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Islamist Terror in Sri Lanka: Theological Analysis Of Terrorist Narratives; Introspection Required For Terror Sympathizers And Those Who Wish To Join ISIS

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

16 May 2019

A total of nine terrorist suicide bombings on 21 April 2019 that targeted Christian churches in Sri Lanka and three luxury hotels in the commercial capital Colombo killed at least 259 people and injured more than 500. According to Sri Lankan authorities, seven of the suicide bombers were Sri Lankan citizens associated with National ThowheethJama’ath, a local radical Islamist group, previously known for attacks against Sufis and Buddhists.

On 23 April 2019, Amaq News Agency linked to ISIS stated on the mobile app Telegram that “إن "منفذي الهجوم الذي استهدف رعايا دول التحالف والنصارى في سريلانكا أول أمس من مقاتلي الدولة الإسلامية (translation) “the perpetrators of the attack targeting the citizens of coalition countries and Christians in Sri Lanka were Islamic State Fighters” (

One month before the attacks took place, had published a report headlined “ISIS Calls On Followers to ‘Take Revenge’ For New Zealand Terror Attack”. In the 44-minute audio recording, ISIS's spokesperson, Abu Hassan Al-Muhajir called on ISIS supporters to take revenge for the Christchurch attack and said, “The scenes of death in the two mosques are enough to wake up from sleep and incite the supporters of the caliphate who live there, to take vengeance for their religion and for sons of their Ummah, who are killed everywhere in the world.”(‘take-revenge’-for-new-zealand-terror-attack/d/118071).

Experts around the world had warned that the far-right could justify their attacks using “Islamist terrorism” and that the Christchurch terrorist attack could be used for ‘reciprocal radicalization”. However, this warning was not taken seriously and it has now resulted in loss of over300 people in the attack in two Christchurch mosques and Sri Lankan churches.

With regard to Sri Lankan terror attacks, several theological questions arise--theological because the perpetrators of the attacks associated with ISIS proudly justify their terror activities, using “Islamic narratives”. The most striking questions to be dealt with are as follows:

  1. Does Islam justify suicide attacks?

  2. Does Islam sanctify suicide bombing in war-time situation?

  3. Does Islam allow killing of women, children and non-combatant citizens?

  4. Does Islam allow destruction of temples, churches or any other non-Muslims’ places of worship?

  5. How does Islam see modern terror activities, such as killing non-combatant civilians, women, children, old persons, destruction of churches and houses of worship?

  6. What could be the objectives of Islam in 21st century?

  7. What would be the “reward” of those who join ‘Islamist’ groups and commit terror activities?

Does Islam justify suicide attacks? Does Islam sanctify suicide bombing in war-time situation?

My article “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” deals with the first two questions at some length. The readers can click the link given below to read the plain answer that Islam does not justify suicide attacks for any reason, not even in any special circumstances, as a tactic of war.

The suicide bombers are openly disobedient of Allah Almighty, and according to numerous Ahadith, the suicide bombers will reside in Hell forever.

Allah Almighty says, “Do not kill yourself” (4:29). Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi interpreted this verse and wrote: “This verse, “And do not kill yourselves”, proves that it is unlawful for one to kill someone else or oneself unjustly” (Al-Tafsir al-Kabir of Imam al-Razi, 57:10)

In just the next verse (4:30), Allah Almighty announces punishment for the suicide attackers and 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 for a general application, the restriction [taqeed] or specification [takhsees] is not valid in any way without the existence of definite (Qati’i) evidence.

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.

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)

Dealing with the question of suicide bombing as a war tactic, the article clarifies that the radical ‘Islamist’ view that suicide bombing is permissible under certain circumstances as a war tactic is extremely antithetical to the spirit of Islam. The general application of the Quranic verse (2:195) and the Hadith narrated by HadhratSahl (see the hadith in the article) refute this radical view. According to the Quran [2:195], when suicide attack is forbidden under all circumstances, and when suicide attack is forbidden even during Jihad, how can it be permissible for transgression and Fitna?

Read the full article here:,-new-age-islam/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/d/107985

Does Islam allow killing of women, children and non-combatant citizens?

Allah Almighty says, “Do not exceed the limits; and Allah does not like the transgressors” (2:190). This command of God Almighty, as per majority of classical Islamic scholars, is Muhkam and not abrogated (mansukh). They use this Divine command to discuss the usual rules of war, such as the prohibition against killing women, children, old people, monks, hermits, the chronically ill and peasants etc.

Hazrat Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “The phrase “do not exceed the limits” renders “do not kill women, children, old men, or those who offer peace and restrain their hand. If you do that, you will have transgressed against them”. (Jamiul Bayan, vol. 2, p. 110-111, printed at Beirut DarulMa’rifa)   

Whenever the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) dispatched a commander of an army, he would exhort him personally to fear Allah and prohibited against transgression, killing of children, mutilation and treachery. (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Abu Dawudetc)

Hazrat Abu Bakar al-Siddiq used to instruct the army soldiers, “kill neither 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” (Muwatta Imam Malik p. 466)

Does Islam allow destruction of temples, churches or any other non-Muslims’ places of worship?

Islam guarantees the protection of temples, churches and other places of worship located in Muslim lands. The beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) granted a constitutional status to protection of places of worship through his commands, contracts, agreements and accords. The religious rights and freedoms granted by the Prophet to the people of Najran are a solid proof in this regard. The Prophet is reported to have said,

“Indeed, Najran and her allies are under the protection of God and the guarantee of the Messenger of God. They are to be protected in their wealth, lives, lands and religion. This includes their priests, monks, those who are present amongst them and those who are absent and others amongst them, and their delegations and the like. They shall not be forced to change that (faith) which they are upon and no right of theirs is to be forfeited. No monk, priest or attendant amongst them should lose that which is in his possession, be it plentiful or scarce, and no fear or danger will threaten them” (This hadith cited by Imam Abu Yusuf Hanafi in al-Kharaj, 78)

During the caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the non-Muslims enjoyed similar rights as their Muslim counterparts. Whenever an army left for a military expedition, Hazrat Abu Bakr would give special instructions to the commander of the army, “Do not spread corruption in the earth and do not disobey orders….Do not drown or burn date-palm trees. Do not kill any animal. Do not cut down a fruit-bearing tree. Do not demolish a church. Do not kill any children, old people or women. Soon you shall come upon people who have secluded themselves in cloisters; leave them to engage in that for whose sake they have secluded themselves” (narrated by Imam Bayhaqi in Sunan Al-Kubra, Imam Malik in Muwatta,etc).

When Hazrat Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) sent Yazid b. Abi Sufyan to Syria, he said, “Do not demolish any place of worship…and do not kill an old, feeble man or an infant or a child or a woman” (Narrated by Imam Bayhaqi in Sunan Kubra).

According to a tradition cited by Imam Shaybani, Hazrat Umar bin Abd al-Aziz used to instruct his officials, saying,

“Do not demolish any church, cloister or Zoroastrian temple” (Kitab al-Hujja ala Ahl al-Madina and Imam Shafi’I in Kitab al-Umm 7:320) 

A Quranic verse 22:40 is also quoted by classical jurists and mufasserin in order to substantiate the view that Muslims are prohibited from damaging or destroying the places of worship belonging to non-Muslims with whom there is a treaty both within and outside Islamic lands.

Allah Almighty says in the verse, “[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right - only because they say, "Our Lord is Allah." And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” (22:40)

Hazrat Hasan Al-Basri comments on this ayat, saying: يُدْفَعُ عَنْ هَدْمِ مُصَلَّيَاتِ أَهْلِ الذِّمَّةِ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ (translation) “The houses of worship for non-Muslim civilians shall be defended by the believers” (Ahkam Al-Quran by Imam Al-Jassas 5/83)

Imam Qurtubi wrote in his book of Tafsir, قَالَ ابْنُ خُوَيْزِ مَنْدَادَ تَضَمَّنَتْ هَذِهِ الْآيَةُ الْمَنْعَ مِنْ هَدْمِ كَنَائِسِ أَهْلِ الذِّمَّةِ وَبِيَعِهِمْ وَبُيُوتِ نِيرَانِهِمْ translation: “Ibn Khuwaiz said: This Quranic verse includes the prohibition of demolishing the churches of non-Muslim citizens, their temples, and their places of worship” (Tafseer Al-Qurtubi 22:40)

The covenant of Hazrat Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph of Islam, which guaranteed the safety of Christians in Jerusalem, their lives, their property, their places of worship is recorded by Imam Tabari as follows:

بسم اللَّه الرحمن الرحيم هذا ما أعطى عبد اللَّه عمر أمير المؤمنين أهل إيلياء من الأمان أعطاهم أمانا لأنفسهم وأموالهم ولكنائسهم وصلبانهم وسقيمها وبريئها وسائر ملتها أنه لا تسكن كنائسهم ولا تهدم ولا ينتقص منها ولا من حيزها ولا من صليبهم ولا من شيء من أموالهم ولا يكرهون على دينهم ولا يضار أحد منهم

“In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, This is what is granted of security by the servant of Allah, Umar, the commander of the faithful, to the people of Jerusalem. He grants them safety for their lives, their property, their churches, and their crucifixes, for their ill, their healthy, and their entire community. Their churches will not be occupied, demolished, or reduced in number. Their churches and crucifixes will not be desecrated and neither anything else of their property. They will not be coerced to abandon their religion and none of them will be harmed” (Tareekh At-Tabari 2/449)

According to a popularly cited incident, an Umayyad ruler Walid b. Abd al-Malik captured a piece of property that belonged to the Church of Damascus and made it a part of a mosque. When Hazrat Umar b. Abd al-Aziz got this news, he commanded the demolition of that part of the mosque and that it be returned to the Christians. One of the relevant reports is cited as follows;

لما استخلف عمر بن عبد العزيز رضي الله عنه، شكى النصارى إليه ما فعل الوليد بهم في كنسيتهم فكتب إلى عامله يأمره برد ما زاده في المسجد

Translation: “When Hazrat Umar b. Abd al-Aziz (may Allah be pleased with him) became the Caliph, the Christians complained to him about Walid’s seizure of the property of a church. Hazrat Umar dictated orders to his governor there, commanding him to return to the Christians the portion that was added to the mosque” (See FuthulBuldan p.150)

The afore-mentioned evidences substantiate the opinion that Islam does not allow destruction of houses of worship belonging to Non-Muslims both within and outside Islamic lands, or during peace-time or war-time. The radical ‘Islamist’ individuals associated with ISIS or any other extremist groups, who justified destruction of churches in Sri Lanka or any other countries, would have to be accountable to God Almighty, for their acts of transgression in which they killed women, children and destructed churches. Verily “Allah does not like the transgressors” (2:190). The Divine punishment for transgressors is mentioned in several verses of the Quran, read for example the verses 5:87/7:55/10/74/2:61/2:65).

Excerpts taken from the article Does Islam Allow Destruction Of Churches, Temples Or Any Other Houses Of Worship Belonging To Non-Muslims?,-new-age-islam/does-islam-allow-destruction-of-churches,-temples-or-any-other-houses-of-worship-belonging-to-non-muslims?/d/118515

How does Islam see the modern terror activities, such as killing non-combatant civilians, women, children, old, destruction of churches and houses of worship?

The modern terror attacks are acts of transgression. This subject has been covered at some length in my article, Terror Attacks in a Nuclear Age – Jihad or Transgression? Global Muslim Community Should Introspect. This article presents Quranic verses and commentaries to substantiate the view that killing non-combatant civilians including women, children, old, monks, priests etc is an act of transgression in the view of Islam. Similarly, destruction of churches, temples or any other houses of worship is an act of transgression, as mentioned above.

Read the full article here:,-new-age-islam/terror-attacks-in-a-nuclear-age-–-jihad-or-transgression?-global-muslim-community-should-introspect/d/117976

What could be the objectives of Islam in the 21st century?

Islam aims at establishment of peace, security, protection of lives and religious rights of non-Muslims, in addition to bringing humanity to the path of God Almighty. The Quranic verse asks the Islamic preachers to adopt the way that is best in bringing humanity on the Divine path and making a spiritual relationship between God Almighty and slaves. Allah Almighty says, “Call towards the path of your Lord with sound planning and good advice, and debate with them in the best possible way; indeed, your Lord well knows him who has strayed from His path, and He well knows the guided” (16:125).

In the present century we are living under internationally approved laws in which we all have promised to live peacefully without committing religious persecutions or damaging lives or properties. The present 21st century could be termed ‘DarulAhad’ [the abode of contract] under Islamic perspective, in which we should indeed adhere to the laws internationally agreed upon. Along with that, the pious preachers of Islam can make a spiritual service by instilling divine love in hearts of the humanity.

Rights of Non-Muslims Living In Minority – Part 1 – Freedom of Religion


Rights of Non-Muslims Living In Minority – Part 2 – Protection of Their Lives


What would be the “reward” of those who join the present-day ‘Islamist’ groups and commit terror activities around the world?

The reward of those who join the present day ‘Islamist’ groups and commit terror attacks is Divine punishment, because they are violating the Divine commandments as follows;

Allah Almighty says: “And do not kill the soul whose (killing) Allah has forbidden, except when it is rightfully due (according to law in self-defence against disruption and whilst combating terrorism). It is these (injunctions) He has enjoined upon you so that you may apply reason”. (6:151)

Allah Almighty says, “Whoever kills a human being except in lieu of killing or causing turmoil in the earth, so it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoever saves the life of one person, is as if he had saved the life of all mankind; and undoubtedly Our Noble Messengers came to them with clear proofs – then after this indeed many of them are oppressors in the earth”. (5:32)

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, أَلاَ مَنْ ظَلَمَ مُعَاهِدًا أَوِ انْتَقَصَهُ أَوْ كَلَّفَهُ فَوْقَ طَاقَتِهِ أَوْ أَخَذَ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا بِغَيْرِ طِيبِ نَفْسٍ فَأَنَا حَجِيجُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ " Translation: “Beware, if anyone persecutes any peaceful non-Muslim citizen [Mu’ahid], or diminishes his right, or forces him to work beyond his capacity, or takes from him anything without his consent, I shall plead for him on the Day of Judgment.”

We have seen above that the terror activities are nothing but acts of transgression and the transgressors will have to face the Divine punishment on the Day of Judgment. It is time for those who are terror sympathizers or those who wish to join ISIS to ponder over this theological analysis of terror attacks and introspect themselves to rethink that they are sympathizers of the evil groups and wish to join the group of those who will suffer the severe punishment of God Almighty.

How to resolve the issues of Terrorism?

Having gone through these seven questions with their answers, now the important question is: how to stop the growing phenomenon of terrorism? We have come across the theological narratives above to refute the claims of terrorist ideologues. However, this is not enough, as we the civilians of the world are living in a global village where all of us are connected with one another. Both Muslims and non-Muslims need to make genuine efforts to resolve the issue of Islamist terrorism. 

Whenever any terror attack takes place, some non-Muslims use this attack to express their prejudice against the entire community and the religion of Islam. This is problematic and not the solution in any way. Since Islam does not in any way support terrorism, it cannot be blamed for what the terrorists are doing.

As for Islamic scholars, they should rethink Islam in the present-situation in addition to taking into account the objectives of Islam which are being violated by the radical ‘Islamist’ groups. They should indeed work to rescue Islam from the clutches of terrorists. In this connection, they should make all possible efforts to teach the common and naïve Muslims the true message of Islam which is fully in agreement with development of a peaceful and cooperative environment. They should continuously engage in training campaigns at various places and deliver peaceful narratives of Islam to the common masses.

As for the mainstream media, they should propagate and highlight the solid anti-terror narratives disseminated by Islamic scholars, so that Islam retains its centuries-old positive image and all efforts of the radical ideologues aimed at spreading chaos and violence are foiled.

A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).


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