Are suicide bombings or “martyrdom operations” allowed in Islam?
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Our position is that suicide bombings are unlawful in every circumstance as it involves the deliberate destruction of one’s life and often involves killing innocent bystanders.
Suicide is categorically forbidden in Islam in the strongest terms.
وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا
Do not kill yourselves. Verily, Allah is ever merciful to you.
Surah An-Nisa 4:29
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسَهُ بِحَدِيدَةٍ فَحَدِيدَتُهُ فِي يَدِهِ يَتَوَجَّأُ بِهَا فِي بَطْنِهِ فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدًا مُخَلَّدًا فِيهَا أَبَدًا وَمَنْ شَرِبَ سَمًّا فَقَتَلَ نَفْسَهُ فَهُوَ يَتَحَسَّاهُ فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدًا مُخَلَّدًا فِيهَا أَبَدًا وَمَنْ تَرَدَّى مِنْ جَبَلٍ فَقَتَلَ نَفْسَهُ فَهُوَ يَتَرَدَّى فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدًا مُخَلَّدًا فِيهَا أَبَدًا
Whoever kills himself with iron then his iron will be in his hand, thrusting it into his stomach in the fire of Hell abiding therein eternally. Whoever drinks poison and kills himself will drink it in the fire of Hell abiding therein eternally. Whoever threw himself off a mountain and killed himself will be thrown into the fire of Hell abiding therein eternally.
Source: Sahih Muslim 109, Grade: Sahih
Jundub ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
كَانَ فِيمَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ رَجُلٌ بِهِ جُرْحٌ فَجَزِعَ فَأَخَذَ سِكِّينًا فَحَزَّ بِهَا يَدَهُ فَمَا رَقَأَ الدَّمُ حَتَّى مَاتَ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى بَادَرَنِي عَبْدِي بِنَفْسِهِ حَرَّمْتُ عَلَيْهِ الْجَنَّةَ
There was a man among those before you who had a wound. He was in such anguish that he took a knife and he slit his hand with it and the blood did not cease to flow until he died. Allah the Almighty said: My servant has himself forestalled Me, so I have forbidden Paradise for him.
Source: Sahih Bukhari 3276, Grade: Sahih
Abu Huraira reported: We witnessed the battle of Khaibar along with the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him. He said concerning a man who claimed to be a Muslim and later killed himself:
هَذَا مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ
He is among the people of Hellfire.
Source: Sahih Bukhari 2897, Grade: Sahih
As for those who label these actions “martyrdom operations” and claim those who do so are “martyrs” in Paradise, they have no right to make this claim.
At-Tahawi writes in his creed:
وَنَرْجُو لِلْمُحْسِنِينَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنْ يَعْفُوَ عَنْهُمْ وَيُدْخِلَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ بِرَحْمَتِهِ وَلَا نَأْمَنُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا نَشْهَدُ لَهُمْ بِالْجَنَّةِ
We hope that Allah will pardon the righteous among the believers and grant them entrance into Paradise through His mercy, but we cannot be certain of this and we cannot bear witness that they will be in the Paradise.
Source: Aqeedah At-Tahawi
Al-Bukhari writes as a chapter heading in his Sahih:
لاَ يَقُولُ فُلاَنٌ شَهِيدٌ
Do not say so-and-so is a martyr.
Then Al-Bukhari narrates the following traditions:
Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ يُجَاهِدُ فِي سَبِيلِهِ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنْ يُكْلَمُ فِي سَبِيلِهِ
Allah knows best who struggles in his way, and Allah knows best who is wounded in his way.
Source: Sahih Bukhari 2742, Grade: Sahih
Sahl ibn Sa’d reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
عِنْدَ ذَلِكَ إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَعْمَلُ عَمَلَ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ فِيمَا يَبْدُو لِلنَّاسِ وَهُوَ مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَعْمَلُ عَمَلَ أَهْلِ النَّارِ فِيمَا يَبْدُو لِلنَّاسِ وَهُوَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ
A man may seem to the people as if he were practicing the deeds of the people of Paradise while in reality he is among the people of Hellfire, and another might seem to the people as if he were practicing the deeds of the people of Hellfire while in reality he is among the people of Paradise.
Source: Sahih Bukhari 2742, Grade: Sahih
Therefore, it is not correct for a Muslim to claim any person is a “martyr” because this is the right of Allah alone.
Furthermore, suicide bombings almost always involve killing innocent people, which is terrorism and murder, and we have written elsewhere about the decisive proofs that terrorism is unlawful in Islam. It must also be noted that in our times innocent Muslim civilians are among the primary victims of suicide terrorism carried out by violent extremist sects.
For these reasons, Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Baz, the late senior scholar of Saudi Arabia, issued a judgment regarding suicide bombings:
We have already given our opinion of this many times before that such an act is never correct because it is a form of killing oneself… The person should rather strive and seek to guide them and if fighting is legalized and legislated, then he fights alongside the Muslims. If he’s then killed in this way, then Allah is praised. But as for killing himself by booby-trapping his body with explosives, thereby killing others and himself, this is wrong and completely impermissible. Rather, he should fight with the Muslims only when fighting is legitimately legislated. As for the actions of some of the Palestinians, they are wrong and produce no benefit. Instead, it is compulsory upon them to call to Allah by teaching, guiding, and advising and not by such actions as these.
In conclusion, suicide bombings or so-called “martyrdom operations” are unlawful in Islam as it involves the double crime of suicide and terrorism. Those who commit such acts cannot be called martyrs and cannot be promised Paradise, although we hope Allah will forgive those among them due to their ignorance.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.