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What does Hamas really represent?

Commitments to Islam motivate the terrorist group to kidnap, rape, and kill Jews

A Hamas militant aims his weapon in the northern Gaza Strip on Aug. 25, 2021. Associated Press/Photo by Adel Hana

What does Hamas really represent?
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As long as Hamas operates and flourishes in the Middle East, there can be no real peace in the troubled region.

While many Arab Muslim nations recently showed a willingness and even enthusiasm to normalize relations with Israel as a legitimate reality in the region, Hamas operates in a clearly opposite direction: Israel can never exist.

While the world has been watching atrocities committed by Hamas, many are confused as to what the terrorist group really represents. There can be no better way to understand Hamas than to review its stated motives and goals, as outlined in its founding charter from 1988.

Hamas’ charter includes 36 articles and serves as its declaration of its ideology and core values, articulated by its founders. A few elements in the charter reveal and explain clearly what Hamas stands for and its objectives.

The charter begins by defining the name “Hamas,” as an acronym standing for “The Islamic Resistance Movement.” Indeed, the group emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, and its main objective is to “resist” Israel’s existence by establishing an Islamic state to replace the Jewish state. This is evident in the opening statement of the charter, where it quotes the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood pine to obliterate Israel. While the Palestinian Authority is willing—at least in theory—to accept the existence of Israel, Hamas views Israel as an anti-Islamic entity that must vanish. Since 2007, Hamas has been the de facto government in Gaza, and it never ceases to attempt to fulfill its vows against Israel.

In the charter’s first article, Hamas declares, “The Movement’s programme is Islam. From it, it draws its ideas, ways of thinking and understanding of the universe, life and man.” The statement is crystal clear: Hamas is committed to Islam as written.

Hamas is not only a political and military group, but explicitly a religiously militant group driven by commitments to Islam.

Hamas is not only a political and military group, but explicitly a religiously militant group driven by commitments to Islam. This is why the terrorist group doesn’t view its war as chiefly with the State of Israel, but as precisely with the Jews: “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.”

The group doesn’t separate religion from state and is deeply rooted in Islam as its driving force. This is why the charter defines the official slogan of Hamas as: “Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”

To understand Hamas’ actions, one shouldn’t attribute rational motives for the group’s actions. The group seeks to please Allah and obtain his favor. It imitates Muhammad’s model as found in Islamic texts, and as shown in the Quran as its constitution. For Hamas, armed jihad and the pursuit of martyrdom for the sake of Allah and Islam are the utmost pleasure.

Hamas accepts only one solution for the Palestinian crisis. “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.” By using the term jihad, Hamas resonates with many who cherish the Quran and Muhammad’s model, as it declares, “Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.”

Many politicians are confused as to how to comprehend Hamas and its ideology and actions.

U.S. President Joe Biden states, “Hamas does not represent Palestinians.” Similarly, Vice President Kamala Harris declares, “Hamas does not represent Palestinian people.” Even the Palestinian President says, “Hamas’ actions do not represent Palestinians.”

These politicians are attempting to distance Palestinians from any association with Hamas, to rightly ensure that innocents are helped in the midst of the war. This is a noble cause and we should all work towards protecting innocent Palestinians; however, the matter is more complex than these politicians convey, since Hamas actually won the majority of the Palestinian votes in January 2006.

Whether the world accepts it or not, Hamas has a large base of supporters among Arab Palestinians. While there may be several reasons for this support, we cannot ignore the religious and theological aspect. For these supporters, unlike the Palestinian Authority, Hamas represents a purer Islam, modeled after Muhammad’s example and in fulfilment of Quranic commands—Hamas is the religiously committed Palestinian fighter for Islam.

When you see videos of the kidnapping of Israeli women and children and the launching of explosive devices and rockets against civilians in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, remember Hamas’ stated objectives and motives. They didn’t try to hide them. The world had been warned.

A.S. Ibrahim

A.S. Ibrahim, born and raised in Egypt, holds two PhDs with an emphasis on Islam and its history. He is a professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at several schools in the United States and the Middle East, and authored A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad (Baker Academic, 2022), Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021), Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021), A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020), and The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (Peter Lang, 2018), among others.

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