Why would someone do this?

Why would a young man with his whole life in front of him join a group to fly a hijacked plane into a building  ensuring his death?

Why would a young wife strap explosives under her burqa and blow herself up in a crowded railway station? 

There are many contributing factors that would cause such extreme behavior, most of which are not religious.  In the hands of one who wants to use Islam to advance an agenda of power, today’s passage could certainly be used to produce people who would be willing to die for Allah. 

Believers, why, when it is said to you, “Go and fight in God’s cause,” do you feel weighed down to the ground?  Do you prefer this world to the life to come?  How small the enjoyment of this world is, compared with the life to come!  If you do not go out and fight, God will punish you severely and put others in your place. . . . So go out, no matter whether you are lightly or heavily armed, and struggle in God’s way. . . . Those who have faith in God and the Last Day do not ask you [Muhammad] for exemption from struggle . . . only those who do not have faith in God and the Last Day ask your permission to stay home. . . . They are already in trouble: Hell will engulf the disbelievers (9:38-39, 41, 44-45, 49).

Remember that the context of this surah (like the last one; some think these two surahs were actually originally one that became separated) is closely connected to battle.  War is sometimes called a necessary evil.  Most people don’t want there to be war, but if there must be one those who willingly risk the sacrifice of life for their nation are considered heroes.  Still, why would one happily go off to battle, in the way that is described in the passage above?

According to today’s passage, one who is called to war and sees it as a curse, death sentence, or punishment is to be shamed.  Such a response reveals a lack of true faith.  God has championed his people in the worst of situations, so there is no need for fear.  It also shows one is more attached to this fleeting life than to the life that is to come.  True believers give up anything in service to God.  There are much better rewards coming.  Last, true believers see struggles for the faith as a win-win situation: “Do you expect something other than one of the two best things to happen to us?” (9:52).  Either God will bring victory or He will reward the slain warrior in the next life.  That is the best perspective to have when called to fight for the faith. 

I guess I can understand the thinking.  But I can’t help but think passages like these are dangerous.  Placed in the wrong hands.  Placed before impressionable minds.  They make me uncomfortable. 

How about you?

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