Salam (Peace) Dear Jim,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
Your question raises two very good points.
The first point is how we should define “terrorism” and “terrorists,” and the second point is the position of Jesus in Islam and what Islam means by referring to Jesus as “Christ.”
Terrorism Is Not…
First, everybody these days is talking about terrorism, especially “Islamic” terrorism and “Muslim” terrorists, as you mentioned in your question.
However, don’t you think that it is necessary that we define this expression terrorism before we use it?
Allow me, then, to present here an Islamic perspective on terrorism. I will start by listing what terrorism is NOT.
Terrorism is not part of any religion
It is not fair for Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or Buddhism to be associated with terrorism.
The best way to judge a religion is to read its scriptures.
These religions, according to their scriptures, propagate a certain way of viewing The Divine and the world, and train their followers to specific principles of morality and spirituality, albeit in different ways and various expressions.
Nevertheless, none of these religions endorses terrorism or any form of violence as a core value.
Not all violence is terrorism
According to all rational human beings, there are some situations wherein violence is justified.
For example, violence is necessary to defend yourself when somebody attacks you in the street.
Violence is needed sometimes to arrest and punish criminals. Some people justifiably use violence to hunt.
Therefore, violence, in itself, is not a vice. The way that it is used in a certain context could make it a vice or a virtue.
Self-defense is not terrorism
Imagine, Jim, that some people with arms invaded your area, kicked you out of your own home, and occupied it. Don’t you think that you are entitled to self-defense?
This self-defense, however, is not supposed to lead you to injustices against other innocent people and should be only against those who invaded your home.
Terrorism is not restricted to individuals
There are terrorist groups which use organized guerrillas for their goals. Then, there are terrorist governments, which use armies and weapons of various degrees of destruction against innocent people.
Terrorism is not restricted to arms and bombs
People could be terrorized and harmed via other means, such as hunger, torture, deprivation from medical care, economic sanctions on a large scale, and so on.
Terrorism is not restricted to non-combat zones
Acts of terrorism could take place in combat zones and war zones if basic war ethics for civilians, soldiers, or captives are not respected and observed.
Terrorism: A Holistic Definition
Therefore, an act of terrorism is an act in which innocent civilians or non-civilians are harmed or hurt in a way that goes against the basic concepts of justice and human rights.
An act of terrorism could be carried out by a government, an army, a group, or an individual via violence or other means of destruction.
It is a mistake to associate terrorism with any religion, even if some people terrorize others in the name of religion.
Terrorists include government officials and army personnel who take disproportionate measures against whole populations in the name of “self-defense” or “international legitimacy”.
For example, the murder of 3,000 innocent civilians, although it is a full-scale disaster, does not justify killing literally millions of people and setting a dozen countries on fire.
Political disobedience or refusing to acknowledge previously signed treaties by some government does not justify complete sanctions against a whole population (including cash, medical supplies, and infant food) and putting the whole population to hunger and slow death.
These sanctions are acts of terrorism.
So, human beings from all religious backgrounds need a unified human standard that respects human life and does not differentiate between acts of injustice against innocent people, whether carried out by individuals or governments, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or followers of any other creed.
God made all people equal and made the preservation of basic human rights, even for captives of war, an obligation and a core principle of the Islamic law.
This is the Islamic point of view on terrorism.
Who Is Christ?
Regarding Jesus, in Islam, we also call Jesus “Christ” (Arabic: Al-Maseeh). Muslims also regard Jesus, as well as each and every prophet, as a “lord” and a “savior”.
There is one important difference, however.
In Islam, a prophet is a “lord” (with a small “l”) rather than “Lord” (with a capital “L”), and “savior” rather than “Savior”; that is to say: we keep the divinity status to the One God only.
This difference, nevertheless, is a matter of faith. In the Quran, we are ordered to say:
Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion (Quran 109:6)
Let me end by citing some verses from the Quran about Jesus:
Say: “We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes [their descendants], and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer: We make no distinction between any of them. And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.” (Quran 2:136)
And We vouchsafed unto Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with holy inspiration. (Quran 2:253)
We hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.
This is from AboutIslam’s archives and was originally published in 2016.
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