In order to combat Islamist terrorism, it is important to first understand the enemy. Meaning that whatever is committed in the name of religion has never been prescribed and nor does it enjoy any legal basis. The Quran neither supports persecution nor terrorism. Thus it becomes a matter of triumphant ignorance when suicide bombers and the like are referred to as Muslims. Indeed, what can the rest of us do when those who wreak terror do so under the false banner of Islam to promote their self-serving agenda? We can begin by recognising it as the manmade phenomenon that it is. It is important to study Islam from the canon sources. Nahjul Balagha represents the primary source of Quranic interpretation to counter forces inimical to Islam or the flawed policies practised by those who may rule over us. And unless those around us, especially the clergy, understand and promote the true spirit of Islam — a violent aberration claimed by those seeking to present themselves as the most enlightened will wreak unparalleled damage. It is a bitter irony, therefore, that several religious wings of particular groups, which justify acts of murderous violence against the innocent, continue to be sheltered. Today, various militant outfits are battling it out with our armed forces. They believe themselves to Allah’s representatives on earth. There is, it must be noted, a great difference between terrorism and guerrilla warfare. The latter resists institutional oppression whereas the former focuses on the unleashing of horror upon non-combatants. Murder can never be confused with an act of spirituality. Those who use religion to justify their acts of greed or their quest for power lie outside the fold of Islam. Too often is ‘jihad’ translated to mean holy war, whereas the Arabic word for war is al-Harb. Jihad, on the other hand, has several meanings, including struggling or striving. It may refer to internal as well as external endeavours to become a true or good believer; as well as efforts to inform people about the Aqidah of Islam. If Jihad bil Saif (military action) is required to protect Muslims from non-believers — the means to do this can take the form of anything from the legal, diplomatic and economic to the political. If no peaceful alternative exists, Islam does allow for the use of power. But there are strict rules of engagement to be adhered to. Including refraining from harming innocents, such as women, children or invalids. In addition, any proposals for peace coming from the enemy camp must be accepted. Thus the notion of military operation comprises just one element of jihad’s true meaning, and it remains the one of last resort. To highlight this point, upon returning from a military campaign, the Prophet (PBUH) instructed his followers thus: “This day we have returned from the minor Jihad to major Jihad.” The Nabavi instruction means returning from armed battle to peaceful battle for self-control and betterment. If no peaceful alternative exists to protect Muslims against non-Muslims, Islam allows for the use of power. Yet there are strict rules, including no harming of women and children . Also, any peace proposals from the enemy must be accepted. Thus the notion of military operation is one of last resort Thus we can say that the ongoing military operation Radd-ul-Fasad waged by the Pakistan Army against well-equipped terrorists was undeniably necessary. All leading ulema therefore issued a fatwa in support of the above. The officers and soldiers comprising our brave forces have sacrificed not only their precious lives but also the familial peace of their loved ones in order to deliver the innocent citizenry of this country from the bloodthirsty barbarians. No Islamic scholar of sound mind deems suicide attacks to be legal. It is perhaps unsurprising that an overwhelming majority of suicide bombers come from impoverished backgrounds. This makes them easy prey for those who operate the militant nurseries that are run under the guise of the madrasa that provides for them. Then begins the process of indoctrinating these young impressionable minds, thereby reducing them to nothing but pawns in someone else’s game. This includes notions of self-sacrifice as being the ultimate manifestation of a glory so divine that at least 70 virgins would be offered in exchange. By the time they reach this point, so de-sensitised have they become that they find nothing untoward about slaughtering innocent folk. Indeed, in the run-up to an attack, the handlers isolate the ‘chosen one’ from the outside world. And just as an extra precaution, they often record footage of the process that transforms him into a suicide bomber; thereby ensuring that there is never any point of return. These videos also serve an additional function: namely, as a propaganda tool to further terrorise the broader population. It was not the Ismaili Nizar but, rather, the Crusaders who introduced the concept of suicide-terrorism. Missionaries belonging to the Roman Catholic Church exploited young minds in the quest to fulfil their politico-religious goals in Muslim-dominated areas. Outside the framework of a traditional army — a single ‘sacrificial lamb’ was always on hand to deliver what a large force could not. The origin of the Hashishins (the assassins) is found not in the medieval Ismaili Nizari but in the Church itself. Such literal self-sacrificing zealotry is also traced back to Indian history. In the 11th century, a Chera ruler employed suicide bombers, called Chavers (a term still used today in the Malayalam language to refer to the same), against a Chola ruler. As British author and religious commentator Karen Armstrong succinctly puts it: “Terrorism has nothing to do with Muhammad (PBUH), any more than the Crusades had anything to do with Jesus. There is nothing in Islam that is more violent than Christianity. All religions have been violent including Christianity . . . Judaism has become violent in the modern world, thanks to the nation state.”Thus taking this concept forward, as we must, the Taliban and others do not represent Islam. But they do remain a product of the cursed cult of the Khawarij. And let it be said that their foreign masters fund these terrorist groups. Yet they conveniently forget that religion cannot be spread by force; and that those who try to do so are the enemies of Islam. Thus it is by their hand that the door of criticism is opened to this religion. Indeed, the radical clergy alone is responsible for this abominable defamation of a peaceful religion. Today, we must recall the words of Salafi scholars such as Sheikh al-Fawzan when he says: “Those who claim to be engaging in Jihad for the sake of Allah by killing themselves as ‘committing suicide’ and ‘mujahideen for the sake of Shaitan’. Those who have fallen into this fitnah (trial or temptation) have not asked the Ulema, nor have they gained religious taleem from them. Instead they isolated themselves from other Muslims and turned to people considered human tyrants who brainwashed them, and so they deviated from the right path followed by the majority. They consider other Muslims to be infidels, in what is known as ‘Takfir’. They kill them; blow up buildings and other facilities. They kill the young and old, male and female, and Muslim and non-Muslims, due to this deviant belief. These are the consequences for whoever inclines towards evildoers”. Yet we all have a role to play in trying to curtail the number of ‘successful’ suicide bombers. Namely, the state must invest in the most sophisticated bomb detection devices and install these at all important sites. And then there is the family unit, which must keep a watchful eye on its children; for neglect can all too easily turn them towards the path of wanton destruction. Nevertheless, the greatest responsibility rests with a clergy that falsely interprets Islamic tenets. Thus there is nothing for it but to bring the madrasa under state control, whereby a psychological assessment of every ‘faculty’ member is duly conducted and the goings-on therein carefully monitored. For it is due to the negligence of successive Pakistani governments that so many mullahs have been allowed to preach hate under the false banner of religion. This has to stop. The author is Advisor Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, October 18th 2017.