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Saturday, 24 January 2015

To Christians With Love - THIRD PHASE

THIRD PHASE:   We know that the Jews were banished from their religious center of Jerusalem after its destruction in 70 CE at the hands of the Roman armies under General Titus. Later, Emperior Hadrian built a new Roman colony, called Aelia Capitolina, over the desolate ruins of Jerusalem, but the Jews were not allowed thereafter to settle in Jerusalem. 

After the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity, Jerusalem or Aelia became a predominantly Christian city. Then, six centuries later, the Holy City surrendered without any fight to the Muslim Omar. The treaty of peace signed at that time between the Muslim conquerors and the Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem included an item about the Jews incorporated into the pact at the request of the Christians – according to which, under the Muslim rule, the Jews were not to be allowed to settle in this city.
The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE was followed by  what  is  known  as  the  period  of “Diaspora”  in  the history   of   the   Jews,   when   they   became   scattered throughout the world – some went to Russia or Europe, others escaped to Africa or India or Turkey. Then Jews were allowed to visit their holy places in Jerusalem but they were not permitted to buy property or settle in the Holy City, and this policy continued throughout the period of Muslim rule from Caliph Omar right down to Sultan Abdul Hameed II of the Ottoman Empire. It was only after the notorious Balfour Declaration of 1917 that the Jews finally got in a position, due to the support and assistance of the British government, to settle in Palestine.
What is noteworthy here is that the condition set by the Christians, as mentioned above, that the Jews would not be allowed to settle in the Holy Land, reveals the hostility that was present between these two communities.

Their mutual antagonism has been referred to in the Holy Quran thus:

The  Jews  say  the  Christians  follow  nothing (true), and  the  Christians say the Jews follow nothing (true); yet both are readers of the Scripture [i.e.,  the  Old  Testament]. (Al-Baqara 2:113)

Saturday, 17 January 2015

To Christians With Love - SECOND PHASE

SECOND PHASE: The circumstances at the time of the advent of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) can be clearly understood in the context of the following Quranic verse:

You will find that the most vehement of all people in their enmity to the Believers are the Jews and the Mushriks {Pagan Arabs}; and you will find that the nearest in friendliness to the Believers are those who say we are Christians’. This is because there are among them some pious scholars and monks, and because they are free from pride. (Al-Maida 5:82)

During the days of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), there were numerous upright and God-fearing monks and priests among the Christians. Thus, it is said that it was a Christian monk of Syria, named Bahira, who recognized that the small boy traveling with his uncle in a merchant cravat is, in fact, the final prophet of Almighty God.  Bahira  is  reported  to  have  said  to  Abu Talib, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him): Take your  brothers  son  back to his country, and guard him against the Jews, for by God, if they see him and know of him  that  which  I  know,  they  will  contrive  evil  against him.”

Another Christian monk is there in the well-known incident of the   beginning of Divine Revelation. When Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) returned home after the awesome and overwhelming experience of receiving the first Revelation from Almighty God, his wife Khadijah  took  him  to  her  cousin  Waraqah  Ibn  Nawfal, who had converted to Christianity and was, by now, an old and blind man. Hearing of the event, he too immediately recognized that Muhammad was indeed Gods messenger.  May Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him. And he said, “By Him in whose hand is the soul of Waraqah, there has come unto Muhammad the same Namus [angel of revelation] that had come unto Moses.”
Similarly,  one  of  the  Companions  of  the  Holy Prophet,   Salman   Farsi,   who   was   born of   Persian Zoroastrian parents but had converted to Christianity, was told by a Christian monk on his deathbed that the time for the arrival of the Prophet is near and that he should go to the “country of date-palms” to find him.

Moreover,  another  significant  incident  may  be mentioned here. The two Super Powers of the time, the Byzantine (Roman) Empire and the Kingdom of Persia, had a long history of mutual animosity and armed clashes. In   the   years   615   and   616   CE,   the   situation   was overwhelmingly in favor of the Persians, as the Romans had lost Jerusalem to the armies of Persian King Chosroes II (sometimes called Khusrau Parwiz). The pagan Quraysh were pro-Persian, mainly because of the resemblance of their polytheistic beliefs and practices with those of the Zoroastrians; while the handful of Muslims in Makkah felt an affinity for the Christian Roman Empire, as the message of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was in the tradition of earlier prophets, including that of Jesus Christ. The defeat of the Romans made the Quraysh rejoice, and they started to taunt and ridicule the Muslims, aggravating their anguish. In this context, the following Quranic verses were   revealed,   predicting   that   the   situation   will   be reversed in less than ten years:

The Romans have been defeated in a land close by; but they, even after this defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious, within a few years… (Ar- Room 30:2-4)

As a matter of historical fact, this prophecy was fulfilled during the years 627 and 628 CE. The Roman Emperor Heraclius marched on foot to Jerusalem to celebrate his victory over the Persians, and restored to its place the holy Cross which had been carried away by the Persian conquerors some 9 years earlier

In general, we see that the attitude of the Christians towards Muslims was exceptionally benign and cooperative, in sharpt contrast to the behavior of the pagan Arabs  who openly  fought  and persecuted  them,  or  the behavior  of  the  Jews  whose  surreptitious  intrigues and conspiracies were  a  constant  nuisance  and  a  source  of trouble for the Muslims.

Thus, it is well-known that when the persecution and   oppression   became   unbearable   in  Makkah   and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)  allowed  his Companions   to migrate   to   Abyssinia   (Ethiopia),   the emigrants were well received by the Christian inhabitants of   that   country.   When   envoys   from   the   Quraysh approached the Abyssianian monarch, Negus or Najashi who too was a Christian and requested him to expel these aliens from his kingdom, the latter openly refused to betray the refugees. Hearing the verses of the Holy Quran, Emperor Negus is reported to have wept, and his bishops in the court wept too. Almighty Allah (SWT) has said about such Christians:

When they listen to that which has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflow with tears because of the truth they recognize therein. They spontaneously say, our Lord! We have believed therefore write down our names with those who bear witness to it’. (Al-Maida 5:83)

Although Negus never met Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), it is known that he had embraced Islam. When the news of his death reached the Prophet in Medina, he led the Muslims in the funeral prayers for the departed soul.

After the peace treaty of Hudaybiyah, the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) wrote letters to a number of rulers in the neighboring countries in order to call them to Islam, including two of the Christian rulers Heraclius of Rome and Maqawqis of Egypt. He later did not accept the call of Islam, but they behaved with respect and reverence towards the envoy of the Prophet, and he sent various gifts to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).  

The Roman Emperor Heraclius received the Prophets messenger with courtesy/, and, after interviewing Abu Sufyan who was at that time trading in a caravan in Syria and was still an unbeliever – became convinced that Muhammad was indeed the Prophet of Almighty God. May Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him. Heraclius wanted to retain his sovereignty even after becoming a Muslim, and this would have been possible only if there were a mass conversion of his empire in favor of Islam. Since he could see that his generals and bishops were evidently not interested, and, in fact, they were visibly annoyed with the Prophets letter and the proceedings of the interview with Abu Sufyan, Heraclius too decided not to embrace Islam. Thus, the glories and grandeur of his kingdom became an obstruction between him and the Truth.
In short, we see that there was a world of difference between the approach of the Christians and that of the Jews vis-à-vis Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his Companions. Throughout the struggle of the Prophet, the Jews and the Pagans remained staunch enemies of the Islamic movement. As alluded to earlier, the malice and animosity of the Jews towards Islam and the Muslims was characterized by conspiracies and behind-the-scene subversive activities; they never dared to fight against the Muslims in open field. According to the Quran:

They will not fight against you in a body, save in fortified villages or from behind walls.  (Al- Hashr 59:14)