Legitimacy & Containment
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
The topic of bearing arms in its most contemporary use and understanding has triggered ingoing discussions, about limitations, entitlement, safety, containment and persecution. According to the second amendment of the United States constitutions, the right to own and bear arms has been granted to citizens for personal use and protection. Other countries around the world have different laws and regulations about this notion, which suits their own social structure and foundation. However, due to recent polls and numbers released by poll agencies, for instance the number of people killed by guns in the US from 2004 to 2013 is above 350,000. In addition, the same poll tells that terrorist activities have only killed about 400 people during the same time-line, which opens the discussion about the legitimacy of gun ownership and its accessibility. The position of Islam on this specific matter might be very surprising for many observers and even many Muslims, as this topic is not really relevant in this modern age. However, Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic scholar have presented detailed answers about the notion of owning and bearing arms.
Islamic countries & Guns ownership laws
Islamic countries and more specifically Middle Eastern states are very sensitive, when it comes to this topic, as in some places owning a weapon can lead to death penalty and sever punishments. Majority of Muslim countries are led by authoritarian systems and dictatorships, which are afraid of any notion that might place their rule and legitimacy in danger. One of the main purposes of the 2nd amendment is for well-regulated militias that are able to secure the freedom and rights of the people and change the state, if the state ever turned against its own citizens. This type of talk and right in the Middle East is equivalent to suicide, as the regime are eager to control the arms and keep them only in the hands of the state. Therefore, a citizen might be able to write, protest and criticize the state, but he/she will never be able to confront the state coercively and set it on the right path once again.
However, such a strict rule by the state, has also addressed other necessities of owning arms, as personal use of arms is linked with personal protection and security. Nonetheless, the level of security and safety in most authoritarian regime is higher than many western and democratic nations around the world. For Instance, from the year 1998 to the year 2010, there were only 35 cases of homicide in Syria, which is an amazing record. Even some western diplomats, when asked about which countries are they most interested for serving in, they would answer authoritarian countries, which there is outstanding security, and many of them would not fear for their lives.
Islam’s position of owning and bearing arms:
The primary jurisprudential Islamic rule states, that everyone is entitled to own and bear arms preliminary. However, in a secondary ruling this law is subjected to modification and change, where it would become prohibited and illegitimate to own and bear arms, if it causes disorder and chaos in society.
In addition, observing the history of Islamic countries during the course of history, will reveal that owning and bearing arms was a norm and in many areas a social necessity. It would be safe to say that almost all male subjects of the state were carrying weapon with them, and these weapons varied from a small dagger to a sword a bow and arrows. The rates of crimes and homicide in Islamic countries was very low or close to zero as well, which might have been due to the heavy presence of arms and weapon at people’s disposal. However, the social conduct of a society is very crucial in stabilizing and containing such arms presence, since it can be a recipe for instability and disorder. In addition, there are numerous cases, where armed rebellions by the public took place to repeal oppression and tyranny of the governors, rulers and injustice. Therefore, it would be safe to say that the right to own and bear arms, has a positive record in Islamic history.
Contemporary laws & Right to bear arms:
Currently, this law has been criticized by many thinkers and politicians, due to the high numbers of victims that have lost their lives due to gun violence, especially in the United States. However, this dilemma is caused by the contradictions that exist within federal and state laws, as the constitution affirms this right and the states have placed many limitations on it, where there has been great amount of ambiguity. In addition, the deterrent methods for gun violence don’t match the level of the crimes happening, as many of those criminal are granted life sentences, where they spend their lives behind bars at maximus security. Therefore, this right should either be totally taken away or reshaped to enable all citizens take advantage and secure themselves against possible threats and dangers.