Thumbnail Image

Islamic Law of Warfare and the Question of Suicide Terrorism: An Usuli Twelver Shia Perspective

Terrorism in the name of religion and ethnicity is the most important security challenge facing the world since the cold war. Among different types of terrorism its suicide version is the most complicated one to combat. Because a very high number of the current suicide attacks against civilian targets are executed by Muslim militants, suicide terrorism is associated with the religion of Islam. Muslim militant groups use Islamic jurisprudential terms, including jihad, to justify their otherwise felonious acts of terrorism. This tactic of sanctification of criminal acts of terrorism by use of Islamic legal terms and language may lead one to decide that it is Islamic law per se that is the driving force behind the current phenomenon of suicide terrorism. Since it was the Twelver Shia Muslims of Lebanon who began the use of suicide tactics in its current form, Shia Islam, as the branch of the faith in which its followers are seen as pioneers of suicide operations, is naturally the major focus of interest in this regard. On account of the widespread use of juridical language by organisers and supporters of suicide terrorism, this thesis investigates whether suicide terrorism as such falls within the rules of legitimate warfare (jihad) as found in Usuli Twelver Shia Islamic law, or not. A detailed discussion of contested interpretations of Islam leads to an examination of Shia jurisprudence which then enables a critical evaluation of Jihad in Shia Jurisprudence and a critical discussion of jihad and suicide terrorism. Islamic jurisprudentialism, or fiqh mindedness, provides a language utilised by violent Muslim extremists who have recourse to, or who otherwise support, suicide terrorism. Furthermore, fatwas are also used by violent extremist Muslims to imbue their orders and prohibitions with a sense of religious holiness and sanction. This provides a context wherein their rulings are promoted as beyond dispute. Thus, with respect to Shia jurisprudence, the mechanism in which religious law is made will be laid bare and the criteria for distinguishing a valid fatwa will be illustrated. All elements of Usuli Shia Islamic law which are related to warfare (as armed violence) will be discussed, and their potential to be used as a justification for suicide terrorism will be closely examined, as will the non-jurisprudential justifications which are also used. It will be argued that, for the most part, current normative uses of Usuli Twelver Shia jurisprudential justification of suicide terrorism constitutes a departure from the authentic Shia tradition.
Type of thesis
Mortaza, S. (2016). Islamic Law of Warfare and the Question of Suicide Terrorism: An Usuli Twelver Shia Perspective (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10629
University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.