In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
So far, we have discussed how the principle of fighting in the Qur’an is one of self-defense, and the reason why so many verses speak about fighting in self-defense is due to the incredibly violent environment in which the Prophet and the nascent Muslim community lived. Yet, I must pause here and reflect on a very, very important point.
I have received several emails and comments which bemoan my speaking out against acts of violence committed by Muslims. Those sending said emails and making said comments do not fail to remind me of all the past crimes of the West committed against the Muslim World. Indeed, the West has done many ugly things to the Muslim World. Still, despite all the injustices committed by some Western powers against some Muslim peoples, it never, ever, ever justifies acts of terror and violence against innocent people by any Muslim. How do I know this? How can I say this? Am I a scholar? By what authority do I make such a statement? I can hear these objections reverberate in my head. But, I do not need to be a scholar to make this statement. My authority is clearly outlined in the Qur’an:
“O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone [toward you] lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.” (5:8)
“…AAnd never let the hatred of people [toward you] who barred you from the Inviolable House of Worship lead you into the sin of aggression: but rather help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness, and do not help one another in furthering evil and enmity; and remain conscious of God: for behold, God is severe in retribution!” (5:2).
Thus, despite all that Quraysh did, God did not allow them to commit transgression. The Muslims were not allowed to “slay the infidel” wherever they found them; there was no “free for all” against non-Muslims. Even though Quraysh – as mentioned by the Qur’an – “have broken their solemn pledges and have done all that they could to drive the Apostle away and have been the first to attack you,” the Qur’an does not give the permission to attack their women, or children, or elderly, or any non-combatant. That would be committing transgression, and the Qur’an clearly states that you can never be dragged into committing transgression, despite what your enemy has done to you in the past. We are not like our enemy; the ends do not justify the means.
In fact, just before the Battle of Badr, a Muslim had killed a pagan during one of the Sacred Months. All hostilities must cease during these months, and fighting therein is strictly prohibited. Now, the Muslim did not realize that the Sacred Month had begun when he killed the pagan, and Quraysh declared – seeking to smear the Prophet’s reputation – that Muhammad (pbuh) no longer holds the Sacred Months sacred. The Qur’an had an answer to this charge: “They will ask thee about fighting in the sacred month. Say: ‘Fighting in it is a big sin…” (2:217). The Qur’an did not condone the action by that Muslim, even though the Quraysh did something much worse, as the verse goes on to say: “…but turning men away from the path of God and denying Him, and [turning them away from] the Inviolable House of Worship and expelling its people therefrom is worse in the sight of God since oppression is worse than killing…” (2:217). Still, the Qur’an called a spade a spade: the Muslim was wrong in killing the pagan during the Sacred Month.
This statement, “never let the hatred of a people toward you move you to commit injustice,” is perhaps the most profound statement of the Qur’an, and it is extremely relevant for our times. Its wisdom applies very well to Muslims today, and it applies equally well to America. Just because we were attacked by Muslim fanatics who killed nearly 3,000 innocent people on September 11, 2001, that does not give us the right to kill innocent people around the world in revenge. Torturing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan is not justified by what happened to us on 9/11. We Americans must be better than that. We Americans must always remember: never let the hatred of a people toward you move you to commit injustice. We Americans must always remember that.
April 21, 2005 happens to be the 12 day of Rabi’ Al Awwal in the Islamic calendar. On this day, more than 14 centuries ago, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born. That day was the most blessed day for me, for without God’s Grace and the birth of the Prophet, I would not have been a Muslim. I thank God Almighty for the Prophet Muhammad’s birth. So, on his birthday, I give a “shout out” to my beloved and noble Messenger: May the Lord God’s Peace, Mercy, and Blessings be upon thee, O Noble Emissary of God, as many times as there are cells in the body of every human being that has ever walked the earth. Amen.