By Jerrmein Abu Shahba
Among the worst of criminals and transgressors are murderers – those who take away the life of innocent human beings. Among this category of murderers, the worst of them are those who kill ruthlessly and shed the blood of a huge fraction of people in a cold-blooded and brutal manner. These are the serial killers who surely have a mental and psychological problem combined with extreme ignorance that leads to them to act in that manner. They have been stripped out of the basic sense of human emotion and compassion for the lives of others. The more blood they shed, the more thirsty they are for more blood. Their enjoyment lies in seeing people dead and in the act of killing and causing pain and suffering to others.
And within the heinous category of serial killers lies the worst of them – those who kill in the name of religion and discriminate because of difference in faith. These extremist and fundamentalist serial killers have taken rise in our present day – the ISIS / Da’esh corrupted group who believe they are doing right, but little do they know what they’re doing and how Allah (SWT) will account them.
Since the beginning of this ordeal in Iraq, the main target of ISIS victims have been the Shia brethren and the main cause was sectarian. To our dismay we have seen many Shia families persecuted, killed, tortured, and multiple massacres happening in so short of a time. For so long, we wondered how is it that a Muslim can kill another Muslim – even if they disagree or believe in a different school of thought.
But today we learn that this act of aggression and targeting of fellow believers is not limited only to Muslims – the Christians also have been a victim to ISIS! How unbelievable it is for us to hear that the Islamic terrorist group ISIS continues its effort to eradicate the Christian faith in Iraq, as reports come out of the nation’s besieged Naynawah province of wholesale executions of believers, including crucifixions and the beheadings of children! In July, the terrorists overran the Naynawah capital of Mosul which had had a strong Christian presence for over 1700 years, prompting families who had lived there for generations to flee under threat of death. ISIS thugs systematically looted Christian homes and businesses in the city, desecrated cemeteries, destroyed the tombs of biblical prophets, ruined churches, and pulled down crosses, all in an effort to establish control and intimidate Christians and religious minorities throughout Iraq.
Now, what does Islam say about this type of discriminative and unjust behavior and how did the Holy Prophet (SA) deal with the People of the Book (the Christians and Jews) of his time? Let us scan history to analyze how the Prophet (SA) behaved and compare that to the example we see today.
The Holy Quran declared once and for all: Say: “We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and in that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer; we make no distinction between any of them, and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves”. [2:136]
The Prophet (SA) recognized Christians as one of the “People of the Book.” He treated them with respect and kindness, contracted treaties with the various Christian tribes, and he assured them the freedom to practice their faith and determine their own affairs while living under Islamic law. One of the spectacular examples of the Prophetic respect and honor of other religions, especially Christianity, is when Prophet Muhammad allowed Christians to pray in his own mosque according to the Christian way of praying. This took place when a delegation of the Christians from Najran visited Madinah. The delegation was composed of 60 individuals headed by a bishop, Abu Haritha ibn Alqamah, who was an authority on Christianity and well-respected by the Byzantine Emperor. Their discussion with the Prophet (SA) continued and their prayer time came. Some Muslims, out of ignorance, objected to them praying in the mosque. But Prophet Muhammad (SA) permitted them to pray and he even hosted them in his mosque.
In the first Hijrah, the Holy Prophet (SA) sent the Muslims to seek refuge in Ethiopia where its King Al-Najashi was Christian. However, this king was just and respectful to the Muslims and treated them fairly. The Prophet (SA) had good relations with him and Allah (SWT) praised the likes of him in the Quran, “And when they hear what has been revealed to the messenger you will see their eyes overflowing with tears on account of the truth that they recognize; they say: Our Lord! we believe, so write us down with the witnesses (of truth).” [5:83]
As for the Jews, they were extremely hostile to Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his mission, but he was always kind to them. Once when the funeral of a Jew was passing, the Prophet (SA) stood up as a mark of respect for the dead. In another instance, a Jew complained to him that a Muslim had slapped him. He called that Muslim and immediately reprimanded him.
Furthermore, the Prophet strengthened his relations with Jews by marrying a noble Jewish woman, Safiyyah who became among the mother of the believers. The Jews of Madinah were involved in all the battles against Muslims directly or indirectly, and secretly or openly. After this marriage, the Jews desisted from fighting against Muslims. The Prophet (SA) continually sought ways to maintain peace and good relations with the Jews.
Prophet Muhammad (SA) did not come to deprive those who did not follow him at their own will. Instead, he treated them with a rare form of tolerance and his manners and morals were of such excellence that Allah (SWT) praised him in the Quran that he held the best and most noble of manners and the Prophet (SA) himself said, “I have only been sent to perfect good manners.” Among the principles which Islam upheld and the Prophet (SA) emphasized are:
1- Islam maintains human dignity and raised the status of human beings, whether Muslims or not. Allah (SWT) says, “We have honored the sons of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea; given them sustenance good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of Our creation.” [17:70]
2- There is no compulsion in religion. The Quran highlighted this meaning by clearly saying, “There is no compulsion in religion as truth stands out clear from falsehood.” [2:256] Even the Prophet (SA) himself did not force the people to adopt Islam as Allah (SWT) says, “If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed – all who are on earth! Will you then compel mankind against their will to believe?” [10:99]
3- Freedom of Religion: Islam not only gave non-Muslims the freedom to retain their religion but also allowed them to practice their ceremonies and preserved their places of worship. The Prophet (SA) prevented his companions from disturbing Christian clergymen in their hermitages and he never assaulted a non-Muslim place of worship. Also, Islam gave them the freedom to follow their laws of religion like that of marriage and divorce.
4- Islam orders the implementation of justice with everyone. The Quran urges the Prophet (SA) to rule fairly with the People of the Book if they choose him as an arbitrator, “If you judge, then judge in equity between them.” [5:42] In many narrations, the Prophet (SA) emphasized the right of “Al-Mu’ahad” (the one who has a covenant with the Muslims) such as, “Whoever kills a person having a treaty with the Muslims shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise though its smell is perceived from a distance of forty years.”
5- The Prophet (SA) also preserved and guaranteed the security of non-Muslims’ lives, wealth, and honor in an Islamic community. No one is permitted to hurt them as long as they are residents of Muslim territories. He (SA) ordered the Muslims to take care of Ahl Adh-Dhimma (the Jews and Christians) who live among them. The Islamic state is responsible to provide them suitable living conditions because they are its citizens. Hence, the Prophet (SA) reminded us, “You are all guardians, and each of you are responsible for those in his guardianship.” He made a covenant that they have the right to buy and sell with society. They can have financial dealings but should avoid usury and avoid dealing with wine, pigs and anything harmful to society and which Islam has prohibited.
Now, where is ISIS from these Islamic principles and Prophetic practice? Where is their respect to the People of the Book, and where is there justice towards them? Where is their gentle invitation to Islam by kind treatment and morals? Do they wish to force the Christians to believe in Islam when Allah (SWT) has dictated that there is no compulsion in religion?! Where is the freedom to practice their religion and worship the same Lord that we worship? Where is the respect to human life and to the sons of Adam as Allah (SWT) prescribed? Where is the implementation of the noble manners of the Prophet (SA) which we should follow and imitate?
Surely, these Islamic extremists are furthest away from Islam and the Muslims. Rather, they have sullied the reputation of Islam and Muslims in front of the whole world and in front of our fellow Christian brethren. What may not be well-known to Christians is the Islamic respect regarding other religions and how Islam seeks to establish good relations with other traditions through a profound respect and understanding of the knowledge and major authorities of other people.
The worst serial killers of the century have done more damage to Islam that they could imagine! The humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Iraq should be a concern to all and everyone from different faiths should unite to fight and eliminate these pandemic fundamentalists who have spread like poison across the Muslim nation. This is an opportunity for Muslims and Christians to stand together against such terrorists and enemies of humanity. May Allah (SWT) unite us all under the banner of Tawheed and enable us to live with tolerance and respect to one another in a diverse community where there is freedom to practice the faith while respecting the beliefs of others.