New Age Islam
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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 25 Oct 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Rebutting the Taliban: Polytheism, Disbelief and Apostasy Are Indeed Grave Crimes; However, No Human Can Punish another Human Being for These Crimes



By Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

October 26, 2013

The self-appointed warriors of God, known to the world as the Taliban, have killed countless innocent people in the last 10 years. They insist that they are doing all this for God and in submission to His directives. They have restated this stance after their cowardly attack on Malala Yousafzai. In support of this stance, they present the Qur’an and Hadith and certain incidents that occurred in the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Since people are generally unaware of religion and religious disciplines, this line of reasoning may influence them. We, therefore, would like to present some facts in the following paragraphs in consideration of this scenario.

No doubt, jihad is a directive of Islam. The Qur’an requires of its followers that if they have the strength, they should wage war against oppression and injustice. The primary reason for which this directive is given is to curb persecution, which is the use of oppression and coercion to make people give up their religion. Those having insight know that Muslims are not given this directive of jihad in their individual capacity; they are addressed in their collective capacity regarding this directive. They are not individually addressed in the verses of jihad, which occur in the Qur’an. Thus in this matter only the collectivity has the right to launch any such armed offensive. No individual or group of Muslims has the right to take this decision on their behalf. It is for this reason that the Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said: “A Muslim ruler is a shield; war can only be waged under him.” Even a little deliberation is enough for a person to conclude whether the Taliban are following this principle or blatantly violating it.

The directive of jihad given by Islam is war for the cause of God; therefore, it cannot be waged while disregarding moral restrictions. Ethics and morality supersede everything in all circumstances, and even in matters of war and armed offensives, the Almighty has not allowed Muslims to deviate from moral principles. Hence, it is absolutely certain that jihad can only be waged against combatants. It is the law of Islam that if a person attacks through his tongue, then this attack shall be countered through the tongue, and if he financially supports the warriors then he will be stopped from this support; however, unless a person picks up arms to wage war, his life cannot be taken. So much so, if right in the battlefield the enemy throws down his arms and surrenders, he shall be taken a prisoner; he cannot be executed after this. The words of the verse, which mention the directive of jihad, are: “And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight against you and do not transgress bounds [in this fighting]. Indeed, God does not like the transgressors” (2:190).

The Prophet (PBUH) forbade the killing of women and children during war. The reason for this is also that if they have embarked upon jihad with the army, it is not in the capacity of combatants. At best, they can boost the morale of the combatants and urge them through the tongue to fight.

This then is the Shari’ah of God. But what are the Taliban doing? Men of learning, like Maulana Hasan Jan, Mawlana Sarfaraz Na‘imi and Dr Muhammad Faruq Khan, never undertook to wage war against them. Malala Yousafzai is an innocent girl. She never took up arms against them. In spite of this, the Taliban insist that all these people deserve death. Is this merely because they had dared to differ with them? There is no doubt that in the presence of political authority in a place, the authority has the right to punish criminals; it also is true that in this regard there cannot be any difference between a man and a woman. The Qur’an very explicitly states that whether a woman or a man is guilty of theft, both will be punished and both have the same punishment. The same is true for an adulterer and an adulteress. However, when did the Taliban have political authority on the persons just mentioned, and when did these persons commit crimes that are punishable by death as per the Islamic shari‘ah? The Qur’an very explicitly states that the death punishment can be meted out only in cases of murder and spreading anarchy in the land, and not in any other crime. Who among the people pointed out above is guilty of murdering someone or was guilty of spreading anarchy by threatening the life, wealth or honour of someone? In reality, the Taliban themselves are guilty of these crimes and testify to their confessions every day.

Polytheism, disbelief and apostasy are indeed grave crimes; however, no human can punish another human being for these crimes. This is the right of God alone. In the Hereafter too, He will punish them for these crimes, and in this world it is He Who does so if He intends to do so. The matter of the Hereafter is not under discussion here. In this world, this punishment takes place in the following manner: when the Almighty decides to reward and punish people in this very world on the basis of their deeds, He sends His messenger towards them. This messenger conclusively communicates the truth to these people such that they are left with no excuse before God to deny it. After that the verdict of God is passed, and those people, who even after the conclusive communication of the truth, insist on disbelief and polytheism are punished in this world. This is an established practice of God, which the Qur’an describes in the following words: “And for each community, there is a messenger. Then when their messenger comes, their fate is decided with full justice and they are not wronged” (10:47)

This punishment is generally given in the manner it was given to the people of Noah (PBUH), the people of Hud (PBUH), the people of Salih (PUBH), the people of Lot (PBUH), the people of Shu‘ayb (PBUH), and to some other nations. However, if a Messenger has a substantial number of companions, and after migrating from their people, they are also able to gain political authority at some place, then this punishment is implemented through the swords of the Messenger and his companions. It is this second situation, which arose in the case of Muhammad (PBUH). Thus the active adversaries among his opponents first met their fate; after this, a general order of killing the rest of the adversaries was given. For them the declaration of this punishment came in 9th Hijrah on the day of Hajj-e-Akbar. Following are the words of this directive mentioned in the Qur’an: “Then when the sacred months [after the Hajj-e-Akbar] have passed, kill these Idolaters wherever you find them, and [for this objective] capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent and are diligent in the prayer, and give zakâh, then leave them alone” (9:5)

This is the punishment of God that was meted out to the Idolaters of Arabia. When such a punishment descends on the perpetrators, no exception is given to women and children. It is thus mentioned in various narratives that when troops were sent to implement this punishment, the Prophet (PBUH) was asked what to do about the women and children of the idolaters who would also be there; at this, the Prophet (PBUH) replied that they were from among them. It was these people about whom he had directed that if they embraced faith at that time and then became apostates and later adopted disbelief, they would deserve this same punishment of death.

In spite of conclusive communication of the truth, the punishment of these people was deferred until 9 AH because they were not active adversaries, and there was a chance that they might repent, and hence be saved from punishment. On the other hand, people, who besides their rejection of the truth, became open and active adversaries were not given this respite. They were killed whenever it became possible. Abu Rafi‘, Ka‘b ibn Ashraf, ‘Abdullah Ibn Khattal, his slave-girls and from among the prisoners of the battles of Badr and Uhud ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu‘it, Nadr ibn al-Harith and Abu ‘Izzah et al were killed for this very reason.

This was the verdict of God, which is necessarily implemented after conclusive communication of the truth by His messengers. It is about this verdict that the Qur’an has said: “You shall never see any change in this practice of God” (17:77). Its nature is the same as of the sacrifice of Ishmael (PBUH), and the incident of Khidr. It is not related to us human beings. Just as we cannot drill a hole in the boat of a poor person to help him and cannot kill a disobedient boy nor embark upon slaughtering any of our sons on the basis of a dream as Abraham (PBUH) did, similarly, we cannot undertake this task except if a revelation comes from God or if He directly gives an order. Everyone knows that the door to this has permanently been closed.

The incidents that the Taliban are presenting to support their measures are of the nature just described. This is nothing but an audacity to generalise for themselves what specifically rests in the hands of God. There can be no greater crime than this on God’s earth. Every believer should seek God’s refuge from this.


1. Abû ‘Abdullâh Muhammad ibn Ismâ‘îl al-Bukhârî, Al-Jâmi‘ al-sahîh, 2nd ed. (Riyâd: Dâr al-salâm, 1999), 489, (no. 2957).

2. Al-Bukhârî, Al-Jâmi‘ al-sahîh, 498, (no. 3015); Abû al-Husayn ibn Hajjâj Muslim al-Nîsabûrî, Al-Jâmi‘ al-sahîh, 2nd ed. (Riyâd: Dâr al-salâm, 2000), 303, (no. 1744).

3. Al-Bukhârî, Al-Jâmi‘ al-Sahih, 497, (no. 3012); Muslim, Al-Jâmi‘ al-Sahih, 303, (no. 1745).

4. Al-Bukhârî, Al-Jâmi‘ al-Sahih, 498, (no. 3017).

Javed Ahmad Ghamidiis a religious scholar, and President of Al-Mawrid, a foundation for Islamic Research and Education