RABAT, Morocco (Christian Examiner) – Morocco's ruling religious authority has issued an official fatwa, or religious pronouncement, condemning terrorism after the Islamic State attacks in Paris that claimed 130 lives, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has reported .
The nation's High Council of Ulema (or Muslim scholars) consists of 47 Muslim clerics and the king, Muhammad VI, who is called the Emir Al-Muminin or "commander of the faithful." In the group's pronouncement, the council said there is a difference between "jihad for the sake of Allah" and terrorism, which is "absolutely forbidden in Islam."
"Following the events that took place in France and brought about the death of innocent people under the excuse of waging jihad for the sake of Allah, and in order to remove any doubt as to what is jihad and what is not jihad, the High Council of Ulema is happy to clarify the truth in this matter," the fatwa said. "[It wishes to explain] what really [counts] as jihad in Islam and what is not jihad but rather [and act of] terror, aggression, terrifying peaceful people and killing innocents and is absolutely forbidden in Islam."
The statement from the Council of Ulema claimed there is several kinds of "legitimate jihad" in Islam, including jihad of the soul, in which the Muslim is expected to "shape, tame and cultivate the soul and prepare it to bear responsibility."
There is also jihad of the mind and jihad of the pen, as well as the jihad of money, or making generous donations to advance social and economic development. While the statement did not rule out military jihad, it claimed it cannot be conducted by independent groups like the Islamic State, which targets innocent civilians.
"As for armed jihad, Muslims do not resort to it except in cases of extreme need, when their enemies attacked them [first] and all peaceful options have failed. Jihad in this case is the last resort, and even then, it can only be declared on the order of the supreme imam [i.e., the ruler]. This is the sole prerogative of the ruler, for Islam has granted him alone the authority to declare [jihad], to call [on Muslims to join] it and to organize it – and no individual or organization may launch [jihad] at their own discretion," the statement said.
The Council of Ulema also issued instructions for Muslim imams to consider before preaching to their mosques. According to the instructions, "violence and coercion of every kind are alien to the Muslim faith and da'wa [preaching]."
"Individuals and groups must keep the gang of misguided and misleading [people] from imposing an erroneous understanding of the religion," the instructions said. "Examining the events taking place today, it is clear to all that neither Islam nor the Muslims benefit from them, nor does humanity [at large], whose wellbeing depends upon peace, dialogue and compassion."
The Ulema said the actions of extremists prevent the world from seeing the good that comes in Islam. According to the scholars, the religious model that exists in the Moroccan Kingdom promotes "good" and is a model "that can repair the image of the faith and convince others."
"This requires us to keep this model unblemished," the instructions said.
A recent report from U.S. News also cited harsh conditions for the handful of Christians and Jews living in Morocco. According to the report, 98 percent of the population in the country is Muslim. One percent is Christian. Most worship in secret for fear of Muslim authorities.
Several organizations allied with the Palestinian Liberation Organization also call Morocco home.