dar al-harb (abode of war). Muslims believe that the dar al-Islam has existed since its creation by the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad and his successors were
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1 After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, much public attention has been focused on the issue of global terrorism associated with Islamic fundamentalism. By merely glancing over the apparent connection between the core teachings of Islam and the acts of terror committed by organization s such as Al -Qaeda, it is often easy to mistakenly equate the Islamic faith with unwarranted acts of violence. This unfortunate ignorance of Islam has led to an unfortunate climate of discrimination against Muslims , especially in the United States. This paper seeks to provide an in -depth look into the actual links between the rationale of such terrorist organizations and Islamic dogma as found in the QurÕan and in the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. In order to accurately study this connection, I analyzed the essays of several theological and Muslim scholars and attempted to identify Islamic teachings that terrorist leaders such as Osama bin -Laden have chosen to distort or ignore to suit the goals and rationale of their organizations. After weeks of study, I have concluded that terrorist organizations stray from Islamic teaching on jihad in three main areas: the proper authority to declare a jihad, the classification of legitimate targets during a jihad, and the criteria for declaring a valid jihad. Only by understanding the true disparities that exist between Islamic fundamentalist rationale for terrorist acts and the core teachings of mainstream Islam can citizens of the world hope to heal the wounds created b y terrorism and to reverse the misconceptions of Islam as a violent religion that encourages warfare and acts of terror.
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2 Varying Interpretations of Jihad and Modern Islam Although terrorism associated with radical Islam has existed since the ear ly 1990Õs, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center certainly have increased global awareness to the threat it poses to modern Western society. However, many people tend to question whether the actions of Islamic fundamentalists and radicals like Osama bin Laden and the Taliban can be associated with mainstream Islam. While the beliefs of Al -Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations do stem from the core beliefs held by mainstream Muslims, these groups hold vastly different inter pretations of the QurÕan and of the Prophet MuhammadÕs teachings. I would contend that Islamic fundamentalist groups like Al -Qaeda stray from mainstream Islamic teachings regarding jihad sin their differing interpretations of three main areas of Islamic b elief: who has the authority to declare such a jihad, the question of who can be classified as a legitimate target during a jihad, and what constitutes a valid jihad. Before discussing the specific views of fundamentalists such as Osama bin -Laden, however, one must gain at least a basic understanding of what exactly is meant by the term ÒjihadÓ and how both mainstream and fundamentalist Islam apply the concept. James Turner Johnson, a professor of Religion at Rutgers University specializing in Just War The ory and religious ethics, explains that when found in the context of the QurÕan, a ÒjihadÓ refers to Òa believerÕs inner struggle for righteousnessÓ (12). However, this concept of jihad as a personal quest for holiness differs from a second, more modern i nterpretation of jihad that references an actual fight against infidels. Closely tied to this second notion of a jihad against infidels is the concept that the world is split into two distinct realms – the dar al -Islam (abode of Islam) and the dar al -harb (abode of war). Muslims believe that the dar al -Islam has existed since its creation by the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad and his successors were the supreme authorities on
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3 both the religious and political matters within the dar al -Islam . Due to its unity under Islam and its rule under a successor to the Holy Prophet, the dar al -Islam differs from the rest of the world because it is without conflict. Muslims affirm a lasting, universal peace is impossible unless the dar al -Islam absorbs the dar al -harb and the world is united under Islam. They also believe that until this peace is established, the two realms will be in a state of constant warfare. According to Islamic teaching, the peace Muslims seek to establish can be achieved through the practice of jihad (J. Johnson 12). Johnson notes that during a period of warfare, Muslims believe two forms of jihad may be implemented (this time in the aforementioned war -related contexts) to create universal peace. In one form, a caliph (in Sunni tradition) or imam (in Shiite tradition) who leads the dar al -Islam may call for a jihad in which all Muslims collectively participate in a defensive war against the general threat of the dar al -harb (12). While this form of jihad is permissible both under modern internatio nal law and under the Òjust -war theory,Ó it is actually no longer employed because modern Islam is not unified under a central caliph or imam as it once was hundreds of years ago. In the second form, which is commonly used now by groups such as Al -Qaeda t o justify acts of terror against Western civilization, the dar al -Islam carries out an emergency form of jihad to counteract a direct attack from the dar al -harb . In this case, an acute emergency is assumed and all religiously and socially prescribed rela tionships and norms are erased. In addition, all Muslims are individually called to fight the aggression of the dar al -harb in whatever way possible (J. Johnson 13). The new interpretation of jihad currently used by Islamic fundamentalists and terrorist organizations stems from the ÒemergencyÓ form mentioned above. One can trace its roots back to the Islamic African insurrections against Western colonialism during the early 1900Õs (J.
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4 Johnson 13). This interpretation makes several critical assumptions no t found in the traditional interpretation of mainstream Islam, such as regarding any nation not belonging to the dar al -Islam as an aggressor and hostile member of the dar al -harb. This interpretation defines ÒaggressorsÓ as those who support non -Islamic states or non -Islamic presences in the dar al -Islam ; therefore, the lines between civilians and actual military operatives are erased. This, in effect, makes all individuals who are not Muslim aggressors and all nations that are not part of the dar al -Isl am aggressor nations. Another assumption supporting this interpretation of jihad is that because of its Òemergency status,Ó there are no limits to methods of warfare that can be used. Because of this, jihadists may carry out suicide bomb attacks intended to kill innocent civilians, including women, children, and the elderly. In addition, all Muslims are called to participate in this form of jihad, whether they are males or females of any age (J. Johnson 13 -14). In 1998, Osama bin Laden and four other key members of the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders issued a fatwa (a religious statement of opinion in Islam) calling for a jihad against the Òcrusader -Zionist allianceÓ ( “Declaration Concerning Armed Struggle Against Jews and Crusade rs”) between the Western world and the Jewish state of Israel. According to John Kelsay, an expert in the field of Islamic and Christian ethics and the Richard L. Rubenstein Professor of Religion at Florida State University, the fatwa serves as both a fun damental statement of his reasoning for a campaign against America and the rest of Western society and as a justification for not only the yet -to-occur 9/11 terrorist attacks but also the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa and of the U.S.S. Cole off the coast of Yemen. This 1998 fatwa reflects an acceptance of all the aforementioned assumptions related to the more radical interpretation of jihad ( ÒArguments concerning Resistance in Contemporary Islam” 4 -5). For example, bin Laden regards th e U.S. as an aggressor because of American troops positioned
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5 in Saudi Arabia since the first Gulf War. He claims the American ÒoccupationÓ of the Arabian peninsula indicates that the Muslim community faces a dire emergency that must be combated by a jihad against foreign influence in the dar al -Islam . Bin Laden also views the American Òprotracted blockade against IraqÓ ( “Declaration Concerning Armed Struggle Against Jews and Crusaders”) as a hostile and aggressive attack on the Iraqi people and the cause of their suffering. Because bin Laden is not a caliph or imam with the authority to wage war against the U.S., he uses the guise of a defensive jihad against the aggression of America and the Western world as justification for acts of terror (Kelsay, ÒInt erpreting Islamic Tradition: Bin LadenÕs ReasonsÓ 26). While there is some basis to bin LadenÕs reasoning towards jihad, there are at least three main issues with his interpretation of this form of ÒemergencyÓ jihad. First, neither Osama bin Laden nor any of the fellow signers of the 1998 fatwa have the proper authority under ShariÕa reasoning to issue a fatwa. ShariÕa refers to the sacred law of Islam derived from two sources: the revelations of the QurÕan and the example set forth by the Holy Prophet Mu hammad (T. Johnson). According to Islamic tradition, only members of the educated class known as al-ulama may release a fatwa. These educated Muslim scholars have completed long courses of study in grammar, philology, history, and logic, and therefore ar e considered educated enough to have legitimate authority in matters of Islamic policy (Kelsay, “Interpreting Islamic Tradition: Bin Laden’s Reasons” 27-28). Because neither he nor any of the other World Islamic Front signers can issue a legitimate fatwa calling for a jihad, it seems bin Laden has used the present ÒemergencyÓ situation as authorization to ignore this and many other guidelines concerning related to jihad.
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6 Another issue with the World Islamic FrontÕs fatwa lies in the question of who can be considered a legitimate target during a jihad. While this particular fatwa calls for fighting against both civilians and soldiers without discretion, traditional ShariÕa reasoning reflects the supposed teachings of Muhammad in a hadith that states, ÒStrug gle in the path of God. Do not cheat or commit adultery. Do not mutilate or kill women, children, or old menÉÓ ( Khadduri 76 -77). John Kelsay notes that throughout history, crisis situations facing Muslims have never been acceptable grounds to justify th e targeting of civilians in jihad. He continues that under ShariÕa law, the intentional and direct targeting of civilians is considered murder and a serious war crime. Therefore, Kelsay finds it irrational that Muslim terrorist groups could ever attempt to justify a violation of central Islamic law, regardless of emergency circumstances ( “Interpreting Islamic Tradition: Bin Laden’s Reasons” 29). A third problem presented by a radical interpretation of jihad is a question of the scope of the legitimacy of fighting under ShariÕa reasoning. Traditional Islamic interpretation of the QurÕan calls for fighting invading forces of the dar al -harb when they assault the dar al -Islam . However in modern examples of jihad against the Western world, Islamic extremists launch offensive assaults against Western targets outside of the territory designated the dar al -Islam. It can be implied from statements issued by reputable Muslim scholars like Yusuf al -Qaradhawi that this type of offensive assault on targets outside o f the dar al -harb does not fall within the context for jihad permitted by the QurÕan and the teachings of Muhammad. Al -Qaradhawi, an Egyptian Islamic scholar known for his occasionally controversial opinions on terrorism, and several other renowned Muslim scholars have shown support for the use of suicide bombing against what they deem to be Israeli oppression of Palestine. Al -Qaradhawi explains, Ò Israeli society is militaristic in nature. Both men and women serve in the army and can be drafted at any mom entIf a child
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8 dar al -harb . According to the teachings of Muhammad in a hadith, Muslims may only engage in attacking the dar al -harb after a declaration of intent to fight (in this case, the 1998 fatwa), followed by an invitation to acknowledge the dominan ce of Islam. Nations of the dar al -harb may recognize the primacy of Islam by either (1) converting to Islam or (2) paying a jizya (tax) which places the nation under the rule of Islam and designates it as a part of Islamic territory. (Kelsay, “Religion, Morality, and the Governance of War: The Case of Classical Islam” 125 -126). Although occasional attempts have been made by organizations like Al -Qaeda to diplomatically resolve disputes with Western governments, like that of the United States, it seems as if the arguably unjust inclination towards indiscriminate violence against civilian targets has led these governments to develop policies of refusal to negotiate with Òterrorists.Ó These rather rare attempts on the part of fundamentalist groups to reco ncile with the West have often included the aforementioned traditional Muslim requests for non -believers of the dar al -harb to either convert to Islam or pay tribute to the dar al -Islam . However, because there is no longer a centralized Islamic kingdom, i t is impossible to pay tribute to any legitimate central government, and Western nations will obviously not restructure their democratic governments into theocracies based upon the Islamic faith. Because these requests are not met and American troops are not withdrawn from the Middle East, radical groups such as Al -Qaeda insist they have exhausted peaceful alternatives and are entitled to wage jihad against the Western world. While modern Islamic extremists may place unrealistic demands on Western governme nts to forcibly convert entire nations or simply skip this invitation to acknowledge the superiority of Islam altogether, the practice nevertheless reflects a meaningful insight into the concept of jihad. By requiring His followers to make such an offer, Muhammad reveals that
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9 Islam essentially calls for warfare as a last resort, after all other alternatives have been exhausted (Kelsay, “Religion, Morality, and the Governance of War: The Case of Classical Islam” 126). This disclosure of an Islamic presumpt ion against war is actually remarkably similar to the Christian Just -War Theory and thus reveals that fundamentally, Christian and Muslim views towards the legitimacy of warfare are actually relatively similar. In his paper “Arguments concerning Resistance in Contemporary Islam,” John Kelsay points out that Osama bin Laden attempts to justify the indiscriminate targeting of both civilians and military targets in light of two considerations: the shared guilt of citizens in a democratic state and the law of r eciprocity. Bin Laden argues that since America and other Western nations are democratic societies, citizens of these countries have the ability to express their own opinions freely and to vote the existing government out of office in opposition to oppres sive or unjust policies. He also contends that since U.S. forces have killed countless Muslim civilians, Muslims are in turn justified to murder U.S. civilians out of reciprocity (34). While I would agree that in theory, Americans do have the power to vot e out leaders with whom they do not agree, I do not believe this provides any moral justification for the murder of American civilians. Similarly, I also do not agree with his reasoning that reciprocity justifies the murder of American civilians as retrib ution for the killing of Muslim civilians in the past. The relatively scattered accounts of Muslim deaths as a result of collateral damage from U.S. military operations can not reasonably be equated with the deliberate targeting and murder of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks like those carried out on September 11, 2001. In addition, I would contend that while these groups of Muslims may hold radical views in some areas of Islamic belief, a core tenet of Islam involves belief in a loving God who sen t His Holy Prophet Muhammad to advocate peace and love as the ultimate goals of human life. This idea of a God
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10 who accepts retribution for murder with more murder is simply not in agreement with the view of Allah as a loving and compassionate God. Althoug h the thought -process of Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist groups such as Al -Qaeda stems from the basic teachings of Islam on jihad, these groups clearly have distorted some aspects of the Islamic faith to suit their goals. Osama bin Laden and other te rrorist leaders appear to ignore three central points related to the legitimacy of a jihad — authority, methods, and scope of warfare). Without adherence to these three core Islamic beliefs, terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda disregard the teachings of bot h the QurÕan and the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Both non-Muslim academics well -versed on the concepts of Islamic law and ethics such as John Kelsay and James Turner Johnson and Islamic religious leaders and scholars like Yusuf al -Qaradhawi have skillfully pro ven that the World Islamic Front not only lacks the rightful authority to call for a jihad, but also violates ShariÕa law by supporting the intentional targeting of innocent civilians and the use of jihad outside the boundaries of the dar al -Islam . Essent ially, Islamic fundamentalists and terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden and other members of the World Islamic Front have attempted to argue that they can more accurately interpret Islamic law than well -studied religious scholars and members of the al-ulama class itself. I contend that this claim is both completely unfounded and arrogant. In addition, it is possible to reasonably demonstrate that the rationale Osama bin Laden provides in support of the indiscriminate targeting of American civilians i s primarily filled with unsubstantiated assumptions like those related to the shared guilt of citizens and the law of reciprocity. Bin LadenÕs attempt to equate acts of terror committed by Islamic fundamentalist groups to the murder of Muslims by U.S. tro ops is simply unreasonable. While some casualties may arise from US military attacks on insurgency forces, this is certainly not the goal. On the other hand, terrorist attacks like those
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11 that occurred on 9/11 demonstrate a deliberate and blatant disregar d for basic Islamic and Christian principles that innocent civilians should be left out of conflict. Understanding the basic concepts of Islamic belief and moral ethics in relation to the concept of jihad has become all the more imperative and relevant as the threat of terrorism emerges as a prominent threat to world peace. Because of the complexity of Islamic teachings on warfare and jihad, a debate regarding potential connections between mainstream Islam and the interpretations of ShariÕa reasoning held by Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist groups has risen to the forefront of modern dialogue concerning Islam, especially discussion within the Western world. As this paper has demonstrated, the interpretation of jihad in its traditional sense actually c onforms with Islamic (and many Christian) beliefs in relation to the ethics of war. However, the methods of jihad advocated by Osama bin -Laden, Al -Qaeda, and members of the World Islamic Front, are not and should not be regarded as representative of mains tream Islamic belief. As Dr. Terence W. Tilley suggested in ÒTraditions: Made or Given?Ó religious traditions need to be simultaneously malleable and rigid if they are to survive throughout the course of history. While sometimes changes are made to bett er adapt a tradition to cultural and social changes in the surrounding environment, other times traditions are unfortunately subjected to more radical mutations by followers who seek to adapt tradition to meet their own needs (30, 40). By ignoring princip al Islamic beliefs in favor of newly created, unsupported assumptions, the World Islamic Front has invented new lines of thought, while attempting to connect their radical distortions to traditional Muslim principles. It is imperative that moderate Muslim scholars continue to demonstrate the fallacies in the reasoning of these Islamic fundamentalists so that the actions of a small fraction of religious believers do not dictate global opinion of an
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