The ‘Ulama’ and the Cult of Death in Palestine

Meir Hatina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Suicide attacks, which were traditionally rare in the Middle East and limited to the Shi‘ite arena–in Iran and Lebanon–became widespread during the Israel–Palestinian conflict of the 1990s. They increasingly turned into a religious ritual, positing their perpetrators as symbols of a revolutionary theology and have engendered a debate in the Arab Muslim world as to their religious legitimacy, involving both the self-inflicted death of the perpetrator and the killing of civilian targets. Most of the ‘ulama’ provided theological justification for Palestinian suicide acts against Israel, crowning them the epitome of faith in Allah, while still other ‘ulama’ renounced them as non-sacred acts of violence unfit for reward in paradise. Both groups of scholars delved into historical and judicial sources to reinforce their arguments, but have also adopted creative interpretations inspired by contemporary political considerations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)29-51
Number of pages23
JournalIsrael Affairs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


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