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Misquoting religion is a prelude to an unjust war

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What is happening in Gaza is the result when one disregards the sanctity of human life based on disillusined understanding of ones sacred texts (Emad El Byed - Unsplash)

By: Dr Youcef Bensala, Prof. Dr. Mohd Roslan Mohd Nor

At the heart of every faith lies the imperative to be guiding path of justice, offering refuge to disputants seeking fairness and solace to the fearful. Despite the diverse tapestry of followers across scriptural religions—varying in language, customs, colour, and even temporal and spatial realms—they all unite in the noble pursuit of justice and the condemnation of injustice. As the Divine reminds us, “Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.” (Quran 16:90)

Consider this: in the early days of Islam, when Muslims faced the suffocating grip of oppression and the ruthless torment by the polytheists of Mecca, Prophet Muhammad turned to the monarch ruler of Abyssinia for help. Why? Because he is known for his impartiality. He welcomed them and offered his land as a sanctuary, promising them protection and relief from their trials. It was a remarkable testament that, under his reign, no injustice befell anyone, despite his Christian faith. Likewise, Jews sought refuge under Islamic governance, attracted by the assurance of safety and equality, finding solace from the turbulent circumstances elsewhere.

Haim Al-Zaafarani, in his book “A Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Morocco” paints a vivid picture of the flourishing Jewish life in Andalusia, a sanctuary of prosperity and tranquillity unlike any other.

Nissim Rejwan, Editor-in-Chief of Israel Today magazine, vividly portrays the struggles and the plight of Jews under the iron-fisted grip of merciless Spanish monarchs. However, with the arrival of Muslims in Spain, a transformative liberation occurred. Not only were Jews freed from persecution, but a radiant beacon of civilization was ignited, marking an era that stands among the greatest in human history.

More other unique historical examples showed the Muslim’s support of Jewish community and protection. In 1492, Sultan Bayezid II dispatched a fleet to rescue the Sephardic Jews, expelled by the cruel edicts of Spain and Portugal. Welcoming them with open arms, he granted them Ottoman citizenship and safeguarded their religious freedoms. History bears witness to the warmth, hospitality, and prosperity that Jews enjoyed within the embrace of Islamic lands.

Yet, the echoes of history fade when confronted with the stark realities of our time. Contemporary leaders, wielding the reins of power, issue edicts that ring hollow against the backdrop of justice and compassion. Consider for instance, the words of Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on October 9, 2023, during a gathering at the Southern Command of the Israeli Army. He callously disregards the distinction between combatants and civilians, laid siege to Gaza, and depriving its inhabitants of the basic necessities of life. Treating them as mere beasts, rather than fellow human beings. It’s a chilling echo of past sentiments voiced by Israeli defence officials, reducing Palestinians to subhuman status.

The situation is worsened when such dehumanizing rhetoric emanates from Jewish scholars and religious figures, advocating for the slaughter of Gazan women and children under the guise of “Jewish law”. For instance, on August 3, 2023, Israeli Rabbi Eliyahu, the esteemed head of the “Shirat Moshe” religious school in the central city of Jaffa, advocated for the targeting of women and children in Gaza, justifying this abhorrent stance by attributing it to interpretations of Jewish law.

These so-called directives are clearly a far cry from the sanctity of life upheld in the commandments attributed to Moses.

In contrast, the Quran provides a clear reminder to preserve the human lives. Among others, Allah said: “Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” (Quran 5:32)

The arrogance of Zionism is fuelled by our silence, and the empty rhetoric persists due to our inaction. Tyrants fear only resolute resistance. Without it, they’ll continue their rampage until they’ve devoured everything in their path.

“Soon will ye remember what I say to you (now), My (own) affair I commit to Allah: for Allah (ever) watches over His Servants.” (Quran 40:44).

Dr Youcef is a senior lecturer at the Department of Fiqh and Usul, while Dr Mohd Roslan is a Professor at the Department of Islamic History and Civilization, Academy of Islamic Studies, Universiti Malaya.

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