November 1, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 295

Saudis Debate the Annihilation of Christians and Jews

November 1, 2001
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 295

Khaled Muhammad Batrafi, a Saudi columnist for the London daily Al-Hayat, recently published an article headlined "Why do we hate the People of the Book?" (namely – Christians and Jews) in which he tells of a religious argument he had with a friend regarding the annihilation of Christians and Jews.

The argument took place following a sermon at a mosque that called for their annihilation. In sermons of this kind, said Batrafi, the preachers usually cite Koranic verses and selected interpretations of the scriptures to incite believers against Christians and Jews.

Batrafi, who is strongly opposed to such incitement, based his arguments on religious Islamic premises in order to convince his friend that the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad does not require Muslims to hate Christians and Jews, contrary to the sermon the two had just heard. The following are excerpts from the article:[1]

"The preacher [at the mosque] called for the death and annihilation of Christians and Jews; he called to make their children orphans and their wives widows. After prayers, I told my friend: 'These are words of heresy.'"

"My friend replied: 'Do you support [the Christians and Jews]? If so, the words of Allah apply to you: 'Whoever supports them - belongs to them.'"

"I answered: 'The Prophet [Muhammad] did not call for the annihilation of the "People of the Book," but for their righteous behavior. He called [upon us] to hold a dialogue with them: 'Say to the People of the Book: Let us agree upon what we share, namely, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partner [i.e. other gods] with Him' (3:64). He also said: 'Allah does not forbid you to be kind and just towards those who have not fought you because of your religion, and who have not driven you from your homes’ (60:8).'"

"My friend said: 'But the People of the Book of our day are not the People of the Book of the days of the Prophet. Because those of our day have associated other gods with Allah [i.e. the Christians who believe in the Holy Trinity] and have introduced into their religion things that Allah has not commanded [i.e. the Jews, who according to Islam sinned by introducing religion precepts not determined by God]. In addition, they fought us and drove us out of our homes.'"

"I said: 'But they were like that in the days of the Prophet too. Did the Prophet not say: 'They are indeed infidels who say: God is the Messiah, son of Mary' (5:17, 5:72). Despite that, he called for a dialogue with them, because they belong to the People of the Book…'"

"[Also] the [verse concerning] those who fought us and drove us out of our homes does not refer to Christians and Jews, [who are] visiting us as our guests, and who are protected by the pacts we give them, [to] guarantee their safety… [Moreover], the Prophet's recommendation to his armies (regarding the "People of the Book) was: 'Do not kill an infant, an old man, a woman, or a priest in his place of solitude; do not uproot a tree and do not dry up a well.'"

"My friend said: 'But the civilians [of Western countries] pay taxes and support the policies of their governments against the Muslims.'"

"I said: 'Do you think that any citizen living in the West, even the Muslims among them, can avoid paying taxes? Besides, who told you that everyone who pays taxes automatically supports his government’s policy? Can [we] make claims against people because of their intentions and feelings? If this were true, the Prophet would have made claims against the relatives of those who fought against him because of their support of their kinsmen [who fought him] and would have ordered them killed. Did the Prophet punish the sister of the polytheist Al-Nadhr bin Al-Harith? Did he say that her blood was permissible, because of the poem she wrote…?'"

"My friend said: 'But did not the Prophet decree... one month for the annihilation of the infidels of the Qureish [tribe], because they captured and tortured some Muslims?'"

"I said: 'The answer is in your own question. Why did He call for their annihilation in that month alone, and not call for their annihilation on other occasions? This was a limited response to a specific act, or, in the words of Allah: 'No blame attaches to those who exact due retribution after they have been wronged (42:41),' and also 'If you desire to exact retribution, then adjust the penalty to the wrong you have suffered (16:126)…'"

"My friend said: 'Had the Christians and Jews not been impure, Allah would not have ordered them driven out of the Arabian Peninsula, [an order] that was carried out by Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab when he drove the Jews out of Khaybar?'"

"I said: 'Once again, the answer is in your question. Why didn't the Prophet [Himself] and [his immediate replacement] Abu Bakr drive them out? [And also,] why did Omar Ibn Al-Khattab not drive the Jews out of Najran and Yemen?'"

"Regarding the Jews of Khaybar: the Prophet waged war against them and expelled them from Al-Madina to Khaybar. They persisted in their enmity towards the Muslims and [the Muslims] could not feel safe about them. Reason dictated that they be driven from the fortified Khaybar to Wadi Al-Qara near Tabouk, that is, [still] in the Arabian Peninsula."

"[Moreover], the Prophet died with his shield being guarded by a Jew. The Prophet [also] customarily responded to the calls [of the Jews] and visited their sick. He visited a Jew who was on his deathbed, and called on him to convert to Islam. The young man turned his eyes to his father, who said to him: 'Obey, Abu Qassem. He converted to Islam and died as a Muslim.'"

"Could such a thing have happened unless the relations with the other side were humane and natural? Can a preacher with a heart full of animosity towards the believers of other religions speak with enthusiasm to persuade them [that Islam] is a religion of mercy and tolerance? Allah, do not punish us for the deeds of these idiots."

[1] Al-Hayat (London), October 21, 2001

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