Today three people were killed. One of them was a woman who was reportedly beheaded in a French church by a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is the Greatest). Other reports say she had her throat slit. NDTV.
Regardless of the specifics, it is a horrific act. And as a Muslim, hearing story after story of atrocities committed by people claiming to share my faith is incredibly demoralizing.
I was wondering today what individuals can do to fight against such evil. It is a difficult question to be sure. But in the endeavor to answer this question I was looking to guidance from the Quran and will share below what I found.
In writing this I am not in any way casting blame on the Muslim community. I am not interested in finger pointing or whataboutisms. I am simply interested in exploring what we, as Muslims, can do as individuals to empower ourselves and our communities against extremism. And in this endeavor, I will look toward God’s message of guidance – the Holy Quran, along with other sources of wisdom.
Made God forgive me if I make an error.
In any kind of adversity, God advises patience.
And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient. (The Quran – 2:155)
Many godly people fought to help the Prophets in the cause of God. They did not lose courage, show weakness, or give in when facing hardships in their fight for the cause of God. God loves those who have patience. (3:146).
But more than being patient, we as Muslims have a responsibility to take an active role in fighting against evil, oppression and tyranny. We must use our words and our actions and anything we have within our power to speak out against such evil and stop it from taking place. This includes protecting the innocent and the vulnerable against violence and oppression.
And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors, and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help.” (4:71)
We cannot be silent or inactive in the face of evil, because that makes us complicit in such evils.
“If I sit silently, I have sinned.” — Mohammad Mossadegh
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” — Archbishop Desmond Tutu
So when we see evil, we must speak out. And we must make efforts to root out extremism, violence, fear, and ignorance in our own communities. Some people say that such words blame the Muslim community. I’m not interested in pointing fingers. I’m interested in being better.
There is a Hadith that says the Ummah is like a body. When one limb bleeds we all bleed.
Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5665, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2586
When one digit commits injustice, we all share in the consequences of this injustice, whether we like it or not. We all suffer the resulting Islamophobia. We must speak out and we must make our voices speaking to peace and justice louder than those promoting oppression and tyranny.
As Muslims we must compete with others in goodness and good deeds.
Everyone pursues his goal. Compete with each other in performing good deeds. Wherever you are, God will bring you all together. God has power over all things. (2:148)
To say such things is not to ignore the history of colonialism and the wars for oil that have weakened and divided the Muslim world. But rather to remind the Muslim world that as Muslims we must strive to be the world’s BEST people in goodness, no matter what adversity befalls us. For that is God’s command to His followers.
The fight against evil starts at the individual level.
You should enjoin right conduct on others but mend your own ways first. Actions speak louder than words. You must first practice good deeds yourself, then preach (2:44)
In the bible, Prophet Isa (Jesus) said, “First, remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)
If we wish to change the world, we must first start with ourselves. We must root out the hate, injustice and evil that dwells in our own hearts through complete submission to God and God alone—The Compassionate and Mercful—Creator of all and Lord of all that is good.
We must not put the words of men on par with God, even if they are scholars of the highest esteem. Because even scholars are people too, liable to make mistakes and errors. So we must read the Quran, think for ourselves, and implore to God in sincerity to guide us to the straight path.
As individuals, we must be gentle and kind ambassadors of our faith.
It is by God’s grace that you were gentle with them — for if you had been harsh and hard-hearted, they would surely have deserted you — so bear with them and pray for forgiveness for them. (3:159)
When you are speaking about Islam to non-muslims, it is best to be kind and gentle. If you are harsh or get easily offended, you will drive them away from Islam. And we must also be kind in our words to each other, avoiding backbiting, criticism and ridicule.
As individuals, we must remember not to fight evil with evil, but with good.
Not equal are the good deed and the bad deed. Repel evil by that which is better, and then the one who is hostile to you will become as a devoted friend. But none is granted it except those who are patient and none is granted it except one having a great fortune. (41:34)
If someone insults and yells at you, and you reply with kind words and patience, there is a chance they could be transformed from an enemy to a friend. And that is true victory.
What is goodness?
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing. (2:177)
Goodness is generosity, kindness, the liberation of the oppressed, help to those who ask, and patience in the face of adversity. Goodness does not belong to any sect or any nationality. It is universal.
What is justice?
And We ordained for them therein a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds is legal retribution. But whoever gives [up his right as] charity, it is an expiation for him. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the wrongdoers. (5:45)
A punishment must match the crime. Forgiveness of the assailant is also an option if one wishes to seek their reward with God. Not only that, but forgiveness is also the most courageous response in the face of an offense.
But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs. (42:43)
True courage is not executed through violence, harsh words or harsh actions, but through forgiveness and patience. That is not to say Islam is a pacifist faith. It does permit people to fight when they are being attacked, but only to fight combatants who are killing and oppressing them—never the innocent.
So the fight against evil and extremism starts at the individual level. Everyone can do something, no matter how small. Much like David versus Goliath. The truth has power. And no amount of money or weapons in the world can compete with the truth.
We must think deeply about our deen and research and contemplate it. We must seek knowledge. God elevates those who seek knowledge to higher degrees (58:11). And we must not be afraid to speak out to others when they say things that are in error or ignorance. But we must speak to them in a kind way, avoid insults or rude behavior.
May God grant us the strength to follow the straight path.