The Life Of Priests, Rabbis, And Monks Are Inviolable

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Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT –

We are living in a horrifying age where not a single week goes by without the world being forced to witness dastardly criminals perpetrate the most heinous of crimes against unarmed civilians in the name of some cause or the other. Some hours ago, yet another atrocity, that not only offends our sensibilities but besmirches the sacred name of Islam and our holy Prophet s.a.w., took place in France. A Catholic church in northern France was attacked and its attending priest, an 84-year-old, was viciously murdered in cold blood. What was this old man’s sin that his end had to be met by such barbarity?

Let it be clear that the murder of religious personalities, especially those belonging to the Christian faith is a grievous enormity that is most assuredly forbidden by Islamic Sacred Law. Even in a valid war, if they are not direct combatants, their lives are inviolable and must be protected. Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. reports that the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. would give out clear instructions to his soldiers before dispatching them into battle. The Prophet s.a.w. would say:

“Do not break any promise, do not steal from the spoils of war, do not mutilate, do not kill children and DO NOT KILL THOSE THAT TEND MONASTERIES/CHURCHES (monks and priests).” (Ahmad ibn Hanbal (1986). al-Musnad, Volume 5. Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah. p. 358)

The strict code of conduct during a valid warfare that was put in place by the Noble Messenger of Allah s.a.w. was maintained by his successors, the four rightly-guided Caliphs.

Ibn Abi Shayba r.a. narrates the following:

ثابت بن الحجاج الكلابي قال : قام أبو بكر في الناس فحمد الله وأثنى عليه ثم قال : ألا لا يقتل الراهب في الصومعة
“Thabit bin al-Hajjaj al-Kilabi said, “Abu Bakr stood up before the people, praised Allah and said, “Beware! DO NOT KILL THE PRIEST/MONK IN THE MONASTERY/CHURCH.” (Abdullah bin Muhammad ibn Abi Shayba (1989). al-Musannaf, Volume 6. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Maktaba al-Rushd. p. 483)

Sa’id bin al-Musayyab r.a. reported that like the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., Abu Bakr r.a. would issue clear instructions to his army before sending the soldiers off to battle:

لا تغرقن نخلا، ولا تحرقنها، ولا تعقروا بهيمة، ولا شجرة تثمر، ولا تهدموا بيعة، ولا تقتلوا الولدان، ولا الشيوخ، ولا النساء، وستجدون اقواما حبسوا انفسهم في الصوامع فدعوهم، وما حبسوا انفسهم له
“Do not deluge (destroy) date-palm trees, DO NOT KILL animals, do not cut down fruit-bearing trees, DO NOT DESECRATE A CHURCH, DO NOT KILL CHILDREN, do not kill women and DO NOT KILL OLD PEOPLE.You shall soon come upon those that have secluded themselves in monasteries/churches, you must let them be so that they may SAFELY engage in that for whose sake they have secluded themselves.” (Ahmad bin al-Husayn al-Bayhaqi (1994). al-Sunan al-Kubra, Volume 9. Mecca, Saudi Arabia: Maktaba Dar al-Baz. p. 85)

This most unfortunate incident has transgressed the limits of the Shari’ah in more than one way:

1. He was killed despite the prohibition on harming priests and/or monks.
2. He was killed despite the prohibition on harming old people.
3. He was killed despite the prohibition on harming non-combatants.
4. The church was attacked despite the prohibition on desecrating places of worship.
5. The killing was done despite the absence of any legal warfare according to the parameters of the Shari’ah.

It would appear that the heartless assailants, representing a demon-inspired ideology, would have the Shari’ah trampled on and flushed down the toilet into the sewers to be replaced by their perverse depravities instead.

It is clear that the brutal slaying of the old French priest, Father Jacques Hamel or any other priest in any other church has no place in Islam and must be condemned for what it is — terrorism.

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