In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Suicide bombings are unlawful in every circumstance, as they involve the deliberate destruction of one’s life and often involve killing innocent bystanders. This tactic was modernized by the Tamil Tigers, a secular non-Muslim terrorist organization, and it was later adopted by terrorists who claimed to base their ideology on Islam. It has no legal precedent in Islam and it does not arise naturally from interpreting the Quran and Sunnah.
Suicide is categorically forbidden in Islam in the strongest terms, and it is even more heinous when combined with indiscriminate murder of civilians.
وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا
Do not kill yourselves. Verily, Allah is ever merciful to you.
Surat al-Nisa 4:29
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسَهُ بِحَدِيدَةٍ فَحَدِيدَتُهُ فِي يَدِهِ يَتَوَجَّأُ بِهَا فِي بَطْنِهِ فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدًا مُخَلَّدًا فِيهَا أَبَدًا وَمَنْ شَرِبَ سَمًّا فَقَتَلَ نَفْسَهُ فَهُوَ يَتَحَسَّاهُ فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدًا مُخَلَّدًا فِيهَا أَبَدًا وَمَنْ تَرَدَّى مِنْ جَبَلٍ فَقَتَلَ نَفْسَهُ فَهُوَ يَتَرَدَّى فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَالِدًا مُخَلَّدًا فِيهَا أَبَدًا
Whoever kills himself with a piece of iron, his piece of iron in his hand will be thrust into his stomach in the fire of Hell forever and ever. Whoever drinks poison and kills himself, he will consume it in the fire of Hell forever and ever. Whoever throws himself off a mountain and kills himself, he will tumble into the fire of Hell forever and ever.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5442, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
Jundub ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
كَانَ فِيمَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ رَجُلٌ بِهِ جُرْحٌ فَجَزِعَ فَأَخَذَ سِكِّينًا فَحَزَّ بِهَا يَدَهُ فَمَا رَقَأَ الدَّمُ حَتَّى مَاتَ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى بَادَرَنِي عَبْدِي بِنَفْسِهِ حَرَّمْتُ عَلَيْهِ الْجَنَّةَ
A man among those before you was wounded. He was in such anguish that he took a knife, slit his wrist, and let the blood flow until he died. Allah Almighty said: My servant has preceded me with his soul, so I have forbidden Paradise for him.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3276, Grade: Sahih
As for those who label these actions “martyrdom operations” and claim those who do so are martyrs in Paradise, no one can determine who is a true martyr except for Allah alone.
Umar ibn al-Khattab reported: On the day of Khaybar, some of the companions were saying, “Such person is a martyr. Such person is a martyr.” Then, they passed by a man and they said, “Such person is a martyr.” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
كَلَّا إِنِّي رَأَيْتُهُ فِي النَّارِ فِي بُرْدَةٍ غَلَّهَا أَوْ عَبَاءَةٍ
Surely not! I saw him in the Hellfire because of a cloak or garment he had plundered.
Then, the Prophet (ṣ) said:
يَا ابْنَ الْخَطَّابِ اذْهَبْ فَنَادِ فِي النَّاسِ أَنَّهُ لَا يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ إِلَّا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
O son of al-Khattab, go and announce to people that no one will enter Paradise but a believer.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 114, Grade: Sahih
Hence, it is not correct for a Muslim to claim any person is a “martyr,” unless this is directly proven by revelation from the Prophet (ṣ). To make such a claim is to transgress against the right of Allah and to speak about the Unseen without knowledge.
Modern suicide bombings almost always involve killing innocent people, which is decisively unlawful in Islam. Moreover, many victims of suicide bombings are innocent Muslims and such atrocities prevent the masses from understanding the beautiful, merciful nature of true Islam.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymin writes:
فأما ما يفعله بعض الناس من الانتحار بحيث يحمل آلات متفجرة ويتقدم بها إلي الكفار ثم يفجرها إذا كان بينهم فإن هذا من قتل النفس والعياذ بالله ومن قتل نفسه فهو خالد مخلد في نار جهنم أبد الآبدين كما جاء في الحديث عن النبي عليه الصلاة والسلام لأن هذا قتل نفسه لا في مصلحة الإسلام لأنه إذا قتل نفسه وقتل عشرة أو مائة أو مائتين لم ينتفع الإسلام بذلك …
ولهذا تري ان ما يفعله بعض الناس من هذا الانتحار نري أنه قتل للنفس بغير حق وأنه موجب لدخول النار والعياذ بالله وان صحابه ليس بشهيد لكن إذا فعل الإنسان هذا متأولا ظانا أنه جائز فإننا نرجو أن يسلم من الإثم وأما أن تكتب له الشهادة فلا لأنه لم يسلك طريقة الشهادة لكنه يسلم من الإثم لأنه متأول
As for suicide bombings done by some people, wherein he carries an explosive device, approaches the unbelievers, and then detonates himself among them, this is killing oneself. We seek refuge in Allah. Whoever kills himself will permanently reside in the fire of Hell forever, as has come in the tradition of the Prophet (ṣ). One who kills himself has not served the interests of Islam, as killing himself and ten, a hundred, or two hundred others does not benefit Islam…
For this reason, our view is that those who do these suicide tactics have killed themselves without right to do so, they must enter Hellfire – we seek refuge in Allah – and they are not martyrs. However, if a person does so according to a mistaken interpretation, thinking that it is permissible, we hope he will be absolved of sin. As for if he is rewarded with martyrdom, then he is not because he has not taken the path of martyrdom, but perhaps he will be absolved of sin for his mistaken interpretation.
Source: Sharḥ Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn 1/222-223
In sum, suicide bombings or “martyrdom operations” are unlawful in Islam, as they involve the double crime of suicide and terrorism. Those who commit such acts cannot be called martyrs and cannot be promised Paradise.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.