Monday, July 06, 2009

Islam, Muslims, & the Question of Violence

"Islam is the religion of mercy for all humanity. It is the fountainhead of eternal peace, tranquility, security. Islam has given so much importance to human beings that it regards the killing of a single person to be the like the killing of all humanity, without differentiation based on creed and caste. Its teaching of peace encompasses all humanity. Islam has taught its followers to treat all mankind with equality, mercy, tolerance, justice. Islam sternly condemns all kinds of oppression, violence and terrorism. It has regarded oppression, mischief, rioting and murdering among severest sins and crimes."
Conference Statement of Senior Religious Scholars & Jurists,
Deoband-Dar ul-Uloum, India, February 2008


“Attacking innocent people is not courageous, it is stupid and will be punished on the day of judgement. ... It’s not courageous to attack innocent children, women and civilians. It is courageous to protect freedom, it is courageous to defend oneself and not to attack.”
Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Rector of al-Azhar University & Mosque in Cairo,
Agence France Presse, September 14, 2001


“Never in Islam's entire history has the action of so few of its followers caused the religion and its community of believers to be such an abomination in the eyes of others. Millions of Muslims who fled to North America and Europe to escape poverty and persecution at home have become the object of hatred and are now profiled as potential terrorists. And the nascent democratic movements in Muslim countries will regress for a few decades as ruling autocrats use their participation in the global war against terrorism to terrorize their critics and dissenters. This is what Muhammed Atta and his fellow terrorists and sponsors have done to Islam and its community worldwide by their murder of innocents at the World Trade Center in New York and the Defense Department in Washington. The attack must be condemned, and the condemnation must be without reservation.”
Anwar Ibrahim, “Growth of Democracy Is the Answer to Terrorism,”
International Herald Tribune, October 11, 2001


"According to Islamic law there are at least six reasons why Bin Laden's barbaric violence cannot fall under the rubric of jihad: 1) Individuals and organizations cannot declare a jihad, only states can; 2) One cannot kill innocent women and children when conducting a jihad; 3) One cannot kill Muslims in a jihad; 4) One cannot fight a jihad against a country in which Muslims can freely practise their religion and proselytize Islam; 5) Prominent Muslim jurists around the world have condemned these attacks and their condemnation forms a juristic consensus (ijma') against Bin Laden's actions (This consensus renders his actions un-Islamic); 6) The welfare and interest of the Muslim community (maslaha) is being harmed by Bin Laden's actions and this equally makes them un-Islamic."
Bernard Haykel, Professor of Near Eastern Studies & Specialist on
Islamic Jurisprudence at Princeton University,
The Dawn newspaper, Karachi, Pakistan, October 8, 2001


"Those who believe that the religion of God [Islam] can be successful without fighting and struggle (jihad) and blood and carnage, they are dreaming and do not understand the nature of this religion."
Picture of 'Abdullah 'Azzam, a Palestinian al-Azhar-trained religious scholar who ran Maktabat al-Khadamat lil Mujahideen al-'Arab (Services Bureau for Arab Fighters) in Peshawar, Pakistan in the 1980s.

Two Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles with barrels crossed over the Qur'an


Logo of the al-Qimmah al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Summit), Somali language jihadi discussion forums, which uses an image of the Qur'an over two crossed rifles, with the Muslim testament of faith (shahadah), "There is no god but [the] God, and Muhammad is His Messenger."

The Qur'an, which Muslims believe to be the collected revelations from God to the Prophet Muhammad, as delivered through the Archangel Gabriel, is recited by hundreds of millions of people five times a day during the five daily prayers many Muslims perform regularly. The Qur'an, like all religious scriptures and indeed all texts, is open to a wide and often contentious range of interpretations. While the vast majority of Muslims do not use the Qur'an and the collected traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad's sayings and actions, the Ahadith or more commonly the singular Arabic form of the word, hadith, to justify terrorism and Machiavellian violence against non-combatants, some Muslim militant groups, such as al-Qa'ida "Central" (AQC) and its affiliates, use these two sources to justify their actions. Qur'anic verses and carefully selected hadith, sometimes edited or removed from their larger historical and textual contexts, are regularly used by such groups in their written and multimedia communiqués and releases. As evidenced by the quotes above, the debate over whether the Qur'an and ahadith "justify" or even "require" violence, as argued by a cadre of anti-Muslim bigots, is a contentious one among Muslims and Muslim religious scholars and intellectuals (and, in the case of Haykel, a scholar of Islam) themselves.

Below is a selection of visual motifs I found as part of my current research project (copyright), "The Art of the Martyr & Mujahid," on various Salafi jihadi online discussion forums. The use of Qur'anic verses and images of the Qur'an are used in these motifs to justify types of violence that are contrary to the juridical positions traditionally help by the majority of Muslim jurists historically. I have provided brief historical and textual contextualization of the verses, and have provided a few explanatory notes. I originally hoped to include two commentaries from two good friends of mine who are both practicing Muslims and highly knowledgeable about the religion's tenets and other related issues, in order to include personalized accounts countering the (mis)use of the Qur'an and ahadith by groups like AQC and its affiliates, but scheduling conflicts unfortunately prevented this.

Islam and the Question of Violence (Qur'anic Justification for Sanctified War)
...View the images.

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