Sookhdeo – Islamist Terrorism

Patrick Sokhdeo: Understanding Islamic Terrorism Pewsey, Wiltshire: Isaac Publishing, 2004

Summary Sookhdeo introduces the sources of the Islamic theology of war, peace and the creation of empire, and the way in which these sources are interpreted. In the second part of the book he deals with the dramatic expansion and subsequent slow decline of the Muslim world from the 7th century to the present day. The third part deals with the violent sects within Islam, both past and present, the motivation of terrorists and how they are recruited, trained and sent on their deadly missions. The last part deals with the contemporary Muslim debate and offers then options for dealing with the problem of Islamic terrorism. (Preface by General Sir Hugh Beach, page 6)

Sources for Islamic Teaching on War While many Muslims would condemn the use of war or terrorism in the name of Islam, the source texts of Islam do contain some passages which can without difficulty be interpreted to permit, even command, violence of this kind. This violence is targeted primarily against polytheists, but also against Jews and Christians, and against erring Muslims. (27)

The more moderate verses in the Qur’an from the Medinan period are believed by a number of Muslim scholars to be abrogated by the so-called “Sword Verse” in 9:5 which commands Muslims to fight anyone who refuses to convert to Islam. This verse is a favorite of modern Islamic militants. In addition to this verse there are many others who call to make war, particularly war against non- Muslims with the aim of converting them to Islam. (e.g. 2:190f; 2:193; 2:216; 8:39; 8:59-60; 9:29). Many other examples could be given of verses which can easily be understood to command or commend warfare (and especially to convince Muslims who were reluctant to fight). There are also other verses which speak of non-Muslims as the enemies of Muslims, and about Islam’s ultimate goal to establish Islamic authority over the whole world. Reuven Firestone distinguishes four kinds of war verses and concludes that the transition from pre- Islamic ideas about war to the full-fledged Islamic doctrine of jihad was far from smooth, and that there must have been many early Muslims who were opposed to militancy and had to be persuaded to overcome their reluctance to fight. (page 29-31)

Sookhdeo brings a lot of information about how details of Jihad were regulated in various Hadith and legal documents. (31-42) One hadith records Muhammad’s famous statement that jihad will be performed continuously until the Antichrist comes (34f):

“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘A section of my community will continue to fight for the right and overcome their opponents till the last of them fights with the Antichrist.’” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 14, Number 2478: Narrated Imran ibn Husayn)

“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘Three things are the roots of faith: to refrain from (killing) a person who utters, ‘There is no god but Allah’ and not to declare him unbeliever whatever sin he commits, and not to excommunicate him from Islam for his any action; and jihad will be performed continuously since the day Allah sent me as a prophet until the day the last member of my community will fight with the Dajjal (Antichrist). The tyranny of any tyrant and the justice of any just (ruler) will not invalidate it. One must have faith in Divine decree.’” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 14, Number 2526: Narrated Anas ibn Malik)


There are also hadith that describes how inanimate nature rises up to betray the Jews, a verse that is quoted in the literature of certain radical Islamic groups today. For example (33):

“Allah’s Apostle said, ‘You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, ‘O Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew behing me; so kill him.’” (Sahih Bukhari, volume 4, Book 52, Number 176: Narrated Abdulah ibn Umar)

Attacking if also Muslims will be killed? An important early work is the Siyar of Shaybani (750-804), a scholar who wrote about international relations. He does so in the framework of Jihad. E.g. he writes about the possibility that Muslims attack a place (e.g. city) where other Muslims are used as a living shield to protect that place. In this situation it would be permissible for the Muslims attacking to risk the life of other Muslims held hostage in that place. This reasoning is interesting in connection with the September 11 attack in 2001 against the World Trade Centre, in which also Muslims died. According to Shaybani this would be acceptable. (39, see also 79)

Muslims have an obligation to try to change Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam. Modern Muslims may use many methods to try to achieve this, but Muhammad’s way was by military conquest, jihad. Hence there is a theological justification for the use of violence against non-Muslims. But the doctrine of Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam is frequently rejected by modern liberal scholars. (44)

Inbuilt urge to expand and build an empire Islam has an inbuilt theological urge at its very core towards empire building i.e. the continual expansion of its political dominion. This is seen as obedience to the divine duty imposed on Muslims to spread Allah’s rule and religion to the whole world. While this does not mean the forced conversion of individuals, it does mean Islamic domination of all political structures and the imposition of Shari’ah. Islam therefore accepts as natural that Muslims should rule non-Muslims, and considers it unnatural that non-Muslims should rule Muslims. The latter arrangement is regarded as akin to blasphemy, and likely to lead to corruption of religion and morality. This is the great affront of the non-Muslim world against Islam. Richard Chartres, the Anglican Bishop of London, describes Islam’s unwavering belief in its own superiority:

There is an immense sense in Islam of the superiority of Islam to everything else – and this is in terrible full-frontal collision with the evident inferiority of Muslim societies, technically, politically, economically, militarily… The crisis in Islam (it’s not so much a battle between East and West, Christians and Muslims, it’s a battle in Islam) comes from the terrible collision of this sense of superiority with the evident inferiority in so many other ways, which causes bewilderment and fierce debate on how we are going to get out of this bind. (46)

Theology of the majority Muslims themselves, like Zaki Badawi, president of the Muslim College in London, state that the history of Islam as a faith is also a history of a state and a community of believers living by Divine law. Islam is both a Government and a faith. Muslims, from the start, lived under their own law. Muslim theologians naturally produced a theology with this in view, it is a theology of the majority. (47)

(Comment RS: This theology of a majority can be easily understood on the background of the view Muslims have about God. He is only portrayed as the Almighty, the most powerful, the one who is greater. But never as the one who makes himself weak, who incarnates, who dies on the cross to


reconcile man with God. See here my comparison between the story of God calling Moses in the Koran and in the Bible!)

The extension of the Islamic empire is very much an aim of racial Muslims today. (47)

Most Muslims consider Jihad a collective obligation laid on the Muslim community as a whole, and hence not a pillar, the five standard pillars being duties required of each individual believer. (49)

Examples of Jihad in modern times (51f):

(War in Southern Sudan was declared Jihad, RS)

Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of War” The “Declaration of War against the Americans occupying the land of the two holy places”, dated 23.8.1996, runs 22 pages. It uses the traditional language of “loving death” to make its threat.

“I say to you William (William Perry, the US Secretary of Defence) that: These youths love death as you love life. They inherit dignity, pride, courage, generosity, truthfulness and sacrifice from father to father. They are most delivering and steadfast at war.” He followed this up on 23.2.1998 with a fatwa entitled “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders” issued jointly with four other Islamist leaders. Beginning by quoting the Sword Verse (9:5) it went on to set out the Muslim grievances and then told all Muslims:

“The ruling to kill all Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country where it is possible to do it…” Other texts were then quoted to prove that this was God’s command. (56f)

Islam’s invitation to embrace this religion Radical Muslims invite non-Muslims to embrace Islam or face the consequences. This is modeled on the early examples in the history of Islam. E.g. the British-based Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun issue such an invitation every year in London’s Trafalgar Square. These statements can be interpreted (and probably are by those who issue them) as a traditional Islamic declaration of war on non-Muslims. (58, see 52-58)

Forms of Jihad today Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, the spiritual mentor of Osama bin Laden, divides the world-wide jihad into the following three categories:

The international cultural struggle, in which Islam takes on Western – especially American – civilization. (60f)

Dealing with Prisoners of War – or “God did not allow Muhammad to forgive a Jewish Tribe” In regard with prisoners of war, Muhammad set an infamous example of brutality in 627 against the Banu Qurayza, a Jewish tribe who lived in Medina. They were the last of three tribes, the first had been allowed to leave with all their possessions, the second just managed to escape with their lives.

Usman dan Fodio, from 1804-1808, leader of the Fulani tribe in West Africa, led a jihad against the rulers from the Hausa tribe.

The Ottoman Empire declared a jihad at the beginning of World War I against Russia, France and Britain.

The defense of Afghanistan from Soviet invasion (1979-1989) was known in Pakistan as the Jihad-e-Afghanistan.

The Palestinian cause is seen as Jihad.

Within Muslim countries, with the goal of reinstating rule by Shari’ah.

In countries with Muslim minorities, situated on the “fault lines” with other cultures e.g. the Balkans, Chechnya, Kashmir.


Unsurprisingly both became staunch allies of Muhammad’s enemies. With the 3. Jewish tribe apparently Muhammad did not want to make the same mistake. They were besieged and offered to pay tribute. But Muhammad refused and asked them to become Muslims, which they refused. Finally Muhammad accepted their surrender. Muhammad then asked a member of the clan of the Aws, a Medinan clan who were allies of the Banu Qurayza, to decide what to do with the Jews. The man who gave the answer was dying from his wounds in the war. His sentence was to kill all the men and enslave the women. Muhammad did not dare to contest the words of a dying man and beheaded all 700 men, a job that took the whole day. Women and children were enslaved and all possessions seized. Muhammad had responded to the judgment of that man that this was God’s judgment. This brutal act sent shock waves through Arabia. Muslims have generally justified this massacre as specially sanctioned by God. This was the view of al-Mawardi (died 1072) who wrote: “… it was not permitted (for Muhammad) to forgive (in a case of) God’s injunction incumbent upon them; he could merely forgive (transgressions, offences, etc.) in matters concerning his own person.” Hamidullah defends the massacre in a different way describing it as being “a decision of the arbitrator of (the Banu Qurayza’s) own choice who applied to them their own Biblical law” and cites Deuteronomy 20:13-14. But many non-Muslim historians have condemned it as completely unjustified. (76f)

(RS: Here again we see how the view of God influences the behavior of Muhammad – and of radical Muslims today – in there cruel and uncompromising behavior towards the “enemies” of Islam. God does not allow Muslims in certain situations to forgive their enemies.)

Religiously motivated terrorists cause more casualties Peter Probst, an expert on terrorism at the Pentagon, has noted that religiously motivated terrorists are generally more willing to cause mass casualties than are secular terrorists, and may even actively seek mass casualties. It seems that the newer groups like Al-Qaida have fewer restrictions on the use of weapons of mass destruction. (82)

Peace as an interlude to war Peace is generally dealt with in classical Islam under the heading of “war”. Peace is seen as an interlude in the jihad process that must go on until the whole world is Dar al-Islam, under the rule of Islam. War, being ordained by God, is viewed as positive. Peace therefore stands in danger of being negative unless it can be justified. Permanent peace can be justified only within Dar al-Islam. The Arabic word for “peace” and “submission” come from the same root, and this is indicative of the nuance which the term “peace” generally carries in Islam, that of peace as a result of submission. Permanent peace in Islam is something like the pax Romana, a peace which results from the imposition of Islamic power, thus preventing dissension. It could be termed pax Islamica. In classical Islam peace is considered a specialized kind of war. (84f)

In the context of peace treaties and negotiations, it is important to note that in classical Islam Muslims are permitted to lie in certain situations, one of which is war. This kind of permitted deception is called taqiyya, and is particularly prevalent among the Shi’a Muslims. Generally translated in English as “dissimulation” or “concealment”, the Arabic word derives from a root meaning to “shield” or “guard” oneself. (89)

Islamic militants only follow Muhammad’s example Liberal Muslim apologists today explain that Muhammad’s use of violence was only a defensive response to extreme provocation, and not a model for Muslims today. But the Qur’an and the Hadith show texts that seem to indicate that Muhammad also took the initiative in engaging in offensive warfare.


Of course it can be argued that Muhammad lived in a different time and we can not judge him according to our modern standards of human rights and military conduct. One could also say that Muhammad was merely a man and his belligerent actions and statements are examples of his human failings rather than divine guidance. However, traditionally Islam, whilst understanding Muhammad to be merely human, has also viewed him as effectively perfect, sinless and infallible and a timeless model to guide the Muslim community by example. Thus all but the most liberal or secular of Muslims, however uncomfortable they may feel about some of Muhammad’s actions, must view them as not only good and just, but divinely sanctioned. In using extreme violence then, Islamic militants are only following the perfect Islamic model of Muhammad. They are simply taking Islamic dogma to its ultimate logical conclusion. (100)

Violent sects and movements past

Three of the first four caliphs died a violent death (Umar, Uthman, Ali), they were assassinated. (104)

Shi’as: developed over a violent leadership dispute shortly after the death of Muhammad. (119f)

Kharijis: split at the same time as the Shi’as. Their most significant feature was that they declared other Muslims to be apostates (and therefore deserving of the death sentence), and thus legitimizing jihad against them. They withdrew from Ali’s camp because Ali had accepted human arbitration in regard as to who should be caliph. The Kharijis thought that such an issue can not be delegated to humans and declared that Ali and his followers were no longer Muslims. Because they left the were called “Kharijis” (meaning “seceders”). (120- 123)

Assassins: They are a sub-sects of the Isma’ilis (“Seveners”), based in Alamut in Persia, were active for 2 centuries starting around 1090. They developed a system of political killings (e.g. assassinations) by suicide devotees (fida’iyun) as the most effective tool to spread terror. They attacked only the great and powerful, always killed with a dagger, because this was more likely to lead to capture and execution i.e. martyrdom which would take the believer directly to paradise. The present Aga Khan traces his decent from the last Grand Master of Alamut. (125)

Wahhabism: Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) linked his movement to the House of Saud. He considered Muslim society at his time to be little better than paganism, and he revived the Khariji practice of takfir, i.e. condemning all Muslims he disagreed with as apostates in order to justify jihad against them. This movement is one of the most enduring reform movements within Islam. The strictly puritanical Wahhabism remains today the predominant Islamic movement within Saudi Arabia. (127)

Salafiyya (neo-Wahhabism): Wahhabism was a key factor in the development of the Salafiyya movement which became widely influential across the Muslim world, shaping the activist ideology of Islamic radicals from Morocco to Indonesia. It was founded by Rashid Rida (1865-1935), who was building on the ideas of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) in India, Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) in Egypt and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897) all of whom sought to reform a decadent and stagnant Islam by looking afresh at the original sources, but without Rida’s anti-western emphasis. Salafiyya sought to return to the example of the “pious ancestors” (salaf) i.e. Muhammad, his companions, and the “rightly guided” caliphs. Like Wahhabism it looked back for inspiration to the Khariji in the early days of Islam and followed their example in the use of takfir, condemning secular Muslim society as heretical and apostate. Salafiyya added to Wahhabi Puritanism an element of reinterpreting the origins of Islam in order to face the modern world. Another source of inspiration were the writings of Ibn Taymiyya in the 13th and 14th centuries.


Tablighi Jama’at: Established in 1926 in British India by Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas. Started as a non-violent movement, but later developed a violent element. The movement is based near Delhi, but is influential all over the Islamic world. It considers moral self- improvement as the most valuable kind of jihad. It stresses that Islam should be spread and promoted amongst nominal Muslims and unbelievers, not through force and compulsion, but through persuasion and peaceful means. They see physical jihad as secondary and inferior. During the 1980s the Pakistan intelligence agency and the CIA infiltrated the movement to recruit individuals to fight in the jihad against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. This helped to generate a violent element within the movement. (129f)

(RS: It is sometimes said that Islam needs to go through a similar development like Christianity went through the Reformation and Enlightenment. Islam did this. There were a number of reform movements within Islam over the centuries. But whenever a movement wanted to take a fresh look at the original sources of Islam, going back to the interpretation of Islam in the first centuries of its existence, such a movement became quite radical and intolerant. The reason is that the origin of Islam, its early history, is rooted in a violent and radical way of living Islam. This shows that the nature of Islam is very different than the nature of the Gospel. Whenever reform-movements or revival-movements break out in the Church somewhere, people go back and read the Bible in a fresh way. The result is not a violent movement, but a fresh dedication to God and a great desire to share the Gospel with those who have not heard, to get involved in acts of love and kindness in order to help suffering people around them. This is very different from any reform-movement within Islam!)

Violent sects and movements present There is a wide network of contemporary Islamic terrorist groups who are interlinked in various ways. It is not only Al-Qa’eda, but many more groups. They are interlinked and overlap in a way similar to the multitude of western NGO’s or anti-globalisation groups. These organizations have a great deal of interaction and overlap with each other. They support each other, evolve coalitions on issues of common interest, and combine their causes together. The boundaries between them are not clearly defined. In addition, key individuals can be involved as trustees or directors of several different groups at once. These groups also merge and split, or close themselves down completely only to reappear under a new name. Contemporary Islamic terrorism is manifested in the same kind of fluid, complex, ever-shifting networks, closely linked to and resourced by mainstream Muslim society, not as a lone, clearly defined entity. An eschatological worldview continues to be an important influence on today’s radical groups, many of whom believe themselves to be living in the end-times. This leads to abundant conspiracy theories. (131f)

During the 1950s the Saudi religious establishment was active in disseminating Salafiyya, also known as neo-Wahhabism. In the 1990s it was the Salafiyya trend that caused various different Islamic radical groups to strengthen their links with each other. (127f)

Muslim Brotherhood: Emerged out of the Salafiyya movement during the colonial period. It was the first grass-roots Islamic militant movement when it was founded by Hassan al- Banna in 1928 in Egypt. It developed branches in Syria, Palestine and Sudan. (133)

Mawdudi (1903-1979) and the Jama’at-i Islami: Established on the Indian subcontinent in 1941 as an elitist vanguard organization aimed at establishing an Islamic order. (134)

Qutb (1907-1966): Was influenced by Maududi, became the main ideologue for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Transformed the meaning of hijra from a simple description of Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina to a distinct stage in the development of all true Islamic societies. The state of ignorance and immorality (jahiliyya) needs to be overcome. Jihad by force must be used to overthrow the evil jahili regimes. Most violent


groups of today like al-Jama’at al Islamiyya, Hamas, Hizb al-Tahrir, the GIA of Algeria and many more, were born out of the Muslim Brotherhood as reinterpreted by Qutb. They have developed in two general trends: “Islamic Jihad groups” and “Takfir groups.”

Islamic Jihad groups: These groups hold that the leaders of their countries are not true Muslims and therefore legitimate the use of violence against them. They are better integrated with society at large than are the more isolationist Takfir groups. They do not consider their leaders to be sent by Allah in any exceptional way, and they accept the teaching of later Islamic scholars and leaders as authoritative alongside the earlier sources of Islam. Egyptian groups of this category: al-Jihad (led by Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman), al- Jama’at al-Islamiyya with its various groups. In the Levant: the faction of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad led by Sheikh As’ad Bayoud al-Tamimi, al-Tali’ah al-Islamiyya in Syria, and two groups in Lebanon, al-Tawhid and al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya. Also in this group are the various Afghan Mujahidin groups (taking inspiration from the Palestinian Dr. Abdallah Azzam). It is from the Afghan Mujahidin that the gigantic network Al-Qa-eda emerged. (136-138)

Takfir groups: They are much more isolationist than the Jihadists. They withdraw from the wider Muslim society, consider the ordinary Muslims as apostates, and by this interpretation they justify the indiscriminate murder of civilians to achieve their aims. Their leaders are sometimes seen as being exceptional, even Mahdis. They accept as authoritative the Qur’an, the teachings of Muhammad in the hadith and the rulings of the first four caliphs, and reject all later Islamic teaching. One of the main Takfir groups was the Egyptian group Jama’at al-Muslimin (more often known as al-Takfir wal-Hijra). It was a Mahdist movement who saw their leader Shukri Mustafa (1942-1978), a disciple of Qutb, as the promised Mahdi. When most of the group had been tried and jailed, they lost their ability to act as an organized entity in Egypt. There are other Egyptian Salafist groups, like the al-Najoun min al-Nar (Survivors of the Fire/Hell), comprised of the remaining Egyptian members of the al-Takfir wal-Hijra. There are also some Palestinian followers of this group in the Gaza Strip. There is a Jordanian Takfir group, sometimes involved with Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami, another illegal Palestinian/Jordanian group which had carried out a substantial amount of terrorism in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon and Uzbekistan. In Pakistan the Harakat ul-Mujahidin is part of the Takfir movement. The London-based Committee for the Defence of Legal Rigths is the political wing of the Islamist opponents of the Saudi royal regime. The Algerian GIA (Groupe Islamique Armee) also shares the Takfir ideology. Some subgroups of the GIA operate in Europe, e.g. in France and Germany. They also have a base in London under the name of Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of the Sharia) led by the Egyptian Abu Hamsah al-Masri. The group in London cooperates with Al-Muhajiroun (the Immigrants), led by Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, which was founded after a split within the British Hizb al-Tahrir (usually known in the UK as Hizb u- Tahrir). (138-141)

Al-Qa’eda: The largest of contemporary Islamic militant movement, but by no means typical. It emerged in 1988-9 under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, from the Afghan Mujahidin organization Mekhtab al-Khidemat. The name Al-Qa’eda al-Sulba (The Solid Base) and the general purpose was defined by Dr. Abdallah Azzam. The network and links go through 55 countries. According to CIA Al-Qa’eda can draw on the support of 6-7 million radical Muslims of whom 120,000 are willing to take up arms. Under the headship of Osama bin Laden there is a consultative council (,majlis al-shura), making major policy decisions on terrorist operations and issuing fatwas. Reporting to the majlis al-shura are four operational committees with the following responsibilities: (1) military, (2) financial, (3) fatwa and Islamic study, (4) media and publicity. The global terrorist network is de-centralized into regional groupings called “families”. Each nationality or ethnic group is assigned a particular geographical region as their responsibility. The bulk


Shia Movements: Like Hizbullah in Lebanon. They are listed in the summary in Appendix 2 and 3. (142)

The motivation of terrorists and suicide bombers The primary motivation of terrorists and suicide bombers is theological, compounded mainly of duty and reward. In addition, in Shi’a Islam martyrdom has a very special position, because Hassan and Hussain, the martyrs, are seen as models to be emulated, and suffering is sought after. (143)

Duty to God: Most Islamic terrorists are devout and sincere in their faith. They consider themselves as people who follow the example of the founder of their faith, no matter what the personal cost. They look back to the original sources of Islam and interpret them as justification for violence. There are abundant arguments to demonstrate that jihad in general is a duty for Muslims. But there is a debate within contemporary Islam as to whether suicide killings are also a duty, or even legitimate. Some extreme radicals have revived the Khariji and Assassin traditions of suicide killings as a legitimate weapon in their contemporary jihad. In order to do this a theological distinction previously drawn in Islam between deliberately going to one’s certain death at the hands of an overwhelmingly strong enemy (as the Assassins did) and dying by one’s own hand (as modern suicide bombers do) had to be blurred by these radicals. (143-146)

Suicide killings are described as martyrdom (istishhad). Are they legitimate according to Islamic understanding? The issue arises because suicide per se is regarded as a serious sin. The Qur’an does not state it clearly. It says:

“And spend of your substance in the cause of God, and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction; but do good; for God loveth those who do good.” (2:195) This verse is often quoted as forbidding suicice, A. Yusuf Ali’s comments interprets the verse as concerned not with suicide but with the use of one’s own wealth. He sees it as a command to give generously in support of a just war in the cause of God. The Hadith is more clear and cites some condemnations of Muhammad of suicide. E.g.:

“…if someone commits suicide with anything in this world, he will be tortured with that very thing on the Day of Resurrection…” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 73, Number 72: Narrated by Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak) It is important to note that Islamic radical groups involved in suicide attacks do not use the phrase “suicide bombers” but instead refer to shahids (martyrs or witnesses, Arabic plural shuhada), making it clear that they view the bombers as noble victims who have sacrificed their lives in jihad, not as suicides. (147-149)

The concept of suicidal killings has received support from mainstream Islamic leaders, not only from radicals. E.g. after the September 11


2001 attacks no fatwa condemning suicide attacks was issued. Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Imam of Al-Azhar, changed his previous position (he condemned suicide bombings against Israeli citizens at a press conference in front of journalists in Cairo on 3.12.2001) in April 2002 to permit the killing of civilians by Palestinian suicide bombers. This statement was made in an Arab context and published in Arabic, thus being more likely to state his real opinion. In this statement he said that every martyrdom operation against Israel, including the killing of children, women and teenagers, is a legitimate act according to religious law, and an Islamic commandment, until the people of Palestine regain their land. (149) The meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur, representing all the Muslim nations, refused to condemn suicide bombings. (150)

of funding comes from bin Laden’s personal fortune but donations are also received from around the world amounting to tens of millions of dollars. It has a global financial network with a multiplicity of bank accounts and “front” organizations. It also raises funds through investments, business, Islamic charities and financial crime. It is proving difficult for western governments to curtail the cash-flow to Al-Qa’eda. (141f).


Because of the debate about the validity of suicide bombings, it is essential for any particular suicide bomber that his death is declared to be a martyrdom. Without the confidence that this will happen he will be reluctant to go ahead with the suicide. He also needs to be sure that his debts he may have will be promptly paid after his death, because there is a belief that a martyr will not go to heaven if he is in debt. (151)

Heavenly Reward: To die in jihad is to die a glorious and noble martyr and to ensure oneself an immediate place in paradise, with all sins forgiven. A martyr will not have to face examination in the grave by the two “interrogating angels” or any temporary punishment in hell. He will be given the highest of various ranks in paradise, nearest the throne of God, a crown of glory, seventy or seventy-two virgins and other heavenly delights. Many would-be martyrs speak of their hope of being kept alive and sustained by God. Furthermore a martyr’s intercession will be accepted for up to seventy of his relatives so that they too can go straight to paradise. Female martyrs expect to find themselves a prestigious place in paradise, close to Muhammad or to become one of the heavenly virgins. These detailed promises are derived from various hadiths. The Qur’an itself affirms in several places a special reward for those who die in the way of God, but does not go into specifics. (See Kohlberg, E. “Shahid” in The Encyclopaedia of Islam). (152)

Since dying in jihad is generally considered the only guaranteed way to paradise, the motive of the certainty of going straight to paradise is probably the main motive, more than the virgins and other promises. The Qur’an and the hadith promise the rewards for dying in jihad:

Think not of those who are slain in God’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord. (3:169) Let those fight in the cause of God who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. To him who fighteth in the cause of God, – whether he is slain or gets victory – soon shall we give him a reward of great (value). (4:74; also 9:88-89) (page 153)

(RS: Why is God according to the Islamic understanding only giving assurance of entering paradise to those who die as martyrs? Otherwise Muslims claim that because of God’s sovereignty he will not or can not give assurance to people that they will enter paradise. Why then can he suddenly do it in this special case? Is this not a contradiction within the understanding of God?)

Response to Humiliation: One of the characteristics of Islam is its emphasis on honour and power for the Muslim community. True faith – Islam – based on God’s final revelation must be protected from insult and abuse. Shame and humiliation can not be borne and are considered legitimate justification for a violent response. Muslim statements of outrage concerning the imposition of non- Muslims on their territory or rights are often phrased in terms of “humiliation”, with the unspoken assumption that this is the greatest grievance possible. Many Islamic terrorists and suicide bombers see their task as contributing to the vital process of redeeming Islam’s honour from the humiliation imposed on it by the West. (156f.)

(RS: Why are Muslims so proud and can not accept that their religion is insulted or humiliated? Has it not something to do with the understanding of God himself, who is shown as a proud God, who never humbles himself, never gives himself for his people, who never incarnated, never gave his Son to die for the sins of the world?)

The Importance of History: Islamic terrorists have a clear sense of history and the many bad things that happened to the Muslim countries on the hands of the Christians empires (Crusades, loss of Spain, colonialism, etc.). These past wrongs need to be set right today. (158)


Identification with heroes: Shahids are heroes, they are honoured and admired and held up as an ideal to be imitated and followed. Their stories inspire others to do similar things. (159)

Training: In the training that potential terrorists receive, they are taught a fanatical hatred of the West and a perception that the West is responsible for all the wrongs in the Muslim world. (160)

Ba’ya: The concept of ba’ya, of swearing an oath of allegiance and obedience to a religious or political leader is very important in Islam. It implies a life-long and personal commitment. Once a Muslim swears this oath to a leader, he will do whatever the leader commands. (161f)

Specific grievances: All radical Islamic movements share a common hostility to western influences and their perceived corruption of Islamic societies. These influences are seen as a continuation of the crusades and colonialism. Muslims develop often wild conspiracy theories. So these groups fight first of all their own “infidel” regimes, then against any repression of Muslims, and against the USA. The attacks against the embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salam in 1998 and against the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in 2001 seem to be “senseless” actions. But they fit into the strategy of the terrorists: They forced the enemy to start military action which in turn alienates the masses. The invasions of the US army of Afghanistan and Iraq led to a hardening of public opinion across the Islamic world and growing support for terrorist groups. A similar strategy may be in place in Palestine and Kashmir. (162-168)

Personal grudges: Some terrorists and suicide bombers have additional personal reasons for seeking to avenge a personal hurt, may be experienced years ago by some of these infidels. (168)

Summary of basic requirements for the motivation of suicide bombers: The multiplicity of motives which go to create suicide bombers can be summarized as five main requirements (169):

media involvement – a martyr must also be a public hero

There are two main categories of martyr – those who die on the battlefield and those who do not.

“Martyrs in the next world only.” This includes all those who fail to qualify as battlefield martyrs. Examples would be someone who accidentally wounds themselves fatally with their own weapon on the battlefield, someone who dies in battle against Muslims, or who dies defending their families against Muslim brigands or highway robbers. (169f)

The making of an Islamic terrorist Of the many Muslims who would acknowledge the continuing validity of the classic teachings of Islam on war and expansion of Islamic territory, only a small number put their beliefs into practice in the most literal way and become active terrorists. We therefore need to examine the psychology, selection and training of Islamic militants, with special reference to suicide bombers. (172ff)

In Kenya there was an apalling brutal Islamic school in Eastleigh, Nairobi, the Khadija Islamic Institute for Discipline and Education. It was attended by teenage boys from Kenya, Ethiopia, Sweden and the UK. They were taught the Qur’an, English, Arabic and Maths. According to one former pupil, the Killing of Christians was glorified. “They told us its called

a political cause worth dying for

a theology which affirms the legitimacy of suicide martyrdom

the assurance that after death he/she will be authoritatively declared a martyr

economic and financial support for he martyr and his family after death

The battlefield martyrs are called “martyrs both in this world and the next”, their martyrdom in this world being recognized by special burial rites (see 155) which – according to most Islamic authorities – do not include washing the body.




Categories: Book Reviews and Reviews by Walter Eric.