Extracts from Kam's tablet journal
As terrified as I had been in the village, this place was something else. I'd like to think it's hyperbole on my part, or a distorted view brought about because of my fear, but all I could see in the eyes of those around us was hate… and bloodlust.
It hadn't been easy to find, even for Ishy. As enhanced as his senses are, he's not telepathic. The device he had made enabled him to hear things on a wider range of frequencies, and the 'pads' George and I had allowed for something similar. The problem was… none of us knew what we were looking for.
There was shortwave chatter between shepherds, friends reaching out to each other, spouses checking in, but we couldn't, at first, find anything that would tell us exactly where we needed to be to find what Ishy was looking for.
The Kryptonian tech was smart, though, and it worked behind the scenes. We quickly figured that the only reason we couldn't find anything was because no one out there was saying what we needed to hear, and that we just needed to be patient.
'They're misguided,' Ishy had kept saying, over and over again. 'The Prophet (saw) said, "Indeed, what I fear for you most is a man who will recite the Qur'an until its brightness can be seen on him and he becomes enveloped in Islam but then changes it. He will be destruction for Islam, he will discard it and fling it behind his back. He will strive against his neighbour with the sword and charge him with Shirk." He was asked, "O Prophet of Allah, which of them is more worthy of being charged with Shirk, the one making the charge or the one being charged with it?" and he said, "the one charging with it, of course."
'Zealousness… it's something warned against. Strive to hold to the religion but keep to the middle path.
'They know we're here,' he said suddenly, and my gauntlets thrummed and tried to soothe me. I don't know if they were using their scopes, I don't know if they were following us on foot, and I have no idea if there were booby traps that Ishy was guiding us through. He didn't say anything more and neither of us wanted to do anything that could have made him lose his concentration.
Finally, ahead of us, was the place we were trying to find. It was a small mountain village, old and tucked away, but the paths to it were well-worn. The air felt a little thinner but it was so clean that it seemed to sear away the dirt in my lungs. My heart raced and I felt anger churn inside me – this beautiful part of the world, separate from the chaos and hustle and bustle I had grown up with, had basically been quietly invaded.
We walked through the gates and no one paid any attention to us. People slowed down but they didn't look at us. The further in we moved, however, the more apparent it became that the ones we first walked passed were locals and belonged here and the ones now were… well, they weren't. When we saw them raise their guns we moved closer to Ishy and part of me wished that the clothes he had given us were heavier.
Three men approached us and stopped a few feet away. Two of them held their weapons up and ready as the one in the middle stepped forward and held up his right hand. 'Who are you and how did you find this place?' he asked. He spoke in Arabic and I heard the translation whisper in my ear.
'We're here to learn,' Ishy said.
'Learn? Did the world outside not teach you what you needed to know?'
'The world has taught us many things but-'
'Why is a boy speaking on behalf of men?' said the man standing to the right of the one who was questioning us.
'Why does it matter who speaks so long as questions are asked and answers are given?'
The first man raised his hand and said, 'My men have said you arrived without a vehicle.'
'Your men?' asked Ishy, turning his head slightly as he looked around us.
'How did you get here?'
'We walked and ran and searched.'
'And how did you get here?' he growled, stepping forward.
'We walked and ran and searched.'
'And how did you find this place?' He was right in front of Ishy, looking down at him, but Ishy stood his ground and looked straight ahead, at the man's chest.
'People with loose lips-'
'No, not like that.'
'Not like that? Then how?'
'I think we're wasting our time here,' and Ishy stepped round the man and my heart leapt.
The third man grabbed Ishy's arm and pulled him round to face him. 'You come here to us and-'
'I came here to learn. To try to understand you, but I look into your eyes and I don't see a man, let alone someone who knows why he is here.'
'I know why I am here,' he spat. 'I know what I have sacrificed and left behind.'
'So you say,' and Ishy gestured for us to follow him and the men fumbled with their weapons and looked at each other, confused.
'Take me to your leader.'
Extracts from George's notes and recordings
Charisma. I don't use that word often but that was clearly what the man in front of us had. It poured off him. His body language was so easy, almost carefree. The gesture of his hands, the nod of his head, all of it, made everyone in the enclosure comfortable and eager to listen. I suppose it made sense, there was nothing for him to worry about here. Everyone around him was there for him, not against him.
I'm not going to call him a 'Sheikh' or anything like that. Ishy didn't so I see no need for me to.
He gestured at us to come forward and the men moved to the side and lined the walls of the courtyard as he sat down, and more people arrived and joined them. We stepped forward towards the middle, surrounded on all sides, and waited.
'I have been told that the boy has questions. This is good. One must understand what is happening around them before they make a decision. Come forward. Ask your questions.'
Ishy stepped forward and stood with his legs shoulder-width apart and his hands by his sides. He looked to his right and then passed his gaze slowly over to his left.
'I must confess surprise to see so many Arabic speakers here. I had expected there to be much fewer.' He tugged on his sleeve and looked over his shoulder and behind us, and then did it again on the other side. 'If you would permit me, however, I would prefer to speak in English, for the benefit of all.'
'Arabic is the language of Islam-'
'And communication is better done in a language understood by those listening, surely?' said Ishy, ignoring the hiss his interruption triggered from those gathered.
The man smiled and nodded.
'Before I came here I listened to some of your words. You spoke about your worldview. You said, "O Muslims, Islam was never for a day the religion of peace. Islam is the religion of war. Your Prophet (saw) was dispatched with the sword as a mercy to the Creation. He was ordered with war until Allah is worshipped alone…"'
'You know my words,' he said, smiling, and he leaned forward and clasped his hands, resting his elbows just above his knees. 'I'm impressed.'
His smile faltered and then he laughed and sat up straighter. 'You are not,' he said, nodding his head a little. He looked straight at Ishy and his eyes squinted as he asked: 'Why?'
'Before the Prophet (saw) migrated to Madinah he had sent some of his Companions to live in Abyssinia. A Christian country.' He paused and looked around, slowly, at those gathered and stepped forward another step. 'When the Prophet (saw) established Madinah as an Islamic State there was a covenant. A covenant of Madinah. The covenant included non-Muslims and Jewish tribes.'
The man's fingers twitched and then he flicked his hand dismissively. 'In those times they were People of the Book but the covenant was broken by those people. It no longer stands. The People of the Book no longer exist.'
'So to you,' said Ishy, stepping forward one more step, 'all of you,' he gestured at the men and women and soldiers who had gathered, 'there are no more People of the Book?'
'Exactly. All who are not Muslim, true Muslim,' he punctuated with his right index finger pointing up to the sky, 'are kafir. This is plain and easy to see.'
'I… see,' said Ishy, slowly.
'Does this satisfy your curiosity?'
'No.' There was a murmur in the crowd but no one said anything out loud. What pricked at my ears, though, were the not-so-muffled sounds of guns being readied. 'You said the Prophet (saw) was ordered with war, but of the twenty-three years of his Prophethood only 200 days were spent on wars. Two hundred. Not even a year.'
'I'm not sure what it is that you are trying to say.'
'I'm saying that the message you've been giving these people, and the others across the world who are listening to you, is wrong. A lie, even.'
I'm absolutely positive that at least five people tried to shoot us when he said that, but there were no bullets and no breeze and Ishy stood firm and the murmurs were louder.
The man stroked his beard and his eyes moved across the crowd and then back to Ishy. 'A lie? Of my Deen? Of my Master?'
'A lie. Sprinkled with truths and half-truths, but still a lie.'
'And you, young "Mufti", are here to put the truth to my lie?'
'Or at least try to.'
The crowd moved forward and someone shouted 'Takbir' and the cry of 'Allahu Akbar' roared through the courtyard.
Ishy stepped back and quickly turned on the spot and the man raised his hand and the surge stopped. Barely.
'Let us listen,' he said, in Arabic, 'let us hear what the boy has to say and then we will correct him. He has been blessed with passion and a good voice.'
My mouth was dry and sweat kept blinding my left eye but I didn't dare wipe my brow. I was too scared to move.
'Thank you.' Ishy began to pace in front of us, looking down at the floor, and then he turned to the militant leader and said, 'I have a lot of questions, but maybe it's best, for now, to narrow it down to your treatment of your neighbours.'
'Allah (swt) says that we should "do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger", do you agree?'
'What of it?'
'The "neighbour who is a stranger", what do you make of it? Who do you consider that to be? Remember, the Prophet (saw) said that, "One who believes in Allah (swt) and the Day of Judgment must not cause hardship and inconvenience to his neighbour." Surely you've considered how Allah (swt) made no distinction between a Muslim neighbour and a non-Muslim neighbour in how they should be treated, and-'
'HA! You consider the infidels to be our neighbours?'
'The Prophet (saw) said: "the best among you are those from whom their neighbours are safe from their tongue and hand".'
The crowd laughed.
'Are you ignoring how well the Prophet (saw) treated the non-Muslims?'
'Are you ignoring those he ordered slaughtered? Are you ignoring that he said that "The best of all martyrs are those who fight in the front line; they do not turn their faces away until they are killed. They will be rolling around in the highest rooms of Paradise, their Lord laughing at them – when your Lord laughs at a servant, there is no accounting for him".'
Ishy's patience faltered and he pointed at those behind us and said, 'And you're hiding behind women and children! You consider this to be the front line? You consider your actions and bloodlust to be of those commended by God?'
'We are pursuing the enemies of God! We cause them to fear!'
'"Allah loves those who are just",' he recited and translated.
'This is justice. "And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him and he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter".'
'And yet, in Surah An-Nahl, Allah (swt) tells us that, "Had He so willed He would have led all of you to the right path." There is no compulsion! That is our test – to find Him willingly.'
'"And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him",' the militant leader repeated.
Ishy grit his teeth and said, 'I will say again that you ignore that Allah (swt) has said that "There is no compulsion in religion as Truth stands clear from error".'
'This... debate is pointless. You're just an ignorant child with no understanding as to the workings of the world.'
'You're just an egotistical maniac using religion as an excuse to murder and incite hatred.'
The crowd swelled and sweat trickled down my back and arms and dripped from my fingers.
'Murder?' growled the leader, and he pointed at Ishy. 'Do you know what your beloved infidels have done? Why do you not stand in front of them,' he shouted, sweeping his arm to the right and gesturing away from the village, 'and berate them?'
'You're the one claiming to be Muslim. You're the one claiming to act in the interests of Muslims. So you're the one I have to come to in order to understand why you're doing these things. Why you're endangering innocent people. Why you're-'
'If the Americans and British and their allies do not attack us then we won't attack them,' the man said loudly, as if addressing everyone present. 'They have their war machines with their billions and trillions. We have our few and determined and, Insha'Allah, we will be among the successful.'
There was another cry for Takbir and Ishy waited patiently for them to stop and then said:
'"Fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits for God loves not those who transgress".' The ground trembled as he said the words and he held up his hand, silencing the confused militant leader with his gesture and, I think, his glare. The crowd was quiet, too, and seemed to be looking at each other, equally confused by the tremor. 'Yet you, and those like you, grab on to the next verse, and even then you ignore the ones after: "but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression."'
'And that's what they do, you ignorant child! They come here and oppress and slaughter hundreds and thousands and impose sanctions and deal with like-minded tyrants and-'
'They're not the ones putting children in suicide vests.'
'Ha! They are some of the time. Ponder that, little boy. Your infidels will gladly use our children to kill and maim and put the blame on us.'
'And the other times?'
The leader didn't say anything as he glared at Ishy. Ishy repeated himself and he still didn't say anything. When Ishy asked a third time he stepped forward and Kam and I looked at each other, worried and fearful. That no one had attacked us yet unnerved me. That I could see the rage in their eyes terrified me.
'Other times,' said the man, 'we do what we have to. The children are martyrs, Insha'Allah, and will be blessed with the highest stations in Jannah.'
In all honesty, I know that if I had had Ishy's strength and speed at that moment then my fist would have gone right through the guy's head. Right through. The dismissiveness of his words coupled with that… that surety in his conveyance…
Ishy turned away and began pacing in a circle around us, his hands clasped behind his back, and the crowd watched him in silence as he widened the circle and moved towards them and began talking to them.
'Do you know about Khubayb bin Adi (ra)? Do you know what the Makkans did to him? How they taunted him while they set about dismembering him?
'I can see that some of you recognise his name. Perhaps you know him as someone who requested that he be given a few minutes to perform salaat before his execution? It's said he was the first to do that.'
Some of them nodded and there was a soft murmur of words honouring the Companion.
'Maybe some of you know his poem? Maybe some of you even hold on to it?
"I have no concern as I'm (being) killed as a Mulsim
In the way of Allah will be my fatality
And in that should He will
Grant blessing upon my lacerated limbs"
'You know his story? How, after he was captured and sold to some people who wanted to kill him in revenge for what they had lost in the Battle of Badr. He was kept in captivity in a house and, knowing his execution wasn't too far away, he asked a woman in the house for a knife so he could remove some body hair and prepare himself? About how a little child sneaked into that room and when the woman realised the child was missing and searched for him she found him in Khubayb bin Adi's lap and saw that he had the knife.
'The woman was terrified. You would be, too, wouldn't you? If you saw the person who was going to be executed had knife and a child was in reach. Such a man would be desperate, wouldn't he? Maybe even keen to exact revenge before being killed, don't you think?
'He saw her distress and he understood it and he said to her: "Are you afraid that I might kill him? I swear by Allah (swt) I would never do such a thing." The child was safe. Even in such a desperate situation the Sahabi clung to the teachings of the Prophet (saw). That children, women, and the elderly are not to be harmed. That when someone betrays you or wrongs you, you don't do the same in return but be better.
'And if you don't want to follow the Prophet's (saw) example, even though you purport to do so in other aspects of your lives, or the example of such a Companion, then at least consider a piece of advice from Allah (swt) when He says to us in Surah Al Jathiya:
"Tell those who believe that they should forgive those who do not believe in Allah's days, so that He may recompense a people for what they used to earn."
'It's a direction He has given us, that we should overlook the misbehaviour of non-Muslims against us.' He held up his hand as the crowd began to rumble and said, over their shouts, 'I'm not saying not to protect yourselves against physical aggression, and neither is Allah (swt). It's said by some scholars that the verse I recited was revealed when someone hurled abuse at Umar (ra) and he wanted to take revenge. Allah (swt) reminded him and us that what people say are just words and that He will be the one who will punish them in the Hereafter, so there's no need for us to be so anxious to 'get them' here.'
There was a mumble among the crowd and I wish I had been brave enough to turn and see what was happening behind us but I could see the men around the leader tugging at their weapons and pressing their triggers and I was rooted…
'We stand by the "verse of the sword",' someone shouted, and there was another roar from the… horde.
'"Of the sword"? What do you mean?' Ishy stepped by us and then stopped in front of us.
A chuckle spread through the gathering. 'Ha! For all your supposed knowledge your ignorance shows itself,' shouted someone on our left.
Ishy turned to look at him and said, slowly and loudly, 'There is no verse in the Qur'an that actually mentions a sword.'
'Nonsense!' shouted someone on our right. ' There are-'
'None. No verse.'
'You speak rubbish!' and the crowd roared and brandished their weapons, thrusting them into the air and, I believe, itching to rush at us.
Ishy waited for silence again and then said, calmly and slowly, 'There are verses that mention cutting or chopping or severing, but 'sword' is not used in those verses. Implied in some, I agree, but the absence of the word is quite noteworthy, don't you think? Especially when there are more than twenty words in Arabic that mean 'sword'. So many that could have been used, and yet not a single one of them was. Isn't it curious that you don't seem to know this?'
The man grit his teeth and hissed: 'The verse of the sword abrogated many-'
'Ah, that verse,' and Ishy snapped his fingers and the courtyard walls shuddered and the people fell silent, confused and looking around themselves and at the sky. 'The verse people like you,' and he pointed at the leader, 'call such despite the word not being in it. The verse people like you use to dismiss more than two hundred other verses. That one. Now I understand.'
'Twisted people. People we were warned about. The people who would bring darkness to our Deen.'
The leader stood up and shouted, 'And you say I am twisting verses. Foolish child.' He pointed his finger to the sky and recited, '"On this day we have perfected your religion.." and Allah (swt) again made it clear that only Islam will be accepted. I told you before, "And whosoever seeks a religion other than Islam..."
'By Him. He made it even more clear that the role of a Muslim, alongside submitting in his Lord, is to propagate the message in a good and proper manner. He said "yours is..."'
'That was before,' he interrupted, shaking his head and waving his hand dismissively.
'Before the Prophet's passing. That was directed specifically at him. That was his role.' And the men around him nodded in agreement.
'And through the Prophet (saw) it was made incumbent upon us,' said Ishy, firmly.
'It's our role, as his followers and successors to-'
'To what? Ignore what the Caliphs did? Ignore what his Companions and immediate successors did? Are you saying they were wrong in not forcing people to accept Islam?'
'Abu Bakr (ra) sent people out against Musaylimah.'
'Because that man had claimed Prophethood and had set about dividing the people and causing mischief. He was gathering an army and had to be stopped.'
He laughed and clapped his hands. 'So you accept that mischief-makers must be killed?'
He frowned and gestured at those around him, bemused, 'Even though the verse states that they should be killed or crucified or their hands and feet be cut off on opposite sides?'
'It also puts forward exile. Why are you so keen to ignore that? Why do you leap to commit acts that lead to death and destruction instead of ones that could bring peace?'
'You think exile is enough for people like that?'
'Of course, and more so because Allah (swt) Himself has put it forward as something appropriate.'
'This is foolish… what do they call it in the West?' he asked no one in particular. 'Ah, liberal nonsense. Political Correctness. Soft.'
And Ishy recited: "O you who believe! Stand out firmly against injustice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves or your parents."
'Blasphemy is an injustice against Allah (swt)!' and it was the loudest roar from the gathering so far, and I saw Ishy's fingers twitch and his foot turn as if getting ready for something.
'Surah Al Anaam,' said Ishy loudly. 'Consider it. Consider it carefully, where Allah (swt) says:
"Follow what has been revealed to you from your Lord. There is no god but He; and turn away from those who associate partners with Allah. If Allah willed, they would not have associated. We have not appointed you as a guard over them, nor are you a taskmaster for them."
Ishy stopped and quickly said, 'This next bit is important, especially because of what some of you do, so listen carefully:
"Do not insult those whom they invoke other than Allah, lest they should insult Allah in transgression without having knowledge."
'Masha'Allah, Masha'Allah,' said the leader, 'your recitation is beautiful. Beautiful. Subhanallah.' He then gestured at one of the men sitting near him and the man got up and stepped forward and began to recite and his recitation was beautiful, too. When he finished, Ishy translated and my heart began to sink a little as the words washed over me:
"O you who believe, do not take My enemies and your enemies for friends, expressing love with them, while they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, expelling the Messenger and your selves (from Makkah) merely because you have faith in Allah who is your Lord, if you have set out to do Jihad (struggle) in My way, and to seek My pleasure. You express love with them secretly, while I know what you have concealed and what you have revealed. Any of you who does this has missed the straight path. Should they have access to you, they will become your enemies, and will stretch their hands and tongues towards you with evil; and they desire that you should reject the (true) faith. Neither your womb-relations nor your children will benefit you on the Day of Judgment. He will decide between you, and Allah is watchful of what you do."
And then Ishy recited and translated in response, and I felt my mouth twitch and flashes of the journey the three of us had taken over the last few years pushed away the sinking feeling I had had before and lifted me up:
"It is hoped that Allah will bring about love between you and those of them with whom you have enmity. Allah is Powerful, and Allah is Most-forgiving, Very-Merciful. Allah does not forbid you as regards those who did not fight you on account of faith, and not expel you from your homes, that you do good to them, and deal justly with them. Surely Allah loves those who maintain justice. Allah forbids you only about those who fought you on account of faith, and expelled you from your homes, and helped (others) in expelling you, that you have friendship with them. Those who develop friendship with them are the wrongdoers."
'The people you have been sending these men out to fight are innocent. They're simple people living simple lives. They're not fighting you because of your faith, you're attacking them because of theirs. "And do not be of the transgressors, for Allah does not love those who transgress". For hundreds of years, these people have lived here, alongside Muslims. They have lived and worshipped and loved and laughed and prospered, until you decided they were 'enemies'. Until you decided to ignore the fact that there is no compulsion in our religion, that Allah (swt) Himself has said that He did not will for everyone to accept the faith but that He left it to be our own choice. You decided to ignore that and gave them ultimatums: convert or die, convert or become slaves.
'And some of you, at least, know that such a conversion is not proper. That accepting Islam in that manner does not make the person a Muslim. Some of you know that and long for it, I can see. You long for it so you can use that as a further justification for what you do. You use that to be able to call them hypocrites and then…
'Astaghfirullah.' Ishy shook his head and repeated the word over and over. Then he looked at the leader again and asked: 'Do you recite Surah Kafiroon?'
'Of course,' chuckling as if the question was a foolish one, and a number of those around us began to chuckle, too.
'What does it say?'
'It does not apply here.' He shook his head and his smile grew wider.
'What does it say?'
He frowned and said, 'That was only for the people of that time.'
Ishy punctuated each word with a step: 'What. Does. It. Say?'
The man sighed and recited the verses and Ishy translated them:
"Say, "O disbelievers, I do not worship that which you worship, nor do you worship the One whom I worship. And neither I am going to worship that which you are worshipping, nor will you worship the One whom I worship. To you be your religion, and to me my religion.""
Ishy turned and addressed the crowd: 'So, again, Allah (swt) tells us to not force people to worship Him. That the paths won't meet so let them be.
'Did none of you consider this Surah before you set about ruining churches and temples? Before you cast people on their faces and…' His voice wavered and he stood there for a few seconds, lost in thought. He looked up at the sky and, after a few more seconds, he took a deep breath and turned to the crowd.
'How can you claim that something the Prophet (saw) was not allowed to do is somehow permissible to you? How can you ignore the centuries of Islamic rule that allowed and enabled other faiths to continue and prosper and be imposing something else? How can you ignore the treaties the Prophet (saw) made where he guaranteed the safety and security of places of worship and said that his followers – you, me, us – would uphold his promises.'
They were silent but I could hear their fumbling and I knew they were trying to get their guns to work, and I knew that it was only because their guns weren't working that they were not rushing at us. One or two guns not working was nothing to them, but for every gun to not work, even those brought in since Ishy had begun speaking, that was making them afraid, and it was that fear that was giving me a tiny amount of hope.
'"Those who come after you will understand better than you",' said Ishy, ignoring the men rushing in and out from the various doors to the courtyard, and the frantic activity from some of the windows a little above us.
'That ahadith,' he continued, 'is about other teachers – things we, humankind, would get a better understanding of as we learned and discovered, not about the fundamental teachings of peace, support, truth, upholding what's right... those teachings are forever.
'"Those who come after you…" but that is a discussion for another time, perhaps.
He recited again and counted off the verses on his fingers:
"O People of the Book! Do not go to extremes in your Religion, and do not say things about Allah except that which is true."
"…do not follow the vain desires of people who went astray in times gone by, and who misled many, and strayed themselves from the Right Path."
"O you who believe! …do not kill yourselves. Indeed, Allah is Most Merciful to you. And whosoever commits that through aggression and injustice, We shall cast him into the Fire."
'How are you all ignoring these verses?' He turned back to the militant leader and said: 'How are you convincing them and how are they convincing themselves that what they're doing is 'right' and 'just'? That they are actions approved by Allah (swt)?
'The Prophet (saw) said: "Whosoever kills himself by throwing himself off a mountain then he will be in the Fire of Hell, throwing himself into it, abiding therein forever. And whosoever kills himself by drinking poison, then his poison will be in his hands in the Fire and he will be drinking it in Hell, abiding therein forever. And whosoever kills himself with a weapon of iron, then his weapon of iron will be in his hand and he will be stabbing himself in the stomach whilst abiding eternally in the Fire."
'I realise now that I might not ever come back here. That this might be the only time I speak to any of you. I know I'm annoying you. I know you're restless and frustrated, but I also know that I cannot let this moment go. I know that I have to continue and hope that you listen, Insha'Allah.
'I look at all of those who are here and I wonder: who are your heroes?
'Who is it that you look up to? Who inspired you to do what you're doing?
'It can't be the Sahaba (ra). It cannot be the Companions of the Prophet (saw). It can't be those of whom the Prophet (saw) said are like the stars with which a person can navigate.
'Look at you, with your jaws clenching and your fingers twitching. Instead of listening you want to lash out. Instead of looking and understanding you want to stomp and force.
'Your ears are ringing with the voices of those who seduced you. They told you things like 'the Ummah is one and when one part of it is hurt then the rest will come to its aid'. Yes, the Ummah is one – one Sisterhood, one Brotherhood, one Family – and it is supposed to help, and political states and madhabs and so on make no difference.
'But look at what you're doing. "So and so doesn't pray the way I do so he isn't a Muslim," and you decide that he's a kafir. You ignore that the scholars have said that there are different ways of praying and that they're valid, you just look at the differences and… what? Hate? He does nothing to you, just gets on with his life, with work and family and worship, but you've decided he's a kafir. He doesn't pray like you and that's 'proof' enough. He's a kafir and that's how you justify what you do next, isn't it?
'Someone tells you about another person. Tells you that that person is a murtad – an apostate – and you gather your little group and go 'see' this person. No evidence, no proof, just someone telling you that so-and-so is an apostate. That's enough for you, isn't it? That's enough to justify what you do next.
'That is how you're going to stand before Allah (swt) on the Day and justify your actions?
'"I have made you into tribes and nations that you may come together and learn from each other".'
'It's not just about humankind but also about yourselves and ourselves. Muslims. We are also tribes and nations. We come under the umbrella of an Ummah, Alhumdulillah, but we are diverse. There are all sorts of different elements within us, within our communities and our understandings, and that's how Allah (swt) has made it to be.
'Each of you here is united in your desire to help your Muslim brother and sister, aren't you? That's why you left the comfort of your homes and left your families behind, isn't it? You heard of the suffering they were going through and you wanted to help. You felt a calling, maybe even a compulsion. You felt that this place, here, was where you needed to be.
'You want to help.
'Noble intentions. Good intentions. Good niyat.
'But what about your actions? What about your actions?'
He was quiet again and tugged on his lower lip, thinking about whatever it was that was going through his mind. My body was aching and exhaustion was kicking in. My back screamed at me to relax and my legs begged me to let them shake.
'If you won't listen to me then perhaps you will listen to someone more knowledgeable than me. Shaykh Ibn Baz, the former Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia. He was one of the strongest proponents of the madhab you follow, did you know that? Controversial in the West for a number of his views – he's the one who issued the fatwa against women driving cars. Some of you probably find that fatwa amusing – some of you probably have mothers and sisters who can drive. Others of you…' he shook his head, 'others of you probably cherish that fatwa and others like it, but that's another matter.
'Some of you don't like him, though, do you? Even though you ascribe to a number of his teachings, you don't like him because he issued the fatwa allowing non-Muslim soldiers into Saudi Arabia. Some of you don't like him because his fatwa allowed those soldiers to wear the cross. Some of you don't like him because he made it clear that kidnapping was wrong and sinful. Some of you don't like him because of what he said about someone else, right?
'That's right, isn't it? Despite his words being used by many of those among you, you don't like him because he described Bin Laden as someone spreading corruption on Earth, following evil and destructive ways.' He spread his arms wide and said, 'this was back in 1996, by the way. A few years before the Shaykh's passing, but I ask you to set aside your dislike for a little while. Will you not listen to him and then look at what you're doing?
'Or perhaps you will listen to Shaykh Muqbil Ibn Hadi al Wadii? He was a famous scholar from Yemen, and although he passed away in 2001, he said, "Here, before Allah, I completely reject and declare myself free of Bin Laden, for he is an evil threat and tribulation to the (Islamic) nation, and his actions are heinous". That was in 1998.
'After the bombings of the Two Sanctuaries, he reminded people of the hadith where the Prophet (saw) said: "Allah does not take away (religious) knowledge all at once from the servants. Rather, He takes away the knowledge by taking the scholars (as they die) until no scholar is left. People will then take ignorant people as their leaders. Others will ask them about things and they will give religious verdicts with no knowledge. So, they misguide themselves and others."
'I can see some of you smirking, that you consider me to be one of those ignorant people, but I'm not a scholar and have never claimed to be. I'm only a student. A questioner. A seeker.
'I know what certain people say about the scholars, but you need to think about these things carefully. They say that this scholar or that scholar is out of touch and has no idea about current affairs, even when the scholar has spoken or written precisely about those current affairs.
'Do you know, for example, what Allah (swt) says about spreading news and rumours? In Surah An-Nisa He says:
"When news concerning peace or fear comes to them, they go about spreading it. Had they referred it to the Messenger and to those having authority among them, the truth of the matter would have come to the knowledge of those of them who are able to investigate."
'Allah (swt) directs Muslims to convey those rumours to the people who can verify their correctness. He warns against relying on the rumours and passing them on to others, yet, time and time again, that's exactly what people do. They hear, for example, that a shopkeeper has some haram product in his stock – they don't check where the rumour came from or ask the local authority or council to look into it, they act themselves, just on the rumour. Sometimes their actions are more of a boycott and easily resolved, but other times the actions descend into violence and even death, which is exactly what Allah (swt) warns against.
'Before any of you came here did you take the time to speak to your local imam about what was going on here, and whether you should come here? Were you told not to speak to him? Maybe you were told by someone or other that he, the imam, would dissuade you because his iman is weak or something?
'Didn't you ever wonder why that seducer was telling you to avoid going to your imam? Didn't you wonder why the whisperer told you not to tell your parents about what you were looking to do?
'The verse I told you about, the authorities Allah (swt) mentions, they're not just governments and councils but teachers and parents, too. People who know things, and know that when they don't know something it's best to go to someone who does.
'People the whisperer and enticer makes you avoid because he knows that if his words are picked at then everything he tells you collapses. Half-truths can hold and support only so much before the weight of the lies overwhelms them.
'This man will likely, or has likely, told you of the verse, in Surah An-Nisa, a little after the one I mentioned, where Allah (swt) says about the hypocrites and disbelievers:
"They wish that you should disbelieve, as they have disbelieved, and thus you become all alike. So, do not take friends from among them unless they migrate in the way of Allah. Then, if they turn away, seize them, and kill them wherever you find them, and do not take from among them a friend or helper."
'Some of you are nodding. Some of you are brandishing your weapons. Okay.
'But what about the verse after that? No?
'Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty, or who come to you with their hearts feeling discomfort in fighting either against you or against their own people. If Allah had so willed, He would have given them power over you, then they would have fought you – so, if they stay away from you, and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not given you any authority against them.'
'Just take a moment and think about where you have been and what you have done. Think about the people you have scared and chased and killed. People living peacefully in their village, as their parents before them and theirs before them have done for decades. People living peacefully, Muslim and non-Muslim, until you came along.
'Think about it. Think about what you have done and what some of you – I can see it in the curves of your lips and the glint in your eyes – some of you are looking to do those things again. Astaghfirullah. Astaghfirullah. Astaghfirullah.
'Those of you gathered here, I ask you to look to the Qur'an and ponder. I remind those of you who know, and advise those of you who are unaware, that Allah (swt) says:
"O you who believe, respond to Allah and the Messenger when He calls you to what gives you life, and be sure that Allah intervenes between man and his heart, and that to Him you shall be gathered. And beware of a scourge that shall fall not only on the wrongdoers from among you, and know well that Allah is severe at punishment."
'I ask you to look around yourselves and truly question. Our Lord warns us that if something that is evil becomes rampant in society and people don't do anything to counter it, don't anything to put it right, then the punishment…
'But then you believe that that's what you're doing, isn't it?' He shook his head and his shoulders sagged and, right then, he looked like a tired little boy who had realised something heart-breaking.
He turned back to the leader and walked over to him and said: 'I've said this to others like you and I'll say the same to you. I remind you of what Imam Shafi said, many years ago: "There is a verse in the Qur'an that every wrongdoer should be terrified of".'
'I know the warning,' said the leader, and he looked straight at Ishy with his dark eyes and Ishy stepped back, faltering. Surprised at the dismissive response.
The man stood up, slowly, and gathered his robes around himself before stepping out and away from his entourage. No one else moved to join him but almost everyone who had been seated near him leaned forward and watched eagerly, I think.
He walked towards Ishy and looked to the people on the right and then over at the ones on the left. He walked towards us and Ishy turned and the man blocked him from my view. His hand reached out to Kam and he brushed some dust off of his shoulder.
For a couple of seconds I couldn't hear anything other than the terrified beating of my heart.
He looked at me and his lip curled and then he turned back to Ishy and walked, his hands clasped behind his back, and said:
'The difference between us, boy, is that I am certain in what I do and you are not.'
'A questioner. A wonderer. A boy. Live to be a man and you will see how foolish your ideals are, and how lacking your understanding of Islam is.
'"Fighting is enjoined upon you, even though it be a thing that is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you, and perhaps you love a thing and it Is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not."
'So we fight.'
'"Fitnah is greater than killing"!'
'Do you even know what fitnah is?' said Ishy, gesturing at everyone around him. 'Fitnah means testing. Fitnah means trial. Fitnah means wealth and children and differences of opinion and kufr. Fitnah means burning people with fire! You have burned people! You did something the Prophet (saw) forbade and you have the nerve to claim that you're fighting to stop fitnah?'
The leader stood behind us and placed his hands on our shoulders, pulling us apart slightly as he placed himself between us. Ishy's eyes flitted from me to Kam and back again and I saw him ready himself. I wanted to pull away and push the guy away from me as hard as I could but it took everything I had to not flinch as he squeezed my shoulder and said, loudly, 'You think God's Word should sit on a shelf? Whispered in prayer and never acted on?'
We stumbled as he pushed us away and spread his arms wide as he spoke to Ishy directly:
'Battles have been fought for over a thousand years. Blood has been shed and gathered and spoiled and converted, from the time of the Prophet until now and beyond.' He punctuated each phrase by striking his right index finger into his left palm and holding it for a split second.
The people murmured.
'Blood MUST be shed,' he said, loudly, and his hand cut through the air and pointed at the ground, and the murmur grew louder.
He spread his arms wide and gestured at everyone. 'We are the angels and the world is Sodom and Gomorrah. As the angels cleansed the cities of filth, we will cleanse the world.'
The crowd rumbled and he gestured at them for calm. He looked back at us and smiled, confident and assured, and then stood tall and approached Ishy again, and circled him as he spoke.
'You came here with your words and magic and thought that we would be enthralled by you the way the people of the old times were enthralled by Harut and Marut? They, at least, were better than you. They warned the people. They told them "we are only for a trial, so disbelieve not (by learning magic from us)". They taught people things that would separate a man and his wife, and you are here trying to separate man from wife, brother from brother, Muslim from Muslim.
'The ones who ignored the warning, they were weaker than us and were seduced and failed their test, and you, boy, you are no angel.
'You came here with words and no solutions. You came here and told these warriors that their struggles meant nothing and offered nothing in return. You came here and said that our faith, our conviction was wrong, and failed to explain how your way is better.'
He stopped in front of Ishy and looked down at him. They locked eyes for what felt like a lifetime. My shoulder tingled and itched and every inch of me ached. Finally, he walked back to where he had been seated and said:
'People have been killed for saying less than what you have. Silenced in an instant. You're a boy, and a sheltered and foolish one, so we'll be merciful and allow you and your friends to live. We'll allow you to walk away with the kafir. Isn't that what you want us to do? Leave the kuffar alone?'