By Ustadha Khola Hasan
I start in the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
The murder of twelve journalists, policemen and bystanders in Paris on Wednesday 7 January 2015 is yet another day of mourning. The groups who took responsibility for the attack claimed they were defending the honour of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) after the magazine Charlie Hebdo had published cartoons lampooning him. The incident took place in the context of Eid Milad an Nabi, which celebrates the birth of the Prophet.
May I make it clear that under Shariah, this incident was one of simple murder. The attackers neither avenged the honour of the noble Prophet nor proclaimed the supremacy of the Merciful Lord. They murdered innocent people and will stand in front of their Lord to answer for this terrible crime. They carry the unholy mark of Cain for eternity. Cain, the son of Adam, believed he was making a point when he killed his brother Abel. Islamic sources believe Abel and Cain had been ordered by God to offer sacrifices to God; Abel had a pure heart and good intentions, so he offered a sacrifice that was immediately accepted. Cain’s heart was full of envy and rancour, and this was reflected in the quality of his sacrifice, which was then rejected by the Divine. The Quran declared Cain’s act of murder to be such an evil precedent for the new world that he would be partially held responsible for all future murders committed on earth.
The Prophet said, “Whenever a person is killed unjustly, a part of the responsibility is laid on the first son of Adam who invented the tradition of murdering on the earth.” (reported by Al Bukhari)
The Quran also declared un-compromisingly:
“For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” (Surah Al Maida v32)
Over the past decades, some politicians and media pundits have declared ad nauseam that we are in the middle of a war between Islam and the West. We are reminded after each dreadful incident that takes place that Western countries are fighting an ideological and physical war to uphold their sublime values of democracy, liberty, equality, peace and so forth, while the Islamists wish to destroy all such values. As the supposed debate on the clash of civilisations rages, another group of the innocent is also forgotten: the ordinary Muslims, the majority, those who live in Western countries and consider themselves to be part of western culture. We see many shared values and beliefs with our fellow countrymen. We are just as terrified and disgusted by the violent murderers and suicide bombers that have brought misery to the streets of Paris, London, Bali, Madrid as are our neighbours. We are revolted by the way our sacred texts are manipulated to incite violence, hatred and xenophobia.
I noted disconsolately that mourners in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday night held aloft pens, pencils and paper; their message was that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that the Islamists will not silence debate and opinions. The pen has a spectacular connection with Islam and its Scripture. Muslims believe that when the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), its opening words were:
“Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth.
Createth man from a clot.
Read: And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous.
Who teacheth by the pen.
Teacheth man that which he knew not.”
(Surah Al Alaq)
The pen is a profound symbol for reasoned discussion, intellectual debate and respect for the opinions of others, all of which are central to the Islamic message. The values of Islam are closer to those of the modern industrialised world than many would have us believe. Freedom of expression and religion are central to the Quranic paradigm. Respect for other faiths and buildings of worship is entrenched in the Quran and Islamic history.
“Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said: Our Lord is Allah – For had it not been for Allah’s repelling some men by means of others, Monasteries and Churches and Synagogues and Mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down. Verily Allah helpeth one who helpeth Him. Lo! Allah is Strong, Almighty.” (Surah Al Hajj)
The Paris murders took place in the context of cartoons that insulted the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Yes, a Muslim would never dare to insult the Messenger of God because we have been ordered to love him more than we love our families. If the Prophet was to be physically attacked while we were in his presence, it would be our duty to defend him physically. In fact, he was attacked on many battlefields, and the Muslims, men and women, took out their swords to defend him. But should words of contempt today be met with Kalashnikovs and blood in the streets? The Quranic model is very clear:
“The (faithful) slaves of the Beneficent are they who walk upon the earth modestly, and when the foolish ones address them, they answer: Peace!”
(Surah Al Furqan)
The cartoon saga has been periodically raising its ugly head, always with the same dreadful result: death of journalists. Muslims of Europe have borne the brunt of the rise of hatred and distrust toward them, and the tide of this animosity can only increase. One of the leaders of Germany’s far right party AfD is Konrad Adam, who has accused Muslims of having an “aggressive, special self-consciousness.” The backlash against Muslims in Europe is all too evident. Mass street protests by Germany’s anti Islamic movement, called Pegida, drew a crowd of 18,000 supporters in Dresden on 5 January 2014. Pegida stands for Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West.
Muslims love to tell anyone who is prepared to listen that Islam is the religion of peace, that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a peaceful and forgiving man. But the Kalashnikovs drowned out our voices and the blood of the innocent washed away our good work. We need to bring out our loudspeakers and trumpet the Islamic message of peace and co-existence far out across the minarets of Europe. We need to address the narrative of hate that is sending our young men and women to the killing fields of Syria and beyond.