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Suicide Bombers

Why do they do it, and what does Islam say about their actions?

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"And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you.  But do not transgress limits.  Truly Allah loves not the transgressors."

- Qur'an, Surah Al-Baqarah (2:190)

The dangerous escalation of violence in the world is disturbing to all people of conscience, from September 11 to the Middle East battles, and other random acts of violence perpetrated at innocent civilians.

In Islam, several things are clear:

  • Suicide is forbidden.  "O ye who believe!... [do not] kill yourselves, for truly Allah has been to you Most Merciful.  If any do that in rancour and injustice, soon shall We cast him into the Fire..." (Qur'an 4:29-30).
  • The taking of life is allowed only by way of justice (i.e. the death penalty for murder), but even then, forgiveness is better.  "Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred - except for just cause..." (17:33).
  • In pre-Islamic Arabia, retaliation and mass murder was commonplace.  If someone was killed, the victim's tribe would retaliate against the murderer's entire tribe.  This practice was directly forbidden in the Qur'an (2:178-179).  Following this statement of law, the Qur'an says, "After this, whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave chastisement" (2:178).  No matter what wrong we perceive as being done against us, we may not lash out against an entire population of people.
  • The Qur'an admonishes those who oppress others and transgress beyond the bounds of what is right and just.  "The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice.  For such there will be a chastisement grievous (in the Hereafter)" (42:42).
  • Harming innocent bystanders, even in times of war, was forbidden by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  This includes women, children, noncombatant bystanders, and even trees and crops.  Nothing is to be harmed unless the person or thing is actively engaged in an assault against Muslims.

The predominant theme in the Qur'an is forgiveness and peace.  Allah (God) is Merciful and Forgiving, and seeks that in His followers.  Indeed, most people who spend time on a personal level with ordinary Muslims have found them to be peaceful, honest, hard-working, civic-minded people.

In the fight against terrorism of all forms, it is important to understand who or what is our enemy.  We can only fight against this horror if we understand its causes and motivations.  What motivates a person to lash out in this violent, inhumane way?  As the About.com Guide to Terrorism Issues points out, researchers conclude that religion neither causes nor explains suicide terrorism. The true motivation of such attacks is something that all of us -- mental health professionals, politicians, and common people -- need to understand, so that we can address the issues more honestly, prevent more violence, and find ways to work towards lasting peace.

Please visit the links below to read what Muslim scholars and Islamic governmental leaders have recently declared about this subject.

"O ye who believe!  Remain steadfast for Allah, bearing witness to justice.  Do not allow your hatred for others make you swerve to wrongdoing and turn you away from justice.  Be just; that is closer to true piety."

- Qur'an, Surah al-Maidah (5:8)

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