Once upon a time. . .

Jafar speaks to the Negus

This is a story I told one of my online students many years ago. It is relevant for today’s climate, and I thought you would appreciate it. Enjoy!

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Once upon a time, there was a good king –a devout Christian– who was asked to give refuge to a group of people who were being persecuted for their beliefs. He allowed them in, for it was his policy to give protection to all who needed help in his kingdom. One day, the tribal leaders of those refugees came to the king and asked him to give them up so they could face punishment in their own land.

The king, being a pious and just ruler, told the chieftains that he could not do so until he had heard the refugees’ side of the story. The refugees were called to the king’s court, and he asked them to explain themselves, why were they fugitives in their own land? The spokesman for the refugees stood up and answered:

“O king! We were ignorant and barbaric. We used to worship idols; we used to revel in adultery; we used to eat dead meat; and we used to speak lies and slander. We used to disregard every feeling of humanity; and we used to neglect the duties of hospitality and neighborliness. We knew no law but that of the strong,

Then GOD raised among us a man –a man whose lineage, honesty, and integrity were well-known to us. He called us to the Oneness of GOD, and taught us not to associate anything with Him. He forbade us the worship of idols; and he enjoined us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful, and to uphold the rights of our neighbors and relatives. He forbade us to speak evil of women, or to devour the wealth of the orphans. He ordered us to avoid vices, and to abstain from evil; to offer prayers, to give charity, and to observe fast. We have believed in him, we have accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship GOD, and not to associate anything with Him, and we have allowed what He has allowed, and we have prohibited what He has prohibited.

For this reason, our people have risen against us, have persecuted us in order to make us forsake the worship of GOD and return to the worship of idols and other abominations. They have tortured and injured us; so finding no safety among them, we have come to your country, and hope you will protect us from oppression.”

And so the good king refused to give them up to their oppressors, and he declared that the refugees were free to stay in his kingdom as long as they desired. . . .

This is a true story.

  • The king was Ashema, the king of Aksum in Abyssinia.
  • The refugees were the first Muslims.
  • The Prophet about whom they speak was Muhammad (peace be upon him).

These are the REAL teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
These are the REAL principles and values of Islam.

“Too often in the past has religion been used as an excuse for the great evils of human beings. Kings have promised the subjects that they rule by divine right or that they themselves are descendant from Gods and are therefore Gods themselves. Torture, genocide, racism, slavery, invasions, mass rape, and war have all been justified under the auspices of divine authorisation.”

The above quote summarizes the atheist’s manifesto regarding why he or she refuses to accept any religion. This generalization is not justified. From an Islamic perspective, any organised church hierarchy or notion of divine right of kings is a form of placing a rival authority to the command of God himself and is a forbidden sin.

All people who deliberately do wrongs in the name of God risk the worst punishment in hell because they are hypocrites. To do something in the name of God means by definition you are trying to do what is right. The real intention of people who do knowingly do wrong in the name of God is in just a cover for actions which are in the name of something else. These other justifications are all possible and present without religion. The two World Wars were secularly motivated, but they resulted in more deaths and suffering than all other so-called ‘religious’ conflicts combined. A genuinely religious Muslim must remove any intention in his/her action which is not purely to please God through doing what is right.

Since the beginning of Prophet Muhammad’s mission, there have been evil words said against Islam and Muslims and the Prophet. The 21st century is no different. There is much mis-information and propaganda against Islam these days, so it is natural for you to have such negative opinions about Islam and other religions our website.

We are here to set the record straight.

But we can only do so if you are willing to listen to our side of the story.

Please reply at your earliest convenience. With dialogue comes understanding.

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Unfortunately, that student never replied. . . This has always been the challenge for me and my fellow interfaith workers: how do we get engagement from the very people who need to hear the message of tolerance and move beyond the rhetoric of demonizing “the other?”

May peace be with you,
Ahmed Lotfy Rashed
Author – What Would A Muslim Say

2 thoughts on “Once upon a time. . .

  1. This is great story showing how misunderstandings change our acceptations of each other.
    “There is much mis-information and propaganda against Islam these days, so it is natural for you to have such negative opinions about Islam and other religions …”
    Same situation was in Soviet Union in my time toward Christians. Authorities called us: fascists, enemy of people crazy and so on. The best way to destroy these conceptions is open conversation and dialogs. Outside people can see what is real Christianity that blamed for everything.
    In US is same situation with Islam. I am glad that now many mosques open doors for people from outside to see and hear real Islam.
    The Islamic Society of the North Shore gave residents a chance to meet their Muslim neighbors on Sunday, joining 17 other mosques across Massachusetts that also opened their doors.
    “This is what it’s really all about, for you to see us, for us to see you, to know each other and hopefully this will be the beginning of a great relation for our community,” said Fawaz Abusharkh, who led part of the “Ask A Muslim” Open Mosque Day discussion at Islamic Society of the North Shore (ISNS) “Masjid Us-Salam.”
    http://www.itemlive.com/news/lynn-mosque-suggests-neighbors-ask-a-muslim/
    “Worship God and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet)… Verily, God does not like such as are proud and boastful.” (Quran 4:36)

    1. Our similarities are greater than our differences. This is why it is so important to reach outside of our personal comfort zone, outside our faith tradition, and engage and talk with people. Dialogue and conversation leads to understanding and respect.

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