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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Are Muslims obligated to hate all Jews and Christians?

Last week, an op-ed was written by a Dr. Hamad Al-Majid in Asharq al-Awsat, calling on Muslims to interpret the Quran in liberal ways that would allow respect for non-Muslims:
I think that with a careful Shariaa reading of a number of texts on this subject, and by confining this [hatred] to specific cases, many problems and dilemmas would be solved, and this could even have help in consolidating social peace, especially in the Muslim countries where acts of violence are being carried out against their Christian minorities such as Egypt and Nigeria. This is something would also need to be taught as part of the academic syllabus, and this may be the key to solving this problem.

When I was working for the Islamic Center in London in the 1990s, I saw for myself the state of confusion in the British people who had recently converted to Islam when they were taught the principles of hatred, rather than [peaceful] disagreement. This had a negative impact in the way in which they treated other people; their parents, their brothers and sisters, their family and friends, and so Islam lost a number of potential converts who might have been attracted to the religion had they been treated with more respect and compassion.
It appears that many Muslims were very unhappy with Dr. al-Majid's liberal interpretation. So much so that he felt compelled to write a follow-up, possibly out of fear, saying that the Muslims that passionately hate Christians and Jews have solid textual evidence for their feelings:

Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal [founder of the Hanbali school of Fiqh] would turn his face away if any Christian looked at him, when asked why, he answered "I cannot look at anyone who lies about and slanders God." On the other hand Imam Malik ibn Anas [founder of the Maliki school of Fiqh] said that it was permissible for a Muslim to share a meal with a Christian. This is a clear example of the huge gap in the different understandings and diverse opinions that Muslim Imams have on this subject.

The principle of not loving those who resist and make war on Allah and his Messenger [pbuh] is a "firmly established" Islamic principle. However scholars disagree over whether this applies to peaceful Jews, Christians, and others, or whether believers should hate all non-believers regardless of how peaceful they are, whether this is a wife, a neighbor or a colleague. This issue is considered to be a "contentious" issue and clerics have adopted different opinions with regards to this recently as well as throughout the past. It is therefore unworthy for any scholar or seeker of knowledge to describe anybody who adopts either of these two opinions as being confused or capricious or influenced by the West or having a loose doctrine or responding to pressure; they should not consider them to be sinners or wrongdoers in need of correction. Similarly, those who follow the permissive option [of Imam Malik] should not label those who adhere to their own contrasting doctrine as hardliners or extremists.

In the end, nobody can be certain who is right and who is wrong; only God can know.
Dr. Al-Majid's credentials are "Journalist and former member of the official Saudi National Organization for Human Rights. Al-Majid is a graduate of Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh and holds an M.A. from California and a Doctorate from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. "

If a Muslim with such a comparatively liberal background feels compelled to excuse Muslim hate as just another valid opinion, it does not bode well for the chances that liberals in Islam will ever manage to gain ascendancy in their community. (And even with his seemingly conciliatory feelings, he mentions that he is a fan of hate preacher Yusuf Qaradawi.)