a Muslim, I feel in tune with the humanity (an-Nas), because the Quran
unequivocally informs that the Muslims must recognize and appreciate their
humanity orientation. We are "... created/evolved
for the humanity ..." [Quran - 3:110].
Therefore, being inclusive in my orientation toward the humanity has been
natural to me as a Muslim. Indeed, I have been particular in drawing attention
of others toward this humanity-orientation, which should be reflected in our
prayers and supplications as well. However, a few things provoked or motivated
me to take a closer look at this issue of praying for non-Muslims from an
year I was invited by a Midwestern community to make presentations to two of
their local mosques. I was gratified that the presentation "Seeking
common grounds and building bridges" was well received. During the
question/answer session, apparently, one peripheral subtopic became the focus of
the presentation, I emphasized the point that the feelings and communications of
Muslims often seem to be self-centered as a community. We are bothered only when
the sufferings, atrocities or hardships visit upon us, but we show little care
in being in tune with the pain and agony of the rest of the humanity. One of the
things I have observed is the lack of any inclusion of the humanity in our
prayers. I urged that our prayers (dua) should be inclusive.
participant raised the issue whether such prayer would be Islamic and consistent
with the Sunnah (the Prophetic practice). It revealed a fundamental gap
in many Muslims' understanding of this matter here.
the world watched the unfolding of the one of the worst human disasters before
their eyes. Since the advent of cables, satellites, instant feeds, internet and
so on, the disaster appeared unprecedentedly dramatic. Actually, there has been
much worse natural disasters during the last half century, but due to
technological and other factors, it could not play out like the way it is
possible now in a "smaller world."
was the hardest hit by this tsunami. Most of those who died in Indonesia were
Muslims. It was not surprising that some of the Muslim relief organizations, who
already have charitable and development works in those area, were the first to
respond. The same ethos was not observed in the response of the governments of
the rich Arab Muslim-majority countries. However, even though severely
constrained in the post-9-11 environment, parallel to the rest of the world,
major Muslim organizations in the USA (and elsewhere) came forward to
express their horror and sorrow at the disaster and made the call to all to make
a difference in the tsunami devastated areas. Several of these Islamic
organizations also organized funeral prayers for the deceased Muslims in
absentia and also urged Muslims to be inclusive in their prayer (supplication)
in regard to the non-Muslim victims.
a widely circulated statement,
Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) mentioned:
D.C., 12/27/04). ... CAIR today asked members of the American Muslim community
and all people of conscience worldwide to offer humanitarian assistance and pray
for the victims in Sunday's tsunamis in southern Asia.
Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group also expressed
condolences to the families of the victims.
are deeply saddened by the news of the tragedy in southern Asia," said CAIR
Chairman Omar Ahmad. "We extend our sincerest condolences to the families
of those killed and pray for the speedy recovery of those injured as a result of
the earthquake. CAIR is working on identifying relief organizations that will
provide aid to the affected areas."
a separate statement,
joins the Muslim American community in mourning the loss of life in Southern
Asia resulting from the earthquake of December 26, 2004. We urge the Muslim
community to pray for those affected by the disaster ...."
course, some Muslim communities, especially in the affected areas, went much
further. In one such community in Tamil
Nadu, India, the local mosque
opened up to accommodate, shelter and serve the victims, who were primarily
wants Muslims to have a humanity-orientation. It is very unfortunate
that Muslims have made the use of the word "Ummah" exclusive for
themselves. Thus, one observes Muslims regularly talking about or referring to
the Ummah, meaning only the Muslims. However, the Quran also uses "ummah"
for the humanity. "Mankind
(an-Nas) was one single nation (ummah) ..." [Quran
- 2:213] Due to such exclusive use of the word, many Muslims don't seem to be in
tune with the humanity.
both the increasingly inclusive approach on the parts of Muslims and opening up
to the humanity like it was done by one mosque in Tamil Nadu are very
encouraging. However, these days it seems whatever the Muslims do, some people
are dissatisfied or disgruntled. If some Muslims say that they are against
democracy, then they are regarded as uncivilized and undemocratic. If some of
them like democracy, or consider democracy to be compatible with Islam or even
required by Islam, immediately some secularist critics would charge that to
support democracy is to go against Islam. Similar is the case with the
inclusivist approach among Muslims. If they are not inclusive, they are
criticized that these people are self-centered, caring only about their fellow
Muslims. If they do call for inclusion of non-Muslims in their prayers and
humanitarian efforts, they are criticized by some so-called
rationalists/secularists that such inclusiveness is against the teachings
of the Quran.
example, one such atheist cited
the following verses from the Quran to make the point that praying for
non-Muslims is prohibited by the Quran.
do thou ever pray for any of them that dies, nor stand at his grave; for they
rejected Allah and His Messenger, and died in a state of perverse rebellion. [Quran
is not fitting, for the Prophet and those who believe, that they should pray for
forgiveness for Pagans, even though they be of kin, after it is clear to them
that they are companions of the Fire. [Quran
posed the following question:
"If it was NOT fitting for the Prophet himself to invoke (Allah) for
forgiveness of pagans, by what 'due diligence' and reliance on nothing but
'facts' did Dr. Farooq conclude CAIR's call for prayer included non-Muslims,
while it was still an 'Islamic' prayer?"
also seems that such challenge has caused some Muslims to be at a loss, as a
moderator of one of the online forums, where the above question was posed, mentioned:
"I always, thought it is okay to pray for non-Muslims. M. raised a fair
question. ... As a believer and as a Muslim, whenever I pray, I pray for all.
That is my teaching from my parents and from religious teachers. Even the Imam
from local mosque once related that only God can decide about the ultimate fate
of all human beings - irrespective of their religious affiliations." He
sought some clarification from me in response.
the questions posed by my atheist friend and the unsettled feelings of some of
my fellow Muslims necessitate that we further probe into the relevant issues. I
should mention here that Muslims should always continuously scrutinize their
understanding and beliefs in a self-critical manner. Also, instead of just
adhering to a faith, in the form of a tradition and culture, which is primarily
received from our parents, elders and those to whom we turn to for religious
knowledge, it is vitally important that we approach Islam and the life with an
urge for acquiring the relevant critical knowledge and understanding.
us now examine the issue whether such inclusive approach to prayers
(supplications) is unislamic and inconsistent with the Quranic teachings and
prophetic legacy. A few pertinent observations, however, before we proceed.
These observations may not be of importance to those who are atheists and thus
deny any divine power or revelation. Also, in studying such matters, one should
keep in mind the following. (a) No Quranic verse should be taken in isolation
from the totality of the Quran. (b) The contexts of the revelation (shaan-e-nuzul)
must be taken into account in interpreting any specific verse.
9: 80 and 9:113 from Surah at-Taubah:
9:80 relates to the Munafiqeen
(hypocrites), who undermined Muslims by working and conspiring with the Mushrikeen
(pagan/polytheists). The Munafiqeen
were particularly dangerous, because they were insiders to the Muslim community.
Verse 9:113 relates to the Mushrikeen. Both the cases and their contexts are
is important to keep in mind the general background of Surah at-Taubah, which
deals with the issue of the relationship between Muslims and those Mushrikeen
from among the Makkan Quraish and the treacherous hypocrites from among the
Madinians and the desired attitude of Muslims toward them. These Mushrikeen
have not only conspired against the nascent community of Muslims, but they had a
bloody campaign to militarily vanquish the community. They used all the
cunnings, machinations, and power to resist and overcome the emergence of this
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