Friday, August 1, 2014

Gaza - what would Muhammad do?

Nobody can watch the appalling pictures of women and children dying in Gaza and remain unmoved. Even those who support Israel in their right to protect themselves from the indiscriminate rockets fired by Hamas must feel that something more should be done to spare innocent lives.
The moral high ground is fought over more keenly than any strategic position and is lost by the side that is seen to care the least for the innocents.
Muslims the world over are expressing their outrage. And we can sympathise.
In the context of what we are seeing day after day in Gaza, non Muslims might also be impressed to learn of the Prophet Muhammad's injunction not to kill women and children in battle as reported in the hadith of both Bukhari and Muslim:
Saheeh Bukhari Volume 004, Book 052, Hadith Number 258.Narrated By Ibn 'Umar : During some of the Ghazawat of Allah's Apostle a woman was found killed, so Allah's Apostle forbade the killing of women and children. Saheeh Muslim Book 019, Hadith Number 4320Chapter : Prohibition of killing women and children in warIt is narrated by Ibn 'Umar that a woman was found killed in one of these battles; so the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) forbade the killing of women and children
But what is less often referred to are the reports from the same saheeh (totally reliable) hadith which throw a different light on Muhammad's desire that innocent blood should not be spilled in war.

Saheeh Muslim Book 019, Hadith Number 4321. 
Chapter : Permissibility of killing women and children in the night raids, provided it is not deliberate.
It is reported on the authority of Sa'b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them.

Saheeh Bukhari Volume 004, Book 052, Hadith Number 256.
Narated By As-Sab bin Jaththama : The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." I also heard the Prophet saying, "The institution of Hima is invalid except for Allah and His Apostle."

Understandably, various attempts by Islamic scholars have been made to understand exactly what the Prophet meant by these words. Sheikh `Abd Allah al-Manî`î quoted on Answering Christianity has this to say (my bolding):
[...]  the hadîth in question actually shows us that the general rule is not to kill non-combatants, even when they are present on the battlefield. The only exception is when the non-combatants are so mixed in with the fighters that it is impossible to fight against the combatants without the possibility of some non-combatants inadvertently being killed. This is only out of dire necessity.

This seems to be reading a lot into the Prophet's words, if you ask me. If you were to ask an Israeli general about the killing of Palestinian women and children and his reply was to say simply, "They are from them," I suspect the world's press (quite rightly) would condemn such callous views as utterly inhumane and the battle for the moral high ground would be well and truly lost.
But perhaps we're taking this quote out of context and being unfair to the "the best human ever", the "example all mankind should follow".
So let us return to the hadith and look more closely at when exactly these words were uttered. You will note that the Prophet spoke in answer to a follower asking whether it was permissible to attack the pagans AT NIGHT, IN THEIR CAMP because he (the follower) feared for the lives of the sleeping women and children. 
They are from them, Muhammad replied. Nothing more. Nothing less.
All further explanation is desperate conjecture by Islamic scholars and apologists.

I don't for one moment condone the slaughter we are seeing in Gaza.
I think the Israelis could and should do more to prevent the deaths of non-combatants.
But I also think there is a degree of hypocrisy in those who claim to be outraged when innocent lives are lost and who claim that their religion trumps all whilst at the same time using their own schools and hospitals as command centres. 
What would Muhammad do if he were protecting his followers from indiscriminate attacks and his enemies placed their soldiers and weapons in close proximity to innocent civilians? 
From the evidence of the hadith I think we know the answer.

No-one comes out well from this war. Israel is to blame for many apparent atrocities. 
But there is a danger in assuming that any religion is perfect. As followers must inevitably do.
Islam is as flawed as all the others.
The real cause of so much death in the Middle East?
That murderous, homophobic, misogynistic sh*t made up by fearful men in the desert millenia ago.


  1. Free Palestine NOW

    1. anything to add to the debate, anon?

  2. Hey Spinoza,

    Just wanted to share this thought I had after reading your post -

  3. thoroughly recommend above article from CD.

  4. Dear Spinoza ,

    I ask that you look up the topic of Usool Al Fiqh:

    It maybe tedious to go through it but it will clear up this problem of

    "this hadith say one thing and this hadith say another ect."

    I am hopeful that you would go through them as an academic and intelligent person .


    1. Good sharing Rashid. Certainly Usul-fiqh is a lengthy and quite complicated subject to be fully understood by laymen like myself (and Spinoza, I believe). Usul Fiqh is a degree program in many universities, hence proving its complexities.

      However, I still fail to understand the contradictions between hadiths, and how or why one is more promoted (as a source of law) than the other.

      For example, the rule concerning jama' and qasar solah. THe general teaching is that it is only permitted for the first 3 days of travel. However there are also a Bukhary hadith stating that the Prophet practice qasar and jama' for 19 days.

      Interpretation of ulama' also varies. For example, As-Shafie says that pigs and pork are unclean, and if touched, one must clean the touched area 7 times, one of it with water mixed with soil. This rule is derived by qias (analogy) to what one must do if touched by dogs. An-Nawawi disagrees with this rule derivation by As-Shafie. Both Shafie and Nawawi are renowned Imaams. So which should we follow and why?

      Not to mentioned a muslims attitude towards slavery, and hudud laws. These issues are hardly discussed in the muslim world, because, i think, the muslims themselves find it difficult to justify these stands.


    2. With regard to the issue in the Palestine and Israel, i think it would be difficult to resolve if both sections wish a 'total win' over the land. Zionist thinks that the land is promised by God for them, hence it is justified to get it through whatever means.

      Muslims often calls the oppression upon Palestinians by Israel as 'killing of our brothers'. Furthermmore, the fact that Palestine used to belong to Ottoman Empire@Khalifate, suggest that taking formation of the Israel state is on Muslim land, hence Israel shouldn't exist at all.

      Both Muslims and Jews has record of God saying that the other parties are wrong and should not be trusted. How can we can get peace there, if the basis of war is religion, and both couldn't trust each other?


    3. "Not to mentioned a muslims attitude towards slavery, and hudud laws. These issues are hardly discussed in the muslim world, because, i think, the muslims themselves find it difficult to justify these stands."

      muslim believe quran for all time. at the same time they need to discredit slavey. they will say no war now and no slavey needed. when we ask them will they bring back slavery when they have war in future, they will keep quiet.

    4. Bear witness to those amongst you who prefer death and destruction rather than peace and progress. Bear witness to those amongst you who stone to death young women as adulteresses. Bear witness to those amongst us who behead us. Bear witness to where your donations are used. Bear witness to those who are not merciful and compassionate. Bear witness to the squandering of your charity into the pockets of your corrupt brothers. .Bear witness only to Allah and no one else.