Unfortunately more and more often, Islam has been associated with terrorism and violence due to the actions of a few extreme individuals who’ve taken it upon themselves to do the most heinous crimes in the name of Islam.
Tragic events such as the attack on the twin towers in New York, the bombings of Bali, Madrid and London are assumed to be justified by Islam in the minds of some people. This idea has been fueled further by many media channels which defame Islam by portraying these bombers as ‘Islamists’ or ‘Jihadists’, as though they were sanctioned by Islam, or had any legitimate spokemenship on behalf of Muslims.
The actions of a few fanatical individuals who happen to have Muslim names or ascribe themselves to the Muslim faith should not be a yardstick by which Islam is judged. For the same reason, that one would not do justice to Christianity if it were perceived as sanctioning the genocide of the Native Americans, the atrocities of world war II or the bombings of the IRA.
To understand Islam’s stance on terrorism, one must refer to its original sources, the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which are explicit in their prohibition of any form of injustice including that of wanton violence which seeks to instill fear, injury or death to civilians.
The Qur’an turns our attention to the high value of human life, whether it is Muslim or Non-Muslim and makes it absolutely forbidden to take an innocent life unjustly. The gravity of such a crime is equated, in the Qur’an, with the killing of all humanity.
On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person- unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)
Not only is human life sacred in Islam but the property, wealth, family and dignity of all individuals in society are to be respected and protected. Those who transgress these rights and sow fasad (corruption) as the Qur’an describes it, incur the wrath of Allah.
…and seek not corruption in the earth; lo! Allah loves not corrupters. (Al-Qasas 28:77)
Likewise in another verse:
The blame is only against those who oppress men and wrong-doing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a penalty grievous. (Ash-Shura 42:42)
Islam goes further than just prohibiting oppression and safeguarding rights, it commands its faithful to deal kindly and compassionately to all those who seek to live in peace and harmony
Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for your faith, nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: For Allah loves those who are just. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8)
In times of war and conflict, where enmity can obstruct an individual’s judgment to act morally, Islam commands that justice be upheld even towards one’s enemies.
O you who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do. (Al-Ma’idah 5:8)
Centuries before the Geneva Convention was drawn up, Muslims were bound by a code of conduct which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) set. He forbade the killing of women, children and elderly in war. In an authentic narration the Prophet (peace be upon him) warned that he who kills anyone who has a covenant of peace with the Muslims will not smell the scent of Paradise.
In fact, he taught that justice is not only to humans but must be shown to animals and all living things. In a narration the Prophet informed us about how a lady was sent to hell because of a cat she had locked up until it starved and died. If such is the sanctity which Islam places on the soul of an animal, how much more grave is the killing of hundreds of innocent humans?!
Abu Bakr, the first Caliph of the Muslims, reflected these prophetic teachings when he advised his general Yazid, who was confronting Roman armies,
’I advise you ten things: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.’
The message of the Qur’an is clear as we have seen that the sanctity of any human life is to be respected and any violation in that regard is paramount to the worst crime.
Mercy is at the heart of the Islamic call: “We sent thee (O Muhammad) not save as a mercy for the peoples” (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:107); a totally different message to what the terrorists are sadly imparting to humanity.