'Islam is at great odds with the modern Muslim anti-poppy brigade'
Historically, the driving ambition behind the charity the Royal British Legion and its’ poppy appeal has been to highlight the great sacrifices made by British soldiers during the first and second world wars.
This is not because the sacrifice of a British soldier is any more worthy of our memory than that of a non-Brit. It is simply because British citizens wish to praise and financially support those who fought to protect their own soil against the advances of tyranny.
It is for this reason that the Poppy Appeal takes place each year on the eve of Remembrance Sunday. A day not established to support the killing of Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan, the ongoing war on terror, Islamaphobia – nor any other action perceived to attack Islam.
Instead, it remembers the very minute of peace that marked a cessation to the hostilities of the First World War. With this in mind, each year the British public, and active servicemen and women dressed in full regalia take to the streets as a mark of respect and remembrance for the sacrifices of British soldiers during the two global and catastrophic wars of the past century.
The Poppy Appeal is a non-political event that mostly works to help servicemen and woman injured while on active duty and their families. Many of the people they help have lost their limbs or suffered other serious debilitating injuries.
It does not support wars or political agendas – only people. And those who it helps, like their forefathers, are committed to offering life and kin to defend their country. The soldiers supported by the RBL are mostly ordinary working class men and women and not the decision makers responsible for war – regardless of whether it is just or not.
Young British Ahmadi Muslims proudly support dozens of charities and worthy causes across Great Britain. Over the past decade, the RBL has been one such charity. In the run up to Remembrance Sunday, Ahmadi Muslims, young and old, are out in force across London and the wider UK selling poppies.
The work of these well-intentioned young Muslims is being met with great support and joy by the thousands of Muslim and non-Muslim passers-by.
Perhaps the image of young Muslims supporting World War II veterans came as a breath of fresh air to ordinary British people who are more accustomed to the dreadful sight of radical Muslims burning poppies or spitting and assaulting young poppy sellers as happened last year.
These are the same extremists that gave birth to the equally radical English Defence League. Together these hate-driven groups have made significant progress in turning the poppy appeal into a political mechanism through which one ”must” proclaim his or her allegiances – ”you are either with the cause or against it.”
The young Muslim Poppy sellers are members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association; a group that chooses to support charities on the basis of what it believes is the right thing for God-fearing people to do.
Not on the basis of what appeals the most to polarised audiences or creates the most attractive sound bite. Fear of God and charity for His sake, they believe, must lead to something far more lasting and meaningful than the reactionary, impulse driven goals of the ignorant.
Despite this, some Muslims, including some of an ordinarily moderate disposition, have raised their voices against the sight of young Muslims collecting poppies.
For them, it is a symbol of support for the great Western ”devil” that has been crusading across the Muslim world and killing all that proclaim their allegiance to Allah and His Messenger. It thus follows that as the RBL supports those seriously injured in the wars of today, to associate oneself with the Poppy Appeal is to betray one’s faith and the faithful.
Although I reject this, let's pause for a second and suppose that they are right in their belief that the British Army is the enemy of every Muslim – even if that Muslim is himself or herself British.
The important question which follows on from this is: ”How would the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have reacted to the injured soldiers of armies engaged in wars against Muslims?”
This question is important because Muslims, be they liberal, extreme, or somewhere in the middle, believe equally that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) set THE guiding example for all Muslims which cannot be departed from. This is also the firm belief of Ahmadi Muslims.
We learn from the earliest Arabic biographies of the Prophet that he is reported to have instructed Muslim physicians to treat injured enemy soldiers on the battlefield.
Even when armies attacking him were not injured, he allowed for breaks in the battles so that the enemy, thirsty and starving, could freely cross the Muslim lines and take water from the Muslim controlled water wells. Clearly, the Prophetic example seems to be at great odds with the modern Muslim anti-poppy brigade.
The example of the great Ayyubid Muslim warrior and Caliph, Salah al-Din al- Ayyubi (Saladin), is also noteworthy. Western and Eastern historical accounts of the Siege of Acre, which occurred during the Third Crusade, famously mention that Salah al-Din was quick to send his own personal physician to treat the King of England, Richard I (famously known as Richard the Lion Heart), when he fell desperately ill.
This was in the heart of the battle with help extended to no less than the King of the enemy forces. Again, another example which appears at odds with the opinion and actions of many Muslims today. The neutral reader will no doubt be wondering if the impulsive and angry reaction of many Muslims today is in submission to their religion or, as is more likely the case, their egos.
I propose that the issue we face today with radical Muslims, whether they are burning poppies in London or the Shrines of Muslim Saints in Mali, is that they clearly lack an important quality that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his true spiritual lineage were charged to the brim with – namely, chivalry.
Futuwwah, the Arabic word for chivalry, was once treated as an essential component of a Muslim’s moral DNA. In fact, futuwwah is derived from a root word (fityan) that the Holy Qur’an uses to describe the very fabric of what makes a man when he comes of age. It was so close to the Muslim heart that a whole genre of literature was at one time dedicated to its study.
One of the greatest students of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Ali b. Abi Talib, who later became the fourth Successor (Caliph) to the Prophet, is an example of an individual who excelled in this quality. For example, during a battle he was being attacked by an enemy; Ali was a more skilled warrior and quickly positioned himself to kill the man.
As Ali was about to strike the fatal blow, the man spat in Ali’s face as a final act of defiance. Ali immediately sheathed his sword and said that to kill the man had now become unlawful to him. Clearly shocked by what had happened and his sudden escape, the man was quick to quiz Ali as to why on earth he had released him from almost certain death.
Ali replied that when the man spat on him: ”…it aroused the anger of my ego. Had I killed you then it would not have been for the sake of God, but for the sake of my ego. I would have been a murderer. You are free to go.”
Such is the nobility of the once strong Muslim chivalry. The very quality that flowed through the veins of the same Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who forbade
Muslims from attacking during the night and in secret; killing the sick or injured; making use of the cattle and food found on enemy lands without the permission of the owner; damaging the trees or infrastructure of the enemy; attacking women, children and religious leaders; and from even raising their voices during a battle.
Sadly, it's difficult today to find the chivalrous example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in a Muslim world rife with oppression, hypocrisy, tyranny, hatred and aggression. If chivalry is still prevalent in the Muslim Ummah (Community), then I suggest that it might be found in the young British Muslims giving up their days, for the sake of Almighty God, to collect money for those in need.
Farooq Aftab is an Ahmadi Muslim, lawyer, human rights activist, and legal adviser to the international NGO, Human Rights Committee. He regularly liaises and advises NGOs and government bodies on human rights and persecution issues with a particular focus on the persecution of minorities.