Never Again? :: On the 60th Anniversary of the Nuclear Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ::


It is morally wrong to kill men, women, and children in increasingly efficient and impersonal ways. It is evil, almost beyond description, to bury millions of people alive.

But it did happen 60 years ago.

While Islam does not rule out the option of warfare, Islamic teaching imposes so many conditions on going to war, that it is almost impossible to adhere to them all in actual conflict situations. If in doubt, Muslims are instructed simply to not engage in war.

In war, only combatants are to be fought, and even then, the Qur’an insists that no more harm should be caused to the aggressors than they cause to their victims (Qur’an 2:194).

Thus, weapons of mass destruction that indiscriminately kill civilians, destroy cities, cripple infrastructure, and negatively affect the well-being of future generations are categorically forbidden in Islam as sinful and immoral.

It was morally wrong to use nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago and it is just as wrong to use them (or other WMD) today, anywhere, against anyone.

The Qur’an is the primary source of Islamic Law, including laws regulating war and peace, thus for any viewpoint to be authentically called "Islamic" it must demonstrate its basis in Qur’anic teaching.

The Qur’an states that the Divine Will is for all nations to live in harmony with one another, because God purposely created humans in diversity. Although people are of different races, languages, religions, and nationalities, God desires them to enjoy their diversities and live together in peace (Qur’an 49:13).

War becomes the exception to this peaceful relationship, being necessary if — and only if — certain untenable conditions exist. Therefore, living in and working for peace and security are blessings (Qur’an 24:55), while war is a deviant and abhorrent state (Qur’an 2:216).

The Qur’an also rejects the false, but often-used religious justification for war by stating clearly that religion should not be forced on anyone (Qur’an 2:256). It is God’s divine will that people remain different (Qur’an 11:118), and that there will always be diversity in human lifestyles, cultures, and religious practices (Qur’an 5:48).

God even told the Prophet that most people would not willingly believe, even if he [Mohammed] was eager for them to do so (Qur’an 12:103).

The Qur’an also instructs the faithful that "God does not love the transgressors" (Qur’an 2:190). Transgression is interpreted by Qur’anic scholar Baydawi as the "initiation of fighting; fighting those with whom a treaty has been concluded; surprising the enemy without first inviting them to make peace; destroying crops or killing civilians; [destroying] those who should be protected."

In six specific verses (Qur’an 2:190-195), no fewer than 16 legalistic restrictions are imposed on the conduct of war. Four of them are prohibitions (containing the term "la" meaning "do not") and six others contain qualifiers such as, "when" or "who."

In the same six verses, the Qur’an also appeals to the spiritual and moral side of human beings, reminding them that even in times of war, God does not love transgressors (Qur’an 2:190); that God loves those who praise Him and do good (Qur’an 2:195); that God is on the side of those who are reverent and faithful (Qur’an 2:194); that He is the Most Forgiving and Most Merciful; and that humans should practice those same divine qualities even in war (Qur’an 2:192).

War becomes necessary only for defending religious freedom (Qur’an 22:39-41); for self-defense (Qur’an 2:190); or for defending those who are oppressed and cry out for help and strength (Qur’an 4:75). These three situations are the only valid justifications for war that are found in the Qur’an.

Once the hostility of an enemy ceases, Muslims must stop fighting (Qur’an 2:193, 8:39 and 8:61-62).

Peace treaties must absolutely be adhered to; breaking them is considered as sinful as violating a covenant with God himself (Qur’an16:91).

Thus all Muslims today are morally obligated to speak out and work against the development, production, testing and use (or threatened use) of nuclear weapons, such as the ones that caused such horrific devastation in Japan 60 years ago.

If Muslims and the world faith community as a whole do not arise and sound the alarm, so that political leaders will act morally instead of aggressively, we will all be morally guilty — and co-responsible for a future that could surpass any science-fiction horrors so far imagined.

But the moral path is fraught with dangers. Right-wing politicians still broadcast their doctrine that war — being in and of itself a brutal and inhuman business — prevents them from drawing the line between morally acceptable and atrocious acts of violence.

Should we go along with this expedient doctrine, that bad means can be used to achieve good ends? Muslim theologians, as well as those of other mainstream faith communities, are collectively answering "no!"

Therefore, morally and logically speaking, the means of nuclear weapons can not and must not be employed to achieve so-called "good" ends — in fact, the certainty of a "good" or positive end (history has not yet provided one!) is so dubious as to make nuclear options doubly abhorrent.

Then there is the argument that if nuclear weapons have never been used in warfare since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, why not produce them as permanent standby deterrents? Will they not have achieved a worthy strategic end simply by their presence? Not really. Just because we have tip-toed through the past 60 years without a nuclear conflict, it is a supremely foolish gamble to assume we can continue in the same holding pattern indefinitely, decade after decade. There is no truly peaceful or fearless future in that!

So let us instead pray and work for a world that is wholly free of nuclear weapons. We owe it to our children; it is simply the right thing to do. Morally speaking, we have to make it our business — and everyone’s business.