Q: Are what the western media calls "suicide bombings" allowed in Islam?
A. SUICIDE BOMBINGS
In Islam there is a law that states if a Muslim intends to single-handedly attack the enemy in battle and knows that he won’t come back alive but also has full confidence that such an attack will cause tremendous harm to the enemy and will crush their morale, then such a solo attack is permissible. Though outwardly it seems like suicide, but the outcome in this case justifies such an attack. In this case the Muslim is not doing anything to kill himself; instead he is launching an attack against the odds with the hope of inflicting severe harm on the enemy. This is allowed and in fact recommended. Imam Muhammad (Rahmatullaahi Alayh) of the Hanafi Scholars mentioned this in detail in his book As-Siyarul-Kabeer. Allama Qurtubi (Rahmatullaahi Alayh), a famous commentator of the Holy Qur'aan mentioned incidents of this nature among the Sahaabah and the former Mujaahideen.
However, if the result will not be harmful to the enemy nor will such an attack inflict considerable or substantial harm on them then it is an exercise in futility and is not permissible, because this is contrary to the verse of the Holy Qur'aan where Allah Ta’aala declares:
“And do not cast yourselves to destruction” (Surah 2, verse 195) “O Believers! …… Do not kill yourselves” (Surah 4, verse 29) These verses imply situations where there is no meaningful benefit or impact achieved while the attacker is actively taking his own life.
In modern-day suicide bombings the attacker is not killed by the enemy, nor does he actively attack the enemy. Instead the bomber detonates an explosive that kills himself first, and then the enemy. So it is the bomber who absorbs the brunt of the explosion. This type of attack is clearly different to the former methods of attack where the fighter would launch himself at the enemy, kill a few before being killed. In today’s ‘suicide attacks’ the attacker kills himself and then the enemy. In most cases, the killing of the enemy is not guaranteed, as events have proven. At times these suicidal attacks did wreak major havoc among the enemy but these successes are few and far between.
Based on this we would say that if the attacker is almost certain or has full confidence that he will be able to inflict heavy losses on the enemy then he will be allowed to resort to this mode of attack with the intention that the explosive is being detonated at the enemy or for the purpose of blowing up the enemy. There should never be the intention of killing oneself or blowing up oneself. If the chances of major damage are slim or almost nought, then this type of attack will not be permissible.
Heavy losses mean such damage that will make it difficult for the enemy to continue normal aggression against Muslims, or will instil such fear in them that they will desist from causing further harm to Muslims. Just killing a handful or Kuffaar, and inviting further and heavier aggression from their side does not seem to be justification for the permissibility of such suicidal operations..
Another condition, which applies to all forms of combat, is that women and children should not be targeted or killed in such an operation. This was the express command of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi wa Sallam).
Having said all the above, it must be noted that any Muslim who takes part in such suicidal bombings in war-torn and battle-ravaged areas will not be condemned for this action because in the final analysis outside observers will not know what the affected people are going through and the state of their personal and inner emotions. We would never realise what drove a man or a woman to the point where he or she will strap the body with explosives and go out there and die.
And Allah Ta’aala knows best.
Mufti Siraj Desai