As a final year pupil at her primary school seven years ago, my daughter Fatima was assigned to memorise a song which was to be sung at their speech and prize-giving day. While she moved around the house rehearsing the lyrics in order to cram them, she inadvertently got the rest of us to memorise them as well. The song runs thus:
Islam is all about peace
Terrorism it doesn't teach
It's all about love
And family and charity
And praying to One God
This is Islam.
So enamoured was I of this song, that when I was invited to present a Ramadan lecture with the theme "Terrorism: Not in the character of Islam", at the International Conference Centre, four months later, I opened my presentation with the above lines. The need to emphasise just how far Islam is from terrorism and wanton killing is never more urgent than now because some people have decided to go on a killing spree in this country and call that Islam. Nothing is more hurtful to the Muslim listener than when reporters from international media regurgitate the repeated falsehood that 'the insurgents want to establish the strictest form of Sharia law in Nigeria.'
No one can seek to establish Sharia law by violating one of the most basic provisions of that divine justice system; which is that one must never shed innocent blood. Killing in Islam is permitted only on two occasions, in self-defence and when due process of law has found someone guilty of murder. The holy Quran is so categorical on this that it says "...Whoever killed a human being, except as a punishment for murder or for sedition in the earth, should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and whoever saved a human life should be regarded as though he had saved the whole of mankind." Suratul Maa'idah verse 32.
Equally categorical are several sayings of Prophet Muhammad against unlawful killing. How then can anyone claim to be doing God's work on the strength of bloodshed? But once again when some bloodthirsty bigots hit at (wonder of wonders) the Military Cantonment in Jaji, the newshounds couldn't wait to say the perpetrators wanted to establish Sharia law in Nigeria. Though this particular attack on a church, during Sunday service was unclaimed, just like the one before it at another church in Unguwar Yero of Kaduna city, a few weeks earlier, was also unclaimed, still the word about town is that Muslim terrorists have struck again.
Now whether the perpetrators of this evil were Muslims or not, the attack on innocent worshippers is not Islamic. The killing itself was as unlawful as the suicide bombing because Islam is also categorical about the place of suicide. Even in times of deep physical or emotional stress a Muslim is not permitted to take his own life and whoever does that is deemed to have died condemned-having lost his faith. What more of a suicide that takes along the lives of others?
One striking argument against suicide in general is a saying of Rasulullah SAW in which he said 'None of you should make a request for death because of the trouble he is in but if he cannot help it (his feeling of despair) then let him pray "O Allah keep me alive as long as there is goodness in life for me and bring death to me when there is goodness in death for me." Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim. This is why people like me have always questioned the suicide-bombing theories that have always been reported in places like Iraq and Afghanistan because closer examination has always revealed some of those alleged suicides to be cases of remote-controlled explosions.
Even in Palestine where it is believable, because they are people living under inhuman occupation with no other means to defend themselves, research has shown that suicide-bombing was started not by willing Palestinian youths but by secret Israeli agents who will drug unsuspecting youths and blow them up from a distance. Of course this psychological warfare paid off when several other Palestinian youths began to subscribe to this murderous ideology. They couldn't wait to hit back at their life-long oppressors.
But as a weapon of warfare, suicide-bombing was first started by the Japanese during the Second World War. Their kamikaze warriors drove planes laden with explosives during attacks on the Allied forces. These were quickly followed by the Tamil Tiger rebels of Sri Lanka whose struggle for independence often led to suicide attacks on government targets. The first reported case of suicide bombing in the Muslim world happened in late 1993, just ahead of the Oslo Accords, according to the Time magazine. Since then numerous cases of suicide attacks (including the master hoax of September 11th ) have been attributed to Muslims, but this does not in any way make the act Islamic.
The best model for any Muslim, according to the Holy Quran is our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW and he was thoroughly against suicide, let alone suicide-murder. So if these bombers were Muslims, who do they look up to? By attacking fellow Muslims in cold blood and Christians during worship, whose model are they copying? It is on record that Rasulallah lived in complete harmony with Jews and Christians when he established the first Islamic state in Madina. They enjoyed total religious freedom in exchange for a pledge to live peacefully with their Muslim neighbours.
The caliphs and sultans who succeeded him in leadership of the Muslim Umma followed in his footsteps by according due right and recognition to Jews and Christians, respectfully calling them 'people of the book' in the manner of the Holy Qur'an. In the glorious days of Islamic empires, Jews and Christians had held various positions of scholarship and public trust because their loyalty to the states they served dictated it. Even closer home, during the days of the defunct Northern Nigeria, we have heard of the numerous stories of how the late Premier Sir Ahmadu Bello lived and interacted peacefully with his Christian associates. In particular I recall reading an interview Ambassador Jolly Tanko Yusuf granted to Daily Trust just a few months to his death in 2001.
According to the late ambassador, anytime he had to meet the Sardauna on a Sunday, the first thing Sir Ahmadu Bello will ask him was Sunday service. Once when they were on a journey to Iran with the late premier, the weekend came. Sardauna asked Ambassador Yusuf what to do about Sunday service and he replied that there was no need to worry because they were after all on a journey. After that they parted for the night. But first thing the following morning, according to Tanko Yusuf a driver came and told him that he had been instructed to come and take him to church somewhere in Tehran, whenever he was ready. Apparently Sir Ahmadu Bello did not rest that night till he had found a church and arranged for the ambassador to do his Sunday service. Jolly Tanko Yusuf frankly told our panel of interviewers that he had tears in his eyes when he was being driven to that church. He was so moved by the Premier's concern for his faith.
Certainly we Muslims today cannot claim to be more knowledgeable than these pious predecessors. And definitely we can't claim having any divine inspiration to kill non-Muslims, especially innocent worshippers in cold blood. So if these perpetrators still call themselves Muslims, we must rise to say to them "But this is not Islam." In fact Islam provides such clear guidelines on these matters that even in warfare Muslims are instructed not to touch women, children and the aged; while crops must never be damaged.
These recent attacks must be thoroughly investigated and the findings be made public. I have said several times on this page that even so-called claims of responsibility do not prove a thing in our highly digital world, so unclaimed attacks should call for double the effort. To simply call them the acts by insurgents trying to establish Islamic law is to shy away from the job at hand; which is to find the murderers on rampage in our midst. We that are within Islam know it as a religion of peace and harmony. It's all about love and peaceful co-existence; as exemplified by our Noble Prophet Muhammad SAW and his pious successors.