After the New Zealand terror attack, the positive teachings of the Quran are a force for good in my life

Islam as a faith aims to spread peace and goodwill, even to those who are verbally or physically abusive

Damir Rafi
Saturday 16 March 2019 16:19
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Australian TV presenter Waleed Aly gives heartfelt speech following New Zealand terror attack

In the aftermath of New Zealand’s deadliest ever terrorist atrocity, in which 49 people were killed and dozens more seriously injured, numerous unanswered questions have been brought to the surface. For example, has inflammatory, hateful rhetoric by certain politicians exacerbated anti-Islamic sentiment? Can we say that mosque attacks like these were inevitable given the growing far-right violence? What can we do to prevent our society fracturing further?

As a young practising Muslim living in the west, the main question I am faced with, however, is how to react when terrorists murder individuals of my faith. Does the Quran teach me to take up arms and declare war or does it present a different solution entirely?

Islam, as a faith, aims to spread peace and goodwill, even to those who are verbally or physically abusive. The Quran commands Muslims that, The servants of the Gracious God are those who walk upon the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them harshly, they say ‘Peace’. (25:64)’’

It is one thing to react to verbal insults with calmness, but to act in such a way following physical attacks is quite another. Following the Christchurch shootings, Independent Queensland senator Fraser Anning sparked outrage by describing Islam as “a violent ideology of a sixth century despot”. In reality, however, early Islamic history demonstrates the forbearance of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, and his followers.

For 13 years they were verbally abused, physically tortured and economically boycotted while in Mecca, simply for professing their faith. Finally, they were able to migrate to Medina, but it was only after the Meccans attacked the Muslims there that the Prophet finally took up arms. According to the Quran, permission to fight a defensive war was granted not in order to seek revenge, or to vent anger, but in order to protect the very concept of freedom of conscience. If they had not fought, then “there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques… (22:39)”.

Islam’s teachings regarding physical retaliation, therefore, are remarkably stringent. The Quran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad establish that Muslims are not allowed to fight religious wars unless the threat is to all faiths, not just Islam. The Prophet’s temperament also demonstrates that a Muslim should never become overwhelmed by anger or by despair. In a famous instance, Muhammad once told his companions, “The strong man is not the one who wrestles others, but the one who controls himself at times of anger”. In an era in which both Muslim fanaticism and far-right extremism have reached fever pitch, this message is as important now as it ever has been.

The New Zealand mosque attack was a tragic, headline event, however the seeds of violence have been sown for many years. Both overt and casual Islamophobia is widespread in mainstream media, and as a result young Muslims like me are often viewed upon with suspicion and distrust. Consequently, when a Muslim commits a terrorist atrocity, Imams and religious leaders are pressured to publicly and loudly distance themselves from acts they had nothing to do with. Yet when white nationalists commit the very same heinous crimes, there is no such expectation for Christians or white people to condemn them.

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It is a hypocritical state of affairs, yet in the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, it is essential for Muslims to continue to provide a counter-narrative, to show to the world through their words and actions that fanatical individuals are the problem, not religion as a whole.

In the wake of New Zealand’s shooting, acts of bravery and sacrifice by Muslims have already come to light. Survivors have recalled how one young mosque worker risked his life, and saved many more, by wrestling the gun from the shooter. In the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, one worshipper, Daoud Nabi, threw himself in front of another, being shot and killed in the process. It is acts like these that are truly Islamic, and if highlighted more, would surely help to build bridges and foster empathy and harmony between us all.

We live in an uncertain world and as a young Muslim, I am all too aware of the existing fractures in our societies. Following this attack in New Zealand, I fear that the cycle of misery may not be over and that extremism may continue to rear its ugly head. I know only one thing for sure, that my own faith and Quranic teachings can be a force for good during this age of terror, a help rather than a hindrance in our path towards peace.

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