Friday, April 11, 2008

"We Sing Sin": Loving death at one's own hand?

The Osama Gang
(Image from Wikipedia)

In a long comment to yesterday's post, Jeanie Oliver provided information from an online article, "Jihad in the Hadith," that looks to be a chapter in a longer work by 'Carlos' titled Facing the Global Jihad: The Roots of Holy War Within Islam Itself (November 2004). I haven't read this whole work, nor have I even read the entirety of the chapter "Jihad in the Hadith."

I have scanned quickly through this chapter, however, and seen that it's useful for going to the original sources to back up its points, which thereby allows us to form our own opinions independently of 'Carlos' . . . whether we agree or disagree with him on an Islamic tradition supporting suicide jihad.

In a section of the chapter subtitled 'The High Value of Martyrdom,' the writer 'Carlos' observes that "It is praiseworthy both to seek death as a martyr and to love it," and he provides two hadith (and I've linked to the MSA site mentioned yesterday):
Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: If anyone fights in Allah's path as long as the time between two milkings of a she-camel, Paradise will be assured for him. If anyone sincerely asks Allah for being killed and then dies or is killed, there will be a reward of a martyr for him. (Sunan Abu Dawud, 14:2535)

It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say:... "By the Being in Whose Hand is my life, I love that I should be killed in the way of Allah; then I should be brought back to life and be killed again in His way." (Sahih Muslim, 20:4631 [see also 20:4626])
This doesn't explicitly support suicide jihad (let alone suicide terrorism), which is what interests us at the moment, but it does offer some support for statements by those Islamists like Osama bin Laden, who once told us:
"We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the big difference between us." (Richard Stengel, "Osama bin Laden and the Idea of Progress," Time, December 21, 2001)
Bin Laden certainly supports suicide bombing -- as a 'martyrdom operation', of course -- but does suicide in the path of jihad have a precedent in Islam? According to 'Carlos', it does:
[O]ne cannot say that suicide fighting is by its very nature un-Islamic. In fact, it is not new . . . . Daniel Pipes notes the existence of jihad suicide nearly a thousand years ago:
Jihad suicide has been around for a millennium. The Assassins, a fanatical religious sect that flourished in the twelfth century developed jihad suicide into a powerful tool of war that succeeded in killing dozens of leaders and cast a long shadow over the region's politics for decades.
And certainly there is no prohibition on terrorism when suicide is not involved. When seen as a sacred struggle against non-believers, terrorism by any means becomes a virtue, whether or not one knows one's life will be forfeit.
The reference to Daniel Pipes leads to his article "The [Suicide] Jihad Menace," written for the Jerusalem Post issue of July 27, 2001 . . . only 46 days prior to 9/11, interestingly. That was prescient of Dr. Pipes, but he's nevertheless wrong in pointing to The Assassins as practicing "jihad suicide," for they didn't kill themselves. True, we do speak of "suicide missions" even in the West when referring to those military missions in which death is likely unavoidable, but this is a very loose expression, and not precisely accurate. Those on so-called "suicide missions" die not by their own hands but at the hands of others.

I have not yet seen any hard evidence that traditional Islam provides strong support for setting forth on a jihad with the intent to kill oneself.

Labels: , , ,


At 11:33 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

I've been reading all afternoon on this subject. Is there a chance that when the Hadiths were written, then suicide wasn't an issue in battle.I read all about the desire to reach martrydom and how exulted this was. But when they were written, driving cars wired as bombs, flying planes into towers, or tying a bomb to yourself wasn't part of the package. So there were only the rules to not take your life in despair, etc. So we have to really start focusing on the issue of warfare over the last 1000 years., right? Warfare and certain death(a form of suicide) have been going on with the Islamists now for several years.

I hope this makes sense.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jeanie, I haven't even seen statements in the hadith making any distinctions about killing oneself in despair versus killing oneself in exultation. You've likely seen more hadith on this issue than I. Are the hadith even clear on the issue of suicide at all?

Anyway, killing oneself -- by one's own hand, which ought to go without saying -- in order to kill others, even if enemy soldiers, was simply not an easy option in the distant past . . . as you note.

One might have attempted, Samson-like, to bring down the roof on oneself and one's enemies -- or have hurled oneself and an enemy over a cliff to certain death. But those would be unlikely events to occur, let alone plan.

I think that the explanation is to be found in new application of old rules -- but rules reinterpreted in ways that are probably not justified on salafi principles.

I hate to note this -- for it might raise vehement emotional objections from some -- but the fire-bombing of cities during WWII, as well as the atomic bomb attacks on Japan, involed a powerful element of terror directed at civilian populations. We've since become more civilized, perhaps, but the reasoning that justified the bombing may have been similar to what we're seeing by the salafi jihadis.

I'll leave things at that. If anybody can point to hadith against suicide, I'd be grateful.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:18 PM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Hadith -

Anas (b. Malik) reported Allah's Messenger as saying: None of you should make a request for death because of the trouble in which he is involved, but if there is no other help to it, then say: O Allah, keep me alive as long as there is goodness in life for me and bring death to me when there is goodness in death for me.


At 9:22 PM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Hadith - Bukhari 2:445, Narrated Thabit bin Ad-Dahhak

The Prophet said, " And whoever commits suicide with piece of iron will be punished with the same piece of iron in the Hell Fire." Narrated Jundab the Prophet said, "A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him."

Hadith - Bukhari 7:670, Narrated Abu Huraira

The Prophet said, "Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the (Hell) Fire falling down into it and abiding therein perpetually forever; and whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, he will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever; and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon, will be carrying that weapon in his hand and stabbing his abdomen with it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever.

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Jeanie. After my query, I went back and re-read your comments to the previous blog entry, so I went to find the links at the MSA at USC. I'll post on them in the morning.

My sense is that the "suicide bombing" creates a third category, and I'm not sure that the suicide hadith squarely apply.

But the fact that neither Muhammad nor his companions used suicide to kill enemies would perhaps weigh against their legitimacy in terms of shariah.

Sigh . . . which one of us ever imagined, in our innocent Ozark youth, that we'd have to be taking such ideas seriously...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home