All Houses of Worship are Sacred

All Houses of Worship are Sacred

worship

By Amal Al-Sibai Saudi Gazette   Killing innocent people and spilling blood in a house of worship is in no way Islamic, and it goes against Islamic teachings and principles. At least 27 people were killed in a blast inside a church in the northern city of Tanta in Egypt. And in Alexandria, 18 civilians and four police officers were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Coptic church. When ISIS claimed responsibility for these attacks, any clear thinker will draw the conclusion that ISIS does not represent Islam and Muslims. It causes one to question, what religion is ISIS really following? How does ISIS justify such heinous acts when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) granted protection to Christians living among Muslims? If ISIS was truly seeking to establish an Islamic state, religious minorities living among them would have been granted protection and religious freedom. Our societies are in need of studying and reading more on the history of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him). In fact, both the Islamophobes and the extremists may be unaware of the covenant between Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Christians. Both the Islamophobes and the extremists falsely interject violence, hatred, and intolerance in the religion of Islam. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located in the Sinai region in Egypt and it is believed to be the oldest working Christian monastery in the world. The monastery possesses a large collection of Christian manuscripts. One of the most precious documents of all is the copy of a letter given to Christian monks by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The original letter is found in Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and requested his protection. He granted them protection and provided them with a letter which is called the “Charter of Privileges.” The privileges of protection ad safety for the monks were upheld by Muslims for centuries.  The letter reads: “This is a message from Muhammad, son of Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation of (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant until the Last Day.” As for the notion by some people that Islam approves of or even encourages attacking Christian civilians, the scholarsMuhammad Abdullah Al-Khatib and Dr. Abdus-Sattar F. Saeed issued the following statement: “Islam does not only prohibit assaulting non-Muslims who do not wrong us, Islam urges us to treat non-Muslims well and be just when dealing with them. It is prohibited to attack non-Muslims’ places of worship. Freedom of religion and belief is a right which Islam guarantees, as Allah Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an, {Let there be no compulsion in religion.} (Chapter 2, verse 256). To those who claim that Islam supports the perpetration of violence against people of other religions, they are overlooking Prophet Muhammad’s instructions to not kill any child, woman, elder, or sick person. Mutilation is prohibited. To uproot, burn, or cut down trees is prohibited.  Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle.” (Sahih Bukhari) It is recorded in Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Do not kill the monks in monasteries and do not kill those sitting in places of worship.” 14 It seems we need to re-learn the character of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his mercy, compassion, tolerance, generosity, devotion, and worship. The Muslims in Egypt responded by gathering in mosques to donate blood for the injured survivors of the attacks in the churches.