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 Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa against terrorism, affirming Islam's absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.

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.

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