Here is one
of my favourite stories about Prophet Muhammad. It is noted in a Hadith that he
and several of his companions were sitting down along a street in Medina.
Suddenly, a companion spotted a funeral procession approaching the group. In
respect of the dead human body, Muhammad stood up as the procession crossed in
front of him. At that moment, a companion, who was still sitting down, said to
the Prophet, "This is a funeral of a Jew. He is not a Muslim." Upon
hearing these words, Muhammad became upset and said to the companion, "Is
he not a human soul?" The message here is clear: Prophet Muhammad
respected human beings irrespective of their religion. He taught mankind that
every human soul is important, whether alive or dead. This is Muhammad’s
concept of dignity. He defended humanity.
the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) militants or their sympathisers do not
care about humanity. In fact, they are the antithesis of humanity. In the very
city where Prophet Muhammad stood in respect for the Jewish funeral procession,
several people claiming to be Muslims blew themselves up at the Prophet’s
mosque, one of the two holiest sites in Islam. The suicide attack killed four
members of the Saudi Arabian security force. In comparing the two events, we
can see that Prophet Muhammad honoured people who have passed away, while IS
and their sympathisers are the reasons why funeral processions happen in the first
in their right mind understands that there is nothing "Islamic" about
blowing yourself up and murdering other people. After all, the Quran is
unequivocal: "You shall not kill yourselves" (4:29). Suicide is so
far outside the boundaries of "normative" Islam that some people –
Muslims and non-Muslims alike - have started to seriously question whether IS
and their sympathisers are "anti-Islamic", and not simply
"un-Islamic", as they are popularly described. There is a difference
between these concepts. "Un-Islamic" means that Muslims are acting in
a way that opposes the basic principles of Islam. "Anti-Islam" means
that the actions of some Muslims are actually a threat to other Muslims and to
the very essence of Islam – mercy, compassion, justice and peace.
notice Prophet Muhammad‘s love of humanity in how he instructed his followers
to respect the People of the Book, as commanded in the Quran. In the year
622CE, the Prophet produced the Medina Charter, also known as the Constitution
of Medina, which contained the rights and responsibilities of the Muslims, Jews
and other tribal communities in Medina. As the head of state, Muhammad
guaranteed all citizens of the city the rights of freedom of religion and
freedom of conscience. The charter declared that Muslims and Jews were equal
members of a new political community. Indeed, even polytheists were granted
equal rights. Moreover, Muhammad’s constitution did not treat Jews as a
monolithic entity; he recognised and respected their ethnic and cultural
diversities. All Jews were granted the rights of freedom of movement, freedom
of worship and the freedom of assembly.
consider the charter to be the first written constitution in the world. Whether
or not that is true is besides the point – the document is a 7th century model
for religious pluralism and civic rights. Muhammad envisioned a society where
people were united not by race or religion, but rather by citizenship rights.
not the only religious community that Muhammad peacefully reached out to in
Medina. In 631CE, he sent letters inviting various communities of the region to
his city. One group, the Najran Christians of modern-day Yemen, travelled 450
miles to meet the Prophet and his companions in Medina. The Christian delegation
consisted of about 45 scholars and 15 assistants.
diplomatic meeting, the Najran Christians needed to pray. They exited Prophet
Muhammad’s mosque and headed towards the street, aiming to pray there.
Uncomfortable with the idea that his Christian guests had no place to pray, the
Prophet told them that they could use his mosque to worship. The Najrans
accepted Muhammad’s offer. An important bridge was made that day between
Muslims and Christians.
And it is
these kinds of interfaith bridges that ISIS and their sympathisers want to
Muslims and Christians is a space that I like to refer to as "the grey
zone". This is a space that challenges the binary of "us" versus
"them", of the "Muslim world" versus the "Western
world". It is a kind of environment where Muslims and Christians can
interact and see eye-to-eye with one another. The grey zone is a setting that
fosters dialogue, education, understanding, commitment and engagement with the
"Other"; all things that IS and their sympathisers want absolutely no
two radically different visions of the city of Medina. One is Prophet
Muhammad’s. He produced a form of government that emphasised egalitarian
values. All people could belong to his community, so long as they respected his
authority and the rule of law. Citizens of Medina were able to express
themselves and give their opinions on how best to run the community. Religious
freedom flourished. The Prophet safeguarded human rights and made sure that
humanity trumped ethnic or religious divisions.
that to the recent suicide attack outside Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina.
The people who carried out that mission were aiming to kill people who did not
agree with their rigid interpretation of Islam. Their goal was to instil fear,
suppress freedom and ultimately take life away. That is the antithesis of
meant to be a place of peace and goodwill between people of different ethnic
backgrounds and schools of Islam. Such a society is commanded by the Quran,
which notes: "Oh mankind, we have created you from male and female and
made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most
noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you" (49:13).
IS and its
sympathisers do not follow what the Prophet had laid down for mankind to
follow. Their actions in Medina and elsewhere prove that.
Craig Considine (PhD, Trinity College Dublin) is
a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Rice University in Houston, TX.
His research interests include Muslim-Christian Relations, Islamophobia,
Prophet Muhammad and Islam and American identity.
It is incumbent
(Wajib) upon Muslim governments and rulers to fight against the Kharijite ISIS in
order to protect Muslims and non-Muslims so as to establish peace worldwide.
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