Poppies and Muslim Chivalry: what was the Prophetic example?

Historically, the driving ambition behind the charity the Royal British Legion and its’ Poppy Appeal has been to highlight the great sacrifices made by British soldiers during the First and Second World Wars. This is not because the sacrifice of a British soldier is any more worthy of praise than that of a non-Brit. It is simply because British citizens wish to praise and financially support those who fought to protect their own soil against the advances of tyranny.

It is for this reason that the Poppy Appeal takes place each year on the eve of Remembrance Sunday. A day not established to support the killing of Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan, the ongoing war on terror, Islamaphobia – nor any other action perceived to attack Islam. Instead, it remembers the very minute of peace that marked a cessation to the hostilities of the First World War. With this in mind, each year the British public, and active servicemen and women dressed in full regalia, take to the streets as a mark of respect and remembrance for the sacrifices of British soldiers during the two global and catastrophic wars of the past century.

The RBL is a non-political organisation which predominantly helps servicemen and woman injured while on active duty. Many of the people they help have lost their limbs or suffered other serious debilitating injuries. It does not support wars or political agendas – only people. In fact, the people that it helps and their families often speak out against the recent wars in Muslims lands. They are, however, like their forefathers, committed to offering life and kin to defend their country. The soldiers supported by the RBL are mostly ordinary working class men and women and not the decision makers responsible for war – regardless of whether it is just or not.

Young British Ahmadi Muslims support dozens of charities and worthy causes across Great Britain and for the past three years the RBL has been one such charity. In the run up to Remembrance Sunday, young Ahmadi Muslims are out in force across London and the wider UK selling poppies. The work of these well-intentioned young Muslims is being met with great support and joy by the thousands of Muslim and non-Muslim passers-by. Perhaps the image of young Muslims supporting World War II veterans came as a breath of fresh air to ordinary British people who are more accustomed to the dreadful sight of radical Muslims burning poppies or spitting and assaulting young poppy sellers as happened last year.

These are the same extremists that gave birth to the equally radical English Defence League. Together these hate-driven groups have made significant progress in turning the poppy appeal into a political mechanism through which one ”must” proclaim his or her allegiances – ”you are either with the cause or against it.”

The young Muslim Poppy sellers are members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association; a group that chooses to support charities on the basis of what it believes is the right thing for God-fearing people to do. Not on the basis of what appeals the most to polarised audiences or creates the most attractive sound bite. Fear of God and charity for His sake, they believe, must lead to something far more lasting and meaningful than the reactionary, impulse driven goals of the ignorant.

Despite this, some Muslims, even comprising those of an ordinarily moderate disposition, have raised their voices against the sight of young Muslims collecting poppies. For them it is a symbol of support for the great Western ”devil” that has been crusading across the Muslim world and killing all that proclaim their allegiance to Allah and His Messenger. It thus follows that as the RBL supports those seriously injured in the wars of today, to associate oneself with the Poppy Appeal is to betray one’s faith and the faithful.

Let us pause for a second and suppose that they are right in their belief that the British Army is the enemy of every Muslim – even if that Muslim is himself or herself British. The important question which follows on from this is: ”How would the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have reacted to the injured soldiers of armies engaged in wars against him and his followers?” This question is important because Muslims, be they liberal or extreme, believe equally that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) set THE guiding example for all Muslims which cannot be departed from. This is also the firm belief of Ahmadi Muslims.

We learn from the earliest Arabic biographies of the Prophet that he is reported to have instructed Muslim physicians to treat injured enemy soldiers on the battlefield. Even when armies attacking him were not injured, he allowed for breaks in the battles so that the enemy, thirsty and starving, could freely cross the Muslim lines and take water from the Muslim controlled water wells. Clearly, the Prophetic example seems to be at great odds with the modern Muslim anti-poppy brigade.

The example of the great Ayyubid Muslim warrior and Caliph, Salah al-Din al- Ayyubi (Saladin), is also noteworthy. Western and Eastern historical accounts of the Siege of Acre, which occurred during the Third Crusade, famously mention that Salah al-Din was quick to send his own personal physician to treat the King of England, Richard I (famously known as Richard the Lion Heart), when he fell desperately ill. This was in the heart of the battle with help extended to no less than the King of the enemy forces. Again, another example which appears at odds with the opinion and actions of many Muslims today. The neutral reader will no doubt be wondering if the impulsive and angry reaction of many Muslims today is in submission to their religion or, as is more likely the case, their egos.

I propose that the issue we face today with radical Muslims, weather they are burning poppies in London or the Shrines of Muslim Saints in Mali, is that they are clearly devoid of an important quality that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his true spiritual lineage were charged to the brim with – namely, chivalry. Futuwwah, the Arabic word for chivalry, was once treated as an essential component of a Muslim’s moral DNA. In fact, futuwwah is derived from a root word (fityan) that the Holy Qur’an uses to describe the very fabric of what makes a man when he comes of age. It was so close to the Muslim heart that a whole genre of literature was at one time dedicated to its study.

One of the greatest students of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Ali b. Abi Talib, who later became the fourth Successor (Caliph) to the Prophet, is an example of an individual who excelled in this quality. For example, it is reported that during a battle he was being attacked by an enemy; Ali was a more skilled warrior and quickly positioned himself to kill the man. As Ali was about to strike the fatal blow, the man spat in Ali’s face as a last act of defiance. Ali immediately sheathed his sword and said that to kill the man had now become unlawful to him. Clearly shocked by what had happened and his sudden escape, the man was quick to quiz Ali as to why on earth he had released him from almost certain death. As narrated in his own words, Ali replied that when the man spat on him: ”…it aroused the anger of my ego. Had I killed you then it would not have been for the sake of God, but for the sake of my ego. I would have been a murderer. You are free to go.”

Such is the nobility and magnanimity of the once strong Muslim chivalry. The very quality that flowed through the veins of the same Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who forbade Muslims from attacking during the night and in secret; killing the sick or injured; making use of the cattle and food found on enemy lands without the permission of the owner; damaging the trees or infrastructure of the enemy; attacking women, children and religious leaders; and from even raising their voices during a battle.

Sadly, it is difficult to today find the same chivalrous example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in a Muslim world rife with oppression, hypocrisy, tyranny, hatred and aggression. If chivalry is still prevalent in the Muslim Ummah (Community), then I suggest that it might be found in the young British Muslims giving up their days, for the sake of Almighty God, to collect money for those in need.

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9 thoughts on “Poppies and Muslim Chivalry: what was the Prophetic example?

  1. 1. The incidents quoted happened, to our knowledge, as they have been presented. No attempt was made to strike an exact similarity between the two events. The point was that the spirit behind the actions of the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) indicate that chivalry, unrelenting compassion and universal mercy are all the qualities of a God fearing person. If you feel that anything presented is factually inaccurate then please evidence that claim and we would be eager to amend the article.

    2 & 3. Mention has already been made of how the Jama’at supports any needy person who it has the capacity to help. You may discriminate in which needy people you think ought to be helped, but that has never been the position of the Jama’at. There is no shame or dishonour in helping World War I & II veterans or any individual who has subsequently lost his or her limbs. To adopt a position whereby one helps all people who are suffering is to indicate that you belong to a compassionate religion and that you are non-political. Conversely, to help only one group of people who have lost their limbs or family in war, yet ignoring another another group, is to send out a clear message that you belong to a religion which is purely politically motivated and seeks only compassion for those whose suffering is agreeable to you.

    4. No misappropriation took place with regards to the statements of the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him). In fact, he (peace be upon him) famously stated: ‘My principle is that one should be sympathetic towards everybody. If someone sees that the house of a Hindu is on fire and he does not endeavour to extinguish it then I tell you the truth, I do not deem him to be one of my followers. I say it on oath and truthfully tell you that I have no enmity against anyone. I try my best to reform people and if anyone abuses me I do not complain to him. My complaint is made only to God and not to any worldly court. Under all circumstances it is our duty to be sympathetic towards everybody. (Siraj-i-Munir, p. 28)’ Perhaps you should now re-read the above statement with the historical setting in mind that existed between the Hindus and Muslims at the time of that statement.

  2. 1. Here you are not talking about Juliet and Ceaser. you are telling narations about Holy Prpophet of Islam. Some of your narations (events) are not relevent to the topic of this article, because events did not take place as you are portraying them even their background was diffrent. You have failed to mention a single incident from th life of Holy prophet peace and blessing of Alalh be Upon him, where there was same scinario which you are trying to present in this article.
    4. Agian you are quoting Promissed Massiah without any refrence so please stop using your own connotations as if said by Holy persons like Holy Prophet of Islam and Promised Massiah.

  3. Hand of Talha response:

    1. In a non-academic setting, references are generally not needed if the thing you are stating is widely reported and accepted. For example, I need not reference the fact that Caesar was a historical figure or that Alexander the Great was taught by Aristotle. Nevertheless, we would be happy to provide references to any points made throughout this website.

    2. The point of the article is to counter the view held by some that to raise money to help treat ex-soldiers who have lost their limbs – for example – is an unconscionable thing for a Muslim to do if that soldier happened to be in the British Army when he was on active service. The fact that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) helped anyone who was injured or suffering without discrimination is rather pertinent in making this point – wouldn’t you say?

    3. Political persuasion, gender, race, religion, and so on, are of no relevance. If what you are trying to infer is that Ahmadi Muslims do not assist Muslims suffering as a result of war or tragedy, then you would be grossly mistaken. The Ahmadi Muslims were instrumental in sending aid and doctors to those who were suffering as a result of the Bosnian war. The same can be said of the war in Kosovo. Not too long ago a great deal of money was raised, in partnership with Save the Children, to help the children of Palestine injured during the ongoing conflict. Much money was also raised, and doctors sent, to assist the millions of people impacted by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that took place in Pakistan and Indonesia. Again, these are just a few examples and there are ample examples of where Ahmadi Muslims assist people of all faiths or no faith at all. In the UK, for example, more than half a million pounds has been raise over the past two years for UK charities such as the British Heart Foundation, York Hill Children’s Hospital, Macmillan Cancer Support, the Poppy Appeal, etc.

    Lastly, the youth are very intelligent people who are quite capable of themselves navigating through the rights and wrongs of life as they perceive them. Nevertheless, the message of empowerment one would hope that a reader would take away from this post is that the Prophet (pbuh) demonstrated that the mercy and love which Islam expects of Muslims has to be shown to the whole of humankind indiscriminately. The Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), also reaffirmed this by setting out that any Ahmadi Muslim who thinks that he/she has no obligation to help non-Muslims is no Ahmadi Muslim at all.

  4. its a good article but without refrences it seems like a story. Most of the exmples given here are not suitable for this article because almost all of them talk about KINDNESS of Holy Prophet peace and blessing of Allah be upon him. Such moral values were imprinted in the hearts and souls of his followers (Hazrat Ali and Salhudin Ayubi. You could not quote a single example in which there was same scinario where non muslim army unlawfully (at least in case of Iraq) killed common people and invaded a country and then muslims living in the same country where this army was from to collect donations for the welfare of army service men and ex-service men. So all your examples mismatch with the actual topic. We shall always be loyal to the country where we live obviously in this case with GB, but we shall not brain wash our youths for political purpose to tell such unrelated stories.

  5. It is difficult to answer such a question without addressing each hadith on its own merit. In my experience there is not a hadith in the Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari which cannot be reconciled with the Qur’an. It is always important to consider that each hadith has a specific context, history and reference point. Sometimes what appears to be out of place is actually quite reasonable once it is placed in the right context.

    Please feel free to quote specific hadiths. It is important that any apparent misconceptions are worked through and rectified.

  6. Salam. Great Article!

    Slightly off topic, I have a question. One of the method anti-Islam elements rampant on the internet use to denigrate and insult the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) is by quoting false Ahadith which are Sahih e.g Bukhari, Muslim e.t.c, and the contents makes one literally sick and one’s body tremble. My question is how can one prove those Ahadith false and fabricated because clearly they are??

  7. AMYA is a non-political organisation. With regards to Pakistan, what you have mentioned is not a political issue, but a legal one. It is about securing the legal human rights that every citizen of the world should be entitled to (free vote, free speech, free religious conscience, free movement, free right to peaceful assembly, etc.). These are rights which other minorities, to varying degrees, have also had curtailed.

    Where it is felt that there is something unjust taking place, which highlighted by our beloved Hudhur (abta) in a Friday sermon, then AMYA always seek to add wise value to that situation through writing letters / articles or humanitarian work to help those on the ground. This was the case with the first and second Gulf Wars (see the book by Hadrat Khalifatul Masih IV (ra) on this: http://www.alislam.org/library/books/newworldorder/); the Palestine issue (See literature on efforts of Hadrat Muhammad Zafrullah Khan (ra) and other statements such as Press release of Hadrat Khalifatul Masih V (abta) here: http://www.alislam.org/press-release/Gaza-Crisis.Jan.09.pdf); AMYA raised more than £40,000 not too long ago which was sent through Save the Children to assist the Palestinian children of Gaza; the Bosnian crisis during which the Ahmadiyya Jama’at, working with Humanity First, was the very first humanitarian organisation to take truck loads of supplies to affected areas despite the many dangers involved; the Kosovo crisis during which the same was done (during both the Bosnian and Kosovo crises AMYA also assisted a great number of the refugees who were forced to come to the UK; the present instability that exists in the world has led to Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V (abta) to share his concerns with, and offer advice to, various world leaders: http://www.reviewofreligions.org/6230/letters-sent-to-world-leaders/.

    Ultimately, it is through prayers to Almighty God that we can most effectively become the solution to the problems facing the world.

  8. Great article. Truly is. I would much rather argue the case for Muslim chivalry as opposed to the alternative “supporting the Western devil” concept – as exemplified here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/assed-baig/poppy-remembrance-_b_2052098.html

    I however do have a question.

    AMYA UK mobilises its jihadist soldiers to go out in the public and collect towards the RBL charity. On the flip side, are there any examples of the practical struggle of the AMYA to counter what has been termed as the “politician’s war” in the above article? Personally I have seen initiatives to ask the British government to intervene in Pakistan where the human rights of Ahmadi citizens are infringed upon, but I can’t recall a time when the Ahmadi youth have put questions to the British government about the government’s own actions.

    I could be missing the obvious, that is why I pose this question here.

  9. Excellent, excellent article. In an age where chivalry is supposed to be dead, it is the Ahmadi Muslims who have taken on the Knights mantle and serving God’s creation with compassion and kindness.

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