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A Subtle Difference: On Ending One's Own Life in Muslim Religious Thought 1


In the focus of this article is the complex problem to validate the deliberate disposal of a Muslim's own life for an Islamically sustained cause – popular modus operandi in the contemporary religiously inspired militant contexts – from a range of religious perspectives. While the general tenor suggest that such an action constitutes deliberate suicide (qatl nafsah) and is to be firmly rejected, the eschatological concept of ‘martyrdom’ (istishhād) adds an alternative interpretation that allows for a positive and even commendable appraisal of such an act.

It is shown here that, from the formative period of Islam onwards, Muslim exegetes, theologians, jurists and philosophers have struggled to come to some kind of agreement over what delineates ‘suicide’ from ‘martyrdom’. Underlying all those attempts is the question what constitutes ‘life’: it appears that the substantial differences in the appraisal of a Muslim's disposal of her or his own life are, in fact, rooted in different conceptions of ‘life’ itself. It is shown how the dismissal of such acts as ‘suicide’ or endorsement as ‘martyrdom’ was, and is, sustained by complex theological and philosophical arguments, including those of volition versus predetermination, as well as such on vegetative growth versus the eudemonistic ‘good life’. Depending on which view is being adopted, one and the same act of disposing one's own life can either be consistently denounced as religiously reprehensible, or equally consistently as religiously commendable.

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This essay is a substantially revised and enlarged version of an earlier one in German, published as ‘»Und tötet Euch nicht!« Martyrium im Islam zwischen Heilversprechen und Heilserwartung’, in Leben und Sterben für Gott? Martyriumsvorstellungen in Auseinandersetzung mit dem Gebot der Lebensbewahrung in Antike und Mittelalter, (ed.) R. Grundmann and S. Fuhrmann (Leiden, 2012), pp. 275-305.

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2 Here belongs also the Jamāʿat al-Tawḥīd wa'l-Jihād, previously led by Abū Musʿab al-Zarqāwī (killed 2006) and today better known as al-Qāʿida in Iraq (Qāʿidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn), as well as the Kurdish-Arab Jaysh Anṣar al-Sunna, or Anṣar al-Islām, led until his capture in 2010 by Abū ʿAbdallāh al-Shāfiʿī (b. unknown). See Hafez M. M., Suicide Bombers in Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom (Washington, 2007), especially pp. 243249 and 257f.

3 See, for example, the infamous declaration of “Just War against Jews and Crusaders” by the World Islamic Front (al-Jabha al-Islāmiyya al-ʿĀlamiyya), spearheaded by the then leadership of al-Qāʿida, Usāma bin Lādin (assassinated 2011) and Ayman al-Ẓawāhirī (b. 1951): ‘Naṣṣ bayān al-Jabha al-islāmiyya al-ʿālamiyya li-jihād al-yahūd wa'l-ṣalībiyyīn’, al-Quds al-ʿArabī 9: 2,732 (26 Shawwāl 1418/23 February 1998), p. 3. For a similar rhetoric from around the Ṭālibān movement in the Afghan-Pak borderlands, see ʿIrfān al-Ḥaqq Ḥaqqānī, Ṣalībī dahshat-gardī awr ʿālam al-islām: Ṭālibān-i Afghānistān ke tanāẓur meṇ (Akoṛah Khaṫṫak, 1425/2004).

4 See Butel E., ‘Martyre et sainteté dans la littératur de guerre Irak-Iran’, in Saints et héros du Moyen-Orient contemporain, (ed.) Mayeur-Jaouen C. (Paris, 2002), pp. 301317 , here pp. 302-313.

5 See, for example, Kramer M., ‘Hizbullah: The Calculus of Jihad’, American Academy of Arts & Sciences 47:8 (1994), pp. 2043 , here especially pp. 32-38; Alshech E., ‘Egoistic Martyrdom and Ḥamās’ Success in the 2005 Municipal Elections: A Study of Ḥamās Martyrs’ Ethical Wills, Biographies, and Eulogies’, Die Welt des Islams 48:1 (2008), pp. 2349 , here especially pp. 32-38.

6 See Asfaruddin A., Striving in the Path of God: Jihād and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (New York, 2013), pp. 231235 .

7 Besides the mentioned work of Asfaruddin, other recent studies in this regard are Hatina M., Martyrdom in Modern Islam: Piety, Power, and Politics (Cambridge, 2014), and Franke L. M., At the Doors of Paradise: Discourses of Female Self-Sacrifice, Martyrdom and Resistance in Palestine (Würzburg, 2015).

8 These phrases (trans. JPH) were used to frame the problem by the organisers of conference ‘Leben oder sterben für Gott? Martyriumsvorstellungen in Auseinandersetzung mit dem Gebot der Lebensbewahrung in Antike und Mittelalter’ at the University of Münster, Germany, in June 2010, from which the present considerations have been developed. See the conference flyer URL: (last accessed 22 May 2017).

9 Qurʾān 4 (al-Nisāʾ): 76: alladhīna āmanū yuqātilūna fī sabīli ’llāh. The verb ‘yuqātilūna’ is usually rendered in translations of the Qurʾān as ‘fighting’. This is also the preferred understanding of Asfaruddin, Striving, 35-43, based very much on the initially possible reading of it in active (yuqātilūna) or passive voice (yuqātalūna), as discussed by numerous commentators of the Qurʾān in reference to 22 (al-Ḥajj): 39f. The current standard edition of the Qurʾān (Cairo, 1923), however, has the verb vocalised in active voice and thus enshrined this meaning against the eventual intervention of classical commentators.

Especially in the contexts under review here, the semantics of ‘fighting’ can be narrowed down even further to the physical act of engagement, e.g. in battle. Moreover, considering the basic meaning of the verbal root ‘q-t-l’ (to kill), as well as the fact that the third form derived from it can also be used reciprocally, however, I have decided to translate it perhaps bluntly as ‘killing one another’, as this would indeed be the ultimate result of an active engagement in hostilities. Classical Arabic dictionaries seem to support this view: see ibn Aḥmad al-Farāhīdī al-Khalīl, Kitāb al-ʿayn: murattaban ʿalá ḥurūf al-muʿjam, (ed.) ʿal-Ḥamīd Handāwī Abd, 4 vols. (Beirut, 1424/2003), vol. 3, pp. 358f ; Abū ’l-Faḍl ibn Manẓūr, Lisān al-ʿarab 20 vols. (Cairo, 1300-7h), Vol. 14, pp. 64-69, especially pp. 66f.

10 See Asfaruddin, Striving, pp. 95-148.

11 See, for example, Cook M. and Crone P., Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (Cambridge, 1977); Cook M., Muhammad (Oxford, 1983), pp. 6176 . Meanwhile, however, new epigraphic evidence, as well as the analysis of the seventh century ce fragments of Qurʾānic manuscripts has led reputed academics in the field to view the traditional Muslim narrative with much lesser suspicion.

12 Here belongs not least the Jāmiʿ al-bayān ʿan taʾwīl āy al-qurʾān of Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923) and the Imāmite Majmaʿ al-bayān li-ʿulūm al-qurʾān of Faḍl ibn Ḥasan al-Ṭabarisī (d. 548/1153).

13 On Qurʾān 3 (Āl ʿImrān): 138-42, see, for example, Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī Abū Jaʿfar, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī: jāmiʿ al-bayān ʿan taʾwīl āy al-qurʾān, (ed.) ʿAbd al-Muḥsin al-Turkī Abdallāh ibn, 26 vols. (Cairo, 1322/2001), Vol. 6, pp. 7392 , especially p. 88; ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿUmar al-Bayḍāwī, Anwār al-tanzīl wa-asrār al-taʾwīl, 5 vols. (Cairo, 1330h), Vol. 2, pp. 44f; Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī al-Imām, Tafsīr al-Fakhr al-Rāzī, al-mushtahir bi'l-Tafsīr al-kabīr wa-Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, 32 vols. (Beirut, 1401/1981), Vol. 9, pp. 1220 , especially p. 18.

14 For instance, see Abdallāh ibn Abī Dāwūd al-Sijistānī Abū Bakr, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif (Cairo, 1986), especially p. 19; Sellheim R., ‘Prophet, Chalif und Geschichte. Die Muhammed-Biographie [sic] des Ibn Isḥāq’, Oriens 18 (1965-6), pp. 3391 ; Brown J., The Canonization of Bukhārī and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Canon (Leiden, Boston and Cologne, 2007).

15 kutiba ʿalaykumu ’l-qitālu wa-huwa kuruhun lakum. wa-ʿasá an takrahū shayʾan wa-huwa khayrun lakum wa-ʿasá an tuḥibbū shayʾan wa-huwa sharrun lakum. wa-allāhu yaʿlamu wa-antum lā taʿlamūna. This verse is also oftentimes referred to in commentaries of the Qurʾān with regard to the ethics of war, including the constraint in fighting out of patient forbearance (ṣabr) and the peaceful resolution of conflict. See Asfaruddin, Striving, pp. 65-70 et passim.

16 See ʿ al-Malik ibn Hishām Abd, al-Sīra al-nabawiyya, (ed.) al-Saqqā Muṣṭafá et al., 2 vols. (Cairo, 2nd edition, 1375/1955), Vol. 1, p. 627 ; Ḥusayn Muslim Abū, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, (ed.) Jamīl al-ʿAṭṭār Ṣidqī (Beirut, 1424/2004), pp. 962f (Kitāb al-imāra, bāb thubūt al-janna li'l-shuhadāʾ; especially ḥadīth 3, no. 4,808); also ibid., p. 906 (Kitāb al-jihād wa'l-siyar, bāb ghazwat Uḥud, ḥadīth 1, no. 4,533).

17 See Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ, 1,368 (Kitāb ṣifāt al-munāfiqīn wa-aḥkāmihim, ḥadīth 8, no. 6,925).

18 Extensively on this term, see Adang C. P., ‘Hypocrites and Hypocrisy’, in Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān, (ed.) Dammen McAuliffe J., 6 vols. (Leiden, Boston and Cologne, 2001-6), Vol. 2, p. 468 .

19 See, for example, Qurʾān 8 (al-Anfāl): 28, 64 (al-Taghābun): 15; on these the commentaries of al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, Vol. 11, pp. 126f, Vol. 23, pp. 18f; Bayḍāwī, Anwār, Vol. 3, p. 48, Vol. 4, pp. 135f; al-Rāzī, Tafsīr, Vol. 15, pp. 156f, Vol. 30, p. 27.

20 See Qurʾān 75 (al-Qiyāma): 5, 14, 20f and 31f.

21 For a very considerate discussion of this label, see Nedza J., ‘«Salafismus» — Überlegungen zur Schärfung einer Analysekategorie’, in Salafismus: Auf der Suche nach dem wahren Islam, (ed.) Said B. T. and Fuad H. (Freiburg i.B., 2014), pp. 80105 .

22 See Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad Ibn Māja al-Ḥāfiẓ, Sunan, (ed.) Abd al-Bāqī F., 2 vols. (Cairo, 1373/1954), Vol. 2, p. 1,322 (Kitāb al-fitan, bāb iftirāq al-umam, ḥadīth 3, no. 3,993); Īsá al-Tirmidhī Muḥammad ibn, al-Jāmiʿ al-ṣaḥīḥ wa-huwa Sunan al-Tirmidhī, (ed.) Abd al-Bāqī M. F., 5 vols (Cairo, 1938-58), Vol. 5, pp. 25f (Kitāb al-īmān, bāb mā jāʾ iftirāq hādhihi ’l-umma, aḥādīth 1f, nos. 2,640f); Sulaymān ibn al-Ashʿath al-Sijistānī Abū Dāwūd, al-Sunan, (ed.) Muḥyī ’l-Dīn ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd M., 4 vols. (Cairo, 1983), Vol. 4, pp. 197f (Kitāb al-sunna, bāb sharḥ al-sunna, ḥadīth 1, no. 4,596). Extensively on this important ḥadīth especially for the Muslim heresiographical tradition, see van Ess J., Der Eine und das Anderes: Beobachtungen an häresiographischen Texten, 2 vols. (Berlin and New York, 2011), Vol. 1, pp. 764 .

23 See Cook D., ‘Moral Apocalyptic in Islam’, Studia Islamica 86 (1997), pp. 3769, here pp. 4042, 44-46 and 54f.

24 This claim was very soon supported by a complex theology, according to which God would never leave the community of believers without an infallible (maʿṣūm) leader: “Indeed, since the death of Prophet Adam—Peace be upon him!—God has never left this earth without an Imam to guide [the people] towards Him. This Imam is His Proof for His servants [wa-huwa ḥujjatuhu ʿalá ʿibādih]; and the earth will never be devoid of a proof of God for his servants”. Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Yaʿqūb al-Kulaynī Abū, al-Kāfī, (ed.) ʿAkbar Ghaffārī A., 3 vols. (Qom, 1384sh/2005), Vol. 1, pp. 94f (Kitāb al-ḥujja, bāb anna ’l-arḍ lā takhluw min ḥujjatin, ḥadīth 8, no. 452).

25 See Cook D., Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic (Princeton, 2002), pp. 232f and 247-254.

26 See Ibn Hishām, Sīra, Vol. 1, pp. 264-269, 289-291, 317-321, 350-364 and 395f.

27 See Zaman M.Q., ‘The Caliphs, the ʿUlamāʾ, and the Law: Defining the Role and Function of the Caliph in the Early ʿAbbāsid Period’, Islamic Law and Society 4:1 (1997), pp. 136 , here pp. 6f; van Ess J., Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra. Eine Geschichte des religiösen Denkens im frühen Islam, 6 vols. (Berlin and New York, 1991-7), Vol. 3, pp. 446502 ; Hartung J.-P., ‘Enacting the Rule of Islam: On Courtly Patronage of Religious Scholars’, in Court Culture in the Muslim World. Seventh to Nineteenth Centuries, (ed.) idem and Fuess A. (London and New York, 2011), pp. 295325 , here p. 309.

28 See ibid., pp. 199-201. The model for this has been with great likelihood Lūṭ ibn Yaḥyá Abū Mikhnaf, Tāʾrīkh Abī Mikhnaf fī maqtāl al-Ḥusayn – ʿalayhi al-salām (Bombay, 1311h), pp. 6-8.

29 See ibid., 33-52; also Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī Abū Jaʿfar, Taʾrīkh al-Ṭabarī: taʾrīkh al-umam wa'l-mulūk, 6 vols. (Beirut, 2nd edition, 1426/2005), Vol. 3, pp. 1,0311.059 .

30 The chronology here remains slightly problematic, because already from the ‘Proto-Shia’, that is, the partisans of the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, the group soon to be known as ‘Khārijiyya’ had split off, which claimed even against the ‘Mainstream Shiites’ an exclusive monopoly of safeguarding orthodoxy. However, despite the acknowledgement of the problems that may result from such a simplification of extremely complex processes in the formation of religious traditions, the Khārijiyya shall here, for pragmatic reasons, nonetheless be regarded as part of the early Shia. This is even supported by the fact that the religious-political worldview of that group has originally fed on the understanding of the legitimacy of ʿAlī’s succession to the Prophet. See, for example, van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, i. 8 and 20f. That the issue of orthodoxy played, and still plays, a pivotal role in the Shia is indicated by the fact that the authoritative Imāmī collections of ḥadīth (al-kutub al-arbaʿa) contain substantial chapters on this matter. For instance, see al-Kulaynī, Kāfī, Vol. 1, pp. 285-511 (Kitāb al-īmān wa'l-kufr).

31 See Zaman, Caliphs.

32 See Cook, Studies, pp. 202 and 256. Later, the idea of intercession increasingly receded into the background: in the process of canonising the constituents of the (Sunnī) Muslim creed – enshrined in the ʿAqāʾid literature – such claims were seen as theologically barely sustainable. See, for example, the various examples of such catechisms in Montgomery Watt, Islamic Creeds: A Selection (Edinburgh, 1994).

33 Qurʾān 3 (Āl ʿImrān): 169: wa-lā taḥsabanna ’lladhīna qutilū fī sabīli ’llāhi amwātan bal aḥyāʾun ʿinda rabbihim yurzaqūna.

34 al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, Vol. 6, pp. 227-236, here pp. 228 and 231. See also, for example, al-Bayḍāwī, Anwār, Vol. 2, p. 48.

35 See al-Rāzī, Tafsīr, Vol. 9, pp. 90-97.

36 See, for example, Muḥammad al-Bukhārī Abū ʿAbdallāh, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, (ed.) al-ʿAṭṭār Ṣiddqī Jamīl (Beirut, 1425-6/2005), p. 317 (Kitāb al-janāʾiz, bāb al-ṣalāt ʿalá ’l-shahīd, ḥadīth 1, no. 1,343; bāb man lam yara ghasla ’l-shuhadāʾ, ḥadīth 1, no. 1,346; bāb man yuqaddam fi'l-Uḥud, aḥādīth 1-2, nos. 1,347f); Abū Dāwūd, Sunan, Vol. 3, p. 195 (Kitāb al-janāʾiz, bāb fī shahīd yughsal, aḥādīth 2f, nos. 3,134f); al-Imām Mālik ibn Anas, Muwaṭṭaʾ al-Imām Mālik, ed. Muḥammad Muṣṭafá al-ʿAẓmī, 8 vols. (Abu Dhabi, 1420/2004), Vol. 3, p. 660 (Kitāb al-jihād, bāb al-ʿamal fī ghasla ’l-shuhadāʾ, ḥadīth 2, no. 1,684). Compare al-Qāḍī Abū Yūsuf, Kitāb al-kharāj li'l-imām ṣāḥib Abī Ḥanīfa (Cairo, 1302 ah), pp. 131f; Amīn ibn ʿĀbidīn Muḥammad, Radd al-muḥtār ʿalá ’l-durr al-mukhtār sharḥ tanwīr al-abṣār, (ed.) ʿAbd al-Mawjūd Ā. A. and ʿMuʿawwaḍ A. M., 12 vols. (Riyadh, 1423/2003), Vol. 3, pp. 161f.

37 See Ibn Hishām, Sīra, Vol. 2, p. 75; al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, Vol. 1, pp. 396f; compare Ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd, Vol. 3, pp. 158f.

38 For example, see ibid., Vol. 3, pp. 157f and 164-166.

39 See Alshech, Egoistic Martyrdom, p. 35.

40 See al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, Vol. 3, pp. 1,102-113. The perhaps earliest and most comprehensive account of the Battle of ʿAyn al-Warda, although from a clearly biased perspective, is the Kitāb Sulaymān ibn Ṣurad wa-ʿAyn al-Warda, or Kitāb akhbār al-tawwābīn bi-ʿAyn al-Warda, of Abū Mikhnaf Lūṭ ibn Yaḥyá al-Azdī (d. 157/775), which has only survived in references of other works. On the impact of this work on Ṭabarī’s Taʾrīkh see Sezgin U., Abū Miḫnaf. Ein Beitrag zur Historiographie der umaiyadischen Zeit (Leiden, 1971), pp. 4042 . An interesting further point about the tawwabūn in this respect is that their name has been understood as a reference to the Qurʾānic verse 2 (al-Baqara): 54, wherein the Israelites are ordered by Moses to kill themselves in expiation of their sin of worshiping the Golden Calf. See Dakkake M. M., The Charismatic Community. Shiʿite Identity in Early Islam (Albany, 2007), pp. 9091 .

41 See, for instance, Ende W., ‘The Flagellations of Muḥarram and the Shiʿite ʿUlamāʾ’, Der Islam 55 (1978), pp. 1936 .

42 See Krawietz B., Die Ḥurma. Schariatrechtlicher Schutz vor Eingriffen in die körperliche Unversehrtheit nach arabischen Fatwas des 20. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1991).

43 This is a paraphrase from the famous Masnavī-yi maʿnavī of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (d. 672/1273): sajdah natuvān kard bar āb-i ḥayāt, tā niyābam-i zayn-i tīn-i khākī najāt (Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad-i Balkhī, Masnavī. Muqaddimah va taḥlīl, taṣḥīḥ-i matn bar asās-i nuskha'hā-yi zamān-i Mawlānā va nazdīk-i zamān-i ū, (ed.) M. Istiʿlāmī, 7 vols. [Tehran: Zavār, 3rd edition, 1371-4sh], Vol. 2, p. 59).

44 See Rosenthal F., ‘On Suicide in Islam’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 66:3 (1946), pp. 239259 , here pp. 241f; al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, Vol. 6, pp. 638f; al-Bayḍāwī, Anwār, Vol. 2, pp. 81f; al-Rāzī, Tafsīr, Vol. 9, p. 74; A. T. Karamustafa, ‘Suicide’, in McAuliffe, Encyclopaedia, Vol. 5, pp. 159-162.

45 See al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ, pp. 322f (Kitāb al-janāʾiz, bāb mā jāʾ fī qātil al-nafs, aḥādīth 1-3, nos. 1,363-5), 1.475 (Kitāb al-ṭibb, bāb shurb al-samm wa'l-dawāʾ bihi wa-bimā yukhāfu minhu wa'l-khabīth, ḥadīth 1, no. 5,778); Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ, pp. 1,319f (Kitāb al-dhikr wa'l-duʿāʾ wa'l-tawba wa'l-istighfār, bāb karāhat tamannī al-mawt li-ḍurrin nazala bih, aḥādīth 1, 3 and 6, nos. 6,709, 6,711 and 6,714).

46 See ibid., pp. 443 (Kitāb al-janāʾiz, bāb tark al-ṣalāt ʿalá ’l-qātil nafsah, ḥadīth 1, no. 2,151).

47 See Fuess A., Khalfaoui M. and Seidensticker T. (editors and translators), ‘Die «Geistliche Anleitung» der Attentäter des 11. September’, in Terror im Dienste Gottes: Die “Geistliche Anleitung” der Attentäter des 11. September 2001 (ed.) Kippenberg H. G. and Seidensticker T. (Frankfurt/M., 2004), pp. 1727 [Arabic text in the appendix pp. 1-10], here pp. 18f [3], 22 [7] and 27 [10].

48 See Abū Yūsuf, Kharāj, p. 89. Compare the view of the renowned Shāfiʿite jurist Yaḥyá ibn Sharaf al-Nawawī (d. 676/1278), according to which “he who takes his life is to be washed like all others, and to be prayed over”. (Muḥyī ’l-Dīn Abū Zakariyyā Yaḥyá ibn Sharaf al-Nawawī, Minhāj al-ṭālibīn wa-ʿumdat al-muftiyīn, (ed.) Muḥammad [ibn] Muḥammad Ṭāhir Shaʿbān [Jiddah, s.t.], p. 158).

49 See Ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd, Vol. 3, pp. 108f.

50 Compare ibid., Vol. 3, p. 109: “It is clear that with the refusal [of the requiescat] he [i.e. the Prophet] wanted to prevent others from following this example, similarly to [his] refusal to pray over debtors [imtināʿ ʿan al-ṣalāt ʿalá ’l-madyūn]”. For a Shāfiʿite view on this, see Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī [sic], Tuḥfat al-muḥtāj bi-sharḥ al-minhāj, māʿa ḥawāshī al-shaykh ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd al-Shirwānī wa'l-shaykh Aḥmad ibn Qāsim al-ʿIbādī, 10 vols. (Bombay, s.t.), Vol. 3, p. 192: “The ḥadīth [, according to which no prayer will be offered over the grave of a suicide,] is to be understood as an admonition against such acts. Indeed, Ibn Ḥibbān [d. 354/965] said in his Ṣaḥīḥ that the ḥadīth had been abrogated [mansūkh].” (see also the affirmation of this position by Haytamī’s commentators Aḥmad ibn Qāsim al-ʿIbādī [d. 995/1587] and ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd al-Shirwānī [d. 1118/1706] on this and the following page). In his narration of the ḥadīth, however, Ibn Ḥibbān said nothing about abrogation, as claimed by Haytamī. Compare Muḥammad ibn Ḥibbān al-Bustī Abū Bakr, Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān bi-tartīb Ibn Balbān, (ed.) al-Arnaʾūṭ Shuʿayb, 16 vols. (Beirut, 2nd edition, 1414/1993), Vol. 7, pp. 361 and 363 (Kitāb al-janāʾiz, faṣl fi'l-ṣalāt ʿalá ’l-janāza, aḥādīth 36 and 38, nos. 3,093 and 3,095).

51 See, for instance, Abdallāh Muḥammad al-Dhahabī Abū, al-Kabāʾir, (ed.) Ubayda Abū (Cairo and ʿAyn Shams, 2nd edition, 1424/2003), pp. 240f ; Ḥajar al-Haythamī Ibn, K. al-Zawājir ʿan iqtirāf al-kabāʾir, 2 vols. (Cairo, 1970), Vol. 2, pp. 100102 . Indicative of the continuation of this characterisation of suicide as a major sin, which is of quite some importance for contemporary radically traditionist Muslim circles, is Muḥammad ibn ʿ al-Wahhāb Abd, K. al-Kabāʾir, (ed.) Anṣārī Ismāʿīl (Riyadh, 1980), pp. 49f .

52 See [Alfarabius] al-Fārābī Abū Naṣr, De Platonis philosophia, (ed.) Rosenthal und Richard Walzer Franz (London, 1943) [= Falsafat Aflaṭūn wa-ajuzāʾuhā wa-marātab ajuzāʾhā min awwalihā ilá ākhirihā], pp. 12-14 (Arabic text pp. 17-19); also Rosenthal, Suicide, p. 248.

53 See, for instance, Hartung J.-P., A System of Life: Mawdūdī and the Ideologisation of Islam (London and New York, 2013), pp. 2026 .

54 See, for example, Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ, p. 1,435 (Kitāb al-fitan wa-ashrāṭ al-sāʿa, bāb dhikr al-dajjāl wa-ṣifatihi wa-mā maʿayih, ḥadīth 5, no. 8,259).

55 For instance, see Furnish T. R., ‘Bin Laden: The Man who would be Mahdi’, Middle East Quarterly 9:2 (2002), pp. 5359 ; idem, Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, Their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden (Westport, 2005).

56 See, for example, Abdel-Samad H., ‘Radikalisierung in der Fremde: Junge Muslime in Deutschland’, in Determinanten des Terrorismus, (ed.) Waldmann P. (Weilerswist, 2005), pp. 189240 , here especially pp. 196-201 and 208-218; Wiktorowicz Q., Radical Islam Rising: Muslim Extremism in the West (Lanham, 2005), pp. 85106 ; also Hussein E., The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left (London, 2007).

57 See Kant I., Werke, (ed.) Weischedel Wilhelm, 12 vols. (Frankfurt/M., 1974), Vol. 12, p. 428 (BA 27; trans. JPH).

58 Qurʾān 23 (al-Muʾminūn): 12-14 (trans. JPH).

59 See, for example, al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, Vol. 17, pp. 21f; Bayḍāwī, Anwār, Vol. 4, p. 63; al-Rāzī, Tafsīr, Vol. 23, pp. 214f.

60 See Qurʾān 32 (al-Sajda): 9; also al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, Vol. 18, p. 601: “He formed a living being endowed with rationality [ḥayyan nāṭiqan]”; Bayḍāwī, Anwār, Vol. 4, p. 155; al-Rāzī, Tafsīr, Vol. 27, pp. 101-103.

61 See al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya Shams, al-Tibyān fī aqsām al-Qurʾān, (ed.) Shāhīn Ṭ. Y. (Beirut, 1402/1982), pp. 218220 .

62 On this, see Qurʾān 54 (al-Qamar): 7, 70 (al-Maʿārij): 43, 82 (al-Infiṭār): 4, 100 (al-ʿĀdiyāt): 9; also al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, Vol. 22, pp. 117f, Vol. 23, p. 284, Vol. 14, pp. 175 and 590; Bayḍāwī, Anwār, Vol. 5, pp. 105f, 152, 176 and 193; al-Rāzī, Tafsīr, Vol. 29, pp. 34f, Vol. 30, p. 133, Vol. 31, p. 78 and Vol. 32, p. 68.

63 See Marmura M. E., ‘Avicenna and the Kalām’, Zeitschrift für Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften 7 (1991-2), pp. 172206 , here pp. 194-206.

64 See Alī ibn Sīnā Abū, al-Isharāt wa'l-tanbīhāt, maʿ sharḥ Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, (ed.) Dunyā Sulaymān, 4 vols. (Cairo, 3rd edition, 1968), Vol. 3, pp. 183196 and 208-240; idem, al-Mabdaʾ wa'l-maʿād, (ed.) ʿAbdallāh Nūrānī (Tehran, 1363sh/1884), pp. 94-101. The understanding of the body as a mere accident has been greatly emphasised by ascetic Sufism. Its followers aimed at refining the soul in this world (tazkiyat al-nafs) and to eliminate physical desires as much as any possible.

65 See ibid., pp. 107f.

66 By this name he is still known to Hegel in his Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie: “He was a Sceptic of great ability, with a powerful mind of the Oriental cast; he held the words of the Prophet to be pure truth, and wrote Destructio Philosophorum”. (G. W. F. Hegel, Werke, (ed.) E. Moldenhauer and K. M. Michel, 20 vols. [Frankfurt/M., 3rd edition, 1996], Vol. 19, p. 523 [translator E.S. Haldane; italics in the original]).

67 al-Imām [Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad] al-Ghazālī, Tahāfut al-falāsifa, (ed.) Sulaymān Dunyā (Cairo, 5th edition, 1392/1972), p. 287.

68 Qurʾān 3 (Āl ʿImrān): 169: wa-lā taḥsabanna ’lladhīna qutilū fī sabīli ’llāhi amwātā bal aḥyāʾun ʿinda rabbihim yurzaqūn. See al-Ghazālī, Tahāfut, p. 299.

69 See ibid., pp. 299f and 307-310.

70 See Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Tibyān, p. 219. Ibn Qayyim here undertook a fundamental differentiation of vegetative (ḥarakat al-numūw wa'l-ightidhāʾ ka'l-nabāt) and voluntary movement (ḥarakat ḥassiyatihi wa'l-irādatih), where only the second kind requires the ensoulment of the embryo. This way, movement in itself, which has so far been regarded as a sufficient criterion for life, was subjected to some fundamental reassessment.

71 For example, see al-Fārābī Abū Naṣr, Kitāb ārāʾ ahl al-madīna al-fāḍila, (ed.) Naṣrī Nādir Albīr (Beirut, 6th edition, 1991), pp. 117119 .

72 The passage in question is 18 (al-Kahf): 23f. See on this Kandler H., Die Bedeutung der Siebenschläfer (Aṣḥāb al-kahf) im Islam: Untersuchungen zu Legende und Kult in Schrifttum, Religion und Volksglauben unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Siebenschläfer-Wallfahrt (Bochum, 1994), pp. 50f ; also al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, Vol. 15, pp. 223-228; al-Bayḍāwī, Anwār, Vol. 3, pp. 221f; al-Rāzī, Tafsīr, Vol. 21, pp. 110-112.

73 See Rosenthal, Suicide, pp. 256-259.

74 See Hartung, Enacting der Rule, pp. 308f.

75 See Abū ’l-Ḥasan ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Asadābādī al-Qāḍī, al-Mughnī fī abwāb al-tawḥīd wa'l-ʿadl, (ed.) al-Saqqā M. et al., 16 vols. (Cairo, 1385/1965), Vol. 6.

76 See ibid., Vol. 7, pp. 6-12.

77 See ibid., Vol. 7; Frank R. M., ‘Two Islamic Views on Human Agency’, in La notion de liberté au Moyen Âge: Islam, Byzance, Occident. Penn-Paris-Dumbarton Oaks colloquia, IV. session des 12-15 octobre 1982 (Mandelieu-la-Napoule), (ed.) Makdisi G., Sourdel-Thomine J. and Sourdel D. (Paris, 1985), pp. 3749 , here especially pp. 38-42; van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, Vol. 4, pp. 482-534.

78 See Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn al-Ṭayyib al-Bāqillānī al-Qāḍī, Kitāb tamhīd al-awāʾil wa takhlīṣ al-dalāʾil, (ed.) ʿal-Dīn Aḥmad Ḥaydar Imād (Beirut, 1407/1987), e.g. pp. 145f , 321, 341-348 and 386.

79 Most comprehensively on this, see Perler D. and Rudolph U., Occasionalismus. Theorien der Kausalität im arabisch-islamischen und im europäischen Denken (Göttingen, 2000), pp. 4651 .

80 See, for example, al-Bāqillānī, Tamhīd, pp. 28f and 437-441.

81 Parallels to the Protestantism of John Calvin are hard to deny: according to classical Ashʿarite understanding a believer can have only deep faith in Divine providence. Compare Calvin J., Institutio christianæ religionis, in libros quatuor nunc primùm dida, certísque distincta capitibus, ad aptissimam methodum: aucta etiam tam magna accessione ut propemodum opus nouum haberi possit (Geneva, 1559), pp. 6076 .

82 See, for instance, Hildebrandt T., Neo-Muʿtazilismus? Intention und Kontext im modernen arabischen Umgang mit dem rationalistischen Erbe des Islam (Leiden, Boston and Cologne, 2007), pp. 194438 .

83 In this context one is reminded of the contemporary controversies on euthanasia and induced abortion of pregnancy, as have ignited not least around the provocative theses of the Australia-born Utilitarianist philosopher Peter A. D. Singer (b. 1946).

84 See Perler and Rudolph, Occasionalismus, p. 109 n. 9. In more recent past, Hassan Wassouf (Marburg), Ayman Shihadeh (London) and Heidrun Eichner (Tübingen), for example, have presented studies on the relationship between Ashʿarite kalām and philosophy in Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, which have begun to close the gap in research on this matter, as still identified by Rudolph.

85 al-Rāzī, Tafsīr, Vol. 9, p. 74.

86 Ibid. Especially with his reference to the grace of God Rāzī emphasised a central element of Ashʿarite theology, and aligned himself this way clearly with this particular tradition.

87 Especially in matters such as the above highlighted responsibility of an individual for his or her own actions the intrinsic relationship of systematic theology and religious jurisprudence is expressed most vividly. After all, such an issue reflects clearly the complex intrinsic relationship of belief and action. Thus, already in the early Middle Period couples of certain theological currents and canonical orientations regarding jurisprudence had emerged which have to an extent been sustained into the present. See Johansen B., ‘The Muslim Fiqh as a Sacred Law. Religion, Law and Ethics in a Normative System’, in Contingency in a Sacred Law. Legal and Ethical Norms in the Muslim Fiqh (Leiden, Boston and Cologne, 1999), pp. 176 , here p. 8.

88 See Qurʾān 3 (Āl ʿImrān): 169.

89 Asfaruddin, Striving, pp. 10-33, 157f and 174, after meticulously analysing the relevant Qurʾānic passages, as well as statements in various early compilations of ḥadīth and faḍāʾil works, has come to a similar conclusion.

90 See Wensinck A. J., The Muslim Creed. Its Genesis and Historical Development (New York, 2nd edition., 1965), pp. 1719 .

91 See Ḥanīfa al-Nuʿmān ibn Thābit al-Kūfī Abū, Sharḥ kitāb al-fiqh al-akbar, al-shirraḥ li'l-imām al-Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī al-Ḥanafī, (ed.) ʿDandal Alī Muḥammad (Beirut, 1416/1995), pp. 323327 . On this work, see van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, Vol. 1, pp. 207-211.

92 al-Kūfī, Fiqh akbar, p. 326.

93 See ibid., pp. 141-144.

94 See Wensinck, Creed, pp. 32-35. This basic creed is shared by Sunnites and Shiites alike; the addition “And ʿAlī [ibn Abī Ṭālib] is the friend of God [wa-ʿAlī walīyu ’llāh]”, which is oftentimes added to the shahāda in the call for prayer (adhān), is, according to the common legal view, not mandatory (wājib), but merely recommended (mustaḥabb).

95 This refers to the complicated legal and theological discussion on apostasy (ridda) in the Islamic Middle Period. See Nedza J., Das takfīr-Konzept im Wandel? Erklärungsversuch zu einer Kategorie heutigen islamistischen Denkens (unpublished MA dissertation, Ruhr-University Bochum, 2008), pp. 2338 and 43-57.

96 See Qurʾān 13 (al-Raʿd): 9f: ʿālimu ’l-ghaybi wa'l-shahādati [. . .] sawāʾun minkum man asarra ’l-qawla wa-man jahara bihi wa-man huwa mustakhfi bi'l-layli wa-sāribun bi'l-nahār.

97 See Abū ’l-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn Ismāʿīl al-Baṣrī, K. al-Ibāna ʿan uṣūl al-diyāna (Hyderabad, s.t.), pp. 73f et passim.

98 In this endeavour al-Ashʿarī even submitted to the tradition of Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, “the excellent guide and perfect head [al-raʾīs al-kāmil] by whom God confers the truth, extinguishes error, smoothens the path [al-minhāj], and supresses the sectarianism of the sectarians [al-mubtadiʿūn] and the lies of the liars [al-zāʾighūn].” (ibid., p. 8).

99 Compare, for example, al-Kūfī, al-Fiqh al-akbar, p. 325: “We declare no Muslim an unbeliever [lā nukaffiru musliman] on the ground of any offense [dhanb], however grave, unless he considers it [i.e. his offense] permissible [yastaḥilluhā]. As long as he does not give up the notion of belief we shall remain considering him a believer in the true sense of the word [muʾmīnan ḥaqīqa]. It is [therefore] possible to be a sinful believer [muʾminan fāsiqan] without becoming an unbeliever [kāfir]”. Also, see the commentary of ʿAlī al-Qārī on this passage in ibid., pp. 117-121.

100 See Shaykh Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb, Majmūʿat al-tawḥīd al-najdiyya (Mecca, 1391h), pp. 8-10, 18, 39 and 43f; Nedza, Takfīr-Konzept, pp. 58-64.

101 See ibid., pp. 74-88.

102 See, for example, Alshech, Egoistic Martyrdom, pp. 38-42.

103 See above, note 8.

1 This essay is a substantially revised and enlarged version of an earlier one in German, published as ‘»Und tötet Euch nicht!« Martyrium im Islam zwischen Heilversprechen und Heilserwartung’, in Leben und Sterben für Gott? Martyriumsvorstellungen in Auseinandersetzung mit dem Gebot der Lebensbewahrung in Antike und Mittelalter, (ed.) R. Grundmann and S. Fuhrmann (Leiden, 2012), pp. 275-305.

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