Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Why hate the ‘People of the Book’?

By Dr. Khaled Batarfi/ Al-Madinah

When I told a friend that there was no precedent for cursing Jews and Christians (the People of the Book) in Friday sermons, he replied that if I counted them as friends, I was one of them. I said that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had not cursed the People of the Book nor had he prayed for troubles to fall upon them. On the contrary, he asked God to guide them and lead them to Islam.
The Holy Qur’an says: "O People of the Book! Come to common terms between us and you, that we worship none but God, that we associate no partners with Him." God also orders us to deal kindly and justly with those who do not fight us or drive us from our homes.
Some may argue that the present-day People of the Book are different from the ones living during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The present-day ones are idolaters who associate partners with God, refuse to believe the Prophet, have introduced unauthorized changes to their religion and, above all, have waged war against Muslims and expelled them from their homes.
The answer is that the People of the Book who lived during the time of the Prophet behaved in the same way. The Qur’an says: "They do blaspheme who say God is the son of Mary." Yet the Prophet called on them to meet him in a dialogue.
The People of the Book who live among us, and whose safety we guarantee, as well as non-combatant civilians in other countries do not fall within the category of enemies, even if they pay taxes and support their government’s anti-Muslim policies. All living in the West, whether citizens or not, are required by law to pay taxes but not all who do so automatically support their government’s policies.
People should not be judged solely by their intentions but rather by their deeds. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not punish the unbelievers for the hatred they felt for him and for Islam. The Qur’an also says: "And if ye do catch them (the disbelievers) out, catch them out no worse than they catch you out. But if ye show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient."
There were Jews living in Madinah during the days of Prophet Muhammad and he never expelled them from Arabia. He did, however, have to fight them because of their treacherous behavior. They then moved to Khaibar, not far from Madinah and when it became clear they posed a serious threat there, they were removed to a place near Tabuk, far to the north. The Muslims did not expel the Jews of Najran and Yemen. It should be borne in mind that the Prophet died leaving behind a shield that was mortgaged to a Jew. He answered invitations extended to him by the Jews and visited their sick.
A preacher whose heart is filled with hatred toward the followers of other religions cannot expect to convince them of his religion’s merciful and compassionate nature. I pray that God will not punish all of us for the deeds of the foolish among us.
Arab News From the Local Press 11 December 2002