Islam always seems to get a bad press. It is
hardly surprising, seeing what has made the news recently, that
Muslims are thought of as fanatical, cruel, vengeful, and full
of hatred for non-Muslims and in particular the West, especially
America. One impression given is that if people will not accept
Islam, they will be attacked by Muslim zealots who want to force
them either to accept it, or be wiped out. Our screens are full
of angry, bearded armed fanatics, and unless we happen to know
something about the politics of the wider world, they seem to
be determined to hate us and attack us for no good reason at all.
To many people in the west who contribute to charity and aid programmes
for underdeveloped countries or people facing disaster, it makes
them also seem very ungrateful and grossly unfair. The usual ignorant
response from people who are ignorant about real Islam and the
real situation, is to cry: 'We don't want them here - send them
all back home.'
The trouble comes in identifying 'we' and 'them'. I, of course,
am one of 'them', although I dare say if you looked at me without
hijab you might think I ought to be one of 'we'. Let's take me
as an example of a typical English Muslim. I am not brown or black,
am not an Arab or an Asian, and was born here, and am now an old-age
pensioner, having been the Head of a Religious Studies department
in some of the UK's toughest schools all my life. Since September
11th, and some articles in the papers, I have received anonymous
letters suggesting that 'I go back', or at least pick a third
world country of my choice and go and live there, if I am so keen
to defend abusers and terrorists. What has driven me mad about
these letters is that they never give a name and address that
I could reply to, for nearly all their objections to Islam are
objections I would heartily agree with - I would love to be able
to show them that when one takes a good look at all the criticisms
of Islam that crop up in the media - the violence, fanaticism,
bigotry and abuse - these are not actually criticisms of Islam
It is the old trap of judging a faith with all its ideals and
principles by the behaviour of some of its worst, or most eccentric,
or most biased devotees. It is rather like judging Christianity
by the behaviour of certain individuals such as IRA and UFF terrorists
because they are Roman Catholics or extreme Protestants. The problem
for Islam is that Muslims - like Christians - are not all the
same, and some do indeed choose to interpret the Qur'an and hadith
in ways that horrify the mainstream. They follow a weird type
of Islam promoted by certain bigots who really seem to enjoy embarrassing
all other Muslims with their narrowness of vision and crudeness
of sentiment. Being totally convinced and fervent in their own
beliefs, they are quite unconcerned that many of their preoccupations
and statements that misinterpret Islam only serve to make all
Muslims look irrational, hateful, oppressive, abusive and downright
odd. It all gives Islam a very bad name.
Just as objectionable for us Muslims is that most of their bigotry
is directed at fellow Muslims! Ever heard of the saying: 'Divide,
and conquer'? If Muslims become divided, who is it that will conquer,
if not Shaytan? Being told what to do, and having it forced upon
us, when we are not convinced that it is right or right for us,
is extremely negative and divisive. Allah actually taught us most
clearly that there was to be no compulsion in religion. Surah
2:256 is the most forthright: 'There is no compulsion in religion.
True guidance has been made clearly distinct from error, and whoever
(chooses it and) renounces the forces of Satan and believes in
Allah has grasped the firm hand-hold that will never break. Allah,
Whose hand-hold you have grasped, hears all and knows all.'
As it happens, we Muslims do have the duty to point out when we
think something is wrong, and to explain our point of view in
such a way as will convince - but this pointing out is to be done
without arrogance or sense of superiority, and our explanations
are to be given in the best possible way, polite and gentle ways
that will not drive people away from Allah, but will hopefully
There are two highly unpleasant characteristics about extremists
in any religion. The first is that these fanatics firmly believe
that what they believe is right, and that what everyone else believes
is inadequate, or just plain wrong. This shows up in the practice
known as takfir - accusing all those who do not agree with
their interpretation - even people known to be practising Muslims
- of being kuffar. The second is that fanatics claim they
do what they do because God wills it, and being devout worshippers
of God, they are prepared to die for Him should He demand it.
This is a gross and arrogant claim - God wills nothing of the
History has thrown up hundreds of misguided religious people who
think they are doing the will of God, when it is more likely the
will of the Devil. Think of the example of the Yorkshire Ripper,
who claimed that he thought he was doing God's will by cutting
the throats of prostitutes. There have been cases of Islamic extremists
committing exactly the same crime (and even worse, for some of
the girls killed by Muslims were actually innocent of any sexual
activity at all, and were no more than family members, daughters
or sisters, who had simply spoken to a man in public and been
informed on). Did the Prophet (pbuh) ever meet a prostitute, and
if so, how did he react? He did indeed, and recommended that this
particular lady was worthy of Paradise, in spite of her profession,
because she had been kind to a cat; he compared her to another
woman, one of prayer and piety, but who had starved her animal,
and would therefore face punishment from the God of Compassion
who sees everything, and judges everything.
What extremists do is to project their own hatreds or interpretations
on to what they dislike, and ignoring the compassion of Allah
and His Prophet (pbuh). And in so doing, although they may be
highly religious people, they unfortunately take on the role of
aggressors not of missionaries for the faith (which is what they
think they are!). No-one doubts their sincerity or fervour, but
something has happened to their characters which makes them blind
to other highly important principles in Islam which have to be
taken most seriously.
Islam is not a religion of war but a religion of peace. It is
true that Muslims sometimes have to take up arms and do battle,
just as Christians sometimes have to do likewise, but it is not
a religion of war. It is true that Jesus never ever fought in
battles, and taught people to turn the other cheek, whereas the
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was involved in fighting. However, when
we make a fair comparison, we see that Jesus died when he was
in his early thirties, and had not been dragged into confrontation
with the major enemy of the time - the Romans. If what Christians
believe is true, the first time he actually challenged them publicly,
they arrested him and he was dead by the end of the week.
The Prophet (pbuh) on the other hand, lived to be 63, and was
involved in ruling a kingdom and acting in its defence. Some people
think he was always fighting, but actually, if you tot up all
the days he was occupied 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 severely to task for it) the
captives and enemy wounded were treated with compassion and decency.
None of this warfare was started by him, or was aggressive, or
for nationalistic or political reasons, or out of personal ambition.
Even when the Prophet (pbuh) a few months before his 60th birthday
gave his army permission to capture Makkah, the only people slain
were a group that attacked his general Khalid, and only ten of
his enemies were condemned to death for previous crimes which
had legally earned them the death penalty (and not simply because
they had been captured in war), and only four of these were actually
The Prophet's (pbuh) warfare began when he was over 50, after
he and his companions had migrated away from the hostility of
Makkah and gone to Madinah. In spite of this move away from their
old homes, the Makkans were still not appeased and were still
working on ways and means to destroy them and wipe out Islam.
The Prophet (pbuh) had only been in Madinah a couple of years
when his guiding angel revealed something that proved to be a
turning point for him. He had always taught that he himself and
all those who accepted the faith should bear the persecutions
they faced with fortitude and patience, and not strike back. Now,
in Madinah, he received permission for Muslims to defend the faith
and themselves by force of arms if necessary. The words were:
'Leave is given to those who fight because they have been wronged
- and surely God is able to help them - those who were expelled
from their homes without justification, simply for saying 'Our
Lord is God' (Surah 22:40-41).
If the call to arms was the only way to satisfactorily put an
end to the opposition and persecution from Makkah, then so be
it. Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defence,
in defence of religion, or on the part of those who have been
expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules
of combat that include prohibitions against harming civilians
and against destroying crops, trees and livestock. As Muslims
see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good people
were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause.
If warfare became necessary, it was only to be defensive, as a
result of provocation, and to last only until the enemy agreed
to make peace terms: 'Fight in God's cause against those who
wage war against you, but do not commit aggression - for, verily,
God does not love aggressors.' (Surah 2: 190).
'And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression
and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease
let there be no more hostility except to those who (continue to)
practice oppression.' (Surah 2.193).
"If they seek peace, then you must seek peace. And trust
in God for He is the One that hears and knows all things."
Allah told His Messenger to value human life above all else: 'Who
so ever kills a human being for other than murder or corruption
in the earth, it shall be as if he has killed all of humanity,
and who so ever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had
saved the life of all of humanity.' (Surah 5:32).
There was, however, no question of Muslims being given permission
to go out to harass or attack people, or try to co-erce non-believers
into accepting their faith.
Allah's words in the Qur'an were quite clear: 'There should
be no coercion in the matter of faith' (Surah 2:256), and
Surah 10:99-100: 'If it had been the Lord's Will for all who are
on earth to believe, they would have believed! How do you, therefore,
think you can compel people to believe against their will? No
soul can believe except by the Will of Allah, and He Himself places
doubt (or obscurity) in the minds of those who do not wish to
'Proclaim: This is the Truth from your Lord; whoever will believe,
let them believe, and whoever will, let them disbelieve.'
Co-ercion is, and always has been, totally contrary to the will
of God, and abhorrent to the nature of the gentle and peace-loving
Muhammad (pbuh). The word for 'striving' or 'struggle' is 'jihad'.
It applies to the whole of a person's daily striving to do the
will of God by living in the best possible way, and only becomes
connected with military activity when force becomes necessary
to defend the oppressed and to preserve the True Faith in times
of persecution. At those times a Muslim would be shamed if he
or she did not rush to the defence of the right. There is no question
of jihad meaning innocent people being attacked, or of any people
being coerced into becoming Muslims by force - a logical impossibility
in any case, for Islam is a matter of the heart and of personal
conviction. People cannot be forced to believe something they
do not believe, any more than Muslims can be forced to pray or
fast, or perform any of the compulsory acts, or be unselfish,
or courageous, or truthful, or compassionate, or generous. If
they choose to do so, out of love for Allah, then that is their
wonderful dedication and service to Him, and nothing to do with
When he later sent letters to Jewish and Christian rulers the
Blessed Prophet put it very clearly in writing that: 'If Jews
or Christians become Muslims, they are then believers with rights
and obligations. But those who (decide to) hold fast to their
(old) religion are not to be turned from it. They (only) must
pay the jizya (poll tax for rights of protection).' Ibn Ishaq
p.643. As regarded the synagogues and churches of the People of
the Book, far from Muslims being asked to attack them it became
a Muslim duty to protect them, for these were also places of worship
of the One True God.
'If God did not sometimes drive back some people by means of
others, many cloisters and churches, oratories and mosques where
God's name is called upon, would have been destroyed.' (Surah
All his life the Prophet (pbuh) had hated hostility, and had spent
so much of the less-public side of his mission healing rifts,
calming down opponents and putting things right, solving disputes
and healing marriages. Permission to fight was only granted for
one reason - the same that had been the impetus for the order
of chivalry that he joined in his youth, the Hilf al-Fudul - that
no matter how reluctant one might be to get involved, it was cowardly
and dishonourable to see injustice and tyranny and do nothing
about it. The necessary stand for justice and freedom against
the bitter hostility of oppressors, tyrants and aggressive bullies
is always a matter that one might be proud of and not ashamed.
The state of war with the Quraysh of Makkah and their allies arose
solely because of the Quraysh persecution of Muslims which had
driven them to abandon their homes, status, property and in many
cases, hopes of inheritance. The Muslims did not seek this warfare,
but the Quraysh had brought it upon themselves.
The Prophet's (pbuh) angel stated: 'Why should you not fight
in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated
and oppressed? Men, women and children, whose cry is: Our Lord,
rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors, and raise
for us one who will protect and help us.' (Surah 4:75).
He also stated: 'O believers - be seekers after justice; witnesses
for God, even though it be against yourselves or your parents
or kinsmen, or whether the person be rich or poor, for Allah is
the protector of both. So do not follow the base desires of your
hearts lest you become 'bent'; for if you distort or decline
to do justice, truly (you will not be able to hide it from) Allah
(who) knows very well all that you do!' Surah 4:135.
The Prophet (pbuh) was calm but firm. 'Anyone who walks with an
oppressor to strengthen him, knowing that he is an oppressor,
has gone forth from Islam.' He taught that 'he who sees something
abominable should strive to alter it with the help of his own
hand; if he has not strength enough to do that, then he should
do it with his tongue; and if he has not the strength enough for
that, then he should at least abhor it in his heart.' Muslim 16.
When Allah's Messenger (pbuh) appointed anyone as leader of an
army his instructions were clear: 'Fight in the name of Allah
and in the cause of Allah. Fight against those who do not believe
in Allah. But wage your war in a holy manner: do not embezzle
the spoils, do not break your pledge, do not mutilate (the dead)
and do not kill the children. When you are faced with enemies
who are non-believers, (before any warfare you must first) offer
them three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these,
then you also must accept it, and restrain yourself from doing
them any harm.
The first is to invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond
to this positively, then accept it from them and do not fight
against them. Also explain that if they then leave their nonbelieving
communities and go to a place of believers, they shall immediately
share all the privileges and also the obligations of the others
who have done this. If they do not wish to migrate, then tell
them that they will have the status of Muslims who are not living
in a Muslim society (like ourselves in the UK), and will be subjected
to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not
receive any share from the spoils of war or tributes unless they
actually join with the Muslims (against the nonbelievers). However,
if they refuse to accept Islam altogether, demand from them the
community tax. If they agree to pay (for the privileges it will
bring them), then accept this decision and hold your hand. Only
if they refuse to pay the tax, must you seek Allah's help and
fight them.' Muslim 804.
These are just some of the texts that the extremists have picked
out and twisted to justify their terrorist campaigns. They point
out the clear command to do something about evil, but make full
use of the legal loophole here to identify evil how they will,
and ignore Allah's desire to spread peace and goodwill and compassion,
and temper justice with mercy.
Here's an account of what happened to Sheikh Suhayl when he was
captured, one of the Prophet's (pbuh) bitter and outspoken enemies.
He was a man who had a cleft lower lip. Umar threatened to pull
out his two front teeth too - 'Then his tongue will hang out,
and he will never be able to speak against you again!' The Prophet
(pbuh) was not pleased, rebuked the future Caliph, and gave a
reply which was so revealing of his modest, compassionate and
wise nature. 'I will certainly not mutilate him,' he replied,
'for if I did, surely Allah would mutilate me, even though I am
His Messenger. Think - it may be that one day this man will make
a stand for which you will not be able to find fault with him.'
Suhayl did indeed become a Muslim hero, and died a Muslim martyr
in the Battle of Yarmuk. The Prophet's (pbuh) forward-looking
and generous attitude is an important sunnah for those zealots
who regard non-Muslim territories (such as 'the West' - whatever
that may mean) as Dar al-Harb (House of War), full of enemies
who need conquering. The Prophet (pbuh), on the contrary, saw
such territories as Dar al-Dawah (House of Missionary Preaching),
full of potential converts.
It should not need saying that the Prophet (pbuh) never suffered
from the malicious desire to attack enemies for revenge or to
loot people for their wealth, or to set warfare in motion in order
to extend his frontiers. 'He is not one of us who fights the cause
of nationalism,' said the Prophet (pbuh). 'He is not one of us
who dies in the cause of nationalism. Nationalism means helping
your people in unjust causes.'
Once he was asked whether anyone fighting to display courage,
or out of a sense of family or tribal prestige, or in order to
show off skills, or for the sake of spoils, or any other worldly
motive could be considered as fighting for the cause of Allah.
'Certainly not,' he replied. 'One can only be considered as fighting
for the cause of Allah when it is a question of putting an end
to the tyranny of unbelievers when they are actively trying to
suppress Islam.' Those who fought for any other motive disentitled
themselves to any spiritual reward. Hot-blooded young men often
had a desire for glory gained through various kinds of military
activity, but tended to ignore the heartbreak and waste of life
and resources. In Islam, warfare was regarded as a destructive
activity, something to be taken up only in the last resort. It
was a 'conflagration', which those on the side of Allah would
struggle to put out. Surah 5:65 - 'Whenever they kindle a fire
for war, Allah extinguishes it. They strive to create disorder
on the earth, but Allah loves not those who create disorder.'
Muslim warfare - as all other aspects of Muslim life - is to be
conducted with honour, and every effort made to limit its horror
and bring hostilities to a close as swiftly as possible. The Prophet
(pbuh) utterly forbade torture, killing the weak - women, children
or old people, or cruelty to prisoners. Muslims were not to kill
the wounded, hunt down fleeing enemies, or kill captives. Savage
practices from pre-Islamic times such as mutilating the enemy
dead or torturing prisoners-of-war were prohibited altogether.
Of course, the Prophet (pbuh) did not always get the chance to
control all the actions taken by every individual on his side.
Sometimes women and children or prisoners were harmed or killed,
but the Prophet (pbuh) always made it very clear that he totally
disapproved, and that all prisoners were to be treated with compassion
and respect. He always did his best to repair any damage caused,
or to settle blood-money.
Whatever he might have felt personally, it was his duty as one
submitted to Allah not only to protect those who had entrusted
themselves to his leadership, but also to be kind and compassionate
to the defeated. 'It is part of the mercy of Allah that you
deal gently with them. If you are severe and hard-hearted, they
will break way from you; so pass over their faults and ask for
God's forgiveness for them.' (Surah 3:159)
Muslims were urged not to let personal animosity interfere with
proper justice: 'O believers! Stand out firmly for Allah, as
witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others towards
you make you swerve towards wrong and depart from justice. Deal
justly, that is next to piety; and fear Allah, for lo! Allah knows
very well all that you do.' (Surah 5:9).
The word jihad does not necessarily even imply military action.
The Prophet said, "Any person who looks after widows or the
destitute is a mujahid (warrior) who fights for Allah's Cause,
or the equivalent of one who performs prayers all the night and
fasts all the day." Bukhari 7.265.
The definition of a jihad according to Qur'an and sunnah is a
struggle or an effort that is exerted in some undertaking in order
to attain some end or result. The latter can be a personal one,
or if it is 'fi sabi'l illah' - it means it is in the cause of
Allah. A personal jihad for one's own cause might involve some
form of hard work to accomplish something of value - such as learning
for an exam, or trying to eliminate some unwanted personal habit
such as smoking or obesity. A jihad or struggle in the cause of
Allah does not really mean fighting, but trying as hard as one
can to do His will, the unceasing effort to counter the activities
and influence of Shaytan in the form of wrong beliefs, ideas,
values etc that are inflicted on us through thoughts, words and
deeds. Things like racism, abuse, cruelty, selfishness, laziness,
miserliness, aggression, and oppression.
While the true struggle or jihad 'with the sword' is a great act
of unselfishness and courage on occasions when it has become necessary
to defend the innocent and defenceless from unjustified aggression,
especially, of course, if it requires the mujahid to sacrifice
his or her own life - the jihad 'with the word' (dawah) to spread
the teachings and values of Islam really has greater significance
in practical terms. Jihad through the word was the first command
to the Prophet (pbuh), and he kept up doing it throughout the
rest of his life until he had successfully transformed a large
population of initially ignorant people into a wonderful community.
Many people are trapped in ignorance. It seems to me that ignorance,
followed by arrogance and lack of compassion lies at the root
of all evil, the causes of all corruption, and the sources of
all suffering. The opposite of ignorance has to be knowledge (ilm)
that gives rise to wisdom (hiqmah). This jihad is therefore an
act of devotion with the same significance as the Five Pillars
of Islam, so much so that it is often called the Sixth Pillar.
'Striving after knowledge,' said the Prophet (pbuh), 'is the sacred
duty of every man and woman.' (Ibn Majah).
And even more important than the jihad with the word is the inner
jihad, the jihad al-akhbar - or the Major Battle, the struggle
with one's own self to give up bad things, and practise the pillars
of Islam - the bearing of witness, prayer, fasting, charity and
hajj, even if it is a tough and difficult struggle - and do one's
utmost to develop a kind, compassionate, unselfish and generous
way of life. One of Ali's sayings was: 'To fight against one's
desires is the greatest of all fights. The strongest amongst you
are those who conquer their own selves.' Actions usually speak
louder than words. If we do not practise what we preach, people
soon notice that we are hypocrites. This Islamic way of life cannot
be forced on people; no-one can be compelled to be kind, generous,
prayerful and so on.
The Prophet (pbuh) was never told to force people to believe anything,
or to condemn them, or be nasty to them, or fight them if they
did not agree - so long as they kept the peace.
Allah told him: 'Your duty is only to convey the message.' 3.20,
'The delivery of the message is the duty for you, and the judgement
is the duty for Us.' 13.40.
'Even if they turn away, you are responsible only for the delivery
of the clear message.' 16.82.
In fact, it is impossible to force anyone to believe anything
without education. However, if you present the evidence, show
the results and the consequences of actions, present the proofs
- then some people will choose to believe. If certain Muslims
are keeping the Five Pillars just because they have been told
to, or are scared not to, they have not really arrived at the
stage of belief. They may be trying hard, and being good, but
Faith is not complete when it is followed blindly or accepted
unquestioningly. If you try to force a belief on someone, the
attempt is really ridiculous, and can only work through tyranny
and aggression, and the fear of the person forced of the consequences
of upsetting you.
The way of dawah in Islam is to make as clear as possible the
evidences and proofs - then leave people to believe or disbelieve
what they want. They have their rights. They may not be ready
to believe or follow the Muslim way. Nowhere does Allah give permission
to force or kill people who refuse to accept the message. Let
us see His word again: 'To deliver the message is the duty for
you, and to judge is the duty for Us.' 13.40. Allah is the Judge.
It is for Him to decide, in ultimate terms, what the fate will
be of those who reject the message. It is up to us to show that
everything in the message is good, and promotes goodness and happiness
and progress and peace. Remember, Allah never asked anyone to
promote anything that was evil, or harmful, or hurtful verbally,
physically, mentally or morally. The message was and is all good.
Bigotry is the sign of ignorance and lack of ethical sensitivity.
Moderate Muslims must rebel against the ignorance of intolerance.
We cannot force the extremists to shut up, for censorship is not
Islamic. But each time bigots speak out, moderate and responsible
voices must immediately condemn them. Let them know that those
who espouse intolerance will never be our heroes.
I suppose that one good thing that might come out of last year's
horror could be that people can begin to realise that the word
'Muslim' does not just equal 'Arab' or 'Pakistani'. It is a faith,
not a nationality. There are multitudes of Muslims of all nationalities
from Aborigine to Eskimo. Many brown people are not Muslims -
they could be Hindu or Buddhist or no religion at all, or, like
Dr Nazir Ali, a candidate for the job of next Archbishop of Canterbury.
Some Arabs are not Muslims at all - not least the many Palestinian
Christians, such as the PLO spokesperson Dr Hanan Ashrawi and
the families of Bethlehem. Some who get labelled as 'Islamic extremists'
are actually Christians - for example, the Palestinian group Hamas
was founded and led by a Christian, George Habash. 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. It is rapidly becoming
a teaching centre for Islam. The USA was just about to issue its
first postage stamp commemorating Eid! There are now 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. And in the European
countries Islam is making enormous strides too, especially in
the UK. I believe the UK is the only country in the world where
non-religious examination boards have set up the opportunity for
any person to study Islam to GCSE, AS/A level and degree level,
and where a non-religious government has paid me personally the
honour of ordering a copy of my dawah book 'What Every Christian
Should know about Islam' to hand to all the MPs!
However, 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 not the terrorists but the police trying to protect
the tourists, the ambulence 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.
They were also surprised when asking me about the Muslim leaders
and people of influence in this country. They were thinking in
terms of Asian Muslim Imams coming here as experts in the Qur'an
to run local mosques, who might possibly not even speak English;
I was thinking more of the 'Muslims in suits and white coats'
- the brain surgeons and medical and scientific experts we see
so often on the TV - who the general public might not even realise
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', and they usually
have the personality to browbeat others into silence, especially
when they come in gangs rather than individuals.
To quote a friend: 'People do not accept 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 who are living in the right way.' But extremists
'haunt our mosques and shout at any form of disagreement, and
are either ignorant of Muslim history or dismiss it as a gigantic
.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 this
attitude is actually blasphemy.
Their brand of Islam is not Islam, and it is high time for them
to be properly labelled for what they are. 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 might even be a kind of 'fifth
column' of enemies to the faith.
We Muslims should 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 Ulster Volunteer Force or the
IRA are all Christians, but once they can be referred to by their
particular label, then that is what they represent, and not Christianity,
the faith. If you are a Taliban, or a Deobandi, or an Ahmadiyyah,
or a Hizb ut-Tahriri, or a Salafi, or a Sufi, or a Hizbollahi,
or al-Qaeda or 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. A sectarian may
be a fervent believer, but is no more representative of Islam
than the equally fervent believers of the Ku Klux Klan or other
extreme sects represent Christianity.
The UK leader of a group called the Muhajirun apparently declared
after September 11th that 'Muslims throughout the country and
across the world are celebrating today.' Do you see the point?
That person boldly made that statement, claiming to speak for
Islam, while Yasser Arafat gave his own blood, 100-odd Muslim
medics rushed to give their services at the scene, and the spokesman
for the Muslim Council of Great Britain declared 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.'
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.
May God bless you all, wasalaam, Ruqaiyyah.
Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood Email: Ruqaiyyah@aol.com