Reflections on RamadanEveryone must be in unity against terror [Archives:2005/885/Culture]

October 13 2005


The world has been living side by side with terror for hundreds of years. Even though actions may differ from country to country, all terrorist organizations aim at defenseless civilians and send their messages by way of these people. In the terrorist attack in Oklahoma in the USA 167 people were savagely slaughtered, 19 of them children. A fanatical Jew who opened a hail of fire on Muslims praying in a mosque in Palestine caused the deaths of 29 people. Thousands of people have lost their lives in attacks against Muslims in India over the years. Terrorist attacks both great and small have for years been perpetrated in France, Spain, the Philippines, Japan and Ireland.

One could go on. However, the entire world came face to face with terror in 2001. In the wake of the attacks against two major cities in the USA which led to the deaths and injuries of thousands of people, the concept of “terrorism” began to be debated once again. That was because that attack had been carried out at an unexpected time, against a country regarded as the world's only superpower, and in a totally unforeseen manner. The attack created an air of fear and panic all over the world, especially in America.

More than two years have since passed, during which time the USA has embarked on a major fight against terror. Many countries have lined up alongside America in this struggle, and lent their support to it. The series of bombings in Istanbul, just when it was thought that the forces of terror had been brought under control, again reminded people of terrorism's dark face: first synagogues, then the British Consulate, then the HSBC General Directorate building

The Saturday prayer, which had been performed for centuries, was interrupted by the bombs exploded on November 15th. Twenty-four people were killed in the explosions at the Neva Shalom synagogue at Beyoglu Kuledibi and the Beth Israel synagogue at Sisli, and 300 were injured. Dozens of more people lost their lives in the explosions at the British Consulate and the HSBC building, and hundreds were injured. Images similar to those which followed the September 11 attacks began appearing on our television screens. Ruined buildings, people fleeing in panic, burned out busses, corpses lying in the streets

The point we wish to emphasize in this article is the Islamic perspective on terror attacks and the killing of the innocent. All forms of terrorist attack are roundly condemned in Islam. According to the Qur'an, it is a great sin to kill an innocent person, and anyone who does so will suffer great torment in the Hereafter:

If someone kills another person)unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth)it is as if he had murdered all mankind. And if anyone gives life to another person, it is as if he had given life to all mankind. Our Messengers came to them with Clear Signs, but even after that, many of them committed outrages in the earth. (Qur'an, 5:32)

This verse equals the killing of one innocent to slaughtering all of humanity! Another verse expresses the importance that the faithful attach to life:

Those who do not appeal to any other deity besides God [alone]; nor kill any soul whom God has forbidden [them to] except with the right to do so; nor fornicate. Anyone who does so will incur a penalty. (Qur'an, 25:68)

In yet another verse, God issues the following commandment:

Say: “Come, and I will recite to you what your Lord has forbidden for you”: that you do not associate anything with Him; that you are good to your parents; that you do not kill your children because of poverty)We will provide for you and them; that you do not approach indecency)outward or inward; that you do not kill any person God has made inviolate)except with the right to do so. That is what He instructs you to do, so that hopefully, you will use your intellect. (Qur'an, 6:151)

Any Muslim who believes in God with a sincere heart, who scrupulously abides by His verses and fears suffering in the Hereafter, will avoid harming even one other person. He knows that the Lord of Infinite Justice will suitably reward him for all his deeds. In one of the hadiths, our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) listed the kinds of people who are not pleasing to God:

“Those who act cruelly and justly in the sacred lands, those who yearn for the ways of the ignorant, and those who wrongly shed human blood.” (Sahih Bukhari Hadith)

Another element we wish to concentrate on is the attack on devout Turkish Jews worshipping in their synagogues. Churches, synagogues and mosques are houses for the worship of God. It is a terrible crime in the sight of God to slaughter innocent people as they worship in their churches, synagogues or mosques. These are houses where the name of God is remembered, praised and recited. In the Qur'an, , God reveals that:

God guides to His Light whoever He wills and God makes metaphors for mankind and God has knowledge of all things. In houses which God has permitted to be built and in which His name is remembered, there are men who proclaim His glory morning and evening. (Qur'an, 24:35-36)

The people who go to those places are devout, prayerful people. All houses where the name of God is remembered are sacred in the eyes of Islam. Visitors to these houses may be Jews, Christians or Muslims. The important thing is that each one is a devout believer in God. A Muslim must respect and protect the holy places where the People of the Book worship God, and protect them. For Muslims, these places are precious because in these places, people, whether Jews or Christians, remember God. In the Qur'an, the places of worship of the People of the Book, ie. monasteries, churches and synagogues, are mentioned as places of worship protected by God.

I]f God had not driven some people back by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where God's name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. God will certainly help those who help Him)God is All-Strong, Almighty. (Qur'an, 22:40)

As a manifestation of his loyalty to God's commands, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was most careful not to destroy the holy places of the People of the Book. Such destruction means, in the first place, opposing God's commands. This aside, it means preventing people who have faith in God worshipping Him. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) promised the Christians, who were the other party to a peace agreement he made, that their churches would not be destroyed and that they would never be harmed. The tax (Jizya) agreements he made with Christians also guaranteed the safety of churches.

The first agreement made after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) that guaranteed the protection of the temples was a tax agreement Khalid bin al-Waleed signed with the leader of the city of Anat. Ibn Ishaq stated that those agreements made by Khalid bin al-Waleed were also approved by Abu Bakr and the three caliphs following him.1 This aside, Abu Bakr offered the same guarantees that had been offered to the people of Najran by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The Islamic societies that abided by Islamic morality after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) also paid special attention to this issue. Muslim leaders who adhered to the Qur'an and the Sunnah (the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)) respected the places of worship of non-Muslims in conquered countries and showed great tolerance to the clergy.

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1 Levent Ozturk, Asr-i Saadetten Hacli Seferlerine Kadar Islam Toplumunda H_ristiyanlar (Christians in the Islamic Society From the Blessed Period to the Crusades), Iz Yayincilik, Istanbul, 1998, p. 111.