Dr Muhammad Abdul Islam Ibrahim
In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful, I greet you all fellow Nigerians, my brothers and sisters, Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh (May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you). I am grateful to the Almighty God who granted me the opportunity to write to you today. I am pained and saddened by the violence that has visited our towns and cities for many months now. It is my hope in preparing this piece that it will have a profound impact on three primary issues. Firstly, it will dispense with the notion that Islam and Muslims are synonymous with terrorism. Secondly, it will emphasise that there is no popular movement in Northern Nigeria to split our Nation into two or along religious lines. Thirdly, and more crucially, this decree will provide clear, categorical and comprehensive injunctions that will dissuade the confused and impressionable young Muslims in northern Nigeria from entering the path of extremism and radicalism that eventually leads to the murderous outrages we have all seen; particularly the horrific attacks on a worshiping congregation on Christmas day and in their house of worship, may the souls of the departed rest in peace.
Let me make it clear from the outset, I believe strongly that Islam is a religion of peace; I wish therefore to lead the way for all Muslims, leaders and scholars in condemning these acts and all acts of terrorism as un-Islamic and an attack on all of us. Islam is a religion of peace and of love; and love is purity. The holy Qur’an tells us that “God is love” [Allahu muhibba], and the Arabic word for love used in the holy Qur’an is related to the word for seed. No plant can grow without a seed – and so no pious act can grow without love. If love is the seed of every act of piety, then how can an act of hate like terrorism please God? ‘Boko Haram’ by their actions have brought shame on Islam, they are in the minority in the Muslim ummah (brotherhood) but as is often the case, such forces are always the most vocal. It is time now in our dear country for the voice of the majority who have always been against extremism and terrorism to move away from silence and let their voices be heard too. I know it to be true that terrorism is not right – how can it be? Clearly many are confused about what is right and why; it’s all there in the Qur’an, but people don’t understand it, which is why I have taken it upon myself to set out what I know, so that those who are confused may gain true knowledge. We can all appreciate that terrorism is particularly corrosive in any society and that is why this FATWA is an absolute condemnation of terrorism, without any excuse, without any pretext and without any exceptions.
This fatwa is delivered in the context mainly of the recent spate of suicide bombing and gun attacks carried out across Nigeria against a variety of civilian targets, including against Christians, targeting of southerners living in the North and on the attacks against International interest in Nigeria including the bombing of the headquarters of the United Nations in Abuja. There can be no justification for these attacks indeed I can say categorically that suicide bombings and attacks against civilian targets are not only condemned by Islam, but renders all the perpetrators totally out of the fold of Islam, they are unbelievers and common criminals whom it is the obligation of Government and Moslem leaders in the community to work together to decisively root out from society.
The horrendous onslaught of terrorist activity that has continued unabated for the last many months has brought the Muslim Umma, and Nigeria in particular, into disrepute. There is no denying the fact that the vast majority of Muslims oppose and condemn terrorism in unequivocal terms and are not ready to accept it as even remotely related to Islam in any shape or form. It is clear therefore that only a negligible minority amongst them seem to give terrorism tacit approval, instead of openly opposing and condemning terrorism. It is also clear that only a minority of individuals have signed up to the self named ‘Boko Haram’, a group committed to violent and indiscriminate killings including the use of suicide bombings against innocent and peaceful people, bomb blasts on churches, buildings of government and other international agencies, trade centres, markets and other public places: heinous, anti-human and barbarous acts in their very essence. These people justify their actions of human destruction and mass killing of innocent people in the name of Jihad (holy struggle against evil) and thus distort, twist and confuse the entire Islamic concept of Jihad. This situation is causing Muslims, the young in particular, to fall prey to doubts and reservations, muddling their minds in respect of Jihad, because those perpetrating these atrocities are from amongst the Muslims. The perpetrators practice Islamic rituals, perform acts of worship and put on outward forms set down in Sharia. Worst of all, they have turned their violence against Christian, wrongly declaring a Jihad against them.
As a result of this situation, two kinds of negative response and destructive attitude are developing: one in the form of damage to Islam and the Muslims, and the other a threat to Nigeria as a Nation, and Christians and Southerners in particular. The consequences are that both the Muslim Umma, as well as Nigeria, is heading towards catastrophe; heightening tension, and creating an increasingly large deficit of trust between the Islamic North and the mainly Christian South. This widening gulf is not only pushing Nigeria towards inter-faith antagonism but also reducing totally the possibilities of peace, tolerance and mutual coexistence among the different communities of Nigeria; driving our Nation ever closer to civil war. It is in this regard that it becomes essential to place the Islamic stance on terrorism precisely in its proper perspective before the entire nation and in the light of the Holy Qur’an, Prophetic traditions and Books of Jurisprudence and Belief so that both Muslims and non-Muslims, entertaining doubts and reservations about Islam, are enabled to understand Islam’s standpoint on terrorism more clearly and unambiguously.
Islam is a religion of peace
I wish to note here, that Muslims and Christians have been living together in harmony in Nigeria through its history. The events that we have seen are recent and indeed the violence of terrorism is very recent. Islam is a religion of peace and safety that champions love and harmony in society. According to Islamic teachings, only such a person will be called a Muslim at whose hands the lives and properties of all innocent Muslims and non-Muslims remain safe and unhurt. The sanctity of human life and its protection occupies a fundamental place in Islamic law. Taking anyone’s life for nothing is an act that is forbidden and unlawful. Rather, in some cases, it amounts to infidelity. These days, the terrorists, in a vain attempt to impose their own ideas and beliefs and eliminate their opponents from the face of the earth, killing innocent people ruthlessly and indiscriminately everywhere in mosques, churches and other public places are in fact committing clear infidelity. They are warned of humiliating torment in this world and in the hereafter. Terrorism, in its very essence, is an act that symbolises infidelity and rejection of what Islam stands for. When the forbidden element of suicide is added to it, its severity and gravity becomes even greater. Scores of Qur’anic verses and Prophetic traditions have proved that the massacre of Muslims and terrorism is unlawful in Islam; rather, they are blasphemous acts. This has always been the opinion unanimously held by all the scholars that have passed in the 1400 years of Islamic history, including all the eminent Imams of Tafseer and Hadith and authorities on logic and jurisprudence. Islam has kept the door of negotiation and discussion open to convince by reasoning, instead of the taking up of arms to declare the standpoint of others as wrong, and enforcing one’s own opinion. Only the victims of ignorance, jealousy and malice go for militancy. Islam declares them rebels. They will abide in Hell.
The rights of the non-Muslim citizens
Islam not only guarantees the protection of life, honour and property of Muslim but also assures the equal protection of life, honour and property of non-Muslim citizens. The rights of non-Muslim citizens enjoy the same sanctity as those of Muslim citizens. There is no difference between them as human beings. That is why Islamic law metes out equal treatment to both Muslims and non-Muslims in the matters of blood money and Qisas. Non-Muslims have complete personal and religious freedom in a Muslim society. Their properties and places of worship also enjoy complete protection. Islam does not allow and advocate the use of violence against and killing of peaceful and non-combatant citizens under any circumstances. Those indulging in attacks on peaceful non-Muslim citizens, killing and or torturing them mentally or physically, or keeping them under unlawful custody, are in fact committing serious violations of Islamic teachings. This applies to all of the activities carried out by the Boko Haram.
Islamic commands on the sanctity of human life
The importance Islam lays on the sanctity and dignity of human life can be gauged from the fact that Islam does not allow indiscriminate killing even when Muslim armies are engaged in war against enemy troops. The killing of children, women, the old, infirm, religious leaders and traders is strictly prohibited. The public cannot be massacred. Likewise, places of worship, buildings, crops and even trees cannot be destroyed. On the one hand, there is a clear set of Islamic laws based on extreme discretion, and on the other, there are people who invoke the name of Islam to justify the indiscriminate killing of people, children, and women everywhere, without any distinction of religion or identity. It is a pity that such barbaric people still refer to their activities as Jihad. There can be no bigger discrepancy than this to be seen on earth. It can in no way be permissible to keep any citizen under unlawful custody and murder them and other peaceful non-Muslim citizens in retaliation for the political actions of national leaders. The one who does has no relation to Islam and the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him).
We justify as lawful the atrocities of terrorism
Boko Haram invokes Islam and raise slogans to establish the Divine Order, but all of their actions and steps constitute a clear violation of Islamic teachings. When their supporters do not have any legal argument to defend the actions of the Boko Haram, they draw the attention of people to the vices of the ruling elites and what they deem is foreign interference, the political leadership shift to the South as a justification for their killings. They are content in the belief that although the terrorists are doing wrong, their intention is good beyond any doubt. This is a major intellectual faux pas and many people, both educated and uneducated, suffer from this doubt. An evil act remains evil in all its forms and content; whatever we may interpret as injustice, this principle remains the same. Therefore, no forbidden action can ever become a virtuous and lawful deed due to goodness of intention. Law in Islam applies to an action. The massacre of humanity, perpetration of oppression and cruelty, terrorism, violence and bloodshed on earth and armed rebellion and strife cannot become pardonable actions due to any good intention or pious conviction. Nor is there any place for deviation from this fundamental principle. Thus, this argument of the terrorists and their well-wishers is also false in the sight of Islamic law.
Good intentions can never change a vice into a virtue
Terrorism, carnage and mass destruction can never be justified in the name of any intention of enforcing Islamic commands and its judicial system. Nor can these reprehensible activities be any exception to the rule, or be overlooked, or forgiven. These Qur’anic verses explain this point: “When it is said to them: ‘Do not spread disorder in the land,’ they say: ‘It is we who reform.’ Beware! (Truly) it is they who spread disorder, but they do not have any sense (of it) at all.” (Al-Qur’an, 2:11-12) Here the mischievous and criminal mentality has been described, and that the offenders never regard their activity as disruption, violence and strife; rather, they may call it Jihad and deeds of reconstruction and reformation. They presume that the tyrannous activities they perpetrate are aimed at the greater good of society. Today’s tragedy is that terrorists, murderers, mischief-mongers and rioters try to prove their criminal, rebellious, tyrannous, brutal and blasphemous activities as a right and a justified reaction to foreign intervention under the garb of the defence of Islam and national interests. They should know that, as good intention can never prove an unlawful act justified, pious designs can never prove blasphemy as righteousness, and virtuous objectives can never prove an impure act wholesome; that the intention to perform Jihad, in the same way, can never prove violence and terrorism lawful and permissible. An in-depth study of the Qur’an and Hadith makes one resolutely establish that Islam declares the realisation of lawful objectives conditional upon lawful means only, the attainment of noble targets only through permissible ways and reaching sacred objectives by treading only the righteous paths.
The actions that are forbidden, unjust, unlawful and blasphemous cannot be made permissible or lawful or just and creditable by even extremely good intentions joined together. This is such a crucial Islamic principle and legal formula that not one of the Companions, pious predecessors, Imams, and authorities of Hadith and exegeses has departed from to date. Some scholars have also interpreted the Hadith, ‘actions are judged according to intentions,’ as pointing to the expression of deeds according to intentions, that the actions take shape according to the intentions. So a terrorist’s actions speak of his intentions. His killings and destructive activities refer to his foul intention and condemnable ideas and beliefs. His heinous actions cannot stem from pious intentions and beliefs. The bloodshed he causes refers only to a cruel man inside him and not any kind and merciful soul. It is, therefore, evident that whatever false implications and foul justifications these rebels, criminals, evil-mongers, tyrannous brutes may put forth to prove their atrocities as acts of Jihad, they have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. The Holy Qur’an has vividly described them in this verse: “It is those whose entire struggle is wasted in worldly life, but they presume they are doing very good works.” (Al-Qur’an, 18:104).
Becoming an accomplice to terrorists is also a crime
The Prophet a categorically forbade people to provide help or material support to terrorists. He ordered us to isolate them and deny them any numerical strength, financial assistance and moral support. Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet a said, ‘If anyone helps in the murder of a believer—even if with only a few words—he will meet God with the words written on his forehead: “hopeless of God’s mercy”.
This hadith also indicates that it is not only financial and numerical assistance that must be denied to terrorists, but, according to the expression ‘bi sha~ri kalimatin’ (‘a few words’), speeches or writings which lend support to the enemies of peace are also condemnable and must be banned. Such support can only deprive us of God’s forgiveness and mercy. This hadith contains a strict warning to those who mastermind terrorist acts and misinterpret the Qur’an by brainwashing youth with glad tidings of Paradise for murdering peaceful civilians.
Paradise is forbidden for the one who commits suicide
The masterminds of terrorism who groom and brainwash young people for suicide bombings and encourage them with dreams of Paradise by means of ‘martyrdom’ should realize that God has decreed a permanent torment in Hell awaiting those who commit suicide. Jundub b. ‘Abd Allah reported that the Prophet a said, ‘Amongst those before you was a man who was wounded. Unable to bear the pain, he took a knife, sliced his wounded hand and died due to excessive blood loss. God Most High said, “My slave decided to hasten his own demise, so I made Paradise forbidden for him”.’ Al-.asan al-Basri narrates from Jundub b. ‘Abd Allah that the Messenger of God a said, ‘Certainly, a man before you belonging to the people of the past suffered from a boil. When its pain became too much for him to bear, he drew out an arrow from the quiver and pierced it and the bleeding did not stop until he died. Your Lord said, “I forbid his entrance into Paradise”.
Forcing your Belief upon Others and destroying Places of Worship is unlawfulness
Islam gives complete religious freedom to non-Muslims, and the Islamic government is not to interfere in their religious affairs. Islam also guarantees the protection of their places of worship and other religious sites, as well as their life, honour and property. In short, Islam presents an unprecedented model of tolerance, harmony and peaceful co-existence. The Qur’an fostered feelings of harmony amongst religions and ensured their freedom to the point that it forbade the believers from insulting the false gods of other faith traditions. God says in the Qur’an, ‘And do not insult those whom they worship besides God, lest they insult God wrongfully and out of ignorance’. There can be no better example of interfaith tolerance than this.
There is no room for coercion in Islam and no one can be forced to convert. Islam gives complete religious freedom to all non-Muslim citizens to adhere to their respective faith traditions and to freely practise their teachings. God says, ‘There is no compulsion in religion. Surely, right guidance is clearly distinguished from error’ Ibn Kathir explained this verse in the following words: ‘Do not coerce anyone to embrace the religion of Islam, for its proofs and evidence are clear, obvious and manifest. There is no need for anyone to be coerced into embracing it’God also says in the Qur’an, ‘So will you coerce people until they become believers?’God has strictly forbidden the Muslims from coercing others to embrace Islam. Therefore, no non-Muslim can be compelled to become a Muslim, because Islam is not merely the profession of faith or the performance of bodily rituals; it requires the confirmation and conviction of the heart; and in matters of the heart, there is no scope for coercion.
Destroying the places of worship of non-Muslims located in Muslim-majority areas is unlawfulness
Islam has strictly forbidden the Muslims from destroying the places of worship that belong to non-Muslims—even if they are located in Muslim-majority areas. The Islamic state is constitutionally responsible for the protection and safeguarding of these sites. Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas quoted Muhammad b. al-hasan al-Shaybani, who said, ‘When a territory under treaty becomes a territory of the Muslims, no church, sanctuary or Zoroastrian temple that was there before should be demolished’. All of these quotes and texts establish that Islam orders the Muslims to safeguard the places of worship that belong to the non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic lands. Furthermore, Islam grants them complete freedom to practise their religion without any interference. Considering all this, how is it possible that a person who claims to be a Muslim can shamelessly murder people engaged in worship and destroy their places of worship?
Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil
I want to end with a call on Boko Haram to end all armed conflict against Muslims and non-Muslims in our country and to recognise that such acts of terrorism brings Islam into disrepute. As Muslims we must ensure that our intentions as contained in our actions are such that expresses the greatness and mercifulness of Allah. The prophetic traditions speak of the importance of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, and the dire consequences of neglecting them. Hudhayfa reported that the Messenger of God said, ‘The tribulations a man faces with regard to his family, wealth and neighbours are expiated by prayer, charity and the act of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil’. My prayer is that we will all work together to guarantee peace, unity and inter-faith harmony in our country, and I urge all Nigerians to pray and work for peace. Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh (May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you).
Dr Muhammad Abdul Islam Ibrahim
Islamic Society for Unity and Peace
Federal Capital Territory, Abuja