The Suicide Culture and Islam

Dr. Maher Hathout

Posted Jul 4, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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The Suicide Culture and Islam

By Dr. Maher Hathout

The idea of glorifying self-destruction to destroy others for whatever cause is as ancient as pre-Biblical times. We can fairly say that this style of fighting was scarce and rare throughout the history of Islamic civilization with the exception of the aberration of the assassins in the early Dark Ages. It is very alarming to see that this ugly, anti-Islam, anti-nature and anti-life phenomena is reappearing and growing among Muslims nowadays.

In spite of our deep understanding and sympathy towards the Palestinian suffering and the frustration of trying to move the conscience of the world through peaceful means and throwing rocks, and in spite of our condemnation of the brutal practices of the Sharon apartheid regime, we still took a clear stand against suicide bombing that compels a person use his or her body as a weapon to destroy noncombatants. We took that stand conscientiously based on our understanding of Islam, as well as the awareness that once we glorify death and cheapen human life, it takes us to a downhill spiral that does not limit itself to one field or one cause. Now we see what we were dreading happening daily,
resulting in the killing of Iraqis in Iraq, the Shias, in Pakistan, the Kurds in Mosul. Suicide killing has become a “modus operandi,” not a desperate aberration.

It is horrifying that this is a way to settle differences or express anger, soon it may become a way of revenge or even to achieve nothing but to die! We claim to believe in a religion that is a call to life “O ye who have attained to faith, respond to God and His apostle as He calls you to what will give you life,” (8:24), that endows all the sacredness imaginable to human life “If anyone slays a human being – unless it be in punishment for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind,” (5:32), that orders “Do not throw yourself into destruction by our own hands” (2:195), and that showed us through the example of Prophet Muhammad and the treaty of Hudaybiyah that utmost selfrestraint and flexibility are necessary in order to avoid exposing the lives of the inhabitants of Mecca to danger.

If we truly believe in this religion, we ought to go through very serious questioning and soul-searching. How did we, as a group, fail to nip this ugly phenomenon in the bud?  How did we indulge in the luxury of theoretical debates, and craft all kinds of euphemisms to let this go on, spill out and grow?

Did the intellectual and spiritual leadership of the umma take on this issue with its due seriousness? If they did not, isn’t it about time? How long will demagoguery, emotionalism, and superficiality keep fueling the fire of hatred by the lives of zealots? How long will Islam be exploited to mislead the credulous young and send them to die for the unknown agendas that continue to benefit the unknown sharks and tycoons?

Originally published in the MPAC brochure Grassroots Campaign Against Terrorism at