By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, Editor, WordForPeace.com
Regrettably, we find some sayings attributed to our beloved Prophet of peace, Muhammad (peace be upon him) being brazenly misused by the radical clerics and Jihadist scholars creating confusion, peddling hatred, provoking mayhem, intolerance, xenophobia, violence and justifying the killing of innocent civilians including children and women. We could have simply dismissed the idiocy and irrationality of the theological extremists, if their concoction or misinterpretation of the hadith texts were confined to the contents of their books, but their outspoken incitement and endorsement of the atrocities perpetrated by the modern Kharijites like Taliban, ISIS and al-Qaida is what keeps us unsettled. Recently, we were aghast when a radical Salafist cleric in Sudan Muhammad Al-Jazouli issued incendiary statements in his Friday sermon and said that “under Islam there is no distinction between combatants and civilians and thus infidel women and children can be harmed and even killed in the militant attacks”.
More shockingly, when his nefarious speech ended, the audience vociferously chanted: “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar”. One can see the height of folly of the people who are abysmally ignorant of the very essence of their religion. Nauzu Billahi Min Zalika (we seek refuge from Allah from this)!
Extremist Clerics Ruining the Efforts of Moderate Islamic scholars
This tragic incident pitiably shows that the intellectual efforts of the moderate and peace-loving Muslims, particularly Islamic scholars and Ulema, to curb the creeping radicalisation are totally sabotaged by the handful of dangerous radical Mullahs, very active in their task of radicalisation. Much in the same way as almost all the extremist clerics behave, Al-Jazouli did not only preach his obnoxious ideas completely antithetical to Islam, he rather quoted a hadith misinterpreting it and thus tarnishing the peaceful image of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the global media. In his fiery speech, Al-Jazouli quoted a saying attributed to the Prophet (pbuh), clearly attempting to pursue his nefarious goal through misinterpretation of the Hadith texts, which are regarded among Muslims as the second most authentic source of Islam.
Referring to a certain Hadith misquoted and taken out of the context, the radical cleric concluded, in a very nasty manner: “I was very happy to learn about the relevant hadith. I felt overjoyed when I heard it. Ibn Juthama told the Prophet Muhammad that while the Muslims would attack the polytheists at night, women and children would be harmed. The Prophet Muhammad answered: [Their offspring] are from them. They are part of them, said our beloved Prophet. This is not merely someone’s opinion. Thus, killing their women and children is permitted.”
Distressing Phenomena of Jihadist Misinterpretation
Al-Jazouli’s excitement at the above Hadith and his obnoxious attempt to misinterpret it reveals two distressing phenomena. First, the danger of provocative Takfiri sermons in the mosques is looming large, as the committees of mosques are still far away from performing the role assigned to them that is, appointing imams with moderate, balanced and peaceful narrative of Islam. While large numbers of Muslim worshippers turn to the mosques for prayers, extremist clerics exploit this opportunity to indoctrinate many of them into the dangerous Takfiri ideology of harming Muslims and non-Muslims in the name of Islam.
Second, the extremist scholars are constantly on the lookout for all such Islamic texts that can be misused to serve their abhorrent designs. Al-Jazouli’s quoting the above-mentioned Hadith justifying wanton killing of civilians is not an isolated instance. Many more Takfiri-Wahhabi ideologues and militants have long been quoting and misinterpreting them.
One such obnoxious instance was recently seen in a heated ideological debate between a Pakistani army official and a Taliban cleric who justifies wanton killing of moderate Muslims and Pakistani soldiers driving inspiration from the Fatwas of the prominent Deobandi Ulema like Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani and Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai. He also misquotes Quran and Hadith with no conformity to their proper contexts. When asked by the Pakistan official as to why he is hell-bent on killing and beheading the Pakistani moderate Muslims, he says “it is his duty to kill anyone who doesn’t agree with him”.
Let’s have a glance at how the Talibani scholar misuses the Quran and Hadith to justify their wanton killing of innocent Muslims and non-combatant non-Muslims. It was a wireless conversation between an ordinary Pak army official and a TTP cleric. I am quoting below an excerpt of the video with great disgust to show thinking Muslims how the modern Kharijites and Takfiris are the biggest threat to the dignity of Islam and humanity at large. It should also open up the eyes of some Ulema and Islamic scholars who are still living in denial of the fact that Islam is being distorted in extremist discourse.
Pak Army Official to Taliban Scholar: “Your leaders and elders came out in the media with broad chest and took the responsibility of bomb blasts in Moon market Lahore and attack on the school bus in Kamra. Can you confirm that you carried out theses bomb blasts?”
Talibani Scholar: “Alhamdulillah, we accept the responsibility of Kamra attack because that was a military school. If there were any children killed in that attack, then obviously some children may be killed while killing the adults”.
In his pernicious bid to desecrate the persona of the Prophet (pbuh), the Talibani cleric goes on misquoting the Hadith, much in the same way as the extremist Wahhabi cleric Al-Jazouli did. The Talibani cleric also quoted the same hadith with his brazen misinterpretation and then boldly takes pride in it saying: “That is why we are proud of the operation that we carried out in Kamra in which we destroyed the military school.”
Mainstream Moderate Ulema’s Responsibility
Obviously, the Pakistan army official was not so well-versed in the Islamic sciences that he could theologically refute the TTP scholar’s filthy and nasty argument declaring all Pakistanis as Kafir (infidel) and thus justifying the murder of their women and children. However, he tried his best to retort the radical ideology of the mentally retarded criminal Taliban scholar. But the question remains: what responsibility does this disturbing phenomenon place on the mainstream moderate Ulema and Islamic scholars? Will they continue to remain silent onlookers at the brazen distortion of Islamic literature or take a courageous stance of refuting and rebutting it? Regrettably, while the extremists’ distortion and misrepresentation of the Qur’an and Sunnah are on the rise, we hardly find creditable and hard-hitting efforts to retort them on the sound and tenable theological grounds.
Correct Interpretation of the Hadiths Misquoted by the Jihadists
As for the above narration of Sa‘b bin Jassamah (r.a), it is a completely abrogated Hadith, with no practical application or theological relevance in this day and age. It was exclusively specific and confined to a certain situation when the Companions waged a defensive war at a night, for the very survival of their own threatened lives, and could not distinguish between men and women in the dark. But when they realised it, they regretted and felt deeply pained. Therefore, they asked the Prophet (pbuh) if they would be held accountable for the unintentional sin. They did not ask the Prophet (pbuh) whether they could deliberately target the women and children in war. Rather, they asked about the women and children who were unintentionally exposed to danger when they were fighting with the male warriors. The Prophet (pbuh) simply said that it was an inescapable and exceptional case, because they neither intended to target children and women nor they could distinguish them, as they were fighting in the dark. He did not justify the killing of women and children making a precedent for further attacks. Rather, the Prophet (pbuh), shortly after this incident, prohibited the defensive night raids so that the women, children and elderly people could be distinguished and protected from war. This is evidenced by the tradition narrated by Anas bin Malik (r.a): It was the Prophet’s habit that, whenever he reached the enemy at night, he will not attack them till it was morning”. (Saheeh Bukhari, Volume 005, Book 059, Hadith Number 510). Another tradition narrated by the same companion says: The Messenger of God (pbuh) used to fight the (warrior) enemies when it was dawn”. (Saheeh Muslim, Book 004, Hadith Number: 0745).
The authoritative scholar of Islam and an eminent commentator of Saheeh al-Bukhari, Imam Ibn-e-Hajar Asqalani writes in his commentary on the hadith that “the point of Hadith is not to target the women and children intentionally“. He explains that “the hadith has been abrogated and therefore even if women and children accompany the enemy warriors during a war, then still it is not allowed to kill them”. (Fathul Bari, Kitab: Al Jihad wal Siyar, Bab: Commentary on Hadith no. 2790).
Moreover, the very fact that the Companions inquisitively asked the Prophet (pbuh) about the unintentional incident is a clear proof that the Prophet (pbuh) had never permitted them to let it happen deliberately and that he was very strict in his prohibitions on the killing of women and children. Had the Prophet (pbuh) allowed them in any way, they wouldn’t have asked the Prophet about it.
Prophet’s Prohibition on the Killing of Innocent Civilians, Women and Children
As a universal commandment, the Prophet (pbuh) had strongly and repeatedly prohibited the killing of women, children, elderly people and even harming trees, in both states of peace and war. There is no dearth of Hadith reports in which the Prophet (pbuh) unreservedly condemned the killing of women and children even during the time of war, let alone the state of peace. Here are a few of them:
Narrated by Abdullah: During some of the Ghazawat (defensive battles), a woman was found killed. Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) disapproved the killing of women and children. (Bukhari, Volume 004, Book 052, Hadith Number 258).
Yahya related to me from Malik from Ibn Shihab that a son of Kab ibn Malik (Malik believed that ibn Shihab said it was Abd ar-Rahman ibn Kab) said, “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) forbade those who fought ibn Abi Huqayq (a treacherous Jew from Madina) to kill women and children. He said that one of the men fighting had said, ‘The wife of ibn Abi Huqayq began screaming and I repeatedly raised my sword against her. Then I would remember the prohibition of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), so I would stop. Had it not been for that, we would have been rid of her.'” (Muslim Book 021, Hadith Number 009).
Narrated by Ibn Umar: “During some of the Ghazawat of the Prophet (pbuh) a woman was found killed, so the Prophet (pbuh) forbade the killing of women and children.” (Saheeh Muslim: Book 019, Hadith Number 4319).
Narrated By Rabah ibn Rabi’ : When we were with the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) on an expedition, he saw some people assembled together around something and sent a man and said: See, what are these people collected around? He then came and said: They are round a woman who has been killed. He said: This is not one with whom fighting should have taken place. Khalid ibn al-Walid was in charge of the van; so he sent a man and said: Tell Khalid not to kill a woman or a hired servant. (Muwatta Imam Malik, Book 021, Hadith Number 008).
Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said that Abu Bakr as-Siddiq was sending armies to Syria. He went for a walk with Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan who was the commander of one of the battalions. It is claimed that Yazid said to Abu Bakr, “Will you ride or shall I get down?” Abu Bakr said, “I will not ride and you will not get down. I intend these steps of mine to be in the way of Allah.” Then, Abu Bakr advised Yazid, “You will find a people who claim to have totally given themselves to Allah. Leave them to what they claim to have given themselves. You will find a people who have shaved the middle of their heads, strike what they have shaved with the sword. “I advise you ten things: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.” (Muwatta Imam Malik, Book 021, Hadith Number 010).
While scores of the Prophetic sayings like the above explicitly and categorically forbid the killing of women, children and non-combatants in state of war, some scholars opine that scanty hadith reports as the one narrated by Sa‘b bin Jassamah do not yield certainty and cannot be canonised as part of normative teachings of the Prophet (pbuh). Here, one may ask if Sa‘b bin Jassamah’s hadith could abrogate the above-mentioned hadiths, as there is no Hadith report clearly saying that Sa‘b bin Jassamah’s Hadith is abrogated. But the reason why Sa‘b bin Jassamah’s report won’t and can’t abrogate these Hadith is that, firstly, the former hadith is the rarest of the rare hadiths, very few in number. Secondly, it came earlier than the scores of other hadiths strictly enjoining avoidance of killing women and children and innocent civilians in defensive wars. These are two of the basic technical reasons why Sa‘b bin Jassamah’s hadith should be completely abrogated and considered null and void in practice.