Does Terrorism find its base in the...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Does Terrorism find its base in the Quran?

Does Terrorism find its base in the Quran?

The world is plagued with recent waves of terrorism by some extremist groups who falsely claim a tight association to Islam and often misquote the Quran and take it out of context to justify their abhorrent dastardly acts. For some non-Muslims the Quran turned out to be a book of hate and calls for the killing of innocents. These barbaric groups turn to mostly the Sunni Quran exegetical genre to find any legal support or legitimate justification for their distasteful acts without any consideration for the historical and circumstantial contexts of these commentary traditions.

This article will delve into the classical and contemporary Quranic exegesis (tafsir) in order to put their commentaries into its proper context to avoid misconstruing its meanings and objectives. The science of Quranic exegesis is one of the vital genres in Islamic scholarship and should be read from its proper authentic sources yet we find some extremist Muslims along with some non-Muslims turn to some deviant and ill-informed sources which lack due rigour and objectivity.

Many Quranic verses were intentionally taken out of its original contexts and misquoted to suit the political and ideological agendas of individuals or groups whose objective is to disseminate fear and terror in our already troubled world. Throughout this article we will elucidate how terrorism is defined to be the antithesis of jihad in the Quran and how the deviant Quranic exegesis are used as a weapon to spread terror by warmongers.

The Quran was revealed piecemeal over a period of twenty three years and ended with Prophet Muhammad's death. The Quranic exegesis started from the very first day of its revelation and will continue to the very last day of its existence as a Scripture. Although Prophet Muhammad is considered the first exegete of the Quran, he did not explain the whole text to his companions. After the Prophet's death, some of his companions became famous for interpreting the Quran, prominent among them being Abdullah ibn Abbas (d. 68./687), Ubayy ibn Ka'b (d. 20/640) and 'Abdullah ibn Masoud (d. 32/653).

Some of the successors (tabi'un) who followed their teachers among the companions are al-Hasan al- Basri (d.110/728), Muqatil ibn Sulayman (d. 150/767) and Sufyan al- Thawri (d. 161/778). It is only after the first quarter of the second Hijri century that the Quranic exegesis became an independent genre especially when it was crowned by the exegesis of al- Tabari (d. 311/923). Subsequently a great number of exegetical works were written during the classical period, enriching the discipline of Quran exegesis which started to grow steadily thanks to notable exegetes such as al-Zamakhshari (d. 538/1144), al- Razi (d. 606/1209), al- Nasafi (d. 710/1310), Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1373), al- Baydawi (d. 791/1389), and al- Suyuti (d. 911/1505) among many other prominent scholars.

The modern phases of exegesis started from the Second World War and the independence of Muslim countries from the colonial powers, resulting in the evolution of "literary exegesis" with political leanings, as well as the emergence of scientific tafisr which has emerged as a result of the scientific and medical developments during the twentieth century. The scholarly efforts to interpret the Quran still continue till today to make the Quranic interpretation more accessible to the general Muslim public and to make it always relevant to the ever-changing circumstances of our fast paced world.

Five methodologies used in Quranic exegesis
In the development of Quran exegesis, the following five genres can be identified on the basis of the methodology applied by exegets. 1)Analytical exegesis (al tafsir al tahlili) in which all the verses are interpreted according to their arrangement in a given chapter; this is also called "sequential exegesis" (al- Tafsir al- Musalsal). 2) Synopsis exegesis (al-tafsir al Ijmali) in which an exegetical outline of the veres is given according to their arrangement in a certain chapter. 3) Comparative exegesis (al- Tafsir al- Muqaran) in which the exegete analytically compares the different views of exegetes on an exegetical problem in a given verse. 4) Literary exegetes (al- Tafsir al- Adabi) which interprets the Quran using a simple language and style in order to make it more accessible to the ordinary reader. 5) Thematic exegesis (al- Tafsir al- Mawdu'i) in which the verses in one or more chapter thought to share the same theme are collected together for purposes of exegetical analysis. Out of these five types, thematic exegesis is the most strongly relevant and applicable to terrorism as the main focus of this study.

Does the word "terrorism" exist in the Quran?
In our endeavor of defining terrorism and the punitive measures taken against it in different classical Quranic exegesis, it is worth nothing that the words "irhab" or "irhabi" (terrorism and terrorist respectively) occur neither in the Quran nor in the old Arabic lexicons. Muslims scholars argue that such non-occurence is due to the fact that these two terms are products of the modern age and thus could not be found in the intellectual, creedal, political and juristic literature. Thus it is unfounded to claim that there is a necessary link between the Quranic lexeme "rahaba" (to fear) along with its derivatives and the term "terrorism" which lexically refers to the use of violence for political aims. The Cairo based Academy for Arabic language endorses the use of the word "irhab" (terrorism) as a newly-introduced word in the Arabic language with the root "rahaba". The Academy states that terrorists are those who adopt violence and terrorism to achieve their political objectives. This definition by the Academy is the same as that adopted by the authors of al-Mu'jam al- Wajiz.

Some researchers and lexicographers admit that that though the term "terrorism" has its roots both in the Arabic language and in the Quran, they admit that there is a yawning gap between the "positive fear" that denotes respect inherent in the lexeme "rahaba" and from the word "raheb" (monk or cenobite) is derived. Consequently the reverent fear or awe which the lexeme "rahab" indicates is mostly related to God as mentioned by Scott C. Alexander. As for the modern "negative" fear occuring as a result of threats arising from using different material force, its equal negative sense in Arabic should be "ro'b" (fright) or "zu'r" (horror) and both meaning have nothing in common with the "reverent fear" understood by the Arabic word "rahaba".

The Quranic attitude towards terrorism
One of the major components of terrorism is corruption "ifsad" which includes in its folds terrorizing residents and wayfarers as well as other attacks in which non-combatants are targeted. However, the main form of corruption that is directly related to terrorism from a Quranic perspective is unjustly taking the life of a human being, irrespective of his or her faith, race or geographical location. such action is strongly condemned and prohibited in the Quran; God says, "Do not take life, which God has made sacred except by right..."(17:33).

The classical renowned exegete al- Razi states that this verse indicates that taking the life of a human being without a just cause is the greatest sin after associating partners with Allah. He stresses that strong prohibition (al-hurmah al-mughallazah) is the original ruling that governs killing others unjustly, affirming that killing can only be legitimate if clear reasons are established. Thus taking the lives of others unjustly constitutes an irreparable harm that runs counter to the main spirit of Islam as a religion that states that there should be neither harm nor reciprocating harm.

The Quran also talks about what can be called in modern terms as "religious terrorism" which is to act prejudicially against certain people due to their religious affiliation. The Quran cites the story of "Ashab al- Ukhdud" or the (trench makers) mentioned in 85: 4-10 as a clear Quranic condemnation of persecution and oppression against those who refused to adopt the religion of the oppressors and as a result they were buried alive and burned in mass graves.

The contentious misquoted verse (8:60)
One of the most contentious verses in the Quran which is always misquoted by warmongers is the verses which says, "Prepare whatever forces you can muster, including warhorses, to frighten off God's enemies and yours and warn others unknown to you but known to God. Whatever you give in God's cause will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged."(8:60).

One of the modern renowned scholars, Imam al- Sha'rawi eloquently interpreted this verse to aim at creating what is called in modern day politics a "peaceful equilibrium". Peaceful equilibrium could be achieved when fear is disseminated in the other party by a country displaying its various military, economic and communicative powers. Its show of "quwwa" (power/strength) can be viewed as an effective way of preventing war from breaking out. As a result, an enemy would think twice before attacking the Muslim countries. Thus the word "turhibun" encompasses peaceful, positive and comprehensive meanings. It is a means to peace because it helps prevent war, positive because its aim is not just to disseminate negative fear that lead to the outbreak of war but uses quwwah for a legally acceptable objective and comprehensive because it refers to the importance of achieving excellence not only in military fields, but also in the economy and mass communication as well.

Another modern scholar, Abdullah al- Najjar, stated that the word "turhibbun" should be restricted to imminent threat or existing military confrontation between two armies and that such confrontation should have a legal cause and objective. Thus it is not part of the legitimate causes or objectives to use "turhibuna" to deter those who are not at war with Muslims. Neither should it be used to cause destruction or unjust killing. The word here only refers to threatening to use force but does not refer to inflicting actual harm.

It is also worth noting that the context within which these verses were revealed originally related to the strong possibility of war between Muslims and non-Muslims. The verse calls for Muslims to be well prepared for possible and imminent military attacks against them. The various themes highlighted in this chapter are all means which should serve Muslims both at the time of war and peace. It emerged that Quwwah (power) should not be only understood in the sense of physical and military preparation. Rather, it is a comprehensive concept that encompasses economic, educational, intellectual, psychological and other domains. Moreover, the use of military quwwah should be directed against an enemy whose animosity is known to Muslims or is known to be on the verge of attacking them. While classical exegetes as well as modern one maintain that waging wars should only be limited to cases of self defense, we unfortunately find extremist understanding of the use of the word "quwwah" or power to indicate by extremist group a carte blanch to indiscriminately kill people of other faiths lamentably in the name of Islam.

This misunderstanding gives some non-Muslims who already have biased attitudes towards Muslims, the justification to attack the Quran as a fascist book preaching hatred and animosity as has been carefully orchestrated by right-wing opportunists such as Geert Wilders.

In conclusion, extremist groups turn to unpopular deviant exegesis to justify their horrible acts and cloaking it in religion but from the foregoing discussion, it is evident that the use of power in its general sense is not restricted to military force and is not waved against other countries who enjoy peaceful relations. The display of military power is only a means to deter the enemy from launching an attack which eventually lead to the outbreak of war with its dreadful consequences on both parties involved.

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