New Doors of Mercy, No Limit, Military Force

Issue 968 » October 13, 2017 - Muharram 23, 1439

Living The Quran

New Doors of Mercy
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 286 (partial)

"Our Sustainer! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error."

In this portion of the verse, there is a request that the believers should not be held accountable for any lapses or for forgetting. The word nisyan (forgetfulness) in the text means forgetting something in the course of obeying a commandment, while the word khata (error) means doing something wrong due to lack of understanding. Although lapses such as these are forgiven by Allah, the supplication by a servant for forgiveness for what is already forgiven indicates an extreme sense of awe and fear and causes new doors of Divine mercy and grace to open up. All the sins of the Prophet, peace be upon him, we know, were forgiven, but still, he assiduously prayed for forgiveness. When asked about this, he replied: "Should I not be a grateful servant of my Sustainer!"

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah al-Fatiha and Surah al-Baqarah" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

Understanding The Prophet's Life

No Limit

During the siege of Madinah by the unbelievers, who raised a large army with the aim of annihilating the Muslim community, the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered a dry moat to be dug at the entrance to Madinah to stop the attacking army's advance. The Prophet worked in the digging of the moat as an individual among the community. The Muslims were very poor at the time, and most of them were suffering from hunger. As a result of their hard work, their hunger was especially acute. Many people used the device of putting a stone against their bellies and wrapping it tightly to overcome the pangs of hunger. The Prophet himself had two stones wrapped against his belly. As he was working, one of his Companions, Jabir ibn Abdullah, was deeply affected by the sight and sought permission to absent himself temporarily. He went straight home to determine what food was there. His wife told him that she had a small quantity of barley and a small goat. He immediately slaughtered the goat and prepared it for cooking. His wife ground the barley and started to cook the goat in a large saucepan.

When the cooking and baking were nearly finished, Jabir went to the Prophet and said: "Messenger of God, I have some food at home. Would you like to be my guest with one or two of your Companions." The Prophet asked him how much food he had, and when he heard Jabir's reply he said: "This is good and plenty. Tell your wife not to take her saucepan off the fire, or her bread out of the oven until I come." Then he addressed his Companions and invited them to Jabir's dinner. All those digging the moat, from among the Muhajirun and the Ansar, went with him.

In Jabir's own account of the story, he says that he was exceedingly embarrassed because his little goat and a small amount of bread were very inadequate for that large number of people. When he arrived at Jabir's house, the Prophet said to his Companions: "Come inside, but do not push one another." The Prophet himself started to cut the bread, put it in dishes and put meat on top of it. Meanwhile, he kept the pot simmering and covered it as well as the oven, after taking some bread from it. He served dish after dish to his Companions until they had all eaten a full meal. Both the saucepan and the oven were still full of bread and meat when everyone had finished eating. The Prophet then said to Jabir's wife: "Eat of that and send presents to other people, for we have suffered something approaching a famine." She did so and sent large quantities of bread and meat during the rest of that day. [Bukhari]

There are several reports of this story. Some of these put the figure of those who shared in Jabir's dinner at 800. If everyone who was working on digging the moat accepted the Prophet's invitation to Jabir's house, the number would be even higher. These events are not surprising, not because of a little goat - or a large one, for that matter - was enough to feed such a large number of people, but because God blessed that repast and gave the Prophet such a privilege at that particular time.

There are many other stories like these that took place at one time or another. In all these examples, the common factor was that the Prophet would handle the situation himself and say a supplication that was not heard by those around him: witnesses only mention that they saw him saying a prayer or a supplication. When necessary, he would take over the action, as in the case of serving the food given by Jabir. Were these miracles? From our human perspective, they were no doubt supernatural happenings. However, they were not offered by the Prophet or anyone else as signs or proofs that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was God's Messenger. No one was asked to believe in Islam as a result of any such event. These events reassured the Prophet's Companions and gave them certainty that they were following the right path, but they were not presented as evidence of the truth of Islam. Rather, they showed two things. Firstly, they show that when God's blessings are given, a small amount of food suffices an army. It was God's blessing of Jabir's goat that gave hundreds of people two meals during their hard work in digging the moat to defend Islam. Secondly, they show that when God answers a prayer, there is no limit to how much He gives.

Compiled From:
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi


Military Force

History over millennia testifies to the fact that war and conflict are simply a part of human nature. This presents a challenge to both those involved and those who witness it. To understand the Islamic values related to the use of military force, one must understand the depth and complexity of our moral obligation to struggle for the preservation of truth and justice.

The Islamic concept of struggle (jihad) is of two main types: internal, also termed the greater struggle, and external, known as the lesser struggle. The objective of both is to facilitate the recognition and preservation of truth by removing obstacles. The internal struggle (jihad) is against one's own ego (nafs), passions, and weaknesses. This is the greater of the two. It requires struggling against Satanic insinuations and the destructive vices towards which our egos tend. The internal struggle can be thought of as a prerequisite to the external, or lesser, struggle. Only a serene soul purified of destructive vices can be trusted to use military force without going to excess.

The external form of struggle (jihad) refers to the use of armed force either for self-defense or to remove oppression. It is the use of state-sanctioned martial force to restore harmony and equilibrium to society because, as the Quran tells us, "persecution is worse than killing" (2: 217). It is not vengeful vigilantism, but a regulated use of force by which states can remove agents of belligerence and tyranny. It is a matter of necessity by which persistent violence and oppression is prevented and eliminated.

Prophet Muhammad also established many guidelines to regulate the use of such force. Civilians and non-combatants are never to be attacked. Prophet Muhammad strictly forbade the killing of women and children. Islam forbids the destruction of the environment in war, as well as the use of fire as a weapon, which some scholars say would render the use of nuclear weapons forbidden (haram). Monasteries and other places of worship should not be attacked. Such restrictions, forbidding indiscriminate killing and the destruction of the land, were unprecedented in their time and speak to the spirit, method, and purpose of the regulated use of violence in Islam.

It is important to maintain balance in understanding these guidelines. Many have attempted to use them to justify blood-lust and revenge, while others have erred on the other side in neglecting to intervene against oppression. We should struggle on all levels against oppression while following the guidelines set by God and staying mindful of the ego's ability to lead us astray. We should conquer our own ego (nafs) before presuming to answer the call of sacrifice and service in defense of others. Noble warriors who are selfless and fight valiantly in defense of the weak are celebrated in every culture and society— Islam is no exception.

Compiled From:
"Being Muslim" - Asad Tarsin, pp. 212-213