How do you profile a Muslim Terrorist? Some leave clues, a few even record video epitaphs. For the last two years a day has probably not gone by without a suicide bomber pulling a string and blowing himself and those around him to bits or driving a car to explode the lives of innocent bystanders. Is there a way to predict who such a bomber might be, or who builds the bombs and plans the operations? Logic fails, at least the logic that says something has to be very special to die for and even more special to make other people die for a cause just because you believe in it.

An article in today’s New York Times (Thursday, November 10, 2005, Section A, page 7) describes an “Intensely Hunted Terrorist Killed in Fight with Indonesian Police.” His name was Azhari Husin, undoubtedly not a mufti trained at al-Azhar, yet perhaps someone who took the martyred name of Hussein very much to heart. We are told that he was a technician, a skilled bomb maker, the most wanted terrorist suspect in Indonesia. His name surfaces for the 2002 bombing in Bali, the 2003 attack on the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, the 2004 attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta and the recent restaurant bombings in Bali. He was known to travel with explosives on his body, and in the end pulled his own string rather than yield to those about to capture him. He had spent his nine lives. But what is curious is how he spent his first life.

“Mr. Azhari was a late convert to fundamentalist Islam and life on the run as a terrorist. His earlier years were marked by an interest in sports, women, fast cars and the study of statistics and real estate valuations.” He even had a Ph.D. from England. So we are informed. So how did he go from kicking balls, banging girls, laying down rubber, counting his bourgeoise blessings and feeling at home in the speculative, capitalist world to being a techie jihadist? The how is imaginable in a world where Muslims have many grievances with their own corrupt governments, let alone what the United States is doing in Islamic states. The trickier question is why. Why does indiscriminate killing get added as a sixth and overriding pillar of Islam? Why did the mainstream pillars not have a prayer in the world of this allegedly observant Muslim?

This terrorist, and indeed there is no better word to describe such a distorted vocation, was not born a terrorist. He was born naked of good or evil, like you and me, and grew up doing what many around him were doing. Then one day he saw the light; Allah might as well have spoken to him like Moses or Muhammad; he was born again. But this time there was no naked innocence. He was clothed in blind hate, the kind of hate that eventually consumes a man.

The death of Azhari Husin was true to life, at least his last eight lives. He not only took his own life, but wounded every sincere Muslim in the world. Perhaps he thought he was doing the will of Allah. But for sure his act was not sunna. For Muslims there is no greater example than the Prophet Muhammad, the complete moral man, insan kamil. The body of Azhari Husin was blown to pieces; only Allah could put those pieces together and resurrect such a frame. But does allah contradict himself? None of us on earth can know where the soul of a man will go. But I suspect that men like this remain in the hell of their own intolerant making, remain woefully incomplete.