There are verses in Quran which promote being violent with non-Muslims and indeed were the sources on which terrorist attacks like 09/11 were based. These verses are used to support Istishhadi Operation or suicide bombing.

Consider Surah 9:5:

But when these months, prohibited (for fighting), are over, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, and take them captive or besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every likely place. But if they repent and fulfill their devotional obligations and pay the zakat, then let them go their way, for God is forgiving and kind.

Based on Sharia laws, i.e. Quran/Hadith, what are the criteria to judge if an attack was Istishhadi or a suicide attack?

  • Based on shari'a killing one self is among the biggest sins. This view is even held by prominent salafi scholars -even earlier than 9/11-. Note that if I recall well 9/11 happened during the ashur al-horoom which is in disagreement with the linked verse. But the verse used to support suicide bombing might rather be "And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. " (8:60). But I'm afraid that the answer of this will be opinion-based.
    – Medi1Saif
    Feb 23, 2018 at 10:04
  • From where are you getting that Istishhadi Operations are something legal in Islam?
    – Shadi
    Feb 23, 2018 at 12:40
  • @Medi1Saif well I would rather focus on all terrorist events post 09/11 happened all over the world, including Islamic countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. I just gave 09/11 as an example. In a study done by Donald Holbrook, one can see more than 30 verses from Quran used by Islamic groups to justify their, in my view, suicide attacks. The verse which you cited is one of them. Knowing a general criteria based upon which Istishhadi Operation and suicide attacks can be distinguied is good to know. Feb 23, 2018 at 13:41
  • @Shadi from Muslims, both Shia and Sunni. If you ask me to provide you with a specific case in both Shia and Sunni world, I can refer you to the case of Hossein Fahmideh, a 13 year-old Iranian teenager who committed act of suicide attack against Iraqi soldiers during Iran-Iraq war. Later, he was praised personally by Ayatollah Khomeini, and Ayatollah Khomeini used verses from Quran and Hadith to justify this "Istishhadi operation". Moreover, the current Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei mentioned Hossein Fahmidi and praised him. Feb 23, 2018 at 13:45
  • @Shadi In case of Sunni world, you can refer to many videos of Usama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda operatives both pre and post 09/11 where they use many verses from Quran to justify suicide bombings. Apart from that, you can go through the literature and media outlets of Taliban (both Afghan and TTP) where they justify suicide bombings or Istishadi operations. If you would like to know what verses are used, you can refer to the Donald Holbrook's analysis. I am not here to judge if they are Islamic or un-Islamic. I am a history student trying to objectively find an answer to my question. Feb 23, 2018 at 13:49

1 Answer 1


First of all, suicide is definitely not allowed in Islam:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Whoever swears by a religion other than Islam, is, as he says; and whoever commits suicide with something, will be punished with the same thing in the (Hell) Fire; and cursing a believer is like murdering him; and whoever accuses a believer of disbelief, then it is as if he had killed him." (Sahih al-Bukari)

It is a grave sin that will lead to Hellfire. The difference between suicide and martyrdom is that in martyrdom there is hope that you will survive. For example, running towards to the enemy army without a weapon to die is suicide, while running towards them with a weapon in a well planned attack where your intention is to win and live then dying is martyrdom. In the first one, you are basically giving yourself to death, and in the second, there is a chance although small that you will live and win the fight.

So, when a suicide bomber goes to a marketplace or something with a bomb strapped to him, where is the hope of life? He is himself pressing the button to blow himself up. Taking his own life, which is suicide. Not even accounting for the fact that killing innocent people is haram, you can see that suicide bombing or any other type of suicide is definitely not allowed by Islam.

Furthermore killing innocent people, not involved in the battle or fight, is forbidden:

When we were with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) on an expedition, he saw some people collected together over something and sent a man and said: See, what are these people collected around? He then came and said: They are round a woman who has been killed. He said: This is not one with whom fighting should have taken place. Khalid ibn al-Walid was in charge of the van; so he sent a man and said: Tell Khalid not to kill a woman or a hired worker. (Sunan Abi Dawud)


“A woman was found slain in one of the battles of the Apostle of Allaah(ﷺ). The Apostle of Allaah(ﷺ) forbade to kill women and children." (Sunan Abi Dawud)

Suicide bombers deliberately target innocent people, women, and children (as can be seen in the case of 9/11) which is not allowed in Islam.

In conclusion, martyrdom is when a person dies fighting for a cause with a possibility of living, and he is fighting enemies that are not innocent women, children, or workers (i.e. only fighting soldiers). Suicide bombing breaks all of those rules.

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