|Hadhrat Amr's Offer of Supreme Sacrifice |
(This touching episode is recorded by the Muslim historian, ImaamWaqidi. We have reproduced it from the English version extracted fromthe book, ANECDOTES OF ISLAM by E. Khan)
"Defeated and dislodged from Syria, the Roman warriors took their lastbold stand at Alexandria, then the capital of Egypt. They concentratedall their strength here to arrest the progress of the Muslims, but AmrIbnul 'As (radhiyallahu anhu), the invincible Muslim commander, crushedthe united might of the Romans even at this place. The victoriousGeneral thereafter took into his hand the rule of the conqueredterritory (by the appointment of Ameerul Mu'mineen, Hadhrat Umar BinKhattaab-radhiyallahu anhu).
General Amr began by granting the fullest liberty to the Christiansubjects in all their religious affairs. (In an Islamic state, thenon-Muslim citizens are required to pay a special tax called Jizyahwhich obliges the Islamic state to protect their lives, honour andproperty. They are allowed freedom of worship in their areas. The term'fullest
liberty' is erroneous-Al-Haq)
One morning intense commotion was witnessed in the Christianquarter of the city. Bands of the excited inhabitants streamed towardsChawk Bazaar and assembled in a large meeting. One after another, fieryspeeches were delivered. Thereafter a number of their leaders with thelocal Archbishop as their head, arrived at the gate of the house ofGeneral Amr Ibnul 'As. Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) cordially received thedeputation.
The Bishop explained to Hadhrat Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) the causeof the excitement of the Christian inhabitants. There was a marblestatue of Jesus Christ in the Bazaar. The Christians used to worshipthe idol with great reverence. Someone had broken the nose of the imagethe previous night. The Christians naturally connected the sacrilegewith a Muslim.
General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) gave a patient hearing and came toshare the same suspicion (i.e. that a Muslim damaged the idol). Heturned to the Bishop and said in a voice of agony: "I am deeply ashamedand pained at what had occurred. It is true, Islam disapproves ofidol-worship. But it equally disapproves of the profanation of the godsand goddesses of non-Muslim communities. Please have the statuerepaired and I shall bear the entire cost."
The Bishop replied: "But it is impossible to repair it, for a freshnose cannot be fitted to it." General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) said:"Then build a new statue, and I shall meet the cost."
(Lest there be a misunderstanding on the issue of idols, it shouldbe understood that when the non-Muslim community in an Islamic statepays the Jizyah tax and becomes subservient to Islamic rule, theShariah guarantees them freedom of worship in their own areas. It isnot permissible in an Islamic state for either the authorities or theMuslim populace to interfere with the worship, churches and objects ofveneration of the Zimmis -the non-Muslim inhabitants in Darul Islam.All of this is part of the pledge between the Islamic state and theZimmis, hence Hadhrat Amr's offer- Al-Haq)
The Bishop replied: "But even that is not acceptable. You know webelieve Jesus to be the son of God; so vulgar money cannot compensatefor the profanation of his image. There is one compensation: we shallbuild a statue of your Prophet (Muhammad-sallallahu alayhi wasallam)and break its nose."
(The bishop had exceeded all bounds of propriety in making this profane and insolent demand-Al-Haq, ence):
The face of General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) blazed up in anger. Hiseyes rolled fiercely; his lips tightened; his body began to quiver, andagain and again his hand grasped at his sword and again and again heextricated his hand from the weapon. General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu)left his seat, walked restlessly to and fro for some time. Then hewashed his face with cold water. He then returned to his seat and saidin a quiet sorrowful voice:
"You propose to erect a statue of the Great Prophet who after yearsof strenuous struggle abolished idol-worship and then you want to breakit with insult - and all this before our eyes! It is better that allour wealth, our children and lives perish! Bishop make some otherproposal. I am prepared to cut off and deliver the nose of anyone of usfor the nose of your image."
The Bishop accepted the last offer with gleeful alacrity. The followingmorning Christians and Muslims swarmed to the open square-theChristians would have their revenge in this open place.
General Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) addressed the gathering andnarrated the circumstances of the unfortunate incident in their fullestdetails. He then called the Bishop to his presence and said:
"You are the head of the Christians, and I am the head of theMuslims here. The responsibility of ruling this country is mine and Imust accept the punishment for any insult that may have been offered toyour religion or for the weakness of my administration. Take this swordand cut off my nose".
Saying this, he handed the Bishop his sword. The Bishop took the swordin his hand and began to examine the sharpness of the edge. The hugeconcourse stood silent and breathless in the profoundest astonishment.
Suddenly the silence was broken by a Muslim soldier who was running towards the spot and crying:
"Stop! Stop Bishop! Here is the nose of your image and herewith theculprit of the day. It is I who broke your idol and this punishment isdue to me. The General is entirely innocent."
Then the man stepped before the Bishop and offered his nose. The Bishopthrew away the sword and said: "Blessed is the soldier; blessed is theGeneral and above all, blessed is the noble Prophet Muhammad(sallallahu alayhi wasallam) whose ideal has built up men like these.It was no doubt a wrong to break the image, but it will be animmeasurably greater wrong to mangle a human face for that." -End ofepisode
THE LESSONS FROM THE EPISODE
No doubt, every Muslim's heart will be moved by this touchingepisode which vividly illustrates the boundless and profound love whichthe Sahaabi, Hadhrat Amr Ibnul Aa's (radhiyallahu anhu) cherished inhis bosom for Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). It is only thetranscendental concept of devotion for the Rasool (sallallahu alayhiwasallam) which can induce a powerful ruler in full control of the landunder his jurisdiction to voluntarily offer his face to be mangled byone of his defenceless subjects.
Non-Muslims cannever even grasp the very rudimentary elements ofthe type of devotion and love which the illustrious Sahaabidemonstrated by his actions. very move which Hadhrat Amr made duringhis dialogue with the Bishop displays his love, the superiority of hisintelligence and his lofty state of moral excellence.
From Hadhrat Amr's spontaneous reaction of blazing anger the momentthe Bishop presented his suggestion of insulting Rasulullah (sallallahualayhi wasallam), the West, while not being able to understand thespiritual rationale which underlies the surge of almost uncontrollablerage, should at least acknowledge the existence of an inexplicablespiritual force which impels Muslims to react spontaneously andviolently when their beloved Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) isinsulted. This is a reality which the West has to take into accountwhen they formulate their policies and conspiracies in relation toMuslims.
Besides the aforementioned lesson which the West can learn from this wonderful episode, Muslims can learn
(1) That there is no anarchy in Islam. The way in which Hadhrat Amr(radhiyallahu anhu) acquitted himself in the face of the severestprovocation is exemplary. After all, the Sahaabah were beacons ofguidance. "All my Sahaabah are just (guiding stars). Whomever youfollow, you will attain guidance.", said Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhiwasallam).
(2) That issues are resolved intellectually within the framework ofthe Shariah, not emotionally at the behest of the inordinate demands ofthe evil nafs whose counsellor-in-chief is Shaitaan. Hadhrat Amr'sfirst and spontaneous reaction on merely hearing of the suggestion ofinsult was the desire to smite the neck of the Bishop and despatch himinto the bowels of Jahannam. But he arrested his anger and dischargedhis obligations as a just ruler representing the Rasool of Allah AzzaWa Jal. He did not permit his blazing anger and his revulsion for thevile suggestion of the Bishop to goad him into the commission of theslightest vestige of injustice. He did not react like a hooligan and athug. His head was held high aloft in the clouds of morality andspirituality-there where the Angels dwell.
(3) That a powerful man is always in control of his anger and hisnafs. He is not a slave of his bestial desires. When the fire of angerdrove Hadhrat Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) to repeatedly clasp his sword todespatch the Bishop to Hell, most certainly, the words of his BelovedMaster Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) for whom he was preparedto mangle his face and disfigure himself for life, rang in his ears: "Apowerful man is not he who drops another in physical combat. A powerfulman is he who is the master of his nafs at the time of anger."
He then proceeded to wash his face with cold water to cool the flamesof his anger because his Beloved Master said: "Anger is from shaitaanand Shaitaan was created from fire. Extinguish fire with water."
Although enflamed with anger, Hadhrat Amr (radhiyallahu anhu)maintained his mental equilibrium and abstained from committing anyexcesses.
(4) That the rights of non-Muslims should be observed. Pledges madewith non-Muslims have to be honoured. The insult which the Bishopproposed was not a valid ground for violating the pledge which existedbetween the Muslim ruler and his non-Muslim subjects.
(5) That notwithstanding Islam's uncompromising concept of Tauhid(Monotheism) and implacable aversion for idolatry, the Sahaabahpractised great tolerance of the kufr religions of the non-Muslimpeople in the conquered territories. Part of the pledge and treatystipulated freedom of religion for the non-Muslims in their areas. Ittherefore devolved on the state to guarantee protection of the churchesand relics of the non-Muslim subjects.
(6) That while Muslim anger is natural, valid and justified whenRasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) or Islam is insulted, we haveto contend with the Shariah. Anger should not constrain Muslims totransgress the prescribed limits of the Shariah which prohibitsinjustice and anarchy. The action which is to be instituted should becalculated and conform to the Shariah. Mob rampages and commission ofdestruction are not the Shariah's ways of resolving issues.
These are the limits of Allah. Do not approach even near to them." (Qur'aan)
That is, commit no transgression of the Shariah's laws.