above, clearly reject the Wahhabi view allowing suicide bombing in certain circumstances. According to the Quran [2:195], when the suicide-attack is forbidden under all circumstances, and similarly according to the aforementioned Hadith when suicide attack is forbidden even during Jihad, how can it be permissible in the state of Fitna? Then how can suicide-bombing have any justification under any circumstances? The Quran and Hadith forbid suicide attacks under all circumstances but it is Wahhabism that allows it under some circumstances. This way, the Wahhabis are transgressing the limits of Allah and have forgotten the message of the Quran, “Allah does not like those who transgress the limits” (2:190). It is time for intellectual Muslims, Ulama, and scholars to propagate the clear message of Islam that suicide bombing is forbidden under all circumstances and that no specific reason can justify it under any circumstances, otherwise the terrorists will keep on recruiting naive people for committing suicide bombing in public for indiscriminately killing innocent lives.

What About The Funeral Prayer For The Suicide Attackers?

According to a narration, the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not offer prayers for the person who committed suicide.

Jabir bin Samura reported:

“(The dead body) of a person who had killed himself with a broad-headed arrow was brought before the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, but he did not offer prayers for him” (Sahih Muslim [The Book of Prayer – Funerals, Chapter: Leaving the funeral prayer for one who committed suicide]

Having analysed the afore-mentioned Qur’anic verses and numerous Ahadith, it is evidently clear that the suicide attacks or bombings perpetrated by ISIS militants at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport and Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq or the world are brazenly anti-Islamic. ISIS’s suicide attackers will reside in the Hell forever.  So, a true Muslim who has no doubt in the divine book of Allah and believes in the authoritativeness of Hadith can never justify suicide attacks. A Muslim tasting the true love for Allah Almighty and his beloved prophet (peace be upon him) will always regard suicide attack as a forbidden act. A true Muslim who should always thank Allah Almighty for the reward of life cannot destroy his life by blowing himself up. He can never brainwash any other Muslim for suicide attacks. If he or she does this forbidden act, he or she will deserve punishment in Hell and lose every way leading to the closeness of Allah Almighty and his beloved prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in the hereafter.” (  Suicide Attacks By ISIS or Any Other Muslim Militants Are Brazenly Un-Islamic and Categorically Forbidden [Haram] Under All Circumstances: Evidence from the Quran and Hadith )

The above arguments refute the Jihadist narrative justifying suicide attack or ‘martyrdom operation’. Nevertheless, the contemporary Jihadists make an analogy (Qiyas) between suicide operation and Inghimas to claim that the permissibility of suicide attacks is supported by the classical Muslim Ulama and jurists who permitted Inghimas (an act of self-immersion into enemy ranks or attacking the enemy in such a manner that the possibility of survival is very low). They have used Qiyas Ma’al Fariq (analogy with a discrepancy) which is invalid as per Classical Islamic jurisprudence.

We should see the differences between the concept of the Jihadist suicide operation and the classical concept of Inghimas. As per the classical Inghimas, a person doing Inghimas, which may be referred to as Inghimasi, is killed by an enemy’s weapon, but in the Jihadist suicidal operation, the attacker is killed by his own weapon deliberately. Inghimas is waged during the actual battle. But the Jihadist suicidal operation is not necessarily perpetrated during battles as the Jihadists are committing suicide attacks outside the conflict zone, including the 9/11 attacks. In Inghimas, there is a high risk but survival is still possible whereas in the suicidal-operation there is no chance of survival, as a matter of fact, we have not yet found any record of a suicide attacker surviving after the attack. With so many differences, the analogy cannot be rightly made to justify the Jihadist suicidal operation, as the analogy is with a discrepancy (qiyas ma’al fariq).

This can be deduced from the above that the Jihadists’ claim that “the suicidal operation or so-called ‘martyrdom operation’ is endorsed by the classical interpretation of Islam” is merely based on false propaganda to gain acceptance among the mainstream Muslims who have been rejecting them since the inception their act of Jihadism. If the Jihadists can’t present Islamic justification for their suicidal attacks, Islamophobes too should not associate Jihadism with the classical interpretation of Islam.   


Related Article:

Refuting Islamophobic Claims That Jihadists Represent Traditional and Mainstream Interpretations of Islam: Part 1- On the Hakimiyyah

Refuting Islamophobic Claim That Jihadists Represent Traditional and Mainstream Interpretations of Islam: Part 2 on Imperativeness of Reclaiming ‘Muslim Land’

Refuting Islamophobic Claims That Jihadists Represent Traditional and Mainstream Interpretations of Islam: Part 3 on the Jihadist Narrative Inciting Treachery towards One’s Country


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