By Dr. Mohsen Haredy
Every now and then we read in the news about attacking churches, synagogues, or temples in different parts of the world. Fingers of accusation are always pointed to Muslims. It is true that some extremist groups claim responsibility for some of these crimes.
The question is: are these attacks on churches and houses of worship of non-Muslims are justified in Islam? Does Islam support these attacks? Does Islam promise great reward for carrying out these attacks?
In what follows, we will try to get closer to the Islamic stance on these attacks.
We have to agree in the beginning that we have to differentiate between what Islam teaches and the way some Muslims practice these teachings.
The very word Islam is derived from the Arabic root S.L.M which means peaceful submission and surrender to the will of God. A Muslim is the one who submits himself peacefully to the will of the God; the Creator and the Sustainer of the whole universe.
How can one who plans to surrender peacefully to God carry out these acts of terror?
These acts of terror and violence violate the basic message of Islam which is peace.
The word peace is repeated so many times in the Quran which Muslims believe to be the final and authentic word of God.
Even in the battlefield when Muslims are forced to fight against whose who launch war against them, they are ordered to take the peaceful course of action if the fighting party inclines to peace.
We read in the Quran what means:
And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah . Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing. (Al-Anfal 8:61)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) commanded Muslims not to cut trees, kill children, kill old people, kill women, destroy houses of worship when they meet those who launched war against them to stop the message of Islam.
It is reported that Whenever the Prophet dispatched a commander of an army, he would exhort him personally; that he should have Taqwa of Allah, and regarding those of the Muslims who are with him; that he should be good to them. He would say: ‘Fight in the Name of Allah and in Allah’s curse. Fight those who disbelieve in Allah and fight, do not be treacherous, nor mutilate, nor kill a child.” (At-Tirmidhi)
It is also reported that the Prophet saw the corpse of a woman who had been slain in one of the raids, and he disapproved of it and forbade the killing of women and children. (Malik)
Rabah ibn Rabi` narrated that when we were with the Prophet on an expedition, he saw some people gathered together over something and sent a man and said: See, what are these people gathered around? He then came and said: They are round a woman who has been killed. He (the Prophet) said: This is not one with whom fighting should have taken place. Khalid ibn Al-Walid was in charge of the van; so he sent a man and said: Tell Khalid not to kill a woman or a hired servant. (Abu Dawud)
These instructions were given in the battlefield. What would the instructions be when it comes to people who resort to their churches and temples to worship God?
It is not possible that Islam commands its followers to attack those people and end their lives mercilessly. There is nothing that justifies the killing of innocent people in their churches or other houses of worship of non-Muslims.
Islam prohibits all these heinous crimes and at the same time it protects the rights of non-Muslims and respect their religious freedom. Islam never compels any one to embrace it against his free will.
This is what the Quran teaches about the places of worship:
[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah .” And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might. (Al-Hajj 22:40)
About the author:
Dr. Mohsen Haredy holds a PhD in Hadith literature from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is the former Executive Manager and Editor-in-Chief of E-Da`wah Committee in Kuwait. He graduated from Al-Azhar University and earned his MA in Hadith literature from Leiden University.