At a time when the name of Islam is being besmirched by extremists all over the planet, it is refreshing to come back to what the Islamic way of life is really about. Indeed the best antidote to both Muslim extremism and Christian-Zionist Islamophobia is the actual teachings of Islam.
Even the most anti-rational extremist must be given food for thought in the very plain statement in the Holy Quran:
To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight) because they are wronged and truly Allah is Most powerful for their aid. (They are) 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 truly Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Might (Able to enforce His Will). Surah 22 Hajj Ayat 39-40
It has become unfortunately commonplace to read in the venomous tracts of the Islamophobes that Islam teaches Muslims to exterminate non-Muslims and that they must engage in "jihad" (a term they use for religious war) against them. Again the Holy Quran is clear:
Allah forbids you not with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith not drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for Allah loves those who are just.
Allah only forbids you with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith and drive you out of your homes and support( others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances) that do wrong. Surah 60 Mumtahana Ayat 8-9
This verse makes it a Muslim's duty to treat peacefully coexisting persons with equity (qist) and birr. The term birr and its derivatives are the same expressions used in the Qur'an and Hadith to refer to one's relationship with his or her parents. Such a relationship is more than kindness, since it includes also love and respect. Many English translations of the Qur'an have translated this Qur'anic term as kindness, a translation that falls short of the richer meaning of the original Arabic term. ...The term qist has been translated as "justice." Justice, however, is closest to another Arabic word `adl. This word, however, refers to giving the other his or her rights, no less and no more. Other scholars argue that the Qur'anic term qist means "going beyond justice by giving more than what is due to others." (Jamal Badawi, PhD April 5 2005)
The recently published "The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World" begins with a reference to these mostly neglected "literary monuments in the history of Islam." The author comments:
"Considering that the continued conflict between Christians and Muslims across the world has been artificially ignited by the forces of imperialism, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the content of these priceless historical documents can shed light on the early history of Islam. Via this information we are witness to the primordial relationship between Muslims and People of the Book. Thus, these covenants can serve as a source of inspiration for the establishment of insuperable harmony between the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam."
Extremist of both the Muslim and Islamophobic non-Muslim varieties try to ignore, or even deny, the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) but all accept the authenticity of the Constitution of Medina. There is no doubt that in this there was a clear paragraph:
"6.2 The Jews of Banu 'Awf are one community with the believers, the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs, their freedmen and their persons except those who behave unjustly and sinfully, for they hurt but themselves and their families. The same applies to the Jews of the Banu al-Najjar, Banur al-Harith, Banu Sa'ida, Banu Jusham, Banu al-'Aws, Banu THa'laba, and the Jafna, a clan of the Tha'laba and the Banu al-Shutayba. Loyalty is a protection against treachery."
The second paragraph of the Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Assyrian Christians states: "To the followers of Islam I say: Carry out my command, protect and help the Nazarenes nation in this country of ours in their own land."
The significance of these words is that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recognized the Nazarenes (Christians) as a people and a nation existing with the confines of the Islamic Ummah. As the author comments: "Rather than try to homogenize the Islamic world, making it all Arabic-speaking Muslims, the Prophet recognized that there were nations and peoples within the Muslim ummah. Such a concept never materialized in the West until the end of the twentieth century when countries like Canada finally recognized that Quebec was a nation within the country of Canada....Whether they were Jews or Christians, and later Hindus and Buddhists, these communities represented a kind of United Nations under Islamic rule."
The author asks (p.185) "If Muslims are prohibited from belittling the People of the Book and destroying their property, what are we to make then, of so-called Islamists who insult and abuse them and destroy, not only their material belongings, but their lives as well?"
His answer is no revelation. Many thinkers have come to the very same conclusion about such people: "They are in most instances, conscious or unconscious agents of the enemies, not only of Islam, but of religion as a whole. If the imperialists used Islamic extremists for their own ends during the colonialist period, spreading Salafism and concocting Arab nationalism in order to undermine the Ottoman Empire, it would be nave to believe that neo-imperialists of the 20th and 21st century are not doing the same. While most of their rank and file are unaware of the reality, many if not most of the world's militant Muslim movements were created and remain under the control of US, British, French and Israeli secret services."
Book Review: Morrow. John Andrew. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. Angelico press/Sophia Perennis. USA. 2013
Bill Cleland is retired. In his spare time he works as a columnist for Al Watan - Melbourne Arabic-English monthly and Australian Muslim Times. Before he retired he held various positions as a professional and as a muslim community member. He was an Australian representative on the Board of Governors, International Business Forum, centered in Istanbul (1996-1998), President of Independent Business, Industry Association of Australia (1996-1999) and Secretary of Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (1997-2000) and many more. He can be reached at Ilal42bigpond.com