Did Maute and Hapilon die ‘shaheed’?
When the news broke that jihadist leaders Omarkhayyam Maute and Isnilon Hapilon had been killed in Marawi, I was asked if they died shaheed (martyrs). My reflex was to answer in the negative based on my fundamental knowledge of Islam and in the light of the rape and pillage of the city.
Muslim religious leaders are divided on the issue of the martyrdom of jihadists. This issue is important because if it is established that jihadists died martyrs, then they are compensated with a place in jannah or paradise — a siren song used to lure gullible young recruits (on top of promised monetary compensation) to the cause. If they did not, their place is jahannam or hell.
The divergent opinions reflect the divide between moderate and radical Islam. Both sides invoke verses of the Holy Quran and Hadith al-Sharif (the sayings of Prophet Mohamad, PBUH, or a report of what He did) to support their respective arguments. The prevailing view is that one can die a martyr only if one engaged in a “defensive war” and did it “for the sake of Allah, SWT.” Meaning, if one attacked an Islamic city like Marawi, whose residents have done nothing wrong to one or to the cause one was fighting for, then one was not engaged in such a war but in murder and plunder, which are haraam or taboo in the highest degree.
Disciples of the radical Wahhabi-Salafi Islam, upon which the Islamic State is founded, will claim that Maute and Hapilon are shaheed, having met death while fighting for Islam. From the other side of the religious spectrum, moderate Islam argues that the Islam they died fighting for is fake and deviant from the true teaching of Din ul Islam. To the residents of Marawi, the jihadists had motives other than Islam, like politics, looting and establishing a wilayat (province) of the now-crumbling vision of self-proclaimed caliph Abobakar al-Baghdadi. And by fighting a losing battle, they courted suicide—an act considered a mortal sin in Islam. The Quran says: “…And do not kill yourselves (nor kill one another)…—Surah An-Nisa 4:29. The Wahhabi-Salafists are an insignificant minority in the Islam world, but devilishly belligerent in spreading their cause.
With the death of Maute and Hapilon, it is almost curtain call for the valiant soldiers who fought them and their men for almost five months. According to the military, it’s only a matter of time before the liberation of Marawi is completed (it has avoided setting a deadline after sounding like a broken record and losing face). This is a great blow to the dream of the Islamic State for a world caliphate, after its resounding defeat in Raqqa and Mosul. Recall that at the height of the protracted battle in Marawi, beamed live to the world through TV and the internet, the jihadists were marketing the Philippines as the Islamic State of East Asia. The bravery of the local jihadists fighting the might of the government supported by world powers like the United States and Australia caught the attention of the world.
There is unanimity in the idea that the liberation of Marawi will not put out the flame of faith-based extremism in Mindanao. In fact, there is a well-grounded fear that the war has engendered another breed of radicals who will be more ferocious and unforgiving after seeing and feeling the agony and pillage of their place. This is the challenge that the government faces now.
The adage “There are no victors in war” rings ever true, but there are definitely losers in the war in Marawi: the residents of the city who have suffered the brunt of the destruction, with many of them with no place to return to and staring at a bleak uncertain future for themselves and their children.
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Macabangkit B. Lanto (email@example.com), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright fellow in New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served the government as congressman, ambassador, and undersecretary, among other positions.
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