New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Into the Abyss: Gaza and the Crisis of Political Morality

Posted in articles by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2009-01-08

“If he has not virtue, man is the most unholy and the most savage of animals…”     Aristotle

In America and Israel it is frequently said that Hamas is guilty of killing the political process evolving between Israel and the Palestinians, owing to its obscurantist insistence on Israel’s destruction. The truth of the matter is that the political process died long before Hamas even ascended to power. Although it is frequently stated, again in Israel and America, that there is no meaningful political process between Israel and the Palestinians because Israel can find no Palestinian partners desiring peace, the truth of the situation, captured by what Henry Siegman writes in the New York Review of Books, is to the contrary:

Whatever one’s reading of Hamas’s intentions as it takes over the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, the notion that its sweeping electoral victory spells “the end of the peace process” is nonsense. The peace process died when Sharon was elected prime minister in 2000. More correctly, it was killed—with malice aforethought—by Sharon’s “unilateralism” with which he implemented the disengagement from Gaza, which in turn provided cover for his continued unilateralism. That he was bringing off the disengagement against the wishes of the settlers helped to divert attention from his refusal to have any negotiations with the Palestinians.

Unilateralism continues to serve as the euphemism for Israeli policies that are expropriating half of what was to have been the state of Palestine, and are concentrating the Palestinian population, about to outnumber the Jewish population, in territorially disconnected Bantustans that make a mockery of the promise of an independent, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state made in the “road map” of 2003, which was put forward by the Quartet of the US, the EU, the UN, and Russia. [1]

Israel’s unilateralism and the callous disregard for Palestinian suffering that it involves is the real reason for the collapse of any viable political process between the Palestinians and Israel. The arrogant political morality that such unilateralism is predicated on is captured in the remarks made by Dov Weissglas, a top Israeli political advisor and a member of the Israeli government’s “Hamas Team” when he joked about the prospects for the Palestinians in the aftermath of their electing the Hamas government, to the raucous laughter of an assembly of high-ranking Israeli officials: “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but they won’t die.” [2]

Weissglas’ callous statement marked the beginning of the Israeli campaign to destroy Gaza. The current crisis, like the punishing invasion in the aftermath of the capture of Gilad Shilat by Palestinian forces, are just murderous escalations in a campaign dating back to the Palestinians’ election of the Hamas government. Contrary to Weissglas’ quip, many Palestinians have died as a result of the sanctions, bombardments, and extra-judicial assassinations preceding Israel’s all-out assault on Gaza.

As for Hamas, it was never given a chance to prove its commitment to the peace process. Looking beyond the absolutist nature of its founding charter, and the pathetic reality of its strategic capabilities, symbolized by the ill-conceived rocket attacks against Israel, Siegman was able to discern the following facts about Hamas’ political program in an interview with a member of Hamas’s political committee, conducted shortly after the elections that brought the Islamic group to power:

Members of Hamas’s political directorate do not preclude significant changes over time in their policies toward Israel and in their founding charter, including recognition of Israel, and even mutual minor border adjustments. Such changes depend on Israel’s recognition of Palestinian rights. Hamas will settle for nothing less than full reciprocity.

Hamas is not opposed to negotiations with Israel, provided negotiations are based on the provision that neither party may act unilaterally to change the situation that prevailed before the 1967 war, and that negotiations, when they are resumed, will take the pre-1967 border as their starting point.

Hamas will not renounce its religious belief that Palestine is a waqf, or religious endowment, assigned by God to Muslims for all time. However, this theological belief does not preclude accommodation to temporal realities and international law, including Israel’s statehood.

Hamas is prepared to abide by a long-term hudna, or cease-fire, which would end all violence. Here again, complete reciprocity must prevail, and Israel must end all attacks on Palestinians. If Israel agrees to the cease-fire, Hamas will take responsibility for preventing and punishing Palestinian violations, whether committed by Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Intifada, or its own people. Hamas understands that it cannot demand recognition as the legitimate government of Palestine if it is not prepared to enforce such a cease-fire, in the context of its responsibility for law and order.

Hamas’s first priority will be to revitalize Palestinian society by strengthening the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers between various branches of government, and the professionalizing and accountability of the security services. It will aim to end corruption in government and implement new economic and social initiatives that are appropriate to the Palestinians’ present circumstances. (My Hamas informant told me that well before the recent legislative elections, Hamas had commissioned teams of experts to prepare detailed plans for the economic and social recovery of Palestinian society; he said that the implementation of these plans would be Hamas’s highest priority, but he did not discuss their content.)

Hamas will not seek to impose standards of religious behavior and piety on the Palestinian population, such as the wearing of the veil or the abaya, although Hamas believes that certain standards of public modesty—but not of religious observance—should be followed by everyone. [3]

Unfortunately, the promise represented by meaningful talks with Hamas, talks which would have gone a long way towards defusing a lot of the anti-Israeli/American fervor in the Muslim World was not grasped by the Israeli government. Israel’s failure to understand the deeper implications of the legitimacy crisis confronting the “moderate” Arab regimes in the area, her commitment to preemptive warfare, the dictates of pre-election Israeli politics, and her imprisonment to atavistic notions of tribe, nation, and state are too strong to allow her to venture into the moral territory where peace resides. Hence, the gates have been opened to the succession of events that have culminated in the ongoing slaughter occurring in the Gaza Strip.

However, enough is being written about the moral and political failings of the Zionist state. Here, I wish to write about something a lot more difficult for Muslims to examine, namely, our own moral and political failures. The emotional outbursts and enraged diatribes of many Muslims in the aftermath of the latest assault on Gaza have served, in some instances, to highlight many of those failures.

In the anger ensuing during the aftermath of the Israeli assault on Gaza, many Muslims have been moved to unacceptable levels of anger. Unacceptable anger does not lie in outraged reactions to scenes of dead Palestinian babies and decimated property. Such scenes should elicit anger. Hence, when our Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, counseled against anger when he repeated stated, “Do not become angry,” he was not urging us to rid ourselves of this natural human reaction as that would be impossible. Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali explains his counsel in the following manner:

His counseling, mercy and peace of God upon him, one seeking his advice to not become angry bears two meanings. The first is that he intends to counsel with [taking] the means that obligate good character, such as nobility, generosity, forbearance, humility, bearing abuse, withholding ones harm to others, overlooking the faults of others, pardoning transgressions, maintaining a cheerful countenance and attitude, and similar beautiful traits. For when the souls adopts these traits until they become second nature, this allows one to repulse anger when those things that precipitate it occur.

The second is that he means you should not act on the demands of anger when it occurs. Rather, you should struggle against your soul to leave implementing anger and acting on its commands. When anger owns a human being it becomes the source of his commandments and prohibitions. [4]

Hence the danger of being overwhelmed by anger is that it commands to actions that are contrary to prophetic teachings and the divine law. As the scenes of carnage and destruction mount in Gaza the Muslim blogosphere is filling up with angry calls for the indiscriminate murder of Jews: soldiers, civilians, men, women, and children. Such calls for indiscriminate killing have nothing to do with our religion. Our Prophet, peace upon him, forbade the killing of women and children in combat. This is one of the points that scholarly consensus has been established concerning. He also forbade the killing of non-combatants. Based on these prophetic teachings Muslim scholars outlined strict rules of engagement governing the conduct of war, as it relates to upholding the sanctity of human life.

Currently, there are those who argue on the basis of the isolated opinions of a minority of jurists, or on the basis of “Jewish exceptionalism,” an idea unknown in our history, that the prophetic teachings relating to the sanctity of civilian life, as well as those protecting women and children should currently be discarded.

Discarding such teachings not only allows Israel to claim a moral equivalency between empty words threatening the death of Jewish children and Israeli actions that actually result in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian children, it also leads many Muslims to miss the opportunity to demonstrate the loftiness of the ethical standard our Prophet, peace upon him, defined for us. We are the followers of a merciful Prophet, peace upon him, and not the ideological and philosophical children of those who have introduced the idea that the slaughter of an opponent’s civilian population is an acceptable stratagem or consequence of warfare.

The idea of total warfare is not an Islamic innovation. It is one of the bastard children of the political morality emerging in the post-Enlightenment West. During World War II, it led to both Hitler’s atrocities against the civilian populations of Eastern Europe and Russian, as well as the Nazi Blitzkrieg against London. It also led to the Allied fire-bombings of Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin and Tokyo, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If anyone were to argue that the flawed morality that made those atrocities possible disappeared with the end of World War II, America’s excesses in Vietnam, her recent destruction of Iraq, with the ensuing deaths of one million Iraqi civilians, Israel’s destruction of Beirut in 1982, an operation that resulted in the deaths of 25,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, along with the current carnage in Gaza all belie that claim.

As Muslims, we must ask ourselves if we wish do go down this slippery slope? This is a question we must consider now as an Ummah, and as individuals, because the advancement and proliferation of weapons technology will one day allow us to potentially wreak upon others the wanton death and destruction that is frequently visited upon us. We must take the high road that warns against killing innocent civilians in the strongest terms:  On that account [Cain’s murder of Abel]: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one killed a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading murderous sedition in the land - it would be as if he killed the whole of humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole of humanity. Then although there came to them Our Prophets with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (Qur’an 5:32)

If we chose to tread this high road, as a community, we will be a source of hope for a human family that has grown weary of seeing the blood of innocent people flow in the name of causes deemed lofty or base, and we will invite divine grace and providence into our individual lives and into the life of our community. These two factors are the only guarantors that we will be able to repulse the assaults of oppressive enemies.

On the other hand, if we choose to tread the low road, possibly because we think that we can hasten a victory through our own atrocities and abominations that God has denied us, or by imitating our enemies, we are sorely mistaken. Victory only comes from God, as He reminds us in the Qur’an, Victory only comes from God, the Mighty, the Wise. (Qur’an 3:126) God is Mighty, He is capable of giving victory to whomsoever He pleases, and He is Wise, He knows when and unto whom to bestow victory. Victory will never come from our hands. Knowing that we should understand that there will never be a Muslim victory that comes via hands that are stained with the blood of innocent people.

As we move deeper into this new century, we are in the process of defining our faith for the coming generations of Muslims. Will we be a community of virtue, or will we be a community of expediency? We should understand that expediency will never be a substitute for virtue. Our Lord has called us to be a community of virtue; circumstances are calling us to be a community of expediency. Virtue is its own reward in this world, and it is rewarded handsomely by God in the next. Expediency can bring about short-term gains in this world. However, it has no heavenly reward, and history has shown that in the long-run it leads into the abyss of immorality. Israel has fallen into that abyss. We must ask ourselves if we wish to follow her.

Not equal are good and evil. Repel [evil] with what is best. Unexpectedly, you will find one whom between you and he there was enmity become an intimate friend.  (Qur’an 41:34)


1. Henry Siegman, “Hamas: The Last Chance for Peace,” New York Review of Books, 53:7, April 27, 2006.
2. Gideon Levy, “Joking About Palestinian Suffering,” Haaretz, February 19, 2006.
3. Siegman, “Hamas: The Last Chance for Peace.”
4. Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Jami’ al-‘Ulum wa’l-Hikam (Beirut: Muassasah al-Risalah, 1414/1994), 1:363-364.



By Zarlasht on January 9, 2009 at 7:06am

Perhaps it's time for there to be a Department of Peace in our government. Humanity don't give up...our story continues to unfold as we struggle for peace and compassionate justice. May Allah give our souls shifa from the torture of realizing our mistakes and being too arrogant to ask for forgiveness and mercy. May we rise to become the people that earns the blessings of all the Prophets of our time.

By JB on January 9, 2009 at 8:51am

Thank you for this much needed article. I think it should be published in major newspapers so that both Muslims and non-Muslims can benefit. I really pray that our Community can take it upon themselves to apply the principles of our Prophet (pbuh), as well as be well-versed in the history and international law. It really does make a difference to see virtuous, intelligent muslims. Israelis usually win the PR war, but speaking the language that the 'West' understand. There was an excellent piece written on the electronicintifada about Israel's use of respresentatives to the media, even using women to show a 'softer' side. Anyway, thank you so much for this article.

By Abdurahman on January 9, 2009 at 1:54pm

Asalamualaikum Imam Zaid, Thank you for this enlightening article. I am currently researching the issue of Rules of Engagement in Islamic Law, so it is very helpful. I agree with you 100% regarding the need to exemplify the character of the Prophet, pbuh, even in times of war. Perhaps this is what Salat-ul-Khawf teaches us. But what is your understanding of the verse (Wa al-hurumaatu qisaass) "violation of sacred prohibitions are repaid in kind"? Is there a moral equivalence between "collateral damage" and attacks on civilians? What are the considerations involved? I think clarifying this would be helpful. Jazakumallahu khairan.

By Seeker on January 9, 2009 at 10:05pm

Assalamu alaykum, Dear Imam, can you please shed some light on why Islam forbids fighting those who have wrongfully occupied Muslim territory, and fully support acts of aggression and terrorism against the innocent people of that land? Are "non-combatant civilians" who willingly continue to occupy the land of Muslims and/or show moral and financial support for those committing oppression on their behalf considered innocent by the Divine Law? Jazak Allahu khayran.

By Abdulrahman Ali on January 10, 2009 at 7:11am

Dear Imam Zaid, My concern with the Muslim Ummah as it is today is one in which I perceive a great deal of hypocrisy. As I watch the horrors in Gaza unfold and the outrage pours forth from tongues of khatibs and imams, scholars and students, and religious and non-religious Muslims, I can only but ask myself these painful questions: where were all the Muslims when Somalia was being invaded by the Ethiopians and tens of thousands of people were loosing their lives; where were all the Muslims when close to half a million people were being systematically cleansed in Darfur; where were all the Muslims when Rwandans were succumbing to the slow and painful death of the machete; where were all the Muslims when entire Afghan villages were being carpet-bombed? Where were we? Why were we not there then; and why are we here now and everyone

By Khalid Abu Malik on January 10, 2009 at 2:55pm

Assalaamu alaikum Dear Imam, Brothers, and Sisters, May Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) be our defender and defend our brothers and sisters in Gaza, Palestine, and the entire world, as He has promised to defend His deen of Islam. This sort of well researched and scholarly article is extremely important and valuable, much appreciated, and not difficult to accept, as we constantly run across obvious and well publicized facts about the evil being perpetrated by Israel against Muslims (who happened to often be Palestinian, and against Palestinians who often are Muslim, but also Christian). The Imam's call to hold to our religion of Islam in the face of this evil when it comes to facing violent attacks is an essential reminder. For, as he reminds, there is no victory from our actions, be they violent, militant, or otherwise. But victory is completely from Allah (ta 'Ala) alone. So if we must respond to violence in a manner befitting the Qur'an and Sunnah, and any militant defense of ourselves and our deen must be in accordance with these high values Allah has given us, then what compromise are we afforded in our political response in defense of the Ummah? Can we join the political parties of our oppressors, or the oppressors of our brothers and sisters? Should we endorse, with our good Muslim names, less yet with the wealth and risq from our Lord, the candidates who promise to take away less land of the Muslims than the candidates before them? Is there any victory to be had from our participation in a political system that is other than the one given to us by Allah and His beloved Messenger (sallalah allahe wasalaam)? Wasalaam, wa jazak Allahu khair, Khalid (Bryan)

By saarim on January 11, 2009 at 1:12pm

So Hamas shouldn't resist? I think that Hamas should stay awy from killing civilians and fight within the hudood of shar'iah, but they shoudn't lay down their arms.

By Dr Musab on January 13, 2009 at 8:35am

Dear Imam, Assalamu alaykum, Please would you remove the references about Hamas targeting Jewish children. This was Zionist propaganda lies, (FYI.. even your source doesn't say Jewish, it says Israeli). Anyway, it has been repudiated by the Hamas spokesman in this article in a British national newspaper: And by famous journalist Yvonne Ridley here: The Times is known to fabricate news about Muslims, and to be the mouthpiece of British intelligence: see: "Oh you who believe, when a fasiq comes to you with news VERIFY IT" Hujurat:6 Please could you inform all of your contacts that this is false translation, and not to trust right-wing British media. YOu are much more likely to get the truth from The Guardian.

By the faqir on January 13, 2009 at 12:59pm

as-salamu `alaikum Shaykh Buti's Khutbah on Gaza, Israel and Arab leaders translated:

By 'Abdallah on January 13, 2009 at 4:47pm

Assalamu 'Alaikum Imam Zaid Shakir, Respectfully, frankly speaking, reading your article hurt. Especially after seeing the pictures and reading the stories about those poor poor children and their families (Allah bless them). What is the logic in criticising the obviously humble abilities and methods of the resistance in Palestine? I feel that my tone is coming across condescending, though this is not my intention, but the points you have raised leave me with no moral alternative. Had you been less knowledgeable of the Deen and the worldly affairs, then maybe it would have been more understandable for me. As this deen is naseeha, this is my brotherly advice to you. Feel free to respond and correct or clarify. As we know, it is the unquestionable Islamic obligation of the Palestinian Muslims to resist the occupying Israelis with whatever ability they have as this is a defensive Jihad and the related rulings are well known. It is the decree of Allah that they don't have more sophisticated weaponry and adequate 'strategic depth' with which to defend themselves from the highly equipped Israeli occupiers. That should provoke admiration for their strong faith, steadfastness and courage should it not? Why criticise that? Do you suggest they abandon their Islamic obligation of resistance and let the criminal occupiers seize the sacred Islamic land of Palestine in its entirety due to their 'pathetic' state? Also, this 'high road' talk is also out of context. Firstly, rationally, the oppressor and initiator of hostilities and violations can never have any moral equivalence to the oppressed and violated even if, theoretically, the victims respond in kind to the perpetrators. The oppressor will always be wrong and / or more wrong because they initiated the hostilities. So in these types of scenarios, we always have the moral high ground. Islamically speaking, yes there are those rules of engagement that you mentioned and I believe that Muslims need to abide by them. However, as you also mentioned, there is a difference of opinion on the specific details of this issue and its practical application in times of war, even if it is a 'minority' opinion. I recall that you have also promoted following the minority opinion when you felt that was the more correct position. I feel it is highly insensitive and inappropriate to criticise the resistance and their means, especially at such a time, when supporting them is the obligation. Not to mention that they have fatawa from recognised scholars of this Ummah (Shaykh Al Qaradawi and others) permitting their actions. This support is therefore required despite us personally following a different opinion on the matter. Lastly, the principles that you have outlined in relation to 'the high road' and the examples and Ayaat are out of context due to the fact they are not in relation to circumstances in which an oppressive invader is engaged in massacring Muslims. In this situation all virtue and nobility, divine and secular, lie in resisting and repelling the invader by whatever means possible. There are a completely different set of lengthy Ayaat and Qura'nic Chapters related to this kind of a situation... These are the Ayaat related to Jihad. This is not Christianity where we are taught weakness, to turn the other cheek to the wrongdoer, this is a religion of Men like Sayyidina Hamza who said,

By Dr Musab on January 16, 2009 at 12:00pm

Ya Imam! Assalamualaykum, The quote you use from 'The Times' newspaper is a fabrication. You can see the Hamas repudiation of that quote on 'The Guardian' newspaper. Hamas nor Zahar never said they will kill any children, jewish or Israeli. This is zionist propoganda, although your article still stands as Haq when you make your point about being measured in our response - Jaza Allah. Please correct your article and clarify it. Allah swt says in the Quran: "Oh you who believe, if a fasiq comes to you with news, VERIFY IT".

By jami on January 19, 2009 at 1:48am

Salaam Alaikum, I think that with respect to this article -who exactly is this addressed to? To the bloggers, or to the resistance in Palestine? Or to both? If this is addressed to bloggers, fine and well - it is just one scholar talking to arm chair warriors. If however, Imam Zaid, you have the audacity to address this to the resistance in Palestine, while sitting in the comfort of America, then really - I think it is high time you took some lessons in humility. What makes you think you have any right to even think that you know better than the Islamic resistance in Palestine? You don't know better. Unfortunately, too many American Muslim scholars, such as yourself, have taken on a mentality that you are actually better than Muslims struggling for their lives elsewhere. Struggling for their lives as a direct result of the policies of *your* country. Again, I advise you as a Muslim brother, that you take some lessons in being humble towards those who are on the ground - and suffering the consequences of your own American Muslim inaction, and apathy - that has contributed to Muslims being killed worldwide with your tax dollars.

By Imam Zaid Shakir on January 22, 2009 at 2:13pm

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Seeker, I did not nor have not said that Islam forbids fighting occupiers. I have said that it forbids fighting innocent civilians and non-combatants. This is a great contribution that Islam has made to human civilization. As for the nuances as to whether "non-combatant civilians who willingly continue to occupy the land of Muslims and/or show moral and financial support for those committing oppression on their behalf" are innocent," this is a big legal and ethical issue that defies a simplistic answer. Insight into an answer for this issue is given by the the fact that the divine law forbids the killing of support personnel, called 'Usafa', who are not directly fighting the Muslim forces. If those who are providing direct logistical support to the enemy are not to be killed, unless it is unavoidable, what does that imply to those who are not directly supporting the fighters? Also, among our scholars there are those who opine that the descendants of those who have occupied a Muslim land are not responsible for the deeds of their fathers. Hence, they cannot be indiscriminately killed with the justification that they are occupiers. If they are killed in combat that is another issue. Our law has been instituted to preserve and protect innocent life even in warfare. Islam is a universal religion and all of humanity after the coming of our Prophet Muhammad are members of his Ummah. Hence, the laws he laid the foundation for in general human relations, are universal laws. They apply to Muslims as well as they apply to non-Muslims. Hence, as our jurists have made clear, all laws relating to the protection of innocent human life, and all laws relating to minorities in Muslim realms are reciprocal. Hence, we do not kill civilians in war, and our enemies are not to kill our civilians. We protect the lives of non-Muslim minorities in our lands, and non-Muslims are to protect the lives of Muslim minorities in their lands. We afford security to non-Muslim ambassadors in our lands, and non-Muslims are to afford security to Muslim ambassadors in their lands. What you seem to be implying is a different set of universal laws and principles to govern the conduct of war. I could be wrong, but what you seem to be alluding to is that since the Israelis are occupying land that was once Muslim, they can all be justifiably killed. If this argument is taken at face value it applies to Spain, Portugal, India, Sicily, Malta, Greece, and Cyprus as well as it applies to Israel. The implications of this should be quite clear for Muslims in terms of the type of irrational bloodshed it implies. Bloodshed that would unleash against Muslims a holocaust of unimaginable dimensions. On the other hand, if this is a universal principle of war, what would prevent the people of those lands from evoking it as the basis for slaughtering Muslim civilians, as certain nationalistic elements in these societies are in fact attempting to do? The idea that the complexity of modern societies and the nature of a modern army supported by a large bureaucratic logistical and administrative network implicates every member of a society in the conduct of the military's activities is one of the rationales for the idea of total war. Hence, the practice of attempting to destroy an enemies civilian infrastructure. I am arguing that Islam does not support this idea, and I believe most of the jurists support my argument. If the advocates of total war win this debate, rather they be Muslims or others, Muslims will be the biggest losers. Allah knows best. As-Salaam 'Alaikum Abdurahman, You ask what does the Qur'anic expression, Wa Hurumatun Qisas, (an sanctities are to be treated with reciprocity) [Qur'an 2:194] mean. To answer that question we have to connect this expression with the beginning of the verse containing it, namely: Ash-Shahrul Haram bish-Shahril Haram (Some sacred months are to be treated like other Sacred months. Hence, the meaning is that since the Prophet, peace upon him, was prevented from making 'Umrah during a sacred month, Dhul Qa'dah, then he will be allowed to make 'Umrah the following year during Dhul Qa'dah, a sacred month. All of the major commentators agree on this meaning. The following passage in the same verse, faman 'Itada 'Alaikum fa'tadu 'Alaihi bi Mithli ma'tada 'Alaikum (...and whoever transgreses against you, transgress against him in a similar manner that he has transgressed against you...)would be closer to the meaning you seem to be implying, namely, if the Israelis kill our women and children, then we can rightfully kill their women and children. Again, this is not the basic meaning of this passage, which is interpreted as qualifying the basis for Qisas (retribution) for personal injuries and affronts, or in the case of murder. Most of the discussion of the jurists of this passage center on the responses to murder by murdering in kind, i.e. if someone is killed by the sword or a knife then the murderer is to be killed by the sword or the knife. However, even, in the discussion of this ruling, higher principles come into play. For the jurists make clear that if someone is killed by something that it is forbidden to kill with, such as fire, then the murderer in this case cannot be killed by fire. Similarly, if someone is sodomized and dies in the process, the murderer is not to be sodomized until he dies. Hence, in retaliating for a breech of sanctities, we have to avoid things that are forbidden. In retaliating for the unjust aggression against us we have to avoid what is forbidden, such as killing non-combatants, women and children. If one argues that the killing of women and children is the sanctity that has been violated, the verse in question, or similar verses, such as, wa'l Juruh Qisas (Harmful things are to be reciprocated in kind...) [Qur'an 16:126]does not necessitate retaliation, the original sanctity can still be maintained, and that is best. Again, as we advance in our ability to kill each other, we will have to advance morally. Otherwise, we are heading down a path to mutually assured destruction. Isreal is sitting on an arsenal of at least three hundred nuclear warheads. As Muslims, are we saying that as soon as we possess 400 warheads with the necessary delivery systems we will annihilate the Zionist state? What will they do, sit back and allow that to happen? They will attempt to annihilate those who they believe are intent on annihilating them. In the old days of the US-USSR confrontation such a policy was called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). Is that the best we can do as Muslims. WE cannot contribute to a higher civilizational debate even as we work within the parameters defined by our religion to address our grievances and right the wrongs that have been perpetrated against us? Either we are going to work to advance the highest Prophetic ideals in this world or we are going to aid a MAD end for us all. That is all I am arguing. I am not denying the right to resist oppression and occupation, I am not justifying Israeli atrocities, I am not trying to advance the RAND project of dividing the Muslims. I am merely trying to advance one of the highest objectives of the Qur'an, Sunnah, and the Shar'iah, the preservation and protection of innocent human life. Allah knows best and His help is sought in all things.

By hanan on January 23, 2009 at 8:56am

salaam Abdulrahman Ali, Your answer makes sense if you are just asking this to Muslims. But step back emotionally and see a bigger light in the situation. Who is inciting Sudan to protest the issue in Gaza? Cubans? Who is inciting Bolivia to protest what is going on in Gaza or Palestine? Who is doing this? Is it all Palestinians and Muslims? Why did we not see the outrage when Iraqis were killed? I went to many demonstrations on Iraq - hardly any Arabs or Iraqis. Why did we not see the outrage when Palestinians were killed by Arabs like in Jordan and Syria? My brother - there is a false accusation put in the world public square against God. It is mainly put there by some Israelis or Jews. The accusation is that God did not protect them in the holocaust and He is not able to protect them so now they must challenge God and ... "Well, I said to myself, if in order to change the course of our history we have to become God, we shall become Him." Read... "We must continue to ask questions, continue to challenge God, until, one day, He Himself will give us the answers. " God is using the Palestinians to respond to these voices that have been waged upon Him on the witness stand. God is inciting the world to rise with the Palestinians. How do you think Wiesel feels when he questions God and sees a little Palestinian boy standing facing a big Israeli tank with a stone in his hand? What is God responding? Or a woman whose children died like in the warsaw ghetto, only in the Palestinian ghettos and reaffirms strongly her faith in God, declaring proudly that He is just. What message is God responding to these voices? Step back and see the issue from a higher perspective. It is God inciting the world to rise ... to respond to the false accusations hurled at Him. Finally, ask God without challenging Him but with sincerity and humility, seeking to understand. He will make you aware of these voices and how they attack Him. Palestinians are His slaves and it is His right to use them to respond to the false accusations against Him. What the Israelis are doing in Palestine is very similar to what was done to them in the holocaust. The only difference is the methodogies used are different. Ethnic Cleansing through gradual means. Now ask yourself this final question given what I said, what message is God sending to these voices when Palestinians rise against the ethnic cleansing with barely anything but stones and ineffective rockets and the whole world rages with the Palestinians from every corner of the earth, Muslim and nonMuslim alike? Read the link I sent you a few times. There is a scholar that said not to follow stories, because there is a hidden light behind each story, a light that is not manifest to us. When you align yourself to God, He helps you see that light.

By Abdulrahman Ali on February 10, 2009 at 5:03pm

Salam Alaikum Hanan: The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that no good has ever come from a people whose central argument is that they are closer to God than everyone else; and because of that, they may do onto everyone as they please. The Israeli Government

By Naveedshaikh on April 26, 2010 at 10:37pm

Assalaamu alaikum dear imam zaid thank you for your enlightening work I spent some time with ht in my student days and this led some indelible marks as well as a distancing from the softness of the fitting soul which I am trying to recapture your works offer a medicine that helps to intellectually undo some problems In the field of offensive jihad I read your and Sherman jacksons works but Reading traditionalists in India Pakistan like mufti shafi it seems that traditional ulema still believe if Muslims were in power the apostate should be killed and off jihad would be offered for ila kalimatullah,not for the nags how do we explain this. these peoples ideas are untouched by western ethics so is there a possibility that they are closer to the divine intent than what you propose .it also makes more sense in the light of the actions of the early genereations

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