Volume 22 Issue 4, April 2018



There is a distinction between a crime and a sin. As per the dictionary, a crime refers to a violation of any law created by man. A sin, on the other hand, is interpreted as a violation of the rules of God or any moral breach or infringement that goes against the precepts of religious beliefs and its teachings, which are primarily based on Divine guidance and the Holy Scriptures and are derived from the commandments of the holy personalities as well as from the other sources of revered religious authority.

In a state ruled by religious law, however, a criminal offence may often fall into the category of sin and the same is the case with suicide, the act of intentionally killing oneself. Particularly in Islam, the act of suicide is perceived to be totally haram, an illegal, reprehensible and impermissible as well as an inexcusable act that defies any justification even on the grounds of extreme necessity, need or misfortune usually confronted in the form of hunger, poverty, illness, pain, guilt or any other piteous condition that seems to be beyond human capacity while sane or insane.

More than a double felony, a suicide, an act of self-murder or self-injury or any premeditated attempt is all but contumacy to God, a sheer rebellion against His greater plan of creation, a human interference in God’s will and a blatant intrusion or stepping into the domain all that belongs to God. In Islam, life is a sacred trust assigned by God to each individual, who has no rights at all to end it at his own discretion due to any reason whatsoever.

The Quran, the primary source of Islamic Law, says “And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful. And whoever does that in aggression and injustice - then We will drive him into a Fire.” (Surah An-Nisa, 4:29-30)

With a totally hostile view of suicide, Islamic societies stigmatise those who have committed suicide as well as those who have been found guilty of this unpardonable offence. However, such an indelible stigma is not restricted to the culprit alone, as the offender’s family is also subjected to social exclusion and social ostracism, mostly for the rest of their lives. Reduced to public disgrace, the family of a suicide victim, on most of the occasions, ends up becoming a social outcast, suffers from continued social disapproval and bears numerous financial setbacks and other socio-economic drawbacks.

Many studies prove that Muslim countries are ranked low in terms of suicides, compared to non-Muslim countries. For instance, according to a 2012 report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Saudi Arabia, along with Syria, is found to be the lowest among 171 countries in terms of suicide. Excluding Saudi Arabia and Syria, the 11 countries with the lowest suicide rates are all Muslim nations except Jamaica, says the WHO.

Despite all this, one wonders that the phenomenon of suicide attack today seems to be more associated with Muslims than those non-believers to whom suicide is neither a crime, nor a sin, but a socially accepted and often venerated form of death one voluntarily chooses to end one’s life with or without any apparent reason.

Throughout history, according to researchers, suicide attacks have taken place mostly as a part of military tactics used to inflict inevitable harm to the opposing side and that too at the expense of one’s own loss. For instance, suicide attacks gained an immense popularity during World War II, when the Japanese kamikaze pilots relied on the method as the most patriotic act of self-sacrifice for the country.

Later, the method was widely used by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, during the Sri Lanka Civil War from 1983 to 2009. Referred to as 9/11, the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001 were also suicide attacks carried out by the Al Qaeda, a militant organization.

In January 2002, Wafa Idris, a 27 year-old member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AAMB), a Palestinian armed group, reportedly blew herself up on Jaffa Road in Central Jerusalem, becoming the first Palestinian female suicide bomber in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The next month, as reported by the Israeli media, Darine Abu Aisha, a 22-year old student of English literature at Al-Najah University in Nablus, carried out a suicide bombing at the Israeli army checkpoint near Jerusalem.

On February 27, 2002, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a religious leader and the founder of Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist political and paramilitary organization, issued a fatwa legitimizing suicide attacks. Since then, a number of suicide attacks were carried out by Muslims of Palestinian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Chechen and Afghan origin. These attacks largely occurred in Israel, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Syria, Russia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Arabic term Istishhad, meaning ‘martyrdom operation,’ was embraced by such pro-Palestinian freedom groups as Hamas, Fatah, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinian factions. According to a study by the Israel-based Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), there were some 348 verified suicide attacks worldwide in 2017. The attacks were carried out in a total of 23 countries by over 600 terrorists, 137 of whom were girls and women, the highest number of women ever, says the INSS report.

However, as most of such attacks were first reported by the western media and the media’s preparedness and its urgency shown to break such news in the international media was stupefying, one cannot rule out the element of propaganda implicit in further deteriorating the image of Muslims, since things are blown out of proportion when it comes to the negative projection of Islam in the global media.

The phenomenon called ‘suicide jihad’ tends to be a fairly recent event in the modern world as it was not even heard of during the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union that continued from 1979 to 1989. "The very idea that Muslims might blow themselves up for God was unheard of before 1983 and it was not until the early 1990s that anyone anywhere had tried to justify killing innocent Muslims who were not on a battlefield,” says Sadakat Kadri, a Lebanese writer.

Particularly for the people of Afghanistan, suicide terrorism has become a household term due to increasing rates of suicide attacks in the last six years in particular, making the phenomenon an epidemic-like situation in the war-torn country. Nevertheless, a lot of soul-searching is required on the part of the Muslim Ummah and its political and religious leadership to find out if there is something wrong with the Muslims themselves as they are rendering the greatest disservice to Islam, instead of actually serving it.

More is the pity that suicide bombing, a rather glamourised version of death, is even supported by people like Justice (retired) Wajihuddin Ahmad, a former Supreme Court of Pakistan judge, who boasts of open-mindedness and modernism on the one hand, but openly endorses such an extreme form of extremism on the other. To be honest, those issuing fatwa in favour of suicide attacks must first set such an example themselves, rather than enticing young minds to commit hara-kiri and that too in the guise of serving Islam, the religion of peace and humanity.

Where there is smoke, there is fire. The proverb seemingly stands true for reports that find mostly Muslims are behind the ongoing killing sprees triggered through suicide missions. Mistakenly described as a holy pursuit, suicide-oriented ideology among today’s young Muslims is rapidly turning Islam into a religion of youth, offering the young adventure, thrill and excitement they can only find in military pursuits based on merely nationalistic and heroic motives.

The writer is a member of the staff with a keen interest in socio-economic and philosophical matters.


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