Letters to the Editor 2/3

February 05, 2002

Letters to the Editor 2/3

Qur'an expressly teaches against violence

By Syed Qasim Burmi

A man once swallowed the tab after drinking Coke from a can. When asked why he did that, he replied that God told him to do so. Fortunately the tab was successfully removed. Despite detailed counseling, however, he repeated the same act a week later, apparently because God again told him to do that!

I believe God does not want us to do things which are harmful, and this sad incident represents a case of mental illness with perceptual disturbances.

Unfortunately, if we look around us nowadays we find a good number of people suffering from a similar disturbance where religious texts are misunderstood or misinterpreted. This has the potential to claim more lives than an epidemic. Preaching or quoting parts of religious sayings out of context and ignoring other relevant sections appear to be the cause of this misperception.


It is very important to understand religious teachings, especially of Islam, which are often misquoted. We need to understand that not anyone and everyone who claim to be Muslims has the authority to give Islamic rulings.

Such rulings have to come from the Qur'an (believed by Muslims to be the exact words of the creator) or teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him, PBUH) and the four rightly guided rulers (Caliphs) of Islamic world after him. When such directions are not available, Muslims are required to follow the consensus opinion of recognized Islamic scholars.

If we carefully review these sources, contrary to what is being frequently publicized, we find that Quran clearly instructs (2:256) that there is no compulsion in religion. We also find that Islam only permits fighting in self-defense or against oppression. It also condemns all acts of violence and injustice and lays down strict rules of combat, which include prohibitions against harming civilians and destroying crops, trees and livestock.

Muslims are supposed to follow the basic principle that if we show mercy to those on the earth, God will show mercy to us.

While referring to the very first murder committed in the earth, as a guidance to mankind Quran said (5:32) "Because of that We ordained for the children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind."

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) instructed in his last major sermon during Hajj (Pilgrimage), "Hurt no one, so that no one may hurt you.:

When Muslims took control of Jerusalem in the 7th century, Caliph Omar, the second ruler of Islam after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) visited the main church in the city. Even when he was requested to pray inside the church, he did not. To explain his action he said that if he prayed inside the church Muslims in future might try to convert churches into mosques by force. He thus guided Muslims to show respect to other faiths.

I urge that like any other religious text we need to interpret Islamic teachings within the proper textual and historical contexts. Whenever a verse from the Qur'an or a statement of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is quoted which has significant implications, we need to review all the relevant sections and get proper interpretation from accepted religious scholars. Then only we will understand this beautiful faith which is followed by more than 1 billion people, about one fifth of the world's population.

This was submitted on behalf of the Islamic Society of Western Maryland. Comments and questions can be submitted to that group in c/o Editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Mail., P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md., 21741.

What about conditions for our own prisoners?

To the editor:

Just thought I'd ask a question of the readers and see what they think of it. It deals with the Red Cross and the prisoners being held at the Cuban prisons.

Now on CNN I heard that the Red Cross is saying that it is cruel and inhuman to keep the prisoners in fenced-in areas and cuffed while they pray. It is also against the Geneva Convention to use their pictures publicly.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but these prisoners are the same ones the United States government stated were committing all kinds of crimes against the people of Afghanistan. Crimes like murder, assault and even rape!

They were also said to be involved in the drug trade from Afghanistan. Now the Red Cross says it is wrong to house them in a temporary tent-fashioned prison or use their names and pictures in public.

This is the same Red Cross that is headquartered in the U.S.A. and has said not one word about the government-backed tent prisons in the State of Texas. Or the use of the public broadcasts shown on TV where the police are looking for someone they think might have committed a crime?

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