Fatwas, rulings and authoritative statements against terrorism in Islam
The teachings of Islam prohibit terrorism and condemn unwarranted violence and bloodshed. Muslim scholars and leaders from all parts of the world in the past and present have repeatedly condemned terrorism and issued Islamic legal rulings or fatwas against terrorism and related acts. Many of these directly respond to an actual incident of terrorism in which civilians were targeted by extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam.
Major Fatwas condemning Terrorism and Indiscriminate Violence
In March 2010, Sheikh Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a leading Pakistani cleric, published a 600-page Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings, endorsed by Al-Azhar University, which prohibited killing Muslim and non-Muslim civilians and destroying property and places of worship. The fatwa also affirmed the unlawfulness of imposing Islam on others, and that the only permissible way in Islam to change a government is through peaceful and legal means.
In March 2010, a major international conference convened in Mardin, Turkey, to revisit a well-known fatwa of Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) that has been used to justify terrorism. Major Muslim scholars attending included Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah of King Abdul Aziz University, Saudi Arabia, and Dr Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia. The participants issued a declaration that this fatwa could not be used to justify takfir (accusing Muslims of being unbelievers as a pretext for attacking them), rebelling against rulers, terrorizing those who enjoy safety and security, or acting treacherously towards those whom Muslims live at peace with. The New Mardin Declaration - English & Arabic.
In January 2010, the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada issued a fatwa against terrorism signed by 20 North American Imams, declaring that attacks on Canada and the United States by any extremist will be an attack on 10 million Muslims living in North America, and affirmed that every Canadian and American Muslim has a duty to protect their country and expose any individual attempting to harm Canadians or Americans.
In November 2008, nearly 6,000 Indian Muslim clerics approved a fatwa against terrorism at a conference in Hyderabad. Termed the 'Hyderabad Declaration', it stated that "Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence, breach of peace, bloodshed, murder and plunder and does not allow it in any form".
In March 2008, the rector of the Deoband madrasa in India, Maulana Marghubur Rahman, made the following statement at a major Anti-Terrorism Convention in Deoband, India, in 2008: “We condemn all forms of terrorism, and in this we make no distinction. Terrorism is completely wrong, no matter who engages in it, and no matter what religion he follows or community he belongs to. Islam is a religion of mercy and peace.”
The International Islamic Fiqh Academy, a subsidiary organisation of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, issued a declaration at its meeting in June 2006 regarding the position of Islam on extremism and terrorism. It reaffirmed that all forms of terrorism are criminal acts and considered ¿aram or forbidden under Islamic law, whether it is directly carrying out a terrorist act or indirect support or participation for such an act, and whether the act is carried out by an individual, group or state. The declaration is found here in Arabic.
In December 2005 the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) issued its ten-year plan (read in English/ Arabic ). Among the eleven key intellectual and political issues it identified were the need to emphasise Islam as the religion of moderation and tolerance, and the need to combat terrorism in all its forms. In particular, the plan noted that extremism contradicts both Islam and human values, and rejected any justification or rationalization for terrorism. It noted that even legitimate resistance to foreign occupation does not justify the killing of civilians.
In July 2005, Sheikh Muhammad Afifi Al-Akiti from the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, published a fatwa condemning the targeting of innocents by terrorists, entitled Defending the Transgressed by Censuring the Reckless Against the Killing of Civilians (Mudafi' al-Mazlum bi-Radd al-Muhamil 'ala Qital Man La Yuqatil) in response to the July 2005 London bombings.
In July 2005, Shaykh ¿Abd al-Aziz Al al-Shaykh, grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a statement following the London bombings in 2005: “Killing and terrorising innocent people and the destruction of property are not condoned by Islam. Attributing all these horrific incidents to (the cause of) Islam is unjust.” He added, “The unjust killing of a human being in Islam is forbidden.”
In July 2005, the British Muslim Forum, representing more than 500 British Muslim scholars, clerics and imams, signed a fatwa in response to the London bombings, stating that "Islam strictly, strongly and severely condemns the use of violence and the destruction of innocent lives."
In November 2004, King Abdullah of Jordan proclaimed the "Amman Message" a joint statement by 200 Islamic scholars from 50 countries, repudiating extremism, radicalism and fanaticism, recognising a broad spectrum of Muslim practice in the face of extremist attempts to narrow it down, and delegitimising the fatwas of extremists and terrorists. The Amman Message was subsequently endorsed by a further 300 Islamic scholars, intellectuals and government officials from around the world. The Amman Message has three main points which all signatories endorsed. The most important of these is the first, which affirms the validity of all 8 madhhabs of Sunni, Shi’i and Ibadi Islam, as well as Ash’arism, Sufism, and true Salafi thought, and the impermissibility of takfir (declaring another Muslim to be an apostate) against any adherent of these schools, or any Muslim who believes in God and His Messenger, the six pillars of faith, and the five pillars of Islam, and does not deny any necessarily self-evident tenet of Islam. The Message also sets out the requirements for issuing fatwas, and affirms that no one may issue a fatwa without adhering to the methodology of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. In addition, the Amman message contains lengthy, individual fatwas on this issue from a number of important scholars from Sunni and Shi’i Islam, which are currently only available in Arabic. The fatwas can be found here.
- See also this link on the question of the reception of the Amman Message among Islamic scholars, and the question of whether it makes Islam a ‘free-for-all’.
The Saudi Arabian Council of Senior Scholars convened in May 2003 and issued a fatwa concerning suicide bombings and terrorism. It reiterated that those who commit these acts are contravening Islamic law, and terrorism constitutes ‘corruption on the earth’ and a destruction of lives, wealth and belongings that are protected by Islamic law.
On 27 September 2001, a fatwa was issued by six senior Middle Eastern Muslim clerics, responding to the September 11 attacks, stating that the terrorists' acts, from the perspective of Islamic law, constitute the crime of hirabah (waging war against society).
In July 1999 the Organisation of the Islamic Conference adopted its Convention on Combating International Terrorism, at its 26th session in Burkina Faso. The convention reiterated that terrorism cannot be justified in any way and constitutes a gross violation of human rights, and further that Islamic law rejects all forms of violence and terrorism, in particular that which is based on religious extremism. The convention sets the measures to be taken to prevent terrorism and terms for cooperation between member states in combating it. The full text of the convention is found here.
Please note the list above contains external links and the NCEIS takes no responsibility for their contents. They do not necessarily represent the views of the NCEIS, its staff, or the NICF.
Book length scholarly works on jihad and terrorism
Popular Egyptian Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi published a two-volume work in 2010 on the jurisprudence surrounding war and physical conflict in Islamic law, entitled The Fiqh of Jihad: A Comparative Study of its Rulings and Philosophy in Light of the Qur’an and Sunnah. It is currently only available in Arabic. (A review and summary of its contents by the Tunisian intellectual Rashid al-Ghannushi is also available.)
Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah gave a lecture about the causes and solutions of terrorism at the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jeddah in 2005. The lecture is available online in Arabic. The lecture was later expanded and published as a book, entitled Terrorism: Diagnosis and Solutions, currently available only in Arabic.
Fatwas and statements on ISIS
The group known as the Islamic State (in Iraq and al-Sham) or ISIS has gained notoriety for its cruelty and violence. ISIS has been condemned by most mainstream Muslim scholars, both for their premature declaration of an Islamic caliphate, as well as their many contraventions of Islamic law.
A recent open letter signed by 126 leading Muslim scholars to the leader of ISIS, known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, sets out twenty-four points on which the group has contravened Islamic law, including killing innocent civilians, mistreating People of the Book, reintroducing slavery, cruelly killing captives and mutilating their bodies, involving children in war, and using torture. The letter is signed by Muslim scholars from around the world, including Sheikh Abdullah b. Bayyah, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ya'qubi, as well as leading scholars from Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritania, and Sudan.
The letter is available at in English at http://www.lettertobaghdadi.com/14/english-v14.pdf and Arabic at http://www.lettertobaghdadi.com/14/arabic-v14.pdf.
Sheikh Abdullah b. Bayyah, Vice President of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS or Ittihad al-Alami li-ʿUlama' al-Muslimin), has also released a statement entitled "This is Not the Path to Paradise: Response to ISIS". In it he condemns the destruction of holy places, fighting for reasons other than self-defense and repelling aggression, and the excommunication of Muslims (takfir). Sheikh Bin Bayyah also clarifies that the caliphate is not a matter of theology and that for many centuries many Muslim lands were independent of the caliphate.
Other groups who have condemned ISIS include the opposition Syrian Islamic Council (al-Majlis al-Islami al-Suri), who released a statement detailing its many contraventions of Islamic law, its oppression and aggression against person and property, and says that ISIS is a "gang of rebellion, extremism, and excommunication". The statement is translated at this link.
A fatwa by the Syrian Islamic Organisation (Hay'at al-Sham al-Islamiyya) condemns ISIS' practice of killing captives with a knife.
The Historic Islamic Edict (Fatwa) on Joining ISIS/ISIL by the Canadian Muslim Imams and scholars is a Fatwa regarding ISIS/ISIL and its recruitment activities.
An online magazine has been launched by British imams as an attempt to combat extremist groups such as ISIS. The magazine's first edition, called Exposing the Truth About ISIS, attempts to prove the illegitimacy of ISIS's declared caliphate and quotes religious texts to show how extremist groups attempt to mislead Muslim youth.
Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, Syrian Scholar condemns ISIS in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Fatwas, Books and Articles on Fighting and Military Conflict in Islam
There are also many fatwas or responses to Islamic legal questions available in English (and many more in Arabic) that respond to questions of violence, fighting, war, pronouncements of apostasy, and related issues. These fatwas come from a range of sources, both identifying with the Sunni madhhabs and those identifying with the ‘Salafi’ methodology. Some of the English-language fatwas are provided below.
The former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Ali Gomaa, has a number of research articles and fatwas on his website discussing the concept of jihad in Islam.
Jihad: Concept, History and Contemporary Approaches. This lengthy article discusses the linguistic meaning of jihad, its historical origins in the Qur’an and in the events of the Prophet’s life, and the limits and restrictions that are placed on those who fight, including the impermissibility of harming non-combatants. Shaykh Gomaa describes warfare as ‘an “unwanted obligation” which has to be carried out with strict observance of particular humane and moral guidelines and which must not be resorted to except when it is absolutely inevitable.’ Shaykh Gomaa summarises the purpose of military jihad in Islamic law as follows:
- Self defense and fighting back against aggression.
- Alleviating religious persecution and establishing freedom of religion so that people may have the opportunity to think freely and practice their religious convictions.
He sets out a number of rules that must be observed, including:
- The impermissibility of harming women and children
- Preserving religious freedom, and avoiding attacking religious buildings or clergy
- Treating captives humanely and preserving their lives
- Preserving the environment
- The impermissibility of attacks by surprise or under cover of night
- The prohibition of betraying those who have extended a covenant of security to enter their lands in safety
- The prohibition of attacking those with whom the Muslims have a truce.
- War must be declared by the Muslim ruler and it is impermissible to attack without his permission.
Finally, Shaykh Gomaa reiterates that according to Islamic law, all Islamic states must abide by the international agreements and treaties they have acknowledged and entered into of their own accord.
In Shaykh Gomaa’s view, “none of the current incidents of terrorism which happen to involve Muslims claiming to be performing Jihad are actually Jihad because they fail to meet any of the above laid down conditions.”
Other research articles and fatwas from Shaykh Gomaa’s website include:
The Rules and Ethics of War in Islam. This article discusses lawful reasons for warfare under Islamic law and the ethics and rules that must be observed.
Fatwa on Jihad. This fatwa responds to a question about whether Muslims are commanded to fight people everywhere. Shaykh Gomaa responds that jihad in Islam is only against injustice and oppression, and discusses the context of Qur’anic verses and Prophetic hadiths that are often cited to justify indiscriminate violence. He explains that the position of Muslim scholars is that in the modern era, non-violent advocacy for Islam has replaced the pre-modern practice of warfare between empires. The indiscriminate acts of terrorists are condemned as ‘corruption on the earth’ and compared to the early rebels of Islam, the Kharijites.
Fatwa on Jihad in Syria. This fatwa clarifies the issue of defensive jihad as an individual obligation or communal obligation in countries neighbouring those where Muslim sanctuaries have been attacked. Shaykh Gomaa also discusses the requirements of jihad in this case, which includes following those in authority the need for formal declaration of jihad.
Abdullah bin Bayyah
- Mauritanian imam Sheikh Abdullah b. Bayyah, professor at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia and a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, responded to a question about a Muslim ruler giving a covenant of security to non-Muslims. He noted that a Muslim ruler can give a covenant of security to non-Muslims and that those under such covenant may not be attacked under Islamic law.
- In another fatwa Sheikh Bin Bayyah responded to a question regarding when violence is permissible. He affirmed that it is only permissible in the context of resisting aggression—yet if one remains patient, one is complying with one of the foremost commandments of God.
- In another fatwa Sheikh Bin Bayyah reaffirmed that friendship between Muslims and non-Muslims is permissible, and indeed it is virtuous to treat those of other faiths with kindness and equity.
- In another fatwa Sheikh Bin Bayyah clarified that ruling by other than what God has sent down, though a serious breach of Islamic law, is not enough to take someone out of the fold of Islam.
Shaykh Faraz Khan
- Shaykh Faraz Khan, from the Sunni website Seekers Guidance, answered a question regarding what takes a person out of Islam. His fatwa notes the traditional criteria, and emphasises that calling a Muslim a disbeliever is an extremely grave matter that is condemned both in the Qur’an and in hadith sources, and is restricted to qualified jurists of the highest calibre.
- In response to a question about the hadith: “I was ordered to fight the people until they testify…” Shaykh Faraz Khan explains its limited application to Arab polytheists of the Prophet’s time.
- In response to a question about Qur’anic verse 9:5 ('Slay them wherever you find them’) Shaykh Faraz Khan discusses the traditional historical context of the verse, its limited and conditional application, and affirms that it cannot be used to justify violence or terrorism against innocent civilians.
- In a lengthy response to a question regarding violence and war in the Qur’an and Islamic law, Shaykh Faraz Khan responded in detail regarding the restrictions placed by Islamic law on the use of force, and the need for understanding the historical context of verses and hadiths. He reiterated that Islamic law requires fulfilment of all covenants with Muslims and non-Muslims, considers treachery to be an extremely grave matter, and forbids attacking women and children under any circumstances.
Islamic Statements Against Terrorism
An extensive archive of statements and rulings by senior Muslim scholars against terrorism and extremism, compiled by Professor Charles Kurzman from the University of North Carolina
Muslim Voices Against Extremism and Terrorism
A comprehensive list of fatwas and formal statements made by Muslim scholars and organisations against terrorism and extremism, compiled by The American Muslim
Qur'anic Verses and Hadiths of the Prophet against Extremism
Qur'an & Hadith Against Extremism, compiled by Sheila Musaji, Courtesy of The American Muslim
Sound Hadith on Nonviolence, Peace, and Justice, compiled by Dr. M. Hafiz Syed and edited by Kabir Helminski, Courtesy of The American Muslim
Qur'an and Hadith Against Extremism
A list of Qur'anic verses and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad relevant to the issue of terrorism and extremism. Compiled by The American Muslim
Fatwas Condemning the September 11 Attacks
After the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York on Washington, many Muslim leaders and clerics from around the world condemned the specific incidents and terrorism in general. Many of these responses are collected at the website of Professor Charles Kurzman at the University of North Carolina. Some of the most important are reproduced below:
(1). On September 14, 2001, a group of 46 intellectuals, scholars and leaders of Islamic movements from around the world issued a statement, published in the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, which declared:
“The undersigned, leaders of Islamic movements, are horrified by the events of Tuesday 11 September 2001 in the United States which resulted in massive killing, destruction and attack on innocent lives. We express our deepest sympathies and sorrow. We condemn, in the strongest terms, the incidents, which are against all human and Islamic norms. This is grounded in the Noble Laws of Islam which forbid all forms of attacks on innocents. God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: ‘No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another’ (Surah al-Isra 17:15).”
The signatories included the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Sudan, Syria and Jordan, Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami, Palestine’s Hamas movement, Tunisia’s Nahda movement, Malaysia’s PAS, Indonesia’s PKS, Morocco’s PJD, and scholars from al-Azhar University.
(2). On 15 September 2001, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia ‘Abd al-Aziz b. Abd Allah Al al-Shaykh condemned the September 11th attacks as “a form of injustice that cannot be tolerated by Islam, which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts.” He further stated that “any Muslim who is aware of the teachings of his religion … will never involve himself in such acts”. Read the statement here.
(3). On 27 September 2001, a fatwa was issued by six senior Middle Eastern Muslim clerics, including Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi of Qatar, and Shaykh Muhammad Salim al-Awwa of Egypt, responding to the September 11 attacks. The fatwa stated that the terrorists' acts, from the perspective of Islamic law, constitute the crime of hiraba (waging war against society). Link to English and Arabic.