I turned to Sheikh Palzzi for his comments. They follow at the end.
Sir, In his letter of Sept 12 Dr Ahmad Abou-Saleh denies the statement by David Selbourne (Comment, Sept 9) that “Islam is not a religion in the conventional sense”. This is to deny its origin and history and beginnings as a politico-religious ideology. Its creator shed blood to expand and conquer.
During the Battle of the Trench in AD627, Prophet Muhammad ordered the massacre of 700 Jews and Christians. In the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, one may still see the sword of the Prophet Muhammad and the swords of the first three caliphs.
No one is ever going to find the sword of Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha or Guru Nanak.
RANDHIR SINGH BAINS
Gants Hill, Essex
Sir, Most reliable historians will strongly disagree with Randhir Singh Bains’s account of the Battle of the Trench in AD627 (letter, Sept 13).
The offending tribe was Banu Qurayza, entirely Jewish — no Christians were executed after the battle. More crucially, the individuals killed were able-bodied males who had violated a peace treaty with Medina (the Muslim capital at the time) by attacking the city at the same time that it was under siege by a large Meccan alliance army.
The Banu Qurayza had one aim: to wipe out the men, women and children of Medina while they were vulnerable. As such, their treachery demanded a severe punishment.
The individuals concerned refused the application of Islamic law to deal with their crimes, which would have spared their lives.
Sir, After the Banu Qurayza surrendered after a 25-day siege of their defensive towers, they were judged not by the Prophet but by Sa’ad ibn Mu’adh, a chief of their former allies, the Aws, using Jewish law. This prescribes harsh treatment for the conquest of a city as a matter of course, even when betrayal is not in question: “When the Lord thy God hath delivered it unto thy hands, thou shalt smite every male therein with the edge of the sword: but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself.” (Deuteronomy 20:12)
The swords of the Prophet, as well as those of the caliphs, signify that they were real people living in a real, very hostile world. The swords were used to defend the fledgeling Muslim community from a tidal wave of aggression unleashed upon it by a pagan society. It is easy to level allegations of aggression on someone fighting for his rights against great odds. For example, the sixth guru, Har Gobind, famous for girding two swords, or the tenth, Gobind Singh, who spent his whole life in battle and gave Sikhism its martial character.
Communal harmony is the need of the hour. Irresponsible comments perpetuate hardened attitudes.
NADEEM AHMED NASIR
Bradford, W Yorks
Dear Mr. Medad,
I basically agree with the comments of Nadeem Ahmed Nasir and Hannan Bhatti: the battle of the Trench involved no participation of Christians, and the Banu Qurayza were condemned to the capital punishment not for being Jews but for their treachery in war. The judge who condemned them was not the Prophet Muhammad but Sa’ad ibn Mu’adh. The Prophet Muhammad did not sheed blood "to conquer", but in self-defense against an enemy - the Pagan Arabs of Mecca - who have repeatedly tried to kill him and to massacre the Muslims as a whole.
The case of Buddha was evidently different, since from one side he was preaching absolute non-violence, and from another he effaced no persecution of his community. However, after him one of his followers, emperor Ashoka, resorted to the sword to compel most of India to reject Hinduism and to accept Buddhism.
Moses was also compelled to lead the Children of Israel to fight against their enemies, and his successor Joshua had to conquer by the sword the Land which God promised to the Jewish people.
As for Guru Gobind Singh, who is the real founder of Sikhism as it exists nowadays, he not only resorted to the sword, but made wearing a sword on of the five distinctive features of the Sikh community, to the point that until today every observant Sikh, apart for wearing the turban, also wears a sword, even if small and symbolic.
Even for what concerns Jesus, sources dealing with his attitude toward non-violence are contradictory. According to Matthew 26:52 he said, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword", but according to Luke 22:36 "He said to them, 'But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one'."
Consequently, what David Selbourne considers "unconventional" in Islam is also common to other religions.
Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi