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Suicide Bombings and Martyrdom


This fatwa (July 24, 2003) was issued by Shaykh Yusuf Qaradawi, an Egyptian born clergyman who currently resides in Qatar. Unlike Ayatollah Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, who ruled out the killing of civilians on the basis of Islam’s doctrine of individual rather than collective responsibility, Qaradawi permits this in Israel and the occupied territories on grounds that Israeli civilians serve in the army or reserves for long periods and that Israel is a colonial settler state. Children are killed only inadvertently. Finally, Qaradawi contrasts suicide for private motives, which Islam forbids, with suicide committed “commendably” by those who are pursuing a just cause for the sake of God and against colonialist policies.

Suicide Bombers are Martyrs

The martyrdom operations carried out by the Palestinian factions to resist the Zionist occupation are not in any way included in the framework of prohibited terrorism, even if the victims include some civilians.

This is for several reasons:

First of all, due to the colonialist, occupational, racist, and [plundering] nature of Israeli society, it is, in fact, a military society. Anyone past childhood, man or woman, is drafted into the Israeli army. Every Israeli is a solider in the army, either in practical terms or because he is a reservist soldier who can be summoned at any time for war. This fact needs no proof. Those they call “civilians” are in effect “soldiers” in the army of the sons of Zion.

Second, Israeli society has a unique trait that makes it different from the other human societies, and that is that as far as the people of Palestine are concerned, it is a “society of invaders” who came from outside the region—from Russia or America, from Europe or from the lands of the Orient—to occupy Palestine and settle in it. . . .

Those who are invaded have the right to fight the invaders with all means at their disposal in order to remove [the invaders] from their homes and send them back to the homes from whence they came. . . . This is a Jihad of necessity, as the clerics call it, and not Jihad of choice. . . . Even if an innocent child is killed as a result of this Jihad—it was not intended, but rather due to the necessities of the war. . . . Even with the passage of time, these [Israeli] so-called “civilians” do not stop being invaders, evil, tyrants, and oppressors. . . .

Third . . . It has been determined by Islamic law that the blood and property of people of Dar Al-Harb [the Domain of Disbelief where the battle for the domination of Islam should be waged] is not protected. Because they fight against and are hostile towards the Muslims, they annulled the protection of his blood and his property.

Fourth, the Muslim clerics, or most of them, have agreed that it is permissible to kill Muslims if the army that attacks the Muslims hides behind them, that is, uses them as barricades or human shields, and sets them at the front so that the fire, arrows, or spears of the Muslims will harm them first. The clerics have permitted the defenders to kill these innocent Muslims, who were forced to stand at the head of the army of their enemies. . . . Otherwise the invading army will enter and annihilate their offspring and their harvests. There was no choice but to sacrifice some [of the Muslims] in order to defend the entire [Muslim] community. . . . Therefore, if it is permitted to kill innocent Muslims who are under coercion in order to protect the greater Muslim community, it is all the more so permissible to kill non-Muslims in order to liberate the land of the Muslims from its occupiers and oppressors.

Fifth, in modern war, all of society, with all its classes and ethnic groups, is mobilized to participate in the war, to aid its continuation, and to provide it with the material and human fuel required for it to assure the victory of the state fighting its enemies. Every citizen in society must take upon himself a role in the effort to provide for the battle. The entire domestic front, including professionals, laborers, and industrialists, stands behind the fighting army, even if it does not bear arms. Therefore the experts say that the Zionist entity, in truth, is one army.

Sixth, there are two types of Fatwas: Fatwas concerning a situation of calm and choice, and Fatwas concerning a situation of distress and necessity. It is permissible for a Muslim, when in a situation of extreme necessity, to do what is prohibited to him [in circumstances allowing] choice. . . . Thus, one of the clerics has espoused the rule: “Necessities permit prohibitions.” Our brothers in Palestine are, without a doubt, in a situation of extreme necessity to carry out martyrdom operations in order to unsettle their enemies and the plunderers of their land and to sow horror in their hearts so that they will leave, and return to the places from whence they came. . . .

What weapon can harm their enemy, can prevent him from sleeping, and can strip him of a sense of security and stability, except for these human bombs—a young man or woman who blows himself or herself up amongst their enemy? This is a weapon the likes of which the enemy cannot obtain, even if the U.S. provides it with billions [of dollars] and the most powerful weapons, because it is a unique weapon that Allah has placed only in the hands of the men of belief. It is a type of divine justice on the face of the earth . . . it is the weapon of the wretched weak in the face of the powerful tyrant. . . .

Those who oppose martyrdom operations and claim that they are suicide are making a great mistake. The goals of the one who carries out a martyrdom operation and of the one who commits suicide are completely different. Anyone who analyzes the soul of [these two] will discover the huge difference between them. The [person who commits] suicide kills himself for himself, because he failed in business, love, an examination, or the like. He was too weak to cope with the situation and chose to flee life for death.

In contrast, the one who carries out a martyrdom operation does not think of himself. He sacrifices himself for the sake of a higher goal, for which all sacrifices become meaningless. He sells himself to Allah in order to buy Paradise in exchange. Allah said: “Allah has bought from the believers their souls and their properties for they shall inherit Paradise.”

While the [person who commits] suicide dies in escape and retreat, the one who carries out a martyrdom operation dies in advance and attack. Unlike the [person who commits] suicide, who has no goal except escape from confrontation, the one who carries out a martyrdom operation has a clear goal, and that is to please Allah. . . .

A Contrary Opinion: Suicide Bombers are not Martyrs

Following the bombing of Muhaya Residential Compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in November 2003, one of the three Shaikhs being held in custody for inflammatory preaching, Sheikh Nasser Al-Fahd, asked to go on TV to withdraw his previous fatwas.

He said the attack was a sin and the bombers were not martyrs because they violated Islam by killing both Muslims and non-Muslims under the state's protection, murdering women and children, harming security and wealth, distorting the image of jihad (holy war) and Islam, and “provoking enemies of Muslims.”

“Blowing oneself up in such operations is not martyrdom; it is con-sidered suicide. How can they kill Muslims, innocent people, and squander wealth in the country of Islam?”

Sheikh Nasser Al-Fahd told viewers that the merits of carrying arms in the name of jihad depended on the outcome. The Riyadh bombings, he said, had terrible consequences and were therefore wrong.

“We see the results, Muslims and innocent were killed, homes destroyed, Muslims terrorized. The judgment is clear.”

Asked about Saudi youth trying to enter Iraq to fight U.S.-led forces, he said: “No, no, I don’t agree. Fighting in Iraq is sedition. . . . They don’t know who the killer is and who the victim is.”

Sheikh Nasser Ibn Hamad Al-Fahd withdrew several fatwas (opinions) advocating militancy, describing them as “a grave mistake” in the interview broadcast on Saudi television.

Another of the three, Sheikh Ali Al-Khudair, had previously recanted on television. Sheikh Al-Khudair said the bombing of the Al-Muhaya Compound in Riyadh which killed at least 18 people including women and children had tarnished the image of Islam and harmed dawa work. He expressed his deep sorrow for issuing fatwas that incited terror attacks.

He also withdrew fatwas he had issued declaring infidel Saudi thinkers Turki Al-Hamad, Mansour Al-Naqeedan and Abdullah Abusamh.

Sheikh Al-Khudair's statement signals a major turnabout in the attitude of scholars supporting Al-Qaeda, and observers expect other scholars to follow suit.

News of the interview with Al-Khudair, conducted by Sheikh Aaid Al-Qarni, spread quickly throughout the Kingdom. Al-Khudair had earlier issued edicts declaring attacks against Saudi security forces halal or permissible.

He had also praised the 19 terror suspects wanted by Saudi security authorities and acknowledged his relation with some of them. In the interview, Al-Khudair declared only rulers were in a position to declare jihad.

“It is not allowed to rise up against rulers unless they commit flagrant violations against Shariah,” he said.

Appearing on Saudi state television, Sheikh Ali Al-Khudair said of his previous fatwas, or religious edicts, calling for attacks on the West: “If I had the choice I would not have said them. I hope that, God willing, I have time to correct them.”

Al-Khudair also said the November 8 suicide bombing of a residential compound housing foreign workers—most of them Arabs—in Riyadh was “the work of criminals.”

Bibliography references:

Taken from MEMRI.org, July 24, 2003.

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