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Islamic Scholars Debate the Meaning of Jihad

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03/29/2007 10:00 PM
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Islamic Scholars Debate the Meaning of Jihad
Islamic Scholars Debate the Meaning of Jihad

Following are excerpts of a TV debate of Islamic scholars on Jihad, which aired on New TV on March 20, 2007:

Syrian-born cleric Sheik Omar Bakri: Jihad is a duty that has to do with the means, not the goals. In other words, Jihad is a religious means to a religious goal - to elevate the word of Allah. This is what Jihad for the sake of Allah, in the sense of fighting, means, although we accept that there is another meaning to Jihad.

Interviewer: Does the end justify the means?

Sheik Omar Bakri: Our goal is not a materialistic one. Our goal is to please Allah by carrying out His commandments. We do not determine the goals. Allah does. "I created the jinn and mankind only that they might worship Me."

Interviewer: In an interview to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on October 10, 2005, you described the people who carried out the 9/11 operation as "magnificent." You said that Sheik Osama bin Laden revived the neglected duty of Jihad, and that Allah will reward him for this.

Sheik Omar Bakri: Yes. The duty of Jihad - and in this case, I'm referring to defensive Jihad - had been neglected by the Islamic nation for a long time, because of the arrogance and injustice or America and its allies against the Islamic nation, and because of their support of Israel, and what we see now in the region is the best proof of this. The 9/11 operations were a response to graet aggressive acts by America - its attacks on Afghanistan, on Iraq, on Sudan, not to mention the historic Crusades from long ago, and so on.

Interviewer: How do you explain...

Sheik Omar Bakri: They were magnificent, even though they were terrorists. The fact that they carried out a terrorist act does not prevent us from calling them "magnificent," because this is what religious scholars call "commendable terrorism."

Interviewer: You are saying that they waged Jihad.

Sheik Omar Bakri: That's because we have two kinds of terrorism - commendable terrorism and reprehensible terrorism. Reprehensible terrorism is an attack on women, children, the peaceful, and the innocent.

Interviewer: So how do you explain the 9/11 operations, in which innocent people were killed, while a Koranic verse says: "Whoever slays a soul, it is as though he slew all men."

Sheik Omar Bakri: Yes, but that verse refers to killing in general. "Do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except when required by justice." In other words, a Muslim carry out certain religious duties, so when he attacks the enemy attacked on its own land, some innocent people might consequently die, but they are not killed intentionally. This happened in the Bani Al-Nazir raid, and in many other raids in the days of the Prophet Muhammad. When they violated the agreement with him, the Prophet said: "We conspired against them, and harmed their women and children."


I am not trying to justify the events of 9/11.

Interviewer: But, to a certain extent, you are justifying the killing of innocent people.

Sheik Omar Bakri: Killing innocent people is forbidden in Islam. But who is innocent - that is another question.

Interviewer: There were women, children, and people who had nothing to do with it. They had nothing to do with the U.S. policies.

Sheik Omar Bakri: In any war, women and children might be killed unintentionally.


Bahraini Shiite scholar Dhiyaa Al-Musawi: Today, Jihad does not mean carrying out attacks with airplanes. Jihad means economic power, development, strengthening human rights, and establishing a civil, rather than theocratic, state. We can elaborate on this later. Jihad means that we be productive, and manage to invade the West with our economic products, with our science, our books, and so on. But if we narrow Jihad down to striking with swords or bullets, and to the killing of civilians... Of course I am not justifying the Western governments, but there is a crisis.


Sheik Omar Bakri: The Muslims in the West do not fight anyone. On 9/11, a group of young Muslims came to carry out a military operation...

Interviewer: There were also the bombings in Britain, Spain, France, Germany...

Sheik Omar Bakri: In all these cases, the squads were not from within Britain, Spain, or America.


Egyptian scholar Gamal Al-Bana: Martyrdom operations in Palestine, in particular, are justified, for two reasons. First, the Palestinians do not have weapons to defend themselves. They have no tanks, artillery, and so on. This is the only means available to them. Therefore, it is justified, especially since it is the Israeli soldiers that are targeted. When I say "soldiers" - the entire Israeli people is recruited. The women are the most vicious of them all. Therefore, this is justified. I consider this to be martyrdom. Even if they harm a woman - all the women serve in the army. All the men serve in the army. Only the small children remain, and the fact is that these are only very rarely harmed. I believe that these are martyrdom operations, and are necessary.
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