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Attacking Churches: Comparing the example of the early Muslims VS modern day extremists

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A series of bombings took place in Iraq recently targeting Churches, the attacks took place a day before Christmas, with the date obviously not being a coincidence.

From an Islamic perspective, such attacks are totally condemned, and viewed as something abhorrent to attack another person’s place of worship. If we were to look at the examples of the early Muslims and their behavior towards Christians and their places of worship, and compare it with the modern day Muslims have carried out such attacks, we would see a clear difference between the two.

The contrasting behavior between both, is proof in of itself as to how un-Islamic the actions of these extremists are, because the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the early Muslims who came into power, did not go around attacking Churches or destroying them.

In the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) he made treaties with Christian tribes, granting them their full protection under the Islamic state. This protection afforded them the right to practice their religion in safety, in their places of worship, i.e. their Churches, and all their property would be protected. An example of this would be the Christian delegation from Najran, not only did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) grant them protection, before he concluded the treaty with them, he allowed them into his mosque, and engaged in a debate with them.

In the prophet’s mosque these Christians talked about how they believed Jesus was God, the Son of God, and so forth clearly contradicting and going against what Islam was saying. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) even went as far as to allow the Christians to pray in his mosque. Eventually the prophet invited them to Islam, but they refused; however they requested a treaty with the Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) agreed. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) didn’t put them to the sword when they didn’t come to Islam, he didn’t decide to destroy their places of worship, instead he gave them their full rights and protection.

We then have the example of Umar al-Khattab, one of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions, and one of the greatest Muslims that walked this earth. Umar became the 2nd caliph of Islam, meaning he was the leader of the Muslim community. During the time of Umar, Islam had greatly expanded into new territories, as the new Islamic state had managed to serve up a series of defeats one after another to both the Persian and Roman-Byzantine empires.

The lands that were under control of the Byzantines, now in modern day Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, were mainly Christians. So when the Muslims conquered these lands and absorbed them into the new Islamic state, it meant that the Muslims had a lot of Christians under their control now. In Jerusalem Umar directly visited the town after the Muslims took it, with the Christian leader of Jerusalem personally wanting to have the treaty formalized under Umar in person.

Here is the agreement Umar made with the non-Muslim inhabitants of the city:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety which the servant of God, Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted. No Jew will live with them in Jerusalem.

The people of Jerusalem must pay the taxes like the people of other cities and must expel the Byzantines and the robbers. Those of the people of Jerusalem who want to leave with the Byzantines, take their property and abandon their churches and crosses will be safe until they reach their place of refuge. The villagers may remain in the city if they wish but must pay taxes like the citizens. Those who wish may go with the Byzantines and those who wish may return to their families. Nothing is to be taken from them before their harvest is reaped.

If they pay their taxes according to their obligations, then the conditions laid out in this letter are under the covenant of God, are the responsibility of His Prophet, of the caliphs and of the faithful.

As we read, the treaty granted the Christians their right to their religion, the treaty even explicitly states that their Churches, and even their crosses would not be destroyed by the Muslims.

The Muslims continued to absorb more lands into the new Islamic state under future caliphs, taking in large non-Muslim populations, many of them Christians. And with the new Christian communities being brought into the Islamic state, they too were afforded the same rights as we saw above; their Churches were not destroyed.

So when we then compare the actions of the early Muslims, who are considered to be the best Muslims, and contrast it with the modern day extremists who go around attacking Churches, we see two totally different approaches. Extremists who call themselves Muslims while going around attacking Churches, really have no leg to stand upon, from an Islamic perspective at least. There is no basis in Islam for attacking innocent Christian worshippers practicing their faith at their places of worship.

Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stand innocent and clear from their actions, and so does the rest of the Muslim community. 

 

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