Killing the Russian Ambassador to Turkey: Justified?

21 December, 2016
Q As-Salamu alaykum. What does Islam say about killing the Russian ambassador to Turkey?


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu waRahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.

In Islam, there can be no justification for an attack on a diplomat or an ambassador.

Answering your question, Dr. Wael Shehab, PhD in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University and currently the Imam of the Downtown Toronto Masjid in Canada, states:

In fact, killing the Russian ambassador to Turkey is an inhuman and terrible crime. It’s not justified under any pretext. The Qur’an unequivocally forbids attacking and targeting innocent people. Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) forbade such crimes too.

In Islam, people’s lives, honor, freedoms, and properties are inviolable. So, Islam emphasizes the sanctity of life, in general, and human life, in particular.  The Qur’an prohibits murder in clear terms: “And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden…” (Al-Israa’ 17:33)

The Qur’an makes it clear that targeting a single innocent human life is as sinful and heinous as targeting all humans, saying: “Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul [i.e., in legal retribution for murder through the legal system/courts and concerned authorities of the country] or for corruption [done] in the land [i.e., that requiring the death penalty] – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely.  And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)

It is noteworthy that the issue of applying laws in any country is part of the duties of state authorities; people are not entitled to take the law into their own hands. No group or individual has the right to institute a punishment without any legal basis. Organizing the affairs of people and imposing laws that govern their lives are the responsibility of the country and its legal authorities.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said, “A true Muslim is the one from whose hands and tongue all people are secure [meaning that he doesn’t physically or verbally offend others].” (Ahmad)

In Islam, the safety, security, and respect for ambassadors and diplomats are of paramount importance, and violating these rules carries serious penalties.

An example of this can be found during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be on him) in an instance relating to the Musaylimah the rebellion. This man rebelled against the Prophet (peace be on him) and the Muslim country. He fought and eventually killed many Muslims. Musaylimah sent two envoys (Ibn An-Nawahah and Ibn Athal) to Madinah and with an extremely offensive message directed at Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). Yet, the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade killing them since they were ambassadors, although only from a rebel group. It was based on this incident that Muslims developed laws protecting ambassadors, envoys, and diplomats. (See Ibn Hisham, Sirat Rasul-lul-lah)

It is a major sin in Islam to violate a treaty or attack those covered under a treaty of peace such as people who live in a country as ambassadors, diplomats, immigrants, or refugees. `Abdullah ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Whoever kills [or attacks] a person covered under a peace treaty will not be able to even smell the pleasing fragrance of Heaven, even though it could be smelled from a distance of 40 years of travel.” (Al-Bukhari)

As well, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Four characteristics, if they are found in someone, indicate hypocrisy: when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks it, when he agrees to a treaty he breaks the treaty, and when he quarrels he uses foul language.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Given the above, it becomes crystal clear that killing the Russian ambassador is nothing but a horrible crime that goes against the noble teachings of Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). What the murderer said after committing his horrible crime doesn’t represent Islam, nor Prophet Muhammad or Muslims.

Muslims, like all human communities, denounce and condemn such violence and attacks, irrespective of the victims’ race, cultures, or faiths. All Muslims stand, along with all peoples of the world, against violence, injustice, oppression, and extremism.

Allah Almighty knows best.