Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Some American political leaders are talking about a religious war between Christianity and Islam in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks on Israel of October 7 and after. This rhetoric is ignorant and bigotted. Although Hamas calls itself an “Islamic” resistance movement, it is in fact a dangerous cult that disregards key elements of Islamic law. Here are three major ways in which its October 7 attacks contravened key Islamic precepts:
1. The killing of innocent non-combatants is forbidden. The Qur’an (2:190) says “Fight in the cause of God ˹only˺ against those who wage war against you, but do not exceed the limits. God does not like transgressors.” It is only the wagers of war, i.e., soldiers, who are legitimate targets — not innocents. The Amman Message, crafted by a vast council of Muslim clerics from various denominations, says that according to a hadith or saying of the Prophet Muhammad, he said to one of his generals, “‘Run after Khalid ibn al-Walid [and tell him] that he must not slay children, serfs, or women.’ In another hadith the Prophet says clearly, ‘Do not kill weak old men, small children, or women.'”
Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi, the rector of al-Azhar University in Cairo, said, “Attacking innocent people is not courageous; it is stupid and will be punished on the Day of Judgment […]. It’s not courageous to attack innocent children, women and civilians. It is courageous to protect freedom; it is courageous to defend one and not to attack.”
Hamas killed hundreds of innocent non-combatants on October 7, including some 260 concert-goers at a peace festival. It fired unguided rockets at civilian towns and cities, inevitably endangering them since Hamas could not control where these dangerous munitions landed. Some landed on families. Although a few Hamas fighters attacked Israeli military bases and engaged Israeli soldiers, these encounters were a tiny part of the operation, most of which was aimed at innocent non-combatants. This behavior is un-Islamic according to the religion’s central texts and its authorities. Hamas cultists over-rule their own tradition, being full of themselves.
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“BE’ERI, ISRAEL – OCTOBER 14: Houses that were destroyed in a battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians militants on Saterday’s Hamas attack on the kibutz on October 14, 2023 in Be’eri, Israel. Israel has sealed off Gaza and launched sustained retaliatory air strikes, which have killed at least 1,400 people with more than 400,000 displaced, after a large-scale attack by Hamas. On October 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel from Gaza by land, sea, and air, killing over 1,300 people and wounding around 2,800. Israeli soldiers and civilians have also been taken hostage by Hamas and moved into Gaza. The attack prompted a declaration of war by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the announcement of an emergency wartime government. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images).
2. Wanton destruction of a town is prohibited. 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.”). Islamic jurisprudents forbade the destruction of houses, as well.
What Hamas terrorists did to Kibbutz Beeri would fall under the category of “destroying a town.” And lots of houses were destroyed.
3. Muslim commanders must give the enemy fair warning that war is imminent. The Prophet Muhammad at one point gave 4 months notice. Sneak attacks are forbidden. October 7 was obviously a sneak attack.
4. Muslim authorities such as the Shaykh al-Azhar, the preeminent Sunni seminary, insist that taking civilian hostages is prohibited by Islamic law.
I do a lot of public speaking and teaching about Islam and I know how hard it is for many Americans and Europeans to get past their stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. The rise of vigilante cults with nihilist values and a complete disregard for the Qur’an and Muslim tradition has reshaped views of Islam itself, as though our view of Christianity were altered by the Capitol Insurrectionists (it wasn’t).
For anyone who wants an extended argument about the values of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, I wrote a book: