By Disu Kamor
LAST week, Al-Naba, the online magazine used for propaganda by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS), announced that Abubakar Shekau, the schizophrenic terror leader of Boko Haram, had been toppled and replaced with Abu Musab al-Barnawi. This announcement indicates there is a clear and irreconcilable disagreement between the factions of Boko Haram, and that ISIS has now ordained a new leader, Abu Musab al-Barnawi. Basically, what ISIS’ announcement means is that terror campaigns of Abubakar Shekau will now be replaced by the terror campaigns of Abu Musab al-Barnawi. Both Abubakar Shekau and al-Barnawi are mercurial personalities bent on destructive, hate-filled violence aimed at drowning out the voices of normative Islam and cultivating a real hatred in the hearts of those outside of Islam.
Until his appointment as the new leader of this cultist group, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, a man well tutored in internecine insanity, was the spokesperson of Boko Haram who represented everything the terror group stands for, and justified its most heinous crimes of abduction, torture, rape, murder, … the list continues. In his audio recording responding to Abubakar Shekau’s outbursts protesting his replacement, al-Barnawi gave us a rare glimpse into the hell-on-earth called Boko-Haram-Ville and the true depiction of its totalitarian and psychotic leader, Abubakar Shekau. He revealed how members are killed on the flimsiest of excuses and tortured for (suspicion of) falling out with Shekau in this Potyomkin village- definitely not the sort of utopia that were promised to those brainwashed idiots who willfully signed on to their Caliphate. Also, media reports have it that al-Barnawi has claimed that Boko Haram under his leadership will continue to bomb churches and kill Christians. This is a claim that will have frightful consequences.
If truly what ISIS and its surrogates everywhere wish to establish is real Islamic state, their very words and actions, the abductions, murders, slavery, beheading and destruction they have unleashed on nations are loud testimonies to the stark contradictions between what they claim and the vision of Prophet Muhammad of an Islamic state. In fact, a casual reading of history will attest to the clear vision of Prophet Muhammad to build a multi-religious and inclusive society, and implement a style of government that pioneered a model of inter-faith relations still considered novel today. The visit of the Christians of Narjan to the city of Medina in 631CE is perhaps the most important noted interfaith interaction between Christians and Prophet Muhammad to show that he had a clear vision for how Muslims and Christians should relate. The (Najran) delegation came to Medina, the capital of the Islamic state, to engage the Prophet in a theological debate (the Prophet was said to have even spread his cloak so that the Christians of Najran who came could sit on it). During the course of their stay, their worship time came and they stood up to perform their worship outside. Rather than watch them worship on the roadside, he cleared the mosque of Muslim worshipers and then asked them to worship in his own mosque, the second holiest site in Islam. By this action alone, the prophet was emphatic on the issue of complete religious freedom.
After the debate in which both sides still disagreed on key doctrinal issues, Prophet Muhammad nonetheless offered them a covenant which partly states: “I hereby declare that my horsemen, my foot-soldiers, my armies, my resources, and my Muslim partisans will protect the Christians as far away as they may be located… I commit myself to support them, to place their persons under my protection, as well as their churches, chapels, oratories, the monasteries of their monks, the residences of their anchorites wherever they are found… I will protect their religion and their Church… I commit myself to protect them from any harm or damage; to exempt them from any requisitions or any onerous obligations and to protect them myself, by means of my assistants, my followers and my nation against every enemy who targets me and them.”
In this visionary covenant Prophet Muhammad was clear about one thing amongst others: Christians should be free to be Christians, and equal citizens, wherever they chose to be on earth.
The Boko Haram cult has killed both Muslim and Christian Nigerians in their thousands. Many more have been displaced internally. This violation of the sanctity of human life is something that shows clearly that an ancient ideological plague (of the Kharijites) is upon us. Yet, the Quranic truth is that in respect of the sanctity of life and the prohibition of aggression against it, Muslims and non-Muslims are equal, and attack on the personal safety of non-Muslims invokes the same punishment in this world and the Hereafter.
A few years before the Najran Christian delegation visited him, Islam was fully established in Madina and the new community of Muslims was already enjoying rising influence in the entire Arabian peninsula. In 626 A.D, Prophet Muhammad had sent a series of letters to various kings and leaders surrounding the Arabian peninsula declaring his intention for peace and cooperation. In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery had also come to him. He offered them what is now known as “Charter of Privileges” which gives the clearest order of protection, in the name of Islam, to the people of the book, meaning the Jews and the Christians. The full text of the covenant is worth reproducing in full here:
“This is a letter which Muhammad bin Abdullah has sent to all people. He is the giver of good news, a Warner, a trustee on the trust of Allah regarding His creature, so that people would not have been left with any argument after the Messengers (came) to them. And Allah is Dominant, Wise. He wrote it to all his people and to all those who believed in Christianity (in the land of the East and West), either near or far, either eloquent or dumb, either known or unknown. This letter stands as a pledge. Whoever breaks this pledge and goes against it and exceeds what it ordains, is to be considered as a breaker to the pledge of Allah and His covenant and a ridiculer of His Deen. He will bring curse upon him. It doesn’t matter whether he be a Sultan or anyone else from among the Muslims, the Believers. If a monk or Pilgrim takes shelter in a mountain, valley or a cave or a populated area, or a plain or sand or Synagogue I would be behind them to protect them from their enemy. By myself and my helpers and my people and my followers as if they are my subject and those in my protection. I will remove the harm from them.
Regarding such provision on which the people of covenant are asked to pay tax except what they pay with their own pleasure. They are not to be forced and no compulsion is allowed at all. No bishop is to be removed from his diocese, nor any monk from his monastery, nor the one confined to his cell for it, nor a pilgrim from his pilgrimage. No house belonging to their churches or Synagogues is to be demolished. No money belonging to the Church is to be used in building a mosque or a house of a Muslim. Whoever does any of that has broken the pledge of Allah and opposed His Messenger. No tax nor penalty is to be asked of any Monk or Bishop or the one engaged in worship. And I am there to protect them wherever they are in the land or in the sea, in East, west, north or south. They are in my protection and my covenant and my security from any type of despised things. Similarly, anyone who devotes himself to worship in Mountains or in sacred places, is not required to pay tax on product nor tithe on their crops. They do not even halve it. They are only to bring out, at the time of harvest, a cup only from each Ardab (equal to 2.500 pounds in weight) according to their own calculations
They are not to be asked to come out at the time of a battle, nor to pay Jizya (Tax) nor to be treated among those who give tax on products, those of wealth, assets and trades more than twelve dirham annually. With no one among them is to be forced into labour. Nor are they to be argued except in the best way. They are to be treated with mercy. Wherever they go and wherever they are, they are not subjected to any discipline despised (by them).
No Christian woman is allowed to marry a Muslim man except with her consent. She should be allowed to attend prayers in her place of worship. She must not be prevented from observing her religion. Whoever opposes the pledge of Allah and does contrary to it, has disobeyed His pledge and His Messenger. They are to be helped to renovate their places of worship, (Synagogues and Churches). That is a symbol of helping them to carry out their religion in accordance to the spirit of this pledge. None of them is to be forced to transport weapons but this is the duty of the Muslims to defend them and never go against this pledge till the last hours and the end of the world. Witnessed to this pledge which Muhammad bin Abdullah, the Messenger of Allah has written to all the Christians and all the conditions which are to be fulfilled, all those whose name and testimony is recorded here in the end (A list of Muslim witnesses).”
The original copy of this important covenant remains in St. Catherine’s Monaster to this day, and it is imprinted with the hand of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself.
ISIS members and their legion of harsh-hearted haters around the world are habitual murderers who have signed a Faustian pact with Satan. They do not respect or honour the Prophet whose religion they defile and disfigure. Prophet Muhammad personally offered a different vision to what these terrorists preach and practice: a permanent protection to all Jews and Christians and their places of worship everywhere till the end of time. Legally, equal citizens whose rights must be respected and protected.
In order to remove the plague of extreme ideology present today in Islam, more than 120 Muslim clerics from around the world wrote an open letter addressed to ISIS leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and his fighters, and dedicated a website for this message, www.lettertobaghdadi.com. In their 24-point (over 23 pages) letter to these death merchants, they systematically tackle ISIS ideology and interpretation of Sharia law- especially the treatment of women and children, their treatment of the Yazidis and Christians. The clerics states in the letter that “”These Christians are not combatants against Islam or transgressors against it, indeed they are friends, neighbours and co-citizens. … From the legal perspective of Shari’ah they all fall under ancient agreements that are around 1,400 years old, and the ruling of jihad do not apply to them.”
The Christian community of Abyssinia was the first community that offered the Muslims safe sanctuary when the Maccan idolators’ persecution forced them to flee their homes. And Prophet Muhammad personally did business with the Jews. Following his examples and instructions, Muslim leaders and ordinary Muslims have championed the cause of justice, equality, and tolerance towards the Christians for ages, and over the centuries have been at the forefront of of the defense of these values.
One of such a leader is Amir Abdkadir Al-Jazahiri (after whom the town of Elkader in Iowa in the United States is named). Amir Al-Jazahiri was one of the great Muslim leaders of the 19th Century who died in 1883 after successfully leading the struggle against the French colonial invasion of Algeria – one of the most advanced armies in Europe. His consistent regard for what would now be called human rights, especially as regards his Christian opponents, and a crucial intervention to save the Christian community of Damascus from a massacre in 1860 brought honours and awards from around the world. The town of Elkader’s founders Timothy Davis, John Thompson and Chester Sage were so impressed by Amir Al-Jazahiri heroic support of the persecuted Christian population of Damascus that they decided to pick his name as the name for their new settlement in 1846. There is also Abd el-Kader Fellowship (a postdoctoral fellowship of The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture) at the University of Virginia. The legacy of men like Amir Al-Jazahiri is exactly why Boko Haram rants have always met with Muslim public revulsion and horror.
We pray that God Almighty strengthens our troops as they prosecute the war on terrorism. May God break the back of the Boko Haram insurgency (and similar extreme groups around the world) and their sponsors. In the words of Amir Al-Jazahiri “When we think of how few men of real religion there are. How small the number of defenders and champions of truth. When one sees the ignorant people imagining that the principles of Islam are hardness, severity, extravagance and barbarity. It is time to repeat these words: Sobril Jemeel. Wallahu musta’an – Beautiful patience. And our help is with Allah”
Disu Kamor, is the Executive Chairman of Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, Nigeria, and can be reached at email@example.com