Post Aug. 9th 2017 An Open Letter to Omar al-Abed / by Denis MacEoin
1. Omar al-Abed murdered three members of a Jewish family recently: Yosef Salomon, his daughter Chaya and his son Elad. The murders took place in the settlement of Halamish, land disputed by Israelis and "Palestinians" since the War of 1967. After reading that the murderer had survived and had been taken to hospital, I wanted to speak to him — in part, just to tell him how counterproductive and futile his action had been. But I also thought it worth trying to address him in language he would understand, by referring to Islamic matters, by quoting the Qur'an and sacred Traditions known as Hadith. The letter below might be translated into Arabic and shared with other young men. In it, there is mention of my background as a teacher of Islamic Studies, in the hope he and others might see I am not coming out of antagonism for either him or his faith — a faith that he and they are committed to following. I wanted to raise moral questions that seldom if ever occur to Palestinian Muslims, especially when they are roused by false rumors about al-Aqsa or other sites they consider sacred. It is important to stress that Jews are the only religious people alongside Muslims who believe in the absolute unity of God. After all, it was from the Jews that Muhammad learned to preach that "there is no god but God". I write to Omar al-Abed that he had no right to proclaim jihad, for an individual may not do that. Even though there are provisions in shari'a law that permit an individual to use violence if he believes Islam is under attack. I wanted him to know that the individuals he murdered had not attacked him and that the Israelis actually protect al-Aqsa and that it is not even slightly under attack. I quote Qur'anic verses about loving one's enemies, even though many later verses say the opposite. But if the Qur'an for him is the Word of God, surely he cannot simply ignore the earlier verses. The letter is just a way to try to open some eyes by speaking in terms that someone who regards you as an enemy, especially if you are not one, may grasp, and that may serve as an outreaching of hands. 'Umar al-'Abed will only change if, over the long life he will spend in prison, he has time to reflect and to use those parts of his religion that call for peace. Who knows what can happen in a lifetime?
Perhaps the exercise is worthless. I am not a Muslim, and no doubt that makes a difference. I am not a Jew, but I have tried to say that, in my long experience, Jews are good people and the people he killed so brutally were good people who, like him, believed in one God. Here is the letter: Ya 'Umar, Ya Abu Zayd, I have just read your Arabic will and testament. After the bismillah and salutations upon your prophet Muhammad, whom you extol as ashraf al-khalq wa'l-mursil, the most noble of mankind and the prophets, I came to your words:
I am young, not even twenty-years old, I had many dreams and many aspirations. But what life is this in which our women and our young are murdered without any justification? They are desecrating the al-Aqsa mosque and we are sleeping, it is an embarrassment that we are sitting idly by. "You, those who have a gun and who are worn out, you who only bring out your gun at weddings and celebrations, are you not ashamed of yourselves? Why are you not declaring war for Allah? Here they are closing the al-Aqsa mosque and your gun is silent. All that I have is a sharpened knife, and it is answering the call of al-Aqsa. Shame on you, you who preach hatred. God will take revenge on you and will make it count. All of us are the sons of Palestine and the sons of al-Aqsa. You, sons of monkeys and pigs, if you do not open the gates of al-Aqsa, I am sure that men will follow me and will hit you with an iron fist, I am warning you. 'Umar, I cannot come to your bedside in the hospital where your wounds are being treated by the people you have been taught to hate. If you had a knife, perhaps you would murder the doctors and nurses who are now saving your life. I have taught Arabic and Islamic Studies at a British university; I have many Muslim friends and have written much about Islam, a religion I know well. Much of my life has been spent in its study. I have read the Qur'an and the Hadith in Arabic, and love Islamic art, calligraphy and poetry, and can well understand why you love the Masjid al-Aqsa, the Qubbat al-Sakhra and all of the Haram al-Sharif. Many of the most beautiful buildings ever created have been mosques. There is no bitterness in my heart. But I do write with mingled sorrow and rage for what you have done. I know a great many Jews; they are good people who have suffered, and, like Muslims, millions of them have been slaughtered. Jews, like all Muslims, say the equivalent of la ilaha ill'llah — there is no god but God — in their holiest book. God has mentioned the Torah, al-Taurat, sixteen times in the Qur'an. In al-Taurat, you will find the words: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one". Are these not like the words pronounced by the first Mu'adhdhin of Islam, Bilal ibn Rabah, when he was tortured by his master for having abandoned idolatry and said repeatedly ahad, ahad: one, one. The Jews and the Muslims are the greatest worshipers of a single God. Did it ever occur to you that you did something evil? You took the lives of a family of believers in one Deity. You destroyed their lives: a father, his son, and his daughter. You gravely injured the mother who, like you, is in hospital, fighting for her life. And when she is conscious she will be told that you have taken her husband, her son and her daughter. All the members of that family are today in grief, a grief from which they will never recover. And you have destroyed your own family. Have you not read in the Qur'an, in Surat al-Isra, that speaks of the Prophet's Night Journey to the Masjid al-Aqsa, when speaking of God's command "God has decreed that you worship none but him"? It continues: "And be virtuous to your parents. Whether one or both of them reaches old age, say not to them 'Uff' nor chide them, but speak unto them a noble word". Now, your father and mother have lost a son who might have protected them in their old age. Another son, your brother has been arrested. Today or tomorrow, soldiers will demolish the home in which your family lived. Is that what God would wish? You write, calling on your fellow Muslims, "Why are you not declaring war for God?" What war can that be if not jihad? But what right do you have to issue a call to jihad? Do you not know shari'a law and what it says about the call to jihad? Have not the 'ulama and the fuqaha stated that "Qital or fighting can only be declared when there is an Islamic State and the leader or Amir of this Islamic State is the only one who can declare this Holy War." To be continued tomorrow