Jihad Martyrdom and Suhail Khan

Unveiling Suhail’s Con—The “Tearful” Champion of Jihad Martyrdom

As reported by Paul Sperry in the New York Post on January 9, 2011, during the Islamic Society of North America’s 1999 conference (see video, here) Suhail Khan exhorted Muslims to sacrifice their lives to “protect our fellow brothers and sisters” in so-called “Palestine,” Bosnia, Kashmir, and Iraq, as well those held in the US as jihad terrorism suspects. Wiping away tears throughout his speech, Khan proclaimed:

The early Muslims loved death, dying for the sake of almighty Allah, more than the oppressors loved life…This must be the case when we are fighting…What are our oppressors going to do with a people like us? We are prepared to give our lives for the cause of Islam.

Khan’s speech extolling jihad martyrdom against those deemed “oppressors” melds two core thematic elements of Islam evident since the advent of the creed.

First, despite grossly exaggerated claims by Muslims—Khan included—about their “oppression,” as the great Italian scholar of Islam, Francesco Gabrieli (d. 1996) noted,

In the terrible history of the world’s religious persecutions, those suffered by the young Islam in fact seem singularly mild, and with all its willingness to amplify, Islamic tradition only records a few isolated cases of believers [Muslims] who died after maltreatment by pagans. For the most part it is merely a matter of scoffing, irritations, and annoyances, like the thorns a pagan woman is said to have scattered on the ground where the [Muslim] prophet was passing. He repaid her with an explicit promise of hell, included in the revelation for her benefit.

But more importantly, Khan celebrates the most revered act a Muslim can perform—jihad martyrdom. These murderous acts of jihad are directed against those whom Muslims designate, with infinite elasticity, as “oppressors.” Islam’s expansion within and beyond Arabia was punctuated by aggressive jihad campaigns against non-Muslim societies and civilizations, highlighting the counterfactual absurdity of the Islamic conception of “oppression” and “oppressors.”   For example, the same phrase invoked by Suhail Khan has its origins in the classical account of Islam’s seminal early historian, Al-Tabari (d. 923).  According to Tabari, during Abu Bakr’s reign as Caliph, his commander Khalid b. al-Walid’s wrote a letter in 634 to a Persian leader in Iraq identified as “Hurmuz,” warning of a prototypical expansionist jihad campaign.

Now then. Embrace Islam so that you may be safe, or else make a treaty of protection for yourself and your people, for I have brought you a people who love death as you love life. (The History of Al-Tabari: The Challenge to the Empires, SUNY Series in Near Eastern Studies, [Paperback] p .10)

“Martyrdom operations” have always been intimately associated with the institution of jihad. Professor Franz Rosenthal, in a magisterial 1946 essay (entitled, “On Suicide in Islam”), observed that Islam’s foundational texts sanctioned such acts of jihad martyrdom, and held them in the highest esteem:

..death as the result of “suicidal” missions and of the desire of martyrdom occurs not infrequently, since[such]  death is considered highly commendable according to Muslim religious concepts.

Koran 9:111 provides an unequivocal, celebratory invocation of martyrdom during jihad:

Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain.

Finally, the Muslim prophet Muhammad is idealized as the eternal model for behaviors that all Muslims should emulate. Muhammad celebrated jihad martyrdom as the supreme act of Islamic devotion in the most important canonical hadith collection:

[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 53] Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, “Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah (in the Hereafter) would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdom, would like to come back to the world and get killed again (in Allah’s Cause).”

[Sahih Bukhari: Volume 4, Book 52, Number 54] Narrated Abu Huraira:  “The Prophet said, ‘By Him in Whose Hands my life is! Were it not for some men amongst the believers who dislike to be left behind me and whom I cannot provide with means of conveyance, I would certainly never remain behind any Sariya’ (army-unit) setting out in Allah’s Cause. By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.”

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