Victimization of the Innocent, the Conduct of War and the error of Seeking
"Victimization of the Innocent," the "Conduct of War" and the error of "Seeking World Dominance"
Address by: Imam W Deen Mohammed March 26, 1995 @ North Shore Congregational Israel Synagogue
We thank God for this day, this occasion. We ask His guidance and His blessings on our efforts. We ask that He increase this desire in us for this meeting and for future meetings and bring us closer together as religious communities, Muslims and Jews. Amen.
We begin with Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem; with God's Name, The Merciful Benefactor, The Merciful Redeemer. We salute the last Prophet of Islam, Muhammed to whom the Qur'an was revealed with the traditional salute, the prayers and peace be upon him and what follows that traditional salute.
It is a great honor to us, to my community, to my self and my family to be with you on this occasion as your speaker along with the Honorable Rabbi Alexander Schindler and the other distinguished persons who have joined us here from both the Jewish community and the Muslim community. Many that I know personally from the Muslim community are very honorable and distinguished peoplemembers of my particular association, mostly African American, although we have some non-African Americans among us. But there are those who have come to the United" States from abroad from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and have distinguished themselves here as scholars in Islam. It is a great pleasure to see the Imams of our community joining us here for this occasion.
Islam is first the religion of peace. God says to .us in our Holy Book that God prefers the religion of Islam. Let it be our religion. Islam for us is the blueprint for our whole life. Islam is a way of life; Islam is also our guidance. God says He gave the Qur'an to us for guidance, for the God fearing or the regardful. We also know that Muhammed the Prophet of Islam is the model leader for us. He has been described by his wife, the Lady A'isha (May God be pleased with her) as the Qur'an living among us, our Bible our Holy Book living among us.
God Most High, in saying that He has preferred the religion Islam for us and also giving the description to the religion Islam as the "religion of guidance," this tells me that Islam is our leader. Muhammed and the Qur'an are the focus for that leadership. The Qur'an is the most valid and the most forceful leader in our life. Second to the Qur'an is our Prophet. Without him, we would not know how to do our prayers. We would not know many things in our religion. It is only through him that we were able to know that. God made him our leader and our example to show us how to practice Islam and how to live Islam.
Our Prophet is pictured by different authors, non-Muslims and also some Muslims in facets of his total life or his total character. This may cause us to mistake him for the wrong kind of person or the wrong kind of leader. If we focus on the Prophet as a military leader responsible for the army of Islam during his lifetime (May God grant him all the blessings, prayers and peace be on him), if we focus on that particular role we may miss the real Muhammed. If we focus on him as a man trying to regulate the material interest of his people, again we may miss the total man.
It is said of him, our Prophet, and he himself has said that he was sent to us expressly to guide us to good character. We believe, the followers of the Prophet, that he is the model of excellence in terms of human character for all of us. Not only that, we believe that he is the total person, the complete man. A family man, a preacher of the religion, responsible for the government, a businessman, he is seen in all the important roles for man in his society. God says that he is the most excellent model for any who believe in God and the Last Day.
I want to go to a concern that has been with me since I have matured enough in my mind to understand some of what was happening in the political world. That is the issue of recognition for the state of Israel or homeland for the Jews. In my opinion, studying the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet Muhammed, this was never an issue with our Prophet. Jews lived in Medina , the city of our Prophet; it is also called the city of enlightenment. They were protected as citizens of Medina with the same protection, the full' protection that was accorded other citizens of Medina . The Prophet mandated that the Jews of Medina, under the new government of Islam, would continue to practice the irreligion as they had practiced it before the establishment of the new government of Islam.
We know that that good relationship that obviously that mandate intended to serve did not continue. Problems occurred that we may say were of a financial - nature and political nature, rather than of a religious nature. It was such problems that caused that good relationship with the Jews of Medina to be lost. I'm not at all suggesting that because there was not an issue at that time, we don't have anything to stand upon to address this issue. Rather, it is right for Muslims to support a homeland in their midst for the Jewish people.
We are aware of the history of the Jews and the meaning of the territory to you. But l would rather point to something in the history and the language of Islam that I think should be given attention. That is, first of all our religion doesn't recognize any human being as the owner of any part of the earth, only as trustees under God. We believe that God is always the owner of every bit of the earth. God is the Absolute Owner, and our possession is temporary. In Islam we can lose possession of our land, if we don't respect it, if we neglect it. In Islamic Law, we can lose possession of our land. The law recognizes your right to have temporary possession of it and to utilize it for your needs according to Islamic law, as long as you respect the land.
I believe that Islam has recognized something here that civilized man has always known or has always stood upon. We know that the civilized will go in and take property and land from the savaged who are ignorant and don't know how to develop the land or who don't know how to make it useful for themselves or for humanity. And we have tolerated that. We haven't condemned man from taking over territories to better a situation for the lot of mankind.
This is not to say that we don't have sympathy for those who are removed from their land, those who are crushed to the ground or defeated miserably. Certainly we have sympathy and we have love in our hearts for them. But if we would just let anybody and everybody have any land and as much land as they want, that wouldn't be serving the purpose for which God has created the world and us.
I'm not to question the right of the Palestinians to their land. That is to be discussed by the Palestinians and by the Israelis, the main parties in the conflict and the main parties to resolve the conflict. We are happy "to see that progress is being made. We know that many Muslims are still dissatisfied with the peace agreement so far. Many Muslim scholars, many Muslim Imams are not very pleased with what has been done so far. We are happy to see that more sincere effort is being made on both sides to have a better situation for the Israelis and for the Palestinians in the area. And it is also for us, because we suffer when they suffer. All of us of the world suffer when they suffer.
Religion has been revealed to men of God, It requires of man that he order his life and that he has a sense of government. It is intended to be for man a portable government. I take my Islam with me. I know the rules of my religion that apply to my life as a person, as a follower. It governs my life. I take it with me to my home and my family accepts it. We have an Islamic government in our home. As much as we can, we have an Islamic government in our congregation, the Mosque that we attend. We encourage the members of the congregation to carry Islamic government with them wherever they go, and. as much as they can to exercise Islamic government and support Islamic government in their lives wherever they are. I believe that Judaism is no different. You don't necessarily have to have a particular geography for an Israeli government. For me, that's not a justification for Israel to be where it is.
For me the only justification is what transpired from day one for the Palestinian problem and for the Israeli problem. And if those people were not doing anything with their land and were neglecting their land, then God removed them from their land not you (the Jews). Now that they are waking up to their responsibility, I would beg you and them to go to your most powerful sources, most authentic sources of guidance. For the Jews it is the Torah, and for the Palestinians it is the Qur'an, and conform to the best of your books. That's what will make it possible for Palestinians and Jews to live in peace in that area, to recognize each other's rights in that area, and to build up that area for the good of themselves, their close neighbors and the whole humanity of this earth.
I support that with all my heart and soul. I do believe that it's possible. I pray for it. If I can in any way do any act for it, then I will do that too. I have said something that maybe disturbing some of my friends, but I want to be open. I want to be clear, and that's where I am regarding the issue of a homeland for the Jews. There's much I would like to say beyond that point. But I'd like to say it in Israel as a guest of the government of Israel . I would like to say it in the ears of the Palestinian leaders, if they would hear it.
THE PROBLEM OF TERRORISM
I thank God that Islamic leadership almost one-hundred percent totally condemns the victimizing of the innocent to get attention to one's cause. Not enough of us are being heard. One of our Imams, a leading Imam and convenor of our national convention and of our national shuraa for my particular congregation and director of our school in Atlanta , Georgia, Imam Plemon El-Amin is present here today. We attended an occasion hosted by a Christian organization in New York and were invited to write an article on terrorism in the Utne Reader magazine on that occasion in New York . We accepted, arid I gave the responsibility to Imam El-Amin, who addressed the issue of terrorism in that article. I think he did an excellent job, because he didn't just address the Muslim responsibility to his Muslim discipline. He also appealed to the Jewish person's heart. That we both respect the obligations on us as followers of our religion.
We know that war is an ugly thing. We know that Israel has done some ugly things in the Middle East. We are happy to know that Israel is finding circumstances in the world that invite it to consider a Gentile/gentle image for itself. I personally have faith in the new leadership there. I believe that we are going to be successful; peace is going to prosper there. We must understand that everybody who picks up a gun and says "I'm going to defend my cause" is not necessarily an authority in his religion that he claims.
We have some who think that the law of qisas is to be applied everywhere and in all situations. But according to the translator of Qur'an into English, Abdullah Yusef Ali, the law of qisas is limited to civil issues, lie dislikes even using the English translation of retribution for qisas. He says "retribution" seems to be'a term too strong. I have looked at the meaning and I believe that the purpose of qisas is to litigate wrong, to lessen injury, to lessen pain, to litigate the harm that was done - but not in war with an enemy. It is because the victim or a member of your family has been killed by another family. The picture here is that the victimizer and the victim are both Muslims. It is when someone gets angry and they fight and one kills the other. But this doesn't cover accidental death. This covers only something that can be charged to the person.
In our religion, something that wasn't intentional cannot be charged to you. If it is proven that it wasn't intentional, you can't be charged with that. You can only be charged with what you knowingly did, which you yourself could have stopped or prevented. If I run over a person with a car and kill a person and had no intention of doing that, the law of qisas doesn't apply. I don't owe anyone. But, if I were negligent, that's something different. And if someone is always crying and the excuse that they give is that "it was an accident," I say to them: "You're having too many accidents for me to excuse it as an accident." You reach a point where you can't even excuse the accident, because the person is negligent.
This law of qisas has been wrongly applied. I believe that many of our leaders in Islam, some of our Imams, wrongly perceive this legal measure and apply it in the situation for the Israelis and the Palestinians and for those who support them with arms as terrorists throughout the world. It is a big mistake! My final word in addressing terrorism is that any person, no matter how desperate their situation, no matter how much their hearts are paining because of wrong that has been done to them, there is no justification for them to make innocent people the target of their terror or the target of their violence. Muslims all throughout this world have to stand up on the principle of Islam, the conduct established for Muslims in the Qur'an. We have to stand upon that and let the world hear us condemning our Muslim brothers or women or children who are guilty of such.
THE CONDUCT OF WAR
I believe that my religion Islam, my Holy Book the Qur'an and my leader the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) exist for me in my life to influence me to the best and most excellent character, behavior and treatment of self and others. I believe that if I strive with a sincere heart, with an unselfish and untainted soul and spirit to live my religion to the fullest, I believe that I will be accepted by the great majority of decent persons on this earth as a fine human person, as a person that you would feel comfortable living next door to you. I believe that this religion inspires and urges me on to the most excellent human character and behavior. >
The obligation is on persons responsible for the conduct of war, those government heads, generals of the army and soldiers under the generals. The obligation for us in Islam is on all of them from the top to the bottom to obey the discipline that Islam imposes upon those engaging in war. Whether our enemy respects it or not, we are to conduct ourselves according to what Islam dictates. We are not to come out of our Islamic character even as a warrior to meet the challenge of an enemy. I'm not talking about Israel and Palestine . I'm talking about war makers, period, who feel nothing is too cruel for that kind of person: "All is fair in love and war." If we are confronted by this type of person, God does not allow us to come out of our character because of hatred for another people. We are still to obey" the demands for just behavior on us, whether we like the person or not - it doesn't matter. What matters is that we obey God.
I believe that the Muslim world had to fall behind the West materially. The Muslims couldn't engage the West in the kind of war-the West was prepared for. I read in some publications that the Muslims lost control of much territory with the West, because they would not compete with the advancements in the military, with the making of guns and other weapons. They chose to stick with their traditional weapon, the sword. Our Prophet obligated us that whenever we do anything, respect the rule of excellence and civilization on us. We are to do it with respect for what is excellent in the power of a human being, what is excellent for civilized people. So Muslims are just not prepared to do anything to compete with war makers.
I don't think we are here to compete with war makers. We are here to compete with peace makers. Maybe the war makers will get an advantage for a while, but in the long run we will be the victors, if we keep to Islamic ethics, Islamic demands on our conduct, whether it's as a civilian or as a member of government or as a person whose civil rights have been denied him or a community or nation who is imposed upon by another community or nation. If we hold to our moral conduct dictated for us in Qur'an and hold to our ethical conduct dictated for us in Islam, in the long run we will be the victors.
It is not necessarily by ourselves that well be victors, because there are people in the great religions that take the same position that I'm taking here. There are Christians I've talked to and they take the same position. I've met Jews who take the same position. We don't like war. We don't like getting into the body of the savage at any time, for no period of time, no matter what the demands are on us. The Qur'an is also given to us by God for "healing what is in the hearts." I invite all Muslim leaders to register that verse in the Qur'an, that the Qur'an is for healing what is in the hearts.
We know that suffering in this world can sometimes warp our human form so that we are not capable any more of upholding our good human life. The Jews have suffered as a people in Germany under Hitler and the Nazi "Regime. The extent of their suffering is such that would threaten the very human nature of those victims, especially the descendants of those victims. We are to have compassion, and we are to be on the side of the suffering people always. I also remind you that the Palestinians, too, have suffered greatly and their scars too are deep. We have to have compassion on all the victims of war and the victims of conflict in this world. "The Qur'an is a healing for what is in the hearts."
Allah says to us that any who desire a dominance, God will deny it. Desiring a dominance doesn't mean that it is wrong to have a dominance. But don't desire that, don't be selfish. I've heard so many Muslim preacher's preaching about Islam is going to be the dominant religion and they are trying to excite all of us to stand upon that. They say Islam must dominate on this earth, that the Muslim nations must dominate non-Muslim nations. They say the Islamic religion must replace all other religions. That's incorrect! I don't have *to say that to these scholars, they know that's incorrect.
Allah says: "Any who desire a dominance or corruption, it will be denied." Both the dominance and the corruption will be denied. Many people desire to get a dominance through corruption. Others would like to get a dominance so that they can corrupt. Either way, if you want that, God says that He denies you that.
Islam is also against giving ourselves to extremism. Terrorism is an extreme. To not be aware of it as an extreme, as a danger, and not discuss it with our leaders and in our mosques when we meet, tells me that there is something wrong with us. More of us have to address this issue of violence by terrorism.
KINDNESS TO ENEMIES
We have examples of religious tolerance, and I will point to just two. The first is our Prophet Muhammed. When he succeeded because of God's will, when he became the victor in the wars that he had to fight, he returned to his native city Mecca, the venerable city, and he could have asked for retribution. He could have taken reprisals if he wanted to. Instead, he asked the citizens if they would accept the peace - not Islam, "The Peace." He didn't require a Sabian to become a Muslim. He didn't require a Christian to become a Muslim. He didn't require a Jew to become a Muslim.
Prophet Muhammed required that a savage give up his savagery, including his idols that he worshipped and that fed his savagery. He took the same position that great leaders of Christianity and Judaism took. And that is that the world should not be in the hands of savages. You have an obligation under God to spare the world the rule of savages or the oppression of ignorance. That was his position. He didn't ask that they become Muslims, and that's the mistake we make, too. He asked that they accept "The Peace." Isn't this what any civilized nation or any government would ask of those whom it's in a conflict with? If the conflict is resolved and they want to remain there in the country and enjoy the benefits of the country, they have to accept the peace.
To accept the peace means to accept the order that supports, preserves and protects the peace. If they would do that, they would have citizenship and have no fear for their property and their lives. The Prophet said: "What has happened is forgiven, if you will accept the peace. Let there be no more bloodletting. As we see David of Judaism and similar to that, we see Prophet Muhammed having the power to wipe out his enemies, if he wanted to. But he said, "Let the, bloodletting stop. Spill no blood, if you accept the peace, you have the same protection here that other citizens have. Have no fear for your property or for your lives." It was kindness to enemies, in the name of peace and for the sake of peace down, the road.
Can't we do things to make a better world for the future, even if it hurts us to do it right now? It is a big sacrifice; but look at what it will give us down the road. I'm happy to say that Robert G. Mugabe, prime minister of Zimbabwe in 1980 and head of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), follows the same principle. He believes that much of the conflict can be resolved for South Africa and the continent of Africa, if the parties would accept that same position.
Saladdin was a great Muslim general and also a doctor of medicine. There was a film produced where Saladdin met with Richard the Lionhearted. It showed the Muslim general being kind to his enemy in war by giving, him medicine. Saladdin sneaked into the enemy's camp and found Richard the Lionhearted sick with a health .problem. Yet, Saladdin treated him, because he was a doctor and was a Muslim. But, when he met Richard the Lion-hearted on the battlefield, I'm sure that he didn't threat him with anything but the sword, and that's different. So we have great examples of kindness to enemies. We Muslims have to be aware of that, because that is also guidance for us. >
In my conclusion, I want to say that we all are guilty, Muslims and Jews. And we know it. Let us do what our scriptures ask us to do. Seek to have the best behavior before God and man. Be attracted to that appetite and aspirations. God tells us in the Quran: "And take the best there of. . ." Why? Because it's no simple matter to give people direction or a pattern for their individual lives and for their national life. That's no small thing. In serving the great involved, complexed needs of man in the.society, there are passages there in Qur'an, that if we take them out of context, then it can contribute to our deformity, to our madness.
God encourages us to stay in our best form and be motivated by the best human motivations and to be attracted to the best there of. Certainly, there is war justified in the Qur'an. But if I just look at that which is telling me that I am justified to fight my enemy, if I just dwell on that and just read that passage every day, pretty soon I'll come out of my Muslim character and my whole life and nature will be spoiled. Then I've become worse than any people that I may be in conflict with.Thank you very much. Peace be on you. As-Salaam-Alaikum.