"Suicide by Any Name is Prohibited in Islam," a Commentary by Javeed Akhter, a Muslim-American Doctor

July 19, 2007

Author: Javeed Akhter

Source: Miami Herald


The enormity of what happened in London and Glasgow, Scotland, dawned upon me slowly. First there were the two high-end cars filled with explosive materials, parked in the middle of London, that, mercifully, did not explode. Next, the bizarre report of two people in a burning SUV trying to crash into the main terminal of the Glasgow airport, filled with travelers. Again, fortunately, no one, except the driver, was hurt. Next came the devastating news that one of the people in the SUV was a doctor and both were Muslims. The passenger, Dr. Bilal Abdulla, was born in Britain but went to medical school in Iraq. Five other doctors or medical students and one spouse of a physician are being held.

How could those trained in the healing arts plan and carry out such an atrocity? Physicians see illness and pain often and witness the anguish of families at the finality of death. They are programmed to save lives. They take an oath to do so.

Similarly, a correct understanding of Islam should have been a deterrent. Even those who have a cursory knowledge of Islam would have heard the verse, ''If you save one life, it is as if you have saved all mankind.'' This is a universal value shared by all faiths and traditions.

Abdulla had lived in the violence-filled crucible of Baghdad and might have been filled with hate toward Britain because of the Iraq war. News reports also mention that he might have been influenced by the rhetoric of a radical cleric in Iraq. This cleric would heap praise on suicide bombers and preach that this is a justifiable form of defense.

Such clerics pick and choose verses from the Koran to support their rhetoric. Most Islamic scholars have called this a lethal misinterpretation of the verses. Nevertheless, this tiny but loud faction of clerics appears to be most influential among young Muslims. But killing innocent civilians is never warranted.