The bombings in Pakistan
We have witnessed and heard media reports on the bombings which have occurred lately in Pakistan on 25 December 2010 against a World Food Programme distribution center frequented by the poor and homeless. The attack, which targeted unarmed civilians, left more than 40 dead and at least 70 others wounded. What is the legal ruling for such attacks?
There is no doubt that these recent bombings are legally prohibited for the following reasons:
1. Violation of primary texts (the Qur`an and sunnah)
There are several dimensions to these violations. They include:
- Killing Muslims whose lives are sacrosanct. Islamic law places great value on the lives of Muslims and gravely warns against murdering or encroaching upon them without right. Allah the Almighty says,If a man kills a Believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (for ever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful chastisement is prepared for him. [An-Nisaa`, 93]
On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person—unless it be for murder or spreading mischief in the land—it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. [Al-Ma`ida, 32]
Al-Nisa`i reported in his Sunnan through 'Abdullah Ibn 'Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet said, "The passing away of this world would mean less to Allah than the murder of a Muslim." Ibn 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with both) said, "I saw the Messenger of Allah circumambulate the Ka'bah and say, 'How great you are and how sweet is your smell! How great you are and how great is your sanctity! By Him in Whose Hands is the soul of Mohammed, the inviolability of a believer—his property and blood—is greater to Allah than yours! We are to only think well of a believer" [Ibn Majah].
- Killing people and taking them by surprise. Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah said, "A believer is not to be killed [by deception]. Faith is a deterrent to such a killing" [Recorded by Abu Dawud and by Al-Hakim in his Mustadrak]. Ibn Athir wrote in Al-Nihaya, "Killing by deception is to take others unawares and kill them." The hadith means that faith prevents a person from attacking others unawares, much in the same way as a hobble hampers freedom of movement. The Prophet's words 'A believer is not to attack [others] by surprise' is either a propositional statement and therefore a prohibition since it denotes deception, or an explicit prohibition.
2. Violating the objectives of Islamic law
Islamic law stresses the obligation to uphold the five things which are recognized by all faiths, namely the preservation of religion, life, intellect, honor and wealth. These are called the five exigencies of Islamic law. There is no doubt that the bombings in question violate some of these objectives which must be preserved. These include:
The preservation of life
If the person killed and the suicide bomber are one and the same i.e. it is the same person who carries out the operation and blows himself up by tying explosives around his body or the like with the intention of killing others without right and in enmity, then he is included under the general implication of the words of the Prophet who said, " Whoever kills himself with anything in this world, he will be tortured with it on the day of Judgment" [Recorded by Abu 'Awana in his Mustadrak through Thabit Ibn al-Dahhak (may Allah be pleased with him)]. Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet said, "Whoever kills himself with a piece of iron, he will hold it in his hands and stab himself with it in Hell-fire which will be his eternal abode; whoever kills himself with poison, he will drink from it in Hell-fire which will be his eternal abode; whoever kills himself by jumping off a mountain, he will keep jumping off a mountain in Hell-fire which will be his eternal abode" [Recorded by Muslim in his Sahih]. Imam Nawawi dedicated a chapter to the above hadith in his commentary on the Sahih of Muslim and which he entitled "The enormity of taking one's life and being punished by the instrument of his death."
If the person killed is other than the bomber, then the gravity of the sin of deliberately killing another Muslim is second only to disbelief. There was a debate among the Companions and those who followed them as to whether Allah accepts the repentance of such a person. If the person killed is a non-Muslim living in a Muslim land, he is under the protection of the state concerned but if he is attacked in his own land, he is considered an unsuspecting innocent victim. Under all circumstance, civilian lives are to be protected and it is prohibited to encroach upon them.
Preservation of wealth
Bombings infringe upon the preservation of property. There is no doubt that the ramifications of such bombings include loss of wealth and destruction of public and private properties and buildings, both of which are prohibited by Islamic law. The prohibition is even greater if the property is not owned by the perpetrator but by others as is the case in this scenario. The prohibition concerns contravening Islamic law on the one hand and violating the rights of others on the other.
3- Consequent damage
Islamic law revolves around promoting and implementing interests and warding off and suspending harm. No one of sound mind can doubt the evil ramifications incurred upon Muslims living in different parts of the world due to these destructive acts. Such actions are used as a pretext [by other countries] to interfere in the internal affairs of Muslim countries, gain control over them, and exploit their wealth and plunder their resources—all under the name of combating terrorism, preserving economic interests or freeing nations. Whoever assists these countries to achieve their objectives by perpetrating such foolish acts creates a breach, assisting them in abasing Muslims and gaining control over Muslim lands—all among the gravest of crimes. Scholars have established the principle that when interest conflicts with evil, warding off evil takes precedence over gaining interests. This concerns irrefutable interest. Imagine then when the interest is either false or non-existent?
Scholars have called the act of terrorizing people, murdering them and destroying property and wealth within a Muslim society, as is the case with bomb attacks in Muslim lands, haraba. It is corruption in the land and its perpetrator deserves a harsher penalty than that of a murderer, a thief or a fornicator. This is because his act is a criminal methodology against society. Allah the Almighty says,The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter. [Al-Ma`ida, 33]
Allah the Almighty knows best.