By Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan
It may seem monotonous to explain and apologize every time murder of innocent people is done by those who use religion, in this case Islam, to carry out their crimes. These days, it happens almost on a daily basis; some more callous than others. The killing of Rabbis in a synagogue this week is blatantly wrong and cannot be justified.
But for how long will we send condolences, make apologies and issue statements? It is time we address the issue of killing innocent people from the very sources that extremists take their cue to carry out their heinous crimes. We must stand up for justice!
Allah warns in surah al-Mai’da, “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do.” [05:08]
They just cannot do it in our names or in the name of Islam any longer. It is simply wrong! We should also point out that killing in the name of religion is not only a problem that Muslims face today. People of various religions around the world also have followers who commit violent crimes and then use religion to justify their actions. Like other mainstream religious authorities, Muslims do condemn vociferously acts of aggression done in the name of Islam. But somehow their voices are not heard by the masses.
We do not mention this here as a smokescreen for what is done in the name of Islam. Whosoever does crime against humanity in the name of any religion whether they are individuals, groups, or nation-states, should be condemned in no uncertain terms. In addition, the public should not be confused by the official and doctrinal teachings of any religion, which oppose acts of terrorism, violence and injustice no matter how often they occurs.
Islam prohibits the killing of women, children, monks, rabbis, the elderly, or any other noncombatant even in a state of war and hostility. Similarly, it prohibits the torture of prisoners of war; the mutilation of the dead; rape, molestation, or any kind of sexual violence during combat; the killing of diplomats, the wanton destruction of property, and the demolition of religious institutions some of which have eventually been incorporated into the modern international laws of war.
There are several proofs from the Qur’an, the guidance of Rasulullah ﷺ, peace be upon him, the early generations and the fuqahaa, the jurists, that condemn such acts. Let us examine a few:
Allah, in surah al-Hajj, talks about the prohibition to deface, disturb or destroy places of worship: “And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” [22:40]
In surah al-Baqarah, Allah restricts fighting to only those who fight you and not to transgress limits. Hence to kill someone while he’s praying, helping the poor and needy, diplomats, journalists is not allowed. “And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors.” [2:190]
Also Ibn Masood, a companion of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “The Sunnah continues that emissaries are never killed.” What is meant by emissaries here, are people who are sent from one group of people to another to perform a noble task such as reconciliation or the delivery of a message. Aid workers are also emissaries of mercy and kindness and should not be killed. Unfortunately extremists have openly slaughtered them in the name of Islam. One needs to ask whose Islam? It is certainly not the Islam of Muhammad ﷺ, peace be upon him, nor the Islam of the early or later generations, nor of mainstream Muslims. Then whose Islam are they practicing?
The prohibition to kill women and children is understood from an incident when Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, peace be upon him, found a woman killed in battle. He reprimanded that this should never have happened and immediately he prohibited the killing of women and children. It is agreed that if they actively participate in battles and get killed in the process, then it is not a crime. But to kill women and children and non-combatants is not allowed.
From the following hadith we deduce from it the prohibition of killing a muaahad, a non-Muslim living in an Islamic State. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says: “Whoever kills a muaahad will not smell Paradise.” [An-Nasai]
Allah prohibits the killing of innocent people. He says, “And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right.” The phrase “by right” refers to crimes someone commits against individual or society which requires due process in an established reputable court of law; not this wanton killing that is done in the name of Islam. [17:33]
We learn from the instruction of Abu Bakr As-Siddique, radi Allahu ‘anhu – may Allah be pleased with him, the first Caliph, that it is prohibited to kill Monks and Rabbis, old people and anyone found praying in a place of worship.
When Abu Bakr As-Siddique, radi Allahu ‘anhu, prepared an army and sent it to the Levant, he said: “You will find people who have devoted themselves to monasteries, leave them to their devotions… do not kill the old and feeble, women or children; do not destroy buildings; do not cut down trees or harm livestock; do not burn or drown palms; do not be treacherous; do not mutilate; do not be cowardly; and do not loot.”
We would like to add here that the killing of Abdur Rahman Kassig is repulsive. In Islam, anyone who says, “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God”, is Muslim and cannot be declared a non-Muslim. Allah says: “O you who believe, when you are going forth in the way of God, be discriminating and do not say to him who offers you peace: “You are not a believer”, – desiring the transient goods of the life of this world. With God are abundant spoils. So were you formerly, but God has been gracious to you. So be discriminating. Surely God is ever Aware of what you do.” [4: 94]
Secondly we must address the reasons for these intensified violent crimes. Why are they happening now more than ever before? Why do we hear of crimes against innocent people almost every day? Why are criminals hiding behind the curtains of faith?
We can go into a long discussion about why, what and who. But unless prejudice, aggression, hatred and injustice are ceased from being glorified and are dealt with for what they are, peace and harmony will be so far in the future that we may not see it in our lifetime.
Justice is at the core of human society and forms the basis of peace and security. Only when we, as humans, look within ourselves and acknowledge injustices can we truly heal and become true human beings, capable of living with peace, love and harmony. This is when we will be true to our faiths.
As Muslims we do not accept violence as a means or solution to eradicate injustice, for indeed violence in itself is another manifestation of injustice. Allah warns, “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do“. [05:08]
There are ways and means to strive for justice and as Muslims we know that whatever justice is denied in this world it will certainly be given in the next. Once again, we send our condolences to all the families who have lost their loved ones and we hope and pray that all humans can see each other as the creation of One God and not through the lens of color, caste, race or creed.