I bear witness that the shuhadaa of the Friday prayers in New Zealand died whilst answering the call to prayer of their Lord, that they died in a state of Islam, and I pray that Allah (ﷻ) opens the doors to the vastness of His paradise for them. I pray for the recovery and health of the wounded and for Allah (ﷻ) to pour patience, mercy and love over the bereaved.
Many difficult thoughts and emotions flow through us at heartbreaking times such as these. Shock, anger, outrage, grief and fear are all natural emotions that we feel but we also ask why and how did this man walk into a masjid on Friday and unleash mass murder on innocent worshippers, men women and children?
Why did he do it? What drove him? Could this happen to us? Will we be next? How should we respond?
In my own search for answers, my mind lead me back to the life of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the struggle and persecution he faced. And in particular, I thought about the atmosphere of society that the Muslims had to face in those early days of the message.
Towards the end of the sixth year of the Prophethood, anti-Islamic sentiment was reaching a fever pitch in Makkah. The media campaign against our blessed Prophet (ﷺ) and Islam had warped the minds so much, that some people were ready to take matters into their own hands. One such individual was Umar Ibn Khattab (ra). Umar, who cared so much for the Makki society, had been fooled to believe that Islam and Muslims were a threat to cohesion and values of that society. This drove him to becoming so incensed and angry that he contemplated violence and even murder.
Why did the leaders of Makkah start this demonisation campaign of Islam and Muslims and fermenting hate speech through the media outlets of the day? What threat did Abu Sufyan, Abu Lahab, Al Waleed and their likes fear from Islam? Well, like all arrogant tyrants through the ages, like Trump, Bush and Blair, Putin, Xi Jinping, Macron and May, the Quraishi leaders feared the loss of their wealth, power and prestige. Makkah was the economic and spiritual centre of Arabia. The pilgrimage and the trade routes of Yemen and Syria kept all the commerce and wealth flowing in. And the Quraishi leaders sat on top of that system maintaining their power and prestige.
They saw the ideas this new faith Muhammad (ﷺ) professed, with its egalitarian outlook that broke the barriers between rich and poor, slave and aristocrat, its call against economic exploitation, against neglecting the orphans and the weak, against venerating false gods and vain desires, they saw all of this as a threat to their leadership and control. This is exactly what the tyrants, be they of the democratic West or dictatorial East, fear today – that when Islam returns as a system and alternative to colonial capitalism it will free the wealth and resources from the grip of a few and spread its benefits to the many. That the people will stop worshipping the false idol of freedom and return to worshipping their creator.
So to maintain their control and exploitation they need to expand their military adventurism, invasions and occupations of the Muslim world to stop the Muslims rising up and to stop the call for Islam. To wage this campaign they need domestic support – hence the hostile political and media environment against all things Muslim and Islam. It’s via this swamp of propaganda and fear-mongering that western leaders gain their justification from the domestic population for the ‘war on terror’ – AKA war on Islam. It’s the same strategy the Quraish employed in-order to vilify and persecute the blessed Prophet (ﷺ) and his followers.
I have no doubt, the killer of Christchurch and the environment from which he drew his motivation here in the West (and New Zealand counts itself as part of the West), is directly connected to the ambitions of western governments in the East.
Australia, where it’s alleged the murderous gunman came from, has been a staunch supporter of the American ‘war on terror’ and its leaders have been spewing copious amounts of hate speech against Islam and Muslims for years.
The governments initiated the radicalisation of elements of society to the point that some took matters to their natural conclusions, and so the blood of the innocents on a blessed Friday is all over their hands.
How we, the Muslims in the west, respond to this tragedy and sadly others that may inevitably follow is crucial. Should we give in to the climate of fear, bunker down and keep a low profile? Should we just assimilate into the liberal malaise and abandon our values? Should we be silent on the crimes and wars the western elites wage against our brothers and sisters in the East? Will muscular liberalism hold us back from being a voice of God-consciousness and speaking the Haqq? Will we lock down our Masaajid rather than open their doors?
And so this leads me back to the story of Umar Ibn Khattab (ra) and the day he set off to commit that most evil deed. He thought the only way to end the threat of Islam was to murder the blessed Prophet (ﷺ) himself. Little did Umar know what fate had in store for him. He was making his way to Dar-ul Arkam were the Muslims would meet when he was stopped by a Sahabi who saw there was evil in his eyes. He asked, “Umar, where are you going?” “I seek for Muhammad,” was ‘Umar’s reply, “And I will slay him; he has forsaken our religion, shattered the unity of the Quraysh; ridiculed them and vilified their gods. Today I will settle the matter once and for all.” “Anger has blinded you,” retorted the Sahabi, “Would it not be better to set your own family in order?” Seeing no other option the Sahabi exposed that the sister of Umar, Fatimah and her husband Sa’id had become Muslim. Incensed by this news Umar diverted his way to their house and on finding them reading something, that Fatimah quickly hid away, he demanded that she produce it. He threw Sa’id to the floor and hit his sister but upon seeing the blood on her face he started to regret and calm down. She made him wash and then let him read the sheets on which Surah Taha had been written. As he read, each word seemed to touch and transform the heart of Umar (ra) and he knew he had to worship the One from whom the words came. At that moment Allah (ﷻ) turned Umar Ibn Khattab towards Islam.
So let’s take inspiration from that day of darkness that turned to light. Let’s turn every dark day into a day of light, a day of dawah, a day to raise the ideas of Islam so that it touches the hearts and awakens the minds as it woke Sayyidina Umar (ra).
The 3 million or so Muslims in Britain and tens of millions more across the west have no choice, we cannot be silenced by fear, but stand as confident Muslims. I really believe there is potential for us to impact the hostile environment, to have an effect on the discourse, and present the true system of Islam.
Islam has answers to the many problems facing people, society and the world today, from austerity to 4 million at the food banks, from 320,000 in homelessness to 9 million in loneliness, from the spiritual void in hearts of the masses to the millions in a state of depression and anxiety, from sexual harassment to child exploitation, from foreign wars and occupations to migration and hyperinflation and many more issues. We need only to learn more about our perfect Deen and make our community confident and open for dawah and engagement.
Allah (ﷻ) has praised those who respond to evil with good deeds. Those who repel evil with good will find that their enemies will become their friends.
Allah (ﷻ) said:
وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
وَمَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا الَّذِينَ صَبَرُوا وَمَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا ذُو حَظٍّ عَظِيمٍ
“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.” [Fussilat: 34-35]
For me, this does not mean we become naive when seeing crocodile tears or turn the other cheek to those who are obstinate opponents of Islam like the governments and policymakers waging wars and supporting corrupt dictators whilst orchestrating the chorus of media support at home. It does mean that we avoid falling into the trap of an ‘us and them’ mentality. It means remaining confident in our Islam and optimistic about dawah to the people we engage with every day and the masses from whom you never know whether an Umar Ibn Khattab or two may just be waiting to hear.
Allah (ﷻ) described the confident Muslim when He said:
وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلًا مِّمَّن دَعَا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
“And who speaks better than he who calls to Allah while he himself does good, and says: I am surely of the Muslims?” [Fussilat: 33]