The 41st Islamic Societies of North America (ISNA) convention was the stage and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, the acclaimed American Muslim scholar, once again rose to the occasion with a captivating and most moving address. His subject matter was arguably one of the most important issues currently facing Muslims in North America - learning how to be both American and Muslim.
|`We must in one voice condemn and completely reject the concept of indiscriminate killing in this religion. It is neither from the religion nor is it sanctioned by the religion in any reading of our premodern tradition.'
Sheikh Hamza Yusuf
Emphasising that Islam has a long and distinguished history of respecting indigenous cultures and traditions he reminded his Illinois audience of the roots of their tradition:
`Wherever Islam went it did not divorce the people from their land, their culture and their traditions but rather it purified them and made them realise their own inherent genius.'
Then turning attention to a topic which he described as being `absolutely necessary to address' he spoke with heart-felt passion about the recent tragedy in Beslan, Russia:
`We must in one voice condemn and completely reject the concept of indiscriminate killing in this religion. It is neither from the religion nor is it sanctioned by the religion in any reading of our premodern tradition.'
Emphasising how tragedies such as those in North Ossetia darken our religion, he said of this particular massacre that it will be remembered in history as `..a blemish on the Muslim people for as long as people read history.'
Yusuf made clear that Islam rejects outright the use of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians, particularly women and children:
whether it is against an Israeli child, a Russian child, an Iraqi child, an American child, a Chinese child it doesn't matter who it is, we must reject indiscriminate violence against innocents.'
The sanctity of life should be respected at all times and anyone who spills blood unjustly, be it a single life or many lives, should, Yusuf said, be reminded of the essential Qur'anic principle:
'Anyone who kills a soul without just cause, it is as if they had killed all of humanity'
(Holy Qur'an 5:320)
Prophet Muhammad, may God's peace and blessings be with him, warned us against extremism saying:
'Beware of extremism in religion for it is extremism in religion that destroyed the peoples before you.'
And it is high time that this perennial truth is heard, understood and enacted by those who now appear to know no moral bounds.
Dr Sangeeta Dhami