ARE MUSLIMS HYPOCRITICAL TO CRITICISE ISRAEL WHEN CALIPH UMAR (RA) CONQUERED THE LAND FROM THE ROMANS? | ABDULLAH AL ANDALUSI | •
Some people have asked how does the Zionist take-over of Palestine differ from Caliph Umar (RA)’s led conquest of al-Sham (the Levant) from Roman domination. The basis behind this question, is actually a faulty assumption. The assumption is, that our criticism of the Zionist movement simply their take over of an area of land within the Muslim world. This is not the case, because the land was actually conquered by the British Empire first, and they then facilitated Zionist colonialism (let’s not forget that the French did the same in Algeria, and brought in French settlers to gradually take more and more land – however, this was thankfully reversed).
The issue at hand, that we must raise and contend for all mankind to witness, is the injustice perpetrated by the Zionist regime against indigenous Palestinians, removing them from their homes, destroying their homes, killing them, harassment, building walls, cutting off or controlling their supplies, torture etc etc
The Quran commands us to dispute not with the people of the book, unless we witness them committing injustice. Now injustice can’t be defined here as ‘not following the Quran’, because Christians and Jews don’t believe in the Quran. Rather, it refers to them not acting consistently with their own principles, or not acting consistently with the principles we all share in common – one of which is ‘don’t steal other people’s land and property’.
Now before anyone remarks, the Torah mentioned that God gave the Bani Isra’il the land which historians believe to be Canaan. But this shouldn’t be misunderstood as to what it means. Because the Torah commands observant Jews to not mistreat, steal from, or kill the people of the (non-Jewish) nations who live amongst them. Rather, the Torah refers to who commands the land, and for this, it requires than the people of bani Isra’il rule, and rule it under halakha law [law of Moses]], that’s all.
Now, it’s true that when Bani Isra’il first entered into Canaan, the Torah reports that they were commanded to massacre the Canaanite inhabitants* in the area that was given to them.
However, the Torah explains that this was only because these people were reportedly vile and polytheists. But this doesn’t mean that no non-Jews were allowed. The Torah expressly legislates for how Jews should justly treat the non-Jews around them (plus, Palestinians are monotheists, not polytheists, so there’s that too…).
The religious claim to the land of Canaan [Palestine], simply fails to be able to justify from within it’s own religious basis, the dispossession and killing of Palestinians in the land, when the Torah only specifies that the land should be ruled by the laws of Moses, guaranteed by the religious Jews who live there. It’s for (partly) this reason we see religious Jews at pro-Palestinian rights demonstrations and protests .
Now as a side note, we as Muslims don’t know what God actually commanded regarding whether or not the Canaanites, women and children included were to be massacred – and we have to follow a policy from the Sunnah, of neither believing nor rejecting anything in the Torah that isn’t corroborated by the Quran. So for this reason, highlighting the fact that the Torah reports that bani isra’il were genocidal invaders is only a useful point to make against non-religious secular Zionists who base their claim to Canaan on purely historical grounds (e.g. because our ancestors lived there at one point, it belongs to us). A claim they can’t really make with any moral authority if the only way their ancestors got there in the first place, was by invading and massacring its natives.
Thus, the only claim that can be valid (ish) by Zionists, is to argue that God gave them the land, and that the covenant is still valid.
But even if we accept that to be the case (as Muslims), in our teaching, covenants only last until one side broke it, and if Allah (SWT) considered it broken in perpetuity, then Allah (SWT) grants a new covenant to another people (if He wills). So Muslims, and potentially Christians (depending on their interpretation of Jesus as a ‘new covenant’), we simply can’t accept the continued validity of a divine claim to the land – especially considering that Israel isn’t a halakhaic state, but a secular liberal state that doesn’t base it’s laws on the Torah – all this is a moot discussion.
Now getting back to the point, when the Muslim conquered the land of al-Sham (the levant, including Palestine), they didn’t kick people out. They didn’t demolish homes, kick people off their land, send them into exile, or build walls to divide people and keep them apart (and no, having cities with ‘quarters’ doesn’t count, because there was no barrier between them. Think of them as community neighbourhoods, not sealed out areas).
In contrast to this, the state of Israel as not taken it’s lands “without prejudice to the rights of the indigenous Palestinians” (to paraphrase the Balfour declaration). But on top of this, their intended state was a nation state that privileges one ethnic group against the native people. It was based upon this initial injustice, and the British government’s inconsistency of treatment to the Palestinians who were there (who I might add, consisted of Muslims, Christian and Jews, all defined as ‘Palestinians’).
This is our primary contention with the Zionist movement, and a fundamental difference between the Caliphate of Umar (RA) and Islamic conquest of al-Sham (which, didn’t care about race or ethnicity). And before anyone mentions “maybe not racial privilege, but religious privilege for Muslims, no?”, NO, Muslims weren’t privileged in being able to live in Al-Sham any more than non-Muslims. The Caliphate wasn’t a nation-state of Muslims, but a state of justice and security backed up by Islam and Muslims.
Now, it is true that the Shari’a has a specific response to invasions of land that was opened to the Pax Islamica [the peace, justice and security guaranteed by Islam for all people, Muslims and non-Muslims] by the historical Caliphates. But, this is different to the contentions that we hold with what the Zionist government is doing. And it should also be understood that only a legitimate Caliphate can rectify this when a land has been completely overrun by an invasion.
To illustrate this, Muslims tend not to raise issue with Singapore, even though Singapore was created by British colonialism and the transfer of significant quantities of Chinese labourers. The difference between ‘Israel’ and Singapore, is that Singapore wasn’t created by kicking out Malays off the land, or bringing in a number of Chinese who had the intent to create a nation-state for their ethnic group (they were simply labourers that the British brought in, whose descendants were made citizens in a new state after the fact). Singapore stands today as an independent state with a majority Chinese demographic. Now sure, Malays do get discriminated against, and this is a problem, but you’ll not see unjust dispossession of property, killing, and nowhere near the level of oppression that Palestinians face – especially no walls!
Therefore the main Muslim contention with Israel, is what the nationalist movement founders did to get it, and what their ideological adherents are still doing to perpetuate their state. Of course, there are other issues too, like Israel being (U.S) Americas ‘air base’ to attack, control and dominate the other lands in the region, and that is something which Singapore certainly doesn’t do!
So, it is a gross misperception to compare the Rashidoon (Umar [RA] Caliphate’s conquest of the levant from the Romans – not just because the Romans were not native to the land, and were simply overlords over the natives – but because the Caliphate never did injustice to its inhabitants upon the conquest. Sure, conquerors come and go, but it’s what they do that we can hold them to account by a common (albeit not as precise as revelation) standard of expectation in behaviour, justice and mercy.
Had Palestine being created with both Jewish refugees from Europe, without dispossessing the Palestinian inhabitants, and Britain joined them together under a state of ‘levantines’ or ‘Palestinians’ (a old Roman [ish] word for the region btw), then Muslims would’ve had only the same gripes we do about ALL nation-states, like Singapore, but also Malaysia! (and all the other ones in the Muslim world) – namely, they’re artificial, secular and an created by imposition of colonial powers**.
But if this was the only issue, we wouldn’t be protesting to non-Muslims around the world, because no injustice would’ve been done between Muslims and non-Muslims (well, except the British empire originally). Rather Muslims would’ve only had to focus only simply an Islamic revival within their lands, re-unification under the re-establishment of the Caliphate system. And this would’ve simply been an internal matter amongst Muslims, for us to resolve amongst ourselves.
However, due to the continuing oppression of Palestinians, and the world watching, and until we can revive ourselves enough to solve these issues, our work must be, and continue to be, to dispute against those who commit injustice.
*(the Gideonites were spared [but rendered into a type of servitude] because it was alleged in the Torah they fooled Joshua into making a peace deal with him, by claiming they were a distant people outside Canaan. They explained they only did this because they heard that Bani Isra’il was commanded to massacre everyone.
**Now while Islam would be in natural contention with socialism and liberalism and political systems, these two systems don’t care about race (well, in theory anyway), but rather view themselves as being fair and just within their own criteria of what justice and rights are. Muslims are obliged to rebut them, and contend with our own Deen as the better way of life for all mankind. But in this contending, we’d never call a socialist or liberal system applied on Muslims equally as on all other inhabitants of a region as ‘unjust’ in the sense of it being applied inconsistently and hypocritically [we WOULD call it unjust in the sense of it being unjust to true human nature, or fitrah, and unjust in disregarding the rights of the Creator! A truly significant injustice!].