Not so! All who submit themselves completely to Allah and who do good will find their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow.
(Surat al-Baqara: 112)
Only Love Can Defeat Terrorism
In the Qur'an (Surat as-Sajda: 9), Allah reveals that He has breathed His own soul into Man, His creation, and that Man is His representative on earth (Surat al-An'am: 165). One of the most important differences between Man and the animals is that Man was created with both earthly desires and with a conscience. Every person possesses desires that incite him to evil, along with a conscience that inspires him to avoid it. Alongside such pleasing attributes inspired by that conscience, love, sacrifice, compassion, humility, affection, honesty, loyalty and kindness, he also possesses destructive and undesirable tendencies, stemming from his earthly desires. By means of his conscience, however, the believer can distinguish between right and wrong and opt for what is morally right. Strong belief in and fear of Allah, faith in the hereafter, powerful fear of the endless torments of hell and a yearning for paradise all keep the temptations of his earthly desires at bay. Therefore, he always behaves well towards people, is forgiving, responds to wickedness with good, assists those in need and shows compassion, love, affection and understanding.
Terrorists, on the other hand, listen to their earthly desire for violence instead of their consciences, and can easily turn to all forms of wickedness. They become loveless, aggressive people who easily hurt others without the slightest pang of conscience. Having no fear of Allah, they do not know the morality of religion, nor do they practice it. Nothing can stop them from committing crimes.
In restraining its citizens, society's prevailing rules can go only so far. As a result of its law enforcement units, the state may be able to partially protect streets and public spaces, and, by means of a powerful system of justice, may be able to take the necessary means to maintain public order and ensure that the crime rate drops. But since it is impossible to keep watch on every individual, 24 hours a day, it is essential that people's consciences enter the equation at some stage. Someone who does not heed the voice of his conscience can easily turn to crime when on his own or surrounded by people of like mind. The result is a society of individuals who gladly lie when they feel it necessary, have no compunction against enjoying unfair profits and feel no qualms about oppressing and exploiting the weak. In a society that has lost all spiritual values and has no fear of Allah, purely physical measures are clearly not going to solve every problem. The morality of religion, on the other hand, commands a person to avoid evil deeds, even when on his own and when he knows that nobody in his community will ever punish him for his misdeeds. The person who knows that Allah will call him to account for his every deed, his every decision and his every word, and will reward him for them accordingly in the hereafter, will always avoid evil.
Terrorist organizations cannot possibly have any place in a society whose people avoid evil of their own free will. Where religious morality prevails, problems that give rise to organizations supporting the use of violence will disappear naturally. If the whole of society possesses superior virtues like honesty, sacrifice, love and justice, there can be no place for such things as poverty, unequal distribution of income, injustice, the oppression of the weak or limitations on freedoms. On the contrary, a social order will emerge that meets the wants of the needy, where the wealthy protect the poor and the strong protect the weak, and where everyone can enjoy the very best health care, education and transport systems. Compassion and understanding will dominate the relationships between different ethnic groups, religions and cultures.
For these reasons, proper morality is the key to solving so many social problems. The source of that key, in turn, is the Qur'an, which Allah has revealed as a guide for mankind.
Moderate Islam - in other words, true Islam
For half a century after the first verse was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), Islam underwent such an expansion as has seldom been seen. It spread from the Arabian Peninsula to the whole of the Middle East, North Africa and even Spain, drawing the attention of many in the West. In the words of the famous Islamic expert John L. Esposito, "What is most striking about the early expansion of Islam is its rapidity and success. Western scholars have marveled at it."12 Over the next centuries, Islam reached all corners of the world, from Indonesia to Latin America. Today, Islam is accepted as the fastest growing religion, and its roughly one billion followers represent about one-fifth of the world's population. Interest in Islam particularly increased after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (For more details, see The Rise of Islam by Harun Yahya).
Looking at today's Islamic world, we see a wide range of religious practices, depending on societies' different customs and traditions, their cultural heritage and world views. This has led some individuals researching or trying to understand Islam to form mistaken impressions. Those differences may symbolize only the traditional values of the society under examination, not Islam itself. The only way of arriving at an accurate opinion of Islam is to put aside these differences and turn to the Qur'an, where the essence of Islamic morality is set out, and to the actions of our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).
Even if Muslims comprise the majority in a community, that does not mean that a community's behavior, views and judgments will necessarily be Islamic, nor that they need be defended in the name of Islam. When evaluating an individual's, or community's, view of Islam, that must always be borne in mind. Differences may stem from prevailing conditions. The only way to ascertain whether those views are correct is by turning to the Qur'an, the most accurate source of truth about Islam, and to the actions of our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).
It is most unfair to pass judgment on Islam and Muslims without studying the Qur'an to learn whether a particular practice appears in it. Examining the lifestyle of a single community only can seriously mislead anyone who tries to understand Islam and form opinions about it. First, what needs to be done is to learn about Islam from its true source. Then, once the various models in different parts of the world are considered in the light of those criteria, many who only imagined they knew about Islam will actually come to do so for the first time and can free themselves from the errors they have been laboring under so far.
Islam forbids the killing of innocents
In the Qur'an, Allah reveals that it is a great sin to kill an innocent person, and anyone who does so will suffer great torment in the hereafter:
… If someone kills another person—unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth—it is as if he had murdered all mankind. And if anyone gives life to another person, it is as if he had given life to all mankind. Our Messengers came to them with Clear Signs, but even after that, many of them committed outrages in the earth." (Surat al-Ma'ida: 32)
Terrorism targets the innocent, although Allah forbids the killing of even one innocent person.
This verse equates the killing of one innocent person to slaughtering all of humanity! In another verse Allah expresses the importance that the faithful attach to life:
Those who do not appeal to any other deity besides God [alone]; nor kill any soul whom God has forbidden [them to] except with the right to do so; nor fornicate. Anyone who does so will incur a penalty. (Surat al-Furqan: 68)
In yet another verse, Allah issues the following commandment:
Say: "Come, and I will recite to you what your Lord has forbidden for you": that you do not associate anything with Him; that you are good to your parents; that you do not kill your children because of poverty—We will provide for you and them; that you do not approach indecency – outward or inward; that you do not kill any person Allah has made inviolate – except with the right to do so. That is what He instructs you to do, so that hopefully, you will use your intellect. (Surat al-An'am: 151)
Any Muslim who believes in Allah with a sincere heart who scrupulously abides by His holy verses and fears suffering in the hereafter will avoid harming even one other person. He knows that the Lord of Infinite Justice will suitably reward him for all his deeds. In one of the hadiths, our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) listed the kinds of people who are not pleasing to Allah:
"Those who act cruelly and unjustly in the sacred lands, those who yearn for the ways of the ignorant, and those who wrongly shed human blood."13
Islam Commands People to Behave Justly
Islamic morality commands believers to behave justly and morally in making a decision, speaking or working, in short, in every area of their lives. Allah's commandments in the Qur'an and the Sunna of our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) describe that concept of justice in great detail. With their warnings, all the messengers revealed to us in the Qur'an brought peace and justice to all the communities where they were sent. The prophets helped lift cruelty and despotism from the shoulders of the community of the faithful. As Allah has revealed in one verse:
Every nation has a messenger, and when their messenger comes, everything is decided between them justly. They are not wronged. (Surah Yunus: 47)
A most important feature of Islamic understanding of justice is that it commands justice at all times, even if one is dealing with a person who is near and dear. As Allah commands in another verse:
You who believe! Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for Allah alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, Allah is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth. If you twist or turn away, Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat an-Nisa: 135)
Racial and national differences between people are not an element of conflict, but a source of cultural wealth.
In that verse Allah clearly states that to a believer, the wealth or social status of whomever one deals with is of no importance. What is important is fairness, no one should be treated unjustly, and to scrupulously implement the holy verses of Allah. In another verse, it is commanded:
You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of Allah, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to heedfulness. Heed Allah. Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 8)
In that verse, Allah orders the faithful to always act justly, even toward their own enemies. No Muslim can make a spontaneous decision based on the fact that the person he is dealing with has once harmed him or left him in a difficult situation. Even when he is a personal enemy, if the other side is genuinely in the wrong, every Muslim has a duty to respond with good will and to display the morality Allah has commanded.
Allah has issued the following commandment to believers: "Allah does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. Allah loves those who are just."(Surat al-Mumtahana: 8) Here, He informs Muslims how their relationships with other people should be. These verses are the very foundation of a believer's attitude toward others, formed not by the nature of the people he is dealing with, but by Allah's revelations in the Qur'an. That is why Muslims with pure hearts always support what is right. Their determination on this matter is revealed in these terms: "Among those We have created, there is a community who guide by the Truth and act justly according to it." (Surat al-A'raf: 181)
Other verses in the Qur'an on the subject of justice read:
Allah commands you to return to their owners the things you hold on trust and, when you judge between people, to judge with justice. How excellent is what Allah exhorts you to do! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Surat an-Nisa: 58)
Say: "My Lord has commanded justice. Stand and face Him in every mosque and call on Him, making your religion sincerely His. As He originated you, so you will return." (Surat al-A'raf: 29)
Allah commands justice and doing good and giving to relatives. And He forbids indecency and doing wrong and tyranny. He warns you so that hopefully, you will pay heed. (Surat an-Nahl: 90)
Joel Augustus Rogers
All over the world, people are subjected to cruel treatment because of their race, language or skin color. Yet according to the view of justice as set out in the Qur'an, a person's ethnicity, race or gender are of no importance, because Islam maintains that all people are equal. Our Prophet's (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) words, "All of you belong to one ancestry of Adam, and Adam was created out of clay,"14 stress that there is no difference between people. Skin color, social status and wealth confer no superiority on anyone.
According to the Qur'an, one reason why different tribes, peoples, and nations were created is so that they "might come to know one another." All are servants of Allah and must come to learn one another's different cultures, languages, customs and abilities. One intent behind the existence of different nations and races is cultural wealth, not war and conflict. All true believers know that only godliness —in other words, the fear of Allah and faith in Him—can impart superiority. As Allah has revealed in the Qur'an:
Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah's Sight is that one of you who best performs his duty. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Surat al-Hujurat: 13)
In another verse, Allah has revealed that:
Among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and earth and the variety of your languages and colors. There are certainly Signs in that for every being. (Surat ar-Rum: 22)
History offers many examples of the faithful behaving with complete justice towards other peoples, helping Islam grow with incredible speed over a wide area, taking in North Africa, the whole Middle East and even the Iberian Peninsula. By means of these conquests, the civility and compassion of Islamic morality was spread to many races, nations, communities and individuals, bringing together millions in a bond of mutual understanding, the likes of which had never been seen before. The renowned researcher Joel Augustus Rogers has examined the various races and the relationship between the black race and other countries. In his book Sex and Race, he describes Islam's influence on the world in these terms:
Professor Hamilton Alexander Rossken Gibb is one of the world's foremost experts on Islam. In his book Whither Islam? he describes the Islamic view of other races:
Islamic morality aims at a society built on brotherhood and peace, freedom and security. That is why all communities that come into contact with Islam have given up their oppressive, cruel and aggressive ways and have, instead, built peaceful and civilized societies. (For further details, see Justice and Compassion in the Qur'an by Harun Yahya.) In their works, many Western historians have documented Islam's deep and positive effects on communities that came into contact with it. In The Making of Humanity, Professor Robert Briffault discusses the relationship between Western society and Islam:
These extracts indicate how, down through the centuries, Islamic morality has taught people about peace, understanding and justice. Nowadays, nearly everyone is seeking just such a model, and there is no reason why such a culture should not come about once again. All that is needed is people's desire to live by the morality of the Qur'an, starting with themselves and later, making efforts to convey it to others. When everyone, from the highest ranks to the very lowest, begins to implement the morality commanded in the Qur'an, they will become just, compassionate, understanding, full of love, respectful and forgiving. That, in turn, will bring peace to all of society.
The Muslim should use soft words to call people to the morality of Islam
Every Muslim has a duty to call others to the morality of Islam and to inform them of the existence of Allah and the proofs of His creation. Allah Himself has revealed that responsibility in the Qur'an "Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong. They are the ones who have success." (Surah Al-'Imran: 104) Allah also reveals how that invitation is to be made:
Call [them] to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition, and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from His way, and He knows best who are guided. (Surat an-Nahl: 125)
Correct and courteous words accompanied by forgiveness are better than charity followed by insulting words. Allah is Rich Beyond Need, All-Forbearing. (Surat an-Nahl: 263)
True believers know the importance of this responsibility, described in the Qur'an: "They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and compete in doing good. They are among the righteous." (Surah Al-'Imran: 114) Therefore, they call on all those around them, friends, relatives, everyone they can reach, to believe in Allah, fear Him and display a proper morality. This pleasing characteristic of Muslims is described in the Qur'an:
The men and women of the believers are friends of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is wrong, and perform prayer and pay charity tax, and obey Allah and His Messenger. They are the people on whom Allah will have mercy. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba: 71)
It is clear from this verse that all believers, throughout the course of their lives, are charged with explaining that proper morality, living by it themselves, recommending good deeds to others and advising them to avoid evil. Allah commands believers to use soft words, "Say to My servants that they should only say the best…" (Surat al-Isra: 53)
Allah describes good words and bad in this analogy in the Qur'an
Do you do not see how Allah makes a metaphor of a good word: a good tree whose roots are firm and whose branches are in heaven? It bears fruit regularly by its Lord's permission. Allah makes metaphors for people so that hopefully they will be reminded. The metaphor of a corrupt word is that of a rotten tree, uprooted on the surface of the earth. It has no staying-power. Allah makes those who believe firm with the Firm Word in the life of this world and the hereafter. But Allah misguides the wrongdoers. Allah does whatever He wills. (Surah Ibrahim: 24-27):
Anyone who wishes to lead a virtuous life should encourage others toward virtue. Anyone who wants to see good should make an effort to help spread it. Anyone who wants to see others behave according to their conscience should encourage them to do so, and anyone who opposes cruelty should warn those who engage in it. In short, anyone who wants right to prevail should call on all others to abide by it. When issuing that call, however, it is most important to keep in mind that only Allah can inspire people to become Muslims and cause words pleasing to them to have any effect. Allah has revealed that our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), as a result of his noble character and superior morality, always treated people well, and has recommended him as a role model for all mankind.
Islam commands solidarity and cooperation among people
Qur'anic morality demands humility, tolerance, and kindness. Peace and security reign in societies which live by these virtues.
In the Qur'an Allah has issued this command:
... help each other to goodness and Allahliness. Do not help each other to wrongdoing and enmity. Have fear of Allah. Allah is severe in retribution. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 2)
As that verse makes clear, the faithful struggle only for what is good. They consider the words of Allah in the Qur'an: "Whatever good you do, Allah knows it." (Surat an- Nisa: 127) They never forget that they will be recompensed for all they do in the Sight of our Lord, but Allah reveals that pleasing mutual aid needs to be in a framework of "good and Allahliness." The meaning of goodness is also explained in the Qur'an :
It is not devoutness to turn your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, those with true devoutness are those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travelers and beggars, and to set slaves free, and who perform prayer and pay charity tax; those who honor their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast in poverty and illness and in battle. Those are the people who act loyal. They are the people who guard against evil. (Surat al-Baqara: 177)
True goodness, therefore, is rather different from the way society in general perceives it. Those who do not live by the morality of the Qur'an view good deeds as favors they confer, whenever they happen to feel like it. Usually they restrict such good deeds to giving money to a beggar, or giving up their seat on the bus to an elderly person.
Yet as we have seen from the above verse, in the Qur'an Allah describes goodness as a concept encompassing the whole of a believer's life, as an obligation that must be fulfilled throughout the course of his life, not only when he feels like it or happens to remember it. As a servant, any Muslim possesses true sincerity and helps the poor and needy, even if he himself is in need, even giving up the things he loves (Surat al-Insan: 8). In Surat adh-Dhariyat: 19, which reads, "And beggars and the destitute received a due share of their wealth," Allah has revealed that rendering assistance, helping others and doing good are all incumbent upon Muslims. They give help unconditionally, and believers are ready to make any sacrifice to encourage others towards what is good. They expect nothing in return, apart from winning the pleasure of Allah. In the Qur'an, Allah describes such behavior by believers:
We feed you only out of desire for the Face of Allah. We do not want any repayment from you nor any thanks. Truly We fear from our Lord a glowering, calamitous Day. (Surat al-Insan: 9-10)
Muslims know that Allah is the Lord of infinite justice, and never forget that their good behavior will be suitably rewarded in the hereafter. Nor do they forget that life in this world is only temporary, and that their true home lies in the sight of Allah. In the Qur'an, He warns people of their inevitable end, and calls on them all to behave in a manner pleasing to Him:
We did not create the heavens and earth and everything between them, except with truth. The Hour is certainly coming, so turn away graciously. (Surat al-Hijr: 85)
Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him. Be good to your parents and relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to neighbors who are related to you and neighbors who are not related to you, and to companions and travelers and your slaves. Allah does not love anyone vain or boastful. (Surat an-Nisa: 36)
The recompense for those who exhibit pleasing behavior is of great good news for all of mankind, and is revealed in these verses:
But as for those who believe and do right actions, We will not let the wage of good-doers go to waste. (Surat al-Kahf: 30)
When those who have done their duty are asked, "What has your Lord sent down?" their reply is, "Good!" There is good in this world for those who do good, and the abode of the hereafter is even better. How wonderful is the abode of those who guard against evil: Gardens of Eden which they enter, with rivers flowing under them, where they have whatever they desire. That is how Allah repays those who guard against evil. (Surat an-Nahl: 30-31)
Islam commands us to do good and avoid evil
Believers learn the true meaning of good and evil from the Qur'an, a book revealed by Allah as the standard by which to discern the true from the false." Concepts such as good and bad, right and wrong, are elucidated in the Qur'an with examples that everyone can understand. Believers' fear of Allah gives them light and understanding to help them distinguish between good and bad. (Surat al-Anfal: 29)
Muslims spend their whole lives implementing their awareness of the good and evil, as described in the Qur'an. Yet they also assume another important responsibility, inviting others to see the truth, to avoid evil and to live by the morality of the Qur'an. Believers spend their lives telling people about the difference between good and evil, because to the faithful, Allah has given the following command:
Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong. They are the ones who have success. (Surah Al'Imran: 104)
In the Qur'an, Allah stresses how those who abide by this commandment are much more auspicious than others:
You are the best nation ever to be produced before mankind. You enjoin the right, forbid the wrong and believe in Allah. If the People of the Book were to believe, it would be better for them. Some of them are believers, but most of them are deviators. (Surah Al 'Imran: 110)
The faithful perform that Qur'anic duty not only in respect of those ignorant of the difference between right and wrong and with no knowledge of religion, but also in respect of the faithful themselves. People fall into error not only out of ignorance, but sometimes out of forgetfulness, by mistake or when driven by earthly desires. Thus, the faithful encourage good and prevent evil by reminding one another of the Qur'an's commandments. They warn each other that in this world, those who fail to avoid evil will suffer the torments of hell,and that only those who do good and devoutly carry out their religious obligations will be rewarded with paradise. That delightful responsibility means that they never need feel wearied or discouraged while continuing to warn others compassionately and affectionately, no matter what mistakes they might have made. In many verses, Allah reveals that He loves those who have patience, and calls on the faithful to be patient when practicing the morality of the Qur'an:
You who believe! Seek help in steadfastness and prayer. Allah is with the steadfast. (Surat al-Baqara: 153)
… Those who are steadfast and do right actions. They will receive forgiveness and a large reward. (Surah Hud: 11)
Islam commands us to repay evil with good
A good action and a bad action are not the same. Repel the bad with something better and, if there is enmity between you and someone else, he will be like a bosom friend. (Surah Fussilat: 34)
Ward off evil with what is better. We know very well what they express. (Surat al-Muminun: 96)
In these verses, Allah promises the faithful that they can secure positive results, so long as they adopt a pleasant attitude in the face of wrongdoing. The Qur'an emphasizes that even when a believer is dealing with an enemy he can still establish a warm friendship. Responding to evil with good is also an essential part of compassion. When any believer sees others adopting an attitude that will not be pleasing to Allah, he considers first of all how that will affect them in the hereafter. Then he approaches them with understanding and humility, refusing to let himself become puffed up with pride.
Over the course of their lives, believers may come across people of very different characters. Yet they will not change their view of morality according to the people they meet. Others may speak mockingly, use ugly words, become angry or even behave in a hostile manner. Yet the true believer never ceases to be polite, modest and compassionate. He will not respond to ugly words with more of the same. He will not laugh at those who mock him, nor answer anger with anger, but remains patient and compassionate. In the face of insulting behavior, he will respond with proper morality, and with such affection and compassion that the other party will feel ashamed.
That is the morality our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) recommends to us. In one of the hadiths, he says, "You do not return evil for evil, but excuse and forgive."18 In another hadith, he calls on the faithful in these terms: "None of you must be the kind of weak person who says, ‘He who has no compassion will receive none.' "19
In the Qur'an (Surat al-Ma'ida: 13), our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) was told to be forgiving when betrayed by some of the children of Israel:
… They have forgotten a good portion of what they were reminded of. You will never cease to come upon some act of treachery on their part, except for a few of them. Yet pardon them, and overlook. Allah loves good-doers.
As in this verse Allah shows, poor morality displayed by someone else is no justification for displaying the same thing. Each individual is solely responsible to Allah for his actions. According to the Qur'an, acting with compassion, affection and proper morality in the face of someone else's bad behavior is a sign of superior morality that reveals the extent of a believer's devotion to Allah. In one verse Allah reveals the reward that such a pleasing attitude will bring:
Those who do good will have the best, and more! Neither dust nor debasement will darken their faces. They are the Companions of the Garden, remaining in it timelessly, forever. (Surah Yunus: 26)
Islam commands the faithful to be forgiving, always
One important sign of compassion is a person's ability to forgive. In the Qur'an , Allah calls upon His servants to "make allowances for people, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant." (Surat al-A'raf: 199)
Some may find this attitude difficult, but in the Sight of Allah, it will be well rewarded. Those caught up in anger may well refuse to forgive mistakes. But to the faithful, Allah has revealed that it is better to forgive and, in Surat ash-Shura: 40, has recommended this morality:
The repayment of a bad action is one equivalent to it. But if someone pardons and puts things right, his reward is with Allah...
In another verse), Allah reveals, "But if someone is steadfast and forgives, that is the most resolute course to follow." (Surat ash-Shura: 43) and emphasizes that this is a very superior form of morality:
“Those of you possessing affluence and ample wealth should not make oaths that they will not give to their relatives and the very poor and those who have emigrated in the way of Allah. They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Surat an-Nisa: 22)
In these words, He encourages the faithful to consider their own positions when it comes to forgiveness. Because everyone wants Allah to forgive him, to protect and show him mercy, so do we hope that all others will excuse and forgive our mistakes. Therefore, Allah has commanded the faithful to treat others in the same way they would like to be treated themselves. That important responsibility encourages the faithful to be forgiving towards one another. Our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) encouraged them in these words: "That person is nearest to Allah, who pardons, when he has someone in his power, one who would have injured him."20
Knowing that at any moment they may make a mistake, believers are understanding towards others. In those verses in the Qur'an dealing with repentance Allah makes it clear that never making mistakes is not as important as the determination never to repeat them. Allah reveals in the Qur'an as:
Allah accepts only the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and then quickly repent after doing it. Allah turns towards such people. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Surat an-Nisa: 17)
Under conditions that reveal an individual's sincerity, the faithful behave forgivingly and compassionately towards one another. If someone who has committed error sincerely repents having done so, they cannot judge him for his past deeds. Even when the faithful are totally in the right and the other party completely in the wrong, still they have no compunction about forgiveness, because Allah recommends such behavior as an example of proper morality:
Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people—Allah loves the good-doers. (Surah Al'Imran: 134)
When it comes to forgiving, the faithful do not distinguish between great and small errors, nor do they tailor their view of forgiveness accordingly. Someone may have committed an error inflicting severe harm on others, great financial loss or even loss of life. Yet the faithful know everything happens by the permission of Allah, as part of His destiny. When it comes to such things, they therefore place themselves in the hands of Allah and feel no personal anger.
Alternatively, if someone transgresses this Qur'anic rule and exceeds the bounds set by Allah, only Allah can judge that person's behavior. It is never up to the faithful to judge, or refuse to forgive, anyone on any matter. The truly sorry and repentant person will have his reward only in the Sight of Allah. In many verses, Allah has revealed that apart from "associating partners to Him," He will forgive the errors of the faithful who repent sincerely. Since one man cannot know another's repentance, the faithful simply forgive in the manner Allah revealed to them. If the Qur'an has anything to say on a particular subject, they treat the person who has committed error in that light.
Islam commands people to behave gently
Allah has infinite compassion, and is forgiving, protective and gentle toward believers. The Compassionate and Merciful has placed all the blessings in the universe at Man's disposal, supporting him with messengers to reveal the true path. He directs all men to be His sincere servants by means of His revelations, each of which is a guidepost to that path. Our Lord is the Halim (the Clement), Adl (Lord of Infinite Justice), ‘Afuw (the Pardoner), Asim (the Protector), Barr (the Source of All Goodness), Ghafir (the Forgiver), Hafiz (the Protector), Karim (the Generous One), Latif (the Subtle One), Muhsin (Lord of Infinite Kindness), Ra'uf (the Compassionate), Salam (the Author of Safety), Tawwab (the Accepter of Repentance) and Wahhab (the Bestower).
Believers know that they are under our Lord's protection and are aware of His infinite goodness and kindness. For that reason, they are eager to become the kind of servants that are pleasing to Him, who merit His mercy, and paradise. As we have seen, one characteristic distinguishing believers is they are full of love and compassion. A believer behaves very gently, always treating others kindly. Allah has offered our Prophet's (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) gentle nature as an example to all believers (Surah Al'Imran: 159):
It is a mercy from Allah that you were gentle with them. If you had been rough or hard of heart, they would have scattered from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult with them about the matter. Then when you have reached a firm decision, put your trust in Allah. Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.
In that verse Allah describes how our Prophet's (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) gentle, moral nature exerted a positive influence on people, whereby they grew even more devoted to him. In the Qur'an Allah gives the gentle natures of other loving prophets as role models. As revealed in one verse, the Prophet Jethro (peace be upon him) was sent by Allah to the people of Midian, they told him, "... You are clearly the forbearing, the rightly-guided!" (Surah Hud: 87) The superior morality of the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) is another example for everyone. In the Qur'an Allah tells us that he was sensitive, gentle and full of love. In the verses Allah reveals as:
Abraham would not have asked forgiveness for his father, but for a promise he made to him, and when it became clear to him that he was an enemy of Allah, he renounced him. Abraham was tenderhearted and forbearing. (Surat at-Tawba: 114)
Abraham was forbearing, compassionate, penitent. (Surah Hud: 75)
Allah has commanded his believers always to behave in a pleasant manner, to speak kindly, and to treat others well. His prophets behaved accordingly. For example, when the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was about to go to Pharaoh, one of the most repressive and cruel rulers of all times, Allah called on the Prophet Moses (pbuh) in these terms:
Go, you and your brother, with My Signs, and do not slacken in remembering Me. Go to Pharaoh; he has overstepped the bounds. But speak to him with gentle words so that hopefully, he will be reminded or show some fear. (Surat Ta Ha: 42-44)
These verses are an important reminder that everyone has a duty to live by the morality that Allah reveals, and to adopt the morality of the prophets. In the Qur'an Allah proposes the following ideals for mankind: love of all creatures Allah created, being kind and gentle in the best possible ways, always favoring compromise and understanding, never speaking harshly, even under the most trying circumstances, making sacrifices happily and willingly, always desiring and seeking the best for others, relegating one's own personal desires to the background, wishing for others exactly what one wishes for oneself, being always quick to offer assistance in cases of need and rejecting all forms of cruelty. That, no doubt, is exactly the ethical model that mankind is searching for.
Islam supports freedom of belief
In matters of belief, Islam offers people complete freedom, and in the very clearest language. That has been so ever since Islam was first revealed, and forms the basis of today's Islamic morality. The verses on the subject are perfectly clear:
There is no compulsion where religion is concerned. Right guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false Allahs and believes in Allah has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara: 256)
According to Islam, people are free to choose whatever beliefs they wish, and nobody can oblige anyone else. Yes, a Muslim has a duty to communicate Islam and explain the existence of Allah, to state that the Qur'an is the book of His revelation, that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) was His messenger and to speak of the hereafter and the Day of Judgment and of the beauty of Islamic morality. Yet that duty is restricted to explaining the religion only. In one verse, Allah informs our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) that he is only a messenger:
Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition, and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from His way. And He knows best who are guided. (Surat an-Nahl: 125)
In another verse Allah states, "... It is the truth from your Lord; so let whoever wishes believe and whoever wishes disbelieve..." (Surat al-Kahf: 29) And, our Lord warns the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) as, "Perhaps you will destroy yourself with grief because they will not become believers." (Ash-Shu'ara': 3,) He also issues this reminder:
We know best what they say. You are not a dictator over them. So remind, with the Qur'an, whoever fears My Threat. (Surah Qaf: 45)
People are free to choose correctly or wrongly. When Islam, the true path that Allah has revealed, is explained, they come to believe of their own free will, reaching this decision with no pressure being put on them. If they make wrong choices, they will face the consequences in the hereafter. On this subject, the Qur'an contains the clearest command and reminder by Allah:
"If your Lord had willed, all the people on the earth would have believed. Do you think you can force people to be believers?" (Surah Yunus:99)
When one of the faithful explains matters, one person might come to believe straightaway whereas another might adopt a mocking and aggressive attitude. One who follows his conscience might decide to devote his life to pleasing Allah, even while another, doing as the deniers did, might respond to those same kind words with wickedness. Yet his denial will not lead whoever issued the invitation to suffer or despair as Allah has stated, "But most people, for all your eagerness, are not believers. You do not ask them for any wage for it. It is only a reminder to all beings." (Surah Yusuf: 103-104)
What is important is that no matter what reaction he meets with, the person who abides by the Qur'an keeps on displaying the kind of morality that is hoped will please Allah, refuses to make any concessions on it and puts his trust in Allah. Allah has told us that His religion is to be explained in the most pleasing manner as revealed in the Qur'an:
Argue with the People of the Book only in the kindest way—except in the case of those of them who do wrong–saying, "We believe in what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to you. Our Allah and your Allah are one and we submit to Him." (Surat Al-Ankabut: 46)
We must not forget that every event, large or small, takes place according to a destiny created by Allah. He reveals the true path to anyone invited to believe in Him. For that reason, the faithful feel no distress at the behavior of those who reject Him. In the Qur'an, Allah tells our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) not to be distressed when those whom he calls on to believe refuse to do so: "Perhaps you may destroy yourself with grief, chasing after them, if they do not believe in these words." (Surat al-Kahf: 6). Also in another verse Allah commands: "You cannot guide those you would like to, but Allah guides those He wills. He has best knowledge of the guided." (Surat al-Qasas: 56)
That means that whatever invitations an individual issues, all his pleasant words, and every detail he goes into can only have an effect by the will of Allah.
A believer's only responsibility is to call people to the Qur'an. He cannot be blamed for atheists' refusal to amend their ways, nor with how they will earn the torments of hell for themselves. Our Lord told our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), "We have sent you with the Truth, bringing good news and giving warning. Do not ask about the inhabitants of the Blazing Fire." (Surat al-Baqara: 119)
Allah has given mankind both reason and a conscience. His messengers and the Divine books revealed to them have shown the true path, and people are responsible for their own choices. Islamic morality can be lived only by a sincere decision to do so, by surrendering oneself to Allah and listening to one's conscience, which always commands one to do what is right. It is a total violation of Islamic morality to force anyone to believe, because what matters is an individual's surrendering himself to Allah with all his heart and believing sincerely. If any system obliges people to have faith, then those "converts" will become religious only out of fear. This means preparing the ground for hypocrisy to flourish, which is totally undesirable. The only acceptable way to live by a religion is within an environment that leaves one's conscience completely free. This is what Allah revealed to our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace):
So remind them! You are only a reminder. You are not in control of them. But as for anyone who turns away and disbelieves, Allah will punish him with the Greatest Punishment. Certainly it is to Us they will return Then their Reckoning is Our concern. (Surat Al-Ghashiyya: 21-26)
It also needs to be emphasized that Islam leaves people free to make their own choices regarding religion and commands them to respect other religions. Even if someone believes in what the Qur'an describes as superstition, he can still live in peace and security in Muslim lands and freely perform his own religious obligations. In the Qur'an, Allah commanded our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) to tell those who denied Him:
"I do not worship what you worship, and you do not worship what I worship. Nor will I worship what you worship, nor will you worship what I worship. You have your religion, and I have my religion." (Surat al-Kafirun: 2-6)
Under the morality of Islam, everyone is free to carry out the obligations in accord with his own particular belief. Nobody can prevent anyone else from performing their particular religious duties, nor can he oblige them to worship in the manner he desires. That violates the morality of Islam, and is unacceptable to Allah. In Islamic history, a model of society emerges in which everyone is free to worship and perform the obligations attendant upon his particular chosen beliefs. In the Qur'an Allah describes monasteries, churches, synagogues, and the places of worship of the Peoples of the Book as all under His protection:
... If Allah had not driven some people back by means of others, [then] monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where Allah's name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. Allah will certainly help those who help Him—Allah is All-Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Hajj: 40)
Our Prophet's (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) life is full of such examples. When Christians came to see him, he left his own mosque for them to use and pray in.21 That kind of compassionate understanding was maintained during the times of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs who succeeded the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). After Damascus was captured, a church that had been turned into a mosque was divided into two, so that Christians might worship in one half and Muslims in the other.22
Islam commands that oppression be abolished
Muslims should never remain silent in the face of oppression that they witness, or even hear about secondhand. Their compassion, stemming from the morality of the Qur'an, directs them to oppose all tyranny, wickedness and oppression, to defend the oppressed and to wage a war of ideas on their behalf. Whether dealing with their closest friends or with strangers with whom they share no interests in common they behave in a manner determined to prevent any such oppression. Rather, they seize on this opportunity to win the good pleasure of Allah and implement the morality of the Qur'an. Because a believer's conscience is so very sensitive, his compassion never lets him turn a blind eye to the slightest injustice or cruelty. He will take his place in the vanguard of that morality by avoiding any actions that might be unfair to or oppress anyone else. Whenever he sees anyone else behaving that way, his conscience gives him no peace until he has done everything possible to right matters. True compassion has no room for forgetting about oppression, ignoring it or underestimating it.
The ignorant seldom act until oppression stands at their own gate. This stems from their forgetting or denying that in the hereafter they will be brought face to face with all the good and bad deeds that they encountered in this world. But the faithful, well aware of this, will treat even total strangers they have never met with great compassion and seek to rescue them from oppression. Even if no one else supports them they will muster all their strength to forestall wickedness. Even though the majority may behave differently, their lack of conscience never rubs off on the true believer. In the hereafter, Muslims know they will be called to account for what they did to prevent evil. They will not be able to get away with excuses like, "I didn't see it," or, "I didn't hear it," or "I never knew what was going on."
As revealed in the Qur'an, "... he [man] will come to Us all alone," every human being will return to his Creator on his own" (Surah Maryam: 80). People will be brought into the Presence of Allah, put to the trial and called to account for their deeds in this world. Only those who followed the dictates of their conscience will come out of that questioning at all well. Those who have behaved well, opposed all forms of cruelty, fought evil and remained on the path of Allah can expect a suitable reward. Allah mentions this matter in another verse:
All who submit themselves completely to Allah and are good-doers will find their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Surat al-Baqara: 112)
Footnotes12. John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford : Oxford University, England, 1991, p. 33
13. Sahih Bukhari Hadith
14. Prophet Muhammed's Last Sermon
15. Andy Thomas, Islam Insanligin Ruh (Islam is the Spirit of Humanity) , Timas Yayinlari, Istanbul, 1997, p.33
16. H.A.R. Gibb, Whither Islam, London, 1932, p. 379.
17. Prof. Robert Briffault, Insanligin Gelisimi (The Making of Humanity), http://www.tolueislam.com/Shabbir/SA_WINC_4.htm, Andy Thomas, Islam Insanligin Ruh (Islam is the Spirit of Humanity) , Timas Yayinlari, Istanbul, 1997, p.38
18. Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 362
19. Sahih Bukhari Hadith
21. Ali Bulac, Cagdas Kavramlar ve Düzenler, Iz yayincilik, 16. Edition, Istanbul, 1998, p. 241
22. Ali Bulac, Cagdas Kavramlar ve Düzenler, Iz yayincilik, 16. Edition, Istanbul, 1998, p. 241