The Concept of Terrorism (Irhaab) within the Glorious Quran
Written by Ahmad Subhy Mansour
Originally Published in Arabic on Dec. 15 2009
Translated by Mohammad Dandan
Reviewed by Brian Diederich
1. Contrary to what is commonly though, the meaning of terrorism in the Quran is actually meant as a tool for reform, moral excellence, and a method for implementing peace.
2. The concept of Terrorism and its derivatives come from the context of the Ten Commandments brought about by divine messages and conforming to all of Almighty God’s decrees which exhort justice and benevolence, and prohibit monstrosity, abomination and tyranny. Through the framework of adhering to the concept that there is no deity except for the one God, and from that comes both the admonition, advice, and guidance to fear God and to be in awe of Him as well. Within that context, we are able to understand His words to the Children of Israel in Chapter 2 Verse 40,
O Children of Israel! Call to mind My favor which I bestowed on you and be faithful to [your] covenant with Me, I will fulfill [My] covenant with you; and of Me, Me alone, should you be afraid.
For if they had fear of Him, and felt Rahba (meaning: fright, alarm, awe, terror), of Him and from Him, they would obey Him and hold fast to good manners, because those who fear, and feel this Rahba are the ones who are steadfast and firm in holding onto His book and following His dictates, and that is how He described the pious companions of Moses in Chapter 7 Verse 154,
And when Musa's anger calmed down he took up the tablets, and in the writing thereof was guidance and mercy for those who fear for the sake of their Lord
And to humanity at large, God says in Chapter 16 Verse 51,
And Allah has said: “Take not two gods, He is only one Allah; so of Me alone should you be afraid”.
Meaning all mankind should fear God and dread His punishment, and also not ascribe partners to Him.
And since piety and sense of awe are synonymous fear, Verse 52 of Chapter 16 supplements the subject matter,
And whatever is in the heavens and the earth is His, and to Him should obedience be [rendered] constantly; will you then guard against other than [the punishment of] Allah?
Meaning, to Him alone in His majesty, belongs the reins of heavens and earth, and to Him alone belongs the decision in matters of religion, for He is the only One who judges people’s beliefs, worships and the secrets of their hearts, and to Him alone, the religion will always belong, and to Him alone, judgment among people on Day of Resurrection, with no place for so called clergymen or priesthood who claim to intermediate between Him and His creation, or claim to speak for or on behalf of Almighty God, or rule or govern in His name, or share in disposing of affairs and matters of people along with God. None of these things will happen, because to Him alone belongs the creation and management of its affairs. Chapter 7 verse 54,
Surely your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six periods of time, and He is firm in power; He throws the veil of night over the day, which it pursues incessantly; and the sun and the moon and the stars, made subservient by His command; surely His is the creation and the command; blessed is Allah, the Lord of the worlds.
So the term “fear of God”, glory be to Him, combines and implies meanings of piety, and also being petrified of His wrath and anger. Piety, as meant to be a form of fear was used in Chapter 3 Verses 130 and 131, respectively,
O you who believe! Do not devour usury, making it double and redouble, and be careful of [your duty to] Allah, that you may be successful,
And guard yourselves against the fire which has been prepared for the unbelievers.
This means that we should be mindful of God’s commands, and do what it takes to ward off the hellfire. In other words, be fearful of God, as we should be fearful of hellfire.
The believer who is conscious of God, fearful of His wrath, always mindful of Judgment Day, always terrified of Latter Day torment, tends to conform in his earthly life to principles of moral decency with others, and performs acts of worship to God alone purifies his faith of any undue sacredness to created beings and/or inanimate objects. This is the role fear, fright, terror, and awe (Irhab) play in reforming and elevating people’s morality.
God’s prophets were at the highest level of ethical, moral, and noble character because they were the most fearful of His wrath and the most covetous of His mercy. They, may the peace of God be upon them all, used to besiege and call upon Him out of fear and out of anticipation, as He told about some of the prophets of the Children of Israel, in Chapter 21 Verse 90,
So we responded to him and gave him Yahya and made his wife fit for him; surely they used to hasten, one with another in deeds of goodness and to call upon us, hoping and fearing and they were humble before us.
Which means, because of this fear/terror, they used to hasten to do good deeds, and if it was not for the hellfire waiting for those who deserve it, and the believers being terrified of it, they would not have hurried to do good deeds in the first place.
God’s advice and exhortation in the Quran revolve between warnings and promises of good tidings, or as in the traditional term, something desirous, attractive, and covetous and/or, something dreadful, awful, and fearful. With both in tandem, the believer takes his steps in this life, if a sin appears tempting, his fear of the Almighty God, his sense of dreadfulness of this sin, and his awareness of God’s wrath quickly puts him in check, out of fear and terror of punishment in this life and the afterlife. Furthermore, if he does a good deed, he considers it to be a good omen, hopes that God Almighty will accept it, enabling him to enter Paradise, certain that Allah never renders any good deed for naught, and that He is never inconsistent with His promises.
As for the aggressor, the oppressor, the unjust, the insubordinate, and the disobedient, he neither fears God, nor is terrified by His wrath. He remains reckless in his disobedience, thinking that he will never die. Yet when the angels of death come to him at his time of death, he screams pleading with them to give him another chance, hoping to reform himself, all in vain, for as Allah says in Chapter 23 Verses 99 and 100, respectively,
Until when death overtakes one of them, he says: Send me back, my Lord, send me back;
Haply I may do good in that which I have left. By no means! It is a [mere] word that he speaks; and before them is a barrier until the day they are raised.
He also states in Chapter 63 Verses 10 and 11
And spend out of what we have given you before death comes to one of you, so that he should say: My Lord! Why didst Thou not respite me to a near term, so that I should have given alms and been of the doers of good deeds?
And Allah does not respite a soul when its appointed term has come, and Allah is aware of what you do
3. This aggressor, if it happens to be a transgressing, oppressive, unjust, tyrannical state, will not hesitate to invade its neighboring state, if the latter one is weak. So it is imperative for the weaker of the two to arm itself to the best of its ability, and to not commit aggression, rather simply repel aggression and protect its boundaries from that aggressive, transgressing, tyrannical and miscreant state. A true genuine Muslim state would never commit aggression against anyone; it would never enter a war except in self defense. In order for such a state to live securely and attain true peace, and to deter that transgressing, avaricious, greedy state, it is a must for the Muslim state to be strong, self-reliant, and ready to defend itself. With that power and strength, the weaker state is capable of establishing peace, by deterring and instilling fear and terror within the aggressor state, thereby attaining peace and avoiding bloodshed. It is from within this understanding of the term “terrorism”, meaning to deter and to put fear and terror in the heart of the aggressor, that we achieve peace. Based on this notion, we understand Almighty Allah’s words in Chapter 9 Verses 60, 61, and 62, respectively,
And prepare against them what force you can with horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know, but Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah's way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly,
And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing,
And if they intend to deceive you-- then surely Allah is sufficient for you; He it is Who strengthened you with His help and with the believers.
This means that terror with respect to individuals is the elevation of moral standards, and with respect to states, is clinging to peace, which contradicts the accepted understanding of the term terror in our modern times.
4. That is why we continuously urge and recommend that everyone should understand and comprehend the Glorious Quran according to its own terminology and its own expressions, and according to its Arabic language that was used when it was first revealed 14 centuries ago. For after the revelation ended and after the passing of the seal of all prophets, the Arabs embarked on their conquests and the spreading of their language, absorbing many cultures, civilizations, expressions, and terms.Then the Arabs and the Muslims split into far too many sects and numerous denominations, in matters of creed, jurisprudence, schools of thought, logic and philosophical approach.To each, it had its own expressions, idioms, conceptions, and special language that they added to the Arabic Language, which is still with us as the oldest living language, however it is not close to the same Quranic language that was used 14 centuries ago when it was originally written.That is why we keep emphasizing the need to understand the Glorious Quran through its own language.
In 1999, Ibn Kheldoun center adopted the project Reform of Egyptian Education System. I was assigned the task of re-writing its religious education curriculum, emphasizing tolerance within Islam. It was only appropriate for me to clarify the methodology in comprehending the Glorious Quran according to its own expressions, so I wrote the previous sentence after I had explained it: “That is why we keep emphasizing the need to understand the Glorious Quran through its own language”. One of the religious sheikhs stormed in screaming, accusing me of saying that the Glorious Quran was revealed in a language different than the Arabic language.
That day I laughed to myself – and I am still laughing – since some of the worst misfortunes are the ones that cause the most laughter.