By Sarmad Naveed, Canada
16th October 2023
The loss of an innocent life is like the loss of all humanity.
To take an innocent life is to be devoid of humanity.
But in the madness of war, where do you draw the line between innocent blood and ‘collateral damage.’
As the world watches in horror the prevailing carnage between Hamas and Israel, people are becoming increasingly polarised.
Some call it Israel vs. Palestine. Others call it Zionism vs. Hamas. Still others are passionately convinced that this is a war between Judaism and Islam.
No matter the commentary, Hamas’ attack on Israel has played into the misconception many have of Islam being a militant religion. Sentiments such as ‘Islam is evil’ have been spotted graffitied in London and are on the minds of many in the world.
It’s sad because rather than achieving whatever noble mission Hamas thought it was on, they’ve actually done a disservice to both their religion, and their people.
Simply put, Islam is not a religion of violence, warfare, or bloodshed; it does not teach the use of force to conquer lands, nor does it condone compelling others to accept its teachings.
It’s a religion that says no amount of enmity should contravene acting with justice. It’s a religion which says that if God hasn’t compelled people to act a certain way, then how can we?
Forget the use of force, Islam teaches to protect even the religious sentiments of others. The Holy Prophet (sa) upheld the rights of trees, ordering them not to be cut down, so you can imagine then the importance Islam lays upon upholding the sanctity of life.
None of what is happening in the Middle East is reflective of these basic Islamic principles.
Yet there were battles in Islamic history, the examples of which are erroneously used by Muslims to justify violent actions, and opponents of Islam to promulgate the rhetoric of Islam being rooted in extremism.
Perhaps their views would change by simply reading the very Qur’anic injunction which granted permission to take up arms, in large part to protect synagogues, churches, temples and other places of worship. God granted permission to those who were driven out of their homes, whose freedom of religion was being usurped, to go out and protect the very concept of religion and all such places where God is worshipped.
Again, none of the actions taking place today can find justification under these terms.
And even if there were a justifiable reason to take up arms, there are always rules of war which set reasonable parameters for warfare.
The United Nations has stipulated guidelines to be observed by all UN contingents in the event of armed conflict. Some examples of those guidelines are:
- ‘The United Nations force shall make a clear distinction at all times between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. Military operations shall be directed only against combatants and military objectives. Attacks on civilians or civilian objects are prohibited.’
- ‘The United Nations force is prohibited from using weapons or methods of combat of a nature to cause unnecessary suffering.’
- ‘The United Nations force shall not engage in reprisals against civilians or civilian objects.’
- ‘The United Nations force is prohibited from attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuff, crops, livestock and drinking-water installations and supplies.’
- ‘Women shall be especially protected against any attack, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution or any other form of indecent assault.’
- ‘Children shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected against any form of indecent assault.’
If Hamas is not going to follow the rules of war stipulated by the UN, then at the very least they should follow the Islamic laws on rules of war.
Before deploying a company, the Holy Prophet (sa) would admonish them to go forth, ‘with the intention of protecting religion’ and would then advise:
- ‘Do not embezzle the wealth of spoils and do not deceive a people’
- ‘Do not mutilate the enemy dead’
- ‘Do not kill women and children, nor religious recluses. Do not kill the elderly’
- ‘Create peace in the land and treat the people with benevolence’
- ‘Do not harm that which they consider to be sacred’
- ‘Do not cut down a fruitful tree’
These rules probably seem familiar. Not only do they predate the Geneva Convention and any other framework laid out by the UN by centuries, but they are also exactly what the world is calling for today.
This leads to Hamas’ second disservice, which is to its own people. In fact, this is something in which both sides have a part to play. Although the war is really between Israel and Hamas, the people suffering most are the civilians of Palestine and Israel.
Horrific images of a doctor doing his rounds in a hospital overflowing with the wounded only to come to a bed and find his deceased son laying there encapsulate the horrid atrocities that innocent people on both sides are having to face.
If they wish, then the Israeli military and Hamas can settle the score between themselves, senseless as it may be. But even more senseless is the rate at which children are losing their lives.
The Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) succinctly but powerfully underscored this point when he said:
‘The actions of Hamas were wrong. They had more negative consequences than positive ones. The consequences of all that has happened and the war should have remained limited to Hamas and that, in reality, is what would constitute true bravery and courage. However, now the actions being taken by the Israeli government are also very dangerous. It seems as if there is no end to this situation. The innumerable amount of innocent lives of women and children that will be lost is unfathomable.’
Much is being made these days of which of the two flags people are choosing as their display pictures, or whether to use a hashtag supporting Israel or Palestine. The only flag that needs to be displayed and the only hashtags required are those of humanity. Humanity must prevail. Innocent lives must be saved, so that humanity may be saved.
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