All of us I am sure are aware about reports of Osama bin Laden raheemahullaah’s alleged death and in light of this incident and the differing responses by the Muslims from place to place, the objective of this article is to clarify the position of the Muslim according to the Islamic creed in such situations.
Shaykh Haitham, may Allaah preserve him, wrote an article on the topic explaining the stance of the Muslim on this issue, an important read which can be found here, if you have not already read so. The Shaykh referred to Saddam Hussain explaining how he had committed heinous crimes yet he died as a Muslim and thus his forgiveness lies between him and His Lord. It is known that a person can do good all his life yet on his death bed he utters a word from the people of hell which in turn annuls his previous deeds and thus he becomes an inhabitant of the fire – and the same can happen the other way too, although throughout history that has been found to be rather rare; the sunnah of Allaah as the scholars mention is that a person dies doing what he is known to do most in his life. May Allaah give us the best of deaths, aameen. Saddam Hussain raheemahullaah when he was imprisoned before he was killed, he proclaimed the shahaadah and rejected openly the court stating that he did not believe in that kufri system.
The Shaykh said we have no choice but to ask Allaah to bestow His mercy upon Saddam as he clearly died a Muslim because Allaah informs us that he does not give courage to any person on his/her deathbed to declare the testimony of faith unless he or she is a true Muslim. Allaah says,
“Allaah will keep firm those who believe, with the word that stands firm in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allaah will cause to go astray those who are Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers, etc.), and Allaah does what He wills.” 1
When Osama raheemahullaah was allegedly killed, we saw many Muslims stating that his death was a blessing to humanity – the premise of their response being that he killed many innocent people and now has been dealt with and so on and so forth; that so called ‘justice’ had been done.
It is in light of this particular response that I wish to briefly refer to a certain incident which took place during the time of the Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wassallam, titled as the Nakhla expedition or raid.
Abdul Malik bin Hisham he relates that the Prophet Salallaahu ‘Alayhi wasallam after he came back from the first battle of Badr, he assembled a group of men under the command of Abdullah bin Jahsh in the month of Rajab, which is a holy month as Abu Bakrah reported that the Prophet salallaahui ‘alayhi wasallam said:
“The year is twelve months of which four are sacred, the three consecutive months of Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and Rajab Mudar which comes between Jumaada and Sha’baan.” 2
The Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam gave Abdullah bin Jahsh a letter containing instructions of what he is to do on the expedition, but commanded him to open the letter only after reaching such and such place or after travelling such number of days, and that he should not compel anyone to go with him, allowing anyone who wishes to return to do so.
Once travelling the required amount Abdullah bin Jahsh then opened the letter stating that they should march and set camp at Nakhlah between Makkah and at-Ta’if and from there watch the movements of a caravan of Quraysh that will pass through and to collect news on it. Abdullah bin Jahsh responded, “I hear and I obey” and then asked his companions who were with him saying that salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam had prohibited him from forcing anyone to go with him from here on. Those who seek martyrdom, they should march with him and those who dislike the idea of martyrdom, should turn back. All companions stayed except two who had later fell behind due to losing a camel.
When they were at Nakhlah as stated in the letter, a caravan from the Quraysh was passing through containing food and other goods for the Quraysh.
Abdullah bin Jahsh and his companions did not know what to do. If they were to leave the caravan it will enter the sacred area where fighting is prevented so they will not be able to do anything, and if they were to fight now then they would be fighting during the sacred month, where fighting has been prohibited except in self defence. The companions conversed and finally decided that they will attack and that they will confiscate the goods the caravan was carrying. During the confrontation the companions had secured the caravan and its goods, killed one person and taken a further two as captives, whilst another had fled and escaped.
Ibn Ishaq reports when the companions returned the Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam said, “I have not commanded you to conduct warfare during the Sacred Month.”
The Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam was not pleased with what the companions had done and the companions involved in the incident had become sad and distraught, regretting and feeling as if they were destroyed; word had spread across the city that Muhammad and his Companions violated the sanctity of the Sacred Month and shed blood, confiscated property and took prisoners during it. Muslims were criticising the companions who done this and people continued to talk until Allaah Jalla wa ‘Ala revealed an ayah concerning the incident to the Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam. He Jalla wa ‘Ala said:
“They ask you concerning fighting in the Sacred Months. Say “Fighting therein is a great (transgression) but a greater (transgression) with Allaah is to prevent mankind from following the Way of Allaah, to disbelieve in Him, to prevent access to Al-Masjid-Al-Haram (at Makkah), and to drive out its inhabitants, and Al-Fitnah is worse than killing…” 3
Notice Allaah He says that fighting within the sacred months is wrong, it is a transgression and Allaah condemns the action. But Allaah then says,
“…but a greater (transgression) with Allaah,” worser than killing whomever killed amongst them is, “Al-Fitnah”,
Al-Fitnah has various meanings but Ibn Kathir says here it means kufr and shirk and comments saying, “this means, trying to force the Muslims to revert from their religion and re-embrace Kufr after they had believed, is worse with Allaah than killing.”
Try to understand this. Allaah condemns the action, it is clearly wrong, however a greater injustice is shirk and kufr; killing and committing shirk and kufr cannot be seen as identical acts of injustice nor are they to be compared. The latter is a far greater transgression compared to the former.
Ibn Ishaq he says when the verses were revealed, it brought relief to the Muslims and lifted the sadness that had befallen them. When Abdullah bin Jahsh and his companions were relieved from their depressing thoughts they went to the Prophet salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam and said, “O Messenger of Allaah! We wish that this incident be considered a battle for us, so that we gain the rewards of the Mujahidin.” Allaahuakbar. Thereafter Allaah revealed the next ayah:
“Verily, those who have believed, and those who have emigrated (for Allaah’s Religion) and have striven hard in the Way of Allaah, all these hope for Allaah’s Mercy. And Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.” [Al-Baqarah 2:218]
The first ayah began by condemning the actions, and here the ayah ends with a statement of mercy and hope, as if to say they have been forgiven. Ibn Kathir says, Allaah greatly elevated their hopes of gaining what they had wished for.
To summarise, yes the actions committed were wrong and subject to condemnation, but shirk and injustice against Allaah is far worse, the two cannot be placed in the same boat.
In the end as Shaykh Haitham with truth said, the Muslims always have hope of Allaahs forgiveness and mercy and the disbelievers will just be in the hellfire forever.