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Let's Understand 'Suicide Bombing'

Martyrdom SeekersAll Praise is due to Allah Alone, The All-Mighty, The All-Wise... The Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them… And may Peace and Blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad , his family, his companions and all those who follow him till the Day of Judgment…

Ever since the war between Islam and Kufr erupted in the late 20th and 21st century, there have been certain terminologies that have gained nonchalant world acceptance. Among these is the term “Suicide Bombing” – a phrase that is thrown around a lot by the contemporary media to describe the heroic operations of the Mujahideen. The loss that this weapon of war has inflicted upon the Kuffar is undoubtedly huge. In reality, the Kuffar do not have an answer to it. So, the only weapon they can use against it is their media to try and distort the reality in the eyes of the public.

The Jew Cheryl Bernard writes the following in her abominable RAND study, “Civil Democratic Liberal Islam”, as one of the measures that should be taken to defeat the global Jihad call:

“Avoid showing respect or admiration for the violent feats of fundamentalist extremists and terrorists. Cast them as disturbed and cowardly, not as evil heroes.”

So, this is their premise in dealing with the feats of the Mujahideen and so, naturally all outcomes that emanate from this premise will not provide any benefit in seeing the reality of the matter. So, let us instead embark on an independent, impartial study of what “Suicide Bombing” (“Martyrdom Operations”) really is. We will use the treatment of Quran, the medication of Sunnah and the restorative effect of common intellect to inshAllah, heal the hearts and minds of those who are befuddled regarding this issue. And Allah, Most Exalted, is the Only Guide to the Straight Path.


What is Suicide Bombing?

“A Suicide bombing can be defined as a group or an individual inflicting harm upon their perceived targets by way of taking their own lives in a military operation.” This can take the form of binding explosives to ones’ own body or to an attached equipment or vehicle and then detonating it in a suitable area to inflict harm upon the target. In these operations, the committer is almost certain to lose his life, hence the labeling of “suicide”.

This stratagem of war has been utilized in various forms by nations throughout history and it is not a unique phenomenon that has unearthed itself in its present form today. For example, in our modern day, the operations of 9/11 and 7/7 rank amongst the famous “suicide” operations that have caught the public eye (as they are called). In World War II, the Japanese utilized “kamikaze” suicide bombings for their war purposes. Similar cases of the usage of suicide bombing have been reported from the Polish Army among others.

Now, the term suicide is generally used to refer to the act of taking one’s own life due to discontentment, isolation or otherwise. Suicide is generally considered something blameworthy. Islam, however, has shown us that suicide results when a person runs away from the Commands of Allah and when his relationship with Allah deteriorates. Allah, The Exalted Says:

“But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Quran nor acts on its orders, etc.) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection.” [20:124] So, whoever turns away from the Religion of Allah, His Quran and the teachings of His Prophet , then he will have a life of hardship - whether he realizes it or not. The Kafir or Mushrik who does not believe in Allah, or associates someone else as a partner with Him, has no connection with Allah and therefore, when hardship comes upon him because of his sin or otherwise, he sees nowhere to go and sees little meaning with his life in this world. So he takes his own life. As for a Muslim committing suicide then the reasons for these are somewhat the same – discontent with the Decree of Allah and insufficient faith.

The Islamic Ruling on Suicide

Shaykh Abdul Hakeem (HA) writes:

“The curse of Allah is upon the person who commits suicide. His abode is Hellfire. Allah is Displeased with him. The one who commits suicide does so because of impatience, and despair of the mercy of Allah. Either he lacks faith or his faith is non-existent. He kills himself without a Shar’ai purpose e.g. anger or illness or due to loss of honor etc. None of these reasons have anything to do with raising the Word of Allah.

Abu Huraira d narrates, “We were in Khyber when the Prophet said about a person that he is from the people of Hellfire, even though he claimed to be a Muslim. When the time for the battle came, he fought bravely. When he endured severe wounds, the people were close to doubting (his destiny). (But) When he started feeling the pain from his wounds, he took out an arrow from his quiver and killed himself with it. This was hard upon the Muslims. They said, ‘O Prophet of Allah r! Your words proved true. That man committed suicide.’ He said: “Declare that only the believer will go to Paradise. But the help of this religion is taken from even the corrupt.” [Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad]

… Abu Huraira d narrates that the Prophet said: “Whoever kills himself by strangling then he will be strangled in the Hellfire. Whoever kills himself by a sword or a dagger then he will be sentenced to the same punishment in Hellfire.”

There are a lot of Hadith to this effect. The scholars are unanimously agreed on the prohibition of suicide. The one who commits suicide commits a major sin. If he considers it permissible then he will remain forever in Hellfire. If he does not consider it permissible, then he will remain for a long time in Hellfire but not forever. Allah The Exalted Said:

“… And do not kill yourselves (nor kill one another). Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you. And whoever commits that through aggression and injustice, We shall cast him into the Fire, and that is easy for Allah.” [4:29-30]”1

It is clear from the above discussion that suicide is strictly prohibited in Islam. What entails from that is that “suicide bombing” is not suicide according to Islam because, as we will see, Islam extols the martyrdom operation.

So martyrdom operation Suicide bombing

So, from now on, we will refer to these operations as “martyrdom operations” instead of “suicide bombings” which is a false term.

The Islamic Ruling on Martyrdom Operations

There are many evidences in the Quran, Sunnah and the sayings of the truthful scholars that indicate the legitimacy of the martyrdom operation.

Allah Says: “And amongst mankind is he who sells himself, seeking the Pleasure of Allah. And Allah is full of Sympathy to (His) slaves.” [2:207]

Imam Ibn Kathir said in the explanation of this verse: “The majority of the scholars of Tafsir hold that this verse was sent down regarding every Mujahid in the Path of Allah… and when Hisham ibn ‘Amir d plunged into the enemy ranks, some of the people objected to this. So, Umar bin Khattab d and Abu Hurayra d recited this verse.” [Tafsir ibn Kathir 1/216]

Hisham ibn ‘Amir d plunged into the enemy ranks knowing full well that he would almost certainly die as a result of this just as the case is with the martyrdom operations. So, Umar ibn Khattab d and Abu Hurayra d approved of the act…

Imam Muslim narrated in his Sahih on the authority of Abu Bakr bin Musa d that he said: “I heard Abu Hurayra d in the presence of the enemy saying, “The Prophet said, “The gates of Paradise are beneath the shade of swords!”. A heavily built man then stood up and said, “O Abu Musa! You heard the Messenger of Allah say this?” He said, “Yes!” Then the man returned to his comrades and said, “I give my Salam to you”. Then he broke his sheathe and walked with his sword into the enemy and attacked them until he was killed.”

Imam Muslim also narrated in his Sahih the Hadith of Anas ibn Malik d in the story of the Battle of Badr: “The polytheists (now) advanced (towards us), and the Messenger of Allah said: “Get up to enter Paradise, the width of which is equal to the heavens and the earth.” Umair bin Al-Humam Al-Ansari d said: “Messenger of Allah Is Paradise equal in extent to the heavens and the earth?” He said: “Yes.” Umair d said: “Good, Good!” The Messenger of Allah asked him, “What prompted you to utter these words (i.e. good, good!)?” He replied, “Messenger of Allah ! Nothing but the desire that I be among its residents” He said: “You are (surely) among its residents.” Then Umair d took out dates from his bag and began to eat them. Then he said, “If I were to live until I have eaten all these dates of mine, it would be a long life.” (The narrator said): “He threw away all the dates he had with him and fought the enemies until he was killed.”

In both these narrations, the Sahaba who carried out the attacks almost certainly knew that they were going to be killed during their operations but they still carried them out and such acts were extolled and praised in the Shariah.

In Mustadrak Al-Hakim, it is narrated that a man came to the Messenger of Allaah and said: “How do you see it if I were to throw myself into the midst of the polytheists and fight them until I was killed? Would I go to Paradise? “He replied: “Yes.” So the man threw himself into the midst of the pagans and fought until he was killed.

This Hadith is also another clear evidence of the legality of martyrdom operations which involve plunging oneself into the midst of the enemy to cause them harm.

Imam Ahmad t narrated in his Musnad from Ibn Mas’ud d that the Prophet said, “Our Lord wonders at two men: a man who stirs from his bed… to Prayer… and a man who raids in the Path of Allah and his companions are defeated, and he realizes what awaits him in defeat and (what) awaits him in returning (to combat) – but he returns (to combat) until his blood is spilled. Allah Says: “Look at my servant! He went back (to combat) hopeful and anxious for that which is with Me, until his blood was spilled.”

The man who goes back to combat knows fully well before his operation that he will die but Allah Welcomes his deed and praises his action!

Mua’th ibn ‘Afra d asked the Messenger of Allah : “What makes Allah Laugh upon His slave?” He replied, “The slave immersing himself into the army without armor.” Mu’ath d then took off his armor and fought until he was killed.

Glory be to Allah! What would be the status of the one upon whom Allah Laughs?

Imam Qurtubi d said: “I heard that when the army of Muslims met the Persians, the horses of the Muslims fled fearing the Persian elephants. One of them (the Muslims) made an elephant out of clay and made his horse familiar with it (so that it wouldn’t get scared seeing a completely new creature). The next day, his horse did not run from the elephant, so he attacked the elephant that was leading. He was told ‘It will certainly kill you’. He said, ‘No grief, that I die and the Muslims win’”

… And there are a lot Ahadith and events narrated in the texts similar to the above. These clearly illustrate that the Shariah considers it highly rewarding for a person to sacrifice his life for the sake of Allah with the complete surety that the person’s attack will result in his death as in the case of the martyrdom operation if there is considerable benefit in it for Islam and the Muslims. The martyrdom operation is a modern technique that is similar to the case of the Sahaba plunging themselves into the enemy ranks with a sure probability of death. The only difference between the two is that in the martyrdom operation, the operative causes his own death while in the case of the incidents mentioned earlier, the operative is killed by the enemy. But the scholars state that this does not make a difference since the intention (to raise High the Word of Allah etc.) and the outcome (death) is similar in both cases. And what matters is the intention. Furthermore, the following evidence provides the final verdict in the matter:

What is stated as the strongest proof of killing oneself for the sake of the uplifting of the religion of Allah is the story of the Boy and the Cave in the Battle of the Ditch. The story has been narrated in Sahih Muslim. The full Hadith can be looked at from the source. We will quote here the part that concerns us. As a summary, in the previous nations, a king was persecuting a boy on account of his faith in Islam. He tried several ways to kill the boy, like trying to throw him from the top of a mountain or drowning him in the ocean... but the boy would supplicate to Allah to save him and he would be saved. Finally, it comes in the narration:

“… He (the boy) said to the King: “You will not be able to kill me until you do what I say!” (The King) said: “What is that?” He replied, “Gather all the people on a single plain and tie me to a (tree) trunk. Then take an arrow from my quiver and place it in the middle of the bow and say, ‘In the Name of Allah, The Lord of the boy!’, then shoot me. If you do that, you will (be able to) kill me.” So, the King gathered all the people in a single plain and tied him to a (tree) trunk. He then took an arrow from his quiver, placed it in the middle of the bow and said, “In the Name of Allah! The Lord of the boy” and fired the arrow. The arrow hit the boy’s temple. He placed his hand on his temple and then died. So the people said, “We believe in the Lord of the boy… we believe in the Lord of the boy.”

The King was then told, “Do you see what you feared? By Allah! That which you feared has happened! The people have believed (in the Lord of the boy).” So, the King ordered for ditches (to be dug) at the junctions of all the roads. When they were dug, fires were lit in them and the King said, “Whoever does not renounce his religion, then throw him in the fire or tell them to jump into it.” So this was what happened until a woman came carrying a baby and she hesitated to jump into the fire, so the child spoke to her, “O Mother! Have patience for you are upon the truth!”

It is clear from this Hadith that the boy caused his own killing so that the people would accept Islam and be saved from the Hellfire. Therefore, such a deed is not considered suicide in the Shariah. Rather, it is considered as one of the most praiseworthy actions.

It is also proven here that just as the boy caused his own death for the sake of Islam, it is also permissible for the martyrdom operative to cause his own death if there is a valid benefit of Islam involved (as determined by the Scholars and Mujahideen). If someone were to say that the boy did not kill himself by his own hands as the martyrdom operative does, then the scholars have replied to this that a person who commits suicide by his own hands or by, say, telling another person to shoot him would get the same legal verdict applied to him. So, the method of killing does not matter; rather what is crucial is

the Decree of Allah etc. in the case of suicide) Similarly, it does not matter whether the martyrdom seeker kills himself by his own hands or by the hands of the enemy as long as the intention is valid i.e. to Raise High the Word of Allah and to establish Islam, terrorize the Kuffar etc… And Allah Knows Best...

And this is why martyrdom operations are allowed because they constitute sacrificing one’s life for raising high the Word of Allah, spreading His Religion, terrorizing His enemies and encouraging His slaves (i.e. Muslims) to fight.

As a summary, we will mention some of the views of the Scholars regarding a single man plunging into the ranks of the Kuffar, just as the case is with the martyrdom operation:

The Scholarly Verdicts

From the Hanafi school of Law, Imam Muhammad ibn Hassan Ash-Shaibani said in the book As-Seer Al-Kabir: “If one person attacks 1000 polytheists, there is nothing wrong with this if there is hope of success or infliction of loss upon the enemy; otherwise, it is disliked for then he would expose himself to death without having benefitted the Muslims. As for someone whose aim is to incite the Muslims to emulate his feat, then its permissibility is not far-fetched for it contains benefit for the Muslims in certain ways. If his intent is to terrorize the enemy and demonstrate the Muslims’ strength of faith then its permissibility is not far-fetched if there is benefit in it for the religion. Giving one’s life for strengthening the religion and weakening the infidels is a Noble Status that Allah Has Praised the Believers with in His Statement:

“Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise…” [9:111]2

One of the Maliki scholars – Ibn Al-Khuwaiz Miqdad – said : “And as for the person who attacks 100 or a unit of an army, or a group of thieves and fighters, or the Khawarij3 then there are two probabilities: ‘If he knows it probable that he will kill those he attacks and get saved then this is better. And if he knows it probable that he will get killed but will cause great harm (to the enemy) or benefit to the Muslims, then this is permissible too.”4

From the Shafi’ school of Fiqh, Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani stated : “As for the matter of one person attacking a larger number of the enemy, then the consensus is that if it is done to show courage to terrify the enemy and encourage the Muslims against them or a similar intention to this, then it is good. And when it is done out of mere rashness, the nit is not allowed, especially if it causes weakness in the Muslims.”5

Of the Hanbali school, Ibn Taymiyyah stated: “The four scholars have declared permissible the plunging in the rows of the polytheists even if it is probable that they will kill him, if it is beneficial for the Muslims.”6

2. Tafsir Al-Qurtubi (364/2)

3. A sect that differed away from mainstream Islam

4. Tafsir Al-Qurtubi (363/2)

5. Fath-ul-Bari (8/185-186)

6. Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah (28/540)

From all these evidences, it is clear that martyrdom operations are firmly backed by evidences from the Islamic Shariah. And they are one of the greatest means of gaining the approval of Allah, The Exalted. As stated by the scholars, the martyrdom operations are allowed if there is considerable benefit in it for Islam and the Muslim Ummah. The Mujahideen have utilized these operations in various battlefields – from Afghanistan to Iraq and various contemporary scholars of all schools of thought have clarified their legality.

Contemporary Verdicts

Now, we will quote some statements of the contemporary scholars in favor of the martyrdom operation:

Mufti Abu Bashar Al-Qasmi (HA) of the Indian subcontinent, author of one of the best books on the subject entitled, “Islam and the Martyrdom Operations” writes:

“(From the incident of the people of the Ditch) We came to know that the boy arranged for his own killing by ordering the King to kill him. If the boy neither ordered nor told the King the way to kill him, the King wouldn’t have been able to do so. It is also clear from this that it is allowed to kill oneself through others if the purpose is to uplift the religion. Similarly, it is also allowed to kill oneself for the honor of the religion - just as the people of the Ditch threw themselves into the fire by their own free will. Even the woman who was hesitating to jump into the fire was encouraged by her baby who spoke by the Will of Allah, “Oh mother! Have patience for you are upon the truth!”. After this, the mother threw herself into the fire and earned the status of martyrdom.

Similarly, if one is killed by another’s hand, then this makes no difference - for example an individual attacking a large army by himself.

All these people are martyrs, worthy of praise... All of them have been praised. This is because they did these “suicide” attacks because of the benefit and uplifting of the religion. And whatever act is done for the sake of benefit of the religion and raising high the Word of Islam, then that is a pious act.

It can be deduced from this that if someone kills himself for the uplifting of the religion, or if he immerses himself into the ranks of the Kuffar and they kill him, or if he orders others to kill him for the sake of the benefit and honor of the religion... All these have the same ruling... There is no difference between them. They are all martyrs...”

[Islam and Martyrdom Operations: Pg. 164-165]

In another place, he writes after citing some evidences:

“It can be deduced from this that those people who carry out the martyrdom operation in obedience to Allah and in the struggle of Jihad and get killed as a result, then they are martyrs. It is utterly wrong to doubt their martyrdom or their admission to Paradise. When the tongue of Prophethood has borne witness to their martyrdom, then there is no room for any Ummati to express an opinion contrary to that of his Prophet .” [Pg. 168]

Shaykh Sulayman Al-Ulwan (HA) of the Arabian Peninsula writes:

“And I see that in this time, in which the Muslims are unable to (fully) fight the Jews and destroy them and expel them from the Holy Land, then the best treatment and the greatest medicine that we apply to the brothers of monkeys and pigs (i.e. the Jews) is that we perform these martyrdom operations, and put forward our souls as a sacrifice for the motivation of faith, and for (other) praiseworthy goals, such as planting terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve , inflicting damage upon their bodies and causing loss to their wealth.”

He (HA) then comments on the story of the people of the Ditch and says:

“So in this, there is evidence for the correctness of these martyrdom operations that the Mujahideen in the Path of Allah perform against the Jews, Christians and those who make mischief in the earth.”

[The Islamic Ruling on the Permissibility of Self-Sacrificial Operations: Pg. 53-54]

The Intellectual Evidence

For a Muslim, the evidence of the Quran and Sunnah is sufficient to cleanse his heart regarding the legality of any matter. Allah’s Book and His Messenger’s Sunnah represent the final ordinance that may be used to judge the permission or prohibition of any matter. However, it is allowed in the Shariah to narrate intellectual evidences that conform to the primary source of legislation (i.e. Quran and Sunnah). And so, we will take a general look at why martyrdom operations are performed by the Mujahideen from an empirical standpoint.

To say that the current war that is being fought between Islam and Kufr is one-sided (from a worldly perspective) is an understatement to say the least. On the one hand are the 40+ NATO allies with their heavy air, land and sea weaponry, latest gadgets and state-of-the-art equipment. They have their B-52’s, daisy cutters and Apaches that can destroy entire populations within a short span of time along with a number of soldiers that seems unmatchable. They have nukes at hand to erase generations of human beings. At the head of this unholy alliance is a country whose defense budget exceeds the revenues of some entire countries that exist on the same planet. Then, these 40+ countries have as their trustworthy allies the apostate leadership of the so-called “Muslim” countries, complete with their armies, logistics and intelligence...

On the other side, there are the plain and simple people who do not possess the reins of any country. They are not leaders over vast areas of lands, nor do they command the politics or economics of any sizeable region. Their weaponry is basic – small firearms, IEDs’ and limited heavy weaponry. Their sources of income are the charities that are given by their fellow brothers in faith and the booty that they acquire waging war. Their number is limited, their abodes are mountains and their style is guerilla.

But they have Allah on their side… And they will be granted victory because they do not disobey the One in Whose Hands is the Dominion of the Heavens and the Earth…

“That is because those who disbelieve follow falsehood, while those who believe follow the truth from their Lord. Thus does Allah set forth their parables for mankind.” [47:3]

And blessed are the meek

For they shall inherit the world

But what are the means that they utilized to achieve this victory?

The reality of the martyrdom operations is that they have turned this war on its head. A Mujahid can strap on explosives to his body or vehicle and explode it in the middle of a large gathering of the enemy and with the loss of just one life, huge losses to the enemy can be inflicted. The truth is that the martyrdom operations have turned this war at its head. The Americans who were flexing their muscles at the innocent Muslims of Afghanistan after 2001 are now being seen asking for talks and trying desperately to find a way out of this war. The effect of 9/11 bears witness to this! 19 determined men changed the course of history with one superb effort. They caused almost irreparable losses to the Kuffar’s economy and destroyed the years of planning they had done to colonize the world...

Then, the war in Iraq was turned on its hand by the martyrdom operations under the leadership of Shaykh Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi (RA). It is said that the American soldiers used to shiver when they heard that they were heading to Iraq to face Abu Mussab Al- Zarqawi! Similar was the case with the martyrdom operations under Mulla Dadullah (RA) in Afghanistan. The reality, as stated before is that the world of Kufr does not possess an answer to this weapon of Muslims. Therefore, the Muslims must learn this weapon of war, cherish it and utilize it to the maximum effect to destroy the false might of the Kuffar. The true Muslims love death as the Kuffar love life. They view this world merely as a passing amusement as their Prophet r said: “Live in this world as if you were a traveller…”

In Conclusion

All the false propaganda against martyrdom operations is a farce because the operations have their basis in the Shariah. The Muslims of the world must not look to the media or the public opinion when deciding the legality of any issue but they should look at the Shariah – the brilliant, clear Shariah which holds the light to salvation for them in this world and the next.

So, therefore, as a conclusion it can be said that the term “suicide bombing” is inaccurate. Rather, “martyrdom operations” are one of the greatest of praiseworthy acts in the Shariah if they are carried out according to their conditions, under the guidance of pious Scholars and Mujahideen. We ask Allah to show us the truth as truth and enable us to follow it and to show us falsehood as falsehood and enable us to abstain from it…And our final word is that All Praise is to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds…