"Fighting to kill non-Muslims can be a ticket to glory, win or lose: either you kill and gain a get-out-of-hell free card, or you are killed and gain a get-into-paradise-free card. This is a win-win proposition for the jihadi."
by Mark Durie, March 23, 2015
Last week the Islamic State's ‘Hacking Division’ released the names and addresses of one hundred US military personnel. It urged the ‘brothers residing in America’ – i.e. Muslims in America – to ‘deal with’ them, which is to say, it wants them killed.
It is worth giving careful consideration to the Islamic legal reasoning given by IS in support of their call to kill non-Muslims.
The Hacking Division quoted two verses of the Qur’an:
- Sura 9:123 ‘fight believers who are near to you’ and
- Sura 9:14 ‘Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands and will disgrace them and give you victory over them, and satisfy [actually yashfi ‘heal’] the breasts of a believing people’.
These two verses include the word qātilū, translated here as ‘fight’, although the Arabic actually means ‘fight to kill’ (see discussion here). The verbal root q-t-l from which qātilū is formed means ‘kill’.
[According to the Qur'an] "if Muslims feel anger against non-Muslims, their emotional pain will subside and be ‘healed’ as they kill, humiliate and triumph over non-believers. Strange therapy indeed for the human soul!"
The second quotation, from Sura 9:14, puts forward a view about what Muslims should do with the emotional pain they experience because of unbelievers. ‘Allah’, the verse says, ‘will heal the breasts’ of Muslims, – and the sentence continues into the next verse – ‘and remove the rage of their hearts’.
The concept being stated here is that if Muslims feel anger against non-Muslims, their emotional pain will subside and be ‘healed’ as they kill, humiliate and triumph over non-believers. Strange therapy indeed for the human soul! In order to secure the much-vaunted Islamic ‘peace’, the pacification of the Muslim soul must, at least according to the Qur’an, be secured by shedding non-Muslim blood.
These are stock-standard verses used to urge Muslims to go for jihad against disbelievers.
However what most caught my eye in the Hacking Division’s call to arms was not these two verses, but the citation of a saying attributed by Islamic tradition to Muhammad. This saying is hadith 4661 in a published English version of the Sahih Muslim (translated by Abdul Hamid Sidiqqi). The Sahih Muslim is one of the most revered and authoritative sources for the teaching and example of Muhammad. On page 1263 of Volume 3 of this work the hadith can be found:
Chapter 789 (DCCLXXXIX)
About a man who killed a disbeliever and embraced Islam.
(4661) It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: A disbeliever and a believer who killed him will never be gathered together in Hell. [See here.]
This is a most significant verse. It is saying that if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim, then the Muslim will not end up in hell together with the non-Muslim. In other words, killing a non-Muslim who is destined for hell due to their unbelief can provide a sure ticket to paradise for a Muslim.
"To be deradicalized, a Muslim needs to repudiate the teachings of Muhammad and the Qur’an. This is a hard call for pious Muslims, because it means rejecting the foundational authorities of Islam itself."
This tradition is the authority for a view widely put about by jihadis, that if a Muslim personally gets to kill a disbeliever, the Muslim will gain paradise. Combined with the more famous belief, based on the Qur’an, that dying in jihad opens the gates of paradise to Islamic ‘martyrs’ (see Sura 3:169-170; 9:111; and 22:58), fighting to kill non-Muslims can be a ticket to glory, win or lose: either you kill and gain a get-out-of-hell free card, or you are killed and gain a get-into-paradise-free card. This is a win-win proposition for the jihadi.
Persuading Muslims to take the words of Muhammad seriously is the core strategy of radicalization. This tactic works because it appeals to a plain reading of Islam’s holy texts.
To be deradicalized, a Muslim needs to repudiate the theological authority of the teachings of Muhammad and the Qur’an. This is a hard call for pious Muslims, because it means rejecting the foundational authorities of Islam itself.
Ayan Hirsi Ali was surely correct when she wrote that ‘the fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts.’
Hirsi Ali also declared: ‘we in the West need to challenge and debate the very substance of Islamic thought and practice. We need to hold Islam accountable for the acts of its most violent adherents and to demand that it reform or disavow the key beliefs that are used to justify those acts.’
Such a challenge must engage with and repudiate the Islamic dogmas that killing or being killed in attacks against non-Mulims is the key which unlocks the gates of paradise. Until these beliefs are repudiated, the lives of non-Muslims will continue to be thrown away as a ‘ticket to paradise’ for Muslim belligerents.
Hadiths such as 4661 from Sahih Muslim are not made-up fictions. They are a real part of the Islamic canon, which remains unrenounced and unrepudiated by a great many Muslims and Islamic institutions. As long as such texts are not repudiated, the theological winds of Islam will all too often continue to blow pious hearts and minds towards radicalization and death to infidels.