By Abdul Ghany Jahangeer Khan
Islam means the religion of peace. A person following Islam will find that he or she is surrounded by noble teachings, the aim of which is to establish peace between man and Allah, the Creator of all; between man and man; and between man and the rest of Allah’s creation.
How does such a religion deal with the issue of terrorism? And what does the word terrorist mean? Dictionaries will define a terrorist as one who systematically uses violence and intimidation to achieve political ends – or one who controls or forces others to do something by violence, fear or threats.
All these definitions are covered by two words in the Holy Qur’an, the sacred book of Islam: Fitnah and Ikrâh.
In the Holy Qur’an, God begins to deal with the issue of terrorism by teaching Muslims never to become terrorists in the first place. Two of the very first verses of our Holy Book say: ‘Al-Fitnatu ashad-du minal qatl’ – meaning that in the sight of Allah, ‘persecution, or making people constantly fear for their lives, is much worse than killing’. And also: ‘Lâ ikrâha fid-dîn’ – ‘There shall be no compulsion in religion’, that is to say, that no one has the right to force others into complying with their demands or compelling others to follow their line of thinking.
Allah Almighty warns the believers again and again that they should never abandon Him, the source of all goodness. Allah Almighty reminds us that it is those who have abandoned Him and thrown away all good, and divested themselves of every shred of human decency, that are the ones who will eventually resort to terrorizing others, forcing them into complying with their demands. The believers are repeatedly reminded that they would lose Allah Almighty’s love and His favors if they ever began to behave in that way.
But Islam does not content itself with these injunctions strongly forbidding Muslims from ever becoming terrorists. It also makes sure that the believers are made into highly moral, excellently behaved people, by inculcating those lofty human values that can turn them into people who sincerely love humankind without distinction of religion, race or social status. Islam no doubt encourages the logical and rational discussion of views with people of all creeds in a calm and dispassionate way, with the only aim that truth prevail over error and falsehood. But it also reminds us that it is error and falsehood as such that are to be hated and detested. The people who unfortunately hold on to error are never to be hated. That is why the motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is ‘Love for all, hatred for none.’
In Islam, an amazingly powerful emphasis is laid on developing love for mankind and on the vital importance of showing mercy and sympathy towards every creature of Allah Almighty, including human beings and animals. For indeed, love and true sympathy are the very antidote of terrorism.
It is related by ‘Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, the talented wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, that some desert Arabs came to him one day and asked: ‘Do you kiss your children?’ He answered: ‘Yes.’ They said: ‘We never kiss them.’ The Prophet (sa) said:‘What can I do if your hearts have been stripped of compassion?’ He also said that Allah Almighty has no mercy for him who has no mercy for his fellow beings.
The measure of compassion shown by the Holy Prophet (sa) cannot but amaze anyone who knows how rough and violent was the society into which he had been born. Abu Qatâdah, may Allah be pleased with her, relates that the Messenger of Allah told him: ‘It happens that I stand up to lead the prayer, having in mind to lengthen it. Then I hear the cry of an infant and I shorten the prayer fearing lest I should cause inconvenience to its mother.’
Far from inciting hatred and aggressiveness in its followers, Islam keeps on enjoining kindness and sympathy for all. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: ‘Charity is incumbent upon every human limb every day on which the sun rises. To bring about reconciliation between two contestants is charity. Helping a person mount his animal or to load his baggage on to it is charity. A good word is charity. Every step taken toward the mosque for prayer is charity. To remove anything from the street that causes inconvenience is charity.’
He incessantly admonished Muslims to behave well towards their neighbors, saying: ‘That one will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not safe against his mischief.’
He also declared: ‘By Him in Whose Hands is my life, you will not enter Paradise unless you believe, and you will not truly believe unless you love one another. Shall I tell you something whereby you will love one another? Multiply the greeting of peace among yourselves.’
One day he found a mother bird beating her wings on the ground in distress. He asked his companions: ‘Who has done this?’ They said: ‘We took her young ones out of her nest.’ The Holy Prophet (sa) said: ‘Restore them to her. No mother must be tormented on account of her child.’
On another occasion, he found one of his companions setting fire to an anthill. He immediately told them to put out the fire saying: ‘No one has the right to torment others with fire.’
As Allah Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an that the true believers are: ‘those who suppress their anger and forgive people’, likewise, the Holy Messenger of Allah, Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: ‘Allah is Gentle and loves gentleness in all things. Make things easy and do not make them hard. And cheer people up and do not repel them.’
It is clear that the true believers and all other good, honest people are always on the receiving end of terrorism, never on the delivering end. Whenever such tendencies appear in society by which the peace is being disturbed and people cannot live their lives without fear, Muslims are enjoined to counter them first of all by reasoning with those responsible for the disturbance. The Holy Qur’an says:
Call unto the way of your Lord [that is the way of justice and goodness] with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in a way that is best. (Ch.16: v.126)
And the Qur’an repeatedly tells us to seek help from Allah Almighty with patience and p r a y e r. But if reasoning with those people bent on wickedness and praying for them fail to bring about a change in their ways, then Allah Almighty says, again at the end of Chapter 16, verse 127:
‘Then if you desire to punish the oppressors, punish them to the extent you have been wronged.’
Allah Almighty commands the Muslims that when things get out of hand, they should join forces to restore peace by use of reasonable force. They have been enjoined by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, to join forces if need be with followers of other faiths to do so. Thus, in the famous document known as the Treaty of Medina, The Messenger of Allah declared:
This is the treaty of Muhammad, the Prophet (the Messenger of Allah) between the Believers and Muslims of the Quraish and the people of Yathrib, and between those who follow them and join them in fighting (the common enemy).
And it is that they constitute an Ummah Wâhidah (One Nation) separate from other people.
And also that the Jews of the tribe of ‘Auf constitute an Ummah Wâhidah with the Believers – even though the Jews will follow their own religion and the Muslims will follow their own – and this will include both their friends and themselves. (Quoted from Reuben Levy in ‘Sociology of Islam, part I, pages 279-282)
Here, all the inhabitants of the city of Yathrib, or Medina, were called upon to join in fighting the forces that were terrorizing the citizens.
Muslims have been made to promise that they will help defend the followers of other faiths from unjust and cruel attacks as well. For example, in his charter for all time to come addressed to all Christians living as citizens under Muslim rule, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, states:
I promise that any monk or wayfarer who will seek my help on the mountains, in forests, deserts or habitations, or in places of worship, I will repel his enemies with my friends and helpers, with all my relatives and with all those w ho profess to follow me and will defend them, because they are my covenant. And I will defend the covenanted against the persecution, injury and embarrassment of their enemies in lieu of the poll tax they have promised to pay. If they prefer to defend their properties and persons themselves, they will be allowed to do so and will not be put to any inconvenience on that account.
No bishop will be expelled from his bishopric, no monk from his monastery, no priest from his place of worship, and no pilgrim will be detained in his pilgrimage. None of their churches and other places of worship will be desolated or destroyed or demolished. No material of their churches will be used to build mosques or houses for the Muslims; any Muslim doing so will be regarded as recalcitrant to Allah and His Prophet. Monks and Bishops will be subject to no tax or indemnity whether they live in forests or on rivers, in the East or in the West, in the North or in the South. I give them my word of honor. They are on my promise and covenant and will enjoy perfect immunity from all sorts of inconveniences. Every help shall be given them in the repair of their churches. They shall be absolved of wearing arms. They shall be protected by the Muslims. Let this document not be disobeyed till Judgment Day.” (Quoted from Balâdhar)
In Islam, every effort is thus made to protect the peace of not only the Muslims, but also of the followers of other faiths. Allah Almighty says:
And if Allah did not defend some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques wherein the name of Allah is oft remembered. (Ch.22: v.41)
However, Muslims have been warned by the Holy Founder of Islam, Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, that when they enter the territory of those who have been terrorizing and harshly persecuting them, they should not lose all sense of perspective and justice, and be tempted to start acting savagely, like the terrorists themselves. The worst crime of ungratefulness would be that committed by a people who, having forgotten that they had just been subjected to terrible cruelties, start meting out the same, if not worse, cruelties to others. The Prophet ordered:
‘You will meet those who remember Almighty Allah in their houses of worship. Have no dispute with them, and give no trouble to them. In the enemy country, do not kill any women or children, or the blind, or the old. Do not pull down any tree; nor pull down any building.’ (Quoted from Halbiyyah, Vol.3).
So the only Jihad permitted in Islam is the war of the oppressed against the oppressor, the war waged to protect the peace of all people irrespective of their religion or creed. Tactics used today such as suicide bombing, etc. are absolutely out of the question for true followers of Islam. Allah Almighty says:
And kill not your own selves. Surely Allah is Merciful to you. (Ch.4: v. 30)
…and cast not yourselves into ruin with your own hands… (Ch.2: v.196)
Islam strictly forbids the killing of innocent, non-aggressive people:…no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors. (Ch.2: v.194)
These three verses alone are sufficient to prevent Muslims from crashing airplanes into buildings, or from sending suicide bombers to blow up innocent civilians.
Once the evildoers have ceased misbehaving and have been justly punished for their crimes, then Allah Almighty says:
And fight them until there is no more persecution, and religion is freely professed for Allah. But if they desist, then remember that no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors. (Ch.2: v.194)
To sum up, Islam advocates three steps against terrorism:
- To give an excellent moral upbringing to all Muslims, so that they become upright, just, moral, kind and loving people, thereby ensuring that they never disrupt the peace of others.
- Whenever the peace is disrupted, to reason and argue with the evildoers, and sincerely pray for them, to make them change their ways.
- If all reasoning fails, then to join forces with all good people to combat the mischief-mongers until peace has been restored, but always keeping the dictates of justice in view.
It is our belief that not only Islam, but no true religion, whatever its name, can sanction violence and bloodshed of innocent men, women and children in the name of Allah Almighty. Terrorists may use religious or political labels, but no one should be deceived by their wily ways and treacherous guiles. They have nothing to do with religion. They are the enemies of peace. They must be combated at every level as advocated by Islam, the religion of peace.