by Hesham Hassaballa
When I first learned of the attack, I was sickened to my very core. On New Year’s Day, as worshipers exited a Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt, a suicide bomb exploded killing 21 and injuring dozens more. I could not believe that someone could have the audacity of attacking a house of worship and killing people whose sole crime was glorifying the Lord on the brink of a new year.
Although the investigation into the attack is still ongoing, suspicion falls upon Al Qaeda, who has attacked churches in the past, most recently in Iraq. I pray those responsible are swiftly brought to justice and rot in jail for the rest of their lives. If this is indeed Al Qaeda, who proffer themselves as “holy warriors,” they have committed treason against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad in the vilest manner.
The sanctity of human life is paramount in Islam. The Quran strongly condemns the taking of innocent life: “And do not take a life that God has made sacred, except for just cause.” (17:33) In no way, shape, or form could killing Christian worshipers at a Church be ever considered “just cause.” Never. Moreover, suicide is equally as heinous: “And do not kill yourselves, for God has been merciful to you.” (4:29) Thus, for someone to kill both himself and others in a cowardly suicide attack is doubly vicious.
What is more, the sanctity of houses of worship — any house of worship — is also strongly upheld in Islam. In fact, one of the very reasons that Muslims are sometimes allowed to take up arms is to protect houses of worship: “Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged […] For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques — in [all of] which Gods name is abundantly extolled — would surely have been destroyed [ere now].” (22:39-40) Thus, once again, to attack a Church is not only heinous in its own right, but also violates a primordial principle of Islam.
In 628 A.D., a group of Monks from St. Catherine’s Monastery (also in Egypt, at the foot of Mt. Sinai) sought protection from the Prophet Muhammad. He then dictated a covenant: “This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them […] No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet […] No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
If those behind the attack indeed turn out to be ‘Muslim’, this crime is even more despicable because they have directly violated a directive of the Prophet Muhammad himself. The Prophet was absolutely clear in his declaration: “No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).” American Muslim blogger Peter Gray could not have said it better: “It boggles the mind how any Muslim — any person who kneels in prayer each day and solemnly bears witness that ‘there is no god but God, and Muhammad is His messenger’ — could so spectacularly betray his religion while uttering ‘God is the greatest.'”
After recovering from the shock and utter disgust of the attack, I saw right through the barbaric and Satanic aim: to foment hatred and division along religious lines in Egypt. Already there have been protests and clashes between Muslims and Christians in Egypt, threatening to make an already tense situation even worse. As an American Muslim of Egyptian descent, I call upon all Egyptians — Christians and Muslims — to stand together and deny the barbarians any semblance of victory in this violence.
As the Prophet Muhammad himself declared, Christians and Muslims the world over are his “citizens,” one people albeit with different faiths. Never can we let the crimes of barbarians tear us apart. Otherwise, the barbarians will win.
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based doctor and writer. His latest book is Noble Brother: The Story of the Last Prophet in Poetry (Faithful Word Press).