This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 08/05/2011
Death is feared; it marks the end of the temporal world and the start of the hereafter, demarcating between deeds and their rewards. As Allah the Almighty has informed us, the reckoning of a person’s deeds begins the moment his soul is seized and he who been virtuous in his life will be given a handsome reward. The Almighty says: ‘Those whose lives the angels take while they are in a pious state, saying: “As-Salaam ‘alaikum (peace be on you), enter Paradise, because of that which which you used to do.”‘(Holy Qur’an, 16:32) As he for who brings harm to his soul, religion and to the people, then Allah is his Recompense, for the Almighty says: ‘“Those whose lives the angels take while they are doing wrong to themselves.” They will make a submission saying: “We used not to do any evil.” (The angels will reply): “Yes! Truly, Allah is All-Knowing of what you used to do. So enter the gates of Hell, to abide therein, and indeed, what an evil abode will be for the arrogant.”‘(Holy Qur’an 16:28-29). When a person dies, then his reckoning is with Allah, ‘for verily, over you are appointed angels, honourable scribes writing who know all that you do,’ (Holy Qur’an, 82:10-12), and nothing remains of his in the world except the anniversary of his death, his legacy and the influences of his deeds. That is what is left of Osama bin Laden whose assassination was announced by American armed forces at the dawn of Monday Jumada al-Awwal in the Islamic year of 1432 (2 May 2011).
Arab ethics prohibit gloating over the dead in accordance with the prohibition of the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in Islamic etiquette to not insult the deceased, as insults only hurt the living and never reach the dead. This is what I wish to emphasise in the case of Osama bin Laden.
Osama bin Laden’s real death was not when he was targeted in his hideout in Pakistan, but his end came when he deviated from the right path and chose the path of takfir - declaring Muslims as infidels, bombing and killing innocent people. This led to Osama annihilating the work he has done of virtue and vice, being held accountable by Allah, except that the affects of his deeds still demand to be tried by the court of history, which is different form the Court of the Hereafter. We remember Osama’s jihad against the Soviet Russians at the beginning of this Islamic century, when he dedicated himself with a group of mujahideen to collect funds and mobilise efforts to support the oppressed poor of Afghanistan. When the Russians were expelled in 1409 AH (1998), and the Afghans regained control of their country, many of the Arab mujahideen returned to their countries except that Osama and a group with him refused. They became involved in the conflict between Afghan leaders, raising arms in a civil war that had nothing to do with them, in which they shed unlawful blood. Thereafter, Bin Laden continued in the process of deviation and extremism, harming himself, his family, his country and his religion. He resorted to rhetoric of hatred and calling other Muslims infidels, taking advantage of the tragedies of Muslims to recruit youngsters to carry out his own objectives. He declared Islamic governments and Muslims as infidels, shedding the blood of innocent civilians in various parts of the world, whilst all the while hiding in caves … before moving before to his palace where he met his death.
Another crime of Bin Laden was to raise his sons to be involved in battles which had nothing to do with them, offering them killing and the family humiliation. This tarnished the family built by his father – may Allah have mercy on him – who enjoyed a good reputation at home and globally, and who, due to Osama’s crimes, was subjected to legal courts and harassment. Allah the Almighty says: ‘And no bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden’ (Holy Qur’an, 35:18). At the time he caused great damage to his country many times, when he accused it of infidelity and incited violence against it, bombing it in 1415 AH (1994). These were followed by his speeches criticising the government of infidelity and attacking the Grand Mufti Ibn Baz, may Allah have mercy on him. He then committed two huge crimes: the first was in corrupting the youth of this country, involving them in battles that had nothing to do with them in Bosnia Herzegovina, Somalia, Sudan and other countries. The he directed his target home to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this peaceful Muslim country, with acts of bombings which neither differentiated between Muslim and non-Muslim, nor between man and woman, child and elderly, resulting in killings and injuring of hundreds of innocent people, the destruction of property and the terrorising of innocent people.
As for his harm to Islam, then his accomplices hid explosives in the Holy Qur’an, seeking to make the unlawful lawful. The Almighty says: ‘And whoever inclines to evil actions therein or to do wrong, We shall cause him to taste from a painful torment’ (Holy Qur’an, 22:25), and his terrorist crimes placed Muslims in the world dock as the accused. They led to restrictions in the work of Islamic charities, inviting non-Muslims to know Allah and the teaching of the Holy Qur’an, in the same way as these terrorist acts placed Islam and Muslims as the target of propaganda campaigns that attempt to smear them by any means.
The unfortunate events should not divert us from teaching our children the lessons that can be derived from the biography of this man. We should demonstrate to them how arrogance and extremism corrupt virtuous works, and as a result of these two qualities, a man can be transformed into committing crimes such as murder and destruction, and think these are virtuous acts. The protection of this generation lies in clinging to the tolerance of our religion, adhering to rulers, respecting those firmly grounded in sacred Islamic knowledge and raising our behaviour to the standards set by our Prophet, the Paragon of Virtuous Character: ‘And , you (Prophet Muhammad) are of exalted character’ (Holy Qur’an, 68:4), and the saying of the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, “Religion is easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue. So enhance, draw near to Allah and give glad tidings…” (Bukhari). The protection of this generation is not by turning young people into the instruments of the manufacturers of war and traders of blood, but rather by working to build a renaissance of their nation, being good examples in their interactions for both Muslims and non-Muslims and demonstrating the magnificence of this religion. In this way, they will not be the reason for giving an opportunity to the enemies of religion to besmirch Islam and Muslims with the labels of terrorism and brutal extremism.