This brief essay is the first of several dealing with the Fort Hood tragedy. It is written by Shaykh J. Hashim Brown, an American Muslim convert to Islam. Shaykh Brown was blessed to have studied intimately with some of the greatest scholars of Syria for almost an entire decade. He is currently the director of research at the Tabah Foundation based in the United Arab Emirates.
It is with great sorrow and sympathy that we respond to the grief of the families connected to the tragic event at Fort Hood, Texas. The shock of unsuspected violence and death can bring about trauma in the lives of the living that is difficult to make sense of let alone bear. Muslim families are uniquely placed to empathize with the families of victims as this has been their own daily reality in some regions of the world that have been plagued by uninvited violence for many successive decades.
The actions at Fort Hood that led to the death of thirteen and the wounding of thirty people warrants condemnation. The killing of unarmed civilians is unconditionally prohibited in the sacred law of Islam. As an American citizen and a soldier in the US Army, the perpetrator has a covenant with the people of the United States who are his neighbors. Neighbors have no recourse but to trust their fellow neighbors; this relationship is sacrosanct. Additionally, soldiers - even as members of an aggressive military force - who are unarmed and outside of a combat zone do not constitute legitimate targets. They are not actively seeking to harm and remain unsuspecting of retaliation. In fact, they are in a situation in which it is hoped that they may be tempted to reconsider their own involvement in further violence. Violating this assumption of safety in a civil society environment undermines the principles of trust and reliability that are held so dearly by the followers of the Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him.
If soldier or citizen residing in Western lands find themselves unable to continue in the covenant or obligation into which they have entered, they should seek to publicly extricate themselves through the official and recognized means provided for by the terms of the obligation. Conscientious objectors’ status, honorable discharge, or if need be, the formal and public renunciation of citizenship, and exiting the host country are a correct course of action. Taking people unawares, even if not civilian, yet outside of a recognized combat zone is not acceptable.
At this time we would like to call our fellow citizens to reflect on the continuing tragic state of affairs in our combined lives domestically and globally. We are the sum of our choices and as such bear responsibility for them before God. The ongoing wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan were born out of ethical controversy. When violence is born out of ambiguity it will inevitably lead to circumstances of ethical confusion. Violence only begets more violence. Leadership and courage are required to stop the vicious circle. The global public has yet to see that leadership or courage on any side of these conflicts, yet it is they who continue to suffer the consequences; as disproportionate as that suffering may be.
There are American citizens, both Muslim and otherwise, who strongly question the legitimacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet they have found alternative ways of expressing that dissent than contributing to continued and deepening cycles of violence. Violence only brings more violence. If we have learned anything from the great men of history, the Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, foremost amongst them, it is that compassion always wins in the end.
Hurt is hurt. A Muslim family that has experienced the bitterness of tragic loss would never wish that upon another. Muslim community leaders continue to implore their respective constituencies to stand by their principles, to be balanced and responsible citizens, and to renounce wanton violence. It is hoped that other leaders will likewise hold up their end of responsibility. Now is the time for healing -and just as healing is a historical trait of Muslims, resiliency is a proven trait of Americans. Would that the two came together now at this tense and critical time.
Shaykh J. Hashim Brown
This is exactly the kind of response I was hoping to see articulated. Thank you so much for doing so!
I'm just curious Zayd if this is the price of opening the Zaytuna College in the US. Not that I am in favor of killing unarmed soldiers (or anyone for that matter, as I am not) but we still don't know the facts as to what exactly happened at Fort Hood. If Major Nidal was in fact the perpretrator (the only people who seem to have condemned him have been those working for the mainstream media) then maybe you should analyze what factors pushed him to this extreme. The person who has written this "fatwa" says: "As an American citizen and a soldier in the US Army, the perpetrator has a covenant with the people of the United States who are his neighbors. Neighbors have no recourse but to trust their fellow neighbors; this relationship is sacrosanct." This is deceiving as he is mixing venom with honey. It is true that as a member of a civilian society a Muslim wherever he/she may live has obligations toward his/her neighbors. No one is arguing that. Muslim Americans are probably some of the finest citizens in our country. They are law abiding, they don't do drugs, they don't collect social security, they work, they contribute every way possible to the well being of themselves, their families and the society they live in. The problem I see is in this tendency to give fatwas by so called American Imams who do not reunite the necessary conditions to do so. This goes for you, Hashim Brown and any other American who thinks that having studied a few years in the Islamic world gives him the license to emit a fatwa. I only know of one living person (that is if he is still alive) who could come close to giving a fatwa and that is an Abyssinian Scholar in Hijaz who has written a 32 volume tafseer. In the first volume a description of his "rihla" as a student of knowledge is detailed. And if your readers want something more summarized then they should look at the versified text or "Manzuuma" of "Al-Waragaat" where the basic conditions for a mufti are given. But let's get back to the fatwa. Your friend says: "As an American citizen and a soldier in the US Army, the perpetrator has a covenant with the people of the United States who are his neighbors. Neighbors have no recourse but to trust their fellow neighbors; this relationship is sacrosanct." Which relationship is sacrosanct? The one with our neighbors which I can accept? Or the one with a military machine that is devouring whole nations with its people? Is a Muslim, then, held accountable by Allah for not fulfilling his covenant with a military corporation, with mercenaries (which is another definition of a professional soldier) to go and kill Muslims in Muslim lands? Is this because maybe some American Muslim scholars have family members in the US armed forces and are in Iraq or Afghanistan and just might be participating with the killing Muslims there? I would really like to see what kind of fatwa you could concoct to justify the presence of American Muslims in an army that is invading Muslim lands and killing its inhabitants. However, just to show you I am not all bad and that I can be fair, allow me to say I understand you are in a difficult situation. You form part of an Islamic institution that is very representative in the US. And I understand that whenever something like this happens and it involves an Arab or a Muslim you might feel you are obliged to respond because you represent Muslims in America. Wouldn't it have just been simpler to send your condolences? Or just not say anything maybe? This is a hypothesis as I don't know all the facts. But let's say this man is the perpetrator. The only clear conclusion would be that Hasan Nidal is a US soldier who was well liked by neighbors, friends. He was polite with others. He was a psychiatrist (I'm just going by what I've read) and he simply snapped. That's right. He couldn't take it anymore. He lost it. He went bonkers. This is the only explanation I have for what happened. He's not the first to have done it and I suspect he won't be the last. And here, no condemnation based on poor legal explanations of sacred law will be able to shed light as to why this person did what he did. By the same token, I will never accept the CNN version of events because what networks like these trying to portray that what Hasan did (if he did it) is typical in Arab behavior, that Arabs are prone to kill, that it is in their genes. And this is nothing farther from the truth. I have lived among Arabs and they are some of the most peaceful people I
Why are not the disbelievers held by this same 'covenant'? Why are Muslims suppose to unilaterally follow and covenant even though the other side can arrest them anytime or sieze there wealth through taxes and give it to the military to fight other Muslims? Why isn't the honor of the Muslims protected by them? Go ask any leader in American government and see if they believe the Muslims are shielded from arrest due to an imaginary covenant that only exists in the minds of some Muslims.
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