Originally published by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
News emerged a few weeks ago in Arabic media that yet another fatwa had called on practicing Muslim women to travel to Syria and offer their sexual services to the jihadis fighting to overthrow the secularist Assad government and install Islamic law. Reports attribute the fatwa to Saudi sheikh Muhammad al-’Arifi, who, along with other Muslim clerics earlier permitted jihadis to rape Syrian women.
Muslim women prostituting themselves in this case is being considered a legitimate jihad because such women are making sacrifices—their chastity, their dignity—in order to help apparently sexually-frustrated jihadis better focus on the war to empower Islam in Syria.
And it is prostitution—for they are promised payment, albeit in the afterlife. The Koran declares that “Allah has purchased of the believers their persons [their bodies] and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain (Yusuf Ali trans. 9:111).
On the basis of this fatwa, several young Tunisian Muslim girls traveled to Syria to be “sex-jihadis.” Video interviews of distraught parents bemoaning their daughters’ fates are on the Internet, including one of a father and mother holding a picture of their daughter: “She’s only 16—she’s only 16! They brainwashed her!” pleads the father.
Most recently, the Egyptian-based news service Masrawy published a video interview with “Aisha,” one of the Tunisian Muslim girls who went sex-jihading in Syria, only to regret her actions. While in Tunisia, Aisha said she met a Muslim woman who began talking to her about the importance of piety, including wearing the hijab; she then went on to talk about traveling to Syria to help the jihadis “fight and kill infidels” and make Allah’s word supreme, adding that “women who die would do so in the way of Allah and become martyrs and enter paradise.” (According to mainstream Islamic teaching, dying in jihad is the only guaranteed way to avoid hell.)
Aisha eventually came to the conclusion that she was being exploited in the name of religion and left.
While news that Muslim girls in hijabs are prostituting themselves in the name of Islam may surprise some, Islamic clerics regularly issue fatwas permitting forbidden things—so long as they help the jihad. For instance, not only did the original “underwear bomber” Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri hide explosives in his rectum to assassinate Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayef—they met in 2009 after the 22-year-old Asiri “feigned repentance for his jihadi views“—but, according to Shi’ite talk-show host Abdullah Al-Khallaf, he had fellow jihadis sodomize him to “widen” his anus to fit more explosives.
Al-Khallaf read the fatwa that purportedly justified such actions during a 2012 Fadak TV episode. After praising Allah and declaring that sodomy is forbidden in Islam, the fatwa asserted:
However, jihad comes first, for it is the pinnacle of Islam, and if the pinnacle of Islam can only be achieved through sodomy, then there is no wrong in it. For the overarching rule of [Islamic] jurisprudence asserts that “necessity makes permissible the prohibited.” And if obligatory matters can only be achieved by performing the prohibited, then it becomes obligatory to perform the prohibited, and there is no greater duty than jihad. After he sodomizes you, you must ask Allah for forgiveness and praise him all the more. And know that Allah will reward the jihadis on the Day of Resurrection, according to their intentions—and your intention, Allah willing, is for the victory of Islam, and we ask that Allah accept it of you.
While all these sex-fatwas may seem bizarre, they highlight two important (though little known in the West) points. First, that jihad is the “pinnacle” of Islam—for it makes Islam supreme; and second, the idea that “necessity makes permissible the prohibited.” Because making Islam supreme through jihad is the greatest priority, anything and everything that is otherwise banned becomes permissible. All that comes to matter is one’s intention, or niyya (see Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s discussion along these lines).
As for the intersection between sex and violence (jihad), it was once explored by the Arabic satellite program Daring Question, which aired various clips of young jihadis giddily singing about their forthcoming deaths and subsequent sexual escapades in heaven. After documenting various anecdotes indicative of jihadi obsession with sex, Egyptian human rights activist Magdi Khalil concluded that “absolutely everything [jihad, suicide operations, etc.] revolves around sex in paradise,” adding, “if you look at the whole of Islamic history, you come up with two words: sex and violence.”
Indeed, Islam’s prophet Muhammad maintained that death during jihad not only blots out all sins—including sexual ones—but it actually gratifies them:
The martyr is special to Allah. He is forgiven [of all sins] from the first drop of blood [that he sheds]. He sees his throne in paradise, where he will be adorned in ornaments of faith. He will wed the ‘Aynhour [a.k.a. "voluptuous women"] and will not know the torments of the grave, and safeguards against the greater terror [hell]. … And he will copulate with 72 ‘Aynhour (see The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 143).
This goes to one of the many seeming contradictions in Islam: Muslim women must chastely be covered head-to-toe—yet, in the service of jihad, they are allowed to prostitute themselves. Lying is forbidden—but permissible to empower Islam. Intentionally killing women and children is forbidden—but permissible during the jihad. Suicide is forbidden—but permissible during the jihad—when it is called “martyrdom.”
One may therefore expect anything from would-be jihadis, regardless of how un-Islamic the means may otherwise seem.
Even so, this uncompromising mentality, which is prevalent throughout the Islamic world, especially along the frontlines of the jihad, is the same mentality that many Western leaders and politicians think can be appeased with just a bit more respect, well-wishing, and concessions from the West.
Such are the great, and disastrous, disconnects of our time.
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