, by DR. FATIMA SHAHNAZ
In this Section
“We found you an orphan, O Muhammad, and gave you shelter.” So reads the Qur’an. Is this, then, the springboard of the divine inspiration that brought Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be with him) out of the sands of then barbaric Arabia to launch the world’s greatest revolution and social transformation, the advent of democracy long before it was institut-ionalised in Western conventions? Was this, then, the heartsblood of human compassion that shaped the Prophet of Islam, and made his message iconic to those whose conviction subjected them to suffer the most excruciating tortures in the face of death, to perpetuate his message of human justice? Never before in the history of Islam has the prophetic message of Muhammad been more relevant to our realities than now as the daily vision of man’s brutality unfolds before our eyes. Nor are these atrocities confined to the fortress walls of Abu Ghraib, Iraq, or the holocaust of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, or the Western interventionism bullying the poor state of Sudan for over a decade, or closer to home in India, Gujarat, where the apocalyptic scenario of communalism has been diabolically orchestrated; Gujarat, the laboratory for the ‘final solution’ of a Muslim minority, the extermination of a population as native Indians kill Indians.
THE COLONIAL MINDSETS
The colonised mind continues to colour a pseudo-democratic framework, where the inequities of casteism continue to prevail because there is no real substance behind the constitutional conventions of men’s ego and power.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks on the U.S., Islam has come under a harrowing assault from North America and Europe to Asia. The world continues to be fractured and fragmented by the policies of the civilizational clash lobby, the greatest impediment to world peace. But none of this is new; the life and teachings of the Prophet of Islam are an undying testimony to all that went before, and followed, his message. The Holy Messenger predicted all of this, warning and preparing Muslims to understand the radical nature of introducing peace to the world: It would throw the imperialist oligarchies and dictatorships, the fascist governments and powers, into disarray, delirium and war-mongering.
PEACE A THREAT TO FASCISTS
Peace is a threat to the war profiteers, the scavengers feeding of the corpses of nations, cannibalising their natural resources and raw materials for the benefit of the few over the needs of the majority. Peace is “just not good for business!” to quote the money-grabbers exploiting the poor nations to feed the rich. While the Prophet never banned capitalism, or honest labour for man’s wherewithal, it is the inequitable distribution of modern power institutionalised through the flawed and biased political treaties and conventions drafted by imperial agencies such as the United Nations, whose Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been challenged from Africa to Asia as discriminatory, in favour of ‘white races.’ Drawn up after World War II, the U.N. Charter is perceived as a response to the Holocaust of Jews, arbitrarily in favour of Zionism, another form of racism.
NO JUSTICE NO PEACE
But all this was prophesied by the Prophet himself, in his lifetime. With foresight, to rectify the racial and class imbalances, he appointed a black slave, Bilal, to give the Adhaan, call to prayer at the Ka’aba in Makkah, adopting him as his own son. The noblest Arabs gave their daughters in marriage to Bilal, before whom the Caliph Umar stood reverently saying, “Here comes our master, here comes our lord.”
Today, the slogan of pacifists worldwide is “No justice, no peace.” Here, too, the words of the Prophet ring true, stressing social equity when he said in a sermon, “Allah is to be praised and thanked for ridding us of the vices and pride of the day of ignorance, O people! Note that all men are divided in two categories only: The pious and God-fearing who are esteemable in Allah’s reckoning, and the transgressors and hardhearted, who are lowly and contemptible. In the eye of Allah, otherwise all human beings are the progeny of Adam and Allah has created Adam of clay.”
Perhaps the scourges visited upon Muslims today are due to the fact that while they claim to uphold the message, they have often forgotten to heed the warnings, the prophecy, of the divine Messenger himself. His life-experience, his actions, his words are a living testament that cannot be deleted from human consciousness, even as nations thrive in the affluence of consumerism, or march forwards in technological innovations. There is, will always be, the still calming voice in the eye of the storm, the inextin-guishable voice of the orphaned child, the socially disenfranchised, the abused woman. Did he not say of them, “Women are the twin halves of men. The rights of women are sacred.” “See that women are maintained in the rights granted to them.” And the laws encoded by Islam in the seventh century were not adopted until 1881, twelve centuries later in the English “The Married Women’s Act.” And still, paradoxically, through the warped mindsets of some depraved and insane propagandists, Muslims continue to be stereotyped as “terrorists” today, when the core thinking, the body of their faith, is founded on a message of peace. That, however, is how the hate-crimes of racist propaganda work. Today, the mainstream mass media colludes in the crimes against humanity by perpetrating the adversarial mindsets and colonial legacy.
ISLAM AND PERSECUTION
Also in our time, we can draw strong analogies with the persecutions suffered by the Messenger, the Ahle-Bait, holy family, and early converts to the most modern of religions, and the last messenger. Today, the criminalisation of politics has made atrocity a way of life, immunising societies to every civilized convention of war and peace. Who can forget the history of persecution out of which Islam was conceived? Sumayya, a woman, pierced with spears; Yasir dismembered with his body tied to two camels pulling in opposite directions; Khabbab Bin Arat, laid on smouldering coals with a tyrant crushing him beneath till the fat of his flesh peeled; Khabbab Bin Adi mutilated with his flesh cut to pieces, saying through his tortures that he would sacrifice himself and his family to save Muhammad “from the prick of a thorn.”
Maybe the playwright George Bernard Shaw recognised the revolutionary effect of Islam’s message and the Qur’an that would be perceived as a threat to Europe when he stated, “If any religion has a chance of ruling over England, nay, Europe, within the next 100 years, it is Islam.” Prophetically, in the face of gruelling adversity, never has the Western world been more obsessed with Islam and its teachings than now, even as it launches a crusade on Muslims. Israel itself is losing to a surge in the Muslim world, a revival, from Hamas to Hizbullah in Lebanon, and beyond. Without a dialogue of civilizations, the world is on a suicidal course.
The Prophet launched a social system based on equity between races, classes, genders, systems. The all-inclusive scope of his genius and vision cannot be summarised in a few paragraphs, but one story regarding his compassion and sense of justice lingers on. As the Prophet prepared to attack Makkah, he was betrayed by Hatib bin Abi Balta’a who sent a letter through a woman informing the Makkan rulers of his plans. When the Prophet sent Ali and Zubair to find the woman and recover the treacherous letter, the betrayal of the military secret demanded Hatib be tried ‘in camera.’ But the Prophet questioned the accused in public. Hatib replied, “O God’s Messenger, (may God’s blessings be with you) I have not revolted against Islam, nor have I done this with the intention of betraying a military secret. The truth of the matter is that my wife and children are living in Makkah and I do not have my tribe to protect them there. I had written this letter so that the leaders of Quraysh may be indebted to me and may protect my wife and children out of gratitude.” Umar then said, “O Prophet, please permit me to put this traitor to the sword.” The Prophet’s reply was “He is one of those people who had participated in the battle of Badr, and the explanation he has advanced in his defence would seem to be correct.” (Badr was the first decisive victory of the Muslims).
CONVENTIONS OF WAR AND PEACE
What tribunal of war-crimes today, or Anglo-American military interventionism in the Muslim world ‘to win hearts and souls’ can claim such a compassionate process of law? It was the superhuman and transcendent dimension that distinguished the Prophet of Islam, who introduced the ethics of modern warfare. He showed that in war one has first to win peace, as he won the hearts of men. The Prophet’s unparalleled example humanised the rules of war. Few can surpass Caliph Ali in justice, since he epitomised the very spirit of the Prophet’s mission. No government today has disarmed its opposition with the sort of democratic freedoms Ali gave the Kharjites who threatened him with insults and murder. Ali would not only set them free when they were arrested, but told them, “We will not deny you the right to come to the mosques to worship God, nor will we stop to give your share from the wealth of the state, as long as you are with us and we shall never take military action against you as long as you do not fight with us.”
Peace can only be arbitrary, an empty promise, without these concepts of humane-ness. Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi declared that the West became conscious of this concept for the first time through the works of Grotius, the 17th century thinker while the “actual codification of ‘international law’ in war began in the middle of the 19th century. Prior to this no concept of civilized behaviour in war was found in the West. All forms of barbarity and savagery were perpetrated in war, and the rights of those at war were not even recognized, let alone respected.” The subsequent laws could not be called ‘laws’ in the real sense of the word, but “are only a nature of conventions and agreements”. The word ‘international law’ is itself a “misnomer” as no nation regards them as “binding when they are at war, unless of course, when the adversaries also agree to abide by them, and they ignore these human conventions and take recourse to barbaric and cruel ways of waging war, then we shall also adopt the same or similar techniques.”
REMEMBERING THE MESSENGER
The injunctions of the Prophet of Islam define the basic human rights of war that have been blatantly flouted by American unilateralism or the criminal ‘pre-emptive war’ doctrine of the American neo-con administration today, which is as genocidal as the wars of the Biblical Old Testament. Muhammad said, “Do not kill any old person, any child or any woman.” “Do not kill the monks in monasteries.” “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship.” Remember Hebron, Ayodhya, Al-Aqsa under Israeli war-crimes … Remember what the Prophet said on seeing a dead woman after battle: “She was not fighting. How then came she to be killed?” Thus, the security of civilians and non-combatants became one of the Islamic principles of war.
How many orphans, or civilians, are dying daily in Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine today? Has Muhammad’s voice of compassion and peace been pushed to the backburner by greed and imperial hubris? And while we perpetuate the divine message of Islam, have we forgotten to remember the Messenger?