Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar
I begin by reflecting on two important verses from the Glorious Qur’an, Surah al-Hajj, Chapter 22, verses 39 and 40, in which Allah, the Lord of Compassionate Justice proclaims: “Permission (to fight) is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged, and indeed God has the power to help those who have been unjustly expelled from their homelands, for merely saying, ‘God is our Lord’. if God had not permitted people to defend themselves against (the aggression of) others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and masajid – in all of which God’s name is abundantly extolled and glorified – would have been destroyed”. Most certainly God will support those who support Him; for God is All-Mighty and All-Powerful.” (Q22:39-40)
According to the majority of the commentators of the Qur’an the above were the first revealed verses, which permitted Muslims to engage in armed combat (jihad al-qital). The famous classical commentators of the Qur’an Mahmud al-Zamakhshari (d. 1144) and Fakhruddin al-Razi (1210) concur that the above verses of the Qur’an were revealed only after the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s everlasting peace and blessings be upon him) and his earliest followers had emigrated to Madina, and only after more than seventy verses had previously prohibited them from defending themselves through armed combat.
The above verses thus mark the change-over of the early Muslim community’s passive resistance campaign in the face of severe persecution from their enemies to that of armed defense. After the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his earliest followers had endured severe persecution for close to 15 years, fled their homelands, migrated to Madina only to be relentlessly pursued by their enemies, they were finally given permission by Allah, the Lord of Compassionate Justice, to defend themselves through armed combat. These verses clearly underscore the fact that Islam is quintessentially a religion of peace and only permits the use of violence as an absolute last resort and only for defense purposes (bi annuhum zulimu), i.e. if we are oppressed and denied our human rights and religious freedom and have exhausted all peaceful options for redress.
Moreover, it is interesting to note that the above verses provide precedence to the protection of monasteries (sawam`i) of the Christian monks, churches (biya’) and synagogues (salawat) of the Jews over that of masajid in order to underline their inviolability and the duty of Muslims to safeguard them against any desecration or abuse, and protect freedom of belief in general. The aim of fighting, according to the above Qur’anic imperative is not only the defense of Islam and its sacred places, masajid, but also for religious freedom in general and the places of worship of other religions in particular.
Church Bombings: “Not in Our Name”
In light of this clear Qur’anic injunction, it is difficult to comprehend that a so-called Muslim group claimed responsibility for exploding a bomb during the middle of a Christian Church service at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu Island, in the Philippines, on Sunday January 27, 2019, killing 21 worshippers and maiming 112 others?
We unequivocally condemn the latest atrocity aimed at sowing hatred and division between Christians and Muslims. As conscientious Muslims it is our responsibility to uphold the key Islamic tenets of social justice and dignity for all human beings, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation. As Muslims we should never tire from asserting loudly and clearly that the heinous acts of murder and violence perpetrated by Da`ish, Abu Sayyaf and their ilk are dishonorable and betray any expression of faith in Islam. Their claim to act in the name of Islam is an aberration of our faith and we therefore unswervingly and emphatically proclaim “Not in Our Name.”
It is ironic that the Church bombings comes a week after a referendum in which the majority of people voted for the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, which will include all of the Sulu Province, including the capital city of Jolo. This historic peace agreement has been welcomed by the vast majority of Muslim groups, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and has ended a more than 70-year old struggle by the Bangsamoro Muslims in the southern Philippines for equality and full recognition of their cultural traditions and religious rights, since the inception of the Republic of the Philippines in July 4, 1946.
The perverted souls who committed this abomination are definitely not advancing their own political cause through evil means and neither do they bear witness to the ethico-moral values of Islam. In Islamic ethics the end does not justify the means. We call on the perpetrators to change their depraved methods of seeking redress for perceived injustices.
I conclude by calling on Muslims to redouble their efforts at reaching out in compassion and love to their Christian neighbours and people of all other faith traditions and of none. At this difficult time in global interfaith relations, let us pray for interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence. We send our condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of the Philippines. We make du`a that Allah, the Lord of Compassionate Justice, will console the victims and grant them a speedy recovery.