Top Ways 9/11 Broke Islamic Law | Informed Comment

Fear mongering by the Republican Party in an election year -- how deep does the hole go in the Republican Party?

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by Juan Cole

On the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it is clear that al-Qaeda was a tiny fringe terrorist movement, not a globe-straddling threat to Western societies. The organization has been decisively disrupted and now lacks command and control. Its leader, Usama Bin Laden, has not been seen in a video since 2004, and is either dead or horribly disfigured. Its number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is dangerous only in the way that any other terrorist crank is, firing off crackpot messages to his dwindling band of followers from time to time. With the startling rise of anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States, fanned in large part by Republican Party fear mongering, it is worthwhile underlining the ways in which September 11 contravened Islamic values and Islamic law. (For a modernist, liberal interpretation, see this pdf file, “Jihad and the Islamic Law of War.”

1. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people. The Qur’an says, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error.” (-The Cow, 2:256). Note that this verse was revealed in Medina and was never abrogated by any other verse of the Quran. Islam’s holy book forbids coercing people into adopting any religion. They have to willingly choose it.

2. Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare. The Quran says, “But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God! For He is the one who hears and knows all things.” (8:61) The Quran chapter “The Cow,” 2:190, says, “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors.”

3. In Islamic war, not just any civil engineer can declare or launch a war. It is the prerogative of the duly constituted leader of the Muslim community that engages in the war. Nowadays that would be the president or prime minister of the state.

4. The killing of innocent non-combatants is forbidden. According to Sunni tradition, ‘Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first Caliph, gave these instructions to his armies: “I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town . . . ” (Malik’s Muwatta’, “Kitab al-Jihad.”)

5. Muslim commanders must give the enemy fair warning that war is imminent. The Prophet Muhammad at one point gave 4 months notice. Sneak attacks are forbidden.

The World Trade Center had a mosque in it, which Bin Laden destroyed, and he killed dozens of innocent Muslims in the attack along with thousands of others. All of this is an abomination in Islamic law.

By the laws of classical Islam and the instructions of the Quran, then, the September 11 act of terrorism was illegal. It is not an affirmation of Islam but a departure from its laws of war. That is why, contrary to popular belief, Muslim authorities have roundly condemned al-Qaeda’s actions in no uncertain terms. See also the Amman statement, to which large numbers of prominent Sunni and Shiite leaders subscribed.

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