Today I started of by reading a story from an English translation of the esteemed biography of Muhammad – Sirat Rasul Allah (written by Ibn Ishaq – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Muhammad-I-Ishaq/dp/0196360331). The story takes place soon Muhammad had moved to Meccah but before the infamous Battle of Badr (the students laughed at me for my mispronunciation of Badr). Muhammad sends a group of 8 mujahideen on a journey with a letter that they were not supposed to open for two days. Two days later, the group of 8 men opened the letter, which informed them that they needed to go a town called Nakhla (between Mecca and Al-Ta’if) and lie in wait for a Quraysh caravan. The group of 8 men were given the choice to back down from the task, but they are continued nonetheless. Along the way, 2 of the men lost their camel so had to remain behind but the other 6 continued to Nakhla. As they saw the caravan, they discussed the idea of attacking the caravan quickly as it would soon be the sacred month and they would be refrained from fighting. Thus, they agreed to attack the caravan and proceeded to kill as many as they could and bought the spoils and a few hostages back to Muhammad. On arrival, Muhammad was not pleased with this decision as he had not commanded them to attack the caravan – only to spy on them and report back to him. Thus, he did not touch the spoils of the attack or do anything with the prisoners. The attack had created quite a disturbance within the area as if this had taken place in the sacred month the Muslims would have violated the code of war and the Quraysh would have genuine reason to attack them.
Nevertheless, soon after Allah send down this verse to Muhammad regarding the whole situation, “They ask you about the sacred month – about fighting therein. Say, “Fighting therein is great [sin], but averting [people] from the way of Allah and disbelief in Him and [preventing access to] al-Masjid al-Haram and the expulsion of its people therefrom are greater [evil] in the sight of Allah . And fitnah is greater than killing.” – see Quran 2:217.
They verse in the Quran goes on to say: “And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able. And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever – for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally.”
We discussed this story and the seemingly opportune moment for this verse to appear, although for a ‘merciful’ God, Allah never says that this act of killing an innocent caravan was wrong – he simply turns it into an act of war and therefore justifies it. The students explained that this was during the conflict between the Quraysh tribe and the Muslims and they Quraysh were continued to attack the Muslims , so this was justified as it stopped the Quraysh from attacking them back. They went on to explain that it is justified to retaliate with violence when someone attacks you. To which I responded with the Bible’s view on retaliation – which is to turn the other cheek and love your enemies not hate or kill them.
The words of Jesus in Luke 6:27-36:
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
The students couldn’t believe the logic behind this thinking (“would you hug someone if they tried to shank you?” – was their exact phrase). And true – it is illogical. But it works. The ONLY way to end violence is to love. Violence and hatred only breed more violence and hatred. Only love stops hate. (Perfect love casts out all fear – 1 John 4:18).
The conversation ended on the disbelief on the students about the logic and reasoning of this concept – to love your enemies. But, the difference is clear – the ‘perfect’ person in one religious ascribes hatred and violence towards his enemies (or the non-believers/kaffirs) and the ‘perfect’ person of another religion ascribes love for his enemies. Which would be the more ‘perfect’ option?