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Suicide Bombers & Shahadat

28 January, 2008

By Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)


There is no denying the fact that suicide is not permitted in Islam. Some even say that  the Namaz e Janaza of the person committing suicide cannot be held. The holy  Qura’n is very clear about the killing of the innocent persons and decrees  killing of one innocent person equal to the killing of the entire humanity.  Then, in spite of such clear injunctions, it is matter of great concern for us all, how is a breed of the suicide bombers being nurtured in the name of Islam?  Has it to do something with the concept of shahadat?  Apparently it looks so.

A friend travelling from Pindi to Peshawar by bus had this horrific tale to tell. A somewhat over clad young man of about seventeen on boarding the bus went to the driver and showing him something under his woollen shawl talked to him in a rather conspiratorial manner. He then sat next to my friend behind the driver seat and the bus rolled on. The young man remained quiet and uncommunicative mostly with eyes closed all along till the bus reached Peshawar.  Before alighting he again went to the driver, shook him by the hand and whispered something to him. The moment he got down the bus the driver shrieked hysterically and shouted to the passengers that the boy was wearing a suicide jacket and had instructed him to run the bus into any military vehicle that came their way. As they had not come across any such vehicle the boy had now felt sorry for the driver that how unlucky they both had been to have not been able to  embrace shahadat and go to Jannat where the Holy Prophet (SAW) himself had been waiting in person to embrace and welcome them!. 

Such naive young men are being prepared for such the  ‘shahadat’ in a very well planned manner. Great care is taken in their initial selection and then they are brain washed in a professional psychological manner. Even given psychopathic drugs to help them accept and assimilate the beliefs readily. Recently a new dimension has been added to this indoctrination. That is; to convince them of their attaining the shahadat not only for themselves, but also for all those whom they will kill in the process. For, they will all be also shaheed. What could be more rewarding for a young man that he will be able to open the gates of the paradise for others also. Such belief that he will be instrumental in securing shahadat for many others along with his own shahadat makes them still more resolute in their conviction. “How lucky would they all be – like the driver in this case – who will also be blessed with the shahadat through him?”, could be a great motivating thought process for anyone.

This kind of indoctrination is not new in the annals of our (Islamic) history. Hiring of the paid assassins had been an old trade. However, Hassan bin Sabah in the later part of the 11th century, introduced it as an organised institution. But first a little about Hasan-i Sabah.  There is a popular legend about the three classmates of Neshapur University of olden Iran. In a spirit of healthy competition each of them – Hassan i-Sabah, Omer Khyam and Nizam al–Mulk resolved to outdo the other two in his achievements in life. There was also a pact amongst the three: whoever was the favoured of fortune would, in turn, help the other two. Nizam al-Mulk rose to a position of prominence in the court of the Turks who then ruled those areas. He got Omar Khayyám, who had by them also made a name in mathematics, poetry and astrology, appointed as court poet and mathematician. Hassan too was granted an office of the Intelligence Chief in the court but soon began eyeing and aiming at the post  held by Nizam al-Mulk. Getting a whiff of Hassan’s ambition, Nizam al-Mulk engineered his banishment from the state. During the days of his extradition once the boat he was travelling in got caught in a severe sea storm. Everyone including the sailors feared of their lives, except Hassan who calmly and composedly assured all that he had received the divine revelation that no harm would come to the them. As luck would have it his gamble worked and the storm subsided after a while. As the boat ran ashore safely and no sooner the passenger alighted, they all were at Hassan’s feet revering him to be the most divine person. Soon he had a great following of the faithful whom he indoctrinated in a particular mystic philosophy. He bought the fort of Alamut (Castle of Death), a mountain fortress located in central Elburz mountains, south of the Caspian Sea, Iran, from where he controlled his terrorising operations against  the state and the rich. He would demand gold and silver from the rich and noble and anyone not obliging was put to death. His highly indoctrinated killer followers would leave a dagger inscribed with the court of arm  of Hassan in the chest of the victim as a signature mark of Hassan bin Sabah’s doing. From this point on his community and its branches spread throughout Iran and Syria and came to be called Hashashins - an Islamic mystery cult. The English word assassin is derived from Hashashins or Assassins.

The legends abound as to the tactics used to induct members into his quasi-religious political organization. A future assassin was subjected to rites very similar to those of other mystery cults in which the subject was made to believe that he was in imminent danger of death. But the twist of the assassins was that they drugged the person to simulate a "dying" to later have them awaken in a garden flowing with wine and served a sumptuous feast by virgins. The supplicant was then convinced he was in Heaven and that Sabbah was a representative of the divinity and that all of his orders should be followed, even to death.

Other accounts of the indoctrination attest that the future assassins were brought to Alamut at a young age and, while they matured, inhabited the aforementioned paradisiacal gardens and were kept drugged with hashish; while Hassan occupied the gardens as a divine emissary. At a certain point of the initiation the drug was withdrawn from them, and they were removed from the gardens and flung into a dungeon. There they were informed that, if they wished to return to the paradise they had so recently enjoyed it would be at Sabbah's discretion, and that they must, therefore, follow his directions exactly, up to and including murder and self-sacrifice.  (source Wikipedia)

That was the modes operandi ten centuries ago. The world has advanced much since then.  Now is the age of audio/video teaching aids, mobile and radio communications, explosives and remote detonations, psychopathic drugs and tranquilizers to keep the naive perpetrator remarkably calm, cool and fearlessness under the extreme trying conditions. As a final product he is groomed into a young pious, devout and determined man with a mission, who has no ambiguity of any kind about his being a shaheed after his death and go straight to Jannat. Similarly he knows that all those killed in the blast will also be called and remembered as shuhada by all those mourning their demise. When shahadat is all around, so abundantly and that easily, what can stop him for attaining it?

We, as a nation too, subscribe unwittingly to strengthen their such precepts by declaring every one who dies in such an attack a shaheed. A case in point is the recent BB’s death, whose followers for political reasons insist upon her being called a shaheed.  God alone knows who is a shaheed and who is not, but we do add to the wrongly held conviction of the suicide bomber by calling every one shaheed that he killed. Should we, therefore, not confine the use of word shaheed and shahadat only for those who lay their life in the way of Allah (SWT) only?  This could make the suicidal bombers have a second thought about his mission – who knows.

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