A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Imam Ghazali's condemnation of Terrorism|
|08/13/02 at 01:46:41|
It has always been maligned after its conflict with Christianity
By Rafiq Zakaria
I was privileged to participate in Big Fight on Star TV a few weeks ago. The anchor, the talented Rajdeep Sardesai first gave me the subject: is Islamic terrorism a menace to the 21st century? Later he told me it would be: is Islam the driving force for terrorism?
I felt it was just a semantic change, but Rajdeep thought linking Islam with terrorism would provide a handle to Hindu communalists to malign Islam. I told him that Islam had been maligned ever since it came into conflict with Christianity. As Prof. Reuven Firestone of the Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles observed: "From the conquest of Spain in the early eighth century to the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turks in 1683, Islam represented a threat to the very physical existence of Christendom. This, and Islam's achievement in all scientific and intellectual fields during its heyday in the Middle Ages, caused a reaction in the west that epitomised Islam as cruel, evil and uncivilised. This negative characterisation began when Islam was powerful and Christianity weak but has continued into our own day."
After the advent of the British in India, Muslims were targeted as the real enemies of their rule. The hatred towards Islam was used by the new rulers to malign it. And the Hindus were only too happy to echo it. Despite the enlightenment of Europe, its attitude towards Islam has persisted. Why? The noted Arab scholar Edward Said explained: "For the general public in America and Europe today, Islam is 'news' of a particularly unpleasant sort. The media, the government, the geopolitical strategists and, although they are marginal to the culture at large, the academic experts on Islam are all in concert: Islam is a threat to Western civilisation."
Prof. Samuel Huntington of Harvard University in his book The Crash of Civilisations predicted that the next clash was to be between Islam and the west. He spoke about it in his address at the Nehru Centre in Mumbai in January 1998. I had presided over the event and in my concluding remarks I contradicted him by pointing out that the west was now too powerful and the Muslim world too divided and weak to pose any danger to it. In the present crisis, 48 out of 50 Muslim countries have aligned with America in its global war against terrorism; so where and against whom will the clash be? Still, such is the Islamic phobia among the Christians that the bogey of such a clash grips most westerners.
The question that arises is: should Islam be linked with these terrorist attacks which killed more than 7,000 innocent people? True, the mentor of such terrorism, the notorious Osama bin Laden, has exploited Islam in his hate campaign against America. He and his cohorts have perverted the Islamic tenets to justify their terror. But why is Hitler's holocaust against the Jews, carried out in the name of Christianity, not linked with Christianity? Or the daily killings of innocent Palestinians not attributed to Judaism? And the murderous acts of Prabhakaran on the Buddhists in Sri Lanka not linked with Hinduism?
In fact, Islam negates terrorism. Its name connotes peace and its Prophet is described in the Quran as "the mercy to all living creatures." It admonishes the faithful that whomsoever kills an innocent human being, it is as if he has killed the whole human race (5:32). Likewise it prohibits suicidal operations (2:195) and warns Muslims that those who use wrong methods in the name of God are the most devious enemies (2:204).
In the history of Islam, there is only one instance when a sect, led by the hated Hassan bin Sabbah (11th century), indulged in the killings of innocents. Ghazali, one of the greatest Imams hailed as the 'Rejuvenator of Islam', wrote tomes against it and warned Muslims that if they did not destroy terrorism, it would destroy them.
There has unfortunately been a backlash in America, Britain and other countries against ordinary Muslims. They are shunned and tortured; their religious places have been burned; their shops have been looted; their houses have been attacked; their boys and girls are socially boycotted. They are denied provisions and obstructed in their travel. They are seen as potential criminals; a wave of hostility has been unleashed against them.
The moral is clear; the acts of terrorism never advance the cause to which terrorists subscribe. Instead, they do more damage to it. They may create a temporary sensation and feeling of bravado among their supporters; ultimately it is their own co-religionists who suffer.
In the present context, terrorists have brought nothing but shame and trouble to their co-religionists. They have confirmed by their misdeeds what the detractors have alleged: Islam is a religion of violence and a vehicle of inhumanity. It is, therefore, high time the vast majority of Muslims who want to live in peace and harmony with the rest of the world, rose against these terrorists and reclaimed their glorious heritage of universal brotherhood, which the Quran preaches. As Maulana Hali, one of the greatest Urdu poets, put it:
It is the first lesson of the Quran
That the whole creation is the family of God
This is worship and this alone is faith
That humans help one another in this world.
And I may add: And not kill them.
(The writer is an Islamic scholar and former minister)
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