Top Ten Ways Islamic Law forbids Terrorism

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) –

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, has been convicted on all counts in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan were from a mixed Chechen and Avar family. Dzhokhar was born in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian republic that had been part of the Communist Soviet Union. Being from a Soviet background, the Tsarnaevs were probably originally more or less atheists, whatever they said later. Even Soviet Muslims from the Caucasus and Central Asia who identified as “Muslims” mostly did so before the 1990s as a matter of ethnicity, not piety. Most Soviet Muslim men drank copious amounts of vodka. Few knew how to pray in the Muslim manner with prostrations. Being deracinated appears to have left the Tsarnaev boys open to the blandishments of radical Muslim cults on the internet. But there was even so not much recognizably Muslim in their style of life.

It is worthwhile reprising on this day my 2013 posting on the ways that the Tsarnaevs broke Muslim law, which I’ve very slightly revised:

1. Terrorism is above all murder. Murder is strictly forbidden in the Qur’an. Qur’an 6:151 says, “and do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully.” (i.e. murder is forbidden but the death penalty imposed by the state for a crime is permitted). 5:53 says, “… whoso kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.”

2. If the motive for terrorism is religious, it is impermissible in Islamic law. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people. The Qur’an says, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error.” (-The Cow, 2:256). Note that this verse was revealed in Medina in 622 AD or after and was never abrogated by any other verse of the Quran. Islam’s holy book forbids coercing people into adopting any religion. They have to willingly choose it.

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3. Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare. The Quran says, “But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God! For He is the one who hears and knows all things.” (8:61) The Quran chapter “The Cow,” 2:190, says, “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors.”

4. In the Islamic law of war, not just any civil engineer can declare or launch a war. It is the prerogative of the duly constituted leader of the Muslim community that engages in the war. Qur’an 4:59 says “Obey God and the Messenger and those in authority among you.” Nowadays that would be the president or prime minister of the state, as advised by the mufti or national jurisconsult.

5. The killing of innocent non-combatants is forbidden. According to Sunni tradition, ‘Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first Caliph, gave these instructions to his armies: “I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town . . . ” (Malik’s Muwatta’, “Kitab al-Jihad.”)

6. Terrorism or hirabah is forbidden in Islamic law, which groups it with brigandage, highway robbery and extortion rackets– any illicit use of fear and coercion in public spaces for money or power. The principle of forbidding the spreading of terror in the land is based on the Qur’an (Surah al-Ma’ida 5:33–34). Prominent [pdf] Muslim legal scholar Sherman Jackson writes, “The Spanish Maliki jurist Ibn `Abd al-Barr (d. 464/ 1070)) defines the agent of hiraba as ‘Anyone who disturbs free passage in the streets and renders them unsafe to travel, striving to spread corruption in the land by taking money, killing people or violating what God has made it unlawful to violate is guilty of hirabah . . .”

7. Sneak attacks are forbidden. Muslim commanders must give the enemy fair warning that war is imminent. The Prophet Muhammad at one point gave 4 months notice (Q. 9:5).

8. The Prophet Muhammad counseled doing good to those who harm you and is said to have commanded, “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

9. The Qur’an demands of believers that they exercise justice toward people even where they have reason to be angry with them: “And do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.”[5:8]

10. The Qur’an assures Christians and Jews of paradise if they believe and do good works, and commends Christians as the best friends of Muslims. I wrote elsewhere, “Dangerous falsehoods are being promulgated to the American public. The Quran does not preach violence against Christians.

Quran 5:69 says (Arberry): “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–-their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.”

In other words, the Quran promises Christians and Jews along with Muslims that if they have faith and works, they need have no fear in the afterlife. It is not saying that non-Muslims go to hell– quite the opposite.

When speaking of the 7th-century situation in the Muslim city-state of Medina, which was at war with pagan Mecca, the Quran notes that the polytheists and some Arabian Jewish tribes were opposed to Islam, but then goes on to say:

5:82. ” . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers [Muslims] those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.”

So the Quran not only does not urge Muslims to commit violence against Christians, it calls them “nearest in love” to the Muslims! The reason given is their piety, their ability to produce holy persons dedicated to God, and their lack of overweening pride.

(For a modernist, liberal interpretation, see this pdf file, “Jihad and the Islamic Law of War.”

22 Responses

  1. Top ten ways of Islamic Law forbids terrorism by respected,unbiased Juan Cole is simply superb.Thanks to ”informed Comment & to brother Juan Cole !

  2. Interesting. Has anyone put together a similar collection of the sources that Muslim terrorists use to justify their actions?

  3. Thank you Prof. Cole for this very interesting article. Unfortunately Islam has been hijacked by Islamaphobes, and those with ulterior motives, to discredit the religion. Now we can understand why main stream Muslims keep telling the world that Islam is a peaceful religion. These Islamic laws are not adhered to by extremists. They have been putting their own religion in a bad light, and have given the religion bad name by their violence, terrorism, and killing each other in their places of worship. They are doing the dirty work of Islamaphobes, by showing the world just how violent they are, and being easily manipulated into killing innocent people, and going against the words of the Quran. I wish this article was read by those ignorant of these facts, and who deliberately keep the negative narrative going.

    If the majority of peace loving Muslims were able to speak out louder against the actions of these extremists, and show just how wrong and anti Islam these so called jihadists are, and they do not represents their true religion, it would help save their religion from those who take advantage of these violent acts, to discredit and give it a bad name, for their own political purposes.

    • Islam has been hijacked by God. At one time it was source of a new civilization and a new way of thinking and justice. Islam gave equality to all believers. This was the nationhood above rulers. Islam accelerated the cultural evolution. The concept of nation state was born because of Islam. Now again Islam being used by God is destroying the viability of nation states enslaving people and putting them against each other in battle fields. God does what it pleases him.

    • “If the majority of peace loving Muslims were able to speak out louder against the actions of these extremists, … it would help save their religion…”

      Muslims in the West are constantly speaking out. Those who claim they can’t hear them have wax in their ears.

      Muslims in Asia (a HUGE segment) don’t have ISIS running all over the place.

      Muslims in the Middle East live in states that were carved up by the West and have been recently turned into failed states by the same criminals. Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen — these have all been destroyed by the West and ISIS is only happy to step into a vacuum.

      Please don’t place any blame on moderate Muslims.

  4. People interested in the subject of terrorism may be interested in “Anonymous Soldiers,” a new book by Bruce Hoffman about the founding of Israel. From the description at Amazon:

    “A landmark history, based on newly available documents, of the battles between Jews, Arabs, and the British that led to the creation of Israel

    “Anonymous Soldiers brilliantly re-creates the crucial period in the establishment of Israel, chronicling the three decades of growing anticolonial unrest that culminated in the end of British rule and the UN resolution to create two separate states. This groundbreaking book tells in riveting, previously unknown detail the story of how Britain, in the twilight of empire, struggled and ultimately failed to reconcile competing Arab and Jewish demands and uprisings. Bruce Hoffman, America’s leading expert on terrorism, shines new light on the bombing of the King David Hotel, the assassination of Lord Moyne in Cairo, the leadership of Menachem Begin, the life and death of Abraham Stern, and much else. Above all, Hoffman shows exactly how the underdog “anonymous soldiers” of Irgun and Lehi defeated the British and set in motion the chain of events that resulted in the creation of the formidable nation-state of Israel.

    “This is a towering accomplishment of research and narrative, and a book that is essential to anyone wishing to understand not just the origins of modern-day Israel or the current situation in the Middle East, but also the methodology of terrorism. Drawing on previously untapped archival resources in London, Washington, D.C., and Jerusalem, Bruce Hoffman has written one of the most detailed and sustained accounts of a terrorist and counterterrorist campaign that may ever have been seen, and in doing so has cast light on one of the most decisive world events in recent history. This will be the definitive account of the struggle for Israel for years to come.”

    • The Irgun and Lehi gangs openly advocated the use of terrorism as a useful tool against Arabs since it often led to Arabs abandoning villages rather than engaging in armed resistance.

      The Irgun felt that the massacre of hundreds of Arab civilians committed at Deir Yassin in 1948 had significant publicity value in these regards and would save the lives of Jewish militants in future village invasions by deterring resistance.

      The Haganah and Palmach militias were incorporated after independence into the newly-minted Israel Defense Forces and many members of the Irgun and Lehi were absorbed into the Mossad intelligence service then being organized by CIA counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton.

      Many Jewish terror gang leaders went on to hold high office , including former prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Recent Israeli PM candidate Tzipi Livni is the daughter of the former operational commander of the Irgun and current Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi is a son of the former operational commander of Lehi.

  5. A very good article, but, I believeit is incomplete. The Quran , as I understand it, like the Bible, contains many contradictory passages. Both require historical context and both require interpretation. ( Passages in the Bible Require homosexuals to be killed, e.g. )I have read that there are many passages inthe Quran that Daesh and others can and do use to justify their conduct. One article or even one book is probably insufficient to clarify the issue.

    • You are right.
      “Bruce Feiler writes that “Jews and Christians who smugly console themselves that Islam is the only violent religion are willfully ignoring their past. Nowhere is the struggle between faith and violence described more vividly, and with more stomach-turning details of ruthlessness, than in the Hebrew Bible”.[8] Similarly, Burggraeve and Vervenne describe the Old Testament as full of violence and evidence of both a violent society and a violent god. They write that, “(i)n numerous Old Testament texts the power and glory of Israel’s God is described in the language of violence.” They assert that more than one thousand passages refer to YHWH as acting violently or supporting the violence of humans and that more than one hundred passages involve divine commands to kill humans.[9]

      link to

      It seems all the old, old Books of yore have violence, despite the lame efforts of some to paint on one as violent, they all live in glass houses.

    • There are no contradictions in the Quran. The Quran is an integrated whole whose every single verse needs to be examined in light of what else it’s stated elsewhere.

      Muhammad Asad’s commentary on the Quran elucidates it.

  6. An excellent article by Professor Cole! One of the most important parts is point 4. Why does our media continue to lend weight to terrorists claiming to speak for Islam, but ignore the actual scholars who have been denouncing terrorism?

  7. I particularly like the passage (5 above) protecting fruit trees! I wonder if there may be an equivalent in the ancient Hebrew writings. (There have been a LOT of olive trees cut down on the West Bank lately).

  8. The Islamic revolution of Iran started by the most deadliest terrorist attack of its time, August 1978, burning 500 people in Cinema Rex of Abadan in the month of Ramadan.

  9. Thank you for this, Professor Cole. This article blows away all of the foolish nonsense that’s been spouted about islam that I’ve seen on too many sites, both right and left.

    Again, thank you.

  10. A colleague told me: “I spend almost an entire class period on how real Islam is supposed to protect and respect other cultures and religions. Students are always amazed. I take my Koran with post-it notes. It is effective. Then I end the unit with the rise and origins of Wahabbism.” I wanted to follow suit and mark those mentioned in the article, but one has a typo: the second one should be 5:32 not 5:53. Very useful article and the suggestion here.

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