Muslim Scholars’ Take on the Negative Consequences of “Terrorism”

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Zakyi Ibrahim



I pen this editorial feeling weary of having to address this particular topic yet
again. But please bear with me, for the senseless murder of fourteen innocents
in San Bernardino on December 2, 2015, occurred only twenty-two miles
from my home. Although I do not regularly attend the mosque that the killers
frequented, I personally know that its director is one of America’s best Muslim
leaders in terms of knowledge, wisdom, and kindness. Lastly, one victim recently
graduated from the university at which I teach.
Over the years, I have addressed Muslim extremism and radicalism from
various vantage points: the identity of the Muslim extremists, whether their actions
can be intellectually and religiously described as Islamic (AJISS 32:2),
and whether they could be decisively defeated (not wiped out) so that peace
will prevail (AJISS 32:4). I have deliberated how their violent acts against innocents
evoke apprehension and fear, thereby stigmatizing and staining all
Muslims and even Islam itself (AJISS 29:1). I even addressed the erroneous
perception that America’s imams cause radicalism and suggested how they
should tailor their messages to combat extremism (AJISS 27:2). In this editorial,
I explicate what a group of Muslim academics in the Middle East considers
to be the negative consequences of “terrorism” (maḍār al-irhāb).1
The first negative consequence of terrorism2 is that it “attracts God’s wrath
and subjects the perpetrator to God’s severe punishment, both in this world
and the hereafter.”3 These Muslim scholars had the following verse in mind
while extrapolating: “If anyone kills a believer deliberately, the punishment
for him is Hell, and there he will remain: God is angry with him, and rejects
him, and had prepared a tremendous torment for him” (Q. 4:93). In a hadith
narrated by Ibn Abbas, the young Companion who has been dubbed the “father
of Qur’anic exegesis,” he said that when this verse was revealed the Companions
asked the Prophet, “Even if the perpetrator repents, becomes a true
believer, and does good deeds?” The Prophet responded, “How else can he
repent?” (annā lahū al-tawbah) ...

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