Islamic perspective

The Prophet and the terrorist: A dialogue


The events of 9/11 nine years ago changed the face and character of the world. In retaliation to the Trade Centre attacks, as the US and its allies rained death and destruction on Afghanistan and Iraq, Muslims everywhere were made to feel guilty and Islam was turned into a pariah religion.

If only Osama bin Laden and his jihadists understood the true meaning of the Quran none of this would have happened. Here’s a fictionalized dialogue between Oasma and the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Osama bin Laden: Holy Prophet I most humbly submit to you and ask you how do you view the jihad I am waging against kafirs and western imperialists including America and Satanic powers in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan who are against Islam and are slaves of American imperialism. This is the only way we can destroy the Satanic designs of imperialists and their collaborators.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): Whoever asked you to wage such war and bring destruction and mayhem in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and other countries? Do you know the real meaning of jihad? Are you inspired by Qur’anic teachings, my sunnah or by your own political designs and selfish motives?

Osama: Holy Prophet, I am your follower, follower of the Qur’an and your sunnah and have no selfish motives.

The Prophet and the terrorist: A dialogueProphet: Can you cite any example from Qur’anic teachings and my life to show that I killed innocent people including kafirs for taking revenge?

Osama: Holy Prophet these imperialist forces have designs against holy places of Islam, they want to subjugate us, they want our oil and our rulers have become their collaborators. These imperialist forces are helping Israel to the hilt, arming it to dominate the Arab holy land of Palestine and indirectly are trying to enslave even holy lands of Makkah and Madina through their lackeys and collaborators? Should we not destroy them and inflict maximum damage on them?

Prophet: Why did you collaborate with them then in Afghanistan for several years? Were you not aware of what game the US was playing through you? You mobilized international support for them for years to defeat Soviet Union; they used you as a willing instrument to destroy the Soviet Union and then dropped you like a hot potato and you did not understand their game and now you are acting to take revenge. Is this the Islamic way? Is this Allah’s way?

Osama: Should we not take revenge from Allah’s enemies? Is it not Qur’anic teaching? Should we not teach America a lesson?

Prophet: Allah’s ways of punishing are Allah’s ways, not human beings. Moreover, you are motivated to kill not for higher cause but by feeling of revenge and don’t you know Allah does not like revenge and wants to suppress it?

Osama: But holy Prophet you know America has killed more than half a million children in Iraq alone by imposing unjust sanctions and depriving them of even medicines?

Prophet: Yes, it is true but whoever and on whose authority did you act? Are there not international fora to approach for redressal?

Osama: But why did they not act? All international bodies and institutions including the UN are pocket boroughs of the USA? It is the most powerful nation on earth and most prosperous one. No one dare go against it, no one dare defy its will. What the oppressed nations can do except devise their own ways to stop USA from such actions

Prophet: Osama, did you not help this very nation in Afghanistan when the Soviet Union invaded it and you mobilized several thousand youths from the Muslim world which you named as al-Qaeda and trained these youth with the help of the CIA, the most powerful intelligence agency of the most powerful nation?

Osama: Yes I did, holy Prophet. But what did I know that it (USA) would bite the very hand which helped it in Afghanistan. I waned to save Afghanistan from atheism and from ungodly governance and hence I went to their help.

Prophet: Osama, you were being utterly naive if you thought that USA will simply act and reciprocate good will and dump all its interests in the Middle East, in particular, and, in the world at large. Even Muslim rulers throughout history did not act according to Islamic values and my guidance, let alone a non-Muslim power like USA. Interests are supreme in politics, not values and principles.

Osama: Indeed, O Messenger of Allah I was naive.

Prophet: No, Osama it was more than your naiveté; it was strong feeling of revenge mixed with anger and hurt pride that motivated you to resort to such spiteful violence. I came with Allah’s message in the Qur’an to humanize Arabs in particular, and entire humanity, in general and give them higher morals and make them what the Qur’an calls ahsan-e-taqwim (best of mould) but, as Allah says in the Qur’an in the same sentence it always descends into lowest of low depth (asfal al-safilin).

Osama: Yes, O Messenger of Allah, it is very true.

Prophet: But what is the use of having the Qur’an when you recite it only during prayers, then keeping it away and acting according to your own interests or feeling of revenge or animosity and forgetting all other moral and ethical as well as legal obligations?

Osama: But the Qur’an also calls upon believers to fight against oppression and wrong doings (zulm) and injustices? Am I not fighting against gross injustices against Afghans, Palestinians, Iraqis and others? Does the Qur’an not invite Muslims to wage jihad when the old, women and children are being oppressed? Is fighting against injustices and oppression of the weak not part of higher morals? I thought I am acting according to teachings of the Qur’an! I am responding to Allah’s call in the Holy Book.

Prophet: Osama, the Qur’an was revealed to me and who knows the real meaning of the Qur’anic message more than I do. Other human beings understand the Qur’an more in keeping with their desires and selfish motives than higher moral and ethical and lofty message of Allah’s Book.

The Qur’an, in the first place does not use the word jihad for war or battle, much less for bloodshed. Jihad, in the Qur’anic terminology means highest efforts, morally motivated acts to realize a just society based on moral values Did you not know my famous hadith that best jihad is telling truth in the face of a tyrant ruler? You can only fight back when attacked and that too if it is in the way of Allah, not for any selfish motive or desire. The Qur’an has clearly said fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you and do not commit excesses or aggression as Allah does not love aggressors and those who commit excesses.

Osama: Yes, O messenger of Allah I am aware of your hadith as well as this Qur’anic verse. But my understanding was very different and I thought countries like USA are drunk with power and great tyrants would never listen to truth as your hadith says. Moreover, is America not attacking Palestinians using Israel to protect its own interests in the Middle East and its oil? Does it not constitute aggression against Muslims and is not al-Qaeda fighting in the way of Allah and against oppression?

Prophet: No, no Osama not only that you have taken so many things for granted, you have also made decisions individually and no one in al-Qaeda dare differ with you as you are mobilizing finances, weapons and human resources. A fallible individual like you cannot make decisions even on behalf of Palestinians or Afghans, let alone whole of umma. You are not the government of any country, nor umma has elected you as its representative.

The Qur’an was revealed to me and I was taking decisions as Allah’s Messenger and though I was Allah’s messenger the Qur’an asked me to consult other Muslims (shawirhum) and without consulting all concerned I never resorted to even fighting defensive war. Moreover, at the time Islam was restricted to Madina as most of the Muslims were in that city. Now Islam is spread over the whole world facing much complex political problems. Like in my time in Arabia enemy was from within the Arabs affecting small number of Muslims.

It is not so any more. There are today more than one billion Muslims all over the world and divided in several countries and these countries have conflicting interests. What makes situation more complex is more Muslims live as minorities in non-Muslim majority countries and in USA itself there are more than half a million Muslims and in Europe many more.

Then, how you alone can take such vital decisions which deeply affect the future of these Muslim countries and Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries. Even when Islam and Muslims were confined to Arabs, I did not take any decision impulsively. I thought, I reflected and I consulted my companions before I acted on such vital matters like confronting the enemy.

Among the fundamental values in Qur’an is hikmah (wisdom) and that comes from maturity, experience and use of intellectual qualities gifted by Allah. You abandoned all this and took out your anger and enacted 9/11 which proved to be disastrous for Islam and the Islamic world. Today Islam is facing hostility from its enemies. You have given them a chance to attack it. You have gifted them this much sought after opportunity. Today, thanks to you violence is considered an integral part of Islam and Islam, a religion of compassion, like Buddhism, is seen as religion of violence.

Osama: O Messenger of Allah, is Islam religion of compassion? I thought it is religion of jihad and with a mission to establish justice on earth by fighting all sorts of injustices and oppression and exploitation.

Prophet: Look Osama, it is your interpretation and your interpretation has been deeply influenced by the circumstances you have faced and lived in. Each person understands and interprets the Qur’an and Islamic teachings under their own circumstances. You helped the CIA and fought US war in Afghanistan to defeat the Soviet Union as you thought Soviet Union was ungodly Satanic regime as CIA told you. Then, when US rulers did not keep their promises to solve the Palestinian problem as Israeli support is very vital to them in Middle East you turned against US and organized 9/11 attack on twin towers in New York and you legitimized it by invoking concept of jihad.

Osama: Sir, not me even great scholar of Islam like Ibn Taymiyyah, issues fatwa for jihad after sack of Baghdad in 1258. Was Ibn Taymiyyah also wrong?

Prophet: As I said each scholar interprets the Qur’an and Islamic teachings according to ones own circumstances and Ibn Taymiyyah was no exception. Moreover all Muslims did not agree with him as all Muslims do not agree with you. You must know that some Muslims cooperated with sackers of Baghdad and two brothers Rashiduddin was Prime Minister and Ala’uddin Juwani even became office bearers and did much to salvage precious books constituting great Islamic heritage of knowledge which otherwise would not have survived and forever.lost to humanity. They also persuaded slowly the greatest tyrant of the time to soften blow of his attack and thus averted major calamities for the Islamic world.

As I said retaliation and revenge does not always help, one has to exercise restraint and wisdom. Islamic morality stresses suppressing anger and believers are called by the Qur’an as those who suppress their anger (kazimin al-ghayz). Also, the highest quality of Qur’anic morality is ‘afw to pardon and Allah has been described repeatedly as Ghafur al-Rahim i.e. Forgiver and Merciful.

These are highest virtues of a Muslim and it all depends how you respond, through retaliation or through such moral values. You chose to respond through invoking tribal concept of retaliation, not by invoking high moral values of Islam. The Qur’an has referred to retaliation too when it says one can retaliate but it was only a concession to tribal morality of the time, not highest morality which Qur’an indicated through these virtues as represented by Allah’s names like Pardoner, Forgiver, Merciful, Compassionate and so on. One has to study the prevailing situation carefully before deciding how to respond to it and not invoking concept of retaliation as you did by organizing 9/11 which proved to be disastrous for Islam and the Islamic world.

Osama: Then, O Messenger of Allah, Peace be Upon You, what about justice? Can there be peace on earth without justice?

Prophet: No, there cannot be but question is how justice can be realized? Is violence the only way out? Certainly not. Violence is the worse thing which can happen. It is a curse, not a boon for human society. It is wrong that I ever advocated violence for justice. On the contrary, violence vitiates the process of justice. It releases very complex forces in society like revenge, deceit, anger and retaliation.

If there is any mention in the Qur’an it is not because violence is necessary for bringing about change or justice. It is because the powerful vested interests, frustrated by higher Islamic morality and unable to contain it, resorted to violence to suppress weaker sections of society Islam stood for. According to me even such violence should be met with non-violent method. Non-violence is much superior to violence at any time. Violence is generally resorted to by exploiters, dictators and persecutors, not by the exploited and persecuted.

However, it is at times, particularly in defence, becomes necessary. All the battles I fought in Madina, you will observe, were of defensive nature. I never attacked the enemy but defended only when attacked and when it was possible to avert war, as at Hudaybiyah, I even accepted peace apparently on humiliating conditions which all my companions opposed. They could not understand superiority of non-violence and peace over war and violence even on rather unfavourable terms. It is non-violence which destroys enemies’ strength, violence only gives it opportunity to use more violence. And thus the vicious cycle goes on.

Thus after the sack of Baghdad Ibn Taymiyyah’s fatwa for jihad could not achieve what Rashiduddin and Alauddin Juwani brothers could achieve, more security and preservation of entire Islamic heritage of knowledge which otherwise would have been destroyed. Look what your attack on 9/11 brought? More violence and destruction for Afghanistan and Iraq? And as retaliation your al-Qaeda people are killing hundreds of innocent Muslims in addition to few US soldiers. Was your attack worthwhile? So many innocent Muslims would not have died, had you not killed 3000 innocent citizens of America on 9/11.

And how those 3000 innocent Americans were anyway responsible for whatever America was doing in the Islamic world? This is what happens when we use violence for revenge, the lowest instinct of human beings. Have you not read in the Qur’an that Allah created human beings in the best of mould (ahsan al-taqwim) but he descended into lowest of low (asfal al-safilin). Osama, you descended to this asfal al-safilin and have become cause of death and destruction in many Islamic countries today. Thousands of innocent Muslims would not have died through your suicide bombers had you resisted temptation to take revenge by organizing 9/11.

Osama: O Messenger of Allah (PBUH), I do not think USA could be taught a lesson by using persuasive and non-violent methods. It is too arrogant and powerful to yield to forces of higher morality? I am sorry O Messenger of Allah to differ with you as your worthy companions differed with you at Hudaibyah when you entered into peace agreement with Meccan kafirs.

Prophet: I do not mind Osama you differing with me but tell me who proved to be right? Me or my companions? Peace with Meccans at Hudaiybiyah won what battle with them would not have won. Also, it would have meant so much bloodshed. You as an Arab tribal fail to understand higher moral resources offer to humanity. You know when I entered Mecca finally I entered without shedding a drop of blood and forgave even Hinda, the worst of my enemy who had chewed liver of my dear uncle Hamza. I forgave all my enemies and this higher moral act did what sword could never have done. They were all convinced of truth of Islam and its higher morality and all of them accepted Islam without exception. If I had sought revenge they also would have drawn swords and there would have been long bloody strife.

It is true America is very powerful and arrogant. But did you not read in the Qur’an that when Allah wants to destroy any nation it makes it very powerful and arrogant? Are you not familiar with stories of Nimrod and Pharoah? Did Abraham and Moses use force to destroy them and to liberate their people? Moses was great liberator of the nation of Israel and you know how powerful Pharoah was but Moses never used any force against him and still Allah destroyed him. Moses became the peaceful cause.

America may be very powerful and arrogant but Allah has His own inscrutable ways to punish the powerful and arrogant provided the victims also abide by peaceful struggle and remain deeply moral and spiritual in their approach. The Qur’an which Allah revealed through me has expressed its sympathy for the poor, needy and weak (mustad’ifun) repeatedly and condemned the powerful and arrogant (mustakbirun). Not only that, the Qur’an has promised that it is mustad’ifun who will become leaders and inherit this earth. Have you not read this? Don’t you have faith in Allah?

Osama: I do have faith in Allah O Messenger of Allah and all I am doing is for exalted name of Allah, for victory of Islam and Muslims. I am man of faith and Islam is my religion, my culture, my nation, my life.

Prophet: No, no Osama, you are an Arab and a tribal first and Muslim after. What you are doing is not bringing any exalted name to Islam. It is because of you that Islam is being equated with violence, and a religion of compassion has become a religion of violence. You are motivated more by tribal qisas (revenge) than exalted morality of the Qur’an. How can you bring glory to Islam? That is why many Ulama in Islamic world are rejecting your concept of jihad which is un-Islamic. The Ulama have also rejected Ibn Taymiyyah’s fatwa on jihad as irrelevant in modern context.

If you care for Islam and its exalted morality please give up violence and the obsession to teach America a lesson. You work for justice and peace in democratic ways, promote dialogue between peoples of different faiths, bring awareness among weaker sections about their rights, organize them for democratic struggles and leave rest to Allah. He will punish the wrong doers.

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