Jumuah lecture on Friday 25 February 2022 (23 Rajab 1443)
Moulana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid
Ottery, Cape Town
Almighty Allah (SWT) has highlighted a very important principle to human society in numerous verses of the Holy Quran. Similarly, His final messenger, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), has highlighted this in his sermons and through his practical life.
Contrary to what has been promoted, violence, war, aggression, occupation never brings (in principle) any positive result or fruitful outcome. In principle, Islam has a very strong opposition to bloodshed, regardless of religion, ethnicity etc.
One of the reasons why Islam arrived in that Arabian Peninsula was to address this issue of violence which placed no value on life. We read from sermon 26 of Nahjul Balagha, where Imam Ali (a.s) explained the background to the advent of Islam through the arrival of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) in the Arabian Peninsula.
Imam Ali (a.s) explained that the society of Arabs in Makkah was stooped in ignorance and on the worst belief system because they use to engage in violence and shed blood without any regard for the value of human life. Imam Ali (a.s) said that this made these people to be the worst of the worst!
HOLY QURAN DESCRIBES CONDITIONS WHICH ALLOW FOR WAR AND AGGRESSION
We all know of that well-known letter which Imam Ali (a.s) wrote to his governor in Egypt, Maliki Ashtar, recorded as letter 53 of Nahjul Balagha. Imam Ali (a.s) says in this great letter with evergreen messages “I warn you Malik, against the use of violence and shedding blood without legitimate reasoning.”
And then Imam Ali (a.s) follows it up by saying “O Malik, never ever try to strengthen your power over the people with violence and shedding blood.”
This is the principled position of Islam. Indeed, there are situations where one is left with no option but to go to war. It is permitted in that case. The word permission itself has a meaning, as referenced in verse 39 of Surah Hajj (chapter 22 of the Holy Quran) allowing Muslims to go to war:
أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِيرٌ
Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them.
This verse therefore establishes by default, that we are not allowed to engage in war and aggression, unless in self-defence. This word “udhin” says a lot, in that by default, we believe in peace and reject any form of aggression and oppression, and only allowed to engage in conflict if peaceful resolution is not working to defend oneself. This is when there is no option. Permission is then granted to engage in war.
ISLAM HAS A CLEAR BIAS TOWARDS PEACE
Verse 25 of Surah Yunus (chapter 10 of the Holy Quran) also establishes this principled position of peace, inviting us to the shelter of peace after being lured by the temptations of this world:
وَاللَّهُ يَدْعُو إِلَىٰ دَارِ السَّلَامِ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ
And Allah invites to the abode of peace and guides whom He pleases into the right path.
Some commentators of the Holy Quran have explained this Dar-es-Salaam as Paradise, which is indeed an accurate interpretation, because there is no violence there.
A similar verse to this is verse 61 of Surah Anfaal (chapter 8 of the Holy Quran), where Almighty Allah (SWT) once again establishes peace as a priority over war, requesting us to also surrender to peace if the enemy does the same:
وَإِنْ جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
And if they incline to peace, then incline to it and trust in Allah; surely He is the Hearing, the Knowing.
BEING WELL-PREPARED IS THE BEST DETERRENT TO AGGRESSION
This is the well-established principled position of Islam having a clear bias towards peace. That being said, there are indeed situations where there is no other option but to engage in war, to achieve sustainable peace.
There is an insightful point in the verse before, namely verse 60 of Surah Anfaal, where Almighty Allah (SWT) commands us to be very well prepared.
وَأَعِدُّوا لَهُمْ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ مِنْ قُوَّةٍ
Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power
The logic here is that being well prepared is the best deterrent for war and violence and bloodshed.
In summary then, the principled position of Islam established in the Holy Quran and teachings of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) is to call towards peace and avoid conflict at all costs, but does allow us to engage in war as a self-defense when there is no other option to achieve sustainable peace. In fact, this is where war becomes compulsory!
The spirit of such a war should not be driven by material motives to capture the resources of others or occupy their lands and attack on their sovereignty. Rather, the purpose of engaging in war should be to defend the religion of Islam and the true freedom of the people.
SECOND KHUTBAH – KEY LESSONS FROM RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE
In light of what we explained in the first khutbah (sermon), the position of Islam when it comes to aggression and occupying the land of another sovereign country, on whatever pretext, is not justifiable. It should therefore be condemned. Such aggression can never be accepted, in light of the Islamic principles explained earlier.
The principled position articulated in the first khutbah is that Islam does not believe that war, violence, aggression and occupation can resolve any problem, especially when it comes to occupying another sovereign country, regardless of the reason, be it the security of the region or the security of your own country. Until there is no attack, any form of attack or aggression can never be justified or condoned.
In this light, based on the Islamic principles described earlier, we cannot agree with the aggression by Russia to invade Ukraine. We may have our bias or inclination towards one party over the other in this matter, which is fueled by a massively complicated backdrop which has resulted in what we are witnessing on the news now. Despite this, the aggression by Russia, on whatever pretext, cannot be accepted.
If this can happen to Ukraine, then it can happen to any other country. Quite frankly, any country can attack and occupy on the pretext of feeling threatened by the other country, its policies and positions adopted, and its alliances with NATO, for example. None of this can justify the occupation and killing of people.
The people of Ukraine have not committed any crime. If anything, the problem is with the political leadership of that country, but it is the people of the country who feel the suffering and bloodshed and this invasion should therefore be condemned.
HISTORY OF UKRAINE’S INDEPENDENCE WITH THE COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET UNION
This conflict between Russia and Ukraine does not only have one angle to it, which we see on the news in the form of Russia invading Ukraine. There is another very important lesson to learn here. Let us first go back in history.
Ukraine was originally one of the strongest regions of the former Soviet Union. A significant part of the nuclear establishment of the Soviet Union was based in Ukraine, which held hundreds of missiles with nuclear warheads and nuclear reactors.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, an agreement was reached between Russia and the other parts of the former Soviet Union which broke away to establish themselves as independent countries. This agreement stated that Ukraine will dismantle all their nuclear facilities and nuclear arms. And if anyone attacks Ukraine, then Russia will stand in support of Ukraine to defend itself against any aggression.
Now let us look at the picture today! Who is attacking Ukraine?! This is indeed a very important angle to study. If any country does not depend on its own people and resources, and does not stand on its own two feet, then there is absolutely no guarantee. No agreement can come to your rescue if you do not establish your true independence.
This is the story of Ukraine and Russia.
UKRAINE’S ALLIANCE WITH WESTERN POWERS
Ukraine ran away from the lap of Russia and fell into the Western lobby because of the very strategic position Ukraine has, with all its rich natural resources, not to mention its strength in technology, education and geographically positioned on the doorsteps of Russia and Europe! Ukraine can therefore become very strategic for the Western powers such as the European Union and America.
So then, Europe and America welcome Ukraine in their midst and promote them! As a result of Ukraine becoming aligned with the West, it then naturally became distanced from Russia in its foreign policy. This created a very serious situation for Russia to take action, because the Western enemy is now surrounding Russia, which can become an existential threat for Russia if Ukraine becomes a member of NATO.
WESTERN POWERS AGAIN PROVE TO BE UNRELIABLE FRIENDS
Look at the West and their unequivocal support for Ukraine, condemning Russia unreservedly for its invasion of Ukraine and the killing as a result. But what is this Western alliance doing other than lip service? Are Americans ready to bring their forces to fight against Russia? Clearly NOT!
All that we have seen so far is the joke of a tweet from American President Joe Biden stating, “the prayers of the world are with the people of Ukraine”. This is the help of Americans, whom people fool themselves into believing that this president is the saviour of democracy and liberation! His message is clear: We will prayer for you! It doesn’t matter if the suffering continues, even if it is Europeans.
Amazingly, the only commitment that they are making is that if the situation becomes very bad then they will give these people refuge somewhere in the European Union. British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has already offered refuge to the political leaders of Ukraine, should they decide to flee!
This is their support. Up to now, there is no indication that these countries will be ready to fight for Ukraine and defend them against Russian aggression. Up to now, it seems that Ukraine will need to defend themselves!
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN CONTINUES TO STAND AGAINST THE WORST FORM OF RELENTLESS AGGRESSION
There are so many angles to explore on this main news story, but this lesson is indeed most important. The stance of the Islamic Revolution and the leadership of our beloved Imam Khamenei shows us the example that when they resist to defend their sovereignty and independence, they are ready to pay the most expensive price which we cannot comprehend what the people of Iran are currently having to endure with the most suffocating sanctions imposed on them and skyrocketing inflation.
Daily life is a major challenge and extremely difficult in the Islamic Republic of Iran, yet the people of Iran stand firm on their principles. They are not ready to give up and depend on so-called friends for help, the way we see with Ukraine in front of us currently.
Nobody has stood firm in the face of aggression more than the Islamic Republic of Iran has. There are indeed great lessons to be learned from both sides ie. the mentality and approach of the aggressors and secondly, how to stand up against the aggressors to defend your dignity and sovereignty.
History is fresh with classic examples, such as the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union is in front of us, Libya is in front of us, Iraq is in front of us! This long war against the Islamic Republic of Iran is in front of us.
The common theme in all these examples is that the West is indeed the most unreliable friend to depend on! They have consistently left their allies in the middle of a crisis and continued with their own interests. For them, their interests are more important than anything else.
THE WORLD IS IN DIRE NEED OF SUSTAINABLE PEACE BASED UPON JUSTICE
Without doubt, this current conflict between Russia and Ukraine is extremely complicated. The Western powers have probably succeeded in bringing a united front against Russia but helping the country of Ukraine defend itself appears to simply not be the criteria for them, judging by their lack of practical support up to now, beyond simply giving advice to Ukraine!
We should not lose sight of the fact that the Western powers have played a key role in creating this crisis in Ukraine. They insisted on all the countries bordering Russia to be affiliated with NATO, creating deep military links which indeed presents a threat to Russia. This security risk in the region is therefore their own doing.
Let us pray for peace to prevail in this world; sustainable peace which is based upon justice.
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