Saturday, January 3, 2009

Who Broke The Truce?

A critical chapter in the early history of Islam is the Treaty of Hudaibiyah between the young Muslim community in Madinah and the idolaters of Makkah. The two sides agreed that for ten years they would maintain peace and not attack/harm/slay members of each other's communities. The treaty was a huge compromise for the Prophet (pbuh), yet he saw peace even on less-than-ideal terms preferable to continued threat of violence. And having once signed, he insisted on keeping his word. This had been a core teaching of Islam (au fu bil uqood - honor your commitments).

Because of the treaty an open exchange of people and ideas became possible. Islam's simplicity and beauty impressed many of the idolaters who prior to this had only heard the negative campaigns against the Prophet (pbuh) from the power elite of Makkah. They started to abandon their unprincipled lives for the monotheistic faith in large numbers and the ranks of Muslims grew rapidly. As you can imagine, the leadership of idolaters in Makkah and the neighboring tribes was horrified. Their horror gave way to hopelessness. Hopeless people did hopeless things back even then and so they decided to launch a campaign of terror against Muslims. And boy did they cause terror! They would attack Muslims in stealth in the dark of the night in guerrilla attacks. Their strategy was to never leave any witnesses or take hostages.

There is no such thing as a perfect criminal campaign - given enough time, you will reveal yourself. And fairly quickly the source of these attacks was identified. The idolaters had broken the truce they had signed with the Prophet (pbuh). If they had broken it knowingly and deliberately, why was the prophet (pbuh) bound by it? So, the Prophet decided, it was time to take Makkah. And he did that by marching an army of ten thousand believers into the city that had tried to literally murder him many times.

Makkah was taken peacefully. There was no chest-thumping, no victory parades or insulting the vanquished. Their property, their honor was guaranteed. With their heads bowed in humility, tears running from their eyes out of gratitude to their Lord, Muslims returned to Makkah and taught us a new way to engage in conflicts, win wars and establish peace. They showed how, if you keep doing the right thing, no matter how crazy and powerful your adversary, you will prevail. Sabr, the unique Islamic teaching of persevering in the face of hopeless adversity, because you never lose hope in God, became the basis of resisting all forms of despotism without falling victim to the hopelessness that is at its roots.

Forgiving the people of Makkah was not easy. There were murderers among them, people who had mutilated bodies of dead Muslims. But it was a chapter that needed to be put behind. No retribution was extracted, none was allowed. This was the biggest revolution of Muhammad (pbuh). As someone said, Muhammad invaded hearts of men. And once your heart falls in love with something, it doesn't cede an inch.

Fast forward 1400 some years and we have a situation with some parallels and several strange twists and turns (of course, all analogies and parallels have limitations). Israel and Palestinians had a truce signed six months back. Israel alleges Palestinians have been constantly in violation of the truce. International news media reports that Palestinians have been attacking by launching their crude rockets into Israeli territories. The fact that these rockets have been nothing more than a nuisance is not material, I think. Fact is, it is a violation of a truce.

And announcing this as the basis of its actions, Israel is launching an offensive to "change the situation on the ground." Oh yes, the realpolitik of this may be the upcoming Israeli elections. But while that may be true, it is also true someone broke the treaty. I want to know if Palestinians broke the treat or not. And I don't hear enough Muslims who are protesting Israel's "disproportionate" response addressing this important issue.

Irrespective of the size of your standing army, number of tanks and power of your bombs, if you invade lands and territories, your victories are going to be short-term. Sooner than later someone will outsmart you and throw you out. Israel just hasn't gotten this simple fact in its sixty years of existence. In fact, it's been playing the EXACTLY OPPOSITE strategy. (As an American, I will add that America's role, despite stated inentions, hasn't been very helpful either). If Israel has had a miserable 60 years of existence, this simple fact explains it. Win some hearts, folks...and I don't mean by bribing some to spy or infiltrating organizations and planting Mossad agents - genuinely undertake a policy that wins hearts. You're dealing with humans across the fence.

Now, if Israel in its might and power, is not as gracious as the Prophet (pbuh) was when he returned to Makkah, I don't think Palestinians have been as REALISTIC about the uneven distribution of firepower either. The people of Makkah did not resist because they knew they were outpowered. They didn't want to adopt a suicide strategy and cause the death of their loved ones. Palestinians have chosen to subject their children and women to the horror of Israels bombs and tanks. They know their adversary, by now they know the dishonor, the shame and bloodshed their actions will invite. They continue to subject their loved ones to it.

They have been outpowered, but they continue rocket launches and suicide bombings which are more than an annoyance. Oh yes they are hurting, their situation is bad and keeps getting worse, they have been forced into hopelessness, and hopeless humans still do hopeless things...I get all that. But their strategy is still bad and I don't hear enough Muslims criticize that in an unequivocal way.

You have to keep doing the right thing, and often that means resisting the urge to strike or succumbing to hopelessness and blowing oneself up.

Above those clouds and inside our secret Strategy Rooms and whisper meetings, there is one more entity present who we don't see. It's God. Allah. Elohim. Our Lord. And He watches all that we plan and do. We can cheat against His principles to win short-term victories or fleeting blasts that cause some damage to the enemy. But in the end His principles are the only standard by which we will be judged and our long-term future determine. It is not too late to repent and turn back to Him.

This is not to be the sermon of a pacifist. I say fight. But fight to win, not to continue to bleed. Neither side is winning and both are bleeding. Some more than others, but it's evident neither has peace. And if you don't have peace, what's all that other stuff you got worth?


Naeem: said...


Excellent post ATM! Extremely valid points. Just two points I would address:

1. First of all, its clear that Israel broke the truce on November 4 when they killed 6 Palestinians in a raid. Of course they justified it based on their contention that the six were plotting an attack. Naturally, they are judge, jury, and executioner, so we must believe them.

2. The Palestinians have tried the path of least resistance by going down the road of democracy and look what happened. The international community shunned their choice of Hamas. Maybe they should have continued on the higher road and taken the crippling blockade (after all, the Prophet and his community lasted through a 3 year embargo by Quraish), but sadly we are a far cry from the standards of our dear Prophet and his companions.

And that's the crux of the matter, no? We will not taste victory of any import until we return to those lofty standards.

Again, you hit the nail on the head bro!

Anonymous said...

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