Terrorism, Slavery and Honor Killings … Renewing the Da’wah Narrative

AMJA 2016

Key Points from my paper presented to Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America’s (AMJA) 13th Annual Imams Conference: “Contemporary Fiqh Matters of Dawah in the West” being attended by 300+ imams and scholars from North America. Issues are couched in the language and concepts of Islamic legal terminology, so beware!

TERRORISM: no agreed upon definition between nations of the world or the UN.

Definition adopted by Islamic Fiqh Council: “Terrorism is an atrocity committed by individuals, groups or states against the human being (his religion, life, mind, property and honor). It includes all forms of intimidation, harming, threatening and killing without a just cause and all acts of banditry and violence that take place in the wake of an individual or collective criminal plan aimed at spreading terror among people by exposing their life, liberty or security to danger, including the harm inflicted to the environment or to a public or private utility, or exposing one of the national or natural resources to danger.”

American Muslims imams and scholars should not have any reservation using the term “terrorism” that is committed in the name of their religion. They should do so clearly, openly, and regularly.

DAR ul-ISLAM vs. DAR ul-HARB: terms do not appear in the Quran and Sunna, but were developed by the fuqaha.

The bifurcation of the world into two domains is essentially an affirmation of the principle of territorial jurisdiction.


The concepts of war, peace, and neutrality have more to do with international relations between states than what is relevant to Western Muslims. Muslims living in the West are full citizens of their countries. Terrorists are not waging some sort of “jihad” in the name of their faith.

No single verse in the Quran, when placed in its proper textual and historical context, permits fighting others on the basis of their faith, ethnicity, or nationality.

Neutrality refers to a status accorded by international law to state that “abstains from all participation in a war, and maintains an attitude of impartiality in its dealings with the belligerents.” There are two types of neutrality in international law:

  • permanent neutrality as practiced by countries like Switzerland and Finland
  • non-permanent neutrality where a state proclaims neutrality in a given war

There are some instances of neutrality established by the Prophet and the third caliph. It is an option worth considering today based on the maxim “tasarruf al-imam ala ar-raiyyah manutun bi almaslahah.”


1. Muslims World and the West: The relationship of the Muslim world with the West as set and defined by OIC (Muslim world’s only intergovernmental body) is one of cooperation, dialogue and understanding. In the words of Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Twaijri, Head of largest Islamic educational organization, ISESCO, and ranked as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world, “Relations between the Muslim world and the West should be built around common interests, the respect of international laws, and serving human causes anywhere in the world.”

2. Muslims Living in the West: Islamic law imposes respect of covenants and treaties even above the respect of religious solidarity (Quran 5:1).

Muslims living a non-Muslim country are considered to be living there under a covenant. Islamic ethics and values such as truthfulness, honesty and loyalty are encouraged in both non-Muslim and Muslim lands. Similarly, immoral acts such as lying, betrayal or treachery are discouraged regardless of the type of land (Quran 17:34, 16:91, 2:100). Muslims living in non-Muslim countries have to comply with laws and regulations of the country they have been entrusted though valid visas to enter. At the same time, they have to avoid whatever contradicts Islamic teachings e.g. the prohibition of oppression, murder, fornication, theft and alcohol.


  • Legalized slavery may have ended, but the institution exists today under different names. Muslim scholars have a moral obligation to speak against: Revival of slavery by the Daesh (ISIS) that violates the ijma (consensus) of the Muslim scholars and the Umma
  • Modern day ‘slavery’ in our Western societies (e.g. 14,000- 17500 people are forced into the US for sex trade, domestic servitude, or agricultural labor)
  • Slave-like conditions (especially of domestic workers) due to poor labor laws in some Muslim countries


Most liberal, secular democracies allow freedom of religion, allowing Muslims to live peacefully under the rule of law in them. The “contract” of citizenship means that they accept people will choose or relinquish faith, including other Muslims.


Polygamy (or more accurately, polygyny) is illegal in the US. Muslims are allowed to marry up to four wives with strict conditions. Does it conflict with the legal prohibition on polygamy in the US? The answer is no, because polygyny is not a requirement for Muslims. Today, a very small percentage of Muslims practice it in Muslim countries. Muslim imams and scholars must continue to abide by the law of the land and not perform marriages without a state license to protect the rights of both spouses.


Honor killings violate the law of the land and the Shariah, yet they are done in some Muslim societies. Some media outlets incorrectly equate Shariah with honor killings. Our responsibility is twofold: to clarify to fellow citizens that honor killings are crimes that have nothing to do with Islam and the imams must clarify their prohibition clearly from the pulpits especially in communities with large immigrant populations.

Download Conference Full Paper

Feature Image: Wikipedia