On the Hijacking of Islam
If the terrorists that struck the USA last week were indeed Muslims, they have not only committed murder, which carries the death penalty, but have also committed a physical attack upon Islam by the damage they have done to its image.
By Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, IslamForToday.com, September 16, 2001
I cannot find words adequate to express my horror and shock at the dreadful terrorist attacks in the USA. It looks as if some five thousand innocent people, of many different nationalities and faiths have been slaughtered whilst peacefully going about their business, none of them in a state of war or having committed any crime against humanity that might suggest any possible justification for their slaughter. Do we perhaps pick up the mutters of Islamic extremists that ‘they deserved it’ because they lived and worked in America, and that place is the great enemy of God? If we do, then how much more to the shame of the rest of us Muslims, who have not been able to put across to these sectarian lunatics that what they have apparently believed has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, God, or the message or example of our Blessed Prophet (pbuh).
It is true that the Prophet (pbuh) was involved in some warfare during his earthly life - he lived to be 63, and if one tots up all the days he was obliged to spend in defensive warfare, it comes to less than one year. His most famous battles lasted only one day, and not only were there few slain, but with very few exceptions (by a handful of zealous believers who went beyond the bounds of what they were ordered, and were taken to task for it) the captives and enemy wounded were treated with compassion and decency. Even when the Prophet (pbuh) sent his army to capture Makkah, only ten of his enemies were condemned to death for their previous crimes (and not simply because they had been captured in war), and only four were actually executed.
It is true that later Muslim leaders became involved in warfare, but this was certainly not the Prophet’s (pbuh) will, nor can he be held to blame for things that happened after his death. As it happened, Islam swept so swiftly through many countries in its early years mainly because the people there were so sick of Christian sectarian cruelties. The Muslim conquests did not force people to believe in Islam, but only to accept the rulings of an Islamic Government if they accepted its protection - the Islamic government was considered to be a great improvement on what they had before. The word of Allah as revealed in the Qur’an, and Muhammad’s (pbuh) own teachings on his authority as ‘a Prophet like unto Moses’, nowhere and never ordered Muslims to take arms against other believers, or non-believers for any aggressive reason, nor for causes of nationalism, but only when Islam was actively being attacked (they had the right of self-defence), and only until the enemy laid down arms and sued for peace, after which point no reprisals should be taken.
As regards the common misconception about issuing the death penalty for leaving the faith (apostasy), or vilifying Allah (blasphemy), or speaking abusively about Allah or his Messenger (pbuh), this was never the case. The Prophet (pbuh) himself was frequently abused and hurt and jeered at, but exhorted his followers going through equal or greater suffering than himself to stand firm and accept the unpleasantness with patience, hating the evil, but never hating the people who had been overtaken by evil. The death penalty could be issued legally in cases of treason or murder, the treason being the cases of those who had once accepted the rule of Islam in an Islamic country, but had then not merely turned against it (which anyone might do - and be pitied for this tragedy rather than attacked; their actual judgment rested with Allah in the life to Come), but also actively led physical attacks upon it and coerced others into doing so.
On those grounds, I would argue that in Islamic law, if the terrorists that struck the USA last week were indeed Muslims, they have not only committed murder, which carries the death penalty subject to the wishes of the next of kin of the murdered, but have also committed a physical attack upon Islam by the damage they have done to its image. They also committed suicide, which is forbidden in Islam.
The law of God was given in absolute clarity to the Prophet Moses (pbuh): ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Jesus (pbuh) took the teaching further: ‘It was said to you of old - ‘Thou shalt not kill, and whoever does kill will be liable to judgment’. But I say to you that everyone who harbours anger for his fellow-man shall be liable to judgment!’ He taught that we must not nurture or fan the flames of hatred in our hearts. We must not repay evil with evil. And after Jesus (pbuh), in the revelation of the Qur’an, God revealed to Muhammad (pbuh) that Muslims must accept all the revelations made to those previous prophets, and make no distinction between them. They were all messages and teachings from the same One True God.
One lesson from this tragedy is that all the Peoples of the Revelation (Jews, Christians and Muslims) are compromised if identified with extremists, from any of these three branches of the faith, who completely misunderstand the spirit of what has been revealed.
As it happens, we do not yet know for certain if the catastrophes in the USA were the work of Islamic terrorists, but since it is beginning to look very like it - the 18 suicide killers apparently all being Arab Americans. One instant reaction is that already various people of all nationalities and faiths are being lumped together and hated as ‘Muslims’ by rightfully outraged but horrendously ignorant people. ‘Islam’ is being hated, when in fact genuine Muslims stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the believers of Judaism and Christianity in their shock and disgust. Indeed, as regards this particular act of terrorism they literally share their grief and are literally victims of the atrocities - for no doubt many perfectly innocent Muslims were also in the Trade Center buildings along with the others slain that day. An extremist might say: ‘serves them right, they shouldn’t have been working for the Americans’ - while ignoring the point, of course, that the majority of them were Americans.
Even now we are hearing of Hindus and Sikhs being abused by people who mistakenly think they are Muslims because they are brown, or because they wear turbans (the Sikh turban being very different from the usual Muslim headgear, of course). The Muslims in the USA who happen to be Turkish, or Aborigine, or Swedish, or Spanish or Inuit normally escape the unpleasant abuse.
I suppose that one good thing that might come out this appalling horror could be that people can begin to realise that the word ‘Muslim’ does not equal ‘Arab’ or ‘Pakistani’. It is a faith, not a nationality. There are multitudes of Arabs who are not Muslims at all - not least the many Palestinian Christians, such as Hanan Ashrawi and the families of Bethlehem. And there are millions of Muslims who are not Arab, Asian, or any particular shade of brown. Islam is a world-faith, and involves a decision to submit one’s own will to the will of God. It is not a national or cultural feature.
The USA is not the Great Satan - it is one of the places where Islam has not only made its home, but seen the most rapid and successful strides made in recent years. The USA was just about to issue its first postage stamp commemorating Eid! There are some 7 million Muslims living in America, of many ethnic origins, but most of them now of American nationality. Last year I attended the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America, which attracted some 35,000 Muslims under one roof - an inspiring occasion, full of hopes for the future of Islam in America.
I know from long experience that just when one begins to be in hopes of some religious progress and success, something crops up to oppose it. I guess this is how the Devil works. I would certainly equate the works of extremists and terrorists with the works of the Devil - and most definitely not of God - whether you wish to call God Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah or Our Father in Heaven. I remember being called up by our local radio after the extremist attack at the Temple of Hatshepsut in southern Egypt, and asked to explain the Muslim actions and point of view. The interviewer was quite surprised when I suggested that the Muslims involved were the police trying to protect the tourists, the ambulance men and nurses quickly on the scene, the villagers who rushed to help. Oh - were they Muslims? Of course they were. The terrorists were the very opposite of Muslims - they were terrorists and murderers.
I am well aware of all the suppression and injustice and tragedies wrought by politics and politicians, but this is not the place to argue out the rights and wrongs of any particular issue - except to join the chorus of those urging the powers-that-be in the USA to analyse more carefully why they are not seen as the flag-fliers of freedom and justice and compassionate humanity that they would like to be.
The Devil takes many, many disguises, and the Devil in holy disguise is the most dangerous form there is - his followers are so righteous, so devout, so self-sacrificing for the cause, so determined that nothing will stand in their ‘way of serving God’. In Jewish tradition, who is Satan? Not some easily recognised, ugly, evil monster but the angel who was closest to God - the angel of Light. I, who believe in both God and the Devil, would like to make an observation. The basic characteristic of those who think they believe in God but who are rather serving the Devil is what Muslims call takfir - the practise of accusing other believers of non-belief. Anyone who deviates from their point of view is branded a kafir, an infidel, an enemy, an unbeliever, someone to be stamped out - even if this includes virtually all the other members of the faith he/she purports to belong to.
It has become commonplace amongst the thinkers among ordinary Muslims that the real enemy of Islam is not any part of the ‘west’ - wherever that is, since the earth is more or less round; not western knowledge, progress, attitudes, even abuse or debauchery or whatever - but those who claim to be Muslims but patently are not, and who browbeat others into silence.
It is high time that the followers of this anti-Muslim teaching are properly labelled for what they are. Their brand of Islam is not Islam. They do not have an identifying name at the moment - the word Fundamentalist is not accurate, neither is extremist. I would like to call their faith something like Islamiolatry. They are not Muslims but Islamiots or Zealotologists. Once a sectarian can be identified by a name, then people find it much easier to understand that these are at least deviants from the faith, and more usually enemies to the faith.
To quote a friend: ‘People do not hear the word of Islam by being shouted at by some demagogue at a speaker’s corner, or by reading some angry little pamphlet pushed into their hand by a wandering distributor of tracts. They convert through personal experience of Muslims.’ But Islamiots ‘haunt our mosques and shout at any form of disagreement, are either ignorant of Muslim history or dismiss it as a gigantic mistake….They are the elect, and all disagreement with them is blasphemy against God.’ (From ‘British and Muslim’ by Abdal Hakim Murad). They cannot, for a moment, understand that their own attitude IS blasphemy.
Take a side issue - the oppression of women in Islam. Who oppresses them? Not Islam, certainly - but not western or American men either. If Muslim women are ever oppressed, it is by men claiming to be Muslim who are getting the message completely wrong, either through ignorance or diabolical deception. The Islamiots.
We do not advocate a witch-hunt, but for Muslims themselves to accept honestly that once a person can be labelled by a sectarian title, then it follows they should admit openly that they have left the mainstream and become something else. It may be that the members of the UVF and the IRA are all Christians, but once they can be referred to by that particular label, it can easily be seen that they are not representatives of Christianity, the faith. If you are a Taleban, or a Deobandi, or an Ahmadiyyah, or a Hizbollahi, or a Bin Ladenist or any other title - then good luck to you, you are being open about what you are, but you must not claim to be representative of Islam, the faith.
The UK leader of a group called the Muhajirun apparently declared that ‘Muslims throughout the country and across the world are celebrating today.’ Do you see the point? This person boldly makes this statement, while Yasser Arafat gives his blood, 100-odd Muslim medics rush to give their services at the scene, and the spokesman for the Muslim Council of Great Britain declares on the contrary that ‘there are no adequate words to express our condemnation of this act of terrorism against innocent people. Those evil persons responsible will stand guilty and condemned for all eternity.’ Islamiots with various axes to grind may be pleased, but Muslims will not!
When people choose to kill themselves and take out over five thousand miscellaneous persons with them, this is hardly what Islam defines as Jihad and these people are not martyrs - a jihad is a struggle for the will of God in which any attack on the weak, the child, the female, the aged, the animal or the plant is totally forbidden. A martyr is someone who has been put to death for what they believe.
It is not the rights of a Muslim minority that are under threat - but the rights of the Muslims, the majority, Islam itself, the millions of believers, that are being hijacked by these murderers who dare to call themselves Muslims.
It is only the Devil who has benefitted from this Islamiot attack, if indeed it turns out so to be. What a triumph for the Devil if the response can be mass hatred of perfectly innocent genuine Muslims; offence and abuse to multitudes of people who perhaps ‘look a bit like Muslims’ to those who have no idea about such matters; more and more desperate young men in places where Muslims are oppressed who might have grown up to be good citizens of who-knows-what achievements of merit rushing off to commit suicide; and perhaps the USA over-running unfortunate innocent Afghanistanis in the grip of a three-year drought and on the verge of mass starvation this winter. The UN World Food Programme already reckons about 25% of the population will starve this winter - can you imagine a quarter of Americans or British facing this?
I read somewhere that ‘Islamist martyrs’ console themselves for their (totally forbidden in Islam) suicides and slaughter of over five thousand innocent people, by expecting the provision of 72 maidens to pleasure them in Paradise! I suppose the concept a mass rape of innocent girls (also totally forbidden in Islam!) would appeal as a fit reward to such killers. I cannot find any reference to support their twisted hopes in the Qur’an, although I dare say some ‘scholar’ somewhere will produce some sort of text backing up this extraordinary belief. I can only urge genuine seekers after knowledge to read what Allah actually stated in the Qur’an, and study any hadiths they encounter with the scholarly proviso that if they do not ring true with the spirit and message of the Qur’an, they are quite false.
May God bless and soothe all the souls of the newly departed, and grant their new state of being to be a blessed one, in which they perhaps may even somehow be able to help their bereaved loved ones not to grieve for ever, but to live in faith and hope. May the bereaved find courage to treasure their memories of the departed, and continue their own life-spans here on earth with patience, and faith that the Afterlife is Real, and that one day they will all, insha’Allah, meet again. None of us knows when the hour of our death will come, or where, or how - we must live every moment we are granted as best we can, and love those granted to us while we have the opportunity to do so, and not waste a second of our precious lives. Amen.
English convert to Islam, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, is the author of over thirty books on Islam and other subjects.