In light of the recent events in London and Scotland, I thought it would be timely to post this piece by Dr. Ali al-Timimi that was delivered in 1993. Before 9/11, 7/7, and all the other recent events. I hope that it shows the true message of Islam is unchanged by events, and that we carry this same message at all times.
It is especially noteable that this was written by Ali Timimi, who is currently in prison (unjustly) for supposedly promoting terrorism, may Allah (swt) free him.
Compare the dictates set out in this article to modern warfare and then decide who are the real terrorists inflicting violence and terror upon innocent people. Article is ‘under the fold.’
Muslims in America in the Face of Accusations of “Fundamentalism” and “Terrorism”
Dr. Ali Al-Timimi
Islamic Awareness Week
Delivered at Purdue University, October 20, 1993
All praise belongs to God and may His blessings and peace be upon the Messenger.
The topic that I have been asked to address is of immense personal interest. For it pains me to see Muslims en masse, without any qualification, vilified with labels of “terrorist” or “fundamentalist,” as is so often the manner of our portrayal in today’s media. It pains me even more when Muslims commit in the name of their religion acts which Islam condemns. Before addressing these two labels, terrorist and fundamentalist, I would like to preface my remarks begin with a brief historical introduction to the portrayal of Islam as violent.
The spread of Islam by the sword
First we need to recognize that there is a certain historical context that has caused much of the confusion regarding the Islamic religion. This historical context is centered on the notion that Islam was spread by the sword. Initially, this allegation was employed by certain European Christian authors in their polemical works against the Islamic religion. Their argument was that Islam could not be a true religion since it was spread by the sword and further how could the prophet Muhammad truly be God’s prophet while his message contains warfare or jihad? I am amazed to see such an argument while in the Gospel of Matthew ‘Isa ibn Maryam, Jesus the son of Mary, is reported to have said:
Think not that I have come to send peace on earth, I have come not to send peace, but a sword.
So even with such a clear statement where Jesus Christ describes himself that he has not “come to send peace on earth, but a sword,” that is war; these authors conveniently overlooked this to lay a charge against Muslims because there are certain Islamic rulings regarding warfare or jihad; and they then further argued from this that Islam is a false religion and that the prophet Muhammad is a false prophet not truly sent by God.
Validity of the prophet Muhammad’s claim
As I have remarked in an earlier lecture that entire validity of Islam centers upon the claim that Muhammad was truly sent by God for humanity’s guidance. This is true irrespective if we are investigating Islam’s beliefs, practices, manner of dealing with others, moral code, view on women, or whatever. There would be no validity to any of Islam’s positions regarding these or other issues unless we accept that Muhammad was God’s messenger. If we reject such a claim then in reality Islam is no longer worthy of our investigation, as the foundation for its teachings would be inherently false.
For this reason, any debate or discussion regarding the validity of Islam’s view regarding a particular topic should be preceded with a discussion on the validity of the prophethood of the Muhammad. Was he, as he claimed, truly a prophet sent by God for the guidance of all of humanity? Thus implying that anything he said and did true? Or was he not a prophet sent by God, but merely an imposter? And if the latter then whatever is attributed to the Islamic religion can be have little value at best.
The second factor in this historical context is what occurred in Europe during what was known as the age of enlightenment. This period followed the Renaissance when Europe shed what it viewed as the yoke of an oppressive church. As an alternative to religious teaching, a philosophy developed in Europe known as humanism which in turn had a certain political ramification known as secularism.
Now since the Islamic world, or we should say at least as how it should be, according to its teachings makes no distinction between personal religious belief and societal practice. For Muslims believe humans have been created to worship God and further they believe that this worship of God extends to all spheres of life. Hence modern Western authors, who tend to look at the Islamic world from the backdrop of their civilization, find it something medieval, backwards, oppressive. They derive such ideas from their civilizational experiences with the Catholic Church and what subsequently happened during the Protestant reformation and the age of Enlightenment.
Thus with Western civilizational embrace of humanism and secularism, in addition to old religious prejudices that stemmed from the historical conflict between the Islamic world and Europe; certain perceptions of Islam are found in the modern West as these societies are still Christian in nature or at least have their roots in Christianity. It is not uncommon therefore for certain individuals nowadays to employ certain expressions to describe Muslims. Among these are the labels of fundamentalist or terrorist. However, before I address these two terms specifically, it would be instructive to first see how Muslims look toward unbelievers.
Viewing ‘the other’: classification of non-Muslims under Islamic law
Obviously when a Muslim looks at the world he will see coreligionists who embrace the central tenet of Islamic faith by their recognizing that only God is to be worshipped and none other besides Him neither prophet like Jesus Christ or the prophet Muhammad or anyone or thing else. These individuals will also believe in the finality of the prophethood with the sending of the prophet Muhammad. A Muslim will also recognize that there are individuals outside of his community. There are people who adhere to other religions whether those religions Muslims would believe were originally rooted in the revelation sent by God, and subsequently corrupted only like Judaism and Christianity; or they believe that these religions have no basis from God and were invented by their peoples like the various pagan religions.
These non-Muslims according to Islamic law fall into two major categories: (1.) unbelievers with whom Muslims are at war, and (2.) unbelievers with whom Muslims have a treaty.
Unbelievers with whom Muslims are at war
The first category of unbelievers, we said, are those non-Muslims with whom Muslims are in a formal war setting. For example, let us imagine two countries at war: one Muslim and the other non-Muslim. These non-Muslim combatants are referred to in the books of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) as al-harbiyun (combatants). With regards to these specific individuals, clearly Muslims would not show them gentleness, as they are enemy combatants during a war.
Muhammad is the messenger of God. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves. (The Qur’an, 48:29)
Non-combatants during war
Yet at the same, it must be emphasized that Islam has prohibited under all circumstances the intentional taking of the lives of non-combatants. The Prophet has instructed:
Do not kill a decript old man, or a young infant, or a woman.
Based on this and similar statements by the Prophet, the Muslim scholars are in agreement that it is forbidden to kill the children and womenfolk of the unbelievers so long as they themselves do not participate in the war.
Thus innocents, like women, children, elderly men who are incapable of participating in warfare, and likewise by the prophet Muhammad’s instructions, those religious monks who are typically pacifists and hence do not engage in warfare; regarding all these people, the prophet Muhammad has forbidden us under any circumstance to deliberately take any of their lives. On one occasion during the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad, the Muslims attacked an inhabitation and during the heat of battle entered into a household and killed some women and children. When the Prophet came to know of this, he became angered and remarked that God has not sent us to kill the likes of these persons.
The application of weapons of mass destruction upon civilian populations
Also if you look at the books of fiqh written in earlier centuries a question appeared concerning the use of catapults and cannons against civilian populations. As at the time of the sending of the prophet Muhammad, the weapons employed in Arabia were simple sword, javelin, arrows, and so forth. It was only much later that the use of the catapult and the cannon became prevalent in warfare. The Muslim scholars writing at that time were in agreement that it was impermissible to use the catapult or the cannon against civilian populations. Their reasoning was that when laying siege to a city and you bombard it with catapults and cannons, this would necessarily result in the death of non-combatants. So therefore the Muslim army when laying siege to a city of a country to which they were at war, they should not use these weapons that in the modern times we would equate with weapons of mass destruction.
Such attitudes show how Islam values the sanctity of life and only permits the taking of the lives of those specific individuals who are actually engaged in warfare on the battlefield.
The rules of war
The point here is that the rules of war have been unambiguously laid down in Islam. Among these rules, as we have mentioned, is that Islam does not permit the taking of innocent life even when you are at war. Interestingly, some researchers into the code of conduct during war have shown that a large part of the modern rules of engagement were actually adopted by West from the very rules of engagement applied by the Muslims during the wars between the two civilizations in the Middle Ages.
Unbelievers with whom Muslims have a treaty
Islamic law recognizes three forms of treaties with the unbelievers.
1. A treaty for protective status, or, ‘aqd adh-dhimma
2. A treaty for cessation of hostilities, or ‘aqd al-hudna
3. And a treaty for safe passage, or ‘aqd aman
Let us separately investigate each one of these three treaties.
Unbelievers under protective status
The first form of treaty regards unbelievers, who are known as ahl adh-dhimma. They have been given a covenant that God’s judgment and that of His messenger will be applied to them in perpetuity as they have decided to live on a permanent basis in a land governed by Islamic law. They are allowed to remain upon their religion and in return they pay a tax that is known as the jizya.
Unbelievers under a treaty of cessation of hostilities
The second type of treaty covers unbelievers who have agreed to refrain from warring against the Muslims. They are referred to as either ahl al-‘ahd, or ahl as-sulh, or ahl al-hudna. They differ from the previous group, ahl adh-dhimma, as they reside in their own lands. Hence Islamic law does not extend to them. The main stipulation for this treaty is that they will refrain from in engaging in any act of warfare against the Muslims. With these unbelievers, God instructs us in the Qur’an with the following:
So long as they are true to you, be true to them. (The Qur’an 9:7)
In other words, so long as these unbelievers observe their part of the treaty, observe your part of the treaty. The verse then concludes with the following exhortation:
Lo! God loveth those who keep their duty.
So here in this verse, God teaches us that God loves for the Muslims to uphold their treaties with the unbelievers and that so long as the unbelievers uphold their treaty with us, we are obliged to uphold our treaty with them.
Unbelievers under a treaty of safe passage
The final treaty covers unbelievers who find themselves in an Islamic land for a short period of time. Here Islamic law recognizes four groups of unbelievers who would fall under this treaty, namely: (1.) emissaries; (2.) traders; (3.) individuals seeking shelter; (4.) and finally individuals in need.
In all these cases, these individuals known as al-musta’minun have come to an Islamic land without seeking permanent residence.
Again these individuals have asked for safe passage through Islamic lands because they are traders, or members of a diplomatic delegation, or merely just individuals who need to pass through a Muslim land as they seek to go from one end of the earth to another. Regarding these individuals God has very clearly stated:
And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the word of God, and afterward convey him to his place of safety. (The Qur’an 9:6)
In other words afford him the opportunity to be invited to the religion of Islam, and then deliver him to wherever he has asked you to take him. This is a very clear verse in the Qur’an.
Based upon this, it is clearly forbidden for Muslims to take the lives of diplomatic embassies, businessmen, individuals passing through Muslim lands, and likewise people in transit that are going from one point of the earth to another point and are required to pass through an Islamic land.
Acts of violence perpetuated by Muslims
So these are the categories of unbelievers as viewed by Islamic law. If you consider this, then we can frankly say that certain acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims against non-combatant unbelievers over the last ten or fifteen years clearly contradict Islam. It is exceedingly important that Muslims are the first and foremost to condemn and reject such actions.
Violence against diplomatic missions
Thus the taking hostage of the US diplomatic mission to Iran some fourteen years ago is an act that the Prophet himself forbade. Unfortunately, it was perhaps this specific act that perhaps began the recent cycle of labeling Muslims as terrorists.
All diplomatic missions are considered by the Islamic law to fall under the category of those individuals who have come to the Muslim world under a guarantee of safety, or an aman. Hence they are given safe passage and permitted to remain in a Muslim land for some temporary period of time without fear of any harm to their persons or property.
Violence against tourists
Similar to the prohibition of violence against diplomatic missions would be violence against tourists as is with the recent events in Egypt. Like diplomats, these people have entered the lands of the Muslims assuming that they will be unharmed. Now whether certain forms of tourism are approved by Islam or not is not the issue here. The issue is that these individuals have come to a Muslim land under the assumption that while in these lands both their person and property will be unharmed. Therefore to take their lives is a breach on our part of that agreement.
Hijacking of airplanes
Individuals in transit, like passengers on an airplane that either originates in a Muslim land or happens to stop in a Muslim land, also fall under the category of al-musta’minun. We are required to provide them all assistance they require while they are in transit from one point to another. Consequently, hijacking passenger airplanes is forbidden according to the religion of Islam. If this is the case with merely hijacking an airplane and diverting it from its course, then how much greater would the prohibition be if the hijacking entailed blowing up the airplane resulting in loss to either person and/or property.
Deliberate killing of non-combatants
To intentionally kill non-combatants (like innocent women and children) would be under any circumstance forbidden irrespective if those women and children are citizens of a country with which Muslims are at war with the Muslims or not and irrespective if there exists an actual formal declaration of war or not.
When we witness any of these or similar acts perpetrated by some Muslims, we must condemn these acts. It is very sad to see Muslims ignorant of their religion and not adopting the guidance of the prophet Muhammad. Due to their ignorance they commit these acts assuming they have religious sanction justifying such acts. They therefore smear the religion of Islam by their ignorance. In no way are we trying to be apologetic for our beliefs, however when we find something that our religion forbids we must clearly declare that it is forbidden without any hesitation. These acts when perpetrated by Muslims have led to the perception of Muslims as terrorists in addition to the prejudices that were derived from the historical context to which I alluded.
Muslims living in non-Muslim countries
The next matter I would like to discuss is with regards to Muslims living under non-Muslim rule. This is the case with Muslims currently residing in the United States, Europe, Australia, or for that matter anywhere in the world where Muslims reside in a non-Muslim country. First it should be pointed out that according to Islamic law, Muslims in general should not seek to live among non-Muslims. This is the ruling of Islamic law even though many Muslims seeking to better their economic fortunes have become lax with regards to this ruling and have chosen to permanently reside among non-Muslims. And yes of course, there are those Muslims, like students, persons seeking medical care, and the like who are in non-Muslim lands only on a temporary basis. These individuals among others would be exempted from the prohibition of residing among non-Muslims.
Nevertheless whether Muslims find themselves in a non-Muslim land on a permanent or temporary basis they are required by Islamic law under all circumstances to uphold their contracts with the unbelievers. When God instructs us by saying:
O ye who believe! Fulfill your contracts! (The Qur’an 5:1)
This means with everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
So therefore any Muslim who, for instance, comes to the United States and then in order to facilitate his entrance lies, then that individual would be sinful for breaching his contract. Similar in sinfulness to the Muslim who comes to this country on a false pretense, would be, for example, that Muslim who stays in this country illegally after he has given his word that he will remain only for that specific duration allotted to him and then subsequently leave. So if only by such minor breaches of contract a Muslim would be considered sinful, then how much more sinful would a Muslim be if he not only commits such acts but then further proceeds to takes lives that are inviolable by Islamic law.
Regarding the taking of any innocent life of an unbeliever, the Prophet has said:
Whoever kills an unbeliever protected by a treaty (mu‘ahad) that person would not smell the scent of paradise even though its scent will be smelt from a distance of forty years.
This means such individuals who unjustly kill non-Muslims will face the threat of a great punishment on the Day of Judgment of being barred from paradise.
I hope this clears up the accusation that Islam condones, let alone promotes, terrorism. Muslims categorically say that what is done by our fellow Muslims from acts of terrorism is indisputably contrary to our religion.
The World Trade Center bombing
I remember that when I was told that some Muslims were implicated in the World Trade Center bombing. I was very saddened. At that moment, I jotted down on these two sheets of paper some thoughts that came to my mind that illustrate that this act is forbidden in Islam.
The first point I wrote was that this act of bombing the World Trade Center, if Muslims did do so, would be counted among the great sins and falls under the category corruption upon earth that God has forbidden.
Those who break the covenant of God after ratifying it, and sever that which God has ordered to be joined, and (who) cause corruption on earth: Those are they who are the losers. (The Qur’an 2:27)
That was my first point. I also wrote nine other points that are perhaps not directly relevant to our topic. What I would like to emphasize is that according to Islamic law, this act perpetrated by those Muslims is forbidden. It is exceedingly important that we Muslims have no hesitation in declaring that. Yes we should be strict with our religion. And yes we should hold firm to it. But at the same time, when a Muslim does something criminal we Muslims will all say that it is immoral without any uneasiness on our part to assert that.
The next matter that I will discuss concerns the accusation of fundamentalism. The question of fundamentalism really stems from an issue that it is significant to Protestant theology. Specifically, that following the period referred to as the Enlightenment a debate arose in European Protestant circles as to whether the Bible should be viewed as the literal word of God? In other words, are the events mentioned in the Bible, and in particular those found in the Old Testament, like the creation of Adam or the flood of Noah, are these stories to be taken literally? Or are these stories simply a reflection of the ideas held by the individuals who authored these books. On this matter, Protestant theologians basically divided into two groups: those who accepted these stores as literal and those who did not accept them as literal. The former came to be known as fundamentalists in opposition to those who were more liberal in their views.
However, if we were to adopt this original definition of fundamentalism and then attempt to apply it to Muslims, we would find it to be completely without foundation. Why? Because all Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the literal word of God; meaning Muslims believe that God actually spoke the words of the Qur’an to the angel Gabriel who then transmitted it to the prophet Muhammad who in turn proclaimed those very words to all humanity.
So since Muslims hold the Qur’an to be God’s literal words, every Muslim would be by the very definition of fundamentalism a fundamentalist! And hence to say “Muslim fundamentalist” is a misnomer as the term fundamentalist in its original context is not really applicable as the question of the validity of the text of the Qur’an is inapplicable.
So any Muslim by virtue of being a Muslim is a fundamentalist. You can see that this misconception that there are certain Muslims who are fundamentalist, and therefore necessarily backward in their views, and other vulgar portrayals, is really a problem dealing with their doubts regarding the validity of their own religious beliefs. These doubts that they harbor have caused them this bias against religion as a whole and specifically their own religion. They have then reassigned these biases to the Muslim faith. Again the issue of fundamentalist vs. non-fundamentalist Muslim should not be an issue that needs to be addressed for as we have said every Muslim is a fundamentalist in the sense that he believes the Qur’an to be God’s literal word. This is a stipulation for faith regarding which there is no difference of opinion.
Now if the charge of fundamentalist is used to describe how certain Muslims deal with the modern world, as opposed to another group of Muslims who are referred to as modernist; then in actuality, those Muslims who are labeled as fundamentalist often do not differ greatly from what would be considered as proper conduct for change by secular norms. For example, the Algerians who sought to reform their society did so via elections and what would be called here in the US as the democratic process, irrespective if secular democracy is permissible by Islamic law or not. When the military junta in Algeria decided to cancel the elections, usurp the process and further imprison, and then torture the leaders of the FIS there was no uproar or condemnation by anyone in the “Democtratic” West. Unfortunately where the media emphasis is upon is on that minority who commit acts outside the law.
In summary, we may say these accusations of terrorism and fundamentalism have an historical context: ancient Christian intolerance against Islam that was then amplified after the period known as the European enlightenment due to the West’s subsequent adoption of humanism as its philosophy and secularism as its political system. It is in this light, that the West continues to look at the Islamic world. These prejudices have been compounded by acts of certain Muslims who regrettably adopt as a method for effecting political change in their society the guidance of Marx rather than that of Muhammad These Muslims engage in activities that are very clearly according to Islamic law– again this is not just one interpretation of some Muslim scholars – against Islam as those acts entail the taking of life forbidden under these circumstances.
With this I will conclude my remarks and open the floor for questions and comments.
 The Qur’an is clear on this subject: There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. (The Qur’an 2:256) The biographical works on the life of the prophet Muhammad, or sira works, provide us with a background to the revelation of this verse namely that when some of the companions of the Prophet became Muslim they then attempted to force their new faith upon their children. God revealed the instructions that there can be no compulsion in religion.
 Ibn al-Qayyim (died 751 A.H.), Ahkam Ahl adh-Dhimma, Vol. 2, p. 475.
 Reported by Abu Dawud.
 Ibn Rushd (died 595 A.H.), Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol. 1, p. 383.
 Ibn al-Qayyim, Vol. 2, p. 475.
 Reported by Abu Dawud and Ahmad. See Mishkat al-Masabih, Vol. 2, p. 847. Ibn Jama‘ah (died 733 A.H.) remarks that in addition to the Prophet’s specific prohibition, the general welfare prohibits such acts. See Tahrir al-Ahkam fi Tadbir Ahl al-Islam, p. 184. Within Islamic law we find a strong tradition of what we would today refer to today as diplomatic immunity. This practice traces back to the direct instructions of the Prophet. These prophetic directives form a nucleus for the rules governing diplomatic missions that were subsequently elaborated upon by scholarly works and the conduct of Muslim rulers during war and peace.
 Reported by Abu Dawud. See Mishkat al-Masabih, Vol. 2, p. 847.
 The embassy takeover occurred in November 1979.
 Reported by Al-Bukkhari.
 The World Trade Center bombing occurred in March 1993.
 Sins in Islam are two categories: greater and lesser. Adh-Dhahabi (died 748 A.H.) does not distinguish between murdering a believer and murdering an unbeliever protected by treaty in his book on majors sins. See al-Kaba’ir, p. 43.
 In his work Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, George M, Mardsen (1991) writes on the origin of the term fundamentalist: “The vast cultural changes of the era from the 1870s to the 1920s created a major crisis within [the] evangelical coalition. On the one hand were theological liberals who, in order to maintain better credibility in the modern age, were willing to modify some central evangelical doctrines, such as the reliability of the Bible or the necessity of salvation only through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. On the other hand were conservatives who continued to believe the traditionally essential evangelical doctrines. By the 1920s a militant wing of conservatives emerged and took the name fundamentalist.”
 It should be noted that in addition to the Qur’an, Muslims also view the words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad as authoritative.