Some persons seeming as Muslims use vehicles loaded with bombs and kill innocent people or organize similar attacks on places of worship.
By Muhammad Fethullah Gulen
Question: Can murders, suicide attacks, and other violent acts that are committed by some under the guise of religion be explained solely with reference to the manipulation by powers that be? What are the reasons for such acts taking place in Muslim regions as well?
Answer: Some persons seeming as Muslims use vehicles loaded with bombs and kill innocent people or organize similar attacks on places of worship. This has nothing to do with the Qur’an, the Tradition of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, or being Muslim. Tragically, such events take place today, which truly embarrasses and grieves believers. In despite of the fact that there are stealthy and organized manipulations by foreign powers, such terrorist events committed under the pretense of religion, which also stem from misunderstanding and misinterpreting Islam, are even worse than the attacks of the Crusaders and Mongolians on the Muslim world. They cause much greater damage because such wrongdoings and murders tar the face of Islam.
Bravery and Courage misunderstood
In my humble opinion, the foremost of the misunderstandings and misinterpretations that causes such events in our time concerns misguided bravery and courage. A believing person must have courage in one’s heart, but with that there must be wisdom and insight as well; believers need to take a sound stance that will build a feeling of assurance and trust in others. They must always act in compliance with the essential principles of religion, no matter what the circumstances are and never forget that lawful ends must only be sought through lawful means. To state it differently, true bravery and courage means that Muslims take a sound stance, having the courage of their convictions and defending their values, always standing on the ground of righteousness, and forbearing every kind of trouble for this sake, even in the face of unfair treatment.
When we view the time of the Prophet in this respect, we see that for thirteen years the Pride of Humanity and the believers who supported him endured so many things most of us cannot do—so much so that most times, the Companions with tearful eyes considered the infinite power of God Almighty expectantly while they turned their gaze toward the blessed Messenger He sent as a mercy to humanity, and then to what was being done to those who followed the Divine message. Although they could not comprehend the wisdom of the events before them, they still said, “You are so Clement O our Lord!” One day, when the Pride of Humanity prostrated himself before the Ka’ba, those who were fixed on denial and ignorance placed the contents of a camel’s stomach on his head.1 Those fierce oppressors stoned him so many times, but he never invoked curses on them to receive a hail of stones in return.
On the contrary, he raised his hands to pray for those who stoned him, broke his teeth, wounded his cheek, and caused his head to be covered in blood: “My God, grant guidance to my people, for they do not know!”2 These words can be paraphrased as follows: “Had they known me, my mission, how I feel agonized over saving them, they would not do so.” The Qur’an describes the state of God’s Messenger concerning the misguided ones as follows: “Yet, it may be that you (O Muhammad) will torment yourself to death with grief, following after them, if they do not believe in this Message” (al-Kahf 18:6). The Pride of Humanity, who conquered hearts, softened them, guided everybody toward true humanity, making them meet the humanity in their essence, did not respond in the same way to the rage of those who showed animosity to him, let alone resorting to any of the outrage and atrocities that we witness in our time. Even for Abu Jahl, a sworn enemy against him for fifteen years, he did not invoke any curses.
Thanks to this attitude, there came a time when Abu Jahl’s daughter Juwayriya and his son Ikrima embraced Islam, and they lived a dizzyingly exemplary life afterwards. During the Battle of Yarmuk against the Romans, Ikrima was severely wounded and was being taken to a tent. He suddenly straightened and stated that it was such an honor that the Messenger of God personally came (he had a vision of the Prophet). I find it difficult to explain the vertical spiritual progress he made despite knowing the Prophet as a Muslim only for two years. How did he ascend to such horizons of knowledge of God? How did he realize such a great inward deepening? Is it possible that the Pride of Humanity did not treat even his enemies with clemency and wisdom? Actually, had the Messenger of God made the slightest gesture towards fighting in those early days, his followers, those valiant heroes of the time, would have fought until their last blood was spilled.
However, they preferred to show patience in spite of the ordeals they went through in shackles. They did not show any extreme reaction based on personal feelings to harm their trustworthiness, and such monstrous acts as in our day were out of the question, because the path of the Prophet of Compassion was that of conquering hearts and persuading minds in order to let them attain eternal bliss. And this requires behaving with wisdom, compassion, and mildness. To reiterate, such monstrous ways of acting can never be compatible with the Qur’an, Sunnah, and the Pride of Humanity’s manner, conduct, and way of thinking.
It is not possible to Sow Hatred and Reap Love
It is possible to give more examples of the Prophet’s Companions’ peaceful conduct. After the conquest of Jerusalem, the Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab set forth from Medina with his servant in order to take the keys of the city. When his clothes were torn on the way, he patched them with the needle and cotton he carried for such a case.
With his belief that he did not have the right to take two animals from the state treasury, he traveled with only one camel, taking turns riding it with his servant. In the vicinity of Jerusalem, it was the servant’s turn to ride the animal. His servant tried to insist that Caliph Umar ride the animal while entering the city, but Umar refused since it was his servant’s turn, so the servant rode the camel as they approached the city.
The Jewish and Christian spiritual leaders met them at the entrance of the city, believing that Umar, who was walking, was the servant. Upon learning that Umar was the caliph, these spiritual leaders showed him great respect, saying that they had already seen in their scriptures the properties of the person to whom they would deliver the keys of the city, and so the Patriarch Sophronios willingly handed him the keys. When Umar said it was time for the Prayer, they said, “O Caliph of Believers, you can offer your Prayer in a corner of our place of worship.” But Umar said, “If the caliph of believers offers his Prayers at your place of worship, then Muslims will wish to turn that place into a mosque as a memory, which will be a violation of your rights,” so he offered his Prayers on some rocks. This was his high degree of sensitivity at showing respect to others’ places of worship. Look at our master Umar’s respect for other religions’ places of worship, and compare it to the ugly atrocities committed today—so called—in the name of Islam.
Another example to shed light on our subject concerns the time of Ali ibn Abi Talib when strife was boiling over, similar to now. Caliph Ali’s supporters informed him that the Kharijites had gathered in the Harura region and advised him to launch a preemptive strike before his enemies could attack. Ali ibn Abi Talib, the courageous lion of battlefields whom the Prophet rendered the master of saints, replied with an answer illustrating his common sense: “How do we know that they will attack us?” Can we see how righteous his approach was? In my opinion, real heroism does not lie in a display of manly power and swordsmanship, but in giving one’s willpower its due and showing such self-restraint at a time when arrogance is likely to sound off like drums, repeating the word “I.” True heroism and courage is being able to ask at such a critical point, “How do we know they will attack us?” By taking this consideration as a basis, Imam Abu Hanifa ruled that it is not lawful to march upon a group of people if their intention is not known.3 Is not what really matters in acting with a wise strategy and trying to solve problems with minimum loss? When the conquest of Mecca is considered, God’s Messenger took all necessary precautions for the sake of preventing bloodshed, not inflaming animosity, and settling problems with mildness.
Excepting one or two attempts of resistance, the Pride of Humanity entered Mecca, whose people mostly consisted of polytheists, without bloodshed and causing loss of lives. And after entering Mecca, he asked the people, “How do you expect me to treat you?” The polytheists who already knew him well since his childhood replied that he was the noble son of a noble one. The Prophet replied, “No reproach this day shall be on you. May God forgive you.”4 Like the breath of Gabriel, the words he uttered resonated so much in the souls of the people of Mecca who had been polytheists that they finally understood how misguided they had been and became a halo around the Prophet two days later.
Even his most entrenched enemies softened and accepted his message. Mild behavior and genuine kindness attracted them to Islam’s atmosphere of goodness. You reap the harvest that you sow. If one wishes to reap a harvest of goodness, one must always sow seeds of goodness everywhere. (To be continued).
The writer is a Turkish Muslim cleric and author
The grave consequence of murders committed under the guise of religion