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[Friday Sermon] Zamfara Killings And The Question Of Self-Defense In Islam


[Friday Sermon] Zamfara Killings And The Question Of Self-Defense In Islam

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

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation. May the salutations of Allah, His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet, his family, his companions and his true and sincere followers until the Last Day – then to proceed:

Dear brothers and sisters! As reported, an estimated over 200 people were killed and 10,000 displaced in attacks by armed bandits in the northwestern Nigerian state of Zamfara following military air raids on their hideouts last week.

More than 10,000 people were displaced when their homes were razed by the armed bandits while scores are still missing.

The military conducted air attacks on Monday on targets in the Gusami forest and west Tsamre village in Zamfara, killing more than 100 armed bandits including two of their leaders.

More than 300 gunmen on motorcycles stormed eight villages in the Anka local area in Zamfara on Tuesday and started shooting sporadically, killing at least 30 people.

The Attackers also rampaged through 10 villages in Anka and Bukkuyum districts on Wednesday through Thursday, firing at residents and looting and burning homes.

The latest attacks on innocent people by the armed bandits is an act of desperation by mass murderers, now under relentless pressure from the Nigeria’s military forces.

Northwest Nigeria has seen a sharp rise in mass abductions and other violent crimes since late 2020 as the government struggles to maintain law and order.

Last year, armed bandits made international headlines with a series of high-profile attacks on schools and colleges where they kidnapped hundreds of pupils. Most were released but some of those students are still being held.

Bodies were still being recovered in Zamfara and some appeared to have been mutilated or burned beyond recognition.

Nigeria’s armed forces said last week they killed 537 armed bandits and other criminal elements in the region and arrested 374 others since May last year, while 452 kidnapped civilians were rescued.

Bandits loyal to notorious gang leader Bello Turji suffered heavy losses last month in ground-and-air raids on their forest-based camps.

Angered by this, and perhaps by the fact that they were facing certain death, [they] decided to move to other locations and in the course of this they seem to be conducting these dangerous attacks.

Nigeria designated armed bandits as terrorist groups, allowing for tougher sanctions under the terrorism prevention act for suspected shooters, their informants, and supporters such as those caught supplying them with fuel and food.

Separately, gunmen on Sunday released 30 Nigerian students who spent nearly seven months in captivity.

The students of Federal Government College in Kebbi, northwest Nigeria, were abducted on June 17 when gunmen stormed their school in Birnin-Yauri.

Officials did not provide the exact number of those missing but residents had said there were more than 70.

Respected servants of Allah! Protecting oneself and one’s honour, mind, wealth and religion is a well-established basic principle in Islam. These are the five essentials which are well known to Muslims. A person has to defend himself; it is not permissible for him to consume that which will harm him, and it is not permissible for him to allow anyone to harm or kill him. If a person or a vicious animal etc attacks him, he has to defend himself, or his family or his property, and if he is killed he is counted as a shahid (martyr), and the killer will be in Hell.

If the harm that will result from this aggression is little and he gives up defending himself for the sake of Allah, then undoubtedly Allah will compensate him for that, so long as this does not cause any increase in the wrongdoing against him or anyone else.

Dear brothers and sisters! The act of killing a person and ending his/her life is the task of the judiciary.

No one can kill a person or end one’s life claiming that he/she deserves death, judging by his/her own criteria and opinion. If she/he does, she/he becomes a murderer and deserves the punishment for that murder. She/he is treated as a murderer both in the world and in the Hereafter. She/he undertakes the sins of the person she/he killed and compensates for it by going through severe punishment.

However, there are some obligatory situations, in which resisting becomes lawful due to obligation and killer can be freed from punishment. Let me list some of those exceptional situations:

  • If one takes action to kill another and the other person cannot escape though he has tried every possible way and eventually has to kill the aggressor; neither retribution nor blood money is necessary.

This is because the murdered person took the first action to kill the other and there was no other option which could dissuade him from killing; and here the obligation of self-defense emerged. However, if it was possible to send the aggressor away by shouting and calling people around for help and the person killed the aggressor without trying this option, it is not self-defense but murder.

  • If an armed conflict occurred while someone was fighting a man who entered his shop, his house or a store where he kept his possessions with the purpose of burglary and the owner killed the burglar who wanted to steal his possessions, it is called the right to defend one’s property. The owner of the property who killed the burglar is not considered a murderer; he is regarded to have made a lawful defense of property. It requires neither retribution nor blood money. The burglar shed his blood for nothing.
  • If a person resists someone who tends to rape his/her honour in his/her house or somewhere else and kills the aggressor while trying to protect his/her honour, it does not require retribution or blood money as defending one’s honour is a lawful defense. This is because she/he had no other choice than killing the aggressor in order to defend his/her honour.

It is an indisputable right of everyone to defend their life, property and honour. If one kills the aggressor while defending those, she/he is not murderer and if she/he is killed by the aggressor, she/he is considered a martyr.

My Dear people! In Islam, if someone is attacked, then he should defend himself, but he should avoid hitting the face (according to some scholars) as much as possible because of the Hadith which was narrated by Abu Hurairah may Allah be pleased with him and in which he related that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:

“If one of you were to hit, he should avoid hitting the face.”

[Bukhari and Muslim]

Another narration reads:

“If one of you were to fight his brother, he should avoid hitting the face.” [Muslim]

Some scholars said that this prohibition applies even to repelling an aggressor. Imam Al-Iraqi in clarifying its meaning in Tarh At-Tathrib, said:

“The meaning is that if fighting occurs between two parties, even when repelling an aggressor and the like, he should avoid hitting his face.”

Imam An-Nawawi, when interpreting Sharh Muslim, said:

“This is an explicit statement about the prohibition of hitting the face, because the face is delicate and carries all beauty; its parts are gentle and precious, and the face includes most of the senses. Hitting the face may cause defect to the senses or impair them, and it may even cause deformity to it. Deformity in the face is a significant matter because it is visible and cannot be concealed. When the face is hit, it is hardly spared from suffering deformity.”

Defending oneself against an aggressor should be done with the least severe method before the more severe; so if the aggressor is not repelled except by hitting his face, then there is no harm in doing so in this case, because if he is not repelled except by killing him, then he is killed, so it is with greater reason that if he is not repelled except by hitting his face, then he should be hit in his face, since killing is more serious than hitting the face. The Fiqh Encyclopedia reads:

“The aggressor is repelled with the less severe method first, so if it is possible to repel him by speaking to him or by calling people for help, then it is forbidden to hit him; or if it is possible to repel him by hitting him with the hand, then it is forbidden to use a whip; and if it is possible to repel him with a whip, then it is forbidden to use a stick; and if it is possible to repel him by cutting one of his body parts, then it is forbidden to kill him…”

The Fiqh Encyclopedia also reads:

“It is also a condition that repelling should be done in a gradual way; what can be repelled with words should not be repelled by hitting, and what can be repelled by hitting should not be repelled by killing…”

Dear servants of Allah! In Islam, self-defense is not just permitted; it’s encouraged. Muslims are encouraged to train and become stronger. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said in a Hadith that a strong believer is more beloved to Allah Almighty than a weak believer.

During the Khilafah of Umar Ibn al-Khattab (RA), he used to encourage the Muslims to train and he severely condemned obesity (as a result of overeating).

You have read the Hadith but you need to understand it. Yes, in Islam, Muslims are not supposed to hit people in the face. This is in normal scenarios. For example, you’re sparring with someone, and you’re punching each other in the face. This is not permissible. Another example: You go in for professional boxing, and punch people in the face and get punched in the face. Not permissible. You are causing harm to others and being dealt harm yourself, and it’s uncalled for. The situation is not hostile. You are not being attacked.

If you are being attacked, on the other hand, then you can punch wherever you need to. The situation calls for it. If you can put down the assailant without punching in the face, well and good. But if you can’t, then just do what you need to do.

So it is like this: in normal, non-hostile situations, avoid punching people in the face. This is the reason boxing is not allowed in Islam as a sport. In a hostile situation, it’s different.

The Qur’anic verses on this are very clear. Allah Almighty repeats, “do not aggress”, multiple times. Only if attacked, is one permitted to fight back. If the other party refrains from aggression and offers one peace, we are told to stop fighting. Allah Almighty says:

“You may fight in the cause of Allah against those who attack you, but do not aggress. Allah does not love the aggressors.”

[Qur’an, 2:190]

And He, the Most High says:

“You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. Do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque, unless they attack you therein. If they attack you, you may kill them. This is the just retribution for those disbelievers.”

[Qur’an, 2:191]

“If they refrain, then Allah is Forgiver, Most Merciful.”

[Qur’an, 2:192]

“You may also fight them to eliminate oppression, and to worship Allah freely. If they refrain, you shall not aggress; aggression is permitted only against the aggressors.”

[Qur’an, 2:193]

All fighting is regulated by the basic rule in Qur’an, 60:8-9. Fighting is allowed strictly in self-defense, while aggression and oppression are strongly condemned throughout the Qur’an. Allah Almighty says:

“O you who believe, do not prohibit good things that are made lawful by Allah, and do not aggress; Allah dislikes the aggressors.”

[Qur’an, 5:87]

“If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in Allah. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.”

[Qur’an, 8:61]

” … if they leave you alone, refrain from fighting you, and offer you peace, then Allah gives you no excuse to fight them.”

[Qur’an, 4:90]

The Qur’an also reminds the believers that they should not be provoked by past animosity into committing acts of aggression

(Qur’an, 5:2).

Additionally, Allah Almighty insists that believers must be absolutely sure before striking in the cause of Allah

(Qur’an, 4:94)

Anyone who offers one peace, cannot be attacked.

“O you who believe, if you strike in the cause of Allah, you shall be absolutely sure. Do not say to one who offers you peace, “You are not a believer,” seeking the spoils of this world. For Allah possesses infinite spoils. Remember that you used to be like them, and Allah blessed you. Therefore, you shall be absolutely sure (before you strike). Allah is fully Cognisant of everything you do.”

[Qur’an, 4:94]

Therefore Islam is a religion that allowed a person to protect himself and his family against any form of attacks.

We call the Nigeria’s Governments at all levels, Federal, states and local governments, to assist the people to acquire weapons in order to help the security agents and to defend themselves, and if anyone die in the course of protecting himself, he die a martyr.

Islam has justified fighting those who fight you, or aggress against your honour, or seek to disrupt and divide you in religion, or repel you from your homes, or block the path of the Islamic mission (da’awah) and violate your right to spread Islam through proof, argument and clarification or kill your missionaries.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun! Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun!! Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun!!!

Dear brothers and sisters! It is with sadness that I announce the death of our dear Shaykh, Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ibrahim Bamba from the city of Kano, in Nigeria, who passed away on Friday 7th of January 2022. Shaykh was born in 1940, which means he was 82 years old.

He was originally from Ghana but settle in Nigeria after graduating with a BA from the Islamic University of Madinah. He taught at the Bayero University Kano (BUK), where he also attained his Phd. He would deliver classes and sermons at the university’s Mosque since 1991. After that, he resigned from the university to focus on Da’awah and teaching in the traditional way. He inaugurated the Darul Hadith.

The Shaykh (rahimahullah) had a passion for Hadiths and their chains to the extend that he was nicknamed “قال حدثنا – Qala Haddathana” (ie It was narrated to us by …) which, for those who know is the trademark of the people of Hadith.

The last class he delivered was the 100th sitting on the book Sharhus-Sunnah of Imam Al-Baghawi (whoever knows this book can easily make the connection with the nickname).

Subhanallah, during that last sitting, the Shaykh said:

“In Shaa Allah, next week we are going to take a break.” (And you can hear the students telling him that is the 100th sitting).

He was a thorn on the necks of the enemies of truth. In 1986, he became well know for a debate he had with a deviant who came to Nigeria from Sudan, claiming that the Northen Nigeria authorities, it’s people and scholars where kuffars (disbelievers), and the people had to accept Islam again, fight their government or make Hijrah to another land.

Shaykh Ahmad leaves 3 wifes, around 30 children and a countless amount of students.

His funeral prayer was attended by a very large number of people from different places, from them, the likes of Shaykh Dr. Sani Umar Rijiyar Lemu, also a Phd graduate from the Islamic University of Madinah, expert in Hadith and Tafsir, a mountain in and off himself حفظه الله.

Imam Al-Hasan reported that: Ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him said:

“The death of a scholar is a great loss that cannot be replaced for as long as the day and night alternate.”

[Shu’ab al-Iman, 1590]

May Allah have mercy on those who passed away from our scholars, from wherever they may be. And may Allah preserve those who are alive and allow us to benefit from them, from wherever they may be. Ameen.

All praises and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Jumadah Al-Thani 11th, 1443 A.H. (January 14, 2022).

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