Muslims from Kenya converge on the holy city of Mecca starting this September to join their brothers and sisters from other parts of the world in performing the 2014 Hajj— the fifth pillar

of Islam.  Allah has obligated every able-bodied  and financially capable Muslim male and  female to perform the Hajj (pilgrimage) at least once in their lifetime.  Allah states in the Holy Qur’an: “In it are clear signs [such as] the standing place of Abraham. And whoever enters it shall be safe. And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House - for whoever is able to find thereto a way. But whoever disbelieves - then indeed, Allah is free from
need of the worlds.” [3:97] Speaking of Prophet Abraham as one of the most exalted messengers of Allah and whose conduct is the main focus of Hajj rituals, Muslims are required to slaughter authorised animals during Idd-ul-Hajj in remembrance of Abraham’s mental struggle when God ordered him to slaughter his son Ismail and offer him as a sacrifice. But as the teachings proceed to say, Allah did not intend to have Ismail slaughtered and offered as a sacrifice. Instead, Allah simply wanted to test

Abraham’s faith which after being proven, He ordered him to slaughter a ram instead to symbolize that Allah is averse to human sacrifices. In this regard, the Hajj comes at a time when various conflicts around the world, especially in the Muslim world, continue to claim thousands in human life. Some of those who have claimed responsibility for the human carnage say they have done so in the name of Allah in order to defend Islam and the Holy Prophet Muhammad SAW.

For instance, a revolution is taking place in Iraq and Syria where the Islamic State (I.S) is conquering territory and declaring Islamic law. In the process, I.S. commanders and militants have executed at least two foreign journalists and an aid worker through beheading as a way of sending a clear message to the rest of
the world that they mean business. When carrying out the gruesome beheading, the fighters invoke Allah’s name by chanting the takbir— Allahuakbar! Allahuakbar! In Nigeria, Boko Haram is following in the footsteps of I.S., and soon or later, other groups especially in the Horn of Africa region are likely to start conquering territory and declaring Islamic caliphates. But while such groups might have a legitimate political agenda, is it within Islamic teachings for them to decapitate

pleasing Allah? Certainly not! Those who engage in such gruesome acts of beheading and other acts of terrorism should be reminded that Allah the most Gracious, the most Merciful Has forbidden human sacrifices and would never admit to paradise anyone who engages in senseless shedding of blood. The Holy Prophet Muhammad  (SAW) said: “He who performs Hajj seeking Allah’s pleasure and avoids all lewdness and sins (therein) will return after Hajj free from all sins, just as he  was on the day his mother gave birth tohim.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] While Kenyans will be looking forward to the blessings of Hajj 2014, the scars of last year’s terrorist attack  on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi will remain fresh in their mind.

The deadly attack that occurred a couple of weeks before Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar and in which Hajj is performed, was not only an affront to Kenya but the  Muslim community as well.Muslims in Kenya have always coexisted peacefully with other communities, choosing the interpretation of Islam that is tolerant to other religions as well as divergent views. But the recent wave of terrorism-related violence which is fuelled by religious extremism has threatened to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims as more and more victims of terrorism begin to perceive Muslims as the enemy within. Like in similar situations before, the Westgate attack brought out the Muslim leadership to strongly denounce terrorism and distance Islam from such heinous acts, emphasizing that Islam does not condone such senseless shading of innocent blood.

We commend Imams who have used their khutbah (sermons) not only to denounce such attacks but to also remind their congregations about the importance of living in harmony and peace with others. Citing Muslim youth as the most vulnerable, Sheikh Farah has always called upon parents to closely monitor the activities of their children as it is becoming clear that children as young as 12 years are being recruited into dangerous anti-social groups. “If you tell and convince yourself
that all is well with your children, and you do nothing to find out what they day do, one day you will be surprised,” warned Sheikh Farah while delivering the Friday sermon at Westlands Mosque last year following the Westgate attack. Sheikh Farah said that Islam as a religion of peace enjoins Muslims to give protection to non-Muslims whenever they stand in need of such protection. During the Crusade in the middle ages, Muslims gave protection to Christians and Jews against persecution and that is why there have been Jewish and Christian settlements in many Arab countries of North Africa and the Middle East.

“Those Muslims who kill non-Muslims who have lived peacefully with them will be thrown down miles and miles in the pit of hell equivalent to a walk of 70 years,” warned Sheikh Farah referring to the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). According to Ustadh Ali Ausat, the government has the obligation to honestly address the issues that cause anger among Muslims and drive them into terrorist activities. “There must be a reason why only particular interests are attacked in Kenya and the government as an aggrieved party should take steps to address those reasons.”

There are a myriad of reasons that have been cited as causes of terrorism activities including money and other inducements being used to recruit youths with little religious knowledge  to join extremist groups like Al-Shabab in Somalia. A bomb explosion in a matatu in Eastleigh killing close to half a dozen people in 2012 led to xenophobic attacks against the Somali community which was blamed for the attack. Thankfully, security forces moved in swiftly to contain the deadly violence before it snow-balled into a catastrophe. But it is becoming clear that if such attacks persist, they will threaten the peaceful coexistence between various
religious communities in the country as a growing number of aggrieved religious communities may take matters into their own hands against Muslims.

In this regard, the forthcoming season of Hajj as an act of worship provides the best lessons on how Muslims should carry out themselves not only while in Mecca for the pilgrimage, but also in their daily lives. Financial resources, for instance, enable one to go for the Hajj, thus making them an important medium through which the best of intentions can be fulfilled. If financial resources can be used for the best of intentions like performing the Hajj, what difference would wealthy Muslims make if they used their financial resources to support the youth to engage in productive ventures instead of recruiting them into terror gangs? In this regard, Muslim leaders should take the opportunity that comes with the month of Hajj not only to condemn acts of terrorism but also provide practical solutions aimed at bringing Muslims who have strayed back to the righteous path. In returning Muslims who have strayed back to the righteous path, Muslim leaders should strive to debunk all the misleading teachings that have been coined to justify terrorism. Indeed, those who engage in acts of terrorism have often justified their actions with convoluted interpretations of Qur’anic teachings. One of the misleading teachings often used to justify acts of terrorism is that ‘mujahidin’ who kill and maim innocent children, women and the elderly in the name of jihad of the sword will go straight to paradise where they will be rewarded with 72 virgins to satisfy them sexually.

Surely, even in the most literal interpretation of the classical Arabic language used in the Qur’an, there is no provision where God promises sexual pleasure as a reward for righteous acts. Hence, it is important for sober Muslim leaders to remind the faithful, especially the youth, that it is no easy thing to forge lies against Allah because to do so is to invite sure destruction upon oneself. Allah, through the acts of Prophet Abraham who is the main focus of Idd-ul-Hajj, Has made it clear that He does not condone human sacrifices. Hence, no Muslim should kill another human being in the name of pleasing Allah, His religion or His exalted Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The All-Powerful Allah sees to it that lies are not successfully forged against Him and that a forgery becomes easily distinguished from His revealed Word which He vouchsafes in a special distinction and eminence, and creates a favourable atmosphere for its acceptance by right-thinking men and women whom He raises to a very high level of moral excellence for accepting it.

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