By Adnan Majid
As the Qurʾān’s first verse, the invocation above (known as the basmallah) is our gateway to divine revelation and our companion when beginning any activity. Its first part defines an essential element of Muslim identity – to approach all matters “in the name of Allah.” Its ending, listing two of Allah’s names, beautifully repeats the sounds r-ḩ-m in a way striking even to non-Arabic speakers.
Both these names of Allah center on the Arabic quality of rahmah: (a) al-Raḥmān, the One who is defined by complete and universal rahmah and (b) al-Raḥīm, the One who continuously shows much rahmah. It is thus by His rahmah that Allah introduces Himself repeatedly throughout the Qurʾān, so much so that after His tawhid (Oneness), the Qurʾān uses no other quality to describe Allah more than rahmah. This only underscores how central rahmah is to Islamic theology and our relationship with Allah.
So what is rahmah?
Our first answer may be that rahmah should be rendered as “mercy,” a word preferred in many Qurʾān translations. This, however, may be problematic. Although “mercy” is included in the meanings of rahmah, the modern English usage of “mercy” fails to do justice to the Arabic word in my opinion. Rather, I will argue that we speakers of modern English must understand rahmah as Allah’s Messenger understood the term – not simply as “mercy” but something deeper – an emotion closely tied with motherhood.
“Mercy” in modern English
Ask a native English speaker to describe his or her mother, and one often will hear adjectives like “loving” or “caring.” By contrast, native English speakers would rarely describe their mothers as “merciful.” Doing so sounds a bit odd to many of us, but why? The answer lies in the fact that “mercy” in modern English is associated with the negative connotation of the “power to harm,” something we do not associate with motherhood. Let’s look at the following definition from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:
- A kind and forgiving attitude towards somebody that you have the power to harm or right to punish.
a) to ask/beg/plead for mercy
b) They showed no mercy to their hostages.
c) God have mercy on us.
d) The troops are on a mercy mission (a journey to help people) in the war zone.
- An event or a situation to be grateful for, usually because it stops something unpleasant.
a) It’s a mercy she wasn’t seriously hurt.
b) His death was a mercy (because he was in great pain).
From an Islamic standpoint, Allah is indeed merciful. Allah is kind and forgiving towards us while having the power to harm us and the right to punish us for our sins. But the Arabic term rahmah is not limited to “mercy” in the encompassing manner by which the Prophet used the term.
Let’s consider instances where we use “mercy” in modern English. For instance, if a ruthless dictator decides to stop killing innocent people temporarily, he would have shown them “mercy,” even if his primary motivation is political and not based on a sincere emotional desire to alleviate suffering. And if a cold-hearted murderer decides against killing a terrified victim, he too would have shown “mercy.” As we shall see, neither case would necessarily constitute rahmah.
We plead for “mercy” from police who can fine us, judges who can punish us, rulers who can overpower us, and murderers who can kill us. But the Messenger never spoke of such fearful people when describing Allah’s rahmah. Instead he reminded us of our mothers and the familiar emotions they show us – emotions we call “compassion” or “nurturing love.”
Rahmah according to Allah’s Messenger
In the Prophet’s many sayings about rahmah on earth, the central theme of nurturing, parental love clearly stands out. Allah’s rahmah, according to the Messenger, is the sole source of all earthly rahmah, such that all creatures show “love and kindness to one another, and even a beast treats her young with affection.” Rahmah thus finds its most natural expression in the love of a mother.
And no one can match a mother’s love… except, of course, Allah. Imagine the emotions of a mother desperately searching for a lost child – and how much joy she must feel finding her child again. On witnessing this, the Messenger asked his companions, “Can you imagine this woman throwing her baby into fire?” When his companions responded in disbelief, he taught them, “Allah has more rahmah for His servants than this mother for her child.” Once again, the Prophet saw rahmah as an emotion we have all experienced – not the modern English “mercy” but a mother’s natural love.
Of course, this connection of rahmah and motherly love is linguistically unsurprising, for rahmah is related to the Arabic word rahm, which means “uterus,” “womb,” and figuratively “family ties.” This close linguistic connection is so eloquently expressed in Allah’s statement as transmitted in a hadith qudsi, “I am al-Raḥmān and created the rahm (uterus) – And I named it after Me.” Therefore, if we are to grasp the rahmah that is core to God’s very nature, we must look to what this feminine organ symbolizes – the nurturing emotions we find in mothers and the bonds that tie families together. However, mothers are not the only ones characterized by rahmah; the Prophet himself embodied the quality when he would hug his grandchildren, kissing them.
In the patriarchal Bedouin culture of his day, this was considered an effeminate characteristic.“I have ten children and have never kissed any of them!” retorted a proud, disapproving Bedouin. But the Messenger, knowing the beauty of parental love in Allah’s eyes, warned the man, “He who shows no rahmah will be shown no rahmah (in the hereafter).”, And in another instance, he reiterated, “He who has no rahmah for children is not one of us.”
“And God will show rahmah but to His servants who show rahmah,” said the Prophet, his eyes filled with tears as he held his dying granddaughter. When asked about these tears, he simply explained, “This is rahmah that God places in the hearts of His servants.” This was a most natural emotion so familiar to us – again, not “mercy” but what we would call a grandfather’s “love.”
The Messenger’s mission was that we might truly know Allah, al-Raḥmān, in the very language of personal experience. To help us comprehend Allah’s rahmah, he did not speak of the earthly “mercy” of kings and judges – today’s modern English understanding of “mercy.” Rather, his demonstrations of rahmah directed us again and again to parental love, especially motherly love.
Is rahmah then “love”?
Yes and no. Although rahmah, according to the Messenger, is indeed a form of love, we should be very careful shifting our dependence from one imperfect translation (“mercy”) to another imperfect translation (“love”). “Love” is a very general term in modern English – we speak not only of “nurturing love,” but also “platonic love,” “romantic love,” “desirous love,” the “love of food,” and the “love of money.” These all signify different forms of “love.”
In contrast to English, Arabic uses a number of words to express these different forms of love, including hubb, mahabbah, wudd, and mawaddah. While the Messenger described Allah’s rahmah as a compassionate, nurturing love; Allah’s hubb is a love merited to those conscious of Him, perfecting their deeds, turning back after their mistakes, and always trying to purify themselves. Whereas Allah’s rahmah in this world is universal, embracing everything, Allah does not have hubb for those who commit aggression, oppression, and corruption.
I am not arguing that the English-speaking Muslim community should settle on one alternative translation for rahmah which will serve to substitute “mercy.” In fact, no perfect translation may exist. However, if we seek to understand rahmah as the Messenger taught us, we may better understand revelation so as to clearly convey the divine message to others.
Dialogue with Christians
In our society, we Muslims must accurately convey Islam’s message to our non-Muslim peers. Though we should be very careful to not simply translate rahmah as “love,” understanding rahmah as a form of love is important whenever engaging in dialogue with Christians. Some Christians disparage the Qurʾān by claiming it rarely mentions “love” whereas the New Testament is translated to state, “God is love.” We can readily see that this argument is weak when we take the Messenger’s understanding of rahmah, one of the Qurʾān’s central themes.
And most interestingly, many Christians are unaware that the Bible’s understanding of “love” is not today’s general, modern English understanding of “love”! Just as in Arabic, biblical Greek had many different words that signified the various types of love. Let’s look at an analysis of this from a Christian website:
The Bible speaks of different kinds of love. Perhaps the most dominant usage of the word “love” in Western society refers essentially to sexual love but is not found in the New Testament. One kind of love that the Bible does speak of is a friendship sort of love. This is expressed by the Greek word “philia.” It is a preferential type of love and not much different than a person saying that they love chocolate ice cream. “Agape” love however is the most common form of love in the Bible. It might be more likened to the sacrificial love a parent has for their child regardless of whether such love is reciprocated…
It may seem that Christian “love” in the Bible – agapē – could actually be more similar to rahmah and not other Arabic words like hubb. By contrast, hubb may correspond more to the Greek philia. Though no two languages can ever match perfectly, both rahmah and agapē are non-desirous, nurturing forms of love that God expresses universally.
In light of this, the Qurʾān’s emphasis on rahmah in dialogue with Christians stands out. For instance, the Qurʾān commends the early followers of Christ, may peace be upon him, by saying Allah put rahmah, not hubb, in their hearts. And consider the high frequency of Allah’s name al-Raḥmān in Surah Maryam, a chapter named after Jesus’ mother Mary, peace be upon them. Is the Qurʾān, while vehemently rejecting the notion that God has any need for a son, using this repetition to remind Christians that He remains the source of universal agapē as discussed in their religious texts? If so, it underscores the importance conveying the prophetic understanding of rahmah whenever giving da’wah to non-Muslims.
Rahmah, our salvation and our obligation
If Christianity is said to be a “religion of love (agapē),” Islam is unquestionably the “Religion of Rahmah.” In this present world, Allah’s rahmah is universal, “having embraced everything.” Moreover, the Messenger’s purpose is eloquently described as “rahmah to the worlds.” In the hereafter, Allah’s rahmah is synonymous with salvation, for no one can be saved, not even the Messenger, except by Allah’s rahmah alone.,
This should give us a moment to reflect. Remember, with regards to the hereafter, the Messenger warned us, “He who shows no rahmah will be shown no rahmah,” and taught us, “God will show rahmah but to His servants who show rahmah.” If rahmah is the means to our salvation, having rahmah towards one another is an obligation upon each of us. We must take the Prophet’s commandment to heart:
Al-Raḥmān has rahmah for those who show rahmah. Show rahmah to those on earth – the One in heaven will show you rahmah.
If one wants to learn how to show rahmah to those on earth, look to someone who shows compassion to others the way our mothers love and nurture us – someone who lets his or her tears flow in empathy, feeling the pain of the poor, hungry, and oppressed. Rahmah does not simply mean showing people “mercy” – restraining from harming while having the capacity to hurt. This “mercy” only scrapes the surface of rahmah, which must come from the heart. Neither does rahmah exclusively mean showing hubb to those who commit evil and oppression, “loving” what they do and “liking” to please them.
Instead, rahmah is to let one’s heart ache for those people, caring about their eternal well-being, so that we may all enter Allah’s rahmah, His salvation, in the hereafter. Rahmah is to embody the way of the Messenger, who said, “I was not sent to curse, but I was sent as a rahmah.”
Last word: Hope
God’s revelation is timeless and should resonate with us always. It thus becomes the obligation of each generation to understand that revelation in the language of our own personal experiences. Unfortunately, our dependence on the modern English “mercy” as a translation of rahmah may be faulty and inadequate. All the Messenger’s descriptions of rahmah point to something deeper, something we are familiar with, something we readily know as “compassion” or “nurturing love.”
With this understanding, how much more amazing are the Qurʾān’s words – that rain is rahmah, that revelation is rahmah, and that the Messenger himself is rahmah. We suddenly see all these blessings as God’s deep expressions of compassionate love.
To conclude, we should always remember that rahmah is Allah’s very nature and our only means to salvation, and this should always be a cause of immense relief and hope. For as the Qurʾān and hadith qudsi relate:
And when there comes to you those who believe in Our signs, say, “Peace be upon you. Your Lord has prescribed rahmah on Himself: that any of you who does wrong out of ignorance and then turns back and makes amends – He is indeed forgiving, Raḥīm (full of rahmah).”
Proclaim: “O My servants who have laid waste to their own souls, never lose hope in Allah’s rahmah. Allah forgives all sins entirely. Allah is forgiving, Raḥīm.”
When God completed creation, He inscribed with Himself: “My rahmah has triumphed over My anger.”
Matthew 22:36-40 – “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” Jesus replied, “’Love (agapḗseis) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love (agapḗseis) your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.”John 14:21 – (Jesus says:) “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves (agapȏn) me. Anyone who loves (agapȏn) me will be loved (agapēthḗsetai) by my Father, and I too will love (agapḗsō) them and show myself to them.”
That day We will gather the God-conscious to al-Raḥmān as honored guests and will drive criminals to hell thirsty. None will have the benefit of intercession except those who have made a bond with al-Raḥmān. And yet they have said, “Al-Raḥmān has taken a son”! Indeed you claim something monstrous – as though the skies would tear apart, the earth split asunder, and the mountains collapse in ruin – that they have ascribed to al-Raḥmān a son! For how inconceivable it is that al-Raḥmān could have a son! Indeed, none comes before al-Raḥmān except as a servant. (Surah Maryam 19:85-93)
Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?
#JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society.
Last week, Pakistani society was struggling with the story of the horrific murder of Uzma, a teenager, who worked as a house maid in the city of Lahore. The 16-year-old was allegedly tortured for months and then murdered by the woman she worked for…for taking a bite from the daughter’s plate. #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society.
By Fatima Asad
Living in Pakistan, my children realize that within the gates of our neighborhood, they will see no littering, they will not experience water or electricity shortages and certainly, no one will be knocking on the door begging for food or money. The reason they have this realization is because I make it the day’s mission to let them know about their privilege, about the ways they have been blessed in comparison to the other, very real, living, breathing little girls and boys outside those gates. Alas, my children come face to face with those very real people as soon as the gates close behind us.
“Why are there so many poor people in Pakistan, Mommy?” they ask, quite regularly now, unsatisfied with the answers I’ve provided so far. The question perpetually makes me nervous, uncomfortable, and I hastily make a lesson plan in my mind to gradually expose this world’s truths to them… ahista, ahista…(slow and steady).
But on days like these, when we find out about the death of yet another underprivilged young girl (they’re becoming redundant, aren’t they?), on days like these, I want to hold them, shake them, scream at them to wake up!
Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.
Do you know why that little girl we see outside, always has dirt on her face and her hair is in visible knots?
It is because, there are too many people who can take a shower anytime they want, who have maids to oil, brush and style their hair.
Do you know why there are children with no clothes on their backs?
It is because, there are too many of us with too many on ours. There are too many of us with walk-in closets for mothers and matching wardrobes for their infant daughters. We obsess about tailors, brands, this collection, last season. How often do we hear or say “can’t repeat that one”, “this one is just not my thing anymore…”
Do you know why there are children with their cheeks sunk deep in their skulls, scraping for our leftovers in our trashcans?
Because there are too many of us, who are overstuffed with biryani, burgers, food deliveries, dinner parties, chai get-togethers, themed birthday cupcakes, and bursting appetites for more, more, more, and different, different, different.
There are too many of us craving the exotic and the western, hoping to impress the next guest that comes to lunch with our useless knowledge of foods that should not be our pride, like lasagna, nuggets, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pizza, minestrone soup, etc.
There are too many of us who do not want to partake from our outdated, simple traditional cuisines… that is, unless we can put a “cool” twist on them.
Do you know why there are children begging on the streets with their parents? Because there are too many of us driving in luxury cars to our favorite staycation spots, rolling up the windows in the beggars’ faces.
We are rather spent our money of watching the latest movies for family nights, handing out cash allowances to our own kids so they won’t feel left out when going out.
Do you know why there are mothers working during the days and sacrificing their nights sewing clothes for meager coins? Why there are fathers, who sacrifice their sleep and energy to guard empty mansions at the cost of their self-respect? Because there are too many of us attending dance rehearsals for weddings of the friends we backstab and envy. Because there are too many of us binge-watching the latest hot shows on Netflix, hosting ghazal nights to pay tribute to dead musicians and our never-ending devotion for them, and many more of us viciously shaking our heads when the political analyst on TV delivers a breaking report on a millionaire’s private assets.
Do you know why there are people who will never hold a book in their hands or learn to write their own names? Do you know why there will never be proof that some people lived, breathed, smiled, or cried? Because there are too many of us who are given the best education money can buy, yet only end up using that education to improve our own selves – and only our own selves. There are too many of us who wear suits and ties, entrusted with building the country, yet too many of our leaders and politicians just use that opportunity to build their own legacies or secret, off shore accounts.
Do you know why children, yes children, are ripped apart from their parents, forced to provide their bodies and energies so that a stranger’s family can raise their kids? Because, there are too many of us who need a separate maid for each child we birth. Because, there are too many of us who have given the verdict that our children are worth more than others’.
Because, there are too many of us who need a maid to prove to frenemies our monetary worth and showcase a higher social class.
Because, there are too many of us who enslave humans, thinking we cannot possibly spoil our youth, energy and time on our own needs, our own tasks, our own lives.
Because, there are too many of us who need to be comfortable, indulged, privileged, spoiled, educated, satisfied, excited, entertained and happy at the expense of other living souls.
And we do all this, thinking—fooling ourselves into believing— that our comforts are actually a way of providing income for another human being. Too many of us think that by indulging in our self-centered lifestyles, we are providing an ongoing charity for society’s neediest.
Too many of us are sinking into a quicksand that is quite literally killing us. This needs to stop immediately. This accelerating trend of possessing and displaying more isn’t going to slow down on its own- in fact, it’s become deadly. Too many of our hearts have hardened, burnt to char.
More of us need to sacrifice our comforts, our desires, our nafs so others can have basic human rights fulfilled. More of us must say no to blind consumerism, envious materialistic competition and the need for instant gratification so others can live. We may have the potential to turn into monsters, but we have exceedingly greater potential to be empathetic, selfless revolutionaries. Too many of us have been living for the here and now, but more of us need to actively start thinking about the future.
Do we want to raise generations that will break bread with the less fortunate or do we want to end up with vicious monsters who starve and murder those they deem unworthy? The monsters who continue to believe that they have been blessed with more, so others can be given less than they are entitled to.
It is time for change andthe change has to start from within these gates.
OpEd: Breaking Leases Into Pieces
Ali ibn Talib once said, “Know the truth and you’ll know who’s speaking the truth.”
I am based in Canada and was recently having coffee with friends. In the course of the conversation, a friend (who I consider knowledgeable) said that it’s okay to pay interest on a leased car because interest doesn’t apply to lease contracts. This completely caught me off guard, because it made no logical sense that interest would become halal based solely on the nature of the contract.
I asked him how this can be true and his response was that the lease contract is signed with the dealer and the interest transaction is between the dealer and the financing company so it has nothing to do with the buyer. Again, this baffled me because I regularly lease cars and this is an incorrect statement: The lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company who is charging you directly for the interest they pay the car dealership. Therefore, any lease contract that has interest associated with it is haram. This is the same as saying your landlord can charge you interest for his mortgage on a rental contract and this would make it halal. I tried to argue this case and explain to my friend that what he was saying was found on false assumptions and one should seriously look into this matter before treating riba in such a light manner.
Upon going home that night, I pulled out all my lease contracts (negotiated to 0% mind you) and sent them over to my friend. They clearly showed that a bill of sale is signed with the dealer, which is an initial commitment to purchase but the actual lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company which is charging you interest directly. If this interest rate is anything above zero it is haram (anything which is haram in a large quantity is also haram in a small quantity).
To my dismay, instead of acknowledging his mistake, my friend played the “Fatwa Card” and sent me a fatwa from a very large fatwa body in North America, which was also basing their argument on this false assumption. Fortunately for me, my friend pointed out the hotline number and the day and time the mufti who gave the fatwa would be available to answer questions.
I got in touch with the scholar and over a series of text messages proceeded to explain to him that his fatwa was based on a wrong assumption and for this reason people would be misled into leasing cars on interest and signing agreements with financing companies which are haram.
He was nice enough to hear my arguments, but still insisted that “maybe things were different in Canada.” Again this disappointed me because giving fatwa is a big responsibility – by saying “maybe” he was implying that full research has not been done and a blanket fatwa has been given for all of North America.
It also meant that if my point was true (for both Canada and the United States) dozens of Muslims maybe engaging in riba due to this fatwa.
The next week I proceeded to call two large dealerships (Honda and Toyota) in the very city where the Fatwa body is registered in the US and asked them about paperwork related to leasing. They both confirmed that when leasing a new vehicle, the lease contract is signed with a third party financing company which has the lien on the vehicle and the dealer is acting on the financing company’s behalf.
It is only when a vehicle is purchased in cash that a contract is signed with the dealer. This proved my point that both in the US and Canada car lease contracts are signed with the financing company and the interest obligations are directly with the consumer, therefore if the interest rate is anything above 0% it is haram. I sent a final text to the mufti and my friend sharing what I had found and letting him know that it was now between them and Allah.
1. As we will stand in front of Allah alone on Yaum al Qiyamah, in many ways we also stand alone in dunya. You would think that world renowned scholars and an entire institution would be basing their fatwas on fact-checked assumptions but this is not the case. You would also think that friends who you deem knowledgable and you trust would also use logic and critical thinking, but many times judgment is clouded for reasons unbeknownst to us. We must not take things at face value. We must do our research and get to the bottom of the truth. Allah says to stand up for truth and justice even if it be against our ourselves; although it is difficult to do so in front of friends and scholars who you respect, it is the only way.
2. There are too many discussions, debates and arguments that never reach closure or get resolved. It is important to follow up with each other on proofs and facts to bring things to closure, otherwise our deen will slowly be reduced to a swath of grey areas. Alhamdulillah, I now know enough about this subject to provide a 360 degree view and can share this with others. It is critical to bring these discussions to a close whether the result is for you or against you.
3. Many times we have a very pessimistic and half hearted view towards access to information. When I was calling the dealerships from Canada in the US, part of me said: Why would these guys give me the information? But if you say Bismillah and have your intentions in the right place Allah makes the path easy. One of the sales managers said “I can see you’re calling from Toronto, are you sure you have the right place?” I replied, “I need the information and if you can’t give it to me I don’t mind hanging up.” He was nice enough to provide me with the detailed process and paperwork that goes into leasing a car.
Finally, I haven’t mentioned any names in this opinion and I want to make clear that I am not doubting the intentions of those who I spoke to; I still respect and admire them greatly in their other works. We have to be able to separate individual cases and actions from the overall person.
May Allah guide us to the truth and rid of us any weaknesses or arrogance during the process.
Ed’s Note: The writer is not a religious scholar and is offering his opinion based on his research on leasing contracts in North America.
Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah: A Genuine Muslim Voice for Peace
By Mufti Mustafa Ceric, Ph.D,
Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia
The essence of the faith of Islam comes from two primary sources: the Qur’an, which is God’s revelation, and the Sunnah, which is the teachings, traditions, and attributes of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. But the nature of Muslims come from their many peoples and tribes:
“O men, God has created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes so that you may know one another. But, indeed, the most noble of you is the most morally correct among you. God knows and is well informed about everything.” (Qur’an, 49:13).
Thus, the experience of the faith of Muslims is as diverse as the nature of their national and tribal backgrounds. Therefore, both a specific God-given nature and a specific societal experience of Muslims must be recognized and appreciated within a global Islamic civilization, as long as the principle of tawḥīd (oneness of God), as is expressed in Lā il ā ha illa Allah, and the principle of an ultimate nubuwwah (prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him) are properly upheld. This diversity in the unity of the faith of Islam is a blessing for our ummah. Hence, Muslims must see the various natures and experiences of their fellow Muslims as a blessing from God that enriches an overall Islamic culture and civilization in the world.
Inspired by the reality of this blessing, I would like to share with you my perspective which stems from my God-given nature, my war and peace experience as a Muslim in Bosnia and a genocide survivor in Europe, and how I also see myself as belonging to the universal Muslim community today. Indeed, I would like to tell you why I believe that the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in Abu Dhabi, UAE, led by the esteemed Muslim scholar Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, is a right path of Islam and a good program of peace for Muslims around the world.
My testimony is based on my personal nature and my own first-hand experience of war and peace in Bosnia without a need of apology to anyone. It starts from the fact that, during the war and postwar time in Bosnia, it was hard to find a peace initiative from a credible Muslim group or institution to help me engage in dialogue and trust building with others. All the peace initiatives were coming from Christian groups or institutions that, by this very fact, had an advantage in presenting their case. So, when a major Muslim peace initiative was introduced by Sheikh Bin Bayyah in 2014 in Abu Dhabi, I was delighted to be invited to join it. Indeed, I was praying for its success and continuity because rarely do genuine Muslim ideas survive the tremendous pressure of staunch opponents who oppose such initiatives if they are not in— if it’s not their own idea. Fortunately, it seemed that the Forum for Promoting Peace in Abu Dhabi was spared this destiny—until the last, and in my opinion, the best of all Forums so far—the Fifth Forum of 2018. We know from the Qur’an and Sunnah that right and constructive critique is an important aspect of the nature of Islam, but the recent hate-speech and false accusations against the Forum are not in accordance with the nature of Islam and as such are not of an Islamicʼ adab (ethics) and ʼakhlāq (morality).
Let me say that neither the esteemed Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah nor Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is in need of my defense. They are capable and upright people; their lifelong dedication to Islamic work speaks for itself. I feel the need to raise my voice clearly and loudly in defense of the importance of promoting peace, and the work of both esteemed scholars towards that goal. I humbly claim to be aligned with them in this purpose. And we should be grateful to the government of the UAE for supporting this project that has already engaged prominent religious, academic, cultural, and political leaders from around the world and earned their respect and commitment to this cause of peace.
First, no one has a monopoly on peace, but everyone has a duty to promote peace in their own way because, by its very definition, “Islam” is the concept of peace, and thus a “Muslim” is also by definition a peaceful man or woman. Therefore, the Forum for Promoting Peace is an application of this unique and powerful concept of Islam, namely the concept of peace.
Second, no one has a monopoly on tolerance, but everyone has an obligation to learn and teach tolerance in his or her neighborhood and surroundings because Islam is the faith of tolerance, made clear in the Qur’anic injunction: “there is no compulsion in religion” ( lā ikrā h a fī l-dī n) .
Third, no one has a monopoly on dignity, but everyone is entitled to enjoy the right of life (al-nafs), faith (al-dī n), freedom (al-ʿaql), property (al-māl), and dignity (al-ʿirḍ) because Muslim scholars defined these peace-oriented principles, and they did this long before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These principles are based on the letter and spirit of the Qur’an and the Sunnah as an amānah (trust) of the entire Muslim ummah, not just a part of it.
Fourth, no one has a monopoly on alliance, but everyone has the right to seek alliance with peace-loving persons and nations based on the example of the Prophet Muhammad , who participated in an alliance prior to Islam, known as the ḥilf al-fu ḍūl (the Alliance of Virtues) that he also approved in Islam.
Fifth, no one has a monopoly on democracy, but everyone has the right to speak about democracy, even if they believe it can sometimes lead to tyranny. The Greek philosopher Socrates had that right as well. He used to say that oligarchies become democracies for predictable reasons: “Democracy comes into power,” Socrates says, “when the poor are the victors, killing some and exiling some, and giving equal shares in the government to all the rest.” It’s an “agreeable form of anarchy,” Socrates tells us and adds that “the insatiable desire for freedom occasions a demand for tyranny.”
Sixth, no one has a monopoly on moral preaching, but everyone has a duty to improve his own morality before preaching to others. Islam teaches us that a right moral praxis is better than empty preaching.
And finally, no one has a monopoly on Islam, but everyone has the duty of farḍ ʿayn (personal responsibility) and far ḍkif ā yah (collective responsibility) to behave in such a way that does not corrupt the moral teachings of Islam and does not compromise the right image of Islam and Muslims in the world for the sake of personal gains. The work of Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is their due of farḍ ʿayn and farḍ kifāyah for repairing a damaged picture of Islam and Muslims in the world, due to some irresponsible and militant groups who have claimed to act on behalf of Islam. Those who don’t understand the importance of the message of these scholars are out of touch with reality, and thus, cannot claim to be the right guide for the Muslims, especially in the West. Those among the Muslims, wherever they are, who still support a catastrophic regicide that has happened recently in some major Muslim countries ought to be advised that suicide, individual or collective, is not part of the nature of Islam. Indeed, Islam has never been a religion of destruction. Islam has always been a religion of constructive and inclusive culture and civilization.
Let me say that no Muslim with a good heart and sound mind can be indifferent to what is happening in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Myanmar (Burma), and elsewhere, where our Muslim brothers and sisters suffer. But this pain will not be removed by additional destructive ideas that would cripple the rest of the Muslim countries just because some others are in an internal or external conflict. On the contrary, our duty is to do whatever we can to prevent further destruction of the Muslim states and societies. The Muslims today don’t need more Palestines. They need more hearts and minds like Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. Indeed, they need more countries and societies like the UAE to support the promotion of peace and security among Muslim societies and others in the world.
And my final note to my Muslim brothers and sisters in the West is not to make a hasty judgment that is instigated by some people (and institutions) who do not have sympathy for Muslims who are suffering. If you cannot help the plight of Muslims today, then at least don’t make the Muslim situation worse than it is. Those who have not tasted the bitterness of war cannot fully appreciate the sweet taste of peace. I have tasted both. Therefore, my dear Muslim brothers, sisters, and friends, wherever you are, pray for peace and support those who work for peace, whoever they may be.
Mustafa Ceric, Ph.D.
Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia
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