How can we cope with acts of terrorism without losing our sanity and humanity? A spiritual response
By Dr Musharraf Hussain OBE, DL
Condemnation of the massacre of French civilians in Paris
We all condemn the barbaric and senseless murder of nearly 140 innocent people in Paris. This is an attack not just on the people of Paris but on the whole world. We hope all those involved in this terrorist attack will be caught quickly; in the meantime our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this atrocious attack. As people of faith and spirituality our response is to show solidarity with people of France, it is heartening to see how the whole world has expressed solidarity with the people of France against the terrorists. Finally, we pray to Allah Almighty to protect our world, bless us with peace, give us heart and mind that is full of care and love of humanity. Ameen
The sinister motives of the terrorists
Terrorists carry out their heinous acts to gain publicity for their cause, but what is far more sinister is their motive to create division and clash in the country; between groups and between governments. It is this that we need to be aware of and not let them succeed. The entire country has to show solidarity and unity. This means that we stand together, united against such evil forces that try to divide our different communities and create rift amongst us. I’m very pleased to say that from the president of France to Presidents of mosques in France and the rest of Europe have remained united against the terrorists. These are not only difficult times for France but for all of Europe.
I believe there are three activities we can do for each other that will ensure that terrorists do not succeed in their mission of creating further conflict and damage to community cohesion. When the breaking news of the terrorist attacks in Paris came and our screens flickered with horrendous carnage we sensed: fear, anger and a betrayal. We felt afraid because it could have been my children, family and loved ones who could have been killed. We were angry because we thought we were secure and safe and someone had violated our sense of security. And finally we felt a sense of betrayal that some people from within us committed such hideous crime against their own fellow citizens? How can this be? These are quite justifiable feelings at the time of terror and at the heat of the moment. However, what should be a sane, humane and a spiritual response?
The glorious Quran tells us what to do in times of difficulty; “O believers find strength through patience and prayer, indeed Allah is with those who are patient” ( Baqara;153). So the first thing is to remain patient and calm; endure the pain and the fear. Secondly pluck the courage to overcome the anger of humiliation and sense of insecurity. This requires the ability to assess the situation calmly and look at the long-term consequences of lashing out in anger against the perpetrators of these attacks. Can we forgive? This is a $6 million question. The alternate would be to bomb and kill thousands of innocent people in the name of revenge and justice. That is indeed the trap the terrorists have laid out for us. But will our political leaders resist this temptation? Unfortunately in the past they have failed miserably and as a consequence created an even more dangerous world. Where has diplomacy, sense of peace and reconciliation gone?
Overcoming betrayal by being united
Islam teaches us to live together in peace; so that we can prosper economically, create safe neighbourhoods and free ourselves from hatred malice and discrimination of others. Some criminals in the name of religion have perpetrated this crime against humanity and as a consequence created doubts and fears in our neighbours about the loyalty of Muslims. That is why it is so important for us to distance ourselves from these evil people. We have to convince our fellow citizens that we also consider the so-called Islamic state fighters as terrorists who carried out this brutal, barbaric and violent act, they are enemies of humanity; they are not friends of Muslims. In fact they have killed more Muslims than others. Unfortunately, they lay claim to our religion and people mistakenly think we are associated with them. Therefore, we cannot say this is not our business. It is our business and that is why we have to come out and openly, vigorously and passionately condemn them. This is a scourge of Allah that blights Muslim lands and its tentacles are now reaching deep into Europe. We must dissociate ourselves from such an evil monster.
The monster of terrorist organisations began with Al Qaeda back in the late 80’s it mutated into organisations like Taleban, Boko Haram, Al Shabab and now Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It was a sequel to the fall of Russians in Afghanistan and the complete destruction of law and order in Afghanistan. This may explain the beginnings of terrorist organisations: anarchy, weak or non-existent governments and neighbouring countries that do not care about their neighbours. The 57 Muslim countries must rebuild their infrastructures, institutions and particularly law enforcement agencies, so that their citizens can live in peace and harmony. There cannot be prosperity in the Muslim countries without eradicating these terrorist organisations. However for the Muslims in Britain and Europe our first and foremost responsibility is the security of our own countries. We must ensure that we live as peaceful neighbours and are involved in our countries affairs.
Since we live in a global village it is imperative that the entire world helps these poor countries lacking infrastructures to build strong governments and institutions. Here we may ask what has our government done to support these poor countries? It would be very difficult for the West to show any worthwhile and long-term projects that have stabilised these countries. Instead we have seen more arms, military interventions and negative propaganda about these places.
Praying for the help of Allah
Apart from being good citizens, contributing to the economic and social prosperity of our country, what else is it that we can do? As Muslims we intensely believe in the power of Allah, praying to Allah is both a natural and spiritual exercise. Let me share with you the famous story of the Prophet (peace be upon him) when he was bitterly persecuted and how he prayed on that occasion. The Prophet (peace be upon him) went to preach to the town of Taif near Makka, however not only was he rejected by the leaders but thrown out of the town, as he was retreating he was pelted with stones causing him severe injuries. In excruciating mental, physical and emotional pain, bleeding and exhausted, he took refuge in a vineyard. Feeling dejected, forlorn, helpless and humiliated he raised his hands and prayed a prayer which has become an iconic symbol of utter submission to the will of Allah in the face of complete and total despair. Read the intensity, the beauty and the moving humility of this magnificent supplication;
“O Allah! Please consider my weakness, my shortage of means, and the little respect people have of me. Oh, most kind, You are the Lord of the oppressed and you are my Lord. To whom would you leave my fate? To a stranger who insults me? Or to an enemy who dominates me? Would I that you have no wrath against me! Your pleasure alone is my objective.”