Recent acts of terror perpetrated in the name of faith across the world are at variance with what Prophet Mohammad had preached and how he lived his life [/h2]
By Zoya Rasul
Prophet avenged!”—these were the words which the two killers reportedly screamed as they stormed out of the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris after mercilessly killing 11 people. With these words, the world’s attention once again turned to radical Islam. Once again, the debate on whether Islam is an intolerant and violent religion was ignited.
There have been many instances in the past when blasphemy against Islam or Prophet Mohammad has led to blood-spilling on the streets. In 2012, a 14-minute trailer of a film, Innocence of Muslims, sparked bloody pro-tests worldwide, killing over 50. Promptly, an al-Qaeda militant, Ahmed Ashoush of Egypt, issued a fatwa against anyone who was a part of the film. “The blood of the participants should be shed, including the producer, the director, and the actors…their killing is a duty of every capable Muslim,” he said on an Islamist militant website.
Such calls and acts raise serious questions: Does revenge and killing define the duty of Muslims? Is this permissible under the tenets of Islam? The answer is simple: No.
In one of the revelations to the Prophet, it was taught that everything should be based on principles of right and wrong, and not on favoritism towards the people of your own religion and injustice against others. It says: “Help one another in works of righteousness and goodness, and help not one another in sin and aggression.” (5:2) This clearly instructs Muslims to join their fellow Muslims in doing good and just acts, but not in committing transgression and injustice out of misguided support for one’s co-religionists.
A look at the Prophet’s life further establishes how Islam and its teachings do not ad-vocate the path of violence or revenge. As Mohammad attained prophethood, the course of his life, which was dedicated to spreading the message of Allah, was inflicted with sufferings. But he never resorted to violence. In one of the instances quoted in the Hadith (record of the sayings of Mohammad), the Prophet went to some powerful people of Ta’if (a city in Mecca in Saudi Arabia) to spread the word of God and asked for their submission to Allah.
They rejected it vehemently and started mocking him. Street boys stoned him so much so that his shoes were filled with dripping blo-od. But he did not retaliate. Instead, he prayed for them. For him, their actions spoke of ignorance. For him, the need was to enlighten them about the teachings of Islam and not to hit back. For any Muslim, the Prophet’s life is the only example to go by and it undoubtedly, advocates peace.
Down the ages, prophets have been mocked at and abused by their contemporaries. Some of the epithets cited in the Quran for them include “a liar” (40:24), “possessed” (15:6), “a fabricator” (16:10), “a foolish man” (7:66). However, nowhere does the holy book prescribe violent punishment for the same. The matter demands peaceful admonishment—sound arguments which clarify the allegations. Violence to such provocations puts Islam and its teachings under a question mark —a condition never preferred by a true believer.
The treaty of Huddaibiya, a crucial incident in the history of Islam, further advocates the practice of benevolence and endurance for a true follower. Because of the hostilities from the Quraish (the most powerful tribe of Mecca during the time of the Prophet), the Prophet and his companions had to leave Mecca and move to Madina. With time, Islam gained power and acceptance but, for Quraish, they were still enemies. A year before Mecca was won over, the Prophet and his companions were stopped from entering the place. To proceed further on the pilgrimage, they were asked to sign a treaty, whose terms were clearly unjust. But, for the sake of peace, the Prophet agreed.
Ali bin Abi Talib, who was documenting the treaty, addressed the Prophet as “Mohammad, the Prophet of Allah” to which the Quraish objected. They wanted Ali to strike out the part relating to the Prophet, which he refused to do. But the Prophet himself took the sheet in his hands and stroked those words off. The incident clearly indicates how strongly he preached and practiced peace, despite all the odds.
Here’s another incident which thwarts the pre-valent idea that Islam demands Muslims to ave-nge acts against their religion or religious figures. Once, there were four men who accused the Holy Prophet’s wife, Aisha, of immoral conduct. Their allegation was ultimately proved to be false. One of them, Mistah, who was poor, used to receive financial assistance from Aisha’s father, Abu Bakr (the foremost follower of the Prophet and later, the first Caliph of Islam). After this incident, Abu Bakr swore against helping Mistah ever.
The following verse was revealed to the Prophet on this occasion: “Let not the possessors of grace and means among you swear against giving to the near relatives and the poor and those who had to flee in Allah’s way. Pardon and overlook. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you?” (24:22) When Abu Bakr heard about this revelation, he resumed providing assistance to Mistah as before and said: “Indeed, I certainly love that Allah should forgive me.”
Muslims need to interpret Islam in the light of the Quran and as per the life of the Pro-phet. The Quran’s first verse reads: “In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the most Compassionate.” This verse is repeated 114 times and stresses how Allah is the god of mercy and compassion, which is hence expected of the believers as well. A verse of the Quran, “Innallaha Ma’ As Sabirin” that means “Allah is with the patient,” substantiates that Islam is a religion of tolerance and advocates patience and peace.
Describing the good qualities that believers ought to strive for, the Quran says: “… and whenever they are angry they forgive.… and those who, when great wrong afflicts them, defend themselves. And the recompense of evil is punishment like it; but whoever forgives and amends, his reward is with Allah.… And whoever is patient and forgives—that surely is an affair of great resolution.” (42:37-43)
Whenever a verse of the Quran is quoted which suggests otherwise, it is to be noted that its interpretation has to be done in context with the times when these revelations were made. Many a time, verses are quoted out of context to incite Muslims to resort to violence. The responsibility, however, rests with them to be wise enough to interpret the Quran the way it is meant to be.
To absolve the tag of aggressors and extre-mists, Muslims need to set and lead by example. Refraining from playing into the hands of people working for vested interests, they should strive to become the face of real Islam, as preached by the Prophet and as preferred by Allah. This is the only way to save themselves from the negative image and establish that their faith is one of peace, justice and love. To follow the Prophet’s way of life is the greatest gesture of respect towards him.