Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Over the last few years an impression has gained ground that Islam is violent and vengeful. This impression has been deepened and confirmed by violent events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Yemen, all “Muslim” lands. Also, by revenge attacks on people trying to insult the Prophet (PBUH).
A point to remember here is that nearly 1.5 million people were killed by America and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the political void created by the US war unleashed a civil war that claimed more lives.
The war destabilised the region, triggering more civil wars. Over the next few years Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rose in the chaos, demolishing several smaller players, co-opting others, trying to overcome anarchy and create a state of its own over large swaths of Iraq and Syria. This created more chaos. Finally, it is on the retreat as the region’s issues of political power and sovereignty remain as unresolved as ever.
So, can we honestly say that ISIS is an Islamic project? So far, the consensus among Muslims worldwide, their intellectuals, thinkers and ulema has been that it is not. Some recently declassified US documents indicate that they have an American connection like al-Qaeda and Taliban. However, like al-Qaeda and Taliban, which were later finished by America, ISIS, too, is to be finished by America and its allies.
Coming back to the alleged vengefulness of Islam, the turmoil in the Muslim world, that is a byproduct of the American war has to be seen as such. Here, one must keep in mind that the civil wars currently on in the Muslim world have not killed even five percent as many people as the America-led wars in these lands have.
If for the killing of so many by America and Europe, Christianity is not a violent religion, how did Islam become violent if some misguided Muslims killed a far more smaller number of fellow Muslims than America and Europe did?
The civil war in Muslim lands today is like any civil war. Remember the French Revolution. The Russian Revolution. The Kampuchean civil war. The Sri Lankan civil war. Did anybody say Christianity is a violent religion because of US civil war, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution? Did Buddhism become a violent religion because of the Kampuchean or Sri Lankan civil war?
Casualties in each of those conflicts were a hundred times (if not several times more) higher than in the present conflict in the Muslim world. Why? Because Islam does not like fasaad (chaos, turmoil, mindless violence). That is why the conflict is limited to a relatively small number of people.
In Islam, war is the last resort. The Islamic scripture says Muslims are “a good group of people, who have been created for the (welfare of) humanity, who encourage people to do good and forbid them from doing evil.” Muslims usually prefer to live by this high principle. The scripture also says that someone who kills even one person unjustly, he is regarded as the killer of the entire humanity. Conversely, if someone saves a life, he is the saviour of entire humanity.
The same principle is demonstrated in the life of the Prophet (PBUH), who always preferred to pardon than to punish. Punishment of crimes only in the rarest of rare circumstances was the Prophet’s order.
This policy of mercy adopted by Islam is laid down by the Prophet in the following Hadith of al-Tirmidi, Book 15, that says, inter alia,
“…If there is any alibi in his favour, release him for it is better for a judge to err in pardoning a culprit than in punishing him.”
There are endless examples of the Prophet (PBUH) pardoning people accused of serious crimes under these principles. If the case involved crime against the Prophet (PBUH) or his family, the Prophet almost always let such people off. The greatest and most visible case is that of Makkah at its conquest by the Prophet’s (PBUH) army.
On the conquest of Makkah, when the Makkans were trembling in the their boots, fearing a reprisal and general massacre, the Prophet (PBUH) announced a general amnesty, forgiving enemies who had for years tortured and murdered Muslims in the most horrendous manner.
Muslims were driven out by their enemies first to Ethiopia and then to Medina. At both places they were sought to be harmed. Their army came to attack them at Medina.
The first Muslim Shaheedah (martyr) was a woman, whom the Makkans tortured and finally killed for refusing to leave Islam. The enemies rammed a spear through her private parts. A beloved uncle of the Prophet (PBUH) was killed in war and his heart was taken out and chewed by the wife of Abu Sufiyan, Hindah.
Culprits like Hindah, instead of being killed in revenge, were allowed to go unpunished. There are so many such other incidents when the Prophet (PBUH) chose pardon over punishment. Once when Muslims were enraged about slander of the Prophet by an enemy and were seeking revenge, the Prophet (PBUH) ignored the offence saying the man had not slandered Muhammad (PBUH), but some character in his imagination.
These incidents were not rare and far and few in between, but routine in the Prophet’s (PBUH) life and pardon than punishment was the norm.
As this column is dedicated to the youth, I want them to keep it in mind that revenge was not the Prophet’s (PBUH) way. All Muslims of all sects, races and nationalities are deeply wounded when someone tries to insult the Prophet (PBUH) and the first thought that comes to mind is that of revenge. This is more true of the youth. However, we have to remember that revenge was not the beloved Prophet’s (PBUH) way.
Our ulema say that Allah Himself had praised the Prophet (PBUH). Anybody praised by Allah is beyond the abuse of others. The abuser slanders someone in his or her own mind, not the person of the Prophet (PBUH), who is immune to such things in his God-given status as “Mercy to Mankind”.