In Whose Name Do They Kill?
By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Over a million people end their lives every year globally by committing suicide. Those killed also include many that never intended to commit suicide. Suicide bombers first appeared among the Jewish Sicaris in the 1st century. Ten centuries later, Muslim Hashishiyun practiced it while Asians in the 18th century revived it.
The beginning of the 21st century has seen an unprecedented rise in incidents of suicide killing. The world has witnessed some 400 suicide bombings employed by about 15 different outfits in different countries between 1980 to 2000. The figure has gone up considerably since then. The fear now stalking the people’s minds is whether suicide bombers will now resort to mass-murder — methods employing the use of the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. All monotheistic religions believe that God is the creator, and the giver of life, and He alone has the right to end it. Yet, the followers of this message have always fallen short of respecting the most essential divine principle of life. In recent times, Jews, Muslims and Christians have equally raced against each other in violating the sanctity of human life under various labels.
Christian Hitler’s Germany caused the holocaust of the Jewish people. Christian Orthodox Serbs caused hundreds of Catholics and Muslims to perish through systematic genocide committed in the mid-1990s. The subjugation and massacres of more than 95 percent of native citizens of what became the United States was caused by people who were influenced by Christian values and faith. Millions of blacks perished during slavery officially practiced by nations that held the banner of Christianity, Judaism and Islam higher.
Over five decades, thousands of Palestinian Muslims and Christians have been massacred by the state taking pride in its Judaic roots. Over 80,000 killings have occurred in the Indian side of Kashmir at the hands of people who claim to be the followers of Hinduism. More than 3,000 people perished in the United States when those claiming to be Muslims led the suicidal attacks in New York and Washington. And the killing of civilian Jews at the hands of the occupied Palestinians have been hitting the headlines for almost two decades.
Religious justification of taking human life has become a popular hobby of public officials and religious scholars in our times. Everyone gives religious and political explanations for their action of taking life, without realizing that life is a sacred trust that the Divine has reposed in human hands since the time of original creation. Rather than defending human life and saving it from those who often intend to destroy it in name of their religion, region, nation, ethnicity and race, scholars, laity and clergy in general play the politics of words where each tries to prove to the world the inhumanity of the other thus creating more tensions, controversies and reasons for further killing.
According to the Muslim belief system, the divine message as revealed through successive generations of human beings can be summarized in the following verse of the final scripture as revealed to Prophet Muhammad: “Do not kill yourselves, for Allah is compassionate towards you. Whoever does so, in transgression and wrongfully, We shall roast in a fire, and that is an easy matter for Allah” (4:29-30).
Respecting and protecting human life are acts of submission and worshipping to God. Submission has many great lessons for all of us that hear and watch on TV the scenes of a place after suicide bombing. The bomb does not know the difference between a soldier, a child, a mother, a grandfather or a grandmother. It is an awful and horrendous scene that we all wish to never see or witness.
Islam totally disagrees with this kind of behavior and condemns the action that causes this. Sometimes some people try to argue that their enemy is killing children and mothers as well and that is why they justify actions that result in their destruction. But according to the divine faith, evil must be not repaid with evil and animosity must not be returned with animosity. Those who claim to the follow the final divine scripture must live up to highest moral standards, not to evil choices, and respect human life regardless of the label that it carries. The Divine demands from the follower of His message to work for peace and justice through peaceful means, not through violence or anger. The Divine demands that His followers should never lower their moral standards to the standard of the people who fight them. Following God’s law guarantees peace and victory while breaking it only guarantees more misery to all those involved.
The Quranic verses are very distinct on the subject: “You shall spend in the cause of God; do not throw yourselves with your own hands into destruction. You shall be charitable; God loves the charitable” (2:195). “O you who believe, do not consume each other’s properties illicitly - only mutually acceptable transactions are permitted. You shall not kill yourselves. God is Merciful towards you.” “God also wants us to make peace with our neighbors and the people we know, even with our enemies” (4:29). “If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in God. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient” (8:61). “You shall resort to pardon, advocate tolerance, and disregard the ignorant”
(7:199). “God advocates justice, charity, and regarding the relatives. And He forbids evil, vice, and transgression. He enlightens you, that you may take heed” (16:90). “O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is Omniscient, Cognizant” (49:13).
Peace is not an alternative; it is a necessity for the true comprehension of the divine message. One does not attack those who are the intended recipients of the divine message. If we want to show our commitment to peace, then we must go beyond words and rhetoric. The least that we can do is to express our condemnation of the killing done in the name of religion regardless of the victims and perpetrators. The self-killing that is directed deliberately at innocent people is not part of the divine faith: “None despairs of God’s grace except the disbelieving people” (12:87).
The Divine demands from the follower of His message to work for peace and justice through peaceful means, not through violence or anger.
Originally published in The Minaret, April 2004