In the Name of ALLAH, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
and peace and blessings be upon the Beloved Messenger of ALLAH,
and the grace of ALLAH upon his companions, and family, and all those who follow his example
“We have not sent you save as a mercy to the worlds”
THE GOOD DEED AND THE EVIL DEED ARE NOT ALIKE
The claims of conscience are not to be denied
The Qur’an speaks often of good and evil: Sometimes it speaks of khayr and sharr, sometimes of hasanah and sa’iah. All of these words reflect upon one another; all of them carry weight. When Allah describes the moral responsibility of Muslims toward other human beings, He tells us that Muslims are obligated to enjoin the ma`ruf and forbid the munkar. These terms have particular implications.
Ma`ruf, usually translated as “the good,” means that which is generally recognized to be good, or right, or kind, or appropriate. Munkar, usually translated as “the evil,” means that which people broadly acknowledge to be bad. The mission to enjoin the ma`ruf and forbid the munkar, with which we are charged, is therefore not the imposition of a particular set of rules and regulations: it is not about instituting “Islamic law.” Rather it is an appeal to the common conscience of humanity, for the Muslim community was intended to be exemplary, and the exemplary must be clearly recognizable to all.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that if a matter requires elaborate justifications, it is better not to pursue it. This principle has relevance to every circumstance in which rationalization attempts to silence conscience. To bring clarity to one such circumstance is now of pressing importance. For any argument that attempts to define civilians as acceptable targets in war, despite explicit rulings of the Holy Prophet and Hadrat Abu Bakr to the contrary, requires exactly such elaborate justifications and should be immediately suspect. Furthermore it is obvious that any action causing horror and repulsion in the vast majority of people must be munkar. Therefore it is the responsibility of Muslims clearly to reject it.
Resistance to oppression must be distinguishable from oppression
It is well-known and deeply regrettable that the government of the United States is often an instrument for the oppression of Muslims, and indeed for the subjection of many other of the world’s peoples. While resistance to oppression is essentially permissible, often admirable, and sometimes obligatory, the fundamental striving of Islam is not to crush the enemy, but to win him over. Thus while struggle may be inevitable, it is incumbent upon Muslims to fight with less violence and more generosity and self-restraint than the opposition chooses to employ. That is the meaning and impact of the chivalry and knightly honor for which Muslim warriors were originally famous. It is through this principle that those who first carried the message of Islam won the respect of the world.
The good deed (hasanah) and the evil deed (sa’iah) are not alike. Repel evil with that which is better, then he between whom and you there was enmity will become like an intimate friend. (Surah Ha Mim, 34)
To reject injustice committed by fellow Muslims is to take the side of their souls
To enjoin what conscience rejects and forbid what conscience embraces is injustice. Having suffered from injustice does not license anyone to commit injustice. “Help your fellow Muslim, whether oppressor or oppressed,” said the Holy Prophet. “We know how to help the oppressed,” the Companions said, “but how are we to help the oppressor?” “Your help to him,” said the Messenger of God, “is to prevent him from oppressing.”
O you who believe! Be staunch in justice, witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or parents or kindred, whether a rich man or a poor man, for Allah is nearer unto both. So follow not passion lest you lapse (from truth), and if you lapse or fall away, Allah is Aware of what you do. (Surah Nisa’, 135)
O you who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you, that you deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to reverence. Show reverence toward Allah: Allah is Aware of what ye do. (Surah Ma’idah, 8)
If we permit our fellow Muslims to commit oppression we are failing in our responsibility to them, as well as failing in our responsibility to the creation, and may be answerable before God for our silence. Indeed, it is possible that the low condition in which the Muslims find themselves is, in part, the direct result of such silence. We should not tolerate tyranny, in anyone, toward anyone...even on the part of the oppressed.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) stated that Allah Exalted and Glorious, said: My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Me and unlawful for you, so do not commit oppression against one another. (Muslim 6246; from Abu Dharr)
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Be on your guard against committing oppression, for oppression is a darkness on the Day of Resurrection, and be on your guard against petty-mindedness, for petty-mindedness destroyed those who were before you, as it incited them to shed blood and make lawful what was unlawful for them. (Muslim 6248; from Jabir b. `Abdullah)
Retaliation is bound by the strictest of limits
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: When two persons indulge in hurling (abuses) upon one another, it would be the first one who would be the sinner—so long as the oppressed does not transgress the limits. (Muslim 6263; from Abu Hurayrah)
Those who would allow themselves to engage in unjust acts generally defend those acts as retaliations. Retaliation, or qisas, is permissible in Islam—although the Qur’an instructs us on many occasions that forbearance and forgiveness, grounded in trust in God, are far better. Yet if a person chooses the lower course, the rules for pursuing it are clear. Qisas is an exact response in kind. Whoever breaks parity in retaliation has transgressed the limits. This is true even in the case of struggles against oppression. While Allah has given explicit permission to the persecuted to fight in order to defend themselves and to establish the free practice of religion, He has also demanded a clear discrimination between the innocent in the guilty.
These it was who disbelieved and debarred you from the Inviolable Place of Worship, and debarred the offering from reaching its goal. And if it had not been for believing men and believing women, whom ye know not--lest ye should tread them under foot and thus incur guilt for them unknowingly; that Allah might bring into His mercy whom He will--If (the believers and the disbelievers) had been clearly separated We verily had punished those of them who disbelieved with painful punishment. (Surah Fat-h, 25)
Who believes and who disbelieves is not known with certainty to anyone but Allah. Yet one may take it for granted that in any large gathering of people in a modern city there are likely to be at least a few faithful, and perhaps a great many: Muslims; People of the Book; unclassifiable others “who believe in Allah and the Last Day and do good deeds.” For each of those many whose lives are taken bi-la haqq, without right, enormous guilt is incurred. From accumulating such guilt, Allah Himself has attempted to shield the Muslims. Willfully to abandon this protection is to earn His wrath in this world and the next.
Even in an ongoing armed struggle with a declared and dangerous enemy, no step across this boundary may be taken. In a situation of ambiguity, when acts of oppression have been mixed with others of generosity and simple ignorance of Islam is widespread, how much greater is the crime of the transgressor.
The violent are our responsibility
When terrible crimes are committed by a member of one’s community, shame can be overwhelming. It then becomes tempting to deny that the acts are crimes, or else to deny that whoever committed them is part of the community. If we bring ourselves to accept that murder is murder, we would like to believe that the murderer cannot be a Muslim. Regrettably, we cannot take this course. The Holy Prophet strongly disapproved the attribution of kufr to anyone who professed Islam, no matter how superficial the profession, and we respect his generosity of spirit as fundamental to the welfare of the ummah.
Transgression is disconnection
However we affirm that no one can commit a crime in a state of faith. Consequently, though we cannot say that an oppressor is not a believer, we can certainly say that he is not acting like a believer, and that his actions must be fully disassociated from Islam. He has let go of “the firm hand-hold, that never breaks”—insha’Allah, only for awhile.
The Messenger of Allah said, "When a servant of Allah commits illegal sexual intercourse, he is not a believer at the time of committing it; and if he steals, he is not a believer at the time of stealing; and if he drinks an alcoholic drink, he is not a believer at the time of drinking it; and he is not a believer when he commits a murder." `Ikrimah said: I asked Ibn `Abbas, "How is faith taken away from him?" He said, Like this," by clasping his hands and then separating them, and added, "But if he repents, faith returns to him like this," by clasping his hands again. (Bukhari 8.800b; `Ikrimah from Ibn `Abbas)
Hearts are unknowable: behavior is observable
Those who allow themselves to engage in unjust acts may name themselves strugglers against unbelief, but one who has let go his hold on the foundation of faith is in no position to attack others for their lack of it. An accusation of kufr, of willfully obscuring God, has formed the basis of many tyrannical acts, both large and small. Yet those who are quickest to accuse other people of kufr are generally those who have the least notion of how a kafir actually behaves. Therefore, as a public service, we are attaching a straightforward delineation, made by consolidating the relevant ayats. May Allah forgive the compiler for errors and oversights: we have left out references to the fate of the kafir and clung to a simple description.
The meaning of jihad
It is incumbent upon us as Muslims to support the oppressed, whoever they may be, and to protect the worship of God, however it may be practiced.
To those against whom war is made, permission is given because they are wronged, and verily Allah is most powerful for their aid. Those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right (for no cause) except that they say "Our Lord is Allah." Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid His cause; for verily Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Power. (Surah Hajj, 39-40)
And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who being weak are ill-treated? Men, women, and children whose cry is: "Our Lord! rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from Thee one who will protect; and raise for us from Thee one who will help!" (Surah Nisa’, 75)
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. (Surah Baqarah, 190)
Muslims cannot afford ever to forget that jihad means struggle, not “holy war”: it is about risk, sacrifice, and strategy for the common good, it is not about violence. Yes, it has sometimes meant warfare--but only when that could be undertaken with the Prophet’s nobility and honor, and only when no alternative could exist.
With jihad, violence is not the point. Ours is the struggle of love against hate, of justice against injustice, and in the midst of all the madness Muslims must take our stand on that. Nowhere in Qur’an or hadith do we read that the end justifies the means. To believe such a thing is a form of shirk, of assigning partners to Allah, and jihad cannot be practiced with the morals of mushrikin. If we have confused the ma`ruf and the munkar, or permitted their confusion, and if our repentance is not accepted, we will have lost our cause. If we mistake our motivation and values, attributing false righteousness to ourselves, we will have lost our cause.
The first of people against whom judgment will be pronounced on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who died a martyr. He will be brought and Allah will make known to him His favors and he will recognize them. [ The Almighty] will say: And what did you do about them? He will say: I fought for you until I died a martyr. He will say: You have lied: you only fought that it might be said: He is courageous. And so it has been said. Then he will be dragged on his face into Hellfire. (hadith qudsi)
May the Sustainer of the Universe forgive and preserve us. May the true struggle continue.“In Allah alone let the believers put their trust.”
What army can save you except the Compassionate? (Surah Mulk, 20)
And Allah knows best.