Sheikh AHM On the American vs Mongol Invasion of Iraq

Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad in an interview on his new book: Travelling Home: Essays on Islam in Europe.

The Qur’an is very emphatic that believers should fear God alone. And nowadays we find that this kind of discourse of victimhood that a lot of Muslims have succumbed to is based on a real fear. We’re afraid of the National Front, and of Trump, and of Zionism, and all kinds of things are terrifying us. Sometimes because we’re weak human beings and we have the usual fight or flight reflexes and that’s kind of understandable. But it has to be a surface level. On a deeper level there has to be this fundamental monotheistic assurance that God is in charge. And the Qur’an goes out of its way really to explain that “inna Allaha ‘ala kulli shayin qadir,” God is powerful over all things. And many of the verses that were sent to console the believers in Medina when they were surrounded by polytheistic enemies who wanted to murder them all basically, and put an end to the religion, are there to remind them that God alone is victorious.

If you look at the al-Hambra for instance, which is this bittersweet swan song of Islam in Western Europe; they knew that the Spanish were coming and the inquisition, and that Islam would be obliterated. But the Qur’anic verse that is all over the al-Hambra is “la ghaliba illa Allah.” God Alone is victorious. Whatever would happen, God has the last laugh. And I think that that should really be the slogan of Muslims in Europe–that we shouldn’t be afraid. But so many of the modern Muslim political movements and social movements are based on a real existential fear. And a lot of the radical movements are based on a real sense that God is not going to support us and we need to use all kinds of instrumental, perhaps even horrifying, unethical techniques, in order to get our way and exact revenge against those who humiliated us.

And we saw a lot of that in the discourse that happened after the Iraq invasion for instance. It was more like the pagan ethos, the vendetta, in pre-Islamic Arabia than it was with the Islamic discourse: that God is in charge, but behave morally. So I have a footnote where I compare the Muslim reaction to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 to the Mongol invasion of Iraq in 1258, which was also a terribly destructive and frightening thing. The consequence of the Muslim reaction to the Anlgo-American invasion was that the country collapsed into sectarian and tribal mayhem, which seems to be impossible to reconstitute. The consequence of the Mongol invasion of Baghdad is that after a generation or two they converted to Islam.

That’s trust in God and maintaining the moral excellence of your tradition, even in the face of extreme persecution. Islam was banned under the Mongols, you would be executed for even giving the call to prayer. It was silence in all of the minarets of the ummah, but still because they didn’t engage in suicide bombing, mass murder, screaming demonstrations, but trusted in God and worked for the conversion of the conquerors, the Mongols converted to Islam and became great champions of Islam and Islamic history was transformed as a result.

Tanfeer (تَنْفِير), or behaving in ways that makes people hate, despise, and fear monotheism is something that comes from the lower self and actually undoes the work of the prophets who are trying to bring people to the truth rather than to make religion look like something frightening and disgusting. It’s part of the decadence of our age. But most Muslims, I think, are as horrified as most non-Muslims by these tanfeeri movements, and I think that now it’s clear that all they have to offer is smoking ruins and we’re going to move on to a more classical and more appropriate and more loving discourse.

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