I also want to remind us that our empathy should not depend on where the attacks occur and on who the victims are. The deaths of 42 people, who were massacred during the recent bombardment of a hospital in Kunduz (Afghansitan) by the US-army on October 3rd, the 102 civilians who were killed by a terror attack at a train station in Ankara (Turkey) on the 10th October, the 50 civilians killed in a terror attack in the city of Beirut (Lebanon) on the 12th of November or the daily victims of occupied Palestine, the uncountable victims slaughtered in the Middle East – all these heinous attacks are no less despicable than what happened in Paris.
Being a Muslim in times of terror
Allah tells us in the Quran: “And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits,…”
Trials, tribulations and losses are a sad reality in this lowly, wordly life. The question is, how we deal with them.
The latest attacks leave us in shock and awe. Muslims are left speechless. For overnight, all Muslims are regarded with suspicion, confronted with accusations of all kind and fear that what has been general aversion for a long time, might soon turn into violent hatred. Muslims do not feel secure these days. They are considered as perpetrators despite being victims themselves. Innocent people were massacred in Paris, people from all religions and different origins are among the victims. It is our society, as well. We are not bystanders. This attack is also, if not even especially directed at us Muslims, who peacefully work, live and love in these “western” societies. We are in fact part of these societies. Any attack against the peaceful communities in the West, is an attack against the Muslims living in them.
Still, we Muslims are expected to distance ourselves from the attackers as if we were close to them. As Muslims, we despise terror attacks in Europe just as we reject drone strikes in Pakistan or in Yemen, military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan or the bombardment of Libya. All these violent attacks have one thing in common: They claim innocent civilian lives for political or economic aims.
The rules of war
Yet, Muslims are quickly put down as a scapegoat. We know that Islam does not advocate blind violence. No book has stronger words to condemn terrorism, than the Quran in Sura 5 ayat 32. And no religion was more respected for the rules of warfare than Islam. Apart from the fact, that no individual is capable of declaring war against a nation, there is no justification for terror in Islam. No terror group can legally declare a war against another nation. Even if it does, there are certain rules.
The Islamic ius bellum is in no way behind today’s Geneva Conventions. The first Caliph, Umar (r.a.) gave his people ten rules for their guidance in the battlefield:
“Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.”
Even the enemy’s flock, trees and fruits are considered sacrosanct. Untouchable are the civilian population and their sanctuaries. How can these high moral standards be compatible with the terror we witness today? How can anybody even justify these actions with Islam? This is what leaves a Muslim speechless.
Let's face the challenge
It is too simple to blame 1.5 billion Muslims and the deen of Islam, by drawing conclusions from a lost Syrian passport and the shouting of a parole. And yet it is also too simple, to lean back as Muslims and turn a blind eye to the allegations, because we know the truth .
Our purpose in this world is to spread peace. Allah tells us in Sura Al Mulk (67:2), that He created death and life “to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed”. Let us take this challenge seriously. Let us be role models for this world, not scapegoats. This means that we have speak out against injustice, if we are not able to actively eliminate it.
These are tough times for Muslims. We need to reflect on our own communities. We need to reflect on the examples we set, on the impressions we leave. We need to revive the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad (s.), who was commanded to “Call to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and dispute with them in the best way.” (Qur'an, 16:125). We are in lack of this wisdom today. Following the Prophet means to “dispute in the best way”, to be gentle and kind, to remind and to forgive.
This article began with a verse from the Quran, where Allah tells us that we shall be tested in this life. But Allah does not leave us without a remedy.
“… but give glad tidings to As-Saabiroon (the patient). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: ‘Truly, to Allaah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.’ They are those on whom are the Salawaat (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones” (Al Baqarah, 2: 155-157)
Allah tells us to have sabr (patience), for only the patient will overcome the difficulties. Let us fulfill our duties, be patient and put our trust in Allah. We need to constantly remind our fellow citizens of this beautiful message of Islam, not only when we are confronted with another fatal attack and fear prejudice and hatred. For Islam is perfect, but we Muslims are not.