The Debate Over the Pretexts of al-Qaeda

In summary: the religious foundation for Al Qaeda's killings is full of shiite (pun intended), i.e. it is not in the Qu'ran and is only pushed by fanatic Islamic fundies who distort the sacred rulings. Nice to know, heh ? -- law

by Suraya Al-Shehry, June, 2, 2004 - Translated by Ted Thornton

In the wake of the terrorist operation at al-Khobar the time has come for us to examine the justifications and arguments "al-Qaeda" used to support the blind killings.

To this end, let us attempt to consider the great fatwa of the renowned jurist Ibn Taymiyya, the "Tatars" [Mongols] fatwa, which violent extremist groups are constantly repeating to justify martyrdom through acts of violence and destruction in the name of Islam.

These groups have sought to exploit the fatwa's legacy in order to bend the sharia to fit their movements. The symbols of religion make it easy to mobilize people and, by means of the creed, to persuade people to crave paradise. By the same principle governments (lit. “republics”) have been deluded and al-Qaeda has gained support among people who have been deceived by the way religion has been used – its Quranic verses, hadiths, fatwas, and other views and teachings ascribed to such persons as Sayyid Qutb and Abu Ala’ al-Mawdudi, for example, and others like them who wield great influence. How have the Puritans (lit. al-Khawarij, “the dissenters” – more) managed to enlist these views to serve their interests? We have an obligation to be discerning reasoners so that we can respond to them in kind.

The Tatars fatwa appeared when the Tatar [Mongol] armies were occupying the countries of Islam. The Tatars captured numbers of Muslims, clapped them in chains, and then placed them in front of their own forces as shields during the fighting. This created a confusing quandary for the Muslims! Should they fight the Tatars with arrows and catapults and risk killing their brethren in the process, or, should they desist from fighting altogether?

At this point, Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya issued a fatwa saying it was an obligation to fight the Tatars. He authorized the killing of the Muslim shield, “but with conditions.” …Let us see what the religious scholars and jurists have to say about this fatwa.

They stipulate that there must be two warring armies, and that war must have broken out between an army of Muslims and an enemy army from among the infidels (al-kaffar). This condition is not met if there exists between the parties a peace, pact, or truce. The jurist Ibn Qaddama said, “If Muslims are being used as shields and there is no need to make an assault, then war is not justified.” That is to say, the case applies only to prisoners of war and not to those who are neighbors or who dwell beside infidels. Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali was of the opinion that it was not permitted to shoot arrows at infidels if there were Muslim captives in their midst unless it was feared that lives in the Muslim army would be lost. As for the Hanbalis and the Hanafis, they permitted shooting arrows at the infidels while Muslim captives were in their midst if it was feared that harm would befall the community (umma) of Islam. Al-Imam Malik categorically rejected the killing of the Tatars altogether.

After studying the fatwa and how it was abrogated in fixed circumstances in its own historical setting… and with this concise explanation behind us, I say it is time for us to demand, in the wake of the terror that has taken place in the Saudi Arabian kingdom and especially the latest horrific event at al-Khobar, whether the conditions of the fatwa are applicable to the Muslims who were killed in those explosions and random shootings and how it may be possible for us to take that fatwa out of its historical setting and use it to justify attacks on Islam and Muslims!?

Where are the two warring armies? Were the Muslims who were killed captives of the apostates, or merely resident neighbors in the midst of civilian Christians (lit. “People of the Book”) living under the protection of Muslims!? By what authority in Islam may Muslims be killed!? What heinous act had been committed against Muhammad’s umma (PBUH)? And, what about those who say that, even though among the dead who had been living under protection there were American and British occupiers of Afghanistan and Iraq who had killed Muslims in those places, it was right that they be killed even if it meant killing Muslims, too? This line of reasoning is unacceptable because the contract of protection safeguards the blood, the wealth, and the dignity of these foreigners from harm. We have in front of us two choices. We may not treacherously reject our “contract” to provide protection and kill those who are thereby protected, nor may we grant protection for a time and then shirk the obligation. The Almighty said, ““O ye who believe, fulfill obligations” and “So fulfill your engagements with them to the end of their term.” A commitment cannot be made and then betrayed on the basis of the nationalities of the victims. This hasn’t been heard of throughout the whole history of Islam except from the Puritan dissenters (Khawarij) of this era who are not legal scholars except in name only.

The pledge of protection is among the most important pledges in all of Islamic jurisprudence whether made literally (lafz), directly or indirectly (sarihan aw kinaya), whether in writing, in a message, or in signals (ishara)…It is incumbent upon us as a Muslim umma (“community”) to respect our pledges and protect them.

We come now to consider the word “sovereignty” ( Ar. hakimiyya) in the writings of Sayyid Qutb and especially his books, In the Shadow of the Qur’an and Milestones On the Road. The truth is that this word is neither in the Qur’an or in a single Hadith of the Messenger (PBUH). But, most of us repeat this term “sovereignty” without knowing the truth about it or the circumstances of its author in prison who used it to declare apostate (yakfaru) an entire society except those here and there who may have heard the word or read it. [The Qur’an says] “Truly, judgment (hukm) is with God alone,” and this is true, but many matters in our world have been left up to us to decide as we see fit so long as we do not forbid what is legal or legalize what is forbidden. No one has permission to declare a whole society apostate because it has imposed a legal framework on the regulation of traffic, for example, a purely secular concern [lit. “which neither the Divinity nor the clergy has interfered with.”] If the Qur’an itself has acknowledged the rulers of Muslims and says that it is our duty to obey them, where is the justification for stripping these rulers of their authority, rulers who have been approved by their Creator [irtida]?

How can one excuse the failure of these sowers of discord in light of the numbers of contemporary, innovative, and integral programs they claim they will set up in the their nations!? For, in all of their statements, one cannot find a clear answer to this question, only obscure references inspired by their ingenuity which will reflect the model of the pure life in Medina [during the time of the Prophet]…

These misguided ones have taken aim at our livelihood, which is the oil fields. They think that disrupting the flow of oil will paralyze our economy, create chaos in economic markets, upset the balance of oil production, drive down the prices of shares of oil stocks thus creating international financial hardships and ushering in crises in productivity and the balance of payments…What do they make, then, of the fact that since the attack on al-Khobar the Saudi stock market has posted gains the past two weeks?!

Wouldn’t it have been more profitable if those who taught them how to use weapons had instead taught them some elementary economics? Then they would know that oil supplies will not be so easily affected because expansion of production is subject to the conditions in global markets and to what OPEC decides in response to the balances of supply and demand, not to the sick fantasies of al-Qaeda and the deviant acts of its adherents.

Ted Thornton


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