Civilization or Barbarism

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Imam Zaid Shakir


Posted Posted on 2016-02-09

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“Good and evil are not equal. Respond [to evil] with what is best, [good]. You will unexpectedly see one between whom you and he there is enmity become as it were an intimate friend.” Qur’an 41:34

Recently, a young man, who did not identify himself, approached me and mournfully informed me that he used to be a Muslim. He had been attracted to Islam by its message of brotherhood, human concern, social justice, spiritual refinement and its ability to coexist with other faiths throughout its long history. Then, shortly after taking his Shahadah (Declaration of Faith), he was approached by an ISIS recruiter. He was repulsed by the message of hatred, blind vengeance, chauvinism and indiscriminant murder. He accepted Islam to become a better person, not a murderer. In an effort to distance himself from the haunting possibility of being drawn to a path that justified pathological murder, he distanced himself from Islam.

This young man’s tribulation highlights the fact that there is a battle being waged for the hearts and minds of the Muslim people. We can view this battle as one between what may be called civilized and barbaric views of Islam. The civilized view posits that Islam is a civilizing force that has contributed to the ongoing march of human civilization in myriad and brilliant ways and in light of the many crises facing humankind still has much to offer. It posits that good people can come together and end the scourge of war, which today is a euphemism for mechanized slaughter.

The barbaric view posits that Islam intends to destroy human civilization as we know it and magically replace it with a divinely inspired utopian system, whose perfection will not be lessened in the least by the imperfect humans charged with its implementation. It posits that the slaughter of innocent human beings, dehumanized to facilitate clearing the conscious of the murderer, can somehow advance the project of Islam in the 21st Century. It pretends to fight in the name of eliminating disbelief (kufr), yet Muslims and Islam are by far its greatest victims.

Every Muslim will eventually have to choose between these two views of our religion, just as every citizen in the West will have to eventually choose war or peace. If Muslims choose “jihad” and if the West chooses war, we should recognize that the nature and rapidity of the evolution of the efficiency with which we can kill each other, if unchecked, threatens our collective survival. We would do well to heed the following warnings of those who know best the consequences of that choice.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower

“One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.” George Orwell, Veteran of the Spanish Civil War

“Now new weapons have made the risk of war a suicidal hazard. Modern war visits destruction on the victor and the vanquished alike. Our only complete assurance of surviving World War III is to halt it before it starts.” General Omar Bradley

“War is a racket. It always has been. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is all about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.” Major General Smedley Butler

“As fire does not extinguish fire, so evil cannot extinguish evil. Only goodness, meeting evil and not infected by it, conquers evil. That this is so is in man’s spiritual world an immutable law comparable to the law of Galileo.” Leo Tolstoy, Veteran of the Crimean War

May Allah bless us to answer the call to civilization as swiftly as others, past and present, are willing to answer the call to barbarism.


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