Khutba: Dealing with the rise of knife crime
“We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidence and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice. And We sent down iron, wherein is great military might and benefits for the people, and so that Allah may make evident those who support Him and His messengers unseen. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” Surah Al-Hadid 57:25
The ultimate objective of every Islamic legal rule is to secure the welfare of humanity in this world and the Hereafter by establishing a righteous society. This is a society that worships Allah(SWT) and flourishes on the Earth, one that uses its resources to build a civilization wherein every human being can live in a climate of peace, justice and security. This is a civilization that allows a person to fulfil their every spiritual, intellectual, and material need and cultivate every aspect of his being.
Allah(SWT) reminds us of this in Surah Al Hadid, a Surah named Iron, in which He(SWT) explains that the Messengers have been sent with a Message to ensure people maintain justice. Iron is referenced as a means of strength and potential benefit for people.
However, we see how this natural resource and tool is being misused on our streets. Knife crime has risen 86% in Bedfordshire since 2014 according to 2018 Home Office data, with claims of London drug gangs moving into the home counties and engaging in turf wars with local dealers. In June 2018 alone, 36 crimes in Luton were attributed to possession of weapons. Many of us are aware of the spate of knife attacks and stabbings which we have seen up and down the country over the last 6 months. Attacks which led to the deaths of our youth including 20-year-old Waryam Hussain and 18-year-old Azaan Kaleem stabbed to death in the town centre. May Allah(SWT) bless them and grant their families beautiful patience, Aameen.
Yesterday, we heard the heart-shaking story of Azaan’s passing – a boy named after the azaan – the call to prayer, the call to khayr. His mother was so moved by her loss of her only child and she will has committed to share the seriousness and the consequences of this loss every day for the rest of her life, so that no other mother, father, brother or sister has to face this same horror. She recounts her loss saying describing her last words with her son on 22nd March as he prepared to go to a funeral. His last words were “Allah be with you, mother” as he left the home not knowing that this would be the last time the two would speak again.
It was some time later that she received a call from his friend that he had been stabbed and distraught and caught in traffic, she flagged down a paramedic and said she would not leave until they took her with them. In her mind, she thought it was only a flesh wound and expected to see him sitting on the sidewalk nursing his arm – a mother cannot even imagine the worse. On arrival, she could only get so close as to see the feet of her son while the paramedics attempted CPR. For a whole hour, they struggled to land a helicopter close enough to his wounded body to airlift him to A & E.
In A & E, for four hours they attempted to keep him alive, and throughout this time, she had no knowledge of his actual state, until they asked her whether he had any allergies four hours later. When they wheeled his trolley by her to take him into surgery, she touched his head – cold, wet and pale, she kissed him and told him she’d be waiting for him.
She was told that he had been stabbed in the back and in the heart. She watched as surgeons pressed his head, filled his body with liquid and had to hold his heart to keep it beating while they tried a range of different approaches to stabilise him.
He received 16 units of blood and 16 platelets and L & D Trauma unit, enabling him to be stabilised and undergo vital surgery. Sadly, she was informed after a day of surgery that he was brain-dead and had to remain comatose for now, but she still had hope and could not bear to lose her only child. It was only after another day of attempts, she was informed that she would have to be present while the doctors performed neurological exams to search for electrical brain activity or blood circulation to the brain.
She was brought into surgery and made to watch, despite her requests not to, as they entered pipes through his throat, water in his ears, gauze in his eyes, to see if he was alive or not. After 3 days of trying, they said that they would have to switch off the machines and she didn’t even have the option of deciding because, as it was a knife crime, Azaan’s body was a crime scene. Sadly, it didn’t end there.
The coroners had to undertake two autopsies, cutting him open vertically to examine the exact cause of death. When he arrived for the burial in Bury Park masjid, I was present, and Azaan was unrecognisable as a result of the weeks of cold storage and multiple examinations.
Why did she share this in such graphic detail and insist on the coffin remaining open despite the impact of autopsies and freezing changing complexion and appearance.? Because often, we are desensitised to the impact of “a bit of beef” or “shiv” and she wanted no-one else to go through the pain she had.
You are response-able
My dear brothers and sisters, we are all in one ship and we cannot continue to play a blind eye to this social challenge and others like it. Unless we enjoin good and forbid evil, we all drown!
In the collection of Imam Bukhari, Nu’man bin Bashir reported that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “The example of the person abiding by God’s order and restrictions in comparison to those who violate them is like the example of those persons who drew lots for their seats in a boat. Some of them got seats in the upper part, and the others in the lower. When the latter needed water, they had to go up to bring water (and that troubled the upper deck passengers), so they said, ‘Let us make a hole in our share of the ship (and get water) so that we do not trouble the upper deck passengers.’ If the people in the upper part left the lower deck passengers to do what they had suggested; then all the people of the ship would be destroyed, but if they had prevented them, then both parties would be safe.”
Our beloved Prophet (SAW) said “If you abandon this duty (of commanding the good and forbidding evil), you will earn Allah’s wrath and your prayers will go unanswered” (Musnad Ahmad, vol. 5, p.388).
`Abdullah bin Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “The first defect (in religion) which affected the Children of Israel in the way that man would meet another and say to him: `Fear Allah and abstain from what you are doing, for this is not lawful for you.’ Then he would meet him the next day and find no change in him, but this would not prevent him from eating with him, drinking with him and sitting in his assemblies. When it came to this, Allah led their hearts into evil ways on account of their association with others.”
So why do people carry and use knives?
The reasons vary – self-protection, theft, in a lot of cases to fund a drug habit, to intimidate people or even peer pressure.
Young people experiencing educational problems appear to see themselves as particularly vulnerable to knife-related incidents and there are increasing reports of schoolchildren having axes and machetes in their bags.
Research has indicated that children who suffer abuse, or grow up in a hostile atmosphere, might be more at risk of taking part in violence.
Whats the reality?
What many people don’t know is that carrying a blade actually puts you at higher risk. 7 out of 10 young people who end up in Accident & Emergency wards with a knife injury have been stabbed with their own knife reports Trusted – an organisation provides information on knife crime to teenagers.
People carry a knife for show – to be respected and feared, because they think that the one with the knife has the power. More than likely, the person they point it at will take it off you and shove it into your chest.
The consequences are also heavy.
If you get caught with a knife you face a prison sentence of up to five years. That’s just for possessing a knife in a public place.
If you hurt someone there will be other charges to answer and you could go to prison for longer.
Even, if someone is injured or killed by a knife in your presence you could be prosecuted even if it’s not you who uses it. You could be sent to prison for murder in what is referred to as ‘joint enterprise’.
Role of parents and carers
Parents and carers can really help with knife crime prevention by talking through the issues with their children. Some practical steps on talking on these matters include:
Be open and reassure them
Your child may be reluctant or scared to talk at first – it’s a difficult subject. Reassure them that they can be honest with you and let them know you’ll support them without judgement – no matter what.
Be patient and try not to react straight away to what they tell you. Let them talk as much as they want to first.
Encourage them to share their fears and worries. Sharing your own fears can help – tell them how much you worry about their safety and their future.
Let them know that they do have a choice in what they do, even though it may seem like they don’t.
Make them aware that the vast majority of young people don’t carry a knife.
Be clear about false bravery
Raise the point that walking away from confrontation or a fight is the braver thing to do. If someone pulls a knife on them, the safest, wisest thing to do is to walk away.
In ten years time, nobody will remember they walked, but if they ‘stand their ground’ the consequences could last a lifetime or even end someone’s life.
Think about the impact on others
Encourage them to consider who they’d be affecting if they get involved in knife crime.
How do they think you, their grandparents or their brothers or sisters will feel if they’re arrested or get hurt?
If you use a knife on someone, others could come looking for you at home and this could put other family members in danger.
Think about your future
If you get convicted for a knife crime you’ll have a criminal record. Sentences over 30 months stay on your record for life.
People with criminal records – especially for violent behaviour – find it much more difficult to find work.
They are also barred from doing some jobs altogether, like working around children, young people or the elderly, or even in public positions.
Criminal records for violence also make it harder to get into college or university.
Find out about safe, fun activities for children and young people in your local area. Our community centres and summer youth programmes are rife and are led by responsible youth workers. Make an effort to find out about these initiatives and get to know your child’s friends and company.
Islam’s position on knife crime and violence
It is from the five foundational goals of Islam (maqaasid al-Shariah) that focus on the perservation and protection of
…We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. [Surah al Maida 5:32]
But whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment. [Surah an-Nisa 4:93]
Among the duties of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala), the first thing to be reckoned with will be Salat; while among the mutual rights of humans, the first thing to be taken into account will be murder. The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The first matter concerning which people will be judged on the Day of Resurrection will be the matter of blood.” [Sahih Muslim]
In a hadith in At-Tirmidhi, RasulAllah sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, on the day of judgment, the murdered will be holding the head of the murderer, and blood will be flowing from him. Allah will bring that person in front of Him and that person will say, ‘O Allah, ask him, why did he kill me?’ And it will be settled on the Day of Judgment.
This coming week on Thursday 19th July at Madinah Mosque, Luton mosques and the families of those who have lost children to knife crime will be addressing the public and providing an opportunity to work together on addressing knife crime. Please make your best effort to attend from Asr prayer at 7pm till 9pm.
May Allah(SWT) protect us and our community. May He (SWT) give us the ability to recognise wrong and the strength to stay away from it and encourage others towards good and away from evil.