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Murder, Manslaughter and Terrorism -- All in the Name of Allāh
Asif Iftikhar


The Qur’ān says:

... that whoever took a life1, unless it be for murder or for spreading disorder on earth2, it would be as if he killed all mankind; and whoever saved a life, it would be as if he saved all mankind. (5:32)


And he who kills a believer intentionally, his reward is Hell; he shall remain therein forever... (4:93)

How can someone who believes in this book commit murder?

Here’s how:

In his mind -- and perhaps even in his heart -- the murder he commits is not murder: it is an act of virtue.

Those who do evil can be of two kinds. There are those who know that the evil they do is evil, and there are those who don’t. In fact, those of the latter kind might even be absolutely certain that the evil they do is not evil but virtue. When that is the case, murder and terrorism can, in their minds, become Jihād.

The good intentions of these ‘pious evil-doers’ might become an excuse for them on the Day of Judgement, but in this worldly life of ours, when murder and terrorism are the issue, their error of judgement -- howsoever noble their intentions might be -- does not, in any way, exonerate them from the responsibility for causing disruption and disorder in society. Therefore, these people need to be dealt with -- and when human lives and law and order are at stake, there can be two ways of doing that: either you succeed in convincing them that their ‘virtue’ is actually evil and that their Jihād is in reality Fasād3 or Muhārabah4 or you simply ‘wipe ’em out’.

Two pertinent questions are: how do you convince them? and would the State be morally justified if, after having taken reasonable measures to solve the problem through dialogues and discussions, it has to... well, ‘wipe ’em out’?

To convince such Islamist groups as resort to murder and terrorism that, howsoever noble the goals, their methods are against the teachings of their own religion, one has to understand the arguments they themselves use to justify their deeds. Of such arguments some of the more important ones are  discussed here.

One of their arguments is based on a narration in which the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

He amongst you who sees any wrong should change it with his hand5; if that is not possible for him, then with his tongue; if that is not possible for him, then [he should condemn it] in his heart -- and that is the weakest level of faith. (Muslim, Kitābu’l-Imān)

This statement of the Prophet (sws) has a specific context in reference to which the statement merely means that it is the duty of every Muslim to try for the eradication of evil within the confines of the social and legal authority he or she has6. For example, parents are afforded the authority by the conventions of society to use some mild form of physical punishment, if required, for the proper upbringing of their children. This obviously does not mean that they have the authority to batter their children. Similarly, the government -- a court of law to be more precise -- has the legal authority to award a suitable sentence to an offender if he is found guilty. Now, if some parents did not use their authority to stop their children from becoming heroin addicts, they would certainly be at a weaker level of faith, especially if physical punishment of a sort would have helped and it were love which stopped them from using their authority. Love does not mean that you let those you love do wrong. Similarly, a judge who, under some pressure, gave a lighter punishment to an offender would certainly be at a weaker level of faith. Indeed, in the absence of a reasonable excuse, he might even be regarded as being devoid of faith altogether on the Day of Judgement.

The Prophet of Allāh (sws) never took the law into his own hands at any point of time. During the thirteen years he preached Islam in Makkah, he never went beyond the confines of the law of the land. The few companions and followers he had during those years were indeed more loyal to him -- and hardly any Muslim would doubt that -- than his followers today can ever claim to be. Many a Muslim today will hardly take any time to decide that it is a matter of his faith to kill anyone -- even the most influential person around -- who blasphemes -- or is even suspected of blaspheming -- against the Prophet (sws). But the followers of the Prophet (sws) never murdered even a single of his opponents even when he was pelted with stones at Tā’if. In Makkah, invectives were hurled against him day and night, yet none of his followers regarded it a matter of his faith to kill a few offenders to avenge the Prophet (sws). Had all of his companions -- even those truly close to him as Abu Bakar (raa) and Ali (raa) -- chosen to remain at a weaker level of faith? And had the Prophet (sws) himself chosen not to do anything about the weak faith of his companions? Why didn’t he exhort them to do something in retaliation?

It was only after the Prophet (sws) had established an independent State at Madīnah that laws were enacted and implemented by him -- and that too was done gradually so as to avoid imbalance in society. The reason for this restrain is that in Islam armed struggle is allowed only at the level of the State. An individual or a group is not permitted to wage an armed struggle so that anarchy does not prevail in society.

Militant struggle by an individual or a group in an Islamic State amounts to Fasād (disorder, disruption, etc) or, when it becomes a rebellion against the State, Khurūj (rebellion, revolt, etc). In either case, the Islamic State has the right to give the militants a severe death sentence.7 Only when certain conditions have been met is Khurūj allowed.8

The militant Islamists would argue that (a) the government in Pakistan is not Islamic and (b) they -- the militants -- are fighting against Kuffār (sing. Kāfir: infidel), who ought to be killed to save Islam from its enemies.

It should be obvious from the points made above that even if Pakistan were not an Islamic State and some of those accepted by the State as Muslims were Kuffār, there would still be no room in Islam for the militant Islamists to take the law into their own hands and kill people. The militants are not more pious than the Prophet (sws) and his close companions (raa).

But let’s take a look at this stance as well. Does a State having a morally and religiously corrupt government become un-Islamic? And who has the right to declare a group (or a person) in the Ummah (the whole Muslim community) as non-Muslims or Kuffār?

The Islamic principle on which a State is founded is described in the Qur’ān in the words amruhum shūrā baynahum (their affairs are through consultation amongst them)9. This principle entails that the State affairs be run by the vote of the majority of Muslim citizens. A State is formed when a people establish their government in a geographically independent area over which they have power and authority. Therefore, when the majority of Muslims in a geographically independent area, over which they have power and authority, form their own government through consultation -- elections in modern times --, that government, in accordance with the verse quoted above, represents the Islamic State. Therefore, allegiance to that government is a religious obligation on the Muslim citizens of that State:

Obey Allāh and the Prophet and those who are in authority among you. Then if there is difference of opinion among you, refer it back to Allāh and the Prophet (The Qur’ān 4:59)

It is evident from this verse that even in case of any difference of opinion, that matter should be resolved through the Qur’ān and the Sunnah10-- rather than through guns -- and, from the verse quoted earlier, that the verdict of the majority of the Muslims must be accepted as the law of the land. Thereafter, those who dissent do have the right to express their points of view in a peaceful and constitutional manner, but they do not have the right to create a law and order situation or rebel against the State. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

You are organised under the rule of a person and someone tries to break your collectivity apart or disrupt your government, kill him. (Muslim, Kitābu’l-Imārah)

It is only when a Muslim is ordered to do something against the directives of Allāh or of the Prophet (sws) is he required to disobey those with political and legal authority in the system he lives in. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

Whether they like it or not, it is obligatory on the faithful to listen to and obey their rulers except that they be ordered to commit sin. If they are ordered to commit sin, they should neither listen nor obey. (Muslims, Kitābu’l-Imārah)

The Qur’ānic words ‘obey Allāh and the Prophet...’ require that a Muslim not obey any command against the directives of Allāh and the Prophet (sws). But even then, he is not allowed to disrupt the system or commit murders. The reason is that when a government is formed in accordance with the Qur’ānic principle of amruhum shūrā baynahum and can be changed or deposed on the same basis, any rebellion against that government amounts to a rebellion against the collectivity of Muslims, which in Islamic terminology, is Muhārabah and which, as the statement of the Prophet (sws) quoted earlier explains, is an offence punishable by death.

Prominent people of this Ummah as Abu Hanīfah, Imām Malik and Ahmad Ibn Hambal never resorted to violence, vandalism, terrorism or rebellion in spite of facing extreme hardships to propagate the truth. In Al-Masā’il al-Rasā’il al Marwiyyah ‘an Ahmad ibn Hambal, Ahmad ibn Hambal is reported to have said:

Far be it from Allāh [all that is wrongly associated with Him11], blood is but blood12. I do not believe in it nor do I recommend it. Enduring what is on us13 is better than disruption, in which blood is shed, people’s wealth is expropriated and things and matters sacred are desecrated.14

The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

I order you five things: pledging allegiance to the State, listening to and obeying [your rulers in that State], Hijrah15 and Jihād in the way of Allāh. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hambal)

In the same collection of his sayings, the Prophet (sws) is also reported to have said:

He who sees something despicable in his ruler should bear with it, for he who detaches himself to the slightest degree from the State and dies in that condition shall die the death of ignorance. (Kitābu’l-Fitan)

In another version, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

He who sees something despicable in his ruler should bear with it, for he who detaches himself to the slightest degree from the Sovereignty and dies in that condition shall die the death of ignorance (Kitābu’l-Fitan)

In these two versions, the words Al-Jamā‘ah (the State) and Al-Sultan (the Sovereignty) have been used interchangeably, which clearly shows that this directive of the Prophet (sws) pertains to such a body as has political sovereignty in a geographically independent area in which there is a system of government.16

It should be obvious from the arguments given above that the government in Pakistan, which is brought to power through the mandate given to it by the majority vote of the Muslim citizens is the embodiment of the sovereignty of the State and as such it represents the State. Therefore, even if the rulers are morally corrupt, a Muslim does not have the right to disrupt the government or resort to terrorism. It is indeed his duty to propagate the truth with wisdom and sagacity and, if need be, with personal sacrifice. The way the likes of Ahmad Ibn Hambal, Mālik Ibn Anas and Abu Hanifah bore persecution at the hands of the rulers of their respective times is a testimony to the fact that the prominent scholars of Islam have never shirked from making sacrifices for the sake of truth, yet have always distanced themselves from vandalism, terrorism and disruption. Indeed, it is this kind of propagation which was termed as a great Jihād by the Prophet (sws). He is reported to have said:

Verily, words of truth and justice are a great Jihād especially when said in front of an oppressive ruler. (Tirmidhī, Kitābu’l-Fitan)

Rebellion against the State is allowed only when certain conditions have been met. A brief mention of these conditions would not be out of place here:

The first condition is that the rulers unequivocally deny Islam or any of its directives. The fourth verse of the 59th chapter of Qur’ān quoted earlier points out that obedience to rulers is obligatory as long as they are from within the Muslims (‘those in authority among you’).

The Prophet (sws) is also reported to have laid down the same condition for refusal to accept the authority of the rulers.

... when you see unequivocal denial by them and in a matter regarding which you have an explicit directive from Allāh. (Muslim, Kitābu’l-Imārah)

The second and the third conditions, based on amruhum shūrā baynahum -- ‘their affairs are by consultation among them’ (the Qur’ān 42:38) --, are that the government against which Khurūj is taken place should be a dictatorship which does not enjoy the support of the masses and that the leader of the Khurūj should be a person who has the indubitable support of the nation.

All these conditions are essential in that even if one of them is missing, Khurūj is not permissible.

Furthermore, in case of militant struggle, there is another condition: the rebels must migrate to another land and form an independent State there.

Before discussing the basis and the reason for this condition, it would be pertinent to point out here that the militant Islamists often term all their subversive activities as Jihād. Actually, Jihād is a nomen verbum of Jāhada, which means to make one’s utmost effort. In Islamic terminology, the word denotes one’s utmost effort in the way of Allāh. One of the connotations of the word is making one’s utmost effort in a militant struggle for Allāh. In that sense it is used as a synonym of Qitāl fī sabīl Allāh (killing in the way of Allāh), which is the more precise term for any kind of militant religious struggle -- be it a battle or war or a rebellion (Khurūj). And in any case, Qitāl fī sabīl Allāh is a prerogative of the State. In other words, in Islam there is no concept of Jihād or Qitāl17 of any kind without the authority of the State.

The basis for this condition is that God Almighty did not ever give the permission to use the sword even to the Prophets (sws), who are the final manifestation of the truth for their people, until they had established their rule over their followers as their political sovereigns after migrating with them to another land and forming an independent State there. Moses (sws) was given the directive for Jihād only after this condition had been met and, similarly, the Prophet (sws) and his followers were also allowed to do Jihād only when after the Pledge of ‘Aqabah they were able to establish an independent State at Yathrib (later known as Madīnah).18

The reason for this condition is that without the authority of the State Jihād is bound to become Fasād. A group which does not even have the legal authority to sentence a criminal cannot be allowed to gamble with the lives and property of people. For this reason, Muslim jurists have always regarded this condition as essential:

And the third category of collective duties is one in which [the authority] of the Head of the State is a necessary condition, for example Jihād and the implementation of the Islamic law of punishments. (Fiqhu’l-Sunnah, vol. 3, p.30)

Hamīdu’l-Dīn Farāhī writes:

Jihād in one’s own country is not allowed unless one migrates to another land. Accounts of Abraham’s life (sws) and other verses [of the Qur’ān] related to Hijrah19 also point up this principle. The events of the Prophet’s life (sws) also corroborate it. The reason for this principle is that without the authority of one who represents the collectivity of the Muslims in the State and has political sovereignty, Jihād is merely chaos and disruption and anarchy and disorder (Majmū‘ah-i-Tafāsīr-i-Farāhī,
p. 56)

A prominent exegesist of the Qur’ān, Amīn Ahsan Islāhī, makes the following comments on the same principle:

The first reason [for this condition] is that God Almighty does not like the disruption and disintegration of even an evil system until a strong probability exists that those out to disintegrate the system will provide people with an alternative, righteous system. Anarchy and disorder are unnatural conditions. In fact, they are so contrary to human nature that even an unjust system is preferable to them. For this reason, God Almighty has not given the right to wage war to such a group which is dubious and obscure, the power and authority of which is undefined, which is without the sovereignty of a ruler, the loyalty and obedience of which is untested and the members of which are disorganised and undisciplined -- who can disrupt a system but cannot prove that they have the ability to integrate a disintegrated environment. This confidence [that a group will be able to create harmony and integrate a disorganised environment into an organised system] can only be reposed in such a group as has actually formed a political government and has such control and discipline within the confines of its authority that it can be termed as Al-Jamā‘ah20. Until a group attains this position, it can strive to become Al-Jamā‘ah [through religiously allowable and through legal and constitutional means] -- and that endeavour of its would be its Jihād for that time -- but it does not have the right to wage an armed Jihād and a war.

The second reason is that the import of the authority which a group engaged in war gets over the life and property of human beings is so great that such authority cannot be given to a group in which the authority of the leader over his followers is merely moral21. Mere moral authority is not a sufficient guarantee that the leader will be able to stop his followers from Fasād fī’l-Ard22. Therefore, a religious leader does not have the right to allow his followers to take out their swords23 merely on the basis of his spiritual relationship with them, for once the sword is unsheathed there is great danger that it will not care for right and wrong and that those who drew it will end up doing all [the wrong which] they had sought to end. Such revolutionary groups the object of which is nothing more than disruption of the existing system and deposition of the ruling party to seize power for themselves play such games -- and they can, for in their eyes disruption of a system is no calamity, nor is cruelty of any kind an evil. Everything is right to them [as long as it serves their purpose]. However, the leaders of a just and righteous group must see whether they are in a position to provide people with a system better than the one they seek to change and whether they will be able to stop their followers from doing such wrong as they themselves had sought to root out. If they are not in that position, then they do not have the right to play games with the lives and property of people on the basis of their confidence in mere chances or create greater disorder than the one they had sought to end.24

It should be obvious from the passage quoted above that the right to wage war cannot be given to a group of individuals, who do not even have the legal authority to award punishment to a criminal. Without political sovereignty, Jihād is nothing short of Fasād. Thus, such militant groups as mislead their followers into believing that their terrorism is a form of Jihād have no Islamic basis whatsoever for their claim.25

Now, let us analyse the next argument of the Islamist militants: that they only kill Kuffār26, who are out to destroy Islam. Let’s see who is really a Kāfir (singular of Kuffār) and who is not. And let’s also take a look at who really has the authority to declare a Muslim a Kāfir.

Declaring any Muslim a Kāfir is called Takfīr, which is the prerogative of either the Prophet (sws) -- who does that on the basis of Divine revelation -- or the Muslim Ummah (the whole Muslim community). No other individual or group has that right.

The reasons for this principle are as follows:

A Kāfir in the true sense of the word is one who denies the truth even after it becomes absolutely clear to him. Revealing the truth to a person or a group so clearly that no excuse is left for that person or group to deny it may be termed as Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah.

The Prophet (sws) was the last messenger of God. With his status as a Rasūl,27 the Prophet (sws) was in a position to do Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah even as an individual.28  No one after him has that privilege. No individual or group can do Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah now because no individual can claim that his propagation has manifested the truth to the extent that no excuse is left to deny it. Indeed, an individual cannot even be absolutely certain of having understood the truth absolutely correctly. He can only be certain that God will reward him for doing his duty as he has been given the light to see it. Only the Prophet’s word (sws) was final in religion.

After the Prophet (sws), the responsibility of bearing witness to the truth of Islam has been passed on to the Ummah (the whole Muslim Community) rather than to any individual or group as it would have been impossible for anyone to fulfil this responsibility in his individual capacity. For this purpose, it is incumbent upon the Ummah to strive for becoming an Ummah Wasat (the best people) so that by its very existence it can become a living testimony to the truth of its religion. It is the responsibility of every individual in the Ummah to do his part to ensure that the Ummah become and remain Ummah Wasat-- an Ummah which is the paragon of truth, justice and compassion. The Qur’ān calls this responsibility Shahādah ‘alā’l-Nās (testimony before the29  people) and the style of the address in the relevant verses clearly shows that after the Prophet (sws) this responsibility has been passed on to the Ummah as a whole.30

An obvious corollary to the points made above is that only the State representing the collectivity of the whole Ummah has the right to declare a person Kāfir as no Muslim in his individual capacity and no group of Muslims can possibly fulfil the obligation of Shahādah ‘alā’l-Nās.

However, this principle does not mean that a Muslim should be indifferent to dissents and heresies in religion. It is especially incumbent upon scholars and intellectuals to carry on the task of Da‘wah (propagation of the truth) and of Indhār (admonition).

Experience has shown that scholars and intellectuals can best fulfil this responsibility by staying out of politics. It is indeed very fortunate when a political leader is religious, but when a religious leader is political he usually ends up being neither a politician nor a religious leader. Moreover, religious leaders need to understand that there are occasions when speaking out the truth is a requirement of faith and there are occasions when restraining oneself is a requirement of sagacity -- and that the Qur’ān requires Da‘wah with wisdom and sagacity: a Da‘wah which vanquishes the hearts of people rather than killing or battering them.31

Some militant Islamists also argue that their militancy is for self-defence. Their argument is that as a result of their Da‘wah, opposing groups become aggressive, which entails self-defence.

There is a big difference between what can legitimately be termed as ‘self-defence’ and the ‘aggression for the sake of self-defence’ that these Islamists usually commit. Extending the meaning of self-defence to include downright aggression is carrying things too far. Many of these groups argue that not retaliating to aggression is a Christian attitude of ‘turning the other cheek’. Islam gives the concept of Qisās, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

It should be borne in mind that an Islamic State has not only the responsibility but also the sole authority to implement the Law of Qisās. Qisās has often been rendered into English as ‘retaliation’32 -- a translation which has misled many into believing that personal vendettas are allowed -- in fact encouraged -- in Islam (for example, a report on terrorism ‘Bosnia -- A Springboard for Terrorism’ prepared by a Special Task Force of the U S Senate presents the same view of Islam, which viewpoint is further stressed in the Task Force’s reply to a letter of protest by the American Muslim Council). It seems that the argument rests on an incorrect understanding of a Qur’ānic verse:

And whoever is killed unjustly, We have given his heir the authority. Therefore, he [the heir] should not exceed in killing, for verily he has been helped. (17:33)

The last part of the verse ‘for verily he has been helped’ refers to the fact that the State and the law are on his side. ‘We have given his heir the authority’ means that the heir has the authority to either demand Qisās  or to forgive the offender. ‘He should not exceed in killing’ means that since the society is now on the heir’s side he should not exceed the limits either by taking the law into his own hand or by demanding a greater punishment than what the offender actually deserves. The way the whole society has specifically been addressed in other pertinent Qur’ānic verses (6:178 & 179 and 5:45) proves beyond doubt that the directive of implementing the law of Qisās pertains to the whole society -- which obviously works through the State and its organs (as the judiciary in this instance). Therefore, lynching and engaging in personal vendettas have no room in Islam. As already explained, prominent Muslim jurists have always maintained that in some matters related to the collectivity of the Muslims, the authority of the Sovereignty is a necessary condition, for example Jihād  (that is Qitāl) and the law of punishments (Iqāmatu’l-Hudūd):

And the third category of collective responsibility is that in which the authority of the Sovereignty is a necessary condition, for example Jihād and the law of punishments.33

Nothing could be farther from the truth than the idea that Qisās refers to retaliation by an individual or a group. Such retaliation, even if equal harm is done to the offender, simply negates the purpose of the law of Qisās. The words of the Qur’ān ‘In Qisās  there is life for you’ refer to the fact that when the State does not provide the people in a society with justice, they often resort to personal vendettas and revenge, which shake the very foundation on which the edifice of a social set-up rests.

A Muslim who has been wronged has the right to demand Qisās and it is the duty of the State to provide him with justice. The Qur’a$n entails that much. But the Qur’ān also goes further than that. It gives a high place to an attitude of forgiveness. Turning the other cheek is not merely a Christian attitude. Jesus (sws) was not telling the judge in a court of law to turn the other cheek while deciding the fate of a serial killer. He was not telling that to the State facing an enemy State in war. He was telling that to a preacher out to conquer the hearts of people. To conquer hearts one never slays, but is slain. One does not take revenge, but forgives. These are the rules for a preacher. Though not the law, they are a great honour and a great privilege. The Qur’ān says:

The good and the evil are not equal. Repel evil with that which is better than all others; then you will see that he, between whom and you there was enmity, has become as if he were a truly close friend. And this sagacity is not afforded to anyone except those who persevere and this wisdom is not granted except to those who are indeed very fortunate. And if you feel any evil incitement from Satan, seek refuge of Allāh. Verily, He is the Hearer, the knower. (41:34-36)

This is the attitude of a Muslim towards those who wrong him because of his Da‘wah -- an attitude the Qur’ān terms as something truly sublime. With this line of thinking, how is it possible to think of retaliation and personal vengeance? And more than that, how is it possible for any Muslim to believe that he will be able to justify himself on the Day of Judgement for killing innocent people?

At this stage, let’s recapitulate what has been discussed so far in this article:

1.  Taking the law into one’s own hands amounts to either Fasād fi’l-Ard (creating disorder) or Muhārabah (rebellion) -- both of which are punishable by death in Islam.

2.  The Prophet’s saying (sws) usually cited to give credence to the idea that Islam allows an individual or a group the use of force to end wrong is actually related to the use of power within the confines of the social and legal authority.

3.  In Islam, there is no concept of Jihād (Qitāl to be more precise -- that is militant struggle in the way of Allāh) or the implementation of punishments without the authority of the State. Jihād without the State is Fasād.

4.  The argument that the government in Pakistan is not Islamic is baseless. In an independent State, any government formed on the basis of amruhum shūrā baynahum (their affairs are  by consultation among them) -- in modern times through the vote of the Muslim citizens in an election -- is an Islamic government so long as the rulers do not unequivocally deny Islam or their faith in it.

5.  Rebellion against the State (Khurūj) is allowed -- that is permissible not obligatory -- only when all of the following three conditions exist:

i)     the rulers unequivocally deny Islam.

ii)     the government is a dictatorship and does not have the support of the Muslims and cannot be changed by their vote.

iii)    the leader of Khurūj is one who, without any doubt, has the support of the majority of the nation.

Moreover, in case of an armed rebellion, there is an additional condition: the leader of the Khurūj must migrate with his followers to another land and form an independent State.

In the absence of even one of these conditions, those leading the Khurūj can be sentenced to death by the State.

6.  Allegiance to the Islamic State and obedience of its government are obligatory on a Muslim even if the rulers are morally corrupt. According to a reported saying of the Prophet (sws), he who detaches himself from the collectivity of the Muslims and dies in that condition dies the death of ignorance.

7.  No individual or group has the right to declare a Muslim Kāfir (one who deliberately denies Islam; plural: Kuffār). Takfīr -- declaring someone a Kāfir is the prerogative of either the Prophet (sws) -- who does that through Divine revelation -- or the State which represents the collectivity of the Ummah (the whole Muslim community).

8.  The argument of the militant Islamists that their aggression is in self-defence is baseless. The difference between self-defence and aggression is manifest. Also, the law of Qisās  in Islam is to be implemented by the State not by any individual or group. The aggrieved person has the right to demand Qisās and it is the responsibility of the State to provide him with justice. The aggrieved or his heir also has the authority to forgive the offender and demand penalty. But there is no room in Islam for personal vendettas whereby an individual takes the law into his own hands.

9.  Religious scholars and leaders of religious movements can best serve Islam by staying out of politics and confining themselves to academic work and Da‘wah (propagation of religion). They must remember that their primary responsibility is Indhār (admonition) and Da‘wah. Their goal should be conquering the hearts of people rather than killing them. For the conquest of hearts one has to be slain rather than slaying others. One has to forgive rather than avenge. And one has to repel evil with goodness.

Some other points of relevance to which this article alluded are:

1.  Death punishment for apostasy was confined only to the direct addressees of the Prophet (sws) -- the Banū Ismā‘īl. No one can now be punished to death on that basis as no one after the Prophet (sws) can claim to have done Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah (manifesting the truth to such an extent that no excuse whatsoever is left for a person to deny it) in his individual capacity.

2.  There are only two valid reasons for Qitāl: i) injustice and oppression and ii) Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah. After the Prophet (sws) no individual or group has the position to do Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah. Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah is now possible only when the whole Ummah fulfils its responsibility of becoming Ummah Wasat (the best community) by living out the true meaning of its creed and thereby fulfils the responsibility of Shahādah ‘alā’l-Nās (bearing witness to the truth of Islam before other peoples of the world). After fulfilling this responsibility, the State representing the collectivity of the Ummah has the right to depose such rulers of the vanquished nations as deliberately deny their people access to the message of Islam. But that State does not have the right to coerce people into accepting Islam. These non-Muslims would only be required to remain subservient to the Islamic State and to pay it their equitable dues and in return would receive protection and have all their basic rights ensured.

3.  Lynching non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic State for Blasphemy is absolutely against Islam even if the crime is proved. Punishing a person or a group for any crime against anybody is the prerogative of the Islamic State -- which does that through its organ, the judiciary, after determining for sure that the crime had actually been committed and deciding on the appropriate punishment.34 No individual has the right to take the law into his own hands on any account. Even the closest of the Prophet’s companions (sws) never killed a single of his opponents even when invectives were hurled at him day and night in the first thirteen years of his Da‘wah  at Makkah. Nor did they kill anyone in retaliation when he was pelted with stones at Tā’if.

In relation to the points discussed above, the following measures are suggested to the government of Pakistan:

i)   The government should use its propaganda machinery -- including the mass media -- to dissuade youngsters from falling into the trap of those religious leaders who equate terrorism and sectarian violence with Islam. The government should take help from genuine scholars of Islam for this purpose and present its views on the solid basis of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. It should become obvious to every man and woman -- even to the militant Islamists themselves -- that the violence and terrorism of the militant Islamists is absolutely against Islam.

ii)  Known and self-proclaimed offenders should immediately be arrested or shot on sight for Murābaha, and Fasād fi’l-Ard. The arrested criminals should be punished on these bases in an exemplary manner. The government should publicise the reasoning behind these punishments so that everyone is aware of the correct stance in this regard and potential offenders are deterred from the path of violence.

iii) Those religious organisations which believe in rebellion against the State should be given a stern warning. The correct picture of Islam regarding Khurūj should be publicised a great deal so that sufficient ground work is done to make the masses mentally accept the idea of the government crushing the very first insurrection to nip the evil in the bud. And that the government should do: completely crush the first insurrection to emerge so that no one is encouraged by the rebels to follow suit.

iv) The government should take steps to eliminate the duality in our education system. Religious schools breed sectarianism and modern schools breed scepticism. This journal has repeatedly pointed out that our education system needs to be updated in this regard as well. Unless the modern, educated people -- especially those belonging to the elite and affluent classes -- are instructed at least in the basics of religion, the monopoly and influence of sectarian schools is bound to remain.35

v)  The mosque has a very important role to play in an Islamic society. Few people today realise the extent to which this institution influences the minds of the masses. Unfortunately, mosques in our society have become citadels of sectarianism. There is great need to overhaul this institution. The key point here is that the Mosque is a State institution and the elected representatives of the people running their State affairs ought to be their leaders in prayer rather than the mullahs. The Sunnah in this regard is that the Head of the State and his representatives in the administration should lead the Friday prayer. On the basis of the Sunnah, one can suggest that the government should supervise the mosques and not let any particular sect control them. A number of steps should be taken in this regard:36

a)   The centre of every administrative unit of the State should be a Jāmi‘Masjid, and the division of these units should be such that one Jāmi‘Masjid should suffice for one unit.

b)   Within each unit, all the administrative offices and courts should be instituted adjacent to this Jāmi‘Masjid.

c)   The State capital, together with the provincial capitals, should have a central Jāmi‘Masjid.

d)   The address of the Friday prayer should be delivered only by the Head of State and only he should lead this prayer in the central Jāmi‘Masjid of the capital. The provincial governors should be entrusted with this job in the central Jāmi‘ Mosques of the provinces, while the representatives of the government should perform this duty in the Jāmi‘ Mosques of the various administrative units.

e)   The Friday prayer should be prohibited in all mosques except the above ones.

f)    Mosques should be supervised by the government itself.

g)   Any religious scholar should be allowed to teach, educate and instruct his students according to his own views in any of these mosques.

vi) The government should apologise to the Pakistani Christian Community on behalf of the Muslims of Pakistan for the recent incident of lynching. It should be made clear to all Muslims that there is no room for lynching in Islam. No one can be punished for blasphemy unless his crime is proved in a court of law and only the State has the right to execute the sentence. It should also be made clear that violation of the rights of non-Muslims in an Islamic State is a serious offence.

Whether a Mu‘āhid or a Dhimmī37, the rights guaranteed to a non-Muslim must not be violated by any Muslim. The Qur’ān says:

And fulfil the covenant. Verily the covenant shall be questioned about. (17:34)

The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

Beware! He who oppresses a Mu‘āhid or does him injustice or burdens him more than his strength38 or takes anything from him without his consent, I myself shall plead against him on the Day of Judgement. (Abu Dā’ūd, Kitābu’l-Jihād)

These words of the Prophet (sws) should be enough for any Muslim to realise the gravity of the sin of oppressing a Mu‘āhid. Even in case of enmity, the Qur’ān does not allow the Muslim to do anything against the principles of equity and justice.39

Therefore, unless a Mu‘āhid is found guilty of some crime by a court of law -- in which case it is up to the court to decide what punishment is to be meted out --, he has the right as a citizen of an Islamic State to demand the protection of his life, honour and property and to demand all his fundamental rights including the right to practice his religion and to preach it in a manner which does not cause disruption in society.









1. That is human life.

2. That is unless it is a case where a court of law awards death punishment to a murderer or to someone who is guilty of creating disorder on earth (for example a dacoit) by taking the law of the land into his own hands.

3. Disorder, anarchy, chaos, etc.

4. Rebellion against an Islamic State.

5. That is eradicate it.

6. Therefore, the 104th verse of the third chapter of the Qur’ān refers to such a body as is deputed by the State to see that the good conventions of the society are followed and the evil conventions are eradicated. Using its legal authority for this purpose is the responsibility of the Islamic State and, because of this authority, the right to use force (within the confines of that authority) is its prerogative (see the Qur’ān 22:41). However, in the 71st verse of the 9th chapter, the words ‘The believers, both men and women, are comrades of one another’ point out that in this verse ‘enjoining good and forbidding evil’ (amar bi’l-ma‘rūf wa nahī ‘ani’l-munkar) refers to the responsibility one Muslim has towards another as his friend, brother and comrade -- in which relationship one obviously does not have the legal authority or the moral ground to use force the way government or any of its organs can.

7. See the Qur’ān 5:33 and 34.

8. Allowed, which means that when the conditions are met it becomes permissible not obligatory.

9. 42:38

10. Religious customs and rituals which were brought into effect by the Prophet (sws).

11. In this context, that He would allow bloodshed.

12. That is bloodshed is but bloodshed.

13. The evil that is on us.

14. Vol. 2, p. 4.

15. Moving away to another land when one’s faith so entails.

16. The word Al-Jamā‘ah (literally: the group or the collectivity) does not therefore refer to a religious group or organisation as some have taken it to mean erroneously.

17. That is ‘killing’ -- in other words a battle or war or any militant struggle.

18. Regarding the Qur’ānic verse (22:39) ‘To those against whom war is made permission is given [to fight] because they have been wronged...’, Qādī Abū Bakar Ibnu’l-‘Arabī says:

Our Scholars, may God have mercy on them have said that neither war nor [shedding] blood had been allowed to the Prophet (sws) prior to the Pledge of ‘Aqabah (Akhāmu’l-Qur’ān, vol. 3, p. 1297).

19. Migration to another land.

20. The government as a representative of the State.

21. As in a contract or agreement by which such groups are formed. The members are bound by promise and agreement not by political and legal authority.

22. Disorder on land, disruption, anarchy etc.

23. That is begin an armed struggle.

24. Da‘wat-i-Dīn awr us kā tariqah-i-kār (Urdu), chapter 14. pp. 241 and 242.

25. There are only two bases for Qitāl fī sabīl Allāh. First, as a measure against some injustice or oppression*. Second, as a measure against those who deny God’s message after Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah(revealing the truth so clearly that no excuse is left for a person or a people to deny it). Although the details of these bases are beyond the scope of this article, it would not be inappropriate to point out here that Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah is not possible by any person in his individual capacity or even by a group of people. Only a Rasūl (such a messenger of God as is sent to do Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah on a people) can do Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah in his individual capacity as a messenger of God. It is also noteworthy that only in case of Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah by a Rasūl all the people of a community he is directly sent to are ultimately always condemned to death -- either through some Divine chastisement or through Qitāl by the State formed by the Rasūl --  unless they accept his Divine message as their faith (for  some other relevant points, see Asif Iftikhar The Order of the Qur’ānic Groups, Renaissance, August-September 1995, p.23 and footnotes 3, 6 & 7). In case of Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah by the Ummah (the whole Muslim community) only the rulers of the community on which Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah is done may be sentenced to death if after the Qitāl they deny their people access to the message of Islam. The rest of the community are not to be coerced into accepting Islam. However, they are required to remain subservient to the Islamic State and are given all their rights in return. This is why now -- after the Prophet (sws) --, there is no basis whatsoever for death punishment for apostasy (for further details, see Shahzed Saleem The Punishment for Apostasy, Renaissance, November 1996, p. 44-48).


* That is why the masses in the Roman and the Persian Empires often enthusiastically welcomed the conquests of the companions of the Prophet (sws) when they (raa) waged Jihād against the despotic and oppressive rulers of these lands.

26. Infidels, or those who deny the truth.

27. Such a messenger of God as is sent to a people for Ittimāmu’l-Hujjah. (Plural of Rasūl: Rusul)

28. See the Qur’ān 4:165: ‘... so that after these Rusul no excuse is left with people to present before Allāh’.

29. The definite article in Al-Nās here refers to peoples other than the Ummah.

30. See the Qur’ān 2:143, 22:178 and 3:110. See also 4:135 and 5:8.

31. See the Qur’ān 16:125.

32. Perhaps, it would be more appropriate to refer to Qisās  as the Islamic version of Lex Talionis.

33. Fiqhu’l-Sunnah, Vol. 3, p. 30.

34. In case of blasphemy against Islam or any of the Prophets (sws), the person guilty of the crime can be sentenced to death for Muhārabah (war, rebellion, etc.) against the collectivity of the Muslims or for Fasād fi’l-Ard (creating disorder in the State). Those who, enamoured of Western ideals, object to this punishment on the grounds that it is against the freedom of expression should first ask the United States to repeal its sedition laws. Freedom of expression does not mean that a person has the right to stand outside my house and keep hurling abuses. ‘The freedom to extend your arm ends where the tip of my nose begins’ -- a useful adage to remind us that freedom is a privilege and as any privilege entails responsibility. That responsibility also includes giving due regard to the sentiments and feelings of others. In an Islamic State, the greatest regard the people have is for Allāh and the Prophet (sws) and any person -- Muslim or Non-Muslim -- must keep in mind the fact that desecration of Islam is the most provocative act against the collectivity of the Muslims and therefore is nothing short of a war against that collectivity.

35. For a brief overview of the overall changes required in our education system, see Shahzad Saleem, Our System of Education, Renaissance, February 1997, p. 26-33.

36. From Shehzad Saleem’s The Role of Mosques, Renaissance, February 1997, pp. 34 and 35. For some other pertinent points see this article.

37. Mu‘āhid is a person who belongs to that category of non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic State whose rights have been guaranteed on the basis of an agreement with the State. Non-Muslims in Pakistan belong to this category.

Dhimmī is a person who belongs to that category of non-Muslims who are vanquished by the Islamic State in war and then agree to remain subservient to the State and to pay it Jizyah (a tax on them) for protection and guarantee of their basic rights.

38. This obviously refers to taxes and other demands.

39. See the Qur’ān 5:8.


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