|Fadlallah explains religious basis for suicide
Senior cleric sanctions self-sacrifice
Leading voice also
speaks on Western anti-Arab and anti-Islamic prejudice, need to protect the environment
Special to the Daily Star
Suicide attacks in occupied Palestine are not the craven
acts of the morally depraved as they are portrayed by Western media, but a form of
legitimate resistance amid escalating dangers.
This is the view of senior Islamic scholar and marjaa (highest level of Islamic religious
authority) Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who in a wide-ranging interview
with The Daily Star presented a multifaceted argument about the legitimacy of the
martyrdom operations, the culture of anti-Arab and anti-Islamic prejudice in
the West and the degradation of the environment.
Killing oneself is like killing another human being; it requires permission. One
needs permission from Allah to kill himself or to kill others, Fadlallah explained,
adding that many verses in the Koran provided such religious sanction.
Basically, it is haram (prohibited by religion) to kill oneself or others; but
during jihad (holy war or struggle for the sake of Islam), which is a defensive or
preventive war according to Islam, it is accepted and allowed, as jihad is considered an
In analyzing the theological arguments legitimizing suicide attacks, Fadlallah said that
Allah did not identify a certain procedure to fight the enemy and defend the rights of the
If achieving victory means that we have to go through a minefield, which necessarily
and definitely means that many are going to be killed, then we would go, he said.
Fadlallah said that the Palestinian perpetrators of martyrdom operations do
not target civilians, but rather aim to defend their people by inflicting damage and
losses on the Israeli side to maintain a kind of equilibrium with the high-tech arsenal
used by the Israeli Army.
Fadlallah also insisted on a linguistic distinction between suicide and
self-sacrifice operations. Suicide is considered a crime from the
religious point of view. One does not own his life to end it when he likes. Allah owns
everyones life and it is a great transgression to inflict harm to oneself as much as
it is to others.
If one kills oneself or others without a religious permission, he will be punished in the
hereafter by being immortalized in hell, he continued.
Fadlallah also contradicted views widely held by Islamic scholars on the role of women in
jihad, saying women are allowed to participate and carry out self-sacrifice
Nothing in Islam prevents women from embracing struggle and fighting for the sake of
Allah. Women initially are not required to fight, for this is mens duty, but under
certain circumstances it might be a womens duty as well.
Fadlallah also took issue with anti-Islamic attitudes in the West, saying these prejudices
resulted in a vicious circle associating religion with terrorism.
Europeans have a negative view of Islam; they are against whatever is Islamic
because they associate it with terrorism, backwardness and violence.
He blamed this distortion on the cultural role of reductive orientalist scholars, the
Crusades and the colonization of Islamic countries.
But Fadlallah suggested that Americans do not share the cultural baggage of their fellow
Westerners in Europe. This difference, he said, explains the less-encumbered spread of
Islam in the United States, where many Muslims have found an environment of relative
Despite the absence of historically ingrained anti-Islamic attitudes in the United States,
the Jewish lobby, he said, had succeeded in presenting both Muslims and Arabs as
Fadlallah blamed the Western media for much of the image-distorting propaganda against
Islam, which has led to what he called Islamophobia in the West and around the world.
Nevertheless, he identified gestures of religious tolerance by key Western leaders, such
as US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as positive
But the cleric said that these gestures were largely attempts to earn credibility in the
Arab and Islamic world and deflect criticism of pro-Western allies in the region.
He added that Western governments continue to exploit racist attitudes to further their
political goals. They use the anti-Arab and anti-Islamic drives to make political
gains and pressure immigrant communities and force them to accept the policies of
assimilation, he said.
In stark contrast to this reservoir of racism in the West stands the Arab world, Fadlallah
said: Islam has brought Arabs up in a tolerant way. It taught, instructed and
ordered them to adopt a rather open, flexible and humane strategy for dealing with other
people. This is pretty evident, he said.
As we go back in history, Arabs invited, welcomed and encouraged people of other
religions whether Christians, Jews or Magis to be part of the social, cultural and
economic matrix of Islam.
Although he said racism was a thick boundary dividing people and nations, Fadlallah
expressed hope in dialogue as a means toward human progress.
As Muslims, we call for a comprehensive human approach toward mankind, regardless of
race and religion.
Shifting to environmental issues, Fadlallah praised a new trend in Islamic jurisprudence,
which emphasizes the preservation of natural resources.
As Islam prohibits any action which inflicts harm on people, the same applies to
nature and its resources. It is haram to cause any damage to nature, the scholar
Fadlallah himself has issued a number of influential fatwas on the environment, including
a prohibition on littering and the burning of tires.
Nevertheless, Fadlallah placed responsibility for the protection of the environment on the
governments of industrialized countries. He targeted the US government in particular,
citing its abandonment of international efforts to reduce gas emissions worldwide.
The American attitude, which refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, is an aggression
against nature and mankind.
The Bush administration earlier this year removed the United States as a signatory of the
treaty a move Fadlallah described as a blunt expression of American greed.
In Islamic teachings, the protection of nature and its resources are disciplinary
duties, he said. Reversing the tide of environmental degradation, he said, required
a cooperative effort from both civil society and the state.
Fadlallah also emphasized the necessity of educational campaigns to raise environmental
The Third World and the underdeveloped countries are not aware of many environmental
problems or the ways to solve them. They are busy paying attention to other things, (but)
it is very important to spread a culture of awareness and respect for nature among
them, he said.
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