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Interfaith Dialogue ( 17 Sept 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Treatment of Enemies in Islam, Christianity and Judaism—A Common Tendency towards Repelling Enmity

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

17  September 2016

A good human being is identified as kind even towards his enemies. He does not deprive them of the rights that they deserve as his human counterparts. He does not punish his enemies any more than would be just, but if possible tries to forgive them. Such was the blessed attribute that the holy prophets of Allah Almighty –including Sheath, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the final messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them)— brought to the world so as to encourage forgiveness, good treatment and justice towards the entire humanity.

Justice and Kindness towards the Friends and Foes Alike in Islam

Generally speaking, people are good and just only towards their friends, relatives, nations and country. But, Islamic standards of goodness and justice go beyond the considerations of race, colour, nation, religion, creed, relatives and non-relatives. Islam has ordained Muslims to put equal weights on the scales of justice towards their friends and enemies alike. 

It is believed that a good Muslim is one who implements the Islamic teachings mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] in all walks of his life. For such a Muslim it is essential to know in advance that adopting attribute of forgiveness and justice towards enemies is as important as many other teachings of Islam.  

Allah Almighty says,

“O believers! Become tenaciously firm on justice, bearing witness (merely) for the sake of Allah even if (the witness) is against your own selves or (your) parents or (your) relatives. Whether the person (against whom is the evidence) is rich or poor, Allah is a greater Well-Wisher of them both (than you are). So do not follow the desires of your (ill-commanding) selves lest you swerve from justice. But if (whilst giving evidence) you twist your statement or evade (the truth), then Allah is indeed Well Aware of (all the works) that you are doing”.(4:135)

This Quranic verse makes firm resolution for Muslims facing the enduring conflict between self-interest and justice. It commands them to be just, even if it is against their narrowly defined self-interest or against their relatives or in favour of their enemies. Some people protect their self-interest by committing violence and injustice to others. But Islam forbids this sort of self-interest. These verses remove narrow-mindedness, reminding us that the true protector of interests of all mankind is Allah Almighty and He will protect our interests when we follow His command to be just and kind towards the entire humanity.

It is clear from the above that Islam does not permit any favouritism when doing justice between relatives and non-relatives. According to another verse of the Quran, Muslims are commanded to do justice even when they are dealing with their enemy. The common tendency of ignorant people is to do injustice towards the enemy. This tendency was as true in the pre-Islamic period (Jahiliyyah) as it is today. But Islam categorically forbids this tendency. It was an unprecedented example for all mankind in terms of doing justice.

Allah Almighty says,

“O you, who believe, Stand firm for Allah, giving testimony with justice- and do not let the enmity of anyone tempt you not to do justice. Be just; that is nearer to piety [Taqwa] and fear Allah; indeed Allah is Well Aware of your deeds. It is Allah’s promise to those who believe and are righteous, that for them will be forgiveness and a great reward, and those who disbelieve [i.e. who do act of Kufr] and deny Our signs - it is they who are the people of the hell. (Surah Maidah5: 8-10)

This speech of Allah has been directed towards those who are believers. Stand firm for Allah means stand firm for acting according to the commands of Allah. Do not let the enmity of anyone prevent you from doing justice.

Imam Al-Qurtubi explained this verse:  وَدَلَّتِ الْآيَةُ أَيْضًا عَلَى أَنَّ كُفْرَ الْكَافِرِ لَا يَمْنَعُ مِنَ الْعَدْلِ عَلَيْهِ” meaning “This verse shows that the unbelief of the unbeliever does not prevent him from enjoying justice”.(Tafseer Al-Qurtubi 5:8)

Imam Qurtabi further said, “This phrase “La Yajrimannakum [do not let…prevent you]” means that you should not let your hatred of a people cause you to transgress the truth and engage in falsehood or swerve from justice to oppression” (Jamiul Ahkam fi Al-Quran by Al-Qurtabi)

Disbelieving any command of Allah is an act of Kufr [disbelief] that will take its perpetrator to the eternal hell. So, doing justice even towards the enemy is a command of Allah, even if the enemy are non-Muslims or unbelievers. Those who disbelieve this command of justice will have to face the torment of Hell. The command of justice mentioned in the Quran is a categorical statement for all cases; the application and the meaning of which can’t be changed in any circumstances.

The model behaviour of justice and forgiveness is conspicuously demonstrated in the fact that the prophet Muhammad [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] never took revenge on anyone on his own behalf but forgave even his staunch enemies. Consequently, this ideal attribute of the prophet softened many hard-hearted men, playing a pivotal role in attracting the pagans towards willingly embracing Islam and Muslims.

According to Ahadith, whenever any issue of legal retaliation was brought to the Prophet, he would always recommend his Ummah for being patient and pardoning the criminal.

Anas bin Malik reported: "مَا رَأَيْتُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ رُفِعَ إِلَيْهِ شَيْءٌ فِيهِ قِصَاصٌ إِلَّا أَمَرَ فِيهِ بِالْعَفْوِ"

Translation: “I never saw a case involving legal retaliation being referred to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, except that he would command pardoning the criminal. (Sunan Abu Dawud 4497, Source: Sahih)

The prophet said, “Whoever suffers an injury done to him and forgives (the person responsible), Allah will raise his status to a higher degree and remove one of his sins.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi)

The prophet said, “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong if they do evil.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhî)

Uqbahibn Amir reported: I met the Messenger of Allah and I started speaking, taking his hand and saying, “O Messenger of Allah, tell me about virtuous deeds.” The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “O Uqbah, reconcile whoever cuts you off, give to whoever deprives you, and turn away from whoever wrongs you.”

In another hadith it is reported that the prophet said, “You shall keep relationship with one who cut it off from you, you shall give one who disappointed you, and you shall pardon on who oppressed you, Whoever wants an increase in his sustenance, increase in life [and riddance from a horrible death], should fear Allah and be helpful and kind towards his relatives”. (Al-Mu’jam Al-Kabir by Tabrani, Hadith: 14158, Musnad Ahmad 17915, 17797, MajmauzZawaid: 13473, Musannaf Abdur Razzaq: 20237 and Mustadrak of Hakim: 3873, 7394)

Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) As Mercy Personified

Allah Almighty says: “And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.” (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:107).

This reflects that the prophet’s distinctive quality was that he was the embodiment of a blessing in word and deed, not only for a particular Muslim community but for the entire world. His impassioned engagement and dedication was just with the distribution of love, peace and tranquillity among all mankind.

According to a tradition recorded in Sahih Muslim, when the Prophet’s opponents greatly increased their persecution, his Companions asked him to curse them. At this, the Prophet replied, “I have not been sent to lay a curse upon men but to be a blessing to them.” His opponents continued to treat him and his Companions unjustly and cruelly, but he always prayed for them.

Once, while the prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was on the way to Ta’if where the Hijaz aristocracy used to while away their summer days, he was so badly stoned by his enemies that the blood streamed from all over his body. When he attempted to call them to Islam, instead of listening to his words of wisdom, they set the street urchins upon him, who kept chasing him till nightfall. Even after all this, he did not curse them. When he was at all exhausted and bleeding from head to toe, all he said was, “O my Lord, guide my people along the true path, as they are ignorant of the truth”.

According to a hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once said, “A true believer is one with whom others feel secure and one who returns love for hatred.” The Prophet made it clear that we should never think that we should treat the people well only if they treat us well. Not only Love for love but we should be rather accustomed to being good towards and forgiving those who nurture hatred for us.

According to another hadith, the Prophet once said, “By Allah, he is not a believer, by Allah, he is not a believer, by Allah, he is not a believer, with whom his neighbours are not secure.”

This hadith teaches us that we should live with others like flowers, and not like thorns, without giving trouble to anybody. One of the great qualities of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was that he never sought revenge on his own behalf for any wrong done to him personally. Only if God’s commandments had been broken, would he mete out retaliation for the sake of Allah Almighty.

His wife “A'ishah reported that Allah's Messenger was not unseemly or obscene in his speech, nor was he loud-voiced in the streets, nor did he return evil for evil, but he would forgive and pardon”. The people of the Quraysh rebuked him, taunted and mocked at him, beat him and abused him. They tried to kill him and when he escaped to Madinah, they waged many wars against him. Yet, when he entered Mecca victorious with an army of 10000, he did not take revenge on anyone. He forgave all. Even his deadliest enemy, Abu Sufyan, who had fought so many battles against him, was forgiven, as was anyone who stayed in his house.

Once, the Prophet was seated along with his Companions at some place in Madinah. During this time a funeral procession passed by. On seeing this, the Prophet stood up. One of his companions remarked that the funeral was that of a Jew. The Prophet replied, “Was he not a human being?”

One old woman made a habit of throwing rubbish on the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) whenever he passed through her house. Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had to pass through her house daily on the way to the mosque. Even when the old woman threw rubbish on him, he would pass silently without showing any anger or annoyance. This was a daily event.

One day when Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was passing by, the woman was not there to throw the rubbish. The Prophet stopped and asked the neighbour about her well-being. The neighbour informed Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that the woman was sick and lying on the bed. The Prophet went to her house and politely asked for her permission to enter her house. When he reached her house, the old woman thought that he had come there to take revenge when she was unable to defend herself because of her sickness. But the Prophet assured her that he had come to her, not to take any revenge, but to see her and to look after her needs, as it was the command of Allah Almighty that if anyone is sick, a Muslim should visit him and should help him if his help is needed. The old woman was greatly moved by this love and kindness of Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

By the example of greatness of Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), she understood that he was truly the Messenger of Allah and Islam was the true religion. She accepted Islam at once by reciting the Shahadah.

Besides, there are many Ahadith [plural of hadith in Arabic] which show how he developed the notions of peace, kindness, forgiveness and justice regardless of religion, caste, colour etc. There is a message that, if we desire peace, we must tolerate many unpleasant things from others. There is no other way to establish peace in society. The outstanding perfection of his prophetic mercy can be attributed to mankind, family, children, orphans, widows, sick and animals.

Love and Kind Treatment for the Enemies in the Bible

Islamic message of doing justice and kindness towards the enemies is also fully endorsed by the following teachings of the bible containing Old Testament [aka the Jewish Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible] and New Testament.

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink”. (Old Testament aka the Hebrew or Jewish bible, Proverbs 25:21)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (The first book of New Testament, Matthew 5:43-44)

“27 But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”. (The third book of New Testament, Luke 6:27-36)

The above mentioned texts of the Bible, except the use of word “Father”for God, are true and in agreement with the message of Islam. O that, the radical-minded Christians and Jews could understand and practice such true message of the Bible!!!

After reading what the position of Islam, Christianity and Judaism is about forgiveness and justice even towards the enemies— I find it difficult to express in word how shocked I am at the current state of the adherents of all these three religions. On the one hand, hospitals, schools, public buildings and innocent civilians in Palestine and other Muslim countries are off and on bombarded and destroyed, but some European leaders are seen uttering only one memorized sentence ‘Israel has right to defend’. Perhaps some educated people of Europe and such supporters of Israel do not know that no one has any right to commit attacks over hospitals, houses, schools and innocent civilians of Palestine and other countries. On the other hand, the terrorist organizations containing ISIS, Tahreek-e-Taliban, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda etc. have caused greater destruction and wanton killings of civilians including mostly Muslims. It has been acknowledged from the above that Islam, Christianity and Judaism command their adherents to treat even their enemies kindly and justly, then what stops us from loudly raising our voices that all these religions are not responsible for any of such merciless acts. Hence, blaming any of the religions is mere stupidity. It is high time Muslims, Christians and Jews uphold and exercise the teachings of justice and kindness enshrined in their respective religions, whether they regard one another as friends or foes.

A regular Columnist with New Age Islam, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He completed the Classical Islamic Sciences from a Delhi-based Sufi Islamic seminary Jamia Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia with specialization in Tafseer, Hadith and Arabic. He completed his Alimiat and Fazilat respectively from Jamia Warsia Arabic College, Lucknow and Jamia Manzar- e- Islam, Bareilly, U.P. He did his graduation in Arabic (Hons) and post-graduation (Arabic) from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi


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