Op-Ed

Imagining the reminders Muhammad might give in wake of terror attacks

Imam Manzarul Islam leads evening prayer at the Islamic Association of Cary.
Imam Manzarul Islam leads evening prayer at the Islamic Association of Cary. jhknight@newsobserver.com

As a local Muslim leader and academic, I feel compelled to speak out and condemn the recent acts of terrorism that have impacted our country and our world. My heart breaks as I bear witness to the escalating atrocities and acts of terror. These acts endanger the present and the future of humanity while also generating an environment of confusion, suspicion, fear and mistrust here in the U.S.

I started thinking about how the prophet Muhammad (prayers and blessings be upon him), who Muslims believe is the final prophet sent by God, would respond to the challenges of our times: the crimes of ISIS and al-Qaida in the Levantine lands and elsewhere, those of Boko Haram in Nigeria and its neighboring countries, the attacks in Paris, the shootings in California, the international crisis of the Syrian refugees and the illness of Islamophobia, which nourishes anti-constitutional ideas, such as racism, hate, stereotyping and discrimination.

I would imagine the prophet Muhammad sharing with us this verse of the Holy Quran: “Whoever kills a person, except as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land, it will be written in his book of deeds as if he had killed all of humanity and whoever will save a life shall be regarded as if he gave life to all of humanity” (Al-Maida: 32).

I would imagine him reminding those in ISIS, Boko Haram or any others who might be rooted, consciously or unconsciously, in their ideology that all must convert to Islam of the verse of the holy Quran in which God the Almighty says: “If it had been the will of your Lord that all the people of the world should be believers, all the people of the earth would have believed!” (Yunus: 99) or the other verse that says: There is no compulsion in religion (Al-Baqarah: 256).

Beauty, distortion

I would imagine him reminding these terror organizations of what he told Aisha (may God be pleased with her): “O Aisha! Verily, God is gentle and He likes gentleness in every affair” or what he said in another context: “When gentleness is introduced into something it beautifies it; and when violence is introduced into something, it distorts it” (Al-Bukhari).

For sure he would emphasize for us his statement that “none of us will believe until we love for others whatever we love for ourselves” (Al-Bukhari). He would definitely commend all of us to serve, in the best of our capacity, those in humanitarian need – with Syrian refugees on the top of the list – and would strongly advise our leaders not to politicize a case that is essentially humanitarian.

I would imagine him reminding us of the verse from Quran, which says, “O people! We created you from male and female, and we made of you nations and tribes, so that you can get to know each other,” as knowing each other is the very first step to acceptance, coexistence and cooperation. I would imagine him reminding us of his words of wisdom: “You are all the children of Adam, and Adam is from dust; verily there is no difference between an Arab and a Westerner, nor between a white, red or black person, except through good character.”

‘Extremophobic’

I would imagine him addressing those who are waging campaigns of Islamophobia against their American Muslim fellows and reminding them that their phobic attitudes should not be against Islam, but against extremism; he would definitely ask them to redefine themselves as extremophobic, not Islamophobic, simply because the actions of terror, committed here and there, have nothing to do with Islam. I would imagine that he would be the first one to mark a firm and brave stand against such a destructive ideology.

I would imagine him reminding the world that he was sent by his Lord to secure people’s right of worshiping, not to ban it; to absorb anger, frustration and the spirit of revenge, not to promote it; to spread love and hope, not to plant hate and rancor; to promote construction, not destruction; to teach people the art of good living, not the art of death; to promote peace and fight terror; to complete the great values that Abraham, Moses, Jesus and many other brothers of him brought to their people, not eliminate or exclude them.

Finally, I would imagine him crowning his beautiful reminders with the verse of Quran: “And we have sent you as a mercy to mankind.”

Dr. Khalid Shahu is imam of the Muslim Community Center of Apex. He also teaches Arabic at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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