After the suicide bombing in Islamabad last week that killed 17 civilians, I picked up a slick hardbound book called “The Islamic Shari’ah of Jihad” in a local bookstore. As I read through the first few pages it became clear to me that this was no apology for Islamic holy war. The book analyzed every verse of the Koran that mentions the word “jihad” and related it to its precise social context in seventh-century Arabia in order, it said, to “remove some grave misconceptions.”

I opened to the chapter titled “Suicide Bombers.” I was disturbed by the events in the city — the joyous mood of a pro-democracy rally, with thousands swaying to anthems, snuffed away in a moment of scattered body parts — and I wondered about the Islamic basis for what I had witnessed.

The chapter was brief, barely two pages long, and it focused on one verse (5:32) of the Koran: “He who killed a human being without the latter being guilty of killing another or being guilty of spreading disorder in the land should be looked upon as if he has killed all mankind.”

There was little else left to say.


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