Originally Published in Beliefnet on June 8th, 2017
by Nayyar Ahmad
Almost all major religions and cultures around the world believe in fasting; Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism etc. Likewise, Islam also enjoins its followers to fast during the month of Ramadhan. Now a week into Ramadhan, Muslims are observing fast from sunup to sundown for 30 days.
Apart from abstaining from food and water, Muslims must exercise an extraordinary level of patience, humility, and kindness towards other human beings. There are no exceptions to this rule. Quoting a tradition of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) on the topic of Ramadhan he states, “If any one of you is fasting, let him not utter obscenities or act in an ignorant manner, and if anyone insults him or wants to fight him, let him say, I am fasting”. The Quran, unequivocally declares that killing a life is akin to killing of mankind. With such practice before us it is unbelievably sad to see the likes of ISIS push a violent narrative, creating resentment for Muslims and Islam in the West.
The bombing in Manchester, the van attack in London, the bomb explosion in Afghanistan, all of which killed dozens of innocent souls, goes against the very essence of Islamic teachings. As member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I strongly condemn these grossly inhumane attacks and stand in solidarity with the victims.
What is propelling this ideology of hate among Muslim youth? Must we blame religion for the actions of a few lone wolves?
A common practice among terrorists is cherry-picking verses of the Quran and placing them out of context. By this deliberate act of distorting the teachings it is easy to manipulate young impressionable minds. For example, the word “Jihad” is now synonymously used with “holy war” which is completely wrong. The correct translation of the word “Jihad” is “struggle”. This struggle is precisely explained by the supreme head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Mirza Masroor Ahmad, who says,
“Our Jihad is not a Jihad of swords, guns or bombs. Our Jihad is not a Jihad of cruelty, brutality and injustice. Rather, our Jihad is of love, mercy and compassion. Our Jihad is of tolerance, justice and human sympathy. Our Jihad is to fulfill the rights of God Almighty and of His Creation”.
In retrospect, no such violent act of so called ‘Jihad’ is evident in Islamic history. The Prophet Muhammad enjoined the highest level of kindness towards the creation of God so much so that it was even forbidden to treat animals with cruelty, let alone human beings. Often critics of Islam level allegations against the character of Holy Prophet Muhammad, and out of ignorance discredit his otherwise compassionate nature. For example, during the early days of Islam, Muslims were subject to severe persecution by leaders of Quraish, a ruling tribe of Mecca (now Saudi Arabia). The leaders, blinded by their hate, were so adamant on destroying Islam that they finally decided to slay the Holy Prophet. But Divine intervention saved his life and Muhammad (PBUH) finally migrated to Medina to escape this persecution. Post-migration to Medina, Prophet Muhammad and his companions penned ‘The charter of Medina’, a classic example of pluralism found in Islam. Believe it or not, even non-Muslims enjoyed a cordial protection under a secular rule of law which allowed them to freely practice their beliefs.
However, the Quraish tribe was not content with this migration and believed that Muhammad (PBUH) was still a threat to their regressive, pagan beliefs and customs. The ensuing years lead to battles and skirmishes that were waged against Muslims. It was only during this time that the Jihad of the sword became a necessary tool to defend the honor and rights of Muslims and non-Muslims alike! The distinction being, this Jihad was only for self-defense rather than the Jihad we see in the media today which only takes life and pushes humans to the last frontiers of uncivilized conduct.
While we acknowledge and condemn such acts of violence committed to defame Islam and promote a hateful ideology, it is equally important to understand the counter-narrative presented by peaceful Muslims, who by the way are the majority. ISIS, Taliban, Al Qaeda, and all terrorist networks can only be defeated if our youth fully comprehend the concepts and dispel any misconceptions.
Using this Ramadhan as a point of departure, we should all strive to learn about true Islam (alislam.org) and fight the fallacies that have taken root in the hearts of our youth. A pragmatic approach is needed to deal with this conundrum whereby Muslims should take charge of their legacy and raise a voice which echoes a narrative of peace, not war!