Friday, 3 July 2009

Islam And Terrorism (Part 2)

Following on from part 1 here.



Recent years have seen many cases in which Islamic jihadists have executed non-Muslim prisoners of war, often by beheading. Such actions, unfortunately, have direct support in Islamic law and in the example of Muhammad.

According to the earliest Muslim sources, the Prophet gloried in the decapitation of his enemies Abu Jahl and Uqba after the Battle of Badr. The now-deceased al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi justified the beheading of American businessman Nick Berg in 2004 by saying: “The Prophet, the most merciful, ordered his army to strike the necks of some prisoners in the Battle of Badr and to kill them...And he set a good example for us”.

Muhammad also supervised the mass beheading of at least six hundred men of the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe in 627. Referring to this incident, Abu Yusuf (d.798), a jurist of the Hanafi school, wrote:

“Whenever the Muslims besiege an enemy stronghold, establish a treaty with the besieged who agree to surrender on certain conditions that will be decided by a delegate, and this man decides that their soldiers are to be executed and their women and children taken prisoner, this decision is lawful. This was the connection with the Banu Qurayza.”

Consequently, the brutal execution of prisoners – singly and in large numbers – is nothing new in Islam. Amir Timur, who led brutal jihad campaigns in India in the fourteenth century, bragged in writing how he had ordered the execution of 100,000 Hindu captives in a single afternoon, perhaps the largest massacre of war prisoners ever recorded:

“At this Court Amir Jahan Shah and Amir Sulaiman Shah, and other amirs of experience, brought to my notice that, from the time of entering Hindustan up to the present time, we had taken more than 100,000 infidels and Hindus prisoners, and that they were all in my camp...I asked their advice about the prisoners, and they said that on the great day of battle these 100,000 prisoners could not be left with the baggage, and that it would be entirely opposed to the rules of war to set these idolaters and foes of Islam at liberty. In fact, no other course remained but that of making them all food for the sword. When I heard these words I found them in accordance with the rules of war, and I directly gave my command for the Tawachís [drum-beaters] to proclaim throughout the camp that every man who had infidel prisoners was to put them to death, and whoever neglected to do so should himself be executed and his property given to the informer. When this order became known to the ghazís of Islam, they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death. 100,000 infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain.”

The legitimacy of killing prisoners of war is accepted by all the schools of jurisprudence, as summed up by the great Muslim philosopher Averroes (d.1198), who was also a legal theorist: “Most scholars are agreed that, in his dealings with captives, various policies are open to the Imam [Muslim leader]. He may pardon them, kill them, or release them...on ransom.”

Beheading, specifically, is also sanctioned in the Qur'an:

“Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): 'I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.” (8:12)

“Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks [emphasis added]; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah's Will, He could certainly have exacted retribution from them (Himself); but (he lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the way of Allah;- He will never let their deeds be lost.” (47:4)

A 2004 survey of Egyptian school textbooks revealed that the jihad-related beheading of unbelievers is explicitly sanctioned in the Egyptian educational curriculum.

Stay tuned for the third and final part, coming soon...

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