Monday, September 20, 2021
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A fatal stabbing and tragedy on our doorstep

 And recite to them the story of Adam’s two sons, in truth, when they both made an offering [to Allah], and it was accepted from one of them but was not accepted from the other. Said [the latter], “I will surely kill you.” Said [the former], “Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous [who fear Him]. [Surah al Ma’idah]

Sadly, we witnessed a tragic incident this week with the loss of a young life, aged just 16, as a result of multiple stab wounds after a long-standing disagreement with other similarly aged boys. All those involved were born and raised in our community, a product of our environment. This wasn’t a drugs related or organised gang issue, and it didn’t occur overnight. So how do we grieve and what can we learn through this shocking occurrence?

This wasn’t just the loss of one life, rather all parties involved, their families, their friends, parents and the community will have their lives affected. Those who perpetrated this event will face life-impacting criminal sentences and they will pay the price along with their families. Tension continues in the community as well as on social media.

No doubt, no-one expected the outcome of this disagreement to be loss of life. But with blood on their hands, the remorse and guilt will live with each of these attackers for the rest of their lives. Their bad boy, tough personas are shattered and they were shown up for who they really were, just average youth who had negatively spiralled to this destination.

As a prison Chaplain, I meet many locals who have been in similar scenarios – each regretful about the wasted opportunity in their youth, and constantly looking over their shoulders, as a prospective victim, even in their senior years.

We are all affected and have a part to play

Homes, schools, neighbourhoods or recreational activities can become toxic environments for children, when their relationships and experiences fail to nurture them, protect them and help them to achieve their potential.

These toxic environments can leave children disaffected, fearful and vengeful. This is especially the case when youth feel they don’t have any support and no one is helping them. They are scared and provoked into carrying knives, joining gangs and committing violent acts.

Research shows how some young people started carrying knives to avoid being victimised. However, its also apparent that you are far more likely to be a victim of knife crime if you carry one yourself.

The research also points out that some had gone to the authorities for help, but had largely been ignored.

Social media does play a role in normalising the carrying of weapons, as do some forms of entertainment.

As parents, community members and witnesses to this tragedy, its important we:

  1. Recognise there is a massive generational gap here. Its important we don’t stigmatise young people, reach out to them and listen to them instead. This could be as easy as giving salaam when you’re out for a walk or jog. Getting to know your children’s friends and their families. Offering someone work experience or getting them involved in a community project.
  2. Engage children and young people in positive environments, rather than toxic ones. Fund them to go to an Islamic studies programme, IT training or gym where there are good role models. Sports clubs are offering free places to involve disenfranchised youth. Work with us to develop more regular activities like the qiyaam programme, local gardening projects and engage schools.
  3. Youth do what you do, not what you say – your actions speak louder than your words. If we can’t overcome our own naraazgee (family feuds), control our own emotions, show kindness, talk rather than be glued to our phones. It has an impact.

The story of the first murder in humanity

Imam Ibn Kathir (rh) narrates that Adam (AS) & Hawa had their first set of children, Qabil and his twin sister. Some years later Hawa gave birth to some more twins, Habil and his sister. The children grew up to be strong and healthy young adults. Qabil tilled the land while Habil raised cattle.

The time arrived when the two young men desired life partners. This was part of Allah’s plan for mankind, to multiply and form nations with different cultures and colours. Allah(SWT) revealed to Adam that he should marry each son to the twin sister of the other. Adam instructed his children according to Allah’s command, but Qabil was displeased with the partner chosen for him, as he felt Habil’s twin sister was not as beautiful as his own.

Adam (AS) ordered him to allow Habil to marry her, but he totally refused. So, Adam (AS) invoked Allah(SWT) for guidance and was informed that both (Habil and Qabil) must offer a sacrifice to Allah Almighty and he whose offering was accepted would have right on his side.

Meanwhile, Adam(AS) prepared to set forth towards Mecca to perform Pilgrimage. But before leaving, Adam tried to entrust (the affairs of) his children to the heavens, the earth and finally to the mountains, but all declined to shoulder the (heavy) trust. Thereupon, Qabil accepted the trust and after Adam went away they (Habil and Qabil) offered their sacrifices to Allah. Habil offered a fat she-goat, while Qabil offered a bundle of bad plants. Later, a fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice offered by Habil and left untouched that of Qabil. Qabil became livid with rage and said to his brother: I will kill you so as not to marry my sister, Habil said: {Verily, Allah accepts only from those who are Al-Muttaqeen (the pious)}.

I do not intend to fight against you and you will only take on the sin of murder if you kill me without right.

‘Abdullah Ibn `Amr (RA) said: By Allah! The murdered (Habil) was stronger (than the murderer, Qabil), but he refused to stretch his hand against his brother to kill him due to his piety and God-fearing. According to some narrations, Qabil hit his brother with an iron rod while others said he threw a rock or choked him violently.

Habil however did not bring any weapon, his fear of Allah(SWT) withheld him from hurting his brother, despite being stronger. About this, The Prophet (SAW) said, “If two Muslims confront each other with swords, both the killer and the killed will be in Hellfire.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, we understand for the killer, but why for the one killed?” The Prophet said, “Verily, he intended to kill his companion.” [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6672, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2888]

Allah Almighty says: {Then, Allah sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him how to hide the dead body of his brother. He (the murderer) said: “Woe to me! Am I not even able to be as this crow and to hide the dead body of my brother? “Then he became one of those who regretted}. (Al-Ma’idah, 31) Some interpreters said: ”

Then, he buried the body of his dead brother and covered it with earth.

This direct message from Allah(SWT) has been sent to you and I with many lessons and addresses many traits of human character – passion, strength, weakness, devotion, etc.

  • Don’t think your family or background gives you some form of privilege or supremacy. The father of both in this story was Prophet Adam (AS), the father of all humanity. Even if your dad was a Prophet of God, this won’t avail anybody if truth and justice appear to be at stake.
  • Don’t be too quick to judge. Prophets are the best people of their time in character and conduct. Even the greatest dad, couldn’t guarantee the good character and actions of their own children. In the same family, you have one very pious and one very dangerous.
  • Qabil killed Habil because of jealousy, coupled with arrogance and self-deception – the soul of Qabil made fair seeming to him the murder of his brother. Know that envy comes with blessings – rather than showing off your blessings (food, trainers, cars, even families) on social media, be grateful for them and don’t show them off.
  • Actions have consequences in this life and in the Hereafter. The Prophet (SAW) said that “no human being is killed unjustly but a part of responsibility for the crime is laid on the first son of Adam (Qabil) who invented the tradition of killing (murdering) on the earth” (Sahih al-Bukhari). Your good actions set a trend for others as do bad actions.
  • You can’t take actions back once done, rather you have to live with the outcomes. Qabil’s name today is only synonymous with murder.
  • Bravado is the appearance of courage or confidence to impress other people. What starts as a dare or a group goading someone to attack, leads them to feel they have to prove themselves. This is not courage – truly brave and courageous people firstly realize the importance of their aim, ponder over every option, weigh up the benefits and harms, make and then take action. Madness and recklessness should not be mistaken for bravery, nor nonviolence, caution, and prudence for cowardice. Qabil thought he was courageous, but in reality, he was a coward as he gave into his desires and animal self. Habil, in contrast, was a brave man and a hero, because he did the opposite. He feared only Allah, the Lord of the worlds and was able to conquer his negativities and compulsions.
  • Ibn al-Mubarak(rh) was asked to “Summarize good character for us in a single sentence.” He said, “Leave aside anger.” And Imam Ahmad, (rh),added, “Good character is to patiently endure what comes from people.” [Jāmi’ al-‘Ulūm wal-Ḥikam] Abu Darda asked, “O Messenger of Allah, tell me about a deed that will admit me into Paradise.” The Messenger of Allah, (SAW), said, “Do not be angry and you will enter Paradise.” Laa taghdhab wa lakal Jannah [al-Muʻjam al-Awsaṭ 2411]
  • Be moderate in your love and hatred. Umar ibn al-Khattab, (RA), said, “Let not your love be infatuation and let not your hatred be destruction.” It was said, “How is this?” Umar said, “When you love someone, you become infatuated like a child. When you hate someone, you love destruction for your companion.” [al-Adab al-Mufrad 1322]
  • Human life and everything related to it – property, freedom, overall well-being, honor and dignity – are the most sacred things in Islam.
  • The story of Habil and Qabil is followed in the Qur’an by the ayah “That is why We ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever takes a life—unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land—it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity.1 ˹Although˺ Our messengers already came to them with clear proofs, many of them still transgressed afterwards through the land.

The importance of reconciliation – restorative justice

Abu Darda reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: Shall I not tell you of what is better in degree than extra fasting, prayer, and charity? They said, “Of course!” The Prophet said: Reconciliation between people. Verily, corrupted relations between people is the razor. [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2509]

Once there has been a breakdown, we should not dwell on it and allow it fester. Rather, Islam places very high value on reconciling difference. Alhamdulillah, Luton masaajid came together in the masjid yesterday with the families of those involved and Beds Police to facilitate reconciliation. Although its become a popular term today, Islam has always recommended the practise of restorative justice (sulh) where those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm are brought into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward. This practise of sulh was commonplace amongst our elders and in our villages back home but as we have withdrawn into our mobile world and lost that community bond, we don’t appreciate how effective this practice is to prevent conflict, build relationships and repair harm by enabling people to communicate effectively and positively.

Beware the ego

Disagreement and conflicts are part of life, which do occur whether we’re playing football or working in a professional environment. In the heat of the moment things are said which are hurtful and evoke emotions. It’s at these times, our ego is inflated and pride can kick in – remember, the ego will not let you rest. It will tell you that you cannot stop until you’ve left an indelible mark on the earth and come out victorious.

Intelligent, strong-willed people are those who can keep their emotions in control at this time. We shouldn’t give others control over our feelings and emotions. Speaking to a teacher, he said two students facing the same insult responded completely differently. One immediately prepared for a violent response while the other laughed it off saying “Your words mean nothing to me.” He considered the consequences, pragmatically considered whether it was worth a response and decided this wasn’t worth engaging in.

True strength is remaining in control: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, taught us that “The strong are not the best wrestlers. Verily, the strong are only those who control themselves when they are angry.” [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6114]

And in another narration, “The strong are not those who defeat people. Rather, the strong are those who defeat their ego.” [ Mushkil al-Āthār 1426]

In the battle of Uhud, a time when the Muslims were under attack and the archers had abandoned their posts, the enemy tried to kill the Messenger of Allah (SAW). Upon the remaining Muslims, they rained a shower of rocks and two arrows made it through slashed the face of the Prophet(SAW). 70 Muslims were killed and the front teeth of the Prophet(SAW) was smashed, his face was swollen and his lips were injured. Despite this, he(SAW) supplicated “O Allah, forgive my people for they do not know. (Allahumma ghfirli qawmee fa innahum laa ya’lamoon)” [Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān 973]

Arrogance and argumentation are a barrier to Paradise

I guarantee a house on the outskirts of Paradise for one who leaves arguments even if he is right, and a house in the middle of Paradise for one who abandons lies even when joking, and a house in the highest part of Paradise for one who makes his character excellent. [Sunan Abī Dāwūd, 4800]

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: Verily, the most beloved and nearest to my gathering on the Day of Resurrection are those of you with the best character. Verily, the most reprehensible of you to me and the furthest from my gathering on the Day of Resurrection will be the pompous, the extravagant, and the pretentious.

They said, “O Messenger of Allah, we know the pompous and the extravagant, but who are the pretentious?” The Prophet said: Al mutakabbiroon (the arrogant). [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2018]

Ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: No one who has the weight of a seed of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.

Someone said, “But a man loves to have beautiful clothes and shoes.” The Prophet said: Verily, Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people. [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 91]

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Verily, the most beloved to me are those of you with the best character, soft in nature, friendly and befriended. The most hateful of you to Allah are those who spread rumours and gossip, who cause discord between loved ones, seeking misery for the innocent.” [al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 7693]

Don’t you need Allahs Mercy?

Ar-Raahimoon yarhamuhum ar-Rahmaan The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1924]

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Heading towards you are the diseases of the nations before you. Envy and hatred are the razor. I do not say they shave hair, but rather they shave the religion.

By the One in whose hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you have faith (laa tu’minoo hatthaa tahaabuu) and you will not have faith until you love each other. Shall I tell you what can affirm that for you? Spread peace between yourselves.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2510]

You are one family, even if you live in a different post code

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no favor of an Arab over a foreigner, nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin, nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness.” [Musnad Aḥmad 23489]

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Have I not informed you?

  • The Mu’min (believer) is the one who is trusted with the lives and wealth of people.
  • The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand people are safe.
  • The Mujaahid in the way of Allah is the one who wages jihad against himself in obedience to Allah
  • The Muhaajir (emigrant) is one who emigrates away from sins and evil deeds.

[Musnad Aḥmad 23958]

May Allah(SWT) count us amongst the Muslimoon, Mujaahidoon, Muhaajiroon and Mu’minoon.

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