Once, while the Prophet Muhammad was gathered with his disciples, a group of Jewish people passed by carrying a deceased man to the cemetery. Seeing them, the Prophet stood up to express his condolences. One of his disciples was astonished by his gesture and asked him why he had expressed sympathy for a non-Muslim. The Prophet replied, "Was not the Jewish man a human being?"
His answer is a golden rule, implying that before we divide ourselves by beliefs or ethnicities, we must establish the sanctity of life of every human being. Given this principle, I strongly repudiate both the Hamas terrorist attack on civilians in Israel and the killing of civilians in Gaza by the Israeli Army. On the one hand, the pretext is the fight against the illegal occupation and for sovereignty, and on the other hand, it is self-defence and reaction against terrorism, but the truth is that under no circumstances can the killing of civilians, especially children, be justified. The Holy Quran itself categorically condemns violence against civilians and teaches that whoever murders an innocent person is as if he has murdered the whole of humanity.
The spiritual Caliph and world leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, to which I belong, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, summed up the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel as follows: "Even in a state of war, Islam does not permit the killing of women, children, the elderly and innocent civilians. In this recent escalation of the war, Hamas took the first step and attacked Israeli citizens. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that innocent people have in the past been unjustly killed by the Israeli Army, Muslims must ensure that they always adhere to the teachings of Islam. If there is a legitimate state of war, it must be confined entirely to the respective armies and never against women, children, the elderly and innocent civilians. In this sense, Hamas' action must be condemned. On the other hand, whatever the injustice and cruelty committed by Hamas, the response to it or to the war should have been limited to Hamas."
It should be remembered that just as Judaism should not be held responsible for the actions of the Israeli army, so Islam is not responsible for the actions of Hamas. Merely shouting "Allahu Akbar" or quoting a theological term does not mean that the act itself is authorised by the religion. Each creed is defined by its own sources and Islam is based on the Holy Quran, tradition and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, who was a messenger of mercy and peace.
Thus, the phrase: "Allahu Akbar" (“God is the Greatest”) is not an open licence for violent acts, but is in fact a call for peace, harmony, and unity. Allah is the personal name of God and according to the first chapter of the Holy Quran, He is Lord and Creator of all mankind. So, if one loves God, one must love and respect all His creation. Therefore, Prophet Muhammad declared that those who are not merciful towards others will not receive divine mercy either.
In turn, the word "Jihad" is not the name for war against non-Muslims, but for the "effort" that a Muslim must make against the evil in oneself. Islam allows war only in case of self-defence and to guarantee freedom of religion. A Muslim's responsibility, according to the Quran, is not only to protect and honour mosques, but every synagogue, church, and religious temple. The founder of Islam explained that the main task of a believer is to convey protection and security to others, "with hands and tongue", by action and word.
In conclusion, the conflict between Hamas and Israel is not a war between Muslims and Jews. Both Judaism and Islam are not a threat to each other's existence but are guarantors of universal brotherhood and peaceful coexistence. Both religions are neither the cause nor the origin of this confrontation, but the solution and the way out. The only guilty party is man who distorts the sacred texts in order to justify his own interests. It is my profound wish that peace will prevail between the two peoples. In the meantime, if we cannot make a productive contribution to resolving the conflict and saving innocent lives, at least let it not cause a rift in our own close relations.
Marwan Sarwar Gill is Imam (Islamic theologian) and president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Argentina.