Imam John Ederer
Some have mistakenly claimed that Islam teaches a compassionate loving bond exclusively with Muslims. When people talk about humanity, they are usually referring to two concepts; the reality of human beings and/or the compassionate benevolence we show our fellow humans. Our scripture has emphasized these two points in many ways. There are some scriptures that break from this fundamental reality of positive human interaction. Those are related to the context of war which is completely understandable. The fact is that there are overarching clear verses regarding Islamic teachings and others which are ambiguous and can seemingly contradict those clear fundamental verses. The Quran warns us,
“As for those with deviant hearts, they follow the ambiguous verses seeking turmoil in their interpretation.” (3:7)
Indeed one of the single most decisive verses in the Quran is that of the nature of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) mission!
“We have merely sent you as benevolence to everyone and everything.” (21:107)
This verse carries profound eloquent connotations in the original Arabic. It defines the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as an act of altruistic care and concern for the ultimate well-being of all things; plants, animals, human beings and the entire world. It is a mission much deeper than just love which can become a cliché void of much meaning. Rather it is a sacrifice of one’s time, wealth and means so that others could be nurtured. Therefore, the Prophet (PBUH) and all those who declare faith in him must share such an approach to the world around them.
To understand this we must understand the roots of it all. Human kind in the Quran is referred to as the children of Adam or humanity. Either way we are all related in the human family connected by the soul that God created of a heavenly source and the body of a Earthly source. We were all meant to embrace each other as a human family getting to know each other without judgements as God is the judge and knows what is in the hearts.
“O Mankind, I have created you all from male and female and made you into tribes and nations so that you may come to know each other. Indeed the best among you with God are the most virtuous. Indeed God is all-knowing and aware.” (49:13)
“O Mankind, be mindful of your Lord who created you from a single soul from which He created its mate and then from the two of them, He dispersed many men and women…” (4:1)
In addition to this, the prophets (PBUT) all emphasized their nationalistic connection with their people, even though they were engaged in deep immorality and rejecting their prophethood!
“We sent to Ad their brother Hud. He preached to them, ‘My people worship God, you have no god beside Him.” (7:65)
“We sent to Madyan their brother Shu’ayb. He preached to them, ‘My people worship God, you have no god beside Him.” (11:84)
A fundamental core teaching of the Quran is God’s honoring and exalting all of humanity as His distinguished creation. This entails a level of human respect that is intended for all regardless of belief.
“Indeed I have honored the children of Adam and given them the means to travel through the land and sea. We have provided them with the good things and clearly preferred them over much of Our creation.” (17:70)
This meaning was brought home in which the Prophet (PBUH) stood in respect to a Jewish funeral procession that passed by him and his companions.
“Sahl bin Haneef and Qays bin Sa’d were leaders in the battle of Qadisiyyah against the Persian army. At one point a funeral procession went by and they stood out of respect. Some of the other Muslims said, ‘But they are non-Muslims?!’ Then they informed them of when they witnessed the Prophet (PBUH) stand for a Jewish funeral procession to which he exclaimed. Isn’t this a human soul that has passed?” (Bukhari 1312)
So there are texts that some people quote attempting to claim that Islam is either confused or that some of the later texts abrogated these concepts. The problem is that we have to understand these scriptures according to the core fundamental texts. Then we will see that they are the circumstantial exception to the rule. In fact, the Prophet (PBUH) attempted to make treaties and live peacefully with all of his non-Muslim neighbors. When these people proved to be treacherous seeking to put an end to Islam and the Muslims, God revealed verses of war engagement. So in this context, he revealed verses of general dealing and attitude with these people. These include,
“Struggle against the disbelievers and the hypocrites being harsh against them…” (9:73)
“Muhammad is the messenger of God and those who are with him are tough on the disbelievers and compassionate among themselves…” (48:29)
“You will not find among believers in God and the Last Day anyone who would have loving affection for those who oppose God and His messenger. Even if it were their parents, children, kinfolk or extended family…” (58:22)
In a nutshell these verses are all to be understood in the context of a group of verses from Surah al-Mumtahanah.
“Perhaps God can make affectionate love between you and your enemies. God is able to do that and He is Forgiving and Merciful. He would not prevent you from being good and fair to those disbelievers who have NOT fought against you because of your religion or expelled you from your homeland. Indeed God loves the just. He only forbids you from taking allies from those who have fought against you because of your religion and driven you out of your homelands. Whoever would make allies with them is surely among the oppressors.” (60:7-9)
In conclusion, those of us who have made a home here in the US should see our neighbors as our human family that we owe benevolence. Most people who have a negative view of us are simply victims of a seemingly convincing campaign against us. We should establish the human connection by reaching out to build bridges of better understanding thus elevating social morality and cohesion.