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A matter of human dignity

Hatred, violence, suppression and denial of basic human rights are poisonous substances that can destroy the peace and tranquillity of an entire society. Moreover, they attack human values, so much so that people become so very cruel and hard-hearted that they even fail to understand the basics of what it means being a human.

The situation in Syria is worsening every day. Thousands people have been slain and thousands have been injured.

The tyrannical rulers have no compassion for their citizens and, instead, they are mercilessly killing their own people and forcing others to leave the country in a desperate attempt to save their lives.

The atrocities in Syria need to be tackled urgently

The rebels are armed as they stand up to their rulers, fighting for their rights and freedom.

These are very cruel acts and finding a solution to save the Syrian nation, now on the brink of disaster, is crucial.

An incident that took place recently must have surely disturbed every sane person around the world. A video on the internet featured a rebel leader tearing open the chest of a dead Syrian soldier, cutting out his heart and biting it, shouting Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest). Not even a trace of decency and this in the name of God the Merciful.

This is an extremely grave and horrendous act and reminds me of a similar incident that took place 1,400 years ago during the battle of Uhud between Muslims and tribes of Quraish from Mecca. In that battle, by the people of Mecca, many acts of barbarous mutilation were committed on the slain.

Hinda, the wife of a Quraish leader, gloated over the body of Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad. Tearing out his liver, she chewed it, thus fulfilling her savage vow.

She also strung his nails and pieces of his skin together to bedeck her arms and legs.

That was indeed a grave incident but one should also bear in mind that it happened at a time when people were not very educated, civilised or enlightened and were living in remote areas. Yet, an incident like that was already extremely unacceptable at the time! How can anything similar be tolerated today, the 21st century?

Before the advent of Islam, people used to disrespect and dishonour the dead bodies of their enemies and used to tear them into pieces. Islam strongly condemned such actions and vehemently banned them from engaging in such atrocities. It also taught followers to treat the dead with extreme dignity and honour and this not only in relation to their own but also in the case of each and every human being who passes away.

Once, when a funeral procession went by the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, he stood up to show dignity and respect and those accompanying him followed his example. Someone pointed out that it was the corpse of a Jew. He replied: “Was this person not given life by God? Was he not a creation of God? Remember, in things that are common to man, we must show respect, irrespective of one’s religion, race or creed.”

The Syrian incident is a worse kind of barbarism, brutality and viciousness; it is an inhuman act. I condemn it categorically and unreservedly. It is not just an incident. I think it is matter of human dignity and human honour. And such acts should never be tolerated and should never be allowed for any reason, whatsoever.

The irony is that this act was committed by a Muslim, who claims to be the follower of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who categorically rejected the mutilation of the dead and said that such acts are forbidden forever. He had described a true Muslim as “the one from whose hands and tongue all human beings are safe”.

Let me quote a non-Muslim scholar, K. S. Ramakrishna Rao, who very rightly describes the example of the Prophet Muhammad for Muslims to follow.

This is what he said: “To the Arabs, who had fought for 40 years on the slight provocation that a camel belonging to the guest of one tribe had strayed into the grazing land belonging to another tribe and both sides had fought till 70,000 lives had been lost, threatening the extinction of both the tribes; to such furious Arabs the Prophet of Islam taught self-control and discipline to the extent of praying even on the battlefield.

“In an age of barbarism, the battlefield itself was humanised and strict instructions were issued not to cheat, not to break trust, not to mutilate, not to kill a child or woman or an old man, not to hew down date palm nor to burn it, not to cut a fruit tree, not molest any person engaged in worship.

“His own treatment with his bitterest enemies is the noblest example for his followers.”

The atrocities in Syria need to be tackled urgently for the sake of peace of the country and the entire region. And people should adopt the qualities of compassion, sympathy and kind-heartedness and leave every kind of ruggedness and harshness.

I conclude with a quote by Prophet Muhammad. He said: “Allah is gentle and He loves gentleness and He rewards for gentleness what He does not recompense for harshness; and He does not reward any other virtue like He rewards gentleness.”

I am certain that if the values of respect and honour are given the foremost importance, the seeds of love and compassion are sown, and violence, aggression, ruggedness and harshness are uprooted once and forever. It will lead to the practice of the true sense of human dignity and peace on the earth.

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Laiq Ahmed Atif is president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta.

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