by Rashad Hasan el-Hadiz
Before I begin this post I want to say “Merry Christmas” to all of our Christian friends in the world. This is a blessed time of year as the birth of Jesus (blessings be upon him) is remembered and celebrated by the faithful. My prayer now is that the peace, compassion, tolerance, and mutual respect that once existed between Christians and Muslims be restored. Sadly, in many parts of the Middle East this season is not a good one for many Christians who are being killed by Muslim fanatics who are burning down their churches and killing the Christian People of Scripture which is absolutely WRONG according to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an!
Let me begin with a bit of Islamic history and the beginnings of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The empire was founded by Turkish tribes under the leadership of Osman Bey in 1299 A.D. For hundreds of years it was one of the most powerful and advanced Muslim states in world history. It was multinational, multiethnic, and multilinqual. But it was also MULTI-RELIGIOUS as the empire was composed of not only Muslims but also Christians and Jews, et al. When the Ottomans conquered an area they did NOT force the conquered people to convert to Islam but, instead, they allowed the people to continue to practice their own faith. This administrative tactic made Ottoman rule more acceptable to the conquered peoples and minimized the threat of rebellion as the conquered peoples were not only allowed to continue practicing their own religion but they were also allowed to continue with their traditions and customs. The Muslim Ottoman Turks did not try to force conquered people into being like them but, rather, they tolerated and RESPECTED the religion, custom, and traditions of the conquered lands. This approach by the Ottomans was very much in line with the teachings of the Qur’an which admonishes Muslims to RESPECT the places of worship of Christians and Jews (ie: Churches and Synagogues) and to treat them as “People of the Book” or “People of Scripture.” Further, Christians and Jews, not just Muslims, were allowed to serve in both the provincial and imperial government and some achieved high positions with some even becoming Grand Viziers, the Ottoman equivalent to a Prime Minister or President.
The Ottoman Empire existed for an astounding 623 YEARS! Officially, it was founded on 27 July, 1299 AD and ended at the end of WW1 on 1 November 1922 when the end of the Sultanate was declared and Turkey became a Republic under Mustafa Kamal otherwise known as Attaturk. At the height of its power the Ottoman Empire was a global center o culture, science, invention, and philosopical endeavors. Astounding progress was made in medicine and construction techniques that were soon adopted in Europe and around the world. Even to our very own days today the modern world continues to feel the influences of the Ottoman Empire!
Under the leadership of Osman I the first Ottoman Sultan the Turkish tribes were mostly CHRISTIAN until they converted to Islam and that is historical FACT. Yes, the Ottomans began as Christians who later converted to Islam. The majority of the Ottoman Turks practiced Sufism because it did not require one to memorize the Qur’an nor to pray in a mosque. A Sufi Muslim could simply read from the Qur’an and pray anywhere and since the Ottomans were nomads at this time they had no cities and no mosques so Sufism fit their habits and customs well as nomads. Sufism continued to be the most influential and powerful sect of Islam during the entire 623 year rule of the Ottoman Turks over most of the Middle East and Southeastern Europe (ie: Romania, Hungary, Bosnia, etc). Sufism is considered by some to be the “mystical arm” of Islam and there is no question that Sufism is probably the most “liberal” sect of Islam. Today most Muslims are Sunnis or Shias (Shi’ites) which are both conservative branches of Islam. Sufism valued tolerance and intellect and it still does today. Sufism today continues to be much more tolerant of other faiths and Sufis feel no need to impose their beliefs on others just as they felt the same in the times of the beginning of the Ottoman Empire.
The Qur’an teaches that Muslims must respect the places of worship of the Christians and Jews (churches and synagogues) because they are People of the Book. Together all three religions form what is sometimes termed as the “Abrahamic Faiths” because each of these three faiths trace their origins back to the Patriarch Abraham (pbuh). Ottoman Sufis Muslims put this teaching into practice and respected mosques, churches, and synagogues which were all considered to be places in which the one true God was remembered and worshipped by the faithful (Sura 22:40).
Ottoman Sufis also practiced the Quranic teaching FORBIDDING compulsion in religion! We find this teaching in the Qur’an in Sura 2:256 which says:
“There is no compulsion in religion,
truly the Right Way has become clearly distinct from error;
therefore, whoever disbelieves in Shaitan (Satan) and believes in Allah (God),
he indeed has laid hold of the firmest handle which shall not break off,
and Allah (God) is Hearing and All-Knowing.”
[Sura al-Baqara 2:256]
Another translation of this same verse says:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion.
Truth stands out clear from Error,
Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah
Has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold,
that never breaks.
And Allah hears and knows All-Things.”
(Sura al-Baqara 2:256)
Thus, Islamic Ottoman rule lasted for 623 years and encompassed most of the Middle East and Ottoman rule was characterized by RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE which is very MUCH in line with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. And the sect or form of Islam practiced by the Ottomans was SUFISM which today is the third branch (sect) of Islam.
So now that we know some historical FACT let’s continue……
What we see happening today in the Middle East is NOT the norm historically. Muslims killing Christians and Jews is NOT THE NORM in the history of Islam especially under the Ottoman Empire. Today we THINK it is normal for Muslims to kill Christians as they are doing in many places in the Middle East but this slaughter is not the norm and not only that but these killings are a SIN FOR MUSLIMS according to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an!! As Muslims we are suppose to not only be tolerant of the People of the Book (Christians, Jews, et al) but we are also suppose to PROTECT and RESPECT their places of worship. Why? Because as mentioned above Mosques, Churches, and Synagogues are ALL places in which God’s name is spoken, in which the faithful remember and worship God. Let’s look at a bit more history as we now turn to the founder of Islam itselt, the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh):
In the time of the Prophet (pbuh) the Arabian tribes were idol worhippers filled with superstitious beliefs and practices. Mohammad was the first to preach that there was ONE GOD not many and this upset some of the Arabian tribes especially the Meccans. The Meccans mocked the Prophet and did everything they could to persecute him and his followers, the first Muslims. This all eventually resulted in wars between the first Muslims and the Meccans and other idol worshipping tribes of the region. Some of Mohammad’s followers sought refuge from the evil Meccans from the King of Ethiopia, a CHRISTIAN kingdom. The Ethiopian king granted the Muslims asylum and when the Meccans demanded he hand over the Muslims to them he refused and threatened to destroy the Meccan tribes. The Meccans backed off and the Muslims were given PERMANENT political asylum by Ethiopia’s CHRISTIAN king. Thus began the long historical tradition of religious tolerance between Muslims and Christians who peacefully, for the most part, coexisted throughout the Middle East for hundreds of years. What has happened to that spirit of peaceful coexistence today?
Here is another example of such tolerance and BROTHERHOOD from ISLAMIC history. The Grand Mosque in Damascus, Syria is a beautiful and serene place and what many Muslims, Christians, and Jews don’t know that it began as a CHRISTIAN church just as did the Sofia Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. The Damascus Grand Mosque was built as a Christian church and when a number of Jews in the area had no place to worship the Christians allowed them to use the church to worship in on their holy days. By the time the Muslims arrived in Damascus the church was a place of worship for Christians on Sundays and for Jews on Saturdays. There were no mosques in Syria at that time and the Muslims had no place to worship. They were invited to worship in the church in Damascus on Fridays, the Muslim holy day. So for a long while this Damascus church was the worship place of the three major religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam! They even attended each others services and festivals at times and intermingled with each other and shared teachings with each other. Damascus was one of the first places of true Interfaith between the three religions. Eventually, the Jews built a synagogue and the Chrisitans built a new Cathedral and sold the church to the Muslims who turned it into the first mosque in Damascus which today stands as the Damascus Grand Mosque. Here again we see the spirit of brotherhood and peaceful coexistence between the People of Scripture. Do we see that anywhere today in our modern world? Why not? What was good enough in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) SHOULD be good enough for ALL of us today! Or do we think we are better and more deserving than him? Is so then we are greatly misled and deceived by evil.
Today is a far cry from what history shows and proves as FACT, sadly. Today it appears to me that murder is the norm in much of the Middle East but it is NOT the historical nor the traditional NORM! For far too long now we’ve seen Christians, Muslims, and Jews slaughering each other in the Mid East for any old reason and I think it is high time ALL of the People of the Book WAKE UP and see what is REALLY going on! Fact is SATAN is behind all of this division and killing! Satan is the enemy of Allah and of EVERY believer and he does not want the People of Scripture to be united in a spirit of brotherhood nor does he want them to be tolerant of each other. Satan loves nothing better than division and death and these have now become the hallmarks of the Middle East, sadly! Satan has achieved his goal and it is time for the Faithful to STAND UP AND FIGHT BACK not against each other but against Satan himself!! It is high time the People of the Book RETURN to what REALLY IS the historical and traditional norm as evidenced by the 623 year rule of the Ottoman Empire and Ottoman society.
I have been horridied by what Muslims have done to Christians lately in the Middle East. In Egypt I read not long ago how some Muslims were crucifying Christians. HORRIBLE! SINFUL!! ABOMINATION!! Murder is a SIN according the the QURAN! How can a truly faithful and believing Muslim crucify a Christian or anyone else for that matter. Allah will SURELY hold those murdrees to account and come Judgment Day I would not wish to be in their shoes.
Of course I know that although it APPEARS that anything and everything that goes on in the Mid East is about religion I know that is NOT necessarily so. I know that MUCH of what we see happening in that region today is POLITICAL and religion is simply being hijacked and used for the advance of some IMPERIALISTIC POLITICAL AGENDA and NOT for the GLORY OF ALLAH! That in itself is a Sin. I also know that many people in the region remain uneducated and profoundly impoverished and that is by intention of their corrupt, oppressive, and dictatorial regimes that rule over them. Virtually all governments in the Middle East today are corrupt dictatorships and the people have no say in anything. Sorry but if you study the Qur’an and truly do consider yourself a True Muslim then you’ll want nothing to do with such government because you’ll know that such oppressive government was NOT the example set by the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). It’s time Muslims, Christians, and Jews start piercing through the SMOKE SCREEN of politics and stop allowing evil to divide them and keep them divided. Division is NOT the WILL OF ALLAH period and the Qur’an makes that abundantly clear!!
Let’s make no mistake about this. All of the People of the Book today stand guilty of allowing Satan to create division and hatred between them. Not only are Muslims, Chrisitans, and Jews attacking and killing each other but Muslims are also killing Muslims as sects battle against other sects. That’s WRONG! As I said earlier according to the Qur’an MURDER IS SIN no matter who you murder or for what cause!!
Where does this all end? Where does this mass human slaughter stop? When does the division that Satan has created between the People of the Book expire? When do Muslims, Christians, and Jews RETURN to the TRUE TEACHINGS of God as put forth in the Qur’an, Gospels, and Torah? When do we return to unity, tolerance, compassion, and that spirit of BROTHERHOOD that Allah so much desire we have as the truly faithful? WHEN???
Allow me to be even MORE upfront with ALL of you no matter what your religion is. The greatest fear Satan has is that one fine day Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others will stop fighting each other and start fighting against him and his evil Jinn (demons) and followers on this world. Why does he fear this so much? Because he knows that once that happens his days are numbered. AND THEY ARE! There is NO DOUBT in my mind that what EVERY Muslim, Christian, and Jew, and indeed the whole of humanity is living through right now is the END TIMES, the LAST DAYS. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a raging and ongoing unseen battle between good and evil which is soon coming to a head and breaking point. This is NOT a time for divisions especially among the People of the Book but more and more with each passing day this is a TIME FOR UNITY! A time of returning! A time of going back to some of the values exhibited during the 623 year rule by the Ottomans. Where the Ottomans perfect? Of course not! Where they all pious and holy? Of course not! Did they make some very big mistakes? Of course they did! Why? Because they were HUMAN just like you and I are and humans are not perfect. We can take from the Ottomans what was good and right and just and apply it today in our modern world. And that is exactly what we should do because, frankly, I truly believe this IS Allah’s WILL for the People of the Book in our modern 21st Century.
I will end this post with a prayer and be you Muslim, Christian, Jew, or any other I hope you will join me in this prayer for the world and for humanity.
“In the Name of Allah the Compassaionate, the Merciful, and the All-Wise. As Christians gather together this day to mark the birth of Messiah Jesus (pbuh) let this time also be a time for all people of all faiths to return to the values of compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, and respect. Let this day mark the beginning of unity instead of division. Let this day mark the time when the People of the Book see through the smoke screen and see TRUTH. Let us this day see the true enemy for who and what he is, the evil one, who wages battle against believers and all people on this earth today. Let us begin to stand united for the glory of Allah (God)! Let our minds be restored to common sense and intelligence and keep us far away from ignorance and foolishness that has so marked our modern history far too often. Lord we ask that you return the People of Scripture to once again being a people of dignity, of compassion and love, of mercy and insight. Make Your eternal TRUTH to shine upon us. Make Your guidance like a beacon before us guiding our every step, thought, word, and deed. Return us to your teachings Lord! Remove the veil from our eyes that has blinded us for far too long to Your Truth and the things that are hidden in this world. Open our eyes so that we might see how the evil ones have deceived us. Guide us in the Straight Path and do not allow us to go astray nor continue to incur your Wrath. And most especially Lord we ask that you fashion us into the kind of people You wish us to be for Your Glory and Magnificence. We praise you for the many blessings you have bestowed upon us. We praise you for the glory of Your Holy Name. Praise be to Allah! Praise be to God!!”
Dignity, intelligence, common sense, humbleness, giving, forgiving, merciful, loving, compassionate, tolerant, respectful……IF you are a TRUE Muslim, Christians, or Jew then these are you personal and shared values because these are the hallmarks of God’s Way. So let us be truly a part of the Faithful starting this special day.