Sheikh Salman b. Fahd al-Oadah, the general supervisor of IslamToday.net, delivered the following address to Osama bin Laden live on NBC television on 14 September, 2007, which corresponds to the second day of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia:
How much blood has been spilled? How many innocent children, women, and old people have been killed, maimed, and expelled from their homes in the name of “al-Qaeda”?
Are you happy to meet Allah with this heavy burden on your shoulders? It is a weighty burden indeed – at least hundreds of thousands of innocent people, if not millions.
How could you wish for that? – after knowing that Allah’s Messenger said: “Whoever as much as kills a sparrow in vain will find it crying before Allah on the Day of Judgment: ‘My Lord! That person killed me in vain. He did not kill me for needful sustenance.”
This religion of ours comes to defense of the life of a sparrow. It can never accept the murder of innocent people, regardless of what supposed justification is given for it.
Didn’t you read where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “One of the prophets once sat under a tree and was bitten by an ant. Because of this, he burnt the ant’s nest. Thereupon, Allah inspired to him: ‘Why not only the one ant?’ ” [Sahîh Muslim]
Allah revealed to that prophet: “What? Just because one ant had bitten you, you have set fire to an entire nation that extols Allah’s glory!” [Sahîh Muslim (2241)]
If this is the case for a nest of ants, consider how much worse it must be to visit harm upon human beings.
Who is responsible for all of those young Muslim, who are still in the bloom of their youth, with all the zeal of their age, who have strayed down a path they have no idea where it is headed?
The image of Islam today is tarnished. People around the world are saying how Islam teaches that those who do not accept it must be killed. They are also saying that the adherents of Salafi teachings kill Muslims who do not share their views.
However, the reality of Islam is that our Prophet (peace be upon him) did not kill the treacherous hypocrites in his midst, even though Allah had revealed to him who they were and informed him that they were destined for the deepest depths of Hell. Why did he stay his hand? He gave the following reason: “I will not have people saying that Muhammad kills his companions.”
Brother Osama, what happened on September 11 –- crimes that we have condemned vociferously since that very day –- was the murder of a few thousand people, possible a little less than three thousand. This is the number that dies in the airplanes as well as in the towers. By contrast, Muslim preachers – who remain unknown and unsung -– have succeeded in guiding hundreds of thousands of people to Islam, people who have ever since been guided by the light of faith and whose hearts are filled with the love of Allah. Isn’t the difference between one who kills and one who guides obvious?
Our Lord tells us: “Whosoever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the Earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the lives of all mankind.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 32]
Guiding one soul to knowledge and faith is a momentous achievement. It is what will earn us great blessings.
Brother Osama, what is to be gained from the destruction of entire nations – which is what we are witnessing in Afghanistan and Iraq – seeing them torn them with plague and famine? What is to be gained from undermining their stability and every hope of a normal life? Three million refugees are packing into Syria and Jordan alone, not to mention those who are fleeing to the East and the West.
The nightmare of civil war which now reigns supreme in Afghanistan and Iraq brings no joy to the Muslims. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) heard about a man named Harb (meaning “war” in Arabic), he promptly changed his name to something else, because the Prophet hated war.
Allah says: “Fighting is prescribed for you, though you detest it.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 216]
War is something hateful that must only be resorted to under the most dire and compelling of circumstances when no other way is found.
Who stands to benefit from turning a country like Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, or Saudi Arabia – or any other country for that matter – into a battlefield where no one feels safe? Is the goal to obstruct the government? Is that, then, the solution for anything?
Is this the plan – even if it is achieved by marching over the corpses of hundreds of thousands of people – police, soldiers, and civilians, even the common Muslims? Are their deaths to be shrugged off, saying: “They will be resurrected in the Hereafter based on the state of their hearts.”
Indeed, all of those who are slain will be resurrected based on the state of their hearts. The question we must ask ourselves, however, is in what state are we going to be resurrected? How are we going to find ourselves when we meet our Lord? How will it be for someone who has all those countless deaths weighing down upon him, whether he wants to own up to them or not?
The concern for conveying Islam’s message to humanity is one that can influence others and convince them. This is a far greater and far weightier concern than that of using brute force and violence to bend others to one’s will. “Allah sent His Messenger (peace be upon him) as a guide for humanity, not as a tax collector.” as `Umar b. `Abd al-`Azîz used to say.
Who is responsible – brother Osama – for promoting the culture of excommunication which has torn families asunder and has led to sons calling their fathers infidels? Who is responsible for fostering a culture of violence and murder that has led to people to shed the blood of their relatives in cold blood, rather than nurturing the spirit of love and tranquility that a Muslim family is supposed to have?
Who is responsible for the young men who leave their mothers crying; who abandon their wives; whose small children wake up every day asking when daddy is coming home? What answer can be given, when that father may very well be dead, or missing with no one knowing of his fate?
Who is responsible for Western governments pursuing every charitable project in the world, so that the orphans, the poor, and the needy throughout the globe are deprived of food, education, and other essential needs? Who is responsible – brother Osama – for filling the prisons of the Muslim world with our youth, a situation which will only breed more extremism, violence, and murder in our societies?
Muhammad (peace be upon him) – my source of guidance as well as yours – is what he came with not enough for you? He was sent as a mercy for all humanity. Allah says: “And We sent you merely as a mercy for all humanity.” [Sûrah al-Anbiyâ’: 107]
The word “mercy” is not to be found in the lexicon of war. Where is the mercy in murdering people? Where is the mercy in bombing places? Where is the mercy in making people and places into targets? Where is the mercy in turning many Muslim countries into battlefields?
The Prophet (peace be upon him) brought all of Arabia under his sway without a single slaughter, despite all of the battles that were waged against him. The number of people who were killed during the twenty-three years of his mission were less than two hundred people. The Muslims who were killed during that time by their enemies were many times in excess of that number.
What do a hundred people in Algeria, or double that number in Lebanon, or likewise in Saudi Arabia hope to achieve by carrying out acts of violence – or as they say, suicide attacks? These acts are futile.
Let us say – purely hypothetically – that these people manage to take power somewhere in the world. What then? What can people who have no life experience hope to achieve in the sphere of good governance? People who have no knowledge of Islamic law to support them and no understanding of domestic and foreign relations?
Is Islam only about guns and ammunition? Have your means become the ends themselves?
That ideology that so many young people have embraced in many parts of the world, is it revelation from Allah that cannot be questioned or reconsidered? Or is it merely a product of human effort that is subject to error and to being corrected?
Many of your brethren in Egypt, Algeria and elsewhere have come to see the end of the road for that ideology. They realize how destructive and dangerous it is. They have also found the courage to proclaim in their writings and on the air that they were mistaken and that the path they had been on was the path of error. They admit that it cannot lead to anything good. They have sought Allah’s forgiveness for what has passed and have expressed their sincere regrets for what they had done.
Those with brave hearts need just as much to have courageous minds.
Do you not hear the voices of the pious scholars, those who worship Allah day and night and are truly heedful of Allah – don’t you hear them crying out with the very same words that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used when Khâlid b. al-Walîd, the commander-in-chief of his army, acted in error: “O Allah! I plead my innocence to You from what Khâlid has done.”
These same words still echo after 1400 years in the cries of the scholars of Islam: “O Allah! I plead my innocence to You from what Osama is doing, and from those who affiliate themselves to his name or work under his banner.”
I wish to remind you of what our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said to Usâmah b. Zayd – whose name you carry – when he killed a man from Juhaynah in the heat of battle after that man had declared that there is no God but Allah.
After the Prophet (peace be upon him) rebuked him, Usâmah said: “O Messenger of Allah! He only said that because he was scared of the sword.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “How will you fare with the declaration of faith when it comes on the Day of Judgment?”
Usâmah pleaded: “Seek forgiveness for me, O Messenger of Allah.”
He just repeated what he had said: “How will you fare with the declaration of faith when it comes on the Day of Judgment?”
O Osama! What will you do with the declaration of faith when it disputes with you on the Day of Judgment?
Life, Osama, should not be a single lesson. We must face numerous lessons throughout our lives, and these lessons are of a great variety.
My situation is no different than that of a lot of other people who are concerned with Muslim affairs. My heart pains me when I think of the number of young people who had so much potential – who would have made such great and original contributions to society, who had so much to offer that was constructive and positive – who have been turned into living bombs.
Here is the vital question that you need to ask yourself and that others have the right to demand and answer for: What have all these long years of suffering, tragedy, tears, and sacrifice actually achieved?
I ask Allah to bring everyone together upon the truth and right guidance. I pray that he guides us all to what pleases Him.
Salman b. Fahd al-Oadah